Friday, August 30, 2013

A Job Well Done

Whew!  This has been a busy, productive, rainy and somewhat internet-less week. 

Today is harvest day…tomorrow is Market…it will be a while before I’m back at the computer.

But, I did want to make sure to mention one thing that I am especially thankful for this week.

It would appear that Waylon has again lived up to his own publicity and is indeed pretty awesome.  All the ewes are marked, and so far no re-marks! (I am perhaps "jumping the gun" and getting excited a wee bit early)

This means that the barn will be a most interesting place come the first of the year.
all the rainwater faded the marks...but, they are there!
It looks like we’re going to get all the lambing done in less than three weeks once again. I can’t wait!

Here are a few old posts about lambing season.

So…thanks, Waylon!  Well done!
Looks like he took the relaxing comment quite seriously!

You are “da …man”….no…

                           You are “DA RAM”! 

                                             You can relax now...

**I might mention that Waylon suffered some sort of hoof injury this week.  While he seemed to be in a great deal of pain, it did not deter him from the task at hand...AND...he has made a complete recovery!
I am REALLY THANKFUL for that.** 

Monday, August 26, 2013

#500...and Finding my "Voice"

August 2013
This is a milestone...

…a momentous event…

...a red-letter day in history.

Today marks the 500th time that I’ve hit that “publish” button and committed my ramblings to cyberspace.


I’m kind of impressed with myself. 
I didn’t know I had it in me.  
I didn’t know I had that much to say. 
(If you hear laughter…that’s the Boss.  He knows better than anyone just how much I have to say…he’s been putting up with it---I mean---listening---for nearly 30 years. )
...and I really hope someone is reading my ramblings.

October 2009
(the changes are subtle)
When I started the farm blog back in ’09, I did so thinking it would…well…be "cool" to have the farm represented in cyberspace. 

It was October. Market season was nearly done for the year.  It had been raining and it was cold. We were amazingly “caught up” on farm chores. The Boss had one big project to finish before winter and it didn't require my help.  Our eldest daughter had just gotten married.  The younger one was "nearly" engaged and working off the farm.  Life had taken another quantum shift and it seemed time to focus on the farm. I didn’t have any grand ideas of reaching the masses or helping folks to “know your farmer…know your food”…I was just amusing myself in my little corner of the office.

Okay, let’s be real honest…face it…I was bored.

But, the more I wrote, the more I realized I had to say.  The odd and random, very circuitous route that brought us to the hill also gave us a different perspective and a most eclectic array of contacts. Our experiences and friends really do run the gamut. This grants us---me---a unique perspective on a wide array of the aspects of agriculture.

The more I talked to folks at the Market, the more I realized they needed to know.  The fact that most grown-ups are two to four generations removed from the farm is made painfully obvious by the recurring questions and comments at the Market. Nearly every week, I wondered how to meet the growing need for firsthand farming information.

One thing the Boss and I truly enjoy is visiting other farming operations.  No matter the size or the practice, we always learn something.  It just seemed that maybe…just maybe…someone would enjoy virtually visiting our little piece of paradise. …and since I love talking about this place and the things we do… 

The farm blog was off and running.

in the garden with Grandpa Bing 1966

I’ve always loved growing things.  One of my early blog entries detailed my first experience with lettuce in a neighbor’s garden.You can read it HERE. I will be eternally grateful to old Mr. Payne for taking the time to show that little girl the wonders of gardening. 

While I may have issues with some of the aspects of my childhood, a lot of good came from growing up at the end of an old gravel road.  I was the odd little kid who surprised the teacher by identifying the types of grass in a bale of hay and never quite fit in with the other kids at school. Did you read this one?  On occasion, I even got to take live animals for show-and-tell. 
bottle-baby goat 1971
gardening 1968

Those summers of weed-pulling and rock-picking have served me well over the years. I’ve got years of writing material! ...and an outstanding work ethic to share with our children.

The sometimes funny, sad, exciting, silly things that happen  here on the hill provide constant fodder for entries.

barn antics are always amusing

I just can’t find time to write…or don’t type quickly enough to cover all that I would like to blog about. It’s always surprising to me how seemingly mundane farm work is so interesting to other folks.  Most of the time the interest is open-minded and genuine. 

…but, sometimes…not so much.

While I knew there was a lack of connection between producers and eaters…I didn’t realize that there can be such a sense of distrust, dislike and in some cases, animosity and hatred for the very people who work so hard to bring food to our tables.  That realization floored me. I was living in my own little rural world where farmers were admired as the pillars of the community until a customer asked me “is this from a factory farm?"  Read this. To this day, I have yet to find a "factory farm" anywhere quite like those portrayed in the media.

That chance encounter led me to research various and sundry Ag subjects on my own.  I was astounded to find that a lot of what I thought was factual---really was NOT.  This in turn granted me a whole host of subjects to share with those who would listen. I’ve also met some real interesting folks, found some amazing operations,  even if it is only through my computer screen.

at the Market- October 2011 
 Since the Boss and I are the only farmers some folks ever actually meet, it is imperative that the information we dispense is both factual and fair---and un-biased. We are in a unique position to act as a sort of liaison between urbanity and Ag.  This is not a responsibility or opportunity that I take lightly.

It isn’t that farmers don’t appreciate the consumer; they just don’t have opportunity to actually meet them very often. I’m glad to see that producers of all types are embracing the “Agvocacy” movement (read about that HERE)  and beginning to tell their stories. There are some awesome folks out there working hard to provide each of us with the food, clothing and shelter that we all need. I am constantly inspired.

My recent very personal encounter with the cyber-bully/haters (and those in the community that don’t support...appreciate…even like farms, farmers) just strengthened my resolve to continue to write about my life and my work from MY perspective. In the past, there have been times when I’ve held back and tried to tip-toe around certain subjects.  I don’t think I’ll be doing that anymore. There are some touchy subjects (particularly in Ag) but, they do need to be addressed from time to time.  I can only hope that I will do a good job, coming to the subject with a fair and open mind...hoping that any readers will do the same. But, I do this with the realization that won't always happen.  I can only hope that at least I'll make people think about the various issues of Ag...even if they never agree with me.

If just one person learns something from any of my ramblings, I will count myself successful.  I have always appreciated this quote from Emerson…

"To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children;
to learn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."
                                                                 -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rather than writing just to "amuse" myself anymore...I hope that by blogging I can help someone re-connect with the sources of food, teach someone about food production, preparation or preservation...or maybe just make someone smile.

Thanks for reading! 

        …’s to the next 500.

If you want to know more about food production and handling, I would like to help you answer your questions.  If I don't have personal experience or know the answer...I know people who do. I’ll be glad to help you find the information you need.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 8-25

Another week has slipped away…

This week included working the sheep and switching the flocks around.  You can read about the “switcheroo” here.

First we corralled the ewe flock and Waylon and changed Waylon’s marker to the really orange one. (which I am happy to say…he’s been putting to fine use) 

Waylon was very patient and well-behaved
 Then they headed out front and the lambs went out back.  As if to prove my point about lamb mental prowess (or the actual lack thereof) only three lambs figured out that the open gate meant lovely, lush green grass.  The rest of them milled around and complained until the Boss came and herded them through the gate.
three "smart" lambs

The fog continues to be a story this month.  …and it’s not just here on the hill.  Can you find the Blue Ridge Mountains in these pictures?  Yes, they are back there.  Part of my town run is always a stop at the bank.  It sits high on a hill, overlooking Staunton.  The view of the mountains is generally spectacular, but this particular day I really liked the way the fog shrouded everything.

One of our “winter prep” jobs was to trim the onions and get them into cold storage.  It doesn’t look like much when the onions tops are all dried out and crispy.  But, we cut those away, the beautiful onions are revealed.  Despite the incredible amounts of rain at precisely the wrong times this year, the crop was a success and the onions are safely tucked into the reefer for long-term storage.
dried onions
trimming onions
onions ready for storage
prime onion - ready for Market

Then, we moved on to the winter squash harvest. When the vines die back and the squashes turn a light tan color, it is time to get them out of the garden before the squash bugs, slugs and rodents find a feast. The harvest was amazing!  Ordinarily we store them on the floor of the shop for a while until all the sap from the stems dries and the skins are toughened up a little bit.  Since there were so many, that wasn’t going to work.  So, they are presently sitting in a trailer in the barn.  Eventually, they will make it to boxes and crates closer to the house for winter storage.
ready for picking
squash bugs are EVERYWHERE
prime butternut squash
part of the harvest curing in the barn

…and then it was Market day again. 

 Which, was, of course, FOGGY!

 When the fog finally burned off, it was a gorgeous day and great Market.  As always, we are truly thankful for our customers.

We finished off the week with the delayed birthday celebration.

A fried chicken supper had been requested.  

…and sliced tomatoes…

…and chocolate cake. 

Now, THAT was a chocolate cake!

Thanks for stopping by! 

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Settin' by for Winter

Yet another foggy morning here on the hill.

All the foggy mornings this August got me thinkin’ about the oldtimer’s saying…

For every fog in August,
There will be a snowfall in Winter.

Oh, dear…goodness!

I’ve lost track of the foggy mornings this month.  It seems like when it wasn’t foggy, it was raining.  A couple of times it was foggy AND rainy! (wonder if there’s a saying for that one?)

I’ll be real honest here…I do not like the Winter…not even a little bit. 

It’s not because I’m wimpy and whiney...really.  The cold, icy, snowy, dismal weather of winter is hard on the animals, causing undue hardship on all the inhabitants on the hill. 

Here are a few entries about Winter in the Valley.

But, some thoughtful planning (and a little bit of extra work) makes the long winter a little more manageable. With a little extra work, there will plenty for all to eat during the cold, dark days ahead.

Here in the Valley, August is generally our biggest month for harvest.  There are tomatoes and squash, cucumbers and onions…corn, potatoes, green beans….and lots of other vegetables and fruits just waiting for our attention.

That means it’s also the biggest, busiest month for planning ahead to the lean times of Winter. If we want to enjoy our homegrown farm goodies in the Wintertime…we have to put some effort in during the Summer.
the view from the bean patch

We harvest, can, freeze, preserve and pickle all sorts of stuff.  Some of it is for home use and some for our Winter Sales group.  That other old saying about “making hay while the sun shines” applies to vegetable production and consumption as well.
some of this year's canned goods

chopped bell peppers, ready for the freezer

If you want to read about our Winter Sales…Check this out. This will be our sixth season of providing farm goodness straight through the Winter. 

I get a real feeling of security when the barn is full of hay (gotta feed those mama sheep in order to get lambchops), the reefer is stocked with onions and potatoes, and the freezers start straining at the seams with lamb and chicken and all sorts of vegetables, fruits and jams.

I just love a well-stocked pantry…freezer…larder…barn.

Love it!

Most of the preservation jobs have been completed.  But, we’re not done yet.

We still need to harvest (and freeze) the corn  

harvest the winter squash. 

Tomorrow… maybe…next week?  SOON!

 We have a while before the fall crop of potatoes must come out of the ground.  That one is on "the list", but an actual date has not been set.

The fall crop of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts is looking great!  But, we won't begin harvesting any of those for another couple weeks.

 …and we are constantly seeding/planting/harvesting in the hoophouses.  Hmmm…actually, we will never be “done”!

But, today, I am thankful…so thankful that we’ve gotten a lot of our provisions "set by for Winter".  …and even more thankful that we actually have the provisions to “set”!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 8-18

It certainly doesn’t seem like summer anymore…
47* at choretime in August...
more than a little unusual

The break in the heat and humidity is really nice, but the odd weather patterns are making the predictability of summer harvest…well, more than a little unpredictable. 

This time of year we should be awash in tomatoes and waiting impatiently for the fall broccoli crop.  Not so this year!

The peppers are GORGEOUS

We’ve reached that point in the season where a lot of things in the garden just look “tired”…the weeds and bugs have overwhelmed some crops…and it’s a real temptation to take a bush hog to the whole place and look forward to next year.  But, that can’t and WON’T happen.

This week, we changed things up a little.  

The Boss was hired by the management of the R’ham County Fair to “shoot” the fair for a second year.  We took a day away from farm work to capture the sights of the largest agricultural fair in Virginia.  A trip to the fair is really worthy of its own entry… but, for now, here are a few things we saw.
bovine love

happy hog

fine specimens in the ring

prizewinning vegetables

truly creative vegetables

the REAL dairy princesses

only at a fair in the South

just walkin' my cow
Yep...the fair makes everybody SMILE!

Back at the farm, it was time to play catch-up. 

Those green beans FINALLY ripened!  It seemed like they ripened all at one time. I picked and picked and…picked green beans.  Nearly 100 pounds of green beans off that small patch…and there will be more!
 **Toughchick came for a little visit and got pressed into service.  But, we did give her some beans to take home…’cause we’re just nice that way. ** 

Most of the green beans sold at the Market. The few that remain will be put up for winter use.

As further evidence of the inevitable shift of seasons, we began to see lots of the swallowtail butterflies of late summer.  I’m pretty sure the Monarchs will be making their annual stop at the milkweed blossoms, but I haven’t photographed any yet.

Virginia's state insect

This is a swallowtail, too

Milkweed blossoms

Remember I said that the battle with the bugs would be epic?  That is proving to be an understatement. Check out all the juvenile squash bugs! Pretty sure we lost this particular skirmish in the ongoing battle.  

On the other hand, the garden spiders are doing their best to keep the “bad guys” out of the crops. I apologize to anyone who finds spiders creepy…I think spiders are awesome...READ this.

It looks like the corn will be ready this week.  I think we won the battle with the ‘coons and we will have plenty of corn for winter. (unlike last year…READ this)

The upcoming week promises to be a busy one.  It’s time to get the hoophouses cleaned out and filled with crops for winter sales, weed, mow,  process corn, green beans (and hopefully some tomatoes) and switch up the sheep/lamb flocks.  …and a few hundred other things.

What a beautiful view

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you'll come again.  

Tess has become my new office "helper".
She feels it is her responsibility to check out EVERYTHING
coming from the printer.

Happy Sunday!