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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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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Why you don’t want to come to Iowa

Hinterlands:  a region lying beyond major metropolitan or cultural centers

German, from hinter hinder + Land

First Known Use: 1890

Synonyms : back country, back lands, backwoods, frontier, outback, up-country

Dear Dave,

I know you are thinking strongly about moving to Iowa.  Thought I would jot you a quick note to give you my perspective.  When I hear the word “hinterland” I think of Iowa. Especially that part about being  “beyond the cultural centers.”  Culture is the last thing you’ll ever experience here in Iowa.

My great grand father came to Iowa from Germany before the turn of the century.  Not sure what he was thinking.   There is absolutely nothing here to see or do.  As your friend, I would strongly encourage you to think long and hard before you relocate to such a barren place.  I’m trying to be objective as I write this but I’d rather error on the side of caution, so you won’t be overwhelmed, in the event you would decide to come.

Today (November 7th) the weatherman said we may be in for it next week.   The winter storms here can last for days.  This past Winter, we had a several week stretch where the temperatures did not get above 10 degrees.    Ice and snow storms are common from the first of November through March.

Once we get into May, it’s tornado season.  If you look on the map, we are in the upper area of what is called “tornado alley.”

Electricity only came to our area recently and we still can’t get a good signal for an internet connection.

And the quietness of this place will drive you batty.

The air is dirty and the soil poor.

The water that comes out of the ground is also tainted with all sorts of nasty stuff.

Prices for groceries are probably double the national average.

There are no jobs to be had and the smartest thing I would recommend is you stay right where you are at.

It’s best to live in an area with a higher population density. There is a reason McDonald s doesn’t put a restaurant in towns of less than 10,000, although I hear they have started to make some exceptions with that.

I know there are a few alarmist that write about behavioral sink.

I don’t believe  a word of it.

They claim that cramming too many people in to small an area results in behaviors such as (quoting now) “aggression, submissiveness, sexual deviance, and reproductive abnormalities….

explosive violence, hypersexual activity followed by asexuality, and self-destruction…

More than six hundred mice now lived in Universe 25, constantly rubbing shoulders on their way up and down the stairwells to eat, drink, and sleep. Mice found themselves born into a world that was more crowded every day, and there were far more mice than meaningful social roles. With more and more peers to defend against, males found it difficult and stressful to defend their territory, so they abandoned the activity. Normal social discourse within the mouse community broke down, and with it the ability of mice to form social bonds. The failures and dropouts congregated in large groups in the middle of the enclosure, their listless withdrawal occasionally interrupted by spasms and waves of pointless violence. The victims of these random attacks became attackers. Left on their own in nests subject to invasion, nursing females attacked their own young. Procreation slumped, infant abandonment and mortality soared. Lone females retreated to isolated nesting boxes on penthouse levels. Other males, a group Calhoun termed “the beautiful ones,” never sought sex and never fought—they just ate, slept, and groomed, wrapped in narcissistic introspection. Elsewhere, cannibalism, pansexualism, and violence became endemic.

Mouse society had collapsed….”

You can read more about those experiments here.

We’re not rats or mice, so I don’t think their theories apply.

Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to give it to you straight.

Here are a few recent pictures I’ve taken.

Don’t let them fool you.  This is not a good place to raise a family.

sunrise in Iowa





October morn

Saturday morning sunrise

Morning in the orchard


November morning sky

evening light

After the harvest

misty march morning

 Misty morning in March


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My thoughts on current events


Remember the song  Dirty Laundry?

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam
In her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry…
Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry


As much as I care about staying informed with what’s happening in the world at large, I also care about the state of my inner world.

Inner world as defined as my inner peace, joy, contentment, etc.

I am currently enjoying an extended season of general well-being that  probably started about 2012.

2008  The financial markets and general population were wrapped in fear, myself included.  We have a friend from the  UK put it like this: “...the current economic climate brings a fear into every household across the globe that we might not be the ones to survive the recessions….”   

2010   I remember sitting at my kitchen table with  Stan.  Between the BP oil spill, a supreme court ruling taking the cap off of election funding,  and some  stuff Monsanto was getting away with, Stan was bugging out.  He cared deeply about all  those issues and felt powerless to do a thing about them.

2012.  I decided I’d had enough.

I was tired of feeling like someone was  playing  my emotions like a fiddle every time I turned on my truck radio. ( I had already stopped watching  the news on TV for several years by now.)

Why should I let a few people at ABC, CBS, NBC, The White House, FOX, CNN, (who in many cases do not share my values), make the decisions as to what I should be thinking about on a daily basis?

90% of it is spin,  propaganda and out right lies in the first place.

Flash forward to the present….

There are two dear people in my life currently who are in a constant state of agitation due to the  news.  I’ve challenged both of them they may want to step back just a wee and look at their current media consumption.  What are they currently telling the rest of us we need to be locked in on?  Ebola, ISIS, 2014 election dirt, etc.

I’m not suggestion they stick their head in their shell like a turtle.

On the other hand, give me a couple of good reasons to live my life in a constant state of fear, in the name of being informed.

That sounds like  great use of my time and energy.  (Not)

 “Keep (or guard) your heart, with all diligence (vigilance), for from it (your heart) issue  the springs of life).”  Ancient Proverb.

I remember back in the early 1980’s being challenged by someone to pay attention to the things I gave my mind to, as in, it was possible to have some say-so in what  went on in my mind.

The first time I heard that concept, I remember thinking, yea, right.    I didn’t believe I had a whole lot of say so as to what went on in my mind.

Not true.

I can control what I mull over.

Loved this quote by Martin Luther:

“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”


View to the East out here in the Hinterlands.


Talk to me.  I would love to hear your comments or questions.  I can’t be the only person  who has wrestled with how to keep from living in a constant state of agitation.  DM





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Dealing with a compulsive talker

compulsive talker

I glanced out our kitchen window a week ago Saturday and froze.  A van with two people in the front.

For a second, I wondered if it were  Jehovah’s Witnesses making a call , then I recognized who was in the van.

A friend was playing taxi for someone I refuse to get sucked into a conversation with at this point in my life.  Friend wanted me to come out to just say “Hi.”

At the risk of you thinking less of me I’ll tell you what happened next…

I was in the middle of doing an estimate and refused to comply.  Told my wife I was not going outside.

Wife went out.  That was her choice. ;-)

I’ve made that mistake three times.

The first time was understandable.

The second and third times, I had given him the benefit of doubt, thinking maybe I had misjudged him.

Not any more.

He talks non-stop about anything and everything.  Mindless flittering from one topic to the next.  If  you let him, he will suck the life force right out of you.

I’m joking, but not really.

(It was at least 40 minutes later before the wife was back)

As I thought about that recent encounter, I spent several minutes last night looking for  tips on how to handle a compulsive talker in a nice way. There is not a lot of good information.


I did come across this  article by Charles Shahar

Here’s a portion of it:

      “A comfortable conversation has a certain flow. Both parties are focused on each other. There is an active give-and-take. This dynamic exchange brings pleasure to the participants. They are energized by the experience. When they leave, they will seem livelier than before the conversation. They may look back at the encounter with fondness, and will respond favorably to the other person when they meet them again.

A conversation with a compulsively talkative person has a different flow. All of the attention is aimed in one direction: you are doing the listening, they are doing the talking. They seem to have an infinite capacity for spouting forth words. You will find that you are getting tired, your body is sagging, you feel restless, or you feel tightness in the pit of your stomach. They are draining your energy. You are doling out tons of attention, you are working hard for them, and they are reveling in the limelight. This is what they live for.

...you are conversing with a human leech…. When the conversation is over you will feel depleted, spent. They took your juice. It may take hours to recover it….

Compulsive talking is an indication that you are dealing with a neurotically needy person. The reason they speak obsessively is to hold your attention. They are desperate to this end, and fear that if they stop talking, you will lose interest and leave. They rely on your sense of courtesy, on your desire not to appear offensive by interrupting or cutting them off. In fact, they will take advantage of someone who lets them continue unabated.

Needy people will tell you all about their problems. They will spare no details. They don’t care whether you are interested or not. In fact, they are completely insensitive to your feelings or desires. The important thing for them is the juice– your attention. It is like a drug for them.

They are addicted to your attention. ….. When you start to cut off the juice, they get anxious….

A device needy people use to get attention is to tell long-winded stories. These are a perfect foil because people have to listen for their duration. The needy person will embellish his story, use long-winding sentences, go off on tangents, and focus on details — all with the aim of trapping the attention of his audience. The stories themselves are often boring and indulgent….”


So dear reader, do you have any tips?

My default response has been  to avoid these situations as much as possible now.

The inner poverty that fuels that sort of behavior is not a simple fix.

I can’t for the life of me imagine Jesus sitting there listening to someone ramble on and on, but to come right out and  address it, seems so tacky and unkind.


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