He who has water and peat on his own farm has the world his own way. -Old Irish proverb.

Category: Fun (Page 1 of 2)

An Open Letter to Detour Drivers

Dear Road Construction Victims,

Welcome to my road!  I hope you enjoy your new route to the outside world and that it be most temporary.  I understand that detours have the ability to adversely affect your life in the form of longer commutes, lack of turn lanes, and low shoulders.  Please allow me to give you a short orientation to my road, in the hopes of improving your experience.

1.  My road is extremely picturesque, please enjoy the view.
 
2.  On the West side, among others, you will see undulating fields, cattle dotting the hillsides, a few mules (look hard!), a barn with the flag painted on the side, and some quaint, broken down, rusty old farm equipment deposited oh-so-lovingly in someone’s field.

3.  To the East side, among others, you’ll see a round barn, some chickens, a shelter-house, a horse farm or two, as well as the requisite undulating fields and cattle dotting the hillsides.

4.  If you happen to have car trouble, don’t panic.  A friendly farmer will be along shortly to help you.

5.  Please don’t flip that same farmer off as you pass him/her at 80 mph tomorrow morning when you’re late for work.

6.  You are lucky to be driving through the rolling hill country of Illinois.  A few 20 miles south of here, it’s flat for as far as the eyes can see.

7.  On that note, I’ll make the respectful request that you don’t pass me on the uphill when I’m on the way to move cows, driving the farm ATV.

8.  Yes, it’s legal to drive farm-related ATV’s on the road.

9.  No, it’s not fun to off-road it when you’re loaded down with fence posts, electric wire, and a 50-lb. bag of salt/mineral blend.
 
10.  This area of the country is called the Heartland, not the Wasteland.  The bread basket of the world, not the waste basket of the world.  Get my drift?

11.  Ahhh, it’s harvest time.  What a wonderful time of year.  You have the unique opportunity to observe, up-close and personal, how our nation’s crops are harvested.  Take advantage of it!

12.  You also have the unique opportunity to be squashed into an accordion by a random bale-mover crossing the road if you decide you can text and drive on our quiet route.

13.  WARNING:  There are farm implements, attachments, and trailers sticking out, parked along, and blocking the road entirely at any and all random times and locations throughout harvest season.

14.  Rural people are friendly.  We’re also isolated.  I know you had a bad day at work, but put it behind you and wave at us, for Pete’s sake.

15.  Oh, this one is important!  Rural people in cars wave by raising their pointer finger off the steering wheel.

16.  Yes, we’re raising a finger at you.

17.  No, not that one.

18.  I know you’re frustrated that you can’t get to work on the main thoroughfare and I’m so sorry for your inconvenience.

19.  Our stop signs are not optional.

20.  We love to have people stop by and visit our farm animals.

21.  Not all farmers feel the same way.  Ask first.

22.  Which reminds me:  the fences are electrified, the horses and goats can bite, yes, that’s a bull in the pasture, you might get some chicken and/or cow poop on the bottom of your shoes, and we have rusty nails galore.  Keep your wits about you and don’t sue me if you or your kids do something foolish.
 
23.  We try our best to keep the chickens out of the road, we really do.  They have wings.  Enough said.

24.  Please don’t go bowling for chickens.

25.  The speed limit is 55.  Not 65, not 75, and certainly not 85.  Please SLOW DOWN.

26.  If a farmer is pulling a wagon loaded with grain, s/he absolutely can’t pull off to the side to let you pass.

27.  We also really don’t enjoy holding up that long line of cars behind us.

28.  Unless you’re one of those who flipped us off while passing us at 80 mph.  Then we do.

29.  Farmers love to flag down other farmers, idle in our pick up trucks in the middle of the road, ideally at a corner or on a blind hill, block traffic, and chat about the corn yields over coffee in styrofoam cups.

30.  You should try it sometime.

31.  Finally, farmers know that manure stinks.
 
32.  If you don’t slow down, a random farmer might just lay a strip of that stinky manure down the center of the road.

Well!  I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity to show off my Midwestern hospitable nature.  Once again, enjoy the drive and rural scenery.  Soon enough you’ll be back to your regular route and our quaint little farm road will be but a distant memory.  Until then, be well and have a wonderful day!

Most sincerely yours,
The Farmer

Product Endorsement

I hate to make sweeping generalizations here, but farmers don’t traditionally have a lot of money.   We’re what you call asset-rich, cash-poor–all of our money is tied up in land, equipment and livestock and pretty much the only way to access that money is to sell the farm.  You can get the money but then you’re out of a home and job.  (Please remind me once again why I signed up for this?)  Of course I use the word ‘we’ here in the most general sense.  Marcel and I are even better off:  asset-poor, cash-poor.  Please dial back your envy.

Anyways, the point of this post is thriftiness.  Thrift-i-ness.  Farmers have to be thrifty because we don’t have alot of cash on hand.  I know most of you are used to the common definition of the word thrifty–showing thrift; economical or frugal, but did you know that thrifty also means thriving or prospering?

That makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re thrifty you’ll become thrifty and probably stay thrifty, unless of course you start being unthrifty.

Wait, what?

In the spirit of thriftiness, I’d like to now endorse a product that has enhanced my life dramatically in the past few months. It is Pampered Chef’s Quick-Stir Pitcher.

I purchased this pitcher from my lovely cousin who used to be a Pampered Chef saleswoman.  I unwittingly attended someone’s Pampered Chef party, enjoyed the company, admired the hostess’ ability to unabashedly sell her wares to friends and family, and then promptly gagged on the free veggie pizza slices as I saw how much everything costs.  High quality?  Check.  High class?  Check.  High falutin’ tootin’?  Check.  Affordable for poor ole little ole thrifty me?  Nope. 

So I did what I always do at these types of events, I frantically flipped pages and searched through the catalog until I found something that met my criteria:  1) useful, 2) not a million dollars.  I found it in the Quick-Stir. 

To be honest, the Quick-Stir Pitcher pushed my sensibilities a bit.  I mean, how hard is it to stir up a chunk of frozen cran-lemon-raspberry-tea with my trusty wooden spoon?  Not very!  And yet, the next affordable, halfway useful item was the cheese knife, for which a butter knife had always done the trick.  The Quick-Stir won out, if only for the fun name.  Quick-Stir, Quick-Stir.  I could say that all day.

I used it.  I did.  It came in handy a few times here and there, even though it wasn’t as pretty as my cobalt-blue pitcher I had bought in college.  (I have no idea why a college student need a cobalt blue pitcher, but I’ve been glad many times over for that unthrifty purchase.)

Fast forward approximately 9 years and 3 months, give or take a few years, and the darn Quick-Stir is my best friend.  Best friend, I tell ya!  Ever since Honeysuckle, our bottle calf, was born we’ve had to make up first 4, then 6, and now sometimes 7 or 8 bottles of dry milk replacer per day.  I’d start out by adding the dry powder to the bottle itself, slopping it on the sides of the bottle and the porch floor, all the while making a sticky, fly-attracting mess. Then I’d add the warm water and shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.  Shake until my back hurt, shake until my brain hurt, shake until I could shake no more.  The milk would mix, but inevitably there’d be big chucks of powder floating around in it, stopping up the nipples and frustrating the calf. 

And then I remembered the Quick-Stir.  I got it out, added the milk powder and warm water, and plunged.  Plunged, plunged, plunged, plunged plunged.  No mess on the bottles, no mess on the floor, and I’m pretty good at plunging now, just in case the toilet ever gets plugged or some sort of nonsense.  I plunged that nifty little plunger up and down until the liquid was a perfectly smooth milky mixture.  Remove plunger, pour it into the bottles, and Viola!  Breakfast is served. 

$16.50.  That’s it.  That’s the cost of my nifty, thrifty Pampered Chef Quick-Stir Pitcher, the one that makes my porch cleaner, Honeysuckle’s milk smoother, and my life easier.  I gotta say, the next time you have a bottle calf on your hands, you just gotta get yourself one of these!  Maybe I’ll pitch (ha ha, sorry) a new name to the company while I’m thinking of it–The Pampered Farmer has a ring to it, don’t you think?  

Thriftily yours,

Farmer Jackie

31 Thoughts

Two nights ago, I received a startling phone call at 12:54 a.m., from my dear husband, who had gotten stuck in the middle of a snow drift, about a mile away from home, after working a 12 hour shift, fixing snow plows that keep the roads passable, during a snowstorm that dumped 8 inches on us, with 30 to 40 mph winds.

He said, “Get dressed, don’t wake the kids, grab the tractor, don’t worry about the loader bucket, it has the blade on the back, and come plow me out.”

Here is my progression of thoughts, upon receiving this phone call:

1. I’m warm and sleepy.
2. It’s cold and snowy and windy out there.
3. I don’t want to go.
4. Marcel needs help.
5. He’s stuck in a snow drift.
6. It’s just around the corner on Trask Bridge.
7. It’s really not that far.
8. Maybe he could walk home.
9. We could get the car out in the morning.
10. Anyways, why didn’t he take Brick School Road?
11. Everyone knows you should take Brick School when it’s cold and snowy and windy.
12. Armando was sick yesterday.
13. What if he needs me?
14. I shouldn’t leave him.
15. What kind of mother leaves her sick kid alone at night?
16. What if the girls wake up and don’t find me here?
17. Marcel called and he needs help.
18. I don’t feel so good.
19. Maybe I’ve caught the flu from Armando.
20. It’d be hard to clean up vomit from the cab of the tractor.
21. And then we’d be stuck driving a tractor that smells like puke for the rest of the year.
22. I think I’ve forgotten how to drive the tractor.
23. Anyways, it’s cold and snowy and windy out there.
24. And if the situation was reversed, Marcel would not want to get out of bed and plow me out.
25. But he would.
26. And he’d come as quick as possible.
27. And he wouldn’t make me feel bad about waking him up on a cold and snowy and windy night.
28. Aw, crap.
29. I’m going out into this cold and snowy and windy night.
30. To rescue my husband from a snow drift.
31. I’m a good wife.

Someone Likes Me

Someone named Tim likes this blog. Well, shucks! Thanks, Tim.

He put me in a list of good farm blogs to read. A top 30 list, even. Harvestin’ Blarney made the top 30! Eat that, pop rock stars.

Of course it’s his own personal opinion. It’s not like anyone voted or anything. But hey, I’ll take it. As we say around these parts, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” (Please don’t ask me what that means. It’s just what we say, got it?)

There’s no tellin’ what fame and stardom are gonna do to a smalltown farmer like me. I hope the animals are prepared for the paparazzi. Which reminds me: I’d better go get the cockleburs out of the horses’ manes. And I’d better stop saying cockleburs–someone might get the wrong idea.

Anyways, Paul’s list of most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational–oops, I got myself confused with the Muppet Show for a second there–farm blogs can be found here:

http://www.bestcollegesonline.net/blog/2010/30-old-macdonald-had-a-farm-blogs/

Over and out, peeps. And I don’t mean the chickens for once.

Morning Admissions

Today’s the day. The day I come clean.

You see, I’ve been hiding something from you. Something that I’ve been too ashamed to admit.

It’s not that I’ve meant to decieve you in any way, it’s just…..well, it’s just that sometimes it’s easier to say nothing than to come clean about things like this.

And anyways, it’s not like any of you have asked. But still. You read this blog to learn about farmlife, to see how things are really done, to get a taste of rural life. You’ve helped me get through the many trials I face here on the farm, the difficult decisions and the many mistakes. But most importantly, you’ve helped me celebrate those rare triumphs, those few things that I’ve done and done well.

So I owe you. I owe you the truth.

OK. Here it is. Here goes nothing. Here’s the deep, dark, shameful secret I’ve been hiding all this time:

I do morning chores in my PJ’s.

I don’t take the time to get dressed before doing chores. I just throw on my coat and boots and go tend the animals. I have been known, even, to duck into barns or the garage if someone is driving by so they don’t see me in my blue-striped pajama pants or my grey sweats that are too short. I know! The shame of it has been killing me.

Think what you must, but that’s the bare truth of it. That’s how things get done here on my farm. Weird but true.

Get Comfortable….

because this Christmas letter is long. (Why aren’t you surprised at that?)

So go grab yourself a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy…and have a happy New Year!!

As I sit down to write this, there’s a sign for our egg customers on the barn door that reads, “Skunk Attack! Eggs are in the House.”

A week ago, I tried to unhook the snow blade from the back of the tractor but had the support stand in the wrong place. The blade fell forward, got stuck on the tractor hitch and Mark Highland had to rescue me.

A few months ago, our grain-fed steers got loose and wandered over to a farm about a mile away. We’d never met these people before, but proceeded to spend 4 long days there trying to get the cows out of their soybean and corn fields.

Farming is an excellent lesson in humility!

We’ve made progress, that’s for sure, but our successes have occurred only after many spectacular failures, embarrassments or desperate pleas for help. If it weren’t for my inborn Irish stubbornness and my superbly capable husband, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. We have learned a lot in the past few years, though, and we’ve come a long way since that fateful spring when we found ourselves with a farm to run and no idea how to run it.

For instance, we have a solid base of egg customers and a long list of people waiting to buy our grass-fed beef. Selling directly to consumers keeps us from feeling too isolated out here in the sticks, gives us better price control for our products, and can also be pretty hilarious. Recently a woman called to say she was coming for 3 dozen eggs the next day. When I told her I didn’t have any saved and that the hens are only laying a dozen and a half per day, she replied, “Well, I’d like 3 dozen. I’ll be there in the morning.” I wondered if she thought I had a hotline to the barn, “Ladies, ramp it up in there. We’ve got a big order to fill!”

People’s desire to be more closely connected to their food source is real, though. We try to honor that desire by answering questions, welcoming people to the farm, and doing our best to ensure a high quality product. There is no doubt that we’ve benefited immensely from the renewed interest in local foods and we feel very fortunate that these people have decided to support us.
2009 was a good grazing year. The cattle herd was finally big enough to utilize our pasture and moving temporary fences every few days presented a good occasion to walk amongst the cows, check on pasture conditions, and test the strength of the electric charge (ouch!). Calving was challenging, to say the least. Of 17 pregnant cows, we had 10 first-time mothers, 4 of whom ended up needing birthing assistance. Scott Swanson was gracious enough to be “on call” for us, and Laura and Rob even got the opportunity to pull one (with Scott’s help) while we were in Eagle River for our annual Peace Corps reunion. By the 4th calf, though, Marcel and I felt confident enough to try it on our own. We were thrilled when we successfully pulled the calf and he survived.

Like most farms, we had a tough year for crops. High input costs, a cool, wet summer, and a very wet fall made for the perfect storm: lower yields, lower test weights, high moisture counts and a difficult harvest. I think the wet harvest hit the guys the hardest, though–Marcel, Rob and Matt were all disappointed that they didn’t get to load the grain bin this year. The harvest wasn’t the same without the hustle and bustle of moving wagons.

Finally, 2009 brought one more addition to the farm–Mom’s new husband Gordy. We understand why Gordy fell in love with Mom (she is wonderful after all), but we do wonder if he had his head on straight when he agreed to move out to the farm. In the past year he has been roped into more cattle round-ups, fence moves, childcare ventures and boring farm discussions than he probably ever thought possible. And being the Flynn’s that we are, we aren’t prone to pass up the opportunity to put an able-bodied individual to work! So we welcome him to the fold and apologize in advance.

We know there will be more farm adventures in the New Year, surely more mistakes and hopefully more successes as well. We thank you for your love, support, and especially if you’re a local farmer, patience over the past year.

All of us at Irish Grove Farms wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Jackie & Marcel, Laura & Rob, Matt, Marcia & Gordy,
the kids, dogs, cats, horses, goats, chickens, and cows. (Phew!)

Last night as we checked on the cows, number 11 couldn’t resist the urge to check out Marcel. This is the story as it unfolded:

But wouldn’t the story be funnier if it were shared in reverse?

Sorry, honey. I couldn’t resist.

Vacation

Your seriously inexperienced, underpaid and over-appreciated rookie Irish Grove farmers have returned from their much needed vacation. Not to say that we don’t love it here in Irish Grove, we do. But the last 3 years have been exasperatingly full of non-stop change. Change of the life-altering type.

Dad died. Marcel and I had a momentary brain fart and took over the farm. I developed stress-related Rosacea. (So in addition to grief and stress I got to look like a frickin’ bumpy red tomato face.) Grandma Ruthie died. We bought out Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim’s share of the farm for a pretty penny. I use the word ‘we’ here in a most general fashion, if you know what I mean. Marcel and I bought the house and 5 acres from the newly established Irish Grove Acres, LLC (namely, Mom, Laura Matt and I). We also established the farm’s business entity, called Irish Grove Farms, Inc. We paid our attorney and accountant some serious cash. And then we decided to go organic, much to the chagrin of our most beloved local farmers.

Now I’ve got a question. Don’t they say that ignorance is bliss?

‘Cause somehow in my case, ignorance has been a stressful, Rosacea-inducin’, sleep-preventin’, head-scratchin’, mind-boglin’, marriage-testin’, steep uphill-battle.

Of course I should add that I decided to go back to work part-time just 3 months after Dad passed, my kids have stubbornly refused to stop growing up and involving themselves in normal kid stuff, and Mom decided to go and get married, of all things. That’s right, she’s planning on merging a whole new family into this craziness!

To the Dirkson family, I have only one thing to say. “Run For The Hills While You Still Can!” There. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

So when you heard the “Calgone Take Me Away” screams echoing through the neighborhood, I really meant it. And luckily someone did take me away. (Although it wasn’t Calgone….Marcel wouldn’t have approved.)

Someone named Marcel took me away to Panama for a whole 2.3 weeks. And it was lovely. Divine. Peaceful and serene.

We spent 2 weeks surrounded by Panamanian family and friends whom we love and who love us right back. 2 weeks of 90 degree sunshine bliss. 2 weeks of not knowing anything about world economics, Korean test missiles, or mass shootings. 2 weeks of Spanish speaking. 2 weeks of playtime heaven for the kids, who literally ran wild with their cousins from sun-up to sun-down. 2 weeks of home-picked oranges, grapefruits, coconuts, and other local fruits found on their farm.

2 weeks away from the stresses of Irish Grove. Just what the doctor ordered.

“Irish Grove, I love ya. But sometimes too much togetherness can lead to problems. Hope you don’t take it personally.”

Happy to be back and at it once more. Your favorite rookie farmer,
Jackie

Haunted Barn?

A little earlier I snuck out to check on the calves.

We separated them from their mommas yesterday so they’re not too happy. In fact, we couldn’t sleep last night from all the bawling and bellowing. Poor babes.

But when I got to the barn, I saw something that made me rethink my assumptions. Maybe the calves were bellowing and bawling for another reason.

A super scary reason. ‘Cause this is what I saw in the bullshed tonight:

Ahhhh!! What is it? A ghost? A monster?

An evil spirit come to whisk me away?

Umm…..It’s a spirit, all right.

A spirited 4-year old that’s come to finish me off.

This face gets me every time.

Eggs Galore….”Ooh, Aah”

There are eggs galore here in Irish Grove.

“Ooh, aah.”

With some forethought and a little luck o’ the Irish, we timed our replacement pullets rather well this year. Since the hens take a much-needed break from egg laying in the late fall, we have a really tough time filling our regular egg orders. Let me tell ya, it can be mighty frustrating to have a barn full of chickens and find 2 or maybe 3 eggs in the nests each day.

And I always wonder if our egg customers believe me when I explain to them that the hens just aren’t laying right now. Egg production is seasonal. The hens need lots of light stimulation on their pituitary gland in order to lay regularly. The short winter days just don’t provide enough light to keep them going. We keep a light on in the barn to help counter that, but like everything else, artificial just can’t compete with the natural.

Can I repeat that?

Artificial can’t compete with natural.

Thanks.

Anyways, spring is the season for high egg production. Which is why we color eggs for Easter and not Thanksgiving.

We mucked through a month or so of little to no eggs as best we could, and I got to wondering if maybe the pullets (young hens) were gonna hold off until spring to start laying. But then, all of a sudden, we started finding little mini eggs here and there. Yeehaw, the pullets are laying!

Now, unless you’ve raised laying hens sometime in your life, you probably didn’t realize that you can tell the age of the chicken by the size of their egg. Yeah, nature is all neat and tidy like that.

Sometimes.

Pullet eggs are tiny. So tiny, in fact, that when I found an aqua-blue pullet egg (from an americana hen that lays greenish blue eggs), Madelina argued with me that a Robin must have layed an egg in the chicken barn. I tried to explain to her that Robins don’t lay eggs in the winter, and that most of them migrate South.

She wouldn’t buy my explanation for one second. Stinker.

Pullet eggs will often have a little splash of blood on them as well. Mothers, I’m sure you will readily confirm that that first one is a tough one. (Sorry, guys.)

More seasoned hens lay nice large eggs. The size of egg you ideally buy from a local farmer, or at the store. These eggs are by far the most common egg we find in the nests. And it doesn’t take long for a pullet to close the gap, size-wise, with her eggs. Maybe 2 weeks, tops.

But the old hens? The ones you should cull and sell as stew birds, but can’t because you believe they’ve earned their retirement? The ones that are losing money beak over claw? Yeah, these old ladies lay an egg maybe once a week, if you’re lucky. Even during egg season. But when they do lay an egg, they are huge, honker eggs. Huge-mongous eggs. The eggs that make it hard to close the carton eggs. Jumbo eggs.

And once in awhile……and I mean these ladies must be sitting on their eggs for a month or so…..they’ll lay a super DUPER doozer of an egg–a double-yolker. And we call these eggs, courtesy of my Gramma Alice, “Ooh-Aah” eggs.

Why, you may ask? Please, you’ve just gotta ask me why, ’cause I can’t wait to tell you.

Gramma Alica calls the double-yolked eggs “Ooh-Aah” eggs because when the hen is pushing the egg out she says, “OOOooooooooh”, and when the egg is finally out she says, “AAAaaaaaaah”.

Ha, ha ha ha, hoo hoo, ha!

I think that’s pretty funny.

Here are some photos of eggs, progressing in size from pullet eggs to an “Ooh-Aah” egg. The photos don’t do this subject justice, but I haven’t added photos in awhile, so here they are:

The pullet egg:

The regular egg:

The “Ooh-Aah” egg:

As you can see, I am cooking platanos con huevos fritos for breakfast. In Panamanian that means fried plaintains with fried eggs. Yu-u-mmy!

My (delicious) breakfast is providing the perfect opportunity to prove to you skeptics out there (and don’t think I don’t know about you) that yes indeed, some eggs have two yolks.

Watch. And. Learn.

Here I go, cracking that “Ooh-Aah” egg you saw above:

There you have it, people. A double-yolked egg. An “Ooh-Aah” egg in the flesh, or pan, as it were. Ok, so I did break one yolk when I cracked the egg shell. But you can obviously see that the two yolks came from the same egg….just look at the egg white.

You better believe that with a breakfast like this one, I’ll be muttering a few oohs and aahs myself.

Let’s just hope there’s no accompanying egg.

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