Late Summer Foraging and Plant ID

Officially, we are still at D4-Exceptional drought levels, but we did get some significant rain this last week. Depending on who you ask, we got somewhere between four and seven inches. Thank you Lord for that!

In my last post, I said that I had seen some different “weeds” this summer probably due to the drought. Maybe when the less drought tolerant plants don’t make it, room is left for these guys. Anyway, it’s always exciting to see new stuff.

Speaking of new stuff. Someone in the wild edible Facebook page I belong to, told me about this phone app called Picture This. When you come across a plant you don’t recognize, you can take take a picture of it, and the app will try to identify it. Most of the time, it gives you a few possibilities, with the first one most likely. If nothing else,  that means you have a place to start from. I’ve been having a great time playing with it!

This cannot be said often enough: If you do not know, with 100% certainty, what a plant is, don’t eat it! It could be fine, or it could kill you. By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken with either my camera or my phone.  With one exception, they were all taken somewhere on our place.

This is spurge. You DON’T want to eat it. It will give you a bad stomach ache and all the nasty stuff that goes along with that.

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spurge

This however, is purslane, and it is good for you.

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purslane

Here is a very good blog post with some good pictures that can give you more detailed info about the two. For me, purslane leaves look shiny and rubbery like succulents. They often grow close together, so once you know the difference, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. An interesting side note is that, often edible plants and their poisonous look alikes grow close together. Another look alike for spurge (and as far I know this isn’t edible either) is knot weed. This grows all over my yard. I think makes great ground cover. I would like it better if it was edible.

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knot weed

When we got rid of the giant ragweed last spring, this came up in its place. It’s called “Lambs Quarters, or Pig Weed or Wild Spinach…anyway. You can eat it. It’s a cousin to amaranth. As a matter of fact, several years ago, when we lived in Independence, I planted some amaranth. When it came up, my ex-husband saw it and asked me why I planted pig weed.

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pig weed

Taking a walk with Ed the other day, we came across these. Yep. Elderberries. They are along the road, and I don’t know if they were sprayed (although they probably weren’t), so we didn’t pick any. You gotta be careful with roadside finds for that reason. Many places want to get rid of the “weeds” along the road, so they spray poison. You don’t want to eat that! We’ve lost some of our own elderberry bushes this summer, while others seem to be doing very well. It well be a few years before ours produce anything though.

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elderberries

This is sumac. No this isn’t the poison sumac. The berries and seeds are edible. Green Deane at Eat the Weeds has a great article about sumac. Going to have to play with this one if I can get to it. Taking the picture was kind of a challenge.

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Sumac bush. You can see a  cluster of fruit/seeds in the center of the picture and another one off to the right.

This is milk weed. Butterflies love it, but the leaves are poisonous for us. The Spruce  has some good information about milk weed, including the fact that caterpillars can eat the poisonous leaves and thrive, while becoming poisonous themselves to any potential predator.

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milk weed and guest

This is pepper grass. It’s growing out in front of our detached garage. I had to hold my camera down at ground level in order to get a decent picture. The leaves have a peppery taste, and the seeds can be ground and used like black pepper. Green Deane says the roots mixed with vinegar makes a great horseradish substitute. Ed and Bam Bam would love that. Chicken girl and I, not so much. You all know I’m going to have to play with it anyway, right?

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pepper  grass growing in the gravel

This stuff is growing everywhere around the house. It’s called Hornbeam Copperleaf, and as of yet, I can find no good use for it. If you do, let me know.

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hornbeam copperleaf

These were out in the dog pen. Don’t know enough about fungi to even venture a guess. I did ask about it, and couldn’t get a definitive answer, so we pulled them up and disposed of them. Don’t think the dogs would eat them, but you never know with Meeko. He eats ragweed leaves.

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Some kind of fungi. Notice the spurge at the bottom of the picture

This is…yes, it’s corn. We didn’t plant it. It’s out where the chicken pen was a few years ago, so we figure those were some seeds the chickens didn’t get. Don’t really expect it to do anything, but we’ll see. Morning glories are coming up around it. Talk about invasive! Morning glories are the worst! Even if they are pretty.

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Corn. See the morning glories kind of circled behind it?

This is called a hummingbird vine. Someone had to have planted it, because it originates in Mexico and South America.  It’s invasive too. It’s pretty, but it’s unruly. Good thing I like the wild look huh. Still if it gets too wild, I’ll have to cut it back.

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hummingbird vine

The wild cherries are gone as far as I can tell, but the grapes are hanging in. xs_1534532720530_resized

We have a ton of juniper berries, but still don’t know what to do with them besides making gin and I’m not doing that.

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juniper berries

Of course we still have plantain, dandelion, chicory, mallow, and goldenrod.

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goldenrod

Remember when we were talking about mint and I said that it’s super invasive and that’s why a lot of people don’t plant it directly in the ground? Well, I guess it doesn’t do well in drought, because I only have about three stalks of mint in my yard and they didn’t get very big. Maybe it will come back now that we have some water.

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What’s left of my mint.

For the second year in a row, we have a volunteer pumpkin growing under the maple tree in the front yard. It starts so late that it won’t be big enough before it gets cold. At least it wasn’t last year.

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volunteer pumpkin blooming

Next week, Ed we’ll be back to tell you more about our experience with the wild hive. It was awesome!

Hey, if you like our blog, please share the love with your friends!

Have a great week!

Connie

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The Results of the Poll

A few weeks ago, we took a poll asking what kind of posts you would like to see more of.

To the ten of you that voted: Thanks!

“Wild Herbs/Edibles” and “Faith Based”, were the top two choices, with three votes each. Then there were two votes for “Daily Experiences” and one each for “Animals/Farm Critters” and “DIY”

Ok, so my mind, working like it does, my first thought was faith based wild herbs and edibles? Well, ok, maybe not.

Let me ask you this: What do you all think of a weekly or maybe biweekly post about each of those things? Tell us what you think in the comments, use our “Contact us” page, or talk to us on facebook.

For now, let me say this. Every time I go out to forage, I am always amazed at how much God has given us that we don’t even recognize. Go for a walk in the woods, or in a meadow, or some place where wild things grow, and just look at the variety of plant life. Look along the side of the road, and see all the different wild flowers. Look at all the different types of trees!

Genesis 1: 11-13 says

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.”

It was good! It was ALL good! Do you realize what that means? Before Adam and Eve sinned, there were no poisonous plants! Poison ivy wasn’t! Stinging nettles didn’t! Still, even after the fall, God made a way, like he always does. There may be poisonous plants now, but there are also healing plants.

From what I’ve been told, jewel weed, which can be made into a salve for stings and itchy rashes, always grows close to poison ivy. The cure grows close to the poison! How cool is that?

Oh, and stinging nettles? Their “juice” can treat the stings of their own leaves! Not only that, but nettles are used to stop bleeding and have all kinds of other health benefits. You can read more about that here.

So, I guess I did write about faith based wild herbs and edibles, huh?

Connie

Let the Horror Begin!

That is what Katherine said as we started school this morning. Yeah, that was encouraging. Well, we made it through the day with only one meltdown. Although, I guess you could call it a double, because we both got pretty hot. Fifteen-year-olds with attitudes are so much fun. Yeah, right.

The rest of the week was just as busy as last week. I did get my herbs harvested, but haven’t done anything with them yet. I got the strawberry bed mulched, and cleaned out the mess in the driveway that runs into the basement/garage. We had stuff sitting out there covered with tarps, and the tarps were useless. The garbage man had a busy day. Oh well; it’s just stuff.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

harvested sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, basil and mint.

Katherine and I pulled out some old tires and an old bike we’re going to turn into yard art, and scrubbed them down with dish soap. Now, I just have to get the paint.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

scrubbing the bike, tires, and other things.

Speaking of paint: We have a ton of paint left by the previous owner. Most of it is interior latex paint. Any ideas about what to do with it? She and I have totally different tastes in color schemes. Most of it is pastels, except for a really bright “melon”. Not my thing at all.

I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve learned in the last few weeks. You know I can barely stand to throw anything away if I think I can do something with it. Well, I have been reading for years about things to do with toilet paper and paper towel tubes, and have a bunch in a bag. Last week I was fighting with two different glue guns and a glue pot, trying to untangle their cords. I was about to roll the cords around their respective owners when the bag of tubes caught my eye. Ok, it’s not pretty, but it really works! As for the pretty part. I covered coffee cans with scrap book paper and old dictionary pages to make tube collectors that sit on the back of the toilet.

cords in tubes

cords in tubes

tube can

tube can

Since I keep all glass jars and bottles, I have spent a lot of time trying to remove labels. Then a few weeks ago, I read this blog post. She is absolutely right. Wow that works! Only don’t leave them to soak over night. Your jars will be clean, but the cold washing soda will set up in the bottom of your sink around the drain plug. Using, vinegar, running water, a table knife, and about thirty minutes time, we finally got it out.

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

washing soda hard as rock in the sink

petrified washing soda

petrified washing soda

Some time over the last few weeks, and I honestly don’t remember where I read it, there was something that said you could spray a table spoon of Epsom Salts diluted in a gallon of water on your peppers and they would produce better. Since mine weren’t producing at all, what did I have to loose? So I sprayed them. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but my peppers are blooming like crazy and I actually have a few small peppers growing. I’ll keep you posted. I took some pictures, but you can’t tell what from what with all the green.

Oh, here is a picture of our pitiful potato crop. Our neighbor, Mr “A” says he doesn’t “fool with potatoes”, for that very reason.

pitiful potatoes

pitiful potatoes

The other day, I noticed something growing in front of the barn doors that I thought I should know. I had to wait for blooms to be sure, but it’s mallow! I’ll tell you about it in my next post, as well some info about preserving herbs.

Mallow!

Mallow!

Connie

Lord Knows Everything Grows (Whether You Want It To or Not)

“I don’t really need the money, but the people I owe it to need it a lot.” That was something Hank Williams used to proclaim in the late 1940’s, on his Health and Happiness radio show, when he was selling his own records over the air. If you would like to hear some of that, you might look here.

Hank had a way of speaking for the common man. I really care nothing for money. A horse can’t eat it. Too bad my creditors do not agree with me. So I have to work, because robbing banks in Missouri has already been done to death.

Now I am settled into my new job, I can take a few moments and write to you about what is going on around the old Homestead. I have not been idle on that front, it is just that, between working, working around the place, eating, and sleeping, I have had very little time for much else.

So here are some random topics, things I have worked on, mistakes, and successes we have had over the last few weeks. As I told Connie not too long ago, “We do not fail; we either succeed, or learn how to succeed next time.” Unfortunately, quite often the tuition at the University of Hard Knocks can be high.

The Rag Weed that ate my fence row.

The Rag Weed that ate my fence row.

This is my forth summer of attempting to do some small farming, and wrest some small piece of property back from the clutches of flora so diverse and aggressive, it staggers the imagination. This year I have learned about the effects of an over abundance of rain on plants in the state of Missouri:

It appears that over watering kills, stunts, and/or messes up the growth cycle on everything you want to grow. Causing such behavior as cauliflowers that go straight from “tomorrow I will grow out and make a nice head of cauliflower” to, “on second thought I will just go to seed, see ya.” Not to mention that grass likes rain water much more than tomatoes, who “don’t like to get their feet wet” or corn which tassels while less than waist high.

The grass that ate what we were going to eat.  You can stand there and watch it grow.

The grass that ate what we were going to eat.
You can stand there and watch it grow.

On the other hand, everything you really would rather NOT grow, when allowed to take every other day showers, grow like Jack’s Beanstalk. Connie has learned to name near every invasive plant, common weed, tree, shrub, or fern on the place; whether useful, neutral or dangerous. We used to walk across the pasture and she would point down at her feet, name the plant, and tell its lineage, whether it is good or ill, and what we should do with it. She still does that, but now she has to point up over her head.

As I stand in the dog lot, I recall having cut out all the standing hemlock with a machete and some other light hand tools. I was counting on my ability to find the stuff as it grew back and destroy it quickly. That worked for a couple of weeks. I would see the little plants and knock them down with a hoe or even my foot. As I stare up at the seven feet Rag Weeds I ignored, I think, “Use the chain saw.”

This is Rag Weed, the picture was taken by a 5 foot tall most beautiful woman in the world. But it makes the perspective interesting. The plants are between 7 and 8 feet tall.

This is Rag Weed, the picture was taken by a 5 foot tall most beautiful woman in the world.
But it makes the perspective interesting. The plants are between 7 and 8 feet tall.

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In spring none of these sapling were over knee high and bigger around than your finger.

Let’s talk about the fence rows. All winter long, I would look out my door and see the sprouts caught up in the fence rows and think to myself, “When it warms up a bit, I will cut those out.” Let me save you some trouble. Don’t ever do that! Barring weather so extremely bad that the risk of death or serious injury is imminent, cut them things out right now. My fence rows look like a scene from one of those dinosaur movies.

Put shortly The Homestead is suffering from serious case of Underbrush Overgrowth.

I have never been a real fan of lawns. They always seemed to me to be such a useless waste of time and resources, unless you had chickens running loose on them. Then there is mowing the things weekly, and the constant obsession with only having the right grass. Crab Grass need not apply, and God forbid is that a Dandelion? Who cares and why?

So why did we end up buying a place with a BOY? (Big ole yard).

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This is the front yard, it is not as big as some but try mowing it and the other half with a push mower.

Because the BOY surrounded the house we wanted and was surrounded by the land we wanted, on which sat a cool barn with two horses pained on the front. Who could resist that, and why should you? So I have a large yard in which grows plants of all shapes and sizes, a lot of which Connie assures me makes good salad.

After having mowed our largish yard four or five times last year and again this year about the same, I spoke to Connie saying words to the affect of, “Hon, as soon as we get a chance we need to buy a riding mower.” Something I had largely disdained. She tells me that I misinterpreted her look, but I would swear she looked at me as if to add “wimpy boy” to her smiling statement, “We’ll have to see dear.”

The next week, she offered herself and Katherine to be stand in mowers. switching off the lawn mowing every time around. After a few rounds we finished and, back in the house, Connie smiled at me and said. “Dear we need a riding lawn mower.” Ah, the joys of shared experience.

So now we have one; a riding lawn mower I mean. Next week, I will tell you how that is turning out. By then I should probably have the stitches out.

May God Bless,

Ed

Deception

As most of you already know, I have been taking WordPress’s Blogging 101 class. Yesterday’s assignment involved looking up the daily writing prompt and using it to write a blog post. The prompt had to do with being deceived by someone.

One might think that the art of deception is limited to human beings, but it isn’t. The natural world is full of deception too. I’m not going to go into my beliefs about how the earth is cursed because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, I”m just going to discuss some interesting ways that nature can be deceptive. Knowing many of them could save your life.

One of the most common deceptions is camouflage. Think of the chameleon that changes colors to match it’s environment, thereby protecting itself from predators. Many species of butterfly have markings that make them appear to be something else entirely. That “log” in the river just might be a crocodile.

Plants are deceptive too. Think of the Venus fly trap. When you start foraging and learning about wild edibles, and edible plants in general, it is extremely important to understand that not all berries are edible, no matter how tasty they look. Pretty is no guarantee for safety. Unless you absolutely know the identity of that plant; don’t eat it! When in doubt, leave it out!

Elderberries and mulberries are wonderful edible berries. Choke and pin cherries are edible, but you probably won’t want many of them. Poke berries will kill you. When in doubt, leave it out. I have everything on my property except Elderberries. I just may have to plant some.

Green Poke Berry

Green Poke Berry

Several wild edible plants have poisonous lookalikes. Wild Carrot, aka Queen Anne’s Lace, is edible. One lookalike is the wonderful medicinal plant, Yarrow. A second lookalike, Poison Hemlock, will kill you. To tell the truth, once you know for sure the differences between these plants, you won’t mix them up, but for a novice forager, the similarities are confusing. When in doubt, leave it out! I would love to find some yarrow on our property, but again, I will probably plant some next spring.

Hemlock that hasn't flowered yet.

Hemlock that hasn’t flowered yet.

Queen Anne's Lace. Notice the purple flower in the center

Queen Anne’s Lace. Notice the purple flower in the center

More Queen Anne's Lace

More Queen Anne’s Lace

It’s a good idea to get a book, or books, on the wild edibles located in your area. I have a little book called Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods. It’s available on Amazon here. (This is not an affiliate link). What I like about this book is that it lists poisonous lookalikes. The internet is a good source too. I belong to a facebook page that is devoted to wild edibles in Missouri. I am constantly impressed with the knowledge in that group. I bet you have one close to you too.

If you’re like me, and really need to see it, youtube videos, like this one, can be a great source as well. However you choose to find your information, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing what you are eating BEFORE you eat it. Don’t be deceived. When in doubt, leave it out!

Connie

Chicory on the Homestead

Yes, I admit it; I spend entirely too much time exploring the net. Pinterest is one of my biggest downfalls, but email notifications from blogs I read can keep me going for days. I’ll see something, which will make me think of something else that I really need to look up, and suddenly the whole afternoon is gone.

A few weeks ago, during one of my exploration excursions into the world wide web, I saw pictures of chicory blossoms. A few days later, when I saw those pretty blue flowers on tall, spindly stalks, I was really hoping I had chicory growing outside my barn doors. I went online and looked at more pictures of chicory plants and blooms! Yes, it’s chicory! Chicory root can be dried and used for coffee! Yes!

One thing I have discovered about identifying plants; once you know what something is, you see it everywhere. We have a lot of chicory. I noticed some growing outside my back door. It had been cut off several times with the weed eater and lawnmower so it wasn’t in the best place for a long healthy life. I thought that would be a perfect place to dig up the roots.

Well, not quite. This first snag was the stones underneath a very thin layer of top soil. The roots grew down through the stones. Ok, well, I’ll just dig them up. I wasn’t expecting the larger layer of gravel underneath the stones. At that point, I knew that my little garden trowel was not going to help me. I did manage to break a few roots loose, but called it a day.

A week or so later, when Ed was off and it was too wet to mow, I asked him to help me get the chicory root by the barn. Ed really likes chicory so he was agreeable to the task. Well, guess what? Underneath a thin layer of top soil, he found gravel: dry, hard as a rock, gravel. He went to find the mattock. If you don’t know, a mattock is kind of like a pick ax.

Ed and  the mattock

Ed and the mattock

more rock

more rock

After breaking up the dirt and gravel, He alternated a couple of different sized shovels to dig up the gravel and expose the roots. It took him over an hour to get this.

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Wheelbarrow full of chicory

Since I really hate to waste anything, I spent some time looking up alternate uses for the stalks and flowers, but didn’t find much. However, I did find out some things I didn’t know about dried chicory root.

For instance: while it’s true that chicory is often used as an additive to coffee, it actually has sedative properties. So I suppose if you drank enough of it by itself, it would put you to sleep. It also works to relieve constipation. When I told Ed, he said that he would hope that it wouldn’t do all that at the same time!

Since all I need are the roots, I tried to remove them with my garden shears, but that was not going to happen. I ended up getting the hatchet from the garage and chopping the roots off. Chicory blossoms open and close at the same time every day. It was fascinating the see rootless flowers continue to open and close for four days after the roots had been removed.

Anyway, my plan was to chop up the roots, roast them, and then grind them in my spice mill/coffee grinder. Chopping up the roots was a little harder than it looked, and to make an already long story short, I enlisted Ed’s help. Between him, I, and the food processor, we finally got it ready to roast.

washing the roots

washing the roots

all clean and ready to chop

all clean and ready to chop

chopping the root

chopping the root

Roasting chicory smells wonderful! Katherine asked if I had something chocolate in the oven. She was disappointed to learn it was the chicory. Once it cooled, I ground it in the spice mill and put it in a repurposed honey jar.

ground chicory

ground chicory

I made Katherine a cup of chicory tea, but she wasn’t impressed. She said it smells a lot better than it tastes. Out of curiosity, we made a pot of straight chicory in the coffee pot. It was ok, but not something I would want all the time. However, adding a tablespoon or so to a pot of regular coffee adds something that I can’t quite describe.

Yesterday morning, Ed noticed the chicory jar is nearly empty, and asked me if I was ready to go dig some more.

Did I mention Ed really likes chicory?

Connie

Sorry I Haven’t Written Lately

The title of this post probably means more to people who remember the postal system as the go- to long distance communications method, with the telegraph and the telephone still vying for second. This was how you started a letter to a friend or loved one with whom you had lost contact. So yeah, I am sorry I haven’t written lately.

I want to tell you that the phrase, “Hey, I got a great idea….” has gotten me into a lot of trouble. Granted, not nearly as much as “Hey guys, hold my beer and watch this….” but still a lot of trouble. The beer is gone, and the daredevil foolishness has followed it, at least, mostly it has. However, hare-brained ideas are no respecter of age or the supposed wisdom that accompanies age.

I was offered a job which paid a bit more than most, and carried with it several responsibilities. I told my dear wife, “I can do this job and keep up my other responsibilities here at the Farm.” Right; when pigs fly.

I took the job in February and, coincidentally of course, our last post to this blog was February. It appears that I am not the hard charging young stallion I once was. So something had to give and I finally remembered what should give. Bye-bye to the high stress job because, as a real live Texas Cowboy once told me, “It’s only money. The horses can’t eat it.”

So I am back.

The good news is that the old folks have still been working on the homestead. We just haven’t had time to write to you about it. Actually that might should be haven’t MADE time, but that is another post.

In February, we had Manic Meeko, the alleged dog, tied up because he had figured out how to out run electricity. Subsequently, we have built them a fenced-in quarter acre or so, where they can run and play. Nothing bothers me more than a dog on a chain; even when I know it is the best temporary arrangement we can make.

Katherine and Meeko in front of an old chicken house that will be a temporary dog house.

Katherine and Meeko in front of an old chicken house that will be a temporary dog house.

Gate post for the new dog fence doubling as a back scratcher.

Gate post for the new dog fence doubling as a back scratcher.

In the process of setting this up, we came across a plant we did not recognize. Connie is becoming a fairly good self-trained botanist, and has gotten really good at ID’ing plants. Here is a picture of the plant in question.

Hemlock which looks like other things except look for the purple stalks and the stalks will be hollow. It can KILL you.

Hemlock which looks like other things except look for the purple stalks and the stalks will be hollow. It can KILL you.

The plant turned out to be hemlock. For those who do not know much about plants, or ancient Greece; when he was given a death sentence in Athens, hemlock was what Socrates drank to kill himself. Here is what it looked like the next day:

That is not the end of it though. I am going to be digging, cutting and rooting this stuff out for awhile. For those who are interested here is a link giving information on identifying Hemlock.013

We did get our garden started and here are some pictures of that. We are starting from land that has not been tilled in years so we have good news and bad news. The good news is a good bed of topsoil with lots of organic material in it. The bad news is turning over grass. However, good or bad, here is the start:

Much more has been going on, Connie is making Tin Men and Dogs, Katherine is learning the fiddle, and I am trying to find a little less job than I had before.

Will write more soon,
Ed

Some other little pics just for your enjoyment:

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Meeko and Libby’s new best friend, I am surprised they haven’t invited her home for dinner.

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Connie and I on the front porch of the farm where Jesse James was raised.