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.