Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall Farm Festivities

Saturday was  a couple days past the equinox, but that's when we celebrated it.  After days of rain and flooding, the weather cleared just in time so we could party on the patio.  It was a clear, crisp evening.  We arranged for a spectacular moonrise during our potluck dinner, nearly full and glowing red.
There were lots of musicians among our guests--members of Blue Monk and  Nodding Wild Onions (two bands Rog plays in) and members of the songwriters group.  Various musicians  jammed all night in new combinations--here, Phil (Nodding Wild Onions) belts out a song with Paul (songwriters) drumming and Joe (Fiddlers and Company) on mandolin.
Sparks from the fire scribbled  lines in the photo.
I even sang in public!  The world premier of my cow-milking song, "LaFonda Let Your Milk Flow Down" was well received ( nobody threw tomatoes.)

Thanks to all our friends who joined us!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eclectic Catch -Up Post

The yard is now scattered with these. Pretty, but also kind of depressing.  Although I love the fresh, crisp air, the earthy smells and the vivid colors of autumn, I hate being reminded that winter is around the corner and seeing the days getting shorter and shorter...

But, we do intend to savor every moment.  We are packing in as much  time outdoors and with friends and doing fun things as we can.

Gayle, my best friend from high school, visited for a couple days during one of her genealogy research excursions.  We see each other so rarely, but despite the divergent paths our lives have taken over the past 30 years, we are still connected at the heart.
A double-wide hammock is a great place to  talk about philosophies,, experiences, dreams.

At least until the turkeys intrude, untying your shoes or yanking on your hair.

Our friends Jim and Carla, also novice farmers, learned that our tomato harvest was disappointing this year (too wet, split tomatoes and slugs galore.)  Jim dropped off a large box of their excess, beautiful  paste-tomatoes. I roasted many pans of tomatoes and made sauce and paste form this box of tomatoes.  Thank you, Jim and Carla!
Two weeks ago we had an incredible wind blow through, brief but destructive.  It  tilted our gazebo over, pulling the cemented anchors out from the patio,  scattered heavy lawn furniture and  branches across the yard, and snapped off a couple of the huge old silver maples along our pasture fence.   We hired a tree-company to cut down the hung-up branches and the standing trunks of the trees because they were too big for our chainsaw. A few sections of the fence still need to be rebuilt, but happily, our homeowners insurance will help reimburse the costs.
Last week when I woke up in the middle of the night because a dog was barking, I looked out the window and noticed the nearly-full moon peeking through the top of the windmill.  Somehow, when things align like that, it feels like a tiny miracle.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flood Damage Down the Road

When we  drove home last night a police officer  was stopping every car turning onto 75th Street to inquire where they were heading.   He told us we were fine getting to our house, but the road was closed at Douglas. This morning I decided to take my camera and check it out. At Genoa, 5 miles down the road, the usually placid little river was raging and had washed out the road.
I talked to the fellow who lives at the corner along the river.  He said last night the water came up suddenly and was lapping at his house. He believes his house was saved when the road washed out and the water dropped.
You can see the  high water line on the propane tank in his back yard--it was 2 feet  deeper at its peak.
His shed is flooded - but it does look rather picturesque.
The river normally flows on the other side of those pines. The yellow objects floating by the pampas grass are the spaghetti and butternut squashes in the garden.

The real flood devastation is in the small communities just to our north and northeast - where you can't even get right now: Pine Island, Oronoco, Zumbrota, Wanamingo.  There is  sobering video footage at www.kttc.com.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010


We have had  constant rain since yesterday afternoon.  This morning when I did the chores the depth in my washtub was 6 inches, and the rain was still falling steadily.

When I can't sleep I listen to the radio and all night; last night I was hearing warnings of flash flood. When we bought this farm 2 years ago we had been looking for a farm along a trout stream.  We had made an offer on a property  along the Zumbro River,  but someone made a sweeter offer first. Then we drove through a valley  near Whitewater State park and Rog said, "This is my dream spot. Let's hold out for  a place like this."

The very next week we had a 500-year flood and that valley was scoured clean. We changed our vision of our dream spot - and this farm on the hill sounded pretty good.  I am so grateful that we purchased our little farm on the hill.
My drive into town tonight to deliver CERTS materials and pick up Rog from work was full of very wet drama. Recently  harvested corn fields along our road were saturated, flooded.

When I got  to the intersection of Hwy 52, traffic was being diverted --the highway was closed from Rochester to the Twin Cities (85 miles), the radio announced.  What would have been a 2 minute drive to my turn south took 45 minutes.
The stream of cars exiting Highway 52 north (taken from inside my car in the drivers' seat.)
The ditch along 75th St NW is ordinarily dry.
Turning south on 18th Ave NW, toward town, there is a little bridge over a creek bed that ordinarily has only a trickle of water, at most. Not today!
The other side of the road.
The engorged Zumbro River by 14th St NW.
Spectators everywhere--this city has a history of devastating floods, and people are mesmerized by the prospect of flooding.
The Zumbro River by the Rochester Rowing Club. I stopped here because our daughters are former rowers and have spent many an hour on this stretch of the river.
Phil, the coach, still in his dress shirt and tie after work, was directing rowers in moving boats to higher ground, just in case the water rises further.
Flotsam and jetsam was whizzing down the powerful river. When a huge tree swept past, these two rowers rushed out onto the dock to nudge it away with a broken oar if it threatened to smash the dock -a gesture that caused my mom-heart to stop for a moment. Fortunately, it whirled past without touching the dock and then the coach sent everybody home.

Blessedly, other than soggy poultry and cows, Squash Blossom Farm is avoiding any flood problems. Rain is STILL falling. My heart goes out to the folks downstream who have their rain plus our rain to deal with tonight!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adios, Amigo

Rog and I visited Bill in Baja California a few years ago.
We went out in a boat (he loved to sail) and every night
we watched the splendid sunsets over the Pacific.  Bob Dog helped us dig
up clams on the beach with which we made Paella.
My friend Bill died last night.  I just found out.  He knew he had only a few days left to him, but he departed early.
Bill was an extraordinary character, a documentary filmmaker - and writer/artist/woodworker/ and more.  I met him at the dog park when he came to Rochester for medical care several years ago, traveling with his huge black  lab, Bob.  Nearly every afternoon for most of that year we sat atop the picnic table, him relating the amazing adventures of his life while we either swatted mosquitos or shivered in our winter parkas (depending upon the month) as our dogs romped in the creek.

 I sent him a farewell message this morning, but it arrived too late.
My dear friend Bill,
My heart is filled with sorrow as you sail gently into the sunset.   I hope when you get there it is as beautiful a sunset as you have ever seen, and I know you have savored quite a few.
Your life has been jam-packed with remarkable adventures, fascinating people, beautiful places, philosophical ideas, delectable flavors, spectacular vistas. You lived with gusto and brought many people and at least one huge, black dog much joy. 
I am so glad I had the opportunity to be your friend. Wishing you comfort and peace.
Love, Susan 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One Good Thing about Shorter Days

 The days are getting significantly shorter on both ends now, an unavoidable symptom of fall which makes me a bit melancholy. The one consolation is that sunrises happen later, so I am up in time to take photos and can subject my blog-readers to  lots of sentimental sunrise images.  Like, sunrise through the pampas grass.

The hungry, impatient turkeys follow me around as I shoot, like prehistoric paparazzi-asauruses.  I forgot school has now started, and I am sure the kids on the school bus passing by got a giggle out of the wild-haired woman in her purple bathrobe, red plaid lumberjack jacket and orange sandals taking pictures amid a herd of turkeys.

The turkeys paused to quench their thirst in the convenient turkey water dish.

The garden in early morning light.

The barn glows golden in the  sunrise.

Milkweed plants going to seed.
Even the obnoxious  burdock looks beautiful in the morning glow.
Pampas grass is now in its glory.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Many Hands, Light Work

For Labor Day, we invited a few friends over to labor.  Our goal was to  remove a couple of huge buckthorn trees in our prairie--beautiful but invasive trees that are covered with glossy black berries and drop bazillions of seeds every fall or spread them via birds  that feast on the berries.
Our tools of destruction included a weed wrench, swede saw, loppers. spade,  plus  chainsaw, gloves and mosquito repellant (not shown.)
Dave gets into it, climbing up into the tree to remove boughs that are hung up.
The cluster of stumps from one of the  buckthorns. The  heartwood is a beautiful red color--hope we can persuade a wood-turning friend to make us a set of salad bowls from it...
The dirty, sweaty buckthorn busters: Mary, Dan, Rog and Dave.
Big stump.
Only another 6 or 8 big buckthorn trees (and 6000 to 8000 little ones) to go.
Thanks to our great friends for their  hard work!

Micro-greens Micro-entrepreneur

Friday I  harvested my first batch of microgreens for sale, both pea shoots (top photo) and sunflower shoots (bottom photo).  I have been  experimenting with growing peas and sunflowers as sprouts and shoots for  a couple of months now, and after many unsuccessful attempts,  I finally have a workable system.
There are still so many kinks to be worked out, though: Will they sell? At what price? Can I cover my costs and time at that price? How long can they be stored and stay fresh and crispy?  Can I grow them fast enough to meet demand if they take off?
The good thing about raising sprouts and micro-greens is that  if I grow too many, we love the healthy little greens in our sandwiches, salads  and soups, and if I end up with more than we can eat, the chickens, ducks and turkeys also love them.
The downside of raising  sprouts and micro-greens is that they need care  twice a day--they are as demanding as milking a dairy cow!