Monday, November 24, 2008


Across the road the tractor is ready to haul the wagons full of corn down to the grain elevator. Despite this year's challenging (a polite term) weather, the projection for this year's corn harvest is 172 bushels per acre. This is good.

We're looking to the west from the area of the dining table, which features a couple of very old furnishings from Joanna's family. These are in the vicinity of 100 years old, and belonged to Joanna's great grandparents, Joseph and Malvina Reagan. They were included in the purchase of the family home in Maryville, Tennessee, in 1910 or 1911. Special thanks to Aunt Wanda for contributing these sturdy pieces to the Yum Yum Farm house!

Yuri does a little harvesting of his own! He has served as our organic rodenticide since moving to the Yum Yum Farm. This gift was presented to us just as we were to receive guests. Fortunately, they, too, are outdoorsy people, and shared in our pride at the impressive conquest of our courageous warrior. We're not exactly sure what this ill-fated mammal is (was). It doesn't look like a little mouse (because they wear big white gloves). We think rats are more plump than this character. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Recent cold weather has reduced the Yum Yum Farm to this--a few lousy herbs on the dining porch. Some farm! Astute observers will notice the title of this blog is only partially accurate. It's just that "parsley, chives, basil, rosemary and marjoram" doesn't sound quite as musical. We are still enjoying sage and thyme from outside though, as well as a yummy curly mint plant, which we savor from time to time in various forms, most notably, Joanna's out of this world mint chip ice cream. A sturdy oregano plant gives the farm a Mediterranean feel (do you believe that?) well into the winter, especially if it's buried under some leaves. Now if we could just figure out what to do with those pretty blue berries on the junipers. Any ideas?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Breaking the Wind

Hard to believe we've lived at the Yum Yum Farm for nearly a year now. We still have a few firsts--our first November 10 through December 24. Then it's really a year. One lesson learned during last winter was that the entry porch is completely exposed to the strong and very cold winds from the north and west. This made firewood storage difficult, as the overhang did little to keep snow off the porch, and winds frequently blew with sufficient force to relocate the tarpaulin covering the wood to the western counties of Illinois. So, we bought the north porch a winter coat of its own, which you see pictured here. Turns out you can purchase heavy canvas tarpaulins, in (roughly) the sizes of the spaces between posts and floor and ceiling, in a dark brown that (roughly) matches the brown on our house. What a country!

Here's the view from the other side looking toward the northwest. This should keep the firewood dry. If I had it to do all over again, I would've hung these tarps on a hot day in August rather than a cold windy day in November. They caught the wind like sails, nearly flinging me into the side of the house. And handling the metal hardware and tools used to hang them--don't get me started! Despite these challenges, the desired effect has been achieved. These may also have a modest impact on our energy consumption by keeping the cold wind away from the front door. We'll see.

Note also the 2 benches, positioned now for (ugh!) boot removal. These are Aldo Leopold benches, named for the naturalist and writer who designed them. I built these over the summer for seating, and to loosely associate our farm with someone whose concepts and practices of land management we aspire to emulate. Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, and is perhaps best known for his "A Sand County Almanac", published in 1949, a year after his death. From the author's introduction to his work: "That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten." (Leopold, Aldo, "A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There", Oxford University Press, 1949, pages viii-ix.). You really need to read this book.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Say "Cheese"!

Getting us to smile for the camera is like pulling teeth--without anesthesia. Nevertheless, it's probably a good idea to document our existence from time to time. Fortunately, our next door neighbor, before we moved to the Yum Yum Farm, was Sandy Dyas, a gifted photographer celebrated for her gorgeous landscape photography, and very cool documentation of musicians, especially in eastern Iowa. Sandy spent an afternoon at the Farm recently, and these are a few unretouched examples of that session. You can learn more about Sandy and her amazing portfolio at

The real star of this shoot is, as always, Yuri.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Autumn Leaves are Falling...

Wow! The mighty Mississippi sure looks pretty from our east deck! Just kidding. Yes, this is the mighty Mississippi, but it's looking pretty from Hanging Rock at Effigy Mounds National Monument just north of McGregor, Iowa. We took the opportunity on a particularly lovely autumn day to hike the 7 mile round trip to Hanging Rock to take in this spectacular view. We're looking south toward McGregor, and, to the far left, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. This area of northeast Iowa, northwest Illinois, southwest Wisconsin, and southeast Minnesota, is known as the "driftless" region, because glaciers got lazy and neglected to drift into this area. Lucky for us, as it's left some spectacular scenery! We love to take day trips to this part of the state, and say "Iowa sure is flat." We hope we've been able to dispel that myth with this blog!

This view really is from the east deck, looking south. The H windows on the dining porch are taking in a cool easterly wind, and reflecting on the bluff in the distance. Note the denuded field mid-frame--those were the soybeans. The yellowish stuff just this side of the trees is a field of beans planted late due to, you guessed it--flooding. There's a creek inside those trees, which ran quite high this spring and early summer, delaying planting in the bottomland. The line between beans and no beans is the southern boundary of our property. We've been taking a lot of pictures lately, as the color pallette is at its most varied at this time of year. The green strip of grass-looking stuff extending into the bean field is one of our "waterways", so planted to reduce erosion of the scant topsoil remaining on Yum Yum Farm. Future posts will expand on conservation and restoration measures we're taking to keep our dirt healthy. Strange hobby, isn't it?

The wood stove is back in action after a warm weather hiatus. This particular appliance is our best friend during that part of the year when the mercury disappears from the thermometer. This is our first opportunity on the blog to show this part of the room in action! Note the limestone hearth, cut from the quarry depicted in Grant Wood's "Stone City Iowa". Damn, this thing was heavy! We are especially enamored with the striations in the limestone, which we didn't realize would be so prominent. The floor is really developing a warm patina. Or maybe the stove is making me think everything has a warm patina. Whatever the case may be, this gives a good sense of what makes the Yum Yum Farm house a cozy place to be when winter's winds are howlin'.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Long Time No Blog!

Hello gentle readers! We've not communicated with you since January, and for good reason. We've been consumed with the myriad responsibilities associated with a move into a new home. Additionally, this has been a very eventful year in eastern Iowa. From caucuses in January to floods in June to lounging around through a gorgeous autumn, the blog has taken a back seat to, well, everything else. Now that it's dark at a reasonable hour, we've actually got time to kill sitting in front of the computer. So look forward to more updates from the Yum Yum Farm in the near future.
The Yum Yum Farmers, Joanna and Geoff, enjoy a Yummy lunch on the east deck with architect and dear friend, John DeForest. John spent the first weekend in June with us, experiencing his masterpiece. John brought with him the best weather we'd experienced to date. About a week after his departure, eastern Iowa, including nearby Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, were inundated with unprecedented flood waters, from which we're still recovering. While the Yum Yum Farm was in no danger of flooding, the fields in the distance would normally be a deeper shade of green at this point, but incessant rain pushed the creek in the timber out of its banks, delaying planting. As of this writing, these beans are still 2 to 3 weeks behind their normal maturation and harvest schedule.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yuri's World

Please find pictured below the real man of the house--Yuri. This beautiful king of the Yum Yum Jungle is demonstrating the comfortable features of the Case Study bed in the bedroom. Note the Artemide Tolemeo reading lights on either side. It struck us recently that these exist, and we've not yet used them. So, one of these days, when the boxes are all unloaded, we're going to attempt to retire early and spend some time reading. In bed. We hope to accomplish this before the Social Security checks start arriving. Yuri continues his tour by directing our attention to the slatted wall that separates the bedroom from the living room. These boxes can be lifted off of the wall and repositioned to suit our needs. Right now, we're still figuring out where to empty our pockets at the end of the day.
Finally, Yuri concludes his tour with a view of the other side of the slatted wall. He is spending time with Ice Bat and Ugly Dog on the Blu Dot Couchoid Sofa. This is a sturdy and comfortable piece, covered in "vegetarian" leather (our name). It's not really leather, but it really seems like it. We became aware of Blu Dot furniture some time ago, and journeyed to Minneapolis about a year ago to try it out at their headquarters, and at the Walker Museum. Their motto resonates with us: "Good design is good". Indeed.

Yes It's Good, Livin' on the Farm

The title of this post is from a song, like so many of the others. Do you recognize it? Just curious. My apologies for the lengthy delay between posts. Since we last visited, we have moved in to the Yum Yum Farm house! And I'm actually getting comfortable typing "Yum Yum"! We moved in on Christmas eve, with a full(ish) moon lighting up the snow in all directions. It was a (I don't say this very often) truly magical evening. Another beloved relative, Doug, trekked an hour to the west to spend the holiday with us. He has befriended Ice Bat and Ugly Dog.

Here's that snowy landscape I was talking about. This view is looking to the southwest. This is the direction from which warm air will flow into our area. Someday. Actually, we find it quite pretty. But we do feel for people like John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Bill Richardson. This environment has definitely tested these candidates.

Cheers to the Yum Yum Farm! An earlier post featured our canine friend Piper frolicking in the clover. Pictured here are Piper's human companions, and our friends and dinner guests, Rachel and Richard. We've been lucky to share the joy of the design and building process with them over the last couple of years, and have bounced ideas off of them for their valuable, informed feedback. Here's an interesting tidbit: if you are fortunate enough to live in an area where Cultural Revolution yogurt is available, take a look at the picture on the plain yogurt container. The spoon on the container belongs to Richard and Rachel, and is being held by Joanna. autographs.