Published Oct 23, 2009

Harnessing the Wind

By Suzi Howk

It was a chilly evening, but what can you expect from the middle of October in Iowa? Wether it was cold or not,I had a great time out at the Mark Runquist and Linda Barnes farm. Rick Exner rode along with me, and we got there really early because I didnt realize that their farm was closer to Ames than Marshalltown. We ended up needing the time to run back out to the main highway and put up a field day sign (those are really easy to forget!).

Anyway, once we got set up we started off inside the barn with a powerpoint presentation on the wind generator, complete with things they didn’t think about, and of course lots of data to back up what Mark was saying. It is always fun to see someone get really excited about a project, and Mark is definitely excited about that wind generator. He has great data, and you can find a copy of his powerpoint presentation on his blog ( just scroll down and look for the October 18th post and there is a link at the bottom.

After the barn presentation we ventured out into the cold to look at the generator. It didn’t seem as high as I thought it was going to be, but was neat to see. It was obvious that they had put alot of thought into the project before starting, as Mark was able to speak to any part of the process very well. Im not going to attempt to explain because if you have any questions, Mark would be the one to talk to. You can either put up a question/comment on his blog, or email him at

After the windmill presentation, we ate a wonderfully seasonal fall supper of butternut squash and apple soup, and minestrone soup, along with bread and cheese and apple crisp. Its always exciting to eat directly from the fruits of one’s labor, and im sure it is fun for the Runquist/Barnes’ to share their farm’s bounty with all who came!

And there was definite bounty. They try very hard to eat as much off their farm as possible, and therefore do alot of work in the summer to “put food by”. Their basement has shelving along one side of the wall, and it was full of home canned produce! Beautiful! Linda also makes soap, and im hoping to learn and help one of these days.

They also started butchering their own chickens and turkeys this year, and went in with a few other farmers to buy a Featherman plucker ( Ive seen them at quite a few farm shows, and their equipment looks like it makes a tough job alot easier! Linda agrees. She says, “put a few birds in there, 30 seconds later they are clean!”. Featherman has some great videos on their website if you are interested in learning more about home butchering.

After supper we went on a farm tour of their 7 acre place. Its amazing how much food you can grow on 7 acres! They have bees, garden space, raspberries, peaches, pears, apples, goats, sheep, turkeys, broiler chickens, laying hens, and even a few geese for protection!
Mark showed us one area of the gardens that has been in production for a long time, and so this year they are using a tillage radish cover crop to get the soil opened up more. The Radish grows down into the ground about a foot and then slowly breaks down over the winter. Then the air space that the radish opened up decreases compaction, adds carbon in the form of roots, which stimulates life in the soil.

Mark also showed us an animal waste composting system. After the whole process is done there are only a few bones left! Very neat, again, ask Mark for more details.

All in all it was a great day! Good food, good conversation, and lots to think about. Thanks for having us all out Mark and Linda!