Archive for April, 2011

Chicken Teaser

Posted on April 27th, 2011 by Tonia 1 Comment

Right this very instant, there are exciting things cooking up in a homemade incubator in our dining room. Eggs!

The folks renting our cottage are the proud parents of two lively hens and one precocious rooster. We’ll be comin’ atcha with proper introductions to these feathered friends, and a full how-to-hatch-eggs tutorial in the next couple weeks. I just couldn’t resist teasing you, because we’re all pretty excited about the prospect of having baby chickens around here, and because sitting and staring at eggs and willing them to hatch is a very anxious job and I needed to share some of the burden by letting you all in on it.

Photos courtesy of our talented renters {yes, they have more tricks up their sleeve than just excellent chicken parenting}

So anyway, check back soon for chicken posts galore. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shovel snow. Yep. SNOW.

How to Transplant Seedlings

Posted on April 24th, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

While we were off gallivanting, my dad was starting seeds for us {thank you, Poppy!} Now those seeds are happy little plants, ready to be transplanted to bigger pots. Their next home will be the real ground outside but for now they’re happily living in our warm and sunny greenhouse. I would happily live in the greenhouse too, if I could. It was 95 degrees in there the other day!

Outside the glassed-heaven, it’s a different story. In fact, it snowed last night. But the winter-like weather hasn’t stopped a few brave perennials from popping up:

A bumblebee! That’s a sure sign that warmer temps are on their way…..Until then, though, I’ll be in the greenhouse:

How to Transplant Seedlings:

Fill your planters with potting soil. We use organic potting soil that has some peat mixed in with it, but does not have anything else in it {no MiracleGrow or anything}.

Moisten the potting soil a little, so it sticks together when you press it- and let it sit for a few minutes.

Use your finger to make a small hole in the center of each planter, about 1 1/2 inches deep.

Hold your seedling by the leaf {never the stem} and carefully separate it from the bunch. I use a small knife for this, because the roots of each seedling are usually entwined with its neighbors roots, and you need to carefully sever them. If the roots on any given seedling are longer than two inches, you can trim the roots with the knife. This will help the seedling to not get too “leggy”.

Place the seedling into one of the holes you created. Gently poke the roots down into the hole with a pencil or your finger, and fill in the hole with potting soil. Press the seedling down so that it is secure and stands on its own.

Let the newly transplanted seedlings rest for several hours before watering them. They need lots of sunlight and water over the next week in order to survive, so watch them closely and move them around the house if necessary to ensure they get enough light. If you have a grow light, even better!

And now, a little tribute to our Sunshine {our dog Charlie} who brightens our day every day, no matter how winter-like it is outside.

Lessons in Smelting

Posted on April 23rd, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

Yaaaaaaawn! It is nearly 11 am, but I am still recovering from a very eventful Earth Day. Last night, after a full day of working around the farm, we ran into a couple friends in town who enticed us to come smelting with them.

{Image found here}

Smelting…the practice of waiting until dark, pulling on waders, strapping on a headlamp, walking out into the dark water of Lake Superior right after the ice lets out, and dragging a huge net in to the shore in hopes that thousands of tiny fish called Smelt will get trapped in it. It’s a group activity because the nets that are commonly used are so long that they require at least two people to drag them in.

Smelt only run in the shallow waters of the big lake for a few days each spring, so when we arrived at the shore, about a dozen trucks and campers belonging to avid smelters were already parked in a row, marking the ideal {sandy, shallow} smelting spots. Most of them had been camped out and smelting for two days already.

“They’re runnin’ good oh boy!” A bearded man with a Bud Light sloshed past us in camouflage waders. We hurriedly pulled on our gear and headed to the water.

There is something very counter-intuitive about walking out into a frigid, black, never-ending lake at night. You have to force your legs to take you further as your feet fox-walk along the bottom, careful not to trip on rocks, and all the while sensitive to the slow and steady descent you’re making…your thighs are under, now your hips…now your stomach.

It was raining last night- a freezing cold April rain that was somewhere between rain and snow. It pelted our cheeks as we edged deeper and deeper, the net stretched between us, our breath hanging in the air like ghosts.

“Here’s good.” We turned, dropped the net into the water and started towards shore. It’s a slow walk back; The net is heavy and the waves roll up around your body and drag on you. Headlamps and campfires struggling in the rain dotted the shoreline ahead. Cheery banter carried out across the water…”Hey! I smelt somethin’ fishy! Har har har…”

Finally we were back to shore and it took all four of us to scoop the net up in a way that would not to let any Smelt escape. Sure enough, it was sagging with the weight of about a hundred tiny fish.

“Good load!” Passing fisherman congratulated us on our success. We did about eight more runs and filled up a large cooler. A nearby group of smelters caught a large fish in their net. I went over and asked what kind it was.

“Oh he’s a big sucker,” the man replied.

“Yes, he is, but what kind is he?”

“I told you…a Sucker.”

{Image found here}

Slosh, slosh, slosh…we were wet and chilly as we loaded up our gear. “Want to come over and fry some of them up?” our friends asked. It was 11 PM, but why the heck not. We retreated to their warm home, chopped garlic, heated oil, and cleaned our fish. They’re so small that you just cut their heads off, squeeze out their organs, fry em up, and pop them in your mouth whole. They’re crunchy, tender, and tasty.

I wish I had some photos of this adventure to share, but the combination of sleety rain and pitch-black-darkness made photography pretty difficult. Plus our hands were full as it was. But please enjoy these vintage images from the prime smelting days in Duluth, MN- just an hour to the West of us. The spring tradition of netting Smelt has been going on for generations. I’m excited to have been exposed to it. Like ice fishing, it seems to be a “must” for anyone who lives on the shores of Lake Superior.

Earth Day 2011 was marked by hard work that resulted in a delicious, local and seasonal meal. We stepped out into one of Mother Earth’s greatest features: Lake Superior. We felt her breathing and we saw the twinkle in her eye. We were let in on her secret: that everything we need, she provides. We just need to learn how to be a part of the giving and the taking.

Happy Earth Day!

Posted on April 22nd, 2011 by Tonia 2 Comments

What better way to celebrate our beautiful Earth than by getting out and working it? Yesterday and today we tilled up a patch of dirt that is going to be our garden. It’s very exciting!

It’s very exciting! Did I say that already? We’re just so excited to have a garden. The folks renting our cottage helped, and together we were able to prepare a very healthy-sized area.

There is going to be a lot of food coming out of this dark brown rectangle soon. Check out that soil! We are really happy with the quality, especially considering it has never been planted in before. And after we work some compost into it, it will be even better.

…Charlie much enjoyed all the roots we were digging up and tossing aside.

The smell of dirt, the wiggle of worms, the knock-knock-knock of woodpeckers in the trees, the scritchy-scratch of the chickens as they investigate the newly turned soil for bugs…these are the sights and sounds that we’re enjoying on Earth Day 2o11. I am so grateful to Mother Earth for providing us with everything we need to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives.