Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-17

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name…

Surely I am not the only one who remembers the Cheers theme song! (and I apologize if it is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about belonging…fitting in…having a tribe. This week it occurred to me just how much it means when people remember us. How we all yearn for that sense of belonging. And, how, after years of living in the same place, doing the same thing, I think we may have finally achieved that status.
MrB helped his dad deliver a load of firewood
he did a real good job backing him up

Since I am nothing if not predictable, the folks I see on my weekly rounds of errands through town are taken aback if I change up and show up on a different day. I have continuing conversations with the bank tellers and cashiers. And, I have even heard the guys at the feedstore question one another when my order is slightly different. Somehow, that makes me feel like others someone is looking out for me. (and that means a lot)

a visit to the hill isn't complete without a tractor ride
(thanks for the pic, Amanda!)
Tuesday, we loaded a bunch of lambs and headed up the Valley to drop them off for processing. The loading and the trip were both uneventful and quick. When we walked in the door after leaving the lambs in the holding pen out back, we were greeted warmly by the employees who were busily processing a huge beef behind the counter. After the manager reviewed our cutting instructions she said, “I’ll call ya next week. Thanks, hun!” It’s taken awhile, but we get that sense of belonging there, too.
penning lambs at processor
next time we see them they will be tasty lambchops

corn harvest is completed in the north end of the Valley

The next job on the docket involved the Boss crawling underneath the house and braving the spiderwebs to check on an issue that had “major problem” written all over it.

The water pressure here on the hill had seemed “off” lately. Ordinarily, it can be like opening a fire hydrant if you’re not careful when you turn on the outside faucets.

Earlier this year, we had found what looked like wool in the hoophouse irrigation system, but didn’t give it much thought as we were intent on getting the plants watered.

Then, the electric bill started getting higher and higher.

The Boss was worried that there was something seriously wrong with the well pump... now, he hates plumbing and the well is quite deep (380 feet---although the pump sits at 300 feet).

His trip to the cellar seemed to prove his theory.  This job was going to require an expert. Fortunately, the well man lives down in town. As a matter of fact, you can see his house from the barnyard.

A call was made.

“hey, Ben...Tom here”

“Well, hello, Tom! I heard you been sick. How you feelin’ now?   ...a problem with the well? Yeah, I can be there in an hour...”

(where everybody knows your name...)

Yes. The well pump did indeed need attention. The impeller had worn out. (remember that “wool” stuff we found? That was indeed the shredded impeller.) This caused the pump to run continuously as it attempted to come to full pressure, in turn causing the electric bill to skyrocket.

They would be back on Friday to fix the pump and shock the well.

In the meantime, it was back to business as usual.

captured kitty
The Boss became my hero when he trapped barn kitty, Tess, so I could take her to the vet for her much-delayed rabies shot. She is not a particularly nice cat, despite my best efforts ever since she was a teeny, tiny kitten. Did you read THIS?  She hisses and fights the other cats on a routine basis, and she’s been known to claw and bite humans, too. But, since she’s a good hunter and rabies shots are required by law, the trip to the vet was a necessity. Besides, she and Gus are best buds, so I wouldn’t want him to lose his only other animal-friend.
beautiful morning was pierced by caterwauling

She was howling so loudly about her imprisonment that I could hear her from the top of the hill as I opened the gate for the lambs. That didn’t bode too well for our trip, so I changed CD’s and turned the volume way up as we cruised the backroads to the vet clinic. If she was howling in the car, I couldn’t hear her over Brantley Gilbert.

We’ve been dealing with the same clinic for our entire time in the Valley. I’ve lost track of all the pets and farm animals we’ve taken in for care. Our ten-year adventure with home dairying meant we got to know some of the vets on a first name basis. It was great to walk in the door and be greeted by name. But, this time it struck me how much things have changed since the office manager passed away late last year. Everyone is still nice, they still take great care of our animals, but that personal touch is missing. And, seeing her picture on the wall, instead of being welcomed by her smiling face made me just a little bit sad.

we've had lots of heavy dew
but, could really use some rain

However, the cat got her shot and we returned to the hill, where she immediately went looking for Gus, demanding that he “pet” her as she wound herself between his legs. Later, they were seen napping in the driveway.

Gus seems slightly embarrassed by his new "best friend"

Since we were going to be without water on a FRIDAY (harvest day) I guess it’s a good thing that garden production has slowed to a snail’s pace, meaning we could get everything harvested before the well team arrived.
sunrise on well repair day

Between the weather, health issues, a major lack of enthusiasm, and some under-preforming crops, late season production is at what just might be an all-time low. Strike that. There’s no might be about it. Production is definitely at an all-time low. At this point, there’s no way to correct it this year. So, I guess we’ll just try to hang on until the end of the Market season in hopes that we can re-group and get back on track for 2018.

the last batch of broilers finally moved outside

Squash bugs and moisture spelled disaster for the winter squash

Sadly, this looks like the last of the tomato crop

But, potato blossoms mean the fall potatoes are almost ready!

The well job required that the Boss trim some trees and cut a hole in the fence. There was some complaining when he moved the sheep and relegated Gus to the garden. Remy kept a close eye on the proceedings from the office window.

Remy watching the proceedings

I took advantage of the “down-time” and worked on getting the farm books up to date. (I won’t even tell you how far behind I was) It always makes me feel a bit more organized when the filing is done and the checkbook is balanced. While I can’t say everything is current, it is close...and I can almost see the top of my desk again!
pulling the well pipe

The well job was completed in an amazingly short period of time and the water was back on by lunchtime. Although it smelled like chlorine (they have to “shock” the well after working on it to kill any nasties that might have gotten into the system) and didn’t taste at all like our good well water, there is a sense of relief when you open the tap and the water flows freely. After the chlorine did its job it was flushed from the system and now everything is back to “normal”.

While I can’t say I’m happy for the unexpected expense of the well repair, I am grateful that it is fixed. It means a lot to know that you can make a phonecall and help is on the way...within the hour.
(where everybody knows your name)

It doesn’t matter if production is down, what the weather is, or even if we feel like it...when Saturday rolls around, it’s time for Market.

it's starting to look like fall downtown

The market is the one place where I can try to do a little payback...where I can attempt to remember folks’ names, their concerns and interests and pass on the feeling of goodwill that I have experienced during the week.

...where everybody knows your name...

                      ...and they’re always glad that you came...

this cute guy stopped by to say HI!

That brings us to the end of another week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-10

This was one of those mildly frustrating weeks where it certainly felt like we accomplished absolutely nothing.

While this wasn’t exactly true, we did get some important things done. But, in all honesty, I cannot say it was one of our more productive weeks. It was a “holiday” week, which always confuses things (particularly since we don’t get any time off), the weather was uncooperative and we made a couple of trips to the hospital (scheduled tests, not to worry).
 a beautiful morning

moon over mbrk
In addition, we were keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, which at one point had the potential to seriously affect our plans for the upcoming week. So, while we completed all the essentials, it’s fair to say we were more than a little distracted.

we spent Labor Day processing broilers

As we watch Hurricane Irma pound the Florida Keys, and the images of vast destruction continue to come in from the islands, the powers of nature continue to astound, if not horrify, everyone.

Here in the Valley, we’re more than 200 miles from the nearest ocean beach. So, you wouldn’t expect that hurricanes would ever affect us. However, this is far from the truth. Recollections of the destruction caused by Camille, Agnes and Fran (just to name a few) linger in our collective memory. When the remnants of these storms hit the Valley, they caused massive flooding, mudslides and damage that was visible for years. Lives were changed forever and during Camille alone 113 people in Virginia died.

In 2003, hurricane Isabel passed directly over us while still a category 1 storm. (tiny by comparison to Irma) As we huddled in our living room in the middle of the night and watched by the exterior wall eerily swaying with the wind, I found myself wishing (perhaps out loud) for a basement. That was the only time I have had absolutely no appreciation for our little hilltop home. However, our experience pales in comparison to what the folks of Florida are facing. At this point, all we can do is watch and pray for family and friends facing the fury of Irma.

Irma is a storm of historic proportion

The storm is taking an odd track and it doesn’t look like it will impact our weather to any great degree. Early in the week, there were dire predictions of gale-force winds and torrential rains. Neither of which would be welcome at this time of year by any of the farmers in the area. It’s too early to do much harvesting and since much of the cropland is located in the low-lying areas, any flooding would be disastrous. Personally, we were facing the dilemma of potentially re-scheduling our lamb processing trip. (I wouldn’t want to attempt to haul a small loaded livestock trailer up the interstate during a hurricane! It's taxing enough in good weather to jockey around the tractor trailers and traffic jams) That could prove more of a logistical nightmare than you might imagine. Although, at this point, it looks like those concerns were misplaced.

Even though we weren’t facing hurricane preparations, the weather still played an enormous part in our week here on the hill.
chilly, cloudless morning

everything is wet

the last batch of broilers is still in the brooder
waiting for the potential storm to pass
(and getting fatter all the time)
spiderwebs are prolific

although when the sun does come out...

Numerous rains in the past week have interfered with everything. Nighttime temperatures have dropped considerably. This combination means that the mornings are very cool and damp. Not good gardening weather. Any warm weather crop production has slowed to a snail’s pace.
the tomatoes are looking pretty sad
(but, they still taste delicious!)
The end is nigh for the tomatoes and the cucumbers gave up the ghost some time ago. It’s time to bush-hog and till…and tuck some of the garden away for the season. Things are winding down.

keepin' it real
spent cukes have been overtaken by weeds

But, then…they can’t. Not exactly. There are weeks (and weeks) left before the Market closes for the season!

Providing a variety of produce up until Thanksgiving is going to be a challenge.

production has definitely slowed

I’ll be perfectly honest here. This has been a hard season.

Really hard.

We’ve had more than a few serious setbacks. And, going into the fall and the winter “off-season” things look far different (read, less certain) than they ever have. I don’t want to get all introspective and depressing here, but some things are going to have to change. I think we’re probably in for another shift in our evolution as a farm…and, no, I don’t know exactly what that means in the long-run.   
But, looks like a good butternut squash crop!

That being said, the Saturday Market was great! It was a beautiful day, we had some excellent entertainment and once it warmed up, the people came out in droves.

You can check out the Boss’ photos HERE.

I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

I felt bad for the customer who spilled all the cherry tomatoes...

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-3

Did you know that “Failure to pay full-time and attention” can get you a traffic ticket in the state of Virginia?  In some cases, you can end up paying a pretty hefty fine.

No, I didn’t get a ticket...but, I am indeed paying the consequences for my “failure to pay full-time and attention”.

We were just about ready to eat supper at the end of a most pleasant Sunday. The Boss was nearly finished grilling the lamb chops. It was time to mash the potatoes...

What happened next was rather unbelievable.

I made the move to take the pot of potatoes to the sink for draining (a move I have made thousands of times). But, I missed! I hit the little edge of the sink. The pot bounced backward. The water sloshed. I lost my grip. Instinctively, I raised my knee to stop the pot from falling on the floor. The boiling water hit my jeans. As my jeans absorbed the water, it burned my thigh. Screaming in pain, I dropped the pot, potatoes and water going everywhere.  I couldn’t peel my jeans away quickly enough. Ow OW OW OW OOOOOOWWWWW

And, just like that everything changed.

He finished supper while I sat on the edge of the bathtub, cold water cascading over the burn that ran from my kneecap to my upper thigh. Surely that would take care of it. Surely we could just eat supper and regain some semblance of a normal evening. (if you're wondering...yes, we did eat. Couldn't waste good lamb chops!) 

But, the water was only a temporary solution. As time went by, it became obvious that the burn was going to need some medical attention. 

Except. The burn couldn’t stand any cover. (except a cold, wet washcloth) that meant my only clothing option was my bathrobe. And flip flops. I tried not to think about what fashion statement I was making as we set off to urgent care. 
good thing we eat early
it was nearly closing time

When the receptionist queried, “do you need to be seen?”  I nearly lost my composure. I mean, I almost laughed out loud. And, then I got to wondering...just how many folks go traipsing into Urgent Care in Draft on a Sunday evening wearing their flip flops and bathrobe without a “need to be seen”? Do you think that happens? WHY would you go if you didn't have a "need to be seen"? At least there was a little humor in a most uncomfortable, slightly embarrassing situation.

this really hurts!

Everyone was very nice and assured me that stuff like this happened all the time. They put some blessedly cold ointment on it, bandaged me up, gave me a Rx for the pain and sent me on my way.


Have you ever tried to keep 5 tefla (non-stick) bandages in place when gravity is constantly working against you? Why doesn’t anyone tell you that re-usable, self-stick bandages lose their grip after about 3 applications? Or that gauze doesn’t retain its elasticity at all? Do you know just how large an area 27cm by 17cm is? Why aren't there more first-aid options? Did you know that you can’t drive, sit in a chair or even walk very well if your knee is bandaged? That hopping/limping makes you tired...and grumpy? (maybe that's just me) Are you aware of the pain that even a first-degree burn causes? 

I spent a good deal of time finding out the answers to those questions and a few more while I re-wrapped my bandage countless times…and took some more Tylenol. 

I didn’t get much else accomplished, I must say.

However, by Market morning, it had healed enough to use just two enormous band-aids (which thankfully stayed in place). So, I was barely limping. I could wear my jeans, instead of the shorts and rubber boots that had been my uniform for several days. (not a good look, but it was easy) And, with the exception of the one vendor-friend who we had seen early in the week and had heard my long, sad story...nobody even knew what happened. I really didn’t want to have to repeat that story countless times at the Market.

It’s been five years since the last time I ended up in Urgent Care because of a kitchen disaster. Did you read this one? And, it’s only the second time in nearly 35 years of nightly supper prep., so I guess that’s not too bad.  But, I can assure you, I will be paying more attention in the future! And, if you’re wondering…the big burn hurt far more than the knife wound.

The rest of the week was mercifully uneventful, albeit a bit soggy. 
the broccoli is beautiful

honeybee in a squash blossom on a rainy day

it rained so hard the lambs quit grazing
and headed for shelter under the trees

This was partly because it rained (a lot)…and partly because I was incapable of doing much, thus avoiding any further catastrophes. I did get some data entry work done and worked the tomatoes left from Market into pizza sauce.
ready to sauce tomatoes

saucing tomatoes

the finished product

We’re probably done canning for the season, so the Boss got all the jars stored on the shelves. One more job completed. YAY

nothing left of this marker
yes, that IS a peach pit
not sure how it got there
As you know, we are right in the middle of Project Lambchop 2018. This week it was time to change the marker color. We have had some frustrating issues with the markers. You can see what I’m talking about here.  The company changed brands and we have not been at all happy with the new crayons. They are supposed to be “all-weather” but they are soft and squishy even in cool weather. The high temperatures lately had them melting all over everything. One even fell apart after just one mount.
this isn't going to do any good!
That sent the Boss scrambling to find the old brand of markers that come from New Zealand. After a little online detective work, he found them. We didn’t have to order from New Zealand, and they arrived just in time to change colors. Good thing. NINE ewes were marked within 72 hours of the color change. If this “took”, the barn will be a hopping place come mid to late January. We won’t know for certain until later this month. Fingers crossed!
marked ewes

The arrival of meteorological autumn brought with it the remnants of Hurricane Harvey. This made for a soggy day of harvest and a fairly miserable Market. But, our weather woes are nothing compared to the conditions in and around Houston. 

The images coming out of Texas are unbelievable. Those folks are going to need a lot of help for a long time. Want to donate? Here’s a list of charities. Personally, I’m a fan of THIS ONE. (Everybody needs clean undies!)

A rainy Market is generally pretty miserable.
dreary, drizzly Market
 Time passes ever so slowly and it’s difficult to maintain a cheerful attitude when everything is dripping wet.
ready for sales

 And, this week was no exception. It was dark and dreary and the cold, drizzly rain soaked clear down to your bones.

puddle at Market

Customer traffic was quite light until late in the morning by which time all the vendors were anxious to go home, get dry and quite possibly take a nap. Despite the lack of music (water doesn’t do expensive instruments and equipment any good at all) and diminished sales, we did have some interesting conversations and a relatively good day. And, that cup of coffee when we got home tasted especially good!

my spin on ratatouille
made with leftovers from the Market 

…and that was our week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

if a four-leaf clover is LUCKY
what is a FIVE-leaf clover?

Thanks for stopping by.

Come “visit” again real soon.