Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-24

My grandmother used to always say things came in threes...

So, it’s understandable that I’m feeling just a little apprehensive.

Last week we had to replace the well pump. (that’s one)

This week it was the water heater. (that’s two...)

So, I’m trying real hard NOT to think about what might be next!

Another week on the hill focused on unexpected repairs.
replacing the floodlight

another tire repair!
This time a weed pulled the tire valve off
I told you those weeds were big
(and vicious)

While the water pressure was diminishing, the temperature of the water was on the rise. It was more than disconcerting, it was bordering on dangerous.

The water in the Valley is notoriously hard. Just for the record, I do not mean hard like a solid object.

Hard water is water that has high mineral content (in contrast with "soft water"). Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone and chalk which are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates.” (Wikipedia definition)

When the minerals stick together inside pipes and on surfaces, it is referred to as “scaly build-up”. As you might imagine, “scaly build-up” causes all sorts of problems. The drinking glasses are often streaky, the icecubes are cloudy, and attempting to get the shower sparkly clean is an impossible task. In the case of the water heater, the scale had built up to the point that the lower thermostat could no longer do its job as it was encased in crud. The water kept on heating until the top thermostat reached temperature. (by then the water on the bottom was HOT!)

The water heater was reaching the end of its life expectancy anyway, so while it was possible to replace the anode rod before it failed, no longer keeping the interior of the tank safe from rust and eventual leaks, the best solution was a complete replacement.

out with the old
Which meant another plumbing job for the Boss. (oh, ugh)

I would like to say that the job went off without a hitch...


bringing down the water heater
It did require two trips to Lowe’s. One of which very nearly caused “great wailing and gnashing of teeth” amongst both employees and customers. Thankfully, the issue was finally resolved. Although I will never understand why they store water heaters on the TOP shelf.

The biggest challenge seemed to be getting the thing into the house, since the installation itself went quite smoothly. So smoothly that the Boss was heard to say “Wow! Easiest plumbing job I’ve ever done!”

It’s nice to have hot water that’s not TOO hot...and after a little tweaking, it’s just right. Seriously, let’s hope home repair is done for a while.

We seem to be in a “fallow time” right now. What do I mean by that? Essentially, there is nothing going on. (sort of) I’m not real comfortable with feeling inactive and unsettled. But, that is apparently where we are for now and I’m attempting to deal with it. And, hopefully things will settle out soon and we will find some clear direction.

Since we really didn’t want to keep a worn-out water heater in the backyard, we planned a trip to the dump. A trip to the dump wouldn’t be complete without combining it with a bunch of other errands. And, since it was our anniversary, we even went out to lunch! (are we romantic, or what?) If you missed our anniversary post, click this.
setting off for a "romantic" trip to the dump
Preparation for the Market was done in record time. I’ve already said things were slowing down, but this particular Market week had the potential to be a real challenge. (to say the least) We intentionally kept our inventory light.

Staunton was to be transformed into Hogsmeade (yes, of Harry Potter fame). Staunton has taken to hosting this enormous “Potter party” that runs for the entire weekend. You can check it out HERE. If you’re a fan, this is an amazing event.

If you’re not…well…

Before you ask…I have NO idea WHY Staunton.

Tourism is a big deal in our area. Lots and lots of money comes into the area when the tourists come to town to see the sights , visit historic Downtown , or experience a Shakespearean show.  . And, while our Farmers’ Market is truly one of the best, it is often overlooked. (there are even some folks in town who dislike the Market and everything about it) The Farmers’ Market has been an institution in the downtown since 1993. Check it out here. HERE. But, the Farmers’ Market sets up in a parking lot downtown one day a week. We have no permanent structure and once we pack up at noon, you would never even know there was a Farmers' Market there in the morning.

the Market is DARK at 6am!

So, on a day devoted to tourists, you can definitely feel the divide between town and farm mind-set. I know that many think that all the foot traffic in the downtown area would certainly benefit the Farmers’ Market. But, truth is it really doesn’t.  Not at all. Big events actually depress sales at the Market. (and this event was enormous!) Many of our regular customers stayed away intentionally and even more were put off by the crowds (and lack of parking) and went elsewhere. There are lots of “lookers” wandering through on their way to the next event, not interested in buying fresh produce or frozen meat that they would have to haul around during a day of merrymaking. And, despite the suggestion, not everyone can make snacks. Those vendors for whom the Market is their livelihood (like yours truly) don’t have the option of simply “taking the week off”. Produce cannot be put on hold when it is ready for harvest. And, we honestly need the income. But, depressed sales totals make for some depressed farmers at the end of the day.

More than a few people were angered by the lack of consideration for the Market and its vendors. There was talk of letters to the editor and comments to City Council. Then there were questions as to a plan for dealing with the onslaught next year.  Personally, I don’t have any answers. It looked like it was a great success for the City (so, I’m guessing it will continue indefinitely). I’m certain that as a bunch of creative farmers we can find a way to adapt. I was just thankful we didn’t have any serious issues, we didn’t have to sit in traffic forever and lunch was ready when we got home.

…and honestly, there’s no point in getting mad about it.

If there is one good thing about our “fallow season”, it is that we have had the chance to spend a lot of time with the kids lately. We saw at least some of them three different days this week! 
feeding the ducks at the park

MrB and the 4wheeler are inseparable

Love ya, man!
This may be my favorite pic of all time.
(thanks, Tom)

Most of the crew was together Saturday afternoon to celebrate the imminent arrival of Kman’s baby brother. (We missed you, Vanessa, Keith and Danielle!)

Lots of food and fun for everyone. Too bad someone couldn’t bottle all that toddler energy! The supply seems endless. What a bunch of cuties! (I may have missed a few)

seriously, this was FUN!

…and that’s just all, folks!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!
Josh and everybody's favorite Grandma
LOVE YOU, Bonnie!

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

Want to see the Boss’ Market shots? Click HERE.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Promises to Keep

“ have and to hold from this day forward,
for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
until we are parted by death.
This is my solemn vow."

As we dutifully repeated the words put forth by Uncle Owen, we probably didn’t give enough thought to the import of our words; we certainly didn’t comprehend what would be required of us as we worked to keep those “solemn vows”.

There was no way we could see into the future. No way we could know what sort of curves life would throw us after we drove away from that little church as husband and wife.  It was for the best that we didn’t know what sort of changes were in our future, since the present seemed challenging enough.

When you’re young and in love, you don’t give much thought to the future. Except, perhaps in some idealistic, romantic kind of way. You meet “the one”, you make “the promises” and you ride off into the sunset...

The reality of life is much more complex. The day-to-day realities can prove stressful. Throw in a couple home-schooled kids, a life changing event, a total change of location, re-invention of ourselves, new construction, and entrepreneurship and I can assure you things can seem a little out of control. When the Boss got that scary diagnosis, we embarked on a whole new chapter in this roller-coaster ride.

It’s been 33 years since we stood in that church with the ugly green carpet on that sweltering September day, repeating those vows before family and friends. In all that time, we’ve remained true to those promises, despite countless trials. We’ve made our fair share of mistakes and enjoyed our successes. We’ve struggled through the difficult times and reveled in the good. We've watched our kids grow and flourish and add a new generation. (you can read more of the story HERE)

The past year has been difficult so say the very least...and the way ahead looks uncertain and any future plans seem tenuous at best...

 However, we still have promises to keep...

...and work to do...

              Happy Anniversary!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-17

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name…

Surely I am not the only one who remembers the Cheers theme song! (and I apologize if it is now stuck in your head for the rest of the day)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about belonging…fitting in…having a tribe. This week it occurred to me just how much it means when people remember us. How we all yearn for that sense of belonging. And, how, after years of living in the same place, doing the same thing, I think we may have finally achieved that status.
MrB helped his dad deliver a load of firewood
he did a real good job backing him up

Since I am nothing if not predictable, the folks I see on my weekly rounds of errands through town are taken aback if I change up and show up on a different day. I have continuing conversations with the bank tellers and cashiers. And, I have even heard the guys at the feedstore question one another when my order is slightly different. Somehow, that makes me feel like others someone is looking out for me. (and that means a lot)

a visit to the hill isn't complete without a tractor ride
(thanks for the pic, Amanda!)
Tuesday, we loaded a bunch of lambs and headed up the Valley to drop them off for processing. The loading and the trip were both uneventful and quick. When we walked in the door after leaving the lambs in the holding pen out back, we were greeted warmly by the employees who were busily processing a huge beef behind the counter. After the manager reviewed our cutting instructions she said, “I’ll call ya next week. Thanks, hun!” It’s taken awhile, but we get that sense of belonging there, too.
penning lambs at processor
next time we see them they will be tasty lambchops

corn harvest is completed in the north end of the Valley

The next job on the docket involved the Boss crawling underneath the house and braving the spiderwebs to check on an issue that had “major problem” written all over it.

The water pressure here on the hill had seemed “off” lately. Ordinarily, it can be like opening a fire hydrant if you’re not careful when you turn on the outside faucets.

Earlier this year, we had found what looked like wool in the hoophouse irrigation system, but didn’t give it much thought as we were intent on getting the plants watered.

Then, the electric bill started getting higher and higher.

The Boss was worried that there was something seriously wrong with the well pump... now, he hates plumbing and the well is quite deep (380 feet---although the pump sits at 300 feet).

His trip to the cellar seemed to prove his theory.  This job was going to require an expert. Fortunately, the well man lives down in town. As a matter of fact, you can see his house from the barnyard.

A call was made.

“hey, Ben...Tom here”

“Well, hello, Tom! I heard you been sick. How you feelin’ now?   ...a problem with the well? Yeah, I can be there in an hour...”

(where everybody knows your name...)

Yes. The well pump did indeed need attention. The impeller had worn out. (remember that “wool” stuff we found? That was indeed the shredded impeller.) This caused the pump to run continuously as it attempted to come to full pressure, in turn causing the electric bill to skyrocket.

They would be back on Friday to fix the pump and shock the well.

In the meantime, it was back to business as usual.

captured kitty
The Boss became my hero when he trapped barn kitty, Tess, so I could take her to the vet for her much-delayed rabies shot. She is not a particularly nice cat, despite my best efforts ever since she was a teeny, tiny kitten. Did you read THIS?  She hisses and fights the other cats on a routine basis, and she’s been known to claw and bite humans, too. But, since she’s a good hunter and rabies shots are required by law, the trip to the vet was a necessity. Besides, she and Gus are best buds, so I wouldn’t want him to lose his only other animal-friend.
beautiful morning was pierced by caterwauling

She was howling so loudly about her imprisonment that I could hear her from the top of the hill as I opened the gate for the lambs. That didn’t bode too well for our trip, so I changed CD’s and turned the volume way up as we cruised the backroads to the vet clinic. If she was howling in the car, I couldn’t hear her over Brantley Gilbert.

We’ve been dealing with the same clinic for our entire time in the Valley. I’ve lost track of all the pets and farm animals we’ve taken in for care. Our ten-year adventure with home dairying meant we got to know some of the vets on a first name basis. It was great to walk in the door and be greeted by name. But, this time it struck me how much things have changed since the office manager passed away late last year. Everyone is still nice, they still take great care of our animals, but that personal touch is missing. And, seeing her picture on the wall, instead of being welcomed by her smiling face made me just a little bit sad.

we've had lots of heavy dew
but, could really use some rain

However, the cat got her shot and we returned to the hill, where she immediately went looking for Gus, demanding that he “pet” her as she wound herself between his legs. Later, they were seen napping in the driveway.

Gus seems slightly embarrassed by his new "best friend"

Since we were going to be without water on a FRIDAY (harvest day) I guess it’s a good thing that garden production has slowed to a snail’s pace, meaning we could get everything harvested before the well team arrived.
sunrise on well repair day

Between the weather, health issues, a major lack of enthusiasm, and some under-preforming crops, late season production is at what just might be an all-time low. Strike that. There’s no might be about it. Production is definitely at an all-time low. At this point, there’s no way to correct it this year. So, I guess we’ll just try to hang on until the end of the Market season in hopes that we can re-group and get back on track for 2018.

the last batch of broilers finally moved outside

Squash bugs and moisture spelled disaster for the winter squash

Sadly, this looks like the last of the tomato crop

But, potato blossoms mean the fall potatoes are almost ready!

The well job required that the Boss trim some trees and cut a hole in the fence. There was some complaining when he moved the sheep and relegated Gus to the garden. Remy kept a close eye on the proceedings from the office window.

Remy watching the proceedings

I took advantage of the “down-time” and worked on getting the farm books up to date. (I won’t even tell you how far behind I was) It always makes me feel a bit more organized when the filing is done and the checkbook is balanced. While I can’t say everything is current, it is close...and I can almost see the top of my desk again!
pulling the well pipe

The well job was completed in an amazingly short period of time and the water was back on by lunchtime. Although it smelled like chlorine (they have to “shock” the well after working on it to kill any nasties that might have gotten into the system) and didn’t taste at all like our good well water, there is a sense of relief when you open the tap and the water flows freely. After the chlorine did its job it was flushed from the system and now everything is back to “normal”.

While I can’t say I’m happy for the unexpected expense of the well repair, I am grateful that it is fixed. It means a lot to know that you can make a phonecall and help is on the way...within the hour.
(where everybody knows your name)

It doesn’t matter if production is down, what the weather is, or even if we feel like it...when Saturday rolls around, it’s time for Market.

it's starting to look like fall downtown

The market is the one place where I can try to do a little payback...where I can attempt to remember folks’ names, their concerns and interests and pass on the feeling of goodwill that I have experienced during the week.

...where everybody knows your name...

                      ...and they’re always glad that you came...

this cute guy stopped by to say HI!

That brings us to the end of another week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 9-10

This was one of those mildly frustrating weeks where it certainly felt like we accomplished absolutely nothing.

While this wasn’t exactly true, we did get some important things done. But, in all honesty, I cannot say it was one of our more productive weeks. It was a “holiday” week, which always confuses things (particularly since we don’t get any time off), the weather was uncooperative and we made a couple of trips to the hospital (scheduled tests, not to worry).
 a beautiful morning

moon over mbrk
In addition, we were keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, which at one point had the potential to seriously affect our plans for the upcoming week. So, while we completed all the essentials, it’s fair to say we were more than a little distracted.

we spent Labor Day processing broilers

As we watch Hurricane Irma pound the Florida Keys, and the images of vast destruction continue to come in from the islands, the powers of nature continue to astound, if not horrify, everyone.

Here in the Valley, we’re more than 200 miles from the nearest ocean beach. So, you wouldn’t expect that hurricanes would ever affect us. However, this is far from the truth. Recollections of the destruction caused by Camille, Agnes and Fran (just to name a few) linger in our collective memory. When the remnants of these storms hit the Valley, they caused massive flooding, mudslides and damage that was visible for years. Lives were changed forever and during Camille alone 113 people in Virginia died.

In 2003, hurricane Isabel passed directly over us while still a category 1 storm. (tiny by comparison to Irma) As we huddled in our living room in the middle of the night and watched by the exterior wall eerily swaying with the wind, I found myself wishing (perhaps out loud) for a basement. That was the only time I have had absolutely no appreciation for our little hilltop home. However, our experience pales in comparison to what the folks of Florida are facing. At this point, all we can do is watch and pray for family and friends facing the fury of Irma.

Irma is a storm of historic proportion

The storm is taking an odd track and it doesn’t look like it will impact our weather to any great degree. Early in the week, there were dire predictions of gale-force winds and torrential rains. Neither of which would be welcome at this time of year by any of the farmers in the area. It’s too early to do much harvesting and since much of the cropland is located in the low-lying areas, any flooding would be disastrous. Personally, we were facing the dilemma of potentially re-scheduling our lamb processing trip. (I wouldn’t want to attempt to haul a small loaded livestock trailer up the interstate during a hurricane! It's taxing enough in good weather to jockey around the tractor trailers and traffic jams) That could prove more of a logistical nightmare than you might imagine. Although, at this point, it looks like those concerns were misplaced.

Even though we weren’t facing hurricane preparations, the weather still played an enormous part in our week here on the hill.
chilly, cloudless morning

everything is wet

the last batch of broilers is still in the brooder
waiting for the potential storm to pass
(and getting fatter all the time)
spiderwebs are prolific

although when the sun does come out...

Numerous rains in the past week have interfered with everything. Nighttime temperatures have dropped considerably. This combination means that the mornings are very cool and damp. Not good gardening weather. Any warm weather crop production has slowed to a snail’s pace.
the tomatoes are looking pretty sad
(but, they still taste delicious!)
The end is nigh for the tomatoes and the cucumbers gave up the ghost some time ago. It’s time to bush-hog and till…and tuck some of the garden away for the season. Things are winding down.

keepin' it real
spent cukes have been overtaken by weeds

But, then…they can’t. Not exactly. There are weeks (and weeks) left before the Market closes for the season!

Providing a variety of produce up until Thanksgiving is going to be a challenge.

production has definitely slowed

I’ll be perfectly honest here. This has been a hard season.

Really hard.

We’ve had more than a few serious setbacks. And, going into the fall and the winter “off-season” things look far different (read, less certain) than they ever have. I don’t want to get all introspective and depressing here, but some things are going to have to change. I think we’re probably in for another shift in our evolution as a farm…and, no, I don’t know exactly what that means in the long-run.   
But, looks like a good butternut squash crop!

That being said, the Saturday Market was great! It was a beautiful day, we had some excellent entertainment and once it warmed up, the people came out in droves.

You can check out the Boss’ photos HERE.

I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

I felt bad for the customer who spilled all the cherry tomatoes...

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