Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Tradition #4: The Christmas Tree 

My daughter Amanda was born on the 16th of December in the 97th General Hospital, Frankfurt, Germany. My husband was stationed at Ayers Kaserne "the Rock" at Kirch-Göns and we rode to the hospital in our VW fastback sedan, best car I ever owned. In the years that followed I got into the habit of decorating by December 6th (St Nicholas Day), but saving the tree for the 16th. We decorated the tree on Amanda’s birthday, which worked out just right since we always had a real tree in those days, and falling needles were a bit of a problem.
When I got home from Iraq I bought a white artificial tree. It’s really pretty with red and gold ornaments and white lights. But after spending the evening with my daughter and her family last night celebrating her birthday, and watching everyone decorate the Christmas tree, (and smelling the fresh tree J ) I have decided to return to the “old tradition”. It will be a live tree at the Grimm’s next year, and we will be decorating it on the 16th. In the mean time I am enjoying my pretty white tree. After all, it’s the family that gathers around it that makes it a Real Christmas Tree.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Tradition #3: St Nicholas Day

Another wonderful tradition I learned and have carried with me from Germany is St. Nicholas Day. St Nicholas comes around to the homes with children to leave small gifts for the good little girls and boys, and coal for the naughty ones. On the evening of the 5th of December I set my shoes near the front door and on the morning of the 6th I would come out of my room to find my shoes filled with chocolate candies, fruits, and coins. And for some reason he always lined my shoes with foil first. I think that was because my mother was a nurse and he knew it would bother her for me to eat treats out of shoes that had been worn J .

Later, when I was 12 and my little brother, Scott, was 4 we were lucky enough to live in the American housing on Hawkins Barracks just outside of Oberammergau, Germany. On the evening of December 6th we rode around the streets of that incredibly picturesque town, with heaping piles of snow along the sidewalks and saw the many St. Nicklaus’s walking to the homes of children they had been invited to visit. Some of them were accompanied by a donkey and a dirty faced helper named Krampus or Ruprecht, but who my family called Rufas. St. Nicholas was dressed in flowing red and white robes with a tall bishops hat and carried a gold crook or staff. I believe the children in the homes recited lessons and told St. Nicholas how they had been very good during the year. I remember one year in particular when a large trailer (or flatbed, more likely) brought St. Nicholas into the American housing. It was really wonderful for him to visit us, establishing St. Nicholas’ Day as a Christmas Tradition for my family lasting through my childhood, my children’s childhood and now my grandchildren’s as well.  

Christmas Tradition #2: Advant Calendars

When I was a kid, lo those many years ago, my family was living in American housing in Frankfurt, Germany. Daddy, SGT Cowling at the time, was stationed there and I had the great fortune of learning some of the German Christmas traditions. The Advent Calendar seems to have always been an important part of Christmas for me. Each morning I jumped out of bed (that really was many years ago!) and opened the next little door on the Calendar, slowly counting down the days. The tiny pictures were better than treats or gifts. They were magical.  Those little calendars helped me learn to savor the days before ‘The Big Day’, enjoying the anticipation as much as any child is able to do. I still have one of the calendars and put it up each year to remind me to savor the journey, not just the destination.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Tradition #1: Making Gifts

Many of my favorite Christmas traditions take place in the kitchen. Just leafing through the recipes in Mom’s ‘Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book 1953 Edition brings to life my memories of making Christmas candy and baking cookies in the cinnamon scented, powdered sugary kitchen of my childhood. Over the years I’ve added some new recipes and gift ideas to the list. Here are a few of my favorites.



Things to do between Thanksgiving and Christmas


Orange pomanders – Select firm oranges without blemishes. Punch holes over a small area of the orange with something like a knitting needle, grilling fork or ice pick. Press a whole clove into each of the holes, and then punch holes over an adjoining small area. Repeat until the orange skin is studded in cloves. Dust with cinnamon, wrap in tissue and place in a cool closet or cupboard for three to four weeks to dry, turning daily. Remove the tissue paper and wrap a ribbon across the pomander like tying a package. Leave a loop of ribbon at the top so that the orange can be hung from a hanger to scent a closet.


Cinnamon ornaments – Stir together 1 cup cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, and 1 teaspoon nutmeg. Gradually stir in 1 cup of applesauce (more or less) until you have a firm dough. Roll out to ¼ inch or a little thicker (no thinner) and cut with cookie cutters. Poke a hole near the top of each ornament with a soda straw or wooden skewer. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 F until dry, about 2 hours. Let them cool and air dry on a cookie rack overnight then hang them from the tree, wrap as gifts, and/or attach them to gifts under the tree.


Candied orange and lemon slices – My favorite method is to slice a couple of oranges in half, then into ¼ inch slices. Drop the slices into boiling salted water and boil just till they float. Spoon the slices out of the boiling water in to a bowl of ice water to cool. Lift the slices to a cookie rack to drip-dry a bit. Boil together 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar just until the sugar is dissolved. Put the orange slices into a heat resistant jar such as a large canning jar, or bowl. (I like to use the jar because it’s easy to work with and doesn’t take up as much cabinet space.) Pour the hot syrup over the slices. Need to cover the orange slices, and then hold them under the syrup. You can set a sturdy plastic bag holding water on top of the cooled syrup/fruit to hold the slices under the liquid. Place the jar in a cool dark closet or cabinet.

Every day for the next 2 weeks drain off the syrup and add ½ cup of sugar to it. Heat just enough to dissolve the sugar, and then pour it back over the orange slices.

The slices can be given as gifts in small jars covered with syrup, or air dried, sprinkled with sugar and placed in a cookie tin or box.


Pies in a jar – This one is new to me this year but is definitely a “keeper”. I originally found the instructions, posted by BROOKLYNSUPPER online at “the family kitchen” and have seen many variations since.

Make up your favorite pie crust recipe and roll out as usual. Use several pieces of the dough to completely line the inside of a half pint canning jar pressing the edges together. Fill the crust about 2/3s full with your favorite apple, cherry, peach, etc. pie filling. Use the jar ring to measure a circle and cut it out. Place the circle on top, and seal the edges of the crusts together. Cut simple or decorative vents in the top crust. Stand the jars in a 9x13 cake pan (to catch drips) and then bake at 375F for 15 to 18 minutes or until crust is brown and the filling is bubbly.

Alternately, you can assemble the pies and freeze them to be baked later.

There are loads of variations to each of these instructions online, and some nice ‘walk troughs’ on YouTube. My rule is to “keep it simple, keep it fun”. And don’t forget to put on the Christmas Carols in the background!



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Current Events/

Hail and Farewell

June/July 2012

To our utter (udder?)  delight Zeke, our Dexter Bull has gone to live at Thunder 5 Ranch ( and Curley has joined our little herd on Grimm Acres.

Despite the jokes, “What happened? Did you leave Zeke out in the rain? He shrank!” the girls and I prefer to think of Curley’s entrance as “Right Sizing”. He is a beautiful bull, as Mike Hammack said on the T5R home page, Curley is gentle, easy to handle and “has a very well-proportioned body”.

I believe he will prove a total asset to our current breeding program, and make a wonderful addition to our Farm Visit/Petting Zoo project.

Our current issue is that of anyone in this huge area that has not received rain in “ages”. Pastures are dry or dead and we will be feeding hay long before we had planned to this year.

I can hardly voice a complaint as I do not begin to compare our little endeavor to the life and living of area farmers whose losses in corn, hay (and so livestock) will have a resounding impact on them as well as the economy locally, nationally and far beyond.

We are cutting the Fainting Goat flock back to one billy goat and postponing the Nigerian Dwarf additions until next spring. In the mean time we have been cutting a few carefully selected trees in the area where we intend to expand our pasture and letting the goats and cattle clean up the leaves. I say carefully selected, and I do mean carefully! We have quite a few wild cheery trees which are toxic to most anything that might eat more than a few leaves. If I can’t identify it, we don’t cut it. Later this winter, when the trees are bear, we’ll cut out the remainder.

The goal is to free up a bit of ground which was covered in small, “scrubby” trees for a richly mixed pasture while leaving the few oak, some walnut, and the older, larger maples.

Another feed plan underway right now includes some alternative feeds like Jerusalem Artichokes (Sun Chokes), extra garden produce/greens, red wigglers, and comfrey.

The comfrey is not doing as well as I had hoped. Early this spring the geese got into the herb garden where the comfrey is growing and ate it down to the ground and beyond. Only about a quarter of it seems to have recovered, and even that is suffering from the lack of rain.

The Sun Chokes are doing great, however. This will be the first year that I expect to harvest enough to increase my planting area, and to feed livestock for a short while. I think another year or two and Sun Chokes will make a major contribution to the winter feed situation.

I deliberately planted about 3 times the tomatoes we could use or even get canned this year. Starting from seed, I figured I had little invested but time. I hope to use the extra fruit, and then later the extra vines to augment both chicken and hog feed this summer. I did the same with salad type greens, and am happily cutting greens for rabbits and chicks daily. With the pastures looking like they do every extra bit of vegetation is of benefit.

My red wigglers are finally taking off. I have moved the worm beds several time, and finally found a place that is protected from the sun and from interference from the pigs. I’ll use the extras from this “batch” to get a second bed started. By winter I am hoping to have several beds thriving so that I can feed the extra to the chickens. It’s a good plan anyway!

We stay busy, sometimes too busy, but at this point I can say I am happy with my little corner of the world…wait!...why is that pig in my front yard?!...what are those dogs barking at?...who left that gate open???...Oh mannn.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Silver Fox Rabbit

Classified as “Threatened” by the ALBC (June 2012), the Silver Fox Rabbit is the newest addition to the livestock/poultry mix on Grimm Acres, and is fitting in wonderfully.

According to the The Livestock Conservancy (previously the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy), “The Silver Fox rabbit is the third breed developed in the United States. It was created by Walter B. Garland of North Canton, Ohio. The Silver Fox is truly a multi-purpose breed, raised for meat and fur.”

These beautiful rabbits are a large breed. The bucks often weigh 10 to 11 pounds and the does can reach 12 pounds. They are a great meat rabbit, dressing out at 65% of live weight. They reproduce well. The does have large litters and are great moms, attentive but calm. That calm nature makes them great pets, as well as utility animals.

But it’s their coat that makes them really unique. The young are born either solid black or blue and begin to show silvering of their fur at about 4 weeks. The silvering process takes 4 months to complete. “The fur is one of the most attractive and unusual features of the breed. It is extremely dense and 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length. When the fur is stroked from tail to head, it will stand straight up until stroked in the opposite direction. This trait is found in no other breed and greatly resembles the pelt of the silver fox of the Artic.” ALBC.
A young Silver Fox rabbit

We raise these great rabbits to sell as pets, for 4H projects, as breeding stock and as meat rabbits. The rabbits sold as pets and for 4H are handled several times a week to help them be the friendly, social rabbits this breed is inclined to be.

As always, we welcome visitors whether you are shopping or would just like to see what we have and how we are doing thing on our little farm. Give us a call or email:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why Diversify?

Why Diversify?

Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson has a new book The Diversity of Life
published by the Harvard University Press. In this book Wilson discusses the value of genetic diversity, and the terrible risks we face as that diversity dwindles. Edward Wilson was recently interviewed on NPR’s Science Friday where he put into words some of the urgency I, and so many, many others feel regarding the conservation of the diversity we have before it is lost.

WILSON: …we're coming to understand the great value of preserving what is left of biological diversity in nature. We can provide many, many examples of products that have been forthcoming just in recent times, and the likelihood of vast, new important products -- drugs, new kinds of crops, fibers, petroleum substitutes, restorers of exhausted soil, and on and on.
… every species is a great treasure for humanity to enjoy and use for centuries, for thousands of years to come, and that in saving them, we should not only regard them as having this enormous, virtually limitless potential for our children’s' future, but also as part of our deep history -- literally the cradle in which the human spirit was born.

As The Livestock Conservancy, (previously the American Livestock Breeds Conservancytells us: The need for livestock conservation is urgent. Throughout agricultural history, each generation has taken its turn as steward of the genetic trust. Our generation is now in danger of bankrupting this trust and leaving little for the future. Each day, some breeds move closer to extinction. Each extinction reduces the diversity within the livestock species and the biodiversity of the Earth.

In simple terms, we cannot afford to put all of our eggs into one basket.

At Grimm Acres, Diversified we have chosen to take our small position on the front line actively working to preserve the genetic diversity in our small number of livestock and poultry. We work to do our part in caring for the animals and spreading the word about the intrinsic value of each species, and the joy they bring into every day of our lives. “At Grimm Acres the animals are not our whole lives, but they help to make our lives whole.”