Pluck and Cluck Tour July 21, 2013

Post date: Jun 03, 2013 1:17:32 PM

The Pluck and Cluck Tour is sponsored by the Hay River Transition Initiative.  Tour coordinators are Judy Ferber and Marjie Dickey.  Please call 715.455.2049 with questions. You may also wish to visit our website at  

Registration to reserve one of those 48 seats can be made by calling 715.455.2049 between June 29th and July 19th on a first-come, first-served basis.  The cost of the tour will be $5 payable (in cash, please) when you enter the bus.  The tour will be held rain or shine.  Please dress for the weather and wear good walking shoes.  

The tour will begin at the Prairie Farm High School parking lot.  A school bus, rented for the afternoon, will load between 12:30-12:45 and return to the school by 6 PM.  The bus will hold 48 adults.  The tour will be limited to that number so that each person will have a better opportunity to see and hear and ask questions about the gardens.  We'll have a half hour to spend at each of the four places, plus a half-hour for refreshments before returning to the school.  

You are invited to join the 2013 Pluck and Cluck Tour which will take place Sunday afternoon, July 21st.  You will have the opportunity to visit and learn about four unique yards and gardens in the area.  You'll hear about landscaping and gardening methods used to created the special touches that make each one unique.  

Pluck and Cluck Tour 2013

Thanks to Don Pitlik and Willie Williams for the photos of the tour.

 Now sit back for an introduction to each of the gardens you'll have opportunity to visit.

The first stop on the tour will be the Mark and Molly Olson home southwest of Prairie Farm.  

Mark and Molly bought an old 40 acre farmstead and brought it back to life.  They found a few signs of its former life such as a shed with a tree growing through its roof, a few other scraps of fallen down buildings, and a rhubarb patch.   

Fast-forward to 2013.  When you visit you'll see a beautiful house, workshop, and chicken house all with natural cedar shake siding.  All the wood used to build the house and outbuildings, from the siding to the kitchen cabinets and doors, was sawed on the sawmill they own.  Their quarter-acre garden is growing where the old barnyard was, so they started with good soil fertility.  A couple of springs dot the acreage and Vance Creek flows through their property.  They harvested 44 quarts of maple syrup from their woods this spring.  The farmstead is living and breathing again!

Mark credits on-going maintenance of the soil with the garden's success much more than the planting of the plants.  Mark says, “Keeping your garden and animals close to your living quarters helps keep you in touch with what needs to be done to care for them.”  He will tell you about their composting method when you visit. 

At one time Mark thought that flowers weren't essential in the garden but he has changed his thinking.  Big, bold zinnias are a favorite and you'll find them growing in raised beds near the house.  

They use a corn-based compostable plastic mulch under their squash and melons.  In the paths between they mulch with hay, which not only holds the moisture and warmth, but it suppresses weeds and adds carbon.  He tills the garden as needed.

Mark spends some time most evenings in the garden.  Weed a couple of beds.  Pluck some fruit from the vines.  Check out what needs tending.  Look around.  Take it all in.  According to Mark, “it takes a lot of effort to have a nice garden.”  Through they years Mark and Molly have changed from growing fifty cabbages that they didn't necessarily like to eat, to growing more of what they really love to eat.  It is clear that they are successfully do just that!

Next, the bus will take us to the Otter Creek area which is south and east of Highways 64 and 25 to the home of Douglas and Suzanne Owens-Pike.  

Ever dream of being able to start building your dream home and garden from scratch with experienced professionals?  Douglas and Suzanne Owens-Pike had this chance when they created Otter Creek Ridge.  They will be sharing their eco dream house and their native landscaping with rain gardens and a labyrinth, for walking to quiet the mind, with us when we arrive.  

Chickens and food crops are still in the future for Suzanne and Douglas since they have spent the past several years selecting their 80 acre property, building a sustainable off-grid home, and then building and restoring the native landscape.  We will tour the lower level of the home to see their two root cellars for storing future harvests, discuss how the home and grounds use new technology and age-old principles to heat and cool, and learn how to create rain gardens and ponds. 

The house faces south on a south-facing slope to maximize use of solar energy, both active and passive.   The home uses 40% less energy than a typical home and although it has solar panels and a solar hot water heater, it draws on the passive solar design to keep the home heated and cooled.  It is super-insulated and uses a heat recovery system to run out old air and warm incoming air.  Some of the wood cabinets and trim were from Amish craftsman.  There is no furnace or air conditioning, yet the inside is comfortable all year.

Douglas is also passionate about experimenting with various types of grasses to be used for useful and beautiful ground cover which can live and prosper in our Wisconsin climate, especially in light of our changing weather conditions.  He will show us a planting of different kinds of grass and his use of flowers for a practical and serene surrounding.

If time allows you are invited to walk their labyrinth, created near their developing meadow.   Labyrinths can be traced back over 4,000 years. A labyrinth is a pattern having a single path that has no tricks or dead-ends.  Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity and invite relaxation, offering an opportunity for centering the body and mind.   Otter Creek Ridge's labyrinth is constructed using tons of limestone, and is a beautiful addition to the natural setting.  

We'll arrive at our third stop a short distance from the Owens-Pike home.  

Fifteen years ago, Tina Blomer made “Dunn Rovin Acres” her home when she decided she wanted to put down roots.  The moment we arrive at Tina's place, you will feel comfortable.   On Dunn Rovin Acres,  there is an expansive vegetable garden which successfully yields produce through the fall.  Mulching, tilling, fertilizing, trellising, etc. are all topics to be discussed.

Chickens roaming in a large paddock greet you, and you can hear the hens in the coop cackling with triumph as they lay eggs in the orchard.   There is an area for hatching chicks, usually in the spring.  Tina has constructed her chicken spaces using largely re-used materials, keeping everything practical.  

You'll see the barn and pasture with sheep and their lambs.  Earlier this year, twins were born and can be seen playing in the pasture, with the horses grazing at a distance.  

But wait, there's more!   A lovely orchard is home to many fruit trees.  During the summer, Tina hauls the chicken coop into the fenced orchard for pest control and yard maintenance.  You'll find both the mature laying hens as well as the half-grown pullets she raised as chicks this spring living there.  In addition to the many apple trees, you'll see plum trees, pear trees, high bush blueberry bushes, currants, and a butterfly garden in or near the orchard.  

You cannot miss the vineyard with 60 grape vines (both red grapes and white ones) which Tina started so that she could enjoy making her own wine.  It turns out that she is very successful and bottles about 1000 bottles of wine annually!  

As you meander through the property, you will be able to stop to enjoy her beautiful flowers.  Unfortunately, we won't be able to stay too long, as we have one more place to visit.

Last but definitely not the least stop on the tour is Maple Grove Equine of rural Hillsdale where Kim and Bill Prine welcome you to visit their farm.  

Bill Prine's grandfather bought the farm in 1916, but the original house and barn were built around 1881.  The Prine family roots run deep in this farm country.  Bill's dad took over the farm in 1941.  Bill followed suit in 1980, with Kim joining in marriage and partnership in 1986.   The farm currently has 360 acres included lots of timber land.  After milking cows for 34 years, Bill is happy to have more freedom now with the 50 head of black angus beef cattle he raises.   

Maple Grove Equine is complete with not only a nice vegetable garden and lovely yard, but also a horse barn (with restrooms we can use), both an indoor and outdoor riding arena, a timber frame barn built with no nails, a Berkshire-cross feeder pig raising operation, and a composting operation.  They own ten horses and board up to fourteen more.  Kim gives riding lessons year round.  


They raise non-GMO corn, oats, and barley for chicken feed.  You won't find chickens at this farm as the meat birds who will be eating the corn, oats and barley are being raised cooperatively by a neighbor at his house.  They use very little commercial fertilizer but instead use the horse manure to make rich compost for their vegetable garden.  They harvest 100 acres of hay to feed the horses and beef cattle each year.  


You'll find yourself drinking in the views of the countryside with grazing horses and tree-lined vistas.  

We will end the tour with refreshments at Maple Grove Equine.  Kim and Bill have invited us to enjoy the grounds while we have our ice cream sundaes to end the tour.  Prines made maple syrup this spring which we can enjoy on our sundaes.  Be sure to thank them for their generosity!  This may also be a good time to check out Bill's grandpa's antique tools and the bunkhouse.  

We'll hop on the bus one last time for the trip back to the Prairie Farm High School with an estimated arrival time between 5:30-6 PM.  

Make the call today to reserve your seat on the bus before they are all gone!  715.455.2049