Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 9-14

It’s time for our little Sunday farm tour. 

Despite the clouds and fog, we got a glimpse of the Harvest Moon

This gives you the chance to see what’s been happening on the hill and it gives me the chance to see that we really get stuff done and are not just running around in circles (that’s what it generally feels like).

This week was all about chickens.

layer pullet

Once a month from April to November, we spend one week focused on chickens. We processed chickens, moved chickens, got chickens, fed/watered chickens, sold chickens (and the Boss gathered/washed/sorted and packed bunches of eggs)…and yes, we even ate chicken!  
broiler chick

these chicks were not excited about moving to pasture

Gus checks out the new arrivals

broiler ready for freezer

"the grass is always greener..."

hawks are unwelcome visitors to a farm with chickens

The September batch of broilers is the last of the season.  It’s always slightly risky getting broilers this time of year.  Not because of any current weather threats…but, counting ahead until processing time puts us into November. And, you know what November can be like. Since we process the birds outside, we will start to pray for one warm-ish day in order to get them done without any cold weather issues.

Then, we…no, I…also spent a fair amount of time picking green beans this week.  I have picked well over 400 pounds of green beans this season. And, the plants are still producing. My back and legs are really going to appreciate the change of seasons!

Aside from chickens and green beans, it’s been pretty much the same old, same old around here. 

The lambs are grazing. 

 Waylon is keeping an eye on the “ladies”.

Last week, the Boss bush-hogged the weedy mess that is actually the asparagus patch.  We won’t get into the whole weed vs. herbicide debate…not now. I will say there is actually a late season benefit to our lack of weed management. Once the asparagus plants are bush-hogged, they will produce another small crop! (we have read that this isn’t necessarily good for the plants,  but the weeds were totally out of control) I don’t want to try to re-educate our customers as to the seasonality of asparagus. (it’s actually an early spring crop and any asparagus in the store this time of year comes from South America) So, it’s fresh asparagus for supper tonight! This job definitely has its perks.

Gus - 1 year on the hill
As we marked the first anniversary of Gus’ arrival on the hill, he came up with even more odd and unusual things to do.  This week, he placed chunks of firewood across the driveway that looked like speedbumps. Having slowed farm traffic to a crawl, he began stockpiling the wood in the orchard, near one of his napping spots.  If we could just train him to stack it neatly…or keep the woodstove filled.   Ah, Gus.  He does keep us entertained!

speedbumps for the driveway

It's exhausting work keeping the farm safe

just 'cause Ellie is pretty

Suddenly, it was time for the Market again.  The weeks seem to fly by faster and faster. 

It’s never a good thing to wake to rain on a Market day…even if it’s just a light, drizzly rain.  But, it’s been so dry that it no longer mattered if we got wet at the Market.  It’s been so dry that even the customers were hoping for rain.  …and RAIN is what we got.  Oh, my!  It rained so hard at the Market that everyone was drenched and there were huge puddles in the parking lot. I've never seen so many umbrellas.  But, the faithful customers came out and we had another great day.  

The Market runs for another TEN weekends…and we should have fresh produce, meat and eggs that entire time. (But, we will need to get out our coveralls for the late season.)

…and that was the week.

Today dawned cloudy and cool, it really feels like fall.  

I think it’s time to start thinking about pulling out those cold weather recipes, particularly since I'm pretty sure this was the last zucchini of ’14.
the last zucchini of '14
sad days indeed

This one is for T-bone
Pumpkin spice cheesecake definitely on our T'giving menu!

Hope you have a Happy Sunday!

sunset on 9-13-14

Thanks for stopping by.  Come back and “see” us again real soon!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A View From the Hill

Since it's "wordless Wednesday"...

Here's a quick little video I made from the high point of the farm taken the same day of each month for a year.  

Can you see all the seasonal changes?

Have a great Wednesday!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 9-7

Summer arrived on the hill this week…finally. 

And, all I can say is “ugh!” 

I guess we didn’t realize how unseasonable the summer had been, because it felt incredibly hot and humid.  But, a cold front is supposed to roll through and bring the temperatures back to normal. I can honestly say that this was true this week!

And, speaking of dirty…

I had thought that perhaps we should have a dirty jeans contest this week.  I know I get as dirty as the Boss, I just lacked photographic evidence. The Boss suggested one pair each for the whole week. However, I couldn’t take the filth anymore and changed jeans. We’ve got some very grungy jeans for the laundry this week. Needless to say, I don’t think my washing machine appreciates the evidence of our hard work.

Since you’ve already read about our “holiday” on the hill.. What, you didn’t read it? Well…here.   …you know what happened Monday.  Tuesday was Monday, I think.  And, Wednesday is the Boss’ day to work in the jungle…I mean the hoophouses.  It is a constant test of logistical skill to keep the hoophouses in full production.  There are more transplants waiting to go in the empty beds. The crops planted in the next couple of weeks should be ready for harvesting throughout the winter months.  There is nothing like going in the hoophouse on a cold, winter day and picking fresh greens.  …and just for the record, there is NO heat in the hoophouses.  By capturing the heat from the sun, we are able to keep the hardy crops going all winter (most winters).

these are going to be mighty tasty during the Winter months

Back in the real world, it remains HOT. 

…and I got myself even hotter (physically and emotionally) by inadvertently chasing sheep.  

Sometimes, my lack of forethought amazes even me.  The sheep were grazing the lush grass beside the house in what is referred to as the “winter paddock”.  Since it’s close to the house and barn, we generally just use it in the winter so I can keep an eye on the ewes and newborns.  However, since the grass was especially lush, I turned the flock in to graze.  As the sun got hotter, it became obvious that they needed a paddock with plenty of shade.  I was heading to another job when I noticed them hanging around, looking pathetic and hot. So…I walked in with the intention of simply opening the gate, figuring they would all run through, I’d close the gate and be done with it.  Right? 


...and this isn't even his scary face!
I overlooked the fact that Waylon (the ram) is in with the ewes.  I overlooked the fact that Waylon is about 300#.   I overlooked the fact that Waylon is feeling a little protective of his “ladies” right now.  …and I confess, I overlooked the fact that I am just a little bit scared of Waylon.  Okay, I am seriously afraid of getting rammed by the ram.  He’s got this enormous head and when he cocks it just so… 

For some reason, he was feeling particularly friendly or feisty or something…and he wouldn't leave me alone.  So, I hollered and flailed about at Waylon, hoping he would stop making that face at me and walk through the gate with all the other sheep.  He started to…then he turned around and cocked his head again.  Why didn’t I bring the crook?  Why didn’t I ask the Boss to help?  Oh, bother!  I hollered and flailed a little more. Then, miraculously…he walked through the gate.


All my…well…shall we say…theatrics? the dogs excited.  They were bouncing all around trying to figure out just what mama was freaking out about this time. (my actions provide them endless entertainment) There is one ewe who cannot stand Gus….and a bouncing Gus was more than she could take.  She darted back into the old paddock and started trying to get back with the other sheep….who were, of course, headed toward the other side of the farm. I knew if she jumped the fence, she would go down the hill.  I was pretty sure the heat and the hill would do me in.  The winter paddock is no picnic itself. The paddock is full of rocks, huge rocks, which are no problem for nimble footed sheep.  For me?  They’re a problem. But, the front paddock is about an 80* angle (nearly straight up and down) So, I couldn’t just leave her.

The Boss couldn’t hear me.  I didn’t have the crook.  So here I was, attempting to run through the rocky paddock, waving an old pokeberry branch (the only thing I could find) at this completely uncooperative sheep. ...and yelling just a little. (gee, I’m glad we don’t have close neighbors!) Finally, after she stopped to pee 27 times, I got her back in the barn corral.  A simple matter of closing one gate and opening the other, and I’d be done.


She slipped past me…back into the paddock we’d just run all the way around. She headed to the far corner.  ARGGH

By this time, Gus was hot and tired so he had stopped bouncing.  The other sheep had gotten to the shade and they were out of sight.  Waving my branch and pushing her along, begging her to cooperate, (she only stopped to pee a dozen times on this go ‘round) I finally got her back where she belonged.  She bounded up the alley and across the front paddock, baaing her complaints the entire way. I don’t know what she was fussing about…I was the one with sweat dripping down my nose and heat fogging up my glasses!!

Lessons learned. 

Don’t ever assume that a “simple” job is going to be simple.  …get over that “ram-phobia”.  …and always, always carry the crook! (phone and camera optional)
a little worse for heavy usage
this tool is invaluable to a shepherd

Ever since the turkey incident last week, the dogs have been on high alert.  There are foxes in the area again (I've heard them calling each other) so I wasn't too concerned when Ellie went on bark patrol. I knew she had things under control. When Gus joined in, I figured I should check it out.  

There they were, watching something from their vantage point in the orchard.  

Oooh...something really scary! 

 The Boss was bush-hogging the neighbor's driveway!

Now, they never bark at the Boss or the bush-hog when they are at home, but something was definitely out of place and the neighborhood needed to be warned.  

Once the Boss got back, the dogs went back to watching the sheep and relaxing in the shade. 

Despite the heatwave, the fall crops are beginning to come in. 
Salad Mix

Brussels sprouts

butternut squash

romanesco broccoli

The winter squash are ready to harvest and Brussels sprouts were incredibly popular at this week’s Market.  …and I picked green beans every day this past week.  Seriously.  Every. Single. Day. Honestly, I am really tired of picking beans, but we are glad to have the sales….and I truly enjoy eating beans. So, I won’t be praying for frost just yet!

Lots of picking, lots of weeding and the rest the “normal” farm stuff…and just like that…Market is done...and another week went in the history book.

market table and trailer

market stand on 9-6-14

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!

 Have a great week!
I love the farmers' market...but, it sure is nice to get back HOME!

Thanks for stopping by!  Come see us again real soon.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Civilized Man


Uh oh!  Looks like someone is in the proverbial doghouse again.

Gus has an insatiable appetite for black plastic.  And, although it had been a while since his last offense, we knew the possibility was still there.   Surely you read  this one. Apparently, the overwhelming urge to chew something is simply more than he can possibly resist. I have been assured that he will indeed grow out of this...our other guardian dogs did...but, not until they were about two years old.

When the Boss left for Saturday’s Market, I noticed something amiss.  He noticed, too, as he pulled through the farm gate.

No trailer lights.


This is a problem.  While there is little to no traffic on Mbrook Road at 5am on a Saturday morning, no lights IS a ticket-worthy offense. And even though any arresting officer might chuckle to himself, I am certain he wouldn’t appreciate the excuse “my dog ate my trailer lights”!

But, no ticket…for which Gus should heave a great big sigh of relief.

However, the wires were badly chewed…in several places.  The Boss had used the last of the “little repair doolies” with the last episode.  

So, I was dispatched to pick up some parts while I was in town.  This was one of those instances that I am glad I’ve become fairly adept at identifying auto parts.  This particular item could have made for a slightly awkward conversation with the auto parts dude, I’m sure, since the term "little repair doolies" was obviously my own invention.

As the  Boss crawled under the trailer, threatening Gus’ life and muttering some choice words, it was oddly amusing to hear Joe Cocker’s “Civilized Man” come blasting through my earbuds as I headed out to the garden.

                                                     You’re Lucky…I’m a civilized man…
                                           Oh yeah, you’re SO lucky….I’m a civilized man…

Gus doesn’t realize how lucky he is! He should be giving thanks once more. The Boss is generally a calm… and not prone to violence.  So, while he grumbles, Gus’ life isn’t in any sort of jeopardy. (I, on the other hand, tend to throw things and holler…)
                                     Now you ask me to forget all you’ve brought me to
When you know as well as I….you’ve got it coming to you.

Personally, I am thankful the Boss is a “civilized man”, too.  Dealing with the doggie aftermath would fall to me and that wouldn’t be pleasant, I’m sure.

 Now, you’re running ‘round looking for some sympathy
      When you know as well as I…we are history

Now, the trailer wiring has been fixed, and hopefully “Gus-proofed”.  I am also very thankful the Boss is so incredibly handy at repair work!

So…the next time Gus destroys something with his insufferable chewing…I will be repeating my mantra…


…and I suggest that the Boss embrace his “inner Joe Cocker” and start singing! 

You’re Lucky…I’m a civilized man…

Oh yeah, you’re SO lucky….I’m a civilized man!

Here’s the song.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another Holiday on the Hill

It’s Labor Day Weekend!  

The last blast of summer with a quick trip to the beach or the pool.  One more day of sleeping late…maybe a family reunion.

Many of our customer-friends were regaling me with their plans for the long weekend when more than a few of them looked a little sheepish, or surprised…maybe it was chagrined…when they said: 

“But…wait…I guess YOU don’t get a holiday…do you?”

They looked so concerned that I tried to be sure I smiled as I said:

Nope.  No real days off for us here on the hill.  Ever.

But, as I assured the customers…that’s really okay. We try to keep life manageable . around here (did you read this?)  And, I just realized, I have already written about a “holiday on the hill”. Did you  read this?

But, Labor Day and Memorial Day…those Monday holidays always mess me up just a little.  You see there’s no point making a trip to town when the bank is closed since I can’t deposit the market earnings and get change for the upcoming week.  So, on weeks with a Monday holiday, we simply do our Tuesday stuff first. This takes a little advance planning, particularly to make sure we have enough feed for an extra day. The only down-side to switching Monday and Tuesday work schedule, I will spend the rest of the week in a state of confusion as to which day of the week we are actually experiencing. My biggest fear is that I will somehow get really confused and miss the Market.  But, that hasn’t happened in seventeen years…I guess I can say…so far…so good! 

The day started in the usual fashion.  Check the weather and the news and head out for chores.  There was a broken waterer in the broiler pen which required the Boss’ attention before breakfast.  

And, if anyone thinks for one moment that these guys are going to let me forget their breakfast, they need to think again!

The plan for the morning was to get the last of the spring planted potatoes harvested and in the cooler before it’s time to gather the fall harvested potatoes. (and the clock is ticking) There were only about four of the original eighteen rows left to harvest. (the Boss has been digging small amounts each week for Market sales) But, it rained HARD in the night, so we thought there would be a delay.  I guess one good thing about the dry, dry weather…despite the rain, the ground was still workable. It was actually dusty in most places. The potato job was a go!

 The Boss ran the potato plow through the garden leaving an open trench.

 Next, he plowed a row of potatoes. 
Then, we worked in tandem, picking the potatoes and placing them in the open row. They were left to dry slightly before going into the cooler.

sometimes you have to dig for them
at the "wet" end of the garden

potatoes "curing" in the sun

While the potatoes were “curing”, the Boss tilled the open hoophouse beds. I am trying to get all the over-wintering crops in before mid-September. So, I planted some spinach and lettuce for the late season while he bushhogged the spent garden crops and did some mowing in the gardens. 

By then it was lunchtime.  Thank Goodness, I was starving.

After lunch, we headed back out to the potato garden.

potato harvest nearing completion

anything smaller than an egg goes in the "tiny tater" bucket

hauling potatoes to storage

We picked up all the potatoes,sorting for size and hauled them up to the reefer.  Since small potatoes do not store as well as larger ones, we pick those out and sell them separately as “tiny taters”. The others were placed in plastic hoppers to await sale at the Market.
some of the 'taters and onions in storage

With the potatoes sorted and stored, the Boss washed up the ones he intends to sell this week.  I know, potatoes store better withOUT being cleaned.  However, they look pretty (and sell better) when they are clean.
So, wash those ‘taters, Boss!

…and since clean eggs sell better, too…then he washed and sorted the eggs he has gathered so far this week.  They were put in the cooler to await boxing before this week’s Market.
beginning the egg washing job

Since it was a hot, hot day the greenhouses needed some serious attention so that we wouldn’t end up with pre-cooked greens.  I watered all my little transplants before heading out to check on the squash and zucchini in the garden. It is only by checking every other day that we do not end up with enormous, canoe-sized zucchinis (and even then some of them escape my watchful eye).  This time of year the growth process slow considerably, so there were only a few to harvest.  These were cleaned and put in the cooler.

Then there was some prep work for next week’s broiler processing, checking the Market freezer and a little office work.  …and suddenly, it was time for afternoon chores.
some of us did some serious relaxing on Labor Day

By the time chores were completed and those sad tomatoes left from the Market were scalded so I could peel and freeze them for winter, it was time to make supper.

sad looking leftover tomatoes
After supper, it was a quick check on the gates…and a little tomato chopping. Those sad tomatoes made 5 packages for using in chili or stew for winter time! They weren’t nice enough to offer for sale, but we’ve got to eat, too.

A few more odds and ends completed.

…and that was that.   
my favorite Mbrook view

The end of another “holiday” on the hill.   

                                  …on to Tuesday! 

                                  which will feel like Monday...
                                                                   oh, I do hope I don't get too confused!