Monthly Archives: April 2012

 

Sassy

She ran up the hill for the last time.  Her hips were giving her some trouble, nothing a baby aspirin wouldn’t help.  She’d been our constant companion for fourteen years. Wherever we were on the farm Sassy wasn’t far behind.  She grew up with our boys, ran along as they learned to ride bikes, fished in the pond and raced their go-cart around the fields.

Cookie and Sassy

The boys would get mad at her when they went fishing because she loved to swim in circles around their bobbers waiting for fish.  She didn’t understand that she was a fish deterrent. Eventually the idea caught on that they were displeased with her, she’d swim back to shore, chasing frogs instead.

Sassy and the Boys

Every new life on this farm was welcomed first by Sassy. It didn’t matter if they were chicks, calves, lambs, goats, piglets, or a foal. She was the first to greet them, sometimes even before their own mother.  When the cows calved Sassy would watch over them, too.  She’d sit on the hill and scan the horizon. From her lookout post she could oversee the farm.  She knew where every animal was and where they belonged.  If the sheep wandered to close to the garden she’d bark and chase them off.  She kept them from creeping under the fence and eating the apple trees. She kept wandering piglets from stealing eggs out of the nesting boxes. Sassy was proud and well mannered. She kept all the other dogs in line and corrected them if they broke any of the rules. Chasing a chicken was unacceptable to Sassy’s code of conduct.  When Miley was new here Sassy caught her chasing a young chick. She pinned Miley down.  Miley, showing her belly, quickly learned the rules. When a stray cat had kittens in our barn Sassy watched over them while their mom was away. She’d clean them, allow them to climb on her and when the cat returned Sassy would leave the barn. She respected her place.

Sassy, Nifty, and Alice
Sassy and Sammy
Sassy and the Goslings

 

Sassy helping burn pastures

She loved to be warm. When we’d burn each spring she’d lay in the smoldering grass, twice she’d caught on fire. Once it was the end of her tail and another time it was her rear end. She sat on the burning embers and Keith had to extinguish her with water. It didn’t phase her, she just found another hot spot to lay on. She also loved the warmth of our wood burning stove, she’d sleep close, soaking up the heat.

We’re all going to miss her.  I think Keith will miss her most of all. He hasn’t built a fence, moved cows, or fixed equipment without Sassy’s help.  She rode with him to check waterers and walked miles and miles checking fences over the years. Sassy loved to run alongside our Willy’s jeep. When she was too old to run alongside, Keith would lift her in, she discovered the joy of riding shotgun.

Sassy fencing with Keith

It was apparent that she was slowing down, her weight was dropping and her hearing was about gone.  One morning she woke up and couldn’t move. We figured she’d had a stroke, the vet confirmed it. Saying goodbye was heartbreaking, the boy’s said goodbye, dug her grave, and buried her on the hilltop overlooking the farm. She was a wonderful friend and a great dog.

Food recalls go high tech

Linguists have discovered a new language spoken by a remote tribe in India that’s understood by only 1,000 people.
It’s called “tech support”

If you have a Twitter account the USDA now has state specific food safety alerts for meat, poultry and processed egg products. These alerts are available through Twitter. The alerts can be followed by listing your state’s two letter designation followed by underscore then FSISALERT. Iowa, for example, is IA_FSISALERT
As an aside; Does it seem that there are far more food safety alerts since large meat processors have put smaller processors out of business and factory farms have become the norm?  Just some food for thought.

 

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Union of concerned scientists (UCS) has given Monsanto Company an ‘F’ in sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture systems supply food, protect the environment, and protect farmers. The UCS says Monsanto fails all three.

It’s my belief that genetically engineered crops, antibiotics in animal feeds, and chemical herbicides can take horrendous farmers, bad producers, and inadequate land stewards and make them profitable. All the while the environment, animals, and consumers suffer the consequences.

Genetic engineering's doing the most harm, in my opinion.  Cross contamination from Genetically engineered crops continuously infect non-genetically engineered species. Where will it end? Are any crops safe from genetic contamination?

Two other objections are Monsanto’s suppression of independent research of its products. This means that policy makers can’t make informed decisions because there aren’t adequate independent studies to objectively research the effects of GMO’s and herbicides. Also, the amount of money spent lobbying and advertising these products skews the opinion of those on the receiving end of the money trail.
For more information check out the Union of Concerned Scientists web site

 

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A sure sign of spring

Morels

It’s morel season again, if you haven’t been a mushroom hunter in the past, now’s a great time to start. Mushroom hunters will never reveal their secret mushrooming spots, but they'll share how to find them.

Pre-plan your mushrooming trip. When morels are out, so are ticks, use bug repellant. If you are hunting on private property ask permission first. Walk softly and carry a big stick, or at least walk carefully, especially around the base of trees. You’ll use the stick to move leaves and branches out of the way. You’ll be crawling under bushes and around trees, gently moving leaves, to find morels.   Bring along an onion bag or other mesh bag to carry your mushrooms. A paper grocery bag works well, too. Don’t use plastic bags. Morels hold moisture and will get slimy inside a plastic bag. Also, morels attract ants, slugs, spiders, and a host of creepy crawlers which will fall through the mesh bag and back to the ground.  The mesh will also allow spores to fall onto the ground.

The best mushroom hunting weather is just after it rains on a warm spring day. When you get to a wooded area look for dead or dying elm trees. It’s not difficult to identify an elm tree they look like a child’s drawing; straight trunk with a lollipop top. You can look around poplars but you’ll have better luck with elms. If you aren’t interested in hunting in the woods golf courses and parks are also  good spots. Garrett’s found quite a few while golfing. Not because he’s ending up in the rough but because he hunts for them while playing. I would caution that the course probably uses a plethora of chemicals, so be careful.

If you're unsure, or new to mushrooming, your local extension office will happily identify your mushrooms. False morels are dangerous, make sure you haven’t collected any. Here’s a link to help you learn more.
When you get home put your morels in cold, lightly salted water, with a dish on top to help hold them under water. I use clear pie plates to hold them down. We call this “puking” them there 's probably a better term, but it's what we've always called it. Wait a few minutes and all the bugs should be out.

"Puking" morels

Rinse them, place them on a cookie sheet lined with a dish towel or on a rack so the water drains completely. Now for the good part, you can eat them, dry them, freeze them, or sell them. I think they're best served with beef roast or tossed in a light cream sauce and served over pasta.

A word of warning...Once you start mushrooming you'll be addicted. Morel hunting creates friendly competition. Sometimes it's less than friendly. There are groups of mushroom hunters that comb the timber in our area, without permission. Wearing camouflage, carrying maps, and GPS  they're dropped  in an area  to search for morels. Several hours later  they're picked up in a designated location. These professional hunters sell the mushrooms to restaurants and gourmet shops.

Our friend has a special tree where he finds hundreds of morels every spring, it's his secret spot.  Someday he'll pass the location on to his children and grand children. For now he's extremely protective. He’s also the best walleye fisherman around, he has a secret spot along the river for that, too. I hope the professionals never find his magic tree. It's wonderful to see his face light up each spring when he recounts his morel yield.

 

Late in the afternoon I enjoy visiting our pond.  The spring peepers are back. They sing throughout the night. It’s a song to welcome spring. I couldn’t see them but I heard them. As I walked down the hillside, as quiet as I was, they still felt my presence and went silent.  A few teal ducks were swimming. They took flight as I approached, too.

Esme, who loves swimming, grabbed a stick and begged me to throw it into the water. It was just the two of us, playing and splashing, throwing and retrieving. She dropped the stick, her ears perked up, off she ran, racing to scare away an intruder.  Being the smallest dog in the pack, she doesn’t usually get to play stick without interruption so she wasn’t ready to give up being the center of attention.  There was no need for concern, it was only Hobo. Old Hobo. He wouldn’t, or couldn’t, for that matter, chase a stick much less swim for one. He’d sink like a rock, at least in his present condition.  He’s extremely overweight, we’re working on an exercise plan.  Every day when I walk up the lane to the mail box he tags along.  He’s makes it about a quarter of the way, then lays down to rest.  On the return trip, with much encouragement, he’ll groan, get up, and waddle back to the house where he takes his usual position; prone. He spends the rest of the afternoon recovering. That’s why I was surprised to see him at the pond. With steep hills, a valley, and a fence to crawl under, the pond is a harder trek than the mailbox. It was nice to have his company. He's He's the ying to Esme's yang.

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products, LLC

Studies show that learning something new or having new experiences helps exercise our brains. Also, the benefits of a healthy diet keep our brains functioning in peak condition. New research published in Neurology (click the link) has found that elderly people with higher levels of several vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in grass fed meat and eggs, have better performance on mental acuity tests. They also exhibit less brain shrinkage typical in Alzheimer's disease. "Junk food" diets produce the opposite results.

Every year I try to learn something new, this year it was WordPress.  I took a class and revamped the website. Some areas still need tweaking, but I hope you'll enjoy the new look.  If you've been a subscriber to the old website's RSS feed you'll have to subscribe again in your web browser bar. In the last couple of years I've learned to paint with water colors and make mosaic fountains. This year's goal was conquering WordPress. This old dog is learning new tricks!  I am increasing my brain function. Next winter it will be photography and bee keeping. I am also going to learn patience, better listening skills, and work on increasing my attention span but... Oh, look, a butterfly...there it goes. Look how pretty! what was I saying, again?

 Humor

An older gentleman was shopping the other day, pushing his cart around the store, when he collided with a young guy, "Sorry about that. I'm looking for my wife and I guess I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."

The younger man says, "That's OK. What a coincidence. I'm looking for my wife, too. I can't find her and I'm getting a little desperate."

The older guy adds, "Well, maybe we can help each other. What does your wife look like?"

The young guy says, "Well, she's 24 years old, tall, with blonde hair, green eyes, long legs, buxom figure, and she's wearing tight white shorts and a halter top. What does your wife look like?"
The older guy replied, "Doesn't matter. Let's look for yours."

Have Fun!  Enjoy Yourselves!

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

 

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On Good Friday potatoes are planted, St Patrick's day is for peas. This year I jumped ahead on planting a few other things, too.

I’ve been using Wall-o-water’s for years, but never set tomatoes out this early. Given the mild weather I was willing to experiment. Plus, I started two trays of tomatoes, which all germinated. I was running out of room under the grow lights so  the Black Krim and Roma’s are already in the garden. Cherry tomatoes will wait until there’s no danger of frost.  With luck the chickens will stay away from the broccoli and spinach.

The new transplants are surrounded by a single strand of electric fence, set close to the ground so the dogs will stay out of the garden.  The dogs love rolling in the freshly tilled ground.

It’s always entertaining the first time the electric fence is turned on. I love our dogs but they ignore my pleads to stay out of the garden. They chase each other through it, roll around, and dig up the new transplants. When the fence is plugged in it only takes one shock to keep them out for the season. After a week, or so, the fence charger isn’t necessary.

Our Great Dane, Nukem was a slow thinker. He was the gentle giant, but DUMB. Every summer, he’d lift his leg on the electrified garden fence. That shock wave traveled into delicate territory sending him running and whining. It worked, though. He avoided the garden for the rest of the season.

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC