Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Thanks

With the Thanksgiving holiday just a skip away those things I am grateful for are frequently in my thoughts. Rather than list off dozens of people and experiences that have enriched my life I’ll leave you with a quote…

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust

I am so very thankful for all of the charming gardeners in my life.  

The Start of the Growing Season 

Ready for the Field 
"The Boss" Watering His Crops

Field Work

Learning About Pollination 
Corey's Field of Pumpkins 

Prize Winning Pumpkins
Market Day
Farmer Corey

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Baking Day

I like to peek at the blog’s stats and see where our readers are from and how they find us. Many are friends and acquaintances who share a kinship through loving a child who has special needs. There’s also family (thanks Mom), and intermittent visitors, some who search key words or stumble on the site purely by accident. Then there’s the “tracking” sights out there, cruising for blogs that would be a good fit for advertising.

I had to chuckle recently when I clicked on the URL for one such site and read what it was they gathered of us. It said, “, insufficient data for identification.” Yup, that’s me, a little of this and a little of that… my blog an electronic journal of arbitrary thoughts and experiences, all neatly tied by a common thread the “trackers” cannot see. I suppose their insufficient data means I fly under the radar. I think I kind of like that.

*Note the rather large bulge in his left pocket?
Only the best bakers carry their favorite trains to work.
Today the boss and I researched and baked; our initial plan of a day at the farm dampened by Mother Nature’s confused interpretation of this year’s spring.

Oh no, keep your peepers open for the pics Chef Corey!
Like this?
Are they ready yet?

Ginormous blueberry muffin success!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Stay Tuned

Zoey Ann Our Spring Blossom 

Oh my we’ve been busy bees. Teaching, prepping gardens, transplanting, and welcoming the first of our next generation… Ah yes, we became grandparents on the first day of spring.

Dominic and Owen

Ellie May

Stay tuned as I’ll be back but until then a few spring photos of our young ones. The motivation behind what we do... the next generation.

May peace follow you where ever you go,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Winds

“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” is a traditional rhyme that teaches young children about the seasons. More often than not, March is primarily blustery and cold with brief glimpses of warm weather to come, but this year Mother Nature has decided to supply us with never ending sunshine and unseasonably mild conditions. On March 1, 2012 we experienced a high temperature of 39 and a low of 33 degrees. March 15th followed with record highs in northwest Illinois and temperatures reaching 80 degrees.  This revealed farmers and gardeners alike teetering between bliss, at their good fortune in being able to work the soil early, and concern at the possibility of a hot, dry growing season.   

We’re not getting too excited here about early planting. I’ve seen far too many springs where gardeners (myself included) have prematurely put out tender crops and annual flowers only to find themselves scrambling to cover everything, when nature reminds us with a late frost as to who’s still in control. We are however taking advantage of clear, warm days by prepping the greenhouse, clearing debris, tilling, and staking out where we will be planting. On deck is spring cleaning the chicken houses and prepping the brooder house for chicks slated to arrive the first of April.

We've been (un)patiently awaiting the arrival of the first of the next generation to join us. She was not coaxed by lore of babes arriving with the full moon and has ignored her due date of March 15th. Corey is convinced she’ll make her arrival on St. Patrick’s Day and has me searching for the perfect green shirt for him to sport and a yummy and festive cupcake recipe as he says, “We’ll party!” I’ve been full of predictions of when we’ll finally meet Zoey and as my daughter has pointed out to me, none have held true.

We shall see… may be she’s waiting for the first day of spring.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Value Added

Small farm enterprises are often found exploring alternative marketing strategies and new prospects for diversification that will enlighten customers as to the multitude of goods that can be traced back to the farm and increase sales. In the world of market farming, items such textiles, soaps and lotions, fresh flowers, jams and jellies and baked goods are among the many products that fall under the heading of “value added”. These goods increase farmers’ customer base and the apparent value of existing agricultural products, adding to income and farm profitability.  

Iowa has for some time had a Cottage Law which allows its people to operate a home based bakery or food processing business, this however has only recently blossomed in its neighbor state of Illinois. In Illinois Senate Bill 840, the Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act, or better known as the Cottage Food Bill was passed as an effort to support the growing local food movement that has taken root across the nation. 

On January 1, 2012 the law officially went into effect, opening doors of opportunity to small farm entrepreneurs for ways to grow their business.

For this late bloomer the passing of the Cottage Food Bill felt like a gift from Illinois state officials. With Wild Hare Farm still in the stages of infancy I knew that our goal to test the farm market scene this season would find us scrambling for enough crops to make our efforts profitable. Now there will be delightful Corey cakes, yummy cookies, and tasty treats that make use of local farm ingredients in their creation.

Pumpkin Farmer Corey has delightedly added head baker to his titles.

For more information about on farm enterprises and value added products visit the USDA Alternative Farming Systems Information Center at: 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Corey Cakes

Corey's Valentine Cakes turned out much like this
using Wilton's 1M star tip.
The boss has decided to add cake baker to his resume so we've been baking up a storm these days. Corey’s very particular about not just the flavor but also the appearance of his creations and thus has his second in command hunting for web sites and recipes that match his abilities as well as creative prerequisites. We’re quite the comic pair, standing in the cake decorator section of the local store, debating which new doodads should be added to his bag of tricks. The most recent additions of his tools are Wilton’s (230) Bismarck tip and 1M star tip, allowing for yummy cream filled delights and easy, yet pretty toppings. This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Corey chose red velvet cupcakes with a marshmallow fluff filling and pink icing as a topper. They were a big hit with his favorite taste tester(s) himself, err I mean Dad and the boys.  

Today I've convinced him to try his hand at truffles. Cake truffles are pretty simple in design and a perfect fit for Baker Corey. We’ll let you know how they turn out!

Chocolate Cake Truffle Recipe:

1 choclate cake mix - prepared according directions and cooled
1 /2 cup homemade butter cream frosting

Once your cake has cooled, crumble into a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of  frosting to the crumbled cake and gently fold in to mix ingredients. You’ll want the end result to be slightly dry but moist enough to hold together when formed into a ball.

Next, with a small scoop, begin scooping the cake/frosting mixture and then rolling it into a ball. Place the cake balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet and pop into the freezer for at least an hour so they are easy to handle and don’t fall apart when dipping.
Makes about 3 dozen truffles. 

Chocolate Coating and Decorating:

20 oz. chocolate flavored almond bark melted according to directions on package
Dip cake balls in almond bark and place on a parchment lined cookie sheets to be decorated any way you like.

Corey and I chose to thin down a little left over butter cream frosting so we can swirl a pretty design on top and then add Valentine colored cake sprinkles.  

As always, Corey’s creations are made with eggs fresh from the farm!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


2011 was a milestone year for our family. Within days of graduation, our middle, Jordan's high school baseball team made small town history by placing 3rd in the state baseball finals. 

Ryne, our youngest, became a teen and although since his promotion to middle school he has been committed to to passing his eldest brother in the birth order line - up, Corey remains equally dedicated to maintaining his status. This is a sibling  phenomenon that continues to mystify me as once Jordan passed Corey is size he rather naturally recognized him as his *big* brother. Not so easy for our Rye, at almost 5'10" he now towers over his 5'2" (big) brother, who still prefers a relaxing afternoon of Disney movies to matters more typical of an "average" twenty-three year old, and yet we continue to hear an almost daily profession from Corey that he is "the boss". At this stage in the game I'm beginning to wonder if even once he reaches 6'2" whether Ryne will remain, the "baby" brother.         

Our eldest and only daughter, Chelsea, was walked down the isle by a very proud papa and brother in 2011. Her husband, Scott, has been a part of our family for several years now and we've known he was a keeper from the moment they met, but he truly stole her father's and my hearts when we found him sitting on our front porch waiting for our return one stormy July night, more than a year before their wedding. It was on this night that he asked our permission to marry our girl. If there's anyone out there who doubts the survival of chivalry in the present, I can assure you it continues on in the heart of our soft spoken son-in-law.

In the past year Jake and I have looked on as one of our brood shifted to her adult life with her soul-mate; another marched confidently down the isle, leaving childhood behind as he graduated from high school and transitioned on to college; and our baby became a teen. Corey has waited patiently, unwavering in his goals, those that he so confidently professed over four years ago to a team of educators who were less than convinced of the possibility of their reality.

I would be lying if I finished this post by telling you that I share his confidence in our success. It's more than just a little intimidating for me to think that we've arrived at the next chapter in our lives. I've wavered back and forth over the course of the past year, searching for answers to my questions of how he (we) will realize those goals on more than just a superficial level. Each time I veer from the initial course I find myself  quietly shepherded back by forces beyond my understanding. 

More recently, my eldest son came to me anxious that I understand what had been wearing on his mind. It's not unusual on those occasions where he's obsessing about his agenda for the day that his words tumble out, the same sentence repeated over and over until I hit on precisely the answer he's looking for. On this day his concerns were far from our ordinary discussions of saddling zebras and searching for his favorite video that has disappeared from iTunes.

On this day what was on his mind came out with a clarity that could not be misunderstood. "What are we doing next Mom?" I answered him with a basic mom-like response ticking off a list of chores that I was determined be accomplished, brushing off his anxiousness for answers as ordinary to our routine. "What's next?" a common question in which the answer is needed to help him transition and maneuver through his day. 

His next utterance was not a question but instead a statement that was meant to be reckoned. "Listen to me. I've been waiting for you, Mom. I'm counting on you." No arguing there, he'd been waiting on me for four years. 

So, for those wondering "What are we doing next?" - We're gonna be farming. Not the half million dollar tractor and endless use of chemical kind of farming that has become common place in today's high tech world that we live in --  but a kinder, gentler to the earth and all who live there kind of farming that has been all but forgotten.       

It's time this "late bloomer" begin listening to the old soul she lives with. He's been patient long enough. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Farm Fresh

The unusually spring-like days we’ve been experiencing this week have left me dreaming of all the wondrous events that will unfold in the not so distant future at home and on the farm. Mom’s hens are sorely confused by the mild temps and determined to start setting – even though mid-February is not the ideal time for spring chicks. Their behavior has led to conversations of what breeds will be retained to the flock this year, and what will be added.

My personal favorite, Araucana, were first imported into the United States sometime during the late 1920s or early 1930s and were bred primarily for their novel blue eggs (although green and pink are colors also produced). The blue shell color is a genetically dominant trait. This means that when the Araucana breed is crossed with another breed of domestic chicken the female offspring will always lay blue or tinted eggs. They are a dual purpose bird that has a well-fleshed carcass. The hens are good layers of medium-sized eggs… Mother Nature’s all natural Easter eggs.

Black Sex Link, are one of Mom’s favorite breeds that have made the cut. They are produced using a Barred Rock hen and Rhode Island Red rooster. Both sexes hatch out black, but the males have a white dot on their heads, making it easy to sex the chicks at hatching. Pullets feather out black with some red in their neck feathers. This cross makes for incredibly vigorous chicks, rugged brown egg laying hens, and good cockerel fryers.

The Black Austalorp’s have proven themselves to be reliable layers of brown eggs and will be included in this Spring’s chick order. The breed was developed in Australia, where farmers needed a breed that would lay consistently even when the weather was very hot. The foundation stock for Black Austalorp’s were Black Orpingtons imported from England, and the first of the new breed in the United States were imported in the early 1920s. Their color is of course black, but in the sunlight you can see hints of purple and green, making them a very beautiful chicken.

I’ve got my heart set on adding a few Maran’s to the flock this year. They are known as "chocolate eggers" meaning their eggs are a deep chocolate brown color. Eggs of the Black Copper and the Silver Cuckoo Maran are usually the darkest of all, and are highly sought after. If you value a colorful egg basket like I do, Marans are a must for your flock. Silver Cuckoo is the most available variety in North America and can be purchased from the majority of the main hatcheries.

As always we have farm fresh eggs for $2.00 a dozen. The girls are free range and hormone free, making them happy chicks that lay healthy eggs for us!

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The relevance of time is specific to the moment. There are all sorts of inspirational quotes depicting scenarios of its importance, and insignificance. Four years seemed a relatively lengthy segment of time when I was contemplating my return to school and yet what took place in those four years flashed by in an instant.

We grew…

September 2006

September 2006 - the fall before I returned to school.