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Blog: My Little Farm in Town

Living a rich country life in a small Midwestern town.

Showing 6 posts from August 2010 for this blog.
Another Week of Construction
Monday, August 30, 2010

It is hot and dry and DUSTY on this Little Farm in Town.  Another typical August week in Wisconsin has begun, normal in every respect except . . . there is no curb, gutter, sidewalk, or street in front of our rancho.

I tried to catch it all in pictures! You will note that the flowers are still blooming and my zucchini is doing pretty well. I just have to be sure to rinse all the herbs and produce from the front yard before I cook them. Meals are a bit gritty otherwise. Begonia


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Make Your Own: Pesto!
Sunday, August 29, 2010

A friend of mine from up the block has a bumper crop of basil and has been sharing with me. (You pinch the tips of basil plants to encourage branching (and more tips!) and to hold off blossoming.)

Basil is like time—it waits for no one. If you accept a gift of basil, you have to use it or preserve it right away. The question is: What do you do with a paper shopping bag of basil?

You make pesto! Here’s the recipe that I use. It makes about 1½ cups.


  • 5 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (or nut of your choice)
  • 4 cups basil leaves (packed))
  • Salt (pinch or to taste)
  • ½ cup fresh grated parmesan (don’t use the powdery stuff—it’s too salty)
  • Up to ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Puree in a food processor until all ingredients combine into a coarse paste. You may need to add more oil to get this consistency.

Pesto freezes well and keeps for a long time in my deep freeze (0°F). I pack mine into quart freezer bags and freeze flat. When I need pesto,  I just peel back the bag, snap a piece off, and return the rest to the freezer. 

I use pesto in many ways: mixed with cream cheese as a spread, on pizza crusts in place of red sauce, in spaghetti sauce added in the last few minutes of cooking, and stirred into hot and cold pasta.

If you are fortunate enough to be offered a lot of basil, don’t say no—make pesto! Begonia


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Requiem for my Lucy
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I lost Lucy yesterday. She died of an inflammation/bacterial infection of her oviduct called Salpingitis. It was caused by the same bacterial infection (“cold”) that I managed to nurse her through this spring. (See my Sick Chick, May 22, 2010 blog.) This time antibiotics didn’t work—I guess they just don’t most of the time with this sickness.  It is the most common cause of death in layers. 

I’m grateful that I live in an area of Wisconsin with a high concentration of people keeping small flocks of pet chickens. The large animal vet I was referred to was sympathetic and helpful but also realistic and truthful with me. We nursed her to the end just as you would your dog or cat. We buried her this morning shortly after sunrise. She was a good hen. I will miss her greeting me each morning and being my gardening buddy.  Begonia


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Buying Bulk: Whole Pork Loin
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whole pork loin was on sale at the local grocery store recently for less than the sale price of chicken breasts. I paid $1.79 per pound. I always try to get my meat for less than a couple of dollars a pound (and often far less as when I buy turkey and ham near the Easter and Christmas holidays). Usually red meat costs more—so we eat less red meat and wait for really good sales. I really hated it when the inexpensive “tough” beef cuts became fashionable. Now I can’t afford to buy flank and skirt steaks unless I’m bulk buying a split half of an entire animal!

Don’t be intimidated by a big slab o’ meat. A whole pork loin is one of the easiest to handle:

  1. Clean your sink and get out your trusty kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Usually, whole loins come in a plastic bag, so just put the whole loin in the sink, snip the bag, drain the juices into the sink, and dispose of the bag after noting the total weight of the loin.
  2. Transfer loin to a cutting board and get out a big, sharp knife.
  3. Trim most of the fat from the loin. There usually isn’t much.
  4. Cut the loin in half and then cut the roasts, remembering the total weight. You should be able to get 3 or 4 two-pound roasts out of the average loin plus a pound or two of stir fry meat from the thinner, fattier end.
  5. Wrap the meat in freezer paper with the waxed side in, or use freezer bags or the empty inner bags in which breakfast cereal is packaged. Seal with masking or freezer tape.
  6. Label and date each package and freeze right away.

I leave the roasts whole. It gives me more leeway in how I will use the meat later. A roast may ultimately become chops or fajita, stew, chili, or stir fry meat. I do, however, cut up the end of the loin because the meat is laced with fat, but there is still a lot of good meat there. I  usually package this part of the loin as already-cut-up stir fry meat.

Be sure to take advantage of the next good deal on “the other white meat.” Begonia


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Street Construction: A Day without Water
Sunday, August 08, 2010

The chickens have had a hard week. It has been blisteringly hot and dankly humid. (The heat index today was 98°F.) The work on the street in front of our house is intensifying. The back hoe made terrible screeching noises that hurt their little ear holes, so the girls did a lot of squawky complaining. (Fortunately, no one noticed over the commotion on the street and the heat and diesel fumes that made all my neighbors close their windows and turn on the air conditioning!) It was an extremely stormy day today. (There were tornadoes all around us.) The dump truck loads of sand they dropped in the street are drifting downhill like blowing snow.

I haven’t been trapped in my driveway yet, but it is still early days. At some point, we are told that we will have to park our cars on side streets and walk in and out. I can hardly wait.

Yesterday, they turned the water off for most of the day.  It takes a situation like this to really appreciate the simple, basic things we take for granted like clean running water and flush toilets. It was a good thing that I had picked up those 7-gallon blue plastic water containers with spigots last year at an end-of-season moving sale. I filled them in the bathtub and set one on the bathroom counter for washing hands and one on the kitchen counter for washing and rinsing dishes. These more than did the job. I purposely had more water on hand than strictly necessary just in case they ran into problems and didn’t get the water turned on again as predicted.

At another sale, I had found a Whole Foods water container of the size used in water coolers for one dollar. It holds 3 gallons, and I used this for drinking and cooking water. Once again, it was more than enough, combined with the 1-gallon Pur water container in the refrigerator.  

We capture and save water from our dehumidifier and central air conditioner (as well as rain water that comes off the roof). We usually use it to water plants. I save all my plastic clumping kitty litter containers for the purpose of storing this water. It takes an amazing amount of water to fill the tank of even a low-flow water saver toilet. We also learned that you have to turn off the water to all your toilets or they make unearthly moaning/whistling noises and all the water syphons back down the water supply lines in the toilet tank! (We probably should have shut off the water ourselves at the main valve where water enters the house and saved all those gallons we had already paid for!)

It is now almost too effortless to turn the spigot and have clean potable water. I’m keeping one or two containers filled with water  on hand regardless—you never know when they will break a water main or two! Begonia


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Curbside: The Siren Call of Junk
Sunday, August 01, 2010

I can’t tell you why I enjoy junk picking. The closest thing I can compare it to is the joy little kids get from playing in the mud.

I went to a garage saling acquaintance’s moving sale recently. These sales tend to be extravaganzas of accumulated “stuff” on a par with the garage sales of people who attend a lot of auctions. (Ever wonder what the winning bidders do with all the extra junk in those buck-a-box , end-of- auction deals? Now you know.)  She urged me to buy stuff and told me to come back later and I could have it all. I told her she should have her sale and put what was left out on the curb for people to junk pick. There are quite a few people from all walks of life who can’t resist a nice big pile of assorted items.

I ended up driving by her house later in the week on a detour caused by street work. I stopped and grabbed a very nice screen door I thought might be useful for displaying handmade jewelry at an upcoming craft fair and later could be used on a garden or greenhouse.

I mentioned my foray to one of the neighbors whom I have junked with in the past. She is less bold than I am and prefers to team junk pick, especially if it is within a few blocks of home.  We hopped in my van (my backseat was already out) and drove over.  I found some books for reading and some books to trade,  among them a nice coffee table-size hardcover on the Tower of London, go figure; an armful of tiny stuffed animals that I will clean up and donate; three bamboo poles to use in the garden as a bean teepee; a small toiletries bag for my husband to carry on the motorcycle on long trips; some vintage valentines; some Martha Stewart magazines I will read and pass on; and a decorative storage basket destined to hold a genre of VHS movie tapes in our built in seating area in the family room.

My friend found some shamrock candleholders, a vintage leather suitcase, interior decorator magazines, some long white feathers for trimming vintage hats, books of poetry and various arcane crafts, and some old hat display stands from the 1950s.

Our kids and one of their friends went back in another wave and came home with a sewing machine for spare parts; more suitcases for travel and going off to college, a nice pair of baseball catcher’s leg guards, various crafting supplies, lots of textbooks on various subjects, and a particularly nasty monkey toy that you shoot like a rubber band, causing it to make nasty, evil monkey screeching noises as it flies through the air. (Some things BELONG in the landfill buried deep.)

We were careful to leave the area neat and tidy. I made sure that the teens cleaned up after themselves as well.  This is very important because some towns have ordinances against junk picking because a few people were inconsiderate and left a place in worse shape than they found it.

A good time was had by all, and a lot of useful stuff stayed out of the landfill. I hate waste. Don’t you? Begonia

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