Thursday, May 26, 2016

That's Downright Embarrassin' !

I love a good story. And, I really love a good storyteller.

Miz Frances is among the best. She sees herself as just “an old country woman”. But, as such she has some great tales.  

She tells the hilarious story of a bad little boy who once hid out under the sofa and darted out to bite the Sunday School teacher on the ankle. Now, Papaw Wally howls in protestation over this one. “It’s a lie! She’s just makin’ that one up! That’s just a big windy tale! You know she ain’t tellin’ the truth!”  But, his insistence serves only to reinforce the veracity of this particular story.

Then there was the long saga of an orphaned baby skunk that she had diligently tried to make a pet only to have it turn on (very literally) the young Frances and spray her in the face. Seventy years after that incident and her stomach still turns at the smell of “polecat”. That one had me laughing and crying at the same time.

You shiver when she tells of shoveling through shoulder-high drifts and you can almost smell her momma’s biscuits baking…  She has countless stories of childrearing and old-time country living and her insights are outstanding.

Once, the subject turned to sheep.

Having grown up in the church, and having numerous relatives that were (and still are) preachers, she had heard all those Scripture passages about the Good Shepherd and all the ones that liken humans to sheep.

It was this knowledge that caused her to lament…

 “oh…sheep….WHY did it have to be sheep?  I just don’t understand WHY the Good Lord had to liken us to sheep…

…they are so stupid!

you know…that’s downright embarrassin' !”

And, I had to agree.

But, this post really isn’t about Miz Frances.

Well, not exactly.

Although, she did serve as my inspiration...

At weaning time, the general chaos here on the hill got a little overwhelming. It was deafening and completely nerve-wracking. No exaggeration. 
sometimes they ALL scream at the same time

The cacophony continued all day. The lambs screamed while they were eating…when they were lying down…one even tried screaming while chewing its cud. (that bizarre sound that required a trip to the barn).  It became tortuous to leave the relative peace of the house. (although the office is quite close to the lamb paddock, so it wasn’t a “peaceful” as it could have been)

As the afternoon progressed, it did seem that the noise was fairly persistent. But, honestly, I was doing my best to zone it out. (seriously, screaming lambs could be used as a torture method) But, I did note that one lamb was still out in the paddock when the others were headed to the barn. I was intent on my hoophouse work and thinking of other things. The Boss was mowing the backyard and noticed the same lamb was moving in an unusual manner. He flagged me down to point it out.

We realized the lamb was actually stuck in the fence at the very same moment.

When I headed in to rectify the situation…all the other lambs trailed along behind me. I’m sure it looked like some weird rendition of “little Bo Peep”. As they followed me, they took turns hollering. Quiet life in the country is simply a myth, I can assure you.

At this point it was obvious that the lamb had been stuck for some time. He was really stuck. Wool pulled from his neck covered all the fence wire surrounding his imprisonment. He was loudly baa-ing in protest. He couldn’t get his head free, no matter which way he turned. I felt a little bad about this, I probably should have checked sooner, but who could tell over the din?

definitely stuck

I put my hand out to pull him backwards from the fence. Before I could even touch him, he let out a bellow, turned his head and popped free from the fence. He ran off to join the other lambs that were eating and cavorting in the lush grass. In the blink of an eye he was indistinguishable from the rest of the flock.

I think he's the one in the middle

He’d been standing there for ages. There was actually a puddle underneath him where he had peed repeatedly. A nervous sheep’s first reaction is always to stop and “take a leak”.

How incredibly stupid can you be? (I think I said this out loud)

Then it hit me.

We ARE like sheep.

Caught in a situation we don’t quite understand we thrash and complain and freak out a little (sometimes more than a little) …only to find that we had the solution all along. Yes, I do speak from experience here.

Oh my!

Miz Frances was right.

Sheep ARE stupid.

And, it IS embarrassing to be likened unto them. Incredibly so.

You can learn a lot out there with the sheep. I know I have. (click to read THIS)  The very thought that Someone cares for me despite my stupidity and over-reaction is incredibly comforting and lightens my darkest days.

As a believer, who is also a shepherd, I have become far more appreciative of the Good Lord’s continued care and endless mercy. Particularly when I consider the rather disturbing similarities. But, I am comforted nonetheless. 

But, don’t tell Miz Frances that I thought of her out there in the sheep field, surrounded by lambs. She’d be sure to say…

Now, that’s downright embarrassin’!

evidence of the lamb's "adventure"

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 5-22

misty sunrise 5-20

You know how I said we had experienced 17 consecutive days of rain?  Well, we are going to have to add a few to that…

It’s not that I’m complaining. I am simply reporting what happened in the past week. And, the wet weather is affecting EVERYTHING. (including any and all conversations)

However, somewhere along the way this week I heard mention of this old song…I mean really old…this rendition was recorded by Bing Crosby in 1944.

You've got to ac-centuate the positive
E-liminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

Listen to the whole thing here.

So…with that in mind, I will attempt to focus on the positive things that happened this week…despite the numerous weather challenges.

the green beans made it!
We got through the cold snap with only the expected damage. Neither one of us could imagine that the squash plants would hold up to 37* and wind. (we were right)  We already had more plants started and should be able to re-plant next week. This will put our harvest slightly behind our target date, but that’s okay. And, we have indeed made a note not to try to hurry the season along next year.
...the squash did not

Processing broiler batch #2 went without a hitch and the chicken freezer is stocked once more. Yay!
processing broilers 5-16

While I went to town on the feedstore run, the Boss tilled and hilled the potato garden, hoping to cut down on weed pressure and give the tubers room to grow.  The potatoes are looking great and we should be seeing blossoms soon.
potato garden 5-18

there are some BIG lambs out there!
A couple in this photo weigh well over 100# each.
Definitely NOT cute!
Did you read THIS?
It was time to work the lambs again this week. Haunted by tragic Spring lamb losses due to wet weather and parasitic overload in the past, we aren’t taking any chances with this flock. Thankfully, they are continuing to thrive. In one month, they collectively gained over 500# for the third consecutive time.

"Beebi" in her lamb tube

While “Beebi” isn’t growing quite as quickly as the others, she is indeed growing!  Her wool had finally grown back enough for her to shed her little lamb tube. She no longer looks like some strange mutant, but a regular sheep, albeit a tiny one.
"Beebi - au naturel"

For those of you who keep up with such things, I was able to get a new prescription this week and it seems to be helping. As I headed off to town to get my pills, I had to chuckle at my similarity to “Emma Brand”. If you don’t know who Emma Brand is, then you don’t know the Andy Griffith show. (and you’ve missed out on a LOT)  If you’ve got 15 minutes…watch this. 

On Thursday, the Kman came to visit for a little while. Despite the fact that he has a whole bunch of teeth coming in at once, and he took a header on the sidewalk before he left home and busted his lip, he seemed to have a good time riding on the tractor with grandpa and loving on the doggies.

he even got to steer!

Kman LOVES his doggies!

 He even “helped” me in the kitchen. He’s particularly handy with a whisk and a broom.

There were cakes to bake. Not only was it “national chocolate cake day”, it was time for the Annual Chicken BBQ for the MVFD. For eighteen years now, I have baked a cake for this event. (I'm not alone in my baking, a number of other ladies in the community make cakes for this event) This is one of the ways our community raises funds for our volunteer fire department.
I made an "extra" one for us

Things have changed a lot over the years. I remember when there used to be a carnival with rides and such and a parade of firetrucks. (that was a big event for our girls) The carnival is a thing of the past, and there was no parade this year. But, the chicken bbq (and dessert) remains a standard. However, the weather put a damper on everything this year. 

the Middlebrook General Store
sponsors Old Middlebrook Village Days

gloomy weather for the event

Because, it started raining Friday night…

the trees at the Market are beautiful,
but drippy!

another soggy Market

…making Saturday’s Market cold and soggy. Here, check out the Boss’ photos.

 But, keeping in mind my attempt to “accentuate the positive”…

We sold everything (except two bags of greens, which became supper) and even surpassed our earnings goal for the day. Can’t complain about that!

A few other positives from the week. 

The next batch of chicks arrived in good condition without incident.

Batch # 4
so sleepy!

The bigger broilers moved outside.
Batch #3 in field pen
The hoophouses are looking good.

  …and I found teeny, tiny cauliflowers in the garden!

just a few weeks until harvest!

…and we can look forward to a new and hopefully productive week.

Here’s hoping you’re having a

Happy Sunday! 

all the gloom makes us truly appreciate a sunny day (or at least a few hours)

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blackberry Winter

blackberry blossoms in the rain

It's cold.

It's dark.

It's wet.
the beginnings of berries

The colloquial term for this phenomenon is "Blackberry Winter".


There are some that think that this cold snap is necessary for the wild brambles to produce any sort of fruit later in the season.

I don't know about that...but... 

Here's hopin'!

picking black raspberries
in July

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 5-15

I have been wracking my brain for hours trying to think of something to tell you about this week on the hill, but I’m coming up empty.
I was beginning to think we would never see the sun again

I really don’t want to talk about the weather. We have had 17 consecutive days of some sort of rain. I am pretty sure my brain began to mildew. 

And, while the sun is shining today, it is cold, the wind is also blowing AND we are under a frost warning for tonight. The potential low temperature means that the squash that we planted out on Monday, with eager anticipation of harvest within the next month, may just be history. The wind precludes any sort of crop cover, so we will just have to take our chances.

teeny tiny zucchini

squash blossom

The casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City have nothing on farming when it comes to high-stakes gambling!
cold front moving in

But, if I don’t talk about the weather, what do I talk about?

I hesitated to tell you about my trip to the Cardiac lab at the hospital. I don’t want to sound like I’m looking for sympathy. I don’t want to worry anybody. And, despite the fact that I write this blog to tell you about our life…I really don’t always want to tell you everything.


Going to the hospital for a test under my own power was far better than my last trip. If you have been reading for a while, you may remember that “adventure”. If not, click  THIS. That was definitely not something I ever wanted to repeat!

After that experience, my heart “issue” seemed to subside somewhat and was only an intermittent annoyance. But, it began recurring a couple of months ago and has been slowly sapping my energy and motivation. Ignoring the subject and hoping it would just go away was not going to be a long term solution, so I put made a call to the cardio doc.

definitely NOT a fashion statement!
This time I had a stress test and got to wear a heart monitor for two days. Hopefully, this will give the doctor the information he needs to address my “excitable heart rate” and the issues surrounding it. 

Now, it is a waiting game until the office calls with the results and the course of treatment. No cause for alarm...and I finally got all the tape gunk off my skin.

Moving on to other things…

All the rain is causing phenomenal growth in those crops that we were able to get planted. 

Check out the potatoes…

These pictures were taken less than one week apart in generally the same location.



…and the grass.

Oh, my goodness. The grass is growing like you would NOT believe. I’m pretty sure the “hay guys” are going to have a bumper crop. If, that is, it stops raining long enough to get the hay cut, dried and baled. Nobody likes to “wash” hay. (that’s what one of our friends says whenever it rains on his freshly cut hay) Our hay guy has some hay left from last year that he offered us at a bargain, since he needs room for this year’s crop. But, there hasn’t been a break in the weather long enough to drive the two or three miles to get the wagon.

ewes on the right waiting for the Boss to finish mowing the paddock on the left
Around here, the amazing, lush grass means that the sheep are up to their eyeballs…actually it’s closer to their shoulders. That is actually not a good thing, as they really do better with shorter grass. (tall grass irritates their eyes and is a haven for all sorts of bugs) The Boss has had to bush-hog the paddocks prior to grazing. Somehow, that seems like a waste of grass, but there is no way to harvest it.

mowing the lower garden
Speaking of mowing…whenever the Boss mows the lower garden, the hens all line up along the fence and catch the grass clippings as he goes by. Apparently, they recognize the sound of the lawnmower, because they start running every time he fires it up.

In other chicken news…despite the dark, wet weather, the big broilers look great. They will be processed tomorrow. And, just in time…we sold every single chicken from the last batch and had even more requests at the Market that we couldn’t fill. Batch #3 is ready to move outside and batch #4 is scheduled to arrive on Friday. It appears that despite the early season setback, we are back on track. Yes!

processing batch #2 is Monday's job

batch #3 ready to move outside

raining again
If you read the post  "Such a Deal I have for You" , you know a little about the history of hoophouse #2. The ability to grow greens under the cover of the hoophouses is only reason we have anything for sale during the current weather phenomenon. Fieldwork has been next to impossible.
...didn't stop the Boss from working

Although, the hoophouses are not without their own set of issues. This year the problem is SLUGS.

I hate slugs. No two ways about it, I just hate them.

See how tiny this slug is?

You wouldn’t think that something so slimy and slow (and small) could be such a problem. But, slugs can decimate a planting of lettuce in a single night. And, I have yet to find something that will completely eradicate them. One of the organic products that we use promises a “slug-free garden”. Seriously? I want my money back. No, wait. Just come get the slugs.

yet, it has an incredible appetite!

It seems to take forever to pick lettuce on a wet day when the leaves are wet and stick to my hands and I have to sort through the damaged leaves...and squish the disgusting slugs so they won't completely destroy the crop...all while I am trying NOT to grumble and complain.

Not only are slugs destructive, but our customers do not appreciate the added protein in their salads. (not that I blame them, mind you) And, even though the Boss washes the leaves before bagging them, a few of the little slimy blobs have shown up where they should have never been. Ugh!  All we can do is apologize and hope for drier days. The slug population drops off considerably when it is warm and dry.

We have been praying for a few drier days...

The sunlight made the vegetable side of our market spot
look beautiful!
Amazingly, it did NOT rain for Saturday’s Market. As a matter of fact, the sun shone brilliantly for most of the morning and the customers came out in force. We were almost sold out of everything by 10 o’clock and we were sold out completely by 11:30!


After supper, the Boss and I had to move all the tomato, pepper, cucumber and winter squash plants back into the greenhouses. (they were sitting out back to “harden off”, but frost would be a little too hard). While we were doing this, a bunch of lambs ran to the barn. Since I hadn’t been home at choretime, I thought I’d check on them. As I walked to the back of the barn, I saw a lamb down on its side in the mud. It wasn’t moving. I screamed at him. He still didn’t move. Closer observation revealed the feeder had fallen over on him and he was trapped by his head. His eyes were rolled back in his head and I feared the worst. But, when I picked the feeder up and yelled at him again, he suddenly came to his senses, jumped up and ran off. Other than being really muddy and having a big indentation in his wool (from the feeder rail), he seems to be fine. But, it’s a good thing I noticed him, he never would have survived all night like that.
look closely and you'll see the indentation in his wool
(he's to the left of the post)

In case you were wondering…sheep are not the brightest of creatures.

And, that was it for the week.

Hope you have a

Happy Sunday! 

…and a great week!

Gus and Ellie
(and Squeekie - in the background)

Thanks for stopping by. Come "visit" us again real soon.