Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 7-26

off to Market
It’s been a hot, busy week here on the hill and I am incredibly thankful that we generally take Sunday to be “a day of rest”. Because, honestly, I am beat. I’m pretty sure we will both benefit from a little down-time before the upcoming week that promises to be more of the same.

hot and hazy morning view

It’s mid-summer, perhaps the busiest time of the year on any farm, but around here it means that we’re busy harvesting the fruits of summer, preserving them for winter, planting fall crops and even looking ahead to next year.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

1st load 2015 hay

There were two full wagons waiting for us in the hay guy’s shed, so it really didn’t matter if the forecast for Monday was for HOT weather.  It looked like we were in for a stretch of dry weather, so haymaking was on his to-do list. 

However, in order for the hay guy to load more hay, we needed to empty his haywagons first.  That was going to be Monday’s afternoon job, after I went to town and the Boss did a little bush-hogging for the neighbor.
bush hogging 

My town trip was fairly uneventful, although Gus escaped on my way through the gate and I had a few moments of panic as he appeared to be setting off for the wild blue yonder. Thankfully he is NOT like our other Pyr, Jed, who must have been bitten by the wanderlust or perhaps had a little gypsy in his blood, because when he would get through the gate…he was off and running to parts unknown.  Once, the entire family (including a then-boyfriend) set off on a chase through the darkness, only to capture the aggravating creature in one of the town neighbor’s backyard.  I was not up for a dog-chasing adventure first thing on a Monday morning and I was grateful that he turned and headed for home without incident.  Until I grabbed his collar.  He does NOT like his collar grabbed, and he jumped straight up in the air, feet flailing wildly.  One of his enormous claws came down on my arm, bruising my bicep.  Then, it was a struggle to hold him AND Ellie while I closed the gate.  Holding onto 200+ pounds of jumping, drooling white fur and muscle while attempting to leave for town was not the way to start my Monday.  Thankfully, the day did improve.
I looked back from the mailbox to see them still watching me

After lunch, we headed over to pick up the first wagon.  The bales were big and tight and stacked high in the wagon.  It quickly became obvious that we weren’t going to get both wagons that afternoon. Hauling hay is hard physical work done in hot weather and it takes a toll. (and that bruise on my bicep really didn’t help anything) With that load of hay stacked, we figured we would go back the next morning for the other wagon.



load one done

empty wagon
ready to go again

But, the weather had other plans. Tuesday’s forecast was for rain. Rain and hay just do not mix, so the Boss decided we could start working on planting out the fall brassica crop. A little rain wouldn’t hurt us and the young transplants would actually benefit from the moisture.

By lunchtime, we had over 600 broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower plants in the garden and had started getting them mulched.  We finished up mulching after lunch and headed to other jobs.  As I was in the middle of the cucumber patch…the heavens opened.  And, I do mean opened. The shower was brief, but I was completely soaked. Oh, well, it actually felt good and it worked to cool the cucumbers.

By Wednesday the dry weather was back. 

making hay while the sun shines

With a beautiful stretch of weather in the forecast, the hay guy was busy cutting more as we picked up the second wagonload. He was hoping to have it ready by Friday, but completely understood that it would be at least Monday before we could get back to get it.

When you're making hay, you don't get to admire the view
but, isn't this beautiful?
unloading wagon 

pretty sunrise

On Thursday, we had visitors. And, yes, we did make them work…just a little. Thanks, y'all.  Saying you can never start too early, Grandpa-Boss got that little guy (who is not so little) up on the tractor with him.

 He seemed intent on the steering wheel…    

...and he wasn't real sure WHAT to think of that other "helper". 

…and then it was Harvest-Friday.

a beautiful way to start harvest day

In addition to our regular picking schedule, we had to add rescuing peaches to the list.  The Japanese Beetles have arrived in full force and they are intent on eating EVERYTHING.  The birch tree in the front yard looks like lace.  The wild roses out back are simply bare. And, now they have moved into the orchard and the gardens.  We salvaged what peaches we could and vowed to “never let that happen again”, so I guess we will be studying up on orchard management before next season.
japanese beetle on broccoli

green bean damaged by japanese beetles

LOOK what they do to peaches!

We’ve never seen a year with quite so many bugs (of all types) and the weeds are truly phenomenal.  This must be due to the fact that we didn’t have a late season frost like we generally do…and the Spring was so very wet. Different weather…different problems.

Despite the heat issues and the Japanese Beetle invasion, we had an amazing amount of stuff for Market.  In fact, I took the peaches with me since they wouldn’t ride safely in the cram-packed Market trailer.

I couldn't fit all the produce into the shot!

It was crazy busy at the Market. By 10am, we had completed 100 transactions and we were sold out of a fair number of items! We simply had a great day. A big THANK YOU to all our loyal customers.

the peaches we salvaged were pretty
and they sold well

There wasn’t much left to take back to the hill…and that’s always a good thing. We will just have to add a little canning/freezing to our list of things to do this week.

after the rain

After supper, the Boss and I were just relaxing when we heard rain. I mean RAIN. Again, the heavens opened.  This time, we got over ½ inch in about a half hour.  Looking at the radar, we were the only location in the county to get this little storm. 
truly localized showers

Incredibly, we actually needed it after the past week of hot, breezy weather.  I’m sure the little brassica plants and the potatoes we planted last week will benefit greatly from the moisture.
freshly watered gardens

The upcoming week will include a roadtrip (the processor called---the lamb is ready) more hay hauling (the Boss thinks we can cram one more wagonload in the barn) , more seeding, planting and some hoophouse work (it’s time to think about fall and winter crops)…and I think he said something about getting the early potatoes harvested…

Today is definitely going to be “a day of rest”.  We’re gonna need it!

Hope you’re having a (restful) Happy Sunday!

beautiful sky to end the day

Thanks for stopping by.  Come back and “visit” again real soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 7-19

Whew! Has it been a week, or what? 

In the past week, we have hauled lambs, planted potatoes, processed broilers, done a bunch of odd and random stuff, and we even saw the SUN! 

But first, an update on the mystery of the dogs in the garden.

When I left off last week, Gus and Ellie were in the garden despite the fact that the gates were closed AND latched. Yes, I’m sure I latched those gates. I even took pictures to prove it.  I often question my sanity/brain power, so I try to have proof that I haven’t completely lost my mind. (pathetic, I know)

he realized we saw him...

We were completely baffled until we headed out back to catch the broilers for processing. Gus wanted to “help”. We heard a noise back toward the barn. There was Gus, standing at the gate, pawing at the bungee cord. It popped off and he could then open the gate.  Closer inspection revealed he had done this before. Muddy footprints and long, white dog hairs on the gate post gave him away.

But, WHY?
they sure look guilty to me!

That eluded me until Friday night (well, early Saturday morning) when I woke with a start as the dogs were barking furiously at something.  Fearing the worst, I ran out into the darkness to locate the dogs and check the gate latches.

The dogs were out front barking at foxes (which is becoming a “whole ‘nuther thing”) but as I obsessively checked the gates I heard an odd noise from the trees along the fenceline beyond the hoophouses.

I couldn’t quite place the weird, trilling sound although it sounded vaguely familiar…oh, wait…an owl.  Yep, must be an owl.  Apparently, we have a screech owl nest in the trees. That’s cool. Do you know what it sounds like?  Listen to  this from Youtube. (not my recording) 

As long as we remember to latch the gate in a new and complicated way, Gus won’t be hunting owls in the middle of the night. And, the owls actually grant some benefit by eating annoying critters. But, you know, I really wish that just once I could make these interesting observations in the light of day!

Okay, with the mystery solved, I can go back to telling you about the incredibly thrilling weekly events here on the hill. (sarcasm was intended there)

hauling broilers

Monday’s big job was processing broilers…in the rain. (again) But, we got done in record time, the rain stopped, I got to town, the Boss got some more broccoli planted as well as completing a number of little jobs and all the broilers were tucked into the freezers.  (not in that particular order) The day was declared a success.
I must say, I'm a little tired of this sight...
RAIN on the barn, again!

Tuesday dawned with almost 100% humidity.  We needed to move broilers and pick vegetables before loading the lambs in the new lamb hauling trailer and heading to Edinburg. It was going to be a busy morning in the hot, sticky weather.

One benefit of all the rain...
GORGEOUS broccoli!

another batch out on grass

There had been incredible flooding the day before in Woodstock, VA so we were a little concerned about conditions at the processor’s.  Despite the proximity of the two towns (something like 6 miles) there had been absolutely no flooding and very little rain. (I told you this weather thing was highly localized in the Valley!)

The new trailer worked great.  The lambs looked great.

loading the lambs

for those of you who thought lambs were little and cute
these guys are NOT!
This lamb is just 6 months old
(and it's all I can do to hold him)

new lamb trailer ready for its maiden voyage

It was a beautiful day for a trip …if you could overlook the fact that we were on the interstate with all the “interesting” drivers and the big trucks…a whole lot of big trucks!

Our trip takes us past MILES of corn

and lots of farms

Mt. Crawford farm

Back at home, an unexpected and rather gross job was a priority.
it's always nice to get back home
(even if we have to do something gross)

As we were heading out to the processor’s, the Boss noticed a doe under one of the willows down front. Then we saw the baby.  No, wait BABIES!  There were twin fawns.
oops! they saw me

look at those babies go!
Hoping to get a photo of the deer family (and the mail) I got out of the truck and walked down the road a bit.  Turning back, I noticed another deer under the bushes.  And, I was pretty sure she was not taking a nap.

The blank look on the Boss’ face when I got back to the truck and said, “ya know that line in that Chris Ledoux song  “…there’s a deer up there by the road ahead…she’s not sleeping…she’s d*** sure dead..” ? “ ...well, that just proved once and for all that there are FAR too many song lyrics lodged in the recesses of my brain. And, I had to start over to explain the deer tucked in the brush behind the mailbox. (maybe I should get the Boss to listen to this.)
she did look "peaceful"

She was most certainly dead and had been for a while. Apparently she had been hit by a vehicle and made it as far at the fence before succumbing to her injuries. The next line of that same song talks about “venison fryin’ in the blazin’ sun…”  and we both knew that was exactly what would happen if we didn’t do something.  Nobody would be able to approach the mailbox or the lane for the stench. And, various and random critters would come by for a disgusting meal, perhaps dragging bits and pieces everywhere.  Ugh, the thought was more than a little revolting.

So, when we got back, I gave the Boss a hand putting her in the tractor bucket and he hauled her off to a secluded place where nature could take its course.  ‘cause…well…buzzards gotta eat too.

This part of farming and life in the country is one that a lot of folks would like to overlook, but gross stuff happens, animals die and it is our duty to handle these unexpected things in a thoughtful, responsible manner.
Tuesday evening's sky was spectacular after another storm rolled through

the colors, oh, the colors!

getting ready to plant fall potatoes
On Wednesday we actually saw the SUN. I almost didn’t recognize it.

That meant that we could finally get the fall potatoes in the ground. YAY! The Boss likes to get these in by the first of July, so we are running way behind schedule. While I waited for him to get the tilling done and the rows laid out, I started in on weeding the next crop of broccoli.  It was just a little daunting, but the plants will benefit from it and the hens seemed to enjoy the enormous pile of weeds.
just keeping it real...
yes, there is broccoli in there...somewhere

In the midst of my weeding, the Mbrk Post Office called. So, I drove down the hill to pick up another batch of broiler chicks and gave them a little drink and tucked them into the brooder. It always amazes me how quickly those little balls of fluff adapt to life here on the hill.

every batch looks pretty much the same...

so sleepy!

first meal in the brooder

With all the seed potatoes “plunked”, the Boss headed back over the same ground with the potato-hiller.  This covers the seeds with a good amount of dirt and takes the place of the back-breaking hoeing by hand that we used to do. In about 60 to 80 days, we should be able to harvest “new” potatoes and have plenty of potatoes for winter sales.

lots of 'taters!

hilling the potato garden

all done!
now we wait...

There was also an encouraging message from the hay guy that he was finally going to be able to get in the hayfield.  There was another call from his wife on Friday that the hay was on the wagons, in the shed and waiting for our attention. Hooray! (guess what is job one for the week ahead?)
that mowed strip means the hay for our winter feeding has been harvested

And, then…we were in Market prep mode again.  I don’t know how the weeks fly by so quickly, but the saying “time waits for no man” is absolutely true. For the record, it doesn’t wait for women, either.

The bounty of summer has finally kicked in and the Market trailer was nearly bursting at the seams as the Boss headed out.

As I got ready for Market, I had that feeling I forgot something.  (I hate that) I kept going over my mental checklist and coming up empty.  I got in the Xterra only to see I forgot the checkbook.  I could have paid the market fee in cash, but writing a check keeps my bookwork neater.  No problem.  Got the checkbook.  But, that niggling feeling…

leaving for market
I headed out, enjoying the beautiful morning and a brand new CD.  I passed the hay guy’s, where I happily spotted the very full hay wagons sitting in the shed.  I got thinking about hay, and making hay and how it was hot work, and…oh, bother! I just remembered! I looked in the passenger seat to see that the cooler of ice water was not there, but still sitting on the kitchen table. And, it was going to be a hot, steamy day. After arguing with myself just a little, I found a place, turned around and headed back to the hill.

Grrr.  I hopped the gate, got the jug and headed out again. The pretty morning was turning foggy and dark as the atmosphere warmed and the humidity was becoming oppressive. (I was glad I went back for the water jug)
that just looks hot

I was tooling along, singing a little with the new CD, when I saw something…no, someone in the road ahead…and a truck in an odd spot.

At first I thought RG was just heading across the road to get his mail or the newspaper. About the time I had that thought, a cow lumbered out of the ditch in front of him.  Figuring he had an escapee, I slowed down and asked if he needed some help.  I’m not too bad at herding cows and when you’ve got a cow in the road, a little assistance is always appreciated.

headin' to town

“Thanks, but, she’s not mine” he said.  “I believe they belong to mr. neighbor up the road.  I’m headin’ in to call. Watch it now, they’re headin’ back that way.”

I thanked him and started slowly on my way again, wondering at the plural wording of his comment…for about 10 seconds…when cow number 2 lumbered up out of the tall grass…and not to be forgotten…a little bull calf as well.  

apparently it's a family outing

I think she's daring me to drive on

They wandered down the road alongside me as I crept along, hesitating to drive and faster and scare them. The bull calf started doing a little dance, his tail flying like a flag over his back. As a jeep approached from the north, I hollered out the window at the calf, and they veered off the road again, leaving me to hope that they made it safely to their home farm as I attempted to get to the Market on time.

A lesson here---you never know what you might encounter---so, PAY ATTENTION! 

If I hadn’t had to go back for the cooler, I would have missed RG, it was just dark enough that I probably wouldn't have seen the cows by the side of the road…and when they did come out, I might not have been able to stop and then proceed with caution---having disastrous consequences.  That kind of thing always makes me breathe a little prayer of thanks.

The excellent Market sales day also made me breathe a prayer of thanks.  We are reminded every single week that the Good Lord’s gracious provision and our wonderful customers’ loyalty.

another good sale day

…and another week has come to a close.

Today, we will look for ways to beat the heat (it’s supposed to be a scorcher…with a possible heat index in excess of 100*) while getting some water to that newly planted broccoli, perhaps seeding some more fall crops in the greenhouse and start planning the week ahead which needs to include hay hauling, potato digging and fall brassica planting…

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by.  Come see us again real soon!

a beautiful swallowtail butterfly was just hanging out at the Market

Do you want to visit the Market virtually?  Here are the Boss’ shots from this week.