Monday, November 29, 2010

Patient puppies

Pearl and Pip waiting while we put the carrots into the Homestead fridge so they won't freeze in the long barn. Such patient dogs. Notice they are decked out for deer hunting season, which just ended last Sunday. (Photo: Jen Bush)

Launch Day

Tomorrow the Land School blog launches in the Tuesday Memo of Lake Country School. We hope you like it! Your Bloggers are myself, Andrew Gaertner, co-manager of the Lake Country Land School; Donna Goodlaxson, also co-manager; Katy Hunt, resident assistant at the Land School; and YOU.

Our purpose is create a venue to provide a day to day community journal of happenings at the Land School. This will be a place for myself, Donna, or Katy to provide updates, post photos, and wax poetic.

It will also be a place for people who have been to the Land School to post their experiences and photos. It can be a sort of community diary. People will do this by sending the text or photos to me at and I will post them, assuming that the information is relevant.

In the event that a photo is posted of a recognizable person, we will require written permission to show that person to be on file in the Lake Country School office. 

Photo (Jen Bush): Pumpkins today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Part of our work as humans is to perceive and appreciate beauty. In my day to day life I am often moving too fast both physically and mentally to really notice beauty. However, working outside in nature has a way of slowing a person down enough to notice what is happening. This morning as I was feeding the llamas their treat, I had to hold the food dishes while they munched on their pellets of llama goodness. They do not eat slowly, but sometimes I notice that when I can do all the rest of the chores at my own pace, I get impatient while the llamas are munching at their pace. This morning was a frosty morning. As the llamas were munching I looked up and noticed something I had never noticed before. Within the concrete block walls of the red barn, there are sections that are made of these square glass “bricks,”and from the inside I could see that the frost had made intricate geometric patterns on the outside of each of these glass bricks. I marveled that each brick was decorated with a modern art masterpiece, each unique as a snowflake. The morning sun would soon obliterate these works of art, but for that moment I was an appreciator of beauty.

Now looking back I realize that when things are under way and they are going to take as long as they have to take, I am momentarily freed from the distress of having to hurry up so I can get on to the next thing. This freedom allows my mind to wander off into imagination or my thoughts to turn to noticing things in my environment. Another example is when I am on the tractor mowing a field or tilling the ground. I can’t make the tractor go faster, or the mowing or tilling would not be done well. So, once the pace is set and I am resigned to continue to operate the tractor, then I can widen my focus to include both my imagination and my surroundings. I think about the past, present and future of the fields, planning the cover crops, manure applications and crop rotations and such. I notice the color and moisture content of the soil and the location of certain weeds. I think about ways to involve people in the harvests and planting. But I wouldn’t get to any of that thinking without the enforced pace of the tractor. Thank you to all of the real life activities that take actual time. That time is a gift.

  Thanks Llarry!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pippa as a 6 week old pup

This is a test of the photo uploader. A photo of our dog Pippa when we had just brought her home in Mid September.

All Frozen Up

In most years, we get a few snows in October and early November. The snow stays overnight and melts the next day, or the next day. We have actually appreciated the snow sometimes because it acts as mulch and protects the vegetables that we still have to harvest under a blanket. This year was a little different. The first snow that has stayed came on the evening of Friday November 12th. Up until then we had had several hard frosts and many mornings when the chickens’ outdoor water dish had a skin of ice, but no snow to speak of. In fact, although we had had several freezing nights, we still were seeing butterflies, cabbage worms and yellow jackets right up until the snow flew.

Luckily, we were cautious enough to harvest out the carrots, potatoes, turnips, bok choy and broccoli before the snow. But really we didn’t expect it to stick. We have the sheep and llamas’ summer pasture encircled by a movable electric fence. When the snow came, we blocked the animals into their winter pasture and turned off the electric fence. But there was too much snow to bother removing the fence for the winter. I decided to wait until the snow melted so it would come up easy. Well it has been almost two weeks and the snow is still here. In fact we have passed two important phenology markers of winter. (Phenology is a way of measuring the seasons using natural phenomena. For example, on which date does the lilac in the back yard bloom? When did you see your last bluebird of the season?) For us, we like to know when the pond is completely iced over. On Friday, November 19th in the morning I took the dogs for a walk and our neighbors’ pond was completely iced over – the previous day only half had ice. Then this morning I went into the chicken coop and when I gave the chickens fresh water there was ice on the water dishes inside the coop. Time to plug them in!

So we may have turned a tipping point, where we won’t get another November thaw for us to pull the electric fence easily. I tested this morning and the fence posts still come out, the ground under the snow is not frozen yet. But the netting is caught in the snow and won’t be easy to pull up.

P.S. All the netting is pulled up and stowed away for the winter before today's weather hits.

The new greenhouse with a blanket of snow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Louis/Louie the House Rooster

Last Saturday Jen and I buried our house rooster, Louis, or Louie on odd days. House rooster?? Yes.

It all started 10 years ago when Jen moved out here and she and Leigh Hansen raised 25 baby chicks from the Murray McMurray Hatchery. They send you the “Exotic Laying Mix” and you get all sorts of beautiful chickens. With each batch they send one free rooster. In that batch we got a fluffy black rooster of the “cochin” breed. That particular rooster not only got to be huge, but also he had feathers all the way down his legs and on the feet. The children named him “Bigfoot,” or alternately “Lance the Pants.” Bigfoot was the ideal rooster for the Land School. He was large and dramatic. He was also a good protector of the flock – sounding the alarm when danger came in the form of a fox, a dog or a hawk. Finally, and most importantly, Bigfoot was gentle and never attacked a child. This can be a problem with roosters, but the big cochin breeds, like big dogs, are generally known for less aggression.
For many years Bigfoot presided over the flock, but as he aged, other roosters came and took his place.  Eventually he died. Three years ago we decided to get some fresh blood in the coop and we ordered another 25 baby chicks. This time we knew we wanted a cochin rooster again, so we paid extra for a partridge cochin. The partridge cochin has a beautiful mix of colors, including red, green, and black. As our baby chicks grew, we discovered that they had actually sent us two cochins and a polka dot rooster. The weeks passed and the day came for the baby chicks to experience the outside world. We opened up the auxiliary coop doors and they all came running out. It was a beautiful sunny summer day, and we had three junior high students there, delighting in the baby chicks frolicking in the green chicken yard. It was a harvest day and we went to the garden to bring in the goodies. At lunch we checked on the chickens. Fine. Then I left to go to the Twin Cities with the vegetables and while I was gone a surprise summer thunderstorm blew in. When Jen went out after the storm, she checked on the baby chicks. Most of them had made it inside, but both cochin rooster chicks were outside and completely soaked. An adult chicken has feathers that shed the rain and brains enough to go inside, but these fluffy chicks were new to the whole outside thing and without the mature feathers. By the time Jen found them, they were nodding off and shivering and closing their eyes – all bad signs for chickens. She called the Junior Highers over and they went into full chicken resuscitation mode. The chickens were brought into the house and cuddled under the shirts of the young people. They were blown dry with hair dryers. They were hand fed and allowed to warm up under a heat lamp. Both cochins made a full recovery, and the Junior Highers named them Louis and Louie, after one of their saviors, Louie Umbarger.

Louis and Louie grew to be magnificent roosters. They strutted and crowed and fought with each other and the other roosters, but never chased people. Then one day, Nadine (who worked here at that time) came over to visit the chickens with her toddler, Rena. When Rena’s back was turned, either Louis or Louie came running up like he was going to attack her. Nadine swooped in and picked Rena up and gave the rooster a stern talking to. Well, needless to say that was not the last time Rena was threatened by one of the roosters. Our hypothesis was that large people were different enough not to trigger the aggressive response, but a toddling child was just small enough to set off the alarm bells in the rooster’s brain, about chicken size. By the time it happened a third time, Rena decided she did not want to come over to the Farmstead and we had decided that we only really needed one cochin rooster. The problem was which one was the aggressive one? As Thanksgiving approached, some friends of ours were going to butcher a bunch of turkeys and we had the opportunity to add a rooster into the disassembly line. But which one? They looked identical. So one night I grabbed one off the perch and tied a twist tie around his leg. Then we brought Rena over the next day to see which one showed aggression to her (of course we were right there with her to protect her!). The first time, we saw no aggression from either chicken. Grrr. Then the next day was judgment day because the following day was butcher day. So we brought Rena over for one more try and one of them was slightly more interested – Mr. Twist Tie. We took a chance and brought him in to be butchered and left the remaining rooster with the flock.

Since we hadn’t been able to tell them apart, our remaining rooster might have been Louis or Louie, so we just left him with both names. We either chose correctly, or he got the message, because from that day forward we had no problems with aggression towards Rena or any other person. In fact he was competing for the Best Rooster Ever award. We would go to the county fair and see the chickens, and we would know that Louis could win every award if we were to enter him. He was big, proud and beautiful. He was attentive with the hens, showing them where the food was and then standing guard while they ate. He sired a clutch of baby chicks with a secretive mama hen. Everyone loved him. But he did have one enemy. There was one other mature rooster left in the coop, the polka-dot skinny boy named Mr. Sir. Mr. Sir showed no aggression to Louis until the winter came and they were confined to close quarters. Then there were occasional fights and we would sometimes see Mr. Sir a little worse for the wear. They had to work out who was the big boss of the chicken coop. We thought for sure it was Louis.

Then last January, Jen and I went on vacation, and our friend Karen cared for the animals. On the day we got back Karen had noticed some blood on one of the roosts and told us so in a note. When I checked, I found Louis hiding head first in a hen’s nest box. This was odd, because he was usually the winner of the rooster fights. Not this time! We brought him back into the house and gave him some food and water. The next day we checked and within all tangle of the feathers on his legs there were wounds on each of his legs right where his knee joint was. Note: on a chicken, the knee joint is “backwards” and the hollow side is facing forward. On his right leg, that hollow was slashed and the skin had parted and the wound was scabby and full of puss. OUCH! We clipped the feathers and cleaned it up, but the wound was more than Jen and I could handle. So we brought Louie into the vet. Now, going to the vet with a chicken is not standard protocol in the country. But Louis was a special chicken and we have seen many chickens recover from terrible wounds before, so we decided to pay for it out of our own pockets. The vet cleaned it up better than we could, and he prescribed an antibiotic and an antiseptic cleaning wash. Louie stayed in our house to recover. Well… long story short, many times Louie would seemingly make a recovery, but because the wound was right at the joint, it wouldn’t heal over and would get worse again. It stayed open, so we kept cleaning it out and eventually let him walk around the house while he recovered. We tried poultices, garlic, different antibiotics. He actually seemed better. He would crow in the morning and follow us around the house. He liked noodles and cucumbers. He would sit with us when we watched TV. It is actually not too bad having a chicken in the house. We put down newspaper and picked up after him every day, sometimes twice a day. We had paper towels and natural cleaning products handy in all rooms. We gave him outside time and he could actually run (with a pronounced limp) and he was hard to catch to bring him back inside. He was sure to make a recovery. But he did not. As September came around, he became more and more lethargic. His comb and wattle went from bright red to a pinkish color. He no longer wandered the house, preferring to sit in the corner of the front porch. Before the snows came in November, we brought him outside for the last time. We found him dead in his corner last week. He will be missed.   


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Manifesting Abundance

It was a big week for heavy lifting at the Land School. On Friday we delivered the Holiday Produce baskets to LCS. This is a relatively new thing for the Land School. It all started with a conversation I had with our friend Kate Stout in the spring of 2009. She was talking about how the entire world needs to shift to a more sustainable way of life. As energy resources become more and more scarce, we will have to adjust to a low energy future. That adjustment could become a source of distress for people, as people perceive the scarcity of energy as an overall scarcity of everything. This perception of scarcity might cause people to hoard wealth or become selfish in other ways. Kate knows that there is actually enough resources for every person to live a magnificent life. In a low energy future, the challenge will be as much a psychological one as a physical one. As people hoard out of fear, they actually contribute to the very scarcity that they fear. What if instead of fear of scarcity, people acted in the sure expectation of generosity and abundance? Instead of tying up resources, those resources are multiplied. As people begin to act from an expectation of abundance, it also frees up their thinking, which can also be frozen in fear, just like the resources that are tied up. The freedom of thought that abundance offers is like a metaphysical opening of spirit to both the idea of support from the outside and generosity to those outside of the circle. A friend once told me that what you focus on grows. Thus if one focuses on scarcity, the scarcity will grow and if one focuses on abundance, the abundance will grow. 

As a person who is by nature skeptical, I take on very few ideas without having to overcome my own disbelief. One way that I release the disbelief is to willingly suspend it and act as if the new idea is true. Then I look at the results. Then I may or may not allow the entrance of the new idea. It was such with this idea of “manifesting abundance.” In 2009 I consciously decided to manifest abundance in the garden. It was a subtle shift in my thinking. But by the end of the season, we were overflowing with vegetables. I don’t know if the change in thinking contributed to the abundance. It might have been rain or fertilizer or weeding or people coming to help at the right times. There was so much abundance that at the end of the season we had over a 1000 pounds of potatoes and easily 500 pounds of onions and many many squash, among other veggies. It was overwhelming. We decided to send out a Holiday Basket in time for Thanksgiving and it was a smashing success. So in 2010 we tried the manifesting abundance thing again. This year, we had plenty of potatoes again, incredible amounts of squash, and lots of carrots, turnips and garlic. Our friends helped us out with the onions and once again we had an incredible holiday basket. So we are two for two.

This brings me to the heavy lifting. By the time we were done loading the baskets with all the abundance, they were easily 40 pounds. We lifted each one at least four times as we were processing and loading and unloading. With 50 baskets, that translates into an 8000 pound couple of days for Donna, Jen and I. Add to that the harvest tubs and sacks that Donna and I moved around before loading the baskets and it pushes us over 10000 pounds. I am not regretting the decision to manifest abundance, but my body will appreciate a couple days off to recover. Thanks to everyone who purchased holiday baskets this year!

Photo of the abundant pumpkin harvest this year:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Welcome to the Land School Blog

Welcome to the Land School Blog!

Your Bloggers are myself, Andrew Gaertner, co-manager of the Lake Country Land School; Donna Goodlaxson, also co-manager; Katy Hunt, resident assistant at the Land School; and YOU.

Our purpose is create a venue to provide a day to day community journal of happenings at the Land School. This will be a place for myself, Donna, or Katy to provide updates, post photos, and wax poetic.

It will also be a place for people who have been to the Land School to post their experiences and photos. It can be a sort of community diary. People will do this by sending the text or photos to me at and I will post them, assuming that the information is relevant.

In the event that a photo is posted of a recognizable person, we will require written permission to show that person to be on file in the Lake Country School office.