Secret to a great tomato crop!

Just like my flower purchases this year, my tomatoes were purchased off the sale rack on the end of planting season. Sometimes that’s just how you have to roll right? 

Well when I purchased the tomatoes they were looking pretty sad and were so long and had buds on them that the containers couldn’t even stand up straight. Not a big deal right? I put them on the porch with all good intentions of having them planted sooner than later. OK, that was a good plan but not necessarily followed through! The tomato plants at one time got so dry that they were on their last day on this earth. So I watered them hoping that they’d come around again and then stuck them in the ground. I did water them a couple of times while they were in the garden, and put some grass clippings down so I didn’t have to weed. And guess what? They grew. They grew a lot! And produced a lot! 

Now granted they are later than pretty much everyone else crop, but seriously who cares? I mean if you can get tomatoes like this without doing much at all – I’m pretty sure I’m OK with that. So what’s the secret this year to a good tomato harvest? For me – it’s call ‘buy cheap and hope for the best’ 

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Monarch Butterfly

It was so great to see the monarch’s in our back yard again. It’s been a couple of years now since they literally invaded us and when they do, it’s almost indescribable! 

A few years back we had the most we’ve ever had. I mean when you looked at our pine trees they looked like they were completely covered in pinecones. You almost couldn’t see any green at all on them. But when you got a closer look you saw that it wasn’t pine cones at all – it was thousands and thousands of butterflies! I even tried to take a picture of it, but it was just a big blur and you couldn’t see what it was. 

It’s been awhile since we’ve had that many of them, but ever year we do see some stopping by for a night and then the next day they’re off again. 

So when I was in the back yard tonight, I noticed a few of them stopping by again. Some were in the trees and some were just flying around me as I was in the yard. I heard that in Mexico in 2002 they had an extremely hard winter season that literally killed 10’s of millions of monarchs that could have been catastrophic to their existence. But fortunately with the help of a lot of groups out there, the monarchs are coming back and their population continues to grow. 

But this is what I learned today, that the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) also occurs when the monarchs appear. According to traditional belief, the monarchs are the souls of ancestors who are returning to Earth for their annual visit.

Whatever your belief is, we all look forward to seeing them this time of the year! 

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Getting ready…

It’s that time of the year again! It’s when you drive by almost any farm and you’ll see the combine, tractors, silage wagons, and just about anything else that might be needed in the fields these next few weeks or months just waiting in the yards and ready to go in the fields. In our yard we’ve got the combine taking center stage. Daryl needs to change the corn head to the bean head and then hoping to get out in the field soon! 

So on my way home from work today I was checking to see if anyone was in the fields yet (bad habit from driving around with Daryl) and I couldn’t help to notice how ugly the soybean fields have become. I mean just check out how nice they looked about a week ago. So yellow and colorful! Almost glowing in the sunshine don’t you think? 

Well now they are getting close to being combined and are turning brown with just a little bit of yellow leaves on themSo when they start to turn brown and their leaves are falling off they are drying down, and when they get to this stage  – well you might as well forget seeing your husband for about a month or two. Because once the beans are done being harvested they’ll roll right into combining corn. But it’s what they waited for all summer for and are anxious to see what kind of crops that they’ll get and also to checkout what everyone else was getting for their yields too! 

So as I’m writing this on my front porch late tonight with the two dogs by my side, the crickets are making quite a noise, I’ve got a blanket on my lap to take away the chilly temperature, and I can hear the corn rustling in the wind, I can just feel the cold weather season coming faster than I’d care to admit.  It won’t be long now and soon at night all you’ll hear will be combines working in the fields and tractors going by all hours of the day & night to one field or farm or to the other. I think it’s like the Farm Circle of Life.

Well it’s getting late and I’ve got an early morning tomorrow, so I hope everyone has a safe harvest and let the crazy schedules begin! 

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If you are not really a bicycle rider this post might not mean so much. Oh yeah, if you also aren’t over 50 you might not also get this post either. But since I am both – here I go! I’m going to try to put into words what this years Ragbrai meant to me.

When we first started to talk about riding Ragbrai back in 1999 I thought this should be on everyone’s bucket list and who would have thought that we would have carried that list with us for 20 years? So first things first – 20 years ago we needed a bike to ride for Ragbrai so off we went to a bicycle shop in Decorah to see what they had. We tried out a couple of used bikes and soon we found ones that became our bikes. It was exciting! What an adventure we were going to have! 

Then we needed some clip on pedals because you were supposed to have better control, socks (I’m not sure why now 🙂  ), bike shoes for your clips, bike jerseys, bike shorts, bicycle rain coat, tent, sleeping bag, dew rags for our hair, helmet, gloves, and so on and so on and so on .. So I decided with all that expense we were not going to buy a new tent! Yup, that was our decision and at the time it sounded like a good one. There was a girl that I worked with at the time selling her tent – so SCORE for us right! Well without really knowing much about camping I didn’t realize that not all the pieces were included (more about that later).

So Daryl and I practiced with my brother and sister in law riding bikes around the country side and having the best time! Then the big day came. It was time to bring out bikes along with all our stuff to the Team we were riding with and get on the bus to head west. With a lot of nervousness of what the next 7 days would bring, we boarded the bus and quietly decided to ourselves that it was too late to turn back now!

And how was the bus ride? OK, whoever made up bus games to pass the time by is so not loved by me. But with a lot of pain playing the bus games we finally got to our first home for the ride. It was a hay field with the hay cut about ankle height. Not a huge issue, but I must admit kind of a surprise. And then the first day of the ride came and we were off. People were cheering and saying Good Morning to everyone passing by. It was unbelievable and honestly quite a rush. This day was going to be so much fun and with the training we did it should be easy right. Oh My Gosh it was sooooooooo hard! We started out the day with a slight headwind and then just hung out in one of the first towns for breakfast thinking that we had this trip licked. Yup, we did training, we were looking good with our bike shorts and socks, we were so set.  Yeah, not so much! After checking out the towns attractions and getting our bellies full of pancakes and sausage we found our bikes again literally in a sea of probably 5,000 bikes and headed East. That’s when we knew we were in trouble! The wind had picked up while we were in town and so did the hills. By the end of the first day I had blood blisters on my hands and fingers from shifting from the gears 1 – 1 to 1 -2! This is the lowest gears you can be in and with the headwind that we had, it was easier to ride up the hills than down the huge hills because going down we had to pedal to beat the wind blowing at us. Now I don’t remember how many hours we were on the road but I think we got back to camp around 7:30 (and not because we were in the local establishments either!). We saw a lot of people walking or taking the SAG wagon, but at this point we knew that if we walked it would set the tone for the remainder of our RAGBRAI experience. Now the challenge was to keep pedaling because if you were going too slow you would tip over. Kinda funny now. OK I said kinda 🙂 So this day was the absolute worse right? With this day over, it was definitely a measuring stick as we went through the next 19 years of riding and we’ve never had to have this type of a day since. Thank the Lord!

And in the 20 years we’ve met some very good friends that we keep in touch with, and we’ve learned that even though wind is supposed to be your friend it’s hard to understand why.  I can’t even imagine how many times we’ve laughed so hard that you can’t even talk, and having the chance to see new towns and meeting some very interesting people every year is such a great way to spend a week! 

Over the years we’ve changed how we ride the week also. We did the first 9 or 10 years tenting which is a different type of fun. The real kicker is when you buy a used tent and it rains did you know that if you don’t have a ‘rain tarp’ on your tent you can get around 2 inches of rain in your tent? Well when that happens not only you and everything you own gets sopping wet, but you actually start smelling a little funky as the next day goes on. And I’m not talking about a good funky smell either! So now we stay in houses with air conditioning and running water for showers (well except for the occasional water hose hanging outside or the make shift car washes into showers) I can’t even start to say all the great people that we’ve met these last years with our host houses. You would think when you have around 15 extra people staying with you that you’ve never met before you would want to get rid of them the next day wouldn’t you? Well to be honest, we usually get invited to come back when we’re in the area and to make sure to stop in to say Hi! 

So for Ragbrai some people plan to ride a couple of days and with their schedules that works for them. But when you ride the whole ride through the winding roads of Iowa, up and down the hills, and you’re hot, tired, and have been rained on by at least one day –  by day 7 you just might be ready to call it quits. But there is no better feeling than crossing the finishing line and hearing the crowd cheer for you. And you know that you did it! 

With this year being the 20th year the last couple of miles were brutal for me to get to the finish line. We were following the river which is always good because it means that you should be about done with climbing hills, but this year we ended up with a huge hill that wound around and around and then finished with going straight up! Yeah, so no cool. Well I was behind everyone and was just trying to not die or break my chain! Or seriously maybe both, who knew? I thought if I died going up the last hill on this ride I was going to be so mad!! But I made it with a lot of huffing and puffing – and I couldn’t be more proud! 

Well with the Fall weather fast approaching and my bike just sitting there just begging for me to take it out for a spin, I can’t help thinking about a conversation that I had with my dad when I was a kid and riding my white banana seat bike with an awesome basket in the front that had flowers on it.  I remember riding my bike all around the farm that summer  and when I was down by the cow barn with my Dad he needed some kind of tool from the tool shop. Yup I was all ready for this type of job! I ran to get my bike and was prepared to become just a streak of lighting because I’d be so fast. Well I had to stop quick when I saw my Dad’s face and he was saying something. It was one of those moments when you knew you should stop, but man oh man you really didn’t want to. So I stopped. Now he must not have known how fast I was going to get just what he wanted and I’m sure he did know that I was going to look so awesome with Tommy the Tom Cat in the basket helping. But guess what he said? I remember it as plain as yesterday. He said ‘that if God wanted everyone to ride bikes all day that he would have made them into bicycles’  But being a fast thinking an very knowledgeable kid for my age I replied, ‘I guess if God wanted someone to get your tools fast he was sure to invent the bicycle!’ Now I thought this was clever, but for some reason I don’t think my Dad did. I never looked at his face, but 50 years later I’m thinking it wasn’t the happiest he’s ever been. But I took off with my bike and made it to the tool shop setting all types of speed records in my mind! 

I never got in trouble that day and maybe that was the point in my life when I new that riding a bicycle was always going to be something that I enjoyed. So here’s to the past 20 years of Riding Ragbrai and around 10,000 miles of open road! Cheers! 

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It’s laundry day

Has it been raining a lot at your house? Seriously it’s been raining and raining at ours! Now it’s not my first rodeo and I know that the rain is going to stop probably just when we need it for our crops, but it would be nice to stop for at least a day or two wouldn’t it?

Now I really like hanging laundry on the line to dry, so can you guess how many days these clothes have been rained on? Well if you guessed 4.. you did not guess correctly. And if you guessed 6 you are still wrong! They got rained on 7 times! Yup, 7 times. I seriously thought that maybe I didn’t even need to wash them and just let nature do the job.

But I held my ground and I wasn’t going to bring them in until they were dried and I even had to rewash the ones that fell on the ground again after the last downpour! But finally the big day came and into the house I brought the clothes. Normally my house smells a lot like soap – but these days? Well these days it smells like fresh laundry that has been on the line for over a week! 

I guess there is always a rainbow after stormy weather isn’t there 🙂 

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Golden Anniversary Celebration

We had a chance to host Daryl’s sister and brother-in-law’s 50th Anniversary on the farm back in May and what a fun night that was!

It’s kind of funny that I just posted about Kyle and Kelcie getting engaged and now I’m posting about a Golden Anniversary – but I guess that’s how it goes. It’s kind of like the circle of life.. or in this case the circle of marriage. 

So what did we do? Well to start the night out, Daryl’s brother and sisters headed out for supper to the White House in St. Lucas. With both our families growing up in the Lucas area, this is like our stomping grounds and with their relative owning and running the restaurant – let’s just say everyone knew everyone there tonight. After a fantastic meal with more food than anyone can ever eat, we came back to the farm to sit around the kitchen table and enjoy some cake and ice cream and to celebrate! 

And do you know the best part of the night? It was literally just stepping back to see our old kitchen table that has been home to in the past – coloring books from the boys, to school projects for History class, throw in tons of meals, and even holding a soap or two 🙂 now being used for this milestone! And how fun it was just having everyone sitting around the table and laughing at a trivia game that we did and checking out a wedding album from 50 years ago. So cool.

I don’t feel that we did too much to get ready for the night, but then I’m thinking that this small gesture of everyone getting together on the home farm made some pretty good memories for everyone. 

Cheers to 50 Years! 

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Exciting news!

We have such exciting news for our family!

If you saw my earlier post about the kids all being home this weekend,  well that was the setting for a very special weekend indeed!

With everyone going one way or another and getting organized for both the Irish Fest and a friends wedding – we couldn’t be more happy with something that happened on the farm this weekend. Kyle and Kelcie got engaged!!!

Now I don’t know if I can even explain how happy I am!

Daryl and I had heard that the kids were engaged that afternoon, but with William and Jude coming home a little later, I was wondering how Kyle was going to tell them. With leaving the downtown dance early to go home for a bon fire, this was the setting for the announcement.  The night was filled with toasts to the kids and just hanging out at the fire pit talking about the upcoming wedding. Seriously how can life get better than that!!

Congratulations Kyle & Kelcie on your engagement. Our hearts are full.

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There is a celebration in town!

For the past couple of years our town has celebrated a town celebration called Irish Fest. See our town started out with a lot of Irish families so when it was time to figure out what kind of a festival can we have? Well an Irish Festival was a logical decision. But the funny thing is the Irish in our town is in the old newspapers you can read how the St. Lucas Germans were coming to Lawler because there wasn’t enough farm land and how much the Irish didn’t really like it. There was even an article that they should shut the bridge down on the main road to Lawler. Crazy stuff right? I’m sure it was written in spoof but you tell me why we have a green water tower and the kid’s Little League uniforms were also green. Coincidence? And now? Well I’m 100% German and so is Daryl but we always help out with donating our time to what ever is needed.  Now if you remember our town has only around 400 people living here and when you have a 3 day celebration, that means both Irish and Germans have to get along. Well at least for the weekend 🙂

The one thing to me that sets the beginning of the weekend is that the local fireman start around Tuesday or Wednesday washing the streets. That way all the vendors and people walking to the entertainment can have clean streets to walk on with their kids. It’s kind of a cool tradition if you ask me.

I’m on a Historical Committee and for the past few years we’ve setup our display in buildings that have been available, but not necessarily ours. It would be so awesome if we had a building of our own and didn’t have to pack everything up every time we have a display, but I guess they say good things come to those who wait. I’m not sure that I’m that patient!

We also celebrated Father’s day this weekend with everyone here. With a busy weekend, we talked about going out for dinner. But the more that we talked about it and the crowds, we just ended up having dinner here and I think it was really nice! So here is a picture of Daryl and the kids. Just too funny that Reno snuck in there and had her picture taken too! I guess she does act like one of the family and this picture proves it! I’m just so happy that we got her back a couple months ago! 

This weekend was really fun because William and Jude and Kyle and Kelcie were all home and before I knew it, the weekend was over and the kids went home again.

Sometime I’m going to slow this crazy life down!

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Happy June! 

The month of June in the past has always been a busy month for us and this year once again it proves to also be very busy! 

So to start out the month the first weekend we have a wedding, 2 graduation parties, a Birthday party, and a vendor show that I’m usually in. Yup, it’s starting out strong right? 

Obviously I wouldn’t be able to make it to all of them, so Daryl and I split the day. He went to a couple of the parties while I was at the Vendor show and then we met up late in the afternoon and went to one of the Graduation parties together that night. It was one of this weekends when everything fell on the one day!  

Well with this being 1 of the 3 vendor shows that I do for the year, I’ve been very busy these past 3 months getting soap made and packaged. The show starts on Friday and goes through Saturday, and this year I’m hoping to have enough made to carry me through the show and then most of the summer. Part of me hopes that it’s true but then the other part of me wants to sell soap and get rid of most of it this weekend.

I’m always so nervous the days before the show because what happens if no one wants my soap anymore? At first I was OK what that if it happened but now I think I’d be a little sad. And how did I do? I met my goal for sales and then some. Yay!! and Whew!! They do still like it! 

Here are a couple of pictures of my display. I like switching it up every show and I was happy once again how this year’s display looked. I drag a lot of stuff out of our house and just never know how it’s going to look 🙂

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Chickens & the egg experiment

Have you ever had one of those times when you are in the middle of something and you realize that maybe you just might have preordered too many of something? 

Well that was where I was at yesterday. I went to pick up the second part of my preorder of baby chickens and realized that maybe.. just maybe… 36 new layers added to the farm could give us maybe more eggs than we can eat. But it was too late and you just never know how many will actually make it. And with that, I put them in the car with me and headed back to the farm.

So with all these eggs coming to the farm coop soon once the chickens are old enough to lay, I decided to do an experiment. The experiment was to try hard ‘boiling’ eggs in the oven. With the instructions from Google close by I dove in! 

The first thing is to preheat your oven to 350 ºF. Next is to find the cupcake pan. And if your cupboards are anything like mine, the pan is always the furthest that you could possibly reach without literally crawling into the cupboard! So the next step was to put the eggs into the tins without any water or anything. The picture showed the eggs in the paper liners and with only a couple that I had on hand, I went with that. Now into the oven for 30 minutes. The instructions say that you might get ‘spots’ and I was glad that they added that additional note because I got spots! And as you can tell it didn’t matter if they were in the papers or not. And why do they get spots on them? I have no idea! Toss them in an ice bath for 10 minutes and Shazam! Not only did they get done – but the outside spots went away. Weird! There was a couple of spots on the actual whites once I peeled them, but they were just on the surface and a quick slice with a knife and they were gone. 

So this experiment was very easy and the eggs turned out just perfect! Well other than the spot issue 🙂 

Posted in Baking, Farm animals | 4 Comments