I Have Worms! Again!!


…and I’m happy about it.  A little over a year ago, I shared my passion for composting worms in a post called, I Have Worms. I took last winter and summer off, not wanting to bring the bins inside after spending the summer outside. I had hoped the worms would survive winter in compost bins and piles, but they didn’t. 😦

Luckily, I had shared worms with several friends, and Ms. J. still had some she was willing to share back.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizer

I am still happy with the content of the original post, but wish there were more pictures. So this time, I’ll be keeping a kind of photo journal of the process. Welcome.

First, I keep my compostables (fruit and veggie scraps) in the freezer. It speeds up the decomp process and eliminates smell and fruit fly issues.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerAlso, the smaller the chunks, the faster the worms can break it all down. This Pampered Chef hamburger masheer thingy works GREAT to chop up frozen romaine.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerPlease note:  when adding compost to an indoor worm bin, thaw it out first or  the worms could die.

In order to separate the worms from their poo (castings) later, I’ve found the best method is to feed on only one side of a bin at a time.  When the pile gets near the top, I will start feeding on the left side only. The worms will move to that side, leaving their nutrient-rich fertilizer on the right. I first tore up a small brown paper bag into one by six- inch strips for bedding. Then I added an ice cream pail’s worth of fruit and veggie scraps (thawed to room temp),

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerfollowed by more paper bag and finally 2-inch layer of black dirt.

worms, vermiculture, compost, recycle, fertilizerTa-dah!!

I am so excited to have worms again! I can make dirt and super fertilizer all winter. Also, I eat better (more fruits and veggies) and my fridge is cleaner because I am always looking for more worm food. And Mr. Clean (aka Mr. Wonderful) doesn’t even mind that they’re inside. Much. 🙂

We’re Baaaaaaack!


Losing Cook Dollar Barn was one of the worst experiences we have lived through. It wasn’t just a store; it was an important social hub for the Pajari Girls, and our little town, too. Every day, the list of people and things we miss gets longer. And when people told us that there must be something even better around the corner, we KNEW they were lying.

Now, we are headed back. Back in “A Barn, if not “The Barn”.

So here’s the scoop: barring zoning, insurance or licensing issues, Her Highness The Queen of Poo (Lois) is hoping to open the Peterson family homestead as a petting farm/ event location this summer! Can we get a whoop whoop??

farm barnherd, pony, llama, goat, sheep

farm, barn, cat  

great pyrenees, dog, boy, farm

walli, corgi, dog,

goat, farm, pajari girls

alpaca, farm, pajari girls

pony, farm, horse. girl guinea hens, fowl, poultry bunny, rabbit, zip, hens, chickens, farm, eggs Flemish Giant, rabbit, bunny donkey, the farm, pajari girls

Rooster Noodle Soup


I am very nervous around poultry.  (See “Guinea Monsters From Hell”)   And I used to hate cooking. So this Martha Stewart-esque-ness is new to me. I have been growing, canning, cooking, drying and freezing food a lot more the last few years. Now, being unemployed AND on the Low Child Support Diet has encouraged me to do even more, and to do it better. It’s been a slow process, and many people have contributed along the way. Here are two that I remember.

One of my favorite bloggers is Jackie  Clay.  (Check her out here. Chop chop!) We are lucky to have this awesome lady in our community, and I have learned so much from her books and blogs about living off the land in this area code.  I subscribed to her blog for several months before I even attempted canning on my own.

I vaguely remember Anthony Bourdain saying that the poorest people had the best-tasting food, because their seasonings could make even the cheapest cuts of meat and other ingredients taste good. That’s when I started growing herbs, tomatoes, etc. in containers and finally a garden.

As I mentioned, I am scared of live poultry; however, they are delicious, especially roasted with organic herbs that we grew here on the hill. Growing rosemary, sage, celery leaf, red onion, garlic and thyme makes me happy.  So as long I have Lois and Jill next door to raise chickens, I will cook them.

omnom, thyme, sage, celery leaf, rosemary, funny farm, organic

By the way, does anyone know why when they are alive they are hens & roosters, but as soon as the heads come off they are just chicken?? Same with cows, bulls, steers, heifers, and beef… What the hell?Roosters, Funny Farm, Pajari Girls, Food, Soup

I believe it’s important to know where our food comes from.  I like that the chicken (fka: rooster) was grass-fed next door, not in a cramped factory “farm.”

Rooster, Banty, Food, Pajari Girls, Funny Farm, chicken

And better yet, the next day I made the leftovers into soup and paired it with homemade bread.  Note to self: next year, grow a LOT more carrots and potatoes.  As far as fast, cheap and easy goes….it was super cheap and really easy…two out of three isn’t bad.

omnom, rooster noodle soup, chicken noodle soup, homemade soupPS: Thank you Ant, for the title! You’re right; Rooster Noodle Soup sounds way better than Chicken Noodle Soup.

Rainwater Collection System


More on The Sister in the Basement….  I cannot wait to water the gardens instead of shoveling snow!

Old World Garden Farms

Visitors to the farm are usually surprised to learn that we water the entire garden and landscape with reclaimed rain water. Our system, which collects and stores rainwater from our barn’s metal roof, provides 100% of our annual watering needs. The best part, it was extremely easy to install, and can be inexpensively adapted to almost any home, shed or roof with a gutter.

We spent the past week hooking our tanks back up from winter storage – and within 24 hours  – we had just over 150 gallons stored from a single rain.  It’s been over a year now since we first completed the rain collection system – and I honestly don’t know how we survived without it.

It gives us access to free water, and with our two plastic tote tanks, can collect as much as 550 gallons from a single downpour.  And that’s only using rain from…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: GREEN


The Weekly Photo Challenge was a color: green. Usually the predominant color in Northern MN this time of year is white, but today it was 52 degrees. ABOVE zero. (And yes, that’s in degrees Farenheit, Bill L. from California.) That’s 20 degrees warmer than average. 🙂
Click on any thumbnail to start Gallery View.

If you liked this post, please like, share and/or comment. Thanks for stopping by pajarigirls.

Treasures, Part One


In 2007, in preparation for The Funny Farm’s 100th birthday, several family documents surfaced. Here are some of my favorites:

It looks like Great Grandma Augusta Peterson came to Tower, MN from Sweden in 1888 as a servant girl.

On Halloween of 1900, Great Grandpa paid $9.19 for The Farm. (Yes, it always has been and always will be capitalized in my head.)

Homestead Act Receipt

He began to work this land under the Homestead Act, clearing fields and using the logs to build first a shanty and barns and then the house that still stands today (barely).

On March 20th, 1902, Augusta Peterson and Albert Peterson were married in Eveleth, MN by a Swedish Baptist minister. No, they were not related. In Sweden, Peterson means Peter’s Son. Lots of Peters and Johns, etc. Makes genealogy interesting.

Marriage Certificate

I don’t know if this was really signed by Teddy Roosevelt or by one of his minions, but I like to think he held this piece of paper and signed his name to it. After 7 years of hard labor, (and $9.19) it was theirs. By then he and Great Grandma Augusta had been married 5 years.

Homestead Act 1
1907, the birth of The Farm

For years, people of the Cook area would visit The Farm for church picnics and the like. Before Cook had an airport, the hayfield even served as a landing strip. While getting ready for the reunion, we were touched by how many people fondly remembered the farm from their childhoods. It wasn’t just OUR happy place, it was theirs, too.

Now, my sister and her husband live in the house our Great Grandparents built. Many of the building are still standing: the barn, woodshed/ice house, machine shed, outhouse (now in a new location in the yard, serving as an adorable potting shed) and garage. The Farm has become The Funny Farm, home to a motley herd including three mini ponies, two donkeys, two llamas, a sheep, a goat, two alpacas, three bunnies, four dogs, a cat and a cockatiel. And two Guinea Monsters From Hell. Sort of. They have been on the lam, harassing me and other neighbors since Lois brought them home.

Someday, we would like to open The Funny Farm to the public on weekends, as a petting zoo. Unfortunately, my sister doesn’t manage her time very well, so her hands are busy with the store I talked her into opening (Cook Dollar Barn), and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I’m not much help. And there’s the whole liability thing…

When our Grandpa Ralph married our Grandma Marge, his parents gave him a chunk of the farm, and he built the house I live in today. But that’s another story. 🙂

If you have any pictures or stories about The Farm, please let us know!

And as always, if you liked this post, please like, share or comment. I hate feeling like I’m talkin’ to myself here…

Loveyabye,

Laura

Mr. Stinky Droolface Part 2


If you’re raising your hand (because you fell behind,) here’s Part One.

mastiff, corgi, oak
This IS his happy face. And Gus’ frustrated-to-be-juuuust-out-of-reach face.

Long story short, Mr. Stinky Droolface seemed to be in good spirits today around lunchtime. Got him to eat, and he still insists the water bucket outside tastes much better. He isn’t using his right hind foot much, but he made the rounds, checking on Little Bit the pony, Jai the Ginormous White Slobbering Dog, and finally settling himself in a sunbeam near GusGus.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems Stinky’s telling the puppies important dog things. I hope so. Like reminding the Herd that the ruminants belongs IN the fence, unless they are on a leash like Little Bit.

There are so many great pics of all the creatures of The Funny Farm, I decided to try a slideshow:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: BIG


Great Pyrenees
Jai is a BIG lapdog.

The Weekly Photo Challenge asked that we write about what “Big” means to us. I chose one of my sister’s dogs, Jai. He lives at  The Funny Farm  and is a rescued Great Pyrenees PUPPY (14 months, 120 lbs).  Jai is short for Ginormous, White, Slobbering Dog. Think puppy brain in a pony-sized body….He digs BIG holes, runs BIG laps, needs BIG toys, and cleaning up after him is a BIG job.  :/

herd, goat, llamas, sheep, pony, great pyrenees, dog
Jai meets his herd.

Great Pyrs are bred to protect livestock.  Lois is hoping he will help keep farm creatures IN the fence, and deer, coyotes and wolves OUT of the fence. These dogs are mostly nocturnal , gentle with children, and love to roam their territory. They are working dogs, but Jai takes naps, too. He’s just a baby.

working dog, great pyrenees, couch
He takes up most of the couch, and likes to snuggle in bed, too.
great pyrenees puppy, The Funny Farm, Cook, MN
Ginormous bone, purchased in the hopes of saving furniture.

Jai, Great Pyrenees puppy

Jai, Great Pyr puppy
Normal dogs play with sticks; my sister’s dogs eat trees.

Mastiff, great pyrenees, corgi, walli pajari-williams

Mr. Stinky Droolface, the Old English/Bull Mastiff Grampa dog of the farm is actually bigger than Jai. Stinky weighs about 180 lbs, but at 10 years old is slowing down considerably. When he was a puppy we called him the Mastiffosaurus Wrecks. At one point my physical therapist recommended I stop visiting my sister until he outgrew the puppy stage. He kept knocking me over by accident.

Of course Walli the Corgi refuses to be left out. She’s 6 months older than Jai, and one-tenth his size. And come to think of it, ten times the attitude. Size is relative.

Mastiff, Great Pyreness, Corgi playing

Walli Pajari-Williams goes to work every day with her mom, Lois, at Cook Dollar Barn , while Jai, Stinky, and GusGus take care of the Funny Farm.

What breed do you think Lois needs next? What’s your favorite?

For more details on these breeds, visit the links below.

Great Pyrenees

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Mastiff

I Have Worms


I first heard about composting with worms from my daughter, whose science teacher had  a worm bin in her classroom. Said daughter started cleaning our refrigerator to feed the worms for extra credit. The more I read about composting with worms (vermiculture) , the more intrigued I became. Mrs. Bidle (who also taught my sister and I in high school) asked if the worms could spend the summer at my house. Of course I said yes, and almost two years later I’m still waiting for her to start a bin of her own. 🙂 Hopefully, this will help.

Why Worms??

Because I am not a patient woman. Nor do I have a big budget for gardening. I want to grow the most food and flowers possible for the smallest investment possible, AND I have a chronic health condition that limits my physical ability. (It’s like having a 12 year-old ADD brain in an 80 year-old body some days.) It quickly became apparent that worms could be a big part of the answer I was looking for. While I am doing other things-or nothing- those worms are making dirt and fertilizer 24/7. AND eating what would otherwise be taking up space in a landfill to boot.

Which Worms?

These aren’t just any worms. Eisenia fetida is the Latin name for the worms I wanted. They specialize in eating food scraps and reproducing. And their poo is unbelievable fertilizer. My apple trees, for example, are from Idaho. They are NOT thrilled to be in the icebox of the nation. However, a friend taught me how to prune them and I added castings (worm poo) around the base of the trees and voila!

The biggest, happiest apple I have ever grown, thanks to worm poo.

I am not an expert. See the links at the end of this post for that. This is just a quick overview of what has worked for me.

  1. Keep an ice cream bucket in the freezer for food scraps. This eliminates fruit flies, smell, and best of all, speeds up the whole composting process. When the fruit and veggies freeze, ice crystals split open the cells, so the worms can break it down faster.
  2. Brown and Green. There is a specific formula for how much of each to use, but I wing it and it seems to work fine. “Brown” can be paper grocery bags, newspaper, leaves, etc. The worms need this material for bedding, and it also helps soak up excess moisture. “Green” is food scraps (plant only- no dairy or meat…they attract the wrong kinds of bugs and may also contain pathogens). Whole corncobs and apples will eventually break down, but smaller chunks are faster, so I usually chop up the food for the bins. If I don’t have time, it goes in the big compost bin outside, which I add worms to regularly.
  3. Black. Always cover Green with at least two inches of black, again to keep unwanted bugs from being interested. “Black” can be compost that is finished, bagged potting soil, or even garden dirt.
  4. Moisture. I keep my bins outside in the summer, so when it rains I cover them. Too much moisture attracts- again- the bugs you don’t want. The drain on my bin keeps clogging, so I just scoop out any extra moisture for super-concentrated fertilizer. A kitchen baster works great for this, too.
  5. Rotating where in the bin I feed the worms has worked best for separating the worms from their castings (poo). For example, I feed only on the left side of the bin for a few weeks, layering brown, green, and black. Once that side gets close to the top, I stop feeding on the left and  switch to the right and start over. The worms eat everything on the left and work their way to the other side of the bin. Then I can remove the finished product from the bin, and use it in the gardens.

I hope this helps you get started! I am all about guidelines and winging it– the details are here:

www.redwormcomposting.com  has tons of info on getting started and troubleshooting. Dear Family, please visit this site when you think my worm experiment has gone too far. 😉

www.lavermesworms.com is the Duluth company where my worms came from. Ellen has done great things with worms; check it out!

The Sister in the Basement


“There’s ANOTHER one??” my 10 year-old son asked. His eyes got bigger and his jaw dropped. I admit, it took me a few seconds to catch up.

“Another what?”

“Another sister.”

“What are you talking about? I have one sister; you have two.”

“What about the one in the basement??” He was worried now. I was checking him for obvious signs of a head injury. I’d been talking about using rinsewater from laundry to water the gardens, and he was asking about missing siblings. That’s when it hit me. I laughed so hard, tears almost ran down my leg. When I caught my breath, I explained what a cistern does.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cistern

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