Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 4-30

sunrise after the rain

If there was any sort of theme to this week, I guess it would have to be “one step forward…two steps back” and, like the song says...”nobody gets too far like that...”   (listen here) 

Every time I’d start thinking I was making a little headway, that things were turning around...there would be something to indicate otherwise...

However, there’s no way around the current situation...just through it. And, although I have had multiple meltdowns this week and more than a few things have gone wrong (way wrong) we’re getting there...I guess.

Monday started all too early doing chores in the rain so the Boss and I could head over the mountain to Cville for his follow-up appointment with the surgeon. After four weeks, he’s healing well and has been given the green light to start returning to “normal” activities on May 8th. And, yes, “normal” is in quotes. Because, after a major surgery and six weeks of forced inactivity, the word is going to have be re-defined. Even if it is for a short while. (and I’m writing that as a reminder to the Boss) The challenge now will be to get his strength and stamina back.

The healing of the big incision is the last obvious hurdle, leaving us in a “wait and see” mode. Since the liver regenerates, creating new tissue all the time, radiation and/or chemo are not general treatment options as either could potentially affect the cells forming the new tissue in an adverse way. So, that leaves close monitoring as the real choice. The Boss will head back for an MRI every four months for the next two years. At that point, if everything remains clear, the time between scans will be lengthened. But, he will remain under watch and care for 5 years.  While it may seem that he “got lucky” because he doesn’t have to do chemo or radiation, this saga isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. We don’t know (and will never know) what caused this issue. And, there is no sure way to avoid it in the future. I’m afraid it will hang like a specter, hovering at the edges of everything we do. But, again...no way around it...just through it.


So...

Onward.

my #1 sheep helper
Blondie came by Monday afternoon to help me work the sheep (again). We really needed to wean the lambs. This allows the mamas to recover some of their body condition prior to shearing. (good body condition is imperative to a good breeding season in August) And, it would allow us to have two separate groups grazing the abundant grass…because any more mowing is not an option.

But, it was raining. I mean really raining. That kind of cold, soaking rain that leaves you just wanting to curl up and nap somewhere. However, there was no time for napping.
MrB was NOT impressed with the lamb pen
(for the record, the lambs were NOT impressed with him...
thanks to Grandpa for taking him for a ride and an eventual nap)


We planned to sort the ewes out, de-worm them and run them out back. That part of the plan almost worked. Except for one ewe that ran through the chute with such force that she didn’t get any treatment. And, of course, it was the one ewe who really needed treatment. Rather than attempt to round them all up, I just made a mental note to treat her later by myself. (and, yes, I did remember)
MUD is a challenge

Then, there was one lamb that needed a little more attention than the others.

Ordinarily, we band-castrate all the ram lambs when they are about one month old. Occasionally, for one reason or another, (I will spare you the details) they aren’t ready and we have to wait. No problem, make a note and get them next time.

Except that somehow one got overlooked. Twice. So, now he wasn’t so small and it was going to be a little more difficult to complete the job. No problem. Blondie could help me.

Except.

Somehow he got by me and I didn’t even notice. I dosed everyone with the anthelmintic (de-wormer) only to realize I never completed the one job I set out to do. **sigh…**(and, yes, a little bit of swearing)
...don't mess with mama...

The lambs were wet and the barnyard was a slippery, sloppy mess and I had already caught one lamb in what became an all-out rodeo deal, and they were all beginning to stress as they realized the separation was permanent. So we decided to skip any further excitement.

But, that lamb really needed attention.

A quick lesson in shepherding. (skip ahead a couple of paragraphs if you find sheep biology disturbing) We don’t leave the male animals “intact” for several management reasons. At about 6 months, rams can get aggressive toward one another (and the shepherd) and can cause serious injury. There is also the chance of un-planned pregnancy in the young animals which can lead to a host of new issues. The entire flock is calmer and grows better without the issues caused by raging testosterone levels. (some folks say it affects the taste of the final meat product, too). To band-castrate, we use a tool that places what is essentially a small, industrial-strength rubber band around the scrotum, cutting off the blood supply. It’s relatively quick and easy. Eventually, the entire thing falls off. (For those who are concerned…yes, we do address the possibility of infection and disease….and potential pain issues.)

I realize this sounds gross. (and I reckon it actually is) but, it’s one of those farm chores that has to be done, so we steel ourselves and do it.

Except when it gets overlooked. Twice.

I finally decided that no amount of rain and mud was going to stop me. And, help or no help, it HAD to be done. I figured I could just push the lamb up next to the fence, pop the band on and go on about my day.

A slight oversimplification. The lamb was bigger than I had imagined. Meaning that the part that needed my attention was also (much) bigger than I imagined. Eeks! Long story short, I caught that 70-pound lamb by his back foot, rolled him on his back, and took care of business...in the muck and pouring rain without hurting him or myself. Yes!

I must admit, weird as it may sound, I am pretty proud of that feat.
I DID IT!


With that job out of the way, (finally) and the end of the rain (finally) it was time to get back on the mower again...

But, not before I potted up all the tomato plants.

"potting-up" tomato plants
By “potting-up” we allow the plants to increase their root mass and have healthier, sturdier transplants for the garden. And, despite the fact that it does indeed feel like July...those tomato plants have about another month before they go into the garden. Tomatoes are indeed a tropical plant and we learned long ago that it is better to wait rather than have to dig them up in the middle of the night by the light of a flashlight because the temperatures are supposed to dip to unexpected lows. (yep, been there and done that!)
finished project
waiting to go in the garden


After four days of rain, it was far too wet to work outside, so I finally got to the hoophouse. YAY!
Part of what is making this entire situation so hard is the continual explaining of our lack of greens at the Market. Ordinarily, we have lots of greens for the early season market. LOTS of greens.
But, between the rat issue earlier in the year and the Boss’ surgery...the only thing growing in the hoophouse is a bumper crop of weeds. Verdant, abundant WEEDS.

It is no exaggeration to say that it felt great to get to work...the new electric tiller worked like a champ. I tilled and irrigated and planted. I was rollin’...

irrigation tape



one small oops while tilling

planting

baby chard


It was beginning to feel like I had a handle on this whole deal…
not up to usual standards...
but, getting there

The next day, the sun came out. It was a beautiful day.

...except...

I didn’t even think about the problems of a beautiful sunny day.


I was mowing along when all of a sudden, the thought struck...

The hoophouse!

(the sides were down because of the previous day’s torrential rains)

And, with the sides down in the beautiful sunshine...it was getting hotter and hotter.

My baby plants were cooking in the heat.
after watering, it still looks "melted"


All that work...

(about now is where I had one of many personal melt-downs)

With some emergency watering, a complete crisis was averted. There was some loss, but it wasn’t the total devastation I originally feared.
some of it survived

In hopes of preventing more plant cooking (and personal melt-downs), I figured we could put the shadecloth on the hoophouse. I could do a fair amount of the work, if the Boss could come out and advise and tie knots.

Except.

When I went to get the shadecloth, I noticed it looked kind of weird. Like something had been digging in it...? no. wait. Something had been EATING it. Rats. Literally, RATS. Apparently, rats had gotten into the closed, locked building and made a nest all through the shadecloth, tearing holes and pooping all over both pieces of fabric. (over $500 worth)
destroyed shadecloth


Hoping we could use it despite the holes, I pulled it out of storage. Only to find that there were far more holes than we first thought. And, now there are small bits of black nylon shadecloth all over the place. (giving me another clean-up job)
bits of cloth

The Boss said NO problem.  He’d handle it. Just call the supply company.

Except.

He couldn’t get any for about 3 weeks. Well, that wouldn’t help.

Okay. Order online. This company is quick…no problem.

Until the confirmation email came…you guessed it.

Shipping would be in 2 to 3 weeks.

At that point, the weather forecast was saying near 90 degrees for the weekend, dooming my lettuce for certain. It was time for action.

The Boss thought a big tarp might work.
looks like he's having a few doubts about this project...

Except.

Our “big” tarp wasn’t all that big. Guess it’s time for a trip to town.

Oh...argh. these blasted rats are costing us a fortune!

While he drove, I searched on-line. Thankfully, Lowe’s had something that would work. A short time later and hoophouse #1 is adorned in a big, blue tarp. Not the best solution (too small and too dark) but, at least the work I’ve done will have a fighting chance until the shadecloth arrives.
shady hoophouse

Definitely one step forward…two steps back…

During the weaning process, it’s not unusual to hear lambs screaming (as a matter of fact, we should probably post some sort of warning for the entire community) But, when I heard a lamb yelling when I stopped at the gate, I knew we had a bigger problem. Someone was stuck in the fence! For three days, I pulled stuck lambs out of various fences. And, the Boss questioned my ability to hook up the electric fence. Finally, he realized that there was a break in the wire and there was no voltage on the fence. A quick fix and no more stuck lambs!

she's stuck

...and he's stuck

apparently she's not happy to be "free"



We found time for a clean-up job, a few repairs and a trip to the dump (with its requisite lunch in town). He keeps telling me we’re not running THAT far behind…

all the rain caused the gate to shift
now it won't latch


"if you just turn the wrench this way..."

...and the gate is fixed

hooking up the irrigation timer 


electric fence connector

heavy fence tool gets me a lesson in fence repair

it doesn't matter how sick you are
how hurt you are
if there's fire involved
you are there!



After a week that caused more than one mental/emotional/spiritual melt-down, frankly the Market was the last place I wanted to go. There is no escaping “the story” during the Market…and the overwhelming urge to cry that goes along with it. The Boss thinks that when I say it’s hard I am referring to the endless work that this place requires…nah, I got that. I never met a job I couldn’t do (at least to some degree)

…except weed-whacking...

But, there’s far more than physical work required by the current situation. It seems like it’s time to do some assessment and analysis and perhaps re-evaluate a number of things. However, every time I attempt it, I find myself in an existential quandary, somewhat defeated and completely overwhelmed.

I’ll be perfectly honest here…I’m seriously not lovin’ the Market lately.

It’s just been hard. Sales are down because we simply don’t have the produce for sale. We don’t have the produce because there are not enough hours in the day for one person to do everything. And, a whole lot of people just don’t get this. More than once I have started seeds only to watch them get overgrown and die in the flats because I can’t get them planted in the hoophouse. And, while I truly appreciate all the offers of help, to attempt to coordinate helpers, the weather, the Boss’ needs and concerns along with my own abilities becomes even more overwhelming. It can be excruciating to repeat “the story” and give countless updates, partly because there is no escaping the fact that we’re probably never returning to our “normal” life ever again.

But, like it or not, the Market is what we do.

And, if I had missed the Market, I would have missed an amazing encounter.

Upon my return to our stand, I saw the Boss involved in conversation with a couple I didn’t recognize. They introduced themselves as Anne and Jim from Georgia. Such gracious, kind people!
But, they weren’t just your ordinary tourists passing through town. They wanted to meet US. They read the farm blog on a regular basis and planned their trip so they could come visit US. Now, that is special!

They read the Weaver of Grass  Click here to read., a blog about life on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales. I have followed this blog for a while and the author follows me as well. One blog led to another…and that led to Anne and Jim at the Staunton Farmers’ Market! It is indeed a small world.
Anne and Jim visit us at the Market 4-29

I want to thank Anne and Jim here for their visit. (and the gift) I should have gotten an address (please email me!) but “market brain” struck and it didn’t occur to me until they were well on their way again.

Thank you for your kindness and concern. Thank you for making the effort to find us and encourage us along this journey. I am not sure I can ever communicate to you how very special it was to meet you and how your kindness touched me. Thank you doesn’t seem nearly enough, but I can assure you it is from the bottom of my heart. Please keep in touch!

And, on that note…it’s time to close for the week.

I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 



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






Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 4-23

damp dandelion

If there is any truth to “April showers bring May flowers…”

I may be wishing I was a flower farmer come next month.

We have had some sort of rain every day this week. Not that I am complaining (it has been very dry and we really need the moisture) …however, the timing of said precipitation caused a whole lot more juggling of the work schedule and some serious sogginess for Saturday’s Market.

This time of year, any sort of moisture makes the grass grow. Which is a great thing in the pastures and hayfields. In the gardens and the front yard…not so much. So, while I realized it was Sunday…and EASTER Sunday no less, I spent the day mowing and mowing and mowing. Because, you guessed it. It was supposed to rain.

While I am still not a fan of lawnmowers, and mowing is one job I will be more than happy for the Boss to resume, at least you don’t need a machete to hack your way through the grass around here. Well, for the time being, more rain means more grass growth which means…good grief…I need to mow…AGAIN! (thankfully it’s raining-again-so no lawn mowing today)

heading out to set up fence
Since we use the sheep to harvest most of the grass, it was imperative to get them up on “raspberry hill”. This is a section where we use temporary fencing, so a little early morning set-up was required. I guess I should also explain that “raspberry hill” used to be the home of our bramble patch. And, although it hasn’t seen a raspberry in many a year, the name remains and we both know exactly where we are talking about. So I guess we’ll keep calling it that (and explaining it every once in a while).
ewes giving "advice"

Some of the older ewes knew precisely what I was doing when I headed out with the roll of electro-net. They stood at the fence and made comments the entire time. I’m not sure if they were trying to encourage me, or telling me to hurry. Then, the Boss arrived on the scene to give a few pointers. While I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining (after saying that the lack of teamwork was lonely last week) but, it’s kind of being back in driving school all over again.  …“a little more to the left”, “give it some gas”, “not right there”…I know it’s a sign he’s feeling better, so I’m trying to be understanding.
checking out the fence job


With the fence up, it was just a matter of opening the gate and letting the flock head to the promised land of lush and lovely grass. Right? Well…most of the flock got the memo. The ewes knew exactly what that opened gate meant. However, a good number of the lambs ran right by the opened gate and all the way to the barn. Then, they stood at the barn and hollered because they couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t any food, and where their mothers were. Finally, they got with the program and everyone was grazing in the right place. That beautiful grass is now but a memory and they’ve been moved on to greener pastures.


Then, we processed the first batch of broilers on Tuesday. Since, the Boss still can’t lift anything, the girls came home to help the old folks with that farm chore. I had all the broilers captured and crated by the time they got here and they helped put the crates on the tractor hauler and we got the job underway. We hadn’t processed broilers together as a family in nearly 10 years, but they were quite gracious in their handling of the Boss’ constant supervision and we got the job done in record time.
With that job completed, it was time to move the second batch of broilers so we could be ready for the third batch of broilers… 

family broiler processing

To keep a constant supply of chicken, we have the entire process somewhat choreographed, following the same steps month after month, year after year. Here, read this post from 2012. http://homesteadhillfarm.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-week-of-broiler.html (things are pretty much still the same)

But, while I was working on readying the outside broiler pen, my phone rang.

You guessed it. The post office was calling to report that the chicks were at the Staunton office ready for my arrival. He could send them to Mbrk, but he had no idea when they would arrive.  But, if I wanted to come get them myself, they would hold them. So…off I went.
it occurred to me that this is NOT
what other people think of when you say
"road-trip with some chicks"


Can I just say here that cell phones are great…? I would have missed that call for hours if the postal employee had called the house. But, I think I need a special noise filter. It’s really hard to hear over the odd and random farm sounds. It’s kind of like "old MacDonald’s" around here (with a cluck-cluck here and a baa-baa there) This time the sheep were complaining insistently in the background. And, almost every time the doctor’s office calls to check on the Boss in the afternoons…I have been in the henhouse gathering eggs. And, if you think sheep are loud…you should hear those hens! (I wonder what the person on the other end hears…and more importantly what they think!)

After my little excursion to town, I got back to the business of moving the broilers. (in the rain)  And, the brooder needed cleaning before the babies could move in. So, they spent the night in the chickie-pool in the shop.










Eventually, we got all the broilers situated. Batch #1 is in the freezer. (I will leave that to your imagination) Batch #2 is in the field. 
settling in the field pen
Batch #3 is tucked in the brooder. 
#3 batch

warm and cozy


It’s just a matter of maintenance for the next couple weeks until we do it all again. Life IS a dance.



Since we’re still trying to keep things somewhat on schedule, I moved all the brassicas out into the big trailer in the backyard so they can “harden off”. This just means that they are exposed to the elements (in a somewhat controlled environment), allowing them to develop strong stems before they are planted in the garden.

But,their garden home hadn’t gotten any sort of preparation, so Tbone was going to take care of tilling over the weekend. …but…once again, the weather…

The Boss put in a call to our great neighbor, who apparently dropped everything, and came over and tilled the middle garden for us in short order. Thanks, Dale!

With the garden tilled and the plants readied, you can guess what’s on the agenda for the upcoming week. That is…if it stops raining.

This is one garden tool I'm excited about!
I think I will call it "Shrek"







In hopes of finally getting the hoophouses under control,  the Boss got me checked out on the new electric tiller we bought specifically for hoophouse work. Not only is it a little more “green” (literally and figuratively) we won’t have gas fumes to contend with in the somewhat close environment of the hoophouse. And, it starts SO much easier than the old one. Now, maybe I can get something planted in the hoophouse! (I’ve been trying, customers…I have been trying!) The rain won’t hinder my working in the hoophouses, I just need to find some TIME.


On one of the only dry afternoons during the week, I did find the time to weed the garlic. It won’t be too long before the scapes are ready to harvest (that means the bulbs won’t be too far behind). As the bulbs grow, it is imperative that they have good air circulation to keep them healthy. So, a good weeding was in order…and the hens enjoyed the green stuff.

lots of ladybugs in the garlic patch
I was surprised to find great numbers of ladybugs in various stages of development. I like ladybugs, they’re so bright and cheery-looking. Plus, they eat aphids…so, go ladybugs!  Yay, one more job was crossed off the “to-do” list! (and, I didn’t get wet)











Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the Market…

6am rain at Market
Rain at the Market is never a good thing. So, a downpour at 6am certainly seemed some sort of bad omen.















But, despite the deluge…the day went much better than either of us expected. Although, it felt incredibly good to get home and put on warm, dry clothes!
set up in "rain-mode"
some days I seriously question our chosen profession 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Our week ended with a double birthday supper for Blondie and Tbone since they share a birthday month. I think everyone had a good time. It’s always enjoyable to have the whole gang here for a while.


















her favorite place to watch TV has always been the floor
But, who would have imagined she'd have little guys sitting on her?
SO cute!
Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

 
apple blossom at sunset


Thanks for stopping by…. hope you’ll “visit” us again real soon.



Are you keeping up with the Boss' Market shots?