Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 4-27

Spring finally decided to stick around this week!

No…wait a minute…it frosted again. 

Hold on…it’s Spring, really. 

Warm, cool, frosty, breezy, too dry…kinda wet.  Oh, yes…it is definitely Spring in the Valley.

…and it’s about time!

While we planted squash and cukes, potted up the tomatoes, moved the sheep and began the"SUPER MULCH" harvest, the other farmers in the country began planting corn and the “sweet smell” of Spring-time threatened to overpower as some spread litter on their fields ahead of Friday’s rain.  It’s real stinky around here sometimes, but still…

Yay, Springtime!

The rain really helped the plants that had been so stressed by the cold.  It looks like very few actually succumbed and our hopes for a successful crop have been renewed.  Unfortunately, it looks like the weed crop will be epic as well.

The first asparagus was spotted and we are eagerly (and somewhat impatiently) awaiting the emergence of the first potato sprouts.  Yep...Spring has SPRUNG!

It was a busy, busy week that included too many trips to town…a visit to the vet (yes, Gus is fine---just minus a few parts)…lots of greenhouse and hoophouse work…two birthday cakes…LOTS of harvest…an amazingly busy Market day…and ended with a double birthday party.

A shout-out to Blondie…and belatedly to T-bone…

                      HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love you!

Our plans to crash completely (since it’s Sunday) were rudely interrupted by falling shingles that will demand attention before the rain comes in later tomorrow. But, for right now, I’m trying not to think about the fact that the Boss has to spend part of the day on our steep roof…

So, here are a few photos (in no particular order) from the farm this week to keep my mind off the “job du jour”.

Blondie's orange b-day cake with ambrosia frosting
the BEST b-day gift!

Red Velvet cake with Cookies-n-Cream frosting...YUM!
This is for T-bone

This is how we start our day

a beautiful greenhouse visitor

inside hoophouse 2 at the end of the day

lambs on a sunny spring day

late apple blossoms

barn at sunrise

picking lettuce for Market
(the Boss "stole" my camera)

re-potted tomato plants

a black swallowtail in the greenhouse

layer chicks peeking out at the world

a "sheep hero" in action...on to greener pastures

sleepy, sleepy dogs
the moon and Mars
photo doesn't do it was amazing! (and huge)

sheep heaven

green grass is nice, even when it's cloudy

there was a controlled burn in the National Forest across the mountain
it was a little freaky when the smoke started spreading this way

first planting of squash and cukes in the garden

checking out the "supermulch"...
Looks like the biggest "harvest" ever!

Hope you’re having a

           Happy Sunday!

my valley is greening up!

Thanks for visitin’!  Come on back again…ya hear?

Friday, April 25, 2014

So...WHAT Do I Do with This Stuff?

 So...WHAT do I do with this stuff?

This (or some variation) is perhaps my favorite Market question.  It indicates that the shopper is open-minded and curious and I get to look smart (well, smart might be a stretch) early on a Saturday morning…and I get to talk about one of my favorite subjects…FOOD!

Did you read this? "Food is My Life"  Food really is my (our) life and I enjoy absolutely every aspect of it.

Over the years I have been astounded at the number of folks who have absolutely no idea what to do with various farm products. Many times fairly common food items are unrecognizable in their “natural state” (sans packaging) …and the explanations that shoppers are often overheard offering one another are sometimes more than a little odd. (and often more than a little mis-informed/wrong)

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  

Food at the Farmers’ Market is…well…food

It’s incredibly fresh and LOCAL (at our Market it must be produced within 50 miles) and it tastes great. It may look different than what you’ve seen in the grocery…but, there is no real mystery to its preparation prior to eating.

We actually eat the products we sell at the Market.  I make supper every night using things we grew here on the hill. So, you can get a personal testimony as to the freshness and tastiness of the crop…and we can both tell you what preparation methods work best.

In an effort to help those who might like to know a little bit more about the crops we grow…and how to best enjoy them…here’s something new…

Each Friday (starting next week), I’m going to post a special “foodie Friday” post about a different farm product that we offer at the Market. I hope to include a little about the development of the crop, what it takes to produce it and how to best enjoy it. 

From lettuce to lamb chops…

and everything in between…it is my goal to aid folks in the quest to “know your farmer, know your FOOD”!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll head to the Market (and if you’re local, come by and say “HI”)…check out what’s available…meet some producers (farmers) and try something new. 

…and if you see something you want to know more about…drop me a comment.  I’m always happy to talk about food! 

And, as Jacques Pepin would say..."Happy Cooking!"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Then Sings My Soul - A Thursday Thankful

a glorious sunrise always reminds me of a hymn
My first recollections of any type of music were sitting next to my grandmother on her piano bench as she played hymns, her voice quavering slightly on the very high notes.  The hymns were not only her way of worship, they provided her a feeling of connectivity with her family and long-lost loved ones.  She would smile softly and say “this was Papa’s favorite” or “Pete (Laura/Grace/Lilly…) loves this one”…and begin another song.

I distinctly remember her excitement after the mailman delivered a package containing a record from the Billy Graham crusades…and George Beverly Shay’s rich voice booming forth from the hi-fi as he sang “How Great Thou Art”. Growing up in the church, it was a while before I discovered that hymns were not the only type of music in the world. Today, my musical taste is fairly eclectic.

music keeps me focused on the good stuff

Yes, I do think it’s possible to like country and classical, hymns and hiphop, blues and bluegrass, rock and reggae…but, country will always be my favorite.  Because as Trace Adkins says:

 it's songs about me
And who I am
Songs about loving and living
And good-hearted women and family and God
Yeah they're all just
Songs about me

You may wonder what music has to do with farming. Music is expressive in ways I am not...granting outlet for thoughts, feelings that would otherwise remain pent up, reminding me of who I am, what I stand for...and inspiring me to give thanks for the blessings that surround me...and a good beat really gets me moving!

Much of the work I do is solitary (yes, I work with the Boss, but not hand in hand or even on the same project all the time)…repetitive…(and dare I say it?)…monotonous…and yes, I will say it… BORING.   …and hot, and tiring…and…

You can only pull so many weeds, pick so many vegetables...before you run out of things to think about (or maybe shouldn’t be thinking about in the first place) The work to be done stretches out like an insurmountable challenge. Spirits lag and time stands still.

tunes and diet dew...I'm ready to go!

Music allows some respite from the monotony and keeps me motivated.  With my MP3 player fully charged and my earbuds in place…I am good to go for hours…maybe the entire day.  …and I have yet to encounter a problem that music and a long walk in the country cannot solve. (although a few have taken more miles—and songs--than I care to count!)

Studies have been done that show productivity goes up when music is provided.  It even works with dairy cows!

So, today, I’m thankful for all those folks who make music their profession…those tunes that keep me motivated and productive.

…and I’m thankful that I am not the only one who (on occasion) sings and dances while farming. Watch this great video from Klingenberg Farm Studios. 

Have a great day!   

                                ...and be HAPPY!  (here's the link to the original song) from the movie Despicable Me.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Walkabout 4-20

It’s been a long, hard week here on the hill.  Actually, it’s been a long, hard, COLD week here on the hill.  Maybe it was just the cold that made it seem so long and hard. Everybody has been talking about the cold lately…and honestly, it’s getting more than a little tiresome.

We had an inch of rain on Tuesday, followed by cold winds that got colder and colder. 

However, we did beat the rain and got the Spring potatoes planted. (finally!)

But by Wednesday, we were definitely On Pins and Needles because of the weather.
even the dandelions were frozen solid!

The temperature finally bottomed out at 24* here on the hill. (others reported even colder temps) The moisture from Monday’s rain made the ground heave into weird “ice-crystally” formations that would have been incredibly cool…if I hadn’t been so concerned about the plants.
ice crystal formations in the broccoli garden

1/2 inch ice on the stocktank

cold, cold broccoli plant
Once the sun came up, the temperature warmed and the winds died down. The plants seemed to have faired well. We managed to get some row cover placed, because although it looked like we escaped much damage…the cold wasn’t over yet.  Two more nights of sub-freezing temperatures were to follow.  It is often the cumulative effects that damage the plants. Thankfully, the cold wasn’t quite as severe.  (27* and 31*)

The cold and wet weather allowed time to get to the farm paperwork completed, balance the bank statement and do some filing.  The Boss did some repair work and cleared out a portion of one hoophouse in preparation for some upcoming planting. My desk was actually clear for about five minutes, so I guess it’s all good.

see the cold damage to the leaves?

onions are showing good root development
that's a good sign
While most all of our transplants survived the cold, we won’t know the extent of the damage for quite some time.  It is possible that severe cold will cause the broccoli to “button”. That means that instead of big, gorgeous heads of broccoli, we will just get little tiny ones. It is also possible that the cold will cause the onions to “bolt” and send up a seedstalk from the center of the plant.  This makes a hard core and renders the onions useless of anything except onion rings (or chopped onions).  We’re in a wait and see mode. The Good Lord has always provided for our needs, and I’m certain that He will continue to do so…but, I won’t kid you…sometimes it’s really hard to have faith.

a sampling of what we had for Market on 4-19

The weather moderated and Saturday’s Market was beautiful.  It’s nice to finally have a little more variety (and that should increase every week). Lots of folks came out, Brian Buchanan provided some well-received music and the bubbles floating in the breeze from the very popular Pufferbellies toystore across the street added to the festive feel of the morning. Blondie took the old folks to lunch, too. (thank you!)  All in all, it was a very good day!

this may have been the most photographed spot in all of Staunton
so pretty!

The upcoming week looks promising for “potting up”  (moving to bigger pots) the tomato plants, planting out the squash and cucumbers,
squash and cucumber plants

tomato plants
 sowing some bean seeds, planting more greens in the hoophouses (and doing our succession seeding), moving the sheep to greener pastures in preparation for the long-delayed weaning process…and maybe, just maybe getting that box of strawberry plants off the kitchen floor!

Have a 
               Happy Sunday!

Spring is coming to our Valley...

…and come back and visit us again real soon.