summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Monday, April 30, 2012

Worth The Wait

Being the gardener and outdoor person that I am, I wait an entire year to see many things one time during a particular season knowing that I will have to wait an entire year just to observe such item again…baby birds stretching their heads over the edge of their nest, beaks open, squawking for food; amazing autumn color; the first snowfall of winter; the blooming of a particular spring flower.

I am not a patient person, but I have no choice in matters concerning Mother Nature.  So, wait I must.  And, the wait is always worth the 365 days, more or less.

The piece de resistance of waiting is this…the wild yellow lady slipper orchid.  Aren't they magnificent?

Come spring, I watch for specific green shoots to pierce the ground just steps into the woods from the edge of my lawn.  I watch daily as these shoots elongate.  I might wait a day or two before I return if progress seems slow.  Then, one day, there they are: brilliant yellow color shining through the shade of the woodland, perfectly-formed slippers enhanced with tiny purple dots on the inside.  I look closely so as not to miss any detail.   

Do you see a monkey's face?

A few seasons back, I discovered a second, smaller patch of yellow lady slippers growing about twenty feet away from what I thought was a solo component of my woods.  Now, I get twice the pleasure!

I make sure to enjoy these fabulous orchids daily. These blooms never last long enough for my taste. 

I step gently into the woods, slowing walking toward the outstanding flowers.  Buddy stays back on the lawn, crouching low to the ground, as if he knows he must behave while I have my moment.   I look at each bloom from every direction.  Sometimes I catch a ray of sun penetrating the delicate membrane. I am not in any hurry, so I purposely linger. And, I never miss a peek inside the slipper before I take my leave. 

Yes… the wait of a year is definitely worth just one sight of the beautiful, wild, yellow lady slipper.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rosy Rhododendron

I have one magnificent rhododendron in my garden.  That is all I need.

In reality, this rhodie came with the farm.  It was already growing in the flower bed below the kitchen window when we bought the farm almost 23 years ago. The color is perfect!

This rhodie has been transplanted, by me, three times.  I finally found a place where I decided it would be home.  The rhodie now resides comfortably on the east side of the house, in the shade of the silver maple tree and the house.  The health of the rhodie lets me know that this is the ideal location.

The Over-achiever - one flower opened way ahead of all the others!

Early spring is resulting in early blossoming of most every plant this season…the rhodie is no different. 

The rhododendron forms its flower buds in the fall, so I know how extensive the blossoming will be six months in advance.  When spring arrives, I get anxious as I watch the pointed buds expand; the hint of color popping out; then, the fully opened globe of gorgeous rosy magenta flowers.  The flowering of each bud is staggered, so the blooming season is generously extended. 

Just the way I like it!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Strawberries...We Hope!

Our strawberry ‘patch’ has been providing us with the most delicious, juiciest berries since planting it several years ago.  Becky was/is the caretaker of the strawberry patch.

We ate plenty of fresh berries; and I made the novel, one fresh strawberry pie complete with homemade crust every season.  I also sliced and froze the mandatory surplus into family serving-sized containers.  After the plants stopped producing, we knew we had our frozen stash to enjoy until the next strawberry season was back in full swing.  

The cycle was flawless; that is until this past mild winter when all of our strawberry plants perished. 

A decision had to be made; start anew or forego a strawberry crop altogether.  Within seconds, we determined that a new crop would be planted.  How can we be expected to endure store-bought berries?

With that decision, came another; Becky decided she wanted to plant the new berry patch in raised beds.  So, both she and Glenn (grudgingly) constructed three raised beds.  If the three beds worked, there was still enough room to add another 2-3 beds in future years.

Becky lovingly planted 30 plants.  Becky gingerly spread grass clippings around each planting.  Becky gently watered each plant. We wait.

And, by dusk, the cats benevolently used a part of the raised bed as their newly discovered litter box - ugh!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Knowing Where To Look

Spring came early this year.

The 'appear without fail' mayapples made their arrival in March. The green foliage of these short perennials broke through the ground in the woods and soon produced an emerald carpet covering the forest floor.

The mayapples always greet spring from under the towering trees.

Look closely between the leaves to see the hidden flower.

Most mayapples bear a surprise; a small, single white flower hidden under their broad, umbrella-like leaves. 

I actually have to lift the leaves to observe the simple flower.

Observing the mayapple flowers, whether in March, April or May…just another rite of spring!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Springtime Sugar Maples

Late April… most deciduous trees have filled their characteristic naked branches of winter with lush, green leaves. 

I repeat, most; not all.

The two sugar maples, residing in my lawn; one at the back of the house and one at the front, have only just broken bud. A few flowers add texture. I know from years of watching that this is normal; but, I still get concerned. I wonder if those trees are still alive or if; perhaps, they have died over the winter. 

During springtime, I keep a daily vigil; watching and wondering.  Then, one day, I see the first hint of green at the branch tips at the very top of the tree.  I can breathe easier.  I knew I did not have to worry; but I did, just the same.

These two trees play major roles in my landscaping; they are anchors to the rest of my garden.  Glenn and I planted each tree after scrutinizing their fall color as they both still stood, roots balled in burlap, at a local nursery.  Once I approved of the colors, the trees were purchase when they were only small saplings; one sugar maple (the boldest of reds) one year, the second (a mellow orange) a few years later.

Autumn 2011

We have relished each for their specific color and growth pattern; but, most importantly throughout the year, these trees provide many birds a place to rest, and many beautiful vignettes which I file in photos and in my mind; reminders of generosity, beauty, life.

Today, like every day, a male cardinal sits in the highest branch and sings his recognizable melodies.  I hear him at 5:30 in the morning. He returns during late afternoon, before dusk, to sing again.  I can still see his vibrant feathers giving way to his location. Soon, he will only be heard and not seen.  But, I know where he is perched.  And, he will make me smile.

Everyone deserves a tree.

Monday, April 23, 2012 Virginia?

Those white blurs are falling snowflakes.
We have had rain for the past three days.  The moisture was welcomed, but not what accompanied the raindrops…cooler temperatures and snowflakes.  Yes, snowflakes.  In March, we had balmy summer temperatures; and now, at the end of April, we are having winter-like weather.  Go figure…


Looking out at the falling snow; but, thankfully not sticking, I noticed our nearby eastern red cedar trees covered with, not oranges, but cedar-apple rust - a fungus with two hosts; the eastern red cedar tree and the apple tree.

This disease looks so pretty on the cedars, but it is not as pretty on apple trees whose leaves become spotted; and at times, display a subtle orange growth - not as flamboyant as that found on the cedars.

A recommendation to interrupt the cycle is to remove all cedars within a radius of about one to two miles of the apple trees.  To affect complete control, all cedars need to be removed within a 4 to 5 mile radius; so, not going to happen.  My apples are planted within feet of these eastern cedars.  I will have infected apple trees.

Apple (foreground), cedar (background) in close proximity

I hazard to guess how many cedars are growing within the one to two mile radius….hundreds, thousands; and, not all on our property.  Eastern red cedar removal is not a possibility.

Our only option is to enjoy the beautiful bright orange fungus on the cedars, and to tolerate the less than perfect (as in cosmetic appeal) apple crop.  Taste is not affected.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Livestock Update

The bull and yearling bull calves were moved into the pasture next to the chickens.  They behaved for one day before one calf decided to walk through the flimsy plastic fencing that we placed around a section of the pasture for expanded chicken grazing.  Evidently, this calf decided that it wanted the pasture the chickens had.  The chickens are not happy with that calf, but are too small to take him on; their only option is to squawk loudly. Glenn and I will remedy the situation soon.

The cows continue birthing, as our norm, on a consistent basis.  Today’s count - 13 calves.

The ewes continue to lamb.  The most updated count, and this is in no way 100% accurate, stands at 80 +/-.

There are more calves and lambs to come.

We are currently bottle-feeding two lambs.

The orphan lamb, named Junior by Glenn, is doing better every day.  She has really found her appetite.  Her tail whirls fiercely during feeding; like a pinwheel turning in a hard wind.  A sure sign Junior is indeed happy and satisfied.

Junior spends her days outside, in the small pen, also next to the chicken house; Buddy wanders by throughout the day to take a peek.  Both Junior and Buddy are black and white in color, so perhaps, Buddy sees a commonality with this little lamb.  At night, Junior was residing in my small garden shed mostly for protection from unforeseen predators and from the cold nights which we are still experiencing.  Now, the barn stall has become the nursery. Why?  Well, a second lamb was added to the feeding schedule. This second lamb was rejected by his mother, one of two lambs born to this particular ewe. Evidently, mama ewe only wanted to care for one baby, not two.

PorkChop (left) and Junior (right) jumping

 Both Junior and PorkChop (initially called LambChop until she started to drink like a little piglet and her name just naturally amended to link to her habits) are doing great.  Yesterday, they graduated from four feeding a day to three.  We were thinking that our extra work was decreasing; then, we had to deal with an abandoned calf. 

'Hey PorkChop...What are those strange creatures?'

This calf seemed to be the product of a twin birth. Most cow births yield a single calf.  Cows can handle two calves nicely, if that is their intent.  It seems like this little one’s mama; also, only wanted to care for one baby.  The old buckets with nipple fittings were dusted off.  The last time they were used was when our kids participated in the local 4-H Bucket Calf Club.  The kids were teeny tikes themselves, and so cute not only rearing a baby Holstein calf, but showing it in the ring.  I remember those days fondly.

This calf was a dream; immediately began to suck at the bucket nipple, no learning curve required. She walked about the yard without distress; her hoofs, shiny and polished like the black keys on a piano and her nose feeling like soft, fine leather. This is a strong heifer. 

Our schedule immediately changed.  So much for planting the onions; we had to feed the babies…the plus is that we finally received some much needed precipitation (we were experiencing an early spring drought) which was beneficial to the peas, lettuce, radishes, and spinach seeds already planted in the soil. Additional veggies will be added as time and weather permits.

Unfortunately, the calf did not survive the night. 

Ohhhh….the ups and downs, ups and downs…of farm life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Spring Scene

The spring drought continues.  The menial rain forecast of 20% has been getting pushed forward from Monday, to Tuesday, now Wednesday:  the good news is that the percentage has increased to 80%.  We are keeping our fingers doubly crossed.

Even with the lack of much needed moisture, spring continues; but now, more at a snail’s pace than the early spring frenzy.

Flowers continue to bloom slowly; our first iris is nodding it delicate lavender head.  These first irises are the garden-variety type, not the showy, more formal blooms.  The upside, and it is a biggy, is that these common iris produce the sweetest, most profound scent of any of my other iris growing in my garden.  I am glad I have a combination of both fragrant and flashy to appreciate.

I noticed the pawpaw in bloom.  A person really needs to know what to look for; or, this gorgeous, brownish bloom will be missed.  I have been lax in looking for this flower over the past several seasons, but I am glad I came upon it by chance yesterday.  I was out checking on the ewes and lambs with Glenn and there it was…a small tree I had never seen before.  I informed Glenn that he was not to cut this little gem down.  Glenn can get carried away with his chainsaw when he is clearing/cleaning up the pastures.  He promised.  I will have to remind him!

See all the little, brown flowers?  You have to look very closely...

Did I mention the baby oak leaves; so cute and fuzzy, the size of squirrel feet.

Lambs continue to increase - singles, twins, and more triplets that I thought was possible based on probability alone.  Calve births have stopped for a few days.

We use to calve in January and February (the industry standard); dealing with cold temperatures, wind, ice, snow.  We moved calving into April to coincide with the lambing.  What a pleasure to deal with difficult births (cow or ewe) when the sun is shining, the breeze warm, the grass green…and the normal births are a delight.

Next, from the house, I saw movement down at the pond.  A quick rush for the binoculars yielded a view of a stately heron and two Canada geese. I am a sucker for herons.  If I am driving along a country road that is next to a creek and I see a heron, I stop just to watch.  I should get one of those bumper stickers that say, “I stop for Herons.”  Does anyone actually make a bumper sticker that says that? Probably not.

Excuse me..but, this is my section of pond!

Every day produces another special moment - isn’t life grand!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fire Sky

There has been a wildfire burning near our area (approximately 15-20 miles away as the crow flies) for about one week now.

The fire is being fanned by the spring winds and spreading.  We are safe; but others, close by, may not be.  

Glenn, long retired from fighting forest fires, is relaxed.  The days of hiking the rough, steep terrain with a back pack of gear to reach a fire, working grueling hours day and night, breathing smoke 24-7, sleeping in a paper sleeping bag on the cold ground are over.

A spring fire mostly burns the dried duff and fall leaves on the forest floor.  The greening vegetation of the spring season impedes the spread.

Unfortunately, the spring rains are absent.  We have not had rain in over one month.  The ground is dry.  The forest floor is dry. Thus, the fire continues to burn/smolder.

blue sky behind the smoky veil

Even though we live many miles away, every so often we are reminded of that fire by the changing aura of the sky.  The brilliant blue obscured by the smoke clouds drifting in our direction; tinted orange and pink.  The sun, masked by the smoky haze, has an ominous appearance.

Ethereal, eerie…yet, sedative. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Bit of Spice

Friday the 13th…personally, I have an affinity for this day.  I like to think of it as a day to

Why?  I have no idea.

Friday the 13th is on the same list as my birthday; first day of spring, summer, winter, and fall; May Day…

Today,  I celebrated by meeting with a friend for lunch.  I have not seen Debbie for over two years.    We agreed to meet much sooner the next time. 

I enjoy Debbie’s company, she says she enjoys mine - I think that might be kind on her part.  Fortunately, Debbie is kind.

When we parted; I felt energized, happy, content.  I need to get out more.  I determined that getting out of my laidback, solitary routine of farm life; which I truly love; does have its benefits.

After all, like THEY say, variety is the spice of life!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Rare Visitor

I just never know what I might see as I glance out any window of my house at any time of day, or night.

Late this evening, near dusk, I took a quick glimpse and noticed a surprise visitor…a male Eastern Towhee.

I have had towhees in my yard before, but those stopovers have been rare.  I am glad to see a return of this particular bird to my sanctuary.

The male is so distinctive, the colors of the feathers so bold.…the black is black, the white is white, and the brown is brown - pure hues, no muting or blending of color here.

I like the conspicuous simplicity.