Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 3-27

If you have ever wondered...
the grass IS greener on the other side of the fence
I can’t believe it’s Sunday already…

It’s been one of those weeks that left me wondering just WHAT I have been doing for the 168 hours since last Sunday. (because, it certainly wasn’t what I had planned)

Once last week’s icicles melted, Spring really came to the Valley. (did you see the pictures?)

bluebird checking out birdhouse
While it IS beautiful and there are more flowers blooming every day and there are all sorts of birds singing, it is still cold. There was a skim of ice in the stocktank out back, so we won’t be getting too excited about planting just yet.
frosty grass

cat checking out birdhouse
(don't think we'll have new neighbors after all)

The sick sheep that figured prominently in last week’s post made a slow, sporadic recovery. First she would seem fine…then, she didn’t seem so good. As of Saturday evening, she seemed much better and was taking advantage of the knowledge that if she stayed in the barn, she would get a hand-out. It may be that sheep are smarter than we give them credit for being! But, after a week of treatment, I can finally say she looks much better.

Unfortunately, the last bottle baby isn’t doing so great. I’m not sure exactly what her problem is. I’m leaning toward pneumonia…but, it’s hard to say. As a triplet, the deck has been stacked against her since the beginning, but, we’re giving it our best shot. Again, she looks like she is recovering and then…not so much. Vetting sheep is generally an unrewarding business…so, again, we have to take the “wait and see” approach. 

WAIT seemed to be the watchword for the week. And waiting is not something I do very well…so, the week was a challenge, to say the least. (more on that in a minute)

After the chilly start to the week and the regular town run, I made a trip over to the Draft to pick up plastic bags for Market season. (I bet you never thought about the fact that we have to buy bags! There are actually a number of sales supplies we find necessary) We use plastic bread bags to package our greens for sale. That $80 purchase of 4000 bags should last the season and allow us to sell a LOT of lettuce. And, if we filled them all, AND sold them all, we would make about $12,000!

My other reason for going to the Draft was so Toughchick could borrow the farm truck and I could babysit the Kman while she did so. He and I had a good time swinging and playing with rocks and pinecones outside.

Then it was time to work the sheep again. This time of year, it seems like everything focuses on the sheep shed.  …and it does. It was time for the lambs to get their last vaccination. This will complete their protection from tetanus and other clostridial diseases. While we will continue to monitor them for internal parasites (and treat accordingly) they will not get any other shots. We took the opportunity to weigh them as well.  The largest one weighs 86#! And, the entire group has gained over 500# since we worked them last month. They are growing very well and all looked quite healthy. (except for the bottle baby) We had no major mishaps…which is always a good thing. No, wait. There was an incident…near the end of the project, one of the smaller lambs flipped out and squeezed through the gate. Then, realizing she was separated from all the other sheep, she really freaked out and started running around the barn and jumping up in the air, banging into the walls. She came at me, I reached to grab her…and she jumped straight up in the air and OVER my shoulder through the gate and into the barnyard. Seriously…OVER my shoulder! The Boss and I just stood with our mouths agape in total amazement. (she was later captured and medicated)
This is a LAMB!
She weighs 86# and she's just 2  1/2 months old

tilling in the hoophouse

With that job out of the way, the Boss tilled in hoophouse #1, so I could plant. It was my goal to get all the planting finished by the end of the week. And, I had some help. Blondie brought Mr. B to visit and they helped me with the transplants. Mr. B did a little taste testing. He tried spinach (eh, okay) and an onion (eww, blech), but seemed a little too intent on eating dirt for his mom’s liking.

in the hoophouse

he also met the sheep

For the record, I did NOT finish the transplanting…

Remember I mentioned WAITING?

We have been WAITING for the last ewe to lamb for what seems like FOREVER. She didn’t breed when all the others did. Obviously. I honestly didn’t think she got bred at all, but, she did…just way later. WAY later! This is a real management problem that I won’t go into here, but I guess late lambs are better than no lambs…

Friday morning, she was FINALLY in labor! Leaving her to her own devices for a while, I went to check on the other thing we were waiting for.

Broiler batch #2 was on its way from the hatchery.

The hatchery sends us an email to let us know that the chicks are in the mail. The USPS has this cool thing where they will text you with the progress of the package from start of journey until delivery. This is great. Not too long ago, you just had to order the chicks and HOPE that everything went okay. Then the Post Office would call and you could pick them up. It could be quite nerve-wracking and occasionally the whole system failed.  So, this new process is great. I love modern technology. (well, most of the time) The email gave Friday as the delivery date. I got a text that said the chicks left Staunton at 8:53am. Great! That meant they should be at the Post Office when it opened at 9:45am and we could pick up the chicks and get on with the day.

The Boss had pulled the old broiler pen apart and we needed to take all the mess to the dump so he could use the truck for other things. If we planned it just right, we could have a “lunch date” as well.

9:45 came and went. No call from the Post Office.

I checked on the ewe.

She was in the process of delivery a big ram lamb. He was stuck by his hips and hanging upside down and she turned around and around, looking for her baby (Not so bright, mama...sigh). I pulled him out and she got to work cleaning him up. He was fine, despite his awkward arrival. He weighed in at 12.2#. I hung around for a bit, checking to see if there would be any more lambs.

By this time, it was 10:30 and still no call from the Post Office. I called them… The carrier hadn’t arrived from Staunton…they’d let me know…

The Boss loaded the truck for the dump trip. It got later. I checked on the ewe again. Definitely a single…

We were hoping to get to the dump before lunchtime, but that wasn’t going to happen now. And, we really needed to pick up the chicks BEFORE we left so they could have food and water after being in the mail for such a long time. (they left the hatchery at 11pm on the 23rd)

Still no word. It was nearing noon.

He went down to the Post Office. Nope. Still hadn’t seen the carrier…

We ate lunch, waiting for the phone call.

He left for the dump, and I stayed here…waiting for the phone call…

He passed the carrier on his way to the dump and called me to let me know. Surely I could pick the chicks up soon.

I continued to do little jobs…waiting for the phonecall.

As he was coming BACK from the dump trip, the Post Office FINALLY called. I saw him look at me in astonishment as I passed him on the lane on my trip to pick up the chicks.

It took FOUR hours for those chicks to make the 12-mile trip from Staunton! I have NO idea why. That’s never happened before. The Postal employee suggested that we make arrangements to have the Post Office in town hold them for us, rather than wait for the carrier. Geez

Anyway, the chicks were none the worse for wear for their extended trip. They made the adjustment quite well. On the other hand, my entire day was disrupted and I never did find my groove again…oh, well…that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Spring means tilling and the Boss got both of the bigger garden plots done on Saturday morning. We need to pull all the irrigation tapes from the garden beds before he can till those. That was one of those jobs we were supposed to get to earlier…but…you know how that goes. I guess that will be priority for this week.

Saturday, we joined everyone for Kman’s first birthday party. What a fun time! I do hope that one day he will understand and appreciate the amazing gift he has in his extended family.   I can’t believe he’s already a year old!

Happy Birthday, sweet man!

…and that brings us to the end of another week.

Hope you’re having a

Happy Sunday! 

This time next week, we will have completed the first Market of the 2016 season. I can’t believe the “off-season” is over and I still haven’t completed all those projects I thought I’d get to this Winter.  Oh, well…there’s always next year…

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

Our Valley is getting greener...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Day in the Valley

The first full day of Spring here in our part of the Valley was so gorgeous, I just had to share.

While the first full day of Spring is no guarantee of warm weather (we still have six weeks of potential frost) and the wind was more than a little chilly, it was a fine, spring day.

 I even had to take a little detour on my way to town, trying to capture the still snowy mountains and the brilliant blue skies.
Mt. Tabor church

on the way home

 The end of the day was pretty, too. While the sunset wasn't one of those "spectacular" ones...the clear sky made for a nice light and a lovely, glowing end to a beautiful day.

A nearly full moon graced the night sky...

Happy SPRING, y'all!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 3-20

This week has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride courtesy of the weather.

I know, I know...I must sound like I am on some sort of continuous loop with the whole subject. But, seriously, the weather affects EVERYTHING!

In the past seven days, we have had a little bit of most every kind of weather.

Monday we had rain and even heard the rumble of thunder. By Wednesday the temperature was nearly 80 and the skies were beautiful and blue...and on Saturday it was snowing so hard that it was difficult to see on our trip back from town after our last delivery of the season.

Yep, a little bit of just one week!

Welcome to March in the Valley.

ready for planting

not so ready

Despite the rather crazy weather, we did get to pick up the seed potatoes. HOORAY! There is a stack just awaiting warmer, drier weather for planting. We put the rest in the reefer where they will stay dormant until the July planting. I’m just happy that they are here and we are not still waiting for them like we were last year. I thought we would never get ‘taters last year. And, no potatoes would be a disaster!
potatoes loaded
ready to go

rain on the way home meant stopping on the side of the interstate
and covering up the load

The warm-ish, wet weather caused more than travel delays.

We lost some chicks. Now, we always lose a few chicks, so that’s not really news. But, when the losses continue, we start to get concerned. Further inspection revealed that the rest of the flock looked less than healthy. Yikes! Not good. 

sick chick

Our best guess was that the wet weather had caused the bedding to become soggy. The soggy bedding allows ammonia to build up. The closed brooder (to keep the chicks warm) wasn’t allowing any fresh air to circulate. The chicks were basically being asphyxiated.   Poor things! Dry bedding, opened windows and they began to recover completely. They are now eating like little pigs and growing like weeds. 

healthy chicks

In all the years we’ve raised chickens, we have never had THAT problem before!

But, that wasn’t the end of our weather woes.

One of the ewes started sounding weird. Her voice became real deep and husky. Yes, I do recognize their different’s part of my job. I thought she looked rather “jowly” the day before, but hadn’t taken the time to investigate closely. I should have.


By the time her voice sounded strange, she had a pretty severe case of bottlejaw. Bottlejaw is caused by a parasite overload. Fluid collects under the jaw or in the neck, hence the name. Heavily lactating ewes are particularly susceptible to this problem. This ewe had triplets.

The warm-ish weather has the grass growing and the ewes cannot resist clipping it as close to the ground as possible. In so doing, they pick up the oocysts and become infected.

We treated her and thought we were done with it.

She didn’t look a whole lot better the next day. Then a second ewe began to show symptoms. 
more bottlejaw

So, it was time to run the flock into the barn and treat them all. The anemia that is prevalent with parasite infestation will kill lambs in short order. So, we don’t take chances.

working the sheep

The rest of the flock looks great! ALL of the lambs look incredibly healthy.

just three lambs chillin'

grazing in March

We are still keeping an eye on the two sick ewes. We have faced this problem in the past and the “patients” make a complete recovery. But, it can be a long and arduous task to get the sheep back in good health.

The weather has definitely NOT been our friend this week.

On the other hand, we had a couple of gorgeous days. And, I do mean GORGEOUS.

beautiful skies

peach blossoms

apple blossoms


Bright blue sky, puffy white clouds, and a hint of warmth on the breeze. The kind of day that makes you feel like you could do outside work forever... The birds are singing. The grass turns green overnight. The kind of day that teases you into thinking that maybe it IS time to get in the garden...

I so want to believe it will stay this way!

But, I’m here to tell you that this is the time to listen to that little voice that is saying “it’s still March!”

It’s really unfair of the garden centers to get out all those pretty spring plants so very early. A lot of people get way too enthusiastic and start working on their gardens only to have the weather turn and destroy their hard work. Then, they have to start all over again. (hmm, maybe the garden centers have an agenda...)

and so it begins...
getting hoophouse #2 ready
We’ve learned our lessons with the weather, many of them the hard way. I’m pretty sure we planted tomatoes at least THREE times that first year... Cold weather and killing frost are a possibility until well into May around here. So, we focused on the hoophouses and left the outside work for another time.

ready for transplanting
All those little seedlings in the greenhouses were ready to go. So, the Boss worked at clearing the old stuff and pulling the weeds. The hens had a feast. Then, I hauled plants and worked on transplanting.

With a little bit of work...I am glad to say...Hoophouse #2 is in full production! 

Hoophouse 2 fully planted
give it two weeks, it will be amazing!

looking in #2 from the other end

While the crops I planted probably won’t be ready for Opening Day of the Market, it won’t be long until we are harvesting once more.
isn't this kale pretty?

With the transplanting done, it was time to focus on the last delivery for our Winter Sales. It hardly seems possible that we’re done with the “off-season”. But, we are. The Market opens in less than TWO weeks.

It was a good sales day. Our customers are the best and it’s always good to have a little time to visit when we make deliveries. With our deliveries made, we ran a couple errands and headed back to the hill.

All week we had been seeing predictions of a return of winter weather. I think everyone (even the snowlovers) was hoping the forecast was wrong. Winter hasn’t been a major deal this year, but at this point, it’s just time to move on from the winter that wasn’t and get going with Spring.
the snowplow trucks haven't seen much action this year
that's bad news for some folks

But, the snow started coming down in earnest on our way home. By the time we reached Mbrk, the mountains were virtually invisible and the ground was white. 
coming into Mbrk
it was virtually impossible to see

Thankfully, it was too warm to stick to the roads. By choretime the snow had turned to the dreaded wintry mix. We probably ended up with about three inches in the grassy areas, but the roads stayed clear.

it was snow SO hard you could barely see this robin!

even Ellie is tired of the snow

snowy peach blossoms

the apple tree is trying again
after the freeze in December

We are supposed to have a couple of cool days and even colder nights. So, all those little baby plants in the hoophouse were tucked under row covers. I guess the heaters will run for a couple more nights in the greenhouses, particularly since I seeded tomatoes the day before yesterday.
this certainly doesn't look productive
but it is protected from the weather

...and that was it!

Another week is history.

In the upcoming week we have a lot of prep work to do for the Market...the next batch of chicks will arrive...and hopefully the last ewe will finally lamb! Ready or not, the Spring push is here.

Hope you’re having a

                                  Happy Sunday! 
daffodils on the kitchen windowsill

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