Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sometimes, You Have an Imposter!

With winter squash, you have to be careful. These guys do not follow the rules. They WILL move over into someone else's territory! Last year, we had too many seeds and not enough room. And we had some new varieties we just had to try. We tried them and they did fairly well. But we had a couple of problems!

The first problem was summer squash. We planted Costata Romanesco.(SouthernExposure Seed Exchange - Costata Romanesca Summer Squash 3 g. Retail Price: $2.75 (C. pepo) 62 days. This Italian heirloom zucchini is favored for flavor. Fruits remain tender even at 18 in.; best picked at 12 in. Heavily ribbed fruits are striped with alternating light and dark green shades. Hardy vines grow larger than other summer squash. Pkt.)

I must agree with their description! This Italian heirloom has great flavor. It was exceptional, even at larger sizes. Johnny's Selected Seeds says only half the yield of hybrids, but much better flavor. That is true. But who needs that yield? We know how summer squash yields. Lower yield, greater flavor! That's for me. If you want greater yield, plant more. 

Juvenile Costata Romanesco
Fruit remains tender, even at larger sizes. True! And they reach that size quickly. Does this make up for the lower yield? Pound wise, I think it does. And definitely in the flavor department. The larger sizes were not any kind of problem. I don't think we had one oversize reject. Even in larger sizes, they were quite acceptable. Especially, on the table!

The colors varied, but were shades of dark and light, with slight ribs. We thought they were quite beautiful.

Hardy vines grow larger than other summer squash. Ahh! That is where the problems started! The plants/vines were beautiful with LARGE, lacy, feathered leaves. And they got there quickly! They had large vines, twice or more larger than Zucchini/summer squash! And the growth rate! They grew so fast! They overwhelmed everything in their path. Like I said, we had excess seeds and shortage of space. They overwhelmed the cucumbers, the Ronde de Nice, the Thelma Sanders Squash [acorn],  Potimarron, Guatemalan Blue Squash, the Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash and the Australian Butter Squash. They almost got the tomatoes. But they kicked it into high gear and got out above them. And then, out from under the Costata, came some measly vines. Very pathetic. But they struggled and made their way out. Over time, they seemed to gain some energy. They started to looking like they might make it. And then they took off like winter squash should do.
They are going somewhere!
These winter squash got to growing. They had time to make up for. And revenge was on their plate!!! Once they got out from under the Costata and got to growing, they turned around and focused all that pent up anger on those oppressors of the big and mighty! They turned and and attacked those oppressors as only a mighty winter squash can!And almost overnight, they were on top of them! And the fight was on. The Costata had no chance. They had lost their advantage. The big and mighty were in for the kill. And they did. It didn't take long. I won't bore you with the bloody details. Suffice it to say: It was a short battle and death was quick in coming. And the victors were the soul survivors left standing on the field of battle. And now, it was on to their destiny!

They continued to grow as only winter squash do. But, they had been delayed by the battle. We had a good yield, but it could have been better. Winter and frost were coming too soon. We had twenty foot plus vines, but fewer fruit and not enough time to mature.

We had a frost warning. We went out and stripped the vines. Mature and immature fruit all came in. The vines had gone everywhere. We didn't know who's vine was who. We had to look at the fruit and narrow it down.

Assorted Squash harvested before frost.

The Pennsylvania Crook Neck weren't hard to identify. They were an oversized Butternut with a crooked neck. Unless they were growing on the tomato trellis and hanging down. Then, they were straight. They have a large bulb like Butternut, only bigger. This is where the seeds are. The neck is fifteen to twenty inches long and up to five inches across. Of solid meat. No seeds. No cavity.

The Pink Banana and the Candyroaster got married and set up housekeeping. They were one. Inseparable. You didn't know who was who. Until today, we still didn't know who was who. They were intertwined.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Winter Squash - (
C. moschata) 102 days. [PA Heirloom] Similar to butternuts, but with much longer necks. Tan skin and deep orange flesh with great flavor. Seeds are in the bulb end of the squash, so slicing up the long neck is fast and easy work in the kitchen. Vigorous vines, impressive yields even in 2013's cold, wet summers. Good keepers. (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange)

HEIRLOOM CANDYROASTER Many people growing up in the mountains of North Georgia, Western North Carolina, and East Tennessee never ate pumpkin pies.  Their families grew pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns or for animal feed, but they themselves ate candyroasters.  Candyroasters are an excellent winter squash most likely from the Cherokee Indians. The candyroaster seeds we have for sale are from those grown in Haywood County, NC. Many people consider candyroasters a delicacy. They can weigh up to fifty pounds and more and can be over four feet long. (Sustainable MountainAgriculture Center Inc.)

Jumbo Pink Banana:  100 days.  (C. maxima) Large, pink skinned fruits with excellent quality flesh (moist and sweet). While they never get as big here in the Midwest due to the insects and disease, I've seen specimens top 100 pounds when I lived out West.(Sand Hill Preservation Center )

We brought everyone into the house. We have a back bedroom that we don't heat or air-condition. It is where we store our canning – and the squash. Some of the fruits were mature. Several weren't. Fiona tried fixing some of the immature fruits. They were like large zucchini. No hard seeds. They stood up to stir-frying with no problems. The flesh was more dense than regular zucchini. And tasted wonderful. To us, they were late zucchini. To replace the ones that died in the fierce battle out on the back forty (feet). One of the Crooknecks wasn't green, but appeared to be immature. We put it in the back room. It survived. We just took it out and it was fine. It finished maturing and curing. The immature fruit went into storage in there and were watched. We checked them frequently. And we eat them until they were all gone. We kept a watch on everyone. In February, we lost one squash. That was the only one all winter long. 

This was the week. Fiona got out her potato peeler and went to work. The squash started coming out of the back room. Everyone was in great shape. Even with the high temperatures and this late into the year/summer. She used the potato peeler to take off the rind. It worked great. She saved the seeds. We have seeds to go into the freezer for growing in the coming years. They have to dry first. All of the fruits were in great shape and very moist. The Crookneck went first. Fiona cubed the meat and put it into quart freezer bags. She had sixteen quart bags of Crookneck that went into the freezer. The untouched Crookneck weighed about twelve to fifteen pounds each, before cutting. There were four of them.

This "Crookneck" grew on the tomato Stake and plants...about 4 feet off the ground!

The Pink Banana went next. They weighed about fifteen pounds to twenty pounds each. There were three of them left. She got twelve quart freezer bags of them. There was a lower yield from them because they had a larger seed cavity and more rind (because of the larger overall size of the squash). The Pink Banana is sweeter than a Butternut and Fiona adds them at the end of cooking time in stews, etc. because they cook up so quick. They are really nice mashed with butter.

And then today came for the last Pink Banana. Shortly after Fiona started peeling, I asked her if she had gotten a cantaloupe. She said no. I said that I smelled cantaloupe. She said it was the squash she was peeling. It didn't make sense. We got to talking. We reached the conclusion that we had gotten a Candyroaster, after all. We reflected that the color was a little different from the other Pink Banana. Its shape was a little more blunt. It wasn't pink. 


It had a more dense, firmer flesh the the other Pink Banana. And the seeds laid different in the seed cavity – and they came out much easier. And then there was that smell! It was so close to a Pink Banana in appearance, but we think we have an imposter. A very nice imposter! There were eight quart freezer bags of the imposter. Candyroaster??? We think so. We have more Candyroaster seed. We will be planting both when we get a chance! 

Squash Seed for our Seed Bank.

If you have the room for winter squash – Plant them!!! They are wonderful. And so nutritious. And so easy to save/keep. Fiona adds them at the end of cook time on many recipes for that added nutrition and flavor. We definitely want more of them! 

 1 cup of cooked winter squash = 76 calories

 vitamin A59%

 vitamin C26%






 vitamin K10%

Enjoy your garden and all it brings you...


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tomato Savings and Loam

This is our "bank", seed bank that is and we are slowly building it. I was looking at the potted volunteer seedlings that Ralph salvaged from the garden spot. These are from tomatoes that either fell off the vines or were damaged by wind or rain or somehow went to earth last year, arriving as nice surprises this year. This made me research them and to see who was planted in the general area we found them in.

"Bronson" our mystery tomato.

That led me to our seed inventory for tomatoes and I thought you might enjoy the basic list of all 127 varieties!

Listed by Color or Type

- Cherokee Purple                       - JD's Special C-Tex
- Super Black                              - Bear Creek
- Purple Smudge                         - Ananas Noire
- Noire De Coseboef                   - Black Pear

- Green Zebra                             - Aunt Ruby's German Green
- Grubb's Mystery Green             - Dwarf Jade Beauty
- Cherokee Green                       - Aunt Cecil's Green

- Cream Sausage                       - Illini Gold
- Pink Icicle                              - Amish Paste
- Hungarian Italian                    - Keiv
- King Humbert                         - Napoli
- Vera Pepper Tomato                - Principe Borghese
- Vee Pro                                  - Striped Roman
- Roman Candle                       - Speckled Roman
- Opalka                                  - San Marzano
- Bronson [ Unknown Volunteer 2014]    - Mary Rose McMurray

- Sutton White

- Bread and Salt                      - Mortgage Lifter
- Peach Blow Sutton                - 1884
- Aunt Maria's Heart               - Dora
- Dr. Neal                               - Henderson Pink Ponderosa
- Hungarian Oval                    - Lithuanian
- Olena Ukranian                    - Polish C
- Rosabec                               - Stump Of The World
- VB Russian                          - Purple
- Peru                                    - Anna Russian
- Madison County Pink          - Eastern Kentucky Pink
- Grandfather Ashlock's Pink  - Grant County Pink

- Orange Oxheart                    - Mandarin Cross
- Kellogg's Breakfast               - Hillbilly
- Roughwood Golden Plum      - Dr. Wyche's Yellow
- Earl Of Edgecombe              - KBX
- Large German                      - Transparent
- Lillian's Yellow Heirloom      - Yoder's German Yellow 
- Yellow Pear                          - Claude Brown's Yellow Giant
- Yellow German Dunham Variant  - William's Striped

- German Red Strawberry        - Coustralee
- Zapotec [Our own Seed]        - Peron
- Acre's West Virginia              - Backfield
- Brandywine OTV                   - Break 'O' Day
- Burpees Table talk                - Cabot
- Cold Set                               - Debbie
- Druzba                                 - EarlyBelle
- Green Brooks                       - Hanky Red
- Lida Ukrainian                     - Lutescent
- Lynnwood                            - Morasky Dev
- Mule Team                           - Olomovic
- Optimus                               - Prue
- Red Penna                            - Red September
- Sequoia Alpine                     - Sioux
- Vizha                                   - Victoria
- Yate's Beefsteak                   - Zogolla
- Worley Red                          - Jerusalem
- Vinson Watts                       - Jack Miller Australian Heart
- Zeke Dishman                     - Stupice

Tommy Toes
- Charles Davis Yellow Pear Tommy Toe
- Coyote                               - Basin Mountain Tommy Toe
- Velvet's Touch                   - Virginia's Yellow

We also have a Tomato medley packet from Sustainable Mountain....a fun gift they sent with our last order.

I take photos to document the tomato crop...with my photo editing program [GIMP] I add text and brief notes to each variety.

We are worried about how things are going and the seed bank we are building may someday be worth more than stocks and bonds. We are learning to save our own seed and select strong vigorous and productive varieties of plants we use. We have already found a benefit we did not expect. In the spring of 2014 we placed a seed order from Sand Hill Preservation Center, one of our favorite seed sources, this year when we selected varieties to try we found quite a number of the varieties he had offered before were unavailable for 2015 due to crop failure or other problems. Thank goodness we have the seed now!
Here is part of a page from the Seed inventory information Sheets Ralph's makes on the computer.

Yellow Tomatoes

1. Claude Brown's Yellow Giant

Claude Brown’s Yellow Giant
Seeds of this tomato came from Claude Brown of Pike County, KY some 25 years ago.  He had worked on improving his tomato for decades.  This deep yellow tomato has an excellent flavor and can weigh three or more pounds.$4.00

2. Kellogg's Breakfast
Kellogg's Breakfast:  mid, Ind, RL, high yield of about 1 pound beefsteak fruits, outstanding taste, juicy, originally introduced by Darrel Kellogg of MI. OG Pkt. $2.50

3. Dr. Wyche's Yellow 
Dr. Wyche's Yellow:  mid, Ind, RL, good yield of about 1 pound fruits that are gold at maturity, sparse foliage, some green shoulders, nice balanced taste. Dr. Wyche was of Cherokee heritage and made available many Cherokee varieties of vegetables to SSE; he also lived near a zoo and used zoo doo for his lush gardens. Pkt. $2.75 OG

4. Transparent
Transparent:  mid, oblate similar to Lutescent in strangeness as the fruits are a clear color, very blight tolerant, golf ball size, mild and juicy, strange feel to fruit, reminds one of "gummy bears". Pkt. $2.75 OG

5. Lillian's Yellow Heirloom
Lillian's Yellow Heirloom:  mid, Ind, PL, moderate yield of about 1 pound clear yellow colored beefsteaks at maturity, great rich taste, creamy flesh, tender skin, very few seeds, the variety originated with Lillian Bruce of TN. Pkt. $2.50 OG

He adds further information to each variety as we grow them, notes about flavor, germination, pest resistance and the like.

The "Bank" is in the deep freeze in black containers we found at Target and Staples, file folder bins with good seals and a nice flat shape to store and be unobtrusive in our deep freeze.

The only clear bin..mixed pepper seeds. The nice little tubs 35 mm film used to come in are great for seed storage.

Here is a black bin...The initial label is basic...This bin has herb seed, tomato seed and medley packs in it.

There are seeds from beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash. Anything we love to eat and that will process and store well as food for our table and perhaps added nutrition for our livestock. Each season we add a few more extra packets and varieties to the bank. Plants we have grown with success or new strains we want to try. And to add a bit more of a learning experience we are starting to save more of our own seed. This year we have seed from Zapotec tomatoes we saved our selves as well as seed from Habanero's we grew in our first garden here. Some of that seed is from the very first crop of them here and some is from the second year.

Our Habanero's

Both sets seem to germinate well and yield fiery hot habaneros to add spice to our table! We have Snake Gourd seed, Pink Banana Squash seed, Pennsylvania Crook neck squash seed and a few of our own Blue Hubbard seed we saved from a squash we got on sale at the local IGA.

When it is raining or we are just in the mood for seed searching we exlore the seed site for new varieties or simply discuss the results we have had with our current chouces. It is always a learning experience and I have to admit we enjoy "banking" at our Tomato Savings and Loam.

Are you working on your seed bank?  You most certainly should be. Good Luck and happy researching!

God Bless you all

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Book Review

I have to start by saying it has been a very very long time since I wrote a book review! I have also learned that I should read the book before I tell anyone I am going to write about it as it seemed to take forever to get it read and the interruptions were more noticeable! Ralph did help by editing and reading  the drafts for me.  Now thats out of the way.......

Thoughts on a Good Read

I have just finished reading “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture DestroyedOur Most Alluring Fruit” book by Barry Estabrook. It was not quite what I expected but I totally enjoyed it. It is well written and his style is both informative and conversational. To me, this is the kind of book we should find in classrooms. It should be read in homes by young couples who want to raise children. As a matter of course it most certainly should be read by anyone who has ever eaten a supermarket tomato in January!

Chapter three starts with a startling comment and I Quote: “ In Vermont, where I live, as much of the rest of the United States, a gardener can select pretty much any sunny patch of ground, dig a small hole, put in a tomato seedling, and come back two months later and harvest something. Not necessarily a bumper crop of plump unblemished fruits, but something. When I met Monica Ozores-Hampton, a vegetable specialist with the University of Florida I asked her what would happen if I applied the same laissez-faire horticultural practices to a tomato plant in Florida? She shot me a sorrowful, slightly condescending look and replied, “Nothing.” 

I think his approach to the industrial farm aspects of winter tomatoes and the combination of both human and environmental cost this book exposes is the core of what is so wrong with our food supply. Let's face it we laugh with delight at our first fabulous home grown heirloom tomato as we pick it in all its sun ripened splendor...eating them sun-warmed enhances the unique tomatoey taste! This is not the way of the vast majority of Tomatoland tomatoes. 

Then when reading about the migrant farm workers plight, shades of “The Grapes Of Wrath”...a dark world I had no idea existed. This book was published in 2011 so there are signs of slow change in consumer taste-buds but I am afraid this read brings up facts we need to know...the farm worker, the herbicide and pesticide use and the power of large company farms. It also shows glimpses into organic smaller scale tomato farming and the innovation of dedicated market gardeners out there who know tomatoes are not meant to be as hard as a rock and taste like cardboard.

I came away with a wealth of information I needed to know, some that I did not enjoy and of course a glimpse into the marvelous ancestry of tomatoes in general. The actual story is followed by detailed links and sites to visit that follow the research for this book, an excellent resource in itself. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about the food they eat and how it is grown and the options out there.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A New Book

A new thing to blog about...we read a lot and have some wonderful books. Ralph just bought me a nook book called "Tomatoland: How modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit".   The Author is Barry Estabrook.
The plan is to read it and then review it. We plan to include some of our own observations. 

We hope this feature of "Crazed" will entertain and amuse you. Now I had better get reading.

Monday, May 11, 2015

An Open Letter to Fiona

As you know, we just got back from one of our infamous drives “around the block” - about two hours plus worth. I so enjoy these drives and the time spent with you. We talk about all kinds of things and we solve all the worlds problems. The world just won't listen to us! You have such keen observations of the world around us and what people could do for themselves, if they just would. We talk of our life and our plans and see our life through the works of others. We see what we want to do and what we don't want to do. And why. This helps us refine our desires and plans. To recap some of our talks:

We want a larger parcel of land so we can have better security, privacy, and self-sufficiency. Between attorneys and government taxes, we are going to have to scale back our plans, but there is nothing wrong with our plans. Years ago, I heard a radio program on computers. He told his listener to buy all the computer he could afford. He said that in a couple of years, it would be the equivalent of a cheap computer and would just barely run the new programs coming on the market. Land is somewhat the same way. Buy all that you can afford. If you want to expand, you have the land to expand. You don't have to find a neighbor that is willing to sell a parcel five miles down the road. You have the land you need on your land, not the neighbors land.

In twenty or thirty years, if we need money, we can sell off some of the land. It is a growing bank account for our future needs. Financial security!

We don't want neighbors living in our back yard. We want privacy. I tease people. When I was growing up, we had no neighbors. If we were outside playing, working the garden, hiking, or just being and doing kid things and nature gave the “urge”, we just found the nearest bush and let it fly. Not any more. Neighbors! Too many and too close! And, they are too busy to talk to you. And always too ready to “share” your things. Garden produce, a ham, a nice turkey, your tools. You name it. And it is usually a one way street. They “forget” to return the tools. And they never have time to help with canning, loading livestock, etc.

Size! Size does matter! Dirty minds – get back on topic! On our drive today, we saw several places with too many critters – usually horses or cattle. The grass was eaten down to the dirt. What are they going to eat later this summer when grass is stressed by the heat and lack of rain and isn't growing so lushly? What are they going to eat during the winter? Can you spell “money”? That is what they are going to be eating – your money. Money that you bought hay and feed with. Those GMO's you bought! We want to grow as much of our own food and feed as possible. We have to feed the animals as well as our selves! How can you be self-sufficient if you can't raise your own animals? And how can you raise your own animals in bad times if you aren't raising their feed – all of it? Dirt fields will not nurture your critters. If our fields will nurture 150 animals, then it will do for our twenty or thirty animals, even in a bad year. But, if it will only nurture 10 animals, then those animals are going to be eating our money. Every time we go to the feed store or a neighbor for feed or hay, our money is being wasted. If you have that much money, why didn't you buy a bigger place and sweat a little more for your animals feed? I worked for a smart man once! He said: “Lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part!” I read years ago that an engineer figures in a safety factor of something like 100% when designing something. So if he is designing a bridge to handle 100 vehicles per hour, he will design it to handle 200, just as a safety factor. Life is the same way. Plan in a safety factor for the bad times. If you think you need 5 acres for your dream and “what if” scenario, get 10 or 15 acres – as a safety factor. And then get to work growing corn, hay, or whatever for supplemental feed and for winter feed. Cut out the feed store and that neighbor. Let them milk that other guys wallet. Plan and act on your own behalf!

A larger piece of land is not for production, but for “what if”. It is for contingencies. It is nice to have in a “if needed” way. It is a way to keep from being boxed in. But don't go to excess and be wasteful. Know your needs and planned for realistic future needs and buy accordingly. With a small safety factor. Remember, you can grow as many animals on 50 acres as you can on 5 acres, they just have more places to visits (Increased fencing costs here.)

It was a beautiful day for a beautiful drive with a wonderful person. A person couldn't ask for anything nicer. We had even stopped to bring along a couple of snacks and drinks. Caution: can you say a trip into the woods, or a mad dash home? It was a fun and wonderful drive! (Note to self: Next time, bring along some Charmin! Do NOT use the poison ivy leaves!)

These new fangled cell phones have voice recorders! They are nice for quick notes while on a crooked road. They don't do much for continuity of thought. So, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for a real dose of scattered thoughts from the recorder.

Our drive was all on back roads.

As I am wont to do (and as there was no traffic), I pulled to the side of the road to investigate some mistletoe growing on a tree. On the way back to our vehicle, I reached down and picked a single wild geranium flower for Fiona ( for those of a legal nature, I did not pick any flowers within 300 feet of the highway – that would be illegal. That is my story and I am sticking to it.) She was duly impressed with my little gift. Three extra brownie points for me!

Today is Mother's Day. Mother's Day presents from children? Fiona and her brother wanted a guinea pig. Her mother said no! For Mother's Day, she and her brother got her mother Thistle. Thistle was a guinea pig! What could momma say? It was a Mother's Day present. And they got their guinea pig. But, it turned out well. Momma learned to love Thistle. Thistle had the run of the house. Thistle learned that when the refrigerator door opened, it meant food! When the refrigerator door opened, Thistle would come running and whistling. Momma locked Thistle out of the kitchen. Guineas have excellent hearing. Whenever the door opened, Thistle would start whistling from the rest of the house. Thistle became a fat little piggy! Conniving little whipper snappers.

We got to talking size. (Stay on topic, now!) Fifty acres on a steep hillside is almost useless. All of your goats will have shorter port side legs and the sheep will have shorter starboard legs. It will be harder to access the property on the hillside. And it will be more susceptible to trails and erosion. Fifty acres of bottom land is much nicer (if it isn't a flood plain). But expect to pay many times the price of the hillside for the bottom land. For us, rolling land to hillside will do for the animals, while we need bottom or near flat land for the garden. A combination works great for us.

From today and from years past, we saw numerous fields with old apple trees growing in them. Many of the trees were in bloom. But, our experience is that they are wasted. The cattle or deer eat them or they just rot. No one picks them or picks them up. No one cans them. No one eats them. These are the apples of our grandparents. They ARE eatable! But today, they go to waste.

As we passed one field, Fiona commented about one old apple tree. She said: “It is losing the war”! It had lived its life and was slowly dying. It had only one branch left with life. As we age together “gracefully”, we also are losing the war. For all of us, our days are drawing to a close. Are we prepared for what comes after?

We got to talking of the sights changing. There were rock outcroppings. They would change shapes and colors. The flowers would change from fields to woods and by altitude. Even the age of the woods had an impact. The species of trees changed from one side of a mountain to the other, from the north to the south, and by altitude. Everything impacts everything, just like our lives. Some trees were tall and straight, others were gnarled. A big, old, thick tree would have a young sapling growing next to it. Like grandparents and grandkids, the old tree had its replacement with it, close by. Not necessarily the same species, but the future is there. The replacement is not necessarily better (or worse), it is just there. Like our replacements. That is the way of the past, and, I hope, the future. Or, is it time for the test tubes?

Even way out in the country on back roads, we saw big houses with big yards. I am reminded of the prodigal son eating with the hogs. If things get really bad, what are these people going to do with their big mowed and manicured yards? Get out there with the deer and rabbits and eat grass? Why can't they grow their own food? We talked of the richer, more well to do having fewer gardens and smaller ones. As you get in to poorer or not so well to do places, the number of gardens goes up. And it is cyclical with the economy. When the economy is good, the number and size of the gardens is down. As the economy gets worse, the number and size of the gardens go up. And the economy is always on its way up or down (and sometimes, it depends on who you are listening to). Remember Joseph way down yonder in Egypt and the 7 years of plenty that are followed by the 7 years of famine. During times of plenty, put up for the years of want. You will always have one or the other (or both). Be prepared and plan ahead. And the ones that didn't prepare will come begging or stealing.

Take Baltimore or Ferguson to nationwide. If the trucks stop moving, the stores will empty. And there will be no incoming truck loads of food. No fuel. The electrical grid goes down. No refrigeration. Spoiled food. What are people going to eat? Now, skip this next part! Think of newborn mothers. Their mothers have fed nothing but formula to the infants. The stores are empty. Mother is dry! Can you say wet nurse? Does anyone know what it is? Can you say infant mortality? They won't even be able to get fresh cows milk.

On this entire drive, we saw only one family outside. About 300 to 400 yards back off of the road, up on a hilltop, a family was out sitting on lawn chairs looking down on the valley. The children (or grand children) were out playing. A scene missing out of todays lifestyle.

Ignorance is bliss! We passed several nice streams. Clear water. You could see the rocks and/or pebbles in the bottom of the stream. A beautiful, clear stream. But I wouldn't drink out of it. Not knowing what is upstream. Has a farmer buried his old chemicals and/or containers where they are leeching into the water? Is someone dumping their sewer line into the stream (or into a ditch that drains into the stream)? What kinds of bacteria are in the stream? Is there a hog lagoon upstream? What chemicals from industry or farms or other agricultural concerns or mining operations are in the water? A lot of things happen “upstream”.

Gross out time! Speaking of upstream: When I lived in North Carolina, at work we would get to bantering about and they would be trying to give me a hard time. I would remind them that they needed to remember that every time I went to the bathroom, they drank it! Someone would ask what I meant. I would remind them that I lived upstream. When I went to the bathroom, it went down to the sewer plant and they dumped it back into the river and it went down to the next town and they took it out and run it through town and dumped it back into the stream where their town took it out and sent it to their house where they drank it. When I went to the bathroom, they drank it. That usually got them quiet. I don't like public water systems, either.

On our drive, we saw “homes” from over a 100 years old to last years' model. We could see the evolution of style changes. From the old, simple, functional style to the modern nook and cranny models. Just because they can put in a nook or cranny, it doesn't make it better, just more expensive. We saw trees just barely breaking dormancy to trees in full leaf. We saw fruit trees in full bloom to already out of bloom to a couple of weeks to blooming. Ecclesiastes says there is a season for everything! God shows us that in nature. I heard that asparagus is one of the most mineral rich vegetables we can get. And it is one of springs first gifts. Just when our bodies are needing it after winters depletion. (God is great. God is good?!!!)

We saw one, and only one, garden that really caught our eye! It was a pleasure to see. It was fenced against deer. But inside was a large garden! Oh! And what a garden. First of all, it was a large garden. Annuals and perennials. To our left was the annual portion: corn, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc. To our right was the perennials. We couldn't be sure. We had to do a lot of guessing (and dreaming?). There appeared to be rhubarb, asparagus, blackberries or raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and several fruit trees. These people were planning for the long haul! Our congratulations to them on a nice project!

 The economy came up again. Times good equals no garden. Times bad equals plant a garden to make up for the money crunch. Our budget needs cutting. Cut the food budget. Plant a garden to make up for the food budget cut. But, when times get better, the garden is no longer needed. They go back to the supermarkets and their no taste food with no nutrition that comes from GMO's and causes cancer. I work at an upscale bakery. We take flour that has had almost everything taken out of it and we start adding this and that back to it to get it to bake right and to taste good enough for you to buy. Fresh ground flour and corn tastes better and is more nutritious. That would seem the obvious choice. I believe our diet is the largest contributor to our high cancer and heart failure rates. It is what we are taking in.

Hay! Hay is looking good. It is just about ready for the first cutting around here. But not our farmers. They wait for it to head out and dry and it is past bloom. They go for tonnage, not nutrition. Then they cut and bale it to feed to their animals and wonder why they don't put on weight and have to feed so much to the animals and have so much wasted hay. It is past prime and tastes bad. We aren't versed in the local traditions. Fiona's family were rebels. They were always the first one to cut and at a younger stalk age. They didn't get as much hay, but the cattle liked it better and wasted less of it than the neighbors cattle. Fiona's cattle also had better weight gain/maintenance. Here, you see a lot of cattle bedding in hay, but thin. Fiona says when someone is complaining of thin cattle, her first consideration is the hay, not the cows age. Older cattle may be thin, but poor hay accounts for a lot more thin cows!

Ahh! Names! Heavenly Haven Drive. Pleasant Valley Road, Rich Patch Road. Three Oaks Road. Barbours Creek Road. Mountain Laurel Lane. Maggie Maw Lane. Wild Cat Hollow Road. Red Neck Drive. Some of the roads we saw. What's in a name? And What is the history of that name?

Back near home, we came to the camel crossing sign. This was Clyde's home until his demise (death). Ride, Clyde, ride. They now have a replacement for Clyde. His name is Otis. They also have one Long Horn with horns over six feet long, his name is Coal Bucket. They have several highland cattle (black and red). They have a belted Galloway. Some spotted donkeys. And a Suffolk Punch Draft Horse (or a Belgian – it swings both ways). There was a calf laying in the field. Fiona thinks it was a Highland calf. With a Long Horn father? They're almost as messed up as we are.

As we went down the road, we had a dragonfly escorting us. At other times, a bird would jump up and lead us down the road. A momma goose was getting the kids away from the road, and us. It was a nature day. Just the two of us, our conversations, our dreams, nature, and, of course, God.

This was Fiona's Mother's Day request. For a drive in the country. Sometimes, you can get more than you give. Like with God. I was blessed to have a good woman by my side and a great God over us as went for a drive. Can we say: “Memories are made of this”?


Ralph sent me this email tonight after our drive, he is always surprising me with sweet gestures and I am blessed with this cantankerous, kind and observant man.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Homestead Travails and a New Approach

If you have been following this blog you know we are working on buying a small farm to grow our own food and animals on and that this has been an evolving plan for 5 years.
The sale of my old home place should have been a hopeful time and it was briefly.

There has been little mention of our progress due to struggles with changing laws and the ever money hungry government. Suffice to say the damage inflicted in that department had severely changed our land purchase plans. Is it God giving us a clout along side the head because we are both stubborn and are stuck on a bigger property?

A large farm....big dreams.

Anyway this is an update and a view of our changed plans.

1- Land size reduced from a property of 50 to 100+ acres to a property of 20 to 50 acres.
2- A home size reduction from 1800 to 2000+ square feet to a home from 1300 to 1800 square feet.
3- No milk cow
4- No breeding pigs until we find out how much a smaller place can really carry. [ We will try to have a pig or two just not raise our own piglets from our own sow]
5- One breed of goats. [ We had plans to try two or three breeds to find the one we liked the best]
6- No rabbits at this point.
7- Less but more versatile equipment and attachments for the tiller and perhaps a used tiller not brand new one.
8- A smaller orchard with less variety of trees.
9- Ralph will look for a job after we are moved to help keep our cash reserves....reserved!
10- A less mixed flock of chickens and the purchase of some more commercial type meat birds to start our meat supply.
11- A smaller number of geese and ducks.
12- More intensive use of land and careful land management.
13- The use of more smaller portable buildings.

Smaller property with less work to manage and easier to maintain..more realistic.

We have been looking for property online again and since the money is supposed to arrive at the end of May we will be ready for another land search trip. It has been a truly discouraging winter/spring. This all started on August the 8th on 2014 and dragged on until now.

Despite what the news reports the real estate market is still out of kilter. There are fewer small farms on the market that I have seen in 5 years. There is a huge increase in smaller plots of bare land for sale. These are parcels that people are selling off to get money to make up in other areas. I was talking to one realtor and she said she had 6 listings that had been subdivided off larger properties because the larger places were not selling unless they had taken huge price drops.

I know we are going to find a place and it is interesting to see what is out there with our new search criteria.

So the adventure continues and will just be a bit different.

God Bless you all