New life for an old sink

What better way to spend a rainy Saturday in Illinois than to clean the basement?

Unlike most 100-year-old farmhouses, ours was built with tall ceilings and several windows, making it quite usable. However, like many 100-year-old farmhouses it has water issues, so even with this project we couldn’t escape the reminder that rain was wreaking havoc in our house and in our fields (yes, we currently have “lake front” property on what should be a corn field).

In the process of tossing out junk and installing new shelving, we rediscovered an old concrete sink that was begging for a new life. We decided it would be perfect for washing garden vegetables, or just washing up after yard work, and created a spot for it next the garden shed and the pump.

A load of gravel and a couple of old limestone slabs made the perfect foundation and our loader bucket and Alitec pallet forks made the maneuvering easy. Another “easy button” — spacing calculations and precision leveling thanks to they guys’ smart phones.

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2017-05-20 12.20.12Our next challenge was to figure out how to get the concrete beast up the basement stairs, through the laundry room, and out to it’s new home. A few text messages to our strongest, young friends and a heavy-duty dolly solved the dilemma. (I think I held my breath the whole time they were muscling the load up the stairs.)

We replaced the rusty metal frame with stacked cinder blocks and in a couple hours, we re-purposed a forgotten treasure into a practical garden feature.

And, as soon as it quits raining, we’ll actually be able to dig in the garden so that we have some vegetables to wash this summer.

AKL

What’s for lunch?

Whether in Brazil or North America, it seems that the challenge of feeding thousands of tradeshow visitors knows no boundaries. Lines! Lines! Lines!

Brazil is known for the quality and cut of its beef, so standing in line for an hour for freshly grilled carne is worth the wait. 


This is the scene at Mimi Express, “tudo para churrasco” (everything for barbecue). It’s a popular lunch spot here at Agrishow in Ribeirão Preto. And, apparently elsewhere since their marketing proclaims that they serve more than two million event goers every year. 

That’s a lot of beef!

AKL

Ola, Agrishow!

This year marks our third exhibiting at Agrishow, one of Brazil’s largest farm shows. Set in the hills of the state of São Paulo, near Ribeirão Preto, Agrishow hosts 800 exhibiting brands and more than 152,000 visitors.


I’m here representing the Woods brand with my Brazilian co-workers and enjoying the challenge of practicing Portuguese (Eu falo um pouco de Português) without frustrating potential customers (O Português é difícil).

AKL

Tuesdays in the Garden

Last year, my gardening buddy Julie and I met every Tuesday evening to work our vegetable plot and share a bottle of wine. The discipline paid off and we enjoyed one of our best gardening seasons to date as evidenced by our full freezers and pantry shelves.


We kicked off the 2017 season this week and despite a tiller that wouldn’t start (sadly, due to lack of winterization maintenance), we made great strides. This year, we’re experimenting with horseradish and garlic and we’re growing snap peas for the first time in years. All are in the ground and have been blessed with a steady rain. Not only that, our “vine yard” (the barn paddock that contains all our pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers) is fully mulched and ready for planting.


With our garden plot prepped and a few seeds in the ground, we toasted our inaugural Tuesday in the Garden with a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc — citrusy whites pair well with gardening. 
Cheers to 2017 Tuesdays in the Garden!

AKL

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!

We pulled it off! A trifecta of beauty at last Saturday’s wedding on the Larson farm: The bride was beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and the grounds were beautiful!

I can only take credit for the latter and even so, I need to share the credit with the friends who helped with the last-minute grading and mowing.

Add in some trimming, edging, weeding, and watering and we created a beautiful backdrop for the bride and groom… and their host, Bob the Dog.

The chicken coop turned alter was particularly befitting for Emily and Tommy’s wedding since Tommy is the one who renovated it from its dilapidated condition several years ago. Add in a whole lot of love and the ceremony came off without a hitch (or, I guess, “with a hitch” in the case of a wedding) and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier, nor the bride more beautiful!

It is truly an honor to host the “once in a lifetime day” of those you love. We are blessed with a beautiful farm and beautiful friends and family… beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

AKL

Illinois Dealer Whirlwind Tour

As a new employee to Blount, this week as part of my on-boarding with the company, I was lucky enough to go on a ride along with one of our Woods District Managers, Kent Helbig. We visited several of our dealers and the folks we talked with were all great people, passionate about their businesses and dedicated to helping their customers.  What a pleasure it was learning so much from all of them!

Our first stop was Streator Farm Mart in Streator, Illinois.  This has been a multi-generational operation for 46 years.  They recently built a new showroom to better serve their customers.  Beautiful building!Streator

The second stop of our adventure led us to Buck Brothers in Hampshire, Illinois.  This was one of four of their locations that sell a wide variety of Woods branded equipment, including our rotary cutters and flail shreddersBuckBros

Bobcat of Rockford (IL) was our third stop.  Below, you can see one of the Woods Batwings sitting in front of the Bobcat building and a picture of Kent taking a look at a Case skid steer loader (shhh… don’t tell him I took a picture of him!). BobcatRkfd

We visited two out of five Stoller International locations: Pontiac and Minonk.  They also have locations in Herscher, Streator and Ottawa. Stoller has been family owned and operated for 80 years and the farming life runs deep in their blood. A special thank you to Dale for taking the time to chat with me about the websites! Stoller

Next on our adventure was Martin Sullivan, located in Lexington, Illinois.  In business since 1926 with 13 locations, they have the experience and knowledge to help their customers with anything farm related. They also have a good looking row of Batwing rotary cutters! MartinSullivan

Doyle Oil, located in Ellsworth, Illinois, is a father/son operation that has been around since 1975. Jack and his son, Doug, have a great selection of Woods equipment on their website.  Check it out! DoyleOil

The last stop in our journey was at Cross Implement in Minier, Illinois. Cross Implement was awarded the top 100 dealer award for 2015 and they continue to strive to do their very best in servicing their customers with a great line-up of Woods products. CrossImp

Someday, it would be fantastic to be able to visit more of our dealers and get to know more of these wonderful people who help the farming community every single day to “get their jobs done right.” Until then, I send out a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the dealers that were so kind and so willing to share their stories with me!thankyou

Wedding week kicks off!

The final week of preparation for the farm wedding kicked-off on Friday evening with a crew of family and friends packing burlap, tulle fabric, grapevine and twinkle lights galore! Of course, before any of the shed decor could go up, tractors, planters, and rotary cutters had to go out, followed by moving racks of parts, tools, and all the other supplies that make a farm shop efficient and a wedding venue unsightly.

We all agreed that hosting a wedding every two years is a great way to get your shop cleaned!

While most of the crew focused on the building, a few of us took to the grounds and kept the Woods FZ25D zero-turn mower humming and the Oregon trimmer/edger buzzing most of the weekend. And, the grading scraper made quick work of repairing the lane, which had washed from the deluge Thursday night.

I have a reputation for wanting the place to look “just so” and am blessed with friends who not only tolerate my “slightly obsessive attention to detail” but also appreciate a well-kept farmstead. Even better, they know how to use our tractors and tools to get the job done. Of course, sometimes the work is more delicate (like planting petunias), requiring only a willingness to dig in the dirt and an occasional break to pose with Bob the Dog.

Jess and Bob in Petunias

We accomplished more than we had hoped Friday and Saturday and by early Sunday afternoon, we called it quits until the final preparations on Thursday. While getting the shed and grounds ready to welcome 300 guests is an enormous amount of work, it is oh so much easier, with a posse of friends and knowing that at the end of a hard days’ work is a good meal, cold beer, and a lot of laughs.

AKL

Something Bugging You?

Last year, our backyard was filled with mosquitoes and other biting insects.  I often thought that there had to be something we could do to reduce the bug population and bug bites without using some sort of insecticide.  I may have finally found an answer.

Recently, there have been a multitude of articles and blogs about how to deter mosquitoes, either with bug sprays or certain varieties of flowers, herbs and other plantings.  Personally, I would rather go with the more natural method of planting things.  There is a perfect location in our backyard to do just that.

Here are some of the plants that may help with your bug problem:

Ageratum Garlic Pineapple weed
Basil Lavender Pitcher Plant
Cadago Tree Lemon Balm Rosemary
Catmint Lemon Grass Scented Geranium
Catnip Lemon Thyme Snowbrush
Cedars Lemon Verbena Stone Root
Chrysanthemums Marigolds Sweet Fern
Citronella grass Mexican Marigold Tansy
Citrosum Neem Tea Tree
Clove Nodding Onion Vanilla Leaf
Eucalyptus Pennyroyal Wild Bergamot
Floss Flower Peppermint Wormwood

Check out this site for more information on how and where these beauties grow best.  Some of them may do better than others in your area.

We are going to try Marigolds, Catnip, Basil, Chrysanthemums, Rosemary, Peppermint, Lavender and Garlic.  By the end of summer, I’ll have plenty of “research” completed in this war against biting insects!

Mower Maintenance Mania

We’ve all heard that old saying “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence,” and that is so true!  When it comes to lawn care, not all things are created equal.  But it is possible to level the playing field with regular maintenance.

If you have a zero turn mower like us, you know how much work it saves you.  Mowing a one acre homestead with a push mower would take all day, but with the zero turn it only takes about an hour.  So we treat the zero turn with the love and respect it deserves through mower maintenance mania.

To keep this machine fine tuned and working hard for us, there are certain things that CleaningTheDeckwe do regularly.  Now, this isn’t the fun part but it keeps us rolling all year long! Sharpening blades, cleaning the deck, changing the oil and filter, changing the air filter and, of course, keeping the gas tank full are the very basics required for any riding mower.

Sharpening blades requires certain specifications be followed.  What type of mower you have will determine exactly how to sharpen those blades so be sure to read your manual for the details. Sharp blades and a clean deck will prevent the lawn from looking like a hay field after mowing and can save you gas.

Our zero turn is worth its weight in gold so we are vigilant about changing the oil and filter and checking the air filter.  This helps extend the life of the mower and reduces major mechanical issues to near zero. Be sure to check with your local Woods dealer about recycling that used oil.

Well, I’m off to mow the grass and play in the yard.  See you next time!

Here comes the bride… with a rake!

For the second time, we are hosting a wedding on our farm. Sharing our place with friends who are tying the knot is an honor… and a lot of hard work…. but mostly an honor! To share the load, we let the bride and the family worry about the ceremony and reception details while we focus on getting the farm in “showplace condition.”

When we hosted the wedding of Dan and Sarah Clark in 2014, we had all summer to prepare since the nuptials were in September. That year, in early spring, I hired our friend Kelsey to help with cleaning up from winter, building new flower beds, planting perennials, and mulching trees. Kelsey supervised the planting of new trees, experimented with landscape design, and entertained Bob the Dog with endless games of fetch (yes, playing with Bob is an approved work time activity).

By the end of September, our farm was ready for guests!

Now we’re getting ready for another wedding: Dan’s brother Tommy and his bride, Emily. The same planning crew is well on their way in creating details and decor for the June event. And this time, with fewer months to prepare, we called in the bride and group and a troop of family and friends to help with grounds maintenance. After a day of raking, shoveling, burning, grinding, sowing, sweeping, mowing, and more, we all relaxed with a few cold ones, a prime rib dinner, and that gratifying “sense of a job well done.”

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We’re now a month out from the June wedding and plans, preparations and pre-parties are in full-swing. Time is running out for getting the farm in “showplace condition.” I may need to call the butcher to cut another prime rib and the bride to bring over her rake.