Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 4-29

                                     When it rains…it pours…
More than a motto for salt, this was the theme of a wet week on the hill.

I thought I’d compartmentalized my grief, that we were just moving on…doing our thing, until I saw those flashing red and blue lights in my rearview.

“Ma’am…do you know just how fast you were going?”

This was definitely NOT the way to start the week. As the police office took my license and registration to run through the system, I struggled to retain my composure.

When he came back and said “ma’am, you have a clean driving record. BUT, you’re not going to keep it if you keep this up…” I felt my lip quiver. When he told me just how fast I was going, I felt that first tear start sliding down my cheek. I knew there were more to come. And, I knew I had to warn this unsuspecting man what was about to happen.

“Officer, I am SO sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. But, I have to run these errands, and we had a loss in the family…and I am not telling you this so you’ll feel sorry and let me go.  I know I was wrong. But...” I could no longer blink fast enough to stop the flood.

He looked a little bewildered. “Well, I was going to let you off even before you told me that. But, you really need to be careful…especially now.  I’m terribly sorry for your loss!”

I sat there in a daze as he drove away.

I pulled myself together, resolved to pay full time and attention and headed to my next stop. Before I could get out of the car, my phone rang. The Boss needed me to pick up something for a repair job. I started to tell him what just happened, and I dissolved again.

This was going to be an incredibly long trip.

Another mop-up job and I entered the credit union to deposit the week’s receipts. Inside, embroiled in her own frustrations was a dear family member. Our tearful greeting was cut short as it became evident that a satisfactory solution wasn’t a possibility and she was off to yet another appointment.

My next stop involved yet another family member encounter. (such is life in a small town---you almost ALWAYS see somebody you know) This time the words failed. “now, don’t you start…you’ll get me going...” As we parted ways, I again felt the tears sliding down my cheeks, unbidden. I didn’t realize what a mess I was until a random shopper inquired, “Ma’am…Ma’am! Are you okay?”

Needless to say, I was not exaggerating when I said it was a long, wet week here on the hill.

at least someone appreciates the rain

Heeding the advice JUST STAY BUSY, we set about to get some stuff done. But, it’s still too cold to get going in the garden. There's only so much that we can do. The Boss was hoping to get the mowing started before it turns into a jungle, so he started on maintenance and repair.  I started seeds and worked on odds and ends. And, then it started raining…

A dark, rainy day for an already heartbreaking funeral seemed just a little too much sadness. There were tears when brother and niece played/sang a duet. There were more tears when sister/daughter shared a few words. But, when the first notes of Steve Warriner’s "Holes in the Floor of Heaven" began to play, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

And, while this was a “celebration of life” and everyone had a story about how Bonnie affected them in a positive way and how she was a wonderful example of LOVE, it was still one of the saddest things I have ever experienced. As the long procession snaked its way across town, all the oncoming traffic stopped in a show of respect, the scope of which I had never before witnessed.

maple helicopters in the rain

But, the week was progressing, and I am certain she would have wanted us to continue…

So, onward.

The continued rain was not the only thing interfering with any sense of progress on the hill. The garden mower wouldn’t start. Now, the Gravely (the garden mower) has been on its last legs…er, wheels…for some time. As a matter of fact, two years ago this week, we were off trying to solve the possible demise of this little workhorse. The story is here. That time, Tbone worked a little mechanical magic and got it running without any major difficulties. While he was consulted this time, the Boss took on the repair himself. But, he needed a part. (we would confront the bigger question of replacement later)
lawnmower check-up

TSC had something he thought might work, but the only source for the exact replacement meant going to the tractor dealer in the Draft.  It seemed prudent to extend our current dump run/lunch date rather than make a separate trip.

With the proper part purchased, we headed back to the hill.

When I got out to open the gate, acrid smoke was pouring out of the wheel well. Now, while my mechanical knowledge may be limited, I know enough to know this couldn’t be good. It seemed bad. Real bad.
checking out the problem

Unfortunately, I was right.

Apparently, the caliper was stuck. That burning smell was the brake pad melting.

So…forget the garden mower. There was another more pressing repair job. Without the truck, much of life here on the hill would come to a standstill. And, we REALLY needed it for Market day.

But, the rain.

Doing vehicular repair outside in the rain is not anybody’s idea of a good time.  Time to put the truck in the shop.
another reason for indoor repair...
unwanted, totally unskilled "helpers"


There were chicks in a kiddie pool in the shop.

In order to get the truck IN the shop the chicks had to come OUT. In order to get the chicks OUT, the big broilers had to move. In order to move the big broilers…

Suddenly we were in full-blown crisis mode. It was time for us to do what we do best. Teamwork.

He moved the field pen and repaired the waterer while I caught and crated the broilers in the brooder. 

somebody doesn't look to thrilled with moving day

Then while I hauled them out to the pen, he did a quick cleaning job.
cleaning the brooder
I rounded up the baby broilers and re-housed them while he got the truck back on its wheels to head into the shop. Somewhere along the way, I hauled the chickie-pool out to the compost pile, dumped it and then cleaned it and put it away.
warm and cozy in the brooder
you'd think they'd look happier

The truck repair job was going to have to wait until the next day when the Boss could get parts. In the meantime, there was a sick lamb that needed some attention. He was off to himself when we headed out to town and that’s never a good sign.

sick lamb

The combination of the rain, cool temperatures and limited grazing sets the stage for all sorts of health issues. In a perfect world, we would simply keep the sheep in the barn and feed them hay. However, we are out of hay. Our last visit to the hay-guy was supposed to be just that---the LAST. He had limited supply and had promised it to somebody else. (partly because I said I didn’t need/want it) Besides, it was raining (again) and you can’t haul hay in the rain. The warm weather of Spring has to arrive soon (right?) so we’ll just muddle through.
yes, that is a syringe in my hair
that way it doesn't get squished and lose the medicine

Catching the ailing lamb in the gross, slippery mud wasn’t quite the ordeal I had anticipated. A short struggle ensued as he was bigger and feistier than I had anticipated. But, in the end he was successfully treated. Mission accomplished. But, sick lambs rarely respond to treatment quickly and often die. This would be a game of wait-and-see.
not looking so good

While the Boss headed into town for parts, I headed down to the hoophouse to finally get some planting done. But, first there were what seemed like tons of weeds to pull. The hens enjoyed the green treat and I was making great progress.

you brought us treats?

At that moment, my back waged a protest. All the bending and lifting from the day before had been too much. My back was sending a distinct message “nope, no way…ain’t doin’ this!”

So much for getting caught up…the rest of the day was spent in the close company of the heating pad.

A bad back seemed like the icing on the cake…the final straw. It could have been a reason to get majorly bummed out…’cause honestly this had not been a great week. (in a long string of not so great weeks)


I have been making a concerted effort to find the good. This has proven to be a serious challenge sometimes.

Here goes:

We all have some fond and amazing memories of our Bonnie. The pain of loss will fade over time. Just knowing her made us all better people.

The Spring flowers are gorgeous. And, it stopped raining.

I didn't get a traffic ticket, and that little incident made me more attentive. 

We’re back on the road/in the garden relatively cheaply. The repair work went smoothly.  

The sick lamb was out grazing with the others this morning.
early morning grazing
(the sick one is at the back)

And, my back is somewhat functional once more.
all the rain has the brassicas looking great
and ready for transplant

there are lots of squash and cukes in the greenhouse
ready to plant 

It was a beautiful day for the Market and all the other outdoor activities that were taking place in and around town. Maybe Spring has finally come to stay.

For right now, let’s not worry about the continued cold nights, the delayed plantings or potential supply issues.

I choose to enjoy the beautiful weather and the lovely spring colors.

Have a Happy Sunday! 

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

Here’s the link to the Market Facebook pictures.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 4-22

It’s been a hard week on the hill…

I hesitated to write those words. I really did. Because writers are supposed to write for their readers, consider them with every word. And, it seems like I have written about the hard-ness of life a lot lately. Honestly, I envision someone somewhere reading that and thinking, “Again? isn’t that all she ever says? “geez, she must think everything is hard”…or “hard? She thinks that’s hard?” I don’t want to put out a whiny, feeling sorry for myself vibe.

Spring is finally coming to the Valley

You have to believe me that I long for those “green pastures” and “still waters” of Psalm 23. I'd love to tell you nothing but success stories with happy endings. But, that doesn’t seem to be how life has been going for quite some time now. I'm not making the news here, I'm just reporting...

When I started the farm blog, it was to share the actual experiences of our small farm. I wrote so others could see the good, the bad, and the ugly of making your life in small-scale agriculture. To make some sort of connection between rural and urban. There have been great successes and dismal failures. And, a whole lot of the same old, same old. It is entirely possible that I have used the words “meh” and hard far too often. Maintaining livestock, tending gardens and promoting the products can be a grueling monotony. Throw in a few life-altering experiences, normal aging and just the passage of time and well, it gets…plain old hard.

signs of Spring in the Valley

So, bear with me…I’m looking for the positives and hoping this all gets better…

At least I think I have identified what makes it so hard. It’s that feeling that we have no control. That Life is just going to happen, and our wants and desires have no real effect on anything. Sometimes it feels like we’re…I’m…just hanging on by my fingernails. We're at the mercy of the weather, market trends, other people's lack of consideration/ethics, pests, disease, the list of variables seems endless. I’ve read all about positive thinking and the Laws of Attraction, manifest destiny and God’s perfect will. But, from my vantage point none of it seems to make any sense sometimes. And, not to belabor the point... it is just plain hard.

I would like to just once make a plan, work the plan, note the successful completion of the plan and head off to something else. But, it’s been one of those weeks where I wonder WHY we even attempt to plan anything. I would just throw my hands up in despair and just let the chips fall where they may. But, I can’t shake that Biblical reference “where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18) and even Toby Keith says “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might end somewhere else.” And, while I realize that my thought processes sound like an eclectic mess at best, everything seems to indicate that plans are good. Even when everything seems to go awry.

This week was a good example of that.

Happy 30 T-bone!
Sunday’s birthday party plans were affected by volatile weather. Ever since the Derecho, those images of big thunderstorms with high winds freak me out a little. And, then to see our little village in the TORNADO WARNING zone was scary. Knowing the kids and grandkids were on the road was even more frightening.
big storm comin'

It seems wrong to rejoice that everything on the hill remained unscathed (and the kids are fine) by the wind and rain when others were devastated by a tornado and flooding. When you live at the top of the hill, 3.25 inches of rain just makes for general sloppiness, not danger.

creek's up!

wet farm dog

some of the potatoes washed right out of the ground!

Since it was going to be super-wet on Monday, we put off the first broiler processing of the year. But, then Tuesday was too windy. (not a little breeze…gale-force winds---the kind that always seem to follow precipitation)
You know it's windy when the birds have a hard time staying in the trees!
Not to sound too much like Goldilocks, but we needed a day that was “just right”…

Okay…so, Wednesday it is.

well, HELLO, little chick!

But, Wednesday was also chick-delivery day. That meant a trip to the Staunton Post Office before we got started. Although that worked out, too…because the morning was frosty COLD. (I can assure you that processing chickens with near-freezing fingers is not fun)

the first broiler of the year
We sold well over 50 pounds of chicken at Market!

The rest of the week seemed to have a mind of its own. The continued cold weather and sustained winds made it impractical to do any planting. So, there is essentially nothing in the garden/hoophouses. The Boss did finally get the sheep out on pasture. That was a good thing…we have a half a bale of hay left.

putting up electro-net fence

early morning grazing

one sick sheep
(she's been treated and seems to have recovered)


Concerns about a feverish grandson caused a change in plans for a weekend family get-together.

And then…there was the almost unbelievable news…

Got the news on Friday mornin'
But a tear I couldn't find
(honestly, I haven’t stopped crying)
You showed me how I'm supposed to live
And now you showed me how to die

On Friday our dear Bonnie was called to Heaven. Read.  Words fail to convey the sense of loss I feel. And, judging by the countless posts from family members and friends, I am not alone in my grief.

Bonnie and great-grandson at the Market
Summer 2015

You couldn’t meet Bonnie and not see LOVE in action. Knowing Bonnie changed my life. (I’ll tell you about that some other time)

So, right now, I am sad…so very sad. Life seems very hard. Borrowing words from Toby Keith (again), “I’m not crying ‘cause I feel so sorry for you…I’m cryin’ for me!” (watch/listen here)

But, despite our sense of loss, Life goes on.

frost and 34*
April 21,  2018

Saturday, it was off to the Market as usual. Things got off to a chilly start with temperatures in the mid-30s and a heavy frost. Things warmed up…the people came…and all in all, it was a successful day.

You can see the Boss’ photos on Facebook and/or Flicker

There were lots of other things I planned on writing about today. But, for now, I just want to say…

I hope you have a Happy Sunday! 

Hug your dear ones and make sure you say “I LOVE YOU” every chance you get.

And, above all…be kind. (Bonnie was)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 4-15

Any thoughts of a frozen winter wonderland are but a distant memory after a couple of 80* days this week.

But, believe it or not, just last Sunday it was 22* and we were facing another in a series of storms that brought wintry weather despite the arrival of Spring weeks ago.

Monday morning was cold and snowy (again) and I didn’t relish the thought of enduring a roadtrip to the vet. Since puppies need almost as many vaccinations as children do, Karma was scheduled for an early morning visit.  Her incessant howling makes concentration a challenge. Potentially slick, twisty country backroads and impaired concentration could be a dangerous combo. The Boss took pity on us and we had a chauffeur-driven ride to the vet. I must say, it was the quietest trip Karma has ever made! Maybe it is because she’s outgrown the dog-box and sat in the back of the Xterra with her nose on the seat behind me the whole time.

headed to the vet

It’s hard to tell which she loves more, all the attention at the vet or the peanut butter treats. She got loved on by doctors, technicians and clients alike. Everyone loves her. (except that one cat patient) All my after-supper leash training has paid off and she was incredibly well-behaved. And, we only have one more visit scheduled to complete her vaccination regiment.

Karma is up to 36.7# at 15 weeks old!

With that chore out of the way, and the snow melted, it was time to work on other things.

We finally got the big broilers out on grass! 

they don't seem too excited

That meant that we could move the little broilers and clean out the shop. Getting that job done means not only does the shop smell better, but the compost pile grew exponentially. (that will come in handy later in the season) It had gotten to the point where the Boss had to put chicken wire around the chickie-pool to prevent would-be escapees from hopping out and wandering around the shop. It’s nice to have some sort of normalcy restored.

although a snowy April 9th is NOT normal
the very next day
(now, this is normal)

And speaking of normalcy…  

While I was in town, the Boss returned Angus to his summer home at the back corner of the farm.

Angus summers under the pines

apparently it's boring back there
so, he's taken to beating up the stocktank
Then we cleaned up the garden and he plowed and tilled in anticipation of potato planting.

tilling for potato planting
The potatoes were cut into smaller pieces and crated for easy transport. In case you’re wondering, by cutting the potatoes into chunks, you get more pieces to plant. More pieces to plant theoretically means a bigger potato harvest as each chunk should make a plant and each plant should produce a couple pounds of potatoes. The “eyes” on the pieces are the sprouts that eventually become the plant. Read more about growing potatoes HERE and HERE.

potatoes cut and ready for planting

Then it was off to the ‘tater patch for some planting. The chunks are plunked into the long furrows and then covered over with a hill of dirt. For years and years we did all this work by hand, raking for what seemed like days (it was hours plural), but thankfully now we are able to “work smarter, not harder”. You should read THIS.  In short order, the job was done.

hauling potatoes

the Boss had a little help planting this year

hilling (covering) the potatoes

all done

Now, we wait…

We should have new potatoes in all their tender deliciousness by mid-June! There is nothing quite like a freshly dug new potato.

new potato

Over the course of the week, we also worked the sheep, planted some onions and hauled transplants to the hoophouse. The brassicas left the warmth of the greenhouse to “harden off” prior to planting in the field. A quick check on the forecast indicates that they may have to make a return to a warmer environment as the temperature is forecast to dip well below freezing yet again. This is getting a bit much…this never-ending wintry weather.
waiting for mama

pulling green garlic for Market

red and white onion sets

Spring happiness
how to be a "sheep-hero"

heads-down grazing

handling broilers can be tricky
(and painful)

getting the broiler pen set up for the season

This week’s chores-before-market didn’t have quite the drama of last week. No Cujo-dogs, no barn chaos with leaping sheep and a yelling, swearing farmer. Things were going smoothly, and I was feeling pretty good.

I laughed out loud as I saw one hen up in the top of the henhouse. All the other hens were either roosting on the space provided or sitting on the floor. But, this one hen truly ruled the roost.

this one "rules the roost"

early morning henhouse

After an unfortunate incident during high school that involved a “fly-over bombing” from a seagull while visiting the beach, I am a bit leery of birds overhead. But, apparently, I was not paying enough attention as I left after opening the nestboxes for the day. Maybe my pride needed to be taken down a notch…

Because you can guess what happened.

I’m here to tell you…chicken poop hair styling/skincare products…not gonna make it on the open market. Nope. No way. GROSS!

Fortunately, a direct hit was avoided. But, it did require some soap AND a blow-dryer before I was presentable enough for Market. And, while no one else seemed to notice, I was certain I could sense a lingering odor all day.

But the weather for Market was beautiful.
leaving for Market

The Boss was able to secure music. Lots of folks who had been put off by last week's bad weather came out to shop. And, all in all, it was a wonderful day. If only we had a snappy comeback to the lack of product query…  I must say, this one bothers me a great deal. 

pretty tulips at the Market

Hopefully this week we will make some progress toward that end as we process the first batch of broilers, plant in the hoophouse and start the first batch of summer squash seeds.

early signs of Spring on the mountains
meadowlark courting song

daffodils in the front yard

only in the Spring do you see the shadows on the mountains like this

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by.

Have a Happy Sunday! 
a Karma smile to start the new week
Come back and “visit” again soon.

Wish you could visit the Market? Click HERE to see the Boss’ Facebook photos from the week.

If you don’t “do” Facebook…check out Flickr…