Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 7-20

Summertime is in full swing!  You can’t look anywhere without seeing something that needs to be picked, planted or processed (and I’m doing my best to ignore all the weeds…).

canning on the front porch
I am glad to report that progress is indeed being made. We got that flat of culled tomatoes transformed into pizza sauce and we canned off the leftover green beans last Sunday afternoon. Three enormous cucumbers and some onions became two kinds of relish. We still need to make pickles and can some tomatoes and squash…and make tomato sauce.  But, all in due time.
pickle and onion relish

The focus of this week seemed to be meat. 

Monday, we processed broilers, again. 
Should I write a blog about broiler processing?

I lost track of which batch number that was. Four? Five? Six? I guess it doesn't matter. Because they’re done and in the freezer, waiting for sale at the Market.  

Then, we hauled lambs to the processor’s to be turned into lamb chops and the like.
evidence of my truly glamorous life
yes, that is sheep poo on my jeans

We took a side trip to a supply warehouse to pick up a gigantic roll of row cover. It’s always interesting to take a little fieldtrip. It’s amazing to me how very different farming looks in just the next county!  There are a lot of Mennonite farms, dairies and poultry houses in R'ham County…and corn, lots and lots of corn
Rockingham farms

Silver Lake
swans and CORN

when we got back from our "fieldtrip"
I was in the bean patch...AGAIN
It was raining in R'ham, but we missed the showers...again.  So guess what I did when we got back?

Wednesday, while the Boss cleaned and rearranged the barn, I planted and mulched in the last planting of squash and cucumbers. This should assure that we have fresh cucurbits until the first frost, at least.  

Then, it was off to harvest onions.   …no, wait!

from big mess...

First, the drying garlic had to be moved to the shop for further processing. It was rather unceremoniously dumped in a big heap on a sheet of plywood.  I know it looks like a big mess, but once the Boss trims off the dead leaves, it is beautiful and ready for sale.  
garlic ready for sale

Then, it was really time to harvest the onions.

I’ve written about onion harvest before. Did you read this one?  This year wasn’t much different…a lot of hand work in the bright sunshine, a lot of trips to the barn, and fans blowing 24/7. Although, there were lots more onions!  We tried a couple of new varieties that look like they did quite well, but the proof will be in the eating. There are definitely onion recipes on the menu for this week.

The onions had to get out of the garden because…well, they’re ready.  But, we also needed to make room for the hundreds and hundreds of fall brassica plants that are waiting in the trailer in the backyard. They’ve been sitting there for quite some time and finally made it to the top of the job list.  That will be our primary focus in the upcoming week.

Sometimes it seems like this place is just one big juggling act. 

The “pool chickies” finally moved from the brooder to the field pen.  They did not seem impressed.  But, look how big they’ve gotten!

And, they needed to move because broiler batch #(whatever) was arriving on Thursday. 
When I got to the Post Office, there was an enormous chick box waiting for me.  I must say, I worried all the way home that perhaps there were way too many chicks again. (that did happen once this season---we got nearly double our order---yikes!)  Thankfully, the order was right and Gus “helped” me get the chicks tucked into the brooder.  Chicks and lambs are some of the few things that he never tries to eat.  He’s always very gentle and careful of the babies.
if you were the size of a marshmallow
the sight of GUS would be unnerving

Speaking of Gus, it was his first birthday this week.  When I posted his “baby” picture on Facebook, there were a couple of requests for a current photo.  So, below are some shots for comparison. 
Gus' first day on the farm
happy Gus

Magnificent Gus

Gus eating a cucumber
I also thought it would be nice to take a photo of both dogs. How hard could that be?  In true “sibling” fashion, they were totally uncooperative and I ended up with this…a horrible shot…but, it is truly hilarious.
it looks like they're singing
(in reality, they were trying to bite each other)

In sheep news, we’re one week closer to “the big day”.  Around August 1st, we turn the ram in with the ewes. (it’s possible to have Christmas lambs) Waylon seems to sense the change in the weather and gets particularly anxious this time of year.  The Boss bush-hogged the ram paddock so we can actually see him (Waylon) again. This also cuts down on the rabbits that seem to freak Waylon out just a little.  Just two more weeks, buddy…two more weeks! 
just waiting...

Unfortunately, we did lose one of the sick lambs.  After a week of trying absolutely everything I could think of, she finally succumbed.  While this is a costly bummer, it is not like losing a pet. (and I’m pretty sure the other one will be fine) It did help me to make a decision about the ewes, though.  We’ll be taking three to the stockyard in the near future and that means I don’t have to pick and choose between the pretty ewe lambs we have been considering holding back.  I get to keep all of them! (now I’m looking forward to next year’s breeding season)

we've been so busy at the Market
I haven't had a chance to take pics of anything but our stand
(I haven't even seen anything but our stand!)
The highlight of the week is always the Market.  This season has been truly amazing!  We set a record for the season (and quite possibly all-time---I need to check my records).  I don’t think I have ever seen so many people at the Market, we were swamped nearly all morning.   But, the best part of Saturday…IT RAINED! It is getting desperately dry here on the hill (and elsewhere) so any moisture, no matter how little, is greatly appreciated.  We’re still praying for more rain, though.

But, the corn is tasseling and the butternut squash patch is threatening to take over Mbrook despite the dry conditions. The potato crop looks to be one of our best ever!

it's just a sea of green leaves
it looks like a bumper crop in the making!

Honestly, in some ways it is easier to garden when it’s dry and we have to control the irrigation. 

 That does not, however, apply to the entire farm, particularly the grazing paddocks.  They are getting dry and crunchy…and the fall potato patch looks like the dusty surface of the moon. 

              So, seriously…pray for rain!

Dry, dry fall potato garden

Well, that was pretty much what happened this week on the hill.

Hope you’re having a very
Happy Sunday!

Thank you so much for stopping by! Please come back and visit us again real soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

...or hardly working?

The Boss has a favorite story.  He loves to tell it…but, even he admits that he messes it up every time.  He then turns to me (mid-story) and says, “Wait…I’m messing this up…YOU tell it.”

Here it is…

I first heard the story in high school, I think.  I loved it, particularly since I was certain I knew someone very much like the fisherman. My very own Granddaddy. I hope you’ll read this tribute to a great man. (click here)

I had two male role models in my childhood, one was Granddaddy…who would spend hours on the porch, telling stories to a little red-headed girl, drinking Coca-Cola out of green glass bottles with his cronies, feeding the squirrels and attempting to train “Mr. Crow” (who was indeed a wild crow who would follow commands for peanuts). The other was a single-minded workaholic who drove himself and everyone around him with a relentless will. The contrast was stark and made a lasting impression on that little red-headed girl.  While hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of my Granddaddy, not much thought is given to the other… (borrowing a line from Shinedown’s song “BULLY”) “all you’ll ever be is a faded memory of a bully…and no one’s gonna cry on the very day you die…  but, I digress.

Somewhere along life’s way, I realized I really wanted to be more like my Granddaddy, who, although he was a farm-boy from Maryland, was the embodiment of the Mexican fisherman story.

The Boss had the privilege of growing up with a Dad who took time with the family and the neighbors.  Fond memories of DadWomack abound even forty years after his untimely death at the age of 44.  …and somehow, I think DadWomack knew the secret of the Mexican fisherman, too.  So, learning to take LIFE as it comes and truly live it comes easily to the Boss. (he’s a lot like my granddaddy in other ways, too)

So, as a team, we aspire to the Mexican fisherman…working hard, but never too hard…making time for “our full and busy life” (I’d probably add happy in there, too).

For every person that tells us how hard we work, there’s always someone who thinks we should do more, be more…maybe even “get a real job”. Read this. That’s okay, they’re entitled to their opinion.  But, I’m just sayin’ here and now…A REAL job…”ain’t happenin’!”

Yes, we have been known to put in long, hard days. I’ve pulled my fair share of 18+ hour days baking for the Market. (thank God those days are done!)  There are times when we are on call 24/7.  Farm work does occasionally interfere with our other plans.   And, yes, sometimes this life even feels a little stressful.  But, for the most part, we do what we need to in order to provide for our family’s needs and little else. Although, growing food (that everyone needs) means that we always have something to share with those less fortunate than ourselves.

We made a conscious effort in the early days of our marriage to keep our needs few and simple.  Our move to the Valley just further enforced that lifestyle. I know that if we worked harder, longer, put in more gardens, rented land for more animals, hired some farm hands or at the very least got a few interns, we could make more, more, more.  We could be something…we could be impressive. We might even be a “real farm”.  But, again…”ain’t happenin’!”   (and NO, I’m not saying big is bad…or ambition is evil…it just isn’t our style)

The hard work of our day to day life is countered by the ability to sit down, relax and enjoy it.  While the Boss may not play guitar, and neither one of us ever sleeps late, it has long been our desire to emulate “the Mexican fisherman”. Our kids know we love them, we eat well, enjoy our work environment and have time for our family and friends. To our minds, we do indeed “lead a full and busy life”.

There are some who would say that we waste time.  Well…they’re probably right.  And, that’s okay.  We’re doing what works for us. Here, read this...  We don’t see retirement in our future. Working real hard now in hopes of enjoying the rewards later just isn't an option.  So, we better make sure our work load is one we can deal with for a long time. (Do I dare say we’d like to keep it at a “sustainable” level?)

-Giammarino & Dworkin Photography

 Life is a fragile gift and we only get one shot at it. I don’t want to squander that gift on things that really won’t matter to me in the end.

 I won't break my back for a million bucks I can't take to my grave
So why put off for tomorrow what I could get done today
Like go for a walk, say a little prayer
Take a deep breath of mountain air…
-toby keith – “My List”


Monday, July 14, 2014

Workin' Hard

If you’re farming, you’re workin’ hard.

If you’re homeschooling, you’re workin’ hard.

If you’re starting a new business, you’re workin’ hard.

If you’re building a house from the ground up, you’re workin’ hard.

If you’re starting a new life in a new place, you’re workin’ hard.

If you’re doing all of these at the same time…you’re probably just a little bit crazy…or completely desperate. At least, I think that was (is) true in our case.

Seventeen years ago, as we finally sat down to eat that slightly cold "supper" from Tastee-Freeze after racing to beat a thunderstorm across the county to spend our first night in our newly finished home, we thought we knew about workin’ hard.  The Boss had just finished working side by side with the builders for four months to get us to that point.  We had a garden going.  The barn site was leveled out and construction was soon to start.

But, that would just prove to be the beginning of our workin' hard.

Over the years, this place has changed dramatically.  All those changes are a direct result of our very own efforts.  ...and I'm more than a little proud of that. For many years, we worked hard as a family unit (kids worked right along with us, learning as they helped).  Looking around today, it’s hard to imagine that this was once an empty field.

That was then...

This is now.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell us “wow…you work so hard!” …and I’m often inclined to agree with them (particularly at the end of the Market on a very busy week).

...and I have the photos to prove it.  Over the years we have...

hauled countless bales of hay

processed tons of vegetables
in all kinds of weather

all kinds of jobs
You might see us
trimming trees off the fenceline

harvesting 'taters

doctoring lambs
(with "help" of course)

little helper-daughters in potato garden '98

planting 2/3 mile of potatoes - 99

getting transplants ready for garden

harvesting garlic

canning tomatoes '98

processing broilers - 99

picking, picking, picking
In addition to all the other jobs, the Boss is in charge of
repair work


Life on a farm requires a lot of hard work. Life on a small farm requires that a lot of that hard work be done by hand. And, you don’t just do this work once and you’re done with it.  Much of our work has to be done again and again and again.  I mean, animals have to eat and those vegetables don’t pick themselves! This may seem like drudgery and monotony to a lot of folks, but personally, I like the sense of purpose and the rhythm of the season and the challenge of making a living from this little piece of land.
I never tire of the sight of all those beautiful vegetables

the "fruits of our labor"

Today’s chores are calling, so sitting here contemplating our past hard work is not an option.  It’s time to get cracking on today's to-do list.
Not sure what her complaint is...

Here’s to another seventeen years of workin' hard!

our version of "American Gothic"