Archive for the ‘RANDOM & PERSONAL’ Category

Home For Sale–the Insider Pics!

As you may know, I’ve switched over to Big Stone Bounty for blogging purposes.  But I still have a house in Vermillion, and I’m still hoping to sell it.  The list price is $77,500, and you can contact Barb Iacino at Dakota Realty for a tour.

Last weekend, my friend and neighbor (have I mentioned there are AWESOME neighbors?) grabbed his camera and took some outside and inside images of my historic district Forest Avenue home that is within short walking distance of downtown and campus.

Here are some of those images:

It’s a cozy cottage with stone facing chimney and window box.  The yard isn’t huge, but it is very functional, and you can even grow some gardens (as I did)–there’s good light.  There are a couple of heirloom apple trees out front, and nice perennial and herb plantings.  There’s a paved off-street parking pad.  Because it’s not a wide lot, mowing and snow removal and pretty lightweight.  Paint job is new in summer 2009.

The living room is huge and has a working fireplaceHardwood floors continue in the hall and master bedroom as well.  Lots of light!  We used part of the living room as a home office space.  I like the curved detail of the doorways going to front entryway and hall (not shown).  The programmable thermostat for the new 95% efficient furnace is also located in the living room.

The master bedroom is also huge and light.  The nook toward the front is good for a little dressing area or a desk.  Good-sized closet as well.  Hardwood floors add a nice glow to the space.

The bathroom makes a nice use of the space.  It’s not completely finished, but it is perfectly usable as-is, and new fixtures and a new tub surround have just been installed.  The bath is porcelain enamel-over-steel–not flimsy fiberglass.  The molding for the bathroom is in the house, but needs to be painted and attached.  The floor is tile with an inset mosaic of an orca (killer whale).  The storage closet has doors if you’d want to put them on–I liked them off.

This is the second (back bedroom).  It is completely paneled in knotty pine–even down to the inside ceiling of the closet!  It has a nice view of the backyard as well.  It makes a great kid’s room or more private office or project space.

View from the second bedroom down the hall to the master bedroom.  There is a pantry closet on the left (shown) with lots of wood shelving–there’s a second storage closet to the right (not shown) which has a shelf and hanging rod for coats, etc.  That closet also has cut-out in back for access to tub plumbing if needed.  You can also see the attic access (near the master bedroom) in this image.  There’s a couple feet of insulation up there.

The kitchen has fairly new Fiber Floor (two years old), and the stove is brand new late this summer.  It is apartment-sized, but I have never found that a barrier to canning massive quantities of food.  The fridge is large and was purchased about five or six years ago when I bought the house–it looks brand new and is pretty darn energy efficient, too.  I have the paperwork and manuals for every appliance in the house.

The kitchen has decent cupboard space, and again, the upper doors (and their hardware) are in the house–I just preferred them without doors.  Access to the side door and basement staircase is from the kitchen.  This is an eat-in space–there is plenty of room for a small-to-medium-sized table.

The basement is huge and is partially finished.  It also stays dry during rains–unusual in this area of Vermillion.  It has a laundry room and second toilet (shown) as well as a “bunker room” that is cinder-blocked in (not shown).  There was a stall shower down there, so there is plumbing to do a mop sink (which is on-site).  Did I mention that I had a 95% efficient furnace installed last fall?  The 68-gallon very well-insulated water heater means you won’t likely run out of hot water, and it won’t cost you a lot, either.

The backyard is very large–it goes all the way down the hill to Dakota Street.  There is some terracing and landscaping back there as well, and some nice trees.  I get to keep my wheelbarrow–sorry! As you can see from the first image, the house does have central air, though it’s not often necessary to use, as the house is nice and tight and stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Overall, this is a great low-maintenance home that is an inexpensive and very nice and “green” place to live with the efficient appliances and close proximity to campus and downtown.  It’s a quiet neighborhood with wonderful neighbors.

Have You Heard? My House is For Sale.

Perhaps this is not the perfect place to be broadcasting this fact, but I have to hope that with the dual readership of this blog and Big Stone Bounty, a post in both places might be a good way to move the process along.

Good ol’ 117 Forest

The house is listed with Dakota Realty, but the listing on their website (scroll down almost to the bottom) doesn’t come near to doing justice to my lovely little cottage.

So, this is justice.

It is a 2BR, 1 1/2 bath home on the best street in the best (historic) neighborhood in Vermillion.  It’s quiet; it’s so close to campus I never bothered buying a parking pass, and it’s also within very short walking distance of downtown.  Great neighborhood for kids if you have one–walking or biking distance as well to Jolley Elementary.

What’s special about this house?  It’s not just one of those crummy little rental places.  It’s a solidly built (in 1951) home with hardwood floors, a working (wood) fireplace, and a huge living room and master bedroom.  The living room’s so big, H and I used just a part of it for our office.

The smaller second bedroom is completely knotty pine paneled–even down to the ceiling inside the closet.  The lot runs all the way down the hill to Dakota Street, which means it’s fun for exploring, and it has a bit of terracing built into it as well.

The basement is partially finished and has a second toilet room/laundry.  It’s also one of the driest basements I know of in Vermillion–it could be finished or left as is for projects/workshop.

What else?  I just put in a brand new uber-efficient furnace and some new ductwork last November, which cut the heat bills almost in half.  It’s a solid little house, so it doesn’t cost much for utilities anyhow–and it has about 2 feet of insulation in the attic.

I also put in a super-efficient 68-gallon water heater, so running out of hot water is never a problem.  Washer/dryer and a chest freezer are included.

It’s got central air, though I’ve never had that much need of it except in very hot, humid summers–like I said, the house is solid, and it stays warm or cool very efficiently.  Programmable thermostat, of course.

The rest of the appliances are fairly new–the kitchen stove I replaced just a couple of weeks before I moved.  The tub surround and fixtures were replaced just about a week before I left.  Did I mention the bathroom has a tile floor with an inset mosaic of an orca?

To me, this house always seemed like a place to “trick out” with solid improvements and good quality appliances–I put new fiber floor in the kitchen within the past couple of years as well.

The nice thing about a small house is that you can make high-quality updates without a huge investment in materials.  It’s inexpensive to own and inexpensive to maintain.

North side garden

Did I mention gardens?  If you’re into that, the place has some nice ones–a couple of heirloom apple trees in the front yard, beautiful spring blooms, and a nice raised wrap-around herb/vegetable garden on the south/west sides as well.  It’s a snap to mow–takes about 10-15 minutes and you’re done.

Herb garden

I would not be selling this house except for the fact that if I’m going to own a property, it would make a lot more sense for me to own a farm–and preferably one that is a bit closer to where I’ve relocated for work.

So, I’m offering it for sale. Because it’s kinda hard for me to buy a farm when I’m paying a mortgage and rent at the same time.

It would make a great home for a young couple or small family, a single parent, professional, and/or faculty person.  Or maybe an older person retiring from the farm and wanting to live in a nice neighborhood in a property without too much to deal with in terms of upkeep.

So, check it out, and contact a realtor if you want to take a look inside.

And feel free to pass this along to anyone considering relocating to the banana belt. 😉

The Big Switch!

I’ve posted my first food blog over at Big Stone Bounty, and I invite you to join me there.

I’ve set up the subscription widget, too, so you can be notified of new posts on the new blog.

I’ll likely keep Flying Tomato Farms up and running with more personal commentary and farm/production concerns, so don’t cancel your subscription just yet!

The Move Completed

So, I managed to make it to Minnesota with a caravan of myself in the pickup, H in his van, and S in the moving van (she wanted to drive it, and I didn’t resist that offer).  The dog rode with me part of the way and with H in his van the other part, when I realized that she wasn’t very comfortable curled up in the seat.

Of course, then she was worried she might get separated from me.

It seemed like an insurmountable task to pack up every piece of my belongings and get them across the state line, but it turned out that it wasn’t.  It certainly helped that I had some great motivating friends on hand to help.

We got to Big Stone County in the late afternoon on the 1st of September, and somehow managed to get the entire truck, van, and pickup emptied out and still made it to the Lakewood for supper.  Looking back, I’m not sure how that was even possible.

And all those stairs!  I found a little lake house to rent–which is really fine–but it also necessitated carrying every last stick of furniture and box of books down the stairs.

Once H and S headed back the next day, I got to work making some sense of things, and at this point, the place is pretty much set up.  M came for the weekend, and he loved the new digs–though he didn’t make much progress getting his own space set up, and I didn’t push him.

We went to the farmers market and to Big Stone Lake State Park instead.  I managed to load myself down with honey and a small watermelon and a bag of apples and a Caspian Pink tomato plus some Hungarian Hot Wax peppers (Yay!  Mine were eaten by rabbits), two loaves of bread, and a plate of cookies.

Not to be dissuaded from continuing my food preservation projects, I dried a dehydrator-load of sweet peppers and summer squash, and yesterday headed out to Lismore Colony and ended up with almost ten pounds of beets, which are now pickled in quarts.

But it is time to get to work, and I’ve been managing communication and paperwork issues this morning and setting up meetings for later in the week as well.  I plan on a trip back to Vermillion this weekend to clean up the house some more and do a little harvesting.

I’ll be switching over to the new blog for most of my posts from this point on–you can find me at  I’ll be updating with a post on the beets (with pictures!) there soon.  ‘Til then, enjoy the view off my deck!

Packing up the Kitchen

Besides the dehydrator (which is full of tomatoes and will later be full of squash) and a knife, cutting board, and roasting pan (for roasting and freezing a few last batches of summer veggies harvested yesterday), I am packing up the kitchen today.

Last ditch harvesting

I’m really glad I saved all the big appliance boxes that I did–the big crockpot went right back in its original packaging and the dehydrator (once it has done its final Vermillion duties) can do the same.  The pressure canner has always lived in its original box–it just needed a little taping to be ready for the journey.

Last ditch processing

So far, most of the baking pans are in a sturdy box–the frying pans, cast iron, smaller sauce pots, and lids are all packed up as well.  Canning jar rings, lids, funnel, and jar lifter are all nestled in the boiling water water canner, whose lid has been bungeed on.

I never did get all those jars filled–along about Saturday, when I was recuperating from Friday night’s going away party and some neck and back pain as well (which I am doing stretches to help), it occurred to me that maybe I could just call it good.

The jars can be filled or not–depending on how many extras I have, maybe I will even donate a case or two to the Civ (without their boxes, which I’ll use to house the canned goods still in the pantry).

Fall allergies and abandonment fears

Not everything will be boxed and ready to go tomorrow morning when I pick up the moving truck, but hopefully clearing out the stuff that is packed will make it easier to account for and pack up what’s left.

I have mostly been relocating all packed boxes to the living room, so they can quickly and easily head out the front door, but it’s starting to get tight in there. Once the TV (which is going back to H) is gone, that will free up more room for more boxes.  If I do have a TV in Minnesota, it’ll have to be one I find there!

The chest freezer is (finally) scheduled for clean-out today as well–there is a waiting freezer at the farm to contain all that pork and maybe a chicken or two as well.  I will probably have to come back for my big package of yet-to-be refined lard–I don’t think it’s going to fit in the combined fridge-freezer in Minnesota.

All the details!  I’ve ground enough coffee to hopefully last us most of the rest of the week, so the bag of beans and the grinder can be packed away without fear of a desperate box-rummaging–though maybe I should grind just a little more to help caffeinate anyone who comes to help tomorrow.

And yes–if you were wondering if I’d like some extra hands to load the truck or pack boxes tomorrow–please feel free to drop by!  Free coffee!  Free bouquets!

End of summer flowers

Slouching Toward Minnesota

Up at five this morning with a desperate need to stretch and move my body.  All the packing and canning and harvesting and cleaning are making me a little stiff.  So I threw on my sweats and headed out for an early walk.

Coming around the corner onto Main Street, I saw a man duck into an alleyway, and I promptly crossed the street.  When he emerged, I saw he was a police officer, and he regarded me with some interest.  I said, “good morning,” and kept on my way.

I don’t think cops ever have the idea that what they’re doing looks suspicious.

But, of course, he was just checking the doors on all the businesses.  In my short downtown walk, I saw two police and a garbage truck.  Fischer’s Disposal is always out earlier than anyone else–I often see them making their rounds when I’m loading up for an early harvest.

Slowly, slowly, I am getting everything together.  Box-packing tends to be in fits and spurts–I think I’m averaging about a box a day.  But more than that I am dispersing things to good homes, to the Civ, to the dump.

At thirty-seven, and having mostly lived in the same place since 2003, it seems a kind of insurmountable task to move all my possessions to a new place–but I know many people who have many more possessions and live in much bigger houses than I do, so I figure if they can do it, so can I.

Produce keeps coming in the door (OK, I keep bringing it in the door), so I keep trying to figure out ways to preserve what I’m not delivering.  The last regular CSA delivery was yesterday, and I had to use liquor boxes to contain the bounty (that, and I am trying to collect back all the reusable winged-tomato bags to wrap glassware in).

Last regular CSA delivery of the 2010 season

I may end up selling at the farmers market tomorrow, though I said last week was it for me.  What else to do with all that basil–all those summer squash–all those cherry tomatoes?

I feel pretty deeply that it’s a sin to waste food–especially good, wholesome food.  So, like my Pike Place Market bag proclaims, I’m gonna try to get that “Produce to the People!”

But some of it stays with me: I canned seven quarts of a chutney of yellow squash, green tomato, onion, and lemon yesterday that I’d made the day before–it didn’t turn out as well as I’d envisioned, but it’s edible enough.  While the chutney and the canner were coming up to a simmer, I worked on cleaning out the vermicomposter.

Part of the produce containment strategy

Not sure how my new landlord will feel about have a colony of worms in his house, but they are pretty much the ultimate pets–they stay in their little home and eat scraps (and their bedding, if there’s nothing else) and try to stay out of the light.

That makes the process of emptying out the castings simple–as you gently scrape away the layers of digested soil and compost, they dive ever deeper toward the bottom. In the end, you have a little wriggling pile of worms that can be dumped back into the composter.

Once the castings were out and fresh bedding replaced it (using up the last of an old bag of peat–one more thing out of the house), I got to work outside.

The herb garden is now weeded out, and all the plants save the monster sage-bush got a dose of castings.  Two of the plants I “saved” a couple of months ago from the Jones’ greenhouse (and proceeded to leave on my front step for way too long) also got in the ground, their planting-holes amended with generous scoops of the richness.  Maybe they’ll make it.

And then I burned brush in my little fire pit–everything in the pile by the cottonwood in my backyard save three big logs that will have to wait for a chainsaw to section them.  I emptied the wheelbarrow, too.

Today is about inside projects again, though the weather has turned autumn-glorious–H’s daughter is coming to do some measurements and then we’re off to Sioux City to find a new tub surround and fixtures.

That’s a project that’s been needed for years, and now it won’t be me who gets to enjoy it.  Oh, well.  Maybe I’ll get to have a couple of baths in the newly mildew-and-stain-free tub area before I go.

Meanwhile, the dog is watching me closely and sniffing at the boxes and moving into her skin allergy time of year (as well as perhaps being a bit nervous about getting left behind), which means she’s licking and chewing at herself and will probably look mangy and awful by the time I get her up to Minnesota.

But, I still have a bar of Irish Twins doggie soap hanging in my utility closet, so before the tub gets its new hardware and surround, I should probably get her cleaned up and hopefully soothed a bit and maybe even get some of that loose fur out of her coat.

Otherwise, it’s a slow process of packing and cleaning and canning and slouching toward this move with all deliberate speed and forethought.  We’ll see if I make it to market tomorrow, but I figure a little more produce out the door and a little more cash in my pocket can’t hurt.

Produce out of bounds

Hope to see you there!

Moving it back a bit

I went up again to NE South Dakota/SW Minnesota in the last couple of days to secure a place to live (at last!) and to meet with my employers.  We decided with so many key people on vacation (or about to take one) and the relative difficulty I’ve had in finding housing that we’d push back my start date to after the Labor Day weekend.

While I’m rarin’ to get up there and start work, there’s so much to do with getting the house down here packed and cleaned, finding a renter, having a market board meeting, and just getting my head (and the rest of me) into the new space (which can’t happen ’til the 1st of September anyway), that I’m breathing a little sigh of relief.

I got back yesterday a little before noon and then headed out to the gardens to harvest.  I was only gone two days, so it wasn’t too bad (some lunkers in the squash and cuke patches, as usual)–not too bad, that is, except for the tomatoes.

Late blight is in full progression in the tomato patch–many fruits are developing those black, sunken patches and the foliage dying off exposes the rest of the fruits to sunburn.  It ain’t pretty.

Last week I got a full 11-gallon tub of good fruit from the patch (had to have H help me load it in the truck); this week it was about half that.  I should at least have enough to make a decent final delivery of tomatoes to the CSA members in the coming week.

Maybe the plants know I’m leaving, but they’re pretty much all going to be dead and gone by the time I make my Vermillion exit.  We’ll have to build a big burn pile and dispose of the carnage that way.  Maybe I’ll pick a few decent-looking green ones first and see if they ripen without rotting.

Not knowing I was leaving, I laid landscape fabric on all those rows before planting, thinking it could be kept in place and used again next year for winter squash or melons–but I think it’s probably wiser to tear it all up and dispose of it rather than risk the blight fungus hanging out in the covered soil.

The cherry tomatoes are in a different spot and are doing well enough.  There’s leaf spot in that patch, but the plants are hanging on.  The peppers are fine.  The eggplant plants themselves look OK, but a lot of the fruits are developing brown patches, so besides flying tomatoes, there’s plenty of flying eggplant.

Winter and summer squash patches are great, though.  There’s a number of spaghetti squash starting to cure in the field and those summer “Papaya Pear” squash just keep pumping out those sunny yellow fruits.  Delicata also look decent.

Cukes have been found by the beetles, but they haven’t done irreparable damage as yet.  I’m still pulling quite a few slicers out of the patch (though nothing like the two dozen a day in the height of their vigor), and the little picklers keep pumping out a respectable number of cukes for the crock.

Of the crops that will be staying in the ground for now, I’ve got a lovely double row of parsnips that can be dug either in the late autumn after the frosts, in in the spring after the thaw (or both). The shell beans, which looked none-too-healthy when they first came up, are starting to form pods, but it’ll be a small harvest.

There’s melons in a couple of spots, and I don’t know that any of them will be ready by the time I go–perhaps there will be enough ready on one of my return visits to bring one or two to each CSA member.  The Peruvian Purple potato plants are still green and lively, so it’ll be later September, I think, before I get a chance to dig them.

Leeks are happily sizing up–two rows of them.  There’s still some badly-munched kale that, if it survives, will put on some much cleaner leaves after frosts kill the cabbage worms.  There’s a few chard plants, too, and a ton of sweet and lemon basil–some of which I’ll harvest for drying and for pureeing and freezing before I go.

Not sure exactly how I’ll be filling those last few cases of canning jars, but I’m hoping to at least get one more batch of tomato soup before the plants go south (and I head north).

After that, it’ll be a matter of whatever falls on my lap–certainly some of those Papaya Pears and green tomatoes can go in a pickle, but the sweet corn season is just about done, so what I’ve got of that is probably what I’ll have. It’d be nice to find some pears or apples…

While the rest of my books are already packed, Putting Food By and the other food preservation guides are still on the shelf, so  I’ll spend a little time between packing and cleaning sessions to peruse those books for jar-filling inspiration.