Plant Swapping


We had our annual Plant Swap here Saturday afternoon.  It’s a fun way to thin out your perennial beds, cull your seed starts and pick up some new starts of plants that you might not have.  Mostly it is an excuse to get together with some old friends and meet some new ones, catch up with what’s going on in the county and sit and tell lies.


I still can’t get over the feeling that this swap is a kin to shoplifting at the plant nursery.  There is just so much that folks bring out to trade.  We had a beautiful day blessed to us for the gathering.  The storms threatened, but never appeared.



The garden is waiting for much of what we started.  The greenhouse is holding our peppers and tomatoes until the soil warms a bit.  Maybe next week I will get to put them out.  We had a touch of frost yesterday morning, so there isn’t any big rush on my part to ruin what we’ve started by getting too anxious.

What’s Got Your Goat


We are trying something a little different.  Theresa has often talked about fiber goats.  I just don’t think she thought about getting this into them.  She thought more likely a retirement project than something for immediate consumption.

We took a little plunge into the unknown with this Angora buck, that I have started calling Little Richard.  He hadn’t been shorn in a long while, so the fleece was very matted and full of sticks, burrs, mud and a pocket of grain.  Luckily there was a goat under all that.  His skin condition was much better than I had assumed.

Our friend Livy gifted us another Angora doe with a cross bred kid in tow.  Thankfully we have Livy around to mentor us on our crash course in goat101.

I’ve got some new learning ahead of me here.  One note of interest to me;  the old saying about a pig tight fence does not apply to goats.

Pine Play


I finished laying the floor in our bedroom Sunday morning.  After I get this sanded and stained this week I will put a coat or two of satin poly on it and vacate the house for a day.   Moving into the bathroom next.

It will be nice to get our bedroom back in order before taking on the bathroom and closet.  Although I would prefer to stain and poly the entire area at one time I can’t stand having all the furniture and other crap piled up throughout the house.  We look like we’re living in a mild episode of Hoarders.


The car siding I’m using for flooring is a very soft pine.  It will dent and wear.  It will look like an old farmhouse floor, just like I want it to.  A very easy and forgiving product to use on a floor.  If there is a little bend to an individual board I can usually get it straightened out.  I’ve had some good teachers on some fairly easy tricks to pursuading a turn out of a stick.


Inside Out

I’ve spent the entire winter waiting and wanting to get out and shake the frost off. Garden, smokehouse and a new pavilion are all on the list of the projects I can’t wait to get started on.  We’ve spent countless hours in front of the wood stove planning, plotting and perusing through seed catalogs and graph paper plans of the garden.  That’s why we started on painting our bedroom, bath and closet, ripping up all the old carpet, laying a wood floor and replacing all the baseboard and the window/door trim now.  Now that the grip of winter is beginning to let loose, now that I can’t wait for the sun to peak over the tops of the trees,  my focus has turned inward.

It won’t take me long.  My wife is a genius!  She knows that I will bust a hump trying to get everything wrapped up so that I can go out and play.


I’ve been diving into the inter-web trying to glean as much information on soil remineralization as my walnut sized brain can handle.  For the most part I’ve agreed that amendment of soils with a soup of crushed glacial till or volcanic deposits makes a very sound argument.  Soils depleted over years of logging, then grazing with little or no return of any organic material would or should be drained of some of its essential mineral elements.  Trying to place a value on the importance of replenishing those depleted mineral elements is what I’m trying to evaluate.  How important is it to the quality and quantity of our produce. Are we missing out on something in the nutritional value of our veggies?  We’re not going hungry due to the lack of production from or garden,  We have good/bad years for some plantings and rarely have a complete failure that I could even begin to blame on soil fertility.  Most times our failures are due to a gate being left open, forgetting to water something during a prolonged dry spell or an invasion of deer, japanese beetles or whatever plague or extreme weather that may sweep through the area.

Our little garden patch started out with a wispy little layer of  what you might call topsoil covering a thick layer of clay on top of a cap of hardpan, intermingled with an abundant supply of field stone.  We’ve worked hard to build up organic material into the garden and remove the rocks.  I’ve been a composting nut!  I’ve gathered an enormous amount of manures, inedible hays, bags full of leaves and grass clippings from folks in town and I have occasionally been spotted loading brown paper yard refuse bags from my sisters neighbors in the burbs of St. Louis and  liberating them in my compost pile 100 miles to the southwest.


I try to collect as much compostable materials that I can. We have a compost bucket in the kitchen for all of our waste to return to the pile. We usually don’t keep any livestock year round with the exception of our laying hens and my daughters show pigs, so bedding material isn’t a steady addition to our pile.  When I do clean out the coop it does give a nice little “hot shot” to the pile.

What I’m trying to say is that I try to build our soil through a vigorous composting practice but I’m sure that there is something more that can be done to improve our patch.  I’m not a miserly spendthrift, but I don’t like throwing cash at a perceived problem in hopes of fixing things.  First off, I don’t feel our garden is in need of fixing.  Improving…Yes!

So my question that I’ve been pondering is the value of driving, purchasing, hauling and storing a crushed stone product.  Is this a folly of the foolish gardener or a worthwhile addition to a garden that feeds us.  Am I biting on a fad?



Seed Starts

Jumping the gun again!

Starting at the end of January with some of the flower seed makes perfect sense, but not tomato.  So guess how many freaking tomatoes I’ve started so far?  One would think that going into my 52nd year that I might be able to temper my enthusiasm and delay a seed starting orgy.  I will be able to repot and move everything to the greenhouse without too much of a battle to keep everything alive.  Winter is far from over.  We’ve had a pair of deep cold spells, but it has been relatively mild.  I’m sure we’ve still got a trip to the deep freeze, or two, before the pitchers and catchers report.


It’s still dark out as I’m drinking my coffee and anticipating a beautiful day here.  I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year.  The urge to get out and garden is setting in and the long list of projects that I would like to do grows longer.  We have spent evenings sitting in front of the wood stove planning, plotting and prioritizing our spring and summer wish lists.  Pleading our cases before each other on the importance, desire and probability of any given proposal.  Some win, some lose and some get tabled thereby adding to the long list that just keeps growing. All the seed catalogs are in and have been throughly worked over.  We’ve already made a run to a very cool seed company near Eldon, Missouri called Morgan County Seed, so most of our shopping has been completed.  There is still to come our trip to Baker Creek in May.  This years pilgrimage promises to be a very fun twist on an already enjoyable journey.  We will be hanging out with our friends Rob and Willie the potters, and Will and Melissa the blacksmiths.  They will have booths at this years big Spring Planting Festival the first weekend of May.  I’m not sure exactly how much help we will be, but we surely love spending time with them.  If you’ve never been, I do highly recommend a visit to both of these venues.  Come down to the planting festival and see if we can find each other.  They are quite different but very extensive in their offerings. So we’ve talked about what we HAVE to do…paint the house, replace the nasty carpet in our bedroom with a wood floor;  and what we want to do…my smokehouse, replace the high tunnel and build a new pavilion between our barn and the fire pit. Something is definitely going to lose!

Spring Bees

I took the bait and bit hard ordering two 3lbs. packages of bees for pick up in May.  Always wanted to get myself into beekeeping.  Guess I have accomplished that at least in financial commitment.


Giving thanks for the morning. Not so strangely, I do this every morning with a cup of coffee and a prayer of gratitude for another breath drawn, regardless of what any calendar may say. I especially feel gratitude this morning for a life so richly blessed.

We will have a small portion of our family with us this evening for a meal. A gathering that will have an over abundance of fine food served in a warm and dry home. Clean, sweet well water and an assortment of nice wines made by our friends from the other side of the river valley. A wood stove with the smells of oaks and hickory adding to the pleasant scents of spices and a big fat turkey slowly roasting in the oven. My parents, both still obstinately walking against the drag of time and gravity, will be here. Mom helping in the kitchen, Dad throwing uninvited comments at mom from a perch not far from the action. His face cracking a slight grin at the tumultuous response from her.

So it is a national day of Thanksgiving. A day so closely removed from a week of turmoil, vitriol and disbelief. A week that has had me looking inside as images and words of my corner of the world are seething. I choose not to hate. I choose to pray for those who are in pain, fear or ignorance. I choose to pray for peace and to work for peace in all those who I have contact with. I pray for an attitude that will allow me to grow as a human being. A long time ago I was told by a very wise old man wearing a pair of bib overalls and peering at me over the top of his thick glasses that I would have to choose a life; be it a palace or a pigsty. It was a matter of choice. It is ALWAYS a choice. That choice is a gift from God. Freewill to choose just how I will carry myself as I trudge a road of happy destiny. Not everyone sees their choice. They are sometimes blocked from the light of day. I am blocked at many times in my life. I do recall with crystal clarity the faintest pinhole of light that eventually guided me to choose the palace. It was nothing more than a narrow beam shining through a keyhole in utter darkness in my mind. It led to a door. It led to choice.

Choose to love.

Happy Thanksgiving

Got Them Hanging

It was a little trickier than I had imagined getting my loft doors hung yesterday.  My brother came out and helped me get the monsters up without killing each other or destroying the doors.  I screwed down three two by six to the loft floor hanging out like a ships gang plank.  The extra three feet of floor helped us wiggle and walk the doors out and lean them back towards the building so trolley could meet track.  It all seemed so easy when I was scheming up a plan.  In practice, the weight and awkwardness of the door size made the whole deal a little more tense than anticipated


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