Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 6-24

If every week has a theme, then I guess this week was all about distractions. Good and bad, more than once we found ourselves slightly off-course or doing the unexpected prior to whatever we had set out to do.

I truly believe John Lennon was right when he penned “life is what happens while you’re planning other things”. ("Beautiful Boy")  And, yes, I do know he certainly was NOT the first one to utter the phrase, but, it's a good song.  Things certainly can take a circuitous route sometimes.

When I headed out back to feed the lambs, I noticed the Boss circling the broiler pen in an odd way.  He didn’t respond when I hollered at him to see what was wrong. So, I fed the lambs and started back to feed Angus. That’s when the Boss finally came out of his reverie and asked me to come look at something when I finished.

With a sense of foreboding, I met him at the pen.

“Just look at that! You ever seen anything like that?”

Now, I must admit, at first I couldn’t even tell what THAT was.

It looked like…oh, my gosh…a chicken breast. (ready for the plate...well, not really) EWW!  What? How? And, where was the rest of it? What on earth happened? Were there any other casualties?

There were no signs of forced entry (digging underneath or torn up pen) .There was very little left of the chicken (absolutely NO feathers or entrails). The remains were INSIDE the pen.  There were a couple of other injured birds (who would succumb later) There was no trail to follow (to track the varmint). Although it did look like something had tried to pull the remains THROUGH the wire.

all that was left of a chicken

He found a couple of tiny spots on the pen that warranted some sort of repair. But, nothing to indicate what happened. He would set the big trap in hopes of catching the predator.

He told me to get some pictures and look for any clues as he headed off to the barn for supplies.

We were still mulling over this weird event when we went in for breakfast. So, I must admit, when there was a message from the hay guy, my first thought was not “oh goodie…we can get hay for winter!”  It was just one more unexpected thing to add to the TO-DO list that had already been highjacked before 7am on a Monday morning. (and for the record, I have absolutely NO idea when we will fit hay-hauling into the schedule)

Now, losing one chicken isn’t a big deal. There are a certain number of losses in every batch of broilers and on occasion we lose the odd and random hen. The concerning thing in this case was the lack of clues. Ordinarily, there is something fairly obvious that can be corrected, and the problem won’t recur. But, without any real clues, you just take a random shot in the dark and hope for the best. And, worry…you do lots of worrying.

Over the years, we have had all sorts of critters get into the chickens. This is just one of the BIG disadvantages to pasture-raised poultry. (and why I understand why the big producers utilize poultry houses) But, interestingly, I don’t think we have had the same type of attack twice. Which means we have found a solution to the different varmints. So, that’s a success. However, this one had us stymied.

But, things seemed to get back on course.

Until Karma decided to throw the “pool party to end all pool parties”.

Karma's "pool party" got a little out of control

I have absolutely NO idea what went through her puppy mind when she decided to EAT the little wading pool I bought a couple of weeks ago. But, it’s a goner.

The heat and humidity have been a real issue of late (so Karma’s really going to miss her pool). The weeds are thriving in this environment. The humans, not so much. But, if there was going to be any chance of a sweet corn crop this year, the Boss was going to have to wage a serious battle, no matter the weather conditions. He spent nearly a half a day tilling and weeding and cleaning up the corn patch. And, the fate of the crop still hangs in the balance.

tilling the corn

But, the trap worked and he caught a big raccoon! Hopefully that was the culprit in the chicken attack. The potential corn crop will also benefit from the dispatch of the destructive critter.

Since it’s been SO hot, I really hate to pen Karma up at night. She’s nearly 6 months old, so it’s time for her to learn how to be a big dog and roam the farm at night. While Gus didn’t seem too thrilled at the prospect of having her around constantly, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I began to have some doubts when we went out the next morning and she had ripped the backdoor mat into tiny pieces. I am still finding bits of astro-turf in odd places.

bits and pieces are still appearing

Ah…another distraction…and another item to pick up on our next trip to town.

Not to give you the wrong impression. There were some pleasant distractions this week…

there was a birthday cake to make

meet "the chicken-whisperer"

never too busy for a tractor ride

we even did some art

cool paint swirls...

...were worth the mess

In order to get the boys to sleep at the same time, we took a little drive through the countryside. It was a pleasant change of pace on a blistering hot afternoon.

I love our beautiful Valley!

The abundance of rain has caused an abundance of growth. And, not just the weeds. The trees next to the house have gotten out of control. This might not seem like a big issue, but they have begun to interfere with the internet antenna. Internet access out here is critical for communication, and sometimes it seems a constant struggle to keep it functional. Lately, the connection speed had slowed to a crawl, so it was time for a little tree trimming.
tree trimming

A “little tree trimming” ended up being a pick-up load of branches AND a trip down to the creek to add to the enormous brush pile. We’ve been saying we were going to have a big, family bonfire (complete with hotdogs and marshmallows) for about 5 years now. The lush leaf and weed growth means it's like going into the jungle down there, so I guess we’re going to wait a while longer. But, the wide variety of plants and wildlife may be worthy of their own post. Here are just a few examples...

honeybee in milkweed

Stinging Nettles are EVERYWHERE

water hemlock

Although that wasn’t at all what I had planned on doing when I walked out and found the Boss with the chainsaw, our internet speeds are back up and the sheep enjoyed a little snack of apple leaves.

ewes having a snack


Another day…another distraction…

This time, it was the side door mat.

what's left of the door mat

Oh, come on, Karma!

In the course of the week, she has eaten: a wading pool, two door mats and the Boss’ tiny cracked egg bucket. She’s been dragging a rubber feed pan around the farm and you never know where it will end up. She dug an enormous hole just outside the barn, where I can only assume she’s hunting rats. (I’ve found bits and pieces of rat in odd and random places----gross!) Then, she started taking logs out of the woodpile…


But, there may have been a reason for the raid on the woodpile.

As I was finishing up some paperwork, I heard the Boss open the backdoor. It sounded like he took something off the shelf. The backdoor slammed again.

As I was wondering what was going on, he came back.

I just shot a groundhog!

In the woodpile.

The woodpile next to the garden. (where Karma has been taking logs and digging)

Now, the other day I could have sworn I saw a groundhog in the garden. But, it was early in the day and the light was fairly dim. I figured it must have been the cat and didn’t give it any more thought. It probably was the groundhog, and that could have been disastrous.

So, maybe we should look at the seemingly annoying distractions in a positive light.

the motley crew was making a terrible ruckus at choretime

because "bucky" was stuck in the fence

I had to trudge all the way up the hill to free him
but, look at the view!

Because, in the end, all our work got done. The internet is faster. The chickens haven’t been attacked again. And, we had a good day at Market.

6-23 Market stand

We even had a cute distraction while we were there!
MrB came to visit

Although, we do have to get ANOTHER door mat on our next trip to town...

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 
  Now, you'll have to excuse me...
the beans need picking!

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

 Here's the link to the Boss' Market photos for this week.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 6-17




A sigh of relief.

That was the recurring theme around here this week.

We started off with some monsoon-like rains. There were even more in the forecast. That wouldn’t make our broiler-processing job pleasant, but the chickens were reaching gigantic proportions and we couldn’t wait.

Monday morning found us slogging through the wet grass, catching large, somewhat soggy chickens…

The job went off without a hitch. And, the big rains didn’t arrive until we were done. That caused the Boss to sigh with relief since clean-up includes hauling all the blood, guts and feathers down the hill for disposal. That can prove tricky in the pouring rain.

It was still dark and drizzly when Tuesday rolled around. So, the Boss accompanied me on my trip to the podiatrist. After a couple of weeks of increasing foot pain, I can assure you that the words of the old spiritual song are true…

Well, your toe bone connected to your foot bone
Your foot bone connected to your heel bone
Your heel bone connected to your ankle bone
Your ankle bone connected to your leg bone
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
Your hip bone connected to your back bone
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone
Your neck bone connected to your head bone

Walking is a big part of my daily routine. (my Fitbit says I average about 10,000 steps a day) But, my routine and my gait were affected by this pain. Not only was I walking funny, I was beginning to hurt all over. This just wouldn’t do. Summertime is NOT a good time for physical ailments. Actually, there is no good time for physical ailments, but that’s another story.  

I had no idea what they would find, or what treatment might involve. I didn’t want to think about a boot, or a cast. And, I knew one of those little scooter-things would never work around here.

Xrays revealed that there is a bone spur on the cuneiform bone. Walking on uneven ground causes friction between this and the next bone. This was in turn sending shooting pain down into my toes. Since there’s not a level spot on the entire farm, I am rather surprised this was the first time this had been a problem.

A shot of cortisone had me sighing with relief.

I know this won’t last forever, (there is the beginning of arthritis, too) but with a little tape for stability, I’m not in constant pain and we can get back to work. We’ll address the long-term solution later.

I am heaving a sigh of relief over the barnswallow babies as well. They have finally fledged and taken to the skies over the farm.

almost ready to fly

growing so fast
we're hungry!

Tess was under constant attack from the parent birds

rescued this one from cat attack
giant puppy paws

pretty sure the parents are sighing with relief, too...

can you imagine being faced with this...

With the big rains behind us, the Boss hoped to get back on track with our planting schedule. So, he headed out to get everything ready while I did some odds and ends waiting for the post office to call.
Somewhere in the postal system there was a box of chicks with our name on it. Even though I sign up for text updates, the system isn’t fool-proof and anything can (and sometimes does) go wrong along the way. (last summer’s box with just three survivors proved that...did you read THIS?)

It got later and later and there was still no call from the post office. Fearing the worst, I finally called them and ascertained the chicks were waiting and I headed to town. Just as I was making the final turn, someone else from the Post Office called me to advise that the chicks had arrived. So much for communication.(!)

With the box of healthy peepers cheeping loudly all the way home, I heaved another sigh of relief.
I had some "help" with the chicks

the little peepers are SO cute!

this one must have been hot
or thought he was a duck
he sat in the waterer for a while

Karma keeping an eye on the babies

I got the chicks settled in the brooder and headed out to assist the Boss in getting the next planting of squash and cucumbers planted in the garden.

Once we get the summer broccoli planted, (and some stuff in the hoophouse) we will be back on schedule!

Looming over everything was our early morning trip to UVA on Thursday. Actually, it had been looming for quite some time.

morning light on our way over the mountain

Those “routine” MRIs that the Boss has to have every six months are fraught with apprehension. For at least a week prior, the anxiety builds. We don’t talk about it. But, it’s there…lurking in the background. While there are those who have said he’s “lucky” that he didn’t require further invasive treatments, I would say you have no idea how unsettling and stressful it can be to just wait and watch. You feel helpless and unable to DO anything to promote health and healing.  And, there is absolutely nothing “lucky” about a cancer diagnosis. Nothing.

After having to re-schedule the testing twice, (and the memory of last year's scare) the anxiety was reaching a fever-pitch. Conversation had all but stalled out and it felt like we were holding our collective breath.  

It was an amazingly smooth trip. No traffic, the imaging center saw him right away. The Cancer Center wasn’t crowded and we saw the doctor early.

And, the report was "unchanged". And, that is good.

HUGE sigh of relief. 

And, just like that...his test/appointment/labs were completed for another six months. Imagine if you will, two deflated balloons. That was us on our way back to the Valley. We didn't realize just how tense we were...until we weren't. We got back home in time for lunch and completed the rest of the day’s work in a daze of relief.
cabbage is ready

we're still picking asparagus!

broccoli after the rain

teeny, weeny beans
these will be ready by next week

There was just one more hurdle before Saturday’s Market…

Would we get the lambchops in time? 
We’ve had people asking for WEEKS. And, our sales totals could certainly use a boost.

When the processor called on Thursday afternoon, I was certain she would tell us they were done.

“hey, hun…you wasn’t wantin’ this lamb tomorrow, was ya?” (I think my heart stopped)


They had run into a problem with the labels and she wasn’t sure if they would get done. (oh, bother…I forgot about the labels!)

Since the meat is for retail sale, regulations require that it be labeled with our farm information (as the producer) and the processor’s information, including their federal inspection number. Custom labels are printed and delivered to the processor. They must apply the labels as part of the packaging. (we cannot add these later) But, it looked like they were not going to have enough, and it was getting late in the day...

She would let me know.

Before I processed that information, the phone rang again. It was one of our lamb customers. He NEEDED a fairly large order. He wanted to pick it up the following afternoon. If we wouldn't have it, he needed to know so he could make other arrangements. I relayed the processor story and told him I would let him know.

I'm pretty sure I started holding my breath.

The Boss and I both heaved a huge sigh of relief when the phone call came that the label supply held out, the cutting/processing went according to schedule and we could pick up the lambchops the following day. Yes, I did bake a pan of brownies as a thank-you, I was SO relieved.

We hurried through the picking and the packing and headed north after lunch. A trip on the interstate on a Friday afternoon can be challenging to say the least. Particularly during summer “vacation” time. Thankfully, there were no major delays and we got back in time for chores and the lamb chop delivery.
sighted on the interstate
this made me chuckle

…and the Market freezer was full for Saturday’s Market.

beautiful lamb chops

Saturday’s sales caused another sigh of relief. I think we set a one-day record for lamb sales.

It would appear that we’re finally back on track.

a good day at the Market

Although, I must say, customer flow at the Market is off. Overall sales are down. I guess it’s due to the reconstruction work downtown (?) But, there is a definite difference this year. Several vendors attributed it to all the other weekend activities in the area. Because tourism is our number one “industry” in this area, more and more activities crop up to garner interest. These activities do impact the Market, either by drawing customers to other activity venues or by adding to the parking dilemma downtown. Figuring out a way to create a thriving co-existence might just be an ongoing challenge.

I can assure you we aren't the only ones heaving a sigh of relief...
The hard work of haymaking is in full swing around the county

the satisfying sight of winter rations

But, for now, we are just going to savor the week and sigh with relief once more.

Hope you have a Happy Sunday! 
Karma and Gus in a rare moment of calm

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