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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Put Up With The Porkers

I had another post planned for today.... but then we had ribs last nite.....

They were marvelous.

We ate ourselves into a stupor. This, friends, is why I put up with those porkers. My love for ribs eclipses my hatin' on them pigz.

This is about the recipe we used - its so easy and will change your life. Some people like to watch sports. Some people like to watch reality TV.... but we like to watch Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen. We celebrate the PBS marathon BBQ University and Primal Grill days... we sit there for hour watching the master of the grill show us how to get 'er done. 

The best thing about ribs? They are a breakfast food. That's right - ribs they are what's for breakfast.

Have a great day everyone! Any body else have ribs for breakfast?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Now THAT'S an oxheart! **updated

Remember last year I was all hacked off because the oxheart tomatoes that I planted were funny looking? This year I hit one clean out of the park....

Now THAT'S an oxheart!  

Isn't it grand? Absolutely one of my favorite varieties for sure. I got a whole passel of these beauties and am going to make sauce out of these huge, meaty, old school tomatoes. I love these for lots of reasons - including that sometimes you can get city slickers to take the bet that they can eat a whole one in one sitting... they usually can't but its worth the laughs to see them try.

The other day The Gardener of Eden posted a stunning 22 ouncer - of the Paul Robeson variety... the one shown above was just at 19 ounces. There might be bigger ones out there but for now I'm thrilled with my real oxheart maters.

What about you? Do you have a big 'mater? How big is your heaviest one?

We are on your second not-so-hot day in a row.. I dunno about you but I am going to enjoy the heck out of this day. Happy Sunday everyone!

Chai Chai's comment deserved special mention...... thanks baby!

As ancient tradition demanded Zander pulled his enemies cold dead Ox Heart from its shattered remains, he would eat the whole heart raw (a feat not many could accomplish).

His sister, the Princess, chortled in the background as she surveyed the remains of the battle ground that once was the tomato patch. "OFG is going to destroy you!"

Friday, July 27, 2012

And now back to summer.....

Did everyone enjoy the rain? After the storm front passed we got a lovely rain for several hours last nite. And despite an intensely thundery storm, we didn't have any wind damage. Only a few folks lost power but mostly we got off easy.

After the storm.. now back to summer... and summer food... goat cheese, basil, and 'maters.

This storm was not a derecho, like the one we had about a month ago,  but was moving much slower - about 35 mph with winds up to 55mph. Fortunately all my huge sunflowers - and my tall corn - survived. And everything loved the nice, gentle, soaking rain. We may get more today - and that's just fine with us.

Turnips - planted tons of them on the 25th.

The rain was perfect timing with all the turnip planting I did on Wednesday. I also planted carrots and beets - mostly mangles which are the livestock beets. We'll see if they can get to size before our first frost - I might just get them grown in time. If its dry enough to prep the beds, I have one last section to plant today. It was pretty weedy so I had to till it a couple times. I'll plant even more turnips and more beets.  With my bad soil this is the first year I've been able to get them to grow well.

After all this time I finally got a mangel beet to grow! These are primarily used for livestock feed.

Now that our big storm threat is over we can all get back to summer. I'm just glad that I don't have to run the sprinklers this morning. With all my extra time I made a stunning hash for breakfast this morning.

Happy Friday everyone! Do we all have Olympic fever? Opening ceremonies are tonite!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Storm Prep - Derecho Part2: Code Orange

Mid-West and Eastern folks - are you ready for the storms today!?!?!  Get your weather radars on now and keep a weather eye on the sky.

The storm prediction center says we are in for strong storms from St. Louis up into the East Coast....and it could be the same kind of disruptive Derecho type storm we got about a month ago that put us all in the dark. 

Admittedly these kind of things are hard to predict but what we do know is that a front is coming down from the north, that there is a ton of instability, and with scorching hot temperatures and heat indexes over 100* this could be a looloo. Strong winds, damaging hail, and tornadoes are all possible.

Get your gear ready and get your storm preps going. Lets all prepare for the worst and hope for the best. And learn the lessons from the last go around.

Afraid that someone will make fun of you for taking precautions? I don't understand that kind of thinking at all - at worst you'll have some extra ice and buckets of water pre-filled for the barnyard or the garden. At best you'll have everything you need and take this next big storm in stride... while all them haters will be standing in line at the only open fast food place in town hoping to get some fries with their misery.

So let's review...
1. Do you have your weather radar up on your computer or fancy dancy phone? Did you send the link to someone outside of the danger zone in case your internet/cell phone goes down and you need minute by minute updates on where that tornado or event horizon is?

2. Got all the buckets of water filled for drinking, cooking, flushing, and for the barnyard? Do you have every kiddie pool and water tub filled to the brim?

3. Got a selection of easy to make on the grill or camp stove meals? Got snacks? Do you know what's in your fridge so you don't have to stand there letting all the cold air out and ruining everything you got? Have extra ice or frozen buckets of water filling up the space?

4. Got feed for the barnyard, for the pets, and for you?

5. Got some cash in your hand? Phone charged? Shoes on your feet? Pets contained in case you gotta make a quick evacuation?

6. Got a plan to get the barnyard contained and locked inside when the storm hits? Remember to go for who's vulnerable and who's valuable first, get critical mass locked up, don't take chances trying to round up stragglers, and get all the gates and doors locked so they aren't out there banging around in the wind.

OK then you are ready for action. But here are a few more things that you'll wish you had done before the storm hit:

Did you do all the laundry? Nothing is worse than being hot and tired and standing in the rubble and not having any clean clothes for a week.

Did you do all the dishes? This one gets me every stinkin' time but I'm ready this go 'round. Its hard enough if you don't have water but when there are dishes using up your sink. Dang. That just makes you mad.

I'm taking a shower for sure this time... 'enuf said about that.

Here's where you can find some more tips and how we survived Blow Hard 2012 about a month ago.

Batten down the hens and hang on to your hats, folks!  Lets all get our storm preps done then sit around and watch the radar today. Stay safe everyone!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



Good Ol' SwingBlade took one for the team. I'm gonna have to work on this.  I think I mighta whacked a fence post with it. Nearly knocked me silly to tell you the truth.

This is the brush blade for my trusty scythe... that notch in the blade isn't supposed to be there and no amount of sharpening with a stone is gonna get it out. This is some major fixin'.

When I first heard what I'd need to get this scythe blade all fixed up I wasn't having anything to do with it... but then I found out that "peen" is part of, or a type of, a hammer. Good thing too because I wasn't gonna be peein' on anything least of all my farm tools.

I'll get this whipped into shape. Until then we have a spectacularly cool and bright morning here. A heavenly rain fell for a couple hours yesterday and looks to be more on the way tomorrow. We might just all survive this crazy, dry summer.

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Anybody got any tips for me to beat this blade back into shape? Aside from peenin' on it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Year On The Farm: Interview with Tilton Hollow Farm!

This little blog started as a records keeping project and I never dreamed that the best part about it was that I'd meet so many fun people! I love all my online friends, some who farm - some who don't. And some who are about the take the plunge. That's how I met JeffJustJeff. I started getting comments a while about from JJJ, who said he was wanting to move out to the country...and by golly, he did!

I'm so proud and so thrilled that JJJ and Chad have now been on their farm for a year - and what a year its been! So many successes, crazy stories, and a few heart breaks as well. But these guys have done a great job getting their place up and running. JJJ and Chad are just regular people. They did this because they wanted to - they just had the gumption to give it a try. And wow! What a success!

As part of our continuing series to inspire wanna-be's to gettin' it done, I asked JJJ for an interview about their first year.  Here it is, showing that regular people can really do this. Can you change your life? Yes you can!

OFG: JJJ, how about a quick overview, tell me about Tilton Hollow Farm.

We've been at Tilton Hollow Farm a little over a year now. We've accomplished a lot in that first year. We raise chickens for meat and eggs, heritage Gloucestershire Old Spot Hogs, dairy goats, and about every kind of poultry species you can imagine. We have launched a line of goat milk soap and herbal remedies. I've learned to make cheese, butcher a chicken, birth a goat, milk a goat, incubate eggs, make jams and jellies, can vegetables and meats among many other things. The list of things we no longer buy from the store constantly grows. There have been a lot of ups and downs in that first year, but I cherish every moment. I have found my purpose and have never been happier in my life. I have learned many truths about myself and found a passion I didn't know I possessed. I never knew that where you lived could change your life so dramatically. Our website is tiltonhollow.com. It's a work in progress. My blog that is going to get regular again is tilton1823.blogspot.com. We'd love you to follow our adventures at our sites or our Facebook page. We are often entertaining and at times, informative.

OFG: What inspired you to give up the city life for the country?  Did you have any farming experience before you did this? 

I lived in semi-rural areas when young and then again when I was a teenager. Chad lived in a medium sized city his whole life. I have a friend who moved to the country, and I just loved the peace and quiet when visiting her. That's when I started bugging Chad to move to the country. I even got him to look at a house, but that didn't pan out. It was always in the back of my mind. I'd occasionally look through real estate listings. In 2011, the Fabulous Beekman Boys aired on Planet Green. It was a reality series about two New York gentlemen who moved to the country and tried to make a living of it to allow both of them to leave the city. One of the guys also wrote a book, The Bucolic Plague, which I read and then made Chad read. That pushed him over the edge. He was willing to consider moving. The rest is history. We moved to the farm in May of last year. It's 6.5 acres and the house was built in 1823. It's nestled at the bottom of a cozy little valley, on a gravel road, with two ponds, two barns, an old springhouse, a creek, and some woods.
I didn't really have farming experience. We had a couple chickens when I was a teenager. My step-dad worked on a beef ranch, but I wasn't much interested in farming back then. I've always loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a youngster. We always had a garden when I was a kid, and I had some small ones as an adult.

OFG: Aside from the logistics, what have you learned in the last year about "making your own food" and starting a farm?

Oh my! Where to start? We both have learned so much, some through reading an research, but mostly through trial and lots of error. Some of the most important lessons I've learned are that ingenuity often works out much better than store-bought solutions. I was quick to run to Tractor Supply (love that store) in the beginning and probably wasted a LOT of money buying this and that gadget. There's usually something that can be repurposed to fit your needs.

Another important lesson is that when dealing with animals, a lot of times you get what you expect. If you go into a situation thinking an animal isn't going to cooperate, it probably won't. They can definitely read your energy. I've learned that animals have a lot to teach us if we only take the time to stop and watch and learn. I learned that I'm not afraid of hard work. When people tell me how I like living on the farm, invariably I say, "I've never worked harder in my life and I've never been happier." I've also found that there are a lot of like-minded individuals out there who love to share knowledge. I've learned that there is a sense of community in the country that has been extinct in the city for a long time.

OFG: What have you learned about yourself? 

I've learned that there isn't much I can't do. That's not bragging, that's just buckling down and doing it. If I don't know how to do something, there's someone out there that does know and has written the instructions or can talk me through it. I've learned that the things that I used to feel were important aren't at all. It's amazing how your priorities change when you try to become self-sufficient while caring for the land you live on. I used to look for activities to keep me from being bored. Now, I mostly detest things that make me leave my home.

OFG: What does your family/friends think? 

Most of them are very proud at what we've accomplished in a year and tell us often. It's good to get that encouragement. Some of them get tired of hearing the 'farm stories' or can't imagine how we deal with all of those things that are so foreign to them. One of the comments that I get often and defend vehemently is, "How can you name the animals and then eat them? Don't tell me their names. I don't want to know." I say that naming them give them dignity and that one of the biggest problems with society today is that people don't take the time to know where their food comes from.

OFG: What is your best advice for someone who is hesitant about starting a farm? 

Stop hesitating and do it! You will never do something more rewarding. There is an indescribable pride in being self-sufficient. Be prepared to work hard and love it. Prioritize what you need to get done, because you will NEVER get everything done. I like to arrange tasks into 'must be done's" and "nice to have's". Work on the things that have to be done to keep the farm going and keep a list of the other things you want to get done. Do those ones as you can. Talk to as many farmers as you can. There's a wealth of knowledge out there and most of them want to share it. Find a guru. It's immensely helpful. OFG has been a wonderful mentor to me even before we moved to the farm. Don't bring anything onto the farm until you're ready for it. We got more goats than we were ready for. It just ends up making more work for you. We didn't let the goats suffer, but there was some suffering on our parts.

Thanks, JJJ for sharing this with us. One of the things I loved best was that JJJ said that how being self sufficient gives you such a feeling of accomplishment and pride that what you thought was important before.. just isn't as fulfilling. We've found this to be true also. There is nothing like a freezer full of food that you grew and harvested yourself. That is the kind of wealth that means something.

So what do you think, folks. Is anyone on the fence? Do you yearn for this kind of life? Come on now, if we can do it so can you!

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Now get out there and start a farm!

Note: For more inspiration you can read our interview with Insurgent Chicken here and also with the Gastronomic Gardener here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Finally. A little relief....

The best thing about Friday was.....

... it rained. Finally!

And all God's people said... Amen.

Looks to be more later this week - we could be catching a break from this dry weather. I'm working on planting root veggies for the fall including more beets, turnips, and carrots. If we can't get reasonably priced corn, by golly, we'll have fodder for the stock.

Is everyone getting their turnips in? Remember what the old timers say, "Wet or dry by July 25."  I also think I can get another round of beans in...here's to hoping!

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's just look at some sunflowers

I had a different post planned for today - but if you're like me you woke up to the shocking news of the shooting in Colorado. So instead of a farm-y post, lets just look at some sunflowers.

I think we should all go and hug everyone we love today.  And lets remember that we're all in this together.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Hot. Real Hot. And Dry.

The Relentless Summer of 2012 continues. Mostly its just hot hot hot and more hot with additional heat on the side. And no rain. The lucky people got rain yesterday but we got nary a drop. Sure we saw the dark clouds and heard the thunder and... nothing.

The sunflowers are happy - winkin' and blinkin' in the hot summer of 2012.

At this point we are just scrambling to do what we can to keep everyone calm, cool, and fed. Its kind of a tough go. There is nothing in the goat yard for them to eat so I've been letting them graze on the hill. However this requires me to sit there with them. You can imagine how I feel about this. More on this later.

The hennies and ducks all just hang around where I run the sprinkler. The water attracts bugs and worms and stuff so the poultry are happy. The pigz are fine but have either trampled or eaten off every single leaf in their pen. We'll be working on a project to move them deeper into the woods like we did last year.

Potatoes destined for salad (thanks for all the great recipes!) and jalapenos to become goat cheese filled poppers.  Batter dipped and deep fried in lard, these are a taste sensation!

The garden is hanging in there but only because of constant watering. The problem is that once the soil gets this dry it can take hundred of gallons to rehydrate - so I'll be closing down some of the sections until we get some relief. But we continue to take up what's ripe and ready.

That's the update here, hope everyone is getting more rain than we are... but just to make sure, everyone get out there and do a rain dance - we can use a little relief!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Taking Up The Taters

We've been taking up the 'taters!  Nothing compares to fresh, new potatoes right from your garden. Whether its from the heat, or my early planting, the potatoes are ready to be harvested. Sure I could keep them in the ground a bit longer to cure.. but nah..... I just love the tender, thin skins and the fresh and delicious taste.

Mashed, fried, roasted, or in classic potato salad... my paleo is taking a powder as I'm partaking of all these potatoes. Of course, my pal Freemotion will remind me to make sure I have a lot of fat (butter, cream, bacon) in my potato portion to counteract the blood sugar spike I'll get from all these carby, lovely potatoes. But that's OK - my Germanic roots cry out for that anyway.

Harvest is easy - as soon as the tops die back go and get your pitchfork, rake off the clean straw you've heavily mulched the potatoes with when you planted them, and then dig in.

Sometimes you can find the potatoes on the surface! No digging required... but lift the soil anyway just to catch any that are hiding beneath the surface.

And sometimes they get kind of off course so be sure to dig around that nice straight row that you originally planted them in... I love seeing how far away they can get.

These are Yukon Gold but those Irish Cobblers are ready also

Remember that the best thing about harvesting potatoes is that it preps your bed for fall gardening. All that straw is a bit composted down and all that digging helps loosen the soil. I'll do a quick pass with the tiller, rake off any weeds, and then plant carrots, beets, and turnips in these beds.

And now, I need to head outside. We have heat warnings again and are look at another 100*+ heat index. But first I'm going to fry up some of our bacon until its crispy, dice up some of our purple onions, mix with mayo and mustard, and stir in some of the taters I boiled until tender. That, friends, is how you make potato salad OFG style.

How about you - what's your favorite potato salad style?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Just some cute little ducks...

Just some cute little ducks... doin' cute little duck things.

These are my little milking buddies. They love it when I fill up the drainage ditch to make a little puddle for them. This momma ducks loves to brood and raise her babies in the garage - right near where the goat milking happens. She knows that if she comes over to me peeping and stomping her little ducky feet that I'll give her some sips out of the milking pail.

I can't help it - I just love little ducks.

Another scorcher today but the humidity has come on us so its worse than before. I need to keep these little guys cool so they will be playing in the water again.

Any body else got little quackers splashing around in puddles today?

Happy Monday everyone! Keep cool and think adorable little ducky thoughts!

Friday, July 13, 2012

The "D" Word. How Dry Is It?

Dry. Its real dry. Last nite on the news they finally said the "D" word - oh its a drought alright. All you really need to do is drive around in farm country and see the curled up corn and the inch high alfalfa and the dead-in-the-field soybeans.
One of the gardens I've been watering. Note the corn on the left of the sunflowers. (Bucket for scale)

Its about time to get nervous. Food prices - for people and livestock - are going to start going up. Expect high prices for just about everything. I don't think there will be shortages... heaven knows there could be blood in the streets if they actually start rationing out soda and "Itos" for sure. If you don't think that corn and soybeans affects you, just remember that the majority of processed foods in the store are made out of corn or soybeans or both. That goes for livestock and pet food also.

At our place we can see the effects of this rainless summer everywhere. The grass is mostly gone, everything growing outside the fence is drying up, and the pond is really low. I might be imagining it but the water from our well is starting to taste funny also.

I've been watering everyday trying to keep the garden going. Unfortunately the weeds are going like gangbusters while everything else is suffering.  I'm actually considering shutting down part of the garden until later in the fall. The only upside is that I don't have to mow.

And this is where I watered by the bucketful yesterday. What a difference! (Same bucket)

Yesterday I finally broke down and bucket watered the corn and sorghum outside the fence. The soil snapped, crackled, and popped when I poured the buckets of water on it. I can't get to it with the water trolley so it was a lot of my tromping back and forth with buckets of water. It was a lot of work and I don't even know if it will work.

But its not just us. We saw our friends who own the orchard nearby recently - and we had a good laugh that he's doing the same thing. Only he's getting water out of his pond, filling 50 gallon drums in the back of his truck, and watering the fruit trees that way.

My poor alfalfa. I should be around ready for a second cutting but this hasn't even been cut once. (Still the same bucket)

This could be an interesting season, folks. I know that some of our friends are drowning in rain and here we are baking in the drought. Interesting times indeed. But chin up, we are all in this together, right?

One of my favorite scenes... a busy bee on a sunflower. At least he's happy!

What about you - are you baking or drowning?

Happy Friday (the 13th) everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Angry Bird

Lookin' bad, baby... lookin' real bad.

Hope everyone is having a better day then my poor little, molting hennie.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Giving little pigz brain freeze

Just like little kids with slurpees......

The other day I gave the little pigz a bunch of frozen hard boiled eggs. They gave themselves brain freeze, that's what all the squealing is about.

Hey you pigz! Just don't eat them so fast!

For heavens sakes.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you giving your pigz brain freeze? Ha!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oh Deer, Why We Need Kai

The beans I planted outside the gate have been doing great! Just about every day I go out there with the water trolley and the hoe to keep them weed free and watered. And I got my first, nice bucket of beans the other day.

Then this. Deer. They got my beans. And my sweet potatoes. See how the beans are razed across the top? This bush used to be about 2 foot tall. And full of beans.

You could say this is what I get for planting anything outside the fenced in area of our property. But I'm still mad. I didn't think the beans would grow out there because the soil is so bad,  but wow they went like gangbusters.
Nibbled to nothing.

Now this. So this is kind of disappointing. Oh deer. Around here they are kind of a pestilence on the land. We call them land rats and rejoice when hunting season comes around. Gene Logsdon had something to say about there a while ago.  Most nice folks just about burst into tears when you tell them how much damage deer cause to crops and how dangerous the roads are around here. But its not so hilarious when its your car or truck that's in a crumpled heap in a ditch. Or your beans that have been nibbled down to nothing.

Usually the deer aren't a problem for us within the fence. Back when the Old Man Neighbor had something to say to us he was always telling me that my field fence wouldn't keep the deer off our property. I'd always tell him that I wasn't foolish enough to expect the fence to keep them out - because this is how we keep the deer away around here.  Kai is our best hunter and she hates the deer. You should see her in action, she is a vision when she's got her hunt on. Zander will come into his 'hell yeah' soon enough and the two of them will be a lethal combination for any varmints who cross our lines.

If you don't have big dogs you can keep the deer out by either building a really tall fence - or by installing a double fence, like our dog moat.  The fence has to be tall enough so the deer can't jump over it - or low and wide enough part that they can't jump across it. For now I just need to figure out a way to get some netting over these beans to try and save them. Stupid deer.

Me, a bucket of beans, and My Fighting Uruk-Hai.. My Kai, my best hunter.

Later this fall we do another fencing project out where the beans are.... but not to keep the deer out. But to give Kai more land to patrol. My Fighting Uruk-Hai.... More feline then canine, she hunts the herds silently. Bring them down, Kai, bring them all down.

Any body else have their beans demolished by stupid deer? Drat.

Happy Tuesday everyone - lets all go find some netting to keep the varmints out of the harvest.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hey Nibbles! Whatcha think about the heat?

Hey Nibbles! Whatcha think about the heat?

And that is what she had to say about it. 

Our record breaking heat broke today... to everyone's great relief.   Don't worry Nibbles - this week will be much better.

Happy Monday everyone! Now get out there and enjoy the cooler weather!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Clara CoonHammer

Editor's note: We continue the tall tail of OFG and the Adventures in the Good Land. New readers may begin this part of the story here with The Mark of the Warrior.  And next here, A War on Two Fronts. The backstory begins here, then Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

“In love?”


“In LOVE!?”


“You mean to tell me that Commander Zander is in love?”

“Yes.” The troubadour Little Mo nervously stood in front of OFG. He was her constant companion in the Great Hall. Little Mo was rarely out of her reach. He was no fool but he always told her the truth. He had to be the one to tell her. So he did.

With wide set eyes, and his pupils nearly always dilated, Little Mo always had the look of one who had just been surprised. His small mouth had the ends upturned so as to appear he was always smiling. But he had such a sadness about him. His face was one of contradiction.

He was watching her face closely. He understood her light and shade. He read her emotions as they crossed her face, first shock, then anger, then a sort of acceptance. Then....there. He was waiting for this. Little Mo smiled quietly to himself.

“A good love match would mean a marriage....” She said thinking aloud, “...and then there would be puppies.”

It was a fact that OFG loved all small creatures and she especially loved the babes. She adored her time with both Princess Kai and the young Zander when they were small. She doted on them constantly and insisted on caring for them herself. She would shrug off her battle gear at the entrance of the Great Hall and immediately take up little Zander, swaddling him close. And she always had with her a sippy cup of broth for him. She'd carry on her duties of ruling the realm with Zander in her arms. She governed at a slower and much softer pace. And always with the pup snuggled close to her heart.

Some who were not familiar with this side of her snickered behind their hands... and the courtiers could be catty about this unexpected softness. But none of her own questioned her directly. She normally had a hard look in her eye so all of her subjects enjoyed seeing OFG's more gentle side. They did not doubt her ability to lead, even if she was speaking babytalk to a snuffing, wiggling pup.

There was once a visiting rouge who was not well known to the court. He had thought to tease OFG about being so tender, so doting. She had been exhausted from being awake for the second night in a row with the fussy, teething young Zander. Hoping to sooth the pup she was walking the Great Hall late one night, cooing to him while the rest of the court slept. She worried because the pup had a fever.

“What's this? The great warrior now playing nursemaid? You must be loosing your touch, going soft, eh?” The scoundrel said mocking her.

“I would not say such things if I were you.” She replied in the same sing-song voice that she had used to coo to the pup.

“Why not?” The stranger laughed, sneering, “What are you going to do? Slay me with your sippy cup?”

“No.” She said raising her eyes to look at this insulting cur for the first time. She adjusted the sleeping Zander on her shoulder.

“I'll use my sword.”

In a flash it was over. The rouge's face still held a surprised look when his head hit the floor, now separated from his body. As she walked away she motioned for a page to clean up the mess lest dear little Zander have to see such a gruesome sight when he awakened. From then on everyone knew that under the mantle of her mother's love OFG still wore her warrior's fierceness. Its one of the reasons they were all so devoted to her. They all knew she would protect them with the same ferocity.

Little Mo saw that his liege was lost in her thoughts of little ones.. “Sir?” He asked.

“Hum?” She answered a bit dreamily.

“Your orders?” He motioned to the scroll he was holding. “Do you want to see what Commander Zander asked me to write?”

“Yes....yes, thank you.” She took the scroll and began skipping thru the lines... “every beat of my heart”..... “forever be mine”.... “until we meet”... It certainly looked like a love song.

“But who is this for? Little Mo, did Zander tell you who this love song was for when he asked you to write it?” She asked, half distracted as she tried to think who the young Zander could be so smitten with. No one in her realm came to mind.

“No. Only that she was far away and that he'd only seen an image of her. I don't even have her name, my liege.”

This was a riddle. Certainly OFG had noticed that Zander was a bit preoccupied but nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. She had been so busy managing The Good Land and with the drought she scarcely had time to think about anything else.

“Kai! Kai, come in here please.” OFG called knowing the Princess was nearby.

Kai trotted in, her eyes shining as bright as her tiara. She was carrying a large leg bone and picking off the last of the roasted meat.

“Hunting again, dear?” Asked OFG proudly, already knowing that Kai had brought down a deer who had been making trouble. Kai nodded her head and continued to gnaw on the bone.

“What's this about your brother and some sweetheart?” Asked OFG lightly wondering just how much Kai knew.

“Oh that.” Answered Kai rolling her eyes. “He's been mooning all around about some trollop. Its getting to be so tiresome.”

Kai looked up at OFG and made a face, “Oooooohh I just looooooooove her!” She mocked a bad impression of her brother. Then laughed at herself and shaking her head. “Just tiresome.”

She went back to gnawing at the bone. “I hope he gets over it soon. I don't know how much more I can take.” The Princess said between bites.

“Who is it, Kai? Who is this young lass who has his heart?” OFG was already dreaming of the wedding, the celebration, the nursery, and the new puppies...so many puppies.... OFG only ever wanted puppies all of the time.

“I dunno...” Replied Kai absently, still chewing on the bone.... “Cow Belle, Clara Belle.. something that reminds me of cows. Some girl from the country.”

“You mean Clara Malleus Racoonorum!” OFG jumped up from her chair. “You can't mean Clara from Bourbon of the Red's household?” This was entirely unexpected and OFG was clearly shocked and befuddled. How could this be?

“Yep, that's the one. Clara. She likes cows. Wait! Her name is Clara CoonHammer? Ha! CoonHammer my eye... more like RaccoonSnuggler or something.” Kai harrumphed.

“Oh for heaven's sakes.” OFG sat down hard. This was most unexpected. If there were an enemy to slay or a battle to fight she'd know exactly what to do. But this... this.. OFG was not well suited for this kind of thing at all.

“I don't know what he sees in her. She has bad markings and a pointed face....” Kai was now whining and pouting a bit. She didn't want her brother to be taken with some cow dog.

“Now, Kai. Be kind. And ...she...if Zander marries her then she could be your sister on day.” Said OFG still looking confused and wondering just what to do about all of this.

“Sister!” Kai dropped the bone and leapt up and began pacing. “Oh no. I don't need a sister! And definitely not that girl. She probably doesn't even hunt! She probably hasn't even killed anything! She is not going to be my sister.” Kai got that stubborn look in her eye that got under OFG's skin.

OFG tried to reason, “Why not have a sister? You could teach her to hunt. She has a noble name. Perhaps she will be a good hunter. She could come and live here – we could all be together. It would be wonderful. And besides... if there was a marriage there would be... puppies.”

Kai's mouth dropped open. Her mother had lost her senses. Entirely. A sister? Who wanted a sister? Kai had her brother, Zander, and that's all she needed. And who wanted a litter of squirming brats? Kai immediately shook off the ridiculous notion.

“Oh no.” Said OFG quickly as she remembered something.

Kai looked up, they caught each other's eye, and then Kai finished OFG's thought, “Colonel Ti.”

OFG looked flustered and put her face in her hands. Kai started giggling. Col Ti would not approve of this match at all. He and Bourbon of the Red still had unfinished business...they hated each other and this would just make things worse. Her most trusted military adviser and closest ally had a longstanding feud. Managing the two of them when they rarely saw each other was difficult enough. But for her young Prince Zander to wife one of Bourbon's household? Nothing good could come from that.

Quickly OFG took up pen and scroll and hurriedly scratched out some lines. “Bourbon should at least hear this news directly from me. Kai.” OFG handed the scroll to the Princess. “Now. Take some men and ride tonight for the North. Make all haste and return with his answer immediately.”

“By your leave, Mother.” Kai was already on her feet, she tossed her head as she turned to go, and carelessly called over her shoulder, “I'll be back before evening on the third day...... Grandmama!” And she was gone. But OFG could still hear her laughing as she raced off.

“For heaven's sakes.” Said OFG looking at Little Mo. “For heaven's sakes.”

Little Mo just looked down at the floor. He did not like conflict. This would not go well. Not well at all. The sadness crept back over his face.

OFG had done her best to keep busy and away from Colonel Ti's questioning gaze. They had known each other for too long and she could not keep secrets from him. He would know something was afoot. So OFG had sent Col Ti on a dozen small errands while she kept careful watch to see if Kai had returned with Bourbon of the Red's response.

A marriage between their houses would be most beneficial...it would strengthen their alliance and ensure a lasting peace. None of their enemies would dare rise against them – their joined lands would stretch across most of the known world.

But on the other hand. Bourbon of the Red may not want one of his own to be tied with Zander's fate. A warrior's life was never easy. A chosen one such as Zander would require a strong mate, one who would endure much, sacrifice everything, and would have no guarantee of a normal life of hearth and home.

Finally late in the evening of the third day OFG was in her inner chambers reciting evening prayers with one of the friars, a young cockerel named Ignatius.

Suddenly, her door burst open and in strode young Kai. Still a bit breathless from her journey home, her eyes were laughing and she was grinning wide – as someone who already knew how a joke would end. She sat back on her heels and smiled wide, holding out a scroll to OFG with Bourbon's seal.

“His answer?” Asked OFG, rushing to take it from Kai and quickly opening it.

OFG read quickly, “Oh no.” She read it again, and looked up at Kai who was still grinning. “Oh no. But....Oh no.”

Kai covered her mouth but she was giggling and finally broke.

“So it seems that Bourbon has other plans for Miss Clara Cow Belle.” Said Kai enjoying this news just a little too much. Kai smirked as if she won some secret game.

Behind them Little Mo ushered the protesting Ignatius out of the room and closed the door. “What is it, Sir?” He asked OFG eager to know the news.

“It seems that Clara is destined for the convent.”

Kai could not contain herself anymore and burst out laughing. “And that is the end of that! No country cow girl for my dear brother. Whew! He can do much better than that anyway. I have in mind for him this young warrior I know....”

Just then Col Ti stormed into the room, saluted, and demanded “What's all this I hear about Bourbon of the Red and some strumpet of his coming to this Good Land? You're not going to allow this are you?”

OFG opened her mouth to answer when next the young Prince Zander barged into the room knocking some of Col Ti's men at arms aside and rushing to his mother. “What's this about a sister?” He asked excitedly. “Will I really have a new sister?”

OFG stood, her mouth still opened, trying to find the words. She exhaled loudly and turned to Little Mo. Little Mo just shrugged and looked at her with his wide eyes.

The room was silent as they all waited for her to say something. Finally all she could do was shrug ineffectually and drop her arms uselessly at her sides and say, “For heaven's sakes.”

OFG turned from them and just shook her head. The room erupted with the rest of them shouting over one another to each make their case. “No good could come from this at all,” she thought.

Little Mo made his way over to her and sat at her feet looking surprised and a little sad.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Blow Hard 2012 - Wind Storm Disaster Q & A with OFG

We learned a new word this past week: derecho. Its basically a land hurricane and wow did it pack a punch! We had straight line winds with speeds up to 80 mph – it was like nothing we've ever seen before. It came out of nowhere. This storm blew down from the north – out of its projected trajectory – and by the time it was over it had traveled 1000 miles in just 16 hours.

We were just some of the poor saps left in the dark with no power. Fortunately we were only out of power for a little more than 24 hours. As of last nite well over 100,000 people are still without power and may not get it back until later today.

How did we handle it here in The Good Land? Lets do a quick Q and A.

What happened?:
Thank heaven my pal, V, told me to turn on my weather radar last Friday afternoon. She typically gets weather before we do and the storm was barreling down on her. We figured we had about an hour before it hit us so we sprung to action. First, we got everyone in the barnyard who was vulnerable or valuable shoved in their houses. This was tough because it was so hot and because it was so early. However as the event horizon got closer and it got darker and darker there was better cooperation and we got critical mass of the poultry safely inside with some stragglers. We locked all the doors, especially the big sliding barn door.

Next we grabbed all the buckets we could find. We have been buying them at walmart and also the local donut shop. These food grade buckets usually come with lids and are just $1 or $2 each. They seal really well and have a ton of uses. The Big Man filled all the buckets from the hose knowing we'd need water for the barnyard. Meanwhile I grabbed all my half gallon jars and filled them from the sink for drinking and cooking. As part of our normal preparedness we have at least 5 gallons of water stored in the basement. But with the heat we wanted to make sure we could get everyone watered.

I made one last trip outside to get the last of the hens in and to lock the goats in their house. Just as I put the latch on the goat door the storm hit – poultry went flying, everything in the barnyard whooshed, the gate was nearly ripped off the hinges, and branches started coming down. Dog#1 and I ran for our lives. Literally running for our lives. I last saw the runner ducks...well... running away.  I wished them luck.

Then The Big Man and I stood on the front porch (sheltered) and watched the trees bend and whip around. For a couple tense moments we watched the maple tree in the front come dangerously close to breaking and crushing one of the trucks. Luckily it didnt. Then the lightening started and we ran in the basement.

In the house we had the cats secured in smaller rooms – in the safest bedroom and in the bathrooms. We did this so we could keep track of them, to best protect them if the house blew apart, and to make sure we could quickly snatch them up if we needed to make a hasty evacuation. I learned the hard way that cats can be uncooperative during times of crisis. I once chased Nicholas around the house with a net while a tornadic storm was almost upon us. It didn't go well. So having them “easily snatchable” is the best policy.

The dogs came downstairs in the basement with us. Then the lights went out. At that point I deeply regretted not taking a shower. Or washing the dishes in the sink. Dang.

Then what?
We sat there and looked at each other.

After the worst of it was over I went to check the barnyard. And wow those runner ducks came running right for me. Ha! Next time they will listen to me and not run away. The door to the hen house had blown open, but the gate was still attached, and I had totally forgotten about the pigs. But I knew where my butcher knives were just in case we had some pressed ham. We checked on the pigz and they were fine. Everyone was fine. We did not have any livestock losses. We had one tree down but none of our property damage was too bad. It was still early in the evening so we let everyone back out so they could cool off and peck around.

Then we opened the house to get as much cool air in as possible. There is an art and a science to this passive cooling – the strategy of closing and opening the house to keep it cool. I'm not very good at it but it works.

We did chores, when it was almost dark, but we were able to round everyone up. I think Debbie the goat was pretty freaked out. When I opened her door she was all covered in debris but not from the storm. I'm guessing it was from thrashing around. I'm glad I had her locked up so she didn't bolt. A good reminder to keep everyone locked up.

What about food? What did you do about food!
For the animals? We were at the feed store the day before and on a whim I bought an extra couple of bags of feed – good thing too because our little town was still out of power and the feedstore just opened today.

For us – easy. We normally have a bunch of easy to fix meals for these situations. And I had put out two days of meat to thaw in the fridge earlier that day. So I pulled that all out and we grilled it and just had a big, grill-up-meat-feed for dinner.

A couple notes:
  • Almost anything you can cook on your stove you can cook on your gas grill. I put a cast iron fry pan on the grill top and voila! You don't need no stinkin' burner – just don't grab the handle bare handed.
  • It goes without saying that you should always have some extra propane for your gas grill. Two full tanks is a good number. You can cook on your gas grill in summer or winter. But don't ever cook on it in the house or in the garage. I once cooked bacon and eggs outside on the grill in a snow storm – complete with mittens, snow pants, and a big jacket.
  • Our fridges are pretty efficient. Our stuff will stay cold in the upstairs fridge for at least 12 hours and the downstairs fridge is good for 24 hours. We keep this downstairs fridge especially cold – for beer and for butchering – so it lasts longer.
  • Don't stand there with the fridge door open! We have a standing “no open door” policy for power outages. At most we open the door maybe twice or 3 times a day. Once its out whatever we take out doens't go back in. So strategically take stuff out. For instance, I remembered that I didn't have very much teriyaki sauce.... so that's what we used as seasoning for one of the packages of meat. I didn't feel bad wasting what we didn't use.
  • Use everything that is most perishable first. We drank the cold milk from the fridge first....and I used up the fresh goat cheese (I made the day before) immediately. We had fabulous goat cheesy bruchetta on the grill.
  • The freezer drawer for the upstairs fridge is shockingly inefficient and makes me mad every time I think about it. So everything in that drawer is used first. Of course, we always take one for the team and dig into the ice cream first.

Fortunately I also made a blueberry crisp just as the storm was approaching. The power went off before it was done cooking but I just let it set in the hot oven. It finished up just fine and we had a tasty snack and also something for breakfast.

When did you know you were in trouble?
When I started calling around to grocery stores the next morning to see if anything was open. Altho we have a power inverter for the trucks, we really needed some ice to make sure the fridges and freezers would stay cold. If we were in for a long haul then the ice would buy us a couple of days before we'd need to run the trucks (and use the gas) to keep everything cold.

The best tip I learned thru all of this is that you should immediately stop what you are doing and figure out where the nearest hospital is... then find out if there is a grocery store nearby. The local Krogers were open because both happened to be on the same power grid as the hospital they were each located next to (in different towns)... good thinking on someone's part. So we knew we could get some supplies.

The morning after we lost power we each set out in different directions. Early. VERY early. Don't be a fool and sleep in during a crisis. People were already in line at 7am for the local TSC to see if they could buy a generator.

I figured it was going to be grim when I went to Kroger and there was a line at the in-store Starbucks 25 people deep and folks loading up their carts with water. I found the manager and asked him for the news... he just told me “good luck.” That's when I found out that folks would be without power for over a week.

I talked to some folks who said the night of the storm was chaotic in town. Most of the power was out, almost all the stoplights were out, and many of the fast food places were dark. This caused chaos in the streets – literally. Apparently people panicked at not being able to get their value meals and the few places that were open had lines down the street and hundred of people waiting. I reflected on the fabulous grill-up we had safely at home and kinda shrugged thinking they were fools.

They also told me that traffic was terrible. I wondered why they didn't just stay home but I guess they all needed that combo meal instead of staying at home eating what was about to go bad in their fridge. At that point I figured these folks were the zombies that preppers were always talking about.

On the lighter side, I happened upon a baker of bread who's shop was dark but who had a bunch of bread they couldn't sell and didn't want to go to waste. They were happy to pass it out to folks nearby and I was glad for the 3 loaves I was offered. Some other people took armloads.

By the time I passed by Kroger again on the way home the coffee line was down to nothing and all of the ice and water had been cleared off of the shelves. TBM and I had been coordinating via cell phone so I got a few things that he could not find. As I trolleyed around in the store I watched people go to the BBQ aisle and load their carts with all the charcoal they could carry. I was glad that we didn't need it. I got paper towels and paper plates thinking it would be easier to throw them away then to try and wash dishes. And I got Oreos. I figured if this was the end of civilization as we knew it then Oreos should be on the menu.

I also noted that the banks had already started putting up “no cash” signs on their ATM's. Some folks were surprised that their bank cards didn't work at the cashier. I had a big roll of cash in my pocket so I didn't worry. No where, to or from town, could I find an open gas station. Luckily my big truck was mostly full so I didn't worry about that either.

By the time I got home TBM had put a big bag of ice in each of the fridges and freezers. Good thing we got it when we did as it became worth its weight in gold. On Tuesday I happened to be at walmart at about 11 am and they had already sold out of ice. The cashier said they had sold out twice the day before.

How did you manage the barnyard?
Well, as I said above, we had food for them... and since we free range everyone it wouldn't have been the end of the world if we ran out. Water was really the only big problem. But we had filled every single bucket, tub, and kiddie pool we could find before the storm hit. We figured that everyone would have to make do and we consolidated water buckets where appropriate (for the waterfowl who drink out of puddles anyway), carefully filled the pigz water (they still had a huge wallow full of water if things got bad), and really the only ones who got any of the precious fresh water were the goats. In a pinch we could have hauled water from the pond for the stock.

The poultry houses were hot, even as it got late, so we stayed outside until just about dark making sure the predators weren't snooping around. We closed the doors at the last possible minute.

In the morning we got the barnyard up early. Like, crack of dawn early so they could get all their chickenin' around done in the cool of the day. There was a heavy dew which helped, and we still had plenty of water. When I dumped buckets too dirty for the barnyard to drink from I did it in the grass so it would attract worms and bugs for the hens.

Were you worried?
Only about Zander. We keep forgettingThe Bubby is still a baby. He still can't handle the heat like the rest of them. So we took the dogs downstairs in the basement with us where it was coolest. We'd take breaks outside in the shade and sat in the breeze. And we encouraged Zander to put his paws in the water to keep cool. There was no playing or running around. If he, or any of the other dogs, would have gotten over heated it would have been difficult to cool them off. But he did just fine.

What did you do for entertainment?
We read books. Can you believe it? Actual books. We also were able to hook up the TV to the power inverter and catch the local news. We were really surprised at how widespread the damage was.

Just as they were giving the status of when power would be restored to different areas...and we were sure we'd be the last ones to get our power back... the lights came on! We ran.. I mean to tell you...we RAN to get as much water as we could. We refilled the buckets, the tubs and everything else. Then we quickly took showers. Then I reviewed our food options just in case we were left in the dark again.

As it was the power came and went for several days. Its still going on and off as they are bringing more people online. The worst thing that happened was that I used the buckets of extra water for the garden one morning and just as I was done... we lost power. And no way to get water. And I had just dumped out all our water on the green beans! Oh NO! Fortunately after about an hour it came back on and I got them refilled. Quickly. Yikes!

What did you learn?
  1. That all this preparedness worked. Get a plan in place before you need it. Then work that plan.
  2. Being organized and level headed worked. Know where your tools and provisions are. Focus on the tasks and not on 'what if”. Do what needs to be done instead of trying to figure it out as you go.
  3. Find your best attitude and keep it. Caterwauling on and on about how bad things are only stresses everyone out. And its unproductive.
  4. That we don't want to go full Amish because its kinda boring and I missed my online friends!

We have been without power before for several days. So we felt we were in a much better position than other folks. But for heaven sakes we saw some foolishness – the folks who were genuinely surprised that the BurgerMore wasn't opened and what were they gonna do now?!?! The folks who showed up late and couldn't figure out why there wasn't anymore ice. The lady who said she didn't have any money to replace what she lost in her fridge but then said they were eating at the fast food place for every meal. How does that work?

And the other woman who stood there with her fridge door open complaining that she lost everything in her fridge too. I'm just gonna guess that it wasn't the first time that door was open. We didn't loose anything. Not even close. I think after maybe a week things would get dicey but by that time we would have closed down the fridges, concentrated on keeping the freezers cold, and been eating like kings out of our home-canned stuff.

I kinda wanted to shake them all and tell them go to the store, get a loaf of bread and peanut butter & jelly, make sandwiches, and quit acting like its the end of the world. I also got a good laugh about everyone complaining about the heat and how unfair it was that their power wasn't on. While the work crews were out there broiling in the sun. In heavy gear. Working in dangerous conditions with heavy equipment. All those complainers should have been out there shaking them guys hands and thanking them for their hard work. But you know how I am.

But wasn't it HORRIBLE?
Um. No. For us it was inconvenient. Neither of us are elderly or have health problems and were more focused on taking care of our animals. And I think it helped that we are from the last generation who learned that life was not fair and that you had to play the hand you were dealt. And the fact that our Amish neighbors live without power ever day helped keep things in perspective. By noon it was too hot for me yesterday to be outside but I passed a guy plowing with this horses on my way to town. Truthfully it made me feel ashamed for quitting so early in the day.

While we were still in the dark we had an offer to go and stay with some folks who got their power on early. There is no way we would go. We would not leave our dogs and cats alone in the house so we could go watch cable TV... we also wouldn't leave our barnyard to deal with the heat - even if we didn't have to.  So we just did what we had to. 

In these situations we tend to keep busy managing the situation. We make jokes and try to lighten the mood. And we were grateful for what we had. We cheered each other on and were always mindful that no matter how hot we were.... at least our boots weren't on the ground in Afghanistan where it is 100* in their evening in Kandahar. And we weren't on the front lines of the fires out in West. And we weren't watching our house burn down as we drove away fast to stay ahead of an uncontained fire. 

All in all we feel like we dodged a huge bullet and feel extremely fortunate that we got off as easy as we did. 

So that's what happened. I've spent the last week hauling branches, doing clean up, and trying to keep everyone watered as the power came and went. Looks like most of the electric will be back and we'll get some relief from the heat by early next week. Keep cool everyone!

Anybody else have any adventures? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

For powerless zombies looking for our electric....

Commander Zander, Colonel Ti, Princess Kai, and Lucky have a message for all the power-less zombies roaming the land looking to charge their phones and steal some air conditioning from us.... "We think you have the wrong house. "

They big 'uns ain't they?

This is what folks see when they come up our drive. Except there's a lot more barking and snarlin.'

Good Dogs.

Still working on connectivity issues here.  Happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Bacon Seeds

Happy 4th of July?  You bet.... check out these little bacon seeds.....

And the meat meeting meat.....

Oh happy day!

Thanks for everyone's well wishes. We are still trying to figure out some internet/laptop problems but we are mostly back on line.

Our continued thanks and appreciation for all the work crews out there. The heat index is over 100* today and we passed several groups of trucks working to get power restored. Let's keep everyone who is suffering in our thoughts and keep smiling and waving at those hard working crews.

More on the hog strategy and these bacon makers when we are fully up and running. I'll also do a post on surviving The Big Blow of 2012.

Happy 4th everyone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Please stand by....

Hey everyone!

Thanks for your well wishes. We are fine!

Out of power for a day and still have no phone or internet. But everyone is doing fine. Our power comes and goes as they are getting more people up and running.  Fortunately we had some warning before the storm hit and we were spared when round two came thru. No losses for us and the only property damages were minor.

Many many people are suffering here because of the extreme heat and power will not be on for everyone until July 8.  We pray for them and thank the crews working so hard to sort out the damage.

Hopefully our internet service will be back on in a few days. I cannot access facebook for now so I'm sending you all hugs and hope you are well.

Take care and I'll be back when I can!
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