Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-19


I am at a loss how to begin this post.

Because it’s mostly about THE END.

The end of the growing season.

The end of lambchop season.

The end of the Market season.

The end...
the end of the pretty roses

The end is generally bittersweet, but honestly, this year I am welcoming it.  THE END means we are done, free from the worries and pressures that go along with the season. And, maybe, just maybe, now that we have reached the end, we can take the chance to reflect, relax, and re-group during the off season that will give us the ability to face the future with a positive attitude.

the last pick-up
means we deliver some cookies to say
THANK YOU!



The end of the 2017 lambchop crop meant the meat was processed, packaged and ready for pick-up. So, we traveled to the northern end of the Valley to retrieve those last lambchops just in time for the last Market. That made it possible to have our personal best sales total for the final day of the Market! Now, considering the year we had...to set a record of any kind was just awesome. It felt so good to finish out such a difficult year on a high note. 

Thanks to all who made that possible!












frost on the gate at sunrise
Last week’s bitter cold spelled an end to pasture growth as well as the gardens. While it is possible to just let the gardens go once it gets cold, the sheep still need to eat. And since the Boss tends to be a bit of a hay-miser, figuring out where the ewes can graze for a while longer tends to be a bit of a challenge.
at first I couldn't figure out this strange pattern in the frosty grass...
aliens?

nope, sheep sleeping spots!
(you can even see where they had their "morning constitutional")

This year we decided to try something different.

setting up the new grazing paddock

Instead of mowing the backyard, the Boss let the ewes graze it. (they even fertilized!) I mean, if it was good enough for the White House, surely, it’s good enough for us on the hill.

grazing in the backyard


Did you know that President Wilson had sheep grazing on the White House lawn during World War I? I’m not kidding. Read this.  I’ve always thought that was a cool story and a great idea. A little bit of electro-net and the girls went to work “mowing”. In a couple of days, they have completely manicured the backyard. (although it is still a toss-up as to who is more startled when someone walks out the backdoor...us or the sheep)

They have nearly reached THE end of the grass and will be heading toward their Winter quarters once the Boss completes his annual barn-cleaning day early in the week.
while I'm on "light-duty" the Boss is feeding the sheep

While I guess that will mark the end of grazing season...we will then begin the countdown to Lambchop Crop 2018, because farm-life has no end. It is the very essence of the cycle of life.

Continuing on with our “end” theme... we can put an end to any type of worry or concern about my medical issues. When I went to the doc for my first follow-up visit (one more before I am cleared to return to all my “normal” activities) he read us the pathology report. Now, honestly I was a little concerned when he prefaced part of it with “don’t freak out”...but, there was cause for rejoicing in this month of thankfulness. There had been an area of complex atypical hyperplasia. Left untreated, this would have had a relatively good chance of turning into cancer. By taking it out, the potential threat comes to an end. (and so do any and all worries) The doctor was quite pleased that he had made the decision to remove everything while he had the opportunity. So, I feel better physically and emotionally.

The weekend meant it was time for the Market...and it is the END of the Market season. It's also the end of our TWENTIETH season as vendors. (I truly never imagined I would ever be able to say that!)
ready for the final market of the season

I know I answered the question, “so, are you glad it’s the end of the season?” about a thousand times. (okay...a hundred...) But, here goes one more time.

Yes, I AM glad to see the end of the Market season. And, I was particularly glad to see the end of yesterday’s Market. (I had no idea how tired and sore I would be after 5 hours of standing/selling) and, NO, we are not taking off for the beach or the islands...and NO, honestly, I do NOT want to find an indoor Market for the “off-season”. 

Although, the END of Market season isn’t really THE END of growing/selling either. Like the rest of this life, it is indeed a cycle. Seed catalogs have begun arriving, so it won’t be long before we’re back to planting. After a short break, we will be making deliveries to our Winter customers downtown just like we’ve done for the past 10 years.  Because farming is indeed all about the cycle of life.

And, the work will never end.


Gus and Tess
help with
morning chores



However, this is THE END of this post.

Thanks so much for reading!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

 
Gus at the end of the driveway
he's my walking companion


Come back and “visit” again real soon!


The Boss put together a video montage of photos throughout the season so that you can visit the Market virtually as well.



Friday, November 17, 2017

THE Year


“...this is gonna be THE year!”

I’m still not certain if that was indeed an affirmation of blessing on our endeavors or simply a “oh dear god, pull yourself together woman” type of plea...but, the Boss’ somewhat laughing proclamation still rings in my ears.

Now, that we are at the end of the Market season...for all intents and purposes, the end of our year...I find myself looking back at THE year through a slightly different lens.

Any amazing plans we may have had hit the skids when we heard that diagnosis back in March. To say that affected the Market season is a gross understatement. We were rocked to our very core.

And, from the Opening Day of Market season when I left the Boss at home recuperating from major surgery to the next-to-the-last Market when he headed out alone while I stayed behind recovering from my own, this year has been unlike any we have ever experienced.

Those personal-best totals of 2014 still remain unchallenged. That amazing production never materialized. And, any sense of accomplishment and success eluded us...replaced instead by the simple relief that we could indeed put this one in the history book.

So, while this year was in no way what we had planned, expected, or even hoped...

We survived. 

We managed to get to every single Market.

We endured.

And, this year that is sucess.

Because...

For every scary diagnosis and medical procedure, there was a positive outcome.

For every difficult day and worrisome experience, we found strength.

For every crop failure and growing challenge, all our needs were met.

We have enough.


                                            ...and we are grateful.

wisdom from Winnie the Pooh




Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-12



It was one of those week when the ticking of the clock got a little louder with each passing day.

As I have said before, there’s a choreography to keeping the farm running smoothly. If there is a mis-step anywhere along the way, the repercussions are far-reaching. This week was our one chance to keep things on schedule.
beautiful fall light...

is a fleeting thing...

much of the week looked like this



















With the last batch of lambs off to the processor, it was time to introduce the keeper ewe lambs to the grown ewe flock. And, in order to do that, Angus had to head to his solitary winter paddock out back. He had been hanging out with the ladies ever since he finished his one and only job. But, since we did NOT want to breed ewe lambs (or have any really late babies), he needed to move.
before he figured out the girls were gone


Before that could happen, we needed to make a run to the stockyard with two small lambs that weren’t  worth taking to the processor.

And, you thought I was kidding about choreography.

Remember the two sick lambs that I worried and worked over for what seemed like forever? Well, they did indeed survive. Although they never really thrived. Since the price for lamb processing is charged per head (not per pound like cattle and hogs) the lambs must be fairly large to warrant the $100 fee. These little guys were not at all large. They weren’t worth taking to the processor. They weren’t keeper quality. And, neither of us are fans of lawn ornaments.

So, off to the stockyard.

They should have gone weeks ago, but it just didn’t happen. It was now, or never.

It was obvious from the beginning that the job wasn’t going to be a pleasant one. It was raining. A bone-chilling, drenching rain. Handling sheep in the rain isn’t fun...they’re like smelly, soggy sponges. These lambs were also teeny, weeny (compared to what we generally haul) and one of them was losing half her wool (lambs often get “wool-break” after an illness) Honestly, they were an embarrassment.

at the stockyard


Pulling into the stockyard, with our little lambs, in the rain, among the big rigs, it was apparent that this was no ordinary Tuesday sale at the yard. Unbeknownst to us, it was the big bred heifer sale and there were cows everywhere. Big, black cows.

Now, if you ever want to feel out of place, introduce some dinky little lambs into a sale of mostly big, black Angus cows. Honestly, it would have been funny if it hadn’t made me feel so self-conscious.


There’s a real sense of animosity between some cattle farmers and shepherds. I really don’t know why, but some cattle farmers feel far superior to shepherds. And, lots of folks just cannot stand sheep.  I’ve known more than one farmer who has had derogatory things to say about sheep. “Range-maggots” and “no count” come to mind. Hauling our two dinky lambs into the stockyard in our hybrid dog-kennel/trailer didn’t do much for our “serious” farmer image either...

a couple of embarrassing specimens

A rainy day, a big sale, a bunch of big, jumpy cattle, some testy farmers...and we were both more than a little relieved to pull out of the stockyard minus the lambs.

With that adventure behind us, we were back to the hill trying to get the last of the items on the “to-do” list completed. We were working against a couple of deadlines...my upcoming surgery date, Market harvest...and the first blast of cold, COLD air. The weather forecast spelled an end of outdoor harvest, so it was going to be a race to get the last of the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage harvested before a hard freeze.

ewe flock grazing in the rain

But, it was still raining. So, we took advantage of the inclement weather and visited all the grandsons. (and their moms)
Grandpa finally got to hold Garrett!

It was 38* with a steady rain as I picked the broccoli. The cold temperature required coveralls. But they were soaking up the rain and slowing me down. It was like attempting to move through quicksand...very cold quicksand. The task seemed overwhelming. When the Boss finished cleaning/boxing eggs he came to help.
picking cauliflower on a cold, wet day

When all was said and done, we crammed over 100 pounds of cauliflower into the cooler from that one picking! (in addition to broccoli and cabbage)

heading to surgery





Then, it was finally here. The day of my surgery.

The day I had been both anticipating and dreading. Now, believe me, a Friday certainly wasn’t my first choice for a trip to the hospital. Friday has been harvest/prep day for Market for 20 years. And, we are nothing if not creatures of habit. (and missing the Market is never an option) But, that was the best date they had…and I needed to get the whole thing taken care of…pronto.

The surgery went well. The Doc told the Boss that the offending cyst was about the size of a softball. Yikes! Thanks to modern technology, I was back out of the hospital in about 5 hours.

I truly appreciate all the prayers, kind words and concern. I’m sore and tired...and it looks like I have four belly buttons, (I suppose you really didn't want or need to know that) but, I’m feeling good. The surgical site pain is actually less than what I had been enduring on a daily basis. That’s good news, to say the least. And, I will be fully recovered just in time for lambing season!

The weather forecast was right. The cold weather arrived with a vengeance and Friday night was frigid. The low here was 19*.

early morning light through the office window
I did make it outside to capture the sunrise

That meant that the Boss was in for a challenging Market day, all alone. Not only did he have to set up and sell our stuff, he still had all his managerial duties to perform. (I’m thinking that was my one and only “day off” from the Market...ever)

this probably wasn't fair of me...
all warm and toasty by the woodstove

icicle on the Market trailer


Cold weather makes everything at an open-air market difficult. Produce freezes, customers stay away, and it is nearly impossible to make change with cold fingers. This week there was the additional challenge of closed streets for the annual Veterans’ Day Parade. But, he prevailed.



And, that, my friends, was our week.













Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 


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


Oh, here’s a postscript to the “dinky lamb” story. We got over $100 for each of the lambs! (that will never compete with cattle prices, but, I’m happy)

the cold and the rain spelled the end for the gorgeous leaves in the backyard

Friday, November 10, 2017

This Life


I find I’m stymied when it comes to writing about gratitude.

WHAT am I grateful for?

It’s not that I cannot find a single thing...it’s that I am overwhelmed by subject matter.

Do I give thanks for my husband? He’s a pretty good guy and I like him a lot.

I've got some great kids...

...there are some really cute little guys in my life..


  

Those are the big things.

What about all the other stuff?

How ‘bout that tree outside the kitchen window? I love looking at that. Not only is it exquisite this year, I haven’t told you the story behind it...

Maybe it’s the fact that I can post this...there was a time when we didn’t even have internet service...

And, then it hit me.

I’m thankful for this life.

Now, I know LIFE itself is a gift. We should all give thanks for that. Although, some days it’s more than a little difficult to see the good stuff. But, I’m going to get a little more defined than that.

I am thankful for THIS life.

This life I lead is the thing that many dream of. Or, at least, they think they do. 

Doing what you want, when you want...

That’s what everyone wants, right?

To “live your life like Jose”
   ...better listen to Kenny Chesney - "The Life"  to understand that one or read this.  


But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret...THIS is NOT the life I would have chosen. Nope. I can assure you this isn’t the stuff of daydreams. And, while this is a good life I would never, ever, tell anybody that THIS should be their aspiration. The path that got us here was far too painful to wish on another human being.

If you had asked me twenty or thirty years ago what I would be doing now...it most certainly would NOT be THIS. This life can be hard on a good day and downright brutal on others. Today’s job of picking over 100# of cauliflower in a drenching drizzle at 38* fell somewhere in the middle. But, we are surrounded by life and beauty, and there is a major sense of pride and accomplishment in coaxing nourishment from the earth.

Quite honestly thought by this point in our life that things would be more stable and secure. I figured, if anything, the Boss would be retired and I would be doing volunteer work...maybe a member of the quilters’ guild...and our biggest challenge would be figuring out how to spend our free time with the grandkids.

However...

That all changed years ago.

But, I’ve done the abbreviated version of that story. Read it here.  And a blog post is not the place for a detailed version.

Suffice it to say, Life didn’t go according to plan.

But, then, does it ever?

It is the unexpected happenings that often bring the greatest joys. Certainly not in the moment of tragedy, despair and heartache.

It’s what we make of those experiences.

The truth is the heartbreak and devastation that I truly thought would destroy us turned out to be the greatest blessing. That “ending” was just the beginning.

But, the ability to see great blessings often means that we are challenging ourselves daily looking for a new and deeper perspective of the world that surrounds us. Some days that seems downright impossible. Some days I don’t want to look for the good in anything. I just want to sit here and feel sorry for myself that we lost so very much, and never achieved our dreams.

That takes us back to the perspective that I talked about last week. Did you read this?

The fact that we started over again from scratch in an unfamiliar place where we were alone and feeling vulnerable opened our eyes and our hearts to the struggles of others, developing our empathy in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had we continued on in our former life.

No money meant we had to get creative in a lot of areas. We have tried all sorts of ventures that never would have gotten the slightest consideration if income had been a sure thing. We learned countless things and met some amazing people who graciously helped us on our way.

The pursuit of income is what led us to the Market. And, our tenure at the Market has exposed us to people, things and ideas that we never would have experienced had we been following our original life trajectory.

And, in reality, we indeed live a life most only dream about. Charting our own course, making our own schedule and defining success on our terms. Our somewhat flexible schedule allows us to answer calls for assistance.  To bless and be blessed. The abundance of food can help those in need. We are far more involved with the world around us than we ever dreamed in our “other” life.

...and we are far richer (although the bank account does not back me up here) for all these experiences.

Even though there are things about our life that we might wish were different...(that whole Market set-up at 5AM on Saturday mornings for 20 years comes to mind)...

...we have been blessed.

This life is a gift.


And, I am grateful.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-5


You know, tension can be a good thing.

Under the right conditions, the stretching action, otherwise known as tension, can build body strength, create literary interest and be a useful tool for engineering. On the other hand, tension in human relations makes for some difficult times.

And, to say that we’ve been experiencing a bit of tension around here might be a major understatement...

Ever since July, we have been anticipating the Boss’ next post-cancer surgery MRI. The one that would tell if those things that “lit up” on the last one were of serious concern. If you missed that whole saga, read these. https://homesteadhillfarm.blogspot.com/2017/08/sunday-walkabout-8-6.html

In the meantime, we went through the motions. We got our farm and garden work done.

odd pink light at daybreak (no filter)


sheep on fall clean-up

what is this?
some sort of alien life form?

nope
Girlfriend found a patch of burdock

she's COVERED in it!

the other sheep seem perplexed 


We even took our annual “fieldtrip” over the mountain for a little leaf-peeping, local apples and the Boss’ “birthday lunch”.

pretty ride over the mountain

do you see why
a disabled tractor trailer closed down the whole road?

birthday lunch
at Wild Wolf

near Piney River

pretty red maple leaves


Rockfish Gap

more Rockfish Gap


But, all the while, the thought of that upcoming scan was lurking in the corners of our minds. But, not in our conversations.

He tends to go all “John Wayne” and shut down when he feels that his emotions might get the best of him. Me, I babble on and on, hoping there’s an answer or insight in the multitude of words. But, John Wayne was winning this one. We weren’t going to talk about anything that wasn’t positive. And, we couldn’t attempt any future plans.

So, we were at an impasse until he finally admitted just how nervous he was. Which didn’t happen until the day before the scan. He was incredibly anxious and trying to prepare himself for the worst.

That left me in the odd position of being the positive one, the voice of reason. Since we’d already faced getting scary news unexpectedly, I figured we had already run the emotional gamut. Surely, things would be all right. It was just a matter of faith, right?

But, then, there was the unsettling possibility that I was being overly optimistic. (and I hesitated to voice that concern) The impasse continued...the tension built.

Monday morning found us heading over the mountain in the dark once more. The boss silently driving, and me babbling. (trips over the mountain in the dark trigger memories of that awful night in ’10, and I talk even more...but, at least it was a distraction from the scary thoughts)

The trip over the mountain was uneventful. But, there had been a windstorm in the night that had knocked out power to the area. When we arrived, the imaging clinic was struggling to get everything back on-line. Numerous employees had been unable to make it to work, so the schedule was backed up. That left little time for the Boss to get some breakfast before we needed to be at the clinic for his appointment with the surgeon. (as you probably know, you aren’t allowed to eat before medical tests...hence the early morning appointment)

MRI scan completed, breakfast eaten, parking place secured, we were astonished when the elevator doors opened to a crowded waiting room. Since the clinic was running behind as well, we sat for quite a while. Tension began to build again.

When the doctor finally breezed in, it was immediately clear that the news was good. As a matter of fact, he was so confident in the good news that he scheduled the next scan for SIX months instead of three.

It was as if the weight of the world lifted from the Boss’ shoulders. His relief was visibly evident.

he didn't realize I photographed the moment of relief

That was a great birthday present!
(yes, the scan was indeed done on the Boss’ birthday---which just added to the tension)

Life has been pretty anti-climactic after that.

We received some much-needed rain.
rainy Sunday on birch leaves

bad weather moving through

after the rain

a closer look at the view above
3 white-tail deer out for a morning stroll

rainy leaves in the backyard

certainly looks like November


another day of rain!



We hauled the last load of lambs to the processor without incident or difficulty.

you never know what you might see on the interstate
this time...a one-legged skeleton on the back of a big rig!

The Boss harvested the last of the fall potatoes and got them stored in the reefer for winter sales. I realized that this is the first time in over 20 years that I have not played an integral part in potato harvest.  

And, I do love potato harvest!

(I’ll just have to wait for next year)

We’re down to just two more Market days for the season.

10-28 market

11-4 Market
SO glad for the upcoming the time change!
(it is TOO dark)


...so now we can be in count-down mode for my upcoming surgery. We had a second consult with the doctor to answer questions and allay fears. He makes it sound so easy. Now we’re just waiting for the hospital to call with the exact time. This time next week I should feel like a different woman. (here’s hopin’!)
last of morning glories behind the barn

If you missed it earlier in the week, I’m working on a series focusing on gratitude. Check it out here. here. Look for another post this Thursday.

Thanks for reading along.  And, a special thanks for all the love and prayers for the Boss!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

lots of "gumballs" on the gum tree up on the lane

Come back and “visit” us again real soon.

You can view the Boss’ Market shots here: