Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 11-25

Now that the Market is closed for the season and the feasting of Thanksgiving is behind us, it seems oddly anti-climactic somehow. Just another Sunday, just another blog post…

This is post number 1000!

That’s a LOT of posts. (or, at least I think so) If you've been following along for any length of time, you've seen a lot of photos of the farm...

sometimes the eggs are "decorated"

FROSTY morning

wild rosehips

beautiful sunset

another gorgeous sky

moon-rise over the farm
And, read about LOTS of farm happenings...

For post 1000, I was hoping for something momentous to write about, but the farm in late November is not an exciting place by any stretch of the imagination. Although, without our attention, the eggs would pile to the rafters and the ewes would complain so loudly about the lack of grain that someone would surely investigate. But, other than that…nothing much happened around here this week. And quite honestly, farm updates and weather reports are getting a little old. (but, for the record, we got another INCH and a half of rain yesterday!)

sparrow "family portrait"

burning bush berries

do you see the woodpecker?

singing wren
THERE's the woodpecker!

ANOTHER wet day

The slow time is greatly appreciated. But I feel change brewing. Something different is calling to me. December is right around the corner and the days will begin to lengthen once more and the Spring growing season will be here before you know it.

the obligatory Tgiving family portrait

my favorite photo from the day

serious play-time
dinosaurs AND paw patrol

Historically, some of our most life-changing projects have started in December.
The Boss and I had our first date in December 1983. Did you read this one?

We found out that we were going to become parents in December 1987. Here’s a post about our firstborn…

And, I am almost certain it was December when we eagerly claimed that amazing offer that had been made at the Thanksgiving table back in 1995…

So, it seems only fitting that the “next big thing” starts in December as well.

After years and years of writing strictly about the farm and closely related subjects, it’s time to branch out a little.

On December 1, I’m taking MY new website live.

That book so many of you have told me I NEED to write is beckoning.  If I’m ever going to get it finished and published, I need to focus on that for a while. My own website will give me a place to try out some other subjects, particularly those that have nothing to do with farming. And, a place to shamelessly promote my work without worrying that it somehow interferes with the farm brand.

So, I’m stepping back from the farm blog. No, not giving it up entirely. But, rather than struggle to come up with something interesting and enlightening every single week, it’s going to become a once a month kind of thing. (and if you’re one to keep track…look for it the last Sunday of each month) I hope to spend the time I would spend crafting a farm post writing something more substantive.

The 1000 posts on the farm blog have taken me from a bored rainy afternoon in 2009 (here's my first post)   on an extraordinary journey. We’ve “met” folks from around the world (some of those IN PERSON) and been given opportunities that would have otherwise eluded us.  I appreciate all of you who have taken the trip with me and ask you to come along for the next chapter.

Thanks for the love and support, y’all.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!
moonlight through the maple branches

Come back and “visit” again sometime.

And, be sure to check out my new site, too!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 11-18

T G I F!

Okay, before anyone feels it necessary to point out that it is indeed Sunday…

My TGIF stands for Thank God It’s Finished!

And by IT, I mean the Market.

We did it. We finished. It wasn’t pretty. It was not the best year, or even our best effort…but, we are through. This Market season seemed to drag on endlessly, like a marathon with no visible end. 

Marathons are brutal and grueling and even the most fit and trained runners are seriously challenged by them. Sometimes even broken. I haven’t yet identified the reasons, but the similarities to the Market season and a marathon were uncanny. But, we indeed made it across the finish line…on our own strength.

The entire season seemed beset by unusual challenges. Never before seen phenomenon. Here are just few:

We had 10 rainy Markets.  Preceded by 11 rainy Fridays (which, like it or not affect Saturday’s market)

Overall, our rainfall total was 18 inches in excess of average by mid-November. (this created challenges in absolutely every aspect of planting, growing, harvesting and selling)

The parking garage was closed for the ENTIRE season. Not only did that leave our customers with limited options for their vehicles, we had to listen to jackhammers, saws and other major power tools for the duration every other Saturday morning. That seriously impacted many aspects of the Market.

And, I won’t even get into the whole downtown “event” schedule. For the first time in the Market’s history, the entire downtown was closed.

So, it is completely understandable that earnings for the entire Market were down…way down for the year. We're just all hopeful that next season will bring resolution of the issues and improved earnings all around.

You might have thought that the last week of the Market would find us coasting along…just biding time until the church bells downtown ring out the noon hour, signifying time to pack it in for another season.

However, the season wasn’t going to be done with us until it was done with us. Demanding our full-time and attention right down to the bitter end.

We might have dragged across the finish line, tired, battered, bruised and limping…coughing and sounding just a little like Barry White… But, we’re done with season 21! (if anyone is counting). One more Market season is behind us and we can all look forward (or not) Opening Day 2019. Which, by the way, will be April 6th. (please do NOT tell me it will be here before I know it!)

The week that led up to the final Market was filled with things that HAD to be done before facing the wintry weather that is almost certain to come. (little did we know just how certain…)

Hoophouse #2 was fully disassembled. The pieces loaded on the big utility trailer and ready for transport. We hauled it down to our friend’s house, where it will be put to good use.

But, first we had to get there.

you think the trailer will fit through here?

The farm is probably 5 miles away (as the crow flies) tucked down in a hollow in a clearing in the middle of the woods. It is a picturesque spot. The original house was built in 1765 and has been incorporated into the place that our friend Peg has called home for more than forty years. The long lane leading back to the house from the main road reminds me of a wagon trail and I can imagine those early settlers making their way through the woods to a new life in the yet untamed countryside. On the other hand, I really could not believe that the big utility trailer would actually make the trip safely down the windy, hilly, narrow drive.

I should never have doubted. The load was delivered and unloaded and we had a lovely visit. Leaving the project in Daniel’s capable hands, we headed back to the hill and our own to-do list.

There were mentions of a “winter weather event” that always get our attention. It seemed a little early in the season for the dire predictions that some were making, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so we started making preparations for the worst.

The pile of greenhouse junk in the backyard was loaded into the truck and we headed off for what was the first of TWO dump runs.
load for the dump

We backed up to the enormous dumpster and started unloading.   We exchanged greetings with the fellas in the pickup next to ours and went about our unloading. When they finished their own load, they just started helping us. “Ma’am? If you just stand over there, we can do this…real quick!” and, the next thing I knew, the truck was unloaded, we were thanking the random strangers and all going about our business!

I have no idea who these guys were…and I’ll probably never see them again. But, way to go, random stranger-dudes! My faith in humanity was greatly improved. (and now, I’ll be looking for an opportunity to pay it forward)
I knew it would be a good trip to the dump
we followed "the happy little dumpster"

…and we beat the rain!

Yes, it was raining (again)…a cold, soaking, miserable rain, making us feel more like hibernating than loading sheep on the trailer to go off to the stockyard.

But, it was sale day. And, we had to get rid of the ram before we could move the ewes. Worse weather was headed this way. There wouldn’t be another sale for a week. No question about it, it was time.

Now, I’m sure that someone wonders WHY in the world we would get rid of Angus. Wouldn’t we just keep him forever? I mean, it was such a hassle to find him. He was such a great ram. Why go through that again?

Angus was a great ram and served his purpose for four seasons. He made some great babies. We have a number of his beautiful daughters. And therein lies the rub. You can’t continue to line-breed forever. I won’t try to explain all the details. It’s too complicated…and I’m not sure I understand all the intricacies anyway. But, suffice it to say, after a while you need new blood in the flock. And, it’s far easier to replace a ram than your entire ewe flock! Besides, Angus has always been “down in his pasterns”. That’s the ovine equivalent to being seriously flat-footed and can cause problems. As the animal ages, the issue becomes more prevalent and can eventually affect the ram’s ability to breed. 

So, it was time.

Loading Angus went like clockwork.

Loading the little runt lamb did not.

For months I thought this lamb would die. She was born late in the season and never grew right. She battled internal parasites continually. All her wool fell out. And, she was SO teeny-tiny. It wasn’t worth hauling her to the processor and paying $100 to have her turned into retail cuts since she didn’t even weigh 100 pounds. She may have made 5 pounds of hamburger. So, to the stockyard.

Except, that wasn’t her plan.

For all my worrying over her, she’s got some serious perseverance. So much that it makes her  a nuisance. While I expected to find her lying dead somewhere for months, she apparently felt far better than she looked. And,she got into (or out of) everything since she was so small. I kept finding her somewhere I did NOT intend her to be.

The trailer trip was no exception.
"Teen-tine" does NOT belong in the backyard!

Rather than going INTO the trailer, she tried to go THROUGH the fence. And, since she was so small, she fit! Now we had a lamb on the loose and the dogs thought we were playing a new game. 
We chased her all around the barn and through the backyard.

Rainy weather, mucky ground, floppy coveralls, clunky chore boots and an escapee lamb are NOT a good combo-deal. Eventually, after much chasing, cussing, and finally a full-body tackle, she was loaded on the truck with the ram.

Only then did we realize that the ram probably needed an ear-tag.

Identification is required for animals going through the stockyard. This enables the purchaser/authorities to trace back to the farm of origin if there should be any serious illness. We participate in the scrapie eradication program and have been given a specific number by the USDA as are other farms. I thought Angus had his original tag from his original farm, but I wasn’t sure, so again, better safe than sorry…we’d just tag him before he left.

Of course, in keeping with the irritations of the day, the ear-tag applicator is broken (it should have been replaced sometime ago) and I couldn’t find a proper tag at first. Then I dropped the tag and the dog licked me in the ear in an effort to “help”.
good-bye sheep!
(looking through the tagger)

Phew! After an hour engaged in the lamb round-up, the Boss (and the two sheep) headed out to town. I was sweaty, aggravated, bruised and bleeding. And, I was nearly late to meet Blondie and MrB in town!
to top it off
Karma ate the handle of the dosing gun

MrB and I did the grocery shopping and came back to play while his mom started her new job in town as it continued to rain.
he must have been worried about my driving
he wore BOTH seatbelts! lol

…and rain.

With the weather predictions getting more dire by the minute, we got another load off to the dump, picked up some feed and dropped a bale of hay off at Toughchick’s house for her goats during the upcoming weather event. A quick visit with the grandsons and we were back to the hill to make last minute preparations for the winter weather that was definitely headed our direction.

taking hay to the barn

Karl and his "little white chicken"

Garrett and the goats

With the final Market day looming, any sort of inclement weather was going to be a problem. But, freezing rain can be the most difficult to plan for and deal with. Basically, you just have to wait until it happens and then melts. Since many of the trees still have not dropped their leaves, the weather was sure to cause at least a few problems when ice formed on the trees and power lines.

we're in the red zone
and it proved pretty accurate
maybe even a little low

A few problems would be a gross understatement. Over 300,000 people on the East Coast lost power. Locally, the outage was second only to the Derecho of 2012. Roads became treacherous as ice built up and then trees began to fall.
counties with our power company affected
outages in Augusta county
still continue

When our power went out on Thursday afternoon, it seemed the fitting end to a challenging Market season. However, fate wasn’t done with us…Adding insult to injury, the Boss started complaining of a sore throat, and by Friday it was obvious that he had fallen victim to “the crud” that has been going around.

Ice is awful...but, it is SO beautiful!

when the ice began to melt and fall
problems increased

at least 1/2 inch of ice covered everything

it was dazzlingly bright

ice-coated Valley

The final Market day was looking worse by the moment. We had no electricity. The entire City of Staunton was also in the dark. The roads were awful. It didn’t seem like we had much to take anyway. And, the Boss was sick. I was ready to throw in the towel. But, duty calls. The Boss is the Market Manager…he HAD to go.

So, I pulled myself together, fed the animals while he loaded the trailer…and off we went.
watching the Boss scrape the truck windows

Fortunately, the roads had melted by the time we needed to head out. We didn’t incur much damage here on the hill, except the gum tree at the top of the lane. (it is in need of some serious tree-trimming at this point).

It was bitterly cold when the Market opened. There were only about half the normal number of vendors. And, there was still no electricity at the Wharf. It was bound to be a long, boring, unprofitable morning.
cold morning


Eventually, the people came out. Sales were brisk as everyone exchanged stories of the storm. The Harrisonburg Harmonizers (a men's Capella chorus) arrived for their traditional closing day performance. The sun was brilliant in the blue sky and all seemed right in the world.

EMPTY freezer

By the end of the morning, the freezer was empty and there were only a few stragglers in the potato baskets. And, the eggs had been gone since 9am. When I tallied the total, we were both pleasantly surprised. It was a most profitable end to a trying Market season.

end of another season

When we got home, there still wasn’t any electricity, but there was a check from the stockyard. A good-sized check that almost made the big lamb chase worthwhile. (almost)

All in all, it’s been a good week.

Interestingly, it was a matter of excellent timing on Hoophouse#2. The storm dropped a big limb right in the middle of where the hoophouse was standing last week! The damage would have been serious, possibly rendering the hoophouse unsaleable.

And, by taking Angus to the stockyard when we did, we eliminated the necessity of a long walk to the ram paddock at the back edge of the farm in bad weather. Hauling feed, hay and water through the ice and muck is a taxing job that I am glad to avoid. Another thing for which to be grateful.

So, now it’s time to say Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you’ll come “visit” again soon.

Oh…and the lights did come back on…I made some chicken soup for the Boss…and we got some much-needed (and greatly appreciated) showers.  We’ve now experienced a power outage of 100+ hours in summer heat during the Derecho and 50+ hours during freezing temperatures. I think we’ve covered the gamut of weather conditions. So, here’s  hoping we’re done with long-term power outages.


Let’s get ready for THANKSGIVING!

the "lamb ham" is curing