Katie and the Amish Farmer

I have been on the receiving end of two attitudes the past couple of weeks with our apple give away.    Both have left  lasting impressions.

Do you mind if I tell you two short stories? 😉

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Her name is Katie.

She called our place a week ago, looking for apples.

Wondered if she could stop by after work.  She wanted to make apple butter.

I told her on the phone about the hail storm in June, how it had severely damaged the crop.  She was more than welcome to get as many as she wanted, I didn’t want them to go to waste…and they were free. She insisted on paying something,  but it would have to be after she got paid on Wednesday.  (She works at a local nursing home.)  I was struck by the concerned tone of her voice on the phone.

She stopped  one of the days I was home working in the shop.

I was struck even more by her appreciative, caring attitude when I met her in person. If I could bottle it up and sell it, I would be a rich.  What her attitude did (and does) to my heart  is almost palatable….like a perfume that makes my heart glad.

Katie came back this week and got a few more apples…and a pumpkin. She insisted on giving my wife $20.

 

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This second attitude came my way via an Amish farmer.  He was here twice picking apples.  I lost track of how many bushel he ended up getting.

The second attitude  (if I were to put it into words) goes something like this…… You must be stupid (or uninformed).  Sure I will take free apples.   Before giving my friend your phone number I want to make sure I get all I want).

I don’t have a prejudiced, biased, judgemental bone in my body toward the Amish.  It has nothing to do with that. In the past  few years the Amish have been moving into our area in droves.  I interact with them every chance I get.

The Amish farmer asked if I had any apple wood he might be able to get for smoking.  Just so happened I did have a pile stacked by the barn I was hoping to sell to local restaurants…. When he asked me what I would charge for the wood, (this was after getting all of those free apples) I still sensed he was trying to get as much as he could for the least amount of money….

I just think it is hard-wired into some people to do business this way.

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People  are watching.  They may not say anything, but don’t think our good (or less than stellar) attitudes don’t go unnoticed.

 

Protecting the brand.

Hail damaged Cortland

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Do you have any recent (encouraging) encounters with a stranger that left a lasting impression?

You know me….I love details. 🙂 DM

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Crack’n The Code

Apple juice now….

Apple juice now….”

I was standing next to my just turned two-year old granddaughter last night at a shrimp boil.

My sister Karen looked at me and asked, “What is she saying????”

It sounded like “Apple Juice now” to me.

“Apple juice?  Is that what you want Willow? “

Nada…

She kept repeating the phrase… there was  a  hint  of urgency in her tone…

Suddenly it clicked…

She didn’t want apple juice.

 ap-ple….

Slow it way down and with a little imagination you might hear, “I- poo”…

“I poo?  Do you have to go poo????”

She nodded her head. The two of us made tracks to find her parents.
Cow manure, chicken manure, even hog manure I can handle…but baby poo. No way!

I opened the door, looked over at my son.

“Someone has to go poo poo…now!”

I had cracked the code,

just

in

time.

 

 

So I did

Stairway to heaven

(My view yesterday  while I worked)

Woke up yesterday morning to  drizzle.   I’d hoped to finish a metal roof on  our two-story garage.   The garage is an old house dating back to the 1870’s.  If we had the funds, it would make an awesome guest house.   Sloped ceilings in the second floor rooms. Old old wallpaper still on the walls. Blueish green antique doors.  A chimney that still works…..

and a family of raccoons that have moved into the attic.

I realized a few weeks ago, they’d put a couple of holes right through the roof into the attic, which explained why we were starting to get water stains in the ceiling of our storage room.

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Pause.

We were re-watching an episode of Downton Abbey last night.  There was going to be a cricket match between the house staff and the locals… Molesley (one of the footman) kept going on and on at how good he was at cricket….his dad had been a coach….it made me cringe listen to him toot his own horn.  I looked over at my wife and told her,If I ever start sounding like that...tell me! “

Sometimes in my desire to keep it real here, I want to write about  the good stuff that is going on in my life, (like the retaining wall job from last week.) But, then I start to second guess myself, lest I sound like a Molesley 🙂

Life is a mix.

I’m not interested in the sanitized version of your life.  If something good is happening, I want to hear about it.

And, if something has really got you vexed, I want to hear about that too.  Because my life is a mixture, hearing about how other people deal with things helps keep me sane.

I have some older friends that I consider pretty well grounded.  My favorite stories from them are about things that trip them up…and I want details...so on that note, I am going to close with a recent event from my life.

 

I was approached a few years ago by XYZ. (a local store) They wanted to sell our apples through their venue.

Sure. Win-win  I thought.

Because it was a new business, in my desire to help them out, I suggested,  rather than getting paid,  I would spend what they owed me as in store credit.

Sure she said. Sounded great she said.

Well, we did it for two years,  but every time I stepped into the store, I sensed  an under-current of hurry/ hurry/ stress, stress.   This last season, I kept asking where we were at on the ledger sheet?   I would hear,

“I’ve written everything down..don’t have the exact total now….but I will.”

This happened multiple times. Got more awkward ever time I brought it up.  Finally I said, “Just cut me a gift certificate and  that will simplify things for both of us.”

Even that felt like I was pulling teeth.

Did I mention, the owner, sucked at returning phone calls, texts, etc.  Yea, well I finally called, left a message and said the following Thursday I would stop in and wanted to pick up the gift certificate.   I texted a reminder the day before, since no one ever picks up the phone when I called.   When I stopped in, the wife wasn’t there, but the husband mentioned she was up like at 5:30 that morning working on my total.

I sensed tension.

I’m thinking to myself, this is ridiculous.

Life is too short.

Selling apples is a hobby for me.

I am not even generating  that much income.

I refuse to put myself in a situation where there is tension every time I step through the door,  so I  decided earlier this summer, I had had enough.  I contacted the husband. Told him I was simplifying my life this Summer and would not be selling apples through their venue in the Fall.

That would give him plenty of time to line up another source for apples.

Well, there has been a $35.00 gift certificate attached to a magnet on the frig ever since.  I have not wanted to go back to the store.  Toyed around with giving it to someone else as a gift.

Then, the other day,  I thought, what the heck...that is my money.  Plus, they have delicious cheese in the store…and locally produced wine.  I am going to stop, and buy a block of delicious blue berry cheddar , and pick up a bottle of semi sweet Riesling Castle wine.   Then I am going to celebrate the completion of two very stressful projects.

So I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another evening at a beekeeping class

The chiefest cause, to read good bookes,

That moves each studious minde

Is hope, some pleasure sweet therein,

Or profit good to finde.

Now that delight can greater be

Than secrets for to knowe

Of Sacred Bees, The Muses’ Birds,

All which this booke doth showe

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From the preface to First Lessons In Beekeeping

     I am inhaling a 6 week evening class on the basics of beekeeping.  Last night was week 3.  There are 35 men and women, boys and young ladies in the room,  all spell-bound by the wisdom we are hearing. (“and learning the secrets of the sacred bees”) 😉

    It is one thing to read a good book, it is something entirely different, to be able to interact with someone in person.

ie.  “This is what they suggest in the book, BUT……………. Here is what I’ve discovered happens  if you do that in our area.”

     Our instructor Jim has been keeping bees  for ???? (Not sure how many years)   I do know he  manages  around 400 hives in a three state area.

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       And on a personal note….

    Last Saturday and again on Monday,  I had the opportunity to mentor two different people interested in either starting an orchard or tending existing apple trees.  Both spent a couple of hours with me as  we talked specifics.  I enjoy those kind of opportunities.  It feels like I am passing the torch on to the next generation myself,  although in this case, both students were at least as old or older than myself). 😉

    Back to the bees…..

      I feel like a racehorse in the gate at the Kentucky Derby when I think about managing a bee hive (or 3)….

    The creative juices are already starting to flow…..

     wild-bee-2012

Wild bee in our  orchard

2012 growing season

The country mice and the city mouse

This is the third guest post installment….written by Lucy,  I mean Kristina the Home Engineer    DM

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I wanted to write about feminists and abortion or the Kingdom of Heaven. But Doug said no, so I will write about them (D and his wife,  M) . A subject a little less divisive and hostile.

I met D many moons ago whilst blogging, he commented, I commented, he asked me to read his book, I read his book.

Our family was going through some very trying times and I needed a vacation. They had a bed. and breakfast.

So doing something very uncharacteristic of me, I took my son and we ventured from Seattle WA to Eastern Iowa.

To let strangers take care of us for a few days.

They had a farm! They had a pig! They had apple trees and crickets and quiet and woods and quiet. They had chickens in the basement.

As extremely weird and awkward as it sounds, it quickly became fun and easy, relaxing and safe.

They had a little potluck music get together called the Apple Jam and families came with crock pots and desserts and curious people asking where we were from and feeding us. They have sloppy joes but they are called Maid-Rites!

I have visited these two people pretty much every year for seven years [?] now. Once they came here, to the big city, by train.

Just wanted to give you all a different perceptive of these people I have grown to know and love.

I saw their last family picture and envied at how I was not in it.

First the house… Its old, its a farm. It is real wood. It has the old original house attached to it with the old wallpaper and creaky stairs. I am still trying to convince them to remodel it so I can run away and live there. The barns are huge, and bats live there. It is quite a sight to see a billion crockpots and food lined up on  makeshift ledge table upstairs. Workshops, garage, land, apple trees, built-in freezer, apple press. Cellar for safety, buckets of dry good ready for an emergency. I could go on and on but suffice to say it is the opposite of what this city girl grew up in and exactly where this city girl wants to be.

As I said I was going through a bad time and this place was my run away dream, the opposite of all I was going through, no drama, no court dates, no crying, no anger, no having to explain all the discord. Heaven.

We have joked around about us being the country mouse and city mouse, but by no means is this a slam or disrespect in any way. A different way to live. Not better, not worse. I would drop everything and pack and live in that dusty farm community in a heartbeat and enjoy the rest of my days hanging out with Mrs. M and Doug, their friends and family.

Being with them has actually helped with my ”my way or the high way anal retentive” way of living I had grown accustomed to.

Even if that meant no fine restaurants or grocery stores with vegan options or quick access to, well, everything.

Doug: big personality, he is the humblest person he knows, I’m not buying it. I call him Pig Pen [He, is turn, calls me Lucy] for he leaves messes wherever he goes. He drinks too much coffee. He cooks and takes out the garbage.  He is eclectic, he writes, he builds, he creates. He has many ideas rolling around in that bald head, much to the dismay and worriment of his bride. If he were my husband, he would have me in the fits. lol

He has rough hands and a soft heart. He loves people, he wants to help people, but he also doesn’t take much crap from people. He loves his kids. you can often tell a person’s personality by the way they dress… he wears jeans, boots, t-shirts. Bright t-shirts. By the bright t-shirts, he wants to be seen [his way of standing out] but is a plain and simple guy dressed for the work he does. Labor. He thrives on connection. He lives life as it comes and sometimes throws convention out the window. He and I could be siblings, we argue and pick at each other like that. I sometimes think of them in a parental way and other times as friends.

To this day it amazes me that they can walk into any store in any small community near by and everyone knows them!!

It’s also funny to tell people where I’m from and that I don’t eat meat. They look at me like I’m crazy…and I am..when I’m sitting in the middle of farm land.

Mrs. M  : she is shy, simply beautiful, kind, old-school wife and mother. She struggles with the same things I do. Mothers and wives worry about their family regard of geography. She is soft-spoken. She is curious and is eager to try new foods, unlike Pig Pen. When she laughs it’s from down deep. She makes her own detergent.  She finds the good in everything. She cooks, she cleans, goes out of her way to help others. She writes notes. Lots of notes. She loves thrift shopping. Maybe a bit too much. But who doesn’t love a good bargain AMIRIGHT? I think with the line of work her husband is in and maybe her childhood she saves things. I understand the need. I never had to worry about those things, but I understand it.  The last visit I was informed I was to stay a longer period of time and help D with his book. So for 2 weeks I stayed. They offer me their best bed in the warmest room and turned on the shower upstairs so I don’t have to take baths. I hate baths.

We go to thrift stores, Amish discount stores, Walmart and lunch. We take walks with the dog. We decided this last trip that the house needed some sprucing up and emptying of accumulated stuffs. I tested my ‘clutter clean-up’ job skills. [I’d actually love to be one of those, but I’m a bit too hard on folks..so I’m told] we gathered everything up in one spot, wrote out decluttering plans, bought some storage stuff and went to work. Mrs. probably had the hardest time getting rid of stuff. I know I do. She did great tho and got rid of dusty forgotten duplicate things and made a promise to have the rest of the house done by the time I get back this year…which is coming up soon, girl!

Something I told her she remembers…. two things to think about .. do you need it and do you have a place for it [not hidden away] if not..don’t buy it. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, or a people thing, but we tend to have things scattered and not in the same place, like bathroom goods stored in 3 places or important paperwork in different rooms. Sometimes we don’t realize how much stuff we have until we can get it all together.

We talk of life, love, hardships, relationships. The good, the bad. We have made charts on the chalkboard, lists and talked how to make a better world.  They live a slower life, a quieter life. No TV, just a computer. They had never seen the show Hoarders, we watched a few episodes. They both love books. They have wallpaper on a wall that looks bookshelves. They keep ‘the books’ on paper.

She would never tell Pig Pen that he leaves his stuff around. When I brought it up, he asked her if she agreed. She did. He put that in his mental file and helps more around the house.

Does it seem like I’m being weird about these two people? I probably am. They fascinate me. Because they are different yet the same. They are so kind. Everyone I have met there is so damn kind. In the city it’s so easy to lose that. I miss it. Even in our little church fellowship community it’s not as common.

I’ve met the kids and have nothing but nice things to think and say about them. They’re kind and funny and sweet just like their parents.

Doug’s mom and dad are the best. I wish I could move in with them and let Janet cook for me and tuck me in bed and let Don shake his head in wonderment that I keep a pig inside my house. He has a farm and still grows soybeans and corn.

One visit I actually carried homemade cinnamon rolls home to my son from Janet! Can you believe it? She is the quintessential mom/grandmom who wants to feed you and love you and remembers what you tell her!

They do not attend a conventional church. They have a group of friends that get together once a week to pray, read over scripture, exhort, encourage and listen to each other. And there again…I just wanted to embed myself into their lives. Doug doesn’t like to impose his faith on anyone, doesn’t mention it much on his blog, but he and  M keep the greatest commandment:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Thanks for letting gush on and on about your family and lives. I could think of many more things to crow on about them.  I’m not a creeper honestly. I crave the simple quiet real life you all have and am blessed beyond measure to know you.

kristinap2008-003

Kristina the Home Engineer when she met Winston the pig

Wild Flowers on the Brain

honey-bee-flowers

photo by google

Of late, my brain has been percolating on a new project…

A couple of them actually.

Honey bees and wild flowers.

Our small apple orchard already and consistently provides me with loads of joy and I think bee hives and a field of wild flowers would dovetail nicely into my life.

For  years, random people in my life…I’m talking random… would say, “You need to get honey bees!”..and I would think..”yea, right,  like I need another ball to juggle….”

But…

I am finally at the place where I would like to take the plunge.

We live on  4 acres of property…most of it, is taken up by buildings  but there is an acre of ground just north of our windbreak that is just sitting there, growing a nice crop of weeds.  I’ve toyed around with planting more apple trees out there but the 100 apple trees that I currently manage, more than satisfy that “itch” for an orchard.

So……………what I’m wanting to do, is plant that field  permanently into wild flowers that would bloom throughout the summer (so once the bees are done with pollinating the apple trees they would have an acre of flowers to work in and not have to travel too far.

I have been fascinated with wild flowers for years.  I think it’s the artist in me. 😉

There are several details that still need to come together, the biggest being money. 😉

I could hire the field work done, but properly prepping a field for flowers after this many years of growing weeds requires much more attention and work than just planting it into corn or beans.

The cost would not be as much as an investment in a tractor and rotor tiller but would still be a couple of thousand dollars, plus I would have to be dependent on someone else’ s  schedule and flexibility.

Besides,  and this is important…

I want to work the soil myself. (Must be the farmer in me.) 😉

I hate debt, and will not borrow money unless it pencils out long term. A dozen hives and an acre of flowers would take quite a while to generate $5,000…

So I wait…

And learn…

And put out feelers…

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And on a completely unrelated note, I moved (it’s called racking) the hard apple cider into smaller containers last weekend.  1/2 gallon of it, is covered with cheese cloth and exposed to the air so it will continue to ferment and morph into apple cider vinegar..the rest is still hard cider.  When I tested it with the hydrometer, it tested at 10.9% alcohol content.  That was fast.  We’re not big consumers of alcohol so, I’ll probably turn most of it into apple cider  vinegar.

 

Apfelwein…..already at 5 %

Apfelwein: German for Apple Cider

There is 5 gallons of raw,(  freshly pressed) apple cider,  sitting  in a food grade five gallon plastic bucket, fermenting behind me as I write.  I checked it with the hydrometer yesterday, it is already up to 5% alcohol content since I started.

This is my first attempt at making hard cider (freshly pressed, raw apple cider juice intentionally handled to morph into alcohol.)

I mentioned a few weeks ago, my latest life goal/ project is to become a fermentation master.

Some of it I hope to bottle up for gifts, some of it I hope to make into apple cider vinegar and some of it for personal consumption.

It is almost impossible to find (or buy) raw unpasteurized apple cider. Big brother has made it illegal to sell to the public without first being pasteurized, which is all well and good, but in the process, the good stuff is killed along with any potential harmful bugs. (just like its almost impossible to buy raw milk…unless you own a cow or buy it on the black market, it is not to be had)

I had to grind and press 2 bushel of apples to get 4 and 1/2 gallons of cider. The  #2 apples sell for $30 a bushel.   $60 worth of fruit,  2 hours of my time. and over $1000 of equipment  ( the whizbang apple grinder and a cider press.)   When someone recently suggested I could sell the cider for $6 to $8 a gallon I just kept quiet.    I told my wife, this stuff is conservatively worth $25 a gallon before it’s fermented.

I have no very little tolerance  for people who try to work me over  on a price of something I’m selling.

On another fermentation note…

I wanted to transfer the peach mead that I started fermenting a few weeks ago into another container this week.

Sampled some of it first.

My oh my.

Smooth and mellow.

Again, you can’t buy this stuff anywhere.

And finally, I am experimenting with a batch of what I will probably  call Jailhouse hooch.  Had a guy that used to work with me that did a little time in the Cook County jail.  One day over coffee break he gave me skinny on how they made hooch when he was in jail. …the only change I am making is instead of using a garbage bag and hiding it under my bed, I’m using a food grade plastic pail  😉

I started a batch this morning.

1 pound of firm fresh strawberries, 3 pounds of sugar, 3/4 t of baking yeast, one gallon of cold water and a 1 gallon food safe plastic bucket.   Before the fermentation process started I got a reading on the hydrometer.  It registered 60./ potential alcohol content 15%.

We will see.

I am taking copious notes in case I hit one out of the park. DM