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Friday, November 17, 2017

Forcing Fall

We may have not had Fall on the farm, but there are places around that make sure that the Fall experience is available to all.  It's concentrated activities and surroundings ensure that those that visit are fully immersed in apples, pumpkins, squash, corn mazes, bonfires, colorful leaves, and rides in a hay rack.  Destination farms, orchards, and patches have sprung up across the country from outside large cities to give urban dwellers a taste of the country life, and hidden outside small towns and villages to allow those without the means to a farm access.

Even way out here, in the middle of nowhere (or the middle of everywhere-as I like to say), there are several destination orchards/berry/squash patches.  Even holiday tree farms with holiday villages and activities attached.  Families that have brought their generations together to pool resources, manpower, and land to create a cottage industry that becomes a tourist spot for the growing season.  They start with berries in the spring, farmers market produce in the summer months, and then shift to apples, raspberries, squash and corn mazes in the fall.  November-April are reserved for planning, maintenance, and expansion.

They all start small and add on experimentally as they years go by, and as finances allow.  They tweak what they do to fill a niche in the market and to best fit their skills and ability.  I have been to 8 such places within a two hour drive of the house.  They range from quaint to almost a theme park.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was on my own this year for apple picking season.  Over the years I have found my favorite spot for picking (until our own orchard is large enough to produce what I need), and have pretty much abandoned the others, being too far or too expensive per pound for the effort.  The same is true of squash, or pumpkin picking.  While we did used to put a knife to a gourd or two every year when we lived in the city, there really is no need to mutilate a squash for decorative reasons when no one can even see the front porch from the road without bird watching glasses.  I do however still purchase pie pumpkins for puree, and larger squash to cut up and freeze (or not) for the flock.



I made a grand adventure on the spur of the moment this year to go to a family patch/market about 2 hours from here.  I justified the trip by tacking on a trip to the last KMart in the state.  The market was lovely and was filled with not only produce and products, pumpkin and not, but also had locally created art and candles.  The outside was meticulously decorated with cream cans, rusty trucks, hay bales, and country decor.
The squash variety was great and sorted, but greatly overpriced, especially for the drive. (I also learned that the KMart had closed 5 months earlier. Nuts.)  I purchased a few nice gourds anyway to support the local economy. 
(On the way home I stopped at the local feed store that was selling my same pumpkins and gourds for only $2 each.-Sigh, I just couldn't win on this trip.)


A couple weeks later and I was ready to try again. This time I DID have my buddy with me.  The Boy was home on Fall break.  We were both itching to get out and see something other than our own hilltop, but we also wanted to go somewhere totally new to us.  We opted for a pumpkin patch that we had heard about incessantly every Fall, almost to the point of brainwashing, since we moved to the state.  A place started in the 80s by a family that wanted to sell pumpkins when the bottom fell out of the farming market.  I asked local people if they had ever been there, and the answer was the same, it was too expensive or "we haven't been for years and years." 
Foam Ball battle barn.

Well seeing as we didn't take our annual trip the the Moon, and the University was now feeding The Boy, I figured that I could certainly shell out a few dollars to go to a tourist hot spot for the day.  An hour later and we were pulling into the parking lot into what I thought was an AWESOME parking space.  It turns out these people have taken lessons from Disney World in park planning.  We followed traffic into the lot and right there, up front, a car pulled out in front of us, 20 spaces from the entrance.  DEAL!  We parked the car and started the walk towards the crosswalk through the tree line.  Uh HUH.  Those of you that have experienced the Disney lines, know what's coming.  As we cleared the treeline, hidden from view of the road, and the parking lot, loomed another gigantic parking lot.  I mean GIGANTIC!  (A later peek at google earth, showed that there are actually 4 more lots, hidden from view for busy days.)  This lot was about the size of the inside of a National Football stadium and UPHILL.

After we slogged up this not so gradual hill, we caught a glimpse of the line.  It was a Monday, towards the beginning of October, so I figured it wouldn't be busy.  20 minutes later and $24 lighter we walked through the gate.  These were discounted tickets as it was a Monday.  To be fair, the quality of the buildings, and the cleanliness of the restaurants (yes, PLURAL), food stands, camp grounds, orchards, entertainment areas, and playgrounds were meticulously planned and built.  I know I spent the next couple of hours walking around, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other people, with my mouth hanging open in awe.


It had adorable animatronic shows, live shows -including pumpkin chunkin', hay rides, apple picking, a barn where the kids could battle each other with foam ball guns, air guns that shot rotten apples at giant steel targets, Halloween shops, eateries to include a candy shop and turkey legs, a huge children's play area and petting zoo with a train. 
It was crazy! I heard that in the evening they have bonfires and s'mores and glow in the dark activities.  I now know WHY families go year after year, and I now know why it's so pricey.   

We decided that it was a nice one time trip for us, but it would be great if you had little kids OR if you were a high school age kid there for the evening festivities with friends.  We agreed that the most clever bit was the giant bins and flower beds filled to overflowing with pumpkins, gourds, and squash of every shape and size for purchase.  All arranged at the EXIT, so you can buy it on the way back to the car.


Our only negatives are:
Closed- yes it was a discounted day, but all of the small shops and eateries were closed, which was disappointing.
Food Quality - I'll say it, YUCK.  (And like most parks, overpriced)  We HAD to eat lunch, so we chose to settle for the open eatery near the entrance - We had two small hot dogs and a bottle of water and a soda, and we were at $12. But it held us over until we stopped at McDs on the way home.  We also decided to treat ourselves to a whole pie to take home for the fridge.  We picked out a fudge pie at the pie barn.  A whole building dedicated to pies and sweets, and it has to be good right?  Nope.  You know the watery, fake chocolate goo filling in those unrefrigerated hand pies you get for 50 cents?  Yup, that.  We threw the pie in the trash after one bite.  A $20 pie.

Fortunately you CAN take food and water INTO the park and picnic or snack, I now know why.

All in all, we had a good time, albeit pricey.  So, if Fall refuses to come to you, go out and find it!

(IF Winter refuses to come to you, celebrate! But I don't think we'll be that lucky.)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Æbleskiver - Bite size pieces of Danish Heaven


When it comes to breakfast, I'm not generally a fan.  No matter the hour, I'm not really awake yet and to have a really delicious breakfast you need to put some work into it.  The brain cells have to be kicking.  This either means settling for cereal (which I REALLY don't care for), making a nice breakfast casserole the night before for a mindless reheat in the morning, or attempting to put something together as complicated as the International Space Station communications system on the number of brain cells held by a goldfish, all while being distracted by the growlings of your own stomach, and the grumblings of every one else waiting on food.

My breakfasts usually fall somewhere between cold, soggy chunks of cardboard from a cardboard box and things that require a tri-fold brochure of instructions and an ingredient list as long as your arm.  Most days a protein bar on the fly, or a bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese are the meal of choice.  After all, the bagel can be toasting while I'm out feeding the flock their gourmet breakfast. (Somedays, their breakfast is nicer than mine - warm oatmeal, fruit (albeit bruised), and left over fridge goodies.)

Yes, I know I have chickens.  WHY aren't I eating EGGS for breakfast?  They're free.  They're high in protein. They're delicious. They're quick and easy to make.  Well, sometimes supply is outstripped by demand, and I forget to put eggs aside for us.  Sometimes, I just cannot stand to look at another egg.

Breakfasts are just plain necessary.  You are literally breaking a Fast.  Your last meal or snack was probably around 7pm the night before and you've gone all night, almost 10 or 11 hours without eating or drinking.  Your body needs fuel to get going and get those brain cells kicking so you can make it to lunch without eating a coworker.  As a child, and actually well into my 20s, I was a breakfast skipper.  It's not good for you.  By my late 20s, I finally figured that out.  But I was still not a fan of breakfast.  I think it's just that I'm just not a morning person, period.

I do enjoy complicated typically breakfast food for an evening meal, but it's important to note that by the evening meal, I am working on all cylinders. Rarely, once in a blue with pink polka-dots moon, I actually get up at 430 in the morning, fully awake and hankering for FOOD for breakfast.  Not just sustenance to get me to lunch.  This past Monday was the day.

But what to fix?  I enjoy pancakes.  I LOVE waffles, especially with homemade syrup and sausage patties and scrambled eggs.  But this time all I could think of was a big batch of aebleskiver.  If you've never heard of them, don't worry, you aren't alone.  Think of them as pancake balls, but BETTER!  Like doughnut balls, but better.  They are light and airy, can be filled or not, can be sweet or savory.  The Danes knew what they were doing when they came up with this menu item.  Traditionally it is only served during the Christmas holiday season, but why wait?

By now you've either scrolled down and peeked at the photos, or you've clicked on the above link and noticed that these treats are perfect little balls.  "They look complicated" "Round is hard" "HOW do you cook THOSE?"  Well there IS a trick, an aebleskiver pan!  If you are an antique shopper, you've probably seen the cast iron pan and looked right over it.  OR you've looked at it and wondered why there was a cast iron pan created especially for cooking golf balls, and put it back down after snapping a quick photo for a laugh on your twitter feed.  THAT was an aebleskiver pan.


There are many newer pans on the market, made from space age non-stick materials. But I really enjoy the heft of an old, well seasoned, cast iron pan.  My own is from a local antique store and has ridiculously deep wells.  Other pans, new and old, typically have half-sphere wells.  Either works well, you just have to practice with YOUR pan and YOUR stove top to find the best temperature and cooking time for YOU.

For the batter you CAN cheat and use prepackaged pancake or waffle mix, but I find that when you do, the balls are more dense than traditional aebleskivers.  After all, you are making pancake or waffle balls.  The traditional recipe is not that hard or time consuming to make.  Once you've had the original recipe(s), of which there are hundreds on line, and then have a mix recipe, I'm certain you'll stick to an original one.

Here the recipe I use that I find the most tasty for both my empty balls or filled balls, both sweet and savory fillings.

Batter:

3 eggs total- separated
+++++++
3 egg whites from above
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
+++++++
3 egg yolks from above
1 Tablespoon of white sugar
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt (OR 1/8th teaspoon of regular table salt)
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of vanilla
pinch of cardamon (optional)
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1 3/4 cups of buttermilk (OR 1 3/4 cups of milk with 2 teaspoons of vinegar added- allow to sit for 5 minutes)
6 Tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
9-11 ounces - by weight- of all purpose flour
++++++++
1 Tablespoon of melted butter to grease the wells in the pan

Directions:

Beat the egg whites and Cream of Tartar until stiff peaks form and set aside for later use.
+++++++
In a mixing bowl,  combine the egg yolks, sugar, salt, baking soda, vanilla, and spices (if using). Mix until well combined. SLOWLY add the milk and cooled, melted butter. Add the flour gradually until it is the consistency of a medium pancake batter, not runny, but not thick like cookie dough.  It should run, but not like soup or stew.  Small lumps are fine.

Fold in the eggs white and set the batter aside while you heat the pan to a medium temperature.  It is better to start low and work your way to a higher temperature.  Cast iron holds heat for a long time and lower temperature takes a while.  Burned aebleskivers are not yummy.

When your pan is ready, use a pastry brush to quickly wipe each well with a little of melted butter.  I use a large cookie disher to fill my wells- to just under the top edge for unfilled balls and 3/4 of the way for balls I am going to fill with goodness.

Filling:  Use your imagination.  From cooked meats, little bits of fruit or jelly, Nutella, chocolate chips, it's all fair game.

For filled cups: Fill wells to 3/4 full and add your tiny bit of filling to the center, then add more batter to near the top of the well.

So now you've put batter in the well, now what?  Let it cook for a bit, until you see the edge dry out and stop shining, just like a pancake.  Using a skewer, poke the ball about halfway up the side and into the cooked shell.

Pull the shell halfway up the side of the well, which will spill uncooked batter into the hot well.

Let that cook for a bit and turn the ball one last time, which will pour the remaining uncooked batter into the hot well, and complete the ball shape.

When they are finished, I put mine on a plate covered in a paper towel, and set them in the microwave to keep them hot. (do not turn the microwave on, just use it as a hot box to store the balls.)

Serve hot with syrup, or more melted butter, jelly, or confectioners sugar.  Go wild!

They freeze well and microwave for a quick breakfast when you want them.  OH, and they are delicious cold too!


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Life is More Simple in the Country

It's not more simple.  We just make it look easy.  But trust me, it's not.  We earn that hot shower at the end of the day, and trust me, that Select Comfort mattress is heaven on Earth, and sleep comes fast and hard.



It's been two solid months since I've been able to find the time to sit down and blog about the station.  The silly thing is, I can't really place my finger on WHAT I was doing, or what I accomplished over those two months, but it has been non-stop.

Being pampered by the Chicken King
The calendar was filled with the normal daily chores that are found in any household and augmented by the chores of an acreage that is racing the clock, ending one season and beginning another.  The approach of Fall was heralded by dropping of The Boy at The University. So while academically we were in Fall mode, Mother Nature was still burning the summertime oil.  It was hot, miserably humid, a lack of rain, which sent the pollen and dust counts sky high, and I was down one farm hand.

The chickens constantly reminded me that I was doing everything wrong, but as long as they had water and got their fill of tasty treats and spent the day out on long walks, I seemed to be forgiven for not being The Boy.  After all, the sun was warm and the bugs were plentiful. If you're a chicken, that's pretty much all you need to make you happy.

The chore chart on the laundry room black board seemed to grow instead of shrink.  For every chore we erased, we came up with two more that needed added. Even the tiniest chore takes time, most are mediocre, like swapping the winter and spring clothes in your closet.  Others are necessities, and require either perfect weather or more than one person to accomplish.

Painting the posts on the barn and house need warm and dry weather, but can be done by one person.  Done.

Doc playing the Pied Piper in place of the Chicken King

Replanting new trees and shrubs can be done alone, but need to be done early enough to get some rain to start a strong root system or you'll be hauling water to feed them.
Orchard Clean-up


Closing up the chicken coop for the frigid winter months, needs done after it's done being hot, but before the chill starts in.  It also requires a windless day, or 12 foot panels become wings that batter the carrier.

Posts on the barn are painted and the coop is closed up for the
Winter.


September was full of these little odd jobs and a few side trips.  Merriweather decided this would be a romantic time to go broody, so we obliged and gave her 6 eggs from a friend's farm an hour away.  She would be hatching 6 Icelandic eggs.  She's a great broody hen and spent the next 2 weeks terrifying the rest of the coop with her moody antics until I moved her to the broody coop to hatch in peace and quiet.  I think I actually heard a cheer from the main coop that day.

I treated myself to a day painting out on the last weekend of September.
It was cold and windy, and the minute pirate bugs made being outside miserable.  Not only do they bite but they landed in, and blew into the paintings, making little "snow" angels as they struggled to remove themselves from the artwork.  When I took a break for lunch and came home, I was warmed by the sight of 6 tiny, fluffy, baby vikings.  We just call them the hoard.

Baby Icelandics

The hoard outgrew the broody coop in a week and Doc and I moved them to the barn, where they spent their days playing in the dirt and tormenting their mother and the rest of the flock.  Nights in the 20s, forced us to move them into the warmer, insulated workshop were they spend their days tormenting their mother and us.  They are growing like mad, and I THINK we have three cockerels and three pullets.  It is so hard to tell at this age.
The hoard is taking over, which is I guess what hoards do best.
October is when the real work began.  Harvest in the region was about to go into full swing.  A few more weeks of dry weather and the hills would be filled with the hum of combines and grain trucks. The days were warm.  The skies were crystal blue, and the fields were a raw umber until they blazed with gold in the sunset.



The beginning of the third week of October marked the shift of the seasons.  The winds began to howl.  Days of high winds brought dry air from the south gusts repeatedly hit 45-50 mph for an entire day.  The wind was warm, but it drove dust and pollen, making being outside like being in a sandblaster.  The next day it was as if the state took a deep, calming breath to relax.  The air was warm and still, and it gave everyone a chance to repair and pick up after the windstorm.  The state exhaled the next day.  Winds greater than the previous storm spent the day blowing from the North this time.  While the major storm only lasted one day, winds in the 30s lasted the next week, and with it - cold temperatures and rain.
Snow on the Pumpkin

The pressure to finish chores was palpable. It was a race, and the last echo from the starter's pistol was fading away, and I was standing on the starting line stunned.  Just as the leaves were changing from their Summer wardrobe to their glorious Fall attire, the winds stripped them bare. Gone.  It was all gone.  Fall lasted two days, and I missed it!  It was fast and furious.  It reminds me of the kitchen scene in A Christmas Story when the Bumpass dogs tear through the house, destroy the kitchen, eat the much anticipated Christmas turkey, and break down the back door.  I felt like Ralphie, standing in the kitchen doorway, lamenting on the lack of future Turkey deliciousness.   Sigh.
Measurable snow on Halloween.

I rallied by going apple picking.  After all I still needed to make gallons of applesauce and apple butter.  During the picking, I realized it was the first time in 18 years that I had gone picking without my little apple buddy.  On the upside, the apple products turned out delicious.
Amazing meal of cream cheese and homemade apple butter
on a toasted bagel.

Wykin, Blykin, and Nod grew like weeds and started taking their place in the flock.  I decided I didn't need TWO cockerels from this generation, so I watched the boys carefully and decided who needed to find a new home.  It was a tough decision.  In the end, it was Wykin who moved 12 miles up the road to his own flock of Red Star hens.
Wykin with his new flock.  When I left, he was already dancing for his new ladies.  


Nod is now called Wookie for the loud growling noise he makes.  Blykin is now princess as she looks like Princess Leia in her flowing white pant suit.  Wookie is dancing for the flock and his stomping on the ladies is driving Andy crazy!  We are still waiting for Leia's first egg.
Wookie overseeing hay moving.
We still haven't managed to get a fence up around the pasture, so there are no large critters to report about.  All the guys that do fencing are busy with harvest, and after harvest comes deer season.  I hope to hear from someone after that!  I've done the math for the supplies I need to build the stalls in the barn, but have yet to order them.  I can always work in the barn in not so nice weather, so those chores weren't even on the winter prep chore list.  With the sun setting before 5pm, all chores are up to me during the day, and I'm only one person.
Ellie caught in the cookie jar.
Donder shocked us with this GIANT 110 gram whopper!
That's a standard size playing card.  Yes, it was a double yolk.

The children's book I'm writing is plugging along.  For a while, I was making it to a quiet library chair (with access to a Starbucks) once a week, using a day that was going to be too cold or too windy to get chores done at home.  It turns out I really cannot work on this book at home.  There are too many other things that need done, or steal my time and attention.  What started out as a picture book evolved into a short story, and has now mutated into a grade 2-4 chapter book.

So there you have it.  It's not that I didn't post for Fall 2017.  We simply didn't have one!



Sunday, September 3, 2017

August Lost




The entire month of August has slipped by.  It not as if we were sitting idly by, lazing away the hours, languishing in the Air Conditioning while the hot summer sun beat down.  In reality, August was extremely pleasant.  We never once hit 90 degrees, which is unbelievable here.  Usually August is the most dreaded month.  The nearly persistent, howling prairie winds suddenly stop, withholding any and all relief that it would bring to any other summer day.  The air is so thick with humidity that you could slice it.  Breathing the moisture laden air is difficult enough, but the stifling heat sets the air afire and sears not only the flesh, but the lungs.  Early August is also haying season, adding dust and stirring up the pollen.   Smoke from distant prairie fires pile on the atmospheric particle load.  The rising moon in the evening glows shades of pink, orange, and salmon until it can rise high above the horizon.

This month the pollen and the smoke are present.  The dust still rose high above the prairie fields, following the haying machines.  The winds died, but the heat did not come.  This year's wet pacific weather pattern held, and blessed us with days, even low humidity days, in the mid and upper 80s.  It's been wonderful!


In comparison, the end of July, was BRUTAL.  Temperatures were in the upper 90s and UP, and the humidity was off the charts.  Of course this was the week of the Cornhusker Games.  It's a state level friendly competition for ordinary citizens of the state.  Think the people's Olympics.  I was entered into 2 events, standard pistol and olympic rapid fire pistol. Doc and The Boy were entered into the rifle competition.  I kid you not, it was HARD, made nearly impossible by the heat and unholy humidity.  The day of my competition started at 6am, 78 degrees and FOGGY.  By the time competition started it was in the 90s, and the heat index was over 115!  Despite that I came in 4th in standard pistol shooting and 1st in rapid fire.

The following weekend was the boys turn.  Of course on their day of competition it was sunny, DRY, and 78 degrees.  Doc pulled in a 3rd place in open sight rifle, and The Boy came in first in his division, open sight rifle.

Back on the ranch, August came in cooler and dry, with regular rainfall. Most of my compatriots were tending their late summer gardens and putting up tomatoes, pickles, corn and peppers, I was standing, hands on hips, shaking my head at my container garden.  Poorly, does not even begin to describe the level of success these specialty planters.  From three self-watering planters, holding 5 banana and jalapeno pepper plants, 4 cherry tomato plants, and two full sized plants, we harvested two handfuls of cherry tomatoes (those went to the birds) and a handful of peppers.  Nothing ripened quickly enough in any quantity to use for anything.  A "chilly" night in early August that sent us to 58 degrees, told the tomatoes to just give up.  And so they did.

I ripped out the plants and put in beets, carrots, and leaf lettuce in frustration.


It was looking like county fair season was going to have to rely on items canned last year after the fair was over, and I'd toss in some baked goods to top off the ribbon count.  I decided after last year's fair, that I was switching counties.  Here you are allowed entry into any county fair as long as your home county touches that county.  The fair in my home county is just too long of a drive to keep up with.  The downside is that you cannot win a grand champion rosette if you are not of the county, and only the rosette winners can represent the county at the state fair.



This year I entered several jars of pickles, apple butter, apple sauce, as well as a painting, a braided loaf of challah, and some Bavarian pretzels.  The great thing about this county is that they actually open and taste everything!  They even give comment cards with each item, which can be helpful, funny, or down right annoying- as you cannot defend your item to the judgement they make.  You just have to roll with it.  I wasn't at all happy with the pickles I entered.  They were fabulous in taste and texture, but were at the end of their shelf life at fair time, so yes, they had lost their crispness.  All of the pickles took 3rd place. Comments included - not crispy (I knew), not enough Alum (I don't use it), what's with the leaf? (I tried an old farm trick of placing a grape leaf in the jar to keep crunch- used to be well known trick.), use bottled water, not well water (I did.)

Cinnamon applesauce took 3rd place.  Comment was- looks to have molded. (UM no, the area they called mold, was a final sprinkling of cinnamon on the top so I can tell it has cinnamon in it.)

Apple butter took 2nd place - comment - Not enough allspice and clove. (UM, you are correct.  My family doesn't care for them.  I can to suit my family, not your's, judge.  So I'll live with the 2nd place ribbon.)

My painting took 1st place and a small rosette.  YAY!

The challah took 1st place and a small rosette.

The Bavarian pretzels earned a 2nd place.  Comment - not crunchy (not supposed to be), top is missing salt and is wet (Yup, you are right.  I dropped them off in a vacuum sealed bag, looking golden and salt covered, with moisture absorbing pads in the bag under the plate.  YOU opened the back and left them sit OPEN for two days before judging, where the hygroscopic salt sucked up every bit of moisture in the August air!)

A last minute entry of jalapeno peppers from the sad container garden earned a 3rd place.  Although small they were beautiful.  But sized must have been the determining factor here.

And last, but not least, a 2nd place win for my spicey and sweet kosher dill jalapeno pickle relish.

All in all a good year at the small fair.  Next year, we'll switch counties again, and be more prepared.




The second week of August saw the boy's 18th birthday.  OH MY, Oh MY....where did 18 years go?!

The entire summer seemed to fly by acting as taxi driver to our hard working computer intern.  I feel as though I wore a rut in the road driving to and from the city.

No sooner was the internship over, then it was time to pack The Boy up and move him to the University.  That was craziness in and of itself.  We clearly remember our days of moving in, the uncertainty of being ready, too afraid to admit you are scared to death, holding your breath as family drives away.  The incredible reality of growing up.  So far, so good.  He's getting along with his roommates, classes are going well, and oh ya, he's changing his major.  What freshman doesn't?!

Apple picking season soon followed.  I picked and tossed all the immature fruit from the young orchard early in June, or so I thought.  I missed two apple trees and one pear tree.  We let them go.

The apples on the Early Harvest yellow apple tree, never came of anything much. The 4 apples on the Liberty apple tree however, AMAZINGLY gorgeous and super tasty! They were both sweet and tart.  A real keeper variety.

The kieffer pears were harvested a week later, and while small, look amazing and are finishing their ripening on the kitchen counter.



We were under the path of totality for the great eclipse, just barely.  In an amazing turn for August, we were cool, and CLOUDY.  Doesn't it just figure?  Any other August we are frying under a blazing sun and couldn't beg, borrow or steal a cloud for shade.  The one day we want a clear sky, nope.  The clouds were thick enough to keep the temperatures down, but thin and high enough that the filtered glasses still allowed a clear view of the eclipse.  Totality was too faint for the filters, and because of the clouds, could not be seen without them either.  The chickens didn't care a whit about the dark.  They just kept eating as if a storm was coming and passing.  The clouds did offer us an amazing view of the approaching shadow.  It rolled in from across the country to our west before it enveloped us, leaving us in the dark with sunrise views surrounding us.  The clouds on the horizon to our north were far outside totality.  and being on a hill we could see past the great shadow to our south.  Once in a lifetime and we didn't have to go anywhere!

The girls wanted nothing to do with this massive 40 foot python.


August is also the time of the Great Molt here at the Station.  As this is a family friendly site, I shall spare our readers the images of half naked chickens running around the acreage.  Boy did they look sad.  Well, funny and sad.  Wykin and Nod are absolutely cockerels.  While they have yet to find their cock a doodle doos, they are betrayed by their saddle feathers and enormous feet and log legs.  Little Blykin is the most delicate and lovely Splash Ameraucana pullet.  She runs with the big girls and torments her brothers.  She reminds me of a little blonde sister, chasing after her big brothers- white dress and blue sash, pigtails flying.
Eggs, Pears, and White Bread

Now that we are into early September, the molt is mostly over.  They are back to laying, and the egg supply is flowing again.

August also has meant Doc has had a month of rare vacation time to use.  While he has had classes three days a week, it's left us a great deal of free time to catch up on the acreage work AND to take little day-cations here and there and around and about.




One journey took us across the great southern wind farms to an antique store featured on a local television show.  A long and scenic journey to a shuttered shop and a yard filled with no trespassing signs.  According to the village post office, the owner is hardly there, nor the shop hardly ever open.  Wonderful.  Upon leaving the village, we came across an amazing brickyard, where they not only make custom bricks for construction but carved brick art, and murals.
State Fair One Man Band

We have been to the state fair, where we saw giant cattle, had an incredible meal, walked for miles, and managed to stay away from the worst of the fried foods.
Topographic elevation map of the State.
Everything on a Stick

We wandered hither and yon, to and fro, just enjoying the day and visiting places and driving down roads we've never been down.  It's been really fun.
The old bee hive firing oven.

Long Horn
Time rolls on, and now we Welcome September.  We still have some painting to do on the new barn and some Fall chores to accomplish.  (We still do not have a fence on the pasture.)  But for the most part, you can feel the countryside winding down for season.  The early corn is being harvested, and the remaining stalks are starting to yellow.  Soon the beans will yellow and dry out and the fields will be full of harvesters being followed by the gulls.
Watusi