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!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-19

I am at a loss how to begin this post.

Because it’s mostly about THE END.

The end of the growing season.

The end of lambchop season.

The end of the Market season.

The end...
the end of the pretty roses

The end is generally bittersweet, but honestly, this year I am welcoming it.  THE END means we are done, free from the worries and pressures that go along with the season. And, maybe, just maybe, now that we have reached the end, we can take the chance to reflect, relax, and re-group during the off season that will give us the ability to face the future with a positive attitude.

the last pick-up
means we deliver some cookies to say

The end of the 2017 lambchop crop meant the meat was processed, packaged and ready for pick-up. So, we traveled to the northern end of the Valley to retrieve those last lambchops just in time for the last Market. That made it possible to have our personal best sales total for the final day of the Market! Now, considering the year we set a record of any kind was just awesome. It felt so good to finish out such a difficult year on a high note. 

Thanks to all who made that possible!

frost on the gate at sunrise
Last week’s bitter cold spelled an end to pasture growth as well as the gardens. While it is possible to just let the gardens go once it gets cold, the sheep still need to eat. And since the Boss tends to be a bit of a hay-miser, figuring out where the ewes can graze for a while longer tends to be a bit of a challenge.
at first I couldn't figure out this strange pattern in the frosty grass...

nope, sheep sleeping spots!
(you can even see where they had their "morning constitutional")

This year we decided to try something different.

setting up the new grazing paddock

Instead of mowing the backyard, the Boss let the ewes graze it. (they even fertilized!) I mean, if it was good enough for the White House, surely, it’s good enough for us on the hill.

grazing in the backyard

Did you know that President Wilson had sheep grazing on the White House lawn during World War I? I’m not kidding. Read this.  I’ve always thought that was a cool story and a great idea. A little bit of electro-net and the girls went to work “mowing”. In a couple of days, they have completely manicured the backyard. (although it is still a toss-up as to who is more startled when someone walks out the or the sheep)

They have nearly reached THE end of the grass and will be heading toward their Winter quarters once the Boss completes his annual barn-cleaning day early in the week.
while I'm on "light-duty" the Boss is feeding the sheep

While I guess that will mark the end of grazing season...we will then begin the countdown to Lambchop Crop 2018, because farm-life has no end. It is the very essence of the cycle of life.

Continuing on with our “end” theme... we can put an end to any type of worry or concern about my medical issues. When I went to the doc for my first follow-up visit (one more before I am cleared to return to all my “normal” activities) he read us the pathology report. Now, honestly I was a little concerned when he prefaced part of it with “don’t freak out”...but, there was cause for rejoicing in this month of thankfulness. There had been an area of complex atypical hyperplasia. Left untreated, this would have had a relatively good chance of turning into cancer. By taking it out, the potential threat comes to an end. (and so do any and all worries) The doctor was quite pleased that he had made the decision to remove everything while he had the opportunity. So, I feel better physically and emotionally.

The weekend meant it was time for the Market...and it is the END of the Market season. It's also the end of our TWENTIETH season as vendors. (I truly never imagined I would ever be able to say that!)
ready for the final market of the season

I know I answered the question, “so, are you glad it’s the end of the season?” about a thousand times. (okay...a hundred...) But, here goes one more time.

Yes, I AM glad to see the end of the Market season. And, I was particularly glad to see the end of yesterday’s Market. (I had no idea how tired and sore I would be after 5 hours of standing/selling) and, NO, we are not taking off for the beach or the islands...and NO, honestly, I do NOT want to find an indoor Market for the “off-season”. 

Although, the END of Market season isn’t really THE END of growing/selling either. Like the rest of this life, it is indeed a cycle. Seed catalogs have begun arriving, so it won’t be long before we’re back to planting. After a short break, we will be making deliveries to our Winter customers downtown just like we’ve done for the past 10 years.  Because farming is indeed all about the cycle of life.

And, the work will never end.

Gus and Tess
help with
morning chores

However, this is THE END of this post.

Thanks so much for reading!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Gus at the end of the driveway
he's my walking companion

Come back and “visit” again real soon!

The Boss put together a video montage of photos throughout the season so that you can visit the Market virtually as well.

Friday, November 17, 2017

THE Year

“...this is gonna be THE year!”

I’m still not certain if that was indeed an affirmation of blessing on our endeavors or simply a “oh dear god, pull yourself together woman” type of plea...but, the Boss’ somewhat laughing proclamation still rings in my ears.

Now, that we are at the end of the Market season...for all intents and purposes, the end of our year...I find myself looking back at THE year through a slightly different lens.

Any amazing plans we may have had hit the skids when we heard that diagnosis back in March. To say that affected the Market season is a gross understatement. We were rocked to our very core.

And, from the Opening Day of Market season when I left the Boss at home recuperating from major surgery to the next-to-the-last Market when he headed out alone while I stayed behind recovering from my own, this year has been unlike any we have ever experienced.

Those personal-best totals of 2014 still remain unchallenged. That amazing production never materialized. And, any sense of accomplishment and success eluded us...replaced instead by the simple relief that we could indeed put this one in the history book.

So, while this year was in no way what we had planned, expected, or even hoped...

We survived. 

We managed to get to every single Market.

We endured.

And, this year that is sucess.


For every scary diagnosis and medical procedure, there was a positive outcome.

For every difficult day and worrisome experience, we found strength.

For every crop failure and growing challenge, all our needs were met.

We have enough.

                                            ...and we are grateful.

wisdom from Winnie the Pooh

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 11-12

It was one of those week when the ticking of the clock got a little louder with each passing day.

As I have said before, there’s a choreography to keeping the farm running smoothly. If there is a mis-step anywhere along the way, the repercussions are far-reaching. This week was our one chance to keep things on schedule.
beautiful fall light...

is a fleeting thing...

much of the week looked like this

With the last batch of lambs off to the processor, it was time to introduce the keeper ewe lambs to the grown ewe flock. And, in order to do that, Angus had to head to his solitary winter paddock out back. He had been hanging out with the ladies ever since he finished his one and only job. But, since we did NOT want to breed ewe lambs (or have any really late babies), he needed to move.
before he figured out the girls were gone

Before that could happen, we needed to make a run to the stockyard with two small lambs that weren’t  worth taking to the processor.

And, you thought I was kidding about choreography.

Remember the two sick lambs that I worried and worked over for what seemed like forever? Well, they did indeed survive. Although they never really thrived. Since the price for lamb processing is charged per head (not per pound like cattle and hogs) the lambs must be fairly large to warrant the $100 fee. These little guys were not at all large. They weren’t worth taking to the processor. They weren’t keeper quality. And, neither of us are fans of lawn ornaments.

So, off to the stockyard.

They should have gone weeks ago, but it just didn’t happen. It was now, or never.

It was obvious from the beginning that the job wasn’t going to be a pleasant one. It was raining. A bone-chilling, drenching rain. Handling sheep in the rain isn’t fun...they’re like smelly, soggy sponges. These lambs were also teeny, weeny (compared to what we generally haul) and one of them was losing half her wool (lambs often get “wool-break” after an illness) Honestly, they were an embarrassment.

at the stockyard

Pulling into the stockyard, with our little lambs, in the rain, among the big rigs, it was apparent that this was no ordinary Tuesday sale at the yard. Unbeknownst to us, it was the big bred heifer sale and there were cows everywhere. Big, black cows.

Now, if you ever want to feel out of place, introduce some dinky little lambs into a sale of mostly big, black Angus cows. Honestly, it would have been funny if it hadn’t made me feel so self-conscious.

There’s a real sense of animosity between some cattle farmers and shepherds. I really don’t know why, but some cattle farmers feel far superior to shepherds. And, lots of folks just cannot stand sheep.  I’ve known more than one farmer who has had derogatory things to say about sheep. “Range-maggots” and “no count” come to mind. Hauling our two dinky lambs into the stockyard in our hybrid dog-kennel/trailer didn’t do much for our “serious” farmer image either...

a couple of embarrassing specimens

A rainy day, a big sale, a bunch of big, jumpy cattle, some testy farmers...and we were both more than a little relieved to pull out of the stockyard minus the lambs.

With that adventure behind us, we were back to the hill trying to get the last of the items on the “to-do” list completed. We were working against a couple of upcoming surgery date, Market harvest...and the first blast of cold, COLD air. The weather forecast spelled an end of outdoor harvest, so it was going to be a race to get the last of the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage harvested before a hard freeze.

ewe flock grazing in the rain

But, it was still raining. So, we took advantage of the inclement weather and visited all the grandsons. (and their moms)
Grandpa finally got to hold Garrett!

It was 38* with a steady rain as I picked the broccoli. The cold temperature required coveralls. But they were soaking up the rain and slowing me down. It was like attempting to move through quicksand...very cold quicksand. The task seemed overwhelming. When the Boss finished cleaning/boxing eggs he came to help.
picking cauliflower on a cold, wet day

When all was said and done, we crammed over 100 pounds of cauliflower into the cooler from that one picking! (in addition to broccoli and cabbage)

heading to surgery

Then, it was finally here. The day of my surgery.

The day I had been both anticipating and dreading. Now, believe me, a Friday certainly wasn’t my first choice for a trip to the hospital. Friday has been harvest/prep day for Market for 20 years. And, we are nothing if not creatures of habit. (and missing the Market is never an option) But, that was the best date they had…and I needed to get the whole thing taken care of…pronto.

The surgery went well. The Doc told the Boss that the offending cyst was about the size of a softball. Yikes! Thanks to modern technology, I was back out of the hospital in about 5 hours.

I truly appreciate all the prayers, kind words and concern. I’m sore and tired...and it looks like I have four belly buttons, (I suppose you really didn't want or need to know that) but, I’m feeling good. The surgical site pain is actually less than what I had been enduring on a daily basis. That’s good news, to say the least. And, I will be fully recovered just in time for lambing season!

The weather forecast was right. The cold weather arrived with a vengeance and Friday night was frigid. The low here was 19*.

early morning light through the office window
I did make it outside to capture the sunrise

That meant that the Boss was in for a challenging Market day, all alone. Not only did he have to set up and sell our stuff, he still had all his managerial duties to perform. (I’m thinking that was my one and only “day off” from the Market...ever)

this probably wasn't fair of me...
all warm and toasty by the woodstove

icicle on the Market trailer

Cold weather makes everything at an open-air market difficult. Produce freezes, customers stay away, and it is nearly impossible to make change with cold fingers. This week there was the additional challenge of closed streets for the annual Veterans’ Day Parade. But, he prevailed.

And, that, my friends, was our week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

Oh, here’s a postscript to the “dinky lamb” story. We got over $100 for each of the lambs! (that will never compete with cattle prices, but, I’m happy)

the cold and the rain spelled the end for the gorgeous leaves in the backyard