Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 12-4

pretty mamas all in a row
It’s gotten to that time of year when finding anything of interest to report is quite a challenge.

The market is over. The garden is done. Most of our work is inside stuff that doesn’t make for good photo ops or remotely interesting copy.

But, then it rained…

…and rained.
...and rained some more.
another rainy day

No complaints. None at all. We haven’t had any real measurable rainfall in more than a month. It had gotten to the point where the sheep kicked up a major dust storm each and every time they came down to the feeders. Great grazing was a mere memory.There were a couple of paddocks of “stockpiled” grass (where the sheep hadn’t grazed in quite some time) that we were able to use to avoid feeding out any of the precious hay so early in the season. But, we were rapidly coming to the end of any grass, anywhere.

THREE inches of rain later, things were pretty well saturated. This will aid in next year’s grass growth as everything is going dormant for the winter season.  
after the rain


However, rain or no rain, it was definitely time to move all the sheep around. It was past time to remove Angus from the ewe flock and return him to his solitary “bachelor quarters” at the back edge of the farm.  I don’t think anyone likes sorting the ram from the ewes (particularly the ram). But, the ewes need a little extra care in the late days of their pregnancies and soon there will be lambs to tend to as well. Having a ram in the flock at that point can prove dangerous to all involved, especially the shepherd(ess).

Thankfully, that move went off without a hitch.

he's just slightly intimidating


I don’t think Angus was real thrilled once he realized what was happening. But, then again, who am I to pretend I understand what goes on inside a ram brain? He has shelter and plenty to eat, so we know he’s fine. He does holler from time to time, but other than that, he seems to have adjusted to his new housing.

with the "girls" gone, he had a feeder all to himself!


The ewes are grazing the “winter paddock” and getting hay in the evenings. They still haven’t adjusted to coming into the barn. They all skitter and scatter whenever we walk inside to feed. However, it won’t be long until they are all waiting (and complaining) for handouts whenever they see humans. I give it a week at the outside before they become complete and utter nuisances and start voicing their “opinions” in no uncertain terms.
early morning grazing


"Reba" has already claimed her spot in the barn

late afternoon grazing



The “off-season” is the Boss’ time to work on those project ideas he didn’t have time to execute during the season.  His current project is a portable gate unit for use when we move the hens around the farm. I don’t exactly know how this is going to work. But, I do know that its completion will mean that we will no longer have to attempt to “hop” over the electro-net. If you’re wondering, electro-net is a truly awesome product. It is a completely portable, easy-to-use electric fence that we use to temporarily graze various areas of the farm. This gives us the option of grazing areas where permanent fencing is not an option. (i.e. hens in the gardens).  I am seriously electro-net challenged and I am not coordinated enough to simultaneously hop and carry a feed bucket while wearing coveralls and choreboots (especially if you throw a little snow, ice and mud) so, I’m pretty excited about this project. While I don’t have to go in the henyard often, the prevention of even one face-plant sounds worthwhile to me! Not much progress to report yet, however, the initial trip to Lowe’s has been completed, so it is just a matter of time.
You can order our farm calendar by clicking HERE!
Makes a great gift

On Saturday morning, we made our first “off-season” delivery to our Winter Customers. Which, I must say, ended up being a little more challenging that it should have been. Someone (and it was NOT me) forgot the eggs. Seriously. The eggs. It wasn’t until we got to town that we realized the EGGS (perhaps the biggest reason we even DO winter sales) were still in the cooler. This required that the Boss make a frantic trip back down Mbrk road (seriously breaking the speed limit and perhaps some speed RECORDS) while I attempted to keep up with deliveries until the eggs got to town. Thankfully, everyone was understanding and we managed to get the deliveries made with just a short delay. However, we will be adding a triple check to our current check and double check before we pull out of the driveway next time.

Oh, well…it made for a little “excitement” in an otherwise dull week.

pretty sunset
Not that I’m complaining about dull weeks. Those weeks that we have lots of stories, exciting and otherwise, are not really the best weeks. All too often good stories are the result of poor management/judgement and the inability to predict potential problems. Give me boring any day!

The week ahead looks like it won’t be boring. We even may see a few challenges. They are calling for a big weather pattern shift and there are lots of snowy, icy, COLD icons in the forecast. Each one of those holds the potential for problems, so it’s up to us to be prepared. Incoming cold, stormy weather means dealing with frozen things that shouldn’t be frozen, the multitudinous issues of ice (like power outages) and potential snow removal. Keep in mind it isn't even officially WINTER, yet! So, it’s a good time to do a little readiness inventory.

But, in the meantime, here’s hoping you’re having a Happy Sunday! 



Here are a few odd photos that don't really fit. They are proof that you just never know what you may look up and see.
Remy in the kitchen window
proof that she does get on the counter (uh oh)

deer in the neighbor's field

forsythia in December.

Thanks for stopping by. We hope you’ll come “visit” us again real soon!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 11-27

There is no place like home


So, it’s Sunday and time for our little “farm tour”.

At least I think it’s Sunday...

Without our usual routine of all things Market-related, my week seems more than a little off kilter. And, then Thanksgiving felt like it should be Sunday, followed by a weird, harvest-less Friday and yet another somewhat Sunday-like Saturday...so, now I’m wondering if I will just overlook Monday altogether.

I hope to find our “off-season” routine this week. Although about the time I get into a groove, it will be time to gear up for Market season once more!

cold weather means ICE on the stock tanks
Not a whole lot happened on the hill in the past few days. At the end of last week’s Market a cold front blew through and put an effective end to any and all outdoor growth. The cold wind has sucked the last of the moisture out of everything and we have been under a red flag weather warning. (that means that conditions are right for wildfires and outdoor burning has been banned) A couple of large forest fires are burning on the other side of the Blue Ridge and when the wind shifts, the smoke invades the Valley. More about those fires HERE.




We were surprised to see a huge plume of smoke hanging over the mountains as we traveled the interstate on our only real farm-related task of picking up the last lamb chops of the 2016 season. I'm happy to report that the freezers are filled to capacity in anticipation of Winter Sales. (hope everyone is hungry!)

The drought and incessant winds are proving to be a challenge for the area. Firefighters are struggling to contain the fires and many farmers are starting to feed hay somewhat earlier this year since the grass growth has come to an end. Here on the hill, the sheep are working their way around the farm, eating any stockpiled grass prior to moving to the barnlot for the winter since we are just about five weeks from the first lambs.


grazing sheep


The focus of the week was Thanksgiving preparation.  There was cleaning to do and food to prepare. And, a project to finish...


In case you were wondering, our mystery project was “busy boards” for the minions. Pieces of plywood were painted a bright color and coated with poly (that was my contribution) then we scoured the hardware section of the store for interesting items. We found locks, a light, spring-y things and a paper roller...all sorts of things to keep little minds and fingers busy. The Boss arranged and attached all the trinkets to the boards. 

I think they were a success!
playing with Daddy

word of the day is WOW!


On the food front, we try to feature as much home-grown food as possible. And, that means we generally have lamb and chicken (and NOT turkey...hopefully this doesn’t offend our turkey growing friends and neighbors!) This year we decided to try something a little different and we brined the lamb roast, effectively turning it into a ham. Or would that be lam? Lam-ham? Whatever you call it, it was incredibly good!
Lamb-ham

it wouldn't be T'giving without dessert

chocolate cheesecake with caramel ganache

Happy Turkey Day!


Thanksgiving always makes me somewhat nostalgic and introspective, as it marks the end of our season and we can trace the beginning of this “adventure” to a T’giving table long ago (did you read  this one?)  However, I didn’t get the chance to write about that...so, I’m thinking there may be a random post coming later in the week.

Suffice it to say, I am truly thankful...

T'giving 2016


Now that the Market is over, it’s time to get all the bookwork done in preparation for tax season. Every year I mean to keep up better during the season and every year I fail miserably. However, I’m about halfway done with my catching up and once I’m finished we can review the season and revise our plans for next year.

Remy is "helping"


Which we need to think about doing...soon. Very soon.

I kid you not. The "off-season" is a true misnomer.  The first seed catalog arrived yesterday!

And, that is it. The holiday week seemed incredibly short. The upcoming week marks the beginning of our ninth season of “winter sales”, so it's time to re-group and re-focus and get back to work.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 


chilly sunrise

Allegheny mountains 


sunset



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








Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 11-20


off to the zoo

As the season continued its unstoppable march toward completion, we found ourselves at a point where we could finally take steps to resolve the “issues of the henhouse”.

catching hens before daylight
We headed out before first light and began the task of sorting the hens into two groups. Once the sorting was done, the oldest ones headed out on a one-way trip to the Zoo. Now, this is probably some sort of “ageist discrimination”, and someone will probably find fault with it... it really does seem the best solution to the situation we found ourselves facing with the hens.

But, first, a little HEN 101 might be in order.

Laying hens generally start laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks of age. (that’s about 5 months) Egg production will stay steady for the next year or so.

A hen produces ONE egg approximately every 26 hours. That cartoon vision of a hen on a pile of eggs that just keep coming is strictly a figment of imagination.

Egg production is greatly affected by the hen’s age, the hours of daylight, the weather and amount of protein in the ration. However, in our operation, we have found age to be the deciding factor. Once the hens reach two years, egg production drops dramatically. In some cases, it stops altogether. And, if you are in the business of selling eggs...this can’t be good.

In addition to decreased egg production, the shells of the eggs become thinner and more fragile. This leads to damaged, broken eggs which cannot be sold.

And, while most customers find this truly incredible...the hens EAT those broken eggs! (some old hens develop such a taste for eggs that they just stay in the nestboxes looking for tasty treats as the productive hens lay their eggs)

Once “old age” is reached and production drops off, nothing can reverse it. No changes in light or diet or thinking positive thoughts...it’s just the end.

While it may make me sound heartless, there is no place on the farm for animals that can no longer do their job. However, this leaves us with a dilemma. Since we raise broilers, we don’t need the meat. (and honestly, processing old hens is a nasty job) Selling them is not without its own issues. What to do with a bunch of old biddies?


The local zoo is happy to get the free protein for the big cats and the large reptiles. They even allow us a free pass to visit and photograph the animals. So, we get a little fieldtrip and the zoo animals get a few meals. Seems like a win-win deal to me!

flamingo

baby zebra

burmese python

cassowary

elephant

giraffe

monkey

oryx

We have decided we should make a “chicken dinner delivery” to the zoo on an annual basis. Theoretically, this will keep the “issues of the henhouse” under control.  I’m hoping it will work out to take the grand-minions along next time. I am certain the little guys would have a blast!

And, while egg numbers are still low (those days are still getting shorter) we no longer have 50-some non-productive hens to feed, reducing the feed bill considerably.  How to keep all our winter egg customers happy during the winter may be a challenge, but the little girls should start laying sometime after the first of the year.

And, just like that...it was time for the last Market day of 2016...

final 2016 Market




I’ll be perfectly honest here, I have never been so glad to see the end of the season. Ordinarily, the last day is a little bittersweet. That vendor luncheon at the Depot Grille is just a little poignant. Not so, this year. I’m pretty sure I was not the only one heaving a great big sigh of relief.

But, we’re done. We completed another year. Season #19 (for us) is history. We can put 2016 behind us and look forward to Opening Day 2017...April 1st. (no foolin’!) It’s time to re-group, re-charge and maybe even RELAX.
You can't even tell the Market was here...


Except, Thanksgiving is fast approaching.

THANKSGIVING!

 ...that means I need to start cleaning and cooking and collectively we need to pick up the lamb chops and finish up that “interesting project” ...


the "interesting" project continues...
got any guesses?


Thanks for stopping by!

November skies



change in the weather

definitely FALL

Hope you’re having a

Happy Sunday! 

Come back and visit again real soon.



 
not to put too fine a point on the END of the season...
but, we had SNOW flurries this morning!




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 11-13



the poplar leaves are still hanging on
I don’t even know where to start with my walkabout this week. Do I simply post like nothing happened, or do I figure out how to express what’s been swirling in my mind all week?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

ready to load lambs
This week included another one of the “lasts” that is imperative to the cycle of the season. The last batch of lambs was scheduled to go to the processor.

We thought we had the first fail-proof system for lamb loading and we got a little over-confident. This was going to be a breeze.

Wrong! There was one wether lamb in the bunch, and he was big and flighty and when he touched the trailer and they all flipped out, turned around and ran back in the barn.





*sigh*

Then, the Boss got the culprit into the trailer. But, to keep him there, the Boss had to hold him in place. That left me to contend with all the others. The odds of 4 to one didn’t work in my favor... 
the last load

this is a bad photo
but look at that weight!


But, we were ultimately successful. Although a change of clothes was in order.
This is why we have BARN clothes
and "town" clothes!
 However, in keeping with the tone set at the barn...the whole batch of lambs didn’t cooperate in the least getting off the trailer at the other end! However, we did have the gracious assistance of the owner and it was a great relief to shut that gate, and leave the lambs in his very capable hands. When we pick them up in a week or so, they will be far more manageable (and frozen!)

A word of explanation about the BAD photo above. The lamb on the scale is the tiny one that I wrote about earlier this year. Did you read THIS? Not only did she survive and THRIVE, she managed to weigh in at over 100#. I'm pretty proud of that fact, even though it's still pretty small. And, for the record...the biggest lamb in this bunch was 160#. Not too shabby for the "little guys".

On the way back, we made a quick stop at the grower supply outlet...

and filled the trailer with potting soil for next season
isn't this farm beautiful?
It really has nothing to do with the post
I just like to look at it


On the way back to the hill, we made a stop at Lowe’s to pick up the beginnings of what looks to be a fun project. It has absolutely nothing to do with farming...it includes a can of parakeet green paint. And, I’m going to bet you can’t guess what it will be when we are finished.
doesn't this look like fun?

nothing like a brand-new paintbrush!

With the lamb hauling out of the way, it was time for the Boss to get cracking on a project that’s been languishing on the “to-do” list for some time. Remember that feeder we bought back in the summer? It was time to get that into position behind the barn.

As with everything else around here, the new feeder has more than one job. And, it needed some “modification”. Which, of course, meant another trip to Lowe’s.
another project in the works

The Boss pulled the old cow mineral feeder out of the barnyard in preparation. It was really about time, we haven’t had a cow around here in at least seven years. But, the wheels of change often move slowly. By positioning the feeders together, the backs will serve as an extension to the loading shoot and aid in lamb-loading (theoretically, of course).
contemplating the next step

The slight modification (actually an addition) to the feeder was necessary because it isn’t built specifically for lambs and the feed bunk is actually a little too high for the little guys. However, we can make this work to our advantage by building a little ramp. The ramp allows the lambs to reach the feeder while stretching out their butt muscles. Now, may sound silly, but that slight angle and stretching movement causes those muscles to become bigger. This in turn makes for large, tender roasts and steaks.
building the ramp

almost done

Before we can check this one off as “done” the project needs to have some fencing panels installed along the outer edges in order to keep the ewes out of the feeders while allowing the lambs constant access. However, that probably means yet another trip to the farm store...

ramp in place

Then it was time to start Market prep for what promised to be another chilly November Market…
cauliflower

back-lit arugula


Again, the Market started with sub-freezing temperatures, but at least it wasn’t as dark as last week (one good thing about the whole “fall back” change in time) and once again, it was a very good day.

pretty red cabbage

broccoli romanesco is a great conversation starter!


So, it was pretty much a normal week on the hill…

Except for the fact that it wasn’t.

I’m pretty sure everything changed forever with the results of Tuesday’s voting.

Words fail me when it comes to the election. I don’t know if it is because I am a survivor of abuse that I have found the entire election cycle triggering and distressing. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to the anger, vitriol and hatred that seems to have become part and parcel of our world lately. I’ve tried countless times to articulate what has been going on inside my head. Actual words fail as I start and stop and backspace…speaking isn’t much better…I’m stuck with grimaces and odd gesticulations as I search for answers. WHY?

I have no idea what happens next. In part because I truly cannot believe what has just occurred. I will leave the commentary to those more eloquent than I. You may want to read THIS.

All I can say is “pray for peace”… Give this Reba video a watch.

   


And, I hope that no matter what is going on around you that you can find a way to have a

Happy Sunday! 

the beauty of the sunset


Thanks for stopping by. We truly appreciate your interest. Please “visit” us again real soon.



Here's the link to the Boss' Market photos: