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!

Morel Heaven!

Here in Northern Illinois, Morel mushrooms are starting to pop. We found these beauties inmorels
the woods just a few miles from home. Enough for a couple of meals and they were delicious!

Everyone likes to share their theories on how to find these elusive delights and the most delicious recipes. During the height of season, talk can be heard every which way you turn.

Experts say they can be found around certain trees, when the temperature outside is getting warmer and when the soil is above 60 degrees. If you’ve been hunting Morels for a while now, you know these tidbits are true, to a point. But, morels can be found in places you wouldn’t normally expect as well. My point: never give up the hunt! They can be right around the corner, just keep looking.

Interested in seeing where Morels have been found so far this year? Check out this map.

For more information on finding your own secret supply of Morels, visit Field & Stream’s website.

Springtime is Asparagustime!

Along with the tulips, daffodils, and crocus, the early days of spring bring life to the asparagus patch. We started our asparagus patch around five years ago, nestled in the corner next to the barn and the green house. This year, we should get enough asparagus asparagusPatchfor several meals. Picking every couple of days is essential so they can be picked at the optimal moment. Pick them too early and they haven’t grown quite enough, wait too late to pick them and they will start to open up.

We’ve planted asparagus by roots and by seed, but always seem to have better luck with seeds. Seeds are cheaper than roots and can be found at our favorite home and garden center. The only problem with planting asparagus by seed is that you have to wait a few years to get enough to make a meal, but it will produce for years to come so it is definitely worth the wait!

This year, we will add more of the Jersey variety that we started by seed several weeks ago. Eventually, our asparagus patch will cover a 15 x 120 foot area with baby asparagusJersey and Purple Passion varieties. The Jersey has more flavor, but I wanted a little Purple Passion for color.

Conventional gardening wisdom would have you believe that it is necessary to keep your asparagus patch free of weeds and grass, but we buck that notion. Before the asparagus begins to pop up, we mow the patch down really short, then wait for the magic to happen. When we first start to pick the asparagus it is taller than the grass. As the season goes on, the grass will catch up to the asparagus but by then we have what I like to call “asparagus eye.” We see it no matter how tall the grass gets!

Whether you’re growing it yourself or buying it from a local farmer (always seems fresher than store-bought), a great (and simple) way to cook asparagus is by placing it in aluminum foil, pouring a little bit of olive oil on it with some salt and pepper and cooking it on the grill until it is tender. Absolutely delicious!

And So It Begins…

Back in February, we planted seeds in small containers and placed them on the shelves in our four season porch (thanks to the fireplace).  The seedlings are coming along quite nicely and were recently moved them out to the greenhouse. Before we know it, we’ll be planting these in one of the many raised beds on our one acre homestead.seedlings3

The greenhouse was built a few years ago as an addition to the machine shed and has been a huge part of growing our own food.  This bed was put in last winter so we could have fresh spinach a few months before it could even be planted outside.

spinach

Now that it is time to start planting outdoors, we’ve begun the cleanup process in the raised beds.  Since we leave plants in some of the beds for the birds and butterflies after growing season is over, we have to pull a few dead plants.  We like to use the Square raisedBedFoot Gardening philosophy wherever it works for us, so some of the beds need to be tied off as well.

Here in Northern Illinois, April is the time to start planting cool season crops outside.  We’ve already planted spinach, radishes, a few varieties of lettuce, green onion, garlic, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and some other cool season plants.  Within the next few weeks we will be planting succession crops of most of these plants.

The rhubarb is coming up nicely again this year and the asparagus behind the machine shed is just starting to be visible through the weeds.  This year we hope to expand this patch of asparagus a little.

Follow along all summer for weekly gardening updates and share what you are growing with us. We love to see gardens, regardless of what you are growing! Share your story with @lisakruggles on Twitter.

End of Summer Jobs

As the summer is winding down and the kids are going back to school, we are all trying to cram in those last few projects. Tell us about the “Tough Jobs” you still need to tackle.

Tough jobs are easier with the right tools.

Mowing with the Woods Mow’n Machine is even fun.

Just submit the form below and we’ll try to feature them over the next few weeks. What a great way to help others learn from your experiences or gather suggestions on the best way to get those projects checked off your list.

“Tough Jobs” Checklist

Where has the summer gone!?!

With all the “Back to School” ads and deals, I know the days of my dedicated labor force are coming to an end. We’ve accomplished most of the tough jobs on the list, but some of the toughest are yet to come.

So far, we have repaired the driveway, rebuilt a fence, planted a neighbor’s food plots and reseeded a pasture area, mowed the grass, fence lines and front pasture and tilled the garden. We also freshened our flower beds, cleaned out and added pea gravel to the playground area and added a fire pit to the back yard.

I guess we’ve done better than I thought.

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Next we need to mow the pastures (again), clean out the cattle pens in preparation for our Fall Steer Sale, trim along all the fence lines and cut down the wild grape vines that would trap all the snow on our driveway this winter.

Next week we’ll be doing the State Fair circuit and then it’s the quick slide to fall. Be sure to post your “Tough Jobs” and visit us on Facebook to see more pictures and videos.

 

Mow, Blow, Scrape and Brush: Versatility at its Finest

By the time we returned from our “vacation,” the lawn, driveway and fence edges were out of control. The grass looked like it was a foot tall and the weeds were even taller.

It didn’t take long to tame the grass but what was left behind really should have been baled. We had grass clippings in huge windrows everywhere!

Mow’n Machine to the rescue again!

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When we got our FZ22K we opted to also get the broom and blade attachments. We thought about the snow blower too, and may go back for that later. We wanted the broom to brush gravel back onto the driveway and clean up the concrete in front of the garage and shed. We also plan to use the blade to scrape manure in the pens and cattle runs.

One thing we didn’t expect was brushing grass clippings from the lawn. I’m not sure this is an “intended use,” but it sure worked and was certainly better than raking it by hand. The best part is the cows got to eat the grass when we brushed the clippings right into the pasture.

Maybe one of my entrepreneurial kids will design a mini round baler attachment for the Mow’n Machine next. Sign me up for that, too!

Just one tip: Don’t try this if the wind is blowing!

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Things are looking up!

The corn is up. The fence is up. The kids are out of school. So, summer is officially here.

The fence is up and now the corn is up, too.

The fence is up and now the corn is up, too.

We are happy to report that the fence is finally done. We ended up with 1,075 feet of 5-strand barbed wire, 85 t-posts, 29 wooden posts and two metal gates.

That should keep the cows out of the corn this fall and keep the neighbors happy.

 

Putting in wooden posts is not our favorite job. We usually dig the holes by hand, drop the big, heavy post in the hole and then fill in around it.

Digging the last hole!

Digging the last hole!

This time we had the luxury of using the Woods PHD65 post hole digger with a 12-inch auger. It worked great! Each hole took just a few minutes to dig and even when we hit a rock, we could power right through. It was easy to attach and, with the parking stand, we could even be confident that is was secure when it was off the tractor.

As soon as the fence was finished we were able to let the cows out into the succulent, fresh grass. They were so excited they didn’t know where to start. I’m just happy they were able to get out in that pasture and we don’t have to worry about them escaping.

Enjoy, Girls!

Rolling hills and fresh grass. A smorgasbord for cows.

Rolling hills and fresh grass. A smorgasbord for cows.