Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Canning Season Has Begun!

It may be a late night tonight. This afternoon we discovered our bean patch had really popped with the hot, muggy weather, so we picked a ton of green beans and got started with the processing. By the time I go to bed tonight, we will have processed 42 quarts of beans! We still have canned beans from last year, but if our corn doesn't mature before our first frost we will be eating more beans, and I want to make sure we have enough for ourselves and company before we attempt to sell the rest.

I had my first jar casualty in the last batch ... Most of my jars have been purchased from local elderly ladies, and I must have used a jar that was past its prime. At least the bottom broke cleanly away from the rest of the jar and I didn't have shards of glass floating inside the canner along with beans. It has been so much fun to talk canning with the elderly ladies that answered my ad for jars; they are actually excited that someone would take up doing something like that. Most of them have asked me how large our garden is and what I plan to can. I also advertised for another gauge style pressure canner, and a lady that used to live up here in the hills called to say I could have hers for free. She said it probably needed a new seal and for the gauge to be recalibrated, since she hadn't used it since they moved to town about 10 years ago. This lady is 86 and her husband 92. I'm hoping to go visit her some day, but it may be after I find some breathing room in between canning sessions.

It's hard to believe that before moving to the country I hadn't canned anything but raspberry jam. The Lord has been so gracious in providing wonderful mentors from which to learn the various processes. Last year I asked Jim to help me through my first experience in pressure canning. He was very gracious and read the directions and walked me through the process. We learned together!
How wonderful it has been to just walk into the garden and pick out enough items to have a salad: Lettuce, cucumbers, a few tomatoes (if I get them before the chickens do!), green pepper, broccoli and zucchini. I must admit that during the Y2k time I attempted to grow a few items in the city, and one of those things was strawberries. I planted them in my front flower garden. The strange thing was once they started producing a few berries I decided I didn't want to eat them because they hadn't come from the store! In my mind, store bought items were superior to what I could grow. I think I figured my home grown produce might have bugs in them or something. What a change it has been for me! I am constantly amazed at how a small seed can produce so much. I was thinking about that this afternoon when picking green beans, because I noted how one seed produces a stalk that grows into a bush and ultimately produces a lot more seeds inside the bean pods.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Garden Flowers

Last spring Andrew and Peter went to work and created a picket fence for a backdrop for my rock garden, and it sure is a wonderful addition. All the flowers were grown from seed, which was done at our friend Paulette's place. She has southern facing windows, and plants thrive over there. I didn't grown many petunias this year, but it's probably just as well since it's been so hot and dry. The marigolds are doing just great.

This view shows how the garden is situated in relation to the house. Just around the corner is the door to our walk-in basement. We are still living down there. I am so thankful for the main part of the house that is shelled in but not insulated yet, because last year there was nothing up there and we almost cooked in the basement. All we had between us and the hot sun was plywood and rolled roofing. At least this year the structure above gives us great insulation.

Our Weather for Today

We aren't used to typical southern weather, but I guess we'll experience it whether we want to or not. Yesterday we closed up the house and lived like cave dwellers, and looks like today we'll do more of the same.

From the weather service:


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taking a Break

I'm taking a break while waiting for some buns to raise. Won't take long, since it's very hot and humid today. No air conditioning for us, but just whatever breeze happens in through the window.

Jonathan, Peter and Andrew are over at our friend Paulette's, helping Steve with landscaping projects. This has been a tough day for David, since his best buddies aren't here for him to hang around with. Needless to say, Jim and I have been his source of excitement. I can hardly remember when we only had one son, and it must have been a different set of circumstances since David has had companionship his entire life, vs. what Jonathan knew as an only child. I kept David busy with picking raspberries, which is not his favorite job.

We may not be able to sell our raspberries after all, as we discovered they have what we think is gray mold. I checked the internet yesterday and that is what it looks like to me. The information stated the condition is a result of cool, wet conditions as the berries were forming. Well, we've had plenty of cool, cloudy, wet weather lately, so it doesn't surprise me. Our raspberries still taste great to me, and even if we don't sell them, we'll certainly enjoy plenty of homemade raspberry jam.

About a week ago the boys discovered our potato plants were infested with potato bugs! Yuck! Since then we've been trying different natural remedies, in the hopes we'll have a great potato crop in the fall. We've already dug up some very tasty new potatoes, and I have the boys hooked on their wonderful flavor. Last year almost all of our 1200 lbs. of potatoes were afflicted with scab, so this is a new twist. Hopefully the plants are far enough along that they will still produce for us.

We have been harvesting broccoli; I wasn't in favor of planting them since 2 years ago they ended up with lots of worms, but this year was a great year for the plant and we have really (at least I have!) enjoyed fresh broccoli. So far we've picked 4 ripe tomatoes, lots of peas, and the green beans are producing as well. Carrots are getting close to needing some thinning out. I didn't get much lettuce this year; it just didn't want to grow very well. I'm going to try planting a bit more before too long. I did pick 2 small zucchini this morning, and the boys thinned out our crop of mangle beets. The animals sure liked feasting on those things!

It looks like Jim did a good job with his air layering in some of the trees, as the branches turned into saplings are taking root. There are also branches that have been grafted onto crab apple root stock which will become apricot and other types of trees. These are also doing well. We discovered the deer (in spite of having 2 dogs) are eating what they can of our new cherry trees. Jonathan has been tenting near them, in the hopes the deer will stay away. Wish I could show you some photos, but we need to purchase a cleaner for the camera before we can do too much with it. My rose bushes are flowering, and they are beautiful! Maybe some day they can be transplanted to an area closer to the house. I didn't want anything in near proximity until construction is over.

Looks like I better get back to my dough. We have had company the past 2 weekends, and this weekend will make it 3 in a row. Sunday is the Bottineau Gospel Music Festival, and plenty of our friends will be attending. Hopefully our camera will be whipped into shape and I can include photos of the Turtle Mountain Boys and others who will be playing and singing.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wonderful Story of God's Faithfulness

I just received an email from friends that I knew in my single days, when I was a part of a Christian ministry back in the 70's. It is so special that I thought I would share it with you.

Dear friends,

I am pleased to pass on a very special announcement to all of you.

Helen Arnseth, missionary to Madagascar and long-time staff member of Daystar is engaged to be married on September 8, 2007 to Olav Torvik in San Antonio, Texas!

She was engaged on June 28, 2007 to Olav, whom she has known since September 13, 1948. Olav and his wife Eunice served in Madagascar as missionaries along with Helen and Eunice was Helen's best friend during their years of ministry there.

Eunice passed away earlier this year after a 10 years struggle with several health issues. Olav voiced his loneliness to one of his daughters after Eunice passed away and she suggested that he consider getting married again. His daughter asked him who he would consider if he was to remarry and he said he would consider Helen first of all. So the rest is, as they say, history. Olav called Helen shortly after this conversation with his daughter and they have developed their relationship over the phone. It culminated when Helen went to San Antonio on June 20th to visit him and his children for 10 days.

Helen and Olav both speak Norwegian, French, English and Malagasy and Helen knows all five of his children well because of their time together in Madagascar.

As most of you may know, marriage has been a dream for Helen all her life so she is more than overjoyed at this unexpected turn of events. Olav is 88 years old and Helen is 85.

There will be a reception in the Minneapolis area for the newly weds in October for those who wish to rejoice with them ...

What an amazing and exciting story this has been. Rejoice with us and with Helen as she enters into the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

Blessings to you all

Larry Ballard

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picture Post III

Dad and a kitty...
The barn, which is half painted as you see...
Andrew and David...
Peter with his homemade belt buckle
One of the moveable chicken coops...
the buckwheat
Tobacco, to be made into an herbal pesticide...
Our tallest corn...
Whooops, another Andrew and David picture. I know from experience that if I delete it, blogger will delete the rest of this post's pictures and I'll have to redo so I will leave it up.
Jonathan, for Lynn, until she posts :-)

Picture Post II

Hoop house...
Strawberries, and the asparagus to the left
Some of the raspberries

Picture Post

Herb/flower garden
carrots, peas, tomatoes, peppers, celery, beans in the background...
Another angle.
the corn and potatoes.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday Night Post

Well, I've had plenty of blogs written in my mind, but not on a screen. The days have just been flying by. Even our 10-year-old has commented on how fast this year is going. Wow, July 1 already. To me, that means summer is almost half over!

Last weekend I had my first real experience with farming. Jim and the boys left Saturday morning to attend the wedding of friends of our family, which took place on a ranch about 4 hours from here. The Turtle Mountain Boys had been asked to play their bluegrass music for the next day's doings, which was Prairie Days -- a time of fun and fellowship for homeschooling families. Since I am not a member of the group it was my job to stay behind and do the chores. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet, after a very busy week of finally getting around to canning the remaining 60 of the 200 chickens we purchased with our friend Steve from a Hutterite community.

I must say I have a new appreciation for all the chores the boys do every morning with the animals. I spent mornings having Peter coach me in the fine art of milking goats. We have 2 we are currently milking in the mornings, so they are separated overnight from their kids. It looked so easy when Peter milked, but I found myself a little nervous at giving it a try. I think I have been a bit scared of the goats, but the more I worked with them the more relaxed I felt. They were no longer foreign objects to me! Even though goats aren't as large as a cow they still can pack a punch if they decide to kick or butt. We have them climb onto a milking stand, and then I would kneel on the floor and milk. There is no telling what a person would kneel on in the shed, so I furnished myself with a piece of cardboard for the job. I wasn't too excited about having my head at the level of the goats' hooves, but everything went okay. As long as the goats had their grain they were happy.

A couple of hours after everyone left I decided I'd better go check on the animals. We stake out the 2 milking does and the rest of the goats are in portable pens. As I rounded the shed I came face to face with John, our billy goat. He has always looked nasty to me, since he has the traditional beard and horns. The name he was given before we bought him was "Big Bad John," and he certainly looked the part! John was in a portable pen all his own, which was constructed of cattle panels. Before the boys left they moved his pen to a new location, but it was on the slant of a hill. I don't know how he got out of there with the pen still standing, but he did. I knew if I got him back in there he would just get out the way he did the first time, so I decided I'd better move it to a level area. The only way to do that with just me (takes 2 normally to move the pens around) was to take the thing apart and drag it flat along the ground. It turned out not to be as hard as I thought it would be, and got it set up next to our oldest goat, Mustard Seed. She has had some skin problems and lost most of her hair, so they have kept her separate from the rest of the herd until she is healed up. (Thankfully, a product from Crystal Creek has helped her to start growing her hair back.) I didn't know how to get John back into his pen's new location, but shaking a bucket with grain helped immensely. I gave him grain here and there to be sure he would follow me, and he did. He wasn't nasty at all! Whew!

A couple more hours later I went back down to check on the pig's water, and found one of the does wandering around pulling her stake behind her, so I had to get that back into place. The pigs were very glad to see me, since it was a hot day and they needed more water. Anyway, the animals kept me very busy. Later in the afternoon I checked the weather forecast and found the real possibility of a thunderstorm, so I had to play musical goats to get everyone shelter in the event it did rain. I think it took me close to an hour to get everyone settled down for the night. Thankfully there were no storms.

Got up and going right on schedule Sunday morning, but when I got to the goat shed I discovered one of the kids had somehow gotten out of his pen between the hours of bedtime and morning chores. He was laying next to the fence where his mother was held, and mama was pretty irate that she was so close, yet so far away. She did not want to cooperate with milking, so I didn't do too well with her. I think I managed to get about half of what Peter normally gets, and thankfully the kids would probably take the rest. I think it took me 3 hours to get all the chores done! My reward was to pick strawberries from our patch for breakfast.

I was very glad to have Jim and the boys return about 10:00 that night. There were storm warnings all around, and I needed help getting the kids separated from their moms. The trick of feeding a bit of grain to Big Bad John kind of backfired on me, since the 3 kids needed to go in with him for the night and he kept jumping up on the fence any time I tried to unlatch the clamps to get the kids in. It was either drop the kid I was carrying to get John off the fence (I did that the first time and the kid ran back to his mom!), or unintentionally let John out as I tried to get the kid in! I gave up and waited for reinforcements. We did have a storm that night, and received 3-1/2 inches of rain in 45 minutes. I was sure glad everyone was home and in their beds. What I do feel very badly about is that night friends of ours lost crops to hail in 7 of the 12 quarters of land they planted. Our hearts go out to them, and we are asking the Lord to give them wisdom in what their next step is going to be.