Well, I am pleased to announce that we just celebrated the two month birthday of our most favorite bird.  Now, I must say that acknowledging Sparrow’s two month “birthday” and walking around all day saying “today is Sparrow’s 2-month birthday” is not unlike those (annoying) couples who know EXACTLY how long they have been dating and are determined to celebrate their 3-month anniversary, their 4-month, 15th-month and the “day we first knew” anniversary…a trait which, to be honest, strikes me as not only strange but marginally pathetic. (no offense) So, the fact that I am doing the same thing with my daughter drives me crazy.  BUT.  I can’t help it!  Because, unlike those lovey-dovey couples who are celebrating the passing of days which are really mostly identical and unchanging—I am celebrating the passing of days that bring about HUGE change.  Like her smiles (which melt andy’s heart) and her new noises and her little periscope head so much more supported on her string bean neck and (most important!) the increasing number of hours she goes between eating at night (bless her).   Our little bird is morphing right before our eyes–becoming more human and less amoeba, more Sparrow and less generic baby.  So, happy 2-month birthday, Sparrow bird.  We love you.


Other than celebrating birthdays, the Schmidts have been busy, busy, busy with spring-time things.  We enjoyed our first home-grown salad at dinner–a glorious, green mess of spinach, lettuce and arugula.  Until we had this first salad, Andy was resisting the urge to get down on hands and knees to graze in our greenhouse.  I am pleased to announce he did resist and sat, very civilized, at the table to enjoy his greens.  Though we both tossed our forks aside and ate our salad with grubby fingers as recommended by the brilliant Alice Waters.  And since our forks had gone the way of Hammer pants our salad had to be accompanied by other finger foods.  We chose buffalo burgers.  Now if you have never had a buffalo burger on the grill, you have not lived.  Or at least you have not had the pleasure of a buffalo burger, a meat unsurpassed by any other I have tasted.  We always make four quarter-pound patties and we always eat them all.  Which means, I eat two burgers for dinner.  Does that make me a pig??  Probably–but I’m one happy pig.  Add the intoxicating smell of charcoal wafting from the back deck and a Fat Tire beer and well, life is practically perfect.  One is so delirious with bliss, one completely forgets that, despite it being May 27th, it never got above 40 degrees all day. 

mind-melding meal.

And since we are on the subject of food, I should probably share one of my favorite cookie recipes.  In this house, cookies get eaten by the bucket full.  Its terrible and wonderful all at the same time.  I make cookies at least once a week, alternating almost exclusively between chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin.  We can’t go wrong either way–sometimes you crave the crunchy, sweet of a the triple-c and sometimes the chewy, “its healthy because it has oatmeal AND raisins in it” of the oatmeal raisin.  This week, we craved the latter.  We never stray from our stand-by recipe from the delightful Smitten Kitchen website (this women is BRILLIANT).  So if you are in the mood for the cookie that lies to you, “i’m healthy, really” and goes exceptionally well with a fresh brewed cup of coffee at breakfast (is it really THAT different from a bowl of oatmeal??) you should try this recipe. 



In other Schmidt family news, Whitey, our Leghorn hen, took an unfortunate fall into an oil bucket and came out looking like, well, like a chicken dipped in motor oil.   Our neighbor suggested we sprinkle soap powder on her and leave her out in the rain.  We opted for simply leaving her in the rain and since the unfortunate episode, her coloring has faded and she simply looks like an official member of the Schmidt family–covered in dirt. 


Andy is busy building a coop for our turkeys.  I will keep you up-dated on this as it progresses.  And our garden continues to get planted.  This week we introduced the beet to our soil.  We love beets, especially the pickled variety.  I wish they would make an actual pickled beet seed variety, one that grew cute little ball jars of ruby red jewels.  It would save me a step, anyway.  But really, I would truly miss this thrilling “plink!” sound that the jars make when sealing.  The reassuring sound that the next 6 months will be filled with the mouth-staining joy of pickled beets.



beet seeds.


 This weekend we had our share of seed-ish things.  We started with a full day of seed planting at the Schmidt family garden.  First up were the peas and beans.  And with those came the need for some sort of climbing apparatis so Andy & I built a pea trellis from spruce branches (we have spruce trees ad nauseam here).  Last year our trellis succumbed to the weight and height of our ambitious peas and toppled over half way through the summer season.  We attempted to secure it with yarn (note, yarn does not retain any sturdiness it may have had [which isn’t much] upon getting wet), a random length of blue pex pipe left over from the previous winter’s frozen water pipe adventure, and a number of clamps from Andy’s wood shop.  This brilliant cluster of items looked like a 4-H project gone horribly wrong.  And, needless to say, our most creative effort failed and we ended up picking many a pea from a sprawling mess of green vines on the ground.  (I assure you, they still tasted FABULOUS).  So this year we set out with both guns blazing.  No tower of babble for this year’s peas, no sir.  Andy made stakes and we pounded those into the ground alongside the spruce poles and screwed them together.  We used an entire package of twine to tie it altogether…overkill perhaps but all  said and done, we now have a fine trellis that boasts mightiness. Bring it on sugar snap pea! Your gumption is no match for the brute strength of our trellis. 

the mighty pea trellis.

the mighty andy securing the mighty trellis.

We also managed to plant beans, arugula, spinach and lettuce in the garden.  All root vegetables to follow this week.  Our green house is already full of lovely green things and we anticipate a fine salad on our dinner plate within the week.  I can hardly wait!  We are planning to sell at the farmer’s market this summer along with our friends Corrie & Ben.  The things planted in the green house over a month ago are in full swing and will hopefully afford us some early produce to sell.  We are depending on Sparrow to be extremely cute to peak customer interest, luring them over to our booth from across the parking lot like a siren where we will then capitalize on their delirium and take their money.  They will walk away feeling immensely satisfied having given money to the parents of such an adorable creature and then they will realize they also have an armful of delightful veggies.  Everybody wins!

arugula basking in sunlight.

Our next seedling adventure was at Grand Portage Indian Reservation just up the shore.  The elementary students at Oshkiogimaag  had their annual Seedling Sale to raise money for their school.  Andy has been teaching environmental education in the classroom and as a part of this, spearheads the seedling sale.  Starting with plastic trays of dirt and packets of seeds donated from fabulous places like Seed Savers, he walks the kids through the entire process of seed to plant.  It has been a great success and the kids really get into it.   The lesson culminates with the sale, a Saturday morning fiasco complete with blueberry pancakes and bacon from the lodge, rambunctious kids anxious for customers (while simultaneously being very anxious for the sale be over…patience is not a virtue of any 12-year-old I know) and an obnoxious number of those terrible biting black flies northern Minnesota is so well-loved for.    The sale went well and everything left over will be planted for use by the Elderly Nutrition Program.  *I should note that the seedling sale is so well received in part because of the Community Garden Andy started 3 years ago.  We are pleased that the garden has expanded yet again and at the most recent meeting there were 12 new interested gardeners.  I plan to take a trip up there one of these (nice) days to get some pictures.*

doing the math.

 Andy is also very happy to announce that we have approximately 20 asparagus sprouts down the hill by the creek. He counts them everyday (do you think we are excited to eat fresh asparagus??). Asparagus is one of those plants which requires great amounts of patience and, when it comes to asparagus, Andy & I are much like the 12 year olds we worked with this weekend. Asparagus takes approximately 2 years to fully mature and sprout enough roots to offer a substantial crop. In other words it’s not ready to harvest until the second summer after a fall planting. This is our first summer and it is mighty hard to wait. I never thought that a vegetable could cause me to want time to pass more quickly, to be unsatisfied with the now and wish, desperately, for the future. Oh, spindly green shoot with crown so daintily waving, please hurry up.


 And, last but NOT least.  Our little seedling.  She was 8 weeks on Sunday and, I’m pleased to announce, celebrated by giving her mama and papa  a gift–a 6 hour stretch between feedings last night.  Nevermind that mama lay awake in bed for an hour before hand waiting for her to wake up.  Seriously annoying.  But thank you, little Sparrow–let’s have a repeat tonight.  Or maybe I should stretch my luck and ask for 6 1/2 hours this time.  or 7.  or 8. or 9–now I’m just being ridiculous.

Happy seedling.

begin again.

May 21, 2011

welcome to mason jar farm.  or at least, welcome to our blog.  we are andy & amy–two kids teetering on the edge of 30 (oh wait, andy IS 30)–trying to eek out a living on our 13.3 acres of northern minnesota woods.  we often joke that we chose the worst possible place to attempt self-sufficiency…seeing as we have approximately 2 months of 70 degree temps every year.  but, what’s the fun in an easy challenge?  we both grew up in iowa (hello, farm country!) and ended up, by strange/beautiful twists of fate, in Hovland, MN–an unincooperated town of about 100 people, gravel roads, towering spruce and scrubby alder.

in the garden unplanted garden.

 I should mention that we are not just “he & she”, but rather “he, she & she”.  that is, we recently added a new creature into our lives–a little girly by the name of sparrow grace.  8 weeks old and already the darling of our tiny town. 

baby schmidty

 we purchased our property 3 years ago now.  it sits on the banks of the flute reed river (creek by iowa standards) and is the home to a lush black ash swamp and copious numbers of ferns.  over the years, we have slowly begun to transform some of the densly wooded areas into open space–the first step to turning our land into farmable and sustainable.  that we have ANY open space is all thanks to my husband and his 30 year old-chainsaw.    

a boy & his stihl.

currently on our little “farm”, we currently have 9 laying hens, a rooster named lebowski, 3 pigs (corrie, ben & wilhelm), a large garden, 14 baby turkeys and a very loud coonhound named hank.  we love each of these things and give thanks for what they provide/will provide for us.  (coonhound mostly provides humor, companionship and the occasional scaring of marten and fox from the chicken coop.)  we are doing our best to decrease our reliance on the outside world while increasing our own self-reliance.  its a  lot of work but we think its worth it.

corrie, ben & wilhelm

enough said.


layers of fine eggs.


baby turkeys looking very intelligent.

So there you have it.  A brief little overview of what we are doing here at mason jar farm.  please follow us…aka, our blog.  adventure with us.  learn with us.  create with us.  laugh with us (because in all this learning, there are a lot of mistakes, which translate into a lot of laughter).  live well with us.