spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stocking Up On Apples from the Flippin-Seaman Orchard

This afternoon, Glenn and I drove over the mountain, as in Blue Ridge, to specifically buy apples at our favorite orchard,  Flippin-Seaman, home of Silver Creek and Seaman Orchards.


We had long extinguished the skimpy supply of golden delicious apples provided by our own two backyard trees.

The drive was pleasant as we curved around, up, then down to the Nelson County side of the mountains. The day began with sunny skies, clouding quickly to grey; but we  never did receive the heavy rain as forecasted.  The temperature was warm, shirt-sleeve weather, and so satisfying to eek out another desirable autumn day before...the chance of another early snow is expected for Tuesday night and Wednesday morning - boo!


As we arrived, the packing facility was still in full production.  We entered the welcoming shed where the apples beamed from their huge crates.  And, these apples were huge -  just waiting to be placed in our 1/2 bushel bag.



Glenn and I wandered from crate to crate - Fuji to Golden to Pink Lady and back again.  Which ones?  After a quick taste  of a couple of apples; firm, juicy, flavorful even this late in the season, we decided to get 1/2 bushel of Pink Lady and another 1/2 bushel mixed of Pink Lady, Golden, and a few Fuji thrown in for a bit of yummy variation.  My friend, Ann,  told me that her best apple pies are those made with a combination of varieties; so taking her recommendation, I made sure to have a representative mix for my upcoming baking.


Adjacent to the store, was the packing shed itself.  Workers sorted, sized and packed each fruit with care.  The boxes of apples would find their way to grocery stores and fruit stands.  How interesting to observe a real, working,  packing shed - American at work!


A Flippin-Seaman brochure advertises, along with the apple varieties and available dates, a few free perks like fresh mountain air, country atmosphere, and good customer service - I can certify all of the above!

Best of all...getting back in the car with our apples, driving out of the parking area, and biting into one/several juicy apples for that special treat on that return trip home - fresh, sweet, and so delicious!


We have been making the annual outing(s) to the Flippin-Seaman Orchard for years - with kids, without kids, via motorcycle.... this is one trip we never seem to miss.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blue Ridge Mountain View

As the seasons change, so do the visual aspects of my surroundings.

One most notable change is that of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The full greens of the summer to the multitude of autumn colors have now transitioned, no longer hindered by the leafy canopies of the tree-covered slopes and ridges, through to the actual topography of the mountains themselves.


Looking beyond the barren branches to the earth below showcases yet another aspect of these gorgeous mountains. What once was mountain tops and  modest slopes  have converted to definitive peaks, both round and pointed, and a long view of accordion-pleated slopes; even the smallest difference is obvious.


The minute to minute variations of sun, clear sky, clouds adds another unpredictable feature to entice my frequent assessments.

And, all this magnificence can be had from the warmth and comfort of my home, or from the luxury of the back deck - whatever my pleasure.


Have I mentioned how lucky/fortunate I am???? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

OH MY GOSH!!!

Just when I thought I was at the end of subject material for my next blog....

I consider myself a pretty observant person - at least in my garden - OMG, guess not!

Today, a visitor pointed out what had been growing (and it is not alive) in my garden for what must have been all summer;  just inches from where I regularly mow the lawn.  In my defense, it is an area that I do not weed very often - a quick pass probably once during the growing season and another after all the leaves have fallen.  After all, this is a barberry bush; Compact Crimson Pygmy Barberry, to be exact  - what I lovingly call an 'ouwie ouwie' bush.  I cannot get near it without getting some kind of puncture - and, it hurts.  So, even though I adore the deep burgundy/pastel pinky of the leaves, I do not like the constant pricks.

The leaves on these bushes are slow to drop in the fall.  Over the course of several months, the tiny, colorful leaves float to the ground.  Near the end of December, the bush is about leafless - the best time to prune, even though I have attempted the trimming during full leaf to get the best shaping of the shrub. Leaves gone, I can see the best places, barb-free, to hold the branches.  But, I still get pricked if I am not super careful.


Just last week, I discovered a tiny nest skillfully constructed on the interior of one of the branches - a perfectly concealed location for laying and hatching eggs.  I do believe even my cats stay out these bristly bushes - I repeat, they really hurt!  Hence, a really safe place for the rearing of young birds.

Then today, as pointed out by a friend of Glenn's, there it was....huge, and I do mean huge, paper wasp nest.  Why I did not see anything so noticeable, gray intertwined among the bicolor leaves of the barberry shrub, before is beyond any explanation; but I did not. I tried to measure the length of the nest without getting pierced, at least too badly.   The monstrosity measures a whopping 24 inches, top to bottom - yikes.  Think of the number of wasps flying in and out of this nest and the brood produced - that boggles my mind.

papery nest surrounding the access hole
Whatever...I did not see it and, thankfully, I never got stung - that is what is important!

You can bet next year I will be searching those bushes with an eagle eye....

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not So Black Friday

Black Friday, frequently the busiest shopping day of the year, is the contemporary name given to the day after Thanksgiving.

A quick Internet search revealed that the name was initially assigned to describe the heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic on that specific day.  That rationalization was imparted to a new one...the day the retailers turned a profit - were in the black.

I like a bargain better than most people, but I do not want to battle crowds...I would rather experience the peace of my farm.


I am not a shopper at heart.   And, my Friday is not black.


I woke to view a white frost glazing the lower pasture.  The early morning sky was a deep, clear blue.
Bright red berries accented the napping garden.  Blue Jays gathered enmasse at the feeder. The grass remains unseasonably green. The list is near endless....



No, my Friday is not black.

Then, I noticed a hairy woodpecker at the bird feeder just minutes after returning from collecting eggs where I was rewarded with the flight of a pileated woodpecker, slow and methodical, just above my head. Two, semi-black birds that I rarely observe....now, that is my kind of  'black' Friday, or any other day for that matter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Day


SPECIAL WISHES TO ALL FOR HAPPINESS, ABUNDANCE, FRIENDSHIP AND CONTENTMENT TODAY AND THROUGHOUT THE COMING YEAR!



HAPPY THANKSGIVING !



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Black Walnuts


Our farm has many black walnut trees.


These trees are usually the last trees to sport their leaves in the spring.  Spring also displays long, greenish flowers forming the small, green balls.

As the growing season progresses, these green balls continue to expand into large green balls - the walnut fruit. These walnuts tend to fall from the trees slowly, many of which remain attached to the tree branches long after the leaves have fallen.  (The walnut trees are also the first of any tree to lose their leaves in the fall.) Yet another example of a tree that seems to ornament itself. 


As the green fruits gather on the ground, the green covering or husk, darkens to a very deep brown, almost black and become very dry.  Those that fall into the roadway are regualrly run over by either pickup, 4-wheeler or tractor resulting in the outer husk cracking and separating from the actual nut.  This is a good thing as trying to remove the husk by hand results in brown-stained hands only to be removed by many washings.  (By the way, black walnuts are used for natural dyes.) The vehicle trick is so much more desirable.  That is, if your goal is to collect the balck walnuts for their nutmeats. 






Collecting the windfall on the ground in the roadway is definitely the best option for collecting a lot of nuts easily and quickly.  Otherwise, we are looking for green balls that have fallen into the tall, green grass of the pastures - not as easy....

And, timing has to be perfect.  If I wait too long to collect the walnuts, I am usually collecting inferior or even empty nut shells - the squirrels beat me to the best.

After collecting, we then take our handy-dandy nut cracker to break the hard inner shell of the nut exposing the pure white nutmeats.  I, again, am not a fan of black walnuts, their flavor is super strong.  But, collecting enough to add a small amount to recipes calling for walnuts is one of those bonuses of nature and hard work resulting in saving money and so much flavor.


I was told that in the 'olden' days, women would collect the walnuts to sell in order to pay their taxes.  I would have to collect an outrangeous amount to pay our taxes today...which reminds me...

taxes are due ....collecting bags anybody?


Monday, November 21, 2011

Night Lights

No, these are not our Christmas lights hung early....these lights stay out all year long.


I got the idea from the movie, MAMA MIA, starring Meryl Streep and a bunch of other well-known actors/actresses.  MAMA MIA takes place on a Greek island - it was filmed before all the recent riots and bad press.  In any case, the movie was a musical and was fun to watch.  You could tell all the thespians were having fun filming the movie, too.  The lyrics were all written to music by Abba.  OK - all you baby boomers out there - get those dancing shoes on!

And, in the movie,  colorful lights were hung around the stone terraces creating quite a 'party' atmosphere.  The lights were fabulous.

I wanted some of those lights.  But, the regular light bulb-sized color lights are not cheap.  So, I kept searching and I found these more economical bulbs - smaller, but still suitable. I turn them on most nights.  The glow is bright enough to light the deck so that I can walk without tripping, but dim enough to produce a tranquil mood.  Yet, colorful enough for a celebration.  And, the dogs eat their dinner under the lights - how fancy. I plan to get more strands to hang around the pergola.

Yeah, I know, these lights are really called 'Party Lights', but we never have parties.  I just have them for my  personal amusement.



As you can see, one bulb is out.  It is not burnt out, it is just out.  We call that bulb' Blue' for obvious reasons.  Glenn will give Blue a twist, Blue will shine for about one minute, and then Blue darkens. 

Blue ruins the entire color scheme - red, blue, green, yellow, pink - red, dark, green, yellow, pink - catch the sequence?  But, Glenn and I have gotten use to Blue being dark and life goes on - in a fun way!



So, may I suggest...this year when you hang your Christmas lights, plan on keeping them shining the entire year - if you live in town, it may freak out your neighbors!  Or, the lights may bring smiles to many faces.  I am smiling a whole lot more!

We do not have any neighbors that can see the colorful lights, but our cattle and sheep are now smiling.

Reading, Writing, and Cookie Making

My birds are so thoughtful as to welcome me to another amazing day.  Today I woke to an almost carbon copy of yesterday's birds - Blue Jays in abundance and dancing Mockingbirds, in addition; a male Cardinal joined the mix -  a surprise for me since I have not seen a cardinal for quite some time.  His preference was eating the red berries on the dogwood.


But, in no time at all, it was 1 PM -  leaving only four short hours of daylight.  I will never finish everything posted on the day's 'to do' list...I did not accomplish much yesterday either, so many items keep repeating on said list,  rather than being crossed off. Tick, tick, tick....

I do try to informally schedule the day by slicing a part, more like a sliver, for each interest or chore:  reading, writing, gardening (Yes, I am still working in my gardens - the soil is getting cold, but there is still plenty of weeding and clean-up.), cooking/baking (which entails lots of clean-up), sewing, laundry, photography, collect eggs/water chickens and other farm chores - just to name a few.  Some days are all reading, others all farm chores.  I think I can make-up the 'lost' time for a specific item, but I never can.  So, there you have it - day gone!  Then, I look around and noticed that I probably should have vacuumed the floors days ago, not to mention dust the furniture - can't do everything.  Groceries anybody?


Speaking of reading, I started to reread Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge which is  co-written by Gladys Taber (my favorite author) of Stillmeadow and Barbara Webster of Sugarbridge.  With each page turn, I realized that I was checking to be sure I was turning only one page and not two, those pages were that thick - sturdy and substantial. The book was published in 1953 and sold for $5.00.  Pages of more recently published books are skimpy - you can view the writing through from the following page - and the cost is usually over $25.00.  Hmmmm...The comparison is almost like cardboard versus tissue paper, the pages are that different.  I feel gypped with my new books.  I like quality books - ones that will last 100 years or more. Really!  I feel like my new books are the economy versions, even when I am paying full price.  Even though I am super careful, these new books looked quite 'used' after one reading.  I guess I should be happy that I am still able to purchase any Book, and not have to read on one of those technological contraptions.  No Kindle for me!

As I read, I nourished/treat myself with cookies from a new recipe I tried last night - Peanut Butter  Chocolate Chip.  I am not fond of peanut butter, but I am of cookies. Chocolate chips, a requirement  in most of my cookie recipes.  And, these are fabulous - tasty, soft, moist, chewy with a perfect combination of peanut and chocolate flavor.  This time, I almost followed the recipe 'to a T', except that the recipe said to drop by 1/4 cupfuls of dough per cookie - yikes - even for me, that is one BIG cookie.  I used my new little cookie dough scoop, baked for 10 minutes and ended up with about 75 delicious, adequately-sized cookies.  I find, the smaller the cookie, the longer they last. (Yeah - right....) Glenn had one and thought they were OK.  OK? Just OK?  Glenn is not a cookie aficionado.  "No problem,  I would eat them." I said.   His response, "I know that...by the time I want another cookie (in about one week) they will probably be all gone." Glenn knows me so well!


Well, I am not going to save any cookies for him, especially if he only thought they were OK.  I did squirrel away a few containers in the freezer.  Even I try to allocate my carb calories.  I am not very successful, though, but I do try. But then again....I need to store up for the bad days that are coming'.

I have to stop looking for delicious cookie recipes - one day.....


Note: Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe is found at allrecipes.com.  Let me know what you think....


P.S.  This blog was supposed to be posted on November 20, 2011 - something went wrong...either technology or me???

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Birds, Birds Everywhere

The yard/gardens always seem to be filled with birds these days.  That is, until Buddy nonchalantly enters the scene.  Then, the birds become scarce.  They are onto his game.

Eureka!  The answer came to me.  These birds were eating the dried seed heads of my flowers.  I do make an effort not to cut the seed heads down during early fall clean-up, at least not until I am sure the seeds have been eaten.  I am glad that the birds are still enjoying bounty from my garden.

Look carefully - can you see the American Goldfinch?
 But, most times, I have to look closely to see most of the birds.   While doing dishes, I was able to observe an American Goldfinch just outside the window on a dried cone flower.  He was twisting and turning to reach all the seeds on that particular seed head.  He was also clothed in his winter feathers - very mute (not brilliant gold at all) grey blending in with the dried vegetation remaining in the flower bed. 

A Carolina Wren just landed on the silver maple, located just outside the office window,  as I sit at the computer typing.  I can hear the tweets through the closed pane as this tiny bird flits from twig to twig.  I saw this same (?) bird on the entry porch earlier this morning when I took my usual first look of the day.  I also saw a Carolina Wren sitting in the small dogwood tree, growing just feet from this same porch, yesterday; as all three cats sat motionless on  the porch, heads facing said bird.  That wren was tempting fate, but he did fly away before any mishaps with my cunning cats.

Last week, a Carolina Wren rested in my trellis on the side of the pergola - I watched  with interest until, yep -  Buddy arrived.  Buddy always seems to know where I am and has to be there.  I enjoy his company most of the time, but once in awhile, I need a bit of secrecy.  Of course, he does not know that. 

 
The Blue Jays add blurrs of brilliant blue color to the faded landscape as they fly here, then there.  They are the bullies at the feeders, but they have a purpose - maybe it is just to add another dimension of beauty to my immediate world.

I often catch a couple of  Mockingbirds in dance.  One bird is almost stationary except for a turning head as if watching a tennis match and the other, directly facing the mate; hops to the right, hops to the left, hops back to the right.  This movement is repeated over and over.  I watch about five minutes before I move on to my chores.  Hours later, I can witness a recurrence of this same dance.  I have viewed the Mockingbirds going through a dance routine in the spring, but the steps/movements are totally different - lots of wing action.  There is no wing action this time.  I guess I am watching the 'Fall Fling' version of the Mockingbird Boogie.

Mockingbird resting his twinkle toes
There is a lot to be perceived in my garden.  I make a point to look everywhere....I do not want to miss one little detail, not one little event!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wood Smoke, Good Smoke

It's back...the grey smoke rising from the chimney of the house.  The wood furnace is officially in business for the winter season. 


 
I like to watch the smoke swirl around the roof top, dispersing into the surrounding air.  The smoke travels in a straight column into the sky; or ejects in puffs as if an old codger was drawing on a pipe; or at times, makes fluid, apparition-like shapes.  Fortunately,  I get more a feeling of free spirit rather than spooky spirit.


 
And, the aroma - generally one of an earthiness, a real fragment of the cycle of life.  Another whiff reveals that each wood species produces a different odor - I am keen on each and every variance.

Oak; hickory; and oh, that red cedar - just like stepping into a paneled closet. 

But, more valuable than the smell is the heat the firewood is producing.  I like to keep warm.  And, actually utilizing a renewable resource growing on our farm; so much the better.

Wood smoke is definitely good smoke.

Abruptly, the smoke is gone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stormin'

Last night the weather really turned blustery.  I looked out into the dark night and thought, at first,  I was watching a blizzard.  In a way, I was...I was watching a blizzard of maple leaves.  In addition, we logged over two inches, yes two inches,  of rain.  Where is that kind of moisture when we really need it during the despair of a mid-July drought?

This morning I woke to my 'Last Hurrah" maple looking more branchy and open than leafy.  I looked down at the ground and discovered where all the leaves had disappeared.   The lawn was carpeted in gold.

I ran outside to capture the beauty in my mind, before there was any chance for another quick change.


I was greeted with a slew of robins, nuthatches, and titmice within feet and not really minding my close presence.





Now, that is one great way to enjoy a morning.


The rest of the day was not as desirable as Becky and I spent hours brainstorming.

Since we are currently expanding our business ventures and Becky is stepping into the management, we have decided that a Mountain Glen Farm website is in order.  Promotion is a good thing.  Exerting the brain, not so much.

But, we made progress and have assigned homework to boot. 

I will let you all know more about the website as we get closer to a 'ready for public-viewing' site.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Words Are In Your Vocabulary?

I watch/listen to a lot of news.  I want to be informed.  I want to know what is happening outside my sheltered refuge.  I want to know what external forces/decisions will be affecting my life, the life of my family and friends, and the life of others throughout the world.  I use the information obtained to  derive my own conclusions.

Lately, I  am quite perturbed with what I am hearing, witnessing...near total disgust with the human race - here in the United States, as well as, around the world/abroad.

In the U.S., what ever happened to telling the truth, morality, common courtesy, proud to be American?  PC - ridiculous!

I prefer a honest, caring, sharing individual over one who speaks out of both sides of the mouth, don't you?

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a word is very telling of the individual using that word.

Below are some of the words I hear used on a regular basis, in no particular order ....
 


freedom  war  hypocrisy  pessimistic  build  politics  cooperative  optimism  Sharia  destruction 



cut spending  far-left  nuclear weapons  anarchy  Wall Street  lazy  inflation  Tea Party



corruption   inaccurate  peace  immoral  cheat   entitled   transparency   spin  constitutional  ally



ethical   honest   fair   racist  hard-working  tyranny  deserve  terrorists  elite   crony-capitalism  



socialism  share   capitalism  divided  decency  lying  closed-door  take  republic  Muslim  rights


Christian  progressive  bankrupt  Israel  far-right  increase taxes  illegal  depression  establishment





Which words are part of your customary vocabulary?  Which words are more representative of your life?

I think I am going to spend just a bit more of my time isolated from the disorder, hanging out in my refuge...or, perhaps, now is the time to get involved, to be vocal, to be a part of the solution????  Regardless,

Perhaps, we can all choose our words more wisely....

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Last Hurrah

My  'Last Hurrah' tree, the large silver maple that towers over the roof at one corner of our house is, now, dressed in full glorious yellow-gold color. That corner of the house absolutely glows, both on the outside and on the inside.



This tree is the last in my yard, and in most of my surrounding area, to display its autumn radiance - this tree is always the last, never fail, every fall - the last.  Thus, the name, Last Hurrah.


No matter when the local foliage color change  begins, early or late and no matter how long the color change lasts, short or lengthy;  I can always count on this tree to close the season in spectacular, final glory.

My favorite view is looking out the office window; sitting where I write my blog, pay bills, compose personal letters; discerning the gold-laden branches bending down, highlighting the barn pasture and practically hiding the sight of the distant mountains looming up from behind our neighbor's woods to the east.   Add an early morning sunrise, and I am speechless - Indescribable!!! How can one person benefit from so much beauty, seated in one location and settled in the comfort of one's own home?  I do not want to look away.



I move to the living room and I get another view of my tree - just as gorgeous, just as breath-taking.

I am so privileged.








Unfortunately, we have been experiencing high winds the past few days causing the early release of these golden nuggets. However, the leaves, floating the air currents down  to the ground, provide yet another degree of pure joy. 

 
At times, a slight breeze will make the leaves dance along the roof top or roll along the still green lawn. - amusing entertainment.    If there is a rain shower, the leaves stick to the roof, walkway or lawn looking like nature's confetti.  Celebrate!

Presently, the ground in the  immediate area of Last Hurrah is covered with a good amount of this tree's, and only this tree, fallen leaves.  Such a bittersweet moment - peaceful, yet knowing the end of the season is getting really close.  The seconds are silently ticking....