Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's Winter

The Solstice has occurred, spectacularly, with a full lunar eclipse.  Cloud cover prevented me from seeing it with my own eyes, but there are plenty of images online.

We are on the upside -- although a frozen driveway is a little inconvenient.  We're expecting more ice and snow.

We recently viewed a movie, Agora, which was about life in 4th Century Alexandria, Egypt.  Hypathia was the main character.  She would have been able to predict the eclipse, as she was a preeminent astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher.   Respected among the elite, she didn't hesitate to consult with the politicians and intellectuals in the cosmopolitan city.  She taught at the Museum of Alexandria, which housed the written treasures of the world prior to being burned down in a struggle for political dominance.  Although history is somewhat debatable when it comes to the details of Hypathia's life, there is no debate that she was influential.  She seemed to be indifferent to religion and is usually considered to have been a Neo-Platonist (philosophy) rather than a "pagan" in the sense that she probably did not worship any gods in the true sense.  Nevertheless, she was murdered by a mob of Christians -- that is not debated. although some have claimed that the reason was more political than religious.
If you are interested in history and especially history which concerns women, you may enjoy this movie.  At any rate, it would be good entertainment while you are cooped up inside with the snow building up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Can't Remember a Worse December

I can’t remember a worse December.

Just watch those icicles form!
What do I care if icicles form?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm.

For those of you too young to remember this song, you can go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0677H1EPdB0&feature=related and listen to Billie Holiday sing it.

Well, anyway those lyrics were rattling around my brain yesterday -- I've got some strange ability to remember song lyrics.  I figure my brain is full of song lyrics where math ability would normally be.  Sadly, there's just no room for trigonometry.

Those lyrics express the current weather conditions in SW Virginia.  The wind is blowing the cold inside.  We take extra care to feed the animals and give them some comfort, although the goats normally can't wait to be let out to roam the pastures.  Our llama is in his element.

Besides the cold, the indiscriminate use of banjos in the Bluegrass Holiday tunes is an irritant.  Silver Bells sung with a snazzy banjo chorus is NOT my idea of a Bluegrass Christmas and Christmas Time's A-Comin' is NOT authentic, but certainly IS irritating.

Meanwhile, I'm accutely aware of the waning daylight.  We're almost at the solstice, at which time day length will begin it's reverse cycle. 

So, bundle up.  Hunker down.  Put another log on the fire or turn up the thermostat a degree or two.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Into the Deep Freeze We Go

As of December 1st, the mild weather ended.  It was abrupt, but we knew it was coming.  The forecast for the next five days is that temperatures will not go above freezing and it will snow.  As I type, the ground is getting whiter and whiter...

'Good weather for staying inside and reading and writing.

I've just finished reading Lies My Teacher Told Me and I highly recommend it to all who continue to learn.  If you are or were a teacher, do not be put off by the title.  This is a book about how history is taught in U.S. schools -- full of legend and nationalism, but short on factual information.  

As a student of the current political scene, I realize that it is important to understand the past. 

A People's History of the United States is similar in subject matter.  I read it several weeks ago and am glad I did.

I've got a stack of books waiting for me, including quite a few on my Kindle.  So, time to fire up the heated throw and settle down in my nice soft chair and get started.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not Everyone Can Sweep Their Garden Clean...

...but I can!  It's covered with black plastic.

Our Saturday helper and I pulled out all the tomato vines that covered the plastic yesterday.  He shook the vines to collect all the little yellow and big green tomatoes.  Once the vines were smushed into our little cart and dumped, I used a broom to sweep the tomatoes into piles and he shoveled them into five gallon buckets.

We took a bucket to the chicken house, where they were almost immediately devoured.  We also picked up buckets of freshly mowed grass from the lawns.  Chickens like fresh grass, too.  It's good for them and it supplements their grain-based feed.

I've got buckets of tomatoes to dole out for next week.  Planting tomatoes late worked out well this year, as I did not have the drought problems that others had with tomatoes.  There is still a lot of chard left growing.  If we don't have more hard frost for a couple of weeks, the chickens will get buckets of chard, too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Almost Great Escape

It took a day for me to recover from my efforts in thwarting the Great Escape. Now that I've had a whirlpool bath and taken massive amounts of Ibuprofen for joint and muscle pain, I can look back on the event and laugh. (Sure.)

If you've followed this blog for any time at all, you know that we own a big bovine called Tinkerbell, who is the ringleader of our cow herd and has an adventurous spirit. She's the one who was found under a big round bale after breaking into the hay shed one year and the one who somehow got into the woods for a summer vacation another year.

On Monday morning, I heard loud mooing coming from the area near the lawn of our house. This is fairly unusual, as cows only moo when they really need to. This time, it was excitement which was responsible for the noise.  Tinkie was pushing down the pasture fence to munch on the uncut grass and was threatening to completely mash down the fencing to get onto the lawn. Other cows were cheering her on and starting to anticipate the security breach. It was a riot -- literally.

The pastures have been chomped down to the ground due to the lack of rain and we'd let the cows roam over three so that they'd have a chance to eat grass as it grew slowly. The lawn, however, has been neglected as far as mowing is concerned, and it was just too tempting.

I quickly got dressed and ran out to yell at the cows to stop. They did not stop entirely and when I went back inside to figure out what to do, they just kept on trying to get onto the lawn.

I picked up a stick and opened gates that would lead to the now harvested hayfield where there are sections of lush grass regrown. I tried to drive the cows out of the pasture near the lawn, hoping they'd see the open gates and circle round to the field. They were confused. Why was I upset with them? Weren't they using ingenuity and initiative to take care of their own needs?

So, realizing that they wouldn't leave off the attempt to free themselves of the pasture fence, I started walking from the pasture they were in through the other three, calling "Come on cowies!" over my shoulder. Eventually the brighter ones began to follow and, well since they are herd animals, the whole forty-five or so cows followed. Once they saw the final gate into the hayfield open they began to run through to the lovely green grass. Our little Hereford, Dinky, kicked up her heels in delight.

Okay. I shut the gate and began the uphill climb back through the pastures, closing gates behind me as I went. Then, I saw the five calves.

Cows "park" calves in safe places while they graze, periodically checking on them and nursing. These were the smallest herd members and became aware of the ruckus, grouped together, and timidly tried to figure out what the heck just happened and, just where were the mammas?

So began a second herding. Calves are instinctively shy of human contact and tend to run away, rather than follow or drive in front of you. It took patience and many arthritic trips up and down those hills before they finally caught sight (and hearing) of the herd. When they grouped near the gate hours later, with their mothers looking anxiously for them, I was able to reunite all herd members in the same pasture.

If you've ever thought you'd like to be a farmer and enjoy the quiet pastoral life, I think it is in the spirit of complete disclosure that you know that some days are like this.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing "Beat the Freeze"

Potted plants are being ferried down to the greenhouse each time I drive down the hill. I'm loading the Mule from the porches around the house.

Overnight temperatures are flirting with a freeze in the high thirties and low forties.

Yesterday, I spent some time cleaning up the sunny end greenhouse and the potting room. Today, I'll continue in the middle and shady end.

We pulled massive wisteria vines down last week off the middle and shady end greenhouses. There was so much material that it still hasn't been disposed of.

The idea -- and it works well -- is that the plant will naturally shade the greehouses in summer and then, when the leaves fall in the winter, sunlight can again warm those sections. Except that it has been growing for ten years and the branches have become so massive that less and less sunlight has been able to penetrate the sections. Wisteria began to grow INTO the greenhouse through whatever small openings it could find. Talk about a scary Halloween tale!

I doubt we killed the wisteria. It'll be back -- like Jason, or any other zombie. I'll just make it my business to cut it down drastically every autumn. Hey, it beats placing shadecloth over the large greenhouses!

It's noticeably brighter in the sections which were covered in vines. I'm hoping that I can motivate myself to continue upgrading and cleaning. The propane tanks were filled last month and small electric heaters are at the ready. There'll be no heating until the bitterest weather, and that will be just to keep the potted plants alive until Spring.

I'm cutting down big weed/trees and throwing them into the goat pastures, where they are found with great glee and eaten with gusto. We had a day and a half of rain only this week, and there isn't all that much weedy material in the pastures. So, I'm killing two birds when I attend to the "neatening up" around the farm.

Buckets of small yellow tomatoes and any distressed larger tomatoes go to the chickens along with excess chard. This provides them with extra, tasty nutrition which they seem happy to have. We are still eating Cherokee Purple, which finish ripening in the house.

The last of the hay was cut and baled last week. It was trucked over to the barn and placed under the overhang just before the rainstorm. Today, a helper will assist in placing it on the hay elevator and stacking it in the loft.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sailors Take Warning

This morning started out with fluffy pink clouds which quickly took on bright coral bottoms. Moving quickly from North to South, Light grey clouds followed, gaining charcoal accents.

Not a drop of rain all day or yesterday, but it was a bit chilly and windy.

Tonight, looking out the same window, black altostratus clouds sporting small brownish puffs, are strung across the grey sky over a lemon colored sunset.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


When I heard the rain beating down on the roof in the middle of the night, it was with a profound sense of relief. The land will heal now. Grass will grow again and the cattle will have something to eat besides precious hay bales meant for the dead of winter. The springs and wells will replenish themselves and the constant worry over water for the animals can recede somewhat.

I'm still recovering from several hours at the Farmers' Market, where I prepared apples for baking on the grill and oversaw making "apple piggies." It was much hotter than I anticipated and it really caught up with me by 2 p.m.

In the meantime, back on the farm, husband managed to get the square baler fixed and his Saturday helper helped him get the bales on the trailer and into the barn for stacking. Our new set-up, where hay elevators are now under roofing and placed in openings into the lofts is working well. The helper then stacked the hay neatly in the loft. We have more hay to cut if there is a dry spell later on in October.

Today, supposedly the temperature will plunge into the sixties and we'll have more seasonal weather all of a sudden.

Last week, it rained hard for less than ten minutes. I got soaked and so did the entire goat herd. We were pretty happy for the seven or eight minutes despite our sogginess.

Now, we're looking for days of rain. Hurrah!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First Day of Fall

'Uneventful. Hot, humid, with a chance of rain that won't materialize. All is dry. The trees have started to change color.

The pond in the pasture, which had overflowed its banks and taken over a lot of the field in the Spring is now nearly a mudhole. When I let the geese out of their night shelter, I noticed something moving in the middle of the pond. Looking closer, it was a giant snapping turtle with smaller ones on its back. Turtle Island?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Early this morning, I watched several large flocks of birds against a pale pink sky. They were traveling toward the NW. I am not sure where they are going. I noticed the first large group yesterday morning.

The pale pink sky is "bluing up" but there is a thick cloud cover. My eyes are hurting, so I think it is going to rain. None of the forecasts are calling for rain and we haven't had any in the past two weeks, despite predictions for rain over the weekend.

There should be a special forecast run by old people with arthritis and dry eye syndrome. We could keep statistics on accuracy and challenge the meteorologists on TV.

I've used up all the wine making vessels available to me for the present. There are standard wines from Concord and Merlot grapes; experimental wines, like peach and white peach champagne; and crazy wines, like yellow tomato with ginger and lemon.

I've made yellow tomato jam, hot and sweet and there are still tons of yellow pear tomatoes needing to be picked. I was going to label the jars "Toe-Jam" but then I reconsidered. The purple Cherokee are also coming on strong enough that I've been dicing and freezing them. -- Don't make me pull out the quart canning jars!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


The goldenrod is blooming. Blue morning glory is climbing over fences and old trees. Cooler temperatures make it a little more pleasant working outdoors, although we're still flirting with 90 degrees for highs this week. The drought has done some damage to fruit trees and garden plants, although some things seem to have loved the hot dry weather: yellow pear tomatoes and the dreaded stickweed.

Each morning, I'm cutting down the stickweed that has invaded the berry and asparagus beds. I'm hoping that by not allowing it to go to seed, I'll get it under control. But the tough, firmly planted roots tell me otherwise. I may need to establish new beds elsewhere.

We're making hay this week. I'll rake later this morning and hopefully we'll make square bales.

Winemaking continues. I've now got five carboys bubbling along in the basement. All the white peaches are processed and the yellow tomatoes are next.

I peeled and sliced some of the apples I picked yesterday morning. We had "fried apples" for dinner, which were delicious.

This year's giant magnus opus hornet nest is on the end of the greenhouse. Luckily, I noticed it just before leaning the ladder on it to pick apples. Tragedy averted.

The chickens are getting all the peels and pulp plus some damaged chard and the Cherokee Purple tomatoes which are bug infested. We're still picking enough undamaged tomatoes to have nice sandwiches and salads -- storing up the Vitamin C for the coming winter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Winding Down

There was a good sized flock of canary finches at the top of the hill today. I was very happy to see them in larger numbers than in year's past.

The Jimson weed is blooming and wild turkeys have been strolling through the fields for about two weeks.

Today it was just around seventy degrees all day long, so very pleasant to sit outside in between winemaking sessions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Purple and Gold

My kitchen is full of Concord grapes and small yellow pear tomatoes. I'm making wine. The carboy of peach wine is chugging along. Today, I started the grape wine, while some apple is fermenting nicely. I fully intend to try making yellow tomato wine, so cut up about a gallon to freeze while I finish the grape.

You can probably imagine how good the kitchen smells.

The Cherokee Purple tomatoes I grew from seed and put in the garden in June are now ripening. They are intensely purple-red and meaty inside. 'Tasty, too.

The grapes were a gift from friends. They are so ripe that I can't let them sit in the cooler too long or they'll go moldy. I hope to finish processing them tomorrow. We took over a peach pound cake as a thank you gift and sat and talked for a while after picking.

Rain has come and greened up the fields and lawns. It looks like we'll get another cutting of hay, thank goodness.

The big barn is getting all dug out and cleaned. Tomorrow promises rain and much cooler temperatures. At last.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Long Dry Spell

I hate to seem obsessed with the hot, dry weather -- but I am! It creates a tension just below the surface of my consciousness that is irritating. During the few one-time only rains that we've had these past two months I could feel that tension melt away. But as the dry days build and build, I feel the tension building as well.

In other parts of the country and the world, people are suffering from too much rain.

Ah, well, perhaps Mother Nature is displeased with some of the folly of mankind messing with oil in oceans or genetic engineering...

We picked the peach trees to thwart the crows, the groundhog, and the deer, all of which were snacking on the fruit and the leaves. I guess it's hard to find a square meal in the dry fields.

My kitchen looks like a scene from The Attack of the Killer Peaches. I've made peach jam, peach chutney, and fresh peach poundcakes. I think I should make some more small cakes and freeze them for winter. Something tells me that peach wine will substitute for the blackberry wine which will not materialize this year. Apples are next. It's a good thing I held off planting tomatoes. They are just starting to ripen. There are lots of heritage yellow pear which might even make some good, interesting wine.

The workers are almost finished extending the rooflines of our big barn. It will be great to have shelter from RAIN (when it finally comes) and snow where I park my UTV. There is nice shade for the cows when they are in that pasture and a place to put large round bales for them without worrying about it getting WET.

So, I better get down there and do the chores before the heat kicks in. The guy on the radio seems to be taking delight in forecasting temperatures "near 100 degrees" for today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We're Done!

All right, Mother Nature, we're baked. You can turn off the oven now.

I don't know about official temperatures, but our thermometer on the kitchen door has been wearing out the 100 degree mark. Enough is enough.

Rain is forecast for the next week or so. We'll see if it materializes. In these hills and ridges, rain is a hit or miss proposition. We didn't get much the last time rain was forecast.

On the bright side, the tomatoes are developing nicely. I didn't put them in the ground until June, but think they'll be ready to pick before long.

The goats are venturing out even at midday. You'd think they'd stay in the big shady barn, but no -- they have plans as they've progressed to pastures new to them. There must be enough yummy stuff out there to give them the incentive. They don't come back to the barn until it starts getting dark.

I heard a cow in labor two mornings ago and see her with her new calf. Cows have been switched over to the pastures near the houses and barn, where much standing hay is available. They're doing a moderate job of chomping it down. My husband took the opportunity to try to mow the stickweed and dried grass in some of the resting pastures. Stickweed is a nasty plant that NOTHING eats. As far as I know, it has no use at all except to take over where it can succeed against other plants.

Peaches and pears are on the trees but we really need some rain so that they do not just dry up on the trees.

Okay, Mother Nature, you've got your orders. Now, come on and deliver.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


July is a month, like February, that you just want to get through -- preferably in one piece.

We're expecting temperatures up near 100 F. this week. I don't even care much about temperature. Just give me the humidity forecast. There is no chance of rain for many days.

My husband was getting in as much of the neglected hay as possible this past weekend. His round baler could not make bales because the hay was too dry. Picking up square bales and putting them in a hay wagon is not something to look forward to in the heat.

I found one lone sunflower out in a field when looking for nearly nonexistent blackberries. Every year has its own unique agricultural yield. This is the first year that blackberries have been scarce on our farm.

Beans, on the other hand, have been extremely prolific. The freezer is full of them and some are in the dehydrator, cut up small, for vegetable soup in the winter.

The wasps are as mad as hornets! I've been bitten twice so far and travel with a can of spray in the cup holder of my UTV. I even had to spray inside the mailbox, as wasps were building a nest inside.

So, I'm up early. The daylight is already full out. I must drag myself down to tend to the animals while I can still breathe. The vegetable garden needs a little bit of water so that it can get through the heat of the day. I can hear the bulls in neighboring fields getting their daily rage out of the way before the heat builds.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Relief is on the Way...

...or so they say.

It's been hot, hot, hot and the promised rain has missed our road. I heard it poured a short distance away.

When I walk on the lawn, it crunches. The humidity could bring you to your knees and take your breath away.

My son in Pennsylvania called today and told me it is in the 70s there today with record lows predicted overnight. It could get down into the 40s!

We've been promised similar daytime temperatures, starting tomorrow. But, then, they've been promising rain "tomorrow" for days now.

There's a deer with a newborn fawn trapped in one of our fenced pastures. I guess she is jumping over several times a day to nurse the baby. I saw a newborn calf today, three tiny bantam chicks newly hatched from one of the secret nests and a cute yellow gosling sitting up straight next to Mom, who is still setting on a big bunch of eggs.

The days are so long now. It is almost 9 p.m. and the sunset is just getting into full swing with beautiful streaks of orange and pink on a purple-blue background. Red sky at night - sailors' delight? Well, I think the chance for rain is over for now.

Monday, June 14, 2010


What surprised me yesterday as I did my gardening rounds?  Well, it turns out we have not one, but two apricot trees.  The younger of the two has begun bearing fruit this year -- not a lot, just a little.  I picked some slightly under ripe fruit to put under a dome and let ripen inside the house to foil the bugs.

When I went in the vegetable garden just to monitor the newly climbing bean plants, I found, to my amazement, that there were lots of fully mature beans ready to be picked.  I filled a bag with beautiful purple beans, which I blanched and froze.  Since these were mostly self-planted from last year's crop, it was especially surprising.  Slow food isn't just a catch phrase around here, and I wasn't in a big hurry to start harvesting in the heat.

Two long cucumbers were ready for picking, and eating, evidently.

Much chard must be cut, cooked, and frozen.  Some of the fennel is ready for picking.  It is all self-seeded.  Black raspberries are abundant in certain parts of the weedy lower yard.  The cherries are all pitted and in the freezer.  Zucchini is shredded, the recipe for muffins open on the counter for later today.

So, continuing my voyage of discovery, I'm out the door to do the chores before the sun gets too high in the sky.  I'd like to trim some goat hooves early and start to catch up on their maintenance.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June is Also Cherry Month

'Got a chance to pick some tart cherries yesterday.  A neighbor invited me to help myself.  If I get a chance I'll pick some more today, as the window of opportunity closes quickly on ripe cherries.  I'll need to get them pitted and either frozen or preserved before they get moldy or rotten.

I don't want to jinx the deal, but I think I found the breach in the goat fencing last Sunday.  It was behind the greenhouse, so hidden from human view, although, evidently, not from goat view.  Crossing my fingers  -- no visiting goats on the lawn checking out the developing peaches and pears for the past week.

A mysterious bag of summer squashes showed up on the kitchen counter yesterday.  Hmm... wonder where that came from?

Yesterday, I pulled some beets, boiled and skinned them, made a harvard sauce and froze a container for our winter enjoyment.  There is much chard to be cooked and frozen.  That will be a task for later in the day.

I made lavender and thyme salve yesterday.  It promises to be a useful concoction.

So, now to go down to sort goats in the barn for an early morning customer before the heat builds and the day becomes sticky.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

June is Berry Month

The little band of renegade goats was at it again yesterday afternoon.  They have found a way to get out of the fenced pastures and up on our lawn to browse on developing fruit.  It's probably nearly irresistable for them.

Chasing them on foot is fruitless (forgive the pun.)  I must run down and get my motorized Mule and vroomvroom them.  They know exactly where to go.  They wait in front of the back gate and I unlatch it and let them through, lecturing in a stern voice about "bad goats" and how they have plenty to eat in the legal fields.

At least I learned that the red raspberries are ready to pick, as are a few of the black raspberries and gooseberries.  Boy, it was just the 5th of June, which, after all, is Berry Month, and already berries are ripening.  These guys go on schedule.

The hayfield is mowed, raked and baled, so I'll be driving up to the areas where black raspberries grow to gather some.  My husband is already out gathering the round bales to get them under cover before the next rain comes. 

It's hot and humid and I dread having to walk the fence line to find the breach that allows bad behavior to thrive.  But, let's face it:  this is a priority and if I can thwart the behavior there are peaches in our future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

End of May -- Rain Roulette

It seems it's always like this for the first hay cutting.  The threat of rain looms and area farmers are consulting crystal balls to decide when to cut.  You don't want hay laying on the ground in wet weather if you can avoid it, because it will rot or mold.  It needs to be dry before baling or you risk poisoning your livestock or burning down your barn.

What to do?  What to do?  I guess you "bite the bullet", make a decision and keep your fingers crossed.

We're now into the weather in which you slather on some sunblock and spritz on some mosquito repellent before venturing out to do the morning chores.

The humidity is sometimes notable and we've been all the way up to 90 degrees recently, although sometimes 80 seems like the new 90 in terms of humidity.  It's muggy and buggy.

On the bright side:  plants in the vegetable garden have experienced a growth spurt in the heat.  There are already baby cucumbers forming.  Chard is big and beautiful.  Fennel has self seeded and already formed nice hands.  Bees are in the borage; snow peas will be part of today's dinner; beans are climbing right up to the sky.

Geese set on massive nests in both flocks.  In the chicken house, a goose is minding lots of guinea eggs laid in a ground nest along with goose eggs.  It's unlikely anything will come of it - but if it does, I'll let you know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Fog covers our hilltop this morning.  It's been raining off and on for a couple of days and will continue the pattern for at least a couple more.  Wonderful.  It is greatly needed to make things grow.

I'm surprised that my last post was so long ago.  Most of the iris is finished blooming already.  Peonies are in full glorious bloom.  The fruit on the trees is visible from a distance.  It's looking good for pears and peaches.  There are even some apricots and lots of plums.  Apples abound.  The raspberries are forming, blossoms done.  Multiflora roses exude that lovely rosy smell.

We tinker with the trimmer and I am slowly managing to trim around the fruit trees.  I'm hoping it will manage to stay together until I can get it down the hill and neaten up the area around the old house.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour weeding the vegetable garden.  Lettuces are coming up.  Chard and kale are big enough to harvest.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Iris Time

How quickly plants develop in the Spring!  Iris is about to burst into bloom, as are peonies.  The lilac bushes are fragrant.  Sweet William now makes its appearance and adds to the purple-pinks -- the first blooms of the season.

Grass needs to be mowed again and the light rain will help it grow.  Of course, that means hayfields, too, thankfully.

Life is busy, busy.  I'm losing the race against time and will soon accept that I cannot keep up with the pace of Mother Nature.  So, I do what I can do and try to be philosophical about it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asparagus Time

It's hard to believe, but I picked the first asparagus on Saturday and took them to the market.  Many more are coming up each day.

I pulled the turnips and harvested their tops, as well as kale. 

Eggs are abundant.  That is an understatement.  I'll need to make time to bake eggy poundcakes for the market tomorrow or Friday.  The geese are especially productive and those are the best eggs for baking.

The peas, greens, and even beans and cucumbers are up in the garden.  Some of the beans planted themselves, so there will be a good variety in addition to the new varieties I planted.  Shallots and garlic are looking good.

In the greenhouse, tomatoes, peppers, and cabbages abound.  It's time to start ferrying the overwintered plants up to the porches and courtyard.

Other tasks are taking up my time.  Today, I'll try to finish painting the baseboard in a bedroom in the old farmhouse so that we can move the furniture back in to prepare for visitors.  I painted the floor last week and paid for it in terms of muscle pain -- but it's done!

The roof that fell in on the shop ell is being rebuilt.  Hopefully it will be enclosed before the rains come again.  I'm looking forward to reclaiming the space.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Whole Bloomin' World

A loud crack of thunder woke me at about 3 a.m., then the pounding rain started.  Yay, I thought:  all the seeds I planted in the vegetable garden can start growing now. 

As it is , even though it's been dry for more than a week there are tiny chard and beet seedlings.  The pea plants are up.  Overwintered kale and turnips have been doing well and the rhubarb looks splendid.

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes and peppers have emerged.  They'll stay inside until all danger of frost is gone and the nighttime temperatures stay above fifty.  We can be lulled into a false sense of complacency because we've had sticky near-90 F. temps during the daytime already, but I see some cooler weather coming on the weekend.

The weeping cherry is loaded with pink blossoms and all the fruit trees are now in bloom.  I've mowed the grass once already, dodging the bees busily pollinating pears, plums, peaches, apricots and apples.

Daffodils are declining and tulips are in full bloom.  Blue pulmonaria is blooming and the lilacs are ready to open their blooms.

The two day fly swarm is over.  I'm not sure what that's all about, but think it some mass mating ritual.  It's yucky, so am glad it's short term.  I see that wasps are already making nests in sheltered places.

If it rains some more, I'll transplant Cannas which I was given last year.  New growth has emerged in the pots in the greenhouse.  The fig which looked like a dead stick has not only developed leaves, there are tiny fruits at the ends.  It needs transplanting outside too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unexpected Linkages

The apricot tree and one of the peach trees are blooming today. I am nervous that we will have a hard frost which will destroy the fruit. I guess there's nothing to do but wait and see.

Because I have a project or two in the works, I wanted to finish up the books I've been reading so that I can go on to the next. Yes, I read two books simultaneously -- 'not sure why -- but they seemed totally unrelated when I started them. By the time I was finished this week, however, I found that their subject matters converged in a most unexpected way.

The Poisonwood Bible
is by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, and is a fictional account of a family which went to the Congo to "man" a mission outpost with the father, who was a Minister.

The Family is a history of the Fundamentalist Organization which has managed to infiltrate the US government.

So, I was thinking I was reading one book on politics and one novel, not realizing that both books cover religion and politics. The role of the US in undermining democratically elected leaders around the world and replacing them with dictators willing to exploit their countries is central to both books. Both contained historical information, as Kingsolver did massive amounts of research on the Congo and lived there briefly as a child.

Both books taught me what I hadn't known before and both books presented challenging ideas regarding religious belief and its effect on politics.

I've read The Shock Doctrine, so I'm aware of the pattern of US involvement in regime change, but the reign of Mobutu didn't get much press here. I do remember the name Patrice Lumumba from my younger days, but didn't quite understand what happened in the 1960s in the Congo.

Coincidentally, today I listened to a podcast which related the story of an American girl who corresponded with Manuel Noriega, of Panama, before he was jailed and deposed through an American invasion in the late 1980s.

Now, if you can figure out the linkage of the first sentence of this post to the rest, you will have given your brain a workout which will serve you well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Has Definitely Sprung

On Friday, the daffodils were in full bloom on the farm and in the town.  Forsythia is blooming and there are small pools of crocus in color.  A small variety of magnolia tree is in flower.  I see narcissus buds ready to burst open.

The goat herd now goes to the pastures in full force.  I took some video to post when I get a chance.  I think they are most impressive.  There are three little black calves racing around joyously celebrating Spring.

On Friday morning, I looked out the barn window to see a white creature up on the hilltop.  It wasn't moving and I anticipated a dead goat.  I hiked up, my contingent of bottle baby goats in tow, nipping at my heels.  It turned out that one of the adult does had been climbing cedar trees to get some of the green growth.  Her foot, to the first joint, was firmly clamped in the cleft of the tree.  She was laying on the ground with her foot up in the tree, evidently expecting to die.  I lifted her up enough to get her hoof out and massaged the leg.  Goats need to rest with their legs folded underneath in order for their rumens to work.  They don't last long if lying on one side.  When she seemed recovered enough from the trauma, I managed to pull her up onto her feet, where she stayed for a long time, waitng for the blood circulation to come back.

The leg wasn't broken, just swollen, and she eventually was able to move down the hill to the barn.  In the video, you'll see her at the end of the group limping back up that same hill with the rest of the herd.  She had probably spend the night in her predicament and it was good to have been able to intervene in time to save her.  Goats are always doing goofy things like that.  My back still hurts from lifting her, though.

My seed order arrived yesterday while I was out yesterday.  Today, I'll try to beat the coming rain and get some more in the ground.

Large piles of brush are building up around the yard.  I'm pruning and gathering up old vines and sticks as the clean-up continues.  Life chugs along.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Geese are Laying

The geese are laying.  It must be Spring.

Things are winding down to a steady routine in the goat barns.  I managed to get out to do a number of errands yesterday. 

We are back to light rains and warmer temperatures.  I imagine that any greens alive in the garden will benefit.  I planted some peas and hauled a little compost to the garden beds.  Three of the chicken coops are cleaned out.  Big piles of pruned material are on the lawns and most of the asparagus/berry beds have been cleaned out and raked.

Most of the ag records are "spreadsheeted" and I'm ready to plug them into the tax software.

I've made half-hearted attempts to begin cleaning up the greenhouse to start seedlings.  I guess I think that direct seeding works best outdoors for most crops.  Still, I'll start some peppers and tomatoes and see what I might plant out in the plastic garden.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Life Goes On

The mud has dried up and the driveway's been evened out.  I am (potentially) free to drive away in to the wild blue yonder.

All the baby goats, except for the last set of triplets and mother, are out enjoying the sunshine.  A big cedar bough that broke off during one of the ice storms was dragged out to the pasture and a large group is enjoying it.  I'll go up into the cedars later with my lopers and hack off limbs from trees that are too crowded.  Won't they be pleased to find some limbs down where they can get to them!  All the cedars and pines on the hill have been neatly trimmed by goats into lollipop shapes because they eat everything they can reach standing up on their tippy toes.  Only the topmost greenery survives.  Actually, they are providing a good service where the pines are concerned, because they will grow straight and tall if the under branches are kept trimmed -- and they are!

There are two new black calves born in the last couple of days.  The cows are lounging in the sunshine.

Roosters are acting amorous -- if you want to call it that -- eggs are getting more plentiful.  I've shoveled out a couple of coops and am mobilized to dump pine shavings in the cleaned coops and nest boxes.

There are turnips and some chard and kale growing in the garden.  The snow cover must have helped.  Seeds are ordered.  The pruning has begun.  We're getting a preview of Spring, and life goes on.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mud Age

Okay, so, it's in the 40s for highs the last few days and the snow and ice are beginning to melt.  I can actually see a few areas of brown in the landscape.  The runoff of melted snow is considerable, having created little streams where none have existed for the past ten years.

The driveway is rutted mud, as most of the gravel has been plowed off during the big snows.  I'm hoping my little UTV will continue to cope with the mud until it gets a chance to dry off and a new coat of gravel can be applied.  Because larger four wheel vehicles are driving the route from the house to the barns, I must cope with the large ruts their tires leave.

Things are winding down in the goat barns.  We have 60 new kids and have been playing "musical goats", moving the largest (and heaviest, and fattest) babies and their mothers in with the general herd and keeping the smallest in private quarters for bonding and individual attention.  Much of the ear tagging is done and now the little male kids are being sorted to determine which will be wethered. 

The poor herd has been cooped up in the barn for a month during the big snows.  This is unprecedented on this farm.  I'll open the gates today, but doubt they will go out, as it is wet and there is nothing to eat in the fields.  Our store of hay is dwindling, so here's hoping that the temperatures will hold and that the melt will continue.

Oddly, where ground water is seeping up around the maternity barn, there is green grass growing.  The ground water is about 50 degrees and was steaming when the air temps were below freezing.  It is a strange winter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ice Age

We welcomed the 50th newborn goat kid into our barn yesterday afternoon.

The barns are packed.  The constant bombardment of snow and ice make it difficult for the adult goats to go outside.  We're expecting more snow on Monday.  If we can get through this and Spring ever comes, we'll all be happy.

A sure sign of Spring:  the hens have begun laying again.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

End of January Update

Incredibly long, hard days spent mostly in the barns are how I spent January this year.  It's not over.  I'll be spending much of February the same way.

We have 46 live newborn goats as of yesterday.  They are tucked in with their mothers everywhere we can devise.  All mother goats need feed, hay, and water twice daily.  Babies need a chance to exercise and learn their baby goat dances.  We have three little kids who require bottle feeding three times a day.  Two were abandoned by their mothers, most likely because of harsh weather conditions. 

One was bottle fed "temporarily" while here mother was being treated for massive engorgement.  When the mother goat's udder and teats are painful, the babies cannot nurse successfully.  Once the engorgement was resolved, one of the twins re-learned nursing from her mother.  The other refuses and yells for a bottle.

Mother goat does not want her baby to drink from a baby bottle.  She chews at the bottle and tries to nudge the kid off it.  I'd like to get the kid to revert to Mom, too.  The danger is that the baby will decline and literally die of starvation -- they can be that stubborn.  So, for now, I milk Mamma goat and put her milk in a bottle to feed her little Sarah Burnheart.  We'll resolve it when the kid is old enough to be eating hay and grain and there is more leeway.

This year, weather is a huge factor.  I don't remember a colder Winter since we moved to Virginia.  On some days it has been so frigid that kids froze to death as they were born.  This, even though we've provided shelter inside, out of the wind.  It is heartbreaking.

Yesterday, we had a foot and a half of snow dumped on us, which really impacted on the ability to travel to and from the barns.  Thankfully, it was on a weekend and my husband has been driving me up and down and helping tremendously.

There is a lot of barn clean-up that is being done as energy and time allow.  Last week, little Hillery people and their Mom materialized to do a multi-hour clean-up, with vigor.  For that, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Most of the snow is melted, except for shady pockets up high.  We've had rain, mud, sunshine, and are back to expected rain and freezing rain in the forecast for today.  I guess the temperatures are on the way back down.

Kidding started on Sunday afternoon with triplet doelings.  We have only one buckling in ten births so far.  I don't know if it has something to do with the buck or if it is a statistical fluke.  If you're looking for me, I'll be down in the barn for the next month, or so.  We'll need names that start with "B" if you want to make some suggestions -- and a lot of female names, please.  I'll let you know how things shake out.

'Am typing with one eye -- and two hands, of course.  Scotch tape is better than an eye patch.  It is the rain in the forecast that makes my eyes so dry and painful.  Anyway, that should cover me for typos in this post.

'Talk to you when I get a chance...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Big Black Crows

For the first time since we built this many-windowed house, big black crows have been coming to the windows and pounding on the glass during the day.  I think it is a group of three.  They've been here since Christmas.

Is it a sign, a symbol, a metaphor?  What do they want?  Do they want me to fly away with them?

'Sorry.  I'm busy right now.

The goats are ready to start kidding.  We're having a little warm spell after brutal cold days.  I just need to keep my strength up.

Go away, crows!