Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 3-12

In like a lion, out like a lamb...or was it in like a lamb...?

March is often described as capricious, with its wild shifts in weather. It’s not unusual to see all the seasons in a week. Sometimes they are experienced in a single day.
in a matter of hours

we went from this 

to this

moonrise over the valley

And, this week has been no exception. We’ve had extremely warm temperatures, wild winds, rain (and I think I hear the roll of thunder)…then the weather turned bitterly cold…and now, now we’re watching a storm form off the coast that originally had forecasters calling for “the big one”. 

if it does will be a "robin snow" (those never last long)
there was a huge flock of robins in the front field


Although, they have down-graded the predictions dramatically with the caveat that the pattern could shift and the forecast change again. Yes, March is here with all its wild weather moods, the very definition of capricious.

Actually, capricious just seemed to describe the entire week causing great swings from anxiety to optimism and back again.

I’m certain that someone somewhere would say that these are tests of our faith, designed to make us stronger. To which I’m going to say...i’m perfectly fine with being weak. I’d really like a short time “beside the still waters”...but that doesn’t seem to be the plan. So...on we go.

this little peach blossom is doomed 

While the weird weather is just a minor inconvenience to many people, farmers everywhere get worried knowing that future crops and livestock will be affected. The warm weather has caused many fruit trees to blossom far earlier than normal. While this looks pretty and seems a real “sign of early spring” it may well prove disastrous. Those lovely blossoms are the only shot at fruit for the season and with the frigid temperatures predicted for this week, many of them will freeze and die. Although orchardists everywhere are learning to employ new types of technology to protect the delicate flowers, there certainly will be losses. And, the losses could be catastrophic for some.

Personally, tree fruits don’t account for a great deal of our income and the orchard is generally quite low on our priority list. When we planted our trees, we didn’t give a great deal of consideration to the fact that the altitude (right at 2000 feet) on our wind-swept hill would put us at risk for late-season frost nearly every year. We have come to see any sort of fruit as a special blessing generally just for our personal enjoyment.

Because of our altitude and the truly capricious nature of March’s weather, we learned long ago not to try to plant anything out early in the matter how beautifully Spring-like the weather may seem.

So, hoophouse crops have always been our area for success.

Until this year.

This year, rats invaded the hoophouses, eating the crops, and gnawing through the irrigation lines. But, rats?  After all these years, WHY rats? The damage was devastating. With the beginning of the Market just weeks away, the situation was getting desperate.

The Boss has spent hours (weeks, months) researching and building traps to no real avail. After a great deal of debate and discussion, he put out poison. (don’t worry, the other animals cannot get to it) However, it hasn’t even been touched. So far, he has gotten the best results with the old-fashioned wooden traps. (the cheapest, most “low-tech” option available) He has caught a great number of enormous, well-fed rats. But, the question remained...why now?

If we couldn’t come up with a solution or a reason, it was beginning to look like hoophouse growing was in real danger. And, I don’t guess I have to tell you that the hoophouse crops represent a good portion of our income. He cleared and cleaned, plugged holes and researched more traps. Then, it occurred to him.

Corn Gluten.
corn gluten
smells so yummy!

They must be attracted to the corn gluten.

Corn gluten is a by-product of processed corn. Before anyone says anything…it’s not the same GLUTEN that is such a dietary concern these days. (another time, another post) It is used both as an animal feed and as a “natural herbicide”. It has been used by the organic/sustainable community for years to prevent/inhibit weed growth. As it breaks down, it adds nitrogen to the soil. Sounds like a winning proposition, right?

But, it is corn. And corn smells delicious and tastes good, too. (no, I haven’t put it on the menu) We have been using it extensively in the hoophouses. That would explain why the rats were tunneling in and digging through the beds. So, stop using the corn gluten and stop having rats…theoretically.
So far, so good. We have seen no new rat activity and we have done a little planting in anticipation of the Market season.

Honestly, there is a down-side to the whole "all-natural" method of farming. A serious down-side. That should be a post. Or actually a series of posts. hmmm

The fact of the matter is, the corn gluten really doesn’t work that well to control the weeds. The best, most effective “herbicide” (way to kill weeds) is the business end of a hoe. Or pulling them out by hand.

But, now the weather has put us in a holding pattern for the hoophouses. It is supposed to be 17* one night soon. There’s no point in planting any tender transplants just to watch them freeze.
Looks like we’re just going to get a late start this year.

"Lazarus" joins the barnyard gang
In barn news, “Lazarus” made our Instagram shot of the week when he joined the flock. (look for homesteadhillfarm on Instagram) Considering his rocky start in life…this was a big step. However, by the following morning, he was hopping around on three legs. And, he was wheezing and coughing. Oh no!  Apparently, he had either gotten stepped on or butted in the night. (I totally understand either one of those, he’s always getting in the way and he is a nuisance) As for the cough, I would blame the changeable weather once again. So, he went back in his nursery pen. With rest and protection, he was back on all four hooves in short order. He was given a course of penicillin for his respiratory ailments. Since his lungs sound clear, and his appetite is totally unaffected, I’m fairly certain he will be fine.

preventive maintenance
Then, (because of the weather) we ran the whole flock through for a round of de-worming. The mild weather has us concerned about the issue of internal parasites this year. The oocysts (eggs) of the parasites are found in the soil. As the weather warms, these eggs hatch and the larva make their homes in the tender, young grass. As the livestock nibble the leaves near the soil, they inadvertently ingest them. In the warm, dark environment of the animals’ gut, the parasites multiply exponentially and cause all sorts of health issues. These health issues can turn deadly all too quickly. Keeping the animals robust and healthy is our number one priority.

Speaking of health…The Boss has been struggling with some “symptoms” for months now and he’s been through test after test looking for some definitive results. This week was another test. As he settled in to wait for the results, the doctor’s office called. They could see him right away. That in itself is a good news-bad news proposition. An appointment right away-good news. The need for said appointment-bad.

It appears there is a possibility/probability that the small mass in his liver is cancerous. I must admit, this news sent anxiety levels soaring. But, they wanted to do another test. Seriously? Thankfully, the doctor understood the Boss’ need for a timely solution (the Boss actually said "get it out...and get it out now!") and said he would make a referral to a specialist and ask him to expedite things.

So, tomorrow at o-dark-thirty we will set off to the University Medical Center on the other side of the mountain to take action on the next step of this procedure. If you’re a praying person, or just a thinker of good thoughts,, WE...would truly appreciate if you would do so on our behalf.  While the prognosis sounds good, the whole situation is more than a little overwhelming and something we never thought we would ever have to consider facing.

Now that I’ve shared that piece of news, I’m stuck as for a way to end this post on a positive note.

So, I guess won’t even try and I will just close it by saying...

Have a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll come “visit” us again real soon.


  1. Well I will certainly be thinking of you with positive thoughts and sincere hope for a benign outcome.
    Life really throws us some big challenges. The worry takes a lot of energy.
    As for your rats, what a relief to figure out what the enticement was and hope that problem is solved.
    I hope you get results quickly.

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. Your kind words mean the world to me.
      Love from the Valley

  2. "Praying, and praying right now!" ; )
    xxoo, m & jb

    1. THANK YOU!
      from the bottom of my heart.

  3. You are in my thoughts and sending best wishes and many blessings!!! xo, Jennifer

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I truly appreciate your kind words.

  4. Will definitely be praying for your husband.

  5. I will definitely keep you and the Boss in my prayers!!! It has been a trying month - with the weather and with my sheep! God Bless!!!

    1. Thank you SO much!
      We are praying for y'all as well.
      Take good care!

  6. Prayers and hugs from Colorado!

    1. Thank you, Diane!
      Your kind words mean more than you may ever know.
      Take care.

  7. will be sending up good thoughts for you today. also hoping you're not caught up in this storm system. and at least this medical thing should be out of the way before you get into the thick of your spring work? --suz in ohio

    1. Thanks for the good thoughts, Suz!
      It looks like the majority of the storm is trending northward. (thankfully)
      At this point, we're in a "wait and see mode" with the whole medical thing. Hopefully we will have some idea of a time-frame by next week.
      I should know more about everything by the next walkabout.
      I truly appreciate your kindness and concern.

  8. Barbara and Tom.... We are sincerely thinking of you both. Let me know if you need anything. I can help. Tom, my energy and thoughts are with you.

    1. Thank you, Eva! Your kindness and concern mean the world to us.
      Take good care.

  9. Barbara, please let Leighton know that we are all praying for a good result and speedy recovery. We look forward to his return on our photo forum.

    1. What a kind message, David!
      I will certainly pass it along. I'm pretty sure he will be back as soon as humanly possible. You just can't keep a good photog down. ;)
      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      I'll to keep the forum fellas updated.