Wednesday, September 20, 2017

ISO: Black Walnut Recipes

My maternal grandmother was an excellent cook and a wonderful baker. Many of her holiday specialties included black walnuts that she and my grandpa hulled themselves. I remember stories of them sitting at a card table lined with newspaper, wearing cotton work gloves, using a hammer and pick to get all the delicious nutmeats out of those stain-making shells.

My two brothers, my sister and me with my Grandpa and Grandma Spohn, 1966

When I figured out that we had a black walnut tree in our backyard, I was pretty excited - but mostly because I was thinking about all of the great woodworking projects my daddy has made over the years. His family land in Saline County is a great place to harvest a black walnut tree (especially when it's in the way of some corn or beans that need to be planted.)

So here we are, seven years into our noTTafarm adventure, and our black walnut tree is going nuts - literally. Scott noticed the limbs were sagging, and a few weeks ago, the nuts started to rain down with deep thuds. He's spent quite a few hours raking and gathering the walnuts so I'm thinking this is the year to process a few. Let's see if the baking-with-walnuts gene was passed along.

 Scott raked the leaves and walnuts into a neat row.
I don't know much but I do know that the green outer layer of the walnut needs to dry before being rubbed off to reveal the hard shell. And, if you don't wear gloves, your hands will be stained. I'll have to do some research on the best techniques!  
My Nutty noTTafarmer
So far, Scott has filled two five-gallon buckets, a ten-gallon trash can, and about a third of the wagon but many more walnuts are on the ground and attached to the tree. This ought to keep me occupied for a few months. Be sure to send your favorite black walnut recipes my way, just in case I'm successful.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure! 

Who's the Boss?

I think it's pretty obvious . . . Bibbers is the boss of noTTafarm! That little yellow (ok, "orange") former barn cat keeps every one (including the four-legged members of the family) under control.

Come on over and get some love! Bibbers is always happy to rub his damp nose on your bare arms and shed his golden fur on your black t-shirt. 
Stay Tuned for More Bibbers News!

Indian Summer & Harvest

Fall is nearly here and the garden will soon breathe its final breath. Sounds like the perfect time to offer an updated crop report. 

  • The beans were doing super well UNTIL I saw a freakin' SNAKE amongst the leaves. So - no more beans for us! (No one else is willing to pick up where I left off so they're going to seed.) I know it was just one of those skinny brown snakes that hang around noTTafarm and he was just eating bugs that were attacking the beans but I DON'T CARE. A snake is a snake. End of story.🐍👎😒
  • Our eight tomato plants keep on producing; in fact, they're going a bit overboard. I've enjoyed lots of fresh tomatoes and taken two big containers of them to work to share with my co-workers. The volunteer plants (mostly seem to be of the cherry variety) that returned this year have also been fruitful. 

  • Scott is pretty proud of his ornamental gourds, too. I counted about 20 set-on with many blossoms still showing promise. They will make a great autumnal display!

  • My ornamental miniature corn was relatively successful. Let's call it a "learning year." I planted the seeds too thick, didn't thin out the seedlings enough, and didn't prevent worms from attacking. When we harvested it all this past Sunday, many of the husks we opened revealed powdery worm poop instead of colorful kernels. Still, we had about 20 useable ears that will add some color to my fall decorating. 

For our 2018 garden, we'll naturally have tomatoes and basil and peppers and beans (no snakes allowed, of course.) What else should we plant? I'd like to expand our "ornamental" offerings to include more varieties of corn and maybe even some pumpkins. Who knows: we may end up with a real pumpkin patch one of these years.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Did You See It?

This past Monday, August 21, was the big day . . . the day of The Great American Eclipse! It was all a "certain someone" around the house could talk about - and all I could do to just smile sweetly and say "oh, really? How fascinating!" over and over again. The best part was that we were able to take time away from the office, enjoy lunch with Carl and Marita, and watch the moon pass in front of the sun. It was actually pretty neat!
Setting up for the watch party was an all-paws-on-deck situation. Bibbers led the troops down the slope, north of the garage (where we were sheltered from the breezey conditions.)
 Bibbers and Wilson took up preliminary postions behind our row of chairs.
I don't know, Marita - he's your son.
Scott tested the idea of using his welder's helmet to view the eclipse but chose to use the regulation paper glasses for safe viewing.
It was a beautiful day to watch! Omaha was not in the path of totality but we did experience nearly 99% (Scott can tell you the exact percentage.) It didn't get very dark; it just looked like a storm was coming. We didn't experience any odd animal behavior (we thought maybe the turkeys would fly up to their usual cottonwood roost) but the crickets started chirping. So - all in all - an interesting experience and a free pass for a few hours away from work. 
We Hope You Enjoyed this Special Event!

August is for . . . Birthdays!

The noTTafarm family celebrated three special birthdays in August.
My Daddy, Ray
We spent a fun weekend in Kearney to celebrate Dad's 80th birthday on August 5th. Mom and niece Chelsie organized a wonderful backyard barbeque and invited loads of people. It was a great event!

 Scott's Dad, Carl and our Great Niece, Sophie
It's always a party when Sophie visits from Minnesota . . . but it's even more fun when we celebrate her August 10th birthday on her great grampa's birthday (August 16). Sophie turned nine this year and was so excited to tell us all about her recent trip to Portland to see her Aunt Kate and Uncle Alessio and Uncle Pat and Aunt Kathleen. Carl was happy to share his big day (#83) with everyone's favorite redhead.
Happy Birthday!

Last Breath of Garden Arch

The cottonwood flower bed east of the house continues to be the bain of my summertime existence. Over the past seven years, I've tried to whip it into shape and garner some sort of order within the randomness of the vintage and new plants - not to mention the rotting retaining timbers and the oddity of things found buried in the dirt. <sigh> I'm tired, just typing about it!

One remnant of the garden's life with noTTafarm's previous owners is the arch created from plumbing pipe and chicken wire, placed in the center of a partial-brick pathway that circumvents the bed. With its wood supports crumbling, I was able to convince Scott that the time had come to take it down on August 13.
With a tow rope in hand and the Ranger at his side, anything is possible - including the quick and easy removal of the old structure.
Pretty simple, actually. Just loop the rope around . . .  
. . . secure the ends to the Ranger's tow hook then . . . 
 . . . pull!  And it's going, 
The stucture came down in a tangled mess. 
In true Norgard fashion, the legs of the arch were set in a thick concrete slab which Scott set free with the use of his cordless reciprocating saw.
The pipes were salvaged and placed in the barn; you never know when they will come in handy! 
 With the removal process complete, I turned my attention to raking out two years' worth of cottonwood leaves.
Ta Da!
The clean - although not very secure - pathway. 
The next problem is these timbers...they're about 75% gone and not necessarily safe to walk on. Perhaps I can convince Scott that it's time to tear them out, add a truckload of soil, and expand the flower bed. But that would create even more space for weeds to grow. I need to rethink that idea . . .
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Rocket Says "Hi!"

Since I've got some catching-up to do with the blog, I thought I'd start with a picture of our buddy, Rocket. He's our sole half-wild roaming outdoor cat of late. And though he has been kinda rough on our three boys, he's beginning to calm down. I still don't trust him completely but he's got such a sweet face. Plus, I think it's cute that our neighbors know him as "Wilbur" - which I'm sure you agree is a great name for a cat.
Happy August, Everyone!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Happy Birthday, noTTafarm!

Lucky #7
On July 30, 2010, our lives changed forever when we signed on the dotted line and became noTTafarm's owners. A lot has changed since then, and we're glad we've been able to share everything with you. What will you do to celebrate? Scott is going to mow and I'm going to pull weeds in the cottonwood garden . . . just another day in paradise.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rockin' Around the Clock

It was a long day but we finished the walkway around the garage Saturday! With a prediction of a heatwave coming Sunday, we were motivated to complete the task on a relatively-nice mid-80s day. We got a head start earlier in the week, placing most of the pavers so we would be ready to hit the ground running Saturday morning.
First, the spacing between the 16x16 pavers was adjusted from 16" down to 12" making for a more comfortable step. Scott used two of the 4x8 pavers to keep everything aligned. While he did the fine-tuning, I hauled more pavers in the wheelbarrow, putting them in the trench where he could later adjust to his specifications.
Bibbers was such a good helper! He frequently inspected the progress but spent a lot of time snoozing on the stoop.
By adding more pavers in this back corner, the hose reel and grill will have a tidy place to call home.
The bulk of the time was spent hauling rock from the big pile near the barn to the job site. While you'll see Scott modeling in these photos, rest assured that little ol' me was the main rock-scooper-and-hauler. Exhausting work, for sure, especially with the rock pile in a no-shade zone.
Scoop 'em up and toss them in the Ranger bed. Repeat. 
Over and Over and Over. 
Without the Ranger's help hauling ten (or more? I didn't count) loads, the task would have been impossible. (Side note: when we were finished with this project, the pile didn't look that much smaller. And while we are thinking of more ways to use the rock, we will rent a Bobcat next time. This type of manual labor is better suited for the young.)
The Ranger's dump bed sure came in handy! Each load filled in the spaces around two or three of the big pavers.
While I drove back to the pile to start loading more, Scott used a garden rake to move the rock into position.
Ta Da!
The final walkway looks great! We are interested to see how the rocks settle in, what the effect of rainfall is, and if the kitties will appreciate this improvement. 
Stay Tuned for Our Next Adventure!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July! Now Grab a Shovel & Get Busy

You know what the blog has been missing? News about an actual "project." One where we get our hands dirty over several days, toiling away toward a goal. Lucky for you, Dear Reader, we have just such a story to tell. With a nice four-day weekend on tap, we decided the time was right to undertake a little landscaping.

You may remember last summer when we were given a little stack of pavers. We worked a little on the area next to the northwest stoop then stacked the pavers for use another day - which nearly one year to the day later - finally arrived.
And look what else arrived! My baby brother, Tim, in town from home in Sioux Falls. While Teresa and Karli were off shopping Saturday (July 1) afternoon, he volunteered to come over and watch us work. It wasn't long before he grabbed a shovel and started helping.

The "project" is creating a a paver-bordered walk-way from the north side of the garage, around to the west side of the garage, then a flower bed from the northwest stoop around the corner, along the west side of the great room, ending at the south patio. We started out small on Saturday, choosing to concentrate on the flower bed portion. Scott figured out how many pavers we would need to purchase, and I found the bargain price at Menard's. We toted 100 pavers home in the Subaru.
The worst part of the project is digging the grass out to create a trench for the pavers. Scott and his trusty hoe made cutting through the roots seem so easy! My job was to collect the chunks of grass and knock off as much soil as possible. (We don't need to fill the burn pile with dirt, after all.)
The design incorporates gentle curves to create beds for perennials; most likely hostas on the north side and cone flowers on the west. Still to be determined! Scott placed the bricks "downhill" which will create an easy surface for the lawn mower to ride along (and eliminate the need to use the trimmer.)
Scott started small with a little cut, then created an eight-inch wide trench for the pavers - and he and Tim endured it all during a hot and humid afternoon without whining.
Thank you, Timmy, for your wonderful hard work!
Here's a quick shot of the completed flower bed on the west side of the great room. In addition to adding some much-needed backyard color, the plants will help disguise the big egress window wells.
Today (July 4), Scott started the walk-way portion of the project by mapping out a 4-foot wide strip along the west side of the garage. (Wilson inspected everything before granting his approval and finding a cool place to nap.)
The sidewalk in this photo will give you an idea of what we're creating. We will finally be using some of the river rock in the giant pile next to the barn! We're using 16"-square pavers for the stepping stones and more pavers to line the outside border (just like we did for the flower beds.)
Once again, the labor intensive portion of the project was digging up the grass to create the pavers' trench. Lucky for Scott, Bibbers hung out with him most of the day which makes working in high humidity/heat almost bearable.
By the time he made it around to the north side of the garage, a dark rain cloud came along with a cool breeze...just the relief he needed to finish. (We only got a few sprinkles but it gave us a good opportunity to take a break.)
At about 4PM, Menard's delivered 210 more 4x8 pavers and 40 16x16 pavers. We figured it was worth the extra $60 not to have to make six trips to pick up this much weight.The delivery man was super nice and wanted to buy noTTafarm. (Who doesn't want to buy noTTafarm? It's an awesome place!)
The day's work came to an end with the placement of black landscaping cloth to (hopefully) discourage the grass from growing. We plan to start back up after work tomorrow.
Stay Tuned for More Progress!