Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 7-29

I went into the week assuring myself that it would be better than the last one.

And, about that…I must apologize for sounding angry and disgruntled. It was not my intent to simply rant about some imagined injustice, I was trying to communicate that there are far more elements in providing food to the public than one may imagine. Unexpected, unforeseen challenges seem to come out of the blue sometimes, leaving us unsettled and feeling vulnerable. So, thanks for bearing with me. And, if you missed it, read this.

But, it was so disheartening to watch each and every promising rainstorm split when it hit the mountains and send the much-needed moisture either too far to the north or even further south, leaving us high and dry. Massive storms developed along the coast, but fizzled out as they hit the Blue Ridge mountains on their way to us in the west. Precipitation for the week looked like it was going to be a bust. And, while the Boss is always one for “keep the faith”, I struggle with staying positive (even on a good week)

So, when I was awakened to insistent dog-barking at 2:30am, I really wasn’t feeling the love. I had just gotten relatively comfortable on the couch and I really didn’t want to move, since it was the first time all day that I hadn’t had that shooting pain through my hip…and I actually felt sleepy. A trip out in the middle of the night was not high on my priority list.

However, the barking continued.  

It changed in tone and increased in frequency.  And, it wasn’t just Karma. When Gus joined in, I realized I needed to pay attention. Glasses, rubber boots, and flashlight completed my pajama ensemble and I was ready for action.

The dogs have distinctive barks to communicate different things. After all this time I can tell you (without looking) when Gus is trying to say “Karma, I’ve had it…leave me alone!” or Karma “come on, Gus…PLAY with me!” There’s the DANGER bark when someone attempts to come in the driveway. (no, it doesn’t matter if they’ve seen you 100 times, neighbors, UPS guy…they’re still gonna bark) They have a different sound for deer and foxes that are just passing through. Errant livestock and/or marauding dogs set off a cacophony chorus of warning noises. Motorcycles and loud noises down in the village get them to sounding yet another alert. And, I swear they have a bark that is ultimately translated as “oh, yeah, we were bored…we’re glad you came out, mama!” or maybe they’re just looking for a second opinion. But, there is an insistent, almost high-pitched bark that indicates that they are in a battle with some varmint.

And, this was that bark. After listening to them for nearly an hour, I finally roused myself and headed outside, praying all the time that it wasn’t a skunk. I can deal with a lot of things, but facing an angry, possibly injured skunk in the middle of the night is not one of them.

They were circling something in the middle of the orchard. It was a small 'possum, and the struggle had apparently gotten serious because there was blood involved. I just hoped it was only possum blood.

One of my concerns when they tussle with wildlife is that they will get injured and it will require treatment. Outdoor farm dogs run a very real risk for infection and some serious problems if they were wounded. And, if you didn’t know…possums have big teeth (and they’re not afraid to use them)

Since I could only assume the 'possum was mortally wounded, it needed to be taken care of before I could attempt to go back to sleep. And, by taken care of, I do not mean given first aid. I mean dispatched from this life. I realize that some folks would pack the thing up and take him/her to the Wildlife center for physical rehabilitation, but I didn’t even consider it. And, yes, I have seen all those memes about the good 'possums can do. But, they fail to report the issues that possums can create on the farm. They will kill chickens, eat eggs and generally wreak havoc. …and those teeth!
'possum hunting is exhausting...

But, surely the week had to get better if it began with bludgeoning a 'possum before morning coffee…right?
so proud of themselves

So, you’re probably not going to believe me when I tell you that the next day started the exact same way.

But, it did!

I kid you not. (well, okay, it was 5am instead of 3:30)

when Karma's not hunting 'possums
she just might be chasing cats...
(yes, Tess is on TOP of the greenhouse...)
she doesn't seem to understand why her antics are making me slightly crazy
(or crazier as the case may be)

 Now, she's hauling firewood onto the back porch

Karma definitely needs her own post!

after she started to eat my rocking chair on the porch
we had to Karma-proof the front yard
(yes, that is electric fence...and, yes, there is a story...)

'Possums and dogs aside, it finally rained. RAINED!

I think you could hear the entire farm heave a sigh of relief...

My very soul needed that rain. It really did. Just hearing the sound of raindrops on the barn roof brought a sense of relief and renewal. And, to see puddles in the driveway was a true blessing. It wasn’t much. Nothing near what had been forecast, but at least I felt a sense of hope.

rainbow over the farm

With the rain still falling lightly and a rainbow in the sky, I set off for another round of physical therapy. And, while the folks are really nice, and the facility is in an absolutely gorgeous setting, this is not my idea of a good time. The doctor is hoping that physical therapy will help the arthritis in my knees and feet and that in turn will relieve the recurring pain in my hip. All of this is making it difficult to do my work and causing me to question a lot of things long-term. And, because I know someone will far…not much (if any) change.
so lovely

But, I’ve been actively looking for things to be positive about. You may have sensed that this is a serious challenge for me. It’s all too easy when something goes wrong to see all the bad stuff and miss any good. To be perfectly honest, on a very bad day, I can give you “the list”…and find something wrong with pretty much every aspect of my life. I hate days like that, but they do make me appreciate the days when everything seems to effortlessly fall into place. So, here’s to looking for the good stuff.

I hate when beautiful butterflies get stuck in the hoophouse

so, I caught and released it

Do you think this is the same one?

the baby cardinals have escaped the cats

the Boss does a little "emergency" watering
(I forgot!)

there are butterflies everywhere
this is a red-spotted purple
monarch on a thistle

this may be the ugliest tomato...ever
but, it was DELICIOUS!

check it out
the monarch and the hummingbird are "fighting"!

I've wanted to get a photo of a hummer for a LONG time

...and I did it!

A bee!
I don't care if this is a weed...
there is a honeybee in it! YAY

The rain, even though the amount seemed small, was enough to make the next planting of green beans sprout. And, what’s that in the potato garden?

green bean seedlings

the first potato sprout!

there are lots of little sprouts!

they're getting bigger...
(all those little spots are teeny, weeny weeds...ugh)

I spent Wednesday babysitting the grands over in the Draft.

so cute

a dinosaur headlamp that ROARS
is "SO exciting"!

real serious times...

my big accomplishment of the week
a sleeping baby

Before I could come home, the heavens opened and there was a torrential rain storm. The likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long while. The highway looked like a river as the cars driving by shot up huge “rooster tails” of water behind them. (not unlike speedboats) There was still water covering the road in places as I traveled back toward the hill. The trip home got drier by the mile and I began to fear that yet another storm had missed us entirely. It had not. While we didn’t get the torrents, we did get over an inch of rain from that one storm. I understand that other locations got 2 to 3 inches in less than an hour. That storm brought our total to over two inches for the week. Perhaps it wasn’t as much as forecast, and I know other locations got more…but, it really helped the gardens! (and my psyche)

And,the whole place looks different after a good rain.

And, just like that…it was time for Market once more. You can go to the Boss' Market photos HERE. 

after all the talk about the full moon and lunar eclipse
and the possibility of seeing Mars...
THIS was the disappointing sky-view at chore time

but, a little while later the sky had cleared
SO pretty!

morning light across the valley

grazing cows at sunrise

the sky is on fire
(is it any wonder it takes me SO long to get to the Market?)

look at all the birds on Lady Justice on top of the courthouse!

more birds on the Masonic building

There is something "off" about the Market this year. The “vibe” is different, and I can’t put my finger on the source. The bi-weekly construction on the parking garage may be adding to the discord. (those jackhammers and power tools are LOUD) The lack of parking spaces doesn't help, either. There seem to be an extraordinary number of tourists this year. (they don’t buy much but add to the foot-traffic) And, then there’s the weather…crops are coming in out of sequence…and some aren’t coming at all.   It’s just odd. But, all in all, it was a good day.

TOMATOES...we have tomatoes!
That made for a pretty good week here on the hill. (much unlike last week)

And, the leftovers have provided me with some inspiration for new meal ideas in the upcoming week. (maybe I should do a post on eating the food we grow)

Here’s hoping you have a Happy Sunday! 

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

P.S. It might interest you to know that I started writing this post at 3am

…because…you guessed it…

                                         Another 'possum!

(now I am wondering...just how many of them are out there?)

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 7-22

Since I can’t get past the fact that I’m fairly certain someone actually advised us to “make lemonade out of lemons!” after pelting us with fruit (figuratively, of course), this week’s post may be somewhat terse. I wish the flippant words were a figment of my imagination, but I am fairly certain they were not.  And, the offer to provide “inspiration” to work around a seemingly insurmountable challenge of their creation was astounding. Honestly, it felt like we’d been smacked in the face and then told to smile nice. I promise to return to the lemonade story in full when I’m not annoyed, irritated and still leaning toward an excessive use of bad words.

I will say one thing. I don’t need your “inspiration” to make my business work. We’ve been doing this (successfully) for over 20 years without loans, grants or outside help. We’ve learned how to read the Market, make changes when necessary while building our business and taking care of our family. It would be nice to be recognized as a valuable, viable part of the community. Don’t smack me and then tell me to take it with a smile. I’ve been abused in the past and not only do I not like it…I do not have to take that type of treatment ever again.


Enough of that.
the summer garden
It’s been a long, hot week here on the hill, so the weather isn’t helping with the whole search for the positive deal. The only rain we have had was just enough to temporarily settle the dust. The grass is getting brown and crunchy and we’ve got the irrigation running regularly just to keep the crops alive. Production rates are way off and that certainly doesn’t help the bottom line. It took the Boss twice as long to harvest potatoes since the plow kept bouncing out of the hard, dry ground. The weather forecast looks tantalizingly wet, but we have yet to see a single raindrop in our part of the Valley.

However, there was one positive note in the long, hot week.
safely in the holding pen

We got the lambs hauled to the processor without a single incident!
heading to the barn

No trampled farmer, broken gate, escapee lambs, torn pants or swear words were involved. Just a nice, boring trip up the interstate. When you’re hauling livestock, boring is a good thing. Over the years I have heard far too many stories of disabled vehicles, accidents and/or escapee animals. That’s one experience we could most certainly do without.

ready to go

poop on my boots
just part of the job

3 hours later
home again!

We’ve taken this same trip up the interstate so many times now we feel a kinship with the farms we pass along the sides of the interstate and can judge the season by their progress. The effects of the copious amounts of rain in the early season are now sadly evident. Many fields that should be full of abundant, verdant corn are either empty, weedy or planted in some other crop. It made me wonder what these farms would do for winter forage. That led us to a discussion of the difference between haylage and silage. (for the record, haylage is a type of silage…and silage is simply green matter stored in such a way that it ferments before it is fed to livestock)

silos in the distance

The wonders of technology (smartphone and the internet) allowed me to spend the better part of the ride researching odd and random silo/silage facts. (things like that make my inner-nerd SO happy) You may not know that there are different kinds of silos for different kinds of crop storage. And, silos of some sort have been in usage since the 8th century B.C. It would be quite possible to write an entire post about silos and silage, if one were so inclined.

While many farmers in our area are using “ag-bags” (those long white, plastic tubes that you may see in fields) instead of building new infrastructure, (and more folks than not have absolutely no clue how silos are used) I am certain that silos will always be an iconic part of rural America.

Back home on the hill, it was more of the same. More picking and planting and same-old, same-old.
indigo bunting in the weeds

you know it's bad when you have to use
the weed-whacker on the weeds

Pollinators at work
happy to see the honeybee
the cucumber beetle? not so much

this time she was behind the barn...

broilers are looking good

the corn is tasseling

end of the day
The week ended on a somewhat sour note. At the end of the market, we had a rather informal meeting with the organizer of the upcoming “magic” weekend. This is going to be a major tourism weekend in town and with an eye to festival safety, the City made the decision to close the entire downtown area to vehicular traffic. While this is understandable since they are expecting approximately 20,000 people, (and the memories of the tragedy last August in Charlottesville are still fresh in the minds of many Virginians) it is indeed disastrous for the Farmers’ Market. Our customers will have to walk in from elsewhere and somehow schlep their purchases back. I honestly don’t think many (if any) of them will do this. And, while the City offered the possibility of another spot, it is well off the beaten path, without adequate electricity and offers no convenient restroom facilities. Besides, trying to change a 25-year institution for one week is not without its issues. Judging the group on body language alone, this was not a successful meeting.

we have 5 hours a week
for 34 weeks of the year
to make our living

When you come face to face with the fact that someone else sees no value in what you do…that they have no comprehension of your occupation nor concern for your welfare and well-being, it’s shocking. And, hurtful. Let’s face it. it makes you mad.

There has always been a disconnect between city and country. Consumers do not understand what it takes to produce the very products that they demand. But, don’t tell me that everyone thinks the other guy has it easy. Nope, that is NOT what I think and I am certainly not implying it.

And, don’t you think for one minute that farming is easy. It’s not. Never has been. And, if it weren’t for the less than 2% of folks who do it, we wouldn’t have the food to have restaurants, groceries or anything else.

Sadly, even in agriculture there is a great deal of bickering. Big farms look down on small farms. Small farms point out the errors of “big ag”.


To quote Rodney King…”can’t we all just get along?”

After being slighted, to be given the offer of “inspiration” was like being slapped in the face with a smile. There is no way…NO WAY…this weekend can be good for the Farmers’ Market. None. 
Please just say that. Please know that the guy who pointed out he would lose an entire week’s earnings was not overstating the situation. Understand that the gal who pointed out that you just don’t order up something for the week’s sales and that they would lose all that produce was not exaggerating…at all. And, the fella who said he had the best solution, the simplest solution…”I will just stay home!” had a valid point. The Market is life and livelihood for these vendors and to re-vamp to make sandwiches and/or magic wands for one week just isn’t happening. Honestly, your offer of help to meet this “challenge” or “solve the problem” was condescending at best. It will be a huge loss to people who have devoted their lives to producing food for the local community for years and this needs to be recognized by all those involved. But, it won’t happen. Because tourism (and the dollars it brings) is king. And while there is some validity to “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, I would argue that no one needs magic and mayhem (or whatever the event is called), but then that’s just me.

Honestly, this is just a drop in the bucket to the recent challenges. Weather, health, market, the political landscape, these things have all been wearing of late. It’s enough to make you want to shake things up, to make some radical changes…to throw in the towel and go off on some new tangent.

So, excuse me while I grumble. Just overlook my bad mood and angry words. We will adjust and overcome, but it will take a while.

maybe we just need a nap

Thank you for stopping by. Thanks for reading. (even when I grouse)

I hope you have a Happy Sunday! 

another beautiful sunset

We’re gonna do our “durnedest” to make it a good week. 

See ya next time!
as another day dawns