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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? https://homesteadhillfarm.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-long-and-winding-road.html

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!  www.barbarawomack.com

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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 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

…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

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After a week of wild, historic weather that devastated parts of Florida and surprised our own state with its flooding fury, it seems more than a little trite to write about the week that included a field-trip, a birthday party and very little farm work.


That’s all I got. 

Keeping up with the news can be a draining, depressing activity. It’s made worse by the fact that there seems so little we can do to help anyone or to change anything. It can either make you angry or depressed, and personally, neither one seems very desirable. So, we do what we can where we can and try to find joy and meaning in all of it. I really don’t know what else anyone can do.

So, perhaps this week my mission in writing should be to provide a diversion, a bright spot in your week. Because, Lord knows, we all need a bright spot! And, this week, it was pretty easy to find “three good things” (did you read last week? )

Swannanoa Palace

Last week I mentioned a fieldtrip. The Boss and I have been meaning to go to on this particular jaunt for years now. Swannanoa is a grand marble mansion built on the top of Afton Mountain by Major James Dooley in 1912 as a token of his love for his dear wife, Sallie May.

stained glass at top of grand staircase
(this is supposed to be Mrs. Dooley)

made by Tiffany Studios
valued at $100,000 at the time of installation
(cannot imagine how much it is worth today)

stained glass flowers

details are amazing
this is a ceiling corner molding
original plaster

even the water tower is ornate

carved marble pillars

loved this walkway

mosaic details on fireplace
hand-painted flowers in breakfast room

fish fountain in side garden

amazing water feature 
the craftsmanship was astonishing

water tower through the trees

Over the years it has fallen into disrepair and is no longer used as a residence. However, on occasion it is opened to the public for tours. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, it was a fascinating trip.

The mansion has had a colorful history. You can read more about it here. https://colonialghosts.com/swannanoa-palace/

While the craftsmanship was amazing, and it truly was a beautiful spot, it made me sad to see it in such a state of decline. To restore it to its former glory would be incredibly costly (if not impossible).
So, I suppose it will slowly sink into the landscape and be forgotten. That's just sad.
it looks like it's getting dangerous

We returned to our own hilltop where the only thing that borders on grandeur is the sky.

When the rains from what was now Tropical Storm Michael headed up the coast, I don’t think anyone realized just how much this would affect many portions of Virginia. There was lots of flooding and even the loss of life. Read this article in the Washington Post.

Here on the hill, we saw a fair amount of rain. But, the big story was the weird light show we had as the storm moved out of the area. It was eerie, all yellow and pink and glowing, made all the stranger by the fact it was overcast, and we couldn’t see the sun…just the rather ominous light that turned everything a strange pinky-orange.
Looking out the back door

leaf on the back porch
(no filter)

But, the storm brought a change in the weather.


It feels like FALL. The sky is a bright blue and the air is crisp and clear.

chillin' in the shadows

common checkered skipper
(isn't the color gorgeous?)
planting cloves for green garlic

dried pokeberries
beaten by all the rain 
locust thorns

teasels at the creek

It felt chilly when the Market opened on Saturday morning. And, it was dark...

downtown at 7am

Lady Justice 8am

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I have a confession to make. The past week was not a model of productivity and looking back, I am almost certain I accomplished nothing of import. That may be a new record. And, I don’t even have any excuses.

After all our “hurricane preparedness” work, we got very little rain (and virtually no wind) from Hurricane Florence. The same cannot be said for many other places. They are just beginning to deal with the destruction from post-hurricane flooding in North Carolina. The situation is dire for many farmers and the environment. Huge numbers of hogs and chickens were killed in the post-hurricane flooding. In addition, there is the concern that some of the lagoons (used for animal waste) will flow into the rivers. And, there is also the danger that coal dust will contaminate the environment as well. I have seen numerous articles covering the situation. Here is just one. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/hurricane-florence-animals-nc-farm-death-tropical-storm-north-carolina-a8547956.html 
after the storm sky

post-hurricane sunset

backside of the storm
afternoon sky

grazing sheep 

Fortunately, around here things were nowhere near that dire. Although it has been bad. There was some serious flooding elsewhere in the county, so school was closed for two days.

I "borrowed" these shots from the internet...
flooding out on Hewitt Road

flood damage on Stover Shop Road

And, you can see the effects of the weather on the crops in the fields, although locally nothing was actually underwater. Getting the crops OUT of the field may be another matter as the ground is super-saturated and we’ve gotten a fair amount of additional rain recently.

soybean field on Howardsville Road

The continual rain brings to mind Noah and his ark. How in the world did they stand it for 40 days and 40 nights of rain? trapped in that ark with those animals? I know there are many who doubt the story, but bear with me here… the confinement, the animals, the utter boredom, the uncertainty…how did Mrs. Noah deal? Since there is no mention of her later in the bible, I am seriously beginning to think that she jumped ship somewhere along the way. I mean, think about it... 
ANOTHER gloomy/rainy day

Bad/questionable theology aside, here’s what’s been happening on the hill:

On Monday, our eldest daughter and grandsons 1 and 3 came by. Since school was out and she needed to borrow our office for a bit, #1 and I baked some cookies and played while #3 took a little nap. Then when the sun finally peeked out, we were able to go outdoors for a while.

nothing like jumping in a puddle after the rain!

It was a brilliantly bright, glorious day. but, the ground was so saturated there was no thought of gardening. And, the rain effectively put an end to any tomato and zucchini production. The Boss was hoping for a few dry days to do some mowing and maybe even get in the potato garden for harvest.
grass growing ON the lawnmower
sunlit leaves

Tuesday it was a matter of playing catch-up from Monday’s rain-altered plans. And…it (rather unexpectedly) rained again. In the afternoon, I made a trip to the draft to sit with the boys while their mom ran an errand on the other side of the mountain.
I called for "reinforcements" when...

 a dinosaur was spotted watching TV in the Draft

Wednesday saw us going over the mountain for the Boss’ fluoroscopy appointment redux. This time the equipment was working, there were no delays and we were back home well before lunch. My presence on this trip seemed to serve no real purpose, particularly since the passenger side of the Xterra is equipped neither with brakes nor steering apparatus. (and the Boss would really appreciate if I kept my opinions to myself). There have been no updates from the medical center on the outcome of the tests, so we’re no closer to any solution at this point in time.

at least we had a sunny day for travel

Then we went out to lunch in celebration of our anniversary. 34 years...that's a long time!
I could only find a few pics taken on the actual date
we sure have changed!
(but, somebody might need a new hat)
The actual date wasn’t until Saturday, but we knew we’d be too tired after the Market and we’d never stay awake to go out to supper. So, lunch it was. On the way home, we picked up a pie from our friend Jane’s amazing pie shop.

delicious coconut cream pie

And, then (after it rained AGAIN) it was time to get ready for Market.

Market offerings 9-22

Not that there was much to get ready. This has been a difficult, disappointing growing season. And, I think the customers are starting to pick up on that fact. 

after the rains the zucchini all look like this
I suppose it is some sort of fungal disease
we cannot offer these for sale
last of the okra crop

that big clump of mud is full of potatoes
just a few butternut squash this year

We have been waiting for the broccoli harvest for what seems like forever now. The plants have been just sitting there… The warm, dark, wet days have not been good for growing. However, it is the perfect environment for insect growth and diseases. So, once the sun came out, we were fighting for the survival of the plants. It remains to be seen if we will win this battle and ever have any broccoli for Market.

looper moth caterpillar

caterpillar damage

On the other hand, when the sun does come out, it’s gorgeous. The sky is brilliant blue, and the puffy white clouds make for picture perfect vistas. There are countless butterflies and the wildflowers bloom with perfusion.

Orb spiders are everywhere

teasels down by the creek have sprouted on the seedhead
the SUN

…and then it rains again. I kid you not. (this is getting ridiculous)

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