Beth over at Kitchen 55 highly recommended the book, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. I took her advice, requested the book from my local library, and proceeded to devour the book while in a trance.  It is the delightful story of a family that vows to eat only the food they have grown themselves or that was grown locally, for an entire year.

This book enthralled me with adventure – I had never heard of morel mushroom hunting before, and never read with quite such passionate, savory detail about the flavorful cuisine one can discover while vacationing in Italy; I might have drooled on a few pages in that chapter.

And what a fun way to learn – I swear I learned something new on every page in this book; it introduced me to fingerling potatoes, and explained the birds and the bees of the mating rituals of hormonal turkeys.  And to see in dollars and cents the cost of their venture – .50 cents per meal per person, for organic food (including the cost of purchasing livestock and feed, and seeds)!

What I really, really loved about the book is that it INSPIRED me!

Half way through the book (maybe earlier), I began to feel this compelling need to expand our gardens to grow more of our own food; so now the tiller is putting in extra time while gobbling up yards of grass at the edge of the garden.

I put in a late order forLa Ratte’ fingerling potatoes, even though I had promised myself I was done ordering for this year. (And German Butterball, and Blue potatoes.)  Anyway, Seed Savers is happy.

I jumped at the chance to go morel mushroom hunting with a friend up North, and though the pickings were slim that day, it tickled me pink to be out in the forest foraging for a mushroom that I had never even heard of until I read this book a few weeks ago.  They were yummy with scrambled eggs.

And though I had vowed a few years ago that we were done with laying hens, I found myself relenting when our 12 year old son kept begging to get some chicks for layers.  With thoughts of Lily and her egg business (from the book), I insisted that he research the business before getting started, and then watched from the sidelines with secret satisfaction while he proceeded to get totally engrossed in the traits and characteristics of different breeds of layers.  (He reminded me of me.)  His choices were Silver Lace Wyandotte, Barred Rock, Gold Star, and Buff Orpington.  Sixteen hens in all, four more than what we agreed on.  How.does.that.happen?

It looks like I’ll have some new subjects to blog about; chickens and fingerling potatoes for sure.  If I can find the time.

Sometimes, I get these great ideas….  Well, I always think they are great ideas, but my family might disagree and call them crazy ideas, I’m not sure why.  I don’t know where they come from, but they always hit me with a wham, and somehow it never crosses my mind that these great ideas might be, perhaps, a bit difficult to carry out.

I get different reactions from various family members when I blurt these famous lines of mine – “I had a great idea….!”  Or “Wouldn’t it be fun….!”.  A few deadbeats will roll their eyes and moan and groan, as if I had just sentenced them to hard labor on a chain gang, but thankfully a few creative and ambitious souls will perk right up and gleefully rub their hands in anticipation of my latest notion.

So …. I had another one a few weeks back.  I had this great idea of hosting a candlelit walk through our snow covered woods.  Make a few ice candles and invite a few friends to stroll down the candle lit path to enjoy the solitude and serenity of our winter wonderland.  I mentioned it to hubby and didn’t even get the eye roll, so I decided it was a go ahead and proceeded to make plans.  And like plenty of other great ideas I’ve had, this one began to grow a bit beyond the first illumination.  Well, kind of picked up a momentum of it’s own and snowballed, you could say.

You see, once the vision of the candlelit woods was firmly established in my mind, it didn’t take much more to also envision a candlelit walk out to the woods, never mind that it is a half mile walk stroll across the field to reach the woods.  I’ll admit I did have to stop and ponder the feasibility of ice candles stretching out for one and half miles around the field and through the woods; it seemed it could be, well, a bit difficult, maybe.  Then, viola!. Someone suggested Mason jars, and that got me to thinking about all the vases I have laying around …….  And just like that I knew we were in business – the “Mile and half long romantic candlelit walk around the farm” business.

I learned how to make ice candle luminaries, and got pretty accomplished at it by number 100.  I borrowed and begged canning jars from family and friends, and we visited the candle aisle of the local General Dollar Store a dozen times or so.  We packed and groomed the trail for walking and skiing with a snowmobile, then paced it out to figure out the spacing of the candles.  The trail was a complete loop around a thirty acre field, with a detour through the woods at the halfway point; well, to be exact it was 1200 paces out to the woods, 650 paces through the woods, and 1200 paces back to the starting point.  About one and half miles start to finish.

On Friday we set out 90 ice candle luminaries in the woods (ten broke while transporting), and on Saturday we set out 140 jars and vases that illuminated the trail around the field.  Our guests were set to arrive at dusk, and the weather was perfect, about 25 degrees, with not a breath of wind present.

And it was perfect, just perfect.

As I stood on Steep Hill, from where I could see lines of twinkling candles for a quarter mile or more in every direction, I could hardly believe how beautiful it was, and how blessed I am to live here.  And how fortunate I am to see my crazy ideas come to life.

Last week we cut our own Christmas tree on the back 40.  We’ll call it a Christmas tree, but technically, it’s a scrubby brown swamp cypress tree that was growing wild in the lane.  But the price was right, and we had fun traipsing through the woods to find the prettiest scrubby tree.  It looks kind of a sorry sight at first, but as the tree comes out of dormancy in the warm house, it will start to turn color – and magically turn into a green Christmas tree!

We stopped to check out the spruce trees we’ve planted way on the back 40 that will be our REAL Christmas trees in a few years – love that green!

Farming organically has its challenges, and managing weeds is one of the greatest challenges.  While we have not found a way to eliminate the weed pressure in the fields, we have discovered a way to use them as a beneficial by-product on our farm.

During the Summer and Fall months we raise pasture fed hogs to sell; they have free roaming in a pasture that was seeded in a mix of rape seed, kale, and barley just for them.  In late Summer and early to mid Fall they are turned out into a section of  sweet corn and field corn, where they feast, feast, and feast – you have never seen such happy hogs!  About the time our field harvest is done, they have entirely rooted up their pasture and the corn field, and it would appear that their hog heaven days are almost over ……. but here is when and where the weeds come in.

During the process of combining and storing the crops from our fields, the crops are screened to remove weed seeds, and the weed seeds would normally be considered waste.  But we have found that our hogs consider foxtail (millet) and pig weed (amaranth) seed to be five-star dining, and knowing the seeds are packed with rich nutrients and minerals has us happily serving them by the buckets to our spoiled pigs!  I love it when nature gives a bonus along with a challenge.


All natural, free range, pasture raised pork for sale.  Pastured in a hog pasture mix of rape seed, kale, and barley; additional feed consisted of chemical free, non-GMO ingredients.  Hormone and antibiotic free.  Processing done by award-winning French Lake Butcher Shop.  Sold as a whole or half.  Call 320-286-5384 for more information.

33 Barefoot Lane logo

October 3, 2009

33 Barefoot Lane Logo Quick e-mail view

We are excited to have finalized the conception of our 33 Barefoot Lane logo.  We think it is simple, catchy, and classy.  And it seems to speak, “I’m a place, not just a name”, which is exactly what we were hoping to achieve.

33 Barefoot Lane is the name that now incorporates our farm and businesses together; one name, many endeavors.  And there REALLY is a lane; it’s the old cow lane that the cows used to walk down to get to the far pasture.  And it goes without saying that the kids also had to walk the lane, to bring the cows home for the evening milking. Often barefoot, through the mud, thistles, cow piles, and wire – you name it, they stepped on it.  While the cows have been gone for fifteen years, the lane and the memories remain.

And the 33……. when we counted all the Niemela’s (including in-laws) that have lived on this farm since Grandpa Charlie and Grandma Sophie settled here in 1916, we came up with 31; then we added in a couple of cousins that lived here for the summers during their childhood – and that gave us 33.  Thirty three family members over four generations have called this farm home, and in their honor our farm will be known as 33 Barefoot Lane.

Tell us what you think of the logo designed by Sarah Shattuck of Four Seasons Design Company.

Our sweet corn is ready, so over the past weekend we gathered family together to have a corn freezing day.  Four generations worked together to freeze 130 quarts of corn.  It really didn’t seem like that much work with all the helpful hands, and everyone that helped took home corn to put in their freezer.  I will think of this beautiful summer day every time we have corn this winter.

We set up outside

corn set up

We had corn pickers

corn pickers

and corn huskers

corn husker small

corn scrubbers

corn scrubbers

corn cutters

corn cutters

corn cob haulers

corn cob haulers

corn husk haulers

corn hush hauler

and corn eaters at the end of the day

corn eating

Last winter we went to a workshop about apple orchards, put on by the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Growers AssociationDavid Bedford, the chief apple breeder of the University of Minnesota’s apple breeding program, gave the presentation on growing apple orchards.  Since David is such an expert on apples, we asked him for advice on choosing apple tree varieties that would make a tasty fresh apple cider.  He suggested the following apple tree varieties:

Frost Bite
Chestnut Crab

After doing a lot of online research, we also added Cox’s Orange Pippin to our apple tree wish list.  This Spring we were able to locate and plant most of the apple tree varieties on our wish list.  In five years or so, we should be cranking out our own fresh apple cider ……. yummmm!  Does anyone have a brand of cider mill they have used and would recommend?

33 Barefoot Lane

July 14, 2009


Welcome to 33 Barefoot Lane, the new name of our farm, soap business, and this blog!  We have been working on restructuring our businesses, and many new changes are happening.  What will stay the same is the content of our blog – sharing posts about our family farm, gardening, recipes, and more.  Stay tuned!

tree planting ethan

Saturday was Christmas tree planting day.  Everyone in our family, young and old, were invited to help plant the trees and make memories.

tree planting jenny and anna

A few years ago I had the idea of planting our own Christmas trees in a small field on the north end of our property.  The idea was to gather all our family together each Spring to plant fir trees, and then, a number of years down the road, to gather again each year around the Holidays to go out and cut our own Christmas trees (while sipping hot cider, of course).

tree planting bruce and dad

For three years now, we have planted our ‘someday Christmas trees’ together.  Saturday was a nice sunny day for planting, and Sunday we had a soft rain all day.  What a blessing!

tree planting kelley and lance

And look at the hard workers!

tree planting lance 1

tree planting lance 2

tree planting lance 3

tree planting lance 4