Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our New Pal, Hal

I'm not afraid of snakes. That isn't to say that I love them or want them touching me... I'm just sayin' they don't freak me out. My favorite thing to do when I find a snake in the garden is to call the dogs over to see the "stick" and then wow!.... Its all four paws off the ground when the "stick" moves. Ha!

So I was more concerned then scared when The Big Man ambled over yesterday morning, while I was milking Nibbles, and informed me that we had a situation. He said there was a black mamba snake stuck in some netting on on the fenceline. So of course I went running over to see. I could have lived three lifetimes and never seen it. But there it was.  I probably walked past it a dozen times.

So maybe it wasn't a black mamba... but it wasn't a normal garden snake either. So TBM set off running to look up just what kind of snake we were dealing with on the Wiki. He came back 84% certain that it was either a copperhead....or just a regular old milk snake which is exactly what we needed seeing as how they kill rats.

Accepting the odds I reached down to pick up the snake but was harshly told that safety equipment was necessary first. So we used beekeepers gloves. It was either that or oven mitts.

We've had other snakes get caught in the netting before. Friend, you do not know the full meaning of the word "gruesome" until you've seen what several dozen carnivorous ducklings will do to a snake caught in the fence. It will give you nightmares and set you to drinkin' for sure.

Unfortunately our snake was really tangled up. Fortunately we were able to hold the business end of that snake tight while we clipped him out of the netting. Just a couple snips and voila! Bob's your uncle and the sneaky snake was freed. So we put him in the turkey house where the worst of the rat offenders hang out.

Near as we can tell either we set a copperhead loose on our most valuable poultry... or we'll be free and clear of rats in no time flat. Thanks to our new pal, Hal.

That's the long and short of it here. Anybody else have a Wild Kingdom moment this week?  And does anyone know what kind of snake this really is?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zander FoeHammer, Pig Hater

Zander FoeHammer, Pig Hater, Hog Destroyer, Swine Slayer, Bacon Defeater....

He really hates them pigz. 

You might have guessed that the pork invasion has begun. Check out these little beauties....

These little piggies fell straight from heaven and were too good to pass up. We are still hoping for our Tamworths, tho, which were delayed. But you know what they say...... when a pork opportunity knocks.. you gotta snatch them up, whack together a paddock, and start feeding them as soon as you can!

More on this and our hog strategy later but I gotta run right outside. Our extreme July-like weather finally broke and I need to get back to planting. I'm hoping we will actually get some rain this week. I've been running the sprinklers trying to keep everything alive. Isnt that crazy? I think I only had to water the gardens once last year and now... well, we sure could use some relief.

So Zander and I are gonna go out and do some kind of rain dance... and then do some pig hatin'. You should hear him - his growl shakes the trees and his woof strikes dread into the hearts of these little porkers. And his tail curls tighter when he sees them - its just hilarious!

Give 'em hell, Zander! That's the way!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Got your pig hate on? Come on, bacon!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A War On Two Fronts

Editor's note: New readers may begin this part of the story here. The backstory begins here, then Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The dark night surrounded him as the young captain crept forward on impossibly silent feet. He had known he was being followed for three days. But he had to be sure. The messenger tracking him could be from his homeland …. or the disguise could be just that good.

With stealth not expected for one his size the young captain approached the messenger with feline grace. With the accuracy of a wildcat he sprang and quickly overcame the unsuspecting follower.

“Flash!” Cried the messenger - tho garbled as the hold, so nearly deadly, was on his throat.

“What?” A surprised Zander jumped back releasing the shaking one.

“Flash! Flash!” The stranger choked out. “The code! The code – I say 'flash' you say..”

“Bang.” Answered the young captain. So it was a real messenger from his liege. “Quickly then. What news from The Good Land!”

“She begs your return at once!” Sputtered the still recovering messenger. “You must return at great speed.”

“But I have not yet completed my mission” Said Zander, filling with shame. That varmint had avoided the cruel death he had planned for her. So far.

“Something must have happened. Out with it – what is it? What news do you bear?” The young captain was loosing his patience.

“Please, Sir, I don't know, Sir! They just sent me with orders and that was all. You must return.” The messenger paused.... “But. There have been rumors... whispered talkings about....a war on two fronts.”

Zanders blood ran cold. It couldn't be. “What?” He demanded. His mind already racing and forming defensive strategies.

“You must leave, Sir. Now.” Pleaded the messenger.

“Very well then. Here, climb on my back and I shall carry you home, Messenger.”

“Thank you, Sir, but no. I would only impede you. She was quite clear. Go. With great speed!”

Without further discussion the young captain turned and bounded into the night. He ran silently on fleet feet, scaring up roosting birds and startling the night creatures. In the distance an owl shrieked.

He had been running for several days and finally approached the boundaries of The Good Land. His liege had obviously implemented a scorched earth policy. Gone was the lush undergrowth of the Deep Woods. The land had been cleared and leveled in all directions. The scope of the work was astonishing. The work crews must have been enormous and they must have worked day and night. Clearing the land was a necessary sacrifice so that the defenders could see the enemy approaching. No one would arrive unseen.

He was greeted by the watch and the young captain slowed his pace. He scanned one of the work crews anxiously looking for someone. The crews had taken a meal break and were sharing bawdy songs and ribald jokes. He heard one voice above all in the middle of one such tale.

“...So he takes a ducat into a tavern and says to the barkeep....”

Zander grinned and knew exactly where this joke was going. Being more dignified then the teller, and slightly embarrassed, he felt obligated to stop it and shouted, “Sister!”

Princess Kai's head spun around in his direction and she rushed to her brother, greeting him warmly.

He knew he would find her here in the work parties. Princes Kai was much beloved by her fighting men as well as her work crews. Kai led from the front – always the first into battle, always sharing in the most menial of chores, and never asking any of her charges to do anything she would not. Shunning the posh life of a pampered palace princess she insisted on bunking with her troops and eating their same meals – which, of course, always ensured they had the best rations. Her men loved her and they were the most brave, the most disciplined, and the most hearty fighters.

And it was natural that she was given charge over the earthworks project. Kai was legendary for her ability to move extraordinary amounts of dirt in pursuit of prey. Some of her crews took to calling her “Digger” and they loved her even more when she had this name engraved on her cuirass and shield.

“Tell me the news, Sister, I've only just arrived.” Said Zander.

“So it seems.” She replied, wryly sniffing his travel worn coat and motioning to a page to bring him water and rations. He waved it away eager for news.

She beckoned him to follow her. “I'll not only tell you... I'll show you. Come with me.” Kai trotted off, yelling orders for her men to finish up their meal and get back to work. She told them she would be back soon to help with the lower hill. Zander followed at her heel.

If Zander was The Black Death then his sister, Princess Kai was The Shining Light of the realm. She laughed easily, was quick to action, and lived and played hard. A skilled huntress she often came home with prey. She was always smiling and would, without warning, break out in a hip swinging, bonbon shaking dance. Everyone adored her easy going manner and unpretentious ways. 

Altho she was the elder it was widely acknowledged that Zander would assume the throne. This was fine with her - Kai sought neither fame nor glory, preferring always to fight and serve. Zander's course was set before his birth by a prophesy.

She was neither jealous of her beloved brother nor desired his fate. Free from a future destined by others she was able to do what she wanted. Which was to serve The Good Land. She traded a life of ease for hard work, discipline, strength, and honor. Long ago she foreswore all of the trappings of her princess office, save for her authority and her gleaming tiara. She wore both well.

She also did not seek a mate, preferring the company of her fighting men and, of course, Zander. Kai laughed at the silliness of the ladies in waiting who pleaded for the attention and flatterings of the hopeless oafs who came to court the most famed princess in the land. Those who dared to humiliate Kai by forcing their romantic inclinations on her were sent away with wounds that would not soon heal and scars that told of their outrage. Besotted fools. She thought them idiots.

During these encounters Kai's men at arms always stood at the ready. But she never needed their help teaching those lovestruck welplings a hard lesson learned. This endeared her to the troops even more. Her dedication to the warrior way was just another reason why her fighting men were the most loyal in the land. They knew she would never leave them for some foolish princeling who cared not for battle nor honor.

Kai led Zander thru the work camp and toward the high hill. As they rounded the bend they were beset by such a foul and brooding odor that they both shook their heads. That terrible smell filled the mouth and permeated one's coat. It was awful... and it told of the presence of the enemy.

Immediately Zander's instinct took over and his mane and ridge began to rise. His hackles high he pushed past Kai and charged in the direction of that horrible stench. Wild with bloodlust his howl was long and deep. He thundered down the hill to this most atrocious enemy, this most hated foe.

A growl erupted in his dark throat the likes of which had not been heard in The Good Land for an age. High on the hill the work crews dropped their tools and scattered. An alarm was raised somewhere in the camp.

Zander, FoeHammer, bunched his great legs under him and prepared to launch the full weight of his measure upon the enemy and deliver such a pounding that they would be crushed with a single blow... when...

...Suddenly he was tackled from behind and found himself belly up on the ground with his sister, Kai, cuffing him most egregiously. “Stop it! Stand down, soldier!” She scolded harshly.

He snarled and shook her off, “What are you doing! The enemy is upon us!”

The enemy, in fact, had run off at the sight of The Black Death thundering down the hillside.

She cuffed him again. “Enough! Look!” She said pointing.

He turned his head to see the work crew led by the ganders starting to poke their frightened heads up over the barricades. OD, their terrible task master, began screaming orders and corralling the young ganders back to work. For the first time Zander took in the whole scene.

They were on the boundary of Fox Central where the vexing vixens held their terrible claim on those neighboring lands. Zander saw that the barricades were being set so that the pigz were enclosed between Fox Central and the vulnerable HenLands. He should have known better.

Kai, reading his thoughts, responded, “You know how she is....”

And then together they both said aloud, “....She is playing them off each other!”

Kai smiled an impish grin while Zander threw his head back and laughed. “Well that is going to keep them at each other's throats for a long time”

He marveled at his liege’s ability to develop such strategies and he nodded to himself well pleased. His mane and ridge relaxed and smoothed against his massive shoulders as he considered the strategy. The pig menace would forestall any direct attack from Fox Central and the cleared land would allow the defenders see the enemy if they dared an uphill assault.

This was, however, a war on two fronts. The challenge was to keep the enemies focused on each other and out of The Good Land. It was a balancing act that required the utmost care and skill. He saw now why his presence was needed. He knew from the placement of the barricades that he would be stationed on the far side of the hill and would await any advancement from the varmints. But he would also have to position himself to keep watch in case the pig menace tried to invade the HenLands. Princess Kai, as always, would roam the Deep Woods as she was more skilled in guerrilla war tactics.

He was still taking this all in when a thought suddenly occurred to him, urgently he asked, “But Sister, the war on the pigz! When will it begin? What about the battle?” He had long dreamed of a victory over the horrible hogs.

But the heat of the summer had come upon them early. The land labored under an unrelenting sun and oppressive humidity. They would not war in these hellish days. They needed cold days and frozen earth.

“You know what they say, Brother,” Kai responded bright eyes shining, “Winter is coming.”

Both Zander and Kai laughed loud, threw back their heads, and howled, their voices joining and giving each other strength.

Below them the frightened pigz ran off thru the underbrush and screamed their frustration at being unable to escape the coming terror.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Snaps

Scenes from this morning....

The blueberries are stunning already....

And I'm so excited about the broccoli!

I planted this buckwheat as a cover crop to till into the soil to help enrich it...... but the beez are buzzing all over the blooms - so it stays.

Beans are popping up!

Guineas roam on clover

And The Bubby loves the tub. The BubTub. He can't get enough of the water. He's gonna be our waterdog for sure. And no, that's not a small stock tub. Its a big Bub. Hey L! Are you gonna call him TubHead now? HA!

That's whats happening here. I'm expecting a slow down in egg and milk production from this heat. Things will get back to normal later in the week when it cools down. Nothing to do but keep your barnyard hydrated folks!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, May 25, 2012

So you know there is going to be pie, right?

Look what I just walked out of the garden with!

So, you know there is gonna be pie involved, right?  Probably this one.... and some of this too... and maybe even some of this.

Do you know the best thing about having your own berries?  Not that you don't have to waste time and gas getting to a U-pick place, or that they are basically free, or that you know for sure they haven't been treated with herbicides or pesticides.....

Its that if there is the perfect berry that needs just one more day to ripen.. you can just walk out there the next day at pick it.

I'm in strawberry heaven, folks. Hope you have a GREAT Friday!

Now get out there and pick yourself some strawberries!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Water Trolley

Remember when I planted all that stuff outside the fence a while ago?  Its doing GREAT! The alfalfa, clover, corn, and sunflowers are all springing up.  So are the beans and onions that I put out there. Unfortunately - we haven't had much rain lately. We are overdue for a good soaking and we've got heat on the way.

"Out past the gate" is further than the hoses reach and I really needed to get those little bean sprouts watered. I remembered our pal over at The Gardener of Eden and how she talked about a water truck that comes to their community gardens. I figured.... maybe I can do something similar.

So ladies and gentlemen.... the water trolley.

This worked great! I ran the hose as far as I could out to the gate to prevent spilling the water.....then pulled the wagon out to the beans and gave them a good soaking.

Thanks, Robin, for the great idea! You saved my beans for sure.

Is everyone getting their gardens watered? The heat is gonna be a hotsy-totsy for sure this weekend!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to put up fence.... even if you don't know what you are doing

I talk about fencing a lot.  And I assume that folks know that I'm referring to that barrier-type-stuff used to keep the neighbor's bad dog out of my yard. Or keep goats in.

 Fencing - keeps goats in.

However, I had lunch with the best little boys in the world a while back. Naturally we started talking about fencing and they asked me if I had one of those pointy swords.

Me: *blink blink*  What are you talking about?
Them: What are YOU talking about - you know, fencing. (And then they demonstrated with their drink straws).
Me: OH. Well.... I use a two handed broadsword.
Them: That's awesome!

Because telling them this is what I use is a little disappointing.

So if you want to learn about my kind of fencing then huddle up - here's a fast tutorial. For a couple reasons, one you might have guessed and one you know is coming, we needed to string up some field fence with electric wire on the inside.  I did this job myself in an afternoon.

I mowed this strip down but left the rest.

First step, run right out there and mow down where you want your fence line to be. You know I hate mowing so I did a fast and bad job of it. Mostly you need to keep the grass and weeds out of your hotwires. Plus its easier to work if you aren't tripping over stuff.

 Bolt cutters - good for everything.

Next, go get your war implements... I mean... tools. I like to use gloves to move stuff around, I always use these kind of bolt cutters, and I found all the insulators I could find.

Throw your tools on the ground. Easier to find that way unless you can't find them. Then someone will spray paint all your tool handles fluorescent orange and that will just make you mad.

Then drag your fence down there. What if its too heavy? For heavens sakes then just weight down one end, unroll the fence in the driveway to the desired length, use them bolt cutters to clip it....and make sure you have someone standing on the end closest to where you are cutting or the fence will roll up suddenly and might cause some damage. Don't ask me how I know this.

Place your posts strategically before pounding them in.

For this project I unrolled the fence THEN laid out the posts. I did this because the ground was really uneven and I wanted to a) make sure I had enough fence and b) that I could put the posts where it would most make sense. I wanted to be sure that the field fence could be secured as close to the ground as possible so nothing could slink into the hen yard. You know of whom I speak.

Dahlia was most unhelpful.  Dahli! Get OFF the fence!

Then get the fence post pounder and whack in the posts. Don't bonk yourself on the head. I think we've already covered this. Take your time, lean back a bit, and let the pounder do the work. You don't have to put your weight into it. You wanna go for about 10 feet between posts. Tposts work just fine.  Don't get the cheap ones.

Now get down there and string up the fence. They have all kinds of fancy stretchers and stuff. Or if you are superlucky you have the attachment for your tractor, but all's you really need to do is pull on it. Try to weave it over the tops of the tposts. That is, pull the fence up over the top of the post so that the post is thru the first or second square of the fence. This will help hold it in place. Just make your way down the line.

Won't hurt the tree. Remember to remove before chainsawing down the tree.

Go back and make sure the fence is tight, straight, and secured. You can use those clip thingys they give you with the tposts. Or not. If you strategically run the fence thru the trees you can use those hammer in staples to further secure your fence line. And no, tree huggers, it won't hurt the tree.

Now, cowboy up and prepare to work on the electric hotwires. No, I don't particularly like this part either.

Rule #1:  Go and unplug the electric fence. Make sure its off. Get one of them kids to test it for you. Or a goat. Or if you were smart you got yourself a fence tester to go along with that superduper charger.

Rule #2: Go back and DOUBLE check that the fence is really off.

By now you've figured out where you want to run the hotwires. Where you put them depends on what you are trying to keep in, or keep out. Go for nose level. On your goats that's about should high seein' as how they lead with their noses, and then some where between shoulder high and where they naturally hold their head. For varmints - go as low as you can. For coyotes run a hotwire across the top so as you can fry 'em as they are climbing over your fence.

I ran two wires - one low and another kinda low. I had my bucket of tools, started at one end, and commenced to securing the insulators. Insulators are the yellow thingys that keep you from grounding out your electric or killing yourself and everyone else because you've electrified your field fence.  And I know you got the highest charger you could afford, right? Did you get the one that will hold in buffalo? Yep. That's the one. Don't skimp on the charger.

You want to run the wires so they do NOT touch the field fence. Or anything else. Try to keep them all about the same height. You can use this kind to keep the wire off the trees.

Or this kind to keep it off the tposts.

Or you can use those plastic push in posts also.

Now just start at one end and tread the wire thru the insulators, keeping it taunt as you go. 

That's about as far as I got. I decided that I wasn't foolish enough to try and connect the new hotwire to the existing electric fence. Mostly because you know how I am... especially because I was alone and while the dogs are good.. they can't quite get the hang of dialing 911.  I decided to let The Big Man deal with all that mess when he got home - so I went in the house and made a pie.

So that's how I install fencing. Pie is optional but always appreciated.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Now run right out and get some fencing done!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Egg custard with strawberries

This is how we do a snack around here, y'all.... And just about everything came from my yard!

Fresh eggs and goat milk make a stunning custard. Topped with fresh from the garden berries. Delish!

This egg custard is from my grandmother's recipe but its roughly Cheeseslave's recipe found here  - just don't add the chocolate. It can also be found in that great new-to-me-but old timey cookbook. I think I used about 5 eggs for this - it was a great way to use up the smaller eggs I got from my hens.

I made a bit more custard when I made another Grandma Cracker Pie yesterday. Added the fresh berries I picked and walloped it with a little fresh whipped cream.

That's how we get it done around here.

A lot is happening - don't even have even a second to talk about it. But hopefully later today I'll get a break. In the meantime its all work, all day....and I need snacks like this to keep me going.

Enjoy your cereal bars, corporate monkey and desk jockeys! I'm getting my snack on - old school style. And practically free.

Happy Tuesday everyone! What's keeping you fueled today?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Strawberries are here.....

Look what surprised me on Sunday - the strawberries are here!

They are just stunning and incredibly tasty. I got a nice little bucket of berries with more to come. But we won't have enough of our own so I'm going to the Upick place later this week.

Happy Monday everyone - aren't you loving the early harvests!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Mark of the Warrior

OFG stood alone in the dark next to an impossibly hot fire. She stood with clenched fists looking down at the sad rubble of what was left of one of her war hens. She had sent her best trackers. They could only recover just enough of the body to correctly identify the slain war hen. The fallen was of no importance to many - but all were important to OFG and the Farm.

It had been determined that a war party had crossed the electric line from Fox Central into OFG's lands. This incursion, this abomination signaled the first beat of the war drum.  Her retribution would be dire. Swift would fall the varmints and OFG would not rest until one of her foe's heads adorned each fence post the length of her lands.

She was lost in her hate when the young captain approached, saluted her, and stood to attention not knowing if she was aware of his presence or not.

How could she not.

The young captain, dashing, handsome, bold. Strong of form, valor - undeniable. He had a head like a steer and was built like an ox. It was said that after early morning maneuvers when he stood, his breath steaming in the dawn, he looked like a bull. Some whispered this and none said it to his face. His dark eyes danced beneath a black mask. Fleet of foot, steadfast, with unwavering courage. They called him The Black Death.

He had grown into the prophesy that surrounded him. Noble of birth, he came from the lines of HemHammer BearSlayer. The wise women of the East who raised him had the scrolls to prove it. They could tell the family names. They had foretold his coming. This young captain would rid the land of the vermin that brought war.

Without warning OFG suddenly whirled about and grabbed the young captain's great head.

 "Whom do you serve?" She demanded in a whisper that sounded like a howl. The smell of burning fur and flesh rising.

"This Good Land!" Replied the young captain unflinching.

"We don't back down.. " She continued the oath, giving him the mark and daring him to show pain.

"Death first!" He cried with conviction.

"We don't surrender...."

For the first time he met her eye, "I would have you kill me before I surrendered your lands to any."

All who served her took the mark of the warrior. It was a cruel tradition necessary for an unkind world. It was not uncommon for lessor warriors to lose consciousness. Some disgraced themselves. But the young captain, this dark prince, had not wavered. He showed no weakness nor did he acknowledge the searing pain.

OFG stepped back and looked young Zander in the eye.

"Go," She commanded, "Go and bring me the head of our foe. Go, Black Death. Live your name, Zander Hannibal Bonecrusher. And do not return until you do this. Make our lands safe. It is time for our enemy to die.. Now."

With grace unusual for one his size the young warrior turned and bounded into the night. OFG could hear his war howl shake the darkness. The night filled with dread.

Colonel Ti stepped from out of the shadows.

"One day he will succeed me." He told her.

OFG continued to look into the seeing darkness and replied, "Not yet, old friend." She turned and looked into his war scarred face. The years were taking their toll. His greatest enemy was not all whom he slain but the passage of time. They held each other's gaze for a long while.

Softly he said, "One day. Soon."  He stood next to his liege and together they heard Zander's howl.

The night feared.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Malfeasance. We've got it. We've got it in spades.

Fortunately this boot was rescued before it was taken off into the woods and never heard from again.

Here are the perpetrators......


And one stunning pic of Zander at 8 months - our handsome boy. He's a looker for sure. If he ever grows into that big head we are doomed. He's gonna be big - like Clifford the Big Red Dog, big. Zoikes!

And now, back to work... Around here its fencing, more fencing, re-fencing, and moving dirt from one side of the driveway to the other as part of the continuing, never-end, trenching project.

Anyone else missing a boot? Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peonies popping and planting notes

Things are really popping around here! Just look at these peonies!

And aren't these cabbages just lovely?

Planting is in high gear around here. If I don't get some of these notes down then I'll never remember what I planted where.
The comfrey in the upper garden.

On Saturday 5/12 just before our big beautiful rain I planted out most of the front hillside - there are still two sections left. One needs to be re-tilled after I took up the clover and the other needs the clover taken off. I'll plant sunflowers in both of these spots and the clover will probably re-grow to keep out the weeds.

Across the top two sections along the fence line I planted BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) under planted with white clover. I also included a random smattering of Grey Stripe (mammoth) sunflower.

The next section was several rows of broom corn (sorghum), blue hopi corn, and a multicolored ornamental corn.

The rest of the newly tilled sections were planted in alfalfa.

Below the oat sections on the lower part of the hill I planted Georgia Jet sweet potatoes with a short row of BOSS behind. Next were one and a half rows of Cannellini beans. A half a row of Walla Walla sweet onions and one row of Tenderette beans were planted last week. I checked the Tenderette beans and they were already popping up!

Then it rained the whole next day and watered everything in beautifully!

Tuesday the 15th I worked on the East Hillside Gardens. In addition to the broccoli, cabbages, and tomatoes on the south side and the blue hopi corn and orange sunflowers on the north side.... I planted some sweet bell peppers and some roma tomato plants.

In the West Hillside Garden I started with more broom corn, then yellow sunflower and a few orange ones. On the other side I planted 4 rows of Roma beans.

Then I started re-fencing the square garden. This is always the last place to be planted because of the shallow topsoil and the bad drainage. I'm working to build up raised beds to combat both of these problems. I ran the new fence parallel to the turkey house almost to the trench leaving the gravel as a path. I need to add some structure to this garden as its currently a big unplanned mess.

The fence is to keep the chickens and dogs out. Several of the rooster have started bringing their hen harems to the front yard, which has to stop. Some of the hens have already dug up some of my seeds!

We'll have beautiful weather all this week so I'll get the rest of the beds in shape and planted as well. Then all there will be to do is sit around and watch everything grow. Ha! Like there's ever time to just sit around... oh well.. I can dream, can't I?

Happy Wednesday and happy planting everyone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grandma Minnie's Graham Cracker Pie

I was so thrilled to get my newest cookbook - I found it online at Amazon... the used book seller was a Goodwill somewhere and it only cost $0.19 (plus shipping of course).  Its the Farmer's Wife Cookbook which is a collection of recipes from this old school magazine of the same name. The recipes are from 1893 - 1939.

As kids we called it "Grandma Cracker Pie"

This cookbook is the only place that I've ever found that even remotely references my Grandma Minnie's Graham Cracker Pie.  As kids we'd fight over who got the biggest piece of this old timey, beautifully simple pie.
See how big duck egg yolks are?

One of the things I like most about the Farmer's Wife Cookbook is that it makes sense. Most of the ingredients for this pie came right out a typical farmer's yard...milk, cream, eggs...what else do you need? And instead of wasting the egg whites left over from the custard... you just use them to make a beautiful meringue. Yep, just like this chocolate pie from the other day. This kind of no-nonsense thinking was one of the reasons that many families had successful farms. They used what they had and didn't waste anything. Neither did my Grandma Minnie.

The steps are simple. The Farmer's Wife Cookbook provides the graham cracker crust recipe on one page, the custard on the next, and a use-for-everything meringue a few pages later.

Crushed graham crackers and melted butter are an easy crust when pressed into a pie plate.

Beat the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch separately, then temper the eggs with the hot milk and cream.

I used 3 duck eggs and one big chicken egg, milk, cream, sugar, and corn starch to make the cooked custard.  Remember to temper your eggs like Cheeseslave does here so you don't end up with a pan of scrambled eggs.  Don't forget to add a dash of nutmeg and a splash of vanilla at the end.

Then just pour the custard into the pie crust, whip up the meringue and pop into a 350* oven for about 15 minutes. Cool completely...or you know, just eat it with a spoon. Of course, its always better the next day.

Just a few easy steps to get this gorgeous custard pie, Little Mo (in background) not included.

I was so thrilled to make Grandma Minnie's Graham Cracker Pie recipe! I learned to cook at my Grandma Minnie's side. I was very young and I'm so glad she had the patience to let me help her. But Grandma was like that. She had 7 children, 20-some grands and I don't even know most of the great-grands. She was truly an inspiration. I could only ever hope to be a shadow of her lovingkindness.

Grandma Minnie never had a concept of "me time" - her entire life was spent serving, guiding, providing, and loving her family. And she always loved us kids - even if we didn't deserve it. As far as I know she never spoke an unkind word to anyone or about anyone. Every morning of their 50+ years together Grandma made breakfast for my grandfather before they went to work together at their little country store. She always made sure there were treats in the house for us. This pie was one of our favorites. Just a simple custard pie. She used what she had and never wasted anything. Grandma Minnie lived a good long time and was adored by all of us. Thanks Grandma - and thanks to all the old timey farm wives for this lovely little cookbook.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Isn't it a great day to say... make some pie?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lilacs are blooming

The lilacs are blooming - they are just stunning.

The weekend was extremely productive... we spend all day planting Saturday and then it rained steadily all day Sunday - it was perfect. Monday will be more of the same. Either it will rain all day... or I'll be planting.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, May 11, 2012


The berries are coming on..already!

I swear I can see just a hint of blue on these blueberries.

And I found some strawberries also... they will be ripe in no time.

Happy Friday everyone! More planting on the agenda again today. Everyone enjoying this incredible weather?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nothing but planting

Today is nothing but planting... gotta get moving.

Yesterday these clouds followed me everywhere. Every time I went outside and started to work - the wind kicked up and it started raining. This went on all stinkin' day. I finally gave up and started working inside....and the sun came out. For heavens sakes.

Happy Planting Everyone! What's in your seed packets?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What's poppin' up and growing around here

Lots of stuff is popping up! I'm so thrilled that my beans are coming up!

And remember when I threw all caution to the wind and planted 'taters really early?  They are coming up also!

You know I can't get enough of radishes - and now the greens are starting to catch up.  Don't look too closely - I've got some weeding to do!

Look what else is getting big around here!  That's Kai and Zander as mirror images of each other.  Except that Zander is now bigger than Kai.... at eight months!

You can click on the pic to zoom in - and see that Zander has a paw on Kai's...and his is almost bigger than two of her paws!  Zander is going to be jumbo sized for sure. He's a big goof tho and we sometimes call him Bubaloo.

Happy Wednesday everyone! What's growing around your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Best Chocolate Pie EVER

The other day I had lunch with my two favorite kids in the whole world. It was a great day - and there was pie. Chocolate meringue pie is a staple at all my favorite fried chicken buffets around here. We call it chocolate cream pie - but the topping isn't cream, its meringue. Having chocolate pie for lunch with my pals kinda gave me a taste for it. So I made some. Behold... The Best Chocolate Pie EVER...

It's easy to make. First go and make yourself a lard-n-butter crust and pre-bake it.

Then run right over to Cheeseslave and check out her custard recipe.....I stopped following her directions at step #8 for the filling. I just poured that chocolate custard directly into the baked crust. The crust was still a little warm, and the custard was still hot,  but that was fine.

Then I used the egg whites from making the custard and beat them into a frothy frenzy and beautiful puffy goodness. You can see how the Mennonite Girls make it here. Plop that silky meringue on the custard and pop it into the oven for 7 minutes at 400*... or until the peaks get just a touch brown.

Then there's all that business about letting it cool. Just so's ya know, that's more of a guideline than a rule. You can always eat it with a spoon. Don't ask me how I know this.  But that might explain why there is not a glamor shot of a piece of this particular pie. That's all I'm sayin.'

A couple things I'd do differently next time (possibly later today)....

* I thought the crust was  baked a bit too long. But my hubby liked it. So I'll blind bake the crust again for about the same amount of time or just a touch less - so maybe 20 minutes?

* I didn't think it needed any of the sugar that Cheeseslave added so I'll skip it next time.

* I'll also make adjustments to the chocolate. I used about an ounce of 72% dark chocolate and 6 ounces of chocolate chips (semi-sweet). I thought it was a bit sweet so I'll add more dark chocolate. Maybe 3.5 oz of  each?

* I'll make more meringue for a fluffier topping. I only used 4 eggs in this custard and one of them was a duck egg with barely any white. So next time I'll use about 5 egg whites (from chicken eggs) so I'll have more topping. I used 4 eggs in this custard, instead of Cheeseslaves's six, because that's what I had on the counter and I was too lazy to walk out to get more from under the hens. Its also more along the same ratio of the custard recipe that my grandma used.

This pie was stunning and we just loved it. And it was better once it cooled..but you know how that goes.

Now that I've been talking about it - I think I need to run right out and get another one of these chocolate pies going.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Lets all make pie today!

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