spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Most Welcomed Visitor

Hip, hip, hooray!

Finally, we got rain!  It has been about 5 weeks since we had any precipitation, and along with daily high (90's) temperatures for the past several weeks, every living plant was showing a level of stress.  Some plants were wilted, some were dying, some had already died.

video



all that grey is torrential rain pouring down,  imagine all those shrubs blowing wildly
(you had to see the video,which unfortunately is not uploading, to get the full impact)

Yesterday morning, the forecast was predicted at 30% heavy rain in the afternoon, with the percentage increasing to 60% heavy rain in the evening.  I sat outside watching the clouds move in.  I was getting excited. At 4:00 P.M., the little droplets of rain could be heard on the tin roof of the pergola, and then...major lightning, thunder, and rain.

Buddy is scared of loud noises, and when I opened the door to the house, he made a mad dash inside.  Buddy has never been inside the house before, but I guess he thought any place was safer than the outside deck.  On his own accord, Buddy went into the kitchen, found a corner, and curled up.  There he stayed.  Nothing or no one was going to make him move.

The grand total - 1.3 inches.  That amount of rain will get us comfortably through another week as the temperatures are supposed to continue in the 90's.

One more day, beyond today, without that rain; would have been disastrous.  We were crossing the line from a substantial drought into a devastating drought - not a place we ever want to be.

After the storm passed, the sun came out.  The earth had been refreshed.  The birds were singing.  Buddy is back in his yard.

I took a short walk.  It was very humid.  I felt like I was in a jungle, as if by magic; the plants plumped and multiplied, closing the immediate world in around me.  Works for me!


Unfortunately, we did lose another huge tree along the farm lane.  From the deck, Glenn saw the strike hit at the end of the pasture.  Later, on further inspection, we discovered the damaged, yellow-poplar; which is sited in a narrow strip between the pasture and our farm road.  Some of its large, fallen branches blocked the road.  The three stems of the tree clump all displayed straight, exposed, fresh wounds so characteristic of a lightning strike.  The only positive is that this tree is in the exact same location where we had lost several trees earlier this spring.  Glenn never had a chance to clean up that old storm damage.  So, he does not have a new mess, just more of a mess.


Hmmm...maybe he was waiting for...no, not possible.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Searching for the Right (?) Answers

I like to stay at home, on the farm, a lot!

Recently, within the past two weeks, Glenn and I have made several, farm-related outings.

We have visited three sheep operations.  One reason is to learn more about different breeds, care, and to gather as much information that will help us select the right fit for our current/proposed farm operations.  We have never raised any sheep before, so this decision is definitely pushing our comfort zone.  The introduction of sheep should enhance our cattle herd, not replace it.  After each visit, our goals become a bit more geared, fine-tuned to our strategies.  We are making progress.  The second reason is to actually make contacts for our forthcoming purchase.  To view the farm where our future flock originates is crucial in taking the initial plunge.  Why start a new venture so-so, when we can begin near proficient?  We are learning volumes during these 'crash course' visits.  Time well spent even if it is off-farm.

Last evening, Glenn, Becky and I stopped in at Broadview Ranch located right here in Rockbridge County.  Alan Tilson and his daughter Rebecca, the main management of the herd and marketing, were our tour guides.  This operation, like ours, utilizes the grass-fed, intensive approach to production.  Viewing another, similar farming operation is beneficial in  our own  improvement process.  The bonus of this particular visit is that it was like a mini reunion.  I use to work with Alan years ago in the real estate business and Becky knew Rebecca from their high school days.  Alan and Rebecca  plan to make a visit to Mountain Glen Farm just as soon as we get the sheep.

Rebecca, Alan, and Glenn at Broadview Ranch

Snickering, at our sheep, will not be allowed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Moment of Hope

Yesterday morning as I woke, I immediately looked out over the farm.  The house sits on a ridge and I get a fabulous vantage point of the majority of our farmlands and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond. The scene is always one of tranquility.  What a perfect way to begin my day!



The first image to catch my eye was that of mist rising from the pond.  My thoughts immediately focused on relief as the haze indicated that the air temperature was cooler than the temperature of the pond water.  I ran outside to take advantage of the moment.  Regrettably, as the day advanced, we were back in routine of hot and dry weather.  I cannot remember when hot and dry was not the routine.  I was compelled to water the gardens - veggies first, perennials second.

Earlier in the week, Glenn purchased two soaker-type hoses.  Where have these gems been all my gardening life?  I am able to continuously water without the level of our well water being drawn down to empty. Eureka!

As I started to place the hoses, gingerly winding them through the established plants, I noticed that the plants were not only stressed, but they were beginning to die.  Leaves were more than wilted and shriveled, they were brown and dropping off.  A wilted perennial might survive, but a brown (dead) perennial is destined for the burn pile.  I waited way too long to start my watering regime.  Now, my only hope is better late than not at all.

The grass is on its own.  It is browning and crunchy, but usually responds positively and rapidly after a soaking rain.  Of course, we just need that soaking rain.  The green color will return to those brown blades. 

The pastures look brown from a distance, but they are growing fairly well with our new management.  The tops of the tall grass have matured and dried, but there are thick, green blades below providing adequate food for our cattle.

Driving past other farms, I shake my head at the brown fields that are grazed to nubs, exposing the bare, hard ground.  I am glad we have made the changes necessary to maintain healthy, sustainable pastures.

Glenn, Becky and I talk up our management.  We are passionate.  Some farmers grasp the method with interest and others reject it, keeping to their traditional methods - whatever....We are thrilled with our results and the recent weather conditions only reinforces our decision - the changes we made were brilliant!

No, the day was not cooler.  We did not receive any rain.  But, we are managing to 'ride out the storm' or, more accurately, 'ride out the unstorm'.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Great Escape, or maybe not...



This morning as I sat at the computer checking the weather, my e-mails and such; I heard a very close 'moo'.  I turned my head to look out the window to see if one of the two steers in the barn lot was next to the window.  I did not see anything but the tall, pasture grass swaying in the early morning breeze.

I heard a few more 'moos' in very close proximity.  Strange, I thought; knowing that the main herd was in a distant pasture.  Wrong...

I stepped out of the office, looked around the corner, out the living room windows and saw a bunch of backs.  Cattle backs to be exact.  Oh my gosh...the herd is in the pasture by the house, not where they are supposed to be, and the main pasture gate is open.  As I ran from the house, I called frantically up to Glenn, who was still sleeping, 'Cattle are out!'

I ran across the yard as fast as I could, which is not very fast, to the open gate.  I was expecting to find half the herd in my yard snacking on my precious perennials and fruit trees.  I was so lucky.  There were two cows and one calf, standing on their side of the open gate, with similar gazes across their faces as if they were thinking, 'Should we or shouldn't we?'  I quickly chained the gate closed while they still deliberated, saving my plantings from mass munching and trampling - whew!  I am so fortunate that I am an early riser.





Glenn finally came out to survey the situation.  He went out to the pasture where the cows should have been and discovered a very dead, very decayed tree had fallen over the fence, in the wooded corner, creating the perfect escape route.  Cattle are masters at finding openings in fences.  And for some reason, they always want to be on the opposite side.  So, fixing the fence was the priority of the morning.


The situation would have been a whole lot worse if the herd had wandered out through the main pasture gate; through the yard making a stop in the vegetable garden to partake of a snack, especially one as tempting as the sweet corn; continue on down the driveway passing through the woods; and 7/10ths of a mile later reaching the second busiest highway, Route 11, in the county.  That is how my mind works - worst case scenario- go figure.

In reality, the cows escaped into a field that did not have water access, they got thirsty, Glenn opened the gate to the upper stock tank, the cows went to drink and the herd is now back where they belong - simple.


Note:  It is difficult to take a picture, at least for me, of a fence in the woods - if you look hard at the left photo, you can see the fence in the foreground and the fallen tree in the background.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's About the Farm

My brain is exploding with the current events. 

I was prepared to be political, voice more of my opinion until my daughter reminded me that it is about the farm, our refuge which provides for our hopes, our goals, our dreams. 



Mountain Glen Farm is a place that we cherish as a family, a place that gives us peace. A place where I am content.





Sure, I understand that we are part of a larger entity, a world that is full of opinions to which I might agree, disagree, or be indifferent.  I can still have my own opinion.  Nevertheless, I understand that we, as Americans, all need to live and work together to strengthen and to support this great country - the U.S.A.

Here, at the farm; we place value, an importance, on our life, on our family, on our friends, and on our all-inclusive surroundings.  This combination designs our retreat, our quiet place.  The farm gives us reprieve.

Where is your place, your own personal sanctuary, in your life? 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thirsty Cows Need Their Water

A few days ago, Glenn attached the household water system to the old, underground  pipe which begins at the first spring and ends in the basement of the house.

When we first moved to the farm in '89, we use to get our household water from that spring.  During that time, the water was pumped from the spring-filled reservoir; uphill 800 feet through the underground pipe to the house.  A portion of the spring water filled a nearby stock tank via a second, smaller pipe.  The surplus water flowed into a creek.  The spring was sufficient to provide adequate water for the herd and to provide us with our household water needs.  Until....

A few years back, our annual drought was worse than previous years and the spring went dry.  We had to drill a well, and fast.

Initially, that well was questionable, at best, in providing all our household water (that is a story for another time). The well is very adequate, in terms of quantity, now.

herd coming to the stock tank

 

The spring came back in time and it is still used to fill the stock tank; although, it no longer provides our household water.  Most times, the spring furnishes ample water for the cattle.  That is until the drought and the high temperatures arrive mid-summer; and the animals' need for water increases.


slurpin'
If the entire herd visits this stock tank at the same time, the tank is rapidly drained, leaving the cows needing more water.  The slow spring flow into the tank cannot keep up with the water intake of the herd - gallons and gallons.  An adult cow can drink 10 gallons at one visit and as much as 25 gallons during the course of the day.  That is a lot of water.  I can watch the water level drop within the tank as just one cow drinks.  Now, multiply that by 50 cows and the 500 gallon stock tank is empty in minutes; leaving some of those cows wondering where their fair shares went as they try to lick the wetness at the bottom of the tank.

Then, Glenn had an 'aha' moment.  That pipe from the spring to the house still exists.  If it is reconnected at the house, the stock tank can be filled faster utilizing the household well, when necessary, with just a turn of a valve.  The cattle will be satisfied.  And, the spring will eventually catch-up. So, Glenn made that reconnection.

old spring box covering the location where the spring actually exits the ground

We are pleased to share our water with our cattle.  Maybe the laundry will not get done that day (oh, well - no pun intended this time) since we need to be cautious with our own water usage, but we will not have any cows suffering from dehydration either.  A thirsty cow is not a happy cow, and we want all of our cows to be happy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tech-challenged

Let me put it bluntly, I hate technology.  Yes, I know, that is a pretty broad statement, and I probably should be a bit more judicious with my language.  OK, I hate SOME technology.

Today, it is my computer.  I am trying to e-mail a bunch, 77 to be exact, of pictures.  I have been trying for several hours, trying different procedures, and nothing seems to work.

I have e-mailed these same pictures before, to the same recipient, with no problems.  All I did differently was rename all 77 pictures.  And now, they sit in their folder.  I can open the folder, I can view each photo; I just cannot e-mail the photos.  I have tried dividing the folder into smaller-sized attachments, but that does not work either.

I guess I could try e-mailing the photos one by one, but that would not only be tedious, but that would be crazy!

Granted, I admit that I am computer-challenged, but this is a task I have repeatedly executed.  Why will it not work today?  What am I doing wrong?

All I can say is...technology...it is great when it works and a nuisance when it doesn't.

Enjoy your evening.  I will try to enjoy mine.



P.S. Hurray!  We have received one tenth of an inch of rain this evening - not much, but a little rain is better than no rain during a drought.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Random Sunflowers

The actual air temperatures persist in the 90's to the upper 90's.  The forecast is not changing any time soon.  The grass is crunchy, my flowers are dwindling, but random sunflowers continue to bob their sunny heads throughout my gardens. 




This year, in most every perennial bed, sunflowers popped up.   I have about 35, plus or minus, random sunflowers currently growing. Sunflowers not planted by me; but by, I am guessing, birds. I routinely keep the bird feeders filled - winter, spring, summer and fall. The main ration is grey-striped sunflower seeds. Thus, the most probable source of these garden beacons.




I had never had this happen before.  I would always get a couple of unsolicited sunflowers, but not 35. 

Of course, even though they are a bit out of place among most of the other plants, they do have a tendency to tower at 5 or 6 feet, I do not have the inclination to pull them out. They add color when color is lacking.  They put a grin on my face.  I am glad to have lots of random sunflowers.




The hoot is that the places where I purposely sowed sunflower seeds - nothing.  That's right, bare ground.  I presume I am not the sunflower planting aficionado that the blue jays, cardinal or even sapsuckers happen to be.

So, I will just sit back and welcome what my feathered friends have offered me.  I will think of these haphazard  blooms as repayment/thanks for my benevolence to them.




Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dill in My Kitchen

I cut most of my dill, which was growing in the garden, three days ago.  These plants are the ones that self-seeded from last year's small crop that Becky had planted.  I have another, smaller, later crop that is still growing from seed I sowed this spring.  I did not know how large the self-seeded harvest would be and I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of dill for my bread-making and cooking.



Anyways...I brought a bunch of the long-stemmed herb into my kitchen and laid it on the counter.  The aroma was astonishing almost immediately.  Boy, do I dig the smell of dill.

My intent was to remove the seed heads and the feathery foliage from the stalk for drying.  I got busy.  The dill remained on my counter.  And, the kitchen was infused with such a delightful aroma.  By the second day, Glenn was getting a bit concerned over the lack of usable counter space.  The kitchen continued to be full of the savory, dill scent.  I spent a lot of time going through the kitchen drawing in large breaths, as I went about other chores.

Today, I finally got around to the dill.  It is already dried and ready to go into air-tight storage.  That was easy.  I almost hate to pack it up as I am still enjoying the 'essence of dill', which is still so prevalent.



I guess I can always open a jar of the dried herb whenever I feel the need for my 'dill fix'.  It will be handy, right there, on my kitchen shelf.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Old Homestead

Today, I took that rare, away from the farm, errand run - post office, paint store, lunch with Glenn at his invitation; lastly, dropping Glenn off to pick up his log truck. 


old, log tobacco barn at new location




Earlier this week, Glenn (my Glenn) helped Glenn Wilson, a friend and log home professional, transport the logs of an old tobacco barn from Danville, Virginia to their new location in the south end of our county.  This reconstructed log barn will become some one's home.  It will be beautiful. 



old, existing chimney on site incorporated into the new home

Our actual acquaintance with Glenn Wilson is relatively recent; although, we have been aware of his descendants for years.  Early in the chain of ownership; our farm, Mountain Glen Farm, use to be the farm of Glenn W.'s ancestors.

Prior to our purchase of the 182+/- acres in 1989, Glenn W. disassembled the old, log home which was located down hill from the farm's current dwelling.  This log home was intentionally built near one of the large springs found on the property.  We knew the site; but we never saw the home, until recently.

Glenn W. masterfully reconstructed the two-story log home (called a 'mansion' in the deed) as accurately original as possible, nearby, for his own residence.  Touring his home was like going back in time.  I could picture that house back on our farm - imagining the kids running in and out, livestock being tended in the adjacent field, household water being retrieved from the spring in a wooden bucket.  Old fruit trees and spring daffodils continue to mark the site.  I used the brick chimney remains to border some of my flower beds, as a kind of connection with those who came here before me.  Those bricks have real value.

I wish that house was still located on Mountain Glen Farm.  But, we would never have had the finances to return the house to its former character.  The structure would have continued to deteriorate under our watch.  Becky was glad that Glenn W. was able to save and restore a precious part of local history - his family's history.  I concur.  One less tangible lost to the past, one more to appreciate.  And, we are left with an area in the lower pasture we call, 'The Old Homestead'.  I can live with that!


Note:  Look at the large photo at the top of the blog - the tree in front of the pond is located at the site of  'The Old Homedstead'.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

It is HOT, sizzling hot, and so uncomfortable.  I do not want to move, to eat, to do anything; except, maybe go down to our farm pond to cool off in the water.  But, those fish...

This is the third year we have had the gratification of swimming and relaxing in our pond.

The first year, after Glenn finished construction, the pond filled up enough for us to actually 'get in' for the entire month of September.  Glenn and I were in the water almost every evening.  The respite was marvelous.

February, of the next year, Glenn purchase a bunch of 'baby' fish - blue gill, redear, catfish.  They arrived in large plastic bags.  I remember Glenn going around the edge of the pond dumping out the bags.  The little fish seemed to disappear.  By May, our pond visits began again.  I splashed into the water.  I swam.  I treaded.  I floated. Then, it happened.  I felt something strike at my leg.  Then, again.  Those darn fish were trying to nibble - ME!  I discovered that if I remained in continuous motion, they would not bother me.  But, how long can a person, that person being me, swim.  Not long.  So, I purchased an air mattress for my floating pleasure - problem solved.

This year, the third year, those fish have grown quite large - eating size.  They continue to strike and we continue to utilize floats.

Glenn has decided that he wants those fish even larger, so he occasionally feeds them pond fish pellets.  He goes to the edge of the small dock and tosses.  Within a second, there is an out and out feeding frenzy.  Those catfish gorge on the pellets as if they have never eaten.  The lesser fish eat more mannerly as they peck at the small, floating morsels.



At first, I was appalled.  Bigger fish...is someone crazy?  Pretty soon I will have 'Jaws' coming after me.  Fortunately, there is an up side to the feeding...the fish are no longer interested in assaulting us.  And, for me, that is huge.  Feed first, swim second.  Let's go to the pond...



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Perfect Pound Cake - For Real

Not only are we experiencing a heat wave which is expected to last at least one full week, but we are also suffering drought conditions.  The vegetable garden will have to be watered.  My perennials are green, but the flowering has declined and faded from view.  I, myself, am wilted as my 'optimum for comfort' air temperature range is between 70 and 72 degrees.  I may be exaggerating a tad, but not much.  Once the temperature rises above 75, my energy level drops and I am, totally, useless.  I go into a resting, no activity mode.

At 6:30 AM (pre heat), I did a bit of garden clean-up, cut dill weed to dry (I make a mean dill rye bread), and washed two loads of laundry which I hung outside to dry (that should take about 15 minutes).  By 8:00 o'clock, I was dripping.  I came inside to read a book (currently Wuthering Heights - a classic, but difficult to understand the language of the day - c. 1800) while my body cooled down with only the aid of a ceiling fan.

Pound cake, which I made last night, was on my lunch menu.  I added a scoop of last year's home grown raspberries (frozen but thawed, of course) and a big, and I mean big, dollop of Cool Whip.  Oh...I cannot forget the tall glass of ice cold milk. Perfect!

yummy!

My pound cake recipe is a true pound cake using a pound of butter, a pound of confectioner's sugar, a pound of eggs, and a pound of flour.  What makes this cake especially tasty, I am sure, is the use of our farm, fresh eggs.  What better way to use the surplus eggs than in a cake.  And, color.  You know how I like color.  The cake is a delightful yellow due to the incredibly yellow yolks of our eggs.  I use my Grandmother's old kitchen scale to measure out the ingredients.  My Grandmother has been gone for year, but using her 'stuff' stirs up wonderful memories.  She was a good cook; so perhaps, I will acquire some of her expertise through osmosis by using her cooking utensils.  Wouldn't that be fantastic!










My pound cake is good, but it is never as good as what my Grandmother Tomany use to make - a single layer, white, square cake frosted with a thin coating of chocolate; embossed with crossed lines, dragging the tines of a fork, for decoration.  The frosting hardened within minutes.  The cake was ready to eat.  And, delicious! I do not think anyone in the family was able to replicate the unique flavor of Grandma's cake.  I believe her use of lard for the shortening was the secret.  I have not had the nerve to try using lard in my cakes, so I guess I will never know. In  any case, you had to be quick to get a piece of Grandma's cake before it was completely devoured by all the cousins.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Din at Dusk

Last evening, around dusk, I went out to check the chicken's water.  On my leisurely stroll to the chicken house, I was overwhelmed with a loud, constant, unpleasant din. (check out the video) I knew immediately what I was listening to, no mistake, as I have heard the same sound periodically during my lifetime - CICADAS!

video

cicada damage (brown tips) on ornamental pear 






Earlier this spring, I had noticed damage to my apple trees and to my ornamental pear trees.  The damaged looked familiar - brown, dying branch tips - typical cicada damage.  But, I did not hear the recognizable sound produced by the males utilizing their tymbals (ridged membranes) which generate 'music' to seduce the females.  (Yes, I had to research these details) So, I abandoned my initial conclusion.  Occasionally, I would consider an alternative reason for this type of damage without reaching a definitive answer.

cicada damage (close-up view) on my apple tree
  

Last night, my initial presumption was confirmed - the cicadas are back, they have emerged!

Instead of being lured to sleep by the usual, calming night sounds; I was distracted by the objectionable racket.  The clamor of cicadas have nothing on the soothing, chirping of crickets.  Sleep finally prevailed.

This morning I searched the Internet and  learned that these cicadas are the Great Southern Brood, 13-year Brood XIX.  They are documented. They are authentic.  And, they are here to stay for the next few weeks.

Now, to endure these next several weeks without getting irritated - you know, kind of like tolerating a crying child or whispering in a movie theater.  You know the annoyance will stop, but when?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Bright Idea - Freedom

Yesterday, I saw a flash of a white-tailed deer tail.  The waving white flag barely peeked above our tall, pasture grasses, so I am guessing the tail belonged to a fawn.  It was like a flash of light, visible for a second, then gone.

Speaking of light, I was on my soap box at the grocery store today - spreading the word on the pending demise of the incandescent light bulb. Well, I was actually in the checkout line; metaphorically, it was my soap box. I really had several cashiers worked up.

Yes, I left the farm to go out today - first, to Donald's to pick-up our whole beef, ground beef we just had processed. We now have a freezer full of USDA Inspected ground beef, and it is for sale.  Since I was already dressed to be out in public (a totally different wardrobe than the clothes, basically rags I regularly wear on the farm - use your imagination), I decided to go grocery shopping (which has been on my 'to do' for over one week now) and to purchase a few sewing supplies for a potential Christmas gift project.  Let's see if I will finish said project this Christmas or the one in 2012.

Back to my soap box...I am angry that the recent incandescent light bulb legislation, to save and continue to use this icon, did not pass.  I happen to like the incandescent.  In contrast, the new, 'green' alternative (curly-type) is expensive; does not last as long as claimed (I have been talking with people who have tried the new technology); is dim (especially for close, detailed work - perfect for a lounge); is dangerous; and is supporting the Chinese economy rather than the U.S. economy.  The new bulbs are made in China.  I guess if you need a job you can always relocate to Shanghai - Mandarin anybody?

Is anyone out there as concerned as I am???  If so, please call your members of Congress and ask them to vote YES to save the bulb on, what I hear, will be a second vote.

Or, have you heard what Texas is considering.  Texas has a plan to produce incandescent light bulbs and sell them in-state; thus, bypassing Federal regulations.  Call your state government and strongly advocate for a similar program in your state.  I will be contacting Bob McDonnell here in Virgina.  Even though this current governor continues to move Virginia in the right direction, I still want my views known.  Virginia operates in the black, was recently named the number one state in the country for business opportunities, and is challenging the legality of Obama Care in court - all without a tax increase.  I am fortunate to live in Virginia and not, hmmmmm - Illinois or California come to mind.

Glenn noticed and mentioned that I sure am getting political.  Maybe, but I do know that I do not want any more of my rights/freedoms taken away by our Government.  The list of 'no longer have' keeps growing, and it continues in a subversive manner.  Today it's the light bulb...what will be on that list tomorrow?

Stargazer lily update - the aroma intensifies as more flower buds open 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Farm Dogs

This morning I went outside early, trying to beat the sun out, so that I could take a succession of sunrise photos.  I did beat the sun, but I was fooled as the sky was overcast.  A perfect morning to finish my mulching, but not to take sunrise photos. 

I am happy to report that I have finished mulching and weeding, for the moment, all the perennial beds in the upper yard.  And, I have only three small islands to finish in the lower yard.  Now, I can relax my weeding chores for, at least, a day or two. 

      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Farm dogs...we have two - Jake, affectionately known as the 'old man' at 12 years old and Buddy lovingly known as 'Bad Buddy'.  Buddy still seems like a puppy at 16 months old.

Jake is a collie - the Lassie type.  We went to look, I repeat, only look at his litter.  We were actually searching for a short-haired female puppy.  We left the breeder with a fluffy, long-haired male puppy in tow.  It was a great decision.  Jake developed from a lively, playful puppy for Becky into a loyal, constant companion for Glenn and me.  He is no guard dog, but he not a roamer either.  Our previous dog wandered, not only around our 182 acre farm, but also on a good deal of the northern part of Rockbridge County.  When Pepper died, Jake mourned.  Jake befriended the three cats.  At times I could not tell if Jake acted like a cat or if the cats acted like dogs.  Their friendship was mutual, they took care of each other.

Jake

After several years, we all decided another dog was in order - you know that 'pack animal' mentality.  The cats were helpful, but not as fulfilling as another dog.  So, Becky and I drove to see a litter of border collies.  I actually chose Buddy because he looked the least, from his brothers and sisters, like a skunk.  I hate skunks.  Also, he was one of the few long-haired pups which made him look so cuddly.  How could we go wrong?  Home we drove, puppy on my lap.

After a short period of adjustment,  Buddy became mates with Jake and the three cats - pleasant for the most part with a bit of rough-housing between the dogs and a tad of hostility with the cats.  But, what is a modest amount of brawling between 'siblings'?


Buddy

The adjustment between Buddy and me was not quite as easy.  Buddy is lovable, a shadow companion, likes attention; but he is also super active, and has a mind all his own.  Buddy is, what I call, a trouble-maker; thus, the rename to Bad Buddy.  The first thing Buddy did when arriving at our farm was to dig up a significant portion of my perennial plants.  Now, you see my problem - I love my garden.  I replanted the same hosta nine times.  He moved on.  One day I noticed his paws were all full of dirt, so I went to investigate and found that my two-year-old sour cherry tree was totally undermined, all roots exposed.  Every day Buddy dug up a different plant.  On reading some literature concerning border collie behavior, I learned (too late) that he was exhibiting normal border collie behavior.  I must live with it - oh no! 

Buddy and I have finally bonded.  He has stopped most of his plant excavation in exchange for a never-ending game of fetch.  Buddy brings me twigs to throw, as well as 8' long sticks, and once tried to play fetch with a log that I could barely throw due to its weight.  Buddy returned it to me in his teeth.  I ignored him until I found a suitable stick.
Fetching a stick - Buddy is so fast he has to really put on his brakes to stop (notice the dust)






I took Buddy to school at a nearby PetSmart store.  He was teacher's pet, in fact, the pet of every customer who walked through the door.  Buddy was very popular.  Buddy exhibited skill and intelligence immediately.  He became the 'go to' dog when the instructor needed to demonstrate.  Buddy always performed.  Back at home, Buddy ignored my commands.  He would only perform when Jake would wander by and follow my directions with ease.  Talk about jealousy. 

Ultimately, we love both Jake and Buddy and we are so lucky to have them both as part of our farm family!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The State of the House

My house is a mess - no kidding, a real mess.

I admit my housekeeping skills are questionable.  You know where I would rather be...in the garden.  I would rather be weeding than, let's say, dusting or vacuuming.

But, the mess is more than just a little country dust or a little country dirt.

I blame the state of the house on the active renovation of Matt's bedroom (why not?) and a few other side projects.

The idea was to start and finish one, time-consuming project - Matt's room.  Still incomplete, Glenn and I veered off working on an expanded storage area/craft room in the basement. 

Did I say basement?  Oh, I should not even mention the basement, but since I did...ours is a true basement - you know, one of those below ground level, dungeon-type caverns that presides, unassuming, below the main living area of the house.  The place where the farm clothes and boots hang out (mud and all), the place where the wood furnace resides (not used in the summer, but the firewood and fire-starting material are stockpiled), the place where all the recycling accumulates (aluminum, plastic, glass, tin, miscellaneous paper), the place where the laundry hangs to dry in the winter (I rarely use the dryer, "Duck!"), the place where three freezers are lined up (got to keep all that garden produce and beef somewhere), the place where Glenn's workshop is found (cluttered with tools, paint and lumber), the place where odds and ends of furniture are warehoused, the place where the summer canning is stored, the place where the second washer (delegated for those filthy work clothes - the ones soiled with mud, oil and manure) is hooked-up and the place where the tidbits of 'junk' are dumped. 

The basement is not very large. As you can imagine, organizing such a space is quite a Herculean task.  Now, squeeze in a craft room - one up side is that I will have a fitting work place to return to an old interest - creating stained glass. 

Mind boggling is an understatement!

Somehow, when you go to clean/organize one area, you usually make more of a mess before you make it better.  Now, multiply that by several, ongoing projects and you (meaning I) have a house that has a chaos problem.  And, there are still those farm chores that have to be done daily.  Furthermore, do not forget the time that flies.  Fortunately, I am seeing improvement - a little, very little every day - hurray!

The best part, though, is that I can walk out into the yard and, like today, eye my crepe myrtle in radiant bloom, despite the presence of Japanese beetles who have been known to eat every last flower bud (I carry a jar of gasoline for just such encounters), and I am happy.


fuchsia-colored crepe myrtle

notice the crepe-like petals - Amazing!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meet the Herd


Howdy....

Let me introduce you to some of the herd, the real 'meat' of the farm (pun intended).

South Poll (red) - the Southern Mama Cow Breed


Mountain Glen Farm's new direction - South Poll  
 100% grass fed, grass finished

getting refreshment at the watering 'hole'

calf getting refreshment, too

head honcho
Little Red - Mountain Glen Farm's herd bull
<>
 
Son of Little Red
future South Poll breeding bull





Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flerd?

Yesterday, Glenn worked off farm for his friend Phillip.  He was the yarder operator on Phillip's logging job in the south end of the county.  As the yarder operator, Glenn ran the piece of equipment that pulls the cut logs up slope (usually very steep terrain) to the log landing.  Ever see the television program, 'Ax Men'?  The yarder has a 40' tower with cables attached.  A carriage slides up and down the cables.  Chokers are attached to the carriage.  The carriage goes down with three dangling chokers.  These chokers are fastened around the cut logs.  The logs are cabled up slope to the landing where they are loaded onto logs trucks for hauling to the sawmill.

That being said, Glenn was late getting home.  And, we had an appointment to go view some sheep, really 3-month-old lambs, at a fella's farm - a 90 minute drive away.  We arrived at dusk.

lambs looking for a new home


'Sheep?' you say.  You thought we raised cattle.

We do raise cattle, but...Glenn is determined to make the farm work more for us, then us for the farm.

Cattle are grazers (grass eaters); thus, they leave the unpalatable, more woody vegetation which continues to grow in the pastures, taking up valuable space for grass.  Sheep are grazers/foragers - they will eat more of the undesirable plants and weeds (briers, thistle, tree sprouts) along with the grass.  The sheep will be our bush hog (mower).  Or, at least, that is the plan.  Again, less mechanical methods and less fuel utilized results in a better environment.  And, the quality of grass is improved along the way.

We did not make any purchase, it would have been difficult trying to get 10-12 pretty good-sized lambs into the back of my Blazer, but we are serious about this next step.

Stay tuned for further developments concerning our transition from a herd of cattle to a flerd (flock & herd) of sheep and cattle.  I am biting my nails...especially at the thought of having both a bull and a ram together - sounds like a risky undertaking to me. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Posy Passion a.k.a. Star Power

OK, I will admit it, I love flowers.  Are you getting tired of my flower photos yet?  I warn you...more are coming.

I think my love of flowers comes from my love of color.  And, what better way to express color than with flowers - especially those grown in my own yard.  Throughout the growing season, I produce white flowers, black flowers (well almost, the color is actually a deep, dark purple) and every color of the spectrum between.

And, flowers that are not only colorful, but are also fragrant - double WOW!

Add uniqueness, texture, composition, relation to other plants, growth habit.  All these features come into play when I evaluate a flower's attraction.  Each particular flower has its own assets, qualities.  But, my final decision to include a specific floral selection in my garden is based on pure likability.  If I like it, I plant it.  If it thrives - yeah!  If it declines, I dig it up and try a new location - works for me!

One, particularly pallid (basically white or pastel pink) flower, but one that excites me is my Stargazer lily.  The Stargazer lily is both showy, in size, and aromatic - attracts a load of butterflies, and it attracts me.



143+ Stargazer lily flowers and buds


I planted one bulb several years ago.  Today, just as the first of the flower buds opened, I counted 143+ more buds - 143+ more blooms to adore.  Can you believe it?  One bulb and now 143 flowers.  I wonder what the number will be next year.  This lily is one of the easiest flowers to grow and one that pays so much dividend - plant the bulb, delight in the flowers, cut the spent stalks in the fall and wait for the new stems to grow to maturity next summer.  How easy is that?






 
My favorite characteristic of my Stargazer lily is that this lily exudes, and I do mean exudes, an intense, and I do mean intense, sweetness discernible from several feet.  I make a solid effort to walk near, if not to this plant daily during the flowering stage for the fragrance alone.  The scent inebriates me, and I keep going back for more - whiffs, that is.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Night Sounds

In the summer, I sleep next to an open window, in fact within inches, for a couple of reasons.

One reason is to receive the cool breezes the night air delivers.  This respite is particularly anticipated after a day of high temperature and high humidity.  We have no air-conditioning in our home, but none is needed on the farm, at least at night.  The fresh air is so much more desirable - fragrant and calming - perfect for a decent night's sleep.

Second, and just as worthy, are the night sounds I enjoy as I drift off to sleep - the croaking of the frogs at the pond, the chirping crickets, the whoosh of the air currents trembling the leaves in the nearby maple, and especially Sam singing his repertoire.

Sam is one of two resident mockingbirds.  Omie is his mate.  ('Sam and Omie's' is my favorite Outer Banks eatery, so I decided to compliment the establishment in naming our faithful mockingbirds - they hang out in our yard, year after year) Sam sings most of the day; and now as I discovered music flowing in through my window, that he also sings most of the night.  I have enjoyed him at 11:00 PM, midnight, 1:00 AM...whatever time I retire.  I wonder, does Sam ever sleep? 

I opted to call him Sam during the daylight hours and Crazy Sam at night - seems logical to me.

a night sky at the farm

Monday, July 11, 2011

New, for us, Pasture Management

After attending a meeting  of the Virginia Grass and Forage Council in January 2010 and listening to a talk given by Greg Judy on 'mob grazing', Glenn decided, right then and there, to change the pasture management on our farm.

The basics of the system are simple.  In reality, it is like returning to the natural management of the old prairies - you know, the time when the buffalo roamed.

Glenn started a partial conversion during 2010, but made the complete transformation this year, 2011.

moving the herd













cattle moving toward the electric fence gate
cattle moving into new unit
We totally removed haying from our management (yep, even sold all the equipment - haybine, rake and baler).  This new system relies on 100% grazing by the herd, even in winter, yes....even with snow on the ground (purchased hay can supplement the feeding during those rare, severe winters if needed). The cattle herd grazes a small part of the pasture, usually delineated with electrical fencing, for one day.  They are moved onto a fresh section of grass daily, thus; the cattle get more nutritious grass to eat and the pastures are not abused.  These small grazing units are not revisited by the cattle for at least 60 days, an adequate period for regrowth and recuperation.

electric fence separating grazing units

This type of management produces a multitude of benefits:  soil improves naturally due to an increase in soil microbes and earthworms; which in turn,  improve the soil's structure resulting in an increase in rainfall capture (no runoff), and the addition of more organic matter (carbon, CO2); farming costs decrease due to reduced fuel consumption (remember, haying and the constant back and forth across the fields has been eliminated), the purging of commercial fertilizers, and the abolition of bovine additives such as hormones and other injected substances. 

unit just grazed
unit ready to be grazed

The results...healthier soil, healthier grass - better grass growth and better quality feed,healthier cattle and less impact on the ecosystem.

And, this management practice has already resulted in substantial improvements for Mountain Glen Farm.

We no longer have any hayfields (boohoo - I like to hay), the pastures are not mechanically groomed - the overall appearance is scruffy; but the environment,cattle, and beef consumer all benefit in the end.