Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!"

(You have to say that in the deep southern twang of Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith show to get the real effect.)

I grew up down on the river bottom where the favorite spring hobby was hunting the elusive morel mushroom along the river banks in the sand. Then I was transplanted up here, in the hills, where they still grow but I have no idea where to find them and you can be darned sure no one will tell you their favorite spots.

So imagine my great surprise today, while out mowing by the trees along our driveway and there was a morel! Standing proudly! I couldn't believe my eyes, I ran to get the camera to document this momentous occasion.

And then decided to document the entire process, I gently washed and split the morel. Then retrieved a fresh Serama egg and beat it into submission.

I carefully basted all four sides in the egg mixture....

.......and tossed them in Panko bread crumbs.

A pat of butter in the cast iron skillet...

....and fried them to a golden brown.

I didn't have to worry about sharing with Bruce, he was not brought up on morels and is suspicious of them. I thoroughly enjoyed my treat.

And that is what is important in life, enjoying the little things.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's asparagus hunting time on the farm.

Something we can count on in the early spring are the interlopers driving the roads around here, STEALING our ditch asparagus! Well, it probably isn't really stealing because the ditches belong to no one, but when I found them in our driveway, how rude, I ran them off. So I started beating them at their own game, there are about 10 patches within 1/4 mile of our house. Easy driving with the gator and my two faithful passengers, Mollie and Murphy, riding shotgun.

I've had a bad back for a few weeks so wasn't up for running up and down ditches but had a change of mind when I found two different asparagus hunters in one day.

The first thing I always did was don long sleeves and leather gloves to clear away all the old stalks, they are vicious, with little thorny things and without the protection I came home with numerous scratches and cuts. I always used the 4-wheeler on that trip, I threw the stalks into the bottom of the ditch and ran back and forth over them to disguise the patch. That wasn't possible this year because of all the rain we've had. 

The first patch I checked was by the home place and found all the old stalks ripped out and only green asparagus stubs looking up at me. I checked the other patches and found two that the interlopers obviously over looked and brought home a nice mess for us to eat.

Gently steamed with a pat of butter, YUM, YUM!

It's also good roasted in the oven with a little olive oil or grilled, wrapped in bacon, YUM, YUM!

But then you could wrap an old tennis shoe in bacon and grill it....just sayin.......

Rosanne drove up on Friday and I had hopes that we would find some for her, although the weather has been rainy and cold, not the best growing weather for the tender green stalks.

Bruce needed some help at the cabin where he was replacing a set of windows that were rotting, with a big window out of the old house. The house is an organ donor now, the kitchen cabinets went to Carol and Tom's house in MN, the window out of the laundry room is in the MN cabin and now, this big one out of the kitchen, in the cabin at Leo's Pond. Bruce took the inside set of windows out to reduce the weight of the window, he had the old ones out and the new one in but the windows didn't want to go back in.

Rosanne, Mollie, Murphy and I, armed with a big plastic bag and a knife, checked the asparagus patches on the way, and hit pay dirt! Rosanne had a bag of spears to take home with her.

On the way down the drive way we came upon the first goose hatch of the year, both parents were trying to be very sneaky so we wouldn't see them.

On to the cabin and try to figure out the windows, we put them in, took them out, flipped them around, put them in, took them out. Removed the screws holding the frame into the opening and did some adjusting, it wasn't quite square.

After a couple hours and a trip back home to look at the windows still in the house, which was no help because they were a little different, attempting to Google '1974 Gerkin Windows', and getting no help, we finally got all three installed and vowed never to open them!

I guess I should have washed the window while I had the chance but it didn't break my heart,

Too bad, so sad!

Later Sunday afternoon:

The sun came out, I had to go revel in it so gathered the dogs, my camera, a knife and sack for asparagus and headed for the pond in the Gator. We, and I use the term loosely as the dogs just stayed in the back looking thoroughly bored and delivered huge sighs that said, "Aren't we EVER going to get there??, found a nice bunch of asparagus and finally got to the pond. It was too muddy to drive down to Leo's Pond so I cut across the path and headed back toward the bees. A goose had been sitting on the island of the second pond and I saw both parents in the water and something yellow in the nest along with eggs. I took this photo with my everyday lens.

I think I see some little baby bobbing heads......

I thought about going home and getting my big, honking lens, I drove past the bees and was excited to see some out and about. On Friday when Rosanne was here, there wasn't a bee to be seen or heard and I feared the worst.

That cheered me up so much I did go get my big lens, I was setting it up and the parents were having a cow, calling to their children. Just as I got ready to shoot, they lit out for the water.

"Sayonara, Com padres, it's every gosling for himself!"

They made it through the jungle grass.....

....some were slower than others....

....I think in all, there were 6. I have a hard time seeing the LCD screen on the camera in the sunlight so wasn't sure how they came out. And, of course, I didn't want to be too close, they say the first thing a baby goose sees when it hatches, it thinks is it's mother. All I need is 6 baby Canadian geese following me around. My sister has 3 turkeys that think she is their mother, their names are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Justin Case!

Their fate remains to be seen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Has it been an entire week since I last visited??

Spring on the farm is very busy and the days fly by, we had some more rain so we spent an entire day cleaning all the yards and buildings and Bruce hauled it out to the field. The easiest way to get the cows to move to another yard is to give them a bale of corn stalks, no driving required. It's kind of a cow beach party.

This little guy came into the world the hard way, his mother was a heifer, her first calf and she clearly wasn't getting anywhere with her labor. This calls for the calf puller.

She was in the maternity pen by the road and we had to move her to the barn. She couldn't have been more cooperative, she walked very quietly through the maze of yards, it was almost as though she knew we were there to help.

I'm not sure their bovine brain can actually think that but if one could, it would have been her.

When we saw the big feet and then the big nose, it was no wonder her mother needed help. He came out looking like he was dead, a limp pile of  hair and slime but a few licks from his mother and he opened his eyes and raised his head, searching for the reward that instinct told him was there, someplace.

He and his mother got a few extra days in the barn by themselves but by this day, he had his legs firmly under control. I needed to move him out of the barn so I could clean it and when he ran it looked like he was a little marionette with wires lifting each leg!

Our less than ambitious beaver is at work again, trying in vain to to plug the overflow out of the pond. Bruce was called in to rip out his hard work, we know he won't find it for a week or so.

Some of my free tulip festival tulips from last fall. Orange City has a tulip festival each May and the show is spectacular. After it is over, volunteers dig all the bulbs, put them in storage and plant the beds to flowers. Each fall there is a tulip bulb giveaway and this was the first time I'd ever participated. We were astonished at the trays of bulbs, for the taking! Now I'm reaping the benefits in the garden.

Love was in the air!! Each day I had to fish horny toads out of the skimmer box where they floated while in the throes of love. The day I found 3 pair and a single, I put a screen in front of the opening and that stopped that. After several nights of singing, their love was requited and the result is several strings of toad eggs and possibly some frog eggs. Toads eggs are in strings, frogs are in a ball and there is a ball in front of the waterfall. Otto?? Do you have a hidden girlfriend? Are you the girlfriend?

I made the chickens very happy yesterday by doing some cleanup in the garden. There are some very uninspiring asters that I decided to remove and replace them with something that deserved to be front and center. The chickens love it when I show up with a shovel and I soon had lots of help cleaning up the holes, removing all offending bugs and worms.

"Digging? Oh, no, that wasn't me!"

This is the door where the dogs caught all the rats, one day a tree rat (a squirrel) ran up inside the door when I came upon him eating corn on the ground. He kept his eye on me to see what I was up to so I surprised him...

....I flung the door open and he was in a tizzy, "where to go? where to go?"

Luckily I did not have the dogs with me, I like squirrels and to the dogs, they are just rats on steroids.

Bruce kind of thinks the same thing and he would be on the dogs side.

So here it is, Monday, another rain last night, we were driving home from Janet's and had to slow to a near crawl. The rain was coming down as hard as a cow pee'ing on a flat rock.

If you don't know, trust me, that's pretty hard.

So this morning was spent cleaning yards and making babies and mama's comfortable because that is what we do out here on the farm.

Come visit, I'll bake a cake.

Monday, April 18, 2016

"Hey Ian and Annie, Otto is alive and well in the pond!"

When our California kids were here three summers ago, we successfully captured a big fat bullfrog tadpole and brought him home to live in the pond.

They named him 'Otto'.

Otto made himself scarce, there were few sightings of him after he transformed into a frog. During the winter I replace the pump with an aerator and heater to keep everyone alive till spring. Friday night the toads started singing and I knew it was time to clean out the pond and get the waterfall up and running before I have clumps of toad eggs.

I upgraded to a continuous flow pond vac last year, it fills one chamber and switches over to the next while the first one empties. Instead of running the water out of the pond, I cinched a 'muck sack' over the discharge hose and laid it on the rocks so it caught all the yucky crap but the water returned to the pond. 

Imagine my surprise when I dumped a filled muck sack into the bed of the gator and a toad was looking back at me. His eyes were rather crossed and he had that stunned look after being sucked up in the hose, swirled around the interior of the pond vac and shot out through the discharge hose. I knew exactly how he felt because that was what I was like after going down the 'waterslide from Hell' in Jamaica! 

I returned the toad to the pond and was a lot more careful after that, I dug around in the muck to see if there was anything else interesting. I found a dragonfly nymph and some other critter that I put back also.

A year ago I decided to do a pond makeover, I'd made some mistakes when I built it and I was never happy with the hokey, plastic waterfall that I could never quite disguise with rocks. I'd also made the cardinal sin of bringing home water plants from MN, I thought they would be a nice addition to the backyard pond. Oh they liked the backyard pond, all right, they took over, attaching their roots to the liner and growing up the side and down between the liner and wall of pond, creating leaks.

I'm going to give you a little tip! IF IT'S IN THE WILD, LEAVE IT IN THE WILD!!!

I pumped the water until I was able to remove all aquatic life, first putting them in the small tub with the aerator until I found a fish had attempted to commit suicide by leaping out, but I found him in time. I brought up the big tank and transferred everyone to it.  

It was an incredibly filthy job, Bruce was in MN fishing so I hired Austin, a strapping young man to help me take all the rocks out. This was early in the clean out, we both were covered with mud and muck by the time we were finished. Austin had to take his jeans off just to drive home, I was hoping he didn't get pulled over on the way!

I paid him well, $50 for 2 1/2 hours of work in hopes that he would come back and help me replace all the rocks but he was on to me and decided he was too busy, dang it!

Our neighbor, Tim, came over and helped me pull the liner out of the hole so I could rebuild the sides and when it was done to my satisfaction, I put the liner back and started replacing rocks.

It took several powerwashings and muck sucking to get all the dregs out before I could refill the pond.

All the rocks back and time to work on the waterfall.

My good buddy, Kim, came to help me figure out the waterfall, she's never built a pond but has great instincts and it would have taken me forever. Where ever we are digging dirt, there is bound to be a chicken nearby 'helping'.

We built and then looked.....

....switched things around...

....Murphy took a dip and approved.

Bonnie oversaw the construction and approved.

This little leopard frog stopped by a few days later and approved.

The plants flourished and approved.

All the hard work and achy muscles were forgotten when the TTT Garden Tour stopped by in July and people admired the beautiful pond.

Bruce and Simon took a rest on the garden bench from directing traffic.

Fast forward to Saturday, I just got the waterfall hooked up and running when a HUGE frog crawled out of the pond and nestled into the rocks, OTTO! He posed for several pictures before returning to the water.

Long live the King of the Pond!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Signs of Spring on the farm

I think Spring is here to stay, it was a beautiful day and the dogs and I went for our daily walk at the pond.

Mollie is impatient...

"Are you Coming??"

"Wait for me, Mollie...."

"....I'm almost there....."

"....I'm coming, I'm coming!!"

Mollie is interested in this old, hollow tree, she is sure there is something inside.... she calls for backup and Murphy confirms it.

"If I could only climb this tree, I'd get that varmint."

I saw this goose sneaking around the pond and soon found out why...

....his lady love is sitting on a nest on the island and they are keeping a low profile.

These are the juvenile geese, not old enough to pair up they are living the free and easy life.

A sure sign of spring, my hubby planting his first field, it exciting times out here in rural Iowa!

The dogs always have to check out the beaver den, I took a stick about 4 ft long and stuck it clear down inside and wiggled it around. I wonder if the beaver family was inside thinking, "What the Hey??"

The geese persevered and built a nest on the side of the beaver hut and so far have three eggs but they aren't very smart. A marauding raccoon will probably come some night and raid the nest. Live and learn.

The bees are still working on the sugar brick I put in this winter but I need to get inside and clean it up. I did find a lot of dead bees so I'm not sure how many survived, the ones that did are very territorial and didn't appreciate me checking on them.

Back at home, Zoe and I spent the afternoon in the gazebo, finally!

While Bruce was planting we were on baby watch, no new calves today, 9 left to go.

We stopped at the grain bins to check for rats, lately they have been skunked, it seems that they thinned out the rat population. But today was Mollie's lucky day, a big, fat rat hiding behind the wooden door, he could hide but not run from her!

But the biggest sign of Spring I found was while sitting here at the computer when I pulled a wood tick out of my hair - YEESCH!!!

Bruce is humming the country song, "I Want to Check You for Ticks!"