Monday, August 25, 2008

35th Annual North Central WI Antique Steam & Gas Engine Show

Well, we all went to the antique tractor show on Sunday as I mentioned in the last post. It was an awesome day. Perfect weather and all kinds of things to see and good food to eat. My mom and dad and the 5 of us all went.

The first thing we saw was the "hit and miss loop". In my last post I couldn't remember what kind of old engine it was that the man had, that we got our sheep hay from. Well it's a hit and miss engine. Pretty neat. Hit and miss loop was full of those kinds of engines. Most of them were running and some were operating things with them to demonstrate the kinds of work you can do with the old engines. One fellow rigged up an aluminum can crusher with his. Others had old miniature amusement park equipment operating.

We took lots and lots of pictures. I've included some of them below.


A "hit and miss" engine.

In this two sided shed there was a small engine powering a grain mill via a series of flat belts.

There was tons of equipment. Literally.

Check out the size of the rear wheels on this big red tractor.

The steam engines were amazing pieces of engineering.
I could look at them all day.

The Parade

Black Smith Demonstration

This fellow with the pipe was powering a saw mill operation that I thought was fascinating.

This long belt drove the whole thing.

The men running the saw were very proficient and seemed to know what they were doing.

In days gone by safety wasn't much a of a factor. No guards or covers here, just good old common sense. Even with that I've heard stories of old timers getting hung up in the whirling apparatus' that powered mills and farm equipment.

My Favorite:

Engineer in Training

Until Next Time

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hundred Dollar Day

Today we had our first hundred dollar day at the farmstand. To be more precise we brought in $142.25. Best day ever for us of doing the stand. Of course we split the money with a couple of the other growers and with our kids who made some zucchini bread. The bread turned out to be quite a big hit and they sold everything they made (except for what didn't quite make it out to the stand :).

A perfect example of what Joel Salatin calls "value added". One large zucchini made more than ten loaves and they brought in $21. Pretty good return for that one squash, plus whatever other ingredients went into it. I don't bake so I don't know. Still pretty good though I would think.

This picture was taken last week toward the end of the day after alot had already sold.

We're trying something different this year in that Kelli and the kids are manning the stand in stead of doing the self serve method. Well, actually when they get tired of sitting out there for the last couple hours we've turned it into self serve. It's easy to do, just put up a sign and a money box and walk away.
For some reason for over a week or so I've been thinking about when we still lived in IL, how I used to day dream all the time about living exactly how we are living right now, more than ten years later. I remember how my job became such a chore because all I could do was think and dream of all the things we'd do up north when and if that day ever came.

I used to work at a sewer and water construction business that my great Uncle Joel had started. I worked with my dad as a maintenance mechanic. I had lots of freedom with that job. It was good pay and had flexible hours, a dream job for many. But, I knew there was something else for me. I had to be in a place where I could be free to walk a path less traveled. So I became unbearably discontented.

I love living in a place where life doesn't get drowned out by all the commotion. I really like our little community. Lots of little cottage industries. Small business' where people offer a service or product to fulfill local needs.

I get a kick out of one small business down the road run by a Christian lady. It's a bar. Seems like kind of a contradiction. But, you have to know her and her families story. They got into it many years ago when they were really down and out and that's what they had to do to make it. Now she absolutely hates owning a bar but, she is a widow and doesn't know what else to do. Funny thing is she is a pillar of the community and has tons of positive influence on countless individuals. As time goes by the bar is changing. It is now a smoke free establishment. And her daughter opened up a ice cream shop in one end last year. Looks like it is taking off this year. We think the world of the family. Very special people.

I know some people don't like small communities where everyone knows everyone. There is gossip to be sure but, that's something you have to put up with. Gotta take the good with the bad. If you have a good sense of humor it's not a problem.

A while back we heard a rumor about us, that we had an arsenal here. Wow, now that was quite a surprise! I hardly ever hunt and very rarely will I ever do any target shooting. Shoot the occasional varmint, like yesterday I shot another skunk, but that's about it. Four or five years ago some friends of ours and my brother in law and I did some shooting out in the woods. We shot the day lights out of an old refrigerator. I don't know, maybe that's what got it going, who knows. We joked that maybe we should have an open house or big neighborhood cook out so people can see that, we ain't got no arsenal.

More recently we heard another one, that the reason we hired a driver for the garbage route was because I hurt my back. Another person said they heard I had knee surgery.

Actually you don't have to live in a small community for rumors to happen. After my dad retired there was a rumor going around IL that my dad had a brain tumor. Actually the truth was, he got healed of what we believe was cancer but, a brain tumor was definitely not it.

But, it does seem gossip is pretty well the norm where everyone knows everyone. Most of the time it's all innocent enough. Just good ole neighborliness I reckon. People being concerned for one another. And one thing leads to another. Oh well. Like I said you have to have a sense of humor.

On a different note. We're planning on going to an antique tractor show tomorrow in Edgar WI. It's a pretty big deal I guess with parades and music, a flea market and a black smith demonstration. I think there is even supposed to be a polka. Actually it's the black smith thing that we are mainly going to go see because our daughter Shalea likes blacksmithing. Hopefully we can get some pictures to post here.

We learned about the show from an old timer that we recently bought some sheep hay from. He's really into antique tractors and even has one of his own. An old Farmall with steel wheels. He also has an old engine. I forget what they call it, but it has a big double fly wheel and it only fires once every so many revolutions. It will fire and the fly wheel goes round and round. It has a centrifugal mechanism that senses when it slows down and then fires the engine again. It goes, Pop....................Pop....................Pop, maybe it goes around three or four times between combustion's.

Anyway it should be a good time and hopefully I can bring back a report for you all.

Until Next Time

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Skinned ALIVE!

Warning: The topic of the below WND link and it's accompanying video is not for the squeamish. It is about the fur trade in China and the inhumane treatment of animals. Animal rights activists were allowed on a farm in China where they documented and filmed the practice of skinning animals alive for their fur.

I personally watched the video and it is absolutely horrific. I know that cultures around the world often have varying degrees of values and varying degrees of what is and isn't deemed acceptable but, it is hard to comprehend that any culture could find this practice normal. The brutality and disregard for life is beyond comprehension.

If they will treat animals with such disregard how do they treat people. After seeing this I'm completely convinced that the stories of slave labor camps are true.

The video shows people taking animals and beating them with sticks or smashing them on the ground to stun them then proceeding to remove the skin of the animal while it is fully aware and quite alive. The video shows how an animal being completely skinned lay writhing in pain and very much alive. It is hard to imagine why they would not at least take a moment to kill the poor creatures before removing the skin. The WND story says, The Swiss Animal Protection report said slaughter methods range from beatings with a metal or wooden stick or swinging the animal until it slams to the ground.
Then they are skinned.
"They struggle and try to fight back to the very end. Even after their skin has been stripped off breathing, heart beat, directional body and eyelid movements were evident for five to 10 minutes," the report said.
The process is repeated millions of times, as China processes up to 100,000 pelts in a day at times.

I think the free world needs to ponder long and hard whether or not they will continue to participate in this gluttonous affair of buying goods from Communist China. I already avoid Chinese goods when I can but, now I know that I must.

Just to set the record strait I am certainly no racist. I love people and Chinese people no different. But, when we buy Chinese goods we aren't giving our money to free people or free enterprise we are giving it to a brutal and oppressive communist regime that is no friend of the United States or the free world regardless of how nice the Olympics are turning out.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

8th Week CSA Share

Here is today's CSA share. Over 20 lbs. of produce. It's getting to where we can just barely get the lids shut on the bins without squishing the veggies. We plan to open the farm stand tomorrow as more and more of the produce is coming ripe that won't keep until next week.

We put together this little outdoor kitchen made mostly from salvaged junk.

The ladies work hard every week harvesting the vegetables and putting together all the bins.
Three of the ladies come all the way up from Rhinelander faithfully every week. What a blessing they are in providing so much help. They're quick and efficient.

Here are some of the bins that we fill. There are full shares and half shares so they have to pay attention to who's bin is who's.


It's been a great summer here so far. I don't know if I remember a better one. My break from the trash route is coming to a close as our helper had agreed to work through the end of August. I did ask him if he'd be able to work for a couple more weeks but, he might have other plans. I know he wanted to do a fishing trip to Canada and else where at some point. So I'll be back in the truck in two to four weeks.

Anyway, I had a real good taste this summer of what it would be like to be working here full time. I have to say I rather like it! But, even when I get back to doing the route myself it won't be like it used to be, because we restructured the route after a deal with a larger hauler where we swapped customers. We were able to go down to 3 days a week from 4 days. Plus as always, the occasional clean up. So even though I'd like to always be working from home, a three day or so work week isn't that bad. Plus I have more time to maintain the truck and other business related activities.
We're happy for Kelli's sister in law Jeanette and our mutual friend Dawn. They got inspired by the square foot gardening method and put in some vegetable beds of their own back in Illinois. Then we got an email the other day from a jubilant Jeanette telling how she preserved here harvest,
" Well, I did it... I learned how to can, and freeze, and dehydrate.... I'm so excited...
Just had to share with you all.... I've never done this on my own before and I read books and used the internet and through trial and error completed this stage of the harvesting...
God bless to all,
Plus she sent pictures that I was going to include here but, I couldn't save them in a way that I could send to blogger. So you'll just have to take my word for it, it all looked great!
In these uncertain times it does my heart good to see more and more people learning how to do things for themselves.
Though the ability to move goods from one place to another is unprecedented in history, the whole system is extremely fragile. I for one do not like the idea of being completely dependant on other people to provide me and my family with what we need, even the basics of necessities. It doesn't take much imagination to think of all the things that can disrupt the system and our way of life. The economy is as shaky as it has ever been, storms can wreak havoc, and then there's always the possibility of war, just to name a few. After this last weekend with what has happened in the Republic of Georgia, you just never know. We could wake up one day and find are selves face to face with a 3rd world war. And that is not near as far fetched sounding as it used to be.

Until Next Time

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dakota Sheared

Last week I finally got the sheep all sheared and Dakota our Shetland ram was the last. Only a whole season behind. Typically we shear in the spring. But, we've been so busy with everything, shearing the sheep kept getting put on the back burner.

Broke down and bought some Oster sheep shears. In the past we used borrowed shears. And before that there was a sheep group in our area that hired a professional shearer to come every year. People would come and bring their hand full of sheep and all together would make it worth while for the shearer to make the trip. The group no longer exists so we're on our own now.

Dakota has turned into a pretty handsome looking ram and has some very fine wool. In the past I've mentioned how we used to get everyones cast offs as far as animals go. Not so with Dakota he's a well bred sheep.

His base coat is black with the black face and legs. The wool ranges from a beautiful rich bluish gray to white highlights.

And I think he's got a pretty nice set of horns as well.

A friend and fellow CSA grower gave us her two sheep. Both females. One Shetland and one full sized sheep with a black face and white body, part Suffolk I think. Which helps the fact that we didn't have any female sheep born this year. Her Shetland came from the same farm we got ours from back in 2006. Her only stipulation in giving us the sheep is if we promise not to eat them. Since they are breeding ewes I'm pretty confident we can keep the promise.

We have over a hundred chickens out on pasture right now. Which is something we're behind on as well. I'm hoping to start butchering this coming week. Since we are behind on that we don't have an available chicken tractor for our newest batch, so we improvised with this dog kennel that we had. It's working well enough, just not as easy to move, which I do once every day.

We had Dakota in this dog kennel for awhile. When I move this pen I put my back against one side, lift and walk sideways to move it. Doing one side then walking around to the other side and doing the same thing. Each lift moves it a couple feet at a time. When Dakota was in it he used to like trying to ram my backside as I was pressed up against the pen. There was something about the chain link he liked to ram and one time rammed his way right through and escaped. I had to go around and reinforce the fencing by wiring it to the frame work. You can't see in the picture but he stretched the chain link all out on the side he got out on. Amazing how hard even a small sheep can hit. I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end.

Back behind the three chicken pens there are three more objects just barely visible at what appears to be the tree line. Which are no where near the trees as the hill gives an optical illusion. Anyway those are sheep pens. The Three Amigos (which I call three of the lambs born this spring) kept getting out of the electric fence so we put all the sheep in movable cattle panels. Our original ewes are in one. The Three Amigos are in another. And the two new ones are in the third. I move them once a day just like the chickens. Dakota is also in one off by himself and so is Shadow the little ram who was rejected by his mother.
In all I move 8 pens every day. It doesn't take as long as one might expect. I usually drive out in the pickup truck and carry buckets of water. Our sheep don't drink very much so two 5 gallon pails usually is all that is required. Sometimes it takes more if any of the sheep's water buckets get dumped over which does happen when they push the pens looking for the grass that's greener on the other side. And with most animals ( and most people for that matter) the grass is usually greener on the other side.

Speaking of greener. It is fascinating how intensive grazing does make the grass greener. I especially notice it with the chickens. After the grass grows back there is a marked difference between the grass that had the chickens on it and the grass that didn't. The grass that got the manure comes back a much darker green.


Got to see part of the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics that's currently going on in China. Wow, what a show! I don't pretend to understand international finance but, I couldn't help but think, it was probably our money that helped contribute to such a gigantic display. Probably all those Wall-Mart tennis shoes among other things that us Americans buy. I wouldn't know, but I wouldn't be surprised. I can't stand the thought of our hard earned American dollars being used to prop up an oppressive communist regime but, one thing the Olympics does is put a human face to it all. And perhaps that is precisely the intent. You see people who put their pants on one leg at a time just like us. And you might forget the political and philosophical differences.

At the same time I'm finding it a little eerie that while everyone is mesmerized by all the pomp and pageantry and thrill of the competition, there is a ferocious war being fought between the ex-soviet republic of Georgia and Russia. In one part of the world people are participating in grandiose celebrations and in another people are bleeding and suffering and dieing.

Until Next Time

Friday, August 01, 2008

6th Week CSA Share

Here's yesterdays CSA share which included
* Blueberries
* Basil leaves
* Rhubarb stalks (red)
* Small onions
* Salad mix - Butter crunch
Prizehead, Mache
Blushed butter cos
Emerald Oakleaf
European mesclun
Romaine, Endive,
Amish deer tongue
Rouge D’Hiver
Lolla Rosa
* Kohlrabi
* Zucchini
* New potatoes
* Peas
* Green beans
* Summer squash variety

It was 16 lbs. in all. That was approximately 192 lbs. all together for the full and half shares combined. A good amount which I was happy to offer this week. I like to give people a good value for their money. We got these bins to store the food in until pick up or delivery which seems to be working well. Either people transfer the veggies to their own bags or bins, or they make sure we have the bin back before the next week.