summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Monday, October 31, 2011

Persimmons - Sour or Sweet

Does not matter...I do not like persimmons of any persuasion; but, my cows do.

cows eating the fallen persimmons (before a frost), sheep prefer the grass

Our few persimmon tress, located in the old homestead area of our farm, are in decline.  In fact, one died this year leaving a sparse stem of a once sprawling-branched tree.  Now, the only time this vestige looks spectacular is when a turkey buzzard, with full wing spread, is perched on a branch stub - eerie...but neat.

Persimmons have thick, blocky bark - very distinguishable from that of other tree species.  The wood, itself, is a combination light and dark.  I had always wanted a few of our tress cut into lumber for use within our house.  I thought the persimmon wood would make gorgeous paneling, cabinet doors, even flooring.  But, that dream was never realized.   Presently, it seems like our trees are making dirt as they deteriorate on site.

The most notable feature of the persimmon is the bright orange fruit that develops by the early fall - filling the branches with natural, autumn ornaments.  But, beware...the fruits are lip-puckering tart until a good freeze causes the fruits to alter to a more palatable, sweeter flesh. 

Sweet or not,  I prefer the beauty of my persimmons rather than the eating of them.

My favorite month is at its end - farewell October!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nearing October's End

In every Gladys Taber book, there are so many passages which hold a meaning - principled, significant, beautiful, memorable...I find so many that I want to remember, I jot them down.

Harvest At Stillmeadow (1940) ends with a chapter titled, 'October.'  Gladys Taber writes,

     "Signs that winter is on the way are all over Stillmeadow...Things that will freeze begin to creep into the inside kitchen and range themselves in ranks.
     "The house itself looks different to me, and yet I can't see why.  The mood has changed.  The tide is turning, warmth ebbs away, the house draws close in itself, waiting for the cold.  And Jill and Bob rush out in the yard all day, doing the last things every gardener does before snowfall...
     "Perhaps the surest sign of autumn is Jill beginning to talk about spring planting!  A gardener never seems to look back; next year's seeds begin to sprout in Jill's mind almost before this year's vegetables and flowers are gone."

Oh, how true! 

Just days ago, I was noticing the sun low in the sky, the extra long shadows cast throughout the day, a different kind of daylight - signs.  Windows and doors now shut tight against the cold, outside temperatures.  Glenn finally fired up the furnace, heat radiated through the house.  The noisy valve replaced...silence - credit Glenn.

Just yesterday we were scampering about trying to get the last of the veggies, and a few flowering plants, into the house.  As we worked, Glenn and I reflected as to how this season's veggies succeeded and what changes we would make next year, next spring, to better fit our needs. A conversation that we have had countless times since we planted the first seeds into our garden in April - always looking ahead.

As much as life changes, it also seems to stay the same.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is It Still October????

I cannot remember an autumn when the trees were still dressed in colors of yellow, red, orange, burgundy...and enhanced with freshly fallen snow - never! Not even when we lived in Idaho where November snow is the norm. Yikes!  It is still October.

But, snow is falling right now, in Virginia - not the deep south, but still considered the south.

Global warming...hmmmm.

There was a hint of sleet late yesterday afternoon while I went out to do my chicken chores.  I wore my winter chore coat, but no hat or gloves.  As I refreshed the water, my hands were freezing.  It was downright cold outside.  I wanted to get back inside immediately, but I still had the bird feeders to fill.  I found a pair of gloves - what a help!


By midnight, the precipitation had turned into large, white snowflakes.  Not the light flurries that usually begin what we usually call 'the first snow' of the season, but honest to goodness fluffy, white and wet snowflakes.  And, the flakes were not melting as they hit the ground, they were accumulating. What the hay?

Yeah, yeah, yeah...the snow is pretty, but being a farmer/country dweller, many thoughts enter the equation.  Is this an indication that winter will be long, arriving soon, or is this snowfall just a fluke?  Should we be purchasing more hay than we originally thought would get us through a severe winter?  Are the rams going to be able to breed 70 sheep in less than desirable weather?  After all, the rams are not even out with the ewes yet.  Scheduled day of placing the rams with the ewes is still one week away.  Will the weather improve?  Will there be an adequate, in terms of numbers, lambing come April?  Do we have enough firewood?  Are all the veggies harvested from the garden?  No, the sweet potatoes are still in the ground.   Do I still have time to gather black walnuts? Do I still have time to cover my sensitive perennials with pine boughs?

So many questions arising from an earlier than normal definitive answers!

OK, calm down, take a deep breath and enjoy the phenomena of an early season snow...

I have to admit, it is pretty! And, I have no place I need to go.  So, I am just going to sit back in my lounge chair near the gas fireplace and enjoy the view.  But, first,...

I take a short walk around the house and yard trying to capture a few good photos of this early snow.  I took about 80 shots, and ended up with about 5 really good photos.  Regrettably, my camera got wet - not so good.

The snow looks pretty, but unfortunately, my perennials do not.  Many plants still in flower have drooped; many upright foliage plants, some over 6 feet tall which I was saving for winter interest,  have fallen to the ground; the bamboo patch has arched over into a short jungle; the ornamental grasses, least the plants were nearing the end of the growing season.

Joe Pye weed and colorful zinnias met their demise

Now, to get the sweet potatoes dug out of the ground; the gourds cut from their vines; the miscellaneous veggies (onions, white/red potatoes) from outside storage to inside storage; and the geraniums dug, potted, and brought inside to warmth.  I have all afternoon, I am in no hurry. The sun is out and the temperatures are warming.  But, I cannot wait too long as even colder temperatures are expected for tonight.

The calendar date indicates fall, but our surroundings definitely exclaim winter.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I Don't Make Cupcakes

One of my favorite television shows is Cupcakes Wars.  This show begins with four, professional cupcake makers competing to have the best tasting cupcakes by the end of the hour.  The range of cupcake ingredients (some you would never put into a cake of any sort) and decorations are amazing. 

But, I don't make cupcakes, never have.  I do not even eat cupcakes - too messy. (I have had a couple over the years - opting for the carbs over frosting-free lips) In any case,  I wonder why this program has so much appeal for me???  Maybe just my drooling keeps me coming back.

But, I do make muffins.  Not as varied as those cupcakes, but enough variety to keep our taste buds satisfied.

Today, I had a black, and I do mean black (in peel only), banana on the counter.  I also had some sour milk sitting in the refrigerator.  What luck...perfect muffin ingredients.  Waste not, want not.

So, I mixed a basic muffin recipe replacing 1/2 cup white flour with wheat flour, used the sour milk,  used the black (extremely soft) banana, and added one of my baking eggs -  my farm-fresh eggs that have been stored in the refrigerator over one month - still good, still fresher than store-bought. (Note:  We sell only our freshest eggs, so we have plenty of surplus for my baking use)  No, we do not get food poisoning. Well, least,  we haven't yet!

The result...delicious and good-looking muffins - look at the golden brown crust, rounded tops, even interior texture - perfect.

It is such a great feeling to have success.  Cooking and baking disasters end up as chicken treats - sorry chickens, nothing to toss to you today.

But, what is even better than a freshly-made (as in same day) muffin?  A day-old muffin - the flavors blend and the muffins become more moist over night - yumm!

If the muffins are not eaten the first day, they are gone on the second!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Firewood Season

Yes, it is time to stoke the furnace and get heat into the house.  Unfortunately,...

We are still getting the firewood cut, stacked, dried, and moved into the wood storage area. 

As always, we are late with most chores - not because we are lazy, old and slow (well, that could be part of the problem), or just relaxing too much - no, we just have a lot of chores.  And, at times, priorities are pushed down the line of our ever-expanding 'to do' list.

Glenn did have a huge pile of long wood cut from his logging operation from last fall/winter.  So, the wood was waiting for firewood making.  I guess we could say the pile was drying out.  Of course, cut and split makes the drying process faster and more complete.  In reality, firewood should be cut, split, and drying one year ahead of its use - never gonna happen, not at our farm.

Finally, this week, Glenn was able to get his help (a hardworking high school senior) to forge through and complete the splitting (via mechanical means - so much easier - I know, I use to split firewood in my younger years, by hand,  with a splitting maul) and stacking of most of our firewood for this season. Then, they filled the firewood storage area at the house. This area holds about one week's worth of our firewood needs - obviously, temperature dependent. The colder, the more wood is needed.  The rest was stacked in the tin storage building or thrown into a heap.  But, all firewood is split - yeah!

However, before the furnace can be fired up, Glenn has to reconnect the hot water heating system.  He severed the system by cutting out a heating unit while he was renovating Matt's bedroom into the guest room.  In addition, Glenn needed to replace a very noisy valve with a new, more quiet one.  I hated the banging and loud racket that occurred every time the circulator turned on.  It took several trips to several plumbing supply stores to find the correct valve.  Valve is now in our possession.

Now, to find the time to reconnect valve and heating unit.  And, time is running out. Even though today is a shirt-sleeves kind of day, freezing temperatures are in the forecast for later this week. 

One saving grace is that we have a small, gas fireplace that will take the chill out of the air on the main level of the house.   I stress...take the chill out, not the freeze out.

Bang, clang, bang...what is that sound?  OMG, Glenn is actually in the basement, while I write,  working on the heating system - GO GLENN!

Actually, one small leak and one quick trip to the hardware store later and he is DONE!

And the firewood, for the most part, is ready (may bit a bit green) and waiting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Vet Returns - For The Cattle

Our vet, Mike, returned to the farm yesterday - this time for some cattle care/maintenance. 

First, most of the bull calves need to be castrated.  Glenn usually does this task, typically when the calves are much younger and smaller.  At six months of age, Glenn elected to go with Mike's experience.

With our new herd  management, we decided to keep the bull calves bulls longer to take advantage of the growth hormones they produce naturally.  In years past, the bull calves would be castrated within one month of their birth, then injected with a growth hormone.  Boy, that was silly and expensive.  Mother Nature is much more efficient.

The best three bull calves were spared the knife.  They will be used as breeding stock, either for us or to sell for others.  This is one way Mountain Glen Farm is expanding and becoming more diverse in the products offered.

Second, the most questionable (young, previously off schedule calving) cows were pregnancy checked.  This task is definitely one for the vet as this procedure requires a lot of knowledge and proficiency.  If a cow is open, not pregnant, then she is shipped to market.  We cannot afford to carry a cow that is not working, not producing a calf.  Most of the cows checked were between 2 and 4 months along (yes, Mike is that good) - right in line with our management guidelines. One cow was open and one old cow (over 14 years old) was iffy.  These two cows will be culled from the herd.  There are rarely second chances - definitely, not this time.

Yep, that's manure on the red glove!
 You can guess where Mike's arm (all the way to his elbow) goes to do the preg checks....

We did have one minor mishap when the penned herd got a bit excited;  one of the cows decided to leave - she climbed over the metal gate. (Are you getting that mental picture of a 1200 pound, 4-legged animal, udder hanging down climbing over a gate? All I can say...not a pretty picture.)  She was fine, but the perfectly good gate was severely bent due to her weight - ugh!

Lastly, Jake (I know he is not a cow...) got his rabies update, thus; avoiding an office visit - a real nuisance averted.

Another huge job finished...for this year, that is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Surprise Occurrence

Last night after 9:00 PM, I received a phone call from Becky. (Kudos to Becky) She said there is a red glow in the sky and asked if I saw it.  I immediately thought - the Northern Lights - phone in hand, I ran outside  to verify.

Sure plain view in the dark night sky was the dancing color better know as Aurora borealis.  This was my second view of Aurora from our farm in twenty years - a rare occurrence at this latitude.   Tonight, Aurora was indeed red.

Aurora borealis is most common nearer the pole.  Although, while living in Alaska for 2 1/2 years, I only saw the beautiful lights - green in color - once.  That time a friend called, woke me in the wee hours of the morning to inform me -  she was ecstatic.  Kathy picked me up and we drove around Wrangell Island to get the best views.  That particular event lasted hours, and of course, was exciting and very memorable.

red glow in center - Aurora borealis dispersing - much more amazing in person

Last night, the lights were dimming rapidly.  My initial view was of two distinct red, vertical bands; one wide and one narrow.  Quickly, though, the bands dispersed into more of a glow, then disappeared in the blackness of the night.  Only the stunning, twinkling stars remained.  How ever long, the magical happening was special, exceptional - worth the run outdoors without shoes - good thing this autumn night was still on the warm side.

This grouping of 5 pictures was taken using a tripod with a different camera setting than the first picture at top.
The black below the red is the woods below the garden - notice the tree tops.
These views were not visible to the naked eye, but my camera picked up these fabulous shots.
Notice the change, the dispersion from the first photo to the  interesting!

I usually make a concerted effort to check for the Northern Lights every time I am outside at night - for that chance opportunity.  This time Becky was the observant, the lucky one.

According to an Internet search, the Aurora borealis is caused by some sort of collision of charged particles with atoms and may be unseen to the naked eye. The more complete explanation is very scientific and complex, so if you would like more information, start with the Internet.  All I need to know is that the occurrence is one of beauty and a privilege to witness.

Again, I am fortunate (thanks to Becky).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Annual Leaf Crunch

A good majority of the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees and have gathered on the ground.  There has been a reprieve from the fall rains. These fallen leaves, once colorful and pliable, have turned brown, papery, and very dry.

Annual Leaf Crunch Time is here!

Now, I go out into the yard or walk along the wooded farm lane scuffling my feet through every pile of downed and brown leaves.   Crunch, crunch, crunch....I love the sound that is only possible when the conditions are right (dry) and the season (autumn) is on the back side.  There has to be plenty of piled leaves, otherwise; the effect is not the same, not as satisfying.  And, like being a kid again.

Autumn is just not complete unless I have at least one - the more, the better - leaf crunch days.  And, the more feet, the better the crunch!  Now, where did Glenn go????

I will walk out of my way just to crunch more leaves - got to take advantage of the season....


Never go crunching?   Try will end up with a wide smile on your face.  Are you having fun yet?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Farm Lane

Leaving the main hardtop road; our private, graveled farm lane leads into fairly dense woods.

The woods are ever changing as the seasons....winter - more open due to the naked branches of the trees, spring - sun filtering through the early greenery producing a light shade, summer - a deep shade providing respite from the season's heat, and fall - highlighted with a multitude of color.

The lane winds through these tranquil woods as the road makes a gentle ascent.  Sometimes a red-tailed hawk or pileated woodpecker swoop down and fly just ahead of the our moving vehicle.  Many times deer jump out from the safety of the forest just feet in front of us; continuing on the opposite side of the track, disappearing from sight within seconds. Some just stand and stare.  I have also seen many scurrying squirrels, a few shuffling possum, fewer skunks (thank goodness), a raccoon or two, and many different birds (including several owls) while traveling in and out from our farm along this narrow roadway.  The blacks bears, observed by Becky on her jogs, have eluded me. 

There are tall trees, young trees, dead trees, leaning trees, and fallen trees along the way.  A glimpse of blue sky occasionally peaks through the thick branches, and at just the right time; the sun's golden rays light a path through the darkness of the woods - enchanting, almost mystical.

Nearly 3/4 of a mile later, the road ends at its destination - the homesite of our farm - sweet home! 

The journey, in or out, is always pleasurable.  But, the return home is most welcomed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Last of the 2011 Harvest - Well,...Almost

What an absolutely gorgeous fall day - sunny and warm with the slightest of breezes.

I hung out several loads of laundry, took a short walk in the woods, moved the temporary chicken fence to enclose a new area of fresh grass, and was just about to tackle the weeding/clipping of my perennial beds when Glenn returned home from working at the rental. 

Since a light frost is forecast for the overnight, we decided to gathered the last of the vegetables remaining in the garden.  We harvested small to large green peppers, green and red Jalapeno peppers, a couple of lingering tomatoes, and a handful of crisp lettuce.  I had pulled out all the old lettuce plant weeks ago, so this new lettuce grew unnoticed from the seed that had fallen to the ground from the earlier planting - what a nice, tasty surprise.

As for the Jalapeno peppers - I do not consciously eat them or touch them.  Many years back, I had an incident cleaning Jalapenos...let's just say that my hands felt like they were on fire for a few days and leave it at that.  Glenn picked the peck (or whatever amount we had) of the hot peppers.

 I mentioned that we collected the last of the 2011 reality, we still have most of the potato crop in the ground.  This crop also includes the sweet potatoes which were planted from an old potato Becky had never eaten.  (Becky is the sweet potato eater in our family.)   It will be interesting to see the resulting sweet potato crop when we finally dig up these root veggies -  I have no idea what to expect.  The vine was quite vigorous all summer,  and it still looks to be growing well as of today.  But, did any sweet potatoes develop?  We will get the answer soon.

An hour  before dusk,  Glenn and I opted to take a motorcycle ride rather than starting another chore.   After all, the riding season, for us, is nearing its end (we get really cold traveling at 55 m.p.h. in the open air) and we wanted to take full advantage of another wonderful autumn day.  These days will soon come to an end, but...

The chores will be waiting for us tomorrow.  They always are!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Red Fox

What a delight to catch more than a glimpse of our resident red fox!

The fox is beautiful, sly, and always on guard. 

Sight of red fox through office window.

I first noticed the fox retreating from the locality of his den, near the edge of the woods, from my office post.   I moved from the shield of the inside of the house, quietly opened the back door and slowly crept around to the mountain side of the house where the fox had traveled.  I watched, hiding and without motion using our board fence as an obstruction, the fox for close to one hour.  The temperature kept dropping as the sun lowered in the sky.  I had gone outside without a jacket, and now I was getting cold.  But, better cold than missing this exciting opportunity. I continued to watch with interest.

The fox stayed within the tall grass as he hunted mice.  A few steps to the left, turn, a few steps to the right, ending with a short pounce.  This short stepping/turning action was repeated over and over. 

Once in a while, I would observe the full body length of the fox - tip of the black nose to the end of the white, bushy tail - magnificent.

Hunting over, the fox withdrew into the woods. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Autumn Update

Glenn and I took  a few days (three including travel time, so I do mean few) off the farm to enjoy another, very different venue - the beach - the Outer Banks of North Carolina to be exact.  Becky, and friends, were on hand to take over over the regular chores...animal care never takes a holiday.

The ocean was warm enough for me to enter knee deep, the salt-filled breeze was pleasant, the shore birds were entertaining (pelicans are my favorite), the dolphin fins briefly rising from the water were thrilling, the bathing cormorant was exciting, and the fresh seafood (my stomach is full)...fabulous!  Other than my planned, mainland nature hike (along a boardwalk) in the wetlands, which lasted all of 5 minutes (we were cloaked, within seconds, with a swarm of really nasty, biting mosquitoes),  the mini-vacation was near perfect - a  kind of rejuvenation.

Back home, the first things I noticed this morning were that a lot of leaves had fallen and a lot of leaves have turned that mellow squash-orange color.  Even my flaming red sugar maple in the yard - orange!  I have never seen it orange before - ever!  The near and distant forests, yes; my yard tree, no.

But, I like orange, so the effect is pleasing (still odd) to me.


I saw the flerd grazing uniformly over the field; as if the animals were posed for a picture.   But, within the few seconds it takes to fetch my camera, the sheep decided to make a trip to the water tank. When one sheep moves, they all move (notice the line of white below).  So much for that Kodak moment....


Our pastures remain green and continue to grow well - the plan for our year-round grazing management.  There can never be too much grass.  The more grass that can be stockpiled, for the coming winter, the better.  We want to graze as long as possible into the winter months; keeping supplemental hay to a minimum.

We cannot manipulate Mother Nature, but so far; she seems to be on our schedule and we are fortunate.

Tomorrow may be different....we manage day by day. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halfway Through October

October is now at mid-month.  Each moment has been pure gratification.  I look forward to the remaining days of autumn.

A favorite quote of mine is pithy, now and throughout the year....

     Nature always wears colors of the spirit.  Emerson

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn - The Winds

Today's autumn winds are strong...only the mightiest of leaves survive the drop, this time...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Garden Clogs/Farm Clogs

For years, I resisted buying a pair of rubber garden clogs. 

Everyone was wearing them, in assorted colors; and extolling the comforts of such. I continued to resist.  Quite frankly, I thought they looked like Olive Oyl shoes - you know, Olive Oyl,  Popeye's only  squeeze.

Then, at the end of last year's gardening season, I saw these clogs on sale at a nearby garden shop.  Should I?  Shouldn't I?  After all, they were on sale...

The pretty colored ones had decorative cutouts along the top, from side to side.  Hummmm....dirt could enter much too easily for my needs.  But, the solid clogs were only available in black - boring!  But, black it was as this choice was much more logical.

From the first minute I wore those clogs out into the garden, I was sold.  Again, what took me so long?
They were comfortable, kept the dew outside my shoes, and I even used them when I went swimming in our pond (their floating property was another benefit) - they were perfect, almost.  There is one slight problem - my feet sweat after a certain length of time wearing the clogs, but I can live with that - the overall comfort was worth that slight annoyance.

And, they are a snap to remove as I enter the house and a snap to put on when I go back outside - so convenient.

Are you sold yet?

One day Glenn called for my help to move the cattle into the barn lot.  We needed to spray them for flies, but most importantly, we needed to separate the bull from the herd.  Little Red was going to solitary - at least from the cows.  He does have a horse, a steer, a llama, three rams and the visiting deer to keep him company.

In any case, I went to the barn lot in my gardening attire of shorts and clogs - I had no idea the barn lot was so muddy (over-the-shoe muddy) from recent rains.

The clogs were great until I sunk down into the mud.  As I walked about trying to herd the cattle, one clog stuck in the mud and I made several steps barefoot in not only mud, but in manure-infused mud before I could stop.  In no way was this like a spa treatment for my feet.  The mud (mixed with fresh, green, squishy poop) also contained fine grit which irritated my bare skin. 

Now, I warn you...if you are a bit squeamish, do not check out the following photos - a record of what my feet looked like by the end of the chore.

I told you not to look. 

Fortunately, another benefit of my garden clogs is that they can be hosed off - good as new.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Surprise

Today, the grey sky and on again, off again rain continued.  More leaves fell from the trees.

I decided to tackle an indoor chore, or at least; start the chore - cleaning and organizing my studio a..k.a. my quilting/sewing room.  This room has become a catch all for most everything in addition to sewing and craft supplies - dirty clothes, mending, ironing, books (non-sewing specific), photographs, miscellaneous 'to keep' paperwork (a lot of it), old computer and assorted paraphernalia (which I have not used for years), plants, packing materials (I use about 1/20 th of what I store each year),  wrapping paper...well, I think you get the idea.  You would think this room is huge with all the stuff stored there - it is not.   I just am getting really good at stacking.

My actual sewing/craft/quilting supplies are neatly boxed and labeled, and nestled into their appropriate spaces within the room and generous storage space.

It is all that other stuff, that is piled on and over my necessities, that I need to:  find a new location, put in the delegated location, recycle or do I dare say it, 'throw it out'.  Again I remind you...I am a genuine, bonifide pack rat!

The gist of the day is that between all my cleaning, organizing, moving items about; I constantly look out the windows at the views, the constantly changing colors, the birds, the rain - my entire outside world.

Looking at our pond, which is quite a distance from our house, I noticed something different - what looked like a fence post near the edge of the water.  Now, I know that post was not there earlier, but I could not make the object out distinctly.  Binoculars were in order. 

Sure enough, by the pond's edge was a beautiful, majestic heron hunting our fish.

I thought the herons had left our area for the season, so I was quite surprised to see the slender, and tall, bird.  Upon further research, I learned that the herons are non-migrators in Virginia.  Yep, this fabulous bird is here, in Virginia, year-round.  Where have I been looking?  I guess I am not as observant as I thought I was.

These are the times I wish I had a telephoto lens for my camera - I would have gotten an unbelievable photo.  Instead, I got a so-so distant photo.  But, you know what, I will keep it!

Fish or no fish, regardless of my misgivings; the sight of this heron made my day - my bonus.    And, October continues to reward!