Saturday, December 31, 2011


S Novym Godom, Gutes Neues Jahr, Boldog új évet, Priecigus ziemassvetkus Szczesliwego Nowego roku, Monono ilo raaneoan Nejin  and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you in Russia, Latvia ,Western Europe,The Marshal Islands, North America and right here in Iowa. 

Thanks again, for following my posts and please sign in as a follower of this site and feel free to respond to any post. 

Its been a great year and I feel blessed to live the life as we do. 

We're not homesteders as such, but we do live a simple life that is in touch with the cycle of work and rest is evident throughout nature.  Ideally, it is in the morning when we engage in our most important work of the day, performing those activities necessary for the subsistence, our bread labor and for Susie it often involves the making of some wonderful bread. 

Midday meals can be followed by an afternoon lull--a nearly universal break time in preindustrial societies.  We resume our activities in the late afternoon  after coffee or tea, but at a slower pace.  An evening walk with the dogs down through the timber and past the old abandoned farm is good for them as well as the two of us. 

The conclusion of the work day brings a social time, with some variant of the cocktail hour. Our son Beau and dogs, Maxine and Ace are two things that bring joy to our lives each and every day.  

Our approach to living, based largely on the reduction of wants and a mostly non-monetary return from our organic horticulture, bee keeping and other sorts of labor.  We offered an almost "open-house" situation at our home, so that visitors could experience this way of life and learn a bit if they desire.

Scott Nearing gave the following advice to a young student:

"Share something every day with someone else; if you live alone, write someone; give something away; help someone else somehow ... this will allow you to forget your own troubles. You are too valuable a person to waste your time in moping, recriminations and self-pity. Get on to the job you came here to do and do it with all of your might."

Today Bob and I got together out at Roli for a New Years Eve day hike.  Here's a shot of bob and molly near one of the old barns on  the property. 

I gathered some water cress and tried out my new fly rod on the stream.  With the water so clear the trout were really spooky.  But, down at the lower end I managed to drop a line in over the bank and coax a nice brown out from under a rock.  For my last trout of 2011.  

Home for a bit to block up and split a few wheel barrows of fire wood and then Susie and I took a drive out little mill so she could get some shots of the paints with her holga camera.


 This year I will try to take some time each week to highlight one of the many irons that I have in the fire such as the gardens, art projects, tile, stone, or wood work, taping the maple trees, nature and fishing. 
Susie finally got her etsy site up and running.  Just CLICK... She is still adding pieces, so check it out when you get a chance.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Beau and I went on a hunt this am with Steve, Bob, Scott and Marc in south western Wisconsin.  The dogs worked well and I got a bird with dads old 28 gauge.

The 11-48 hit the shelves in 1948 and was discontinued in 1968. It was available in 12, 16, 20, 28, and I think even .410 in 3".  I think the 11-48 was the first Remington to be assembled with the two pin system, which was later integrated into pretty much all of their repeater model shotguns. It really was an important design in Remington shotgun history.


Yesterday a few of us got together to ping some cans at louies lodge.  We started out with marty.s crossman pump bb gun.  with ten pumps it had enough pop to mark the targets and chip the tiles.

After a few rounds we got dads old  H & R sportsman double action revolver.  It's similar to the one we found in the attic crawl space of the old school house when we remodeled it.

A little history of the SPORTSMAN - first production in 1932 had a fixed/non-adjustable front sight - three different versions are known, and a windage adjustable rear sight. In 1933 an elevation adjustable front sight became the norm.

After shooting the handgun we popped off a few rounds with the Remington Model 12.


The Remington  Model 12 is a slide-action rifle.  This gun was introduced in 1909 and produced through 1936.  During the 37-year period, there were 820,759 guns sold.   The gun featured a hammerless action.
Louie and Pumpkin Michels built the little lodge for a hideout back when i had louie as a jr high student.  Along with the little stove which keeps the lodge toasty warm, other features I like about this hideout are the cool storage below the floor boards, the sleeping loft that folds down from storage near the ceiling and the round window to the south.

The lodge is always a welcome stop when we're sking at mart and joans but as you can see we won't be able to lay down any tracks until some time after the first of the year.  I miss the snow.

Well, I know now what I'm going to be purchasing with my Menards gift certificate.  

I wanted to check the removal of  that old leaning mulberry off my list before the end of the year.  So, I got our old woody extension ladder out to top it.  I climbed out onto the tree to saw off a few of the upper branches after shutting down the saw I stepped back on to the ladder  and down I came like a sack of taters.  I was quickly comforted by the two dogs and recovered from the fifteen foot fall. It could have been much worse but sometimes you get lucky.

Friday, December 23, 2011


 This mornings sunshine has given away to over cast skies.  After a cup of Joe,  Susie and I will be heading out to the hoop house to pick some greens for a salad to go with the Christmas meal.  Then a quick walk in the woods with the dogs, now that deer season is over we'll hike down by the sugar bush.  Our family has always hiked on Christmas Eve but this year we'll be in the the city.  Beau is working this evening so it'll be just the two of us and the dogs on the eve before the eve. 
A personal favorite:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Peace and Love


Ran a few errands this am.  

Dropped off a few Christmas Cards                      (Oh,  If you didn't get yours:                              MERRY CHRISTMAS  to  you and  yours!) 
and went up the valley on a water cress run but the latest drop in the temperatures froze off the tops of the cress.

 Pitched for some trout and checked out the new stone work at the state park.

There's a fine looking heard of paint ponies along the trouts south of mart and joans

a shot of mart and joanies garden shed on the hill and there house below.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


After reading the Good Life and The Winter Harvest Handbook.  

  Susie and I took a trip to Maine to check out the home of Helen and Scott.  Only fine out that the four season farm was just a mile down road.  The four season farm is home of Eleot Coleman who wrote the Winter harvest handbook.

Eliot and Barbara’s Four Season Farm in Harborside Maine is a fantastic example of how to grow vegetables. Not only how to grow them, but to grow them year-round. The trick is not heated green houses or large buildings with grow lights, it is finding the right vegetable to grow in the right season, and eating seasonally.

Only one of the greenhouses was heated. It had a wood stove and a washing station, so that the workers could scrub the lettuce and carrots for market and still keep their fingers warm. The other greenhouses—those with the leeks, the spinach, the candy carrots—were all insulated, but none had heat. They simply relied on a double layer of plastic, with a few inches of air trapped in between, to soak up what radiance they could from the day.

The land was amazing—part of the original Nearing Farm, that Helen and Scott and the back-to-the-landers so revered in the 50s and 60s. Eliot bought a piece and cleared it himself, and today it's a year round commercial farm. He and Barbara sell to local grocers and schools, and in the summer operate an out-of-the-way farm stand. They have interns coming and going, learning their ways of coaxing the land into production come snowfall or hail or rain.

There is certainly a lot to learn, what with tools and techniques and selecting seeds. Luckily, for those of us who can't spend a year on the land, they've written book upon book to inspire. The Winter Harvest Manual and Four Season Harvest  are both very good; they help with picking out spinach and raddicchio and radishes and other winter hardy plants, and how to best cover the plants. They span a wide ability range, too, from novice to accomplished hand.

So this was the inspiration for our little hoop house that extends our growing season into the first of the year and kick starts the growing season into early march.  This weekend we harvested lots of fresh greens even though we had a light snow last night.   Just living the good life.

Here's an up date on the Family Tradition post from last October:   The research being done on the sand prairie was a herpetology study on what amphibians and reptiles are living in the sand prairie and what type of cover they preferred.

Friday, December 16, 2011

History of the Hurstville Lime Kilns

 Friday I drove home by way of the lime kilns just north of town.
In 1870, Alfred Hurst came to the area, having heard of the limestone formations along the banks of the Maquoketa River.  He then found what he considered the best quality limestone rock to produce the whitest, purest, and most adhesive lime in the marketplace.  He constructed a small pot kiln and started producing powder lime.  He then erected the first draw kiln in 1871, with the other 3 following soon after.  In the 1st year, production reached 100 barrels a week, with a total of 3200 barrels for the year. At the company’s peak, the kilns would produce 8000 barrels of lime a day!  
  The process used to make lime, then an essential building material, was uncomplicated.  But in the days of hand labor and horses it was nonetheless quite an undertaking.   The process started in the limestone rock quarry.  The men would get the rock into a manageable size so that it could be loaded into mule or horse-drawn rail carts and hauled to the kilns.  The limestone was then unloaded into the top of the kiln where a fire was burning. They kept the fire burning around the clock - 24 hours a day 7 days a week – for most of the year.   Workers were well compensated for their hard work.  In 1899 many workers earned $1.35 a day and rent was only $3 a month.

This time of year when the weather got cold, the fires could not stay hot enough to burn the limestone.  Thus the kilns were not operated in the winter months, but the men were kept busy all winter sawing cord wood to feed the hungry fires, as well as making barrels and feeding cattle.  The kilns used upwards of 100 cords of wood a day, requiring almost 8000 cords of wood a year for each kiln.  Lots of land was needed to provide the wood for the kilns.  In 1878, A. Hurst & Company owned 240 acres of land; eventually at the company’s peak, 3,000 acres of land were owned. 

When heated, limestone breaks down into a powder.  At the base of the kiln was a cooling shed where the lime was removed from the kiln.  After the lime had cooled, workers then packed the lime powder into barrels.  The lime was then shipped to a building site where it would then be mixed with sand and water to create mortar, a material used for buildings before cement and concrete. They did it all.

A half dozen eagles just down the road.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting her etsy on.

Susie finally got her easy site up and running. She is still adding pieces, so check it out when you get a chance.

With deer season here in Iowa she has been sticking pretty close to the homested working in the hoop house , chicken coop and lots of time on her mac.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zombie Holiday Gathering

There are Zombie elves that
are determined to wreck your Christmas presents. Defend your gifts from these tiny terrors by ornament bombing the daylights out of them before they smash, headbut and vomit on all the gifts underneath your tree.

In general, Christmas songs are like zombies: there are so many of them, they are quite difficult to kill, and they are almost all ugly. You can knock them down but they tend to pull themselves right back up again, and resume shambling in your direction. You may need a chainsaw.