You can find Grama Sue's Rainbow Eggs at:

The Hy Vee on Agency in Burlington, IA


Wednesday - Friday 9am to 1pm at the farm 1/2 mi east of the Nauvoo-Colusa Jr. High then 3/4 mile North on 1050.

Wednesday 3-7 pm at the Painted Corners on HWY 96 in Lomax, IL


7 - 11 am Keokuk Farmer's Market at the mall

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

East Grove Farms

Saturday, we took a short road trip over to Salem, Iowa to check out an elderberry farm.

The delightful young man who showed us around the place is Kurt Garretson. After traveling a bit and working on an organic farm, Kurt came home 3 years ago to work on and eventually take over the family farm. He introduced us to his proud parents, Joel and Marlene, as well as a few cousins who were getting things ready for a wedding in a couple of weeks.

East Grove Farms is the oldest continuously owned and farmed family farm in Iowa. Kurt's great-great-great grandparents (Hope I have the correct # of greats there!) settled there in 1837. Wow!

Only a few of the 900 acres are currently in elderberry production, but they have ambitious plans to put many more acres in and to transition to an all organic farm in the years to come.

These are some of the elderberry cuttings that Kurt has potted to take to farmer's markets, but he says he never pots or even roots the cuttings that he plants on his ground. He just cuts them and puts them back in the ground, usually in the same week in February.

He showed us two ways that he has tried planting the rows. This row was covered with cardboard and wood chips. 

This row was covered with plastic, then holes were cut in the plastic where the elderberry cuttings placed.

Here's a close up view of that. Kurt says the elderberries do much better with the plastic than the cardboard and eventually the plastic degrades.

 He also showed us the equipment he uses to cover the rows and plant with. This is they plastic roll spreader. They till and cover the rows in the fall.

Then in February, they cut the previous year's canes down and use those cuttings to plant the new rows.

The machine uses this tine to punch a hole in the plastic. Then a  it fills the whole with water.

Two people sit on the back and stick the cuttings in the holes as they ride along. 

Grampa Tom asked all kinds of questions about elderberry varieties, fertilizers, what kind of ground is best, etc. Kurt was very knowledgeable and I think Grampa Tom feels confident he can do this so we are hoping to put in a few rows next year.

Then Kurt showed us the old family home that they are turning into a winery. This was Kurt's great-great  grandmother's home. He showed us the upstairs which is extremely rough. I probably should have gotten some pictures to show just how much work they have done, but I'll just tell you, they've worked some miracles here!

This is the kitchen.

The wine tasting room.

And the party room. His cousin is planning to get married on the front porch of this home in a couple of weeks. Isn't it a beautiful place for a wedding? They will be renting it out for events soon. 

If you'd like to know more about elderberries or you are interesting in having an event at the farm, contact Kurt at: http://www.eastgrovefarms.com/East_Grove_Farms/Welcome_Home_Page.html

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stinging Nettles

It's amazing, I seem to have found a plant that is notorious for causing allergic reactions that I am not allergic to!

Last year, I had an opportunity to go to the local wild foods foraging club that meets in the Keokuk, Hamilton area. (It's called Weed 'Em and if you want to look them up. They are on Face Book.) I had heard about stinging nettles before. They have a long history of being used as a high protein food source and for allergies and arthritis. I was excited about using them and found a patch in the wild a few days later. I took a sack out and was carefully harvesting the top leaves like I had been shown, but suddenly I realized my bare arms had brushed up against them with no reaction! Disappointed that I hadn't found the right thing, I dumped them out and gave up.

Yesterday, I visited my friend Juanita (who is a  member of Weed 'Em and Reap). She had found some stinging nettles and transplanted a few into her yard last fall, so I looked at them again. Yes, that's exactly what I had found. So I dug a few up. Once again brushed against my bare arms. No sting! I can't say that I didn't itch at all, but then again, I itch when I pick tomatoes or cucumbers or green beans or anything that involves touching a lot of leaves.

I stand amazed! Psalm 139:14  I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made! 

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Check Out the Master Suite in This Home

This week's floor plan has an awesome kitchen and an even awsomer (it is too a word!) master suite! Check it out at http://gramasuesfloorplans.blogspot.com/2013/04/birth-to-grave-romance.html

You know, someday, someone is going to build one of my houses :) Can't wait!

God Bless You All!

~ Grama Sue

Saturday, April 27, 2013

And We Have Fence!

 Go Grampa Tom! My hero!

Unfortunately there are still some very determined chickens.

Trespassers will be culled soon!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Got old birds? A pressure cooker will tenderize them in no time!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reclaiming Lost Ground

Several years ago, I had some nice flower and herb gardens by the road and in front of the trailer. After Grampa Tom got laid off, the front yard became a pasture for the sheep and the flower garden out by the road suffered great neglect because I wound up working away from home after the first year.

We haven't used the front yard for pasture in a couple of years now and we've decided I'm not going to go back to work full-time, so I'm out to reclaim my lost gardens. Not only that, I'm planning to create a bunch more!

Here's the before picture of my roadside garden. If you look close, you can see the remnants of my old garden. There's a few daffodils, grape hyacinth, a few of the 50 tulip bulbs I planted that survived the chickens eating them and the day lilies I planted around the trees. Last year we planted a few rose of sharons. I put some flags next to them so Grampa Whitson wouldn't mow them off.

This garden extended beyond the brush pile from the tree we had cut down this winter. I'll have to wait until Grampa Tom burns that to work down there, but I should get to it this year.

If I were real smart, I'd just kill everything that is planted here and start over. But there are still some things that I have planted there and I'm just too attached to them to let them go, so I'm digging around them and removing the sod that has filled in the vacuum. I think God is like that with us too. He created us, but the enemy came in and overwhelmed us. When we finally get back under His care, He rips out those things that He didn't plant, but He's careful to leave in us what He created in the first place.

Now if only Grampa Tom would get the fence up that should keep most of the chickens in the pasture. He's can find more things to do instead of building fence. Kinda like me and housework ;)

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

This is my favorite garden tiller. Grampa Tom likes the ones with more power, but I'm low tech.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Magnolia Blooms and Americauna Egg

Finally getting some color here! The magnolia tree is in full blossom :) Course, that means were in for a good storm. It always happens. We to enjoy it for a day or two and then the wind blows all the blossoms off :(

We also had an Americauna pullet egg today!

 Grampa Tom will be glad to see that. He took off this afternoon to deliver eggs to Ducks in Nauvoo and the Hy-Vee on Agency in Burlington. Hasn't made it back yet. He said he was going to stop to help Dave at the Painted Corners in Lomax. Who knows when he'll get home.

I gotta get those eggs washed!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


My rhubarb made it! 

I started this from seed over at my old farmer's house. Dug it up in November last and brought it home. Had no idea if it would make it so I'm super excited. Not only that, but the chickens don't like it! I told Grampa Tom we need to concentrate on growing rhubarb onions and french tarragon cause the chickens don't like them. Grampa Tom doesn't like rhubarb either. But I do. It's actually a requirement to marry into the Whitson family. None of them like rhubarb, but all the outlaws do ;)

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Messing With Grama

I debated about asking. I'm not known for my observational skills and Grampa Tom loves to tease me, but I had to open my big mouth. 

Me: That round tank you put the chicks in is really nice. How long have you had it?

Grampa Tom: It's not mine, it's Aaron's.

Me: (with a sigh of relief) Oh good! That makes me feel better.

Grampa Tom: (mischievous grin) But it's been here for 2 or 3 years.

Me: (very disappointed sigh)

Grampa Tom: (after a dramatic pause to rub it in) It's been in the trailer full of feed  most of the time.

I just about hit him. I am exonerated! I hardly ever look in the trailer :)

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Monday, April 22, 2013

Berry Starts

Went over to my old farmer's house today and dug up my black berries. The 3 buckets on the bottom are from there. I'll see how many I can plant here in a couple of weeks or so and then I'll bring the others to the markets. 

On top of the grill are my weeping willow, some elderberry starts and the starts I took off the blackberries here when I pruned them. Finding places for all of this will be interesting :)

LORD, thank You for giving me more than I can use!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

P.S. - The kids were having fun with this chalk today. My side walk is very pretty!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rolling in the Hay

Well, not exactly, we put the goats we bought yesterday in wagon that has a bunch of straw in the bottom.

Can you see the little guy back under the pvc pipe playing peek-a-boo?

Olivia feeding Floppy

Wattles and Kathie getting into the act!

Boys there now too.

Victory! A job well done! I was still pulling straw out of hair when they went to bed :)

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Saturday, April 20, 2013

3 Kids in a Sale Barn

What happens when you mix 3 kids, a grampa and a sale barn?

It multiplies into 32 chicks and 

2 goats

Happy Saturday!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finally! Eggs!

Our egg count last night was 79! Woot! So much better than the 10 to 15 we've been getting all winter. That count should double or triple soon. The chicks we bought last fall are just starting to lay. We're getting about a dozen from them a day right now. They should be laying 150 to 200 eggs a day in the next month or so. 

Hopefully we'll be able to supply all of our stores soon. Please ask your dairy manager about our eggs so when we go back to them, they will know we still have customers! Thanks!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Isn't my lettuce pretty? This is the stuff I planted in January. The lettuce we planted last week is just starting to come up. It has some bare spots, durn chicken! I had this under plastic, but I was afraid it would bolt if I don't slow it down. I should have a little to take to the markets when they start. If I don't get greedy and cut it for myself :)

Hopefully, we will have a few radishes by then too. Dave at the Painted Corners in Lomax has decided to delay opening until May 1st. We were hoping to go there tomorrow, but it's just to cold yet :(

Itching, itching, itching ...

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Monday, April 15, 2013


Praying for all those affected by the bombings in Boston today.

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Citrus Planters

This picture looks fuzzy. That's because it is. I saw an idea on the internet to use grapefruit rinds to start plants in. Since Grampa Tom has been eating some of the grapefruit we brought home from my parent's house in California, so I thought I'd give it a try. 

They molded. May be I shouldn't have put the plastic wrap over them. I almost threw them out, but  I thought I saw a little green  so I waited a day. Maybe I will be able to salvage them, I planted purple cone flower and calendula in them. I'm allergic to mold so hopefully they will dry out enough to kill the stuff before it really gets to me :) If not they will  make good compost!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Saturday, April 13, 2013

6 Days of Creation

God created man in His image. Did you know that every one of us is creative? I used to think I wasn't very creative because I couldn't draw or sing, but that is just plain wrong. The way I  read it, God spent 6 days creating and then spent the 7th reviewing all that He had made. . So, on Saturday's I post some of the things that I created the previous week.

Here goes:

This week has been a busy one! A lot of my creative juices have gone into writing. Every day I have been furiously working on my how to homeschool book, Almost Unschooling Grama, and editing my What's in a Name Bible rendition of Genesis. I doubt that either of them will be ready by the time the markets start, but hopefully I'll have them at the markets sometime soon.

I've been planting and planting and planting in spite of the cold temps. Earlier in the week, when it was still warm, I experimented with building a potato tower. Grampa (doubting) Tom doesn't think it will work, so I'll have to wait till next year to build more :) Then the rest of the week I've been planting stuff in flats and pots inside. Hopefully it will warm up soon so I can move stuff outside. My house is getting kinda full :) I have a couple of pots of holy basil and several aloe plants ready to go the markets whenever we get started.

The other thing I've been doing is polishing up several floor plans so I can post them on my Grama Sue's Floor Plan Play Land blog. Trying to get ahead a bit so that when we are going full bore this summer I have something of a chance of keeping it up :)

What have you been doing?

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Can't wait till it's warm enough to sit outside every day!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Teaching Addition and Subtraction

My book, Almost Unschooling Grama, is getting there. I was thinking it would be about 50 pages long, but I'm at page 44 and still have a bit to go. Might be more like 60 or 70 by the time I am through! This an excerpt from it about how I teach kids to carry in addition and borrow in subtraction. I've been helping my granddaughter with math. She's not really quite ready to do the subtraction step yet, but I pushed her yesterday just so I could get her artwork. Thank you Kathy for putting up with Grama!

Ball Factory

When I asked my adult kids to tell me some of their favorite activities, my oldest boy didn't even have to think about it. “BALL FACTORY!”

I was having problems getting my kids to understand the concepts of place value, carrying and borrowing. (Sorry, I'm old school - not sure what the new math terms are.)
So I told my kids to imagine the big balls that they sell at Wal-Mart. We were going to pretend we work in a factory where they are made. 10 of these balls will fit into a great big box and 10 boxes fit into a truck. Our job is to pack the boxes and the trucks.

Then we draw our factory.

I make the columns with the balls, boxes and trucks and then put the numbers we want to add on the left hand side. I tell them we have been working in the factory for the last 3 days and we need to see how many balls we have made.

First we draw the balls (the numbers in the ones column). Once we have all the balls drawn, we x out and circle groups of 10 to put in boxes in the box column. Once we've filled all the boxes that we can, we count the number of balls that are left over and put that number in the ones column in the answer. Then we count the number of boxes that we filled and put that number above the tens column.

Then we draw the boxes (the numbers in the tens column). We count the boxes to see if we can make any trucks. If we can, we x them out, circle them and put them in a truck. We count any boxes we have left over and put that number in the tens column. Then we put the number of trucks in the hundreds column.

When they are able to add three four-digit numbers this way, I add in a three digit number or two and a warehouse column. Once we've got 10 or more trucks ready to go, we drive those puppies right over to the warehouse and fill it up!

To teach subtraction, I tell the kids we have an order from a store! We need to gather up the balls that they need so we can fill the order. We start with the ones. If we don't have enough individual balls to fill the order, then we need to empty a box. We cross out a box and then draw 10 balls over in the ball column. Then we circle the balls we need to fill the order and write the number we have left in the ones column of our problem. We cross out the number we have in the tens column of our original number of balls and write the number of boxes we have left above it. Then we move on to the boxes and do the same thing.

Some kids catch on to the ball factory quickly and get bored with doing all that drawing, opting to do the calculations with just the numbers in a few weeks. Others take longer,a and still others just really love drawing the balls, boxes, trucks and warehouses. I let them continue playing in the factory a long as they want to, but I do encourage the artists to do some problems without the aide of the factory :)

Does this make sense to you?

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Painted Corners

We will be here on Wednesday next week from 4 to 7, in Lomax, IL, on the highway across from the Pink! (weather permitting)

A few years ago, Grampa Tom met these really awesome people who were starting a farmer's market in Lomax. Dave and Scottie had bought an old gas station and have slowly been fixing it up.The first year they just had a small farmer's market. Then a friend of theirs, Tressa, started cooking fantastic tacos on Wednesday nights. Then Dave started making home made ice cream.

Last year they put in a kitchen and this really neat bar made with a piano string board. These are people after my own heart. I used to have a piano string board. I wanted to mount it to the wall above my bed for a head board, but Grampa Tom (Mr. Spoil Sport) wouldn't let me. :(

Scottie has been selling a few antiques and some crafts there too. 

Right now they are furiously fixing up the old garage. This is where we have set up the farmer's market in the past. We will still be there, but Dave and Dan are really fixing it up! You should see these two working! It's like watching a couple of bees in fast motion!

They are putting in a huge fireplace and conversation area.

A few weeks ago, Dave went to an auction and got a great deal on some restaurant equipment so they are building an ice cream bar in the garage too.

Can't wait to see the finished product! It should be pretty much complete next week!

We will be bringing the citrus fruit  and the rosemary we brought from my parents house last month. I also have some aloe plants, noodles and other dried herbs that I've kept in the freezer this winter.

Hope to see you there!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Potato Tower

I've been reading quite a bit about potato towers on the web lately so I decided to give it a try. I started  out with the tomato cage I showed you the other day. We had a big round bale of grass and corn stalks left over from the calves. Grampa Tom told me I could use it for gardens. The instructions call for straw, but I think this will do.

I used the compost I had in this garbage can. I put kitchen scraps, yard waste and some chicken poop in it last year. Made some awesome compost!

I put down a layer of grass hay and then a layer of compost and then placed my potatoes in it.

Here's the second layer.

There's 6 layers here, but I had to quit because I ran out of potatoes and had to get some more.

Here's the final tower. I managed get 11 layers. There's 63 potential potato plants in there. A little less than 9 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes. It will be interesting to see how many pounds of potatoes we will get out of it. 

I plan to plant another one full of Pontiac Reds, but I'm going to wait until next week. It was 75 degrees here when I was planting these, but it's supposed to drop down into the lower 30s this weekend.  We will probably get more potatoes out of that tower than this one. Pontiac Reds are just better producers. 

 The big drawback I see to this method is that it will take a lot of water. I want to build a keyhole garden this year too. I was reading about how some people were making keyhole gardens like the hugelkultur mounds with wood underneath compost and dirt. I really like the idea of raised beds that drain well, but don't need a lot of water.

I'll keep you posted!

God Bless You All!

~Grama Sue

I used to have one of these. Worked great, but it was ancient when I got it and it fell apart. I've thought about getting another one, but with my little bitty kitchen and it just being Grampa Tom and I now, it just seems like to much.