Saw it at the auto parts store

I was running late.

Had just a couple of minutes before I had to head back to class, figured I had just enough time to get the part.

Walked in the door of our local auto parts store. Two guys behind the counter and  three people in line.

I felt a tight knot in my stomach.

I had tried to squeeze too many things in.  Had not yet learned the importance of building margin into my schedule.

Then I saw it…. a sign on the wall, about the size of a piece of typing paper.

It put everything into perspective.

I left the store without the part that day.

I first encountered that sign 45 years ago, and to this day I still refer to it in my personal dealings with people…..

 

Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part

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Agreed to help another carpenter with a large project this past fall. The project meant a couple of months of steady work/ great pay… At the last minute, the financing fell through.  I had scheduled my fall work around that job, and suddenly found myself scrambling to stay busy….

It happens.

Same project was rescheduled to start this Spring.  I was told, it would be ready for us, late May/ early June…  then got bumped back to first week of July…then 3 weeks ago, we got an e-mail that they wouldn’t be ready for us until early August.

Right about that time, Paul approached me about finishing off their basement, and since I wasn’t going to be needed until early August, it fit perfectly into my schedule.  Lined up an electrician,  a plumber and a drywall finisher.

Start date July 1st.

Got a phone call on Monday…the large project will be ready mid July. (Not early August).

It took me a little bit to sort this one through.  Keeping my word is important to me, and I had given my word to the other carpenter that he could count on me with the large project.

Then I remembered that sign from the auto parts store.

Bet you’ll never guess where I’ll be working mid July. 🙂

Well, I have time to spray the orchard this morning.  No wind. Perfect conditions.  Currently shaping up to be the best apple crop we’ve ever had….

Take care. DM

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The tree was humming…

I  didn’t want to go to work this morning. (And I love my job) 🙂

I wanted to stay home and putter.

The  apple trees are simply loaded with flowers…

 

The honey bees are scheduled to be split this morning.  (I found a local bee keeper who was willing to come by and see  if they’re ready to be split into two hives.)  He has 40 years experience…This  is my 3rd season…even that is hard to believe.   Wow,

He’s supposed to be here at 9 AM.

Let’s hope he is a good mentor

Sure looks like a  queen cell to me 🙂  (That little peanut shaped thing sticking out from the bottom of that frame).

And..well, it’s morel mushroom season again.  Two weeks of serendipitous discoveries. 🙂

Grey morel mushrooms on the edge of the windbreak.

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And in the garden, I’m experimenting with a combination/ square foot gardening/ heavy mulch (think Ruth Stout) layout, with wood chips covering everything this growing season.  I do have (6) 4 ft by 12 ft long wooden boxed beds, but the level of the soil in the bed is the same as the walkways.  The problem with raised beds is that the water leaches out, so a lot more time is spent watering.

Simple is better.

2019 garden layout.

Doubling the size this year with three more 12 ft by 16 ft beds. Still need to put wood chips over the cardboard. I do this to smother the grass.  Next Spring this will be ready to plant.  No tilling, no weeding, no watering, and the earth worm count will be off the chart.   I have 6 to 12 inches of black Iowa top soil I am planting into.  There used to be 3 feet of topsoil, but now it’s measured in inches.  Much of it (Iowa topsoil) has wound up in the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s sterile.

One quick story.

Last week after work,  while I was hunting  morel’s in the orchard, something caught my attention.  The tree was humming…. I’m not joking, it was literally alive with noise…the noise of dozens of  honey bees (our bees)  moving quickly from one flower to the next.

What a joy.

Several of them were caked with yellow pollen:

Photo by Google

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Couple of years ago now, I gave a link to my farming blog to a friend of a friend who ran  a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on the East coast.  Since she had been gardening on a much bigger scale, and for a lot longer than I, I was genuinely interested in getting her input..

Big mistake.

Condescending and impatient.

I had an equally disappointing relationship with a local bee keeper the first season I had bees.  Nice guy, big heart, but that is as far as it went.  He wasn’t verbal,  I got this sense he was making things up as he went. 🙂 (turned out he was)

 

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Good mentors are hard to find.

A mentor is a teacher.  Someone willing to pass on to another person their practical wisdom in an area of life.

Have you ever been mentored?

Have any stories to tell?

Anything else on your mind?

Take care. DM

 

 

 

 

Ten Reasons Why You Need To Plant An Orchard

Few years ago, I got an e-mail from a college professor.  Seems some of his students at the time had stumbled across the following blog post on another blog of mine.  He wanted me to know  he’d heard them talking about my blog outside of class around the campfire on a class trip.  Talk about honored. Anyway, Spring is in the air.  If I want to do any pruning it needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.  So, to kick off the 2019 apple growing season, I  would like to repost the following musing.

Ten Reasons Why You May Want To Plant An Orchard.

(and if not a whole orchard, at least a couple of trees) 😉

 

Hanging scale in our sales area

1.  Photo opportunities.   Our apple orchard constantly changes with the seasons.   There is always something catching my eye and bringing me joy.

Apple blossoms

2.  It provides the perfect blend of solitude and social interaction.  I love my peace and quiet.  There is nothing more nurturing for me than spending a Saturday morning alone, picking apples.  At the same time, I do love meeting and bantering with the public on occasion, and when the mood strikes, I will load up the pick up and head to our local farmers market.

Hawking apples at the farmers market last season

3.  Supplemental income.   Sure there is some work involved in tending an orchard, but not nearly as much as you might suspect.  One Semi dwarf tree  will cost you  $20 to $25.00 and once it’s mature, it can produce between 2 to 4 bushel of apples a year. = 80 to 160 pounds of fruit @ $1.50 a pound that’s $120 to $240 gross, from one tree…per year..not bad for some additional pocket change if you ask me ;-)

4.  mental stimulation.    While the basics of tending an apple orchard are pretty easy to grasp, there is always something new to learn.   Did you know there are over 750 different varieties of apples in the United States alone, and over 2000 varieties world-wide?

5.  Keeps you physically active. Keep those muscles moving”  my grandpa used to say.  Between the pruning in the early spring, to the picking in the fall,  having an orchard provides me with lots of  opportunities  to be physically active outside, all the while,I’m getting paid  and enjoying some fresh air.  As I  get older  I will probably do more of that “you pick” marketing, but for now, I can still climb and honestly, I love picking apples.  Last Saturday, I picked about 1200 pounds of apples in about 6 hours.

6.  Provides me with lots of opportunities to bless others.  I’m not going to brag and tell you how this works itself out except to say, I try to sell mostly our #1 apples, which means, what to do with the seconds?    The opportunities  to give are all around.

7.  Get to enjoy some varieties of fruit that are hard to come by normally – plus if you can find them, you’ll pay through the nose.  Sure we have Honey crisp, was told last year they were charging up to $5.00 a pound for those little rascals.   So far this year, I’ve picked 11 crates of them and probably have at least another 8.  My personal favorite is called the Ginger Gold:

Ginger Gold.

It is every bit as crispy as the Honey crisp and sweet.   Last year we had 32 crates of these little jewels.

8.  Fresh apple cider.    You haven’t lived until you’ve had fresh apple cider pressed from your own apples.   It’s got a texture and taste you’ll never , ever find in a store -ever.  If you come to visit, and the apples are in season, you can help me press out a batch. ;-)

9.  You’ll  give the bees something to talk about.  Ever hear of the “waggle dance”?

10. Provides me with lots  of spiritual insight.

Life is full of mystery.    I believe God has hidden the answers to some of our questions about life in the apple orchard.

Pruning and suffering.  I hate it when people try to slap pat answers onto my life when I’m in the middle of something hard.  It makes me angry.  So I will not disrespect you and do that now.  Sometimes it feels like I’m getting “pruned”  and when it does, I barely have enough energy to survive, let alone  do more.

Fruitfulness (ever see an apple tree grunt?  :-)   Me neither.

Seasons.   Apple trees don’t produce fruit 12 months out of the year.  In fact, they need large blocks of “down time”  in the winter..to get ready for the next season.  They literally need that time, which is why apple trees don’t do well in warmer climates.

Variety.  Already mentioned this one, but it bears repeating.    Apple trees vary widely and differently in the type of fruit they produce.  I think people are created much more varied than culture tries to tell us.   I found an apple tree on an abandoned farmstead a few years ago like nothing I’d ever seen before.  Some heirloom variety I’m sure.  It looked and tasted just like it was designed to taste.  Definitely not some domesticated boring apple.  So why do you and I sometimes think we have to look like everybody else?   Nothing more beautiful than someone being 100% alive just the way they were designed:

As always, thanks for reading my stuff ;-) DM

Chicken Run

I have been wanting to get laying hens for a while.

Sent the last ones packing about a year ago because we were not getting any eggs.  It’s not that they were not laying, (they were).  But because I was letting them free range, they were hiding the eggs all over the property. Then, one of the little stinkers acquired a taste for farm fresh eggs.  It finally came to a head when they started venturing over to the neighbors every morning  and stealing the neighbor lady’s cat food.

Free ranging chicken sounds good in theory, but  a chicken has no concept of property lines, and when they can fly over a 6 ft fence, good luck telling them they have to stay home.

But in the back of my mind, Robert Fulguhm’s  essay “Not Even Chickens” continued to cast a long shadow over my life.

I really do feel like a rich man when  I have a few chickens.

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So, while the desire was there,  that didn’t mean I was just going to act on it.

Financially, I wanted having chickens fit into the big picture of our life and not be a slow bleed on our finances.

And then last week, I had enough discretionary  money saved up between my monthly stipend, some cash I got for Christmas, and then more cash for my birthday to buy some chickens.

I figured 6 or 7 chickens would be perfect.

Decided to put out some feelers on a local garage sale site on Face book.

30 minutes later I had a lead.  Lady had 13 pullets born in August, that had just started to lay.  She was looking to get a different breed.

The only catch, I had to take all 13.

Then we started to talk money.  I asked her what she wanted per bird?  She wasn’t sure.  How much would I pay her?

I hate dickering.  Told her that right up front.  Didn’t want to insult her, by being too low.  She would just need to set a price and I could say yes or no.

Having bought chickens before, a fair price for a young laying hen starts around $10 a bird, and could be as much as $12 to $15, especially if you’re only getting a few.

She said, “Well I raised them from babies …I would like maybe $3.00 a bird but if that is too much we can talk.”

Sold!

Told her I could pick them up  Saturday morning.

As we finished loading the birds,  She teared up as we put them in the back of my pick up.  I could tell the chickens were her pets….her babies as she called them.

“They need to ride in the cab if it will fit” (the cage). 

Temps that morning were single digit.  I had brought a tarp,  my intention was put them all in one cage together, throw a tarp over the cage for the ride home.  (They would have been fine).

Well, the cage fit into the cab, (barely).

The ride home was interesting.

13 chickens taking up 2/3’s of the front seat.  I managed to get the drop cloth under part of the cage.  Wasn’t long before they were crapping past the tarp.  I noticed my coffee mug was directly below an untarped portion of the cage.  ;-(

I was glad to get home.

I really didn’t want to keep all 13 of the birds, so I put an ad on Craigslist Sunday morning.

Pullets for sale – $10

6 pullets for sale. Born in August 2018, just starting to lay. (Brown eggs) $10 firm. I had to buy the whole lot when I picked up these birds…few more than I really need.

Had an offer in 2 hours.  Delivered those 6 hens  Monday morning.

Paid $40 for 13 hens.  Sold 6 for $60.

So there are now 7 happy healthy laying hens on the property and I’m $20 ahead.

Just got home after an hour cooped up with 13 nervous birds

Early morning view of the chicken house.

Life lesson in this for me again is this…

God knows the desires of my heart.  He is not some cosmic Genie, nor is he a killjoy. He is unpredictable.  And sometimes, in the most unexpected ways, he shows himself in my life.  DM

 

Of Grit and Bone 11/13/18

About the title…

Read this first

Much to be thankful for.

The Honeybees

Where do I start?

I took the lid off the hive yesterday to finish insulating the top and return two frames of honey I’d thought about keeping for myself until I remembered they were in the hive when I treated for mites back in September.  The temperature  yesterday was in the mid 20’s so I assumed the bees would be huddled down in the bowels of the hive trying to stay warm.

Nope.

Hundreds of robust looking honeybees milling around the top frames on the hive. I find it fascinating and  exhilarating to be able to approach a bee colony with tens of thousands of bees and work with them.   I freely admit being a “new bee” when it comes to raising bees.  The learning curve is crazy steep.  I still feel like I really don’t have a clue.  Fortunately for me,  there are two new local bee keepers who have been willing to share with me their experiences, and the Internet.

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Remodel

I have been on this current  project for 3 months. Should finish up tomorrow unless the home owner wants our help on insulating or trimming. Other than some help issues and a very rainy  fall, it has been a treat to work on this project. 90% of the time it doesn’t feel like “work.”  I love what I do and I don’t take that for granted.  We took a 1120 square foot ranch, and turned it into a 2000 plus square foot home.  Added a 3 stall garage, and new 4 seasons room.

Want to say something about work and attitude.

We stopped by my aunt’s this past Saturday for lunch.  She mentioned in passing her son (my cousin) is planning on retiring after the first of the year. He is 4 years younger than I.  He’s worked in a factory setting for 30 + years.  Great union benefits.    I heard that and found myself battling feelings of failure.   That is not the first time this has happened.  Rather than just be stuck in those negative, energy sucking thoughts, I decided to tell some friends that we get together with on a regular basis about it.  Just as I’d suspected. Every last one of them (5) confessed to battling similar thoughts at one time or another.

“So what do I do about it?” I asked????

Be thankful.  (And they proceeded to list off a plethora of things in my life I do have to be thankful for.)   Just admitting those feelings of comparison and inferiority out loud to another human being, (and in this case to 5 people) then being thankful for a host of things removed the sting.

It really did.

Here are a few before and after pics of my current project…

Original house:

Back of house:

 

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Finances

In 2014 I wrote a series of posts on the financial stress I was feeling.

I sometimes think it word pictures in case you haven’t noticed. 🙂

The word picture I had at the time in my mind was this….

I felt like I was flying a loaded 747 and we 15 to 20 feet off the surface of the ocean.  Yes I was still in the air, but the waves were licking @ the wings, the weight of financial stress was nonstop and I was getting tired. Credit card debt, car loan, medical bills..etc.

Then we  stumbled across a book on personal finances that was a God-send.

Here’s a portion of the chart I put on the wall in front of my desk:

 

The chart showed where we were currently,as well as where I wanted to head.

Flash forward to today.

Our financial situation has  changed.  Same job, same basic income….

Credit card is paid off.  Car loan is paid off.  Medical bills are currently all paid off and there is a surplus in the medical checkbook.  (Although that could  change in a heartbeat).

Today there are two  different word pictures in my head.

First, the one with the airplane… We have created distance between those waves  and our plane.  Today we are at 10,000 feet and climbing.

The second word picture in my head is that of a beehive.

Imagine that 🙂

I feel like a bee going into winter with multiple frames of honey stored up.

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Well, I guess I need to wrap it up.  If you’re reading this post, I would love to hear from you as well.   If nothing else, tell me three things you have to be thankful for.

Later!  DM

 

Boundary Issue

A new menace  moved into our neighborhood yesterday.

Remember our  tomcat Barron?

Little half-grown kitten I rescued 2 years ago in the median strip of a local highway.

He’s our  cat.

Awesome mouser.

Affectionate.

No longer lives in the house with us. Just comes scratching @ the door in the evenings for a few minutes of snuggling, then he heads back outside.

He does this almost every night.  Loves to have his cheeks scratched.

Heck, there are many days, where I have found him waiting for me when I get home from work.  I’d swear he is part dog.

I grew up with cats on the farm.  Never, ever had one with his kind of temperament.

Got a call yesterday from our neighbor to the West.

Said two young guys and a girl in a black SUV were out setting traps in the ditch for raccoon just west of our place.   She told them both her and our cat liked to hunt in that ditch.

They just scoffed at her.

I went out after she and I talked to see if I could find the traps.  It looked like they didn’t put a trap on our side of the road, but did set one right across.   My first impulse was to take it (the trap)  but after calling a friend who is a retired conservation board member, he  said, as long as the traps are in the ditch, and not on our ground, they are 100% legal, and I would be in the wrong.

My best plan would be to talk to the boys and ask them to remove it, but that would be entirely up to them.

I keep thinking about that trap being a metaphor.

Stay tuned.  DM

Reflections

I (DM) got a phone call two weeks ago from our local nursing home.  Halley (director of activities) wanted to know if they could stop by in a bus, then I could tell them a little bit about our setup.  It wasn’t going to work with my schedule, but I did offer to come to town to the nursing home and do a little program.

That was yesterday morning.

It was a hoot.  I made up a version of Jeopardy.

Guys against the girls or as  we put it. drones against the worker bees.

Some of categories included: Apple Trees, The Birds and the bees, Enemies of the Orchard, and Johnny Appleseed.  Rather than me just talk, it was an interactive presentation.  Even with my helping  (just a little) the drones lost.  I started out asking if any of them could remember the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940?  (Several could)  Reason I asked that was because before that storm, Iowa  was number 2 in the nation in terms of the apple producing states, second only to Michigan.  The blizzard and ice storm  decimated the apple trees and since farmers could not afford to wait 5 to  7 years for a paycheck, the orchards were plowed under and turned into corn fields.  How sad. 😦

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The following ditty I found on line, was in the back of my mind as I looked out over the men and women sitting before me:

“What do you see nurse?
What do you see, nurse… what do you see?
Are you thinking – when you look at me:
“A crabbed old woman, not very wise;
Uncertain of habit with far-away eyes,
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice ‘I do wish you’d try.'”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe;
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse. You’re not looking at
me!
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still.
As I move at your bidding, eat at your will:
– I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another;
– A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon a love she’ll meet;
– A bride at twenty, my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep;
– At twenty-five now I have young of my own
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.
– A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast.
Bound together with ties that should last.
– At forty, my young sons have grown up and gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn;
– At fifty once more babies play ’round my knee
Again we know children, my loved ones and me…
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead.
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years
and the love that I’ve known.
I’m an old woman now, and nature is cruel.
‘Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart.
There is a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now again my bittered heart swells;
I remember the joys, I remember the pain
and I’m loving and living life over again;
I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last;

So open your eyes, nurse, open and see…
not a crabbed old woman.
Look closer… see me!”

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Pictures compliments of Google images: