|see 'EWES' next year...|
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
Last Friday afternoon, son Matthew, home on holiday leave, and I went on a hike in the nearby U.S. Forest Service St. Mary’s Wilderness. The afternoon was a perfect spring-like, warm and sunny, December day. A snowless and balmy Christmas/winter season is OK by me.
|most of the trail was narrow and rocky|
The St. Mary’s Wilderness Trail is not strenuous but very rough and rocky due to repeated flooding of the adjacent river resulting in disposed rocks from the adjoining rocky outcrops and ledges. Most of the trail is covered with fallen autumn leaves making each step a possible hazard.
I was expecting the trail to be muddy because of the recent rain. I brought along my farm rubber boots, but they are not comfortable for any length of time, so I elected not to wear them. Instead, I opted to wear my most worn out pair of Nike running shoes because I did not want to ruin a decent, more supportive pair. A good pair of hiking boots would have been a better choice, but I do not own hiking boots. So, my thread-bear Nikes with the sole separated from the shoe on the left foot made do.
|barely a trail along the water's edge...the rock near center foreground is the one that I used as a step...it teetered,|
sending my foot into the cold water
Within the first 10 minutes of our hike, my foot slipped into the cold water of St. Mary’s river. The path had narrowed to a person’s foot width right next to the water’s edge on a slightly steep slope. I took a step onto a protruding rock positioned about six inches off the bank, but that rock was not stable and it moved sending my foot into the water. My right shoe and pant leg were soaking wet, my foot cold. Matt, walking ahead of me and checking back on me from time to time, said he saw that coming. OK…so why did he not warn me? Fortunately, within a short amount of time, my foot warmed up.
Shortly, we passed two hunters. They were well-equipped with guns and leashed, radio-collared dogs. I knew what that meant, but I just had to verify. I asked if they were hunting bear. The affirmative was quick. They continued on without stopping and without my getting a chance to ask if they had seen any bear. Putting the thought of running into a bear out of my mind, I focused on the beauty of the trees, the river, the rock formations, and the time spent with my son.
I kept a steady, but slow pace trailing behind much faster, even at his reduced stride, Matt. I am always conscious of slipping, falling, or making a misstep even under the best conditions. I do not want to fall.
1 1/2 hours into our hike, the trail ended on our side of the river and it continued on the far side of the river. The water moved fast and looked deep. I knew it was cold. Even though Matt had carried my boots in his backpack, I decided that the water was probably deeper than my boots high. Decision made. This was an ideal turn-around. We would not make it to the waterfall today. That would be a goal for another day. I am thinking mid-summer when the water level is lower and getting wet would actually be refreshing.
For now, I will chalk up the day to fun with my son!
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Yesterday, we had another mild December day. I will take as many spring-like winter days as I am offered.
Glenn and Matt worked on fences for the majority of the day. They fortified a wooden board fence with woven wire to make a tight enclosure to keep the guard dogs and sheep in and to keep the coyotes out. They also continued rebuilding the barn paddock fence. This is a project that was started about two years ago and one that exhibits very slow progress. The old fence is quite deteriorated and, in places, non-existent. Therefore, this project has been upgraded to one of priority.
I washed a load of laundry and hung the clothes outside to dry. I just had to spend time outdoors.
I worked a few hours in my garden cleaning debris, mostly sticks and stuff gathered and stashed by the dogs, and clipping dried perennials. I just had to spend time outdoors.
I went for my daily, actually more like my fair-weather, walk. This time, all four dogs decided to accompany me. Avalanche has not taken the full circuit walk for months. Today she did. I just had to spend time outdoors.
The day was warm, sunny, and comfortable. I was being called.
Did I mention that I just had to spend time outdoors?
A craft project was ready to be painted. Dishes gathered on the counter waiting to be washed. The floors needed touch-up vacuuming. Jane Eyre sat untouched on the table.
I just had to be outdoors!
My time was well-spent.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Sixty…that is the age I became today. It is my birthday. The good news is that I do not feel like 60.
And, just because I am 60, does not mean I am slowing down.
Even though my Christmas preparations are not complete, and the items on my ‘to do ‘list never seem to get crossed off, and the dogs usually wait until after 9:00 PM to get fed…well, I have plenty of explanations to offer in my defense, the most valid is the fact that I just keep adding more tasks, more activities, and generally more stuff onto my 24-hour plate.
Recently, one new activity I added was painting. No, not the walls of the house (which are truly in need of refreshing), but painting pictures on real ‘artist’ canvasses. Glenn only rolls his eyes thinking of all the new supplies I will need to add to my already overwhelming stash of fabric, and beads, and yarn, and buttons, and how-to books, and patterns, and…well, I am sure you get the idea, more for all my other interests. My house overflows with my supplies for my various projects. I have fun creating; talent or no talent. Truthfully, I lean more toward the no talent when considering my results.
And, I have pretty much no talent for painting, but I find it extremely enjoyable to try.
Later today, the tree will go up and I will begin the decorating process of transforming the white pine into a Christmas tree. I will add my newest ornaments that I made last week with my friend Ann during, what is becoming, our annual ornament workshop.
|our workspace - looks like we have been busy...|
|Aren't these guys cute?|
This year she presented the ideas and materials for little almond birds and pinecone Santas. Pinecones seem to be a reoccurring supply because they are so readily available just outside our doors.
|Ann made the twisted and woven snowflakes with my instructions.|
Then, she packed me up with a emerald green glass ball for homework. I am to paint winter trees and birds. I swill let you know how that goes.
Needless to say, that project has been added to my ’to do’ list, but high on the list. I have 10 days to embellish that glass ball. I have confidence I will because I am anxious to paint.
But, today’s priority is to reflect, enjoy and celebrate my 6oth. This is one day I cannot put on hold, cannot place on my ‘to do’ list.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME!
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
It is amazing what I observe when taking just a glance out the window.
Today, it was a large flicker pecking at the ground for food. The feathers of brown, white, and black with a patch of red melded into a magnificent display for my watchful eye. This bird may have been hidden to another who glanced with less interest.
A few days previous, Glenn witnessed, and called out for me to come quickly, a trio of huge pileated woodpeckers gathered about our back deck. To see one pileated is a prize, but three at once a most incredible marvel.
Many of the local birds have made themselves scarce with the coming of winter, but still plenty abound to provide a moment’s pleasure.
And, I partake of that pleasure daily.
Hmmm...I wonder what surprise will greet me tomorrow?
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Today, Glenn and I went out and cut down our Christmas tree.
We are not as late as many years, but we are not as early as others either in pursuit of this annual tradition.
We, I mean Glenn, cut down a white pine, our usual species of choice, at the very local farm, Ridge Road Ranch.
We drive past this Christmas tree farm often throughout the year as it is located only about 1.5 miles down the road from Becky’s farm.
The business is small and family-run located in the northern part of beautiful and picturesque Rockbridge County in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. OK, OK…I am a bit biased. Mountain and farm views can be had in all directions. This is a wonderful place to saunter about with family and friends looking for that perfect Christmas tree. A sunny and pleasant day, as today, was an added bonus.
|tool of the trade - tree netting device|
Several species of tree are available: white pine, Scotch pine, concolor fir, and Canaan fir.
Next year, I am already eyeing one of those concolors…soft needles, full round branches, a bit rotund - kind of like how I picked out all our puppies in our life - the softest and tubbiest of the litter. I guess I stick with a formula that seems to works well for choosing puppies and trees both...go figure.
|mid-sized needles and oh, so soft|
The tree is still outside, standing in a bucket of water, waiting for its grand entrance.
I just need to dust and vacuum the living room first. That task is on my schedule for tomorrow, but then I think I have mentioned, a few times the very least, that I hate to clean.
But, this time I have an incentive...to get that tree decorated in lights; to hang the vintage, family and friends ornaments; to be surrounded, inside, with the aroma of a pine forest; and to sit back, reminisce and enjoy!
Haven’t got your tree yet? You still have plenty of time to partake of this holiday pleasure!
Friday, December 5, 2014
Yesterday, I had to help Glenn separate cattle. A man was coming to purchase some of our South Poll calves and our main herd bull, also South Poll, Little Red Jr.
Becky was working at one of her other jobs, so Glenn’s only option was me. Good or bad, he had no other choice.
I have been trying to do less farm work because Becky has taken over most of my past duties, I am not very comfortable around the animals that are many times my size and many more times my weight, and quite frankly I have been involved with a myriad of other activities that consume, in a good way, my time. Reading, writing, photography, quilting come to mind as activities more to my current liking. Separating cattle…not!
Getting into a small enclosure, approximately 20 feet by 20 feet, with the entire herd of calves, yearlings, cows and several bulls nervously moving around did not appeal to me or my senses. But, Glenn could not complete the task alone and we were under a time restriction. Our buyer was arriving at 1:00 PM to load his purchases. Glenn worked (open and shut) the gates as I weaved around the animals trying to coax the right animals to the gate.
We had several different groups to which we had to separate the herd. The calves and Little Red Jr. for the buyer, the cows and young bulls that were to remain on the farm, cows with young calves and heifers to be moved to Becky’s farm, and cows that needed to be pregnancy checked.
I pulled on my boots, put on my hooded sweatshirt, layered with my bulky down jacket, grabbed my gloves and was ready to go. Because the ground was wet and muddy, Glenn drove the tractor down to the working area in case he had to pull the buyer, his truck and his loaded livestock trailer back up the hill…he did. I drove the mule. Three dogs followed.
The fun began.
Due to the placement of the ewes and spring lambs in different pastures, we had to open and close five gates on our way to the working area. I hate having to stop, exit vehicle, open gate, get back into vehicle, drive through the open gate, stop, get out of vehicle, chain gate, get back into vehicle, and drive off. This scenario was repeated five times. I was tired before I even met up with the cattle.
I took a deep breath, entered the enclosure, and started moving the livestock around and moving one animal at a time through the open gate into another holding area.
Becky’s dog, Sammy, was too involved with the process and created more chaos than we needed, so he was put into solitary into our empty stock trailer standing nearby. The cattle soon settled down and were, for the most part, quite cooperative.
Not one cow, calve or bull charged me. That was huge to my peace of mind and to my overall calmness.
A few hours later, the task had been complete. It was 12:50 PM. There were no hostile incidences.
|South Poll calves - SOLD!|
Becky had a break from work and arrived just as we finished.
We were done. I felt energized for a job well done on my part.
Glenn expected no less from me. A ‘at-a-boy’ might have been in order from him.
Unfortunately, the only patting of my back was from my own hand.
And, I’ll take it!
Friday, November 28, 2014
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Thanksgiving Eve...it has been snowing all day.
The outside world looks more akin to Christmas than Turkey Day.
The snow is wet and heavy; so many plants that are normally upright are now close to lying flat on the ground. My grasses and bamboo fall over quickly. Many evergreen tree limbs, typically feet off the ground, have bowed under the weight of the snow. Their tips are touching the snow-covered lawn. Some limbs, extremely-laden, have sloughed off their loads and are now more dusted than dough-like.
Becky called to inform me that her last sow is farrowing. Piglet count is at 12 which is huge. And, Becky is not sure if the last baby pig has arrived. (Just got an update text…number 14 just arrived - yikes!) So far, mama and little oinkers are doing well. It is fortunate that Becky did not have a repeat of the farrowing of sow #3 who was not a good mother, would not let her babies feed, and the entire litter succumbed including the little tike that I held for hours inside my jacket to keep him warm. This mama is calm, laying down and letting her little ones rummage all over her as they search out the nipples. Now, this mama sow is a keeper.
|now, that is one full mama - 15 piglets is the final count|
(photo courtesy of Becky - I have not been out to see these newest babies yet)
Sow#3…she is already scheduled for a date with the butcher. No second chances at Becky’s Barnyard.
Either her livestock performs well or they become dinner.
All I can say is…yummy!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
Friday, November 21, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
I had withdrawn to the comfort of the house for several days because it was SO COLD, but I was anxious to get outside again. The air temperatures warmed a bit today, so I took the opportunity to take a quick walk down to the pond.
The pond displayed a bit of ice around its edges. The cold temperatures, teens and twenties, of the past few days had been enough to begin this transformation from liquid water to its solid form.
The puppies licked where they normally lap. Sammy and Snowball were curious. They edged further out onto the thin ice. I could hear the cracking. Suddenly, Snowball fell, head first, through the somewhat solid layer into the water below. He quickly retreated to firm ground with concern. ‘What just happened to me?’ was evident in his facial expression.
I just had to chuckle.
Unbeknownst to me, our resident heron was hiding in the brown cattail thicket during our pond visit. He eventually gave up his hiding and flew grandly up into the air and away from our direction.
I wondered what made that heron remain at the pond so long today, especially since we were present, when in the past he always flew away upon our immediate arrival.
Hmmm…I must have had that same quizzical look upon my face that Snowball had revealed earlier.
Nature keeps us all guessing which, in turn, keeps life very fascinating.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
On my walk down to the pond, I disturbed the heron, yet again. This has become a daily habit. Fortunately for me, watching that heron fly is so amazing.
No sooner did the heron take flight and land in a nearby tree that my resident female Belted Kingfisher arrived. At least, I heard her. I did not immediately see her.
But, as I walked around to the far side of the pond, she flew to the bench of the pond house dock where she was content to sit for minutes. Then, she flew to what I now call the ‘kingfisher tree’, that small walnut tree growing nearest the pond and to where I was now standing.
This was the closest that kingfisher and I have ever been. I was ecstatic inside and tying to remain calm and motionless on my outside.
From the tree, the kingfisher flew to the overhead electric line which runs near the pond bank opposite the kingfisher tree bank. She perched on that line for quite some time during which I heard some grunting coming from the woods located uphill from the pond. I looked up just in time to see a couple of white plumes, the tails of the white-tailed deer, move quickly through the trees. Next I heard the shrill screams of, what I thought was, a hawk. I was not able to see the bird. Maybe it was an eagle as our son thought he saw two eagles fly over the farm the previous day.
Suddenly, the kingfisher flew down and dove into the water returning to the pond house deck. She was not alone. She had a fish in her beak. WOW! More excitement for me as I had never seen her catch a fish in all our previous encounters.
After devouring the blue gill, the kingfisher dove into the water and returned to the bench. Then, she dove again and again returned to the bench. She repeated this series several more times within the course of about one minute. On her last return, she spent several minutes preening, grooming her feathers.
In all, I had been watching that kingfisher for over 30 minutes observing activity which was probably part of her usual routine.
What a full morning. I felt my day, my week, even my month was well satisfied with these many small wonders from the wild, natural sphere.
And, I am looking forward, to many more marvels.
I just need to keep my eyes and ears alert.
Note: This event took place a few weeks ago. The past few days have been so cold - not getting above ‘feels like 20 degrees’ according to Intellicast that I have pretty much stayed indoors. My canine companions are not very happy with me as they like to take a daily walk with me.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Last night, Becky and I were returning from an afternoon of shopping. She had to make a quick stop at her house to change into her work clothes before dropping me off at my house. Becky still had pig chores to do which included checking on her newest piglets which were born earlier in the morning. Two sows had already farrowed and two were getting close.
|piglets crowding under the heat lamp|
|check out one of the four new farrowing pens...pretty fancy!|
We both hate shopping, but she needed to find a dress for an upcoming event. She purchased the first dress she saw, albeit we had continued the search to several other shops, when we returned to the first shop several hours later. We were very exhausted and very hungry. We ate lunch at 6:30 PM.
Driving the country road between our homes, in the dark, Becky slowed down as she approached a sharp turn.
There…right in front of us, a cat crossed our path…low to the pavement and stealthy.
It was not any ordinary household cat, not even a stray tomcat…it was a BOBCAT!
This bobcat, I believe, was the first bobcat I had ever really seen in the ‘wild’.
Today, as I relayed the incident to Glenn, I had a troubling thought. That bobcat was only about one short mile, as the ’crow flies’ or as the bobcat prowls, to our sheep.
Are you getting the picture?
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Today, I was successful in meeting a goal I had set.
I had a huge pile of mulch that I had been spreading out among my garden beds all summer. The spreading was slow, and fairly irregular.
Initially, a dump truck full of mulch was unloaded near, but not in, my yard and perennial garden beds area. Over the weeks and months, the pile seemed to become a fixture in the nearby pasture as I was moving it so slowly.
I had decided to move the mulch a wheelbarrow full at a time. I wanted some physical exercise and this was chore was a good option. Glenn offered many a time to scoop up the mulch with the tractor bucket and dump a bunch of mulch at one time, but I was also concerned about the well-being of my existing perennials. I needed to carefully spread the mulch around and under each plant. I did not want to crunch any of my plants by dumping bunches of mulch via the tractor bucket.
The task was slowed even more by weather. Spreading mulch is a hard job, best done during the cool of the morning or the cool of the evening…never at mid-day. Since my cool mornings were allocated to my walks, the evenings were the best choice. But, of course, once the cool evening arrived, I was already exhausted from a day of various other chores. My mulching, at the time, was low priority and kept being penciled in as a chore for the next day, then the next; thus, my rationalization for my slow going.
My goal had been set early. The mulch pile had to be gone, totally gone, before the freezing temperatures of fall/winter arrived. Once the weather changed and started to freeze, the mulch would freeze too and would be impossible to dig out of the pile, let alone spread it. And, it would also deteriorate some by the following spring. This mulch is just too expensive to waste. Besides, I had plenty of time. I set this goal in June.
Today, I finally got all the mulch spread.
I have to admit that I did cheat a bit toward the end of the day. I was running out of daylight, I was running out of time as in season, and I was definitely running out of muscle. I had already wheeled 6 loads early in the morning and my stamina was fading fast. Six loads per day are pushing my physical limit. I had at least 15 more loads to go.
Since I was in an area where there were no plants, just the backside of the corncrib flower bed, I decided that Glenn could dump a bucket of mulch without plant damage. Actually, two dumps were made.
|weeding complete late September...finally looking cleaned-up rather than the normal jungle|
90% of the extraneous vegetation was removed, mainly out-of-control Virginia Creeper and
lots and lots of invasive bamboo
Voila…mulching is complete for the season. My goal attained.
I was able to mulch about 30% of all my perennial beds this season. Next spring, I will purchase another dump truck of mulch and continue where I left off. After all, this is a never-ending gardening chore. When 100% complete, the first of the mulch that was put down will have deteriorated and will be ready to be renewed.
But, for now, my gardens are ready for winter.
HIP HIP HOORAY!