early morning summer sunrise at Mountain Glen Farm

early morning summer sunrise at Mountain Glen Farm

Monday, September 19, 2016

Unhappy Dogs, Happy Us


Unhappy dogs do not necessary translate into happy us, but this time it does.



My dogs are unhappy because I did not take them on their walk yesterday and it looks like today I will not be walking for a second day in a row.



First, I did not walk yesterday because the day before I spent most of the entire day and into the early hours of the next day pickling and canning/freezing beets.



I knew it was going to be a long job, so I asked and got the affirmative from Becky that she would help.  We decided Saturday was a good day.  Saturday came and we verified, so I started without her pulling the beets out of the ground and washing them.  By the time she arrived, about noon, I was already getting tired, so she was a welcoming sight.  She took over the washing while I gathered cooking pots. We had three large pots going at once even though the pots barely fit over the burners of my stove.  The beets were so big that they took forever to fork-soften…hours of boiling.  Then, as the beets came out of the pots, new beets went in to begin the boiling all over again.  I had a lot of beets.  



Early into the boiling process, Becky announced that she had a small high school reunion/gathering/picnic to attend.  WHAT?  She had to leave at 4:00.  It was already 2:00! If I knew that prior to starting this project, I would have rescheduled.  Then, she mentioned that she needed to bring a food item to pass.  My house was just about bare except for a good supply of our farm fresh eggs and plenty of frozen meat.  I suggested making deviled eggs and she concurred.  Now, we had to move a pot of beets off the stove to make room to make hard-boiled eggs.  Well, at least this gave me the chance to show Becky my new, never-fail method, of making hard boiled eggs with shells that slip right off. 



Deviled eggs made with a little of this and a little of that, Becky had to leave.  The beets were still in the pots of boiling water.  And, I still had to slice onions, peel and slice all the beets, make pickling liquid, pack the canning jars and process the canning jars in a hot water bath.  I made two batches of 7 pints each and decided to freeze the rest.  So, off to find and wash freezer containers.  I froze more beets than I canned.

some of the canned beets - they are worth canning for the color alone -
gorgeous ruby red




By the time the last beet was totally processed. It was after 1:00 AM.  My back was aching and I was tired. But, the beets were done and will be so tasty within the next year. I went to bed already making the decision to forego my early morning walk. Thus, unhappy dogs.  They waited at the back door for my appearance along with the cats who wanted to be fed.  Dogs do not understand a change in routine.



Today, Monday, I again decided not to take my walk.  I woke to the lovely and most friendly sound of a slight drizzle which progressed into a light rain.

 

We have been under drought conditions for weeks.  My perennial plants had started to die which is my sign to start watering the plants with the garden hose.  I had been watering daily, a different section of my gardens, for over one week now.  I was just barely keeping the plants alive.



Our pastures, due to our management techniques, were in pretty good shape and we still had plenty of grass for the herd to graze.  Glenn and I took a ride over the mountain to buy apples (my trees did not produce one apple this season – ugh!) yesterday, and we noticed all the pastures were brown and eaten down to nubbins.  We felt a bit of pride because we rotational graze resulting in better pasture quality.  Any farmer can utilize the same technique, but the majority do not.  Their loss.





And, this morning, finally…a bit of rain.  Sorry pooches…I will be holding our walk off for yet another day.


a huge toad was out enjoying the rain, too




As for the rain, keep on coming.  I am not unhappy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Moving Day


Yesterday was Labor Day.  And, we all certainly labored.



When Glenn and Becky asked me to help as the third body, fifth and sixth hands, I knew the job coming up was going to be involved.  Otherwise, I would not be asked.  I have been known to be more trouble than help.



Yesterday, was the BIG Moving Day.  Not for us, but for most of our cattle herd.



After working over three months, every day, usually with a crew but sometimes alone, to build lots and lots of fence and a water system on our new farm, Glenn decided the farm was ready for its new occupants…our cattle.

Glenn and Becky separating the herd...
cattle at back stay at Mountain Glen Farm and the cattle in the foreground are moving to the Jonestown farm


trailer in waiting for its first load of cattle


The older cows and their calves and our largest bull (the younger cows and their calves along with our young bull remain at Mountain Glen Farm) were loaded on our stock trailers and driven the 10 minutes to the new farm.  The entire process of separating, loading, driving and unloading took about five hours and five trailer loads.  I helped with the loading and tried to document the ear tags numbers of each relocating animal the best I could. Either heads kept moving or the ear tag numbers were faded or covered over with dried manure.  Glenn drove the newest trailer and Becky drove the vintage trailer. 



The process was slow. The loading area did not work well with the new trailer as the trailer was too tall.  The cows did not want to load.  One cow even tried to jump the fence to get away but Glenn physically stopped her progress and she retreated back into the loading area.  Glenn had problems with his truck as it got stuck in 4-wheel drive which was not helpful once we got on the highway.  Becky’s trailer was dragging its low-mounted jack as she tried to move up the steep hill out of the pasture. But, thank goodness, those were all minor snags.



at the Jonestown farm to unload
Once at the new farm, the cattle unloaded quickly and happily.  They were initially unloaded in the lot at the old barn.  This lot adjoins a neighbor whose steers greeted our cows at the shared fence line.  After much sniffing and smelling, the interest between the groups waned fast.  The new stock tank was easily found and the cows drank water from our new system.  Success all around.



Becky double checks my list of ear tag numbers of the 'movers'
After the first two trailer loads were safely unloaded, we returned for the next group.  At this time, some cows and their calves were separated, on different farms, and we wanted to unite them soon.  Mama cows get a bit anxious without their calves nearby.



As the last trailer was unloaded, all the cows found their offspring and they were, once again, content.



This morning, Glenn went back to check and to move the Jonestown herd from the barn lot into the first, newly-fenced pasture.  Grass is plentiful, so these critters should be well-satisfied with their food supply.  (Note: When we purchased this farm, the previous tenant had to move his cattle off immediately and we were able to rest the abused pastured for a full four months before bringing our cattle over.)



Glenn had 10 pastures permanently fenced. These large pastures will be further divided into smaller pastures with temporary electric fencing.  Our pasture management is fully rotational, so the animals get moved onto fresh grass and forage every day or two.  The pastures never get over-grazed. Over time, the pastures will continue to improve.



And, our cattle will come to know this farm as their home.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Milestone

Today, Glenn and I celebrated 40 YEARS of wedded bliss.  Those years have passed so quickly. 

At 9:30 AM, we decided to go somewhere and by 10:30 AM we were leaving the farm. We went on a day trip travelling country roads to the Natural Chimneys Regional Park.  We have lived in Virginia for 32 years and had always planned this short drive (about 50 miles) to see this natural wonder and never have until today. The weather was accommodating...sunny, in the 70's and no discernable humidity.

the photo is a bit catawampus because I had the camera sitting on a bench
with the 10 second timer set...I had to run to get into the picture

the top of the chimneys



















The park is small, but very clean and family-oriented. The chimneys themselves are located about a 30 second walk from the parking area - that was a bit of a surprise.  We expected a bit more. So, we added the short, steep walk to the top and a easy 6/10ths of a mile back through woods to the car.




We then took a different and completely random route to a restaurant for our celebratory lunch.  Live piano music was featured.  I remembered that our honeymoon dinner also featured live piano music.  This was another unplanned, yet nice addition to an already perfect day.



Glenn and I decided to try for another 10 years. 


Friday, September 2, 2016

Prelude To Fall


This morning was cooler than usual.  I actually had to don a thin sweatshirt to be comfortable.



As I left the house with my two canine buddies, I quickly realized that I had more spring in my step than was present over the past several weeks.  I wanted to walk rather than felt that I needed to walk. 



I no longer felt sluggish.  My steps came easily rather than labored. The joy had returned to my daily adventure.  Snowball was more lively, too.  Being a Pyrenees Mountain Dog, with a thick coat of fur, the change in weather suited him nicely.  I could see the sparkle back in his eyes accompanied by a smile on his face…really!



Instead of greeting me, as I left the house to begin my walk, with his usual measured and slow pace, Snowball jumped and ran and ploughed right into me.  I could tell that I would have to be careful and judiciously watch the big guy during our walk.  Snowball has accidently pushed me over once before and I ended up with a severe sprain, my entire foot turned blue and I could not walk for weeks while I recovered.  I do not need a repeat of that incident…ever! His fun could be my demise.  I have to admit that I get scared when I see Snowball running full out heading right towards me.  Quick…what should I do?  Step to the left, step to the right, stay put and hope Snowball veers around me.  I am always a bit anxious that I will make the wrong decision and the wrong move.  Snowball is just having fun…ugh!



What was noticeably absent was the high humidity – hip, hip hurray.  The current season is transitioning to the next.



The grass was also quite dry, so for the first time in months my shoes, socks and feet did not get damp, wet, or drenched, dripping with water, as usually happens daily, a result of heavy dew covering my early morning path.  It was nice not to squeak, slosh or have my feet slide about inside my shoes.   

hazy summer view

today's view - clear and detailed




In addition, the drop in humidity resulted in clearer, more focused views rather than the hazy, blurred views common in summer.  The mountains were now crisp and detailed, no longer the muddle of shapes and hues.  Each ridge, each valley, each green was distinct.  A return to 20-20 vision.



I had come back to my real world or my real world had returned to me.



Of course, this change is only due to last for a day or two until the heat and humidity return. 



Summer is not quite over yet!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Butterfly Magnet



How many butterflies do you count?

This Joe-Pye Weed bush is filled with butterflies everyday. 

What a great place to get my daily dose of HAPPY!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What Is The Probability?




 Today I had a fabulous day at the pond.  I saw three, yes three, Green Herons.  Previously, I thought I was privileged when I had seen one or two together.  But, three!  I could hardly contain my excitement. 



Look at that beautiful color...I still do not see the green, though





So, I was a bit preoccupied on my return walk back to the house.  I usually keep a roving eye looking for my next great experience.  Today, my mind wandered but my eyes steadied on the ground where I was walking. The grass in my path is over a foot tall and I try to keep a constant eye so that I do not trip on a vine or wiry stem.  I do that quite often and end up with a wrenched body for the pleasure – ugh!



Suddenly, a mere foot, I repeat…foot as in twelve inches, in front of my toe tips, a skunk wandered out from the taller 24” grass pasture into my path.  YIKES!  I think we scared each other.

Bad tail day?




I hate skunks.  Actually, I hate the rank odor which seems to linger around for days.  The smell makes me sick and I get a headache.  Within a second, I made a 180 and moved away from the imminent danger as quickly as possible.  When I felt I was out of spraying range, I turned.  Both dogs had been behind me.  Now, Buddy was still at my side, but Snowball had to investigate this creature nose to nose.  The skunk’s tail rose rapidly and I saw Snowball tumble to the ground and try to rub the offensive spray off.  The smell drifted swiftly to my downwind location.



I continued to yell to Snowball to come to me, but like usual, he does not listen to a word I say. He continued to follow the skunk as the skunk slowly moved away.  I really do not know how many times Snowball got sprayed, but it was more than one time. Sadly, the odor did not deter Snowball one bit.



Finally, when I saw that the skunk was a decent distance away from me, I quickly proceeded to leave the noxious area. 



I have never, never, had this close an encounter with a skunk in all my life.  EVER!!!!  What is the probability of this occurrence happening?  Hopefully, only once in MY lifetime.  But, I know I will be apprehensive from here on out when I take my walks. 



I gave Glenn a call, mid-incident, and told him my predicament.  He replied with, “Well, that is to be expected in the country.”  REALLY.  I do not think so.  I could see I was getting no sympathy from him.



Snowball will smell like skunk for weeks.  At least, we will be able to tell where he is hiding out.



Those three herons were wonderful!