Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 10-4

I know I seem to obsess about the weather, but so much of our life and livelihood depends upon it that I just can’t help myself. But, if weather is not your thing, I’m pretty sure this week’s walkabout won’t interest you.

No, really.

This week was all about weather. (and a little bit of other stuff)

The week started out with rain and more rain in the forecast. There was a hurricane heading toward the States and predictions began to look more than a little concerning. Maybe it was time to start looking for ark plans while perusing the internet for other things.

great day for a roadtrip...NOT!

But, after we made the town run, Monday was to be devoted to a roadtrip, rain or no rain. The lamb chops were waiting!

The Boss wanted to take a little side trip on the way to take some photos of the longest covered bridge in Virginia dating back to 1892 and still used today, since it was essentially “on the way”. While the rain probably wouldn’t help the photo op in any way, this was going to be the only time we would be in the general vicinity, so…

clearing skies

The further north we went, the better the weather got. And, there at the end of a soybean field was the bridge. And, yes, it is quite picturesque.
Valley farm

whole field of soybeans
don't know where that one cornstalk came from

Meem's Bottom bridge

inside the bridge
that is still in use today

The rest of the lamb chop trip was uneventful. By the time we got back home, it was still gloomy and drizzly. By the time we got all the meat out of the coolers and into the freezers, it was time for chores.
checking the ram
the sheep saga continues

Tuesday was dark and gloomy and drizzly again. Rain was imminent, delaying again the project the Boss really wants to see completed. So instead, he headed to the hoophouse to begin the battle with the chickweed. We have yet to ascertain the exact reason for the amazing overgrowth that threatens to overtake the entire space. Unfortunately, the wild growth rate of the weed precludes the healthy growth of the crops and once again spinach and lettuce would not be making an appearance at the Market. But, the hens seem to like it!

cleaning up the  hoophouse

hoping for some light,
he pulled off the shadecloth

cleaned up, lighter hoophouse

the shadecloth is too wet to pack away for the season,
hauling it to the barn to dry

I had finished picking green beans and was headed out to do my own work in the hoophouse when I saw the first split cabbage. …and another… and another.

split cabbage

Well, with INCHES of rain in the forecast and the very real possibility of a hurricane…my day suddenly shifted and became all about cabbage…and rain.

Once the cabbage plants reach a certain point in their maturity, the leaves begin to swirl inward and form the tight heads that we all recognize as the makings of cabbage rolls, coleslaw and sauerkraut among other things.

What you may not know is that once the head reaches a certain size, the leaves cannot wrap any tighter and it is time to harvest. If the plant receives a great deal of water at this stage, or is left in the field for much longer, it will split. Wide open. Once a cabbage splits open, it cannot be “put back together” and it is rendered useless for sale as no one wants to buy a broken cabbage since the split edges oxidize quickly and it just looks ugly.

As an aside here, if the plant is left in the ground at this point, it will send up a stalk from the center, and eventually produce seeds. But, since we are not in the cabbage seed business, prompt action was required. All the cabbages would need to be cut and stored until sale. Thankfully, only one variety had reached this critical stage and I hoped to be done by lunchtime and beat the precipitation.
cutting cabbages

some of the cabbage harvest

Of course, somewhere in the midst of the unexpected cabbage harvest it started to rain in earnest, convincing me that I was right to abandon whatever project I had intended for the day in hopes of salvaging the cabbage.  And, to hurry…because my raincoat was saturated and I was getting wetter by the minute. 
ewes in the rain

tractor in the rain

Once all the cabbages were cut, they were placed on shelves in the reefer to dry out a bit before actual storage. Between the previous abundance of rain and the current rain pouring from the sky, the cabbages were literally dripping water.
some cabbages in the reefer
drying before storage

The pile of split cabbages wasn’t quite as huge as I had first feared.  With a little extra work, we could make sauerkraut for the first time in a long time. That would be a bonus…although, definitely NOT anywhere in my plans for the week.
part of the pile of split cabbages

But, that would have to wait.

About this time, the rain got serious. We picked up over three inches of rain in a little less than an hour. Other parts of the Valley got far more and flooding became an issue. But, here on the hill, we had few difficulties and the new French drain along the barn worked like a charm!

creek's up
but, not as bad as we have seen it

a pond behind the barn
but, inside is DRY!

A check (okay, multiple checks) of the weather forecast was not encouraging in the least. That tropical storm in the Atlantic was showing real signs of becoming a hurricane and it was on track to impact the East Coast. There was also a cold front headed our way from the West and there was a distinct possibility the two would join forces and create weather havoc for a whole lot of people. The timing couldn’t be worse…yes, all this was going to occur for the weekend.
rainfall predictions

one of the early predictions of hurricane Joaquin

In an area where agriculture is the prominent occupation and the collective memory includes the likes of hurricane Camille (’69), hurricane Fran (‘96), hurricane Isobel (’03) AND the Derecho (’12), weather events are a very big deal. It seems EVERYBODY checks the weather and talks about it endlessly. Social media just adds to the frenzy and the predictions can get wilder by the minute. At one point, there was talk of 10 to 15 inches of rain and 85 mph winds. (!) We have never seen anything the likes of that in our Valley and honestly, I have no idea where this one came from…but, still….

As if being a farmer doesn’t make the weather a constant concern, being married to the Market Manager increases the worry/stress factor exponentially. Will the weather impact the Market? Should the Market be closed? Concerns about vendors and customers alike are at the forefront of all discussions.  The forecast is analyzed endlessly. …and then the phonecalls and emails start…as vendors and customers wonder the same things.

It has long been the stance of the Market to be open no matter the weather. Well, that’s not quite true. During Hurricane Fran, the Wharf area of Staunton was actually under two feet of water and the Market was indeed closed. However, that was the only time…and we weren’t even here for that historic event. (thankfully) While the Boss doesn’t have the final call on this one, he does at least have to have some sort of input and opinion. So, the weather checks continued.

we did have a few breaks in the weather

after the storm

early morning

With an eye toward the impending storm, we did what outdoor work we could beforehand. One planting of broccoli was finished and needed to be pulled out. If the spent broccoli plants are left in the gardens, they just grant a haven for more pests. The wet weather has caused the slugs to have some sort of autumnal population explosion that didn’t need any sort of encouragement. Besides, the wet weather would also cause the spent plants to slowly break down and the entire place would begin to reek of rotting broccoli. Definitely NOT the most pleasant of smells! So the hens got yet another enormous feast.

slug in the broccoli

pulling out spent plants

hauling old broccoli plants

broccoli feast

Gus "helped" by eating the leaves we dropped

As the rains began (again) the kids came over to help cut the cabbage for sauerkraut. “Many hands make light work” and the big crock was stuffed to the gills in short order (along with another bucket and a little crock). Now, it’s just a waiting game for about six weeks when all those split cabbages will be transformed into tasty sauerkraut. (we hope) THANKS, kids!

forget the sauerkraut...
Look at these babies!

cold, rainy harvest day

Harvest day was downright miserable. Cold wind was blowing rain sideways. Aside from some beautiful broccoli, there wasn’t much to pick in the field anyway. The last few squash were small and sad…and there was evidence of a pickleworm invasion. (funny name, serious pest) 

look can almost see the wind blowing

the first Romanesco broccoli of the season
isn't this cool?

In the midst of the cold and rainy harvest, the Post Office called. The layer chicks (who will provide some of next year’s eggs) were waiting for me in Mbrk. I had been worrying over this shipment since they left the hatchery. I got an email that the hatchery dropped them at their Post Office in Pennsylvania…and then, nothing…for nearly two days. (it was only AFTER I had the chicks in my possession that I got all the emails concerning their travels…ah, technology…) I shouldn’t have worried, layer chicks are hardy little things and once they got warm, they adjusted to their new home quite well.

layer chick
isn't she cute?

Their new home is a big box in the greenhouse.  The hatching schedule and our desired arrival date didn’t quite line up and the broilers are taking up the field pen AND the brooder at the moment. There is a backlog of chicks here on the hill. So, you can guess job #1 for Monday!

With the chicks tucked into the greenhouse, it was time to get back to harvesting. I honestly wondered if harvest was even necessary. While the official forecast was looking far less dire, the crazy (and yes, I do mean crazy) weather rumors were not slowing down. The cancellations continued to mount. Our biggest concern was no longer the weather, but that the majority of the population would be too frightened to venture out of their homes. If you think I exaggerate, one local news station reported that they were sold out of bread at the local Walmart store as people prepared for the worst.  As it stood, the Farmers’ Market was going to be the one lonely venue opened for the weekend. We hoped we wouldn’t regret this…

Market day began as it always does…in the dark. We could hear the wind howling and raindrops were pelting the windows. It didn’t look or sound good, although the radar showed the storm dissipating as the morning progressed. So, despite the additional vendor phonecalls and emails…the Boss headed toward town as I ventured into the darkness to feed the critters.

slow Market day

There were 10 vendors at the Saturday Market. (I think 25 is generally the norm) But, there were actually customers at 7am! 

However, the rain never did let up, the wind continued to blow and the temperature never got to the predicted 50 degrees. To say it was not the most pleasant of days would be a gross understatement. The devoted customers came, like they always do, and they were outspokenly grateful that we made the effort. In return, we thanked them for making the effort to support us on such a miserable day.

The Market was WET!

With another week of Market behind us (the countdown continues…7 more…) I am glad to say the forecast never came to fruition. We only had an inch and a half of rain here on the hill and those places in the county prone to flooding didn’t see any catastrophic amounts either. Although, our thoughts and prayers are for those in South Carolina where it looks like it is STILL raining!

Locally, it looks like the weather should be clearing and the week ahead looks great. Maybe we can get caught up on all those planned jobs that were delayed by by days and inches (6+) of rain.

Hope you’re have a Happy Sunday! 

…and a great week.

after the corn harvest in Edinburg
(has nothing to do with us...I just liked the shot I took earlier this week)

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


  1. Every farmer has to take the rough with the smooth Barbara but I really do think you had more of the rough this week. Here's hoping for better weather next week and for successful sauerkraut

  2. So glad that hurricane didn't hit our shores. Last I heard, it was a cat 4 and those are not very nice, lol. (Florida girl here).

    Man! If I was there, I would take an ugly cabbage! What is wrong with people? lololol. I know, they want pretty veggies. I would take whatever they have around here. :)

    Love your updates, weather and all. THANKS to both of you for what you do!

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Bobbi!
      I'm sure that as a Florida girl you've had more than your fair share of hurricane weather. When Isobel passed over the Valley, she was still a hurricane (cat one or two, can't remember) That was our only experience with winds like that since we are so far inland. (although the Derecho was scary in a different way)Our daughters will never forget that night, sitting in the dark, watching the living room walls vibrate in the wind. Scary!
      Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.