Taste A Little Of The Summer

Stumbled across this song for the first time this morning.  Let me know what you think…DM

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Spring Potato Harvest

Last year it happened by accident.

This year I did it on purpose.

I left some of our potato crop in the ground over the winter under heavy mulch.

Some of the potatoes  turned to mush and some of them were of awesome quality.

Firm, hard white flesh….and delicious.

Compared to the potatoes still in the potato bin in the basement…well  there was no comparison ;-)


I’ve been playing around with the heavy mulch gardening model the past 3 years (Ruth Stout’s claim to fame).

Today I  scraped off the mulch  on both garden beds. The soil under the mulch is still frozen solid while the rest of the ground seems to be pretty much thawed. Mulch not only suppresses  weeds it also acts as an insulator and would have kept the ground frozen a lot longer.


spring potatoes (1)

Over wintered potatoes in Iowa soil under heavy mulch.

Just curious if any of you have ever tried (or heard) of doing this before?     (over wintering root crops until spring)

In the pioneer days, I know the settlers would bury apples,  and other crops in earthen pits.    The soil temperature below the frost line remains a constant 55 to 57 degrees which is warmer than a refrigerator but lower than a warm house.

This is a little different process because I know the potatoes in the garden froze, in spite of the mulch…they were not 3 feet down below the frost line.


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Better than Pumpkin Pie


Last Fall, during the busiest part of harvest, I still had several smaller pie pumpkins left over.  I hated to just throw them away  but I didn’t have much time to mess with them either, so after doing a little research, decided to just cube them up into chunks and stick them raw into 1 gallon freezer bags.

Fast forward 2 months.

I decided to make a pumpkin pie out of  the fresh pumpkin. There was more pie filling left over than could fit into my pie crust.  Hated to just throw it away so I baked the excess filling in some little oven safe bowls.  When it came time to eating the extra, I put a spot of cool whip on it, and honestly, it tasted just as good w/o the pie crust.

Fast forward another week.

On a lark, I pulled another gallon bag of fresh cubed pumpkin out of the freezer,  this time, intentionally put all of it in oven safe cooking bowls.  Had a half a dozen containers of various sizes, and all of it was gone within a couple of days.

Fast forward another week.

Made another batch of fresh pumpkin pie custard, this time dumped the whole 6 cups of pie filling into a 9 by 13 pan.

It is to die for.

It is a completely different animal than your store-bought pumpkin pie filling from a can.  10 times more tasty and has a unique texture that has really grown on me.

Here’s the deal.  I am all about saving time and keeping it simple.

Blanch the pumpkin if you want at harvest time before freezing. (I’ve done both and have not noticed any difference in the finished product.)

Thought I would post this easy, made from scratch, fresh pumpkin pie filling recipe and share it with you.  We are now in the middle of winter so I am pulling the cubed, frozen, pumpkin out of the freezer, wishing I had more.

Side note- Before I bagged  the fresh cubed pumpkin, I  froze the cubes on a cookie sheet over night, so they were not all clumped together when it came time to use it, in case I didn’t want to use the whole gallon at the same time.   (In my case, I am using the whole gallon bag at a time.  1 gallon bag =  about 6 cups once it is cooked and mashed down)

Fresh Pumpkin Pie filling

(or custard)

Remove frozen pumpkin from freezer, place in a large pot of water and cook it on low to medium heat. (covered)  Normally, it starts to boil about an hour into the process.  The goal is to let it come to a  low boil for about 30 minutes.  Total time from taking it out of the freezer to done boiling approx. 1 and 1/2 hours.

Drain off water..be careful, might want to let it sit for a little bit to cool off so you don’t get a face full of steam….

After water is drained off, you should have cooked pumpkin cubes ;-)

I have just been leaving the pumpkin in the large pot after I drain off the water,  adding all the ingredients (which I will list in a second) then beat it with a beater for a couple of minutes on high.  Totally a preference thing here in terms of texture.  If you have a food processor and want to puree the pumpkin more, that is up to you. I am just telling you what I am doing (remember, I’m all about keeping it simple) ;-)

Add 4 eggs

1.75 cup of milk (I’ve experimented with whole milk, condensed milk, 1% milk,etc.  At this point, I just use whatever I have in the frig that is opened.

1 cup of brown sugar (again, I’ve experimented, with various sweeteners.  currently using some Demerara Cane Sugar crystals only because I had a lot of it in the cupboard and wanted to use it up)   side note-  this is about 1/2 the amount of sweeter the regular made from scratch pumpkin pie recipe’s call for.  Trying to watch my sugar intake and it still tastes delicious w/1/2 the sugar content.

1.5 to 2  teaspoons of vanilla

Once all the ingredients are in the pot, I mix it w/my little hand mixer for a couple of minutes.

Pour into 9 by 13 pan. Forget about the pie crust. Who needs pie crust ;-)

Cook (uncovered) in preheated oven , 15 minutes @ 425 F.

Turn down oven to 350 and cook approx. another hour. (test like a normal pumpkin pie filling…cook until knife comes out clean)

Top with cool whip if you like,


On a totally unrelated note, as I mentioned on my last blog post, I have decided to post only farm related things on this blog and go back to posting my introspective stuff on a second blog site.  E-mail me or leave me a comment and I will be glad to send you a link  if you are interested.  It is a new blog, not the old one some of you may remember….absolutely no pressure, this will be the last time I mention it here.  DM

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Good morning from Middle Earth! ;-)

I wanted to write  a quick update and let you know what’s going on around here.  I am retooling the blog.  I   have decided to go back to keeping two  separate active blogs,  a farm blog, (this one)  with farmstead related thoughts, and a  personal blog, where I write about things of a more introspective nature.

If you’d like the website address of the second blog, leave me a comment  and I will be glad to send you an e-mail with a link.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. DM


P.S. I heard the following song last weekend while I was watching one of the grandsons  and wanted to share it with you.





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Personal Boundaries

Quick story…

Today at work, we were installing a roof.  Mid morning, Tim  barked at me, “Throw me a tape measure!” 

(Keep in mind, I am the boss).

I looked at Tim and said, “What’s the magic word?”


I turned to look at Jason (another crew member) on the ground who was smirking and rolling his eyes at the exchange.

“If the people who work at McDonald’s can say please and thank you, so can we.”  ;-)   Just because some construction crews can’t talk nice to each other, doesn’t mean this one won’t!”

I said all of this in a light-hearted fashion, but meant every word of it.

Tim started working for me a month ago.  On his last job he was a foreman so he is used to ordering people around.

The second week with me, he decided to tag me with the nick name “Smiley.”   Two weeks later, he was using it several times a day, and I told my wife one evening I was going to have to say something, because it wasn’t just the name, but how he said it.  I felt like he was mocking me.   I could feel a low-grade anger starting to build.  Well before I could have that conversation,  Tim said “Hey Smiley” one too many times.  We did have a conversation.  It lasted about 15 seconds, and he is no longer calling me “smiley”.

What I have been doing in all of this is establishing boundaries. Boundaries as in what I will and will not tolerate in how someone treats me.  This is all relatively new territory for me as a person.  Until  10 years ago, I would never have had either one of those interactions with Tim.

I was a people pleaser.

People pleaser: The intense need to please other people that is usually deeply rooted in a fear of rejection.

What happened?

I raised four kids into adulthood.

Does it still happen? (People pleasing.)

Sure, but not to the same degree.


Talking to my wife about this topic I observed personality types definitely come into play here.  I know a guy who serves on his city counsel.  He doesn’t care if the whole town is against him on an issue.  It’s not even on his radar.  His battles are in other areas.

I shared the following quote on Facebook recently:

Boundary issues. Some of us have people in our lives who  do not respect our boundaries. They talk down to us, treat us with disrespect, there are dozens of ways this can play itself out. You may even be related to them…

I’ve mentioned boundaries a lot, how important they are, and the necessity of having healthy limits. I didn’t always have an accurate understanding of what healthy boundaries are. That’s the unfortunate result of the way most of us learned to cope as children. If we didn’t see boundaries modeled, chances are we don’t have any, or we put up walls instead.
Boundaries are limits or boarders that outline a person’s ownership and responsibility. Imagine a garden full of vegetables and flowers. The gardener works on her flower and vegetable beds- planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. As she labors, visitors stop by. Some are welcome; some are unwelcome. The welcome visitors respect the garden bed – they’re careful not to tread on plants, they ask relevant questions about the flowers and vegetables, they may even identify and pull out a weed or two while they chat. The unwelcome visitors are careless about where they step; they pluck flowers without asking; they point out that the tomatoes look small.
To keep the unwelcome visitors out of the garden, the gardener needs a fence, a boundary. The fence needs a gate to let in the welcome visitors, and the gate needs to have a lock on the inside to keep out those who do not respect the garden and the crops. Notice that the gardener doesn’t build a wall. Unwelcome visitors may stop by and look at the flowers and vegetables, but the boundaries keep the beds from being trampled and the flowers from being taken. The gardener decides who can join her in the garden, who must stay outside, and whom to share her flowers and vegetables with. With the boundary, her space is protected and she’s in control of it. As she shares and chats with her welcome visitors, they both benefit.


Thoughts, comments, questions?

Do you have any difficult people in your life that violate your boundaries  on occasion?  What does that look like? DM

fencebuilding7-16-2010 001

Picture of me setting another kind of boundary.



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Conversation With A Zen Master

Conversation with a Zen Master

Like many Westerners in the late sixties, I wanted to be somewhere else in my religious journey.  Confusion reigned in the kingdom of my mind, and I yearned to construct a framework of understanding that seemed beyond my present cultural tools.  I couldn’t seem to get “there” from “here.”

Zen and its idea of enlightenment appealed to me.  That one might sit very still and empty one’s mind and suddenly be hit by a mighty wave of comprehension beyond words – well, that would do.  Hit me with the big news and let me walk away with a sense of “I get it!”

Took a leave of absence from my dailiness and went off to Japan to get Zenned properly.  Got connected to a temple and a master.  Shaved my head and face, put on the drab grey robe of novitiate, and stood in line to get enlightened.  Figured to become a pretty holy man in pretty short order, like in about six weeks, which was when my return ticket home expired. Right.

But of course it was not to be.  Sitting still gave me hallucinations and cramps, but not enlightenment.  The food gave me diarrhea.  Sleeping on a board gave me a backache.  And my fellow monks treated me like a Western fool, laughing at me behind my back.  It was one of those times when you know enough to realize there’s something everybody but you knows, but you don’t know enough to know exactly what it is you don’t know.

But I did know it was time to leave.

To my surprise, an invitation was extended for an interview with the master of the temple.  Which was like a stock boy being asked to have lunch with the president of the company.

Since it was largely because of his reputation that I had chosen this particular temple, and since he rarely spent time with tourists like me, the master’s invitation seemed a special honor.

Manabu Khohara, Ph. D. in economics from Tokyo University, solver of all Zen koans (mind puzzles) adviser to captains of industry, writer of books, speaker of seven foreign languages, a paradigm of the treat teacher.  Wise, good, respected, accomplished.  If he didn’t have “it” all figured out, then nobody did.

After I was ushered into his private study, we knelt on cushions and bowed our mutual respect.  He out of courtesy and I out of awe.  For a long time he looked at me and into me.

Very deliberately he shifted his weight to one knee, and just as deliberately reached for his backside and scratched himself in a way and in that place your mother told you was a no-no in public.

“I have hemorrhoids.  They hurt and itch.”

There was nothing in my mental manual as to how to reply to such an opening remark.  I kept my mouth shut and pretended to be thoughtful.

“The hemorrhoids come from stress, you know.  From worrying about tourists burning down this firetrap of a temple.  From worrying about trying to get enough funding from businessmen to keep it in repair.  From arguing with my wife and children, who are not as holy” – he smiled – as I am.  And from despairing over the quality of the lazy young fools who want to be priests nowadays.  Sometimes I think I would like to get a little place in Hawaii and just play golf for the rest of my life.”

He leaned to one side and scratched himself again.

“It was this way before I was “enlightened” you know.  And now it is the same after enlightenment.”

A long pause while he silently gave me time to consider his words and actions.

Rising, he motioned me to follow him to the entrance alcove of the temple, and we stood before an ancient scroll I had often passed.  He said it was time for me to go home, where he felt I had been a “thirsty man looking for a drink and all the while standing knee- deep in a flowing stream.”  Yes…..

from the book It was On Fire When I lay Down on it.  by Robert Fughum


DM here ;-)  Grant Wood (artist of American Gothic fame)  grew up just a stones throw from where we live.  He traveled all over the world studying the masters of paint  and palate . Eventually he  returned home to Iowa, formed an artist colony and painted profusely until the day he died.

I love that line  “thirsty man looking for a drink and all the while standing knee- deep in a flowing stream.”

If I have to go somewhere else in order to be happy..it wouldn’t take long and I will not be happy there either.

We  take our baggage with us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you my regular readers! ;-) DM

Looking at the ocean



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Measuring Long Term Stress

Friend of mine  had his machine shed catch fire yesterday.  Fortunately no one was injured, but I keep thinking to myself, the stress level in his life has got to be off the chart.  He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in April, had surgery in May.  In June their farm sustained considerable storm damage from straight line winds.

In July, their place was hit with a tornado.

…and now a fire.

Back in the mid 80’s I audited several counseling classes.  In one of them we  looked at the effects of long-term stress.

(Side note: Not all stress is bad.  In fact, in measured doses it can actually contribute to your quality of life.  In gardening we call the process  “Hardening off.”  Hardening  enables a  plant to grow strong to be able to withstand  all the challenges it will meet in the garden.  The problems start when the plant experience too much stress in too short of time.)

Back to that class I mentioned….There was a stress assessment we all took called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

It rated life events on a scale from 15 to 100 points.  The higher you scored, the more likely a candidate  you were to come down with a stressed induce illness.

Had a light bulb moment when I saw my score.

Over 300 points.

  Here is a link to that test if you’re interested.


Here is a link to a new Huffington Post article on stress I just came across that ties right in to this topic.

Thoughts, comments questions? DM






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