New Fence, Old Fence, Trees and Bees!

This week we took a couple of steps forward with all types of fencing at the farm. There are several reasons why this is appropriate work for this time of year.

  • One is that the fields and crops are less demanding of our time so we can concentrate on other areas that do not get our attention in the high season.
  • Second, the deer are quite a bit more active this time of year and so we are reminded of the diligence needed to keep them at bay!
  • Third, the old cyclone fencing that we are tearing out is usually infested with wasps, hornets and other flying menaces but this time of year they are noticeably less active and we can work on those areas.

We have been working with a local company since last July to have our new wrought iron gates and fencing made to order. People wonder why we would use wrought iron to build this since it has maintenance issues over time. Well, for fencing that is nearly 8 feet tall, an aluminum fence would not be nearly as solid of a structure. We learned that if you treat your wrought iron by dipping it in molten, galvanized metal before painting it, that you can avoid the issues with rust for many, many years. So we went this route and after a couple of hiccups, we finally had the gate and fencing installed this Friday after Thanksgiving….black Friday indeed!

Here are the guys installing the gate. They actually welded it on site. IMG_5040

The sections were so heavy that they had a crane to help lift it from the truck. Here it is finished with another side section.IMG_5072

Another guy will come and install the operator mechanism (the motor will be in the garage) which will allow us to open and close this from our cars and also from a keypad.

As soon as they finished with the driveway side, they moved to the other side of the property where we had another long section of fencing installed at the back corner of the house. IMG_5044

We were always a bit curious as to why the original fence had been installed in such an odd formation. But as Robert Frost wrote, ‘Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.’ I think this is a paraphrase from one of his early poems entitled, Mending Wall, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.’ Whatever that reason, it no longer exists and neither does the fence!

So today we had an opportunity to tackle the job of dismantling the old sections of chain link that were no longer needed. Here is what it looked like before we started. IMG_5045

First we used the Dewalt SawZall (reciprocating saw) to cut the upper pipe. (The saw was a Christmas present from Dave to me the first year we moved here, purchased with reward points from one of our credit cards.)  We needed to cut the pieces into sections that would fit in Dave’s truck so we were measuring about 6 foot sections for each cut.IMG_5047

After getting all the pipe cut, we took Dave’s impact wrench (which he bought when he was building pools during his high school summers so it is at least 40 years old by now) and put it to work removing the rusty nuts from their bolts in order to take the whole mess apart.IMG_5052

There were wires for the old electric fencing to deal with and all kinds of gate closures and clamps to remove. These we were careful to not let fall in the grass so that we wouldn’t send flying metal into our windows when we mow the grass! IMG_5063

The nastiest part of the whole dismantling was something Dave and I both had dealt with in an earlier fence tear-out and knew to be cautious of this time. It seems that many of these cyclone fence manufacturers use a fiberglass plank of sorts to hold the woven metal cyclone part taut at the ends of the runs. This is what it looks like.IMG_5060

I guess fiberglass is cheaper than metal and can be very strong. Well, never grab onto a piece of raw fiberglass with your bare hands. The surface of it holds innumerable hairlike fibers that are, well, glass like in sharpness and if you brush against it, you will be feeling those invisible splinters in your skin for a very long time!!!

Here is one pipe with a stinging insect nest inside.IMG_5059

When you remove the nuts, bolts, clamps and such, the fence starts to peel away from the posts.IMG_5054

You can then roll up the woven wire and bundle it away. IMG_5056

We loaded all of this into the golf cart.IMG_5065

And then into Dave’s truck to take to the recycling center in Valley Park called Scrap Mart Metal Recycling.IMG_5068

For our efforts to recycle sheet iron, painted aluminum, and aluminum cans, we received $33.81 and the satisfaction of putting this metal into a recycling program. The payout doesn’t include the posts which we will pry from their concrete bases in the next couple of days. Here is what it looked like after a morning of dismantling the fence. IMG_5073

Other highlights (no pun) of the week included the installation of the lighting for the outdoor grilling area. It is difficult to get a picture of this when lit up at night, but we are very pleased with the atmosphere it lends to the cooking.IMG_5069

The trident maple planting is getting closer to completion. We now have 8 of the 12 trees installed. Here is one side of the driveway just as the sun was going down tonight. IMG_5077

But, I was saving the best news for last! Today I bravely made a cold call on a ‘neighbor’ who lives along one of the streets that I walk on. I have noticed their lovely yellow bee hives as I walk down Taylor Avenue. This year, I noticed they have added a third hive to their collection and after talking with their neighbor and seeing cars in the driveway today, I boldly rang the door bell. After a nice chat and a tour of their bees, they have agreed to come to the farm tomorrow to look at our orchard and discuss our future bee situation. I’m not sure how this will be structured exactly but I’ve decided this is an area for me to be an apprentice to a wiser bee keeper at first. I was so delighted with this development that I nearly skipped all the way home. I will have to give an update after our scheduled meeting tomorrow!

New Recipes and Trident Maples Arrive

We are delighted to have been given another cookbook by a Seven Oaks fan! This one,  The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen, is hot off the presses and features recipes from the heartland. The author hales from the ‘upper’ Midwest, near the mouth waters of the Mississippi in Minnesota.IMG_4963

She has cooked her way from there thru the best restaurants in NYC and back and has produced a glorious book with recipes from her cooking heritage. Most all of the recipes include some history and stories of her connection to those foods. Although there are many tempting recipes to try, (200 in all) we recently tried one due to having the ingredients near at hand.

She plainly calls this: Turnips with Their Greens and Bacon. Well, what can go wrong as long as there is bacon in the mix? My attraction to this recipe was that it used the turnip greens as well as the root. Viola, turnips with their greens!IMG_4962

As instructed, I cooked the chopped bacon slices in a pan until crisp and the fat is rendered. Then discarded most of the bacon fat and kept only 1 TBSP. She says to add butter and sautee the one inch diced turnip root in the fats. This I did, but next time will not add the extra butter. I also did not peel my turnips since they have very thin skins, unlike the ones you get in the supermarket. IMG_4964

So I added the S&P to the pan and cooked the turnips covered as described for approximately 15 minutes on low heat.IMG_4965

I then added the turnip greens, (minus any thick stalks) and then the bacon and cooked until it was all glazed and the greens were wilted.IMG_4967IMG_4968

She added a bit of maple syrup to the mix but I did not do this since my turnips were not bitter and I do not like sweets in my veggies. We loved this dish, but how can you go wrong with bacon?IMG_4970

I served this with a turkey breast I had in the oven as well as our home grown Yukon Gold potatoes (along with more turnips) that I had roasting in the oven while the rest of this was cooking.IMG_4961

In other news, the deer are on the move this time of year. Ugh! We saw a large buck in the front of the property this afternoon and I raced out but did not get any pics since he trotted away quickly. We then saw another one in the neighbor’s yard a bit later in the day. Then Dave came in and told me that our Deer Fence had been compromised in back at a critical junction….a corner. So it involved quite a bit of work to get that back up and functional. We are not aware of any damage to our trees but can definitely see the tracks all around. While taking a ride about in the golf cart, we also saw a red fox scurry off to the north of the property so it seems this is a very active time for critters.IMG_4995

Even though we had a drizzly week last week, we did not get that much total rain. I think our gauge totals were less than an inch for all of the days it rained, even tho we had quite the down pour with hail and high winds last Sunday.

Today’s high was in the low 30s and we got a lot of  work done but are chilled to the bone even with hats, gloves and heavy sweaters and coats. Dave resumed working on the last scab of overgrowth at the rear of the property that is at the base of one of our large oaks. It beat him this time last year with poison ivy and sore muscles but he is determined to win the battle this year and we will keep you posted on the final outcome. When Dave wasn’t working on eliminating the scab, he helped Jon who arrived with the stump grinder early this morning.IMG_4987

Jon went to work to on grinding the stumps out. IMG_4988

He made enough progress on the grinding and digging, that he was able to make two trips to the nursery and picked up 4 trees in each haul. IMG_4996

They were so heavy and the root balls so large that he and Dave had a mighty fight to get them off the trailer. Jon said that one cubic yard of dirt weighs approximately 2,000 lbs. With the size of these root balls, Jon estimates each tree weighs at least 1,000 lbs! So Jon and Dave used every method available to them to manipulate them off of the trailer, into the ball cart and into place. IMG_5016IMG_5012 IMG_5004

Here is what the first ones look like perched in their holes. They will be adjusted for position and actually planted when Jon returns tomorrow to continue wrestling with the rest of them!IMG_5021

Cold Snap, Trident Maples and Fair Isle Knitting

After experiencing wonderful weather last weekend when we hosted the Limestone College field hockey team, we had a significant drop in temperature along with some spits of snow late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. With all of the warnings that this was coming, we harvested heavily on Monday just in case. The Farm Report gives a YTD total now of 1,632 pounds!

IMG_4909But we have also been reading about some of the leafy greens that actually thrive  by producing more sugar as a sort of ‘antifreeze’ for the plant! To quote directly from Organic Gardening magazine, “low winter temps bring out the best in some crops. A touch of frost adds sweetness to Brussels sprouts, parsnips and kale while taking the bitter edge off of escarole and radicchio. Delicate Swiss chard leaves not only survive extreme cold but also retain their delicious flavor.”

This has been our experience so far since our temps have not dropped below 20 degrees F this year. For the most part, we are still in business in the cool season part of the field, especially true of the root vegetables as seen by wonderful turnips and carrots!IMG_4914

We gobble up the spinach as soon as it comes in indoors. Here it is cooked up on the stove with a bit of bacon and scallions and topped with fresh squeezed lemon juice. IMG_4916

We have enjoyed kale ‘chips’ baked in the oven as well but be be careful since these cook quickly!

With the drastic cold snap last week we had a sudden leaf drop from the gorgeous ginko outside of my office! I swear, all of the leaves dropped in one day! Here is the tree last Saturday when the team was enjoying lunch on the terrace.IMG_4880

Here is was after the Tuesday cold snap. IMG_4939

Now those leaves are all re-distributed into the fields since Dave has collected them and has been shredding them and transporting them to the fields where he will till them under, along with all of the other detritus left from the plants. (For some reason, Dave loves to say the word ‘detritus’ so that is why it was in my sentence.’)IMG_4956

In other farm news, all of the River Birches from the front islands have been chopped away but still need to have their stumps ground away. Jon has visited us twice this week to start eradicating the Euonymus ground cover which we are eager to see go away. Our new trees, the Trident Maples, have been dug from a local tree farm and were delivered to a local nursery last week. We decided to go and visit them. Advertised as a 3″ caliper trunk, these particular specimens surpass our expectations! Here is Dave next to our 12 trees for scale. IMG_4940

Their tags. IMG_4944

Here is his hand, trying to capture the caliper measurement. Magnificent!!IMG_4942

We are still trying to grow grass along the new driveway and it is looking pretty good since fall is the best time for seeding. The light rains we have had recently are helping in this arena.  IMG_4958

In other news that is not farm related, I finally finished my recent sweater, an example of Fair Isle knitting, in the early hours this morning. Most of you would think of early hours this morning as 1am or something. Nope, I got up with Farley around 4:30am (he is an older dog with bladder issues and cannot last thru the night) and I gladly knitted away! It fits nicely and I am quite pleased so I popped it over my head and wore it all day today. I will continue to dream on about visiting the Shetland Islands someday. If you want to see more on this, the link to it on my Ravelry page (for those of you who are not familiar with Ravelry, it is the knitting/spinning/crochet equivalent of Facebook) is here:! IMG_0859

ECAC Champs!

The Limestone Saints won today! It was a hard fought battle with the score tied (3-3) after double overtime and so it came down to a shoot off, resulting with a Limestone win over Lindenwood to clinch the championship!  We loved being part of the team’s success this weekend and are already looking forward to hosting them again next fall! (My cousin, the coach, is the gal on the far left.)

IMG_0846 2This was a fun break from the farm chores today but we have backs against the wall now since the weather predictions are pretty cruel for the next few days and we need to harvest the last of the fall produce and continue to tuck the fields in for the winter. Some are predicting ‘snow showers’ for Tuesday!

A Visit From Limestone College Field Hockey

We had so much fun today! We hosted the Limestone College (South Carolina) women’s field hockey team at the farm for lunch. My second cousin, Lindsay Jackson, (her grandmother, was my dad’s sister, Peg) is the head coach of this team which she basically started from the ground up about five years ago. They are in town for the 2013 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division II Field Hockey Invitational which is being held at Lindenwood University. Lindsay is an inspiring coach (what a spitfire personality) who has put this team on the map in recent years and has created a rising presence in the field hockey arena. They are currently ranked #9 in the national polls for Div. II collegiate field hockey and have their sights on making waves in the future. Watch out! We hope to get to see them win the championship tomorrow.

We had a drop dead, gorgeous, fall day for this event. The sun was shining brightly with a clear blue sky as the background for the autumn reds and yellows of the remaining tree leaves. Their bus arrived at noon and we were prepared for the team to dig into our lunch fare offerings.IMG_4878

We had three kinds of soup simmering on the stove, salads, sandwich fixings, fruits, snacks and cookies waiting for them. Thanks to Kathy Bussmann for loaning me extra soup ladles at the last minute!

IMG_4873The noontime temps were in the mid 60s which allowed the group to sit on the terrace and enjoy the day. IMG_4880

Farley, as usual, was a big hit with the group and managed to behave himself. Some of the team enjoyed driving the golf cart around and took a tour of the fields. When they picked a nice turnip and large carrot from the field, we promptly washed and sliced them for a raw mini tasting which was also a big hit. What a fun group to get to host! IMG_4881

Wouldn’t you know, this was the same day that our arborist, Jon, arrived to start cutting away the old and decaying river birches from the front islands. He, too, had a gorgeous day to work and made pretty good progress. Although it is sad to see these trees go, they were on their last legs and at various stages of dying.IMG_4872

The last three years of drought have not helped them either. Jon started on the south side and worked his way over to the north end of the tree islands. He has two more to take out and then will have to work on removing the stumps and the ground cover before planting the newly dug Trident Maples. We hope to see him back tomorrow and the next couple of weeks to work on this. IMG_4890

We are also expecting the installation of the new driveway gate and fencing this week. The weather is predicted to be quite cold so we may have to bring in the last of the fall harvest but we hope the tree and fence work will not be affected by the temps. In the meantime, Dave has continued to work on clearing the fields in anticipation of tilling them and putting them to bed for the winter. More on this progress soon.

Limestone field hockey was not the only family related team playing for the money this week. Our daughter, Kate, had a fabulous, season ending, championship win with her 8th grade girls volleyball team last week. They play for Saint Matthew’s Parish in Pacific Palisades, CA where she also teaches biology and earth science to eager minds. Yeah! Image

Great, Great Grampa Bertz

There has not been a lot of farming news to report. We continue to get plenty of fall veggies that have been resilient to the frosts we have had. We have been enjoying turnips, carrots, kale, swiss chard, spinach, bok choi and several lettuces. We are hoping to harvest broccoli and cabbage yet but they have not quite developed enough at this point. We have had some nice, light rain the last few days which has kept us from turning under the spent fields. We would like to do this sooner rather than later in order to put those fields to bed for the winter before it gets too wet to work the soil. In the meantime, Dave was able to clean up and remove the trellises for the cucumbers yesterday and put them away to re-use next year.

Although the driveway project is finished, we are now trying to make the repairs to the landscaping that was compromised in the construction process. We got some help from our arborist, Jon Lanaghan, who is helping to prepare the future beds next to the terrace walls. We will plant beautiful crepe myrtles in these next spring.

IMG_4851My sister, Julia who lives in Colorado, serves as the unofficial but steadfast family historian and has a passion for our ancestry. I am always impressed with what she comes up with but I was really excited to see this photo which she shared with us recently. It is of my great-great-grandfather (on my father’s side), Carl Bertz who was born in Darmstadt Germany in 1832 and after emigrating to America, he was, among other things,  a vegetable vendor in Illinois. This photo shows him with a cart full of produce! What an interesting connection I feel with him!

Image 1

I should also mention that on the Sauerhoff side, Dave’s grandfather, John Emerson Sauerhoff, Sr., sold the basketry that fruits and vegetables were packed in. He had a territory and traveled the Eastern Shore of Maryland supplying these goods.

I would also like to recommend an interesting article we read in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine. Very interesting food for thought, hee, hee, hee! Here is the link, I hope you all will read it with as much interest as we did. If you cannot access the link (I’m still learning how to get this right in the blog-o-sphere) e-mail me and I will share it.

We have tried some new recipes lately. One nice one from the Hetenyis that uses 4 heads of baby bok choi! Perfect for us and tasty too. Here is the link which I found in the Willams Sonoma recipe collection.

The other recipe that I tried yesterday was also found in last weekend’s NYTimes magazine. It was a Korean short rib stew that used some unusual ingredients. I had never cooked with jarred chestnuts nor Taro before. I had fun making this and it was tasty although beef short ribs are not exactly a low fat ingredient. It made enough to last for some time and I can see using the basis of this recipe along with some variation of the ingredients in the future.

Lastly, while Dave was in Connecticut last weekend, I had some time to knit. This is a sweater I started some time ago and thought I would quickly finish it up before I get going on the newest one. It is hard to take a good picture while modeling the item. This is an example of a Fair Isle style of ‘jumper’ that is knitted from the bottom up in one round tube and then the armholes and neck line are cut open and then sleeves and collar are all picked up stitches from those edges and knitted in the opposite direction. Oh what a lot of work is involved in this one where there are 15 colors of yarn with one of those colors changing just about every row. One sleeve is nearly completed. I will look forward to modeling the completed sweater!