summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Friday, September 30, 2011

Taking a Photo of A Dew Drop Falling, Not, But....

I love to wander about, with camera slung around my neck; ready for my next photo op.

I came upon dew drops gathered, then falling from the large leaves on my grape vines.  I wondered if I could get a picture of a drop falling?  Well, several attempts and a lot of waiting between, the answer is no.  I cannot get that photo of a dew drop in mid air.

LOOK closely.....

But,  the dew drop itself made for an interesting photo, so I took several to make sure I would get at least one good picture.  I never know the quality of the picture until I view it on my computer screen.  Many a photo look good viewed on the camera screen, but once I download to the computer, the 'good' picture - countless times, results in one that is not quite clear - not totally blurry, but fuzzy enough to delete.

Dew drop upside down - now, keep looking....

See the picture in the drop - the tree, the fence, the lawn...

While viewing the dew drops on the comupter, I was surprised - even a bit shocked.  Right there in the dew drop itself was another picture - one of the yard beyond the drop - upside-down, but a clear, concise diminuative photo of the yard beyond the dew drop. Amazing!

I am going to have to try that exercise again....I can hardly wait!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three Bucks - No, Not Dollars....Sheep

When we bought our flock of 70+ sheep back in early August, we  also purchased one older ram and two three-month-old buck lambs.  After all, we do intend to breed all 70 ewes.


Blinky and Nod (Winky - never far behind)

The bucks are kept totally separate from the ewes until our scheduled breeding season - November.  SweetLips and Ember have been keeping them company in the barn paddocks. Yesterday, Little Red (our bull) and his buddy (a South Poll steer) joined the group. It is now Little Red's time to be separated from the cows.  (All the cows should  be bred.  If not, they are considered culled and go to market.)  I enjoy watching the five, now seven, graze peacefully together.  Initially, SweetLips stayed to herself (she was supposed to be the aggressive guard for the flock) and as far from Ember as she could manage.  Now, they are chums.

As I finished mowing the lawn; I looked up and noticed the two young bucks facing each other, then running at each other -  purposely bumping heads. They are maturing.  Soon, the older ram joined in the activity.  Being quite the novice in sheep rearing, I can only assume that these guys were exerting their dominance.  I am also assuming that they have hard skulls.

Winky, Blinky and Nod are inseparable.  I see one, I see all three.  One eats, they all eat.  One rests, they all rest.  One runs, they all run.  You get the picture.... Oh, by the way, when the young bucks run their long tails twirl about like pinwheels boosting them forward.  It is so cute to see them running, toward me, followed by their fuzzy propellers.

Winky, the elder, is a Katahdin breed (white) while Blinky and Nod, the youngers, are Dorpers (usually exhibit some black). 

Feeding them a scoop of barley daily or a few corn stalks from the garden maintain their utmost  friendliness.

If they notice me watching them, from the other side of the fence, they come running to see if is time for another handout. 

Any food for me?

If not, they wander off, together.  Cute, as always.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Phantom Train

I hear a faint rumble in the distance.  The sound increases in intensity, then the blow of the whistle sounds.  I love the sound of a train's whistle.

                           AUDIO HERE IF I CAN GET IT TO UPLOAD  - UGH!

      I have tried to upload most of the day now with no success - these blogs are challenging to get the photos and verbiage just right, but adding movie segments are almost impossible - cross your fingers!
                          I hear the train  now at 11:00 PM - the smile is on my face.

A train is passing, approximately one mile from our farm, out of sight but not out of earshot.  I smile when I hear the train and I visualize it passing by the farm, in a manner of speaking - a phantom train. 

I do not know, for sure, how often a train passes each day; but I can hear it regularly, and at times, I must block the sound out - I guess it all depends on what I am doing at the time.  On certain days, I can even hear the wheels rolling, metal against metal, over the tracks - almost as if that train ran right past my house, in my yard,  rather than that mile away.  The sound is that clear.

The mellow sound of the whistle makes  me think of the days of yesteryear as portrayed in old movies - when trains were the fashion for most traveling long distances. I have used train travel, myself, about four times in my lifetime. The most memorable experience of each trip was in watching another's world go by, seeing how other people live, as I looked out the large train windows - not being a part of this world, only a passerby - almost like a 'peeping tom', but so interesting.  Now, freight seems to be the main passenger.  Fortunately, trains are still a viable part of our lives, our economy. 

The train passes through the small, nearby town of Vesuvius, going north or south.  I hear the whistle blow as the train thunders through the intersection of Route 56.  I can imagine the striped gates down to warn vehicle traffic from crossing the tracks just prior to the train's arrival.

I have only been in Vesuvius twice, over the past 23 years, when I have actually seen the train pass by (Can you believe that?) - deafening, the wheels clanging along the metal rails.  One by one, the connected train cars quickly pass - almost in a blurr.  As the engine moves further down the tracks, the string of cars following seem to slow down.  Watching and wondering what each railway car carries, the train keeps moving - destination unknown.

And, I will continue to take pleasure in the coming and going of my phantom train on my farm - smile on my face!

Monday, September 26, 2011

We Are Being Invaded

Yep, the invasion is in full force - the invasion of the STINK bugs - pee yew!

This bug is not only ugly, but as the name implies, it stinks.  It is second only to the skunk on my scale of bad-smelling odors.

Last year was our first exposure to this intrusive and offensive bug.  This year, the numbers have multiplied.  In fact, these bugs are proliferating daily.  I am not happy.

These bugs are found outdoors, mainly on my many fruit plants.  Well, let me correct that statement...the stink bugs are found anywhere you are looking at that particular moment - they are everywhere!

While driving my car, I am constantly accompanied by the loud buzz of the bug flying around inside - hoping that I can eradicate the bug from the car before it releases its fetid stench.

Now, the stinkers are quickly finding their way indoors as the weather cools.  Fortunately, they only stink when threatened, so the trick is too quickly capture the bug and flush it down the toilet before it exudes it rang odor. 

Squashing it is the 'kiss of death' - unless, of course, you enjoy a pungent smell - I do not!

Vacuuming?  Not unless a new vacuum is my future - nope!

The bugs are currently gathering on all the window screens, a few making their way inside the house every time the door is opened.   I open a door and one or two fall from the top of the door frame. I cringe when they land on me.  Sitting around watching TV in the evening; there is always, every single night, a bug or two circling the ceiling light.   And, if I inadvertently step on one inside the house - ugh.  I am trembling at the thought.

The war is on....

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fluttering Color

I like color.  That is no secret. 

One of my most interesting ways I observe color is on butterflies, and moths. And, the color is in the details - I look closely. I study the scales.  I study the body.   But, I also have to be quick, or the color will flutter away.

I stand by a flowering plant on a sunny day and keep still.  And,  certainly within short order, I will be rewarded with the arrival of a butterfly, or more.  Then, getting as close as possible with camera  in hand, I click the shutter - if I am lucky, I get a 'keeper' photo.   I have deleted many a picture with my subject blurred or one vacated by said subject. 

The warmer the day, the more butterflies I observe. 

Now, that fall has arrived; the butterflies are scarce, a bit wing-worn, but still enchanting.  Soon, they will be gone.

The season of the butterfly is ending; but, like all seasons, will return.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Farm Days - Alpacas of Maple Grove Farm, Raphine

I returned to Alpacas of  Maple Grove Farm in Raphine today - they were hosting Farm Days. 

This time I brought Becky with me because I thought she would find the place interesting - she did. 

Before ever getting close to the alpacas, we visited with the matriarch of the family, a very friendly
 91-year-woman. We met in the cozy farm store (the farm's original granary) where she was knitting away.  MM offered to show us her house which was built by her grandfather, the inventor of the pivoting gate (see 9-16-11 blog  - Small Town America - Raphine).  I did not hesitate to accept.  We walked from the farm store, through the pivoting gate, up the stairs and into the house. Originally a large, two-story log cabin; when David Rosen  (MM's Grandfather) returned from the civil war, he added on the front addition.   MM was as good a tour guide as her Grandson Joe was on my first visit.  

MM presented a wealth of interesting family facts.  MM herself showed me the room where she was born and married - it is currently the living room of the addition.  MM is quite an accomplished artist - her artwork hangs through her home.  The amazing thing is that she did not start painting until she was 70 - yes, I said start.  She gave me and Becky a copy of one of her paintings as reproduced into a Christmas card.  I will cherish that memento.  It shows the Cape Hatteras lighthouse - a lighthouse Becky and I climbed on one of our Outer Banks, NC visits - so the card holds another special meaning.  MM pointed out her high chair which converts to a rocking chair (baby size, of course) - now, there's an idea.  MM continued her tour and ended by saying, 'I am a pack rat.'  Oh, I can relate ....

MM returned to her knitting in the store, and Becky and I strolled over to the alpacas. 

Alpacas are super soft (I understand why their fleece is cherished), very colorful (there are about 23 natural colors), and a bit curious as they stepped toward us.  My favorites are the ones with the 'bad hair' days, the fluffs on the top of their heads.  Oh...they all have 'bad hair' tops.

We purchased a few items from the shop, and ate complimentary hot dogs on our way out. 

Make a mental note if you want to attend next year - as Farm Days is an annual event.

Be there or be square...(blink)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Has Arrived

Autumn, my favorite season - full of color and scents quite distinct to this time of year, arrived at
5:05 AM - I was up and about. 

beginnings of the 2011 foliage color change

I did not see any difference, though; if there was any, because it was still very dark outside.  Today I heard the clock chime seven times; just about the moment I could look out the window to witness the earliest of the morning's glimmer.  A grey and overcast sky filtered the sun; so the light was dim, but  apparent.  Mornings emerge later and later, evenings occur earlier and earlier.  Days are now, officially, getting shorter much, much faster.

There is still plenty of green (pastures, trees) with just a hint of color change.  As each day passes, the summer's colors will transform into a new palette that represents autumn.  I constantly watch my surroundings so that I will not miss a single value shift.  My mind will record those moments for future reference, when I desire to reach back after the season has lapsed; to replay the colors.  Autumn passes much too quickly for my taste. I will appreciate the memories.

Fall is the shortest season in terms of its visual aspect - its beginning still holding onto summer and its ending more like winter.  I make a determined effort to embrace that small piece of time which  totally feels like fall.

The grey sky released, first, a shower which advanced to a rain - calming and peaceful.  The air harbored a scent of decline - earthy and pleasant - natural for the season.

I curled up, under a blanket, in the recliner, feet up, and just gazed out the open living room window to a near perfect picture of our farm.  The Blue Ridge Mountains, mottled with floating clouds, ultimately disappeared from view. The near trees exhibit a yellow tinge. The distant tress outlining the pastures grew dark, a deep, black-like green; enhancing the jades of the fields. Calling birds flew into the picture, and then out.   The soft sound of the falling rain put me into a trance-like demeanor.   I was enveloped in my own world, my own tranquility.

I am in Utopia.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bird Watching - The Self-Sufficient, No Entitlements Necessary

Watching the visiting birds to my yard is aways so rewarding and enjoyable.  I feel like I am receiving a bonus for the day with each bird, whether common or rare, that I see.

Some birds like to supplement their dining at the feeders.  I provide the food.  But,  some birds prefer to eat what nature has provided.  They do the choosing, whether it be seeds, nectar  or bugs; no entitlements necessary.  I call these birds the 'self-sufficient'.  I am not required to refill.

Hummingbirds like to extract the nectar from the most colorful flowers.  They are quick, their wings a blurr. We have a hummingbird that likes to buzz my most colorful light bulbs (marketed as Party Lights) that are strung across the back deck. The yellow and orange bulbs are enticing to the little hummers, unfortunately, they provide no nutritional value.  Occassionally, I observe a hummingbird resting - sitting quietly, no motion except for maybe a twist of the head.  Their minute bodies are so beautiful feathered in green iridescence.  Once, while I was weeding under a leafy shrub, I observed a hummingbird feeding within inches of my face.  I was well hidden, the hummingbird unaware of my presence.  I had the bird's eye view for a change.  But, most of the time, I just hear the buzz of this bird as it whizzes past me searching for its next sweet find.

The American Goldfinches, the males, are fading; their feather color, that is. Their fluorescent yellow hue of summer dims to a much more muted, somewhat greyed gold as the summer progresses into fall. These birds are beautiful either way. The American Goldfinches do stop at my thistle feeder, but they seem to prefer to feed on the dried flower heads throughout my garden - the Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), the Echinacea (Coneflower) are their favorites.


An Eastern  Phoebe, (yes, I am finally able to identity this species with confidence) just lighted on the fence right outside my office window as I type this blog.  It sits on the board fence, flies off to grab an insect, and flies back to the fence.  I grabbed the binoculars to get a in-my-face view. The Eastern Phoebe seems to be a nervous bird - its head does not stop moving as it sits on the fence - up, down, left, right...another bird not needing any of my handouts.

I can't forget to mention  Sam and Omie, my mockingbirds.  They like to feed themselves - insects, mostly; but I do believe they sample my yellow delicious apples regularly. Siting their nest in one of the apple trees was just a bit too convenient.

Lastly, the bluebirds...ohhhh, the bluebirds.  The nearest nesting box is within feet of my living room window, so I get quite a performance when the bluebirds are in residence.  No ticket price is charged - they, too, feed on insects - a secondary advantage to their display.

Do you watch birds?  If not, try it sometime. I highly recommend the activity to any one.  I think you will be captivated.

I know I am!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Color Returning To My Garden

After what was to be a quick walkabout my garden, I was forced (well, not really forced - more like lured) to remain longer. 

Since the drought days of summer, when my plants faded both in bloom and flourish, we have received adequate rains and cooler temperatures. The perennials have responded and have recovered well.

My garden is entering the picturesque season of fall in a full rainbow of color.  Not only are leaves beginning their characteristic autumn transformation; but many flowers are making a comeback, their last hurrah of the season.

Autumn is my favorite season and I will not be disappointed - truthfully, I never am. No matter the resulting colors or lack thereof, the weather, the recurrent change in vegetation; autumn is the season that always has my heart.

What is blooming in my garden today?    The list is way too long to catalog here, but let me summarize:  approximately 28+ different species in varying colors of white, pink, yellow, purple, orange, red - that's just the flowers. Oh, I also have a daisy - its first appearance all season...a surprise for sure.

There are plenty of ornamental vegetative-type plants, shrubs and trees that are adding interest, too.  Timely enhancements include: foliar color change, berry formation, seed head maturation. Texture, too, is applauded.

Beyond my garden, I am surrounded by the near woods and the distant forest-covered mountains - the Blue Ridge.  These wooded expanses are just beginning to display a hint of their autumn hues - the slower the change, for me, the better - the longer to fully enjoy each variation.

You have not seen the last of my autumn photos...the season is just beginning!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Frogs and Toads

Frog Pond - the settling pool above the main pond

 the majority of the croaking comes from this place - I hear 'em, but I never see 'em

We have both frogs and toads on Mountain Glen Farm. The difference for me....

I have never seen one frog.  I have heard many a croaking, in the twilight, from the vicinity of the pond; I have heard the plunking of frogs as they jumped, hidden in tall grasses, into the safety of the water as I or Buddy walk by them; but I have never actually seen one.  Glenn has.

The day after constructing a sheep watering tank out of an old tire, Glenn returned to verify its water-holding capability.  He saw a frog sitting on the tire. Minutes later, on his next pass, Glenn saw this same frog swimming in the water as if this tire was the frog's private swimming pool.  When he related the story to me, I immediately went down to see the frog.  Said frog was gone.

But, I have seen plenty of toads.  The toads usually hide out during the day and hop around in the dark.  These toads come in all sizes -  from the size of a quarter to the size of a baseball - and, they are ugly - all of them.  Not the kind of creature you would want to hold in your hands - yuck!

Ugly?  You make the call.....

I usually see them hopping along our brick walkway or sitting in the gravel drive.  The toads in the drive take quite a risk   I have seen many a flattened, dead toad.  I have even discovered a toad residing in one of my flower pots.  He would dig out from the soil; leave; and some time later, return to his hole in the pot.

A few days ago, as I was looking for a bird's nest in my lilac bush (I had found a flaying, baby wren there last month), I heard a sound near my feet.   I looked down and saw a toad digging himself out of the ground inside the basement window well.  When our eyes met, he froze.  Over the course of the day, I returned to investigate his activities.  Later in the evening he was gone...I supposed he had jumped out of that enclosure to take his evening constitutional, or perhaps, to retrieve dinner. 

This afternoon, I decided to check on my toad again.  To my surprise, I saw two.  On closer examine, there were four.  I ran for my camera.  In the midst of taking my photo, I realized there were six.  Six toads.  An entire community, I guess.  I will almost be afraid to look tomorrow....8?  10?

How many do you count?

I know we have plenty of  toads; I have proof.

But, I will not give up...I am determined to see our frogs some day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A grey and gloomy day, or is it? 

The birds continue to flock daily - they know the season is changing.  Birds line up along electric or phone lines, one right next to another. Their numbers seem to increase with each glance.  How many this time?  Or, they gather in the tree tops, moving from time to time, in one large sweep across the sky. The twittering is loud and lively. The birds are getting ready...ready to leave our farm before winter arrives.  These birds are nowhere near as bright as the sun, when it is visible - of course; but they do provide many 'bright' moments throughout my day.  A grey and gloomy day...not really!

Kitchen duty beckons.  I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately - washing dishes, cooking dinner, washing dishes, canning tomatoes, washing dishes, freezing corn, washing dishes, testing recipes (for my cooking column in the Friends of Gladys Taber newsletter), washing dishes, and washing more dishes....that chore just never ends.  I supposed if I utilized the dish washer, I would save a bit of time, but not much. I grew up washing dishes by hand, spent most of my adult life washing dishes by hand, and now that I do have a dish washer; I still prefer to do the dishes by hand - call me crazy....

Today, my  priority was to freeze the rest of the sweet corn.  This is our late harvest corn and most of that last planting matured at the same time - so convenient.  Once I cut the corn from the cobs, the cobs are fed to the cattle.  Ember and the three rams get a few of the remaining green corn stalks as a daily  treat. They come a runnin' if they see me or Glenn, whether it is treat time (hands carrying corn stalks) or not (empty hands) - they are telling us that they are ready for their treat, now!  I do not know what we are going to give when the corn stalks run out.  But, I am sure,  they will still expect their treat!

I could let the corn stalks dry out and use them to make a fall decoration, but it is more gratifying to see a happy Ember, or a happy Winky.  I can live without a decoration, but these guys like to eat..don't you?

Before I began my corn chore, though; I wiggled in a little time to make my variation of sour cream bread.  I do not have any of my own original recipes, but I always make changes to prepare any recipe easier and faster. 

This bread is more like a dessert bread, what I call a 'sweet bread'.   I also call it 'good' - a real treat!

This recipe makes one 16" long loaf. I abandon the requisite powdered sugar frosting. It is not needed. The bread is delicious plain - just cut off a slice, and eat.  The bread is gone, vanished, no crumbs to nibble within hours.  I do know, if I do not eat a slice as soon as it cools from the oven, I may never get a slice - gone.

I guess I am like our animals...I like my treats!  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Small Visitors To My Garden - the Familiar

Now, I offer those small visitors to my garden that are very recognizable to most every one. 

These insects are not only fun to photograph, but they are fun to observe.  Watching these specimens of the insect world 'up close and personal',  I am amazed at their common, regular movements.  They are predictable.  They have their job, and they rarely get distracted from that job. 

Zooming in on the individual presents detail not normally viewed by eye alone - more complex, more interesting.

Take a good look.  Notice each feature: each segment, each hair, each identifying mark - a whole new realm to absorb, to discover.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Becky's Herd (of two)

Becky has always enjoyed our farm - playing, working, hiking...

It is only natural that she is interested in continuing the tradition, started by Glenn and myself, to not only maintain Mountain Glen Farm, but to improve the operation.    Becky is always enthusiastic to acquire more useful information and wisdom. She gains knowledge from Glenn's experience, as well as from her own OJT (On the Job Training). She asks a lot questions.  There are no doubts concerning Becky's capabilities.

As Glenn and I age (we are by no means decrepit); our younger blood needs to take the initiative to jump in - not only to help when asked, but to be a real contributor.  Becky is stepping into the challenge.  She is slowly moving into that management position.  And, we welcome her move.

Becky knows how to handle the cattle.  She was right there to learn when we recently added the sheep.  She is strong and willing.  She is a thinker.  Her viewpoint enhances our farm philosophy.  The farm is bound to move forward in a positive way with Becky's involvement and her initiative.

We are lucky that Becky wants to carry on the lifestyle started by Mom and Dad. 

So, to begin the transition, Becky purchased her first two cows, ever, with her own money that she earned from her off-farm job - waitressing.  Her cows joined the existing Mountain Glen Farm herd, now a flerd, with little fanfare.  That is the way we like it - a smooth addition: no fighting, no pushing, no bellowing.

Now, Becky stands a bit taller, knowing that she actually owns a part of the flerd - two now, but those two will produce two more....a great start for our young daughter.

Becky will work hard for her success, and she will have fun along the journey - that is Becky's way.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Small Town America - Raphine

Welcome to Raphine - my town of record, even though it is not the closest 'whistle stop' to our farm.  I actually have to drive through Steeles Tavern (see 8-30-11 blog) on my way to Raphine.

post office
bank, fire department

fair grounds

One of three small towns within our immediate vicinity, Raphine boasts a bank (not mine) with a parking lot that has 20 times the number of parking spaces that would ever be needed, a post office (closed for lunch between 12:00 - 1:00), a volunteer fire department, and mini fair grounds.  Raphine use to have a tiny grocery, next to the post office,  but it burned down years ago. 

My only reason for ever going to Raphine is to pick up mail that needs a signature - that's it.  So, being out of my way is not a great hardship. 

What is interesting about Raphine? It is home to three inventors who were, literally, neighbors in the 1800's:  James Gibbs inventor of the Gibbs sewing machine, Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the harvest reaper, and David Rosen, inventor of a center-pivoting gate. Amazing!

Today, I needed to sign for a letter at the post office.  On the spare of the moment,  I decided to stop at the old Rosen farm, Maple Grove, to ask if I could take a photo of that gate.  Well, I was greeted with the 6th, 5th and 4th generations of the farm's original settler.  Not only did I get a photo of the infamous gate, but I got an entire history lesson about Raphine from 5th generation Joe.  He pointed out, from his yard, many of the old buildings (the dentist office, the phone office, the farm implement store) now used as residences.  Raphine use to be a much larger and, what sounds like, a more active town. Joe's informal presentation was tremendous!    In addition to these Raphine references, Joe passed along old family stories including the time General Lee told his great, great, great (however many greats?) grandfather to hide the family valuables because the Yankees were due to pass through the Shenandoah Valley within days.  He showed me how the original log cabin home was added to over the years, including the new main entrance which was constructed soon after the Civil War.  And, to think, I was only hoping to be able to take a photo of that gate.  

I plan to visit again.  In fact, I plan to go back on Saturday, September 24th when the family is hosting Farm Days for the public - they now raise alpacas for wool, but the history of this Raphine farm is worth the visit.

I thought Raphine was only a small town where I needed to go to sign for my mail - it is so much more!  Thanks to Joe,  I yearn to learn more about my current home town - I'm so excited!