Noticing

We’ve all said it, life goes so fast. I mean, I blinked and my kids went from this

to this

As I walked to the chicken pen one morning to fetch Titus I did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I stopped to take pictures.

I took pictures of the flowers that have started to bloom in the ditches – yellow ones and blue and purple ones and clover – I don’t know their names but I took their pictures anyway with my phone and an app (my big dslr camera sees less and less action these days.)

I took a picture of our house, and of the creek all greens and blue skies.

And in the process of slowing down to look around, to notice the little wonders of my immediate world, the whole world seemed to spin a little bit slower. Is that the secret to slowing down this crazy wonderful life of mine? Stop and look around once in a while?

I’m so used to living life at the speed of blur, full throttle, that the world around me does seem to blur as I focus on the biggest fire that needs put out – laundry, farm business, feeding the family, cheering on or running errands or cleaning up the worst of the mess. But in order for what’s blurred to come into focus I have to slow down, stop even, and notice.

I used to do this all the time, almost every day on my lunch break I’d grab my camera and just walk around the farm to see what was going on. And at first it was the obvious things – cows and pigs and chickens and children and pets. But after the obvious I’d start to look closer and deeper – weeds and hay sworls and new crops and spider webs.

I seem to remember that time as slower than this time. Maybe that’s just the way of nostalgia. I thought it was because the kids were younger and not involved in as many things. And logically that’s got to be part of it. But I wonder if it’s also that you stop noticing the things that have always been there.

5 years ago:

Count ‘em

Itchy and scratchy

Birdseye view

Don’t send out the search party just yet

Interlopers

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Let’s talk about pigs…

There’s really no long-winded way to say this. We are out of the pig business at the moment. Our sows came up open this spring, so we have no piglets to raise this summer. Matt thinks they were bred, but aborted in the bitterly cold winter weather we had this year.

Before we get back into pigs, if we get back into pigs, we’re going to need to have something different for housing to farrow in and raise them in. So I’m hoping to use the blog to think out loud about what some of our pig housing alternatives might be.

Do you have any ideas for us?

And if you know of any feeder pigs for sale in our area, let us know!

4 years ago:

Close encounters

Pig herder

Marketing manager

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Thank you!


Titus relaxing under a tree, thinking about pie. His favorite is apple.

Thanks to everyone that purchased Olivia’s pies at market on Friday! She sold every single pie she made, plus had a couple of special orders to make over the weekend. She also received a wonderful email this weekend that read,

“WOW! It was the best apple pie we ever had and with the finest crust. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful skill with us. We look forward to purchasing your pies in the future.”

I wish the person that sent the email could have seen the huge smile on her face when she read that!

She will have pies at market again this Friday, and might also have a cake or two. We’ll see what she experiments with this week! Thanks everyone for your support of her new venture!

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Introducing…

Those of you that follow our Facebook or Instagram feeds were teased with this earlier this week:

And those of you that have been following us over the years know that our favorite middle child loves to cook and bake.

In fact her favorite way of getting out of chicken wrangling is to offer to make supper while the rest of us go out and wrangle chickens. And it usually works.

She’s a busy girl, and what with softball and volleyball and workouts and cheerleading and color guard… there’s not much time left for a summer job. She’ll be a junior this fall, and with college starting to stare her in the face she was bemoaning the fact that she’s not making any money this summer. And then I was talking with a friend about pies, and I mentioned that there weren’t many pies at our farmers market, and the proverbial light bulb went off right over my head! She could (hopefully) make a little money doing something she loves, and be able to work it around her busy schedule.

So I talked to Olivia, and I talked to a couple of the market board members, and I talked to Matt’s Aunt Kathy who is a veteran farmers market pie baker… and just like that Olivia was in the pie business.

So she’s spent the last couple of days trying out pie recipes. She wanted an old-fashioned recipe, with real lard in the crust, so we pulled out the 1940′s church cookbooks that had belonged to my mother-in-law, Lola.

Lola loved making pies. Our freezer was full of pies for quite a while after she passed away. We didn’t have her pie recipe (I’m sure it was just in her head and never written down), but we figured old church cookbook recipes would be pretty close to what she used.

And so “Lola’s Homemade Pies” was born!

As excited as I am about her socking some money away for college, I’m just as excited for her to learn about having her own business. Already she’s learning about market research (by finding out what needs and gaps there are in the current farmers market offerings); product development (by testing out recipes); brand development (by choosing a name and designing business cards); and marketing (with an unexpected opportunity to be interviewed about her business by the newspaper.)

So far she has apple, cherry, peach, strawberry, blueberry and raspberry in her repertoire, in both full-size and mini pies. Made entirely from scratch, no canned pie filling! We also found some fun cake recipes in those old cookbooks that she plans to try, and probably popcorn balls – another fun treat that Lola always made us.

Look for her first offering of pies and mini pies this Friday, June 20th at the North Iowa Farmers Market, Mason City! If you want to reserve one (or more!) for us to set aside for you at market just email lolaspies@outlook.com.

3 years go:

Visit to Lime Springs

This kitten

Real food

This bird

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Titus on the job, part 2


There’s chickens behind me, aren’t there…

Titus has done really well with the chickens, considering he’s just a 6-month-old puppy still.


I’m just going to ignore them.


Still there, aren’t they…

We started by just having him out there during the day so that we could check on him. We put his favorite toy – a cottage cheese container – in the pen with him and gave him a little chew treat each morning when we took him out. At night we would shut all the chickens in the shed and bring him back up to the house.


I’ll just lie down and continue ignoring them.


They’re maybe sort of entertaining…

When I left him in the pen the first morning, he didn’t seem to mind too much. He didn’t whine and pace like Ike did on his first morning in the pen.


But I’m still ignoring the one right behind me.


I wonder if chicken butts smell like dog butts

After about a week, we switched to have him with the chickens at night. They were getting pretty crowded being shut in the shed at night. Our main predator problem is owls, so it’s crucial to have Titus out there if we’re leaving the shed open at night. Unless we start having a daytime predator problem (hawks), he gets to come back up to hang out with Ava during the day.


Oh, so you’re leaving now?

We’ve only lost 1 chicken on his watch so far. It was early on, and I suspect he might have played too hard with one. Matt went out to do chores and didn’t notice it at first. Titus walked back and forth from Matt to the chicken until Matt noticed, and then was sniffing and licking the chicken and acting perhaps a bit guilty. But at least he didn’t eat it, and it hasn’t happened again so hopefully he learned to be more gentle with the birds.


All right, I’ll just lie here and wait for you to come back

Sometimes when I sneak up on him, I find him napping with a chicken snuggle buddy.

I’d say he’s getting along just fine.

3 years ago:

Spring piggers

Right now

Zen duck

Rollercoaster

Saturday

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Titus on the job, part 1

I take all kinds of pictures when I’m out doing chores and whatnot, but actually getting them off my camera or phone is another story. Finally did that tonight, so I thought I’d share a few from Titus’s first days on the chicken guardian grind.

We brought him out in the pasture with us while we moved the 4-1/2-week-old chicks to the pasture. We always load them into the shed and shut them inside for the first night, then set the electric poultry netting up around the shed.

I was trying to get pictures of him checking out the new territory…

but there’s always a wise guy trying to photo bomb.

Once we had the chicken pen set up it was time to teach Titus how to get into it.

Except he didn’t actually want to get into it.

No amount of coaxing was getting him over that fence. His butt was firmly cemented to the ground.

Finally we just had to boost him over the fence. And then we were left with this pitiful picture…

But not to worry, he settled into his job right away. Part 2 tomorrow…

1 year ago:

How things change

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It’s market time!

Today is the opening day of the North Iowa Farmers Market! We’ve got the trailer stocked with goodies and ready to go.

Some of the “summer cuts” we have back in stock are bratwurst patties, cheddarwurst, zingers, and cooked bbq pulled pork. But grab them fast, quantities are limited on these!

Check out the Cut Availability & Price List page for the complete list of what’s in stock.

We’ll be in the Mason City KMart parking lot, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Can’t wait to see all of our regulars again!

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Ask the Readers :: Beef Liver

Our friend Mary asked on our Facebook page the other day for any tips or good recipes for preparing beef liver.

I had to confess that we don’t eat liver around here, even though it’s quite good for you. But surely some of you out there in blogland do! Help a sister out, what’s your favorite way to prepare beef liver?

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Titus on Tuesday

Titus has taken to laying smack dab in the middle of the driveway. No matter that it’s wet, muddy, and/or snowy. This is his spot.

I’m going on the assumption that his guard dog instincts are kicking in, and that this position affords the best view of the whole farm – house, yard, and pasture.

Fingers crossed.

5 years ago:

New digs

Photogenic

Trusting my instincts (or not)

That had to hurt

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Chicks are here!

175 Red Rangers from Hoovers Hatchery. It never seems like there’s that many in there.

I feel like such a hillbilly raising chicks in the garage attached to our house. But then again, when the weather’s as cold and damp as it’s been the last couple of days, I’m glad to have them in a building with a heated floor. The garage has its own thermostat so I can keep it just right for chicks in there. I’ve got it set to 60 degrees, plus 3 heat lamps going.

Titus is interested, but so far not too interested (thank goodness.)

They’re so cute when they fall asleep standing up!

My favorites are the ones with chipmunk stripes.

Titus settled into his guard duties right away. At the end of the day I had to bribe him out of the garage. But it may be a different story when they’re out on pasture where they can be chased. He’s still very much a puppy, and lately finds it fun to chase the few laying hens we have. He likes to chase the cat, too, but more than once I’ve looked out and caught them curled up with each other on the porch. Hopefully he’ll be as cuddly with the chickens as Ike was.

4 years ago:

Sprung

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