A Taste of Marmalade

For Christmas this year, our daughter sent us a jar of Louisiana orange marmalade. Finally got around to sampling it this past weekend, and it was very good. It also brought back memories of one of my grandmothers, who really liked orange marmalade.

I remembered being in her kitchen when I was young and all the wonderful food she would prepare. Among other things, she made the best caramel rolls, which isn’t surprising for a grandmother to do. What is different about this act of love, is that she was diabetic, and couldn’t eat the rolls, so she made them just for her grandchildren. She also made wonderful crescent rolls, and when I see commercials for those rolls, I remember the warm, soft rolls she would make from scratch.

Denise and I like to cook with our grandchildren. She takes care of the baked goods, and I do the rest. Of course, the munchkins are drawn to the baked goods, because of the sweetness of the items they are making. Our granddaughter appears to like to bake more than her brothers, but they are always ready to sample the finished product. I try to get the boys to help with cooking, and the oldest one does like to experiment in the kitchen, and usually does a good job.

Most of all, we know we are building memories for them. Memories that will last a lifetime and hopefully bring them some joy when we are gone. The primary reason we moved back to Minnesota was to be able to spend these years with the grandchildren, to watch and help them grow up. Having had very loving relationships with my grandparents, who helped raise me, lets me know all the time spent with them will bear good fruit.


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2012 Plans

While on vacation this past week, I was able to inventory all the seeds I have saved for the past two years and put that information into a spreadsheet. You can see the list by clicking on “2012 Garden” in the title bar. I will have to increase the size of my current garden to grow all of these vegetables, and fortunately I have the room to expand without much effort.

The potatoes I grew last year did produce fairly well, and will grow some this year and work at providing better long term storage for the bounty. I grew the potatoes in 4×4 beds and added a second layer of wood when I added more soil to keep the plants growing. This fall, I took one of the beds apart and made two beds for garlic and shallots. Put a good layer of compost on top of the beds to act as a mulch and provide nutrition for the plants come spring.

The chickens are doing quite well, even with the current outbreak of cold weather. They are producing one to three eggs per day, which pretty much keeps up with our daily use. A couple them took a liking to white Styrofoam containers in the garage, and once I noticed it, had to move them up high so they can’t get to them. Don’t know what the attraction is, but since that’s not part of their diet, I know out of reach is the best solution.

Planning on raising a large flock of chickens for meat this summer, perhaps as many as 100, and divide them with the munchkins and possibly my brother and his family. They should help control weeds beyond the garden and make that area easier to walk in during the summer. Also planning on raising two turkeys for use at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as the cost of organic, free range, turkeys is way too high. I’m hoping to raise a heritage variety, but haven’t quite decided which one.

Have talked with daughter and son-in-law about a long term plan to start producing wine commercially. Plan on taking a big step in that direction this spring by planting a large number of grape vines on their property. They have a open field, and a nearby water source, that should give us good growing conditions.

There are two building projects for this year, one is a greenhouse, and the second one is a shed. I do have a design that combines both into one building, with the shed on the north side of the structure. Will spend part of this winter deciding on what design to use and hopefully start construction this spring.

I am planning on posting at least once a week this year, and providing short reviews of books I’m reading, as well as pictures and commentary on the flats of seeds that will be started later this winter. Have a great 2012 and try to grow some of your own food, whether it’s garden or a container or two of tomatoes and herbs.

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Some humor for your Monday

I get an email from Casey Research every day, and usually on Fridays they have some humor near the end. Hope you like the twist on words in the second part of their humor section:

It’s a Matter of Perspective

The Montana Department of Employment, Division of Labor Standards, claimed a small rancher was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to investigate.

GOV’T AGENT: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

RANCHER: “Well, there’s my hired hand who’s been with me for three years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night so he can cope with life.

“Oh, and he also sleeps with my wife occasionally.”

GOV’T AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to – the mentally challenged one.”

RANCHER: “That would be me.”

Logophiles United

Okay, you logophiles, you lovers of words, aside from the old “stand-bys” such as, “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish” or “I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger, then it hit me,” here are more for you to enjoy…..

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The batteries were given out free of charge.

After a dentist and a manicurist married, they fought tooth and nail.

A will is a dead giveaway.

If you don’t pay your exorcist, you can get repossessed.

With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two-tired.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

An Organizational Chart of the European Union

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The First Egg

Almost five months to the day, after the baby chicks arrived, we have the first egg. It was laid yesterday afternoon, and we suspect it was Miss Peeks who gifted us with it.

Don’t let the picture fool you, the size is at best, medium. So, I’m hoping larger ones will appear in the future.
When I let the chickens out this morning, I also opened the coop, and didn’t find any new eggs. We will check again this afternoon.

The egg is being stored in the fridge, so the grandkids can see it, before it becomes part of my breakfast this week.

That’s about all that is new and exciting around here. I am on vacation this upcoming week, and have lots of projects to complete. Will put power to the coop, so I can turn on a light early in the morning, which will wake the chickens up earlier, and also help give the necessary amount of light during the day to stimulate egg production. I also hope to use them to help clean and fertilize the garden, something they can do very well. I’ll try to get pictures to show you their efforts.

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What a difference a week makes

This was the scene in my front yard last week. Beautiful fall colors, and bright, sunny blue sky. A perfect Fall day in Minnesota.


Now, about a week later, most of the leaves are gone. But, the temperature is over 80 degrees, which for this time in October is pretty much unheard of. By this weekend we will once again have to face the reality of normal temperatures for this month, 60’s and some 50’s.

Of course, in a couple of months, even those temperatures will seem very warm. We will enjoy the warm temperatures, rejoice in lower heating costs, and not think about the winter that lies ahead.

In case you’re wondering, the chickens are doing very well, but haven’t yet laid an egg. Every day after work, I let them out to roam around the yard, eating the clover and other greenery, and otherwise occupying themselves being chickens. I am then able to check on their water and feed, to make sure they are set for the evening and the next morning. They are usually not ready to get out of the coop when I leave for work before 7 am, but at least their door is open, so they can mosey out of the coop and occupy themselves once they are awake. I do enjoy the fact they return to the coop as evening sets in, so all I have to do is lock them in for the night.

I was able to finish this posting while four quarts of tomato sauce are in the water bath canner. It’ surprising how many tomatoes it takes to reduce to four quarts. I will have to grow even more tomatoes next year to give us more tomato sauce for the upcoming year.

Since the sun has now set, and it’s getting a bit dark outside, I had better lock up the chickens for the evening, get the tomato sauce out of the water bath canner, and relax a little before morning comes around again. I am on vacation next week, so hopefully will do some posting about mulching leaves, getting the chickens to clean the garden, and whatever else seems interesting.

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Living in a small town

I have spent most of my life in small towns, and do enjoy the lifestyle, especially seeing people you’ve known for many years. Today, while heading off to lunch, met the husband of a woman I have worked with over 30 years, as he was waiting to take her to lunch. This person retired from teaching a few years ago, and best I can remember, had each of my daughter’s in his class. He asked me how they were doing, and I was able to fill him in about all the latest happenings in their lives. About the time we finished, his wife showed up, and off they went.

Small towns are not the place for people who crave anonymity, as people generally know who you are and what you do. Yes, there are the nosy ones who seem fixated on knowing other people’s business, but they are the exception. People will share about what’s been going on and what they are up to with people they are familiar with. This type of sharing helps build community among the locals, and those who choose to spend a good amount of time in the area.

So after spending about 50 years of my life in small towns, I can say they are a better place to live if you’re interested in a high quality of life. Of course, where I live, you have to be able to tolerate the winter weather, which does provide a ready topic to begin a conversation. But the very best thing about living in a small town are grandchildren, which is why we are here, and will remain here.

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A busy weekend

We usually stay home on Saturdays, working outside in the garden, improving our landscaping, taking care of the chickens, or maybe mow the lawn. This weekend we had a very busy Saturday, and a Sunday not quite as busy.

My usual morning chores on Saturday are to let the chickens out of their coop, usually around sunrise, or a bit after that, depending on when I get up and how much motivation the coffee is providing. This Saturday started the same, and after letting the chickens out, checked on the garden and picked a few tomatoes for making salsa, and put them in the freezer until we’re ready for them. Then is was off to #2 grandson’s first football game.

#2 grandson decided he wanted to play football this year. He was able to play as quarterback and running back, even carrying the ball a few times. On one carry, he was tackled pretty hard, and had to spend time some on the sideline with dad, before getting back in the game. Looks like we’ll have some busy Saturday morning’s this fall.

Granddaughter decided she wanted to come home with us until the big event in the afternoon. I fired up the grill and made bacon cheeseburgers for everyone, except granddaughter. She didn’t want cheese or bacon on her burger, but once the burger was on her bun, she changed her mind and asked for some bacon, which I had waiting for her. After lunch I took her home to get ready for #1 daughter’s big event.

For nearly 15 years, #1 daughter has participated in a therapeutic horseback riding program, Mounted Eagles  http://www.mountedeagles.org/ One of their biggest fundraisers is the annual Ride and Roll event, in which riders gather pledges and then ride 6 miles from Pequot Lakes to Nisswa, MN, about 6 miles. This year, all three grandchildren, their mother (#2 daughter), #1 daughter and her finance made the ride.

The picture shows all of them at the start of the event.

#1 grandson was the second person to complete the ride, looking at it as more of a race, then a leisurely ride. I arrived at the finish after he did, due to changing vehicles, so missed a picture of him finishing the race.

I was there when #2 daughter, along with the two other grandchildren, arrived at the finish line. Notice granddaughter’s use of pink and purple to decorate her bike. Denise showed up shortly after this and took the kids for ice cream.


After #1 daughter and finance crossed the finish line, we loaded everyone up, dropped #2 daughter and grand kids off at home, and went up to my home. Took #1 daughter and her finance back to their apartments, with a stop at a local pizza shop for supper. After some light shopping, we went home, and relaxed at the end of a busy day.

Sunday was not as busy, thankfully. Assisted at the morning masses, and was able to hear a priest with Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, http://www.cfcausa.org/. He was in the area to encourage people to sign up to sponsor a child in a third world country. The response was great, and I think most of the children that needed sponsors, found one. I did choose one child to sponsor, a 9 year old boy in Bolivia, and will be blogging about him as time goes on.

After church and lunch, added some material to one of the compost piles, picked some tomatoes for mother-in-law, as my wife will see her today. Have also worked on saving seeds from tomatoes and cucumbers. After finishing this blog post, Princess and I will relax, or, more correctly, Princess will continue to relax.


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Prozac with feathers

Yes, it’s been a very long time between postings, due largely to being a summer filled with projects. The most time consuming project was building a coop and run for the new chickens. It took a few weekends and evenings complete, and was finally ready for occupancy on July 4th. We also expanded our landscaping and garden, which took up the rest of my “spare” time.


Chickens in the bushes behind our garage. They love to hangout there when we let them out to free range in our yard.



The phrase used as the title was used on one of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/backyardpoultry  I download it in iTunes, as I’m at work when they are broadcasting. On one recent show, the co-host was talking with a guest about backyard chickens and likened them to “prozac with feathers” since they provide a calming effect when you’re around them. And I would have to agree with her.

We’re still trying to name the chickens, and this one is Miss Peeks. When she was smaller, and in the brooder, she was the one most curious about what was outside the brooder, and would try to look over the side. She is the leader of the flock.


I was working out in the yard one day and heard a knocking sound coming from the deck in the backyard. I checked out the noise and found some of the chickens going up and down the stairs, pecking a bird food that had fallen from the feeders at the top of the stairs.


One Saturday, when we were working outside most of the day, the chickens found their way to the front yard and on to our porch. They spent over an hour there, even taking a nap. There were “mementos” of their visit on the deck, which the sprayer took care of.


The chickens will also visit the deck off our kitchen, and as it has steps on both ends by the house, will occasionally walk up the steps, across the deck, and down the other set of steps. The area under the deck is also one of their favorite places to hang out, looking for food.

Once the garden is done, I will use them to clean it up of weeds and seeds, and add some natural fertilizer to the soil. No eggs yet, but should have some start showing up within a month. We are really enjoying them, as they are quite entertaining, especially when they all decide to move quickly to another part of the yard. Some will make it a short flight, which Speedy Gonzales likes to run to the next meeting spot.

Now that summer is nearly gone, bummer!, I hope to have more time to write blog postings. But, as fall brings the busy time for church work, I’m not holding my breath quite yet.


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Chicken shadows

Princess has become very interested in the chicks, and she is not yet sure what to think about them, or how to react to them. I tried talking with her about the chickens now being a part of her realm, and deserving of her protection, but the message has not clicked yet.

The other evening, the chickens were near one side of their  brooder, and Princess could see their shadows. She was both interested and very nervous about the shadows, and the noise coming from behind the wall.


She continues to sniff and wander around the brooder, and on occasion barking at the unseen chicks. The other night, we hadn’t closed our bedroom door tight, and she went down about 3 am to check on the chicks and started barking at them. I had to get up, go downstairs, and get her back upstairs, so we could go back to sleep.

Denise tried taking one of the chicks out and putting it on the floor, so Princess could get used to it. The chick did not appreciate being out of its brooder, and having a dog sniffing it.



Denise put the chick back, and Princess still remains very curious about the chirping and other sounds coming from the brooder. I have blocked top of the stairway downstairs to keep her from spending all her time by the chickens. Once I remove the barrier, she scoots downstairs and starts wandering around the brooder.

Still waiting on grandchildren to name the chickens, and hope to have that process completed by this weekend. I am looking forward to them watching the chickens develop quickly and eventually move into a coop and start producing eggs.

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Spring is bringing forth new life

Last Fall, I posted pictures about the bulbs we planted in the under construction guild. The rain and warmer weather have caused the bulbs to burst forth in color. I put some granules down that are supposed to keep beasties away (4-legged and cottontail). Hopefully, it will work, so we can enjoy the flowers.

You may have to look close to see the flowers, but they are coming up, as we hoped.


Here is a close up shot of one of the flowers, which have added a lot of beauty to the front corner of our yard.




I’m still waiting for the trees to be delivered. Will be putting up a fence to enclose this corner of the yard. The fence will only be four feet high, so light can still get in. We will be planting some roses in this areas, along with  a few squash plants and some beans to put nitrogen in the soil and food in the mouth.

Yesterday, the baby chicks I ordered showed up. They are Buff Orpingtons, chosen because they are docile (will allow munchkins to handle them) and resistant to the cold. They will be a golden yellow when grown, and lay brown eggs. Should produce enough eggs for us, and the grandkids. Next month will have to get started on a chicken coop, which will be their permanent home.

I am on vacation in a week, and am looking forward to getting as much of the garden planted as possible for mid-May. Will also be working on the landscaping, as we will have to put lots of mulch down in all the areas we have put plants. Now it’s time to check on supper, chicken and potatoes on the grill, and get ready for a relaxing evening, before all the festivities around Mother’s Day.

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