Monday, October 31, 2011

one year anniversary

Today SallyMomSprouts is one year old. It's fun having Halloween as my blogging anniversary. And it's hard to comprehend how quickly that year has gone. Once in a while I look back at early posts and wonder about that newbie blogger and naive farmgirl in the making. I worry that some day my old posts will disappear and I'll not have a record of them, as they stand as the only real journal I have of this precious year. And I do so easily forget what I've done day to day. . .
I'm moved by life at the moment and will end today simply by saying Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

last sunday

Last Sunday morning began with a light frost but some sun as Barb and I drove to Spring Green. She had bought tickets for us to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's famous home, farm and school there as a belated birthday treat and an even more belated congratulations on following my farm dream.
As we traveled south along Hwy 14 we passed Reeds Creek Nursery, nestled in a valley just outside Reedstown. All of the nursery trees looked as if they had been flocked. We experience magical frozen fog in the driftless region with some frequency at this time of year, spectacular and nearly impossible to describe. We were both awed.
We had participated in the DesPlaines Public Library's book discussion of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan    Barb and I had each lived most of our lives aware of the famous architect being Chicago area folks. We've been to his home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois and seen other of his famous buildings.
I wasn't entirely sure how long the drive would take. We had to gather in the visitor center by 10:15. Not to worry, we pulled into the lot at 10:08 with plenty of time for a potty stop first, as we had been warned that no facilities were available to the public on the tour.

The visitor center is built into the side of a hill overlooking the lovely Wisconsin River. I say lovely because at this location the river is gentle, wide and shallow. Even in its flood of 2008 it behaved in this region. It is particularly lovely inside looking out at the river from the dining room and gift shop, both of which we'd visit after the tour.
Our tour was to last 2 hours and is the Highlights Tour. It was a perfect first visit on a nippy autumn day.

Frank Lloyd Wright's mother's family settled in this area generations before and he had worked his uncle's farm as a young boy. Taliesin means "shining brow" and the name was used to describe his buildings, built not on the crown of the hills but lower down, akin to a brow on a face, a testament to his deep belief that buildings should look as if they are part of the land from which they spring.
FLW lived a long and troubled life. He was talented, arrogant, and always short of cash, as he rather buy beautiful things than pay his bills. Even in death he could not rest in peace. At his death in 1959, he was buried at Unity Chapel,  his mother's family plot. When his third and last wife died over 20 years later, her will stated his remains were to be removed, cremated and joined with hers. Wright's descendants refused. So his body was snatched in the night. Only his marker remains in Wisconsin.

This is the 100th anniversary of the home at Taliesin. Fortunately there is a foundation that now has the enormous responsibility to keep the 600 acre estate, properties, artifacts, buildings, and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright alive. The school of architecture is still functioning, its students, staff and some emeritus individuals are now moved to Taliesin West in Arizona til May.

We had a most delicious lunch and enjoyed the gift shop. Each of us bought several things, and sadly did not buy everything we loved there. There were even Lego models of some of his buildings!

Tomorrow, October 31, Taliesin closes til next spring. I was delighted to be able to visit with such a good friend on a day much nicer than today's constant rain and cold wind.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

of electricity and eggs

I've been nearly devoid of energy today. It was a very full week.
5 full days of seeing the house get totally out of hand and 5 evenings of sweeping, dusting and generally trying to clean up the major messes before the next day begins. I'm not saying that my electricians weren't careful. On the contrary. They were amazing. But at every opened outlet or light cavity, fragile, old, crumbling, insulation and plaster bubbled forth. At one point the skeleton of a mouse was discovered among the cloth covered wires in the light switch by the back door. I'm not sure what was more unnerving, seeing the poor mouse or seeing the frightening old wires sitting exposed in the insulation at the cavity.
As the electricians braved the complexities of our electric upgrade they've discovered clues to the age of the house. Their best guess, in light of the materials they've encountered and the construction techniques, is that our house was most likely built very near 1910.
5 full days of work and we still have much to finish.  Some happy results so far:

there is a sweet pendant lamp hanging over the kitchen sink where there was no lamp of any kind before, I now have an outlet next to the kitchen counter that is a single circuit so I can go ahead and buy the toaster oven I've wanted since I got here, and the house lights no longer flicker, glare, or dim when the microwave is on. I'll know exactly what is powered by which circuit. And when it's time for the Christmas lights I could go absolutely crazy if I wanted to and the electricity would flow.
Just look at the breaker box so far. I love it.

It's oddly quiet without the workmen here today. Dovey and my chickens have been blessed company. The chickens hear me approach and come running to their gate. A few often perch up on the gate top calling to me as I walk from the house. They all swarm around my ankles making it difficult to walk without stepping on their toes. Several of them stop and squat for me to stroke them and no longer verbally object to my picking them up. Even John Wayne allows frequent strokes. They're getting heavier each day too. Maybe it's the snacks...
Each afternoon I bring what's comparable to an after school snack. Today it was apples, popcorn, sunflower seeds and a few dehydrated green beans. Yesterday they devoured the insides of the jack-o-lantern I carved. Snack time is also when I prepare their food and water for the night and check for the last of the day's eggs. Today was our first 5 egg day!

The eggs are still pullet size, but lovely shades of tan and brown and their yolks are so orange! I made a vegetable omelet for lunch with garlic, onion and spinach from the garden. Such happy satisfaction.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Help

Last night I saw the movie The Help. Go see it. Even if you haven't read the book. It is excellent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

c is for culinary challenge

It has been a wonderful whirlwind weekend, enjoying so many things with my good friend and colleague, Barb. She arrived Friday afternoon and after a quick tour of the house and grounds we hurried to the 3rd annual Harvest Challenge at our town's middle school/high school.
(Immediately upon entering and spying the library I was overcome by an urge to call and volunteer myself to the librarian. I guess I miss it more than I let myself think.)
We were escorted to the registration table by a diminutive middle schooler named Garret, no bigger than a minute and hair sprayed bright orange red. Cute as could be. After paying our entry fee we first watched the world premier screening of a documentary film titled Chefs Move to Schools introducing our local Farm to School program.
Under the direction of Monique Hooker, the schools in Vernon county have developed a curriculum that pairs the ideas of growing and eating in the school setting. To focus community attention on this remarkable initiative, the local high schools began a friendly competition.
Our meal for this year's event was prepared by 5 participating schools:
Viroqua High School: creamy chicken rotini, vegetable medley, fruit pizza
Youth Initiative High School: Thai peanut pizza, fall spinach salad, sauteed apples with cinnamon
La Farge High School: wildcat willy chili, savory harvest bread, purple pride apple salad
De Soto High School: pirate pork easy wrap, garden mac and cheese, pineapple slaw
North Crawford High School: zucchini casserole, fruit salad, pumpkin carrot swirl bars
Each school's student team, under the direction of a staff mentor and a chef mentor, planned and prepared the meals with strict culinary guidelines and a tight budget.  We tasted samples of all these, served on small plates, but displayed on school trays as the students would get in the lunch lines of their school cafeteria. Each paid attendee and a judging panel of 7 were given one vote to cast. I did cast my vote, but Barb couldn't decide which should be first and declined voting.
I have not as yet heard which school's team won the challenge but will post the result when I hear it. Congratulations to all. I already look forward to Challenge 2012.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

b is for bowl...

Yesterday I had dinner in the basement of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Viroqua. They were hosting an annual event to feed the hungry called Empty Bowls. Local potters donated hand thrown bowls which were then used for a soup and bread dinner. The entry fee of $20 bought you the bowl of your choice and two servings of soups, many donated by local restaurants, others made and donated by residents.

I went by myself thinking I'd probably see someone I knew, and if not, would just sit and talk with whomever was sitting near me. I walked in from the parking lot with a very sweet lady who was also alone. Once we were given the instructions as to how to proceed we went our separate ways trying to choose a bowl. Not easy! The room was very full already and it was a joy to see so many young families as well as seniors. And it was fun just watching people choosing bowls. I finally did find THE bowl, shown above. After paying my fee and rinsing my bowl in the tubs made available for the purpose, I then had to choose a first soup. Not an easy task! The bread table was overflowing with homemade breads, including some my friend Jeff had baked. (I had taken a bread baking class with him last April.) Once I had my food in hand I looked about and found my neighbors Kathy and Kelvin. We sat together for a bit and then a young fellow joined us who was one of the contributing potters (50 bowls!!) He lives in Bangor, Wisconsin, north of us about a half hour's drive. He said he wanted to contribute to the cause in a personal way. It was fun for him to find his bowls, as he had thrown them and turned them over to Viterbo University students to glaze and fire and he hadn't seen the final results. He had chosen Borscht, a beautiful deep claret color, then garlic potato, and had not chosen one of his own bowls.
After chatting a while he left and his seat was taken by a woman I had learned about that morning at the farmers' market, but had not as yet met. Well, we had a lovely conversation. Her name is Philothea and she has a spot on our local radio station WDRT every Saturday morning at 10:00 called Who's in the Kitchen.
Her program yesterday was interviews with some of the participants in this Friday's high school cooking competition, the Harvest Challenge, which I hope to attend with my friend Barb who will be visiting this weekend. There will be a showing of a new documentary created about the competition and the efforts of our local schools to be involved in better food choices. Can't think of a better area of the country to develop this idea with all the interest in eating local, organic, in season, etc.
I would have loved to stay longer, as there are so many good people to get to know. But I had to arrive home in time to tuck in the chicks and ducks. All the way home there was the most incredible sunset which cheered me to my very center. It's not easy being here alone and going places by myself. But every time I do I am so very glad I did. Not once have I been sorry that I pushed myself. Many many of the folks I've been meeting are transplants like myself and have arrived here in much the same way I did... fell in love with the land and then the people. And the beauty that is everywhere serves to underscore the rightness of the decision to be here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

playing with Picasa

Computer applications never come easy to me. I need a workbook with steps to follow. Trying to make Picasa work to create a new banner has taken me way too long for the results. I just don't do it often enough. I like changing photos up there, but can't seem to make them look like I want. Oh, well. I guess I'll keep trying until I've created some hand crafted image that will work better. Dovey says enough is enough for today. so, for what it's worth, here it is.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A is for...

Absolutely adorable!

As if my chickens were giving me a hug on a day I needed it most, our first egg.
Grace abundant in an eggshell.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

little things mean a lot

I returned to the farm yesterday after a nice week-long visit with Jerome, Mya, Phil, Kelly, my sister Terri, and several of my girlfriends. Unfortunately, I brought a zinger of a head cold back with me. Ugh. I am never sick so this is an insult as well as a pain.
Despite being totally unprepared for the calendar change from August to September, I was very aware of turning it this morning. September was an awfully full month. Good full, and difficult full. As if a promise of a lovely month ahead, Mother Nature provided full sun. Last night we had a frost here. No damage despite white lawns and a frosty garage roof. We had covered some things yesterday just in case and picked bunches of basil, a wheel barrow full of apples, a few dozen tomatoes, and a large box of edamame.
Today my head is alternating between sneezes and coughs and though I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'm not giving in. I did a walk about the grounds to see what's been happening in my absence. Still lots of frogs in the pond, baby spinach, kale and swiss chard growing larger in the vegetable bed, gorgeous chestnuts begging to be gathered into a bowl for the dining room, shield bugs trying to master sneaking into the house but our new doors keeping them at bay, yes!
Golly, the sunset is on our side of the road now. When did that happen?!

And yesterday Anne noticed a little (turn away you sensitive types) attempted chicken sex going on in the chicken yard. It seems our little Polish felt compelled to mount one of the hens. (S)he is still the only chicken who crows. But it messes with my head to think of that bird as anything but female.
Here's a photo of Jerome holding her during his last visit. Oh dear.....
I can't resist showing you our girls. They so enjoyed being together again during our visit. Here they are at their favorite occupation. Dovey tries to tell Mya about all she sees out the farmhouse windows, but Mya finds it hard to believe. She's only ever been a city girl.
We took Mya to the vet to update her shots this week. I don't know who was more upset, Mya or Jerome. Too traumatic for both of them.


The day before I left the farm to go to the city, our Amish friends Eli and Lovina arrived to put the nesting boxes in the chicken house. So far the chickens have only explored sitting on top of it and on the little perches in front of each box. Surely eggs can't be too far off....

And as promised, here is a photo of Sarah's quilt. I am not at all good at using my point and shoot, but you get the idea. The lines of quilting are clearly visible here, though the colors are richer in person. It is now hanging in Sarah's "art wing" and I am delighted that she loves it.

Well, these sweet things go a long way in keeping me from feeling sorry for myself with this thick head. I hope they offer some cheer this first day of October. Can it really be almost 6 months until the vernal equinox?????
For today I refuse to think about that.