Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Sunday Walkabout 3-31

You know, when I decided to limit my farm blog entries to once a month, I thought it would free up lots of time and mental space, allowing me to focus on writing other things.


I was wrong.

While the time I would have spent focused on composing, editing photos and posting those blogs has become free, no “other writing” has magically happened. 

As a matter of fact, it’s a struggle to write. At all. I spent most of the winter, all that precious “off-season”, trapped in a sense of limbo. Waiting, waiting for resolution for a number of things. After months and months (literally) of waiting, we finally got an appointment with a rheumatologist to determine the source of my oft-debilitating pain and exhaustion.

Did you know that 2 – 8% of the population suffers from the chronic pain condition called fibromyalgia?  That’s about 5 million people in the US.  I guess that’s 5 million plus one, as I finally received my diagnosis. Reading through the symptoms, it shouldn’t have been unexpected. I am at best, a poster-child for the disorder, the embodiment of almost every possible symptom.  In some ways, it seems like a rather vague, “catch-all” diagnosis that some people don’t even acknowledge as real. Finding a suitable treatment seems every bit as vague and somewhat daunting. But, at least I know that there is an explanation for my symptoms. It’s most definitely not “in my head” or something I am imagining or exaggerating. Honestly, that long-awaited doctor visit (it took over 3 months to see that one doctor) was one of the most validating experiences of my life. And, ironically, it opens a whole host of subjects for future blog posts. (assuming I have the energy and focus to write)

But, since you’re here to read about the farm and find out what’s been happening here on the hill, let’s get on with that.
HOME on the hill

I’m pretty sure I could just substitute some bits and pieces from past March blog posts and no one would ever know. Yes, life here on the hill is truly that repetitive and predictable and this March 24 marked our 22nd year as owners. Surely, you read THIS ONE. So, while I am a complete supporter of “constancy” (you should really read this article) and I appreciate the rhythm of the seasons, it does indeed make for a challenge when it comes to writing interesting copy, particularly after so many seasons of "the same old, same old."

Although, there are always a few unexpected things...
Karma got a 'possum
(it took the Boss two days to get it away from her)
Neighbor was hoping to work on clearing the creek
but, found it was far too WET...

had to get his bulldozer to pull it out!
the Boss gave a hand
(you know what they say about "boys and their toys")
Tess turned the boot-scraper into a bed

I saw a muskrat carrying a bunch of grass to its home upstream
these weird tracks aren't crop circles
it was finally dry enough to seed the unused garden spot
I admit it
I freaked out a little when a skunk followed me on my trip to the mailbox!


March is a time of transition.

It seems that man, woman and beast are all impatiently waiting for the growing season.  Chicks arrive, chicks go outside, seeds arrive, seeds get started. We pick up seed potatoes and onion sets. The “hungry time” of late Spring means the sheep can sense the grass growing somewhere, just out of reach. We can’t allow them free access, or it would stunt the growth for the rest of the season. So, we make one last trip to the hay guy’s stockpile to have enough to make it to that blessed day when the sheep return to pasture. Trees and flowers begin to blossom and birds begin to sing. I think I heard spring peepers at the creek…
forsythia blossoms

icestorm #10!
mama cardinal

1st day of Spring

papa cardinal 

the biggest snowflakes EVER
daffodil sunshine

raindrops keep fallin' on my head

1st honeybee of season
spring flowers
peach blossom

baby broilers
first batch out on grass
They looked surprised when I told them they were headed OUTSIDE

moon through the maple branches

But, the weather is capricious, beautiful blue sky one moment, swirling snowflakes the next. This year has been no exception. Although we haven’t had the snowfall totals of past years, we did have 10, count them, TEN, ice events. I lost track of the days of drizzle and rain. And, there are no indications that the the ground will dry out anytime soon, leaving many to wonder just how to cope with this new, weirdly wet environment. Our weather woes locally are not on the scale of those in the Mid-west. Have you seen the photos from Nebraska, Iowa and the like? Check out these photos or read this.  This is scary stuff that will indeed impact the nation as our food supply will be affected for a long time yet to come. This will spell the end for some farms, I am certain.  But, those in Ag will have to be open to some sort of adaptation and change as the long-term forecasts show no real end to the near-continual precipitation here in our Valley as well. 

While many people seem to think that “farmers love rain” (believe me, I have lost track of the number of times people have said this at the Market) too much moisture can be a curse in many ways. It is possible to irrigate during a drought, but I don’t know anyone who has found a practical way to stop rain from the heavens.

The last rain event (which also included the biggest snowflakes I have ever seen-some were the size of my hand) occurred during the vernal equinox, which coincided with the last Supermoon of 2019. Somehow that combination seems like it should be monumentous, or at the very least noteworthy. So, I should not have been surprised when I heard baby lamb voices when I walked in to do afternoon chores.


Yes, I said lambs. Lambs. Weeks and weeks after I thought lambing season ended. After the jug pens were pulled apart and the heatlamps put away. Lambs. LAMBS!

The skinniest of skinny old ewes (who I figured was too old and skinny to breed) was talking sweet baby-talk to two teeny, tiny lambs!

Well, now, that was unexpected. To put it mildly.

Despite her somewhat pathetic appearance, mama-sheep is raising her lambs without human assistance, and they are growing out quite well.  Thank you very much.

And, that is the end of lambing season. Really. Truly.

mama sheep and the teeny-tinies

This year lambing season started with the loss of both ewe and her twin lambs, truly bumming me out and casting a pall over the entire operation. But, it ended with the totally unexpected arrival of two healthy lambs. So, our numbers are not quite as dismal as they could have been. While it’s a little glib to quote Jerry Seinfeld and say we’re “even Steven”, (watch this) , the truth is, things do have a way of working out…

I don’t know why that’s so hard to remember when we’re in the thick of things.

And, speaking of working out, I’m sure we will find a way to work around the weather issues and health concerns as our 22nd consecutive season as Market vendors begins in just 6 days. Six days! I must admit, this is the least prepared that we have ever been for Opening Day. I don’t know if that bodes well for the season…but, it is what it is.

 this guy turned FOUR!

I want to take this opportunity to say THANKS for stopping by! I hope you’ll come back again soon.
Until our next “visit” …

Happy Sunday!
...maybe you can work a nap into your schedule...
       Happy Spring!

...or, have some cake, y'all!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

February Walkabout

The English language may need a new word for WET. Or, at the very least some new measure of degree. Because it is no longer adequate to say “it is wet out there”.

the wet weather gives Mrs. Cardinal a "bad hair day"

It is a sodden, slippery, mucky mess.  Springs have sprung where they’ve never been seen before . “Wet-weather” creeks continue to rise. The little drainage ditches along the side of the road have become whitewater rapids. And, there are ponds where there used to be hayfields. I fully expect to see Noah (and his Ark) floating downstream at any moment.

2018 was the wettest year ever in some parts of Virginia. And, it’s looking like 2019 is going to be more of the same. If this continues, some serious changes will have to take place. Meaning, we may have to give actual consideration to all those jokes about aquaculture. Maybe we should seriously consider growing rice. Perhaps tilapia?

There is never much to report in February. I spend too much time trying to overcome my loathing of the shortest month. I’ve tried for years to express exactly what it is that causes my issues but haven’t ever been able to pinpoint the source. I might be close. So, check out… at the end of the month. My new-ish website is where I’ve been posting some of the other stuff I write that isn’t farm-related. I hope you’ll visit and read. Or, come show me some Facebook love here: Barbara Womack-writer on Facebook (be sure to “LIKE”)

Back to February on the farm…

We have already established that it is wet. (and I don’t like it)

when it's not snowing or raining...
the wind is BLOWING
today it is supposed to gust up to 50mph!
In addition to all the rain, we have had 8 ice events since November. EIGHT! No wonder there are still branches down from that first storm. It hasn't been dry long enough to do a proper clean-up!
icicles on the apple tree
nighttime ice
chickadee on icicle feeder
through the front porch trellis
iced hydrangea
ice-encased morning glory seeds
maple buds and icicles
icicle feeder
redbud icicle

ANOTHER ice event

woodpecker in backyard

Let’s see…
CUTE twins

the creep feeder works!
big ewe can't get in and eat all the feed

Lambing season is done. I can’t say I am thrilled with the outcome this year. There are only 18 lambs. The fewest we have had in years. This is disconcerting (and disappointing) when demand is at an all-time high. But, the few lambs that we do have are hale and hearty. Although, I am “co-parenting” one lamb. His arrival into the world was fairly traumatic, and I didn’t think the ewe would survive. She did, but for some reason, she still allows me to “help” with her offspring. I could do without the extra treks to the barn in the dark and wet...but, oh, well…the 4H kids will enjoy feeding the bottle baby when they come by for their annual visit next week!

sometimes my bottle-baby
has a drinking buddy 

During the only 3 days (I don’t think I am exaggerating) that it wasn’t raining, we actually got some farm work done. First, we moved the pullets to the henhouse. They spent a couple of days in confinement and have now assimilated with the rest of the flock and we’re getting a fair number of pullet eggs every day.

these girls do not want to move
check out their expressions!

moving to the henhouse

loading hens before breakfast
Then, we culled the old hens and took them down to the zoo. For the record, it was indeed a one-way trip.  Ordinarily, we make a day out of the trip to the zoo, since the owner allows us free access in return for our contribution of “local food” for the big cats. But, this year it was just too cold and mucky (even at the zoo).

February hay

We spent Valentine’s Day hauling hay. (is that romantic, or what?) I really didn’t think we were going to find a dry day to get that job completed. Thankfully, the hay guy was able to get the wagon out of the barn and up to the road so we could pick it up. (the squishy conditions made it somewhat of a gamble) I am happy to report it didn’t start raining until after the barn was stacked to the rafters once more. And, perhaps the best part of all…we were able to unload (and stack in the barn) the entire load by ourselves.  I have to admit, I had some serious doubts about our abilities and endurance. It was slightly daunting to stand on top that hay wagon, looking down at all those hay bales and know that much of the work depended on ME  getting MY act together. (Karma and Tess both attempted to lend a paw)

from the top of the wagon
(see Tess at the bottom of the wagon?)

getting started

"helpful" Karma

taking the wagon back
(only took 1 1/2 hour to unload and stack!)

When you make your living on a tiny piece of land like we do, hand-work is a given. In many cases, there is no equipment available for small-scale agriculture. This has never been a problem. Just get in there and “gimme a hand”  Read this. My grandmother always used to tell me that I had capable hands. I believed her, and we’ve managed to get a lot of things done despite our lack of equipment and/or labor force.

But, for the past year, my “capable hands” (also elbows, knees, feet, and ankles…) have been failing me. They are weak. They hurt. All. The. Time. Nothing helps (yes, I know about turmeric, CBD oil, and all that stuff). I’ve done research, went to the doctor and have been waiting 3 months on a rheumatology appointment. (3 weeks to go!)  The possibilities are somewhat worrisome and the outlook uncertain. It would appear changes are coming to the hill, I’m just not real sure what they are.

 But, we got the hay stacked.

In other health-related news, the Boss’ six-month scan looked good. So, we can put that worry aside (sort of) for a bit and attempt to concentrate on other things. Like the Market…

There are 5 weeks until Opening Day of the Market.

Wait a minute…

5 weeks until Opening Day?

Okay, typing that sentence was a startling revelation! I don’t think we’ve made even one preparation. No. Wait. I did get seeds ordered. And, the first batch of broiler chicks arrived Thursday morning.
day-old broiler chicks

eight weeks to fresh chicken!


5 weeks?


Guess I better close this post and go do…something, anything…to get focused and ready for the 2019 Market season. I can’t believe it will be #22 for us! Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot? It is a lot. We've done this a long time! (no wonder I'm falling

Thanks for stopping by.

another rain/snow/ice event
made for nice photo ops

I hope you have a Happy Sunday! 

it was nice to see the sun...set

and a pretty "blue sunrise"
 Here are a few more sky shots for good measure...

Come back and “visit” again next month!