Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 10-30

I'm SO thankful for the street lights at the Market's REALLY dark in the early morning

Here we are…Sunday again.

All too often it seems like there is little to report, since we tend to do the same things at the same times over and over…year after year. While I find the routine comforting and I truly like the predictability, I worry that it makes for monotonous copy. 

On any trip to town, we drive through a certain farm where you get a true sense of the cycle of the seasons and it is quite possible to know the exact month  without ever looking at the calendar. That’s how predictable this blog has become…look back at any October…you’ll see pretty much the same things. I guess that’s a good thing…

Although, for all the sameness, every year is ever so slightly different.

This year the weather seems so dry and warm…making for a less than gorgeous fall, dusty potato harvest and a delay in the brassica production. Facebook reminded me that five years ago, we had SNOW for the last Market of October. (definitely not a threat this year…the forecast was for temps near 80*!)
Staunton Market October 29, 2011

But, dust or no, the fall potatoes needed to come out of the ground, so that was job one for the week.

harvesting 'taters

last of the harvest
28 bushels in cold storage

...and, we are DONE!

some pretty "tiny 'taters"

However, the “hen house cat” (did you read THIS?) also needed to visit to the vet to assure that we didn’t have any more kitties, so I added one more stop to my town-run while the Boss started digging ‘taters.

now that she's "fixed", Remy can join the farm hunting team outside
she seems fascinated with Tess
It was one of those truly infrequent trips where everything fell into place. Since I left fairly early to make the vet appointment, I made great time on my errands and even fit in a few extras. While I was shopping, I got a call that the new lenses for my glasses had arrived and I could pick those up without a special trip. (and I can see clearly now...) And, while I was getting those, the vet called to say that the cat could be picked up before suppertime. Which meant I had time to go home, get lunch, help the Boss with the potato harvest, and do chores. By any reckoning, that was a successful day. And, Remy seems none the worse for wear and is back to inspecting the laundry.
when she's not checking  every dryer load

With the completion of the potato harvest, the Boss began work on another repair job. This one indeed had a deadline, so “no time like the present”…

When he built the ram hut last December (read this one) , he used a corrugated product for the roof, figuring it would be the best solution---adding some weight so we didn’t have to worry about the new housing unit flying over the rooftops in a big wind. All was well until summertime. Some combination of hot weather and heavy rain caused the roof to bow in and hold water.

the board gives some perspective to the problem

looks like a dump run is in order

 I can’t imagine it was hot enough to melt…but, that’s certainly what it looked like. While a farm pond would be nice…it wasn’t such a good idea on TOP of the ram hut where it would only serve to attract mosquitoes and the like. (not to mention the possibility of a cave-in on the ram) A re-design and repair would have to take place…but that couldn’t happen while Angus was around.

Since he’s still “visiting the ladies”, the time had come. (It looks like Angus was entirely successful with his assignment. It’s just a matter of moving him back to his bachelor pad) The repair job was fairly easy, requiring a little reinforcement for the roof and a just one quick trip to Lowe’s.  Another job off the to-do list!

Not much else going on…the hens are still working their way through the Brussels sprouts.

The layer chicks have gotten to the funny, fuzzy baby vulture stage of development.

 And, the lambs are just a week away from their one and only trip away from the farm. 

it took 15 minutes to get them to stop "playing" and go in the right paddock
nope, not gonna miss these guys AT ALL!

I finally got the last of the garlic  (for green garlic) planted and planted some onion sets to use for scallions.

the garlic I planted last week is coming up!
(so are the weeds)

sprouted onion sets

grow, little onion, GROW

…nope, not a whole lot going on.

But, then, there was the ‘possum…

Critters/varmints are not usually noteworthy. They are just a given of country living. However, I realized that the whole ‘possum incident was oddly insightful to life here on the hill. The vision of Gus with the dead marsupial simply solidified my thoughts.


Gus and the 'possum
Saturday afternoon we came home to discover a dead ‘possum in “the kill zone”. (the edge of the orchard where Gus and Ellie seem to bring all their varmint conquests) This area sees a fair amount of action, and we generally just clean up the mess and go on with life.

But, this particular kill had a bit of a backstory…

Friday night, just as we were going to bed (early night before Market), I heard a great deal of commotion coming from the direction of the barn. A lot of weird barking and moaning that just couldn’t be left unchecked. As I headed out with the big flashlight, one of the dogs came galloping out of the barn as the moaning continued. My first thought was that in their high-spirited playing one had been injured. But, I realized that was not the case as I followed into the barn. There, behind a pile of fence panels was a small ‘possum, doing its best to ward off two enormous, aggravated dogs.  And, …it was failing miserably. They were pawing, digging, moaning and barking with no evidence of giving up the hunt until the bitter end.

I headed back to the house to apprise the Boss of the situation. 

“The dogs have a possum cornered in the barn, under a pile of fencing. Shouldn’t we do “something” about it? (like kill it) One of them will get hurt if I don’t, they’re going crazy down there.”

He sighed, rolled his eyes and said, “ just close the barn doors and they’ll forget about it. And, maybe the ‘possum will just go away.”


…and there you have it.

Our approach to everything in life is summed up in that interaction. I’m all…oh, my god…a problem…do something, dammit!  (KILL IT!) And, he’s…ah, well…just let it alone, ignore it and maybe it will go away.


Every. Single. Time.

I returned to the barn, grumbling under my breath, closed the doors, left the dogs’ water outside and headed to the house. I’m pretty sure he was nearly asleep when I got back and I’m even more certain that he never gave it another thought. Whereas…well, I certainly had a few thoughts…

In the long run, he was right…the dogs did stop barking once they were locked out of the barn. We went to sleep. No dogs got hurt.

But, we failed to take into consideration that the dogs would indeed do what I thought should have been done all along. One of them killed that ‘possum and resolved the issue once and for all. We can only assume that the ‘possum wasn’t bright enough to walk out the back door of the barn to freedom, instead walking out the front toward the waiting dogs. A win for the Boss’ laidback approach? Vindication for my somewhat over-reactive murderous urges?


Our completely divergent approaches to life and its ongoing challenges are what makes us workso well as a team (and on occasion drives us to the verge of total distraction) …and keeps things interesting. The ‘possum incident was US in a nutshell. …and that’s just funny. (except now I have to dispose of a dead critter because the dogs didn’t bother to eat it)

The weather for Saturday’s Market was nearly perfect and downtown was swarming with trick-or-treaters.

dark, dark Market opening
 All in all a successful sales day, but I was truly thankful to leave the crowds behind and get back home. Just three more weeks of the season! And, I don’t think I am alone when I say, I will be REALLY glad to see the end of the Market for the year.
Got any good recipes for broccoli, butternut, cabbage, arugula, one red pepper and five fall leaves?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a cake to make. It’s the Boss’ birthday and as such, he gets his favorite supper and a cake…

Thanks for stopping by!

Hope you’re having a

Happy Sunday! 

such a pretty fall morning

Come back and “visit” again real soon.

Wish you could visit the Market? Here’s the link to this week’s photos.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 10-23

misty morning

Well, here we are…another Sunday…

Surely after two weeks, I can think of something to write about...
Well, one can always hope.

early morning chore time

This week seemed better than last week. Or at least more interesting. Maybe I just had a better attitude. Whoever said “attitude is everything” was certainly on to something.

fog rolling in

The heat continued for the better part of the week. It actually set records some places! Extreme heat this time of year is not good in a number of ways. We depend on that cycle of warming/cooling that is “normal” to keep things growing in a dependable way. It’s time for the crops to be winding down, the trees to lose their leaves and the grass to begin to go dormant. Weird fluctuations in the weather are sure to cause issues.

the grass is quite literally BLUE

BLUE grass is one such issue. And, the weather is definitely to blame for that one. Now, I don’t mean bluegrass like in Kentucky. Or even bluegrass as in the Boss’ favored musical genre.  I mean grass that was actually BLUE. What the...what?

As you may recall, Angus is currently in full ram regalia, wearing his harness with the greatest of ovine panache. His blue crayon is the last in the series before he heads back to his ram paddock, having completed his one and only task on the hill. (siring next year’s lamb chops) The ewe lambs have definitely been marked and are a completely unmistakable shade of blue, so it looks like we can claim success there...
marked ewe lamb

However, the ram is NOT supposed to be blue. Or marked in any way.

marked ram
I have NO idea how this happened

blue marker EVERYWHERE!

In the past, we have always had an option on the crayons of hot/cold/mild weather rating, with each type of crayon being a slightly different consistency. This year, the company changed things up slightly. They now sell just “all-weather” markers. I beg to differ. The warm weather made the blue marker more than a little, shall we say, melty?...and everything Angus touches is BLUE. Which explains the blue grass. And, he’s blue. The marked ewes are going to be BLUE forever. Big globs of it are on their wool, by the feeder, on my jeans, my boots. It’s everywhere. It would be funny if it wasn’t…so, well…blue…and seemingly indestructible.

I’m thinking a letter to the producer may be in order. I mean, it’s been hot. But, not so hot that everything should be covered in blue, melting ram crayon! (oh, for cooler weather)

Yes, folks, THIS is my glamorous life…obsessing over melting ram crayons.

With an eye to the future, (it has to get cool at some point) the Boss bush-hogged the fall potatoes. By mowing the tops of the potatoes, plant growth is effectively stopped and the potatoes start to develop a tougher outer skin. (this skin is what differentiates NEW potatoes from storage potatoes) The skin allows the potatoes to be handled without damage and stored for a much longer period of time. So, after allowing the potatoes to mature in the ground, (sometime in the next week or so) we will dig the fall potatoes to get them into the reefer before the very cold weather sets in. They, along with other stored farm products, will be available for Winter Sales.
by cutting the plants off, the potato skins become more substantial
(don't worry, I covered it back up)

We need to protect the crop from two potential disasters---extreme cold and constant light. Frozen raw potatoes are just gross and potatoes that are not protected from the light turn green as they attempt to photosynthesize. I must admit, the potatoes in the grocery always fool me into thinking they are LIMES. While you can still eat green-ish potatoes, you really should trim off all the green part. This green is concentrated areas of solanine, an alkaloid, which can cause digestive upset. Very high levels can cause more severe problems. This is naturally occurring in all potatoes in small amounts, but light causes it to build up. (and that's your science tip of the day)

Brussels sprouts
We also decided to cut our losses with the Brussels sprouts and just let the hens eat that entire part of the lower garden. That decision may be worthy of its own post. But, for now, the hens are happy for new green stuff and the Boss and I are happy with one less frustration in our lives.
hen in Brussels sprouts

Then the Boss cleaned the hen yard. In reality, it’s more cleaning underneath the hen house. The wire mesh floor allows the chicken manure to fall to the ground below. Over time, this builds up and needs to be removed, since it’s dirty, smelly and provides a haven for rats.  

it's "hen house day"

Now, cleaning the hen yard is far more involved than you may think. 

First, it has to be done under cover of darkness while the hens are still asleep and locked inside the henhouse, as the tractor and wandering hens could be more than a little disastrous. Then, the henhouse needs to be moved (in the dark) which never proves to be quite as “mobile” as one might assume.  (a quick explanation here...while our hens do indeed go outdoors to scratch and peck, they do get fresh green stuff on a regular basis, and they do eat garden scraps, they do NOT travel all over the farm doing these things...years of trial and error have taught us that control is the key to our success)
tractor in the dark
(the little light off to the left is the Boss' headlamp)

"helpers" Gus and Ellie

Since there is a great deal of chicken poop involved (the reason for cleaning) the dogs feel it their sworn duty to get right in the middle of everything and “help”. They also ate a few rats. (all the chicken feed and broken eggs attract rodents despite our best efforts...can’t poison the rats without risking the dogs) Like I said’s all about the glamour around here.

With the mess cleaned from beneath the hen house (a big pile of chicken poop is “aging” in order to be used as fertilizer later) the hen house was moved into position, the big weeds trimmed, the fence re-positioned, just in time for the hens to come outside and have breakfast. And, the Boss headed inside for his own breakfast.

breakfast time for hens

 not much left in the upper garden
(but, the garlic got planted!)

Then it was time for more hoophouse and garden clean-up for the Boss and I planted and picked.
the cucumber trellises were taken down and stored for next year

I keep thinking that surely I have picked the final tomato particularly since we have had at least three frosts. But, I found a few more this week. There was a whole flat of green tomatoes to take to Market. We sold a few and we will allow the rest to ripen for our own use. While these won’t taste as good as vine-ripened fruits, at least we can extend the season ever so slightly before swearing off tomatoes until next summer. Frozen and canned tomatoes are good, but there is nothing like summer tomatoes!

Friday started out as a lovely fall harvest day, even though it was still rather warm. 

certainly looks like fall

While I was in the hoophouse I sensed it was getting darker and darker. I looked up to see the black skies give way to torrential rain as a storm raced up the ridge. Apparently, that was the leading edge of a cold front, because once the rains passed through, you could notice a distinct chill in the air.
skies got dark

the torrents of rain

leaves on the rainy hoophouse

Friday afternoon/evening was one long display of gorgeous October splendor. There is nothing quite like the play of light and shadows that we see as the weather makes that final shift to autumn after a few days of Indian Summer.  Click here for a post of photos from 2014.Unfortunately, the combination of wind and rain brought down a great number of the changing leaves, so things aren’t quite at pretty as they might have been.

And, when we said we wanted cooler weather, we should have been slightly more specific. We definitely got COOLER! After a string of near 80 degree days, temperatures in the fifties (with gusty winds) felt downright cold.

downtown on a fall morning
The cold and the wind slowed foot traffic at the Market considerably, making for a very long morning.

Fall at the Market is far different than the height of the season. But, it gives us time for more lively and in-depth conversations. The customer base is wide and varied and the subjects covered are diverse to say the least. Personally, the social aspect of the Market is every bit as vital to our success as the economic benefits. And, it’s fun, too.

With the Market behind us, it’s time for to re-group and plan another week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 
Thursday's sunrise was simply spectacular!

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