Friday, February 27, 2015

The Crossroads of Winter: More or Less

There are no photographs of crossroads in this post. It is meant to be a metaphor. Our days have been dawning with subzero temperatures. The sun shines through the day just enough to allow the air temperature to rise above zero. Too quickly, the sun sets and the plunge begins again, subzero by dawn and often even colder than the day before. "As the days begin the lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen," the old timers remind us. It has proven true this year. 
 The sun itself has begun to drive away the cold on the days it shines.
 And so, as February finishes, we begin to hope for Spring.
There are no apparent signs of Spring on the lake. 
Or anywhere on the land, for that matter.
We must look for more subtle signs. 
Like calves that are scheduled to begin arriving next week. 
And strong shadows that are a result of bright afternoon sun. 
Next week will be March. 
The sun will stay longer each day, but there is no guarantee that Winter will retreat. 
The first day of Spring will arrive on the calendar, although we know that even by that late date, there may be no apparent sign of Spring. 
So we will be watching for the tiniest signs of Spring 
And keep our hopes up in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Through the Window: Woodpeckers

Late February has brought long cold days. The sun stays with us for hours longer than it did in the dark days of December, and it is even possible to feel a bit of warmth when in its direct glow. However, it is still clearly Winter around here. I have been looking for a Canada goose to fly by. I sometimes spot them in February. No goose has been silly enough to show up yet. We have no open water, no hint that  will change soon.
But the woodpeckers have been around all Winter.  
They show up every day to enjoy the suet cakes and peanuts that I leave for them. 
 I am amazed that their little bird feet can grip the metal cage around the suet and not freeze.
The woodpeckers take a break by flying off to the nearby trees. We have Hairy and Downy woodpeckers at our feeders. There are Pileated Woodpeckers around, but they don't land at my feeder and I have yet to take a good photograph of one. The Pileated Woodpecker is larger with a bright red head. They are most often spotted near the top of an electric power pole when I am driving down a quiet gravel road.
 After a perch in the tree, they swoop back to the feeder for another munch.

Brave and hardy woodpeckers in GriggsDakota.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm

It is back to reality in GriggsDakota and Winter is still with us. The wind is howling making our falling temperatures feel all the more chilling. Our weather has not been extremely cold. We have not set a record cold temperature for any given day so far this year. Record cold involves sinking down somewhere below the thirty degrees below zero Fahrenheit mark. In GriggsDakota we have not been quite that cold, but we have been close on a few days.  We also have not had an abundance of snow. During our January thaw, all of the snow disappeared. That is extremely unusual, but welcome in most respects. 
 It caused concern for the Winter Wheat. Planted in the Fall, just when it looks green and lush, Winter comes. We hope that it will have a cozy blanket of snow to wear all through the cold months. 
The fields spent time bare and brown, then received a thin cover of snow. Our temperatures have been down well below zero.
Will the Winter Wheat, planted last Fall when it germinated and now waiting in dormancy for Spring, freeze in the chill? 
 Farmer Fred is quietly optimistic for a couple of reasons. He thinks that all is well in the field.
Our ground temperatures have not gone into the deep freeze yet. We plant very hardy varieties that are developed to withstand our cold climate. Of course, we may still have plenty of Winter ahead of us, but it appears that the plant roots can survive the cold, so far. 
Also, we had an excellent stand last Fall. The roots became well established which means they are down below the surface, where the temperature is slightly warmer. 
So, down on the farm, things are still Wintery and we are wondering about our Winter Wheat in GriggsDakota.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fifth Annual Farmer Fred Awards Finished

Thank you to everyone who has been following the 2014 Farmer Fred Awards. I sincerely appreciate the kind words and encouragement to continue the blog.
 I must be honest enough to tell you that it is more difficult than it was in the beginning. GriggsDakota has a special place in my heart. We are approaching 1500 posts from GriggsDakota. That is a lot of words and pictures. Since taking over the blog in August of 2009, many things have changed and much has stayed the same. It has been my privilege to tell the story.
The posts are like my children and grandchildren in that I love them all. I try not to share what I would not be interested to read myself. You, as readers, judge the success with views, likes, comments, and shares. I am comfortable to leave it at that. When taking photos, I look for things that interest me and angles that are new. I strive each day to make the story as true as it can be. Sometimes, you must put up with my opinions, but I am not out to change the world. I have found my place here and know contentment. As we strive to make the farm the best it can become, we find fulfillment.
Farming is important work. We want everyone to have access to healthy nourishment. Let work on the farm and life on the farm continue in GriggsDakota.

Monday, February 23, 2015

December Farmer Fred Award: Merry Christmas from our House to Yours

Farmer Fred and I were happy when our daughter decided to contribute to GriggsDakota each Monday. Kirsti's life in the oil patch of western North Dakota gives a perspective on new possibilities for the American Dream.
 Here is something to keep in mind about the American Dream:  
It is not about you. 
In truth the American Dream is about America and how you can fit into life here. America provides safety and opportunity. Families and communities work together to launch you into an opportunity through education or job training. It takes hard work and attention to daily detail. It takes generosity and sacrifice from others. You are assisted by your family, church, community, or America itself. You must seize your opportunity. The result of this method is success and prosperity. During the process, the people around you watch their own dreams come true. In turn, you will help others with their opportunities. 
The American Dream can happen for anyone willing to work hard.
 God Bless America.

The Farmer Fred Award for December 2014 is presented to:
Merry Christmas from our Home to Yours
Originally published on December 22, 2014

Every Monday we welcome our daughter Kirsti to blog from her home in Western North Dakota's oil patch.

This my husband's and my second year celebrating Christmas with our fun little girl. But it's the first one in which she's old enough to experience the joy of the season.

And oh. The joy!

Some things you don't fully understand about parenthood until you get to experience it. Seeing Christmas though your child's eyes is one of those things. Everything is magic. Everything is exciting. Everything is new again.

I hope you are able to experience some of this joy this week. May your days be merry and bright!


Friday, February 20, 2015

December Farmer Fred Award Runner-Up: Winter Morning on the Farm

In GriggsDakota it is easy to like morning. The wind is often still or light. The light changes moment by moment. Whatever the season, morning is a good time to be working on the farm. In December, Winter is still fresh and clean and the days are dark. The yard light, the headlights, and the Christmas lights, make the world sparkle.
The Farmer Fred Award Runner-Up for December 2014 is presented to: 
Winter Morning on the Farm
Originally published on December 11, 2014 
It is not early in the morning, but the light is new. 
We are living through the dark days of December. 
The corn hulls, which we call bees wings although they have never been attached to a bee, were blowing in the raw South wind. 
This is a warm Winter morning, temperatures in the mid twenties should feel balmy at this time of day, but the wind is brisk and cold. 
Winter allows each sound to be distinct in the morning air. 
 Although there is wind, there are no rustling leaves or waving grass to dull the noise.
The heavy clouds and high humidity have frosted the surfaces in the yard. 
I am sad to hear the forecast of melting snow. 
We really don't have any to spare, in my opinion. 
 But the nice weather makes it easy to get on the road to haul out the crop.
 The tiny blades of grass peeking through the snow cover are frosted.
The corn will be hauled to a nearby elevator.
 I don't know where the crop will go when the elevator sells it.
But when you look at an ingredient list that includes corn, or eat corn flakes, corn syrup, corn chips, think of us.
Food made in the USA starts here. 
On an American farm, like GriggsDakota.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

November Farmer Fred Award: Grandma's Cranberry Relish

This is the Fifth Annual Farmer Fred Awards and it is unusual for a recipe post to win the coveted award. This recipe is special in that it brings together the brilliance of simplicity with the joy of tradition. The relish can be incorporated into any course of a meal.
 Try using it as an appetizer by putting a spoonful over eight ounces of cream cheese on a pretty plate and serve with crackers.  Top brie with a little cranberry relish and a few pecans, then wrap in puff pastry and bake. The uses are endless, cranberry relish keeps well in the fridge and in the freezer. 
The Farmer Fred Award for November 2014 is presented to:
Grandma's Cranberry Relish
Originally posted on November 21, 2014
I don't know who gets credit for today's Cranberry Relish Recipe. It could be either Grandma who first started making it. Possibly the recipe came through the Homemaker's Club. They were both in the club, as was my Mom. They are all included in the photo above that Grandpa took at a long ago meeting. Mom standing on the left, her Mom seated nearest her, and Grandma Signa standing on the right.
What I suspect to be most likely is that the recipe was printed on the cranberry bag. I can remember Grandma telling me to always read recipes on the package. If one looks good, give it a try. The recipe is there to sell the product, so these are usually good recipes, she reasoned.
Wherever this recipe originated, it is delicious. Cranberry Relish goes well with all kinds of meat and dishes made with meat. 
 When I was young, a bowl of cranberry relish was on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We serve it more often now. I like to have some in the refrigerator so I can mix it with other fruit in a salad. I especially like to mix it with apples, pecans, miniature marshmallows and whipped cream. It tastes like happiness to me.
 The recipe has only three ingredients:
1 pound fresh cranberries
 Outer peel of one orange
and one cup of sugar. 
I use a peeler over the orange skin and grind it with the cranberries. I use the grinder attachment on my mixer. Grandma Nola uses her food processor to chop the cranberries and grates the orange on a box grater. We both spent years making this with a hand grinder fastened to the edge of the kitchen table. All methods work for us, but when grinding by hand, we ground the cranberries when they were slightly frozen to keep the juice from dripping. With electric means, use fresh cranberries.
I make large batches of this relish for Thanksgiving and Christmas, using several pounds of cranberries. Since our recipe was written down, the size of cranberry bags has changed. They are now sold in 12 ounce bags. So if you are going to make just a little relish from one 12 ounce bag of cranberries, you would add no more than 3/4 cup of sugar. 
This is one of those recipes that you can adjust to personal taste. I add a little less sugar than the recipe calls for, but it is delicious when fully sweetened. 
Stir the sugar in and let the mixture stand for a few hours or overnight before serving to let the flavors blend and the sugar fully melt into the fruit. Cranberry Relish keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and freezes well. 
It feels festive in GriggsDakota when the cranberry relish is ready for the table. 
Grandma's Cranberry Relish
1 pound fresh cranberries
Zest from one orange
1 Cup Sugar
Grind the cranberries. Grate or grind the orange peel. Mix in one cup of sugar. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving. Freezes well.