Sunday, December 21, 2008

Over the Hump

We've made it to Solstice, and now the days will gradually get longer and the nights shorter.

I can understand why so many civilizations worshipped the sun.

"It's winter now. The night will be a minute longer. A lot can happen in a minute. Even hope." Kevin Rolly

However the change will be so subtle that most people will be unaware. We're having a very "precipitous" day, with clouds, slippery mud, and chills.

It's hard to keep the barns decent in this weather. Yesterday was the only dry day we've had lately. I'm raking and shoveling while baby goats jump and play all around me. It's nearly as bad in the big barn, where delegations of adult goats keep checking to make sure no food is being given out.

I've been grabbing a goat or two to trim hooves and generally check for problems. So far, so good.

'Guess I'll finish putting plastic on the big windows in the chicken house today to make it as cozy as possible. The ducks and geese are happy for the foul fowl weather. Cows are a worry, but they got a nice, big roll of hay yesterday and seem to still find grazing in the hay field.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Dying of the Light

I don't know why I'm so aware of it. We seem to be speeding toward the Solstice, but the truncation of daylight has such a weird effect.

Yesterday, we were doing ear tagging in the barn and taking pictures of each little goat with its new numbered tag. Once four p.m. came, it was difficult to take pictures, even with a flash.

I will be glad when the days get longer. Ironically, this will happen on the first day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. In the meantime, I'm not going to fight the temptation to settle in for a long Winter's nap.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post Thanksgiving Post

I deconstructed the turkey yesterday, sorting meat and stuffing into casseroles to freeze and placing bones and skin in the soup pot. The simmering broth smelled great. It will be strained today, herbs, vegetables and noodles added, and voila! Turkey soup.

One thing I was thankful for was that my dryer is now fixed, no thanks to Sears Repair. I waited by the phone for an entire day. They did not show up. I tried calling the local store and was routed to the Phillipines, or where ever their "customer service" is located. (They are not allowed to say what country they are in.)

I called a local repair service that afternoon, late. He actually called back! A real person. Local. The actual repairer of appliances.

We discussed what was (or wasn't) happening with the dryer. He looked up the model and CALLED BACK. He said he'd be over at my house between ten a.m. and noon. I almost cried.

He did, indeed, arrive at ten. It took about fifteen minutes to figure out that it was a simple plastic part on the door latch which had disintegrated, probably from age, and that the "fail safe" system had kicked in. The dryer won't start unless the door is fully closed.

He had the little part in his van. He replaced it. The dryer started. I paid him. We had dry socks and warm, dry farm clothes. I have a new friend and repair person.

The fourteen little goat kids are doing fine in the maternity barn and we're having a little break from birthing. This is very good, as it allows the babies and mothers time to bond and be looked after closely. They are all allowed out of their "jugs" during the day and they went outside for the last two days with their mothers. We have a fenced yard around the maternity barn for that purpose.

The first, traditional, group game was: all babies meet on the concrete step, then race through the barn to the yard as a small herd! What fun, fun, fun. Let's do it again. Again. Again.

Next: Let's all take a little nap in a pile.

It's raining today and chilly, so baby goats will stay inside.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Snow

There isn't too much: like a shaking of confectioner's sugar over the earth. Hopefully, it will melt this morning and won't cause too much trouble. It looks pretty.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before...

Yesterday was like a vacation day with no new goat babies born. I just did the normal chores, baked a cake, made a nice Sunday dinner, etc.

The day before, we had two new sets of twins born before six p.m. I did all the tasks listed in my last blog entry for each baby and cleaned out the pens, placing clean, dry bedding before sighing a sigh of relief. It was pitch black outside and I was looking forward to a hot bath to ease my aches and pains and wash off some of the farm.

I left the maternity barn to go to my UTV when I heard the unmistakable cry of a baby goat. I listened again. Yes. It seemed to be coming from up on top of the hill somewhere, but I couldn't see a thing and didn't have a flashlight handy. It had been raining on and off all day and cloud cover obscured the moonlight.

I drove to the garage and struggled in the dark to get some gas, in case I needed to do a lot of driving to find the baby. I went up to the house and got a flashlight and my husband (who also had a flashlight.) We drove to the top of the hill and walked through the brambles and trees, looking for the baby.

My husband located a doe with two kids behind the fence. I could not locate him. He struggled to carry the kids, get over the fence and walk them down to the barn with mama goat following. He slipped in the mud, but got down to the maternity barn where I met him.

We got them in and dry. The third set of twins in one day. Did the whole new baby routine, and hobbled back up to the house.

I'd done two loads of wash that day in-between goats. Our thirty-plus year-old dryer decided to give up the ghost. So, there was the problem of lots of damp clothes sitting in the washer and dryer. Before I could take the long awaited bath, I hung clothing on a rack in the basement and on hangers around the room.

On Sunday morning, my husband was really in pain from the slip on the hill. He needed a low impact job, so took the still damp clothes to the nearest laundromat, armed with quarters and the Sunday paper.

I did the animal chores. Later, he called Sears to arrange for a repair person to come out and fix the dryer. The phone came to me to discuss the day and time.

"We will send someone out on Thursday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The repair man will call to make sure you're home. If you don't answer the phone, he'll assume you aren't home."

"Wait a minute! I'm a farmer and am in and out all day. But I'll be here, just give me a definite time, and I'll make sure I'm at the house at that time. Cell phones don't work down below. It's a wireless dead zone."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. ... That's the way we do it."

"Let me speak with a supervisor."

CLICK. (He hung up on me.)

Could this have been my "no good very bad day" of the month?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


If you've noticed that I seem to be MIA on this blog, it's because just as I was recovering from the Farmers' Market season and getting my life back in order: KIDDING SEASON STARTED!

Yes, it's that time again and it's taking its toll in terms of energy and time.

As of last night, there were six little cuties tucked in with their goat mamas. Who knows what this morning will hold.

Maternity barn management consists of attending to the newborns in terms of iodining navels, giving a small dose of Bo-Se, and making paper collars which contain their codes, mother's code, and date of birth.

Then there is the constant cleaning of stalls, feeding, watering, and haying. Next, there are electronic records to be placed in the herd database. It adds up.

All I've managed to do in my "off" time is make cheese, attend the other animals, and keep my head above water. So, for now it's back to the salt mines. I'll check in again with news when I can.

Ta Ta.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Grey October

The "to do" list has evolved. There are now 32 tasks listed, most of them (thank goodness) crossed off as finished. It's good to be able to look back and see how much has been accomplished. It's been pretty cold -- it'll be in the 20s or low 30s tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Autumn Tasks

A long "To Do" list sits on the kitchen counter. I am crossing off tasks at a steady pace. Most have to do with getting my house in order and getting ready for the coming Winter.

We've had the first frost. I'm pulling out tomato vines, saving the leftover tomatoes for the chickens. There are fewer apples falling onto the ground, so they are getting a different variety of fresh fruit now.

The maternity barn is cleaned out for the most part. We used the pressure washer on the concrete floor and loaded hay bales into the upper portion. We moved things around and removed junk that had accumulated. I wanted to clean out cabinets yesterday, but found that the little shop vacuum wouldn't start. I'll figure it out.

I'm continuing the wine making and cleaning out the freezers; ordering veterinary supplies and doing various cleaning jobs in the house. The goose houses need to be cleaned out and filled with clean hay... It goes on and on.

For every thing there is a season and this is the season for picking up loose ends.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Birds on the Move

The National Public Radio program, Talk of the Nation, is originating from Roanoke today. The topic is "Appalachians on Appalachia." A lady farmer from our county is calling in as I write, telling about the renaissance in small farming! I confirmed that it was our friend, Kirsten.

This morning the squawking of large numbers of Canada Geese got my attention. I saw them fly over the trees to some nearby pond just out of my sight. Small, dark birds covered the lawn and made a racket on the roof and gutters for about half an hour, then flew away in a cloud.

The Fall colors are more intense today. It's warm and sunny. We might get some rain tomorrow.

Last Saturday, I went to an NRA-sponsored shooting workshop for women.

Yes, those who know me must be aware that this was an exercise in self discipline! I was afraid of guns, and decided that I needed to learn more about them, especially how to handle them safely. I'm also determined to protect my livestock from predators this coming year.

A friend practically signed me up. I thought about all the possible negative scenarios I might encounter: strident conservative political indoctrination, anti-Yankee slogans loudly shouted, maybe even a KKK rally...

I was pleasantly surprised to meet nice, decent people. The instructors were all skilled and patient. None of the negative scenarios materialized. It was a lovely Autumn day.

About eighty women had signed up, including some I knew. I spoke with a number of them about why they were taking the workshop. One said she was a single mother with three children and she felt the need to be able to protect them. One had been recently widowed and wanted to learn to protect herself. One said she, just like me, wanted to overcome her fear of guns so that she could use them on her farm if needed.

I also spoke with the young woman who is the sole press representative for the national organization. She was educated and didn't impress me as a "gun nut." If you want to see a slide show of the event, click here and scroll down to Women On Target, Fincastle, Virginia.

Target shooting isn't exactly rocket science. I listened intently and then tried to apply what I learned. I caught on with practice and will practice target shooting some more when I get a chance. I didn't faint or cry. I didn't join the NRA.

Goody for me. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Weather: Cool and Rainy

Yesterday morning was the perfect time to take a ride around the pastures. Every now and then, I need to check fencelines and just generally see what's going on around the farm.

I took my UTV down into valleys and back up again. I loaded the bed with walnuts, located dens that I was unaware of, found wild persimmons, and made note of some little jobs that needed to be done. The persimmons will not be picked until after frost. That is when any sweetness is developed. Otherwise, they are useless -- despite how perfect they look hanging on the trees.

The walnuts were dumped in the driveway so that rubber tires would run them over to remove the hulls.

After my ride, I saw to the animals, picked tomatoes and peppers, and went up to the house to process them.

This is a time to attend to leftover produce and tasks that were overlooked during the hot weather and harvest frenzy.

I dried cinnamon basil, made tomato sauce, steamed the last of the frozen blackberries for wine, transferred the Cabernet Franc wine into a carboy and cleared the deck for the next batch, which will be white wine.

I made apple-fig conserve, which I must say, is pretty tasty. There are about two more bushels of apples in the cooler, so I'm thinking I'll combine apples with the red raspberries that have started producing again. More apple pie filling will be canned and perhaps some apple rose geranium wine is in my future.

Friend Ginger came by with fresh milk for the batch of cheddar I'll make today. We chatted as I chopped and peeled.

It rained! Miraculous. There was no rain in the forecast and we haven't had a drop in a month. It got cooler. I worked until early evening like a good squirrel. I'll check the nuts this morning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Autumn is the dream time up here in the Blue Ridge. Summer’s heat is gone and cool nights promote deep sleep. Dreams come vibrant and memorable as your mind switches gears from the summer frenzy to get crops in and survive the day’s heat.

When the fog rolls in to our valley, it rolls in like the Ocean. In the early morning, just as the sun begins to rise, the light colored fog billows and all that is visible are the bones of the ridges.

Mountain tops and treetops loom above the sea of fog. I could just as well be at the edge of the Pacific as sitting on the porch drinking coffee.

Over my right shoulder are two morning stars: Saturn and Mercury.

Unlike the Pacific shore, there is no sound of waves crashing. There are only the muted sounds of birds waking and the occasional mooing of a cow.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Raining Today

The sunsets are being preempted because of rain and overcast skies. It's okay. A friend sent me a picture of a West Coast sunset to tide me over.

Yesterday, I planted beets in newly cleaned out vegetable beds. There are some areas that won't, realistically, get completely weeded until next Spring. Meanwhile, tomatoes continue to produce en masse. There is a good crop of green beans and basils are thriving.

I'm trying to pick all the apples before they are damaged by birds and bugs. It's just so hectic trying to get everything processed or sold so that nothing will go to waste. Anything that is not useable goes to the chickens, who seem quite pleased with the arrangement.

It's a busy, busy time of year and I'm looking forward to it slowing down.

Monday, September 08, 2008


The time of beautiful sunsets is here. There is a beautiful display most evenings in the Northwestern corner of our view.

The house smells like tomato sauce constantly, as I have the crockpot going all the time. I can it in small batches when time permits and then process the next batch. There are several types of jams and chutneys on the shelves. I'm picking figs and apples. They sell quickly. I'm hoping to have enough left so that we can have some over the winter.

Wine bubbles in large carboys. When that is finished, it will be bottled and I'll start some more.

It's still hot during the day, but cool at night. The new crop of beans is doing well in the heat and peppers are producing. We got a brief burst of rain when the last hurricane hit the coast, but could use more. The trees have begun to turn color early this year.

We planted four new fruit trees.

The cows have had a little population explosion. New calves are so cute.

Friday, August 15, 2008


It's been raining on and off today and it's cool. What a relief. I get really tense when it's been dry and the garden begins to shrivel.

I sold four bushels of peaches between yesterday and today and used up all the appearance challenged fruit. I made a dozen fresh peach cakes today for tomorrow's farmers' market. Peach jam, peach pie filling and peach chutney are in jars in the basement. Diced peaches are in the freezer and there's some peach wine just beginning to ferment.

The last bushel of peaches was picked last night, as I dodged honey bees gorging on the ripest ones. Some of the fruit looked like bee balls, that's how many were busy in the trees. Since the honey bees were responsible for polinating the trees so competently, I think they deserve the fruit that is left.

Immediately, I found that the apples are ready to pick. I also found, to my amazement, some ripe purple grapes on a vine growing up the porch of the old house along with various plants and weeds. In the past ten years, I wasn't aware that there was a domesticated grapevine, let alone one capable of bearing such nice clusters of grapes.

Tomatoes are ripening with a little more alacrity -- especially the cherry tomatoes. Blackberries are almost done. Pole beans are still bearing and the newly planted ones have flowers already. Lovely types of basil are doing well. There are a couple of types of sweet basil, cinnamon basil, lime basil and one I haven't yet pinned down. It's definitely a different scent than any of the others.

It's a busy, busy time and I'm feeling tired.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Attack of the Killer Peaches

The quality of the light has changed and today it is a little cooler. The sun isn't coming up until nearly 6 a.m. We're crawling through hot August, looking forward to Fall.

Insects are mean and irritable. I've been stung on three occasions by yellow jackets in ground nests this summer. The good news is that the first incident seems to have given me some immunity from the BIG REACTION. Subsequent stings were painful, but mercifully that lasted only a day or two.

I'm still picking some blackberries in certain spots, but most have shriveled up and are resting up after record production. Wine bubbles in carboys in the basement.

Peaches are weighing down the branches of the trees. They are ripe and blushing with pride at their accomplishment. Big baskets full of peaches are on the kitchen counter, awaiting processing. There are baskets more to pick. I'm running out of canning jars.

Apples are ripening and will soon flood the kitchen, too. White apricots are getting that look...

Heritage tomatoes have started ripening. There is an interesting mix out there, which includes the most perfect looking cherry tomatoes and the most gnarly looking large, bulbous types. I've re-planted beans and winter squashes and they look all right. The late season greens have not yet emerged, but there is a spot prepared for re-planting some beets. Many cabbages are going to the chickens due to bug damage, but, hey, at least they won't go to waste.

There is a tiny new calf in the pasture.

Hay is being cut and baled again. We need rain badly, but I know it will come eventually.

'Signing off. Over and out.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Late Summer

Some people love the heat of summer. Not me. When the humidity is this high, it is like breathing corn syrup.

So, I'm staying in a lot. An hour outside in the early morning or evening is about all I can take. I do what is necessary for the animals and turn on the sprinklers in the vegetable garden and I'm drenched in sweat and exhausted.

Inside, I'm catching up on cleaning, record keeping, cooking, and baking. Even the ironing basket is getting attention.

In the garden, tomatoes are forming nicely and beginning to ripen. Last year, I didn't have a single one. Basils are as big as bushes, beans continue to produce but are slowing down. New bean plants are developing in other areas of the garden. Some of the newly planted squashes look okay for now.

The pears and peaches have weighed down the trees. Pears sit on the kitchen counter under fly protectors. I check each day for ripe ones. Soon, I'll have to figure out how to accomodate peaches.

'Looking forward to a break in the weather and some needed rain. In the meantime, there is plenty to do inside.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Fruits of Our Labor

Last year, was The Year Without Fruit. Untimely frosts and drought kept tree fruits, with the exception of apples, from setting.

This year we have fruit in abundance. Pears, peaches, and apples are hanging low on loaded trees. Cherries, plumcots, and apricots are already ripe and being harvested. I've spent part of every day since last Sunday processing beautiful apricots from two full trees. Jam is cooking on the stove as I type this. I've dried apricots and cherries for baking during the Fall and Winter. Yesterday, I picked a soft totally ripe purple plumcot and bit into it -- simply wonderful! You just can't buy them like that in the grocery store. Even grape vines I thought were long dead have come to life and are actually bearing grapes. Yippee.

The red and black raspberries are almost finished, but the blackberries have already begun to ripen and I'll be picking them soon.

Asparagus continue to produce, surprisingly. I've picked buckets of pole beans, kale, chard, and cucumbers. Summer squashes are producing, but sadly it looks like the winter squashes are going to be hit by borers. Oh well, I have freezers full of pureed squash from last year. I may try replanting in an effort to outwit the insects.

Nature seems to work that way. One year on, the next off. I try to preserve as much of the year's bounty as possible in order to have a variety on hand.

This morning, I drove through an area to check on blackberries and found twin fawns in the patch. I don't remember seeing twins in the past. It must be a good year for deer reproduction, as well.

A mystery animal has killed a good number of ducks by attacking their night shelter and dragging them out, one by one. My husband kept repairing the structure each time it was torn apart, hardware cloth ripped off, the tin roof bent back... Now, the two remaining ducks are staying on the pond at night. Because the access was narrow in each case and the predator was obviously dexterous and strong, I've been wondering if we have a troupe of baboons in the vicinity. Evidently, a delicious box of quackers is too tasty to be left alone by this bunch.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer's Here

We had some nice, cool, low-humidity days last week. Now, it's heating up again. There's a big fire nearby and one in North Carolina which have kept a smoky smell in the air a lot of the time. I wish it would rain hard and put them out.

I see that the apricot tree is loaded and that the fruit is already turning color. It will be wonderful to can a bunch and make apricot preserves.

We had some visitors to the farm who got a little tour. They checked out goats and cows up close and personal. I've put up some pictures.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is Till Eulenspiegel* About?

Last night, we had to rescue yet another set of goat twins and their mother from the top of the hill. It ain't over till it's over, evidently. Mother and sons are fine and in the maternity barn, which may never be empty again.

I was surprised by the amount of red raspberries to be picked this morning and asparagus have been popping out of the ground since we got a little rain two days ago. Even the area which my husband bush hogged has yielded new spears.

This morning, I checked on cabbages in the garden. They are heading up nicely. As I went through the seed-grown row, what did my wandering eyes see: a cauliflower plant? Yep. It was all headed out. Just one. What are the statistical chances of ONE cauliflower seed getting into a packet of cabbage seed?

Well, I was happy to pick it. It will add it to the broccoli that I'm planning on blanching and freezing this afternoon.

*the merry prankster

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Cherries 'n Berries

This morning, I picked another pint of red raspberries and popped them directly into the freezer. The heat was oppressive outside.

Last night, after recovering from the farmers' market in the 98 degrees and high humidity, I raked hay until it got too dark to see what I was doing. We continue to cut, rake, and bale during this dry period, but I don't know how much longer we can take the heat. It's like August weather, not June. Oh, well you make hay while the sun shines, I guess.

The first black cherries are also ready to pick. I decided to dry cherries this year and the first batch turned out just right.

On Friday, I picked loads of lavender and chamomile to dry. The house smelled great.

I cut down all the spinach, knowing that it will bolt in the heat. There is plenty of chard and kale. Broccoli is still producing and the first beets were pulled. I see blooms on the cucumber plants. Squash plants poked up and will benefit from the hot weather to get a good start. Tomato plants are also developing quickly.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


When I rake the mowed hay into windrows, I have to pay attention. It's not one of those totally mindless jobs that would allow me to think about something else.

Because we live in a hilly region, and our hay fields are not the vast expanses of flat land that may exist elsewhere, it is a matter of safety to concentrate and think ahead. Sometimes, I think my face must reflect all that concentrating. I'm surprised smoke doesn't come out of my ears. One false move could mean a tractor accident and serious injury.

You want to make wide turns and not wait until the last minute. Direction is important since you're either going to rake two rows toward the middle or combine two narrow rows into one so that the baler can make fewer passes.

I think about the patterns I want to make. A maze is pretty neat, especially if I can plan how to leave myself an exit path. Otherwise, it's just riding around and around until you get dizzy. The sun does a good enough job at that.

Now, when I look at Grant Wood's paintings of haying patterns, I have a new appreciation and I'll bet he spent some time on a tractor doing much the same things I do when raking.

Wood was very interested in pattern in the graphic painting of his later years. He was also a clever satirist. There is much below the surface of his paintings. He was not the simple fellow he sometimes led the public to believe he was.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


That's what I am -- weary.

After Saturday morning at the Farmers' Market, I hopped on the second tractor and started raking the hay my husband had cut. This tractor doesn't have a nice cab and I raked until nearly dark. It was chilly by the time I finished.

The next day, I hopped on the tractor again and raked from morning until late afternoon. It was hot and sunny on Sunday, so even though I was wearing a wide brimmed hat, my forearms and legs below my shorts got very sunburned.

My husband was working behind me, baling. He finished by Sunday night and moved all 24 round bales before it rained.

That was less than 50% of our hay fields, so it will all begin again when we have a couple more dry days.

A habitually barking dog has been depriving me of sleep on and off for months. Last night was quiet, so I feel less zombie-like than usual.

This morning, it is 47 degrees and foggy. That is nice for the end of May. In the cool mornings, the dominant scent is honeysuckle. The lavender is in bloom and needs to be cut. Flag iris needs to be cut into fans, as it is done blooming. Peonies will be dead-headed.

Berries are forming quickly on black and red raspberries. Gooseberries are green. Blackberries are blooming. I've even got a few strawberries ripe in the long bed I planted.

I've picked enough broccoli that we had it for dinner a few times. This morning, I plan to blanch and freeze some. There is enough spinach, kale, chard, and beet greens to sell. Beets are growing quickly. Cucumber plants, pole beans, and cabbages are up. I planted small tomato seedlings and squash seeds.

Guineas are hatching and being transferred to the brooder. The last batch of ducklings are sold.

We thought that kidding time was over, but drove up the hill to rescue a doe with her two newborn kids yesterday evening. The maternity barn will not get pressure washed yet.

I'm gearing up for the Saturday market and my husband is talking about cutting hay again this morning. And so it goes.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bloom Time Report

Tulip poplars are blooming with their lovely yellow flowers. The flag iris is just about done, but other types of iris are now in full bloom. Peonies, rhododendrons, and phlox
are blooming. Roses and lavender are just about to...

Grass is out of control, but intermittent rains are preventing the cutting of hay. This is the crunch time when farmers look for a dry two day window of opportunity.

Berries of all types are forming for next month's ripening. The fruit trees are loaded with little pears, peaches, apples, and apricots.

In the vegetable garden, broccoli has formed heads; spinach leaves are cut daily; kale is ready for a little harvesting; beets are forming nicely; cucumber plants have been mulched prior to vining; pole beans have emerged and provided with a trellis; pea plants are growing upwards, but not producing yet; cabbages have been thinned and put in rows. I have yet to see a lettuce leaf of any ilk in my garden. Maybe the timing of seeding was wrong.

A friend helped sort out the greenhouse for a couple of hours. I think it will be many more hours before the work is done. Tomatoes and peppers have mostly been transferred to individual containers to grow some more before being put outside. Flower starts, including sunflowers and hollyhocks are looking good, but now I have to clear some real estate to plant them. Fifty to a hundred potted plants need to be transferred up to the courtyard for the warmer weather.

I think the kidding season is over. Today I'll do some castrations and ear tagging and then turn my attention to hoof trimming on the herd. There is a new little black calf born this week. He/she is being hidden in the tall grass still for most of the day. Ducklings are getting big and will soon graduate from the floor brooder out into the real world. The little hen who managed to hatch out seven chicks is raising them in the safety of the brooder in the chicken house until they get feathered out and big enough to defend themselves.

I spend hours working on the new Farmers' Market. We are getting new members and a lot of feedback from the Community. I am hoping that everyone is beginning to harvest enough that we will soon outgrow the long porch and spill out into the parking lot.

The busy season has begun and daylight is long, so the work days are long. This is just a report to look back on next Winter to remember what late May was like.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


After trying repeatedly to compose and take a picture of the triplets for Country Dew, I had to settle for this one.

I kept getting error messages about memory on my PDA and fog on the lens in the cold yesterday morning.

One of the best pictures was of all three nursing their mother simultaneously. NOTE: goats have only two teats.

I don't know exactly what is going on when all three think they are nursing, but I think that Ma goat was as amused as I was.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Overcooked Dinner

Okay, boys and girls. Who thought that, indeed, a goat would give birth yesterday? If you raised your hand, you were right!

Even though I went and checked on ducklings and goats around 4:30 p.m. before going up and starting dinner, when I walked in the barn at about 6 p.m., there was a new mother bawling in fear and pain. She needed a little help. There was also a goat with her head and horns stuck in the panel between stalls. That required bolt cutters to cut and bend back the metal after trying for half an hour to free her. (Logically, you know if she could get her head through the space, there should be a way for her to get back out.) Nevertheless neither she nor two people could get her out.

Add cows figuring out how to get through a goat baffle into the next pasture, and you have a pretty good idea of how the day went.

The roast was overdone but eatable by the time we got up to the house. That's the way it goes some days.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring Rush

There were a few warm days when trees and flowers burst into bloom. Violets cover the ground, along with Little Blue Eyes. The peonies have risen above ground and formed buds. Surprises abound in nearly every flower bed. The lilacs have produced beautifully.

Today, we're cooler and "widespread frost" is forecast for tomorrow.

Ducklings are hatching two days before I had even planned on checking the incubator. This morning, I had to drive to the feed store for poultry starter and search the barns for my brooder accessories.

Seedlings came up in the small portion of the garden where I planted them a couple weeks ago. Will I manage to cover them up for tonight?

We're working feverishly on the local farmers' market that will be set up in our county and hope it will be a success.

The federal taxes are done and mailed, but state tax must also be filed before long.

It seems there is much, much more to do than there are hours in the day. Who thinks the goats will produce a kid or two today?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Spring Landscape

The view outside my window consists of a filigree of pastel oranges, greens, pinks, and white. These are leaves and blossoms just starting to form. Some trees seem still bare. A light rain has been falling for days, greening up the pastures and allowing my seeds to germinate.

It's perfect weather for digging out plants and transplanting and I've done a fair amount of that.

We had a surprise set of triplets the other day. I didn't even realize that this older goat was pregnant until the day before she kidded. I put her in the maternity barn and the next morning, there they were. She is perfectly capable and taking great care of them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Peach Blossoms

One day early last week, the fruit trees budded out up here on top of the hill. The apricot tree is the showiest, but one of the peach trees is a second runner up. Even the new plumcot trees are blooming. Now, it is a matter of crossing fingers that no freeze occurs. Last year, we had a late freeze which destroyed the fruit crop.

My back is killing me. I think it is the aftereffect of scraping wallpaper and the old skim coat of plaster down in the bedroom of the old house. I really overdid it on Friday.

I've often said that I worry that the only thing that was holding that house together was the wallpaper. Although I'd easily removed the top layer of blue vinyl long ago, this last group of layers was a quarter inch thick, wrinkled and painted over with a lovely chrome. (Why has every old house I've remodelled been painted chrome green?) There were at least three layers of old pasted wallpaper. The earliest looked like a brown wood pattern, but I think it was so old that it had turned brown with age. Once down to the real plaster job, the damage was much less than I thought it might be. It was all the layers that created the ripples and surface irregularities.

So, now to find someone who will apply a new skim coat so I can paint the walls.

I planted some seeds in the vegetable garden. That's one job calling me.

Eggs abound. Chickens, ducks and geese are producing. I've got some eggs in the incubator.

I saw wild quail out in the pasture, and that's good news. It means that we are good stewards of the land. Wild turkeys are also in evidence -- another group we want to encourage.

'Two new goat kids yesterday afternoon. Time to go down and see what else is new. Oh -- and to my friends who saw little Zero dragging his back legs and were skeptical that he would eventually stand up: he is completely normal now. The other day, I saw him leap off the table in the barn and run outside to play.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring's Coming

I can feel it in my bones -- Spring is on the way. The daffodils are blooming in front of the greenhouse. We are having ups and downs of temperatures, and it looks like I better get the vegetable garden going. A deer-proof, rabbit-proof, turtle-proof fence is being build around the garden and I'm reluctant to waste seeds until the two ends are on it.

Baby goats with "Z" names continue to be born. I had to graduate the rest of the "Y"s in order to have enough room in the maternity barn. Little graduates follow their mothers to the pasture on the hill and the one in the valley. I can see from my window that they are running and playing in the sunshine.

I'm reading Angela's Ashes in between chores. I can't put it down for long. It's written in such a fresh sad and witty style.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gone With the Wind

Whoosh! This was the big story of yesterday.

We drove over toward Catawba in the afternoon to attend a Botetourt Farmers meeting. On the way we saw all the stuff blown around people's yards and pastures. When we were almost to the fork in the road where we'd go to the left and be at the meeting within minutes, two large trees were lying across the roadway.

We turned around and asked to use the phone at a convenience store. I mentioned the trees in the road and one of the men waiting to check out said he had a chain saw in his truck. He'd already cleared the road once and would go and do it again.

Thanks to him, we got to the meeting just a little later than we would have. I guess people who live around that mountain NEED to carry chain saws in their pickups. On the way back later that afternoon, we observed several groups cutting up fallen trees for firewood. There was a house with part of its roof caved in by a fallen tree and a barn which was totally wrecked.

On our road, a huge tree was uprooted and on its side in a pasture. Our small duck house had blown over despite its weight. It was back in position and full of ducks before we finished the night chores. The shop roof is partially blown off.

As I understand it, part of Roanoke was evacuated because of wild fire and other fires spread in the area.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Whistlin' Opera

First thing this morning, we went to the barn and loaded hay and feed to transfer over to the maternity barn. While unloading, we had the radio on. There was a story about the day Pavarotti couldn't make a performance, where he was scheduled to sing "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot. They hadn't played the aria yet, so while walking over to the goose house, I began whistling the melody. On the way back, I could hear my husband whistling it as well. We whistled a duet. As I got back from the geese, the radio was playing the aria. If YOU were listening to NPR while unloading YOUR hay this morning, you heard the program.

I was thinking: "I'll bet not that many farmers whistle arias while working around the barn." But, who knows, there may be more weird farmers than I know of.

It is warm and sunny today and the baby goats are outside jumping, leaping, dancing, and all the other fun stuff they do at this age. I've done a little pruning and garden clean-up, and am out the door as soon as this is written for more of the same.

We weren't the only ones whistling. Birds are out in force, chittering and feeding while they have the chance. Robins have been around for a week or more and I am seeing mating and nesting behavior already.

The geese are in miserable mating mode -- that's MMM -- a sure sign that Spring is near. They are cranky and uncooperative. I've also seen crocus and daffodils starting their upward sprouting. So, now, will I actually get the bushes pruned before Spring comes in full force? Tune in next month and find out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Milk of Human Kindness

On Friday afternoon, my friend Ginger came over with four of her kids to clean out barn stalls. This was labor bartered for milk buckets. We all pitched in and raked out the maternity barn, all the while playing musical goats to pen them while we cleaned.

The baby goats tend to get under foot, especially the little "ice princess" who was a bottle baby by necessity, as her mother had been in deep shock, having kidded in the extreme cold. The first kid, a buckling, only made it for a day, but the doeling seemed healthy and hungry, so I fed her until her momma's hormones kicked in. When Una was ready and eager to feed her baby, baby was rejecting her, preferring the baby bottle she was used to. She tended to follow me around, believing that there must be milk in my legs somewhere, while her mother followed HER, wanting desperately to nurse her.

I asked Maggie, the goat tender on her family farm, to please sit on the floor and try to get the baby to nurse. My arthritis makes it hard for me to do that.

Meanwhile, we cleaned and cleaned, Patrick hauled cartloads of used hay and sawdust out to the pile. The littlest girls, Rose and Nora, filled buckets with clean sawdust and spread it on the floor after each stall was cleaned out. Clean hay was placed in racks, water buckets were filled. All was clean and dry and mothers matched up with babies for grain feeding before we left.

Maggie was successful in getting the "ice princess" to nurse! Hallelujia! What a revelation to the little goat that a constant supply of perfectly delicious, warm milk was hovering nearby all along.

We moved on to the big barn for a while, and great progress was made. The days spent attending kidding goats had put me behind in the barn cleaning business.

I think the (human) kids actually enjoyed the experience. I know I appreciated the help.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cold: Bitter, Brutal Cold

Cold has been described as brutal and bitter. Sometimes, I think people exaggerate and overuse these expressions. The last two days have actually earned the designation, especially since we're still experiencing the miracle of birth in the goat maternity barn.

Yesterday morning, just as I was finally leaving the maternity barn after attending four mothers who'd kidded overnight, my husband asked me if I'd like to witness yet another miracle in the other barn. I actually watched the birth sac begin to freeze on the emerging head of the newest kid. The young doe was in labor in one of the draftier spots. It was about 10 degrees, with a wind chill of 1 degree F. That is a brutal way to come into the world. I sat down in the hay with a towel which I placed under where the baby was sliding. The doe seemed completely out of it, so I quickly dried the baby off and wrapped it in the towel. We whisked mother and baby to a more sheltered stall, where she had the second kid. Although she glanced over to where they were placed in one of the little kid caves, she never even licked them off. If we hadn't been there, there would have been two frozen newborns on the barn floor.

I think the numbing cold just left her mind numb as well. My hands were numb, as my gloves had gotten wet. The hair dryer we use to warm kids was giving out air which actually felt cold in the barn. Later that afternoon, when they were dry, we wrapped them up and took them to the maternity barn, where does are having to double up due to numbers. Those kids slept in the warming bed overnight. The mother sort of recognizes them today, but they don't quite understand that she has milk for them. They are being bottle fed and all I can do is keep milking and hoping for the best.

I dressed many of the kids in funny little warm-up suits made from woolen socks and fleece last night.

It's 35+ degrees this afternoon, and it feels so much better.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Moving Right Along

We had about five inches of snow on Thursday. Naturally our 2008 goat crop began to arrive on Wednesday afternoon. After carting mothers and babies over to the maternity barn in the frightful cold, I decided that every goat that looked "imminent" was going to be moved over prior to kidding. This plan almost worked.

One of the "imminent" mothers kidded that day in the maternity barn -- happily. There were a couple others who fooled me because they didn't look that far along. We whisked one mother and baby over, warmed the baby and got them settled, attended the others, etc. after getting down through the snow on Thursday. On the way back through the big barn, something made me double check the stall where Harvey was laying. There was afterbirth on the ground. To my amazement, I found the second baby, alive and even somewhat warm, in one of the ATV tires we use in which to place water buckets! I had a towel in my hand, quickly wrapped the baby up, and went back to the maternity barn to warm it up. It's Saturday, and so far, this set of twins has been doing fine with their mother.

Note to self: always trust Harvey! He knows all about goat kids.

That's a lot of drama. Last night, as I was feeding the mothers, one started labor and had a set of twins before I left. I cleaned up her stall and towelled off the babies.

The last batch of "X" kids are doing fine in the big barn with the rest of the herd. They are little monkeys, imitating the others and getting into everything. They even followed the herd on Friday through the snow and got back in one piece.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

January Thaw

Yesterday, I spotted a red fox sunbathing in the hayfield. It quickly realized I was eyeing it through my binoculars. Unlike some other wildlife, which would immediately bolt off in the opposite direction, the fox just stared back boldly. They do this every time. After a minute or so, it trotted off in my direction at an oblique angle, eventually crossing the driveway and going up into the next fenced pasture and up toward the house.

If I'd had a gun and knew how to shoot, I could have shot that fox a hundred times during this little swagger.

Foxes are beautiful animals. I made the mistake of telling workers on the farm not to kill the first pair we saw strolling through the pasture. The next Spring, they killed all my ducks, save one. They didn't even eat all the ducks. Some were left hanging in the fence when they didn't fit nicely through the spaces.

It's been very cold, very warm, and every temperature in-between the past few weeks. We've had a little rain, mostly at night. I hear that Winter is returning with characteristic cold this coming week.

We've had three new calves born since Christmas. In the warm afternoons, they lay on their sides to soak up the sun.

The last batch of goat kids are fat and happy. They've gone out with the herd this past week, successfully following their mommas. They are getting too heavy to pick up and I see that the next bunch are getting ready to be born, so graduation from the maternity barn is imminent.

On three warm days this week, I did Spring cleaning in the barns, managing to wreck my back in the process.

Seeds are ordered. I've also started herbs and perennials in the greenhouse. We installed new fluorescent lights under some of the potting benches. The vegetable garden will be fenced and surrounded with electric wire prior to Spring planting. The post holes are dug.

We are moving along.