Into every life a little humus must (or should) come…

Stainless Steel Compost Pail

Stainless Steel Compost Pail

One of the better value strategies for a low impact, more carbon neutral way of life is to compost. You do not need a huge garden. You just need to figure out the best way to match your own domestic set-up. When you compost carefully you will be given a wonderful by product – humus. This is a dark brown, light and crumbly soil that is gold to all gardeners.

Compost is the natural way to recycle waste and it is truly a miracle in the making. You layer up newspaper and cardboard (brown material) or woody shrub prunings (also brown material) with the moist ‘green material’ – the potato peelings, damp paper towels, tea bags and coffee grounds. You make a compost ‘lasagna,’ alternating the dry and damp in layers. In time, heat and worms do the real work of breaking it down until there is a lovely, crumbly mixture. My first gardening teacher, Delores Keegan, pronounced that the best way to construct compost was to lay down a piece of newspaper, scrap your spuds, parsnips and carrots onto the paper, wrap it all up and then you have the perfect brown and green balance in a neat parcel to deposit in your compost bucket. Continue reading

Spring Soup Recipes for Busy Gardeners

Spring is perfect soup weather. It’s easy, it’s quick, and many times you can leave it to simmer while you work outside. Around my house it is a staple as springtime is very busy on the farm! New baby animals being born, gardens to ready up, tend and plant and lots of other outside chores. Try these recipes on the stove top or in the slow cooker.

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into a small dice
1 medium yellow skinned onion, chopped
2 small ribs celery chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups tomato sauce or 1 (14-ounce) can plus 1 (8-ounce) can
3 cups chicken stock, available in a box on the soup aisle
1 pound ground beef, pork and veal mix (meatloaf mix)
1/2 cup grated cheese, Parmigiano or Romano, plus more to pass at table Continue reading

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Getting Ready for Food Preservation

It’s been a long winter and it’s so exciting to see the trees begin to bud and the flowers pop through the earth. When the girls were younger we used to put up “things to look for in spring” like birds, bugs, flowers and other signs that yes, it’s truly spring. It’s also time to begin planning for what the garden will hold, how much I need to plant to get the yield I might need for my family and friends.

Beginner's Home Canning Kit

Beginner’s Home Canning Kit

Home food preservation is a strong practice in our community and valued as a tradition in many families. The planning, planting, tending, harvesting and preserving have come to mean many hours of family time together, working and enjoying the fruits of the yield. In the 2002 edition of the Ball Blue Book, there is a wonderful chart to help guide the planning process. It details the number of plants to purchase or plant for what yield. Another chart below  indicates the number of vegetables needed for a family of four, served how many times a week and then a final number of quarts that need to be preserved to achieve this goal. On the Ball web site ( under preserving guides they have similar planning charts to help us plan in greater detail the size and scope of our spring planting. Continue reading

Bearing It!

Koda, our blue and brown-eyed Heeler/Australian Shepherd, used to go outside to play with Bear, our lovable mutt. Bear may have the head of a Chow, but he has none of the testy qualities of that breed. The two dogs would run and play for awhile and then Koda would be ready to come inside to resume her role as a pampered indoor dog. When our big Bear comes inside to spend the night in the back room, Koda expresses her presumed superiority. She nips him and tries to make sure he cannot move anywhere else in the house except to go directly to his room. I noticed recently that this herding behavior was becoming increasingly hostile. Koda was pulling out Bear’s hair. And all he did in response was cry.

Then a strange thing happened. Continue reading

Duck update – Dad and the eggs

In the earlier post you may have read about the duck outside Lehman’s office and warehouse here in Dalton, Ohio. A Mallard duck has set up residence under a bush near the building. I am glad to report that she is doing fine, and she was even nice enough today to show me her eggs, we count either ten or eleven. She didn’t seem to mind me taking pictures of them until I got too close. Then she started quacking and waddling toward the nest from the opposite direction.


Saw the male duck recently, too.  He is a bit more camera shy and wouldn’t let me get very close to him. I did get some nice shots of him in flight. The male does hang around but seems to stay away from the nest. (Sorry for the poor quality pictures.)

We are still working on naming these two ducks, some ideas that have been thrown around are Donald and Daffy, Luke and Leia, and Ward and June. Anybody have more ideas?

According to some research it will take about 28 days for the eggs to hatch. We assume the eggs were laid over this past weekend, so that would make hatching day on or about May 17th.

We also discovered a robin’s nest in one of the bushes right outside our front office door. Seems nearly every time somebody walks out the door, a bird flies furiously away and takes a year off the startled person’s life. Spring has definitely sprung around northeast Ohio – and the birds certainly seem to love our building!

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A new future mom – the duck

This morning Lu Ann (one of our accounting gurus) comes in asking, “Did you see the duck?”

“No,” I replied, “where?”

We went outside Lehman’s office and warehouse on the north side among some of the bushes in the mulch, and there she was. This Mallard decided to nest right outside the door of the business that shares our building. Somebody put out a small container of water to keep Mom comfortable.

Seems our building is a popular nesting location for some of our local flying friends. Just last year we had some Killdeer nesting in the rocks at the edge of our parking lot. I know there are some more out there this spring, as one was trying to scare me off the other morning.

The Mallard did eyeball me as I snapped these photos, but didn’t seem to mind posing. She did get a bit more excited as I got closer, and settled back down as I moved away. Continue reading

Jay and The Trees

Jay on the tractor with the tree planter mountedLehman’s office and warehouse is situated outside Dalton Ohio, less than 5 miles from our store in Kidron. The building is located in a nice rural setting: we have a horse pasture to our north, farm fields to our east and south, and a couple of residences near us to the west. Lots of green during spring to mid fall. There are some small ornamental trees around the building and a couple that have been planted on the grounds. Continue reading

Hitching Post Mural Finished!

I put the finishing touches on the Lehman’s sign in the mural on Saturday.  As you can see from the photo this gives visitors to the store an opportunity to have some fun by posing at the hitching post.  I’ve already seen several people getting some fun shots with Roy, Rex and the other painted on critters in the Buggy Barn.

If you’d like to see previous blog posts on the painting of this mural and others click here.  When you follow that link you can scroll down to see the progression from a blank wall in the back wall of the Buggy Barn to the completed mural.  In the blog entries I share some of my notes and sketches used to create this.  This mural began as a freehand sketch with chalk on the wall to now, several weeks later, a life sized painting of a team of Amish Work horses.

I will be in the Buggy Barn periodically doing painting demonstrations thru out the season.  During Lehman’s Local Artisan Festival July 12, 2008 other local artist will join me in doing on site demonstrations and offering artwork for sale.  Plan on seeing potters, painters, fiber artists, wood carvers, musicians and sculptors to mention a few.  To see artists profiles go to

Thanks for stopping by!

Secrets of Success: A steady flow of new products

Planing equipment run non-electrically using hydraulic motors

Recently Galen Lehman took several weeks off from his job as president of Lehman’s. He spent this time visiting suppliers and other businesses he knew and admired. The companies he visited ranged from 1 employee to 300 employees. Most were owned by Amish or Mennonite families. At each stop, he asked, “What is the secret of your success?” This is one of a series of postings about what he learned.

On the kind of sunny February day that makes you want to walk around in shirt sleeves, I visited the family that makes our wheelbarrow and goat carts.

The first thing I learned was that a product of amazing quality can emerge from a shop that is practically falling down. Like most Amish shops, it was poorly lit. Piles of sawdust and shavings covered everything. Narrow aisles ran crookedly between mysterious hulking gray machinery that seemed to placed at random angles around the shop. Stacks of pre-cut parts were gradually slipping toward the floor.

Planner at work

Yet, every piece of finished work I looked at was well-finished. Corners were smooth and snag-free. Small details that provide huge improvements abounded (like moldings that wrap the end grain of boards to improve both strength and appearance). When I got close enough to one of the falling down piles of parts, I saw that every piece was precisely and identically cut. In one corner of the shop, I saw an young Amish craftsman setting screws in a perfect straight line using a state of the art laser (which was quite an irony in this non-electric shop).

In fact, I have absolute confidence in products from this Amish-owned business. The wheelbarrow was covered in Time magazine because it was the only antique-style wheelbarrow they could find that could actually be used as a wheelbarrow (and not just a lawn ornament).

Wheelbarrow wheels being assembled

Their secret of success is to constantly invent. They often start by copying historical designs. Then, they incorporate changes that improve their strength and design. A constant cycle of re-inventing leads to steady improvements. A steady flow of new products are “in the pipeline” (as the big corporations say), some of which will be offered in future catalogs.

For this vendor, new products bring success. At Lehman’s, we’ve also tried to follow this path, adding new items at a pace of 1000 or more items per year. Are we adding new items too fast? Let me know what you think!