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Seed starting, third weekend of February

I got several things seeded this past weekend and wanted to make a quick note of them here for my records.

Potato tubers:  Good gravy, I can’t remember how many I planted now.  Maybe two dozen-ish?  Just a mix of small tubers planted in milk jugs so that I can pull sprouts.

TPS: Land Races, Suytu Vilquina, La Pan, 9 Dings, Yungay, Gold Thumbs, Tollocan Fiesta, Pokhipsie, and Kern Brot.  All of the preceeding were from Tom Wagner’s New World Seeds.  From Joseph, I planted Ella’s and Bountiful.  I’m very excited about Joseph’s TPS because they’re good fruiters.

Onion seeds:  Stuttgarter, Ailsa Craig, Juane Paille Des Vertus, Valencia, Australian Brown, Giant Zittau, Southport Red Globe, and Yelow of Parma.  Also Red Welsh.

Miscellaneous Greens:  Wild Garden Kale mix, Dinosaur Kale, Stem Lettuce, French Sorrel, Orach Aurora, Mache, Corn Salad, and Good King Henry.  GKH went outside in the wintersowing since it needs stratified.

I also planted 40 2″ blocks of Tango celery.

Did I tell you about my new soil blocker?  It’s so cool!  I don’t know how I lived without it this long.  Mega coolness.

Ah, yes, and an addendum to my 2012 Garden Plans:  I’ve ordered a half pound of mangel seeds for the far end of the garden.  They should do a good job of breaking up the horribly compacted ground on that side of the garden and provide food for the chickens (and goats?) through part of the winter.

The Making of Goop

I spent the weekend making various goos.  I started out with rosemary mint hair conditioner and toothpaste.  The conditioner recipe is found here and the toothpaste is just a combination of coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oils (peppermint, lemon, and orange).

I put the bulk of the toothpaste in a storage jar but put a small amount in a little container for daily use.  I hate, hate, hate regular toothpaste (don’t make me give you details or you’ll puke all over your keyboard) but am loving this homemade version!

Then I made some chapstick/lip balm.  I used this recipe and went with the lemon/orange/peppermint essential oils again.  It’s another hit and I’m pleased with it.

I wanted to make a hard lotion bar so started with this recipe and this one.  Then I remembered this one.  Now this is where I started getting a bit cocky.  I ended up using 75 grams beeswax, 250 grams cocoa butter, 100 grams shea butter, 75 grams avocado oil, 75 grams sweet almond oil, 10 capsules vitamin E (snip the capsules and squeeze the oil out), and some lemon & orange essential oils.  Having never made lotion bars before, I wasn’t completely sure if this would end up hard enough to be a bar, most especially in the heat of the summer.  Thinking about carrying gooey lotion bars around in my purse in July made me go the container route.  It turned out pretty hard and I think it would be good as a bar but not so sure it would hold up to that July heat terribly well.  I filled several small travel containers plus one big jar for keeping in the bathroom.  I love, love, love this stuff and will never, ever go back to storebought lotion.  I’ll tinker with ingredients, of course, to experiment but I am completely thrilled with this version.

(FYI:  The lotion wasn’t yet cooled & set up in the big jar below.)

For melting the wax and butters, I used a ramekin for the lip balm and a cleaned-out tomato juice can for the lotion with a rednecked double boiler.  They both worked well.

I got this beeswax from a local friend and am ga-ga over the smell.  I could sit & sniff this stuff all day long.  But grating/chopping it up for measuring/melting?  Not so much.  I tried a potato peeler.  No go.  I tried a chef’s knife.  No go — it worked but I was going to end up losing and eye and/or finger.  Finally, I settled on a cheap serrated knife.  It mostly worked but I had to work too hard at it.  I’ll have to think up the best way to do up our wax from our own harvest later this year.  I’ve gotta make it easier!

I wonder if the bees will try to eat me when I use the wax-containing goos this summer.

There’s gotta be a common theme here somewhere…

The excess roosters from this spring’s chicks were finally butchered late one recent evening.  After stuffing the skinned & gutted birds in a cooler for an overnight brine soak, we completely forgot about them.  Oops.  Today, we discovered that they’ve been frozen into one giant chicken ice cube ever since.  Lucky.  Now we’ll have to have one big chicken cooking day and put them in the freezer already cooked.  I’m cool with that.

Wintersowing finally began this past week.  In jugs are landrace tomatoes, cilantro, brown mustard seed, dill, orange star calendula, mystery aronia, Aunt Molly’s ground cherries, wildflowers, zinnias, marigolds, and chard.  Charlie also wintersowed several jugs for his garden.  There’s more to wintersow but I’d better get on it quick.  It’s almost March!

Steve got one of the raised beds (4′ x 40′) along the front walk built.  This one has sunchokes and a few mints in it from last year.  I’m not yet sure what its permanent use will be.  There will be another one between the sidewalk and the house when he gets to it.

Another bed going up, this one the first of six 4′ x 40′ in the front yard.  These will give each of the kids a garden bed of their own to do with as they wish.

So we did a quickie check on the bees a while back and concluded that the Carniolans were toast.  Then the $%@&@&$ snots decided to make fools out of us and come back to life right after we announced our conclusion to several folks.  Really, I just do not get these Carniolans.  Not that I get any bees but still…  Anyway, so I felt sorry for them being such a pitifully small cluster and yet impressed that they’d made it so far into winter.  I decided I’d make them a treat — some Bee Candy!  Only, like much of my cooking since moving here, things went wrong.  Terribly wrong.  Being a heartless SOB, I made the kids take it out and feed it to the bees anyway.  That’ll teach them for faking death

A couple of weeks ago, our homeschool group got a chance to hang with Hannibal’s mayor & city manager in the council chamber.  They even got to do a mock council — very cool!  That’s Charlie there to the mayor’s right and Duke & Isaac to the mayor’s left.  (The mayor is the fell in the center of the council seats.)

And just you wait until you see what I’ve been up to today!  Messes made & pics taken…

Happy 3rd, Josie!

Josie turned three years old today.  Wow.

She had a great birthday, filled with family, friends, food, and pink stuff.  Lots of pink stuff.

Beginning Beekeeping Class (Missouri & Illinois)

Below is a copy of the email I’m sending out to folks who have expressed an interest in beginning beekeeping over the past several months.  I’ve promised to send them info on the beekeeping class out once it was settled.  I thought it might be a good idea to post it here as well.  Feel free to give me a holler if you’d like further info and I’ll pass on the contact info for the class.  Leave a comment below, email, Facebook me, or send a smoke signal.

The Mississippi Valley Beekeeping Association is holding their annual beginning beekeeping class on Saturday, March 3, this year from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.  The cost is $30 but it is well worth it.  That fee gets you not only the class but a beekeeping basics book, a year’s membership in the MVBA, a year’s membership in the Illinois State Beekeeping Association, and a few other minor perks such as donuts & drinks during the class, door prizes, and coloring books for the kids.  $30 is not an individual price but covers your entire family so you can bring everyone.

Around that same time, the MVBA goes in on a group buy for packaged bees.  The packages come from a disease-free area in California and they’ve been great, healthy bees for everyone.  They offer two different breeds:  Carniolans and Minnesota Hygenics (an Italian strain).  The bees come in three-pound packages and include a queen.  I believe the cost will be $88 per package this year, payable when the bees are delivered to the Hannibal area at some point in April.

The class is what got us started in beekeeping last year.  The folks putting on the classes have been amazing mentors & friends to us over the past year.  You’ll not meet a better, more giving group of people ever.

(For those of you who stumble on the post from the wide & random world of the internet, this group is in Quincy, Illinois but has members from all over western Illinois and eastern Missouri.  Heck, we might even have  someone from southeastern Iowa, I think?  Or maybe I dreamed that part.  Don’t tell me I’m the only one who dreams stuff and then has trouble figuring out if it’s from the dream or reality!  Seriously, don’t tell me.  I’ve convinced myself I’m entirely normal & sane.)

2012 Garden Plans: The Rough Draft

This will just be a spewing of swirling ideas as they fall out of my mind.  I’m trying to make sense of the craziness in my head so I can begin seeding & layouts soon.  Here we go!

Random Thoughts:

I’m going heavy on the landraces from here on out, as you’ll notice.

I’m beginning to feel my way around cooler weather crops, such as the hardy greens.  I’m even experimenting with perennial greens a bit this year.

I wasn’t sure how Tomato Henge would end up, if I would be happy with it or not.  I was.  I was thrilled with it.  We were prepared (and still are) to put supports in midway each row but it wasn’t needed.  I thought maybe that nylon would have too much stretch but it was perfect.  I’m really, really pleased with it.  I do want to do something with the ends of the rows, maybe little mini-beds there with climbing somethings up the braces.  And it still needs painted.

Raised beds.  This is still a major work in progress.  We need to redo most of the main garden before we add the permanent raised beds so who knows when/how that will get done.  The raised beds in other areas, where there is grass between them such as for the herbs and perennial beds, are easy to do and will likely get completed in time.

We’re also making each of the kids their own raised beds… somewhere.  They may be in the front yard or they may be  in the back next to the perennial beds.  Need to get that decided.  A few of the kids will be selling produce out of them so it should be a good experience.  Each kid will have complete control of their bed as well as space in the main garden for huge things like watermelon.  I think each bed will be 4′ x 20′.

Since we’re getting goats this year, I need to take their chomping along the fencing under consideration.  I like to plant vining things & various perennials along fencing wherever it is but, obviously, that won’t work alongside the goat fences.  I think, in the end, we’ll end up with one big fence around the yard in which the goats, dogs, and chickens all roam.  That means whatever trees are within the fence will need protected from nibbling as well.

Speaking of fencing for all of this, we need to leave access to the house doors, the water meter in the front yard, the electric meter in the back yard, and room for a roadside veggie stand.  That all plays a part in the garden set up because of the aforementioned fence-planting issues.


I’m definitely planting a bazillion peas — but only Sugar Snap or Super Sugar Snap.  I also need to make a mental note to save seed from them this year since they are now a family favorite.


I’m going to start a landrace of beans this year.  Only those that work well as green beans — and freeze well — will end up in my final landrace selections.  I’ve only got a small selection this year but, now that I’ve decided upon my goal for these, I can begin collecting other varieties with that in mind.  For now, I will plant Cooper’s Running Snap (our favorite from last year’s grow-outs), Rattlesnake, Red Striped Greasy, and Olde Timey Long Cut.

Runner Beans:

I will plant Insuk’s Wang Kong Runner beans.  This is my first time playing with runner beans so we’ll see how we like them.


I’m going to start a landrace of these as well, beginning with a couple of old favorites of mine and adding in a new one.  Double Yield is the new one.  My favorites are Boston, National, and Homemade.  I believe I read somewhere that two of those are actually the same variety but it makes no difference to me.


Again, I want to start a landrace but, as of right now, only have one variety:  Monster of Viroflay.  I may not get around to finding more varieties until next year.


Another beginning landrace.  I saved seeds from a couple of mixed sections last year to which I’ll add seed from my entire stash this year.  I want a good mix of colors but only leaf lettuces.  I have no use for heading lettuces.

Swiss Chard:

I don’t know a whole lot about chard.  I’ve grown it.  I’ve eaten it.  But I don’t know about the various varieties.  Are the different colors the varieties or does it go beyond that?  Must read on it a bit.  In the meantime, I have a couple of packets I’ll toss out together.


Beginning landrace.  I have two separate varieties and one mix with which to begin.  I’m a complete novice to kale.

Miscellaneous Annual Greens:

Stem Lettuce is a new thing for me this year, as is Aurora Orach.  We’ll see how they do before I commit to them.  Same for Corn Salad/Mache.

Perennial Greens:

Good King Henry and French Sorrel are new to me this year.  They’ll each be getting some space in one of the perennial beds.


I’ve got quite a few perennial herbs already out there and will  have to see what has survived the winter.  It’s been a very mild winter so far so I’m not expecting losses.  For annual herbs, I’ll be planting a mix of dills, a humongous bed of cilantro, brown mustard seed, and Orange Star calendula.  Maybe hyssop, too.  Herbs, I never seem to commit to until the last minute.


Again, landraces.  My watermelon landrace is teeny-tiny but I’ll add to it each year.  Last year, I got started with Joseph’s (Most Diverse) landraces for both muskmelons and non-muskmelons and was hooked.  In the chaos that is our life, they were mixed so now it’s one big happy melon landrace and I’m cool with that.  I’ll be adding more to that as well this year.


I’m broadening my horizons in the miscellaneous department this year, too.  I’ll be growing out some mystery seeds from Ilene, maybe Aronia but who knows?  Just for fun, I have some Pink Banana and Orange Master Pomegranate I’ll be starting this year and overwintering inside.  Aunt Molly’s ground cherries were a huge hit last year so will be back.  Podding radishes will be making their first appearance in our garden this year.  I’m still not sure on broccoli, cabbage, tomatillos, and Brussel sprouts.  I tried some Wonderberry seed from Ilene last year but it didn’t do well, I’m sure due their poor location (and the fact that Steve ran into them with the skidsteer a couple of times early in the growing season).  I’m giving them a second chance this year in a better spot.


I’ve got a variety of OP bulbing onions I’m growing from seed this year.  (I have been buying onions from Dixondale but decided to switch things up this year and learn how to start them from seed.)  I also have seed for Red Welsh (perennial) bunching onions to add to the perennial onion bed with Ilene’s walking onions.


More landraces here.  I’ll be starting landraces of jalapeno types, NuMex types, and miscellaneous chiles, along with a landrace for sweet bells and a separate one for other sweets.


I already have a good start on a main crop landrace for tomatoes.  This was my main push for last year.  I’ll add more in this year and likely start one for cherries.  I do think I’ll keep Tess’ Landrace separate because I’d hate to lose that one in the mass.  It’s a different type of tomato and it outcrosses easily, if I remember correctly.  (I crammed too much info into my head over the winter and some things I used to know have been pushed right out.  I hate when that happens.)

Root Crops:

I’ve never been much of a root crop gal but I’m diving in deeper this year.  I’ll have a mix of carrots, plus try my hand at parsnips & rutabagas.  I’ve grown turnips before but only infrequently.  They’ll be back this year to break up some harder ground in the back corner of the main garden.  I’m still undecided on whether beets & radishes will be planted this year.


I’ve got some tubers that I’ll be pulling sprouts from since I liked that method so much last year.  As for TPS (true potato seed), I’ll be growing them again this year but, I think, I’ll do so in pots this time — or at least some way/place where I have a bit more control.


I saved seed from sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, hollyhocks (both mini and large), and a mix of other flowery things I’ve dubbed my “wildflower” mix.  I’ll pick up a few packs of each as I see them on the seed racks to add to the variety.  I’m am so very jealous of Ilene’s zinnia mix!  My aim is to get a gorgeous mix like hers when I’m done.

Other Perennials & Assorted Stuff:

Sunchokes are still in place along the front walk.  They did well but I need to come up with a place for their permanent home at some point this year.  The garlic is at home in its permanent bed in the back yard.  In the wheel beds in back, there are chives, garlic chives, wild onions, oregano, sage, asparagus, rhubarb (although, I have no confidence it has survived), and whatever else I’m not recalling at the moment.  The blackberries recently met with some good intentions that likely set them back quite a bit but, knowing how hardy blackberries are, I’m sure they’ll end up fine.  The raspberries did not do well so I’ll have to buy some replacements this year.  Most of the fruit trees did fine but a few died.  Those will be replaced for free by Stark’s so no worries there.  While at Stark’s later this spring getting those trees and rhubarb replaced, I’ll also get some strawberries for a permanent bed and maybe some grapes if we have a place set up for them by then.  The mints from Susan have, of course, done well.  My comfrey start from Susan thrived last year but I think I’ll end up moving it this year, from the front yard to the back.  Another gardening buddy gave me several divisions from yellow flag which I planted around the lagoon overflow.  I’m hoping they go nuts this year but I’d also like to put a couple more things in there so soak up the excess water.  It stays pretty soggy in that area so I’ll be on the lookout for water-sucking plants.


That’s the end for now.  I’ll have to do some refining, obviously, but I had to get some general thoughts down on “paper” to get me started.

They did it! (2012 Hannibal Polar Plunge)

The boys did a great job today!  Nary a one of ‘em chickened out.  Very cool stuff.

It’s past my bedtime now so I’ll give a full report when the news story comes out in a few days.  For now, I’ll leave you with two videos.  Steve manned the iPhone from one spot and I handled the camera from another.  Between the two of us, you get a complete picture.  Cody’s in the gray shirt & brown shorts, Isaac’s in the black, and Charlie’s in the white shirt & jeans.





Final Countdown to the Polar Plunge!

Wednesday…  Thursday…  Friday…  Saturday!

Thanks to all of our sponsors so far!  Aunt Rosie & Denny, Grandpa George, and Anonymous.  Ahem.  I know who you are but since you chose to sign it “anonymous”, I’ll keep the secret.

If you look at their team page here, http://somo.org/speedkin, you see they each have raised $70 for a team total of $210.  Not too shabby for a trio of kids, right?

Ah, but it gets even better.  Their 4-H club has agreed to donate their “brag box” money in the kids’ names!  How cool is that?  They’ll bring a check the day of the plunge so it won’t show up until after the final tally.

And that’s still not all.  Steve’s employer, Titan Wheel, has written out a big ol’ check in the kids’ names, also to be presented the day of the plunge.  I know it’s just a monetary drop in the hat to such a huge company but I’m mightily impressed all the same that they’d take the time to do such a thing.

As of right now, the kids have raised over $1000 for the Special Olympics.  *proud mommy moment*

Of course, there’s still time to donate if you’re so inclined.  Maybe some stragglers will push that total even higher by Saturday morning!

Hint, hint, hint…

Unicyling Uncles

I’ve been taken over by an alien from Planet SoccerMom.  Help!  January and February are completely insane, schedule-wise.  I’m still taking pics but I have no time to get them uploaded & posted lately.  So how about we take a little journey into the past?

In October of last year, my Grandma Stark died.  The four younger kids and I piled into the (fuel-efficient) little car and headed off to her memorial in southeastern Kansas.  It was the best memorial ever — we had a blast!  Isn’t that the way it should be?  I think so.  Lots of pics were taken (some of which I’ll get around to putting up after I have time to finish sorting through them) but I’m especially fond of the following ones.

Meet my Uncle David.

He’s a teacher and it shows.

My grandma was a teacher, too.  She had a voice that always seemed to me like velvet and, when she laughed, it was the sound of that velvet being juggled and tossed.  Corny, yeah, but that’s what I always thought.

My Uncle David, my dad, and my brother David all have her voice.

She had this way of talking, a teacher’s way, that could make you understand anything.

Again, the gene pool lottery blessed my Uncle David, my dad, and my brother David with that same way of talking.

I wish I had those gifts.

And, as if having one unicycling uncle is not enough, I have two!  This is my Uncle Mark, the preacher man.

I want my memorial to be exactly like Grandma’s — including my kids having two uncles riding unicycles there!  You hear that, David & John??

Polar Plunge Update!

Thanks to our donors so far!  I got an update in my email this morning.  I’ll post the interesting bits below.  (For those who stumble on this not having a clue, go here to read about it.)

Now here’s the really cool part:

As a team, they’re in the #2 spot and, as individuals, the boys are all tied in the 3rd spot.  Cool, huh?

I’ve printed the boys up sheets to hand out, explaining what they’re doing, so they can try to round up a few more sponsors now that the holidays are behind us.  Wish them luck!  (Or donate if there’s money burning a hole in your pocket.)

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