I have fond memories of my husband’s grandparents. They lived on a farm in southeast Kansas. That farm was set back from the main road almost a quarter of a mile and, because it was located on a hill, the front porch was a high tower vantage point. From the front porch you could see any visitors as they approached the house, you could look over the fields and speculate crop yield, you could see the barn and the corral, the grain storage bins, and the garden.
One of the permanent fixtures for seating was an old green glider. You may have similar memories of sitting and just barely rocking back and forth, gliding your way through a summer evening or a cup of coffee in the morning. I can still see family members there chatting about everything and nothing.
Not long ago I started looking for a glider for the front porch of our farm. There are a number of options for obtaining a glider. There are reproductions that are new for a reasonable price. There are restored old gliders available for a price generally two to three times the cost of a reproduction, and there are older gliders that need to be restored. After looking for about a year at websites, auction sites and some antique dealers, I decided to restore an old glider.
If you are fortunate to know someone who “knows” antiques, or have a contact that you trust, it is a good place to start. I am fortunate to have a sister and brother-in-law who are very well versed in antiques and used items. My sister located a glider from a reputable antique dealer in her area. Road trip!
If you decide to restore an old glider, start by looking at the overall condition of the piece. Are there any dents? Does the glider mechanism function properly? Look for rusted out places on the glider on all the sides that show and underneath. Review your options for restoration. A dealer might sand-blast, powder coat and repaint. Are you willing to pay for a professional to restore your piece or do you have the time, tools, and willingness to do the restoration?
I chose to do the restoration with the help of my sister. It was a great project that we could do in my short visit, and we had time for visiting in between the steps of the process. We got some help and loaded the glider in my truck and hauled it to her house. We found a perfect place in the side yard and laid down a tarp to minimize dust and paint on the lawn.
The first step was to clean, sand, and prepare the glider for paint. For me, this meant a wire brush and steel wool. I spent the better part of five hours brushing and sanding. I worked my way systematically over the piece. I used the wire brush first, then sanded for a while, then checked the smoothness of the finish, and repeated the process. I would recommend wearing a mask during this process because it is possible that these old paints could be lead based and it is not wise to inhale the dust. Working by hand, it was impossible to remove all the old paint. The glider had been tractor green, sky blue, canary yellow, and most recently a faded dull red. It was surprising to me that there wasn’t a full coat of any color on the underneath side. When I was satisfied with the sanding I dusted off the piece by hand, but if you have an air gun it would be easy to dust off the glider with air pressure.
We set the glider in the garage overnight. I did not want it to accumulate any moisture from the next morning’s dew. It was a beautiful fall Saturday and so while we waited for the dew to dry we took a side trip to the farmers' market and the hardware store. We did an estimate of the paint needed and only had to make one trip back for more paint. I had some difficulty deciding what color to paint the glider – our farm is Green’s Organic Farm and Apiary so naturally I did consider “tractor green,” but I like red and that color eventually won! We chose a “barn red” and used a tan to offset the design in the center of each seat on the glider. I have to thank my sister’s creativeness for the tan offset idea. It entailed a bit more work in taping and painting, but the result is striking!
The paint process was straightforward. We set the glider upside down on the plastic to paint the underside first.
One person sprayed the paint and one person held up another plastic tarp to prevent overspray on the lawn or the driveway. The wind that day was a bit blustery. We allowed each coat of paint to dry thoroughly before adding another coat. After painting the underneath side we flipped the glider over and painted the top side with two coats. You can see from the pictures that the tape and cardboard work on the center took some effort but allowed us to paint the tan portion without disturbing the red coat that was painted first. The reveal was great fun. We had to be gentle as we pulled away the paper and tape to see the finished product.
I loaded the glider in my truck and it made the 5 hour trip from Missouri to Kansas just fine and that restored glider is now at home on my front porch.
It is already one of my favorite seats on the porch and will be a part of the backdrop of future gatherings with views of the apple orchard, the barn, the West pasture, and the Zinnias that Dad plants each year.
Dad planted our front yard to an orchard in 1971. I remember the year well because it was one year after I was married in that same front yard. The siblings were all a bit disappointed to lose the football field. There are about 100 fruit trees out there and, although there have been minor changes, I have the original "graph paper" map that my mom created to track the location and type of each tree. This year I am getting an up-close and personal introduction to each of the apple types and their general preferred use.
Apple production depends on many factors including age of the tree, health, pruning habits, water, sun, soil nutrients and pollination. We are working with trees that have some age and have not been pruned for some years. I will talk about this more in an upcoming blog about pruning and bringing an older orchard back into production. Due to the drier year, the apples are smaller and many apples are dropping. Hence we are juicing earlier than normal.
Here at Green’s Organic Farm and Apiary, my dad has been juicing (pressing) apples for years. The apple press that he uses is one that was built in the late 1920s from the information on the press. Dad is about the same age as the press. It was originally a hand crank machine, and Dad later added a motor to help with the crushing of the apples. The press is a two-step process. The apples are washed and then loaded at the top of the press and feed into a grinder. The chopped apples are collected below in a container and, when there is sufficient amount, they are moved from the collection container to the wooden stave style barrel that is ringed with metal.
The press is turned by hand until it becomes too difficult to turn, and then we use a lever or a cheater as we would call it. As you turn the press the juice begins to flow. It is interesting just how much juice is in an apple and, yes, it does vary based on the type of apple. We filter the juice and put into containers of varying shapes and sizes.
Dad likes to use a variety of apples for juicing as it rounds out the flavor. The press that we did today included Early Blaze, McIntosh, Wolf River, Ozark Gold, and a few Crab apples. My brother and his wife came down to help, and we did about 31 gallons of juice. There were customers, neighbors and friends. Many are regulars buying produce, honey and juice. It is my hope that we will make this an annual event.
When I was a kid, we made the most of May Day. We would take a waxed Dixie cup, add a pipe cleaner as a handle, and then fill it with lilacs and spirea blossoms. These May baskets would be delivered to grandmothers and the babysitter. It was great to ring the doorbell and run! When the lilacs bloom it is a signal to spring. I like to just bury my face in the branches and drink in that lilac smell. They are such a hardy bush with flowers of such a delicate odor. Just taking in the smell is like “time travel” back to that childhood memory of May Day and May baskets.
According to Wikipedia, “The common lilac or Syringa vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the olive family Oleaceae, native to the Balkan Peninsula, where it grows on rocky hills.” They are completely domesticated in the U.S., and it was chosen to be the state flower for New Hampshire in 1919. The website statesymbolsusa.org indicates, “It was chosen to represent the hardiness of the men and women of the Granite state.”
According to HGTV.com, “There are thousands of varieties that come in white, blue, pink and lavender. There are even selections that feature purple flowers with a white rim.” I must confess that the purple blooms that surround our outdoor cooking area are my favorite. They have been there for years – I am guessing at least 60. The older varieties need a cool dormant period. Here in the Midwest this is not a problem, but I spent 25 years in California and a gardener friend of mine put ice at the base of her lilac bushes for a period of time to induce that change of climate. As I travel back and forth between Kansas and Minnesota, I have the pleasure of enjoying both blooming seasons. When I am north, we are approximately three weeks behind southern bloom season. So I get to repeat the pleasure again.
The asparagus is producing well. One of Dad's favorites is Creamed Asparagus so we had a batch last night. I think it is one of those vegetables that should be enjoyed in the moment. I have never found a way to preserve asparagus that met my expectations. When it's producing I eat it raw, steamed, roasted and creamed.
The Strawberries are blooming and setting on. Some of the green ones are the size of your thumb. Dad likes the June bearing berries. It won't be long until we are enjoying Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp. My husband's Granny Odetta made an amazing Strawberry Rhubarb pie.
I walked around the garden today and noted the things Dad has been planting. The potatoes did not go in on St. Patrick's Day this year. It was frigid! Dad looks at the almanac and the signs of the moon, but he says the best time to plant is ..."When the sign is in the hoe handle." Another way of saying this is "make hay while the sun shines."
The potatoes are in – Pontiac, Kennebec, Purple Viking and Deserie. The sweet corn (10 rows) is up about 2 inches along with peas, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, beets, and 200 tomato plants. Dad will be 87 this July. He enjoys gardening – both the physical and the social aspects. People come from the surrounding communities for his tomatoes, corn, green beans, etc. The market comes to the farmer in this respect.
There are two mantle clocks in my family, one from the Honeyman side and one from the Powers side. The Honeyman clock came to me from my mom, and I remember it setting on the mantel of Grandmother Honeyman’s apartment that she shared, late in life, with her brother Judge Fuller. The clock belonged to the judge. It is an Ingraham Mantel Clock that was built in 1928. Elias Ingraham was known for his clock case designs and did have a number of patents. The company survived until the 1960s but discontinued the mantle clocks during World War II.
My mom also passed to me a “Cockoo” clock that traveled home to Kansas with her brother, Bob Honeyman, who was in Germany during World War II.
The mantle clock traveled the world with me for the last 40 years, from Kansas to California, and then four years ago, to Minnesota. Despite all these moves, it has been mostly reliable. I can remember trying to make sure that it is level and wind it but not too tightly. My mom had passed on that basic information, but I must admit that was the extent of my clock knowledge. I love to hear it in the background as I go about my daily routine. It is in my home office and keeps me in tune with time in a general sense. The sound of the chime is described as Bim Bam and sounds only at the half hour and hour. I have always loved chiming clocks. They remind me of spending time at Grandma Honeyman’s.
I acquired the second Bim Bam clock about one year ago. It is a clock that used to sit on my husband’s Grandmother Odetta’s buffet. I first remember it when we were dating back in the late 60s. When Odetta passed, it went to my husband’s Aunt Ruth in Missouri and when she passed it came to me. This second clock was in several pieces but I was blessed to receive both the clock and the buffet that had been Odetta’s. This second clock is a Gilbert mantel clock built in 1927.
Mantel clocks were first made in the mid-1700s in France with the English following close behind. At this time, the hearth was the hub of the house where everyone gathered to keep warm. The clocks were designed to bring interest and grace to the mantel.
According to ehow.com, “Mantel clocks were first made of copper or tin and then wood. They were later made of porcelain, glass or marble. All were handmade and expensive. ... Basic mantel clocks are designed in a 'tambour' structure. These clocks have a round clock face housed inside a wooden drum. The structure is supported by a wide base often constructed from wood or leather. Variations on the tambour design include 'beehive' mantel clocks, which have an elongated head shape and arched-top mantel clocks, which have a more pointed, arch-like finish than tambour clocks.”
When I got Odetta’s clock, I thought that it might be time to service the Ingram clock and also put the Gilbert clock back together.
I was fortunate to find an excellent clock person in St. Peter, Minnesota. He did a complete overhaul on both clocks and also imparted general information about the clocks and how to care for them. I learned more about winding them correctly. He said that if I pick two days each week to wind I will be less likely to forget, and if I travel, stop the clocks rather than letting them run down and stop. He indicated that they should come in for general maintenance and to be oiled in seven years.
I have been thinking of passing the Bim Bam clocks on to my daughters. History is meant to be a living thing. As their children grow up, they will hear the gentle chimes that have been heard by our families for several generations.
It is interesting how time becomes warped as winter just goes on and on .... It is amazing to enjoy the first warmer days of spring. Everything is waking up.
One of the projects I have been working on is reclaiming the greenhouse. Pat and I built this greenhouse for Dad about 10 years ago. It is a lean-to that is attached to the east side of the honey house. It is one of my favorite places. There are always ways to improve buildings, and I would change a few things next time around, but it is amazing what you can do in a relatively small place. There are some great tables on both sides and some storage for seeds and areas under the back tables for mixing/storing planting soil.
I am a “first things first” kind of gal so I spent about two days cleaning, sorting, and organizing the supplies, tools, pots, etc. I was talking with Dad about all the odds and ends of seeds so he gave me another project – sorting all the seeds that he has in various places. Dad has been a seed saver for many years. We will have to do some experiments with germination rates to test some of the older seed, but it is exciting to have the opportunity to grow some of these seeds that Dad has saved. One glass bottle had seed that said – Andrea, tomato, good! Andrea is my youngest sister, and they were tomato seeds brought back from her time in the Peace Corps. Amazing!
Dad got started on burning the pastures earlier this week, and my brother Dan and his son finished up this weekend. We are re-seeding part of the east pasture with Crimson (Red) clover – this will improve the pasture for grazing and also improve the hay crop. My husband, Pat, planted 200 pounds on six acres of the east pasture. The red clover is not a great source of nectar for the bees although Dad says they will work it in hot weather. According to Dad, the nectar spouts are smaller on the red clover than those on white or yellow clover. We also planted 40 pounds mixed of Alsike (pinkish-white) and Yellow sweet clover on a small area in front of the beehives. Dad said, “Now if we get some rain and this grows knee high and blooms like crazy, it will be great for the bees.” According to beesource.com, “Alsike clover or Swedish clover is one of the very best honey plants in America.”
“Some beekeepers have estimated that Alsike will produce 500 pounds of honey per acre in a good season.” – American Bee Journal, 1886. Yellow sweet clover is also reported to be a major source of pollen and nectar. Again, according to beesource.com, “The yellow variety blooms about two weeks earlier that the white and where both are present a long honey flow may be expected.”
Dad gave me a spot for “wild flowers” this year. While sorting seed, I came up with a good amount of flower seed and suggested that we mix it all together and see what came up. Dad said, “Well, it won’t bloom in the package.” There is everything from a butterfly mix, sunflowers, petunias, cosmos, red milkweed, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, coreopsis, bee’s friend, African daisy, bachelor buttons, zinnia, marigold, butterfly weed, lupine, and California poppy seed. I cannot wait to see what comes up.
Dad has the potatoes in. We planted the old standbys – Kennebec and Pontiac and also some purple potatoes (Purple Viking) and some red potatoes (Desiree) from Seed Savers. Dad and I are a blending of old and new, but also old and old, and new and new ... I learn so much from him and I introduce some ideas and he shares his knowledge in a casual way but also says, “There is more than one way to do this…” We are a pretty good team. I do always defer to him; after all he has been gardening and stewarding this acreage for more than 50 years. He gave up “tilling” about 15 years ago.
His style of gardening was made popular by Ruth Stout. MOTHER EARTH NEWS published an article by Ruth Stout in its February/March 2004 issue. Ruth Stout’s System for Gardening – known as the “Mulch Queen” – her method of gardening was no-till: “My 'no-work' gardening method is simply to keep a thick mulch of vegetable matter that rots on both my vegetable and flower garden all year round. As it decays and enriches that soil, I add more. The labor-saving part of my system is that I never plow, spade, cultivate, weed, water or spray.”
Dad says, “This is not 'no work' but it is 'no-till'.” He spends hours covering the ground with hay. If weeds or grass come up somewhere he just puts down more hay. He does pull back the hay to plant and once the seed have sprouted and are about 2-inches tall, he brings the hay back up around the row of plants. No weeding whatsoever! He does water the garden, as needed, from the pond. Generally, he will plant 150 to 200 tomato plants, and people will come from areas around for his organic produce.
I will update you all soon. Thanks for shooting the breeze!
As I write this post, the wind is howling and the wind chill is below zero. We have a barn full of does and kids that are doing their very best to cuddle up and stay warm. Two days ago I was in shirt sleeves and hauling horse manure around to fertilize all the flowerbeds, roses and jonquils that are bursting through the soil. March is coming in like a lion and if that old saying is correct, it will go out like a lamb.
It is time to start your tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds! I am working on it. I have three trays in the south window of the living room. They have been planted for about five days, and I am watching for those first sprouts to appear. I have made several seed orders and would have planted lettuce and spinach today if it had not been sub-zero! You know that is OK, because in about four days it will be in the 50s and 60s, and I will plant them then.
We have been talking about our list of things to accomplish as the weather continues to improve. We are going to re-seed the pastures this year. Our pastures feed the horses, cattle and goats and also our honey bees. We will plant crimson, white and yellow clover along with a grass mixture in the pastures and Dutch clover in the orchard.
We will also start some new hives of bees as we continue to re-build the bee hive population. We are looking forward to working with the bees and enjoying the honey.
Dad has more than 100 fruit trees in the front yard, and they are in need of pruning.
Yes, it is time for spring! I have memorized the seed catalogues, read tons of books, and filled the wood stove more times than I can count. So now ... spring!
Enjoy and thanks for shooting the breeze!
The days and nights are busy. Cleaning stalls, re-bedding stalls, making sure “kids” have indeed nursed, feeding any orphans by bottle, serving a cocktail to the does after they deliver and smiling at the antics of these cute little animals. Kidding season has begun here at Green Spot Farm.
Dad has a herd of dairy goats. They are a mixed herd with registered, grade, and non-registered goats. They are primarily Nubian but we do have some LaMancha and Alpine in the group. We have 23 does that were bred and to date we have nine babies. Whether it is the breeding schedule or the does individual cycles, they seem to deliver in waves. We have had five does deliver thus far and are waiting for the next wave. Based on the signs we will be busy again very soon.
I generally spend a week or two per month here at the farm but this is the first year that I have just parked at the farm and helped 24/7 through this process. I am learning from Dad and it is a great experience. He is a wealth of knowledge and at 86 has practiced animal husbandry for many years. As the time for the delivery approaches there is a balance between waiting and assisting. Ninety-nine times out of 100, nature takes its course and the doe manages just fine. Occasionally, they need some assistance.
For anyone who is beginning with goats and going through the first “kidding” season I would suggest reading Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats by Jerry Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen. One tip that I found very helpful was the suggestion to offer the does a drink of molasses in warm water after the delivery process is complete. I have found that the does love this cocktail and suck it down like it is the best thing they have ever tasted. I am guessing that it is the sweet taste but also high in iron and calcium.
We have birthing stalls that are divided so that we can house the new moms individually and also stalls that are not divided that can house more does. Once the mom and baby have bonded and know who is who, we move them from the individual birth stall to the bigger group stall. It is a process of moving through the stalls/spaces so that we have birthing stalls available as the does need them. We had some sunshine the other day and so everyone in the group stall had the opportunity to go out for some sun and a chance to kick up their heels before going back into the group stall for the nighttime. It is interesting that the moms have a system where they share kid care. They have a messaging system where one stays with the kids and the others go out and about. The next day a different mom will stay with the kids and the others go out. I am not sure how they know whose turn it is but they do work it out.
This year the weather has been very erratic. We have had periods of zero and below weather and then some days of above normal temperatures. The extreme cold is hard on the does and on the babies. It seems as the temperature drops, does have kids. When this happens it is crucial to ensure that the kids are dried off and nurse as soon as possible. We have a hair dryer and rags available to help with the process, and we watch the does for signs that they are beginning the process. Generally you will have a good idea if you watch for the signs that the doe will give. We have a supply of big cardboard boxes and extra old towels. If it is extremely cold, we will bring the kids in the house to warm them up or to stay overnight as needed. We heat with wood, and they seem to love being in front of the wood stove. If the babies are in the house or away from their mothers for too long, there can be issues with bonding. Sometimes we have to make the choice between leaving them with Mom and creating a bottle baby. I would rather take on more bottle babies than to have them become chilled or freeze.
There are other reasons that you might end up with bottle babies. We have three kids that are on the bottle now. They were acquired from a neighbor who had a doe die birthing triplets. She was able to save two of the kids but she did not have milk frozen so that she could bottle feed the little ones. She called and we adopted them. The other bottle baby was also a triplet and the doe didn’t have enough milk to feed three babies. It is always best to have a supply of frozen goat milk. These little guys are constantly hungry but we have them on a schedule. In the beginning you do have to do nighttime feedings but as they get established you can feed several times during the day and skip the night.
It is amusing that they regard the person who feeds them as Mom and all you have to do is call and they come running. Last week we had several good days and we let the does out to graze. I took my three bottle babies along, and they frolicked and tried nibbling grass along with the other kids.
We have had a lot of success and some losses this year. This is true each year but the cold weather has been a significant factor this year. Most of our does were field bred and, based on the five-month gestation, have delivered in January and February. We have talked about using a selective process for next year. If you want to be first to market in the spring, then January and February birthing is fine. If, however, you have a winter like this one, you may want mid-March or April births. There are pros and cons both ways.
For the many years we have owned a registered Nubian buck that has produced very colorful kids of superior quality. He also has the distinction of fathering mostly twins, triplets and quads. He was a quad himself, which may have something to do with that fact. This was his last year as herd buck, and we have acquired a new registered kid that will hopefully grow into his own reputation. The new buck kid has champion blood lines and also milk production levels.
Some time has passed since I started writing this post. We now have 32 babies and have four does yet to freshen. We are a full working farm and enjoy the milk, cheese and meat provided by the herd. I have included some pictures of the does and kids from the 2014 kidding season.
Enjoy and thanks for shooting the breeze with me!