Tuesday, December 03, 2013

There Arose Such a Clatter

I rose from my bed to see what was the matter.  It turned out to be the pitter patter of hundreds of little birdie feets on the roof!  They rose en masse to fly away to the big oak trees in the pasture behind our house.

Large flocks have been coming through on their way to somewhere or other ahead of the winter storms.  I am grateful that we have places for them to rest, eat and shelter.  During the recent rain, robins splashed in the freezing puddles on the gravel driveway.  They seemed happy about it all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bitter Cold

Today's weather had me searching for a pair of electric gloves online.  My fingers actually hurt, even long after I came back in after doing the morning chores.  Tonight it will snow/rain/freeze, making for a lively time tomorrow morning.

To be sure, I hadn't worn the usual two pairs of gloves with the hand warmer tucked in-between.  That will change while I'm waiting for my electric gloves to materialize.

We've moved the cows back to a field which still had some grass growing.  I get a thrill when I open the gate, call "Hey, cowie cowie!" and thirty cows come running. 

I finished putting plastic on the chicken house windows to make it a little more cozy.  Chickens seem able to withstand very cold temperatures.  I also plugged in the electric water bowls so that they have something to drink.

We have lists of indoor jobs to do during bad weather, but we've still got to take care of the basic needs of our flocks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


This morning, I changed the beds to flannel sheets in anticipation of a couple of nights in the 20s.  We'll get a few snow flurries this afternoon and evening, but no accumulation.  I'm happy about the no accumulation part.

The fig tree looks sad since its crispy brown leaves were blown away.  Ornamental Bradford Pear and Japanese Maples still hold leaves and color.  I now realize why Bradford Pear is used so much in landscape.  It is the first to flower in the Spring and among the last to lose leaves in Autumn.

I've located the electric stapler and am planning on starting the process of putting the plastic over the chicken house windows a little at a time.  Time to check goat supplies and meds and begin stocking pine shavings and square bales in the Maternity barn.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Embarrassment of Riches

It is cold and crisp this morning, but I'm not sure we hit the freezing mark as predicted.

Yesterday morning, I picked all the tender vegetables which could have been harmed by frost.  This included nice lettuces, eggplants, cucumbers, and lots of green peppers.  In fact, there ended up being two big bags of peppers. 

I spent much of the rest of the day rinsing, seeding, cutting. roasting, peeling, chopping, and putting roasted pepper strips into freezer containers.

I am a squirrel, saving nuts for Winter at much expense of effort and time.

I'm in the middle of transferring warm clothing for light Summer stuff.  It gives a chance to find all the treasures which fill my dresser drawers.  I washed a load of sweaters so that I can enjoy the nice, clean smell and soft warmth.

Today, I'll look around the vegetable garden for tools to be stored in the shed and continue trying to clean up other garden areas which have been overtaken by pokeweed and tree of paradise.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


We're told by the weather people that Autumn-like weather will blow in later today.  Still, it won't be very cold until at least next week.

The leaves are changing subtly this year.

The tomato supply is dwindling.  I'll probably roast the last ones today.

All houseplants are tucked into the greenhouse, which has been cleaned and reorganized -- except for the two cool sections.  That will be work for rainy days.

Wine needs to be transferred to carboys.

The big barn needs regular rakings. 

Gardens need to be weeded.

I should be busy, busy for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cool at Last

Although the leaves haven't yet turned, we are experiencing lower humidity and cool mornings.  Yesterday I hauled three loads of manure and dumped it in low spots on the farm.  I've raked stalls and will try to keep up as long as I can.

Every two days, I pick figs for the roosters and tomatoes and peppers for us.  The roosters are getting fat, but there are fewer and fewer figs ripening because of the moderating temperatures. 

Huge baskets of tomatoes fill my kitchen counters.  When it is no longer possible to ignore the tomatoes, I roast them in the oven along with peppers.  When cooled, I skin them and put them through the food mill to make sauce.  Sometimes I can the sauce and sometimes I make chili con carne.  Freezer space is at a premium, but we will have some nice meals when the snow is on the ground.  All the pear pies I froze are going to be a special treat.

Our hunting cabin is nearly completely remodeled.  The leftover bamboo flooring from our house just covered the old floor, with just four planks unused.  I managed to paint all the walls and am working on repairing and painting odds and ends of furniture.  There were some nice rugs and a storage unit which I bought at yard sales, and it's really shaping up nicely.

We will finish up the rainwater collection system, as there is no source of water or electricity.  A gas generator allows me to run the vacuum cleaner occasionally and I've acquired all sorts of battery and solar-powered lighting along with oil lamps for lighting.  It is a fun project and enjoyable now that I can breathe and move without so much effort.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Here Comes the Rain Again: September First

"Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion..." The Eurythmics

August came and went, alternately rainy, steamy, then briefly pleasant with lower humidity.  It was the most comfortable of all the uncomfortable Virginia Augusts of the past fifteen years.

The pond and hayfields are back to normal for the most part.  Gangs of wild turkeys gather each morning and early evening to feed on something in the field.  They've been strolling around the farm every day since the big rains began in June and July.  I know some hunters who are waiting eagerly for the first day of turkey season.

This weird summer I saw twin fawns still wobbly on their feet and too newborn to have developed a fear of humans.  (That is very newborn for deer.)

On each of the low humidity days -- there were a few -- I frantically raked the goat barn, knowing that this would be unbearable in the moist heat.  I didn't quite clean it out, but I'm making headway.  We are promised better temperatures in a few days and I vow to return to the task in earnest.  The flooding has left the barn wetter than it has ever been and I'll have to sprinkle lime to dry out parts of the floor.

Our Spring chicks have developed into hens and roosters.  Small eggs, many green and blue, are appearing in the nest boxes.  The adolescent males are obnoxious and reduce egg laying.  They create scenes of mayhem, chasing old hens and young hens.  They're being relegated to a couple of coops to cool their heels.  Unfortunately, they will soon be soup.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The Corn is as High as An Elephant's Eye

Yes, corn is doing very well this year as evidenced by fields all around.  Tomatoes are also having a bang up year.  They have planted themselves all over my vegetable garden, in ditches along the driveway, and at the entrance to our porch.

On the other hand, cucumbers (MY cucumbers) have done nothing of note.  I'm resigned to buying them in the supermarket.  The second planting of golden arrow zucchini is producing and the eggplant makes beautiful little long purple fruits.  Peppers are out of proportion to their leaves, but I'm waiting for them to turn red.

Blackberries are finally getting plump and ripe.  Unfortunately, the heat and humidity and the flooding make accessing them a bit problematic.  I find myself having to devise a land route to get to high places.  Our pond is more than twice its normal area.  The geese and ducks have been flooded out of their houses.  We opened the gate to the pond and they are using part of the hayfield for drying out and lounging.  This is especially ironic because last Fall we had to bring a hose down to the pond to deliver well water for them.  We could see the bottom of the pond and it was dry!  It has rained nearly every day of June and July.

The weather has also affected some insect life cycles:   so far, NO June/July bugs in the blackberries!  If they return to get drunk on overripe berries we may have to call them August bugs.  'Don't know.  Will report back.  I will miss their drunken carousing.

Making hay has been a nightmare.  Just when we have a couple of rainless days and cutting and raking are progressing, a sudden storm crops up, making all soggy and stopping the baling.  This first harvest will not be very good, assuming it gets under cover.  Maybe there will be a second cutting later on.  Grass is growing very well.

Pears hang heavy on the trees.  I'm hoping they can ripen before the birds attack them.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Young Virginia Creepers

Yep.  They're hugging the beejeepers out of all the crops growing on fences and on the ground.  Because it's June?  Well, yes.  This is the time for all toxic plants and bugs to emerge to temper the beauty and moderate temperatures which abound in late Spring.

The weather has been touchy.  As soon as some hay was cut, the rain, despite a "slight chance of showers" fell in buckets and rained out the raking and baling.  Neighbors all around the area have nicely baled hay sitting out in the intermittent rains and getting damaged.  Ours is just going to wait until a few dry days in a row before tedding and raking.  Thank goodness only a small field was cut.

Last night, the goats were "missing" and I had to go and see where they might be.  I drove through high grass and eventually walked up and down the hills, feeling that I was in alien territory, perhaps on another planet altogether.  It was impossible to see ahead to look for holes and stumbling places.  I finally located them, all in a tight bunch.  They just decided to camp out for the night, forgoing their grain rations.  This morning, they are close to the gate near the house, being quiet and as good as gold.  All 98 of them.

In the vegetable garden little golden zucchinis are on the bushes.  It will only be a couple of days before I can pick some.  Tomatoes have formed on the plants I put out early and new seedlings are introduced every chance I get.  Spinach and asparagus await dinners in the refrigerator.  Lettuces have been cut and cut again.  Black raspberries are developing and will soon turn color and blueberries as well.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

The geese are obviously impressed at the flotilla of six former ducklings in their shiny new white suits.  They are being led around the pond by their little "Mother" mallard, who doesn't seem to notice that they are twice her size and a totally different color.  All she knows is that they are ducks, because if it quacks like a duck...  If you click on the picture above, you'll get a little clearer image.
The ducks graduated from the chicken house recently to the relief of the chickens, who now have a nicer, dryer, better smelling house.
The ducks have always been drawn to water, but never had so much to play in!  It is hard to get them to come in to dry land, but they'll get hungry soon.  I had to wait for the water in the pond to recede to more normal levels before taking them out there.
The chicks have also graduated out of their coop and into the Wide World of Chickens.  Pecking order is being established and the guineas are being bullies to be avoided at all costs.
The grass is high and will need to be hayed soon.  Vegetables are really developing quickly in this optimal weather.  It's been cool again for the past few days and I got a lot of physical work done.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

It isn't raining rain, you know...

...It's raining violets, asparagus, kale, chard, spinach, iris, peonies...

Early yesterday morning, I walked into the area near the goose house and let the geese out.  By about 1 p.m., the pond had overflowed and the geese were swimming in and out of the house.  It remains flooded and there is a small river forming beyond in the pasture.

The chicken house had a little seepage, forming muddy areas.  The last batch of chicks are in a coop with a raised wooden floor, so they're high and dry.  The ducklings are in a dirt floor coop, so are in their glory, making a big wet mess.

It will continue raining today and possibly tomorrow.  The James River is overflowing its banks. 

Everything is so green that it nearly hurts your eyes.  Grass is high in the hayfields.

It's been blessedly cool since May began.  We've done a lot of farm jobs.  Unfortunately, our recently graveled driveway has some ruts due to rain runoff.  The plastic garden is improving day by day. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring, Continued

We've had some hot days and some moderate days and some decidedly chilly days so far this month.  That's Spring for ya. 

The main thing is that it has rained a good bit of the time and that makes things grow.  After the big electrical storm last week, large trees showed green leaves and the redbuds revealed pink.  The weeping cherry burst into pink blossoms.  Peonies not only sprouted up from the ground, they already have their little globe buds.  Lilacs are just barely in bloom, and so it goes.

The plastic garden was pretty much torn to shreds by winter winds this year.  It looks to be in total disarray, but I am slowly putting it back in order with my grandson's help.  I did a lot of clean up and pulled weeds.  We brought in new heavy junk to keep the replacement plastic in place.  It's progressing.  Cattle panels attached to fence posts serve the dual purpose of keeping plastic down and of providing vertical growing stations.  Peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and squash will be planted at their bases.

The peas I planted are already up.  Ten blueberry bushes have new growth and blossoms.  Different varieties of berries have leafed out and have suckers growing at the base of the main plants.  We've been eating the beautiful kales that overwintered in a circle planted in the Fall.  Lettuces and other leafy crops are just tiny plantlets in the bed I weeded.

The six ducklings have graduated to a coop in the chicken house with the sole female mallard who had been out on the pond.  Their messes had progressed to the point where this became necessary.  Eventually, all ducks will go outside on the pond.  They are still yellow fuzz, with feathers just beginning to form.  I'd want them all white and feathered before they are introduced to deep water.

The chicks, on the other hand, are tiny but beautifully feathered out.  They remain in the large brooder in the shed and won't go to the chicken house until they are big enough to defend themselves.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


I didn't realize that March 31st would be Easter when I filled the incubator with eggs three weeks ago.  The hatch began on time and we have little chicks.

The chickens are laying a lot of eggs and the geese and duck have also started hiding their eggs in odd places around the pond.

There was a big sale on ducklings last week when my husband and grandson were in Tractor Supply.  We have a box of quackers in the basement because it is still a bit chilly to try to moderate the temperature in the brooders in the shed.  Oh, believe me, I am looking forward to a time when the nighttime temperatures will stay above freezing consistently!

After snow and sleet last week, the apricot and peach trees are showing buds and the magnolia tree is actually blooming.

I've started cleaning up the vegetable garden and bought seeds for planting.

So, this year we have all the stereotypical Easter elements and we can clearly see where all the traditions started -- with Mother Nature!

Monday, March 04, 2013


March came in like a lion and, so far, is still acting pretty lion-like.   It is very cold and we are expecting snow today and tomorrow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


We continue to work hard each day taking care of the new baby goats and their mothers.

The weather has been occasionally blustery, wet, and cold.  The first daffodils are blooming in front of the greenhouse.  I am beginning to prune bushes despite the cold and hope to be able to keep up once Spring weather arrives.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Goat Psychology 101

It got up to 74 degrees this afternoon, but I feel a little chill creeping in now.  It will rain and get much cooler tonight and the rest of the week may even be colder than normal for this time of year.

Yesterday was also balmy.  We are having a short-lived “Spring” in January.  I raked out the big barn and let some of the mother goats and babies out of their maternity stalls to get some exercise.  All the mothers and babies in the Green Barn got to go out into its fenced yard.  We are somewhere over thirty kids with some more still to come.  Two were born today so far.  I am glad I was strict on how long the buck could stay, because I appear to be coping pretty well, despite the intense management and record keeping.  My husband has been helping out.

Here is something I told him this morning after he made the mistake of dragging the new mother away from the place where her new kids were to set her up in a clean stall:

Never try to move the mother goat first.  Move the kids to the stall and let her follow.

She is in a sea of hormones.  Goats, at first, do not identify their kids visually.  They use smell and the taste of the afterbirth they’ve been licking off to establish which kids are theirs – especially in a herd of any size. 

If you pick up a newborn or even a week old goat kid, its mother becomes confused and searches for it.  She knows who you are but does not look up into your arms for her baby.  If it isn’t on the ground, she just can’t figure out where it is!  So, let her follow you and search for her kids on the ground in the new stall.  This will also have the effect of saving your back when you are wrestling with a frantic new mother. 

When Don dragged the new mother to the new stall, where I had taken the babies in advance of the struggle, she just ran back to the place she’d been licking them off.  All that was in her head is that he’d taken her away from her kids!  She didn’t even see them there in the newly prepared stall.  I had to talk her down and make a fuss over the babies to get her to sniff them and calm down from the trauma of being dragged away.  Hopefully, all is well.  They’re certainly making a good attempt at nursing.  If her colostrum comes in quickly they’ll all be happy and well.


Sunday, January 06, 2013


'Just popping in to say that kidding began on Friday.  So far, it's been slow and steady -- eleven births from five does.  Of course, that is just two days in.  We won't know what today holds until I get down to the barns.

All the preparations done in the Fall, with my brother's help, have paid off in terms of ease of housing does with their young.  And everytime I look at the full spring-fed waterer, I think of him.  Thanks!

I'll take some pictures at some point.  The kiddies are too cute not to share.  For now, I'm trying to balance doing what needs to be done with taking care of myself.