Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 5-20

With an eye to the sky, knowing that the extreme heat would only give way to milder temperatures after some sort of clash with a colder air mass, we set out to catch broilers for processing before any storms.
another day...
another line of storms

That project went off without a hitch and there was a fresh supply of broilers in the cooler in short order.
getting ready to process broilers

However, on the Boss’ trip out the driveway to dispose of the waste, he happened to see that those gorgeous squash plants we had just put in the garden had be decimated by cucumber beetles. And, I do mean decimated.
this is actually one of the better ones
I think the rest are truly goners

“No worries” I assured him. There were seeds started in the greenhouse, we would just be a couple weeks behind. I was feeling pretty confident that the seedlings would fill the bill. That feeling came to a screeching halt when I entered the greenhouse to find that a mouse had eaten all the squash seeds…leaving a trail of shells behind.
eaten squash seeds

Now, we were fighting battles on two different fronts. Bugs in the garden and mice in the greenhouse.  Maybe you can understand why for years I have identified with the cartoon cat Sylvester in saying  "I hates meeses to pieces"

To quote my friend at the feedstore…”it’s always somethin’!” Pretty sure there's a blog post in that comment...(or a book!)
hauling broilers out to field pen
the Boss did some repair work for the neighbor
so we took this gator for a test-drive
and decided we do not need a gator
(so, I guess that saved us about $8,000!)

By Monday afternoon, those weather fronts were indeed colliding. There was talk of derecho-type winds. After the storm of 2012, that “d” word gets everyone’s attention. Did you read THIS?

storm passing by
The storm just grazed us, but it was fairly intense and included hail and some serious thunder and lightning and an inch of rain.
sunset puddle

Gus and the puddle
A nearby town got the brunt of the storm, with marble size hail and winds that seriously damaged at least one building. No one was hurt, but that bank will be closed for quite some time. While we needed the rain, I could really do without the drama.

As I set off for a short supply run, I came face to face with the fact that my shopping list probably doesn’t look like anyone else’s. On second thought, no "probably" about it.

"green gold"
cannot grow enough asparagus

My first stop was the office supply store for some big rubber bands. That purchase didn’t seem odd, unless I had to explain that the rubber bands would be used for bunching asparagus. While the twine I used last week looked more “natural” and rustic, it also stretched after getting wet and all my lovely bunches were somewhat loose and hard to handle.

That wasn’t too strange…

My next purchase was a hot pink plastic pool.

For my dog.
forget it, Gus!
This is MY pink pool!

Now, I know other people who have pools for their pets. So, I guess that wasn’t really that strange, either. In our case, the pool was my attempt to keep our guard dog from completely destroying the interior of the barn. (it turned out to be a great source of human amusement, and I’ll tell you that story another time)

But, my unique shopping list became truly obvious at the pharmacy. There was a lady standing there doing some comparison shopping between rolaids and tums. We exchanged pleasantries. But, I didn’t need to do any comparison. I grabbed a twin pack of the store brand and tossed it in my buggy. I wasn’t worried about all the claims for speed in treating acid indigestion or any special flavor. I was looking for cheap. She looked askance but didn’t say anything.

Because the antacids were for the tomato plants. Tomato plants. Yep, pretty sure that doesn’t happen every day.
tomatoes through the greenhouse door
rainy days even affect greenhouse growth
everything is super tall and leggy

By treating the plants with calcium, blossom-end rot is hopefully averted. Blossom-end rot is a calcium deficiency that looks gross and renders the fruits completely unusable. The tablets make application easy. I figured I would get ahead of the problem (which generally occurs in wet weather) by treating the potted plants before they got to the garden.

In retrospect, I’m rather sorry I didn’t get to have that discussion there in the pharmacy row. That would have been rather amusing, but we just both excused ourselves and moved on. Oh, opportunity lost!
Gus and Karma waiting for Mama

Back on the hill, despite the downpour the day before, we were able to get the next broccoli planted. We’ve got several succession plantings planned in hopes of keeping a supply of broccoli into the summer.

We’re still waiting for the early broccoli to get going. The extreme heat hasn’t helped anything. …except the weeds. The teeny, tiny weeds are creeping across the open soil like a light green haze. And, I swear you can see them growing if you watch long enough.

the "green haze" is creeping in...

And, I am making a note to myself to stop trying with early cauliflower. I am seriously wasting my time. (and garden space) This year the constantly shifting temperatures caused the plants to “button”. They made cauliflowers…albeit teeny, tiny ones. The biggest one is almost the size of a tennis ball. And, no, they will not get bigger at this point. So, I guess we will get a meal of cauliflower out of all those plants. Coupled with the squash plant/seed disaster, I am not feeling the love with gardening.

But, the flowers are pretty!

On Wednesday, I heard the minion ringtone screaming from another room at 6:30am. I do believe that is the earliest the Post Office has ever called for us to pick up the chicks. The Boss took over my feeding duties and I headed off to get the new babies. They were all in fine shape and tucked into the brooder in short order.
just a broiler getting a drink

Just in time to work the sheep. It was time to weigh, (de)worm and wean.

all the sheep in the barn gets a little chaotic

We’re running way behind with weaning because of the weather. (big surprise) But, the lambs need to be weaned so that the ewes can begin to regain their body condition prior to shearing at the end of the month. Skinny sheep make for harder shearing. And, we really do try to keep the shearing job as stress-free as possible.
I think "Gladys" is happy for the grass

All the lambs were weighed and de-wormed. This time of year, tapeworms become a big problem. While the tapeworms aren’t as life-threatening as some of the other worms, like haemonchus contortus which causes anemia, they do keep the lambs from gaining well. I will spare you all the gory details, but suffice it to say, the medicine worked, and the lambs have passed all the tapes. They look good and we are hoping for some serious weight gains before they go for processing in a couple of weeks.

headed in for supper

In the meantime, we are completely out of lamb products. As in, there is NO lamb in the Market freezer.

While that's seriously disappointing if you were planning on a lambchop dinner, I don’t think customers truly appreciate what it takes to get products to market.

Those eagerly awaited lambchops were started last August when we turned the ram in with the ewes. 

Sheep have a 5-month gestation period. Then there is the lambing process. Often that demands a great deal of round-the-clock effort on the part of the shepherd. Once the lambs are born, it takes at least another 5 months before they are big enough to process. While our animals grow quickly due to good genetics and capable husbandry, it still requires time. During that time, they must be looked after and protected from predation and/or disease.

The word LAMB conjures visions of cute, cuddly, LITTLE animals. However, in order to have lamb chops of any size, the animal must weigh at least 100 pounds. (ours generally run about 130 to 150). At that point, we haul them to our processor in the northern Valley.

Then, it takes another 10 days to get the meat processed, packaged and back here on the hill.

All in all, those lamb chops have been nearly a year in the making. And no stage along the way can be rushed.

Kind of makes you appreciate the food on the table when you consider just what went into it.

It continued to rain.

And rain.

bad news for Market
It was looking like Saturday morning was going to be a wash-out. As a Market vendor, that big, green blob on the radar screen is NOT a welcome sight. But, Saturday is Market day. And, if you’ve chosen to make your living as a Market vendor, you have no option but to go to town and hope for the best.

Long story, short…RAIN was the story of the day. Torrential rain at one point. Definitely not good for sales.
rain on the parking lot

And if challenging weather, unforeseen pests and soggy sales days weren’t enough, downtown Staunton is doing some serious construction. 
even Lady Justice on the courthouse
is getting a makeover
The Johnson Street parking garage is undergoing a major renovation and will be closed to the public for the next six months (yes, most of Market season). This proved to be a bigger issue than expected as the construction work is running ‘round-the-clock, so there is a noise factor as well as a lack of parking. The lack of parking has wide-reaching effects for customers, vendors and the downtown merchants and residents. In short, it’s a big mess. (necessary work, but a mess nonetheless)
parking garage closed for repair

Then there are the changing customer trends. This has been a topic for discussion and concern for some time. Did you read this article in the Washington Post?

Interview with  Jeff Ishee for Virginia Farming
about changing customer trends

Twenty years ago, we honestly thought that since “people HAVE to eat” Farmers’ Markets were assured endless success. While that is indeed true, customer taste and demands have shifted dramatically. I sense bigger changes on the horizon. To be truly sustainable as vendors, we must constantly evaluate and evolve in both our offerings and our approach.

pretty Mother's Day flowers
grown by Flower Fields

All those factors mean that this Market season may prove to be a real challenge.

But, I suppose that’s what keeps Life interesting…

just a dirty dog out for a walk

Thanks for stopping by.

Have a Happy Sunday! 

Come back and “visit” again soon.


Here’s the link to the Boss’ Market photos.


  1. Barbara - I think everyone should read your post so that they realise just what perils lie in the prodution of food for the market - and many of the perils - like the closing of the car park, and the stormy weather, are not of your making either.

    1. Thanks, Pat! I don't think we (include myself here sometimes) just what goes into putting food on our tables. I know you know firsthand the hardships. And, you've been through tragedies I can only imagine. There are no guarantees, so we should all be far more thankful for what we do have.