Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 12-10

It should come as no surprise that things around here are unlike things elsewhere. I mean, did you read THIS?  Not only are we somewhat “unusual”, the topics of conversation can be unique, to say the least.

Believe me, I get some odd and random texts/messages that would cause great consternation if sent to the wrong address.

And, sometimes they even take me by surprise.

For weeks, I have been telling the Boss about this one hen. Every day she escapes. The exact egress point is yet undiscovered.

hen on a mission

I should have suspected something

And, every day, I find her wandering in the garden, clucking to herself as she scratches through the spent broccoli plants. I tried chasing her, but the grass has been slick with frost and my progress impeded by coveralls and chore boots. Apparently, my concerns for her safety were unwarranted, because her adventures continued. Since he wasn’t worried about it, and I’m not a big fan of chicken-chasing, I let it go.

As a matter of fact, the Houdini-hen was the last thing on my mind as I stood in the check-out line in town. To pass the time, I opened my phone. To find this…

What the heck?

It took me a moment to realize that it was a photo of eggs under broccoli plants. Okay…but, WHAT? WHY?

he even "winterized" the hen-house
With an eye to some wintry weather headed this way, the Boss was tidying the garden spaces while I ran errands. The irrigation tapes were removed, the temporary fence stored away, and the spent crops mowed. As he removed the irrigation tapes prior to mowing, he found a clutch of eggs. Seventeen eggs, in fact.

Now I understood. There was a real purpose to those daily garden trips. Ms. Hen had found a tidy little spot to deposit her eggs. (Now, before anyone gets concerned, those eggs did NOT end up in this week’s sales delivery…or any sales delivery) How and/or why she chose to walk all the way up there when there is a perfectly nice nestbox in the henhouse is beyond me.

Well, at least that mystery was solved.

But, there is a postscript to the story.

The next day, there she was…clucking along in the upper garden.

She came to the freshly mowed broccoli bed. She looked around, squawked loudly…turned around and headed toward the hen-yard.

headed back to the hen-house

…and she has not escaped since.

Thankfully, I can scratch hen-chasing off my to-do list!

All week, the forecasters talked about the “s” word. First it was going to snow. Then it wasn’t. Wait, it might…

it looked rather ominous

and then it didn't

I’m not a big fan of winter weather. Snow or frozen precipitation makes things hard on man and beast, but we really need the precipitation, so as long as we are prepared, it’s not usually an issue.

the misty full moon seemed indicative of changing weather

fallstreak hole in clouds
indicates ice crystals


This week marked the beginning of our “off-season” sales program. Saturday morning would find us heading to town to deliver the items that customers had requested following our mid-week email.
And, any sort of precipitation was supposed to start on Friday afternoon.

So, the weather became a prominent player in our plans.

At first it looked like a “classic I-81 storm”, predicted to slide up the Interstate and deposit the majority of the snow on the other side of the mountains. No, wait…make that I-95…and that track would take the storm even further away and it wouldn’t impact us. Then, the update…the storm was tracking further west, making it an issue again. Hang on…it looks like a miss…

The whole week went like this.

We couldn’t simply skip the sales. The whole reason we do winter sales is to keep some sort of positive cashflow during the winter. But, if the weather did turn, we would have to do something different…should we re-schedule? Surely, it wouldn’t be that bad…there was still the chance it would miss us all together…

The email was sent. The replies received. It was going to be a good week! We packed up the orders, all the while keeping an eye on the weather.


Until Saturday morning.

We hadn’t seen so much as a flake until we headed out at choretime. By then, they were flying fast and furious. And, we were back to wondering about our deliveries.

it's definitely snowing

I realize this sounds like much ado about nothing. But, our customers come from around the county to meet us in town for their farm products. Their safety is our utmost concern. And, then there’s the lane…

This place is not called Homestead HILL for nothing.

More than one person has made the turn at the mailbox to head up the lane and been daunted by the steep upward incline. We’ve heard “wow! You live on a mountain!” more than once. (believe me, you should have seen it before Neighbor paved it)

Needless to say, the trip DOWN can be just as tricky. Hauling a trailer filled with a full freezer and multiple coolers of eggs could be disastrous…particularly with snow and ice covering the surface.

Should we? Could we?

The Boss started to off-load everything into the Xterra, only to realize it probably wouldn’t all fit.

So, we were going to have to take on the lane, with the loaded trailer.

As we headed out, he wondered aloud if I should email the customers…I didn’t want to tell him that would be impossible---I was too busy crossing my fingers! (and I didn’t have the group contact set up in my phone anyway)

headed down

We made it to the main road with no incidents.

made it to the main road

The trip to town was uneventful and the roads there were clean and clear.
Byers Street in the snow
it's cold out here!

setting up for deliveries


all done!
All the customers came. The deliveries were completed without a single error. We headed back to the hill, (conditions were definitely worse out in the county) where we watched it snow for the rest of the day. I must say, snow IS prettier than rain. And, we really do need the moisture.

mbrk road in the snow
Mbrk looks like a Christmas card

getting back UP may prove tricky

Home again!

When it was all said and done, we only got about 3 or 4 inches. Certainly not enough to warrant days of concern. But, all’s well that ends well. And, we won’t be concerned with deliveries for another week.

But, Winter weather has arrived. Today the temperature is supposed to hover in the low thirties with wind gusts near 30mph. I guess we won’t have to worry about snow removal, it will all blow away. The forecast for the upcoming week includes more precipitation and frigid temperatures. So, Remy might just have to share her spot in front of the woodstove.

It sounds like a good day to make a pot of soup and hope that you are having a

     Happy Sunday! 

the first snow 
Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” us again real soon.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The "Big Adventure"

Now, I realize that most folks wouldn’t call a two-hour trip an adventure. And, I realize that it may seem a bit out of the ordinary that said trip be worthy of a blog post.

But, we’re not most people…and no one has ever accused us of being “ordinary”. (strange, random and just plain weird, yes…)

Last week we headed out for points yet unknown as the Boss had been wanting to see a Cabela’s store up close and personal and we had a free day in the schedule.

As we drove we talked about countless things. (we even made some plans for the ’18 growing/market season!) Among topics of conversation was the fact that we just don’t do trips. Case in point, it’s been years since we had been that far east (and by far, I mean Richmond) For the Boss it had been over 15 years, back to the time when he was doing interviews for a friend who was doing an Ag show on the local radio station.  Personally, it’s been even longer…like 25 years. No. Really. So, a bit of an adventure? Definitely.

The trip itself was uneventful. Even the shopping proved somewhat disappointing, yielding 3 donuts and a Christmas cactus plant. (and you thought I was kidding about not being ordinary…)
You may wonder why I’m telling you this story today. (or why I am telling it at all)

Today marks 34 years since that first Friday-night date that started us on this “ultimate adventure”.  Did you read this one?

34 years.

34 years is a long time.  A long time to find ways to sort out any differences and make things work. Somehow, we’re still able to overlook each other’s faults and annoying habits and find areas of common interest without a great deal of difficulty. I guess we were just “meant for each other”.

Case in point…
pretty decorations

We were wandering around an outdoor mall with amazing Christmas decorations and a cadre of stores the likes of which we had never seen, when we both noticed it at the same time…


Look at that!

As we moved in for closer inspection, taking a few photos for future reference, it struck me just how weirdly hilarious it was.

Because, we weren’t looking at anything in the shop windows, we weren’t drawn to the beautiful d├ęcor. Nope…we stopped to look at a plant. A plant. In the middle of a shopping mall. More specifically, a vine that trailed upward to the second-story of the mall.

mall vine

It had occurred to both of us (at the same time) that there was great potential in that vine, clinging to the column in the middle of the mall. Maybe, just maybe we could find something similar and use it to hide the ugly reefer that sits along the side of the driveway.

I’m pretty sure we were the only people who had that particular discussion at the mall that day. Perhaps the only people who have had that discussion…ever. But, I think we’re on to a potential beautification project…and that made us both happy.

the vine in question was a type of wild grape

it even had teeny, tiny fruits

Then, knowing my great love of grocery stores, the Boss capitulated, and we spent a while wandering through what may be the biggest grocery I had ever seen. I've written about grocery stores THIS.

yes, I do take photos of grocery stores
(look at the monitor...that's me)

This type of shopping may be taken for granted by some, but for this country mouse it was an amazing experience. I was happy to just wander and look at the unusual items and the beautiful displays.
produce as far as you can see

He was happy because they had a restaurant…and a pretty tasty burger and fries for 6 bucks...

And, that’s probably what makes this work. Not necessarily talking about reefers and vines in the middle of the mall, or thinking little day-trips are big adventures, or finding some level of excitement in a visit to a grocery store…but, doing these things together.

Not to get all mushy here, and I know it’s Saturday and I missed my opportunity for a #thankfulthursday post, but, I need to say that I’m thankful for someone who “gets” my kind of weird.

…because 34 years is a long time…

…and every day can be an “adventure”.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 12-3

Just let me say…if the first week of the "off-season" is any indication, we might be in for a bumpy ride this winter.

In the past seven days, my brand-new Fitbit died without warning, my laptop wigged out and became unresponsive, and the printer randomly printed out at least twelve pages of unintelligible hieroglyphics. I hesitated to use anything else electronic for fear of somehow inciting a techno-version of the zombie apocalypse.

Then the Boss was back to coughing and hacking as he endured a repeat of the “cold to end all colds”. Or perhaps this was just round two. I suppose getting technical about it doesn’t really matter. But, we did spend a portion of every single day debating the necessity of another doctor visit. After nearly a week, he’s still sick and the discussion remains on the table.

But, germs and technical issues aside, there is no real reason to complain about the week. We even managed to take a fun little field-trip. (but, you’ll have to hear about that some other time)

If any of the residents of the hill could complain about their week, it would have to be Gus. Poor thing! It has not been a good week to be Gus.

after the "encounters"

First, it’s hunting season. For some unknown reason, Gus thinks that the hunters are after HIM. The sound of gunshots causes him to cower in fear. Sometimes, his fear overcomes him and he hunkers down in the shop, or underneath the shed. When he gets overly anxious, he feels it necessary to attach his 100+ pound frame to the nearest available human, shadowing their every step and rendering himself an utter nuisance. Fortunately for him, the rifle portion of deer-hunting season has come to an end. For now. (I think there is a return to muzzle-loader hunting later)
the deer are prolific

His week didn’t get any better when the vet showed up for Gus’ annual exam and vaccinations. Since Gus is such an awful patient and terrible traveler, it is far simpler for us to have the vet make a farm call. You must take my word that no one wants to try hauling a huge, furry, overly-anxious, drooling, stubborn beast across the county.

not a good day to be a dog
However, the vet farm visit didn’t go off without incident. Gus’ anxiety caused him to act out in extraordinary ways. He growled and lunged, causing the vet some concern. So, the Boss tried to man-handle him. Which, as you might imagine, didn’t work out to well for either party. Gus jerked to escape the vet and bowled the Boss over. The Boss lost his footing on the uneven ground and rolled over on his back, knocking his glasses askew. Neither was hurt, but the Boss was somewhat embarrassed and Gus found himself wearing a muzzle. 

Then the vet gave him 2 shots AND did a blood draw. It goes without saying that we do all this to maintain Gus' good health, although he doesn't seem to appreciate any of it. And, although there were no further incidents, I think we were all a little relieved to see the vet van pull out of the driveway.
don't worry, buddy...they're leaving...

Gus spent the rest of the day avoiding us. But, he didn’t have any reaction to his shots, so that was a good thing. Surely his week was getting better…?

Not so fast.

Gus’ main job is to ward off predatory threats. However, we may need to work on his definition of said “predatory threats”. Small mammals and rodents are some of his biggest worries, but pose no danger to the sheep. We generally try to find a way to co-exist with the bunnies, squirrels, ‘possums, groundhogs and skunks, eliminating only those that become problematic or show signs of disease.

But, Gus didn’t get this memo.

He has become fixated on skunks.

Now, skunks are a frequent sight. They wander through in the night or early morning and generally do no harm, occasionally digging for grubs in the garden. Sometimes they turn up in odd and random places but will waddle away without incident if they aren’t provoked. Years ago, a young skunk sat and watched me as I milked the cows. When I freaked out after realizing it was NOT the cat, it just sat and looked quizzically at me as I bolted from the barn. Later it was seen toddling back to the tangle of brush that edges the farm.

But, when the distinctive scent of “eau de polecat” drifted through the barn early the other morning, I passed it off, thinking a skunk must have met with its fate out on Mbrk Road and the wind was blowing just right.

However, when Gus walked in and the stench threatened to overpower, the Boss and I were struck with the realization that all the barking in the night must have been a turf war between the species. And, I’m afraid Gus lost. Or at least came in direct contact with the business-end of a skunk.

In other words, he reeked.

As did the side porch. Apparently, at the end of the encounter, Gus had laid down in one of his favorite spots next to the kitchen.  Skunk-smell permeated the doormat. Somehow it even scented the storm door. The kitchen was being permeated by the occasional whiff of skunk and dog. Oh…eww!
I got out my rubber gloves, bucket and cleaning supplies and set out to “de-skunkify” the dog and the surroundings.

However, Gus was having none of this. To his mind, he’d had enough. His trust in humanity had been sorely tried.  He had endured a week of gunshots…he’d been tackled, muzzled and jabbed. He simply wanted everyone to leave him alone.  I offered cookies and treats to no avail.

He took one look at those rubber gloves and that bucket and he turned tail and ran. He wouldn’t let me get close to him.

We continued the stand-off for a short while before I gave up. I finally got a little of the soapy mixture on him, but we will just have to let nature take its course at this point. I’m just thankful the incident happened AFTER the vet visit because he will probably stink until Spring.

Sadly, the doormat was beyond salvage. There was simply no way to eliminate the smell.  And, while the storm-door and porch benefitted from the cleaning, that job certainly hadn’t been part of my plan for the day.
can't say I blame him...
hiding under the porch sounds like a good option
(if only it didn't smell like skunk!)

…and that was pretty much the story of the week…getting distracted from the original plan by something odd and random.

But, all’s well that ends well.

And, on the plus side, all the electronics issues have been resolved and there have been no further casualties. Now, if we can just get the Boss healthy once more...

I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Here's to another week...
let's see where it takes us!

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Taking Things for Granted

Thanksgiving is over. 

The feast has been consumed. Family members have gone back to their regular lives. There is virtually no remaining trace of the day devoted to THANKFULNESS. ...except perhaps those leftovers that we are bound to discover moldering in the back of the fridge at some future date.

The month of mindful thankfulness is coming to an end. All too soon something new will threaten to consume our every thought... All those “#thankfulthursday” posts will be replaced by an ever-growing “to-do” lists.

For many it will be intense holiday preparations. Around here, it is more likely to be garden planning or lambing season. But, it is so easy for something, anything, to distract us from looking around with grateful eyes.

Personally, I am hoping to keep looking through that lens of gratitude. For there is always something to be thankful for...always.

Lately, I’ve returned to work on the “story of the hill” which demands a fair amount of reminiscing. Looking back is an eye-opening and sometimes painful experience where every story reveals yet another reason to give thanks.

That first Thanksgiving here on the hill was less than stellar. First one member fell victim to a stomach bug. Before too long the entire family was suffering. We were in no shape for celebrating. When I had called my own mother to inform her of the sickness, she hung up on me in a fit of puerile petulance. The rest of the family and friends “back home” were either unaware or unconcerned with our predicament. Our new friends in the Valley were busy with their own family obligations. There would be no celebration of thankfulness. There was no feast. To say it was a lonely, miserable event would be an understatement.

But, we were together. There was food on the table (for those of us up to the task of eating) We were safe and warm in our little home on the hill. We had weathered a frightening, overwhelming upheaval of our lives and we had survived.

Years passed.

We learned lessons and became good at growing food on this small piece of earth. We schooled ourselves in sales and found our niche at the Farmers’ Market.  The daughters grew, crops flourished, and sales increased...

Life was good. 

As time went on, we began to take many of those things for granted. Particularly the togetherness. It was simply a given that on Thanksgiving we would all be here…together.

By now our daughters were responsible grown-ups with families of their own. The gardens, the market, the overall success of the farm seemed a sure thing. And, while Thanksgiving was still a time for familial togetherness, we may have glossed over the aspect of gratitude that should permeate the celebration.

The past year has been filled with all sorts of drama and trauma, a scary diagnosis, two rather unexpected major surgeries, disappointing crops and lagging sales. Not an outstanding year by any stretch of the imagination.

For a while, I couldn’t even try to picture the holiday. I was afraid to consider the possibilities...

Thanksgiving 2017

But, once again...we were together. There was LOTS of food on the table. We were safe and warm in our little home on the hill.

We have weathered another frightening, overwhelming upheaval in our lives.

And, we have survived.

This is nothing to take for granted.

…and I am grateful.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-26

You may have thought that after last week’s “end” theme, we would be doing absolutely nothing this week.

However, with just a few days between Market end and Thanksgiving, there had to be some intense preparation work if we were going to feast on the bounty of our labors. Here’s how it’s gone in the past.  So, I put some serious effort into mixing up goodies and straightening up the messy house.

all my Tgiving preparations kept me from writing about thanksgiving...

…and the Boss had to clean the barn!

he claims he took 200 loads out of the barn

He spent the better part of two days hauling spent hay and manure out of the barn. (all the while complaining about how much hay the sheep waste) But, we now have an enormous pile that will compost until next season when it will fertilize the gardens. (so, it waste is actually a bit of an overstatement)
that's a pretty big pile

okay, so maybe he's not exaggerating!

…and then it was the big day!

T'giving dawn
Thanksgiving is a special holiday for all of us.

It was a long-ago Thanksgiving that served as the impetus for us to get to where we are today. Read this. (someday I hope to get the whole story ready for publication)

It is also the one time that everyone is committed to being together here on the hill. And, the complaints about Mama’s desire for family portraits are kept to a minimum.

2017 family portrait

This year we had a fun, food-filled day, with lots of little boy snuggles. And, I’m pretty sure Grandpa has met his match with these guys!

With the holiday behind us, we are one step closer to winter.  

The ewes have come to the barn to eat hay and lounge until lambing season.

The pullets are growing larger every day and it won’t be too long until they move to the henhouse.

…and it’s just a matter of time before the seed catalogs start arriving…and it will be time to start planning for spring!

So, for now we will appreciate the beautiful (if slightly unseasonable) weather…

late day skies over sugarloaf mtn

ewe lambs in winter paddock

the feeding frenzy

even the weeds are pretty in the sunlight

sparrows in the multi-flora rose

blackberry leaves


ewes at dusk

after the sheep grazed the backyard

there can be no doubt where they ate

crescent moon sunset

We hope that you are having a

       Happy Sunday! 

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