Living the Country Life

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is an Executive Editor for Meredith Agrimedia, including Living the Country Life and Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see and has an agricultural journalism degree from Iowa State University. She and her husband, Bob, a veterinarian, live on a farm in Iowa where they raise sheep, hay, corn, and soybeans.

July 18, 2013

High Heat Hay

It hasn't rained in three weeks, so Bob has been making lots of hay. He likes the heat index to be about 100 degrees when he goes in the hayloft. Here are some photos of the various equipment.

Bob calls this a hay turner and says they aren't used much any more.

Our hay basket eliminates stacking a rack in the field.

The bales still have to get on the elevator and in the barn.

This grass hay was sold by the rack to a horse owner. Grandpa drove the tractor and Bob racked. He learned a lesson that evening: Hydrate. He didn't drink enough Gatorade and had terrible leg cramps later.

Nice rack.

July 15, 2013

Getting seriously dry

After a wet spring, the drought is back in full force for our Iowa farm. You can see the state of our grove below. We turned the sheep in there on Sunday and they could find very little to eat. All the rain has been going east and turning my parent's fruit farm in Maryland into mush.

The corn and soybeans in Iowa are starting to show drought stress. We could be in for it again. #Drought2013

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July 12, 2013

Wonderful Walnut Trees

I was filling the water tank at the well the other evening and found myself staring at the magnificent walnut trees in our grove. In the 26 years we've lived there I haven't fully appreciated their beauty. The size and scale of these 100-year-old trees is impressive.

Walnuts are my favorite tree. I grew up on Walnut Springs Farm in Maryland, and my father built two corner cupboards for my house from walnut on the farm.

As you would imagine, we have fat squirrels.

This squirrel barks at me every time I try to sit in the yard and read.

July 10, 2013

American Gothic comes to town

For the next six months we have the most amazing sculpture in our town of Indianola, Iowa. You should make a trip here to see it. The sculpture, by New Jersey artist Seward Johnson, is titled "God Bless America." I think of it as American Gothic by Iowa's most famous painter Grant Wood. The statue has moved around the country the past few years and arrived here from the Dubuque Museum of Art. I took this photo with my nephew Chris Wertzberger to show you the height. Amazing.

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July 8, 2013

Summer views

I love our small farm in the summer, but only in the early morning (first photo) and the evening (last photo). The middle of the day in July is not fit for man or beast.


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June 26, 2013

Pick your own fruit

Caroline spent three weeks in June helping my parents on their fruit farm in Maryland, She worked mostly with the strawberries and red raspberries. Black raspberries and blueberries are ripe now. Stop by and pick a bucket full!

June 25, 2013

Planting soybeans

Soybeans were planted at our farm north of Indianola on Saturday. That's the latest I can ever remember. The renter said the ground was the best he had worked this year. He had mudded the crop in north of Des Moines earlier. He and his crew planted all day and all night, sleeping in shifts, to get the beans in before heavy rains hit Sunday and Monday. These late beans should do well on the bottom ground unless the river floods.

June 24, 2013

Spinach salad

The spinach is going gangbusters in my garden, so I've been making a lot of Bacon-Strawberry-Spinach salad. I also add pecans. Here's my thrown together recipe. I don't follow anything exact. Bob loves wilted lettuce salad, so I made a version with cream and lettuce for him.

Betsy's Spinach Salad

1 package of bacon, fried

Big bowl of fresh spinach

3 new onions, sliced

1 cup sliced strawberries

1/2 cup pecans

2 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Fry bacon, save half of the drippings. Add vinegar, sugar, and pecans to dripping. Cook for 1 minute. Pour over spinach. Top with bacon pieces and strawberries.

For Wilted Lettuce Salad, add whipping cream to drippings and vinegar. Cook one minute. Pour over young lettuce leaves and stir. Add bacon pieces, cut up hard boiled eggs, and tiny new potatoes.


June 20, 2013


I saw several thistles in the grove and knew they had to come out fast. We have noxious weed "police" in Iowa and they will pay a visit. Besides, thistles can spread and ruin your pasture. I grabbed a sack and the clippers and started cutting. The blooms are quite lovely, but you have to wear gloves. Nasty plant.

I posted this photo on Facebook and it got a lot of discussion. Join in here.