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Archive for July, 2012

Maybe I should have and maybe I shouldn’t have. Planted those extra zucchini seeds, I mean. One never knows when it comes to gardening.  I like my zucchini small and succulent, not the zeppelin-sized squash that folks like to give away every summer.  Zucchini can morph from teenie-weenie to humongously huge in 24 hours or less. I swear that it can really happen.  Last year, I didn’t have quite as many zucchini as I wanted, so this year, I put in  a couple more plants.  OK, a few more. With a little extra space in the corner of the front garden, I slipped in a couple of extra seeds. While planting potatoes  in the back garden, I slipped in a couple more, just to be sure. I  staggered the planting times to extend the season of my favorite summer squash, which in northern Minnesota is way too short.  This summer, we have been blessed with lots of rain and warm temperatures which can create the perfect storm when it comes to zucchini.  Both the green and the yellow varieties started fruiting last week and so far I have picked many pounds and there’s no end in sight.  Although I love zucchini, I have a husband who is less than enthusiastic about it, no matter how it is prepared. I’ve tried sauteing it  with onions and garlic, topping it with grated parmesan cheese, but he won’t touch it. I’ve tried stuffing and baking it, and he won’t even take one bite.   I’ve tried marinating it in olive oil, spices, and lemon juice and grilling it and he won’t eat a morsel.  I’ve tried shredding it and hiding it in pasta sauces and……well, let’s keep the sauce part our little secret, shall we? He really likes my pasta sauce. If everyone else’s zucchini season is going as well as mine, we need to watch out for garden “gifts”.  If your doorbell rings and nobody is there, look down and watch your step, for there may be a  10 pound zucchini placed on your back steps.  If you leave your car doors unlocked while you run errands, you are likely to find several in your back seat.  I have heard of commuters in larger cities dressing their squash in baseball caps and sunglasses and zipping to work using the faster carpool lane.  I know you are probably wondering about the polka-dot watermelon by now, and how I was going to cleverly ease it into my zucchini story.  I am trying an heirloom variety of small watermelon called “Moon and Stars”. It really does have large and small polka-dots on both the leaves and the melons, hence the name.  I don’t have any melons yet, just lots of blooms. Too bad watermelon doesn’t  grow like zucchini around here, because I sure wouldn’t mind a few of them in my garden or left on my back steps. Despite the near-tropical conditions of our unusual summer, the best I can probably hope for is a bumper crop of zucchini and a lot of watermelon wishful thinking.

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The Author and I

 I have always loved summer reading.  To me, winter reading is the comfort food of the soul, but summer reading is the spice.  As a kid I would ride my bike to our small-town library and check out all the Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames books that I could find, and believe me, there were lots of them. I would pedal all the way home with my bike basket filled and couldn’t wait to open that first book.  I used to read them over and over, but don’t do that any more with the exception of one author.  I know I will make more than one person smile when I tell you that my favorite book is “The Egg and I” by Betty MacDonald. If you can get past a few stereotypical descriptions, which were unfortunately acceptable in those days, it is hilarious!  I read it at least once a year. I discovered this book on a shelf at our summer cabin and I started reading it as a teenager one rainy weekend when I ran out of my own reading material. It belonged to my mother and even has her maiden name pencilled inside the front cover and orange crayon marks drawn on some of the inside pages by a very bad little girl, and I am quite certain the culprit was my sister.  Betty is an educated, well-read woman who marries a man who decides to purchase a chicken farm and move to the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Northwest. This was before men included their wives in life-altering decisions such as purchasing 300 chickens and moving to a house with no indoor plumbing or electricity.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend adding it to your summer or winter reading list. Betty’s descriptions are fantastic and her characters so brilliantly portrayed that you know they were probably based on real people.  While you’re searching eBay or amazon.com, you might as well save on shipping and purchase another of Betty’s books, “Onions in the Stew”, which is about raising teenagers on Vashon Island in Washington. It was written in the early 50’s, but could have been written today, except for the fact that everyone, even the teenagers,  smoked all the time. After reading this, I was ready to move to Vashon Island even if it meant I had to take the ferry into work every day, as Betty did.  “The Plague and I” is about the year Betty spent in a TB sanatorium, and it is both funny and sad at the same time. It is a little harder to find than the others. Did you notice that I am on a first name basis with Betty? Sadly, we never met. She died at a fairly young age in 1958, two months before I was born. If I were to pick one person living or dead to have dinner with one evening, it would be Betty MacDonald. Why? Because she makes me smile every time I read one of her books, even if I am reading it for the umpteenth time.  I would like for the dinner to be at her house, though, the one on Vashon Island, not the one without indoor plumbing.  From reading the descriptions of her food, she was one fantastic cook.  I’m sure she would keep me laughing throughout the cocktail hour (Betty enjoyed lots of those) and dinner.  I think we would have had a lot in common, Betty and I, except for one thing:  Chickens.  Strangly enough, Betty hated the one thing that made her famous.

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As most of you know, I haven’t had the best luck with growing squash and pumpkins. Oh, I get a few and am thankful for those, but would love to have enough of a harvest to give some away.  Early this spring, I planted three varieties of pumpkin and four of winter squash, plus watermelon and a cantaloupe called Minnesota Midget.  I planted two or three little peat pots of each, and they did well. Because I like to plan and be well-organized, I carefully labelled each pot. This system worked well until late spring, when I set the pots outside for the plants to harden off before putting them in the ground and the rain washed away the labels. When it came time to put them in the garden, I decided the larger plants were the pumpkins and the smaller were the squash. I thought that I could figure out the melons without difficulty. I don’t know if it has been the rain, the warm humid weather, the chicken manure I fertilized them with, or a combination of all three, but they have taken off. Each and every one of the little buggers.  They are huge, and I can’t remember which one  I planted where, if I even knew that to begin with. So much for my organizational skills.  They are squeezing out my broccoli and choking my cabbage. My onions are fighting for space. Last week, I measured a vine that grew four feet in one day, and I think that another one pinched me on the behind while I was weeding on my hands and knees.   They have all grown together in one huge green mass, punctuated with dozens of bright yellow blossoms and more than four feet tall at the highest point.  I have no idea which blossom belongs to which plant, but so far the fruits all look like pumpkins to me.  All I know is that I try to keep them away from my beans and sunflowers, so I carefully move their vines and tendrils every evening and when I check the next day, they are back to where they were and longer than before. They are taking over everything. If they even attempt a tomato takeover, I will have to get out my machete.  Truthfully,  I don’t have a machete, but maybe I can borrow one somewhere.   There has been a lot of talk lately about the coming of the zombie apocalypse, but I think everyone is wrong. Zombies? I don’t think so. Pumpkins? Pumpkins are more believable. Sweet, country-sounding names like Baby Boo, Howden, and Amish Sugar Pie. Innocent-looking, viney, fast growing pumpkins that twist and  twine themselves around your ankles, pulling you closer and closer to the compost pile.  Scary, isn’t it?  I don’t want to cause any wide-spread panic in Talmoon, but watch out, because if they continue to grow at this rate, my Connecticut Field pumpkins will reach your borders by Halloween. Get your machetes ready.

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Top Searches

Any of us who surf the internet know that you can get some strange results by typing a few words into your search engine.  Try “googling” your own name, for example, and see what comes up. Googling my name will get you the website of a tall blonde stripper. It would make a really funny story if the “real” person behind the picture of the old Farm Woman WAS in fact a 33-year-old exotic dancer, but believe me, that is not the case. Honestly.  (Those of you who know me can stop laughing any time now!)  One of the really fun things about having your own website is that you can get all kinds of statistics.  Some of them are rather important, such as the daily number of page views.  Some are rather interesting, such as how many followers you have, which countries they are from, and even which language they speak. My favorite statistic of all is the top searches information, or what words people typed into their search engine to find The Minnesota Farm Woman, or maybe they found The Minnesota Farm Woman by mistake while searching for something else.  A good example of this one would be the person who typed the words “in my furnace the flame sputters and clicks” and got me. I’m sure they were very disappointed to learn that I can hardly start a fire even if I’m freezing my toenails off, but that has little to do with furnaces.  There are plenty of gardening searches such as “why is my pumpkin warty?” or “Connecticut field pumpkins fed to hogs” that brought them to my web site, but I wonder why the internet would direct a person  who was looking for “stealing plants from nursery” to me?  I have never stolen a plant in my entire life unless you count the kohlrabi we kids used to swipe out of my dad’s garden and peel with our pocketknives. I think that technically wasn’t considered stealing since he KNEW we were taking them and it was a tricky way to get us to eat more vegetables.  There are lots of searches for my mom’s Never Fail Chocolate Cake recipe (let’s hope the 100+ people found the recipe with the right amount of flour) and plenty of searches for rutabagas, rutabeggies, rooterbeggers, and rutabaga fritters. How about tomatoes? They are my favorite vegetable to grow, and I write about them a lot, but why would searches for “tomatoes 2011 mn why so bad”, “tomatoes making me sick” and “cherry tomatoes make me throw up” get directed to my web site? One little difficult pregnancy story, and I become the internet go-to-girl on nausea. It is refreshing to know there are others like me, such as “haven’t balanced checkbook in years”, and those that must have read at least one post and want to find the blog again who are searching for “rooster sitting on eggs”, and “sweet dreams Minnesota”. Oh, and I’ve seen Minnesota spelled at least seven different ways.  There are a few strange searches, though, and they leave me scratching my head.  Someone searched for “pictures of wolves at front door on cold winter nights” and got The Minnesota Farm Woman. Someone typed in “farm women getin’ dirty” and got The Minnesota Farm Woman. I’m not even going to mention the underwear in Minnesota search. This week, though, was the strangest of all. Someone did a search  for “hairy farmwomen”.  I guess I must have been the hairiest Farm Woman the world-wide web could find.

http://www.themnfarmwoman.com

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All My Chickens

Let me introduce myself:  My name is Tattletale. I am a  golden Buff Orpington chicken, and the one who calls herself a Farm Woman gave me that name because I always have my feathers ruffled and I run squawking to her every time something goes wrong in the coop. The other chickens don’t like me very much, so I keep to myself when I’m not following her around.  You would think there is not a lot of drama way out here in the country, but I tell you, it can be like a soap opera.  First of all, five new young women have joined our flock. These young chicks think they are “all that”, too, with their cute little clucks and pretty feathers on their tails.   I try to keep to my own business, but lately I’ve noticed that old Baldy the rooster has been checking them out. He hovers around, fluffing his feathers. He gets upset and won’t come into the coop at sundown unless they are all safely in.  Mark my words, he is thinking about sharing their roost, if you know what I mean.  He is probably old enough to be their grandfather, too.  Speaking of roosters, Big Boy has two wives. All the girls are cackling about it.  He has been seen finding bugs and worms for the two redheaded divas, June Carter Cash and Maybelle Carter. That Farm Woman thinks she has to have all these cutie-pie names for all the chicks around here. I don’t know how I ended up with a name like Tattletale because  I just hang around here scratching the ground, looking for bugs, and minding my own business.  Anyhow, back to Big Boy. Now, keep this just between us, but he’ll be stepping out on those two before long, and I know that for sure.  That guy sure has an eye for the ladies. The biggest drama in the coop in the last couple of weeks is that Old Mum has finally gone broody. She’s old enough to be a grandmother, but she has decided to be a surrogate and is sitting on eight eggs in a nest about four feet off the ground. Now mind you, I wouldn’t dare say a word, but who does Grandma think she is, Octomom? The Farm Woman, who thinks she knows more than Mother Nature herself, tried to move the nest closer to the ground, but you should have heard all the fuss. Old Mum clucked and moaned and made such a ruckus that after an hour, the Farm  Woman moved the nest back to where it was. She checks on it so much you would think she had laid those eggs herself.  Now you know and I know that despite her name, she is no more a Farm Woman than Hillary Clinton.  She came from a city. She can’t grow rhubarb. She let the rain wash all the labels off her plants so doesn’t know if she planted a pumpkin or a watermelon or one of the four varieties of squash she decided to try this year.  Her farm dog is a Chihuahua that looks more like a weasel to me, and I don’t like weasels much at all.  While REAL farm women are busy with the haying or pulling weeds or baking bread, she fills the jacuzzi tub, pours a glass of wine, and we don’t see her for a long, long time. Not that I’m saying anything, mind you.  I just hang around here scratching the ground, looking for bugs, and minding my own business.

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