Friday, December 28, 2012

2012- A Thankful Thursday

The last Thursday of 2012 kinda snuck up on me. (I guess I won’t get into how mid-week holidays totally mess up my schedule and my thinking…)

But, it’s the last “thankful Thursday“of the year. Wow, the end of another year!

The other day, the Boss and I met Neighbor when we were out for a walk.  As we exchanged greetings and he brought us up to speed on the happenings on his side of the lane since our last talk, he said, “this has been a horrible year….the absolute worst…!”  I know some of his struggles, so my heart hurt for him.  However, I also felt a little bit bad…2012 was NOT our worst year…not by a longshot!

Then, I got to thinking about what I suppose was our "worst year ever"…no, maybe it wasn’t that one…maybe it was…yeah, that was pretty bad, but it turned out okay…how ‘bout the year that…?

Suddenly, I realized that even the most awful year had some great moments, too.  The bad times are always countered by some moments of amazing, loving, encouraging, over-the-top experiences that leave me wondering if the bad times were quite as bad as I had originally thought.  For the record...YES, they were. Looking back, we have faced some awful stuff, absolutely NO exaggeration.  But, we have seen REAL miracles!  …and those count for oh, so very much!

In retrospect, 2012 was one for the books. We had the good, the bad and yeah…even the ugly.  We hung in there together and are really looking forward to the challenges of 2013.

The year started with lambing (as it always does). We had an amazingly successful lambing season, although we DID have losses (awful, painful losses), the harvest was incredibly plentiful AND it is delicious.

Cabbage looper damage
Can you say EWWW...YUCK!?
The spring brought some unexpectedly cold weather that caused some serious garden losses.  The weather also set us up for some frustrating pest control battles later in the season.

We experienced our first (and hopefully ONLY) el Derecho during late June.  But, we got through with minimal damage, despite a FIVE day power outage.

You know, we had actually forgotten about the Derecho until we were working on our garden/farm plan for 2013.  None of our planting dates for the latter part of the summer lined up.  WHAT HAPPENED? The Boss wondered. I checked the calendar.  There in big, bold letters was POWER OUTAGE…DERECHO. How could we have forgotten THAT experience?

We had crop failures. We had some amazing successes.  We experienced losses that made us (me) cry. Then there were positive things that astonished us. There were unexpected expenses, but we had the income to cover them. We battled for mastery of the hoophouse for months and finally won the "battle of the whistlepig". We made a lot of new friends.  We lost some folks from our lives. The cycle of life continues as we dance the dance, hoping to appreciate the UPS and the DOWNS.

The Market was astonishing in 2012.  Not only did the Market as a whole record sales topping anything in its 19 year history, but we set a personal record as well.  This amazes us.  While we work hard sometimes (REALLY hard), since we are self-employed we can set the pace.  We truly love what we do AND those folks whose food needs we attempt to fill.  This is truly a labor of love, and being able to make a living at it only makes it so much better.  Did I mention that our awesome customers really make our day?

Winter Sales continue to amaze us.  We never would have thought all those years ago that it was even possible to grow stuff in the Wintertime.  Now we know, it IS possible, it tastes great…and we will NEVER be able to produce enough for our wonderful customer-friends.

Lettuce seedlings
in the greenhouse in December

2012 granted us experiences of every type at some point.

        When all is said and done we’re thankful for all of them!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

If You Give a Farmer a Project...

If you  give a farmer a project....

He will need to make a trip to town for supplies.

He'll need to measure and cut and pound some posts and think...and measure and cut and pound some more.

Then, he might need some help.
A bit of re-arranging in the barn might be necessary.

This re-arranging may get slightly out of hand and require that a huge pile of junk be moved and sorted.

What a lot of JUNK!

 This stuff can't stay here.

...that will entail a trip to the dump.

While in town, make a stop by the hardware store....and a second trip to the farm store.

Wait!  A crucial item can't be found in town. That means a quick jump on the internet, a little research and place an order.

Amazingly, the item arrives two days later. Their arrival causes a bit of celebration on my part. The carabiner clips make it easy to take the pens apart for cleaning, and when the animal population demands more room in the barn the pens can be collapsed and put away until the next season.
While waiting, it is discovered that one of the sheep had felt it necessary to EAT a portion of the electrical cord to one of the heat lamps. Despite some very interesting theories, no real motive was ever discovered. The sheep couldn't escape blame, there were little bits of wool all over the ruined cord. Another step is added in the whole process.

A quick repair job follows. Now...that means the job is done..?
                               NOT SO fast!

All the new jugs meant that there weren't enough lights to go around. Another order would need to be placed.  This time for heat lamps. The lamps are crucial on the coldest nights to provide a little patch of warmth for the tiny lambs...a safe, warm(er) spot for them away from drafts.

The new heat lamps would require new heatlamp bulbs...this would require yet another trip to town.

finished pens-prior to heatlamps

Oh really...this is getting silly!

... finally....FINALLY...the project is complete.
 we talk about that screen door project...?

                         ...and here we go again!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Project du Jour

When our girls were young, I spent a great deal of time reading aloud.  One year, I read more than 300 books to them. I know. I kept a list!  That did not include the favorite books we read over and over and over. While I don’t remember most of them line for line…the stories and concepts come back regularly.  That’s why EVERY time we start a project, I think of the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

There’s always one more thing that needs to be done, something we never could have predicted happens or we go off on some new tangent and find ourselves in the middle of a whole new set of issues.

Every year there is some new challenge, some new twist on the everyday commonplace rhythm of farm life.  It might be a series of weather anomalies, odd animal behavior, or plant and/or pest issues.  Life on the farm is a constant learning experience.

This year is no exception. 

When we turned the ram in with the ewes, it was with the intent that the girls would all get bred and deliver their lambs within a fairly short period of time.  They did breed…and that was good. We didn’t realize that fourteen of them would get bred in a two day span…meaning that the majority of the ewes will be popping their babies at the same time. The predicted arrivals should happen around January 14th.


The Boss generally builds little “jugs”, or mothering on pens to house the ewes and their newborns for a short period after birth. The "jugs" allow the mother and lamb(s) to bond, the tiny newborns are sheltered from the elements and the bigger animals. In the past, we have had somewhere between two and four of these little pens. As the ewes lambed, we just rotated through the jugs, cleaning in between.

With all realization that so many lambs would be arriving in such short period of time, he decided to take action sooner rather than later.  There is nothing worse than trying to build some make-shift pens in the cold, in the middle of the night, with all the ewes flipping out all around you.  No, it would be better to get on the project prior to bringing the ewes to the barnlot.  The sheep are of absolutely NO help when it comes to working in the barn…for that matter, I cannot think of even one instance when they were ever of any help, in the barnlot OR the field.

ewes "helping" during a paddock change

So, prior to the return of the ewes to the barnlot, the Boss planned the job…we made a few hundred trips to town, and he got on the project du jour....the project of the day.  Okay, the project of a couple of days. There are nine jug pens all set up and ready for the serious lambing to begin in a couple of weeks.

Now that he has completed the jug planning/building, he’s on to planning the next project.

…and the next and the next…

           ...those projects...they just keep coming…

                        days of the week!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

From All of Us to All of YOU

Thanks to all of you for reading our little farm stories. We're working on more all the time.

                                  We hope you have a lovely holiday season!

Y'all come back...ya hear?

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Monday, December 24, 2012

I (don't) Do Nails

The very young store employee eyed me intently as I pushed my buggy through the health and beauty section. “may I help you, ma’am?” 

I assured her that I was fine and could find what I was looking for myself.

I saw her look quizzically at me from the corner of her eye as I stopped in front of the nail polish.  “are you sure, ma’am?”
“nope…I’m good…”

As I sorted through the colors, intent on my mission, I could sense her gaze again.  When I finally picked up the black, metallic blaze orange, and glow-in-the-dark neon green, I waved them at her and said “THANKS!  Found what I needed!”  I swear she went slack-jawed as I tossed the little bottles in the buggy and rolled on to another area of the store.

I don’t know if she envisioned some odd tri-colored manicure or if she couldn’t figure out WHY this farmer woman was buying nail polish…but, it made me giggle to myself as I finished shopping.

Nail polish always makes me think of the episode of Andy Griffith when Barbara Eden came to Mayberry as a manicurist trying to settle some matter of the heart…and every time she introduced herself, she said “Ah do nails...” Watch the manicurist...season 2, episode 16. That recollection made me giggle a little more.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a real “girlie girl”, so my collection of nail polish even mystified my daughters.   The color choices were even more perplexing. My plan for the nail polish seemed to baffle everyone.  You see, I never intended to “do nails” with it.  I fully intended to use it at the BARN!

When the Boss got me a Leatherman for a birthday present years ago, I dropped it in the hay feeder the very first time I used it.  Thinking it was lost forever, I realized I would need to devise a plan where it would be more visible when I dropped it again (it would only be a matter of time). I tried marking the handle with a sharpie, but it still wasn’t very eye-catching.  Nail polish to the rescue!

A couple coats of a bright color and it would be hard to miss it anywhere.  It also personalized my Leatherman so that it is like no other. 

That success got me thinking about making other small things more noticeable. The whole nail polish thing was kind of fun…and there were so many colors…

My hoophouse trowels got personalized as I realized my rather odd new creative outlet had a very practical application.

You can tell I DON'T do nails...

We use a lot of electric fence around here.  With the electric fence, there are a LOT of switches.  The switches make it possible to kill the current in certain areas.  This is handy when you need to work close to the fence, make certain paddocks more secure, or if you are fence challenged (like I am) and need to have the electricity dead off before you get anywhere near it. 

When the switches were new, they had shiny little strips that you could see from a distance that indicated ON or OFF.  However, after years and years out in the elements, the little shiny strips fell off, blew away, or became damaged so they could no longer be seen.  It is a hassle to have to walk all the way out to a switch to check its position when you can’t remember if you left it in the proper position. (not that this ever happened to me…countless times…or anything like that)

I tried using yellow polish on them.  With numerous coats the switches were quite noticeable.  But, in the summer sun, the bright yellow color faded to a dull beige and my great idea faded with it. When my Leatherman needed a new coat of polish, it occurred to me that by enhancing the contrast on the switches, I could resolve the visibility issue.

By painting the switches with the black and the orange, they are noticeable from a great distance once more and I don’t have to backtrack on myself when I have a senior moment. (not that anything like that would happen)

If only the "glow-in-the-dark neon green" actually DID glow in the dark...I'd really be on to something!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Despite the fact I started my life journey in a place that my father disparagingly said only produced “swamp rats”, I have always felt a certain affinity for the mountains.

Maybe that's because I’ve felt I was somewhat of a hillbilly…thus giving more than a little credence to Blake Shelton’s song "Hillbilly Bone". (“we ALL got one down deep inside”)

I grew up gazing out on the Pond Mountains.  The long line stretched to the edge of the horizon. There were seven that were visible from the back porch on a clear day. You could gauge the weather by just how many of the mountains you could see. Somehow, things seemed better when I knew I would be able to see those hills.

I guess that is why mountains always make me think of the Bible verse: “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

Blue Ridge
Living in the Valley, it might seem rather odd to talk about mountains.  However, without the rise of the mountains on either side, there would be no beautiful Valley. The Blue Ridge to our east and the Alleghenies to the west are vital to the views, views, views that everyone raves about when visiting our little corner of the world.

Looking out toward my mountains, (I realize that those in the west wouldn’t consider our little hills of any consequence) I got to thinking about the mountains in our lives.  Those hard times that are a struggle, a challenge, and feel like it takes every ounce of will to conquer. Again, it is the "mountains" that make it possible to reach the pinnacle of success and to see the situation from a new vantage point. Without the struggles in life, the journey might be easy, but it would be bland and flat as well. It has been said that you can never fully appreciate the good times without the bad.

Reminds me of part of a Lonestar song…

This world ain't fair
It can knock you on your butt
You can just lie there
Or you can get back up

You gotta get back up

There are times in life when you gotta crawl
Lose your grip, trip and fall
When you can't lean on no-one else
That's when you find yourself
I've been around and I've noticed that
Walkin's easier when the road is flat
Them danged ol' hills will get you every time
Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains
(The good Lord gave us mountains)
So we could learn how to climb

I’m thankful for all the mountains…those that add grandeur to the landscape and those that add to the texture and challenge of our day to day lives. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes

t leighton womack photo

They say…“A picture is worth a thousand words…”  

But, it occurred to me that a few words were necessary to explain the sheep photo the Boss posted a few days ago.

For those who don’t really know the Boss, a few words of explanation may be in order.  The Boss is a multi-talented guy who doesn’t just farm ‘cause he can’t think of anything else to do.  Photography is just one of his talents, and he is always working to perfect his skills.  He reads technical stuff, posts on forums, and participates in contests.  In one of his assignments, he needed to work angles. He was looking for something different and original. 

He decided to “shoot the sheep” while they ate.  The new angle being that he would shoot from the ground up…looking into their faces.  This was going to take a little arranging.  It was my job as shepherdess to get the sheep to come in close for the shot.

He got in position. Okay…now THAT looks funny!

We figured the ewes were hungry enough to follow me anywhere as long as I was carrying hay. Ordinarily it’s an all out free for all when anything edible is anywhere near the ewes in the mid-afternoon.


They took one look at the Boss…that THING…out there in the field and stopped dead in their tracks.  There was some grumbling among the ranks and then they all ran up the far side of the paddock staring at the Boss.  As their glances went from him to each other to the hay he had arranged, I wondered what they were thinking.

Finally, curiosity, hunger or a combination won out.  They came in closer and began to eat.  He kept shooting even as they gathered in right over top of him. My worry at this point was the safety of his camera.  


However, all worked out…he got his shots…

...and the sheep got a little treat.

t leighton womack photo

 …and that, my friends, is a look behind the farm scenes on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah, we DO know how to have fun.