Fall & Winter Stock Up

Pantry Essentials – by Kim VanderWerf

Also:

  • remember the books you’ve set aside & magazines
  • last years seed catalogs until the new ones arrive
  • fall & winter prep lists
  • cozy socks
  • soft warm sweaters
  • good quality tea
  • soup and casserole recipes

This year we’ve decided to do Christmas differently as far as gifts go. I believe we are going to go with more intentional, possibly handmade, custom made/designed or sentimental gifts that may be bought or made or have someone make. But as far as gift lists, or wants, or commercialism–nope that’s out for our household this year. I’m still working all the details out but I will share them here as I come up with them.

Update on our move–that’s complicated as is everything this year. Normally, the person with citizenship would return to their country and start the residency process and then the rest of the family would follow. That is not how things are working right now with our move. The residency requirement vs. how long, because of covid-19 restrictions, aren’t meshing. At this time I cannot stay long enough to meet the requirements so I will be traveling for a few days to meet with our house-sitters/renters who are caring for the home we have purchased. We will be working on winterizing everything and working out winter/spring 2021 details. Hopefully come March 2021 we can begin again–we are thankful to have friends that are helping us to take care of our property. We couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to do it all without them.

Fall Prep–   from This Old Home

 

Stock up Fall 2020 -video on how to stock up for an emergency

Until next time–be safe and be well!!

 

Fall on the farm in the 70s

Fall time on the farm was many things while growing up. First off, not long after the dog days of summer, cooler weather was upon us in Minnesota. The county fair signaled the end of summer break and the first thoughts of the new school year.

Sometime around fair time our family, when us kids were younger, all drove to a larger city about an hour from the farm and shopped for school supplies. I also remember a time in the late 70s when I bought my first pair of Levi’s on this trip and my first bottle of cologne called Love’s Baby Soft. Walmart’s weren’t around back then, at least not in Minnesota, so everything we needed for school was purchased at one store and that was called Osco Drug. When we were younger and had less school supply needs we most likely could get everything at our local Ben Franklin.

When the fair came around, sometimes, if I was lucky, I’d be able to wear a piece from my new back to school wardrobewhich in the 70s comprised new jeans or cords, new turtleneck (always), a new shirt, socks, and underclothing. That’s it! If we needed new jackets, mittens, and caps then we got those right before the first snowfall. For years fair time meant baking cookies, arranging flowers, and trying to find just the right vegetable from the garden to show at the fair. My mom helped me with the cookies, and my grandmother taught me flower arranging and some gardening. I remember receiving several red ribbons (2nd place) and a few prized blue. Fair time meant hamburgers at the 4-h building, rides, and trying to win a big stuffed animal. Though I usually came home with a stuffed snake or banana.

Living out in the country some thirteen miles from town we had to catch the bus every morning for school. I think at one time we were first on the bus—where we were picked up right in front of our house at 7 am. Then after a while we had to hoof it up a hill that was maybe an 1/8th of a mile from our front door. The bus, give or take 5 minutes, would then pick us up at 7:20. We would be alerted when it was time to run when mom could see from our front door the bus approaching a certain spot in the road.  Many a day I remember running as fast as my legs could carry me because missing the bus was never an option. Once school started it wasn’t long before the time changed and we would be waking in the pitch dark and the sky would just be lighting up about the time the bus approached us.

Fall time on the farm meant the last of lawn mowing but more raking leaves. Also every fall I helped to put all my mom’s gardens to bed. This involved raking the ground smooth and then mulching it with leaves. Eventually my bike would be put away for the winter by washing it up good, drying and buffing it, and throwing an old rug or blanket over it until spring. Our momma cats were usually all done having kittens for the year so trying to find them and “help” to take care of them was over for another season. No fall would have been complete without my mom offering out my services to pick up the walnuts off my grandma’s front lawn and the lawn of a close neighbor/friend.

It should be said that I did not like school. I literally counted the days until graduation. I was the picked on kid for several years starting in 3rd grade and ending in my freshman year. My dislike of school was not a direct reflection of my teachers. I had some wonderful teachers and a nice school to go to. Bullying back in the 70s was almost unheard of– unfortunately it still happened rare or not and my being bullied eventually stopped when the bullies graduated or moved away. There was, however, an aspect of school I loved and looked forward to and that was when I could order books from The Weekly Reader. To this day those memories are still some of my most favorite memories growing up.

No fall on the farm would be complete without remembering dressing up for Halloween. I’m not sure there were any factory made costumes back then—I never saw any that’s for sure. Everyone wore whatever they could come up with from whatever silly clothing that could be found. So, there were always hobos, farmers, moms, grannies, clowns, and wearing pj’s (the best of all) or curlers in your hair (very popular). I think I was a hobo every year lol. Trick or treating in the country meant about 5-10 houses and only the ones with the porch light on. We didn’t have fancy pumpkins or bags to throw our candy in instead we used an old pillow case. Seventy percent of what we got trick or treating was popcorn and apples with an occasional Hershey candy bar or lifesavers thrown in. The one thing all kids in the 70s were looking forward to receiving that night were full size Snicker bars. We never went to town trick or treating because of how far we were from town, the amount of candy we would have got, and last but never least the tom foolery usually going on like toilet papering houses and egging cars.

Shortly after Halloween all you would hear in the valley I called home were corn pickers and harvesters as the farmers harvested their corn crops for the year. Every night after supper the ground would have a covering of frost. Sometimes I would sit on the swing in our front yard and listen to the corn stalks rustling together and smelling the distant smoke from our neighbor’s woodstove.

Fall on the farm brings back memories of hot summers gone and the coolness and colorful beauty of the next season beginning. Leaves, hot cocoa, candy, wood smoke, and harvest. These are the memories I have of fall on the farm.

Patio Gardening Summer 2019 Week 13-15

My patio garden is winding down–my tomatoes are all hanging from the vine, waiting for the right temperature to ripen, and then as they do I’ll come along and gladly pick them to eat for b’fast, lunch, and dinner. Forty in all which isn’t bad for five plants that are producing. Both of the pepper plants died from being battered around in the wind–so they’ll be none of them. But the wonderful herbs, esp. my rosemary right now, more than make up for it. Our butterfly bush is full of beautiful blooms and we’ve seen many butterflies on it these past few days. Another year of gardening and feeding the birds has almost come to an end. We still have a few orioles and also their young, as well as all colors of finches and their young. We’ve gone through two cases of food feeding them and oh the hummingbirds–they’ve really loved the homemade syrup I’ve made for them all spring/summer. Each year around this time it is almost as if the hummingbirds take a mental picture of our deck, saving it somewhere in their senses, so that they remember who will feed them again all next year. They will have such a long, long journey to travel to get away from here for winter and then such a long, tiresome journey to get back to us. This spring when they first arrived all the birds looked so haggard, but now they look happy, healthy, and restored. It makes my heart very happy to see this year after year.



Our first tomato!

Our butterfly bush–

Farmers Market Hauls–

That’s all for now–Happy August!!

Summertime on the farm in the 1970s

If you drove past our farm in the 1970s you would have seen two things right away in our front yard–my dad’s old B (John Deere) and our tree swing.

Summer in the 1970s was a time of absolutely nothing to keep us indoors except sickness– and even that didn’t do it sometimes. Mother would be hard pressed at days end to get us indoors as we were so busy running around in the dark, feet wet from dew, chasing lightning bugs and scaring each other. Whether it was bike riding on gravel backroads, riding to the store and buying lollies, or dipping my toes in a wading pool or better yet running through the sprinkler–seventies summers were the real thing. –A time period now only revived for period piece sitcoms or movies.  One none of us will ever really experience together again except in memory– of growing up on our family farm and summertime in the 1970s.

I grew up in a valley full of farming families in the 1970s. A time where television meant one channel for us, if we were lucky, and if our antennae wasn’t acting up due to wind—weather was our televisions greatest enemy in the 70s. Of course we only got NBC which for the most part had lots, and lots of sports–not our family’s favorite thing. Saturday mornings, bugs bunny, and after school specials were a highlight for us. We lived thirteen miles from the nearest town which for years had just a mercantile not an actual grocery store. There you could only buy the staples and most of them were limited or outdated. So we would drive over the hill and through the woods to another small town and buy groceries—again from a mercantile but this one actually had stocked shelves and a butcher shop in back. I have great memories of walking the wood plank floors of this stores three aisles and eyeballing the large barrels full of candy at checkout. If we were good we’d be allowed to go into the Rexall across the street and I’d happily browse the magazine racks–my favorite thing, buy the newest Tiger Beat, and a pack of gum if I had any change left over. On Sundays if my dad could find some free time we would take a drive up to this same town and get rootbeer floats at the local A& W.

Life in any year, every generation, has had its hardships and the 70s was no exception. Farming had some rough patches in the 70s and money was tight the whole while I was growing up. My dad had two farms, which was quite a bit of land for a small scale farmer, milk cows, beef cattle, and crops to put in and then harvest seven months out of the year. We didn’t take vacations, but sometimes we would drive to see something of interest–clock museum, steam engine museum and parade, historical marker–things like that would take all of us from the farm on a Sunday afternoon and give dad a break. An ice cream cone, hamburger, or a rootbeer float was always our treat before we headed back home.

Food in the 70s was not at all what food has been for the last 40-50 years. For most people there was no such thing as fast food. I was 18 when they built the first McDonald’s in one of the larger cities we visited to buy school supplies every year. School supplies another favorite memory of mine–also, when Levis first came out in this city and we all took a trip into it to this large warehouse style store and asked to see a pair of Levi jeans. I remember the store was owned by a family and two brothers worked in sales. When we asked to see a pair the one brother whipped out a measuring tape, measured my waist, and then from a large stack of denim jeans tossed a folded pair at me. That was all there was to it–no changing rooms at all. If they were too long, and they were, then you got your mom or grandma to hem them for you. School supplies were purchased at Osco Drug which was right next door. In grade school I think crayons, pencils, and an eraser were probably all we were required to bring. Once in high school we were then required a notebook for each class, book covers for the textbooks handed out, and pencils.

Back to 70s food- there was absolutely no such thing as prepared food until around 1979/1980. I remember this because our neighbors, whom I babysat for, began to purchase microwaves and Banquet chicken/pot pies/ and chicken dinners were introduced in local grocery stores. I loved Banquet chicken !! My mother probably had a microwave by the time I graduated high school, but never ever bought tv dinners or Banquet chicken to microwave in it. She likely used it to warm up tea or coffee as I honestly don’t ever remember it being used for anything else. Prepared foods were frowned upon by most if you were home and able to cook (as you always had been cooking) with staples, items from your garden, and of course your local butcher shop to supply you with everything you needed.

Once our garden started producing supper meals were sliced tomatoes still warm from the summer sun, cantaloupe, mac salad, and Wyler’s lemonade. When strawberries were in season there was lots of sliced berries, angel food cake, and of course everyone’s favorite–strawberry jello with sliced strawberries and cool whip on top. Lunch when we were younger was whenever we could hear my dad coming down the hill by our farm on his tractor. If it was a hot, humid day, he’d be standing up on his tractor all the way down the hill until he pulled into the driveway. Once or twice a summer my grandma and mom would put on a spread out on our picnic table and everyone would eat supper together outside. There would be a cold cut plate with cheese, white bread with butter, strawberry jello, pickles–usually watermelon pickles, and mac or potato salad. As a treat maybe a bag of plain Old Dutch potato chips. Mom would put a can of budweiser in the fridge for dad with a couple of cans of rootbeer for us to share.  Sometimes as a treat she would buy cones for ice cream cones and we would get one or two scoops of butter pecan, or neopolitan, or just plain vanilla. These were simple times and treats like this were a real luxury. Another treat was popcorn which wasn’t made very often, but when it was there were smiles all around. We tried making it in saucepans, air poppers–but what finally worked was when Jiffy made the popcorn you placed on the stove burner and moved back and forth until all the kernels were popped.

Life though busy was a slowed down version of life today. Our phone rang when one of the elders wanted to gossip. In the early days when I was nine or ten years old we still had the party line. There were certain rings that indicated when the call was for you. I’m not sure anyone ever went by that as all I remember was mom or grandma picking the phone up and then setting it back in its cradle right away. The phone was used for emergencies only unless as I said someone rang you. In our house the radio was on all the time and on a channel were there was non-stop grain reports, country music, and Paul Harvey at dinner time. By the way dinner time was the noon meal, supper was the evening meal, and lunch was the sandwich and milk dad grabbed before he went down to milk both in morning and evening.

Night time in the summer in our valley was a delightful orchestra of whipporwill, distant hound dogs barking, sometimes our dog barking, peepers (sometimes bull frogs), and cows mooing lowly. The smells ranged from fresh cut hay, to grain, to soil, rain/river, and manure. All of which I miss to this day. Every time I smell fresh cut hay I’m back home looking out my bedroom window planning my future self/life all the while smelling hay, hearing peepers, sleeping by whipporwill, and rising with the sound of a tractor start.

Just before school started it was fair time. I was in 4-H and always entered flowers, baked goods, and something from the garden. My grandma often helped me with the flower arranging and mom with the baked good. The fair was usually held a week or two before school started so if we got new clothing–which was rare, we sometimes wore it to the fair. With our new Levis, when they came into fashion, one would avoid all stains etc. as you didn’t want to wash them before the first day of school. Washing them would take some of the denim dye out and also make them less stiff–stiff dark denim was a thing once upon a time with no fringes, no holes, and absolutely no wear ! lol The fair was bright lights, lots of noise, ferris wheels, 4-H ribbons, trying to win big teddy bears– I always won the stuffed banana, and eating cotton candy. Oh and stopping in the 4-h barn for a hamburger and boy watching–lots of boy watching. Innocent, easy, summer time fun.

These are my memories of growing up on a farm and summer in the 1970s.

 

Patio Gardening Spring 2019 Week 5- Week 7

It’s been a while folks and I’m sorry I haven’t given an update.  Gardening has been rough this year–I said it in my earlier posts and it is still true today–the weather has been horrible for my garden, and many others including the farmers, this year. Let’s take an inventory and then I’ll show you some photos of it!

I started several seedlings inside which all withered away and died waiting for the sun. My grow light did a horrible job and is now somebody else’s grow light.  When I started my patio garden I had a Purple Cherokee, 2 Rutger’s Heirloom, a patio tomato plant, a Roma tomato plant, some hens and chicks, and some strawberries. I also bought a large geranium plant, 2 small geraniums, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Since week 3 I have added an oregano plant, another thyme, more red geraniums, and a peony plant. Plants that have died since my last post are the large geranium plant I spent $34.00 on, the Roma tomato plant, my strawberries and after blooming beautifully my peony plant. I was given an ornamental rose plant which ended up with 11 blooms and then withered away this past week. I have provided a shade cloth for my tomatoes, watered them well, fertilized them, but yet both my Purple Cherokee and the 2 Rutger’s Heirloom are doing poorly. Every day they wither and now bottom leaves are browning which makes me think root rot for the both of them. Tomorrow I am going to check how saturated their soil is and see what I can do for them. I have purchased a total of 4 more bush tomato plants, two pepper plants, and some petunias for color. My hens and chicks are doing fabulous–they’re flowering! My oregano is about two feet tall and flowering. Also, my lemon balm is triple the size and my Thai basil has big beautiful purple flowers blooming. I am letting all my herbs flower which will affect my harvesting them to eat-esp. the oregano, but I would rather the bees have it. Bees love oregano flowers!

Going into this patio garden season I saved money by reusing dirt, using compost dirt from this past year, using everything on hand for trellis/support, and reusing pots and containers from years gone by. That said so far I have spent close to $180.00 on plants, seeds, food, and the shade cloth.  Here’s hoping with more than 25 flowers on my tomatoes, bees pollinating, and my prayers they produce something.

 

My Patio Garden | Patio Gardening 2019 Week 1 🌿🍅🍅

So today is the 6th of May and things around my area are just starting to look and feel like spring. A couple of weeks ago an appointment took us close to one of our favorite plant nurseries so we stopped and yes–we ended up purchasing most of my container garden plants early. I say it every year to myself that I’m going to wait until closer to the end of May but never ever do.  Because of this, I am needing to baby them/keep them alive inside quite a bit until weather permits me to have all the plants outside both day and night. Day temps are 50-65 degrees right now with overnight 35-40 degrees. Sun has been rare for the last two weeks–we’ve been having mostly cold, damp, rainy, and windy weather. I would say most years we buy early and I keep them inside for almost a month. This year I have a grow light and that is helping a lot. I have learned at least one thing so far this year and it is this—- be very careful when you buy baskets that have several plants already planted in them. I paid $34.00 for the only red geranium basket left at our favorite nursery and it’s now pretty much DEAD. There are 5 geranium plants packed in this basket and one or all of them are either root bound or have root rot. When I picked it up I looked as closely as I could to make sure the plant was healthy. By day two 25% of the leaves underneath were turning yellow. By day 4 50% of the leaves were yellow and none of the flowers were opening. I’m extremely disappointed but lesson learned. I have cleaned up the plant, removed the dead foliage and flowers, and will be replanting what I can asap.

My budget every year for my container garden is $150.00. Though I have never harvested more than $50.00 worth of food from it since year one, I still look forward to planting and caring for my container garden all winter long. Most years all I want to achieve is to grow my own herbs– which I always do (I have fresh rosemary and thyme for cooking/roasting all winter long), grow flowers for the bees– which is always pretty successful, and grow a few tomatoes. My budget amount includes new containers if I need them, soil, fertilizer, and plants. This year I have purchased—

  • two bush tomato starts
    two patio tomato starts
    one purple Cherokee tomato start
    thyme
    rosemary
    lavender
    a geranium plant (34.00)
    strawberry plants
    purple cow activated potting mix (32.00)
    purple cow tomato grow (16.00)

As you can see the potting mix and tomato gro take up a big chunk of my budget, but it is the only potting mix and compost that works for me–and I trust and love it. Remember –my container garden is really up against all odds as it is north facing with little shade and lots of wind. Temperatures in the summer on my deck can reach 110 degrees and though tomatoes like heat they don’t like dry, windy, scalding heat ALL day. So the soil I start with has got to be good.

Another happy and sure sign of spring around here are our birds have all arrived back. For several years we’ve been feeding finches and hummingbirds. For around three years we’ve also been feeding Baltimore Orioles. Right now we’ve seen one hummingbird and two orioles and many many finches. The finches arrived first! We were getting worried about our orioles and hummingbirds but they are slowly making their way here. All of them bring my husband and I great joy. We have fresh water, syrup, and jelly out on our deck from mid-April until late August –usually until after each bird has brought their babies to the feeders and they begin to fend for themselves. We give everyone a great start and lots of energy for their flight away from us again come late fall. There is a lot of cleaning up I must do every day to keep the area clean and replenished but the bird song we hear as their way of thanks is definitely payment enough.

One last thing before I go–last summer an idea came to me about finding an easy plant to split up and replant giving me plants at the ready for sharing with co-workers and friends. I had never done anything like this before but wanted to try my hand at it. While shopping last fall I discovered some pretty beat up, almost dead, Sansevieria at both Walmart and Home Depot. Having never cared for this plant before I was hesitant but the price was right. I bought 3 huge plants for a total of $22.50. Once home I replanted all of them and ended up with 15 new plants. Now a few months later most already have new stalks and babies growing. Already I’ve given nine plants away–here’s what I have left!

Well, that’s my spring update. I will be back week two to give you a garden update with better pictures. Until then be well. 🌿🌿🌿

A Farmer’s Daughter

farmer

From the earliest age that I can remember-farms and farm animals have been in my world. When I was four, maybe five, I remember visiting my grandparents on their farm. My grandpa had draft horses, milk cows, and chickens. Oh, and kittens and a puppy too. To encourage me to make the long trip to the U.S. from Canada by bus all my Mom had to remind me of was the kittens. Once there I would run around outside for hours, visiting the chickens, watching my grandpa milk and playing with the kittens. Within a couple of years my Mom met a farmer and again I was encouraged to leave the place of my birth, my school, and friends to move to the U.S. and live on a farm. And so I did. Though I was unhappy a lot in my younger years, I enjoyed growing up on a farm.

Perhaps my biggest regret of my wasted youth was not getting to know the farmer behind the great farm I grew up on– my step-father. As his young daughter, I simply worshiped this great man who rose every day at 5 a.m and worked tirelessly until after dark at night. Even sick he worked. Even when he could hardly move his body from arthritis or take a breath because of respiratory problems he’d had for what seems forever he worked every day. He took care of his farm, his animals, and his family well. Even though I know there are many men and women farming who love the land as much as he did. In my honest and humble opinion he was and is the best farmer I will ever know.  Because of my own personal issues I never got close to my step-father and that will always be a profound regret of mine. I have talked to him many times since he’s been gone, and I know he is in a better place albeit I always thought that to be the home farm. If not for his farm; the farm I grew up on, my younger years would have been nearly unbearable. In me, I see the things I picked up from him. His memory lives in me each day, in who I’ve become, and in how hard I work. A part of him is in the reason I feel the way I do about animals, about feeding my family well and my desire to help feed others.

I recently learned that all of my grandfathers back four generations on my biological dad’s side were farmers  (this was a major revelation for me) and this has caused me great pride. I now know that farming is in my blood. My last grandfather to farm was Manuel. He struggled to work the family farm even though he wasn’t really happy farming. He did so out of obligation.  He died at forty after a long illness. His family was young and none of his children were old enough to work the farm while he recovered from illness. Soon after his death his family lost the farm, and that was the last farmer in the family on my Dad’s side.

When I am around farmer’s, reading about farmer’s I feel a sense of peace. They are my people. We as a people owe a great debt to those people that have from maybe the very beginning of time worked diligently to feed all of us. And I’m not in any way speaking about factory farms. I am speaking about family farms, families living and farming together. The family farm being passed down to son or daughter and the tradition of living and working the same land generation after generation to feed all of us.

Lately, I’ve spent many hours reading about homesteading, organic and urban agriculture.  Some of the books I’ve read are: Farm City by Novella Carpenter, Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister and The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. I’ve also purchased several films on Amazon that I think are good depictions of what farming is really like if you’re not familiar with it or want a refresher course in farming 101 like I did. They are: Farming Forward, Betting the Farm, Eating Alabama, The Organic Life, The First Season and To Make a Farm.

My heart says it is never too late to live your dream, to accept your calling or to go after what you want and just do it. That said, physically and monetarily there are limits. I do not have aspirations to milk cows, although I love farms, barns and dairy cows. So I know I will not become a dairy farmer. I am also certain I will not become a large crop farmer growing corn, hay or soybeans. I’m looking into learning how to become – a food farmer( growing food for human consumption). Thankfully my husband is entirely on board with this so it is something that in the next two years we will begin doing together. The first step of this conceived plan is for me to graduate, which happens in just two weeks. The second step will be for us to get our affairs in order with our current home, jobs, and priorities and start visiting some of the places we’ve thought about relocating to which will help us decide where we want to make our forever home, and then once that is decided the next step will be to buy a home with land. I will still work away from our farm at a job in town because that is how we will finance our dream. Though I wish I would have heeded my true calling some twenty years ago, I’m glad I went to college and will now be able to finance our plans (hopefully) in a much more sustainable way. Me as a farmer will never be the same kind of farmer my step-father was, but the farming I will do be it ever so humble and small will surely honor that life that I once lived as a farmer’s daughter.