Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 6-17




A sigh of relief.

That was the recurring theme around here this week.

We started off with some monsoon-like rains. There were even more in the forecast. That wouldn’t make our broiler-processing job pleasant, but the chickens were reaching gigantic proportions and we couldn’t wait.

Monday morning found us slogging through the wet grass, catching large, somewhat soggy chickens…

The job went off without a hitch. And, the big rains didn’t arrive until we were done. That caused the Boss to sigh with relief since clean-up includes hauling all the blood, guts and feathers down the hill for disposal. That can prove tricky in the pouring rain.

It was still dark and drizzly when Tuesday rolled around. So, the Boss accompanied me on my trip to the podiatrist. After a couple of weeks of increasing foot pain, I can assure you that the words of the old spiritual song are true…

Well, your toe bone connected to your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your heel bone
Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
Your hip bone connected to your back bone
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone
Your neck bone connected to your head bone

Walking is a big part of my daily routine. (my Fitbit says I average about 10,000 steps a day) But, my routine and my gait were affected by this pain. Not only was I walking funny, I was beginning to hurt all over. This just wouldn’t do. Summertime is NOT a good time for physical ailments. Actually, there is no good time for physical ailments, but that’s another story.  

I had no idea what they would find, or what treatment might involve. I didn’t want to think about a boot, or a cast. And, I knew one of those little scooter-things would never work around here.

Xrays revealed that there is a bone spur on the cuneiform bone. Walking on uneven ground causes friction between this and the next bone. This was in turn sending shooting pain down into my toes. Since there’s not a level spot on the entire farm, I am rather surprised this was the first time this had been a problem.

A shot of cortisone had me sighing with relief.

I know this won’t last forever, (there is the beginning of arthritis, too) but with a little tape for stability, I’m not in constant pain and we can get back to work. We’ll address the long-term solution later.

I am heaving a sigh of relief over the barnswallow babies as well. They have finally fledged and taken to the skies over the farm.

almost ready to fly

growing so fast
we're hungry!

Tess was under constant attack from the parent birds

rescued this one from cat attack
giant puppy paws

pretty sure the parents are sighing with relief, too...

can you imagine being faced with this...

With the big rains behind us, the Boss hoped to get back on track with our planting schedule. So, he headed out to get everything ready while I did some odds and ends waiting for the post office to call.
Somewhere in the postal system there was a box of chicks with our name on it. Even though I sign up for text updates, the system isn’t fool-proof and anything can (and sometimes does) go wrong along the way. (last summer’s box with just three survivors proved that...did you read THIS?)

It got later and later and there was still no call from the post office. Fearing the worst, I finally called them and ascertained the chicks were waiting and I headed to town. Just as I was making the final turn, someone else from the Post Office called me to advise that the chicks had arrived. So much for communication.(!)

With the box of healthy peepers cheeping loudly all the way home, I heaved another sigh of relief.
I had some "help" with the chicks

the little peepers are SO cute!

this one must have been hot
or thought he was a duck
he sat in the waterer for a while

Karma keeping an eye on the babies

I got the chicks settled in the brooder and headed out to assist the Boss in getting the next planting of squash and cucumbers planted in the garden.

Once we get the summer broccoli planted, (and some stuff in the hoophouse) we will be back on schedule!

Looming over everything was our early morning trip to UVA on Thursday. Actually, it had been looming for quite some time.

morning light on our way over the mountain

Those “routine” MRIs that the Boss has to have every six months are fraught with apprehension. For at least a week prior, the anxiety builds. We don’t talk about it. But, it’s there…lurking in the background. While there are those who have said he’s “lucky” that he didn’t require further invasive treatments, I would say you have no idea how unsettling and stressful it can be to just wait and watch. You feel helpless and unable to DO anything to promote health and healing.  And, there is absolutely nothing “lucky” about a cancer diagnosis. Nothing.

After having to re-schedule the testing twice, (and the memory of last year's scare) the anxiety was reaching a fever-pitch. Conversation had all but stalled out and it felt like we were holding our collective breath.  

It was an amazingly smooth trip. No traffic, the imaging center saw him right away. The Cancer Center wasn’t crowded and we saw the doctor early.

And, the report was "unchanged". And, that is good.

HUGE sigh of relief. 

And, just like that...his test/appointment/labs were completed for another six months. Imagine if you will, two deflated balloons. That was us on our way back to the Valley. We didn't realize just how tense we were...until we weren't. We got back home in time for lunch and completed the rest of the day’s work in a daze of relief.
cabbage is ready

we're still picking asparagus!

broccoli after the rain

teeny, weeny beans
these will be ready by next week

There was just one more hurdle before Saturday’s Market…

Would we get the lambchops in time? 
We’ve had people asking for WEEKS. And, our sales totals could certainly use a boost.

When the processor called on Thursday afternoon, I was certain she would tell us they were done.

“hey, hun…you wasn’t wantin’ this lamb tomorrow, was ya?” (I think my heart stopped)


They had run into a problem with the labels and she wasn’t sure if they would get done. (oh, bother…I forgot about the labels!)

Since the meat is for retail sale, regulations require that it be labeled with our farm information (as the producer) and the processor’s information, including their federal inspection number. Custom labels are printed and delivered to the processor. They must apply the labels as part of the packaging. (we cannot add these later) But, it looked like they were not going to have enough, and it was getting late in the day...

She would let me know.

Before I processed that information, the phone rang again. It was one of our lamb customers. He NEEDED a fairly large order. He wanted to pick it up the following afternoon. If we wouldn't have it, he needed to know so he could make other arrangements. I relayed the processor story and told him I would let him know.

I'm pretty sure I started holding my breath.

The Boss and I both heaved a huge sigh of relief when the phone call came that the label supply held out, the cutting/processing went according to schedule and we could pick up the lambchops the following day. Yes, I did bake a pan of brownies as a thank-you, I was SO relieved.

We hurried through the picking and the packing and headed north after lunch. A trip on the interstate on a Friday afternoon can be challenging to say the least. Particularly during summer “vacation” time. Thankfully, there were no major delays and we got back in time for chores and the lamb chop delivery.
sighted on the interstate
this made me chuckle

…and the Market freezer was full for Saturday’s Market.

beautiful lamb chops

Saturday’s sales caused another sigh of relief. I think we set a one-day record for lamb sales.

It would appear that we’re finally back on track.

a good day at the Market

Although, I must say, customer flow at the Market is off. Overall sales are down. I guess it’s due to the reconstruction work downtown (?) But, there is a definite difference this year. Several vendors attributed it to all the other weekend activities in the area. Because tourism is our number one “industry” in this area, more and more activities crop up to garner interest. These activities do impact the Market, either by drawing customers to other activity venues or by adding to the parking dilemma downtown. Figuring out a way to create a thriving co-existence might just be an ongoing challenge.

I can assure you we aren't the only ones heaving a sigh of relief...
The hard work of haymaking is in full swing around the county

the satisfying sight of winter rations

But, for now, we are just going to savor the week and sigh with relief once more.

Hope you have a Happy Sunday! 
Karma and Gus in a rare moment of calm

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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 6-10

I think that's the sun!

What a difference a day makes!

Just when it seems like it’s going to rain forever, that we’ll have to figure out some what to embrace aquaculture, or at the very least grow the tomatoes in pots in the backyard, the clouds break…the sun returns and it’s time to hit the ground running. Like the weeds, the “to-do” list had grown abundantly during the days (and days) of rain.

the Valley is lush and beautiful

the broccoli is a sea of green in the early morning light

grass seeds in the sunlight

While other farms are still waiting for conditions to dry enough to get back in the fields, our hilly gardens dried rapidly, and the Boss headed out to battle the weeds. All the rain and subsequent lack of human attention meant that that open spaces waiting for planting had turned into small jungles. After he cut the weeds, he had to re-till the entire space.

re-claiming the gardens

While he focused on the gardens, my tasks were more mundane. Job one was de-frosting and cleaning the empty lamb freezer. The processor assured us that we can pick up the first batch of lamb chops this week, so we need to be ready. That boring job had the added benefit of keeping the crazy-Karma puppy occupied for a while as she played with the melting ice. That performance granted more than a little human amusement as well.

Karma "helps" de-frost the freezer

Before we would get to any actual planting, that first batch of lambs had to take a little one-way trip. That meant all the lambs headed to the barn, the ones destined for transport sorted out and the rest given a dose of de-wormer and herded back to graze.

headed to the barn

Loading lambs is never a fun job. Perhaps I should re-phrase that…It is a definite understatement to say that loading livestock (of any kind) is always somewhat stressful. There is the potential for mishap every step of the way. And, no matter what anybody tells you about their personal prowess (read THIS) anything can (and often does) go wrong. I am pretty sure that I will get no argument when I say that doing this job with your spouse can be a true test of any marriage.

This time was no exception. 

In hopes of getting the lambs to walk onto the trailer with ease, the Boss wanted to try something new. Trying to quell my own misgivings, I followed his instructions. But, apparently the Boss doesn’t think like a lamb (that may just be impossible as there is a good probability that lambs do NOT think) and the truly unexpected happened. The first lamb walked down the alley toward the trailer and the others followed. (yay) Then they saw me inside the trailer with the feed bucket (keep in mind they have seen me every single day of their lives) and they stopped suddenly. Because...ACK! something is unusual. They stopped so suddenly that they piled up like cordwood. Then, the first one tried to turn and run and he knocked the gate loose. The others panicked. They started to escape. In the Boss’ attempt to stop the stampede, he fell backwards onto the gate and tore his pants. There may have been swearing (on my part) as the lambs cavorted through the tall, wet grass.

Long story short, they were eventually corralled, we followed the usual loading method and were on our way in fairly short order. Tempers were calmed, and blue jeans were eventually mended. And, we know not to try that procedure again. (and, I don't think I even said "I told you so!")
those are some good looking lambs
decreased lamb flock headed through the TALL grass

The ride to the processor was uneventful. But, the Boss had to lend a hand to another farmer in unloading a very large, very grumpy sow from his trailer. That meant that the lambs had to wait and then were even more uncooperative in the unloading process. It was only because one of the employees help that we were able to get them situated in the holding pen without any sort of further mishap.
We always breathe a sigh of relief when they're in the holding pen
It was a beautiful day for a drive...
grain harvest
the Valley is SO beautiful!

Edinburg farm

but, evidence of flooding is still visible
even from the interstate

 spotted on the interstate
a trucking company with OUR last name!
Sheesh! Lambs sure can be a pain. (sometimes literally)

And that reminds me…

It isn’t sad that we take the “little” lambs to the processor. Whenever I try to explain this to the customers, I think I fail miserably. But, I’m always ready to give it one more shot…

By the time the lambs head to the processor (which, I assume you realize is just another term for butcher) they are big, ornery and ready to fulfill their destiny. And, the only destiny a wether (castrated male) lamb can have is to become lambchops.  It’s not like they will ever write a novel or aid society in any way. They won’t add to the farm like the breeding stock. They have no human qualities. And, for the record…they’re not even cute anymore.  Read THIS.They have led a good life here on the hill. They’re healthy and strong and will provide a delicious source of protein for our customers (and us). For the record, the processor has won awards for their humane handling/processing. They do a fabulous and necessary service for us and other growers. That one-way trip is the best thing (for all those involved) that could happen to those lambs.

So, with that explanation out of the way, we will wait (rather impatiently) until we can go pick up the lamb chops, roasts and steaks at the end of the week. We have had customers looking forward to the return of lamb for weeks now…so, Saturday Market promises to be interesting, as well as seriously profitable.

With the lambs delivered, we could get back to the gardens. As the Boss tilled, I worked on seeding the succession plantings that would be needed later in the season.

gardening in tandem

Then, we finally got around to planting the tomatoes in the garden!

and none too soon
there are LOTS of baby tomatoes

This is a big job. Perhaps the most labor-intensive planting project we do. And, that’s saying something on our tiny operation where most everything is done by hand.

tilling for tomato planting

helpers hauling plants to garden

The Boss got the trellises set and hauled the plants out to the garden. Then, he dug a hole for each plant and I came along behind and fertilized. The color-coded pots were then set along each bed, where they were “plunked” and back-filled.
setting trellises

ready to fertilize

copper sulfate
helps to prevent blight

By lunch-time the plants were all in place.

almost finished planting

It was time to give our attention to some other jobs, so the mulching didn’t get done until the next day. But, that big job is done! Again, we are in a “waiting mode” until the first fruits ripen. I must say, I am a little anxious for a good BLT sandwich. (just one of the tasty summertime specialties)

mulching tomatoes

More planting and weeding and harvesting made up the rest of our week.

some of the squash survived the cucumber beetle attack!

bean blossom
not too long to wait for green beans
the first of the garlic harvest

broilers are almost ready for harvest

the barnswallows hatched

we made it to Friday afternoon before it rained

early morning mist before Market

it was nice to have SUNSHINE for the entire Market!
As I worked I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking over the quote I shared with you last week from LR Knost. You need to read THIS. And, while this might not be the place you’d expect to read about celebrity suicide…two in one week certainly got a lot of media attention and I've been thinking about it a great deal.
 Glennon Doyle says Life is "bru-tiful"
both brutal and beautiful
we need the contrast to appreciate both

I always admired Anthony Bourdain.  His shows were intriguing and exposed us to people and cultures in places we will never actually visit. His somewhat harsh and irreverent style was raw and compelling. And, wow…could that man write!

News of suicide always shakes me, gives me pause and makes me hope to be a little more aware of those around me who may be struggling, hurting. It seems like it happens far too often. But, I honestly don’t know what could change the scenario and that troubles me.

unexpected lily among the weeds

Just as I was thinking these deep, somewhat disturbing thoughts, a song came through my earbuds. And, while the video simply screams 1980’s…the Oak Ridge Boys share a good message, even if it is just a bit sappy.  You can watch it HERE.

You know with all the trouble and sorrow in the world
It seems like the least we can do
Just take that smile into the street
And share it with everybody you meet

And everyday I wanna shake somebody's hand
Everyday I wanna make somebody know that they can
Everyday I wanna try to show my brothers and my sisters
That I wanna help them along the way everyday, everyday

If they're lost I wanna show them the sunshine
If they look tossed I wanna throw them a lifeline
I wanna reach out my hand, oh yeah

And let 'em know there's a light
Down at the end of the road

I won’t pretend to have any answers. Sometimes the dark and despair threaten to overwhelm the best of us. And, honestly, the world is truly a big mess (a definite understatement) at the moment.

But, one thing is for certain…

...repeating the quote at the beginning of this post...“What a difference a day makes”

Tomorrow will be different.

It might not be what you hoped…or expected…or even planned. But, it will be different.

That’s something to hold onto.

And, it couldn’t hurt to offer a hand as well…or at the very least a smile. You never know what someone else is going through.

…on that note, I will close. But, not before I say…

I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 
here's a Karma smile to start your week

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

Here’s a link to “visit” the Market…

On the off-chance YOU are struggling…

Please reach out…

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255