Tuesday, April 30, 2013

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

It had been a long day.

I was tired.

My sore leg hurt.

I really wanted to go to sleep…yawn…

I closed my eyes…


Good night!  Is there a lamb in the bedroom?  What in the world?


Oh for Pete’s Sake!  I got up, walked to the front door and peered out. Wow!  The moon was so bright it looked like daytime. The “pink” moon of April was amazing! I would have liked to taken the time to appreciate it a little more, but…

There was one little wether lamb standing in the alley screaming his brains out for no apparent reason. I told him to be quiet in rather unkind terms and went back to bed.
this one yells every time he goes out
(see his opened mouth?)

It couldn’t have been fifteen minutes and there were at least two of them out there yelling.  Oh…no…this wasn’t funny. Were they hurt? Lost?  Of course, I got up again.

This doesn't look scary to me...
but, maybe it does in the dark!

No injuries, no one was lost, nothing amiss at all…just a couple little wether lambs screaming for no apparent reason.  This time I watched for a bit.  …and solved the mystery.  Apparently, the alley next to the house is terrifying (if you are a wether lamb).  Everything is fine until they get to the point where they need to pass the big Colorado Spruce in the corner of the front yard.  Now, I don’t know if it looks like a huge monster, or if all the sparrows that nest in it suddenly fly out and attack the lambs, or what…but, they SCREAM as they run past it and then act like normal sheep once they are in the paddock. And, yes, they need to scream past it on their way to the barnlot for a drink, too. Oh brother!

Okay…solved that.  Good night!


 Now, what?

Johnny and June, the neighbor’s German shorthaired pointers, were going ballistic.  And,YES, of course  they ARE named for Johnny Cash and his wife. (who else?)  They act as a sort of first alert system for our lane.  If they bark and then Carl’s dogs bark, there is nothing to worry about…"whatever"  has headed down MishBarn Lane.  But, if their barking is followed by Ron’s dogs and then our dogs, someone should probably check and see what’s going on.

Suddenly, all the other dogs were barking…ours…Carl’s…the “town” dogs.  I suppose that could have meant that we were under attack from some alien life form, but everything else was quiet. It was just some kind of canine midnight chat session, I suppose.  I sighed and went back to bed…again.

A short while later, I was awakened by thundering sheep hooves, baa-ing sheep and barking dogs. Geez! Would this ever end?

This time I was a little alarmed as all the sheep were running and crying…ewes and lambs.  Jed and Ellie were herding them toward the barn as they are prone to do when Ellie “decides” that something is not quite to her liking.  Since they are not herding dogs, this is an interesting behavior and I would like to further understand it. That is, of course, NOT when it is three o’clock in the morning.

Boots, flashlight and glasses and I was ready to figure out what was going on…again.

It was still incredibly bright, so I really didn’t really need the flashlight.

I have heard that a full moon brings on a lot of nocturnal animal activity.  I can tell you with all certainty that it brings on a lot of nocturnal animal NOISE! Unbelievable noise!

Suddenly, all the sheep came to a dead stop in the middle of the alley. The stop was so abrupt that they all ran into each other.  This caused even more noisy baa-ing. It was clear that they weren't going to budge. Oh, NOW WHAT?  They were all voicing their complaints, so any thought of keeping the racket to a dull roar was completely lost.

Then, over all the sheep fracas came this awful, horrible, utterly bizarre noise.  It was part scream, part growl, part….part….MEOW?!  Could it be?



Somehow, Sissie had gotten herself inside the rat trap and was complaining most vocally about the ordeal.

The horrible noise was further frightening the already frightened sheep and the dogs were rollicking around, seemingly thrilled that so much activity was going on during their awake and alert hours (instead of the middle of the day when they are sound asleep). The noise level was threatening my sanity and I was wondering why the Boss wasn't up and wondering what was going on and all the neighbors weren't calling demanding someone do something about the volume.

It was at that moment that I realized why the word caterwauling contains the word CAT.  Someone else in history must have encountered an angry cat stuck in a rat trap at three o’clock in the morning. Oh, my word!

What a noise! Since she is larger than her mother, it was a tight fit and she injured herself slightly as she made repeated efforts to escape.
Sissie lost a good bit of fur...

...mostly from her head
She has recovered COMPLETELY!

Freed from the trap, Sissie followed me around the barn, relating the entrapment in loud detail.  She just wouldn’t stop following me and meowing. It was more than a little annoying. I lectured her on the foolishness of her actions and pointed out that it was not MY fault that she was stuck in a rat trap.

...and then I realized I was talking to a cat...in the middle of the night...in the middle of the barn. But, then that's not that unusual...for me.

I figured since the sheep were at the barn, I should do a quick headcount and make sure everyone was all right.  All present and accounted for…no apparent problems. 

Now, maybe I can get some sleep. I closed my eyes…

                                           …and it was time to “rise and shine”. Ugh

To make matters worse, the dogs were off barking at a bunch of doves who were noisily courting in the trees in the front paddock. 

I should really know better than to sleep during April…this is not the first time I have had an adventure in the night…read these. Quiet Country Nights  and  OK, Now You're Freaking Me Out

With the waning of the moon, and good cloud cover, I should be able to get in forty winks or so before the next full moon.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I Was LOCAL When LOCAL Wasn't Cool

**My apologies to Barbara Mandrell for adulterating her song lyrics for my entry today.** 
If you don't know what I'm talking about...scroll down and watch the video.

We always ate LOCAL when I was a kid…
          …yep, back there at the dawn of time…
                            …home-grown, home-made described nearly everything we ate.
That's ME...1968...and little brother
 waiting for the next garden job

Dad raised beef, chickens, hogs and rabbits. There was a bank of freezers in the garage where you could find nearly any cut of meat you desired.  Mom had a huge garden, chock-full of all sorts of vegetables. There were even more freezers for those, as well as shelves and shelves of canned goods. We spent a portion of summer vacation gathering fruits from nearby orchards when we weren’t weeding or picking rocks…or putting up veggies from the garden.  We canned all sorts of things, froze fruits and vegetables, ground and packed hamburger, made sausage and bacon and even rendered lard.  We had chickens that provided both meat and eggs. Mom kept a flock of goats, and yes, we drank goat milk on a regular basis. (she even froze that….ewwwwww!)  One winter, she even ground the wheat and made all the bread.

I took a lot of kiddin'
'Cause I never did fit in
now look at everybody tryin' to be what I was then
I was local, when local wasn't cool

There was very little in the way of packaged, processed food in the cupboards.  If we didn’t grow it or make it…sometimes we just didn’t have it.  (although my grandmother was known to bring “care packages” of contraband on a somewhat regular basis) We were made of “good pioneer stock” according to one of my great-uncles. Our way of life was more than a little amusing to him and he always sang “home, home on the range…” when we went to visit.

When I was in high school, my mother returned to the workforce and all the time-consuming food preservation and preparation tasks became distant memories.  We then began a season of what my brother referred to as “career-mother meals”, fully embracing the wide array of convenience foods available. Much to my brother’s delight, I might add.

All that emphasis on homegrown was in no way an attempt to be cool or trendy.  As a matter of fact, the whole homegrown/homemade thing made us more than a little odd in the eyes of the children around the lunch table at school.  No one EVER offered to trade lunch items with the kid who had a beef tongue sandwich on whole wheat bread and carried GOAT milk in that lunchbox thermos. (NEVER!)  In our case, perhaps the main reason for the emphasis on any sort of self-sufficiency and sustainability was because my folks were incredibly frugal and focused on saving every penny possible. While it made us odd in the eyes of our peers, we did indeed learn a great deal about survival from our childhood.

I was local, from my head down to my boots
I still act, and look the same
What you see ain't nothin' new
I was local, when local wasn't cool

We were gardening and sourcing other things locally long before our move to the Valley...read this. 

When the girls were just little, bitty things, we began to teach them the benefits of growing food and being self-sufficient.

putting up green beans

Market Opening Day 1998

The move to the Valley only intensified things.  We did EVERYTHING locally, including selling!
The Boss and I have done our own stint of self-sufficient homesteading. I milked cows (daily and by hand for TEN YEARS), made cheese, bread, and sauerkraut. We’ve raised chickens, ducks, goats, cows, hogs and turkeys. We learned animal husbandry and how to butcher those animals.  As a family, we planted, picked, canned, froze, and dried all sorts of food for years.  At one point, the only things we did NOT produce here on the hill were flour, sugar and the other odd baking ingredients (oil, salt, baking powder/soda and chocolate chips) and honey.  The things we didn't raise ourselves, we did source locally. I even made all our soap at one point, but finally "cracked" when we ran out of home-made toothpaste.

Home-grown/home-made demanded that our entire lives focus on providing food…all the time. Meal preparation took a good chunk of time every day. Eating out was a very rare occasion indeed.  I won’t lie---it was hard.  Upon arriving for a visit, one of our friends remarked that she thought she had arrived at The Little House on the Prairie.

They called us country bumpkins
For stickin' to our roots
I'm just glad we're in a country
Where we're all free to choose
‘cause I was local, when local wasn't cool!

While I know we all enjoyed it, learned a lot from it, and we still embrace a lot of our “old ways”…those experiences make us very appreciative of the modernity of our current lives. I would like to add that if anyone understands the challenges that the LOCAL food movement faces, it would be me.  While it sounds great in theory, there are many facets that proponents haven't fully considered. (more about that some other time)

But, I do take pride in the fact that I can say...with absolutely NO uncertainty...

I was truly LOCAL when LOCAL wasn't cool! 

Again, my apologies to Barbara Mandrell for adulterating her lyrics for my entry today.

Surely you remember this?

Have you got a question?  Want to make a comment?  Please do! I welcome your input.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 4-28

I think Spring finally decided to stick around this week.  I must say, it’s about time!

Blossoms on the late-season apple trees

Teeny tiny peaches are evident in great number
As the grape leaves unfurl, you can see the beginnings of
the little bunches of grapes 

It always feels so good to get back to outside work after the winter.  We got the entire spring crop of broccoli/cabbage/cauliflower safely tucked into the ground. 
Yes, we DID do it all by hand.  That is what seems to work best in our hilly terrain. Now, we are praying for some gentle rains on a regular basis…and there should be fresh broccoli within 6 weeks or so.

We processed the first batch of broilers on Tuesday. They were quite large and our Market customers seemed quite happy with them.  I will be putting chicken on our own menu for the week.  Batch #2 of broilers will move outside tomorrow, just in time for batch #3 to arrive at the Post Office on Wednesday. 

The hoophouses got shaded this week, too.  We actually got a NEW piece of shadecloth for #2 that really fits.  The first piece was damaged by the Derecho (check this out).  It is wonderfully shady for growing lettuce and other greens during the bright, hot, sunny summer season.  Combined with the new side-rollers, it’s like a brand-new space.  Now, if we could just get the weeds to stop growing!

In garden news, we were both beginning to get a little concerned about the potato crop.  It seemed like those spuds had been sitting out there f-o-r-e-v-e-r…and there weren’t any little leaves showing.  Each of us, unbeknownst to the other, dug down to check on the taters.  Yes!  The sprouts were coming.  By week’s end, the little plants were popping up all the way down the rows. Hooray!

In the ongoing effort to keep the grass harvested, the sheep moved out back for a while. Here is what happens when we open a gate around here.

They’re loving the fresh, lush grass of Spring.  But, they have become very spoiled and some of them have taken to protesting LOUDLY when they determine it is time to move to greener pastures.  They don’t seem to get the fact that WE are indeed in control around here. It's going to get real noisy this week, as weaning will be starting soon.  Better buy some earplugs!

Wednesday afternoon, I got all the tomato plants potted up into larger pots.  The weather is still much too cool and unpredictable to plant them outside, so they will grow in the protected environment of the greenhouse for a while longer.  We have seen it freeze here as late as late MAY, so we are not in a big hurry to plant the tomatoes in the garden.  All the anticipation just makes us appreciate those luscious tomatoes in July and August!

This year, I did something different and color-coded all the pots.  A different color for each variety.  In the past, I used plant tags, but sometimes those pulled out and it’s really hard to tell the varieties simply by looking at them. We used to number the pots, but that had some drawbacks, too.  Besides, it was fun to spray paint all those pots!

I miscalculated and ran out of pots before I got to the pepper plants.  The Boss put in a quick order to the greenhouse supply store and the peppers will be first up in the coming week.

It was a beautiful dawn on Market Day…and the Market was hopping.  Lately, there have been a lot of special events in town, so the foot traffic through the Market has been pretty steady.  Maybe next week I will get to take pictures of the Market as well.

Sunday started off with rain.  We are really hoping that continues for a while. The broccoli crop would greatly benefit from some rain right now.  We love rain...especially on Sunday!

The sheep are enjoying a rainy Sunday in a new paddock

Those were the highlights of our week here on the hill. 
Hope you had a good one as well.
Thanks for visiting! 
Come back soon.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Strong and Able

Everytime you think you got it bad

You can find someone who's got it worse
All the things you take for granted now
They started out as blessings first
If you got someone who loves you
And a steady job that puts food on the table
If you're strong and able 
Man , be grateful

I haven’t felt particularly strong lately…

                   …or able…

                                    … for that matter, I have NOT felt especially grateful…

The Boss and I have both been moving kinda slow due to our “age-related” injuries…and that’s getting more than a little tiresome and frustrating.  There are dietary changes we need to make, too…and that’s hard…and requires that I give a good deal of thought to food preparation and procurement.  Then, there’s the weird Spring that’s put us behind in almost all our outdoor endeavors and it feels like we need to push or hurry or fret over something.

But, Saturday we saw an old friend.  He and his wife only had to say, “…the cancer’s back…”

That changed everything.

These dear folks have been fighting the battle of their lives for the past four years and thought they were victorious.  Not so! Rigorous tests were ordered and the outcome is fairly uncertain. His only prayer request was for strength.  

I’ve been thinking about that all week. The song that got me started with the whole “thankful-Thursday” thing kept running through my mind.  Did you read this?

So, today, I am thankful for the strength and ability to do all the things we are able to do.  I will try not to bother myself (and the Boss) over the things that don’t get done…’cause it’s not like they’re going anywhere.


 …and I will say another prayer for my friends.

                        ...and I'm gonna ask you to do the same.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Every Day is EARTH Day on a Farm

Contrived holidays really bug me.

Which is just part of my reason for waiting to post my “earth day” blog…and then…we’ve been just a little bit busy with that whole “growing season” thing that overtakes our lives at certain times of the year.


I must ask...

Why is any ONE day any more “important” than any other day?

Why do we have to have a day set aside to let your mom know she’s special (Mother’s Day), make you lover feel loved/wanted (Valentine’s Day) …or for that matter, recognize that we REALLY need to be conscious and caring of the Earth…the only one we have…(Earth Day)?

In every case, it is a sad state of affairs if we only take one day out of the whole year to note the great importance of these relationships (or any of the other “special” holidays). As a mother, lover…and inhabitant of the earth…I really think all of these (and many more) require far more than just one day’s worth of our attention.  Each relationship should be part of our thinking absolutely every day.

I can’t think of any farmers that celebrate Earth Day. Although, there are those organizations that did special recognition to farmers on April 22. ...and that's pretty cool. Check this out.

Every farmer I know (and all those I only read about) is paying special attention to their stewardship of the earth…EVERY DAY.  They would be foolish not to. Make that WE would be foolish not to.   Those of us who make our living by the land know in a way not truly comprehended by the rest of the population---we’ve only got one earth and we really need to take care of it.  Regardless of farm size or farming practice, these folks are making the best decisions they can based on the information and resources available. Good stewardship is crucial to being sustainable.

Every choice we make here on the farm impacts our lives and environment and ultimately the world…and we KNOW it.  Decisions concerning crops, fertilization, tilling and animal husbandry all have long-lasting effects and we are mindful of that.  We have learned many lessons the hard way and make every attempt not to make the same mistake twice. The same can be said for every single farming operation around the country.

This is not where I intended to go when I started typing…but…

Politics aside, Al Gore was right when he said...

“Farmers are the first environmentalists.” Presidential debate 10-17-2000

Each farmer must be actively involved with the environment.  And they are. We cannot ignore or escape the fact that our lives and living are intrinsically tied to the land…this "big, blue marble"  is the only home we have. We acknowledge and appreciate that fact. Every.Single. Day.

Farmers are getting some real bad press right now.  Most of that bad press is only possible because so very few folks understand what is required to produce the vast amounts of food, fiber and fuel to provide for everyone. That makes me so sad. Farmers are good, hard-working folks who don't need to set aside one day a year to focus on the Earth...every day we focus on reducing waste, keeping the land and animals healthy, being more efficient and economical and you might be surprised how much recycling is part of any farm.

All of earth’s inhabitants should recognize that farmers everywhere are doing the best they can and that consumers need to make some effort to understand production and practice conservation.  While there are things that consumers cannot be expected to truly understand, it would be so nice if we all tried to get along.
If you are concerned about farms and their practices and effects on our world… ask questions. Many of the things that non-farmers do not understand are actually done with great thought  and concern for the animals in our care and the environment.  Much of the “information” passed around and promoted on the internet is just plain wrong.

If you are concerned…find out the truth. There are lots of folks (including ME) who would be glad to aid in the quest for true knowledge.

So, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Replenish and Restore…turn off unnecessary lights, reduce water consumption, plant a seed or tree  and ride your bike if you can…all in deference to Earth Day…but, please recognize the incredible efforts put forth by that 2% of the population to feed, clothe and offer shelter the everyone else all while practicing these tenets on the farm.

...and let's all make an effort to remember these things affect our home...the Earth... EVERY DAY...not just once a year!

Have you got a question?  Want to make a comment?  Please do! I welcome your input.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 4-21

This week we saw far more clouds than sun and received over an inch of rain.  So...guess what?

All those outside jobs we had planned didn't get done...and will be on the top of the to-do list for the upcoming week.

While it is a bummer to get our plans changed again...all the rain made everything amazingly green.

The hoophouse crops thrive when the weather is rather dreary. Things are looking great in both, particularly since the wet weather forced us to work inside for a couple of days.

I was glad to find a number of ladybugs in the arugula. (look close, this one looks like it has a smile) Unfortunately, I also spotted flea beetles and the first grasshopper of the season.

Jed took advantage of all the rainwater to find a new drinking spot.
Yes, that IS the top of the trashcan.

You think Jed is environmentally conscious and utilizing the rainwater in a effort to conserve?

Come on...this is JED we're talking about...he's not going green...he's just being grody (as usual)  He looked rather embarrassed when he realized I was watching.

I guess that qualifies as our farmyard funny for this week.

The signs of Spring are just "busting out all over".  There are blossoms and blooms and little leaves just about everywhere...

...and the maple tree is just covered with teeny, tiny seedpods that look like helicopters.

Unfortunately, Spring is very fickle.  Following Friday's thunderstorm, the temperatures plummeted again. 

FROST was quite heavy this morning, making us very glad that the baby tomato plants are still safely in the greenhouse, where they will live for a while longer...until we are certain the weather will stay warm.

The Boss got some tilling and weeding done between rain showers.  The garlic crop is looking great!

We finished off the week with a birthday celebration for T-bone and Blondie who share a birthday month.  There are no pictures of the birthday folks...but, we did have TWO birthday cakes! That's definitely worth a picture...or two.
pig pickin' cake

red velvet cake
                  HAPPY BIRTHDAY(S)...y'all!

Thanks for taking time for a little visit here on the hill today.  Please come again!


Happy Sunday!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Work Smarter

Hey!  Did you know that the average age of the American farmer is 57?

…yeah…I think I read something like that…

Isn’t that weird?

…well, I dunno…different sources use different numbers…

My eldest daughter could hardly control her laughter. 

No, I mean, isn’t it weird that PAPA, our PAPA, is AVERAGE?

Oh…well, yeah...when you look at it that way… 

AVERAGE, run-of-the-mill, ordinary…nope, don’t think those words have ever been used to describe the Boss.

However, the fact is…

He is the age of the “average” American farmer (whatever THAT means).  And…there are age-related “issues” that we continue to discover.  And I can tell you one thing for certain; this whole “discovery” thing has not been a whole lot of fun lately.

Since age is creeping up on us and our “workforce” has grown up, married, moved away and is pursuing other interests, it is time to think about conserving our energies.  Working smarter, not necessarily harder is a definite refrain here on the hill.

We’ve made a number of changes over the years that have saved our backs, shoulders and knees.  These innovations make it possible for us to remain productive and profitable while acknowledging (somewhat grudgingly) that we “ain’t as young as we used to was”. We plan on doing this whole "farming thing" until we are eventually called to our final reward...and we are seriously hoping that will be a long time into the future. So, we are not adverse to change and innovation.

The one job that generally sent us both running for the ibuprofen AND the heating pad was raking in the potato crop. Once the potatoes are “plunked” , they must be covered with earth so they can grow properly. This is last year's entry about POTATOES...

Let me say right here that I have no idea why we haven’t embraced more change over the years…although it might have something to do with our limited budget…! At some point during the winter, the Boss decided that we were going to approach the potato planting differently this year.  He consulted various friends and on-line sources and made his plans and ordered parts. 

The parts arrived.

The Boss got out his welding equipment.

He did a test run.…

...made a few adjustments…

We were in business! WOOT!

This new innovative tool was created just in time…

The potatoes had been cut and needed immediate planting when I injured my leg. 

Despite the ice, Ibuprofen, Arnica Montana and lots of prayer and determination,  I must admit…that thing hurt!  It REALLY hurt. (and, of today...it STILL hurts....) It was everything I could do to balance on one leg and drop those “ ‘taters” into the furrow.  I have absolutely NO idea how we would have ever raked them in by hand.

The Boss might have been raking for days and days (not really) if he had to do it by himself.

Gee....where has this thing been all our life?

Work smarter

                      NOT harder!

I now truly appreciate that phrase.

Today, I am thankful for innovation.  I am thankful for the Boss who can build all sorts of stuff...

....and I am incredibly THANKFUL that the potatoes are all planted!