Living the Country Life
More
Close

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is the editor-in-chief of Living the Country Life and executive editor of Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see www.strawberryfarm.com) 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 25, 2013

Ready for the county fair!

The vegetable contest at the county fair is tonight, so I've been digging potatoes. The red spuds are the best I've ever seen, but my white potatoes and onions are late and small. I'm entering Brussels sprouts for the first time. I found that it takes a lot of plants to harvest five uniform, firm, large, sprouts free from insect damage.

My other first-time entries are beets and zucchini. I talked to a seasoned gardener at the fair last night to get his tips on what to select. Here they are:

1. Zucchini should be no more than 8 inches long. Cut the stem long and even. If you harvest the night before the show, keep in a plastic bag in the fridge.

2. Beets can be as small as a golfball and no bigger than a baseball. They must be the same shape and size. Leave the taproot on, but trim the leaves to 2 inches.

3. Select your entries by lining them up from largest to smallest. Choose the five closest in size. Don't be afraid to select five that are smaller. It's all about uniformity.

Good luck at the fair!

I lined up these potatoes on a towel on the living room floor last night from largest to smallest and picked the five closest in size.

You don't want WOODY beets!

My kohlrabi looked great earlier (above), but got too big and woody by the fair.

July 22, 2013

Marvin

Our wonderful cat, Marvin, died on Friday, age 18. We got Marvin when he was four from my friend Natasha. He had bitten her young daughter when she pulled his tail. Marvin was a large neutered male with claws, so he wasn't the perfect cat for toddlers. We weren't sure how he would do on our farm, but he quickly became a part of the family. His favorite spot was on Bob's lap. He loved any man who visited, often leaping into their laps when they sat down (scaring a few). He was a guys' cat.

Natasha says he got his name because he looked like Marvin the Martian with his antenna whiskers. You can see that in the photo above.

Marvin's ear was mangled years ago in a fight with a coon. After that we always made sure he was in the house at night. His best friend was our other cat, Mario. Mario wandered around our house in a confused state all weekend, looking for Marvin.

It's so sad to lose a pet. We will miss Marvin.

Marvin is inspecting the sheep herd from an upstairs window.

So relaxing.

This is the last photo I could find of Marvin, taken in April at his favorite spot.

 

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

  • Tags:
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.

  • Tags:
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.

 

  • Tags:
June 26, 2013

Pick your own fruit

Caroline spent three weeks in June helping my parents on their fruit farm in Maryland, strawberryfarm.com. 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.

Pages