Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 4-15

Any thoughts of a frozen winter wonderland are but a distant memory after a couple of 80* days this week.

But, believe it or not, just last Sunday it was 22* and we were facing another in a series of storms that brought wintry weather despite the arrival of Spring weeks ago.

Monday morning was cold and snowy (again) and I didn’t relish the thought of enduring a roadtrip to the vet. Since puppies need almost as many vaccinations as children do, Karma was scheduled for an early morning visit.  Her incessant howling makes concentration a challenge. Potentially slick, twisty country backroads and impaired concentration could be a dangerous combo. The Boss took pity on us and we had a chauffeur-driven ride to the vet. I must say, it was the quietest trip Karma has ever made! Maybe it is because she’s outgrown the dog-box and sat in the back of the Xterra with her nose on the seat behind me the whole time.

headed to the vet

It’s hard to tell which she loves more, all the attention at the vet or the peanut butter treats. She got loved on by doctors, technicians and clients alike. Everyone loves her. (except that one cat patient) All my after-supper leash training has paid off and she was incredibly well-behaved. And, we only have one more visit scheduled to complete her vaccination regiment.

Karma is up to 36.7# at 15 weeks old!

With that chore out of the way, and the snow melted, it was time to work on other things.

We finally got the big broilers out on grass! 

they don't seem too excited

That meant that we could move the little broilers and clean out the shop. Getting that job done means not only does the shop smell better, but the compost pile grew exponentially. (that will come in handy later in the season) It had gotten to the point where the Boss had to put chicken wire around the chickie-pool to prevent would-be escapees from hopping out and wandering around the shop. It’s nice to have some sort of normalcy restored.

although a snowy April 9th is NOT normal
the very next day
(now, this is normal)

And speaking of normalcy…  

While I was in town, the Boss returned Angus to his summer home at the back corner of the farm.

Angus summers under the pines

apparently it's boring back there
so, he's taken to beating up the stocktank
Then we cleaned up the garden and he plowed and tilled in anticipation of potato planting.

tilling for potato planting
The potatoes were cut into smaller pieces and crated for easy transport. In case you’re wondering, by cutting the potatoes into chunks, you get more pieces to plant. More pieces to plant theoretically means a bigger potato harvest as each chunk should make a plant and each plant should produce a couple pounds of potatoes. The “eyes” on the pieces are the sprouts that eventually become the plant. Read more about growing potatoes HERE and HERE.

potatoes cut and ready for planting

Then it was off to the ‘tater patch for some planting. The chunks are plunked into the long furrows and then covered over with a hill of dirt. For years and years we did all this work by hand, raking for what seemed like days (it was hours plural), but thankfully now we are able to “work smarter, not harder”. You should read THIS.  In short order, the job was done.

hauling potatoes

the Boss had a little help planting this year

hilling (covering) the potatoes

all done

Now, we wait…

We should have new potatoes in all their tender deliciousness by mid-June! There is nothing quite like a freshly dug new potato.

new potato

Over the course of the week, we also worked the sheep, planted some onions and hauled transplants to the hoophouse. The brassicas left the warmth of the greenhouse to “harden off” prior to planting in the field. A quick check on the forecast indicates that they may have to make a return to a warmer environment as the temperature is forecast to dip well below freezing yet again. This is getting a bit much…this never-ending wintry weather.
waiting for mama

pulling green garlic for Market

red and white onion sets

Spring happiness
how to be a "sheep-hero"

heads-down grazing

handling broilers can be tricky
(and painful)

getting the broiler pen set up for the season

This week’s chores-before-market didn’t have quite the drama of last week. No Cujo-dogs, no barn chaos with leaping sheep and a yelling, swearing farmer. Things were going smoothly, and I was feeling pretty good.

I laughed out loud as I saw one hen up in the top of the henhouse. All the other hens were either roosting on the space provided or sitting on the floor. But, this one hen truly ruled the roost.

this one "rules the roost"

early morning henhouse

After an unfortunate incident during high school that involved a “fly-over bombing” from a seagull while visiting the beach, I am a bit leery of birds overhead. But, apparently, I was not paying enough attention as I left after opening the nestboxes for the day. Maybe my pride needed to be taken down a notch…

Because you can guess what happened.

I’m here to tell you…chicken poop hair styling/skincare products…not gonna make it on the open market. Nope. No way. GROSS!

Fortunately, a direct hit was avoided. But, it did require some soap AND a blow-dryer before I was presentable enough for Market. And, while no one else seemed to notice, I was certain I could sense a lingering odor all day.

But the weather for Market was beautiful.
leaving for Market

The Boss was able to secure music. Lots of folks who had been put off by last week's bad weather came out to shop. And, all in all, it was a wonderful day. If only we had a snappy comeback to the lack of product query…  I must say, this one bothers me a great deal. 

pretty tulips at the Market

Hopefully this week we will make some progress toward that end as we process the first batch of broilers, plant in the hoophouse and start the first batch of summer squash seeds.

early signs of Spring on the mountains
meadowlark courting song

daffodils in the front yard

only in the Spring do you see the shadows on the mountains like this

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by.

Have a Happy Sunday! 
a Karma smile to start the new week
Come back and “visit” again soon.

Wish you could visit the Market? Click HERE to see the Boss’ Facebook photos from the week.

If you don’t “do” Facebook…check out Flickr…

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 4-8

By now I’m sure you’ve heard all the lame weather jokes and seen the crazy weather memes, so I will spare you. But, the weather has been front and center in both our thoughts and actions this week no matter how hard we tried to focus on other things.

Some of the “other things” we’ve had to focus on have been just awful. They are frustrating and draining and seem un-solvable. However, since the weather has kept us from our normal outdoor activities, we’ve been able to visit with a bunch of our favorite people. 

That’s always a good thing!
swinging at the park with MrB

many prayers for Bonnie's full recovery

babysitting is a full-contact sport

But, we’re running way behind “normal” this year. And, I am not being dismal when I say we’ll never catch up. In some ways we don’t want to, we’ve decided that changes and adjustments were in order. And, that’s okay. The changes will probably serve us well in the long run. In some ways, we just cannot. It’s said that farmers are always thinking three seasons ahead…so, it only makes sense that the events of three seasons back affect the present. That is definitely the case around here. Last year was incredibly difficult and brought a multitude of unexpected challenges. In some ways our efforts and oversights are just now becoming evident. For instance, we don’t have greens to offer because I was out of commission last fall. That meant no seed starting or planting in the hoophouse, so subsequently, there is nothing to pick now. Sadly, a lot of customers don’t understand this. Yesterday, the lack of greens was met with “well, don’t you have a hoophouse?” repeatedly. Coming up with a snappy, informative, gracious answer may prove to be my big challenge for this season.

it's always nice to see the bluebirds!

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I wasn’t kidding when I said the weather has been front and center in our thoughts. It seems that the first week of April always brings some brutally cold, harsh winds. This year was no exception. After years and years of losing our battle with the wind, we finally decided to wait to plant anything outside until later in the month. It’s better for our peace of mind to have a late crop than run the risk of having no crop at all. So, all the transplants are still sitting in the greenhouses, awaiting some calm weather. Although I’ve had more than my fair share of growing issues in there as well.

As Karma and I completed her training walk after supper, I noticed the side of the hoophouse flapping in the breeze. She was petrified of the noise and the waving plastic. The Boss was summoned but could only make a temporary fix in the cold evening air. Thankfully, it was simple repair that he completed the following morning. And, we were both grateful that the house wasn’t full of tiny, delicate plants as the open side left everything exposed in the cold.

the broken rope means to whole side can fly up with every puff of wind

The forecast seemed to worsen as the week progressed. There was talk of “snowpocalypse”. Although, those who worried weren’t taking into consideration the fact that the snows in April are not all that uncommon. But, they are nothing compared to January and February. The angle of the sun is different and while it feels cold, the earth is actually warming. So, the crazy amounts were an improbability. But, any sort of precipitation for Opening Day is a serious problem.

Well, this isn't good...

Being married to the Market Manager means our conversations have a recurring theme this time of year. The Market...and all the things that can affect it…mostly the weather. Bad weather causes vendors and potential customers to bail. And, it’s just a given that musical acts require good weather. Then, there are our own weather-related concerns. The forecast was looking seriously grim, so we planned on taking one vehicle. That meant that chores would have to be done early (really early) and I’d just ride along with the Boss when he headed out to set up the Market at 5am.

I was somewhat relieved when I woke up (really early) to find that the temperature was 20 degrees warmer than we expected. And, there was NO precipitation! A quick change in plans and he headed out alone.

early morning greenhouse chores
I tried to get back into the routine of doing chores in the dark before Market. That didn’t go incredibly well. Karma thought we were playing a game with the headlamp and went a little crazy. I don’t know if Gus didn’t like getting up so early, or what happened. But, he went all “Cujo” on her, snarling and growling, making me worry that he’d developed some neurological issues (big, angry dog in the dark…really scary) She then ran in the barn and started chasing the sheep. One ewe jumped OVER the hay feeder and onto another ewe, creating total pandemonium in the barn. At this point, I’m yelling at everyone, feeling like I’ve lost any control of the situation, hoping I’m not waking the neighborhood, wondering if I will make it to the Market with my sanity intact. But, order was eventually restored, and we were all none the worse for wear. However, I would really prefer my mornings to be calmer.

bad dogs doing chores in the dark

As I headed out to Market I was thinking about how this is the 25th anniversary of the Staunton Farmers’ Market and we are celebrating our own 20th anniversary as vendors. I sense a blog post coming on…

heading out to Market

I must say, the mileston anniversary didn’t have a stellar beginning.

Opening Day 2018

Opening day 1998
(he never changes!)

Not only did the weather keep vendors, customers and musicians away, it has been incredibly difficult for anybody to get things growing. Honestly, April is a little too early for any abundance of fresh stuff here in our Valley, but there was some. Personally, we had less than we have in years. But, as long as we beat that first year’s total…we’re good. Overall, the Market was down, too. The Opening Day total was the lowest it has been in over 10 years. Hopefully, things will improve as the season progresses.

getting colder by the minute!

During the course of the morning, the temperature dropped 20 degrees. As the vendors tore down their tents and packed up their goods, the snow/sleet started in earnest. It snowed the rest of the day. 
It was a very pretty snow, coating the trees and the grass, leaving the roadways clear.

bouquet from Market-friend

Angus in the snow

Sissie in the snow

This morning it was 22* when we headed out to chores. The low temperatures will have a negative effect on all the fruit blossoms that were coaxed into bloom by the mild temperatures earlier in the week. Just how negative remains to be seen. We’re in for another cold night tonight and another snow/rain system tomorrow. Then, it is supposed to moderate…

When it does moderate, we will need to immediately shift into high gear. The potatoes should be in the ground…and the onions. We received a box of strawberry and asparagus plants last week that are still waiting for some sort of attention. The big broiler chicks are still in the brooder because the field pen is covered in snow. (a definite down-side of pastured poultry) That means the baby broilers are STILL in the chickie-pool in the shop (which is beginning to smell like a zoo). It’s just two weeks until our first scheduled processing date. And, that means that another batch of chicks is headed this way next week… 
thanks to our friend Lisa for an updated photo

Oh my goodness, the weather definitely needs to moderate!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” real soon!

 Here’s the link to the Boss’ Market shots.