Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 8-28

I know they're weeds...
but, the morning light on the millet is amazing!
I must admit, when the dogs woke me at 4am on Monday morning, my first thought was not a cheery one. And, I was more than a little afraid that this week was going to be another one of challenges…

The dogs have distinctive barks for different perceived threats, I can generally tell if they have spotted a squirrel, or they are tussling with a critter, or the neighbor is walking her dogs. But, there is a certain tone, a bark with a sense of urgency that simply can’t be ignored. (even in the middle of the night) So I scramble around for my glasses and flashlight and stumble into the darkness on a fairly regular basis.

As I shined the big flashlight around the top paddock, I noticed lots of eyeballs glowing in the brightness. LOTS of eyeballs. Far more than we have sheep. But, they were big and round and blue (I’ve heard that all predators eyes shine orange…and my experience seems to back it up). A fair number of them seemed to be on the lane, so I wasn’t really worried. I just assumed the local deer herd was on the move again. The rest of the farm was so quiet and peaceful; you could hear the sheep grazing. Since nothing really seemed amiss, I turned to head back inside.

Then I heard something that bothered me far more than deer ever would.


Coyotes were howling somewhere in the distance. The dogs kept up a low grumble that would erupt into a full-fledged bark with each yip. Deer and coyotes...that certainly explained the barking.

Coyotes strike fear into the heart of the bravest of shepherds, but there’s not much you can do armed with only a flashlight. They didn’t sound real close and I had no intention of chasing after varmints in the middle of the night in my pajamas and rubber boots.

I end up going out far too often in the middle of the night in response to the dogs. Last week, they were making a racket so  I went out to see what was going on. They had cornered a ‘possum and it was bleeding profusely.  I thought it was dead, so I left it. I reckon it was just “playing ‘possum”, because the Boss couldn’t find it in the daylight and I’m pretty sure he questioned my sanity/ability to see in the dark afterwards. I began to wonder myself this time as I swatted mosquitoes and gnats away from my face. Leaving the dogs to look after the deer (and the coyotes), I went back in the house and tried not to think about what might actually go on out there in the darkness.

I didn’t give any more thought to my nocturnal wanderings until I got back from town. When I stopped at the gate, I got the sense that something was different. Suddenly, it was clear what had been going on in the darkness.

Along the fenceline  there is a grape vine…a Concord grape vine that has some pretty good grapes on it. It's the only survivor from our attempt at grapes in the early days of the farm.  There aren't many, but we usually have enough to offer for sale for at least one Market. This year the vast majority of the crop was destroyed by the late season cold temperatures, and I already knew there wouldn’t be enough to sell. But, there would be enough for a batch of jam and they were just about ready. As a matter of fact, I had just checked them…


I probably don’t have to tell you the rest of this story... Right?

All that barking and all those eyeballs…I should have investigated.

I’m pretty sure that the dogs were telling me that marauding deer herd was eating the grapes!

after the deer "harvested"

Because all the grapes are gone…just like that! 

Nope, cannot say I’m a big fan of Bambi and his band of brothers out there.

Although the thought of coyotes in “downtown Mbrook” is far more disturbing. Because real coyotes are far more cunning and devastatingly destructive than was portrayed by “Wile-E” of cartoon fame.
this guy was funny
real coyotes are NOT
Needless to say, I do more than a bit of worrying/praying over the sheep on a routine basis.

And the sheep are front and center in my thoughts during August as we start thinking about the next lambchop crop. During last week's  “challenges”, Angus’ brand-new marking harness shredded into a long, thin ribbon.
not good
not good at all
I found little bits of bright blue nylon in various locations where the sheep had walked. Now, we’re right smack-dab in the middle of breeding season, so his marking harness is a necessity.
Angus wearing his marking harness

We had just purchased this harness to make changing the marker easier. The marker is essentially a gigantic, square crayon that fits in a special little box on the harness. It is held in place with a cotter pin that slides through the center.

after a couple weeks of use the crayon is used up
and dirt and rocks stick to it when the ram lies down

If you have never tried to handle a hot, grumpy, “rammy” ram, a rather melt-y crayon, AND a tiny cotter pin all at once, you might not understand why we were looking for an easier way to manage the process. I guess you’ll have to trust me that nobody wants this job to take too long. It’s dirty, a little stinky and fairly tense. By investing another 25 bucks, we could place the crayon on the harness before getting anywhere near the sheep and effectively lessen the chances of anybody getting grumpy. It was definitely worth the investment.
placing the crayon in the harness

However, the edges of the nylon straps on this particular harness hadn’t been finished off properly. Once it started fraying, it was doomed. There was no hope for a repair. To say I was bummed would have been an understatement.

I emailed the company on Sunday afternoon. By Wednesday afternoon, we had a brand-new harness…NO charge!

THANK YOU, Premier One!

If you ever need sheep supplies, this is definitely the place to go. And, their electronet has saved more than one crop from the groundhogs. They also stock other livestock supplies and their customer service is GREAT!

Angus put his new harness (and the bright orange marker) to use right away. Within 96 hours, he had all the remaining ewes marked. I think. It’s been very warm…make that downright HOT…and the crayon is melted and mushed down to nothing. We may have to put the whole marker change-out into action real soon. And, I might mention the marked ewes are incredibly orange. I’m fairly certain those marks will still be there when it’s time to shear in MAY. (at least we won’t have to worry about them being visible during hunting season!)
marked ewes
certainly can't miss them!

We will have to play the waiting game to see if all the ewes “took”. (won’t know for at least 17 days) But, it looks like we’re well ahead of last year’s schedule. So, fingers crossed!

And, in anticipation of lambing season, the Boss went and got our small supply of alfalfa hay. 
alfalfa mix hay

When the ewes first lamb, they are put in small pens and given some special treatment, including a special hay. The alfalfa-mix hay is far too rich for them to eat all the time (and we would have to be far too rich to afford it) but, we have found that it gives the new moms a nutrition boost, increasing their milk supply and giving the lambs a good start in life.

One more summertime job completed.

I'm glad we don't store all the hay in the loft!

it's hot and slippery up here

With hay in the barn and a few cool mornings, it was all too easy to start thinking that fall was near. In some ways, I’m ready. I am SO tired of being hot. But, when I start thinking ahead to WINTER, I’m not ready in the least. And, it doesn’t seem like we ever hit our “groove” this summer, although sales have been quite good.

And, maybe it’s perverse on my part, but I’m not quite ready to give up the zucchini. Or maybe it’s that I finally invested in a spiralizer and discovered what all the reason for all the hoo-ha about “zoodles”.

Oh. My. Goodness. Those were amazing! 
...and then there was this spin on ratatouille... 
I’m pretty sure I like food far too much sometimes.

This time of year it is a real challenge to think up something to do with all the abundance from the garden. To that end, we’ve been chopping and saucing and freezing and canning. Now, I need to get on the cleaning/organizing so we have a place to put everything!
chopped tomatoes for winter sales

In other news, I had to take Remy to the vet for her final set of vaccinations this week. And, while I’m pretty sure I’ve done this one before…I truly understand the definition of CATerwauling. Ugh. She obviously does not share my affinity for Toby Keith and she yowled and complained for the entire trip. To and from.  But, then she slept in the same spot on the couch and barely made a peep for approximately 24 hours, so I guess we’re even. 

She’s very healthy and weighs in at a little over 4 pounds. Not too bad for a little stray who started her farm career underneath the hen house.
...and she's cute!

There is a change in the light along about the end of August that warns us that seasonal changes are coming. And, although it’s really hard to imagine when the heat and humidity make it feel like it's a hundred degrees…it is not unheard of to see frost any time after the first of September! (I guess all those pumpkins and all that pumpkin spice stuff in the store is not so far-fetched) 

early morning light

lengthening shadows

stunning sunset colors

With that change comes a natural slow-down in production that gives us time for some much-needed clean up and preparation for overwintering crops. I started seeds for the big, sweet onions for 2017 and it looks like they germinated well. All those little seeds I started last week have sprouted and are waiting to move to the hoophouses.
onion sprouts for 2017
looks like I've got some transplanting to do!

Looking back over what I’ve written, it appears that I’ve rambled on for far too long about just another boring week of sameness here on the hill. But, even though the oppressive heat (and lack of rain) continues to be a factor, it’s been a far more positive week than last!

we certainly got a lot of comments on our display this week...
It was beautiful!

We enjoyed another successful week of the Farmers’ Market with good music and lively conversations. Although, I must say, this season I have sensed a real change in the Market that may warrant some serious contemplation in the off-season. But, that’s a story for another day.

It’s time to wish you Happy Sunday! 

…and head off to do chores and find a cool spot to spend what promises to be a very hot day.

this is Neighbor's calf
he has found a way to come "visit"
and eat grass in the shade of the creek paddock on a regular basis
(when he's done he goes back home)
I've taken to calling him "Hairy Houdini"

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 8-21

sunrise over a cornfield
The Boss says I’m a pessimist.

Personally, I prefer realist…

But, I admit, I am generally the one seeing the glass half empty. I’m the one to see the problems before the solutions. And, I struggle with being upbeat when things keep going wrong.

So, this week has been a challenge.

It’s been one long stretch of “good news/bad news”.  For every good thing that happened, some other problem seemed to arise. One step forward, two steps back. No, maybe it was two steps forward and just one backward.


It’s going to take some serious mathematics to figure out which side ended up in the lead.

After Sunday began with the discovery of the chick massacre, (in case you missed last week's "walkabout...go back and read it here.) it was really (really) hard to get focused on anything else. I truly despise wanton loss of life and without knowing the real cause we could only hope we had solved the problem. We had some pretty good leads, the Boss did a repair job. But still, it nagged at the corners of my mind all day. I’m pretty sure the Boss was worrying over it too, but he generally keeps his worries to himself.

However, it was Mr. B’s birthday party…and we couldn’t be down for that! 

he sure was having FUN!
It’s hard to believe that we hadn’t even met the little dude at this point last year and here we were headed out to his “epic" FIRST birthday party.

awesome cake

proud mama and daddy

hmmm,do I want more cake?


I think it’s safe to say that everyone had a great time. And, I’m totally jealous of some of the toys they have today. (pretty sure I need to start my second childhood)
Blake and Meemaw

ooooh, cupcake...I love you...

WHAT cupcake?
the "red-neck" kiddie pool was a big hit!

I guess I won’t tell you that by the end of the week a number of people were sick…that would be too much of a “Debbie Downer” kind of thing, right?  But, the Boss and I have been spared, so maybe that’s good news?

Before we left for the birthday party, the Boss spent a fair amount of time securing the brooder against the midnight marauder. He thought he had secured everything. Then, Pap suggested a weasel…uh oh.  While the evidence pointed directly to a RAT, but I couldn’t relax into that one. So, you know where I went when we got home. The brooder.

As Gus and I checked around, I felt something prick my finger. Suddenly, there was fire on the back of my hand. I flailed around and realized that I had inadvertently discovered a wasp nest. The good news, somehow the Boss had escaped it during his repair work. The bad news? I had a very swollen, very sore finger going into the work week. However, the entire thing would turn out to be a score for the good later in the week.

While I was doing the whole town run on Monday, the Boss managed to contact a hatchery that promised to ship chicks this week…so, things were looking up.


Not so fast.

Of the five chicks, I could only find four…

I didn’t really have time to worry over that. It was getting hotter and more humid by the minute and all the picking was waiting for me. But, the weeds were threatening to swallow me every time I headed into certain areas of the garden, and they were dripping with moisture from the excessive humidity. A trip to the garden required a change of clothes later…and I think algae is growing on my jeans. Apparently, zucchini can grow on humidity alone…the enormous ones (that are unsaleable) seemed to outnumber the “normal” sized ones. 

Then, there are the tomatoes…

this is everything a tomato should be
(except a BLT, and that's where this is headed)
August means big, beautiful heirloom tomatoes. Except this year. Early blight, excessive heat, intermittent and heavy rainfall and the slugs (!) have all taken their toll on one of our sure-fire successes. And, I forgot the stinkbugs aren’t helping anything. There are lots of tomatoes that cannot go to the Market because of some sort of damage, either cracks or blemishes or holes. What a bummer!
sad tomatoes

In our search for good news, I must point out that those poor, sad tomatoes worked into a huge pot of beautiful sauce!
tomato sauce ready for canning

And, somewhere in the midst of picking, my Leatherman died a sad and tragic death.

it's really NOT supposed to open like this
That was serious BAD NEWS...but, happily the company has an awesome warranty program and I had an "emergency back-up" to use in the meantime. Did you read  this one?

But, forget the chicks, forget the garden, don't think about tools---we had another pressing job to do.

Once a year, the Boss “shoots” the R’ham fair. Check out these entries.

This job is a change of pace, a fun way to be creative and get a paycheck. After five years, it is also becoming challenging to see things from a different perspective.
a boy and his goat

a girl and her calf

beef butts

just chillin' at the fair

clipping a lamb

clipping a goat

goat shenanigans

fair week is hard work

milking cows at the fair

prize-winning onions

ready for the show

tired hog

Honestly, I always leave the fair with a mix of emotions. The heat of the summer, the stress of the show and the constant interaction between townies and country all seem to make for some seriously grumpy folks. Honestly, I didn’t feel the love of the Ag community this week. (and it wasn’t just the fair…) 

Don't think this mama was too happy

But, the Boss was quite happy with the images we captured, so GOOD NEWS! (hopefully, the fair management will be happy as well)

However, by the next morning, the four remaining chicks were dead as well. Looks like bad news is back in the lead...

It was obviously the same varmint. But, we were so sure the brooder was secured. We were totally stymied.

securing the brooder
The Boss went on the warpath. He was bound and determined to make that brooder safe. He crawled underneath and climbed inside. (it was a good thing I “discovered” that wasp nest…he was able to eradicate that so he didn’t have to get stung as well) He scraped all the shavings (used for bedding) free and peered beneath them. He applied hardware cloth and screwed the side walls down tight. And, finally, he discovered the problem! Up along the doorway was a gap. Apparently, the rat had crawled up the wire door, dropped down into the brooder, had supper and escaped. There were piles of rat poop as evidence. But, NO more!

filling the gap

And, just in time! The chicks were supposedly going to ship a day early. They would be here SOON!

Oh, by the way…something has been eating the winter squash. No. Not just nibbling around the edges. No. I am not exaggerating. There were big bites taken out of most of the squashes I could see and the leaves were eaten, too. This is getting overwhelmingly discouraging.

Of course that meant that “someone” had to do “something” to protect that crop too…
well, this can't be good...

A deep sigh and an eye roll toward Heaven all around and the Boss set out to correct something else.

All the while it’s hotter than…well, hot. I don’t know if the heat makes everything seem unbearable or unbearable things make it seem hotter. No matter the case, having sweat dripping into your eyes when you’re working does nothing for your attitude or the work at hand. The atmosphere around here was testy and tense and generally not the most pleasant. We’ve both been tired and hot and discouraged…finding the good in anything was really becoming a challenge. And, personally I felt like I was failing miserably. But, there is little choice but to soldier on.

little holes eaten in each seed
The rest of the week was a battle with critters…something ate every spinach seed I planted, despite all the precautions I took. Why the spinach? The arugula seedlings are popping up quite nicely. But, I have the worst time with spinach. And, of course, SPINACH is the one crop that everyone asks me about all the time. Then the flea beetles have feasted on the arugula time and time again. And, we won’t even mention the harlequin beetles in the brassica crops. …and the looper moths and some fat green caterpillars are making for some hole-y greens…

arugula seedlings

But, I spent some quality time in the greenhouse…and in a couple of weeks we should be ready to plant again. By then it will be cooler (hopefully) and maybe the spinach will be more successful.

broilers doing what they do best
The chicks arrived with from the hatchery without incident. Some of them spent the night in the brooder while the rest spent the night in the chickie-pool in the greenhouse as a precaution to see if we were actually successful in our rat-proofing. But, the greenhouse has its own set of security issues, so following a safe night in the brooder, the flock was reunited. And, in the super good news category…they were still safe in the morning.
safe and sound

…and in beyond super good news…I caught a RAT! (one down…)
I was actually glad to see a rat at 5am
(in the trap)

Before we knew it, it was indeed time for the Market again.

picking beans

pepper harvest

picking zucchini
(with my back-up Leatherman)

Friday night brought a big storm and we got a half-inch of rain. After another week of excessively high temperatures, it was incredibly welcome. I’m pretty sure the pastures greened up overnight! And, despite the forecast, the storms held off for the rest of the morning, so rain wasn’t an issue for Market.
full market stand...

The Market was quite busy, the band was excellent, and the sales were good. Sometimes it astounds me just how much we can manage to produce in a week…just two old folks…

The Boss was "memorialized" in chalk at the Market...
that just made me laugh

All in all…

I guess we can agree on this…that despite all the “issues” of the week…it was a pretty good one and ended on a positive note...

...and, this glass is definitely full!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Come by and “visit” again real soon.