The English language may need a new word for WET. Or, at the very least some new measure of degree. Because it is no longer adequate to say “it is wet out there”.
the wet weather gives Mrs. Cardinal a "bad hair day"
It is a sodden, slippery, mucky mess. Springs have sprung where they’ve never been seen before . “Wet-weather” creeks continue to rise. The little drainage ditches along the side of the road have become whitewater rapids. And, there are ponds where there used to be hayfields. I fully expect to see Noah (and his Ark) floating downstream at any moment.
2018 was the wettest year ever in some parts of Virginia. And, it’s looking like 2019 is going to be more of the same. If this continues, some serious changes will have to take place. Meaning, we may have to give actual consideration to all those jokes about aquaculture. Maybe we should seriously consider growing rice. Perhaps tilapia?
There is never much to report in February. I spend too much time trying to overcome my loathing of the shortest month. I’ve tried for years to express exactly what it is that causes my issues but haven’t ever been able to pinpoint the source. I might be close. So, check out…BarbaraWomack.com at the end of the month. My new-ish website is where I’ve been posting some of the other stuff I write that isn’t farm-related. I hope you’ll visit and read. Or, come show me some Facebook love here: Barbara Womack-writer on Facebook (be sure to “LIKE”)
Back to February on the farm…
We have already established that it is wet. (and I don’t like it)
when it's not snowing or raining... the wind is BLOWING today it is supposed to gust up to 50mph!
In addition to all the rain, we have had 8 ice events since November. EIGHT! No wonder there are still branches down from that first storm. It hasn't been dry long enough to do a proper clean-up!
icicles on the apple tree
chickadee on icicle feeder
through the front porch trellis
ice-encased morning glory seeds
maple buds and icicles
ANOTHER ice event
woodpecker in backyard
the creep feeder works! big ewe can't get in and eat all the feed
Lambing season is done. I can’t say I am thrilled with the outcome this year. There are only 18 lambs. The fewest we have had in years. This is disconcerting (and disappointing) when demand is at an all-time high. But, the few lambs that we do have are hale and hearty. Although, I am “co-parenting” one lamb. His arrival into the world was fairly traumatic, and I didn’t think the ewe would survive. She did, but for some reason, she still allows me to “help” with her offspring. I could do without the extra treks to the barn in the dark and wet...but, oh, well…the 4H kids will enjoy feeding the bottle baby when they come by for their annual visit next week!
sometimes my bottle-baby has a drinking buddy
During the only 3 days (I don’t think I am exaggerating) that it wasn’t raining, we actually got some farm work done. First, we moved the pullets to the henhouse. They spent a couple of days in confinement and have now assimilated with the rest of the flock and we’re getting a fair number of pullet eggs every day.
these girls do not want to move check out their expressions!
moving to the henhouse
loading hens before breakfast
Then, we culled the old hens and took them down to the zoo. For the record, it was indeed a one-way trip. Ordinarily, we make a day out of the trip to the zoo, since the owner allows us free access in return for our contribution of “local food” for the big cats. But, this year it was just too cold and mucky (even at the zoo).
We spent Valentine’s Day hauling hay. (is that romantic, or what?) I really didn’t think we were going to find a dry day to get that job completed. Thankfully, the hay guy was able to get the wagon out of the barn and up to the road so we could pick it up. (the squishy conditions made it somewhat of a gamble) I am happy to report it didn’t start raining until after the barn was stacked to the rafters once more. And, perhaps the best part of all…we were able to unload (and stack in the barn) the entire load by ourselves. I have to admit, I had some serious doubts about our abilities and endurance. It was slightly daunting to stand on top that hay wagon, looking down at all those hay bales and know that much of the work depended on ME getting MY act together. (Karma and Tess both attempted to lend a paw)
from the top of the wagon (see Tess at the bottom of the wagon?)
taking the wagon back (only took 1 1/2 hour to unload and stack!)
When you make your living on a tiny piece of land like we do, hand-work is a given. In many cases, there is no equipment available for small-scale agriculture. This has never been a problem. Just get in there and “gimme a hand” Read this. My grandmother always used to tell me that I had capable hands. I believed her, and we’ve managed to get a lot of things done despite our lack of equipment and/or labor force.
But, for the past year, my “capable hands” (also elbows, knees, feet, and ankles…) have been failing me. They are weak. They hurt. All. The. Time. Nothing helps (yes, I know about turmeric, CBD oil, and all that stuff). I’ve done research, went to the doctor and have been waiting 3 months on a rheumatology appointment. (3 weeks to go!) The possibilities are somewhat worrisome and the outlook uncertain. It would appear changes are coming to the hill, I’m just not real sure what they are.
But, we got the hay stacked.
In other health-related news, the Boss’ six-month scan looked good. So, we can put that worry aside (sort of) for a bit and attempt to concentrate on other things. Like the Market…
There are 5 weeks until Opening Day of the Market.
Wait a minute…
5 weeks until Opening Day?
Okay, typing that sentence was a startling revelation! I don’t think we’ve made even one preparation. No. Wait. I did get seeds ordered. And, the first batch of broiler chicks arrived Thursday morning.
day-old broiler chicks
eight weeks to fresh chicken!
Guess I better close this post and go do…something, anything…to get focused and ready for the 2019 Market season. I can’t believe it will be #22 for us! Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot? It is a lot. We've done this a long time! (no wonder I'm falling apart...lol)
Thanks for stopping by.
another rain/snow/ice event made for nice photo ops
There is an old farming adage: “when you raise livestock, you will end up with dead stock”. (or something like that)
Okay, not the most uplifting way to start a post, I know. But it’s the reality we live with here on the hill.
I’m pretty sure that whoever coined that phrase had to be a shepherd, because everyone knows that the thing sheep do best is DIE. Seriously, no exaggeration. Lambing season just brings the struggle into clear focus.
For the most part, birth is a natural occurrence that happens with little or no human intervention. If the shepherd needs to step in, it is because the situation is critical, and the possibility of a positive outcome is neither guaranteed nor expected.
That was how yesterday began…with livestock becoming deadstock…
(in case you were looking for rainbows and lollipops, you might want to skip this post)
Actually, the issue began earlier in the week when one of the old (old) ewes seemed to be going lame. Foot problems in cold, wet weather are not unusual, so I just made a mental note to keep an eye on it and went about my chores.
There were other lamb arrivals, all of which happened without my assistance. They all looked hale and hearty, although not very numerous. This season we’ve had a great number of singles, lowering our birthrate considerably. We can only surmise that somehow the weird summer weather had some impact on this, although I haven’t figured out exactly how. Our bottom-line is going to be seriously affected as well, and there’s not a thing I can do about that one. (I am trying hard not to think about that!)
Then, as I walked back into the barn the other evening, I found the skinny ewe wedged between the loading gate and the barn. (just how she got in this spot escapes me) At this point she was completely unable to walk because her back legs were particularly weak. I’ve seen this happen before when a ewe is hugely pregnant, and the lambs press on a nerve. Occasionally it corrects itself after the birth, but all too often it does not.
Since there was torrential rain in the forecast, the Boss dragged her back in the barn and we settled her out of the way of the other animals. She seemed fairly comfortable and munched hay with a contented air. There was some tiny hope that she would recover, but it was much more likely that we were looking at a lost ewe. A downed animal develops other health issues rather rapidly as bodily functions depend on the animal being upright. But, there was a chance that her offspring could survive.
As the days wore on, she required more and more interventive care. I brought her buckets of water. I tempted her to eat with alfalfa treats. I dosed her with nutrient drenches. To my amazement, she seemed to hold her own.
When it became evident that birth was imminent, it was also obvious that human intervention was required. The ewe wasn’t even trying. While the Boss and I were both pretty certain that this wasn’t going to end well, as the shepherds, we had to give it our best shot.
She was totally lethargic and didn’t even struggle when I began my internal exam. None of this bode well for a successful lambing.
There were two lambs inside that skinny old ewe. Two very big lambs that were all tangled together. And, there was no vigorous movement from those very big lambs. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t be sure there was any movement at all. This was not good.
We strained and we struggled. We really tried. The fact that she couldn’t stand, or even shift her weight was increasing problematic. Usually in birth, gravity is a big part of getting the babies out. With the ewe stuck on the floor, brute strength was our only option. And, any “superpowers” I may have possessed are greatly diminished of late as arthritis seems to be gaining the upper hand.
The ewe had very little strength. She was stressed, dehydrated and bleeding. There were two enormous (probably dead) lambs stuck inside her. This one was going in the loss column. Completely. There was no way to salvage any of them. The only humane thing to do was to put her out of her suffering. The Boss had to perform his most un-favorite task…
As the Boss drove the tractor out to dispose of the dead ewe and her lambs, I cleaned up the mess in the barn and headed back to the house. I spent the rest of the day trying not to think about the loss. Rather unsuccessfully, I might add.
I hate that aspect of farm life. And, it never gets easier. But, it is the reality.
And, while it certainly doesn’t make for an uplifting post, it gives you a sense of the lens through which we see the world. The hardships definitely make us more appreciative of the successes. We have learned to take nothing for granted. Ever.
In other news, January has not brought with it the changes that I had hoped we would see in 2019. It is entirely possible that I am getting impatient and that things will change at some later point (that’s what the Boss says). But, for now, it seems we’re in a holding pattern. Did you see my snow day post? Click here.
But, the lambs that we do have are healthy. The “lamb races” started this morning. (I may have to update this post https://homesteadhillfarm.blogspot.com/2013/02/espntake-notice.html)The pullets are beginning to lay eggs already. And, even though I didn’t make it to the annual Farmers’ Market meeting (lack of sleep and cold viruses make a miserable combination) there were a number of new folks interested in becoming vendors. That’s a good thing for the Market. And, in turn a good thing for the other vendors (including us).
So, Life moves on.
As we get ready to flip the calendar page to February, the cycle of life here on the hill will continue. After a little roadtrip, we have a fresh supply of potting mix, so we’re ready to start seedlings. The first batch of broilers will arrive in a couple of weeks, so we better get hustling on moving the pullets to the henhouse. And, since the hay supply is dwindling rapidly, we are guaranteed a good workout as we stack the barn full once more.
red at morning...
cute ram lamb
"dancin' in the dark"
early morning snow
icicles at the creek
Karma IS a white dog (in case you can't tell)
another red morning
Karma: "but, Sissie, Mama says to SHARE the cookies!"
ice fog in the valley
light on the snowy mountains
birds in the backyard
barn at dusk
sun-worshiping at the barn
one giant turnip
Those are just the regular occurrences of everyday life. This “crazy…tragic, sometimes almost magic….awful, beautiful life”. (Darryl Worley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltWDMdadq98) And the truth is the next line says “You can't really smile until you've shed some tears.”
You probably won’t believe me when I tell you that I almost didn’t make it to write this last post for 2018.
And, while I may exaggerate a bit, I assure you the muck and mire behind the barn is no laughing matter.
2018 has been the 2nd wettest year in the history of weather keeping. Not just here on the hill where I can assure you that is indeed true. But, throughout the state, particularly our beautiful Valley. It’s a soggy, sodden mess and there are all sorts of ongoing problems relating to the weather.
Here on the hill it’s been raining for something like 47 days straight and the barn lot is looking like the Great Dismal Swamp (although it isn’t nearly so picturesque). In reality it has rained 16 of the last 30 days AND we had nearly a foot of snow. (so I don’t exaggerate too much)
December snow on the farm
The other day we were under a flood warning (again) and there was no sign the deluge was letting up any time soon. It was dark when we headed out for morning chores. Pitch dark.
I put the feed out for the ewes and started back to the barn. In the dark, I veered ever so slightly from my usual path and found myself mired in ankle-deep muck. It made sucking sounds as I tried to move my feet. I began to sink deeper. And deeper. The mud was almost like some alien force, grabbing my ankles with unbelievable strength. Suddenly, the heavens opened and rivulets of water were snaking their way down the back of my neck as I struggled. Oh great! I tried tugging my foot out of the mud. No luck. If anything, it sank deeper. I tried again and nearly pitched face-first into the goo. That would have been funny if it hadn’t been so aggravating. The next time I pulled on my foot, my boot nearly came off. Now, that wouldn’t have been good, let me tell you. Ewww….cold, stinky mud covered socks…had personal experience with that one…no thank you to a repeat performance!
Now, arthritis in both my feet and my knees is redefining mobility (not in a good way) and making life a literal pain. So, every attempted “step” was painful as well as ineffective. I began to lose my balance again. I started using the feed bucket to maintain my upright position. I wasn’t having much luck “powering through” this situation. The Boss had already gone inside and was unaware of my plight. I considered yelling, but it was pouring rain and I couldn’t imagine he could hear me. Maybe I could send a distress signal toward the house with my headlamp! Yeah, right. He would have to be looking out the window at the precise moment I shined the light. And, I have absolutely no Morse code skills. I was pretty much on my own.
Long story, short…I finally got free. Although, I did wrench my back and get my coveralls soaked with mud. At least he didn’t have to haul me out with the tractor bucket! And, I didn’t find myself slipping slowly under the mire, never to be seen again.
But, that is some serious mud! I’ve never seen anything that could be described as quicksand, but honestly, this did. And, still does. Although now the wind is blowing a gale, which yields another set of problems, but the upside is that the mud will dry quickly.
When I finally made it back to the house, and I was relating my harrowing tale to the Boss, I realized the muck behind the barn is a perfect metaphor for 2018. It’s been a tough year, kind of shitty (sorry about the bad word, but you really didn’t think that was just mud behind the barn, did you?) demanding far more brute force than usual to get through. There were times when I honestly thought we wouldn’t make it.
You can blame it on the alignment of the stars, the planets, or maybe it was just numerology. (I understand that 2-0-1-8 is a dangerous combination) Maybe it was just the effects of the weather, a divisive political landscape, or bad karma (and I don’t mean the dog). It was a difficult year. I’m not the only one who struggled with the past 365 days. I read an article by John Pavlovitz that was entitled: "2018: Has Been One Long DECADE" That about sums it up if you ask me. But, it’s about over. We’ve made it. Let’s focus on that.
That being said, 2018 was all about rain and mud. As I mentioned earlier, it has been the second wettest year on record.
red at morning...
means wet pine needles
another storm clears
waterlogged morning glories
In 2003 weather records (going back to 1874) were broken with 54 inches of rain and nearly 4 feet of snow here on the hill. 2018 saw over 52 inches of rain and about 3 feet of snow. You won’t believe this, but there is actually a good chance of rain for New Year’s Eve, so it may be even closer. Those totals are a little more impressive when you learn that our average rainfall is right around 40 inches.
But, enough of the rain news. Suffice it to say it’s WET and go on with things.
Because LIFE is moving ever forward.
It’s almost time for lambs! So the ewes are doing what they can to prepare...
ewes intent on eating
under all that snow the grass was still GREEN!
In a little less than two weeks, the first babies should arrive. We worked the ewes earlier this week, giving vaccinations so that the moms will pass some natural immunity to their offspring. The Boss will assemble some jugs in the next few days and we will be ready.
Just in case you wondered, “jugs” are little pens where the new family spends a couple of days bonding right after birth. They are outfitted with a heat lamp (to warm the babies if the weather is cold) and mama gets some TLC and extra grain to get everyone off to a good start. After about 2 days of close observation, they are turned out with the rest of the flock.
I’m trying not to get over-anxious and “count my LAMBS before they hatch”. We will have to wait and see what kind of production rate we get. Each ewe generally has 1 – 3 babies. Twins being the optimal outcome. A production rate of 150% is average, and we generally run 175-200%. 200% is awesome, but that might be a little optimistic this year. It would also mean the barn would be super crowded!
While the photos below have no real theme, they are proof that you just never know what you might see...in the course of two days, I observed...
a cow walking down Mbrk Road
a sheep watching a deer who is watching me
a group nap in the back yard 2 dogs and a CAT!
In other farm news, the gardens have been planned and the first batches of broilers have been ordered. It's time to pay the sales tax and do some book-keeping. The Farmers’ Market annual meeting is scheduled for next month and I need to inventory the seeds. The cycle of life is always evident.
morning light over the snow
apparently it's "stand in a line day"
ooh, baby, it's cold outside!
full moon rising over Mbrk
early morning grazing
cardinal on the fence
frosty teasel at the creek
Karma's "birthday" rawhide (it was gone within 24 hours)
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"
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?
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.
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.
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 herplan.
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
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
My father-in-law is credited with this oft-repeated phrase from family lore. And, although I never heard him utter the words (he died tragically when the Boss was in high school, long before I came onto the scene), I have heard it countless times over the years. Countless. Honestly, it’s not always my favorite thing.
Biding my time, waiting, being patient…definitely not one of my strong suits.
But, much of LIFE is about just biding time.
This week being a perfect example.
Last weekend’s “cold-thing” became a full-blown ailment that sidelined me to the couch for the better part of the week. And, while I graduated from mindlessly watching Netflix for days, I am still in a serious relationship with the tissue box and I sound a little like a German Shepherd when I cough. There is really nothing you can do to make a cold go away any faster…just wait it out.
“…your time (of feeling better) will come”.
And, that’s enough of my cold.
farm in November
aside from the rain... notice anything different?
This week saw some serious changes on the hill that are noticeable as soon as you pull in the drive. I didn’t realize just how different the landscape would be without hoophouse #2.
the last day of hoophouse #2
We’ve been talking about making some changes for some time. Downsizing, as it were. And, hoophouse #2 had been a big part of that discussion. For the past couple of seasons, we haven’t fully utilized it. The design means that the plastic doesn’t have a long life (and has to be replaced far too often), the location means that light and air circulation was an issue…and the ongoing battles with the blasted “whistlepig” were enough to make us…well, me…crazy. Read this one.
Maybe it was time to give up #2.
hoophouse #2 is no more
Selling the hoophouse seemed an easy decision. Getting rid of it is a different story.
It’s not a simple demolition project. No. It needs to be taken down with thought and planning so that it can be reconstructed elsewhere. #2 will be going to a new home “just down the road a ways” where it will be used on a friend’s produce farm. This will be the “third act” for the hoophouse. Did you read this one?
day two demo
beautiful day for working outside
Then, our garden spaces will be re-configured as we move into our own “third act”. (That one is still TBD...we’re figuring it out as we go…)
and again…”your time (of knowing what you’re going to do) will come…”
"Teen-tine" knows what she wants and goes for it (even when she isn't supposed to!)
the pullets consider things...
from all angles...
lambs just go where they are sent (most of the time)
Once I was feeling somewhat normal again, it was time to head up the interstate to pick up the last load of lamb chops. Unfortunately, it was a miserably cold, incredibly rainy, day for the trip. That made for a nervous time on the road as the big trucks swerved and swayed in the bad weather and we had to take two separate detours to avoid accident back-ups. But, the trip was uneventful and the lamb inventory is completed. (and we got chocolate milkshakes!)
miserable interstate travel
gloomy day in our beautiful Valley
soggy burning bush
As is always the case, when it stopped raining…the wind started blowing. And blowing. Howling would be more like it. (but, it was so clear and gorgeous)
leaves are all gone from the birch tree
apple blossom in November
lovely autumn light over Mbrk
colorful rosebush leaves
Just in time for Saturday’s Market. (excuse me if I don’t sound enthusiastic)
leaving for Market (at least it's not pitch dark!)
this is a pathetic display, I know but, it was too windy to hang the banner!
Wind is my least favorite weather phenomenon. Coupled with near freezing temperatures, it makes for a trying market morning. In addition to the challenges of growing and selling, there is a constant need for vigilance against products blowing away. Between the overwhelming noise and distractions of the wind, conversations are next to impossible. Vendor canopies must be properly secured, or they will go cartwheeling through the parking lot. While catastrophe does give the Market folks opportunity to pull together, large flying objects at the Market can be disastrous. Then the Market was further compromised by the Veterans’ Day parade. Not complaining about veterans…or the parade…just noting another street closing and parking lot issues downtown… All in all, getting to the end of the Market felt like a hard-won battle.
It felt so good to get into the house, out of the wind. A fire in the woodstove warmed our bodies and somehow soothed our souls. To be warm and cozy is such a blessing!
Just one more week…
looking through the front porch lattice
And then it will be the OFF-SEASON.
Off-season is a misnomer if you ask me. (I know, no one did)
Once the Market ends, there are 5 days before the Thanksgiving feast needs to be on the table.
I spend those 5 days baking, cooking, getting ready (and wishing I had cleaned the house a little better) for a meal that is over far too quickly.
And, then everyone is off…racing through the holidays at break-neck speed.
With the New Year comes lambing season. That is quickly followed by early seed starting, the first broiler chicks and before you know it… Opening Day of the Market has arrived once more.
The off-season is probably the one time when I am trying to figure out how to SLOW things down rather than impatiently wishing for some point in the future.
Because, ready or not…”your time WILL come”!
(I like to think it would amuse DadWomack to know how often he is quoted…and often mis-quoted…around here)
Redbud leaf on Market sidewalk
Hope you have a Happy Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” again soon.
Saturday afternoons you can find me at my desk, editing photos from the week, attempting to craft our sometimes meager activities into an interesting post. Occasionally, this also involves trying NOT to fall asleep after a busy morning at the Market. This week, I realized that this routine activity is actually more for my mental well-being than your reading interest. (sorry ‘bout that)
Going over those photos, considering our actions of the week help me to "center" to focus on what really matters and gather strength to face whatever stress or worries the upcoming week may involve. (lately that’s been a big undertaking) And, quite honestly, viewing the successes or the projects completed keep me feeling positive about what can often be a “hard way to make an easy living". (apologies to Toby Keith)
This week included what seemed like an inordinate number or roadtrips, a birthday celebration, and a another torrential downpour. So, I don’t have much to show for the week and at least one project requires a do-over. But, that’s just the way things go.
burning bush on a cloudy day
shopping with MrB
mom and dad got the boys a gator!
ANOTHER rainy day!
the mountains are SO beautiful in fall
cool cloud at sunrise
"PaPa's" birthday cake his only wish? PEAS on earth and goodwill to men...HAHA
We took the last lambs on their one and only roadtrip. In other words, we took them to the processor. It’s always good to get that project completed. Hauling lambs (or anything, really) up the interstate is one of those necessary things that I truly dread. It seems that every single day there is at least one serious incident on I-81 somewhere in the Valley. Last week, there were multiple incidents in one day, and at one point traffic was backed up for over 10 miles. Fortunately, this did not happen while we were driving with the lambs.
You would not be alone in wondering WHY we travel so far to get the lambs processed. In order to sell lambchops (or other meats…except chicken) retail, the processor must be under USDA inspection. (this means you can’t do it yourself in your backyard) These facilities are few and far between. I can think of just 3 in the entire Valley. While we have checked out the others, the folks we deal with in Edinburg are simply the best. They have won awards for their humane treatment and they make our product look great. And, they are really, really nice folks.
and it makes for a nice drive through our beautiful Valley!
We will head back on Friday to pick up the packaged meat in order to offer it for sale for the final two Markets of the season. I don’t think there will be much to offer our Winter Customers this year. (which reminds me…I need to get cracking on my “off-season” email list)
Demand for lamb has skyrocketed this year. Such a phenomenon makes it truly tempting to buy more sheep and expand the operation. More sheep would mean more lambs which would mean more income…(and, that would be good, believe me!)
Nothing operates in a vacuum. More sheep would mean more hay and feed. (and, seriously, that stuff is not cheap!) And, keep in mind we live on a tiny parcel of land. The chances of obtaining more is slim to none. We couldn’t afford the lot next door fifteen years ago and it has quadrupled in price since then! Then, there is lambing season. As much as I love lambing season (I have often said it’s like Christmas on steroids), it is physically taxing, and I don’t know how long my hands will be able to handle the strain. Without being able to handle lambing season by ourselves, we would have to add vet costs into an already slim profit margin. Then, there’s the hauling and the processing fees. It seems best to be satisfied with the status quo. And, maybe start thinking about some other venture…(if I only knew what that was!)
Since it seemed I spent a lot of time elsewhere this week, I didn’t get much (read, anything) accomplished. As a matter of fact, my accomplishments went backwards… Somehow, I overlooked watering the greenhouse and all the lovely little lettuce plants got cooked in the bright autumn sun. So, today I will have to start all over again. While that is annoying, at least the mouse that has been eating in the greenhouse has been caught. And, these greens were for personal use, so no one at the Market will be disappointed at my failure. Somehow without the pressure to produce, I can find renewed pleasure in growing things. And, I do love the greenhouse.
So, it’s kind of sad to watch the Boss disassemble the house-greenhouse (not to be confused with the shop-greenhouse). While we both agreed that this should come down, I really didn’t realize how sad it would be to see the remains in a heap in the backyard. That little greenhouse has served us well for a LONG time, and I find I am feeling somewhat nostalgic about it. But, time moves on and I will NOT miss the wailing noises that it made in the wind. Or cats using it for a shortcut to the roof. In time the backyard will find a new purpose and we will figure out what direction we should be taking as we change things up a bit. And, one day I will get used to the unobstructed view of the sunrise from the backporch!
building greenhouse 1999
B starting seeds 2000
sunrise through greenhouse
Karma, on the other hand, has taken great pleasure in the demolition of the greenhouse. It’s a fantastic place to dig…a treasure trove of junk to chew on…and a new vantage point from which to survey her domain. In other words…she’s driving me crazy! Not only does she drag logs from the woodpile to chew on, now she’s taking bits and pieces from the greenhouse. One day she had a 10-foot piece of wiring, the hose holder (and the board it had been attached to) two other boards and a mousetrap out in the driveway. As I picked those up, I found a five-gallon bucket of hardware (and an errant caterpillar) out there as well. Yes, she had taken the entire bucket! The problem with big dogs…big messes.
Karma-queen of the junkpile
While Karma’s puppy antics do try our patience, she is developing into a good dog. She is far more protective than Gus, she loves the sheep and she is turning into a fearsome huntress.
At some point on Friday night, they found a ‘possum. I can only surmise that the critter population must be overwhelming, because this is an ongoing nocturnal activity. Fortunately, this battle didn’t include the usual racket and I slept right through it. Since she was carrying a limp ‘possum around while we loaded the Market trailer, I figured everything was said and done and I would deal with the dead ‘possum later.
When I headed out toward the barn to do chores, the ‘possum was sitting on top of the demolished greenhouse, growling at me, its beady little eyes full of what I could only assume was anger and outrage.
Oh, great! I don’t know about you, but doing battle with an opossum at 5am is not how I like to start the day. However, I guess if you start the day bludgeoning a ‘possum, things just HAVE to get better.
Now, the ‘possum really needed to be “dispatched”, I am not just a blood-thirsty killer of marsupials. It was injured and angry and I was worried the dogs would get hurt. A shovel works well for this job (in case you ever find yourself in the position of needing to “dispatch” an opossum). But, Karma was having no part of it. I got in one blow and she growled and snatched it away. That was HER ‘possum and she wasn’t letting Mama (or Gus) anywhere near it.
Fine. That was one responsibility I didn’t want anyhow!
it was "good and dead" by the time we got home from Market
So, I finished up chores and left for Market.
leaving for Market 11-3
Market at opening time
the cold wind was blowing it was dark
The Market in November is not for the weak of heart. It is dark and cold and the customers don’t come out until late. And, once again, I had customers who had no idea that the Market was opened this time of year. (sigh) However, despite the cold and dark AND the fact that we only have potatoes, meat and eggs (no greens, no other root crops...nothin')…it was a fairly good sales day. Honestly, we are exceedingly thankful for any sales at all this year. It’s been a hard one and I know I am not alone in my eager count-down to the “off-season”.
but, the leaves at the Market were gorgeous!
The incredible change in weather, the repeated exposure to cold bugs (love them babies, but dang, do they attract germs!) and a morning in the cold wind, left both the Boss and me fighting some sort of cold-thing. So, today will probably be a slow one. That’s okay. That’s what Sundays are for…rest and renewal.
I hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!
I would be remiss if I closed this post without reminding you to VOTE. And, quite honestly, I would like to assure myself that everyone will vote BLUE. But, I realize that is neither my place to request, or expect. So, I will leave you with this link to one of my favorite authors. I hope you’ll read it.
We’ve reached the point in the season where there is little, if anything, of interest happening on the hill.
The last of the garden produce has been harvested and the hens are waiting impatiently to start their clean-up detail. That requires that some temporary fencing be put up around the garden. The sheep also need to move to greener pastures.
waiting for greens
But, none of that could happen because it rained…again.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
With the gardens finished, there is a lull in activity. We won’t be taking the last of the lambs until next week. and, it looks like it will be at least two weeks before we can get the culled sheep off to the stockyard. It’s way too early to get excited about lambing season. Or even any “off-season” projects. So, it seemed a perfect time to take a little jaunt across the mountain. We make an annual pilgrimage to get some local apples and celebrate the Boss’ birthday. Ordinarily the changing leaves make for a amazingly colorful trip.
This year, however, the leaves had barely begun to change. And, many were battered and brown. We aren’t the only ones noticing this phenomenon. There have been newspaper articles and news segments detailing the issue. It’s just been a weird weather year. And, that seems to have affected everything. But we did find some pretty sights along the way.
To say that the weather made for production challenges would be an understatement. Growing produce was difficult and in some cases, simply impossible. Numerous vendors have had previously unheard of catastrophes. And, then the marketing said produce has not been without its challenges. Between the seemingly endless parking garage renovation, various downtown activities and numerous rainy mornings, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Market earnings are way down for the year. I’m fairly certain that everyone will be glad to see the end of the season.
Piney River pumpkin farm
As the Market season winds down, there are fewer and fewer vendors. This is not unexpected. The market is more an avocation than occupation for the majority of folks. By October, those who grow produce outside are done, and some of those who provide other products often have other things to do.
Sadly, the majority of these pumpkins are weather-damaged
Fall activities abound and many feel that these negatively impact Market attendance for vendors and customers alike. There were countless opportunities for trick-or-treating, so there were lots of costumed folks wandering through the Market. While I must agree, this doesn’t really help sales, it does make for an interesting/amusing sight at the Market. ("borrowed these from the Boss' Facebook photos...thank you, dear) "Rosie" is my favorite! But, the next one is great, too. It's a storm chaser and a twister. (LOL)
The costumes almost made up for the miserable weather. A cold rain began Friday and didn’t clear completely until late Saturday afternoon. The weather was far more suited to napping than shopping at the Farmers’ Market. (or, for that matter, SELLING at the Farmers’ Market) But, that is what we do…who we are. And, since we don’t have any other creative ideas as to occupation…and there are three more weeks left of the season, we were there, doing what we do. Although we need to find some positivity in the whole deal.
pretty leaves at Market
WET leaf at Market
But, personally, positivity is not coming easily of late. I am distressed by the constant barrage of horrifying things in the news, the complete disregard and disrespect for human differences that are spouted forth and tweeted out by the highest office in the land and the lack of consequences for this awful behavior. I am stressed and triggered and exhausted. I can only hope that the upcoming election will provide some relief.
early morning Alleghenies
early morning contrails
gorgeous light on gum leaf
sunset see the rainbow?
lovely view from the kitchen window
the hunter moon
In the meantime, I will practice mindfulness and gratitude, attempting to be fully aware of the blessings that make up my little corner of the world.
And, it is my sincere hope that you are able to do the same.
breath-taking Sunday sunrise
Have a Happy Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” us again soon.
Here's the link to the Boss' market Facebook pics.
The first frost is inevitable. As are the dire wintry predictions that are always sure to follow. But, it’s October…the latter half of October, it should come as no surprise.
But, the wind is SO cold. And the mornings are SO dark. It’s a toss-up as to whether we go for hibernation or preparedness. In reality, we just get prepared and wish for a period of hibernation.
beautiful October light
It finally dried out enough to get the potato harvested and in cold storage for the winter. Despite the weird weather patterns, the yield was good. (and we got a big job checked off the “to-do” list!)
Potato harvest has begun!
picking up 'taters
lots of potatoes
Potato harvest took the better part of two days
With the potatoes harvested, the Boss turned over the back garden to allow it to rest during the winter. 2019 will see that portion of the farm used in a slightly different fashion as we review and revise our strategies for keeping this place sustainable for the long haul.
It seems that we just keep saying “never seen that before”! The fall brassica crop was no exception. Some of the plants are stunted and the heads (cabbage and broccoli) looked odd. When I went to cut them, the problem revealed itself. The stalk of the plant was full of water! The entire middle was hollowed out and rotten. While many of the plants were fine, the entire planting smells of decaying plant matter. YUCK! This previously unseen anomaly cut down the yield considerably.
cabbage full of water
now you understand "rotten to the core"
To add insult to injury, “bambi” found his/her way to the garden for the first time ever.
"bambi" in the winter paddock
Last week, my investigation into the ferocious bark-fest going on in the backyard revealed a young deer in the winter paddock. She/he was not at all frightened and actually stomped his/her foot at the dogs. Repeatedly. I’m still not sure if this was bravery…or stupidity. The dogs outweigh her by a good deal. (but, that fence between made a big difference) This happened two days in a row. Then I discovered large bite-marks in the broccoli/cauliflower plantings. No serious damage, but enough to know that deer have come to the garden…and we will have a new issue to deal with in planning for the crops of 2019.
deer have come to the garden
But, there are positive signs, too.
The green garlic is sprouting well and the germination for some winter greens is looking good. (before anyone gets excited, I don’t know that I’m going to share these at all) The sheep and chickens are thriving, although the hens are getting a little anxious to get started on garden clean-up detail.
"the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence"
here come the ewe lambs!
ewe flock grazing on a clear October day
pullets under Karma's watchful care
I don’t know what happened to the week, but it sure seemed like Market prep day came along more quickly than it should have. Not that there was a whole lot of preparation to do…
early morning trip over the mountain everything is "okey-dokey"
cool weather brings out the barberries
dogwoods over Lewis creek
October morning light-show
We’ve reached that point in the season where the Market thins considerably. After a difficult growing season, numerous vendors have packed it in for the year. The chilly, dark mornings have our customers enjoying their warm, cozy homes rather than venturing out to see what wonderful veggies they can find at the Market.
Remy was looking for warm and cozy, too.
Despite the fact that the Market has been opened from April 1 to Thanksgiving for more years than I care to recall, there are always people who are surprised that we are still open after the first of October. So, for the next couple of weeks we will feel like we are just biding time until the final Market of the season. Generally, that is a phenomenal sales day as everyone attempts to get ready for Thanksgiving AND stock up for winter.
dark start to the Market
threatening skies over a late season Market
Our TEAL Pumpkin indicates we will offer non-food treats for any trick-or-treaters Someone asked how I grew it that way (uh...it's fake...)
Personally, I’m ready for the end. A little “hibernation” and down-time sounds delightful. And, before someone points out that I say that every year…you’re right. Market season is long and challenging. After twenty years of early Saturday mornings, it’s safe to say we are both tired. Very tired. It’s hard to be “on your game” and upbeat despite the weather, production challenges, customer whims, the economy, current events, etc. every single Saturday. But, being a grumpy vendor certainly doesn’t do much for sales! Sometimes there are political, environmental, personal conversations that all require far more engagement than my brain can handle while calculating the proper change. Yesterday was one such day and I had to take a nap when I got home!
grazing at sunset
But, it’s a new day. Time to re-group for a new week.
Hope you have a Happy Sunday!
Thanks for stopping by. Come back and “visit” us again soon!