Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good-bye 2016

Good-bye 2016!

Now that the Market is finally over…and the year is drawing to a close…I can say this out loud.

2016 was not a good year.

Not for us. Not for anyone. I haven’t talked to a single soul who would argue with me over that statement. Although I have been hard pressed to figure out exactly why it was so hard for so many people.


Thank God it’s over.

I have never been so glad to see the end of something in my life!

For the first time ever, I really didn’t know if we could do it. And quite honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to…or even cared… And, it didn't seem like anyone else cared, either.

This year was flat out hard…grinding and relentless in its demands. While we made it through, there was no sense of accomplishment, no feelings of success.

Ordinarily at the end of the Market season, there is a sense of achievement and accomplishment.

Growing produce is a challenge. Direct Marketing is a challenge. But, we are quite good at both. And, we’re up for the challenge, we find it enjoyable and profitable, ordinarily. We generally spend the last few days of the year reviewing the past 12 months and giving thanks for the successes. 

But, this was no ordinary year. The end of the season had us feeling more than a little weary and worn. Joy and profitability were hard to find.

Although, I must say…our 2016 didn’t begin to compare with the horrific, tragic losses that I know others experienced. And, it didn’t count as one of our own "worst years". So, I feel bad in a way for even mentioning our struggles.

Because it wasn’t dealing with the complete brokenness of our hearts and dreams as we attempted to re-invent our life and make the farm a working entity, starting with a small bit of bare and barren landscape. (that would have been 1997) It wasn’t endless worry and stumbling to find our way as we began our tenure as market vendors (’98), and it certainly wasn’t the fear, stress, heartache and countless trips to the hospital after a drunken driver very nearly snatched our eldest daughter from us. (2010 was definitely the hardest year for the entire extended family) Looking back, I honestly don’t know how we made it through those years. I really don’t. And, while this year wasn’t quite like that, it was still difficult and all too often down-right discouraging.

But, no one really wants to hear you’re having a hard time. When someone asks you “how’s it going?” they really don’t want to hear bad news. When they ask if it’s a good growing year, they want the affirmative, not a laundry list of challenges in the garden.  

By the mere mention of the negative, you have broken some sort of conversational taboo. I was taught long ago that “how ya doin’?” should be always answered with a cheery FINE and a smile. Nothing more, nothing less. Those customers really just want their lettuce or eggs (or whatever), they don’t want to feel compelled to offer free counselling. More than once I’ve heard “you’re livin’ the dream, man”! It is expected that as entrepreneurs/farmers/vendors we should be happy, carefree and ceaselessly enthusiastic.

And, when that is not the case, it adds to the stress. It feels like failure. It seems like you’re whining. Things certainly can’t be all that bad...even when they are.

When you live where you work, you can never escape. Every time you walk outside, go to the barn, or down the hall, you see all the undone work, every uncompleted task calls your name. Those animals or crops that are not thriving serve as a reminder of your failings.  It also seems that when things start into a downward spiral, everything gets caught in the swirling mess that seems to be circling the drain. Giving up seems a very real option.

Yep, it was a hard season.

So, the end of the season brought no real sense of accomplishment, but rather a huge sigh of relief that it was finally over and that we were still somewhat intact as we dragged ourselves through to the end of the market. Which, despite the dismal sound, is truly a positive as I honestly had some serious doubts about our actual survival during the season.

But, if it wasn’t actually one of the worst years, what WAS the problem? Have we just grown weary after nearly twenty years of the same old, same old? Are WE just getting old? Do we need a break, a change? Maybe we’d just reached the end? The endless mental wranglings didn’t do much for my outlook. But, we needed to know so we didn't have to repeat the experience.

There were shifts in the Market that were concerning. The entire atmosphere of the Market seemed off somehow and other vendors noticed it as well. Customers were different. Buying patterns had changed. Early in the season, at least THREE people brought us the same article from the Washington Post about changes in Farmers Markets.  They wondered about our Market. And, honestly, we had already talked about these shifts in shopping. (more about this article/trend some other time). There was a sense of foreboding, worry and general unrest that cannot be completely attributed to the acrimonious election cycle (although, I can assure you that did nothing to quell any concerns or improve the atmosphere…and I have some serious concerns about the future). The weather patterns were weird and caused new and different issues.

The work that is usually pleasurable, the interaction that is generally a joy, the routine that while predictable and somewhat monotonous also grants comfort to our lives… all became a gigantic pain in the neck.

And, I mean that quite well as figuratively.

Because, that is probably where this all began.

With an actual pain in the neck.

During mid-winter the Boss contracted one of those “things” that was going around. It hung on and made him miserable. When he finally went to the doc, the prescription cleared up the infection, but left him still battling a pain in his neck.

It dragged on for what seemed like FOREVER until he made an appointment with a specialist to check out what had a slight potential to be a very scary issue. However, doctor’s appointments never happen instantaneously and another prolonged period of waiting ensued. All this time we tried to keep up with the jobs at hand, but when half the workforce doesn’t feel well, work slows down considerably. Between the worry and the discomfort, he really wasn’t a barrel of laughs either, dramatically affecting my own outlook and productivity.

But, somehow we endured. We even got most of our work done. Most, not all. But, it was hard. Our sense of purpose and joy was thwarted, if not altogether lost.

Long story, short. Several tests, a new prescription, (after much more waiting) he was feeling better. YAY!

However, by that point, I was afflicted with my own pain in the neck…(and you thought I was exaggerating) It had taken nearly six months to get my back injury from Thanksgiving completely healed and I was just thinking how nice it was to be pain-free…

So, my next little mishap added insult to injury…

I have never been known for being graceful and sure-footed, but I outdid myself this time. After watering the greenhouse, I went to put away the hose and found myself inextricably tangled.  In my vain attempt to extricate myself, I tripped, caught my bootlace on the big metal watering can, and got my foot stuck inside (yes, IN the watering can. NO, I'm not kidding, nor do I have any idea how that happened). Wild contortions followed as I lost my balance and struggled to keep from falling on my face. My efforts were completely unsuccessful and I landed with a thud in the middle of the backyard, as the watering can suddenly released my foot and the metal font landed on the back of my leg,  leaving a large crescent shaped bruise. At first I didn’t think I had injured myself (aside from the bruise that was growing larger by the minute), and all I could think was how that performance would have made me a "star" on America’s Funniest Videos and poor T-bone missed the video chance of a lifetime.

But, it didn’t feel very funny when I got up to walk. And by the next morning the pain in my neck had crossed from nuisance to excruciating. Ibuprofen, ice, all the old standbys were completely ineffective.

I realized I probably had whiplash in addition to my bruises and sore hands. My neck was incredibly sore and tight and my lower back had been twisted oddly. So, I guess I pulled a back muscle, maybe I tore something.  Whatever. All that mattered was I hurt all over and every step was a challenge. The painful reality far outweighed any humor in the situation.

As proof of that whole “head bone connected to the neck bone....” extending my arm was excruciating. The muscle running up the side/back of my neck hurt all the time. Any movement made it worse.  

Harvest involves a lot of reaching and pinching. So, picking (anything) became a serious PAIN IN THE NECK. Gardening was miserable. Walking had to be kept to a minimum. Even sitting at my desk hurt. And, forget any attempts to work on writing projects... You know it’s bad when you can’t even waste time on the internet without pain.

But, there were no outward signs. And, I was certain that any medical attention would include the words “rest” and the advice to “take it easy”.  I tried to envision a trip to the doctor...”you see, I fell over the hose and I think I have whiplash...” The mental picture was a more than a little amusing, but it hurt far too much to laugh.

However, the show must go on. We don’t have sick days or vacation. If we don’t do it, it simply does not get done. No work means no product. And, since the Boss wasn’t at 100%, he couldn’t pick up my slack. So, I did what I could before the pain had me trudging back to my icepack for relief. I kept thinking it would get better…

But, that couldn’t happen without REST and rest is an unheard-of luxury in the midst of the summer season. So we soldiered on, each enduring our own pain.

Some days it hurt to even breathe and I began to hate Fridays. Quite honestly, didn’t care if I ever saw another leaf of lettuce. And, I was becoming resentful of those customers who seemed to demand a steady supply of greens. (and I felt bad about this…really bad…but I certainly couldn’t tell them the whole sad tale)

After MONTHS of chiropractic visits I finally put most of the pain behind me. Notice I did say most…too much exertion and I was back looking for my icepacks. Recovery was slow at best and setbacks were recurrent. According to the chiropractor, there’s some sort of age-related degeneration in my neck meaning complete recovery is impossible and the threat of re-injury is a very real possibility.

Getting old just ain’t for sissies.  

An episode of chronic pain does weird things to your psyche. You find yourself thinking strange and dark things. You feel compelled to face options that would have never been considered in the past. All too often it’s difficult, nearly impossible to feel positive. And, with both of us spending more time feeling “off” than on this season, the issue was doubly difficult and super stressful.  Which led to more than a few painful and intense discussions of what the future may look like. Because being sustainable and staying in this game long-term is all about adjustment and evolution. It's up to us to make it work.

Part of me would like to claim that 2017 will be a great year. That we’ll meet the challenges and rise above our circumstances. That this year we will rock this whole entrepreneur/farm thing like no other. The other part of me knows that some days it’s all about survival and we must simply take it as it comes and see what happens next.

So, while other folks are making their resolutions and declarations for the New Year…I hesitate to make lots of promises and predictions. Sure, I would like to see us be successful and I can assure you that we will be giving 2017 our best shot. But, in reality there are just two things I can say with complete sincerity and utter certainty…

Giving up is not an option. (regardless of any pain(s) in the neck)


                                                 we need more ibuprofen!

Be Fierce...Be Brave
face the challenges of 2017 head-on



       Happy New Year, y'all!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 12-18

moon through the pines

One of these days, I’m going to have to keep a log of just how many times I check the weather forecast in a week. Particularly a winter week when we have off-farm plans and obligations. I’m fairly certain the number would be amazing. There are those who might even say I’m obsessive. But, I would point out that this is not without cause.

cold skies

While all the dramatic winter weather was supposed to miss us, the deep freeze and potential for precipitation was a real threat. And, as you will later see, the slightest chance, the smallest amount can present a challenge.

December morning

Despite the fact that mid-December is quite possibly the most boring time of year around here, we had several appointments and a late-week delivery that couldn’t be missed. So, the weather checks were not without cause.

even the cardinals looked cold

you know what they say about "red at morning"...

Winter Sales have been part of our lives (and income) since 2008. What started as a way to sell a few extra eggs has become a somewhat steady source of positive cash flow during the lean months of winter. Those lambs, chickens and veggies grown during the summer months are valuable commodities in the “off-season”. However, in order to generate cash flow, weather considerations are a constant source of concern, potentially impacting both harvest and delivery.

Winter sales items

Greens were planted in the hoophouses in September in hopes of having some sort of harvest during the winter months. You can read THIS. for a little more information about the hoophouses in winter.

this week's fresh offerings
salad mix, arugula and kale

While the plants will continue to grow (ever so slowly) during the cold, dark winter months, consideration must be given to the timing of the harvest. If the plants are still frozen, the leaves will not have a chance to revive and our customers will be left with a mushy mess of green stuff. Not to mention that frigid temperatures do nothing for my picking fingers.

cold weather brings out vibrant color

There is generally a small window of harvest opportunity, even on the coldest day, provided the sun is shining, and I set out to make the most of the opportunity, picking as quickly as my chilly fingers would allow. With bad weather looming, I got my harvesting done as early in the week as I possibly could.

The Boss had an appointment at the local hospital scheduled for very early morning in the middle of the week. Between the fasting and cleansing, the actual testing and some recovery time, his entire week was somehow impacted by this seemingly small test. On the positive side, everything went well and he is back to normal now.

Doing chores in the cold and the dark is not a lot of fun,
but this particular morning the sky was amazing

When we returned from the hospital, there were lots (and lots) of orders waiting. And, more than one person had expressed concerns over the weather. My obsessive weather checks continued and we formulated an alternative delivery plan, all the while hoping we wouldn’t have to implement it.

The next day he washed eggs and prepared for the predicted wintry weather, and I headed off for my own medical appointment.  I haven’t been feeling well for a long time and it’s time (past due, maybe) to get to feeling better.  

Years ago, we knew an old man who said (repeatedly) that he “didn’t mind getting old, but it was so inconvenient!” I’m here to tell you that I completely agree that it is truly inconvenient but quite honestly I DO mind...but, it does indeed beat the alternative. But, better days are supposedly up ahead, so we will keep plugging along, hoping for the best.

Appointments completed, dump run accomplished, wood box stacked high, alternative delivery schedule planned, we were ready for the weather. So, we waited.

before the storm

The forecast put the bulk of the bad weather just to the north of us. And, I hoped against hope that it would miss us entirely. It wasn’t like we could just skip the week due to weather. We had already accepted all these orders and we had a lot riding on this delivery. Nearly $800 worth of farm products were packed and waiting. Customers were counting on these goodies for their holiday meals. Our next planned delivery wasn’t for two weeks. Those beautiful, fresh greens wouldn’t wait that long.

Still we waited.

The precipitation didn’t arrive as early as predicted, so everything was still clear when we went to bed.

When I woke at 4:30, the first order of business was to look outside. I certainly couldn’t tell much, it was dark, wet, and the thermometer read 20*. (that couldn’t be good)  Ice shattered when I attempted to open the back door. But, there were no icicles hanging from the trees, so the whole freezing rain thing couldn’t have been a big deal, right?

A little later, Neighbor rolled down the lane in his big tractor. He maintains the local roads for the state during winter weather events, so I felt confident that we would be able to get out and get to town.
icy back door
never a good sign

However, we also knew that we had 20-30 other people who would be trying to get to town to meet us and we needed to consider their safety. What to do?

looks are deceiving
it's SLICK!

Once daylight arrived, we could get out and do chores and assess the situation. The back porch was really slippery. The gravel path to the barn was ice-covered. But, it didn’t seem too bad. There was the barest glaze of ice. Surely, it would melt soon. The Boss and I went our separate ways to feed the animals.

teeny, weeny icicles on the porch

When I got back to the house, the Boss greeted me with...”No way we’re getting to town. At least not any time soon...” He had walked to the top of the lane and found that it was like a sheet of glass. It was so slippery that he could barely stand. He made a call to Neighbor to get a check on the roads. The report wasn’t good. One of his trucks was in a ditch and another (and a firetruck) couldn’t make it past “hilltop” on Mbrk road. Neighbor used the word treacherous. To add insult to injury, his big tractor had developed two flat tires.  A check of social media revealed that the State police calling for folks to stay off the roads.  Not good. Not good at all.  (eventually there were reports of 100 vehicular incidents in just a couple of hours)  

The emails were piling up. Customers wanted to know what we were doing. I couldn’t blame them, WE wanted to know what we were doing. Our original plan was to make our delivery on Sunday afternoon. However, Sunday’s weather was supposed to be rainy and windy. Not breezy, mind you, but wind gusts up to 30 miles an hour. Not the kind of weather you wanted to ask people to come out in...fine farm produce or not.

The temperature was supposed to rise steadily all day, so we made plans to deliver after lunch. With fingers crossed, I sent out another email to apprise the customers of the new plan. With the exception of one missed email and one request to re-schedule, the alternative delivery was a success. The customers got their food and I can make a bank deposit.

All’s well that ends well.

But, I should take a moment here to thank all those kind souls who do business with us on a regular basis. I don’t know if our customer-friends realize just how much we appreciate them. And, not because they buy stuff. Many of them have been along with us since our earliest days of the Market. We have folks who are genuinely concerned about us, our family and our well-being. These are some special people and we are blessed to have them in our lives. Without them, we would not be able to survive. They make this whole venture possible and we are both humbled and grateful for their continued patronage and their kind words. In other words, our customers rock! Thanks y'all...from the bottom of my heart.

The weather continues to take us on a rollercoaster ride. Today I awoke to 53 degrees!

Sunday sunrise

Sunday breakfast
Which, I can assure you was far more pleasant than the 10 degrees for morning chores on Thursday. But, the beautiful sunrise quickly gave way to clouds and rain and gusty winds. It looks like a good day for a movie and a bowl of popcorn.

Remy isn't interested in popcorn or movies
rainy days are meant for napping

…and that’s all folks!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 12-11

This week doesn’t have an impressive list of accomplishments, actually there’s very little to show for our efforts, and the place still smells like skunk, but, we did it. We got through another week!

…and sometimes that is a major accomplishment.

It’s been one of those weeks where nothing went according to plan. And, I do mean nothing. I don’t think we got one farm-related task accomplished. No, wait. The Boss did get the part to repair the snowblower. (seriously, we are talking zero accomplishments)

I take that back
he got the henhouse "winterized"

The Boss always calls it STC when all plans go awry ...and just chuckles as he says “Subject to change, baby, it’s all subject to change!” he also reminds me that it happens all the time and I should be used to it. As a matter of fact it has happened so many times over the years that it could be said to be the story of our life. Which, it is, sort of. That is the working title of the memoir I keep saying I’m writing…

However, that is not the subject of this post.

I really should have known that things were going to take a turn for the unpredictable when the week started like this:

“Hey, do you think it smells weird out here?”

I pulled my head out of the feed can where I was attempting to capture the last few kernels of grain for the sheep’s breakfast and took a big ol’ whiff of good, country air.

 Now, cold, brisk mornings around here smell wonderful (usually), particularly after a rain. The air is fresh and crisp and there is a slight tinge of woodsmoke drifting up from the village as our neighbors warm their homes at the beginning of the day. Different species of wood have distinctive smells. Occasionally, if the wind is just right, I swear I’ve smelled pancakes and bacon. mmmm

But, the look on his face didn’t indicate a pleasant smell.

Beyond the molasses of the feed can, the slightly musty smell of hay and the scent of damp wool and sheep cud, I didn’t sense anything unusual. He headed off to the house.

On my way out of the barn, I thought I smelled something, but it was vague and I was intent on finishing chores and getting back to the warm, dry house.

Then it hit me. The distinctive scent of “polecat”....

Ewww, the acrid smell of skunk spray hung in the air. (if you have never had the pleasure, “eau du polecat” could be best described if you imagine cleaning out an ancient ashtray with equally old, stale coffee…and you used a bit of ammonia. Delightful, not!  If it is very fresh and very close, it catches in the back of your throat and you even taste it slightly as you breathe. Ugh) But, thankfully, it seemed fairly faint and faraway. Figuring the smell was wafting up from Mbrk road where skunks are squished with some regularity, I went inside and informed the Boss that the mysterious smell had been identified. And, then I promptly forgot the entire incident. 

It did seem slightly odd that neither of the dogs had been present at choretime. Ordinarily, they are making a nuisance of themselves, nosing our hands, looking to be petted prior to feeding. Although I could see them sleeping in the orchard, so I figured they had been on patrol all night and didn’t give them a great deal of thought.

But, what was that out there with them? Had Gus returned to his bad habit of eating plastic transplant trays? No...maybe it was a piece of firewood and he was starting “wood-henge” again.  Did you read  this one?

I think they were embarrassed...they certainly were a mess!
It wasn’t until I went out later for a walk that I realized the black thing in the orchard was a skunk. A very dead skunk. A very dead, very smelly skunk. The closer I got, the more apparent it became that this was the source of the morning “perfume”. And, it was far stinkier than we originally thought. Apparently the dogs’ elusiveness was due to their “slight embarrassment” of the fact that they were bloody and dirty (and more than a little smelly) from their nocturnal adventure.

Before he knew what happened, the Boss was volunteered for skunk removal.  Deciding how to best dispose of a dead skunk was something I simply couldn’t bring myself to face.  Even now, days later, the distinctive scent of polecat hangs in the air and surrounds at least one dog.

not only did they kill it
they LICKED it
WHY would anything lick a skunk?

So, with that out of the way, the week began in earnest. You would think it could only get better...right?

However, it didn’t get better, in some ways, it got considerably worse. For various reasons, I will skip the details. But, we muddled through the unexpected, unpredicted and downright crappy stuff, and we did indeed endure. I guess that’s the main thing.

We got to spend some time with our kids, too.  Which, while it wasn’t really the plan, did have its good moments.

ewes at sunrise
Both my daughters have been blessed with some amazing in-laws. When you can make a phonecall at 6:30 in the morning and have someone show up in mere minutes, you are blessed. When you have someone who will spend days balancing among the rafters in the dark and cold attic, rewiring your house, you are blessed. I have never had a support network like that. I am a just a bit jealous and more than a little impressed. I don’t know if they truly appreciate the gift that they have been given. But, I do. And, while it’s probably not my place to mention any of this...Vanessa...Wes...y’all are awesome!

Just when I thought I was done with the unexpected, a box of macaroni fell out of the pantry and “exploded” all over the kitchen. When the box hit the floor, the top popped open and elbow macaroni went everywhere. And, I do mean EVERYWHERE. Any other plans I may have had were on hold as I cleaned up the mess. And, since I was sweeping up noodles, I might as well clean/organize the pantry. Right? I mean, it looked like a disaster area and the door wouldn’t even shut correctly. I had been avoiding it for months. That unexpected job took me the entire morning. (I told you it was a disaster) But, the chickens enjoyed a feast of great variety...and the pantry door will once again close without difficulty. So, all’s well that ends well.

cattle graze near Sugarloaf

As I cleaned, I got to thinking about a conversation I had last weekend. While I waited for the Boss to complete his mad dash back to the hill to retrieve the forgotten eggs, I had the task of explaining the delay to the would-be egg customers. While they were all completely gracious and understanding, I found the entire situation extremely aggravating. As I discussed this with one customer-friend, she exclaimed...”I just can’t believe it. I never thought anything like that ever happened to you.  You all always seem to have it all together.”

And, I laughed and laughed.

Oh, my goodness. Have it together? Us? That’s truly hilarious. (my pantry disaster seemed to prove that point)

She seemed truly bewildered that I generally feel like we’re one step away from losing it entirely.

We started talking about perceptions. She’s known us for nearly twenty years and had apparently never seen the somewhat dis-organized, slightly frazzled us that is all too often a reality. She is not alone in her image of us, more than once someone has assumed that we are far different than I know us to be. And, I really can’t figure out why.

Is it because we (and I’m talking everybody here) try to put our best face forward? Is it the fault of Facebook and social media that it seems everyone else’s life is a highlight reel while we see only the bloopers and out-takes in our own lives? Or is it because we have been conditioned to keep things light and inconsequential? Are we just (as a society) really shallow?

 I honestly don’t know.

I mean there are the “keepin’ it real” posts that share some of the less than perfect parts of life. And, believe me, I’ve posted plenty of those. Admittedly, reporting my failures and vulnerabilities doesn’t come easy. But, from time to time, the harsh realities of this life need telling.

But, there are struggles I never discuss with anyone (except the Boss...and he’s a captive audience and has had to endure repetitions for years) so, while it may seem like we “have it all together” there are a lot of times when I am truly falling all apart. I have written numerous things, only to shy away from posting them because they sound a little too dark and/or a little too filled with despair and angst. 2016 has seen me struggling more and writing far less. I guess I’m still waiting for things to turn around so I can share an upbeat message rather than being a complete and utter “Debbie Downer”.

If anything, that conversation made me aware that there is a whole lot going on out there of which we are unaware. Of which we are ALL unaware.

And, now I’m not real sure how to close this post. So, I reckon I’ll go with…

Here’s hoping you’re having a

  Happy Sunday! 

 And, remind you...if you look hard enough, you can almost always find a positive...

here's what I found...some beautiful greens that seem to be holding up to the cold...onions for next season...and a beautiful sunrise...ENJOY!


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

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, 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!

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, 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 


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