Archive | June, 2014

Ichneumon Wasp

28 Jun

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I got pretty excited about this wasp yesterday.

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She’s the first ichneumon wasp I’ve ever seen live and in-person.  They’re supposedly pretty common, I guess I just haven’t ever really looked for them before.

I was out clearing some trees from a fence line when I noticed her “stinging” a tree.  She’s actually using her ovipositor (which looks like a frighteningly-oversized stinger) to inject her eggs under the bark of the tree and directly into the larvae of another insect.  These eggs will hatch inside their larval host as a parasite, and eventually kill their host when it’s time to “hatch” out.

Pretty cool stuff.

Spaghetti Al Carbonara

26 Jun

OK kids, its recipe time again.

This is one of my favorite, and comes to you courtesy of one of my old art history professors who claims to have picked this up from the chef at a restaurant in Rome.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this recipe who isn’t a cardiologist.

In short, it’s spaghetti with eggs and bacon.  What’s not to love?

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Start out with this short list of ingredients:

Spaghetti (about 2/3lb)

Bacon (1/2 to 3/4lb)

Heavy cream (a dash)

Parmesan cheese (1/3cup)

and black pepper

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First up, get all that bacon cooked and chopped up into delicious little bits.  This is the longest, most involved part of the entire recipe.

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Next up, boil some water and get the spaghetti cooking.  Once it’s al-dente it’s time for the fun to begin.

Here’s the fun part of this recipe: it uses only the residual heat of the noodles to cook the eggs.

The trick here is two-fold. First you have to be quick about it.  Drain the spaghetti, toss it all back in the pot and quickly crack 2-3 eggs over the top of the piping-hot noodles.

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The second “trick” is to have faith that it’s actually going to work. Stir the eggs and noodles for about 45-60 seconds and you should see little white flecks of cooked egg clinging to the sides of the noodles.

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Finish it all up by stirring in the cream, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and (of course) bacon.

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Now sit down and enjoy a big plate of what is likely the tastiest thing you’ve ever put in your face.

A Smattering of Spring

20 Jun

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The DJ on the radio said that today was the first day of summer.  I think he’s pulling my chain. We just got started with the whole spring thing didn’t we?

What exactly have we been up to this spring anyway?  It seems as if we’ve been too busy to recount exactly what’s been going on.

We got our first crop of hay in from the alfalfa pasture we planted last year.  It looks like we won’t get much grazing out of the alfalfa this year, as some fellas with bulldozers are fixing to build a driveway through the middle of it in a few days.  The driveway is going to my parents building site, which should have a house on it by the end of summer.

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We got 200+ small square bales of nice looking alfalfa hay out of the deal, so it’s not all bad news.  We were lucky to get it all baled and hauled in before the week of torrential rain that left our part of the state a flood-stricken mess.  Thankfully, the extreme hilliness of our farm negates the possibility of flood-related problems.

The chickens seem to be slowing down a smidge on the egg-laying. By that I mean we’re only getting 6-7 dozen eggs per day instead of the 8 dozen/day we were getting earlier this spring. It’s still quite a few eggs, and that means plenty of weird eggs, like this one that has no shell.

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Squishy egg. It’s all fun and games until it’s squished a little bit too hard. The pigs are waiting just behind the gate for a chance to squish the egg and have a little feast.

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Ada is keeping everyone on their toes this spring, including the cows.

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The cows, however, quickly lose interest and move on to other important cow things. Like grazing.
The toddler moves on to other important toddler things. Like climbing.

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The pigs ignore all of the hullabaloo, wandering out in a big group to graze, until one of them (inevitably) gets a little too friendly with the electric fence. There is a sudden squeal, and a stampede of pigs rushes back to the barn for a while.

Meet the New Well

19 Jun

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Our old well house has gone the way of the Dodo.

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Judicious use of the tractor and a sledgehammer made sure of that.

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A temporary electric line was run from the garage to power the well until the new below-ground power line could be installed.

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After a good 100 feet of directional boring was completed, and a new 1.25″ PEX waterline and UF electrical line were pulled through (visible in the lower-right of the photo) the foundation of the well house had to be torn apart.

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While they were at it, the main water hydrant got moved back to a code-compliant +10′ distance from the well.

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A few days later and all we have is the wellhead sticking out of the ground. Not bad.

I just finished sowing some new grass seed in all the bare dirt so we ought to have some nice grass covering it all up pretty soon, provided the chickens don’t scratch it all up first.

Our Worst Pasture, Unearthed.

13 Jun

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We just had some fellas out to the farm with a bit of heavy equipment to fix us up with new water pipe from our well. In the process we went ahead and had them bury a new water line out into the pasture behind our barn.

This is the worst pasture on our farm. Sometime in the 1950’s it was scraped bare and all the good dirt was hauled 1/4 mile away to build a highway overpass. We’ve been trying a few tricks to rejuvinate this pasture like spreading old hay and fertilizing it with our pastured chickens. This has yielded some rather impressive results (at least on the surface) but when the well guys dug a 6′ deep trench through this pasture it really showed the extent of the problem.

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This is the trench through the “not so bad” part of the pasture. Ground level is where the little tufts of grass are sticking out of the pile of dirt; below that is the trench. There is only about 10 inches (at most) of good black dirt. Below that is 6 feet or more of red sand.

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In the middle of the pasture where the water tank is located there is even less good black dirt, a mere inch or two. We’ve got a lot of work to do to heal this particular patch of land.

Bye Bye Wellhouse

3 Jun

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The well guy came out the other day and brought along a few guys that do directional boring.

They looked around a while to figure out the best way to get all the digging done to get our well fixed up like it ought to be.

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We figured out pretty quickly that the well house wasn’t worth saving.  It’s had far too much water damage.  It would be better to just bury the well.  That way there is no well house, the wiring is accessable from the house and there is no danger of the well freezing every time it gets to -10°F in the winter.

They said they’ll be here Monday or Tuesday to start digging.
That leaves us through the weekend to get the well house torn down (and rig up a temporary electrical supply to the well).

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Best to back up a trailer alongside the wellhouse and start tearing stuff up. We unearthed a whole bunch of goodies. Well, not really goodies, more like scrap metal.

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And there it is, the well head. Within a week this ought to have a new electrical line feeding it from the house, a new PEX water line going to the house, and a bunch of new PEX water line going up the hill to my parents new building site.

With all of our farmers markets starting this week, cows pigs and chickens going to the butcher and a new batch of chickens coming in, it’s shaping up to be a busy week.