Monday, April 27, 2015

The Definition of Determination

I can’t believe our baby turns 25 today!

(and she probably can’t believe I just called her a baby and revealed her actual age)

It is a temptation as parents to point out just how much we’ve taught our children and to take great pride in their accomplishments. While we are incredibly proud of both of our daughters’ successes, I’m pretty sure THEY have taught us far more than we ever thought of teaching them! (and I say this as a veteran homeschooling mom)

From the moment she arrived in this world, Blondie has challenged me to re-think most everything I thought I knew about…well, everything. 

I knew she was going to be a force to reckon with when she was about four and I was about to apply the “rod of knowledge and understanding” to the “seat of knowledge” and she wailed, “but, wait!  I’ve been falsely accused!” That one stopped me in my tracks.

It's not a horse, but it will have to do

When we arrived on the hill, she was but a tiny slip of a thing, running like the wind from point to point, in an attempt to be “wild and free” like the horses she loved so much.

Raising children and while starting a farm from scratch was a challenge to say the least.  Money was tight and we had to be creative in our approaches to a lot of things. So, when the request for a pony was presented (repeatedly) it was denied. 

feeding Bud his bottle

Bud-the-calf was offered as a stand-in pet. But, Bud was a baby and he found the expeditions over hill and dale more than a little tiring, so he would revolt.  And, by revolt I mean he would simply walk no farther and attempt to lie down and take a little nap. Then, she would be stuck far from the house/barn with a tired and un-cooperative calf (that was as big as she was). To keep the walks moving along, she would carry the calf bottle along on their walks and give Bud a little drink before heading back to the barn.  It was a sight to see.

leading Bud

But, Bud was no pony.

Kuh the cow

Kuh, the milk cow, could be ridden ever-so-slowly around the barn.  She was nearing retirement age and did everything slowly, so safety was never a concern.  But, a cowgirl needed to be “wild and free” and fast as the wind.

…and as much Kuh was loved, she was no pony.

In a bid to teach some lessons and encourage a good work ethic, the Boss promised that if “you earn the money---you can buy a pony”. He had no idea that he had just thrown down the gauntlet.  Blondie picked up that challenge and ran with it.  Ran like the wind.

When you’re ten years old and living in the country, earning money can be a challenge.  In a move that would dictate her future, Blondie determined that she wanted to sell something at the Farmers’ Market. We decided on a product, found a recipe and came up with packaging.  …and she was off and running yet again.

Despite the fact that it occasionally took the efforts of the entire family to blast Blondie out of bed in the mornings…on baking day, there she was…no added incentives needed.

making granola bars


That determination paid off when the “horse fund” was finally big enough and “J-man” joined us on the hill.  He was just a baby mini-horse and was more than a little “wild and free” himself.  But, she loved him and was determined to have him learn to pull a little cart. (that she bought with money earned from granola bar sales)

…and pull he did. (most of the time)

When the sheep became part of the farm scene, Blondie was determined to become the shepherdess. 

Not just feeding them, but spinning, dyeing and weaving their wool in to all sorts of creations.  Felted artwork became part of her Market offerings. (because that little horse needed feed and care and…)

Then, she was determined to learn to shear. The Boss took her to a class at VATech and she became our go-to shearer.  She even began to shear for others, adding to her earnings. 

When the show-ring beckoned, she approached that with the same steadfast determination, researching online, chatting with like-minded souls late into the night, observing every sheep show she could find, practicing for countless hours in the backyard.

Determination paid off.

Somewhere along the way, the “famous granola bars” at the Market became a thing of the past as Life’s more interesting options presented themselves. As a “real grown-up”, she got a job, met a guy, got married, and bought a house. 

 But, the call of the Market was a strong one.  She was determined to return to her entrepreneurial roots and become a Market vendor once more.  Although now the “famous granola bars” wouldn’t be enough. She wanted to offer baked goods and produce…to make this enterprise pay big time.  Armed with my old bread recipes, lots of new ideas, a few bread pans and fierce determination, she again became a force to be reckoned with. 

 Her Market display is amazing! …and so are her sales.

In August, Blondie and Tbone will welcome a son to their lives and I’m pretty sure it will take a great deal of determination to keep the garden-baking business on an even keel with an infant in tow.  But, if anyone can do it…Blondie can. 


Well… Determination defines her.  Or, maybe she defines determination!

               Happy Birthday, Amanda!

 You are a challenge and an inspiration and I LOVE YOU!


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 4-26

Wow! This has been what the Boss calls a “productive week”!
  (in other words, we really deserve/need a nap on this dreary Sunday afternoon)

1st broiler of 2015
Monday was “broiler processing” day. It’s hard to believe that it is time to get those chickens ready for the Market customers who have been eagerly anticipating fresh chicken for weeks now.

That project went off without a hitch.  

I like jobs where we both know our roles and everything just falls into place! We meant to get the next batch out on pasture before batch #3 arrived…but, the cold weather made a comeback, so yes…we do have chicks in the shop. Again.
another box of babies arrived at the Post Office

beautiful skies before the storm
With an eye on the weather, I headed into town, even though I truly hate running errands after lunch.  It messes up my routine and I have to explain to nearly everyone I see WHY I’m in town so late in the day. (ya think I might be just a little TOO predictable?)

Errands run, feed unloaded, chores done…just in time.  Those clouds that had been building all afternoon finally burst forth with some torrential rain, wind…and yes, even some tiny hail! It was a short, intense storm that was over as quickly as it began, causing little, if any damage. (thankfully)
pea-sized hail

after the rain

Finally, finally…we got the Spring potatoes planted. I was really beginning to wonder if we were EVER going to get them in the ground.  Gotta have ‘taters!  Read more about potatoes here and here.

"plunkin' 'taters"

look at those EYES

18 rows of potatoes planted
waiting to be hilled

Again, the project went off without a hitch.  

 The first asparagus was harvested, strawberry blossoms were spotted and I even found the Boss’ long-lost leatherman in the garden. We have been on a roll this week. Hooray!

strawberry blossom

This has been missing for WEEKS

With the broilers processed and the potatoes planted, we turned our attentions to the hoophouses. Hoophouse #1 is in fine shape, with all the beds planted and productive…yes, I do see the weeds in the paths and along the outside walls.  The battle with the weeds is never ending.

The Boss got most of Hoophouse #2 cleared out and I planted in all the newly tilled beds.  It looks like we’ll get it in full production this week.
see the hens waiting for a handout?

After the rain came the wind (no surprise, the wind almost always blows here on the hill). The poor little brassicas and onions took a three day beating with gusts up to 50 mph.  Some of them did indeed succumb to the cold, windy conditions that sucked all the life-giving moisture out of everything. But, the vast majority of them are looking quite healthy and vigorous. Of course, then it began to rain again…I’m pretty sure we are stuck in a repeat of March’s weather pattern.

It had warmed up to 35 when I started picking
I’m not kidding about the weather feeling more like March.  We’ve been under frost/freeze warnings all week.  And, Friday’s harvest day started out quite chilly. As a matter of fact, it was so cold that I had to put off picking until the temperatures rose above freezing. (more for the safety of the lettuce than the comfort of my picking fingers) But, temperatures rebound quickly in the Spring and by 10 am, it was warm and toasty in the hoophouses.
You know it's cold when the Boss wears his
special greens washing gloves!

radishes don't mind chilly weather

I got some pretty weird looks when I stopped to photograph
the sleet on the sidewalk

More rain was forecast for the Market…combined with cold temperatures…so, it looked like the Market might be a washout.  Turns out that despite the sleet (yes, I did say SLEET) and gloom, the sale day was great!  If the Market has taught me anything, it’s don’t give up…not yet.

We ended the week with a family supper to note the April birthdays.  Tbone and Blondie share a birthday month, so we had “awesome” burgers with all the fixin’s to celebrate the occasion.  It was also GB#1’s first family gathering here on the hill.   I’m pretty sure he will be wanting his own plate next time!
"Ya see, Grandpa..."

…and now it’s Sunday.  A rainy, cold, dark Sunday that doesn’t seem good for much besides a nap. Since the animals are fed, the greenhouses/hoophouses tended, supper readied and the laundry sorted for washing…that’s definitely where I am headed.

Looks like I'm not the only one in the mood for a nap

Happy Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you’ll come “visit” us again real soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 4-19

Sure, it's gloomy and cloudy...
but, look at the GREEN!
I can’t believe it’s already time for our little Sunday farm tour!

The recurrent story this week has been RAIN.  The total might not be overly impressive, just about 1 ½ inches, the ground remains quite wet and the creeks are running much higher than normal.  And, you know what’s in the forecast for this afternoon?  You’ve got it.  MORE rain.  We are beginning to think we will never get the potatoes planted! 

plantin' onions 2015
We did catch a break in the weather on Monday and got the onions planted.  All the little onion plants benefitted greatly from all the rain and we can look forward to big sweet onions around the end of June. The red onions and storage onions will mature a little later.

It doesn't look like much,
but, there are THOUSANDS of onion plants out there

We get the onion plants from a farm in Texas that grows millions of transplants for sale.  I must say, I wasn’t as happy with this year’s shipment as I have been in years past. The plants seemed rather small and there were lots of teeny, tiny plants this year.  We usually plant the very small plants in tight rows in the garden, allow them to grow for a short while and sell them as green onions.  That may be a problem this year as the garden remains too wet to plant anything.  Fortunately, onion plants can sit for quite some time prior to transplanting with few serious consequences.

Look at this!
The color on Bright Lights chard goes through to the roots
Since it’s far too wet to work outdoors, the hoophouses have gotten a fair amount of attention are looking pretty good.  A couple more intense weeding/cleaning days followed by some intense planting and we should have them in full production…just in time to pull the early crops and plant more.  The hoophouses are all about succession planting!  Which means that the greenhouses are full of flats of seedlings awaiting transplanting.  You know the expression…Life’s a dance…?  There is a great deal of “choreography” involved in keeping the cycle going in order to have fresh greens for Market. One mis-step can have long-lasting repercussions.  (so far, so good…) We did have one close call as I forgot to water the greenhouse one morning and by afternoon everything was looking more than a little dry and stressed.  Thankfully, a good dousing and the seedlings made a full recovery.
100% germination on first planting of Cucumbers!

The “April showers” do indeed bring forth the flowers. However, the blossoms aren’t waiting until May. The tulips, daffodils, and violets are simply beautiful. We even got the rosebushes planted in the side garden and if the buds are any indication, they are going to do very well. (and Gus didn’t feel it necessary to “help” by digging in them, either) 

The bright sunshine made everything SO beautiful...even Squeekie as she napped in the backyard.

Apparently, Squeekie doesn't like being a model!

I do hope we get some peaches from our one remaining tree!

 The fruit trees are covered with blossoms, although I won’t allow myself to get too excited about this.  All too often we have a late freeze here on the hill and lose any hope of tree fruit.  We have at least another month before we can stop worrying over frost.

apple blossoms

plum blossoms

The spring rains also bring out the SNAILS. 

Some years they seem to be everywhere…all sizes and colors.  The abundance always leads to a discussion of the possibility of “Mbrk free-range escargot”, more for hilarity’s sake than because there’s any real possibility of becoming snail farmers.  Because...well...ewwww...
What do you think?
Good advertising idea...?

The sheep have adapted quickly to the routine of being out on pasture.  The ewes can mow a paddock in a matter of hours and feel the need to “tell” me that they are done and would like to have fresh grass by complaining loudly whenever I’m within sight.

The lambs have finally learned to come when I call “SHEEP!” and I’m certain our close neighbors appreciate the fact that I don’t stand out in the field banging my feedbucket and calling loudly for long periods of time while the lambs look around blankly, completely ignoring me and all the ruckus I might be making. (no, lambs are not the brightest bulbs…)

All the rain and gloom makes us truly appreciative of the sunshine…and after the rains the skies are truly amazing. 

heading down the lane to Market

Saturday was one of those gorgeous spring days. Since there was also a downtown celebration for Earth Day, the Market was full of people.  We sold over 100 bags of salad greens in just 3 hours!  And, we could have sold far more. 

A good news/bad news kind of thing
EMPTY baskets at 10am

I’m pretty sure we will never, ever fully meet the demand. But, there’s not much I can do about it. This time of year we’re still playing catch-up from the cold weather of winter…and we can only pick and pack so much stuff anyway. I do hate selling out early in the day, but, it simply cannot be helped. 

The forecast shows MORE raindrops and some chilly temperatures. (what did I tell you about frost?) That should keep us on our toes.  This week is going to be all about chickens…we will process the first batch of broilers on Monday, move the mid-size broilers outside on Tuesday, and get the next batch of babies on Wednesday...(and take CHICKEN to Saturday's Market!)

Yep, Life IS a Dance!

In the meantime, here’s to a Happy Sunday!

I’m heading out to go shopping with Toughchick and GB#1…since we have a double birthday party coming up this week.  

Thanks for stopping by.  Do come back and “visit” again real soon!

Nothing finer than Spring on the farm!