Friday, May 29, 2009

New Friday Podcast From The Farm!

CLICK - HEAR Listen to the new podcast from Dunn Creek Farm

Hello again!

Sorry I haven't been adding new entries this week. I've been pretty busy! There is so much to do in the spring. But I did manage to record and produce a new podcast from the farm.

I want to offer a special welcome to the blog if you've been listening to the weekly podcast on The Homecast Show.

A Few Notes:

I always try to keep the podcast time at about 5:00 minutes. But sometimes that means making a few short cuts in my story. I had planned to do more to explain how / why we decided to move to Prince Edward Island. But I only spent a minute with Tom Rath on Anne of Green Gables and didn't really finish the story.

Anne is the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's series of novels about life on PEI. It was those stories which brought PEI to the attention of my wife, Susan. She came to visit "Annes Land" and that was what made her want to come back and find a little place on the island to call her own. I've never read the books but they changed my destiny and brought me here!
I'm sure we will revisit Anne and her part in our story another day.


We're offering fresh, local PEI organic asparagus for $4.00 a pound. Quantities are limited but the plants are just now getting active so we will have more for you in the next few weeks! Just stop in or call ahead and I'll put an order together for you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Friday Podcast From The Farm

CLICK - HEAR the Friday Podcast From Dunn Creek Farm
CLICK - HEAR the Friday Podcast From Dunn Creek Farm
I've also activated the "comments" function on the blog so you
can add your two cents too.

And please enjoy a nice snapshot of the house...

The Farm Puts on the Green

Walking up the lane these days, one is greeted by the gurgling chatter of Dunn Creek running into the pond. There's at least one pair of black ducks nesting there. Sometimes I'll see a great heron standing in the lane too.

(click to enlarge)
The view from the top of our little peach orchard looking toward our neighbors and the old church. Sorta defines pastoral landscape.
We'll be plantin' spuds. I hand cut the larger potatoes into halves to get a few more plants .

These are the red potatoes. Now they go in the basement for a few days until the cuts are dried over and more or less sealed. This helps prevent infection of the seed in the ground. Each piece has "eyes" from which stems will sprout. We don't grow a lot of potatoes each year. The market will only support about a dollar a pound even for organics that are un-sprayed and hand tended as ours are. If you've ever dug potatoes by hand you know it doesn't take long to realize that a dollar a pound isn't worth your trouble. But if you harvest for yourself and a few friends - you will taste the difference.

We also have an established bed of chives and I found some leftover parsley seed from last spring. So we'll have new potatoes with butter and herbs and won't they be good!

You can grow potatoes in So.Cal. In fact you could plant them in Feb or March. You'll probably want to use raised beds of improved soil to avoid our heavy clay. Add a bit of sulfur to moderate our "sweet" soil p.h. and you might need to put down some wire to keep the gophers out.

Update at 7:30 PM - If you want to plant and grow ANYTHING organically in SB - go see my friend Matt at Island Seed and Feed in Goleta. He'll help you with everything you need.
And please mention that I suggested you stop by.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting Green

Farmer John needs a shave! Today I was on the run all day! It's 9:00 PM. Twelve hours since I stepped outside to work today. It was all mad effort in the greenhouse. Plus I voiced 2 commercials in the studio and supervised an ISDN session in Santa Barbara.

Dandelions add color in the garden. They also let me know I am way behind in weeding the asparagus and mowing down the grass! They're pretty though.

I worked up my own planting mix for filling the flats we use to start seeds in the greenhouse. I added organic fertilizer to a premade organic mix of mostly peat. Nice and light so small seeds can break the surface easily. The soil temperature is only about 50 degrees F. It's too cold to direct seed many of our plants into the ground. Optimum germination for many seeds is 70 to 80 degrees F. The greenhouse gets plants established at warmer temps and gives us a head start. It got up to 90 degrees F inside today. Outside air temp. was about 60.

Here are some of the dill seeds I harvested in the greenhouse this week. I planted some in flats. They look better than the commercial dill seed we bought. This is Hercules Dill - and heirloom we bought from Richter's in Ontario.

YAY! The beds are turned and composted and the shelves are full of newly seeded flats. I'll take another snapshot in a couple of weeks so you can see the greenhouse when it really is green! My friend Will Oakley and I built the green house several years ago. It's become a really important part of our production.

Here is the view looking out into the yard.

I have so many more projects that all need to be done yesterday. Spring is a very demanding season. Fortunately, it's still too cold for mosquitos. But I was visited by a few of those nasty little black flies today. They are small, but they can draw blood. More bats please!

I saw a bat fly out of the barn in daylight the other day. I hope it was going to get some friends.
They eat pests like crazy!

The CBC radio is currently airing a long form program on Korean Shamans. Wow, I wish we better radio in the States. It's good company.

Well, I have to get ready for bed. I'll be up at 6:00 AM. (That's 2:00AM in Santa Barbara!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Victoria Day in Canada. Huzzah!

I love Canadians. And may I say that our well informed Canadian cousins aren't particularly shy when they're at home of teasing US - as in U.S. - so allow me to return the favor to my friends here whose colorful money still bears the likeness of England's Monarch.

Victoria Day?

Yes, indeed. An honor to Britain's Queen Victoria, who virtually defined the 19th century in Western culture. She it was who embodied the glory that was the British Empire for 63 years.
And so naturally the inhabitants of her former empire should celebrate in grand style. Right?
Wrong. According to CBC radio, only Canada celebrates this day for the Great White Queen.

Now, you Canadians are so inclusive, democratic and dare I say, "liberal" (which means something different here) that I was surprised to find that you celebrate the birth of the Empress of your former colonial government. After all, it was she who brought her Empire the Second Afghan War. Afghanistan is a hot topic now that 5,000 Canadians are serving in the latest Afghan War. (Check out CBC radio's Afghanada series - for an eye opening drama series about the NATO mission there.) But no matter, she was beloved none the less. And in Prince Edward Island, a place named for the son of George III (THAT George, whose tea my Patriot ancestors dumped into Boston Harbor) the day was placidly content.

But what about French Canadians? Well, in Quebec they celebrate a French uprising against English rule. So you see how difficult this empire thing can be. More credit to Victoria I suppose.

Furthermore, Queen Victoria was a powerful woman. A relatively enlightened leader of a great Empire at a time when western women could not vote. Victoria Day doesn't seem to bother modern English Canadians. Neither does the three day holiday weekend they get each May.

For my American self, it was less holiday and more work. My ancestors bid goodbye to the English monarchy several centuries ago. So if it's all the same, I'll give my respects to Her Majesty and get back to shoveling compost.

Victoria Day dawned cloudy and cool, with impending rain. I mowed the lawn a week ago and it's now due for another cut. But cloudy, wet weather set me to work in the greenhouse.

I had neglected to clean out the green house last fall, bu my reward was finding and ample supply of dill and cilantro seed still on the dead plants inside. I harvested the seed for planting
a new crop this year and noted that dill seeds in particular are most handy for making pickles in the fall. Last summer I made dill tomato pickles, which are green tomatoes pickled like cucumbers. They made fine pickles in the sandwich I had at noon.

I finished cleaning out the greenhouse today. I emptied out the old beds and turned in a fresh load of farm-made compost, and I will start planting seedlings tomorrow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Podcast from the Road - US to Canada

Click - Hear
Our latest podcast from our road trip from Santa Barbara, California to Prince Edward Island.

A Few More From The Road Home

The Big Yellow Truck on Poverty Beach, Murray Harbour North, PEI on May 12, 2009.
We arrived on the evening of the 11th and drove 4,610 miles from Santa Barbara California.
It was quite a ride.

Our last run was from Bangor Maine to the Border, then on into New Brunswick. The shot above is "Down East" Maine on Route 9. We crossed the border at Milltown and had no problem importing the truck. I had all my papers in order which made it simple. President Obama's picture was on the Wall in the US Customs office, (which looks like a drive up / take out place).
Then we crossed the Saint Croix River to Canada Customs. We chatted a bit and got an earful about US politics, the election of President Obama and George Bush. You don't have to get very far outside the States to find out just how much the rest of the world dis-likes our former president.

Here we are coming over the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to PEI. The bridge is 8 miles long. Yup, that's a long bridge. We had been invited to supper with friends so our first meal home was surf and turf (steak and lobster) with Greg and Angela near Montague.

Yes, it's lobster season on the island. But prices have collapsed and the fishermen are in trouble.
The word going around now is that lobster is selling cheaper than bologna.

I got the lawn mowed, the car started up and the tractor ready to work. Next morning (Wed.) I woke to a frosty white blanket in the yard.

Annie confronts the frost. It warmed up into the high '60's later in the day but as you can see, mid May or not - it can still get cold at night.

I showed Peter how to hook up the disc harrow and start a parttern in the front field. He was

doing fine so I left him at it. He "made a good job of it" and so we got our first ground broken for the season. I plan to put in a "green manure" crop in here. Peter flew back to Santa Barbara yesterday (Thurs.) so I went from Charlottetown to York and picked up our seed order at Vesey's then headed back down east to Murray Harbour North.

Our road trip story is over, but now the farm work has begun. I'll keep you posted here, so do check back in and visit from time to time. Visiting is important here on the island. You'll be expected to stay a bit and get all caught up on the news. I'll put the coffee on.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Running Through New England

We started yesterday east of Hartford, Connecticut and ended in Bangor, Maine last night. As we start our daily routine this morning we're heading to the Canadian border and we plan to be home on PEI tonight.

Susan and the boys are back in our home in Santa Barbara. The evacuation orders were lifted for most of the city last night. I spoke to Susan and she's already been busy washing the ashes off the house. She said the fire burned to within a short distance of our home (down to Hwy 192 in two places). Thank you fire fighters! There were crews from all over the state and a full scale air armada of water dropping planes and helicopters.

Thanks to you, our good friends, for your concern and good wishes. We had to miss visits with several dear friends in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. So sorry we missed you.

Sunday, we pulled off the highway for a short stop in Amesbury, Mass. Why? Well, in the 1600's, our pioneer ancestors had a homestead there when Amesbury was out on the frontier.
Our unfortunate predecessor was killed in an Indian raid. His wife shouted and cursed at an Indian attacker, who killed her husband then hit her on the head and left her for dead. She and their son survived...or I wouldn't be writing this.

Amesbury is a nice looking small town on the Merrimac River, just below the New Hampshire border.

The Congregational Church, which would have been home for our family. Amesbury would be a perfect Hollywood location for "small New England Town".

I found some cousins on the Amesbury Civil War memorial.

We stopped for lunch at a locals hangout and talked baseball with the bartender and a couple of local letter carriers. Former Red Sox slugger and now suspended LA Dodger, Manny Ramirez, was a hot topic. The food was fresh and good.

Barry the bar tender at our service.

This morning we're leaving Bangor and will be leaving the states behind in New Brunswick.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Yellow Truck Gets Hot Wired in New Jersey!

Yes, in true main-stream-media style - I know how to lead with the sensational headline!
"Thousands Could DIE from flu PANDEMIC - more after this message..."

Today is Mother's day, our tenth day on the road in the Big Yellow Truck. We left Gettysburg after a speed tour (please see the previous post), we hit the road intending to make Hartford, Connecticut, about 340 miles.

At about 6:00 PM, we stopped for gas in Boonton, New Jersey. That's when I realized we had a problem. After getting gas (you don't pump your own gas here, they pump it for you - it's the law.) The truck wouldn't start. It wouldn't crank, wouldn't "click"...nothing. We pushed it away from the pump and into a parking spot in front of the minimart. I went inside and asked a pretty young woman for the address so I could call Triple-A for a tow. That's when the locals took over.

She said, "There's a mechanic right up the street. I take my car to him." I asked if the towtruck driver would know where he was. She paused and then called to a customer - "Do you know Romi's?" Long story short, within 5 minutes, the man had called the garage and was giving me a ride up the road to talk to the mechanic.

On the road, Dominic told me he was a local boy, a retired cop who specialized in explosives and forensics. He said he was called in to investigate the first World Trade Center bombing. We walked in to Romi's and introduced ourselves to Lee. Hearing the situation, Lee packed up some tools, closed his shop and drove us back the the Hess Station.

In a few minutes, he had spliced a wire to the starter so we could start the truck by touching the wire to the battery. With the truck hot wired, we were ready to hit the road again. All thanks to the extraordinary kindness of the people of Boonton, New Jersey.

I won't tell you what it cost. Let's just say it was a very kind and fair price and it was done with a handshake. If you're in the area, I can recommend you call Lee Wiseman at Romi's Auto Repair, 726 Myrtle Ave. Boonton, NJ (973) 263-9521.

The news in this country can make you beleive that things are horrible and getting worse. As I told Lee, I'd been meeting and talking to good people all across the country. Lee said, the "news" sucks. That is the consistent message I get from the people of this country. The news sucks. Lee and I agree that things just aren't that bad.

We made it just east of Hartford, Connecticut on Saturday night. We're heading for Bangor Maine on Sunday.

History Geeks at Gettysburg!

We did a speed tour of Gettysburg on Saturday morning. Enough to load the camera with snapshots and tell you that the park has undergone a tremendous renovation program. It looks fantastic. There is a new visitor center which houses a specially produced film program and the fully restored Gettysburg Cyclorama - a huge 360 degree painting that surrounds you with the climax of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. The sound and light show makes the diorama truly three dimensional. It realy is impressive! Some of these pictures are in large format (which means they will take time to load on your computer). You can double click for a bigger view.

Well on her way to history geek-dom, Annie has decided she loves touring historic sites. She gets to be out of the truck in nice green fields and forest. History smells good too! But it can give you ticks.

It was great to see so many kids at Gettysburg. This picture was taken during the Cyclorama presentation (no flash photography please!). The video generation has just discovered an oil painting.

The First Minnesota regiment saved the Union position on July 2nd. While Chamberlain and the 20th Maine held the Union left at Little Round Top, this one regiment staged a bayonet charge into Longstreet's Corps. That's why they get this bitchin statue!

Incredible story. Being Minnesotans I'm sure they came back saying, "ya, it coulda been worse."

Virginia monument, the starting point of Pickett's Charge.

GK Warren, a signal officer on Little Round Top, watched Longstreet's attack shatter the Union line directly below and realized he was in deep doo doo. He called for re-enforcements to hold the line. The statue represents the moment he realized that the entire Federal position was in danger. Missing are his famous first words, which must have been, "Holy Shit!".

The view from Warren's statue on Little Round Top. The Park Service has done a tremendous job of restoring the "view-scape" of the battle. They cut down 150 years of trees and brush so that you can see the battlefield as it was in 1863. The lines of sight make it possible to understand what happened here much better.

Peter stands next to the monument to our Great Grandfather's regiment near the Wheatfield.
Sgt. Thomas Stephens was in company K of the 20th Indiana on July 2nd. His regiment was posted at the far left of the line. During the day, he records that there was little activity, though both side were skirmishing and probing through the woods and fields in his front. He records that some artillery fire was passing overhead to his right and he was relaxing and writing.

At about 4:00 PM, Lee opened up an assault with Longstreet's corps along the front. In about 15 minutes, half of the 20th Indiana was shot down. Colonel Wheeler fell, mortally wounded by a ball through the head. The regiment broke and ran for the rear. Thomas was hit "in the side" as a rifle ball pierced the brass "US" plate on his cartridge box. Having worn one of those as a re-enactor I can tell you that his "side" was a lot closer to his butt. No shame though - he was being pursued by a lot of people who were trying to kill him.

The Wheat Field and the Peach orchard.

By the way, Thomas survived his wound at Gettysburg. He also survived the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. He mustered out of the army in August of 1864, went home and got married a month later. Ghosts of blue and grey definately walk among the living at this place. The video below of the 114th Pennsylvania Zouaves evokes that ghostly feeling.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tennessee to Virginia to Gettysburg

We've had a couple of long travel days. We stayed in Northern Virginia last night at the home of my step daughter and her husband. Brian is a Major in the US Airforce stationed at the Pentagon. He's pretty busy these days.

Travel was beautiful through the Shenendoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. We loved the green mountains and the sweeping views.

Today we lingered in the DC area listening to the fire news streaming from Santa Barbara online from KTYD. I posted my latest podcast for The Homecast Show. By the time we got back on the road we discovered just what a nightmare the traffic around Washington can be on a Friday. It was gridlock on I-95. We ran east to an alternate route north and arrived in Gettysburg, PA. tonight. I'm writing this just a few blocks from the new National Park Visitor center. The photo above is the main street of Mercersburg, Pa., a beautifully preserved and lived-in old town. We saw a bit of what the area looked like when Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia invaded the north in July of 1863.

The modern approach to Gettysburg is quite different. The modern buildings and retail centers have covered the route that part of the sourthern army took into town.

Sisnce we were in the area, we made a side trip to the birthplace of 15th president, James Buchanan. He was born in a log cabin at the foot of Tuscarora Mountain. It's a beautiful spot.

So how do professional historians rate Buchanan? I happen to be traveling with one so I asked him. "He stank" was the verdict. Buchanan was the 15th president. Lincoln was the 16th. I was thinking of all the comparisons between Lincoln and Obama. Ironic that in those terms, Buchanan compares to Bush. Peter added, "Buchanan is now the second worst president".

Peter explains the legacy of James Buchnanan to Annie. My dog loves history. Whenever we stop at places like this, she gets to run around and chase squirrels.

Tomorrow morning we have a few hours to visit Gettysburg. Then we have to streak north.
We're running out of time!

Podcast From The Road

CLICK - HEAR Podcast 03

Sorry I didn't update pictures last night. No internet until today. I'm in a Starbucks in DC listening to Santa Barbara fire news live on KTYD Click on the link for live coverage.

I'm posting this week's podcast from the road. Includes our stop in Winslow Arizona and Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn.

Thanks to Danny and Liz at The Homecast Show in Los Angeles, CA for getting this linked in at the last second this morning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day Six - Memphis to Knoxville TN

This is Peter doing all the work while I look for an artistic angle in a slightly out of focus photo which evokes the spirit of movement, travel and adventure. Hey - I must create my art dammit!

Last night we had an early call from a line of thunder showers at about 3:00 AM. The southeast US is being flooded by rain. We heard there were 6,000 lightning strikes in one hour from the storm that moved south and east of us. Poor Annie jumped into bed with me - shivering and whining. The motel was nice but the night was not too restful! By the way, we're finding good motel rooms to be fairly inexpensive right now.

Yesterday, Bobby Robinson at the Cozy Corner in Memphis told us that he went to college in Nashville. He said that if we had time, we should stop in Nashville at Monell's. It's real down home southern cooking in an old house in a nice gentrified old neighborhood. So we looked it up and made plans to stop for lunch.

We Found Monell's pretty easily from I-40 on 6th Street and parked on the street. Inside we were greeted and seated at a large communal table loaded with fresh hot food.

People are seated together. You pass dishes family style and help yourself. When a dish gets low the waitstaff brings more to the table. There's no chance of leaving hungry. As you can see, we ate until we were blurry. The menu today included pork chops with baked apple slices, baked chicken, delicious fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, fresh broccoli salad, green beans,
home made biscuits, fantastic peach preserves in a brown sugar and vanilla sauce, cucumber salad, corn pudding, savory sage dressing and banana pudding (with vanilla wafers) for dessert. There were also generous pitchers of brewed sweet tea. This isn't lunch - this is what farm folks call dinner (Supper is the evening meal).

I ate as much as I could hold and then some. Cost? About 10 bucks per person plus tax and tip. It's all you can eat - and in the style of traditional southern hospitality they encourage you to eat more. Tennessee has been very good to us. Needless to say we didn't eat supper tonight.

We followed behind the storm front that moved through Tennessee today. We dodged most of the heavy rain and it looks like we'll be in good shape for tomorrow as we head east again.

We stopped tonight in the beautiful green mountains of Dandridge, just about 35 mile east of Knoxville and were rewarded with this beautiful view and a rainbow from our hilltop motel.

I'm listening to the Santa Barbara fire coverage streaming online from KTYD and thinking of our loved ones at home who are preparing to evacuate. Not much we can do but follow along and send our best wishes to all of you back home.

Our trip has been safe so far and I feel we are being led to good people, good food and good weather. 2400 miles on the old truck so far and she hasn't missed a beat - thank you Ayers Repairs for getting us ready.

I hope the hand that is guiding us will protect our good friends and firefighters at home.

Good night from the road.