summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Contrails (designs in the Sky) - Year's End

Lately, on a daily basis, I  have noticed bunches of contrails in the sky.

A contrail, the noticeably white line left by an aircraft, is water vapor. Perhaps, the colder sky of the season makes the vapor more visible - I really do not know!

In any case, sometimes I watch (I never hear) the aircraft (or aircrafts)  leaving this trail as the plane proceeds across my view shed, high in the sky; and sometimes I only distinguish the contrail as the plane is long gone.

three aircraft in view - look closely

The trail begins as quite a definite, dense line.  Then, the line slowly disperses into a wider, more translucent streak until it eventually disappears altogether.

I notice single contrails, multiple contrails, criss-crossed contrails, contrails by moonlight, and even observed an orange contrail in the evening sky - absorbing the color from the glow of the setting sun. 

Contrails are similar to most new year's resolutions;  very definite and bold at the beginning of the new year, becoming a bit muddled as the year progresses, and pretty much non-existent by year's end - that is where I am now - year's end.

Fortunately, my contrail is that orange one - the one that glows... my resolution for 2011 disappeared somewhere during the year, but my year was quite magnificent - just like that brilliant, colorful contrail. 

A near ideal end to a near impeccable year.

Note added 1-5-12:  Today I observed several contrails in the design of a sunburst - put a smile on my face - oh boy, those pilots are getting creative!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nearing Year's End

Only a few days left to 2011....another year - come and gone - and, so quickly to boot!

I am finally putting my gardens to rest - getting to the last of my gardening chores for the season.

As I get older, I have to find easier (for me, that is) and faster ways to accomplish my gardening tasks.  Otherwise, I am one big body of pain for trying.

The past few years, Glenn has been kind enough to weed eat the perennials that have died back for the season.  I lead, point, and indicate how low each plant should be sheared. Glenn cuts.  Lastly, I return to rake the cut plant material out of the beds. Voila!  Gardens are neat, clean and ready, waiting for the warmth of the spring days to begin their growing process once again.

A few of the dried perennials are left standing for winter interest - ice or snow on the dried flower heads of the Autumn Joy sedum are so spectacular.  Also, I purposely retain the dried leaves and stems on some plants, like my mums, to provide extra winter protection . 

The more plants that can be attended to now, the fewer will need immediate attention in the spring - when there is less time for each chore.  There are so many tasks to complete in short order.  Once the weather warms, all plants take off - time has to be divided among many more jobs; planting the vegetable garden, mowing the lawn, pruning/trimming plants, unending the more gardening I can accomplish in the fall/winter, the better for my time management come spring.

I am not trying to rush any season, as each season has a special beauty.  I am just trying to be more prepared so that I can enjoy each and every day to the fullest with the least amount of muscle soreness. 

And, if all the garden chores do not get done today...there is always tomorrow, or the spring.

Christmas Eve

I planned on minimal holiday decorations this year, and I am holding true to my plan.

But, as I was out in the garden this week, continuing with clean-up and trimming, I remembered that I had not shaped the holly tree this summer - I was saving the wild branches for inside embellissshing during the December holidays.

So, today, I put together a very simple table centerpiece.  I reused a basket from a floral arrangement given to me by friend for a previous birthday, cut a few holly branches and stuck them into the floral foam. 

Simple - yes.  Something missing - yes.  My holly was very sparse on red beries this year - really out of my control.  But, my winterberry was not.  So back out to the garden to harvest a few springs of robust berries. I eneded up with just the look I was going for...austere and home grown. 

 After all, the main reason I grow holly and winterberry is for my holiday decorating.  I was enjoying the plants so much outside, I had forgotten that I wanted to bring a little of my nature inside. 

So, before I go, I want to wish one and all a very Merry Christmas - may your celebrations be filled with joy, family, and sharing.

Note:  Oops...I forgot to post this on Christmas Eve - better late....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25, 2011 - Merry Christmas


                    GOODWILL TO EACH AND ALL !

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deer Hunting - Season Over?

I do not know for sure, but I am thinking hunting season for deer has ended.

What makes me think that?  Well, for one; I do not hear any gunshot anymore.  And, second; the deer are starting to creep out of the woods and show their faces, and white tails, again.

They still move with caution, but they are wandering out into our open fields. They deer are sleek, tawny grey, and so beautiful.

In the woods they are near invisible; blending with the colors of the trees' bark.  Suddenly, a swish of that bushy, white tail gives away their concealment. Quickly, they bound off disappearing in mere seconds.

Prior to hunting season, we observe deer in our pastures and woods on a daily basis; during hunting season, none - not one!  Those deer are so smart....

I am glad to welcome them back - just as long as they stay away from my perennials in my garden.

I wish I had a telephoto lens for my camera....see the four in this photo?

Note:  I just found out that it is muzzle-loading season for one more week - I guess the deer are confident enough to come out of hiding.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Yep, today is the day (12:30 AM to be exact) of the 2011 winter solstice - the shortest day, longest night of the year for the eastern time zone.  Now, if you live in the central time zone, the winter solstice was yesterday, December 21st at 11:30 PM.   My dilemma is...which day is the shortest and which night the longest????

Regardless, the winter solstice occurs at the exact moment for everyone, no matter the day or time, for everyone in the northern hemisphere. I live in the eastern time zone; thus, today is the beginning of my winter and the beginning of my days becoming longer - yea!

Historically, the Winter Solstice was a time of celebration and festivities - one of many celebrations to occur during this time of year.

So, my advice....go out and PARTEE !

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Son's Birthday

Happy Birthday Matthew!

Today is my son's birthday.  I am already feeling a bit melancholy because I will not see him, I will not be able to give him a birthday hug.  In fact, I have not seen Matt for exactly one year.  I miss him. (my eyes are watering)

The one thing I do on my kids' birthdays...I reminisce about the day they were born.  Today will not be different.

Glenn and I were living in the south end of Rockbridge County - our first Virginia farm.

I was sitting at my desk (probably finishing off the last of my Christmas cards)  inside the house while Glenn built fence along the front hayfield.  Suddenly, I was sitting in a puddle. This is it, I thought....

I saw Glenn out front, so I opened the door and yelled as loud as I could so that he could hear me at his distance,  " GLENNNNN, COME HERE!!!!!!" His head popped up from his work, and he looked as though he could tell he was really needed.

I quickly called the doctor.  He asked me to stop by his office first so that he could give me quick examine to be sure I was ready to go to the hospital.  I was ready - the gripping pain had begun.

Glenn and I jumped (well, you  know what I mean) into the car.  First comment, "We need gas, better stop on the way into town."  Great....But, stop we did.  Then, the car would not start again - tank filled with gas and dead as the proverbial door nail.  Glenn's next suggestion was that I needed to get behind the wheel while he tried to push-start the car.  Pain and all, I rolled out of the car, slowly walked around to the driver side, and inched back in.  Glenn pushing, the car started.    (Note: Glenn discovered later that a very small part, that prevented the car from starting, broke at the gas station stop - what timing!) We returned to our 30 minute drive to town.

Arriving at the doctor's office, taking no further chances, Glenn left the car running.  The doctor verified what I already knew - it was time to get to the hospital. Back into the car for a quick, around the corner drive to the hospital.

I hate hospital's; but in this case, I pretty much had no choice. 

I went through the typical maternity check-in and was laying down, attached to a monitor, in a matter of minutes.  Each pain produced a spike on the monitor.  I started watching the monitor, then realized, that I did not need to be given a visual as to when I was experiencing pain - I knew it!

Five hours later, Matthew was pushed into the world.  Glenn, at my side, said he was purple.  Within minutes, I got my first glance of Matthew's little round, scrunched face (love at first sight).  Glenn and I had waited a long time for this moment.

The next time I saw Matthew was when I was awaken during the middle of the night, by a nurse, for Mathew's first of many feedings.  He was clean, bundled in blankets, and smelling like a baby.  I noticed he had a small spot, discoloration, on his shoulder area (of course I checked inside those blankets...) - an observation that would be helpful later during my hospital stay.  Once, I was brought the wrong baby, a girl.  Not mine, bring me the right one - NOW!  Verify name on bracelet - check, verify identifying mark - check....right baby!

The hospital stay was irritating - I wanted to get home and start my life as a mother.  A visit from the baby's doctor (who knew I needed a doctor for myself and a different one for the baby - I did not) and his comment - something about me being no spring chicken... what? - left me longing for a quick departure.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, I was given the word.  Matthew and I were going home. 

Dec. 25, 1984 - Our favorite Christmas gift!
Late December was extremely warm (in the 70's) that year.  So, On Christmas Day, Glenn and I (in shirt sleeves) took Matthew (bundled well in a snowsuit and hat) for his first walk around the farm. 

Matthew and I were inseparable for now.  I knew our bond would not last forever. 

Matthew is now a grown man - independent, intelligent, creative...

December 10, 2010 - Matthew and his Dad
Matthew has changed, but my love for him has not!
Have a fabulous birthday, Matthew!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Only Doing Her Job

Jenny keeping guard over her little sheep.
Jenny, our donkey, is in residence at our farm for one reason, and one reason only - to protect the sheep from predators - coyotes; dogs, wild or otherwise, bears, and whatever else shows aggression toward our small and defenseless sheep.  OK, OK...she is cute, too; but putting that fact aside....

So, when Buddy and Jake accompany us on our daily flerd check - either to move the flerd or just see how the flerd is doing, both dogs are putting themselves into harms way.

Buddy knows this and is always on the alert.  Jake does not and requires our watchful eye. Jake is elderly, and; clueless about his own well-being.

Yesterday, Buddy followed us as we drove our 4-wheelers down to the flerd.  Jake opted to stay up at the house - a rare decision on his part.

Within seconds of meeting up with the flerd, Buddy saw Jenny; and Jenny, likewise, saw Buddy.  They moved around the field, slowly and discriminating, cognizant of the other's every move.

Glenn continued on to set the new electric fence line, and I remained back watching the two antagonists.  Suddenly, Buddy made the first move and ran full out toward Jenny.  Jenny momentarily retreated, gathered her thoughts, then charged Buddy.  Buddy is fast.  He knows he can out run Jenny.  I yelled to Buddy to stop. He did. Buddy does listen to my commands once in a great while - this time he obeyed, at least, for the moment. The two adversaries took a time out.  Shortly, Jenny took the next charge.  Buddy was able to outmaneuver Jenny, but she did not stop.  Jenny kicked up her heals and continued the pursuit. Finally, the two realized that it was time to move onto grazing and roaming, respectively.

In the end, all was at peace.

Frankly, Glenn and I are glad to know that Jenny will defend her charges, even against the family pet.

After all, Jenny is only doing her job.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not So Hidden Treasures

Today was quite mild as mild December days go  - pleasant in the,  out to the garden to continue my clean-up work.

Even though most of the garden seems to be asleep, or at very least, napping;  as I scan my surroundings, there are still many wonders around ...

Abandoned birds nests, presently only slightly hidden, posed among the now bare branches of many shrubs - no wonder I had so many feathered friends in my yard this summer - my yard was their home.

Squirrel nests safely built; visible as leafy clumps high in the tree tops.

Bright red winter twigs of the many dogwood shrubs growing throughout my yard.  I still do not know the common or scientific name, but I enjoy their color, nonetheless.  I started with one shrub, and have transplanted several of the unending root sprouts over the years adding the sharp, red color to many corners of my garden.

Tiny pine cones adorn the evergreen Eastern Hemlock, holding fast within feet of our home.  This one tree gets extra special care as I try to keep it from being plagued by the woolly aldegid - an aphid that causes death within just a few growing seasons.  Most area hemlocks have  succumbed to this pest, but I baby my tree. Glenn and I transplanted our hemlock from the forest into our yard when it was only a 12 inch tall seedling - the mature tree now stands close to 25 feet tall - healthy and still growing taller.

Sweet gum seed balls swing in the wind as they hang from the branches as natural ornaments.  Each day, one or two drop, the corky and leafless branches becoming less decorated as the season progresses.

And, the flower buds - obvious on my taking a close look at several different plants -  flowering quince, silver maple, flowering dogwood - waiting for spring to burst forth with color and texture.  Imagine - a bit of springtime persistent during the sleeping season. 

flowering quince flower buds

silver maple flower buds

flowering dogwood flower buds

Look, too, can discover many not-so-hidden treasures.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Today is the day...I am one day older; officially, one year older and I love to celebrate -  getting older, no...getting better, no....just being able to enjoy life!

So Festive!

My celebration actually started yesterday with a wonderful birthday lunch treat at Hollywood's (great food) with my dear friend, Ann.  She also baked me a delicious rum cake.  I have never tried to made this cake myself because I always wait to see if Ann will bake me another one for my birthday - she always does. It is a favorite with me because I like rum.  Of course, the only rum I have had in a year is the rum that was in last year's birthday cake. As you can see,  I am not a big drinker, at least; of alcoholic beverages. I do love coke; hence, the rum. But, I truly relish each and every rum-soaked morsel of every cake Ann bakes for me. She is one good baker/cook!  This cake will not last long - two days tops (yeah...Glenn gets a sliver or two).

Then, Glenn  surprised me with a bouquet of lovely cut flowers.  I love flowers, too! All my garden flowers are gone, so a vaseful of colorful stems really brightens my day, my week...until every last one turns brown.  I have been known to keep cut flowers for as long as one month - I get the most out of every single bloom! Glenn is not normally a flower-giver - not practical enough.  So, flowers from him are, indeed, special.
On returning home from taking a load of logs to a local sawmill with Glenn, (Aren't birthdays great? You just get to do what you want.) there, sitting on the hood of my car, (which was parked in front of the house - it is usually under the carport by the barn) was a basket of potted foliage plants accented with a  brilliant red poinsettia. (I am glad the air temperature was still about 48 degrees.) A helium BIRTHDAY balloon was tied to the basket along with a box of chocolates - yum!  The dogs and cats, flanking both sides of my car, were guarding the loot until we arrived home. This surprise was from my oldest (as in longest -  jr.high/high school) friend Chris and her squeeze Gary, who live in Atlanta.

Calls from the kids and cards from other family members and friends completed this; yes,  perfect day.  Am I a lucky person or what?  I am a very lucky person!

THANKS EVERYBODY!   You are all so extraordinary!!!

Excuse me while I brush the cake crumbs off my lap and wipe  the melted chocolate from the creases of my mouth....

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Smile and A Laugh

Lately, I have been been spending most of my time sending out the family Christmas cards, finishing handmade gifts, and organizing (which does not include cleaning) the house.  I could benefit from a 48 hour day, but that will never happen. 

Time is very important to me.  I know it is quite a finite fortune.  But, I still love to listen and nod my head to the melody of the chimes and striking hours of my clock.  Even though, I realize my own time is ticking away; I have a smile of contentment on my face.

So, I took a movie of my clock chiming. I can listen to the music of 12 o'clock (the hour of maximum joy) any time I wish. 

And, when I looked and listened to the short flick on the computer screen, which is much larger and the details more obvious than on my camera screen,  I started to laugh uncontrollably.  Not only did I get a movie of my clock, but I also got of movie of myself in the reflection.  Look closely...see my bobbing head? can stop laughing now.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

And, The Gifts Continue

I am so very lucky - Glenn's gifts continue....

Glenn knew that I wanted to try a gardening experiment  - plant pole beans and lettuce seed late, very late, in the year and ascertain if those two veggies would begin to grow earlier in the spring.  They had, this past spring, from random seed falling from the remaining bean pods and lettuce seed heads; but not in enough numbers to produce a substantial crop.

So, I thought, why not try to replicate nature and just plant the seeds in the late fall and see what spring brings?

Hence, Glenn prepared the soil where the pole beans would be planted, and I planted the bean seed.  Next, he added soil and compost to the one and only raised bed where I wanted to plant the lettuce seed.  I planted the lettuce seed.

The preparation of the soil in those two areas of the garden - crossed off the priority 'to do' list - yea!

Now, we wait until to spring to see the results...I am keeping my soil-stained fingers crossed!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Still Counting - Number 3

Glenn continues to amaze me - he is really checking off those 'honey do' chores I put on my Christmas List - thank you, thank you, thank you!

This one...trimming the trees/shrubs throughout the yard. 

Now,  I know this is not the best time of the year to trim trees and shrubs; but if not now, perhaps not for another year.  Spring is always so busy, that many spring delegated chores are totally neglected due to lack of time.  So, if I can sneak in tree trimming now, then now is the ideal time.  Besides, the task is so much easier when the leaves are off - less mess, better visual assessment.

When I say tree trimming, I mean a branch on this tree and a branch on another tree.  The overall cutting is quite minimal, but adds positively to the shaping and future growth of each specimen.   Two low branches off the fabulous sugar maple, a couple of  low hanging limbs (they always grab me when I mow the lawn) off the sweetgum, an odd-looking branch off the ginkgo, several crossing branches off the apples,  a few rogue stems off the dogwood shrub, hemlock, ornamental pear....

Glenn...start your chainsaw!

maple, off

sweetgum, off

ginkgo, off

apple, off

Save that nest in the apple tree!

pear, off

dogwood, off - isn't this one pretty?  Does anyone know the species? I am trying to find out!

Note:  Glenn is using his 'baby' chainsaw for my chores.  When he is felling trees; 30+ inches in diameter, 80 - 100 feet tall,  he uses a chainsaw three times the size, and three times the horsepower.
Here is a sampling of Glenn logging....

Glenn skidding medium-sized logs (left) which will go to the sawmill and small logs (right) which will go to the paper mill.

Large-size logs (not shown) are sold on site to a veneer log buyer.

Glenn delivering a load of medium-sized logs to a local mill. He trucks the logs long, then cuts the logs to length at the mill.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gift #2

Another really big job - check.

Cleaning out the chicken house....we have all had our turns over the years - me, Becky, Matt, and Glenn.

This time - Glenn - crossing off another chore on my 'priority to do' list.

This is not a pleasant job...mainly because of the nasty dust created by the sweeping down the walls and ceilings and by the shoveling out of all the....manure. Many breaks have to be taken to walk out to breath a bit of fresh air before going back in.   A twice per year chore.  Up side - all those poultry droppings are carted to the garden and incorporated into the soil - really good, natural fertilizer.

good stuff!
The old hay in the nesting boxes are removed and replaced with fresh - this little chore is scheduled as needed, about once per month.

Grit and oyster shell bins are filled - weekly.

Feeder filled as it nears empty, about once per week and the waterer is filled daily during the cool season, more during summer.

Eggs collected daily.

Most of the chickens stayed in their outside pasture during the ordeal, except...for the two, little Banty hens - they never leave the confines of the chicken house - never.  As the shovel flew and dust clouds billowed, those Banty hens flew from 'safe' corner to 'safe' corner.  One accidentally flew out the open door and found itself in new territory - green grass with Buddy stealthily learching nearby.  That was one nervous hen.  When Glenn finished, she was herded back into the house.  The other chickens soon joined her to check out their cleaned quarters.  They all seemed to nod their approval.

Gift #2 - perfect!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hip Hip (Two Years Later) Hooray - AKA - My First Christmas Gift

I really do not need much in the way of gifts; extravagant, expensive, inexpensive or otherwise.  What I do need is to get a few chores done that take muscle or experience with equipment.  Therefore, I did make a looooong list of gift suggestions, gave it to Glenn (neatly written), and have recited it to Glenn regularly; adding, as I think of new items. The list is VERY long.

Now, I do not expect the entire list to be accomplished/performed under the auspices of gift-giving status; even though, I do have a birthday this month, too.  But, an item or two or three crossed off would give me great joy.

Today, I received that first gift - the trimming of a branch stub that has been irritating me for two years.  Glenn cut the majority of the branch, which was broken, off from the silver maple two years prior to this past summer.  A five-foot stub remained because Glenn could not reach that high with his regular chainsaw, standing on the ground.  He said he would get it later with the aid of a ladder or his long chain saw.  I believed him.

The season passed, then the next summer, then another summer.  The reply to my many inquiries was," I am going to get it."  Yeah, I know, but when.  Well, today was when.

Glenn retrieved his long saw, sharpened the blade, topped off the oil and gas, and sauntered over to the tree.  Within a few seconds, that stub was cut off.  Hip Hip Hooray!

branch stub on
That is one BIG gift.
branch stub falling
That five foot long stub of a branch was always adding a dimension to many of my photos that I did not want as part of my photos. So, I had to shift a little to the left, or tilt my camera a bit low  to avoid the unwanted limb.  Also,the stub was always the first branch that would catch my eye as I looked out the window to view the beautiful scenery - I had to get past the uggggly!  Going back to my days as a forester...stubs are a definite NO,NO - cut always flush with the branch collar; never leave a stub, any length.  Yep,  that branch gave me many a day of annoyance!

And now today, I am happy.  Stub on the ground - might even be a piece of firewood when it dries - yep, I am happy!

Hmmm...I wonder if more 'gifts' are in the offing????