Thursday, October 31, 2013

A New Project

I’ve taken on a new project…

For the next thirty days I will be blogging every day about life here on the hill… Every.Single.Day. Maybe this will help me learn to be a little more succinct (and not so rambly) and timely with my posts.  Maybe.

I’m taking part in a challenge put forth by Holly Spangler or My Generation over at Farm Progress.  Check this out    

Every November she makes an effort to blog every day about Agriculture related subjects and a number of other bloggers join in.  These are folks whose blogs I’ve been reading for a while, so I’m pretty excited to have this opportunity. (I feel like I get to play with “the big kids”)

I’ve decided to call the series “30 days of Views from the Hill”. Don’t worry, it won’t be just a bunch of random pictures from my front yard, I will be expressing my point of view on a number of Ag subjects as well. I’d like to say I have this all planned out and I’m absolutely certain I can do it…but, I’m not that organized…and I know all too well how things go around here!

So, here’s hoping!

You should go check out Holly’s blog and follow along with all the other bloggers during November…it promises to be an enlightening/entertaining month.

Oh, and since it is Thursday…I’m very thankful to Holly for allowing me this opportunity!

The posts are:

day one 30 days: Oh, the View!
day two We Might Just Live in "Opposite World"
day three Sunday Walkabout 11-3
day four ...then THIS happened...
day five On the Road Again
day six A Wordless Wednesday
day seven A Thursday Thankful: FOOD
day eight Lookin' Out for the "Little Guy"
day nine Some Serious Shopping
day ten Sunday Walkabout 11-10
day eleven...and on less...
day twelve Tomorrow's Another Day
day thirteen Meet the Corporate Farm
day fourteen Everyone Knows You Can't Freeze Lettuce
day fifteen Sunday Walkabout 11-17
day sixteen David vs. Goliath
day seventeen You Don't LOOK Like a Farmer
day eighteen When Did Gus Become a Farm Dog?
day nineteen Oh No...vember
day twenty Weird and Wacky Wednesday
day twenty-one The Thing Sheep Do Best
day twenty-two End of the Season
day twenty-three Braggin' Rights
day twenty-four Sunday Walkabout 11-24
day twenty-five V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N
day twenty-six Count-down to T-day
day twenty-seven #foodthanks
day twenty-eight Thanksgiving Memory
day twenty-nine Black Friday on the Hill
day thirty End of the Month

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

When I am Weak...

I hate to be weak, needy or seen as a sissy!  I REALLY hate it.
view from my hospital room
all I could think was HOME was out there beyond those hills

As a child, self-reliance was a survival skill…asking for help showed weakness and made one the object of ridicule. I did everything I could to never, ever look weak.

Now...I see myself as tough, resilient and resourceful. (most of the time) As a farmer, all these qualities are more than a little useful and often put to the test.  I like to think I am made of good pioneer stock---that I can stand up to any challenge.  My ultimate aspiration, much to the Boss’ great consternation and chagrin, is to be seen as “badass”.  I know…sorry.  But, the word doesn’t conjure the same mental image for me as it does for him.  To me, it would grant me the ability to be impervious to the inner anguish caused by the unkind words and deeds of others, not bothered by anything...really tough and strong.
So, when I found myself gazing up at the ceiling fixture of an ambulance, nitro glycerin tablet under my tongue and tears sliding down my face, with young medics watching my vital signs and calling me “ma’am” every third word, I was about as far from…that word the Boss really doesn’t like…as one can get.  And that made me realize just how weak and needy I really was.

No amount of resourcefulness could slow my heartbeat.  No amount of farmer toughness could make the dizziness, the pain and the nausea go away. That good pioneer stock was useless against the tightness in my chest and the pain in my jaw and left arm. And, it didn’t matter how…well, you know…I wanted to be, that big medic wasn’t going to let me change my mind and get back out of the ambulance.  Nope, there was absolutely nothing I could do except go along for the ride and wait for someone else to fix this one. Embrace the weakness…that’s about all I could do.

...and that was really hard.

When the ER doc told us that he was going to admit me, that I’d have to have some tests and stay the night, I wanted to just sorta pretend it hadn’t happened. I really hoped someone was going to tell me that it was all in my head and I was being silly.  I was also trying to figure out how we could still get all the farm stuff done for Saturday’s market.  The Boss decided to post the current situation on Facebook. I didn’t stop him, but I really didn’t want him to.  It would make me look weak and needy and it would worry some folks needlessly.  No, he was doing it.  He reasoned that we needed the prayer power.

I think he was right.

After a couple EKG’s, X-rays, a couple of blood tests and another nitro-glycerin, they wheeled me to a room, where I was supposed to settle in for my stay.  The Boss headed out to find something to eat, since it seemed that we were here for the duration.

Not five minutes after he left, the nurse came in and said, “I don’t know how this happened…but, you’re going to have your stress test…RIGHT now.”  As in, right now, the guy was rolling a wheelchair in the door, RIGHT NOW. She added, “This means that they will most likely send you home this afternoon.”

Answer to prayer?  Maybe

With the stress test out of the way, they had the answers they needed about my heart issues.  While the plumbing system is fine, the electrical system does this “rapid-fire” thing from time to time.  The proper name is atrial tachycardia. Even though this is truly frightening and more than a little annoying, it is not quite as concerning as blockages and/or very high blood pressure. The condition can be regulated with medication, so after scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist, they sent me home.

When I got home, I was astounded to find bunches and bunches of caring messages, kind thoughts, well wishes from a whole lot of very concerned folks.  At the Market the next day, I got hugs and cards.  No one will ever know quite how much that meant…means…to me.

Not to get all preachy, but that made me think of the Bible verse: “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10)and it made me wonder if perhaps my whole view of strength and toughness might not be a little skewed. Without being weak, admitting weakness or feeling needy…I may have never known that all those people cared. I wouldn’t have found out that I do indeed have a health concern.  I wouldn’t have met all the kind professionals that provided for my care throughout the course of the day. Maybe weakness is not a bad thing after all.  Is it possible the outcome of the entire event was changed because of that? Maybe what I thought was strength really isn’t…?

Something to think about…

So, while it was a really expensive way to get some insight, and I am still bothered about just how many people in Augusta County have now seen my underwear, some good really did come out of that incredible scary, freaky Friday.
thanks to for the photo

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 10-27

It’s been a pretty slow week here on the hill…well, by comparison anyway.

No eagle sightings or encounters with black widows and thankfully, no trip to the hospital in an ambulance. Just your average week here on the hill…just about as close to normal as we ever get.

That’s not to say that we didn’t work or anything. We got a fair amount of work done. And, we even took time for our annual road trip to get apples and go out to lunch. (part of the Boss’ birthday celebration) That trip also included a visit to my cardiologist and a prescription that is supposed to control my heart issues.  I must admit, I never thought I’d be under the care of a cardiologist…but…so far, so good.

1st pass through red potatoes
...looking pretty good
We got the last of the potato crop for 2013 harvested and stored in the reefer for Winter Sales.  The amounts of red potatoes and the Yukon Gold made up for the paltry amount of Kennebecs.   We only have a couple more outside jobs to complete before we’re ready for Winter.  …and that’s a good thing.  A cold front blew through on Wednesday and made for the first real COLD weather of the year. 

 I even saw a few snowflakes as I harvested on Thursday afternoon!

As part of the annual garden clean-up, the Boss turned the hens out in the lower garden.  They will scratch and peck and hopefully eat lots of weed seeds and insect eggs and grubs…making for a “weedless” garden next year. Okay, weed-LESS is a real stretch (as in, impossible)…and really, we would be happy with less weeds.

the first hens in the garden
You won't believe how well they will clean up the weedy mess!

Since Gus seems to be the latest star of the farm…here’s a little update.

 He has expanded his repertoire a little...  After eating an apple, a zucchini, a bunch of cauliflower leaves and half of a jalapeño pepper in the course of a day and then trimming some of the trees and bushes with his teeth (he was trying to reach the cat) …he has moved on to interior…no make that exterior…design. 
No use denying it, Gus
I've got photographic evidence!
For reasons known only to Gus, he removed the chrysanthemum from the pot next to the porch, chewed up the pot and put the ruined plant in the the "dog cave".  Whether that was to hide the evidence or to spruce up the place, we have not yet decided.  But, I am so glad that this stage of puppyhood doesn’t last forever!

But, it does seem that he is learning to do what our dogs are supposed to do.  He and Ellie met me at the gate when I came back from the mailbox…and he barked at the neighbor a little. (he also ran away and hid from said neighbor…but…he is a puppy)

When I mentioned the cold front, I realize I didn’t say just how cold it was.
 It was 27* when the Market opened…and only 40* by the time we got back to the hill at 1pm.  Yeah, it was cold downtown!  The Wharf sits a little lower than the rest of the City and the Market is surrounded by buildings.  It takes a long time for the sun to begin to warm the parking lot…and then there is the wind that swirls around between the buildings.  Late October and November weather at our open air market can be most uncomfortable.

However, we bundled up…the customers came… the sun began to shine in all its fall glory and it was a good day.  But, it was so cold I never took a picture!  And, I’ll be real honest…it felt SO good to get home out of the wind and cold…we just wanted to sit for the rest of the weekend.  But, not so fast…open the hoophouses, water the greenhouse, check on the animals and just like that it was time for afternoon chores again.  Yep, just like every Saturday.

So, here’s to being back to “normal”!

Thanks for stopping by…

 Happy Sunday!

Y’all come on back now, ya hear?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 10-20

It’s been an interesting week here on the hill…
…and that’s putting it mildly.

We got hoophouse #2 all cleaned up and ready for re-planting (thanks for the help, Blondie!) I got the bulbs for the green garlic planted.We will start harvesting in the early spring.

We took Blondie out to lunch (in payment for the weeding) and we all took a little road-trip to pick up lambchops and the like (nearly filling the “lamb” freezer),  

On our way out we saw one of the “Mbrook EAGLES”.

One of the local bird enthusiasts told me some time ago that Mbrook is the place to see bald eagles. I saw an eagle in the same area last year at this time.You can read about that here. It’s a pretty amazing sight, particularly when they fly.

We processed another batch of broilers and moved the last batch of broilers outside. We began praying for one last day of warm-ish weather…specifically on November 11---the last processing day for ’13. (nothing more miserable than broiler processing in cold weather…except cold, RAINY weather)

We moved the layer chicks from the greenhouse to the brooder and started cleaning the greenhouses for winter use. 

We finally got around to beginning the potato harvest. If I say we're having issues with the weather...again...I know I sound like a broken record. But...the weather is indeed causing delays. I must say, the Kennebec potato crop was more than a little disappointing (hopefully things will improve when we get to the other varieties this week).

 While harvesting potatoes, we found a black widow spider.  It was the first either of us had ever seen and it was unexpected given the surroundings.  The black widow isn’t quite as terrifying and deadly as one might think, but it is still poisonous and can cause some real “issues”, so we’ll be on the lookout and wear gloves when we finish the potato harvest…and when we get around to stacking the woodpile.

Gus continued eating everything in sight.
this time SOAP bubbles looked tasty

eating a bun with a flower stalk for dessert

Tess has become a "mighty huntress" and is loving the barn. (except when she gets cold...then she runs for the house)

Rain and drizzle were the weather words of the week. The views, views, views here on the hill were all but obliterated by fog most mornings. 
the view of Sugarloaf mountain
...seriously, it's out there

Although, we have had some gorgeous skies and the trees are starting to show the beautiful colors of Autumn.

I never expected to end up the week with a visit to the ER…by ambulance, no less!  But, I’m here to tell you that if you complain of chest pains and palpitations, that’s what is going to happen.  My heart was thoroughly checked out and I was released the same day.  I’ll be making a visit to the cardiologist this week to further investigate and treat the atrial tachycardia that they discovered.  It doesn’t sound real serious, but it was a very scary Friday.

Looks pretty pathetic, doesn't it?

Honestly, any day but Friday would have been so much better for an emergency…but…whatcha gonna do?  Spending the day at the hospital meant that the Boss and I didn’t get any harvesting done for Market and as one of our customer-friends noted “cupboards were bare” for Saturday morning.  …and that was a bummer…for both our customers and for us.  But, looks like we should be back in the groove for next week.

I do want to say a special THANK YOU to all those who sent messages, kind thoughts and prayers.  Y’all are a real special bunch!  We both truly appreciated your care and concern.
artwork from Eva 

Hopefully, the upcoming week won’t have any excitement!  I am a great fan of routine…the mundane…the “same old, same old”. 

Wishing all of you a very

Happy Sunday! 

Come back and visit us again soon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Boss Explained

Today, I am going to share a secret with you. I guess it's more of an insight than a secret... 

this big crane was spotted at the fair
I HAD to take a photo!
Since it is National BOSSES’ Day…I am finally going to reveal just why I call the Boss---the BOSS. I hope you’re not going to be disappointed, because I’m pretty sure it’s not what you think.

It has been suggested that it is “tongue-in-cheek”, that he really is NOT the boss in any way shape or form. Could it be that he’s really mean and oppressive and makes me call him that?  Maybe I really wish he was Bruce Springsteen.  Maybe he IS Bruce Springsteen.   By calling him that it reveals that surely, I think all women must be subservient…and should kow-tow to their husbands’ every whim. It has even been suggested that the title has a more sinister meaning and he has some very shady connections and more than a little “influence”. 

Interesting conjectures…but, well…in a word…NO.

                        …although Bruce Springsteen does figure into the story…a little.

When I first started blogging, I referred to my husband by his given name.  But, that seemed kind of boring.I mean the other bloggers I read all had little nicknames for their spouses and family members. Some use what they call them in real life, some use initials, some use descriptive titles or acronyms.  For instance, The Pioneer Woman refers to her husband as “Marlboro Man”…not because they are in the back pocket of Big Tobacco, or because he smokes like a furnace…no, she makes no pretense about it…she likes the way he looks in chaps.

But, I digress...

This story started a long time ago.

I was 17 when I finished high school and left home for a college where I knew no one. It was a major adjustment, and although I can’t say I did it well…I did do it. But, at some point, I figured out that the plans I had made weren’t working out like I thought they would and I came back home. By the time I met my future husband, I was 19 and had changed majors and schools…and was living at home again. My life vision was completely different and I was working full-time while going to school full-time, too.
I met the Boss when he came to cash his paycheck at the drive-thru window at the bank where I was employed as a teller. You can read about that story here. He is 8 years my senior, was working as a substation electrician at the local power company and had more than a little bit of life experience by the time we met.  It was nice to have someone to grant guidance on the intricacies of life when whole “being a grown-up” thing got more than a little overwhelming. It seemed he knew everything.  I admit…sometimes, that got  to be a bit much…and on more than one occasion, I didn’t accept the guidance with a whole lot of grace and gratitude. (still don’t sometimes)

I guess I should note here that the Boss is just genetically pre-disposed to stating his opinion in no uncertain terms… to being bossy.  He comes from a long line of out-spoken and opinionated people.  I truly admire him for always saying exactly what he thinks, although that trait has gotten him into more than a little trouble throughout the years. (and not just with me)

At the time we were dating, Bruce Springsteen was making his grand entrance into the music world.  As in his songs were on the radio all the time.  When a DJ introduced him as the “Boss”, I turned to my fiancée and said…”Bruce Springsteen shouldn’t be called the BOSS…YOU should!”  He thought it was funny and told his co-workers.   Odd and random nick-names were just part of the workplace.  They thought it was hilarious.  As one of the crew leaders, his “boss” attitude was a just a given. It was more than a little amusing to call the office and ask one of them for the Boss.  …and I think they were all a little jealous that the Boss got such treatment.   (he still tells people I call him that…just to see their reaction)

I hadn’t referred to him as the Boss in years (until after I started blogging).  He willingly gave up his “title” for what may have been the best Christmas present we ever gave.
Granny and Granddaddy - Christmas 1986
In my grandparents’ declining years, my grandfather decided that rather than move from their multi-story house, he would have an elevator installed. A crew was hired and work began.  Granddaddy spent a lot of time “supervising” the job (read…talking their ears off) The work crew laughingly referred to him as the Boss, despite the fact that I’m certain he never gave a direct order in his entire life.  At my Boss’ suggestion, we bought a white hard hat (like the supervisors wear) and some stick-on letters.  It was made to say THE BOSS. And we gave it to Granddaddy for Christmas.  My grandfather wore that hard hat throughout the construction phase, much to everyone’s amusement. That little act proved to me in part what a good guy the Boss really is.

As for being oppressed…or thinking women should be oppressed…  Seriously? (you must not know me)  …and NO, I do NOT think every woman should refer to her husband as THE BOSS.   Nor does he.  We’ll leave it to other folks to work out the intricacies of their own relationships.

As for insinuations that there is something sinister behind the nickname…sorry…nope, not that one either. The Boss is far too honest and outspoken to ever survive as some sort of gangster or underground thug.
In any organization/group/team/family… there has to be one person in charge…the one who has the final word.  In our case, it works best for the Boss to be…well, the Boss.  I’m perfectly content to have someone else take responsibility for the final decision.  That doesn’t mean that my opinion isn’t considered and quite often acted upon.  But, it does mean that we aren’t always fighting for dominance…so we can work together…as a team.

Ultimately, I call the Boss...THE BOSS...because he is the Boss. It's simply a statement of fact. No intrigue or innuendo.  It's just the way it is...a little outspoken...the unvarnished truth....  Kinda like the Boss himself.
Giammarino & Dworkin Photography
 ...and that's okay by me.

Now that curiosity has been satisfied…

                         I’ll finish this by saying…

Happy Bosses' Day to all the other bosses out there!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Like a Big Dog

TLWomack photo

Gus’ incredible cute-ness has a lot of folks gushing over him. 

It is imagined that he sleeps in the house and that he is spoiled beyond measure. It has been suggested that he visit the Market…that he have play-dates with other doggies…and that I indulge myself in lots of canine kisses.

Unfortunately, I have to burst everyone’s bubble.  I get to be the “mean mom”…tough old farmer-woman when I say…

NO…Gus is a guardian dog.  He works for a living.
See, doesn’t that sound mean? Gus doesn’t get to go on play dates or sleep in a soft and comfy bed in the house and there is no way he’s ever going to the Market… While his every need will be met…he will be loved, appreciated and always treated well,

                        you must understand a guardian animal is different than a pet.

Over time, Gus will come to know his family, his farm and his animals quite well.  It is his natural instinct to protect those who belong to him…and ONLY those who belong to him.  Our cats (once they overcome their terror of the chubby nuisance that tries to get them to play all the time) will be watched over with a canine benevolence.  Any neighborhood cats will be chased off the property in a flash.

The sheep have begun to accept him, although they still find his erratic movements startling. (they find all erratic movements…some days ANY movement…startling)
He is fascinated by the chickens, but they pay absolutely no attention to him.  After one encounter with the electric fence, he doesn’t even try to “visit” the chickens anymore.

I think she's saying, "listen here, kid...I'm in charge...and...
don't you forget it!"
He will bond with Ellie Mae, who has taken on the role of mentor (albeit rather unwillingly). They will work in tandem to guard the sheep and alert us to threats to the chickens and quite possibly (hopefully) apprise us of invaders in the gardens. They'll catch squirrels, rats and groundhogs.  All other canines, be they neighborhood dogs or coyotes, will be summarily dispatched from the premises.  That is the role of a guardian dog. That also explains why Gus can’t play with other dogs…if he accepts one unknown canine as a “friend” he may someday accept coyotes as well.

The Great Pyrenees are a fairly massive breed. If his current rate of weight gain is any indication, he will be enormous!  He gained over 11 pounds in just three weeks.  He eats anything he’s given…and a number of things that I would really rather he didn’t.

Sticks, flowers, rats...doesn't matter...
yesterday he chewed up a flower pot!
I know it will cause dismay to those dog lovers out there when I unequivocally state that Gus will never sleep in the house. (sorry 'bout that)  Presently, he does sleep in the barn, in what one of our shepherd-friends calls “the lion cage”.  It’s a fairly large wire pen that the Boss built years ago to haul Blondie’s show lambs around. It makes a nice puppy kennel.  (And, really, I have no idea why it’s called “the lion cage”.) But, eventually, he will sleep outdoors.  The guardian dog patrols the farm at night, doing his/her heavy sleeping in the middle of the day.  Since all the other farm animals live outside, the dogs must be out there in order to protect them.  The Pyrs have a heavy, somewhat water-resistant coat and love cold weather.  The breed originated in the high mountains between Spain and France.  They are well-suited to braving the elements.

While Gus is growing, we will try to teach him some manners.  He needs to learn basic commands…you know,” sit, stay, and come”. This is for his safety and our peace of mind. Pyrs are notoriously stubborn, so this is a real challenge.  Ellie has already taught him the one basic thing that will assure his survival here on the hill …no one…NO ONE eats Ellie’s food or takes Ellie’s bones.  That is NO ONE!
the one and only time Gus got away with eating Ellie's food

He’s started to patrol and bark at those things he perceives to be unusual.  He’s also developed the rather annoying habit of barking when he’s corrected.  It’s like he’s talking back. While it’s kind of funny right now, I can assure you that’s not going to continue…I didn’t let my kids do it…I certainly won’t put up with back-talk from a dog!

He’s learning to watch…
and wait…
with a lot of play-time thrown in for good measure.

And while he’s a working animal, he’s also part of the “team” here on the hill. He’s going to be a real asset, so we will do our best to provide for his every need.

We’re real “hands-on” around here, so he’s probably a little more of a pet than a lot of sheep operations would allow.  (that’s just what works for us)  He’ll get plenty of ear and belly rubs and little treats from time to time. He’ll learn to follow us anywhere…more for the companionship than any real assistance.

…and his somewhat goofy actions will provide us with an endless source of amusement.

But, as for those canine kisses…

I’m in total agreement with Lucy vanPelt on that one!
Ugh! I’ve been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs!
Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some Iodine!
Lucy Van Pelt – A Charlie Brown Christmas