Winter Garden, Free Range Hens, Honeybees in February and Playin’ my Fiddle

I haven’t posted lately, or for that matter read or commented on anyone else’s blogs. I’ve been busy with a number of other things, but alas not with running or with posting in this blog. ???????????????????????????????

After I finished our hoop house last fall, I planted spinach, dwarf red flower peas, mache, bok choy, komatsuna, mizuna, tat tsoi, lettuce, claytonia, arugula and a variety of other greens. Most of the seedlings sprouted during the warm winter days.

Then came the deep dark of mid December through January. The soil in our unheated hoop house froze solid. The little seedlings didn’t die but they didn’t grow either. I worried that they would freeze during some of the sub-zero nights.

???????????????????????????????Now the days are just a little longer, the sun is just a little higher.

I barely noticed it but the seedlings have. The seedlings not only survived but they have started growing again slowly. In a few weeks we should have our first late winter home-grown salad.

We are really looking forward to our first taste of the lush-green goodness of spring…

Next year I will plant my winter salad greens much earlier- in September instead of in November as I did this year. That way we’ll be able to harvest homegrown salad greens throughout the winter.

This weekend, I planted my onion and leek seeds in flats to sprout and grow in a sunny south facing window. They will be tranplanted outside in April.

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and other transplants do not need to be planted for several more weeks. They don’t need as long to grow before transplanting as do onions and leeks.


The outdoor vegetable garden appears to be sleeping quietly under the snow.

It looks like not much is going on… but the microbes and other organisms are still there, still active and still very much alive. The earthworms have burrowed deeper to get below the frost line but will come back up to the surface in a couple of months. I put a layer of horse manure over my raised beds so the garden will be ready to go once spring  and planting time finally comes.

We are very fortunate to live where we do. Although we certainly get our share of cold and snow, it is always short lived. In a day or two, the sun will return. So much the better for warming our hoop house, and for raising our spirits and moods as well.

When we were planning on relocating from Wisconsin to South Dakota a few years ago, I was amazed by how many people said and said with such authority, “Oh yah, you know you’re movin’ to another cold and snowy place just like here!”

When I replied, “Oh no, western South Dakota won’t be at at all like Wisconsin! It’s much warmer in the winter and cooler and less humid in the summer!” I’m pretty sure that none of them believed me.

In the winter we can get a cold front, with low temps overnight dipping down into the below zero range. But then a day or two later it almost always warms back up into the 40s and 50s. 

I  don’t mind some cold weather in the winter, I just prefer not having it for weeks on end.


As you can see, our flock of laying hens have enjoyed our warm sunny days too. We have a number of customers who love our free range eggs. You cannot purchase eggs like this in the grocery store.

I believe our hens to be among the most spoiled chickens there are. Happy hens lay delicious eggs. Besides feeding them a variety of scratch grains every day, they get any old collard, kale or cabbage plants from the garden, extra winter squash we haven’t gotten around to eating as well as any leftover table scraps.

They also get to eat all of the spent malt grains after I make a batch of beer. Spent malt is basically like a soft cooked whole grain gruel.  It hasn’t been fermented so there’s no alcohol in it- I can only imagine how happy those hens might be if there was!

There is such a demand for our free range eggs that we are thinking of expanding our flock. We’re thinking of getting 50 chicks this spring.

Now I just need to get that chicken coop finished!!!!

Our bees are snug as a bug in their hives. On warm days over 50 degrees they’ll remove any bees that have died and fly out of the hive to empty their bowels. Only a sick bee will poop in the hive. ???????????????????????????????

Some of the older bees, sensing that the end is near, will go on one last flight out of the hive never to return. It will save one of their sisters from having to carry their body out of the hive after they die. It is a final act of self sacrifice for the good of the hive.

A few weeks ago on a warm sunny day, I cracked open the top of two of the hives to take a quick peek.

They buzzed slowly in the cool temperatures. Plenty of honey. Good. There are many reasons why a hive does not survive the winter: parasitic mites, diseases such as Nosema, a failing queen or no apparent reason at all. It’s hard to be a bee. At least this year, our bees won’t starve.

We’re thinking of expanding the number of our hives to ten, the maximum number that can be kept in an apiary (yard where beehives are kept) in South Dakota. If we want to have more hives than that we’ll need to find another location. I’m sure we won’t have any difficulty finding friends who’ll let us keep some hives on their property in exchange for rent honey  ( or mead).

For my Christmas present to myself, I bought a new fiddle. I’ve been practicing,… and practicing… and practicing. I have started to grasp some more advanced techniques including playing double stop (two strings at the same time), using my fourth finger, and vibrato.

Someone asked, “Are you taking any lessons?”

I replied, “No. I’d rather teach myself.”

They were incredulous. They couldn’t believe it is possible to teach oneself how to play a musical intrument without an instructor. When some think , “You just can’t!” I believe: “Yes, I can!”

Plus, the internet is amazing. If you search You Tube, you can find lessons for how to do just about anything, including how to play the fiddle.

I am sure if I had some formal instruction, I’d proceed faster and make fewer mistakes along the way. However, I’ve always been one of those people who’d rather learn by doing than by repetition or memorization.

For example, rather than playing scales over and over- that’s boring!- I just learn several tunes in a certain key. Once I learn those songs well, I find that I have also learned what notes make up the scale of that key.

Learning new songs is much more fun than playing scales!

I found a wonderful website: It was created by an Atlanta neurologist who plays old time music, it has a collection of old time songs with guitar, banjo and/or fiddle. I can practice jamming with other instruments so that when I get a chance to do it with real people, I’ll be able to do it.

Jack o' Diamonds

Well, I will finish out this post with a video of me playing “Jack of Diamonds” also know as “Rye Whiskey” or “Drunken Hiccoughs.”

Click on the photo above or click on the following link to hear and watch it.

It’s an old folk tune, first made popular by Tex Ritter when he recorded it in 1932. However, this song existed in various forms for hundreds of years before that. The melody is believed to be from an old Scottish song “Robie Donadh Gorrach.” There are dozens if not hundreds of variations of the melody and lyrics. 

A version dating back to the Civil War is:

Jack o’ Diamonds, Jack o’ Diamonds, I know you of old

You’ve robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold…

It’s beefsteak when I’m hungry, rye whiskey when I’m dry.

Greenbacks when I’m hard up, sweet heaven when I die…

 Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey I cry

If I don’t get rye whiskey oh I surely will die…


I’ll eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry

If the Yankees don’t kill me, I’ll live until I die…

You’ll drink your fine brandy, and I will drink my wine,

You can drink to your true love, and I will drink to mine,

 I left my dear old mother to weep and to mourn –

I am a Rebel Soldier and far from my home!

My old worn overalls do give the video a real old-time hill-billy feel, now don’t they?

With everything else I’ve been doing, I haven’t been doing much running. I do miss it but there just isn’t time to do everything I’d like to. I’d like to start running again more consistently- I am sure I will once the weather becomes warmer. I must admit it’s been very nice having more free time to devote to other activities I’ve neglected these past several years.

Maybe instead of running 3 to 5 ultramarathons a year I could cut back to just doing 1 or 2? Maybe I could even just do some regular 26.2 mile marathons or even some halfs? There’s nothing at all wrong with shorter events, nothing at all.

Everyone…. hug your loved ones, live life, dance, smile,  sing, play music, run, be well and and think of spring!


2 responses

  1. I really enjoyed seeing this post. It sounds as if you are quite content at this time. In addition, well fed! I have to agree with you also on the training thing. I’m training a bit more seriously now and I sometimes feel as if I am on the hamster wheel of Run , eat Sleep, work repeat. And work is nuts! THanks for the update!

    February 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, I am enjoying everything I’m doing but I am really missing the running as well as the comraderie of seeing all my ultrarunning friends at events. If only, I could just run ultras without having to do the training! I know people who do that but they run a race every week or two- so they are technically ‘training’ they’re just doing it all in races. I don’t have time or money to travel that frequently. I’m sure once the weather warms up I’ll start running more… for now, I’m catching up on all the other endeavors I enjoy.

    February 10, 2013 at 11:14 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s