Chick Up Date

Here is an update for eager readers interested in the chick status. They are all doing wonderfully and  I’m taking lots and lots of photos. This morning I found them all sleeping in a carpet of chicks, huddled together for warmth despite the heat lamp! Aww!IMG_2576They are starting to develop their wing feathers which you can see here on this central gal who is a Cinnamon Queen variety.

IMG_2606Aren’t they so cute!!! The thermometer you see on the floor of the brooder is indicating the temp but they ignore it and so do I at this point since they are very comfy. The construction crew has been working hard to finalize the coop areas and the presence of the chicks seems to have ignited their spirit as well. They made these screened tops for the temporary brooder containers so that when they start to jump a bit they will be contained. IMG_2608When they graduate from the brood boxes, they will go to their indoor coop for a while which is a nice interior area of the barn. Here are the finished nesting boxes in the coop that have an opening in back (on my workshop side) to allow for egg retrieval for anyone not willing to deal with laying hens! There is also a special security screening on the coop window area which lets light in but not critters!!! IMG_2612Below is their 3 tiered, adjustable, coop roosting area with a “drop board” below that will allow me to clean off their nightly ‘deposits’ very efficiently. I lined the lower area of the interior coop with ‘Hardie Board’ siding so I can spray it down and wash all of the excrement into the sewer floor drain. There is also a hose bib below the drop board area that will be the watering station providing an in line, fresh water system for their drinking pleasure!

IMG_2593My work shop, which is next door to the coop, has a sink and other amenities as well…ok, there is a toilet too that is not pictured! IMG_2614I couldn’t resist hanging some of chick artwork in my workshop today! IMG_2615.jpgHere is their covered, fresh air run that is ultra secured with a concrete foundation surrounded by galvanized, heavy duty hardware screening. The top (ceiling) is ventilated to let the heat out but also screened off to prevent the chickens from trying to roost up top. These girls will be spoiled!IMG_2613It is a good thing we are taking such precautions since I found these racoon tracks just outside of the coop area this morning! Arg! IMG_2535.jpgBut no day is complete around here without a bit of precious time with Coulter who makes our days on the farm extra special. He finds the joy in every corner and inspires us to do the same!

A Very Fun ‘Chick’ Trip

So the baby chicks, one day old, have finally arrived at the farm! Hurrah!  My friend Joan and I made an early trip to Cackle Hatchery this morning to pick up the order of chicks I had previously reserved. This hatchery is about a 2.5 hour drive from here and we left early from the farm with great enthusiasm.  Joan and I have been friends for 30+ years and would often find ourselves wearing similar attire. So it was no surprise today when Joan arrived and we found ourselves in nearly matching outfits. Off we went to Lebanon, Missouri for a chick trip to pick up the chicks!IMG_2506.jpgWe arrived at the hatchery in good time and the counter guy went to the back to pick up my order. This fellow opened the box marked ‘Sauerhoff’ and here is what I saw. I fell in love instantly with all of them!IMG_2508.jpgMy original order was for 3 each (recommended numbers for less pecking) of 4 varieties giving me a reasonable total of 12 hens, right? The hatching dates were pre-set by the hatchery but I was missing out on at least one variety that I would have liked to have had so they told me I could call them early on the hatching morning (yesterday, June 27) to see if they had an “over hatch” which would allow me to possibly get access to a variety that was otherwise sold out on that date. I did this and found I could get 2 of the varieties I was not previously able to get, so my numbers grew! Yikes!

Suddenly I had 18 on order rather than 12! Funny, (I’m not sure Dave is laughing but I have the room to accommodate!) but it turns out they added a couple extras to the order and I arrived home with – surprise – 21 lively chicks!  Yikes!IMG_2516.jpgHere they are in their new homemade brooder which consists of a very large plastic bin, shaving and 2 waterers and a feeder. The varieties – all docile egg layers- are great back yard types as follows:

  • Buff Orpington
  • Barred Rock
  • Rhode Island White
  • New Hampshire
  • Cinnamon Queen
  • Easter Egger

Little Coulter  arrived today for a visit!  The infra red lamp makes the photo quality tough and is also a heat concern for his little fingers but he was excited to see them!IMG_2518.jpgHe was happy to look at the chicks for awhile and then wanted to sit on his favorite tractor! Some things never change! I’m following all of the new chick instructions to a ‘Tee’ and will be updating as things progress. For now, thanks to Joan for the wonderfully fun chick trip today!


More Bees, Peas and Barbeque, Please!

I’m back at the farm after a weekend trip to Phoenix where a healthy contingent of Luehrman cousins gathered to remember our dear Bob and Helen. The church service was beautiful and the bear-like hugs (Bob style) were much welcomed and a reminder to keep family near and dear always. Helen, the last of my father’s siblings, was our family glue. She would be most pleased if we would all take up the mantle and keep in touch regularly. Since some of the cousins read this blog I’ll put my toe in the water now and promise to help plan a future reunion. Below are some of the children of six of the eight original Luehrman siblings. IMG_2448

When we manage to gather, I hope the Brotemarkle brothers, David and John, (famous for their team grilling efforts) will be our barbecuing crew! Here are the Smokey Brotes, David and John with spouses Rosane and Michelle!  Maybe they’ll need some garlic!?!  IMG_6275

There was little time to pause on my return as the first three (of the five) blueberry varieties are now ripening. I have relished the solace of the early hours in the “blueberry palace” picking tray after tray of these sweet fruits. I have harvested over 45 pounds so far this year but if last year’s volume is any indication of what to expect, I should be a little over a quarter of the way done with picking. We delight in having them fresh each day but I’m freezing gallon bags full of them for the off season and will make jam as well. I’ve already made 85 half pint jars of strawberry jam! Lord help me, that is another blog I’m behind on! IMG_2414.jpg Although the blueberry harvest will continue for the next month or so, the garlic was entirely harvested in short order yesterday. How easy was that?!?! We brought in 18 pounds in about 30 minutes of digging! The signs of readiness were that the lower 3-4 leaves of the stalk appeared yellow or brown as you can see here. IMG_2467

We used a pitch fork to dig out the plentiful bulbs. IMG_2468.jpgTo get an idea of scale, here is my hand…showing the German Extra Hardy which is slightly larger than the German Red. IMG_2470.jpg

After digging them, I followed the very simple instructions to prepare for drying: “brush off dirt and trim roots to a quarter of an inch”. They look like they all got a buzz cut! IMG_2473.jpg

We laid them out on an old screen door for air circulation (or they can be hung in small groups) to dry for two weeks before bundling and storing for the year. You can quickly identify the red variety here. I have about 75 bulbs which I will cherish for cooking all year!IMG_2474

I also harvested a 20 foot row of peas which were a bit less than 5 pounds in the end but were fun to pick and shell!IMG_2440.jpg

The seasonal crops are producing well row by row and we are already replacing spent plants such as spinach with other veggies such as beans that love the heat. We do this sequentially so that we aren’t inundated with too much of one thing at a time. IMG_2416.jpg

We are also pleased to share the results from our first fruiting fig tree. We got this tree as a lark when Dave made his annual trip to Stark Brother’s nursery this year and we have been coddling this strange plant along for fun. It is in a pot on the terrace and we water it regularly but haven’t have much time for it lately….until…we found that it had a fruit on it! We are pleased and see a couple of other little sprouts that might be future figs as well so I guess we will cross our fingers and hope for some Figgy Pudding this Christmas???IMG_2443 (1).jpg

The bees are surprising me as well with the recent evidence that we will actually have a honey crop despite the very young colonies we started with this year. I had two delightful and enthusiastic ‘guest’ beekeepers help me out recently. First was my cousin Peggy’s daughter, Lindsay, who stayed with us several days while she was working at a field hockey/recruiting camp for Holy Cross where she is the Varsity Women’s Coach. We love it any time she visits! IMG_2362.jpg Next was son Peter who was in town for my mother’s memorial which was more like a family reunion at the farm to celebrate her life. Here we are preparing to look at the bee activity…he makes me look like a midget!IMG_2389.jpgAnd here he is finding the joy of new brood and lots of activity on one of the frames.


The bees are doing great and I have recently added a second honey super to the most active hive. This frame shows a nice, capped brood pattern with honey stores at the top for their own enjoyment next winter.IMG_2365.jpg

The barn is progressing and is nearly finished which is a good thing since the chickens will finally arrive next week. We ordered the following varieties from Cackle Hatchery : Barred Rock, Rhode Island White, New Hampshire, Easter Egger and Buff Orpington. All are considered relatively docile chickens but most importantly prolific egg layers. It is so exciting…I can hardly wait and neither can Coulter who is running around, talking and keeping us entertained non-stop! IMG_2276

Here is a barn progress pic…getting closer and closer to finishing! IMG_2475.jpg



Broken Hearts

The Luehrman family endured the news of the tragic deaths of Helen and Bob Brotemarkle over the past weekend in a car accident in Arizona. These were two of my very favorite people. I was utterly flattened and heart broken by this news…as were so many others who knew them both. Here they are twelve years ago celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. 100_0400_0001

Helen, my dear godmother, was my dad’s multi talented younger sister who found her way into the musical world as a young woman. An accomplished and gifted musician, she was the pianist/organist for many organizations, particularly area churches ranging from Kansas City to the retirement community in Surprise, Arizona where she and Bob made their home in recent years. aunt helen

Bob, retired from Southwestern Bell, was the life of any group he happened to come upon! He happily supported his friends and family alike with his generosity of spirit and tireless energy. He and Dave’s Uncle Bob became buddies and were known as “The Bobs” after meeting in Saint Louis for our anniversary celebration. Kindred spirits!IMG_0002

I’m so glad that Kate, Coulter and I saw them both last summer at the Luehrman family reunion in Lexington, Missouri. They brought all their synergy to the gathering! Here is Helen sitting with her nieces – left to right – me, Peggy, Helen and Janice. IMG_8283

Together Bob and Helen made for an indescribable team. In retirement, they traveled around the country exploring and supporting all family adventures. Helen was a steadfast reader of this blog and commented often but also sent me additional notes describing her years on the Luehrman family farm – conveying details that she knew would spark my interest. She would often end her correspondence saying “bless you”.

None of us can imagine what life will be like without them, let alone their sons David and John and their families. My only saving grace is that the knowledge that as dearest partners in life, they left us as a unit, together forever…Helen and Bob…or Bob and Helen. Our love and peace to you both…Bless you!


A Landscape of Garlic Scapes

We love garlic and use it a lot in our cooking but this is the first year we have grown our own. As you might remember from  Halloween, Garlic Planting, Vampires, etc….we planted two varieties last November and they have been happily growing in the rear terrace bed since then. Knowing that we aren’t supposed to harvest it until July, I have taken it rather for granted as I walk right past it every day without too much thought.

But we just returned from a 3 day trip to New York and I was surprised to suddenly see a curly bud like structure coming out of the top of the stalk as if it were going to flower. Can you spot the two in this photo?IMG_2359

I rushed to look this up and feel embarrassed that I did not know that the hard neck variety of garlic sets out this stalk that is called the garlic ‘scape’ which is much like the flower. This is a sign that the plant is going thru its reproductive stage which we actually don’t want it to do since that would take energy away from the bulbs we are hoping to harvest. So, it is exactly at this time of year, approximately one month prior to harvesting the bulb, that one harvests the scape portion of the plant which can be used in cooking as a mild form of fresh garlic. Most of the stalks were about the diameter of a pencil so I got out a kitchen scissors and snipped them down at the base and collected a little more than 2 pounds of them. They keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to three months. IMG_2360

I wish you could smell the wonderfully fresh scent of garlic that I was surrounded by during this fun bit of harvesting today. What a nice break from weeding! The best part was no muss no fuss…snip and go garlic!  Now I will await the browning of some of the lower leaves on the stalks before starting the bulb harvesting which in itself doesn’t take long but the the bulbs need attention in the drying process so I will continue reading up on that. One of my best sources for this is found here. IMG_2361

I have much to report on the barn, bees and other crops but I thought I’d sneak in a quick, lunch break post for now! Lots to do…back to the fields!