Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 7-15

Not much happened here on the hill in the past 7 days. We’ve reached that point in the summer where it seems like we’re just going through the motions, getting through the day(s)…waiting for the rain.

Since we can’t do anything about the rain, more specifically the lack thereof, it’s best to keep focused on the things we can do.

One of those things was for the Boss to cut up the big cherry limb that had fallen along the property line during one of those rainstorms that are now dim and distant memories.

Now tree removal is not a generally priority job around here. For instance, out front you can still see the remains of a white pine that twisted off in the Derecho 6 years ago. And, it’s probably going to stay right there (at least for the foreseeable future)

However, as fate would have it, while the big limb missed falling on hoophouse #2,
from this angle it looks like a disaster...
it landed squarely in the middle of the alleyway leading to the back half of the farm.

not disastrous
but, it was a big mess
That meant that the lambs couldn’t get to the barn. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be an issue. But, the next lamb hauling date is fast approaching and since our last attempt at pasture loading was not one that we wished to repeat...ever...tree trimming made it to the top of the to-do list.

part of the broken tree

really glad the vine all over the tree was Virginia Creeper
and NOT poison ivy!

A little sidenote here…the wild cherry can be poisonous to livestock. The leaves can be consumed while they are green without incident. However, when the leaves are wilted, they release cyanide and have been known to be fatal to cattle, horses and other livestock. So, while it would have made the job easier to have the sheep do a little defoliating first, that would have been most unwise.
lambchops "on the hoof"
eating honeysuckle

But, before any tree trimming could happen, we needed a new chain for the chainsaw. Of course, that meant a quick trip to town. Which wasn’t so quick because the chain is an odd size and Lowe’s didn’t have it in stock. So, we headed off to another home improvement center in another town...

Mission accomplished. When we pulled in the driveway, the Boss exclaimed, “well, look at this!”  At first, I didn’t see what THIS was. There along the fence was a tiny fawn, trying desperately to escape us. No, wait…there were two fawns!

I only got one quick shot before it darted off

They were running frantically back and forth, crashing into each other and banging into the fence. Gus came galloping up to the top of the driveway to see what the commotion was. At the precise moment he reached the gate, one of the fawns shot through the woven wire fence (I told you they were tiny…the squares are just 4 inches square). I was certain we were going to see Gus have a meal of fresh venison… But, that tiny creature took one look at Gus lumbering toward him/her and sailed right over the fence into the front paddock! The other baby bolted out the driveway when I opened the car door, and that was the end of that excitement.

While I will be the first to agree that deer are beautiful (and I really didn’t want Gus to lunch on the fawn), I am not a “bambi lover” either. In this part of the world they are becoming a serious problem. They cause incredible amounts of crop damage, often carry disease that can affect livestock and are the source of countless vehicular incidents. (read about deer in VA)Co-existence is a big issue and the state has a lot of regulations for their control and management. I would call them a nuisance, but that term is reserved for other species.

Like the groundhog.

Which leads me to our next wildlife story of the week…

I could have sworn I heard the “weet!” of a whistle-pig (did you read this one?)  as I left for town on Monday morning, but I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. There were places to go and things to do before it got unbearably hot.

Gus wasn't paying attention at this point

With my errands completed and lunch finished, I was heading out to do some work in the garden when I noticed Karma staring intently at the tree in the back yard. Come to think of it, she had been focused on that tree since I got home. Suddenly, she started circling and barking and then she tried to “climb” the tree. At first I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary as I scanned the tree. 

all four feet off the ground

Wait…right there in the crotch of the tree…what’s that?
do YOU see it?

Karma had treed a groundhog!

Yay, Karma!
you picked the wrong tree groundhog!

Then, Gus decided he wanted in on the action and much hilarity ensued.

Gus tries to climb the tree 

Now, the only solution to the situation was to get the Boss (and his pistol) and have him dispatch the blasted creature. Please understand that groundhogs are considered a  nuisance species and the fewer of them around the better.

When the beast fell from the tree, Gus thought he had a prize. He grabbed it and ran off.

Not so fast, buddy! Karma worked a long time to get that groundhog (I’ll be willing to bet that it was in the tree when I left for town and I did indeed hear it whistle) so she wasn’t giving up without a fight. And, she was triumphant!

Not so fast, Gus!

She took her trophy off to the orchard where she enjoyed a little “groundhog al fresco”.  (I do hope that method of disposal met with all ordinances) Which, for the record, she did NOT share with Gus. He really needs to work on his speed if he wants to dine on wildlife. That was twice he missed out in the course of two days.
Karma wins in the end

Most of the time we’re not watching wildlife adventures and our life is pretty much the same old routine. And, that’s good. 

rows and rows of fall potatoes

you can't use rotten potatoes for seed

mowing in anticipation of planting potatoes
(see the dust cloud?)

the wax beans are ready!

planting potatoes is back-breaking

hilling potatoes

aphids on zucchini blossoms

time to move the broilers outside

catching the broilers
Karma and I stand guard for escapee broilers

Angus heard the lawnmower coming and wasn't taking any chances
he hid behind the tree until we left the broiler field

working the ewes

this might be the extent of the peach harvest

but, the tomatoes are looking GREAT!

But, it always surprises me when other people notice our predictability.

Wednesday morning, I got a phone call from the Post Office. The chicks were waiting for me. 

Picking up the chicks can be a daunting task. (okay, daunting may be too strong a word) You have to go to the back dock, where all the mail is delivered. Sometimes, it is chaotic with lots of big trucks coming and going, employees scurrying around, boxes flying through the air as the mail is sorted and sent off with the carriers.  All the signs say “NO unauthorized personnel past this point” might have something to do with the feeling that you really shouldn’t be there. The first time I went, I had no idea where to go or what to do. And, I couldn’t find any “authorized personnel” anywhere. I tentatively made my way inside, fully expecting to be reprimanded somewhere along the way.

But, that was a long time ago. I've been going to the Post Office on a monthly basis during the summer for years now. This time, I pulled up to the dock and walked through the door without giving it a second thought. I greeted a couple of employees before someone recognized me. He waved from across the sorting room.

“Oh, hey! Got your chicks right over there!”

We walked back to the dock, where the box of chicks was sitting on the holding rack. We talked for a few minutes and I headed back. “see ya next time!”
heading home with my little chickies

It wasn’t until I was nearly halfway home that I realized I hadn’t ever shown any identification or even said my name. Predictable…yep, that’s me.

putting another batch of broilers in the brooder

If that wasn’t evidence enough, after we made our all-too-often-dump-run, we stopped at our regular after-the-dump-run-lunch spot. The waiter greeted us with “Hey, guys!  I’ll be right there with your sweet tea!” I’m pretty sure he could have even placed our lunch order for us. (we may need to shake things up a little at some point)

But, that’s one of the great things about living in a small town. People know you. They remember you. They look out for you. And, while we have made some changes over the years, the knowledge that folks know and care make us feel good.

another pretty Market morning

And, that’s why lots of folks enjoy the Farmers’ Market. That feeling of community and connectivity makes Saturday Markets special. I know that's why I like it.  In many ways, the Market  is the highlight of our week. With National Farmers’ Market week fast approaching, I hope to write a few posts to commemorate our 20 years as vendors. 

pretty produce at the Market!
the peppers are from Ulmer's Mountain View Farm
and the gladiolas are from Flower Fields in Raphine

But, for now…

Have a Happy Sunday! 

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

...and know that we’re one day closer to rain.

another hot sunrise
on the hill

Want to "visit" the Market virtually? Click HERE.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 7-8




it's gonna be a scorcher

The past week or so has been miserably hot. Last week was the hottest on record all around the world, according to this article in the Washington Post.

steamy sunrise as ewes graze

Maybe we got soft after all the cool, wet days of early spring, but it felt like we were baking in our skins when we were out there working. The heat, in combination with the growing challenges and the continual stream of distressing news from across the nation and around the world, works on a body. I swear, you can feel your very soul shriveling with dehydration some days. The "dog days" of summer arrived early this year. 
heading out to graze on a sultry morning

It didn’t help to have Don Henley’s Cass County album in the CD player. His words echoing my very thoughts..(which quite honestly may have been seriously exaggerated…but, man it was hot!)

Something's different, something's changed
And I don't know what
Even the old folks can't recall
When it's ever been this hot and dry
Dust devils whirlin' on the first day of July
It's a hundred degrees at 10:00 AM
Not a cloud up in the sky

We hardly had a winter
Had about a week of spring
Crops are burned-up in the fields
There's a blanket of dust on everything
The weatherman is sayin'
That there ain't no change in sight
Lord, I've never been a prayin' man
But I'm sayin' one tonight

I'm prayin' for rain
I'm prayin' for rain
Lord, I ain't never asked for much
And I don't mean to complain
I'm prayin' for rain
Don Henley – Prayin’ for Rain – from the album Cass County –  listen here

the "dog days" of summer
have Karma melting

Did you ever wonder why we call them "the dog days"? I did, too. Here's what I found in the Old Farmer's Almanac:  

The phrase “Dog Days” conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding, so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event. Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: “Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.”

All that to say, the hard, physical work of farming is made even harder by the challenges and worries that dwell between our ears. Those things over which we have no control wear on our soul, and all we can do is hope, pray, or a little of both, that something will shift…that the rains will indeed come…and we will find the strength to move onward.

Because, even if it doesn’t rain, or the temperatures don’t break, there is still work to do.

Lots of work to do.
lambs to a new grazing spot

everything a lamb could dream of
...grass up to your eyeballs!

plowing the middle garden

Those vegetables don’t pick themselves. Nothing magically appears at the Market…it all requires a good deal of human effort.

Heat or no heat.

picking green beans
the most back-breaking harvest chore

We knew there was another load of hay in our future. (actually, there are several, but some can stay in storage for a while) So, it should have come as no surprise when there was a message from our hardworking hay-guy on Sunday afternoon. Arrangements were made to pick up the load on Tuesday.

Now we knew it would be hot. I mean HOT. As in “heat advisory” hot. But, if we went early…

hot hens getting a drink of water

It didn’t matter…it as already HOT at morning choretime. By the time we hooked up the hay wagon, you could see the heat and humidity shimmering in the very air.
no denying it
it's HOT!

I honestly didn’t know if we had it in us to get the enormous load off the wagon and stacked in the barn. However, we didn’t have much choice, it wasn’t going to stack itself. And, getting help just wasn’t happening this year.

In case you didn’t know…it’s hot up there on the top of that wagon. Unloading hay is a sweaty job. You don’t glow or glisten…you just flat out sweat. And, hayseeds and chaff are “no respecter of persons”. They end up in some mighty uncomfortable spots, stuck to all that sweat. And, while the Boss might argue that stacking is the harder/hotter proposition, it isn’t a contest anyone would want to win anyway.
a hot job

a new perspective

unloading hay

The hay stacked, the wagon returned, and the check delivered, it was time for the next thing…(the key is to keep moving, once you slow down, you run the very real risk of melting)
at the hay farm

Back in the garden, the squash we planted looked more than a little peaked after we finished. Running the irrigation only helps to a certain extent, so I took a bucket and gave each plant a little drink. And, despite an attack from another marauding skunk (?) who dug up a number of the plants, it looks like this planting will indeed survive.
poor little wilted plant

Apparently, everyone in the area is having some sort of challenges with squash this year. We have spoken with numerous folks who are having a wide variety of issues. not real sure what’s causing the problems…so we’ll just keep plugging away and trying to piece together the clues. (and get a few squash in the meantime) The rest of the garden seems to be doing well. So, there is that.

ready to haul broilers on a hot, hot day

Processing broilers seemed like a good activity for the fourth of July. This was off-schedule, but we were hoping to keep the birds from becoming quite as enormous as the last batch. Extremely large chickens seem to put off some customers, due in part to the pricetag. But, a lot of folks have no idea what to do with leftovers. (story for another time, no doubt)  Smaller birds would theoretically sell better and grant a slightly higher profit margin. 
We shall see…

All week we watched the storms go all around us. It seemed like everyone in the county must have been getting rain but us. (a quick survey of market vendors revealed that was not true) The skies were beautiful as the huge clouds built and the storms developed elsewhere. 

A few sky views from our trips to town...

The thunder was close enough to send Gus ducking for cover under the back porch, but there was nary a raindrop in sight.
Tess does not look thrilled to have to comfort such a "baby"!

It’s probably all sorts of evil to covet your neighbor’s rain, but that’s what I found I was doing. I was so hot. It was so dry. Oh, it only it would rain!

will it make it?

Finally, a small storm cell rolled right over us on Friday evening. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to break the heatwave and provide some much-needed moisture.

It was cool, almost chilly, as we loaded up for Market on Saturday morning. After the sweltering heat, we were so appreciative of the lovely weather. As an additional bonus, the sunrise was an amazing show of color and light.
first light

from the lamb paddock

Sugarloaf mountain at sunrise


the light show is ending

The change in weather was the talk of the Market. Which, despite the challenges that continue, ended with a most respectable sales total.

gorgeous Market morning

Back on the hill, there’s still work to do, but the change in weather brought a change of attitude. And the very real possibility of an afternoon on the front porch…just appreciating our beautiful surroundings---after the green beans get picked. So, here’s hoping the week ahead will be productive as well as pleasant.

front porch lilies at sunrise

Have a Happy Sunday! 

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

 Check out the Boss' Market photos!