summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Herds

Now that we moved a portion of our cattle to ‘55’, we officially have two cattle herds.

Mountain Glen Farm herd in shade of a 200+ year-old wild cherry tree.

The Mountain Glen Farm herd will eventually be all South Poll, South Poll cross. There are a few remaining Angus that will be transitioned off the farm.

Look at base of tree, red cow, black speck (new heifer)

Our first calf that was born on Thursday, March 29th, a ½ Angus, ½ South Poll heifer.  She is so cute!

The ‘55’ farm herd currently is all Angus, Angus cross cows.  This spring’s calves will be 50% South Poll.  The cattle seemed to have acclimated well to their new home since their move two days ago.

Note:  I did see a dentist about my two front teeth and am happy to report that both teeth seem fine at the moment.  What I thought was a crack across one tooth was only a portion of the enamel breaking off.  Because the teeth were hit straight across and not in an upward motion, the dentist thinks that there is no nerve damage.  I was LUCKY!!!!

Where are the sheep?  They have been given a separate pasture while waiting for the lambs to arrive. We were uncertain what a huge 1200 pound cow would do to a 10 pound lamb, so we thought we better be safe and separate the flerd into herd and flock during the ‘baby’ season.

Spring continues to display a colorful and fragrant-filled beauty.  I am absorbing every second.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Add Cows

New fences…new gates…add cattle; naturally, the next step in the progression.

And, yesterday was that day we added the cattle to ‘55’.

The day started as a beautiful spring day; sunny and warm, more colorful flowers in bloom, fruit trees abuzz with bees, birds being frisky, cows contently grazing…and then, came the time to load and move the cattle.

The day progressed, alright; from good to bad to worse.

First, Glenn and Becky repaired old, interior fences and put up gates in the barn to make the entire '55' property cattle ready...meaning, once the cattle were on the property, there were no points of exit. That quick chore lasted all morning until 2:00 in the afternoon.  But, Glenn thought there was still time left in the day to move the cattle...wishful thinking or stupid thinking?

Glenn had decided to move all the Angus, what I affectionately call our ‘second string’ herd; while keeping the entire South Poll breed, ‘first string’, on the main farm.

Using our vintage cattle trailer, the move would be accomplished in four trips. 

First, gather the cows.  Second, separate the cows. Third, start loading. 

The cows were not cooperating from the start.   And, of course, both Jake and Buddy followed us down to the cows; thus, contributing to the overall unrest.  One cow decided she was not moving and gave birth right at the moment of gathering. (Note:  cute calf - ½ Angus, ½ South Poll - black with a white spot on its left cheek - did not have time to check sex). After the birth, huge vultures assembled nearby.

The first load of six arrived at ‘55’.  They gingerly stepped off the trailer into the barn lot of their new home.  Slowly moving about and investigating.  We returned for the next load.

The dogs again followed us from the house back down to the loading area.  The second group of cows was even more uncooperative.  On the drive back, one of the trailer tires started to smoke.  I was following behind the trailer in my car, so I had to drive ahead and motion to Glenn to pull over.  Evidently, one of the cows was pushing the side of the trailer against the tire.  Glenn tried to rearrange the cows without having a bovine escape on a major highway.  My heart began to beat fast.  The cows did not rearrange, but they did not escape either.  Fortunately, the second load made it to ‘55’, unloaded, and we returned to Mountain Glen for load #3.

The dogs back at the house decided to followed us again.  Buddy loved the extra activity, but old Jake was slowing down.  He was told to stay, but once a farm dog always a farm dog.  He had to be a part of any farm activity.

The third load continued to be difficult to load.  Glenn, Becky and I had our specific jobs, but the cows did not seem to care about our organization.  They were not playing.  The mama cow had moved with her calf to the loading area, but upon our arrival, again; they moved.  That little calf was so strong and fast considering it had just been born; a plus for our management. 

The third load made it to ‘55’, unloaded, and we went back to the farm.  It was starting to get dark and we wanted to finish the task.  By this time, I was exhausted physical and mentally.  I wanted to quit, but I was not allowed. 

the 'real' farmers of Mountain Glen Farm and '55'
new home at '55'

Finally, the fourth and final load remained to move.  The dogs followed again - Jake was moving, creeping slower than ever.  The last five cows were even more ornery.  Then, as I was trying to keep a few cows on the trailer and watching for a cow coming through the chute behind me, a cow retreated from the trailer causing the heavy metal door to bang into my mouth, full force against my two top front teeth.  Quite frankly, I could not tell if I had any teeth left in my mouth.  Glenn was not sympathetic as he wanted those last 5 cows loaded.  Becky gave me a quick hug.  I went to cry.  I looked in the truck side view mirror and saw that at least one tooth was cracked - my best tooth in my mouth.  I cried again.  Becky and Glenn finished the loading and were ready to take the last load to ‘55’.  There was no time to feel sorry for myself. I received no empathy.

The last load of cows was unloaded at ‘55’ in the dark.  I positioned my headlights toward the rear of the trailer so the cows could see to step off.  Once off, who knows where they went.  They are black.  It was night. I think we fastened the gates.

We were all tired, thirsty and hungry.  I was afraid to eat as my teeth and gums were hurting.  I called Matt for much needed sympathy.  He broke a tooth once.  He could relate. I was only able to leave a message.  It was still early in Alaska, 4:30 PM, but Matt called me right back with some comforting words.  The kids were more sensitive than husband.

Once, back home for good, I was ready to collapse.  My foot hurt from a previous gardening incident and my mouth hurt enough for a dose of Ibuprofen (unusual for me to take). Then, Becky realized Jake was not at home.  She heard him barking from below the house where he was stranded.  Becky grabbed a flashlight and went to Jake’s rescue. 

I was already thinking about my trip to the dentist the next morning.  I was thinking about the cows getting use to their new home.  I was thinking about the fence guy leaving a gate open at ‘55’ when he retrieved his equipment.  I was thinking about the work that still needed to get done; after all, it is spring, a very busy season. I was thinking about our taxes which we have not started.  My mind was on overload. 

Maybe today, it is morning, will be better.  I can only hope!

The sky in the east is getting lighter and lighter as the sun is beginning to rise.  Another day…

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Farm Gates

Where there is new fence, there are usually new gates.

And, today, our new gates were hung; completing the perimeter fencing project at ‘55’ - yippee!

A new roof for our house is on hold, painting the living room is now on the backburner; but, the fencing and gates look terrific.

Next farm project…???

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Spring

The spring showers have temporarily stopped; yielding to a bright, sunny and breezy day.

Early morning revealed a ribbon of fog rising from the nearby meandering river. 

The livestock looks refreshed, the grass greener, the  garden more colorful.  Every living thing seems to thrive from a good dosing of spring rain.

I relish the sights each day; as these quickly wane into new and amazing visions the next.

I am never disappointed.

What I call my 'peachy' daffodil - simply gogeous!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Parasitic Birds

Spring showers have arrived.    

Rain fell all day yesterday.  Today, the rain continued.  This grey morning, as I looked out at the bird feeder, I did not see my usual group of feathered friends.  I saw a small flock of a different species.   I initially identified them as cowbirds, both male and female.  The males have dark bodies with dark-brown heads and the females are on overall non-descript, medium brown.  Upon verification with my favorite Virginia bird book, I learned that I was correct.

The Birds of Virginia Field Guide noted that this bird makes no nests; it lays its eggs in the nest of other birds. The author, Stan Tekiela, states that the cowbird is Virginia’s only parasitic bird; there are some 750 species of such parasitic birds worldwide.

Later, I saw one of those male cowbirds sitting on a branch of the nearby silver maple tree. Watching and listening closely, I realized he was chirping one set of notes, and sounding a second, very different couple of notes.  I had to get a recording.

 I positioned myself on the back deck of the house; as close as I felt safe without disturbing the cowbird. I focused in on the cowbird, snapped the movie button on my camera and heard a distinct crunching.  At that very moment, Jake decided to snack on his dry dog food.  I moved the dog food dish up onto the oak barrel, out of Jake’s reach.  The cowbird was still in place.  I focused my camera a second time, snapped the movie button, and heard water lapping.  Again, at that very moment Jake decided he needed a long drink of water.  A bit impatiently, I moved the water bowl up onto the doghouse; out of Jake’s reach.  Miraculously, the cowbird was still in his same place.  Again, focusing the camera, clicking the movie button for a third time; and, all I heard was a loud clicking noise coming from Jake’s nails as he moved about the deck.  I told Jake to sit.  One more attempt should result in a recording of the unique call, but…

The cowbird was gone; better luck next time.  Jake just looked at me with an innocent expression as if to ask, “Where is my food and water?”  The cowbird; not his concern.

first apple blossom of the season - sweet!

Note:  Score 3 with my friend Ann.  Yesterday,  Ann and I spent the entire day in the classroom portion of a Virginia Hunter  Education Course.  Prior to yesterday, we had to read ,via the internet, hundreds of pages  and pass several tests before arriving at class.  We both passed.  Yippee!!  Ann plans to hunt turkey, and any copperhead that dares to cross her path.  Ann, to say the least, loathes copperheads.  I, on the other hand, plan to learn how to shoot at bulls’ eyes; on a target that is.  Then, I will be ready if, by chance, I have to eliminate a skunk that wonders too close to our abode.  I really do like skunks; their odor is putrid and makes me ill!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

Last week, I trimmed a branch off of one of my two cherry trees.  I brought the bare branch into the house, placed it into a jar of water, and watched every day to see if the buds would open and bloom. They did today. The exact same day as my cherry trees, one sweet and one sour, started to bloom - outside.

The blossoms are pure white and look so delicate.  And, their fragrance hints at sweetness. A slight breeze sends the tiny petals flying.

Both of these trees are still very young.  This will be their second season that they will produce fruit.  Last year, I was able to make one very small cherry pie with the sour berries - ohhh…so good.  We were also able to eat a handful of the sweet cherries.

I hope we will be able to increase our harvest this year.  Perhaps, two pies?

Of course, we will have to get a jump on the birds.  They seem to know just the moment the cherries get ripe.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Speedy Spring

Normally, our spring is a short season.  The changes that occur between winter’s dormancy and summer’s evolution occur quickly; but, this year’s pace is even more rapid. Spring is progressing at lightning speed.  I believe this is due to the combination of the past mild winter; warmer seasonal temperatures; and the recent, frequent rains.

The earliest of the blooming flowers have already faded.

The greening of the grass has become lush, elongated growth.

cherry blossom buds

Expanding buds one day turn into juvenile leaves or colorful blossoms the next day.

Sweetgum -  emerging leaves and expanding flower buds
apple blossom buds


The birds constantly chatter. They seem to be in a frenzy to get their nests built.

The greys of the leafless woodlands have become tinted with green overnight.

Butterflies are gliding on the spring breezes.

Since I am unable to slow the process, I make a determined effort to observe as much as possible during any one moment.  I create a mental picture in my mind to retrieve when desired.  No matter the actual number of days of this season, it will be small; I will try to remember each beautiful moment.

Mother Nature is in a hurry this year.  She has an agenda.

My agenda…keep my senses alert to each magical moment.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ode To Spring

I looked out from the upstairs window this morning. I thought I was home alone, except for Jake and Buddy; but, I was not.

Birds of every species, regularly found in my garden, were flying here, flying there, and flying everywhere, throughout the yard.  I tried to take a count, but soon lost track due to the many numbers and the many flight paths. 

The Blue Jays seemed to be the most predominant species; but, then again, they are the largest and one of the more colorful - easier to see.  I also observed: Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Chickadees, Sparrows, Wrens, Crows, and numerous others flying past too fast for my identification purposes.  All I knew was that my garden was filled with birds.

I noticed one Mockingbird twisting himself out from my holly bush before flying to the nearby fence.  My first thought was that he was building a nest in that particular holly (the past two years those Mockingbirds had a nest in the taller holly tree next to the house) - not a good idea; too close to the ground, near our cats. Maybe he was building a phony nest to fake out Cricket and Onnie. I grabbed the upstairs binoculars (have to be prepared at any moment) to get a closer look, especially since I saw that same holly bush violently shake - not normal for a holly bush.  I discovered that Mockingbird was eating the remaining holly berries and was having a particularly difficult time removing one from the branch, thus; the shuddering of the bush.

I am so glad to have the birds back in full force. They constantly entertain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Has Arrived?

Spring has arrived, in theory and by the announcement printed on my calendar; but, I do believe our spring started about four weeks ago.  At least, that is when all the beautiful spring flowers began to bloom.  Two weeks later, all the resident birds began to harmonize.  And…they both continue!  Spring, indeed!

Today’s floral features:

Wishing you all a perfectly pleasant spring season… savor each and every color, blossom, fragrance, bird song daily;  as tomorrow will offer a new and different sight, sound, and scent.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Shower

This evening we had a substantial spring shower.  We needed the rain.  And, the spring flowers will, no doubt, be popping out in full vigor the rest of the week.

Initially, the sky darkened to the north.  The rain started before the clouds rolled in.  The sun was shining brightly as the large drops fell.  I was expecting a rainbow, but not even a hint would be seen today.  We did see many lightning strikes and heard some powerful thunder.  Buddy cowered in the corner of the front porch.  Buddy does not like thunder.

Eventually, the entire sky darkened and more rain fell.  The bright colors of spring; greens, white, pinks and purples; became more bold in contrast to the deepening grey veil.   The colors scattered among the woodland trees were beautiful.

The rain ended, the evening refreshed. 

And, I am delighted to know that there are plenty more spring riches to come.  After all, spring officially begins tomorrow.