summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Day of 2015

BYE, BYE

YEAR 2015

YOU SURE DID FLY!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Springtime?


We are nearing the end of the year, 2015, and one full week into the winter season although it feels more like spring.  The temperatures have been quite mild throughout the fall and they continue to be mild into early winter.

 

And, if I think it feels like spring, so do all my perennials plants.  I totally enjoy the warm temperatures, but I know the plants are confused.  The grass is still green and growing even though it is usually brown by now.  This is a benefit for our pasture-grazing cattle and sheep.  Green grass is tastier and more nutritious than brown.  But, I am more concerned with my garden softscape. Perennials that have died-back for the winter season have responded to the warm weather and are beginning to grow again, prematurely.  The growing tips of bulbs are starting to peek out of the ground.  And, several of my spring-flowering perennials are actually flowering.  This is not good.

 
 
 


Don’t get me wrong.  I am enjoying the surprise gifts of bright color among the grey and muted colors of a hibernated winter garden, but…

 

what flowers now will not flower come the ‘real’ spring.  Those flowers buds will have been spent off-season. 

 


Of course, there is nothing I can do about the weather, so I appreciate the blossoms now.  I imagine the flowers that I will miss in the spring, due to their untimely blooming,  will be diminished by the outstanding show of many more flowers that will be in bloom...at the right time!

 

I guess I can categorize this unseasonably warm season as a win-win situation.

 

Yep, I will take my flowers anytime, anywhere I can get them.


 
My spring flowering ‘flowering quince’ is flowering.  The coral-pink blooms are beautiful against the backdrop of the winter greys of the forest trees.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Winter Tree

The sun is finally shining.  After days, probably weeks, of overcast and raining days, the house is bright once again.
 
Yet, there is a positive side to all this gloom and grey. The good thing about the darkness, especially during the Christmas holiday, was that I was able to enjoy the lights on my Christmas trees throughout the entire day rather than only at night.
 
Yes, you read that right…trees. My main tree is the traditional, cut down your own, fresh white pine.  My second tree is a new white and glittery artificial tree. 
 
crystal snowflake with drop heart
gift from a dear friend
angel blowing horn accented with
gold highlights
In previous years, after I decided that I needed a smaller tree to showcase my sparkling clear glass/spun glass/crystal ornaments, I use to go and find a small dried tree branch outside and spray paint it white.  That version was not very glitzy nor very stable.  One of my favorite ornaments, a biplane representing Glenn having a pilot’s license, flew off the tree and made quite a crash landing on the hardwood floor below. The plane shattered and was immediately destined for the trash as any type of fix was impossible.  That was about the same year Glenn let his license lapse... was that accidental crash a sign?

Last year, after Christmas, I purchased a small white plastic tree, adorned with lights and glitter, at half price. Reduced prices are my favorite kind of prices. The boxed tree went into storage.  I had no idea whether the lights worked or not.  This year, I pulled the two top sections (just the right height) of that tree out the box and assembled it on top of my Grandmother’s old treadle sewing machine which dwells in the corner of our dining room.  The initial intent was to set it up on my Grandmother’s old round oak table which resides in the living room.  I decided that two trees in one room was unnecessary duplication, and I wanted each tree to shine on its own. Therefore, the recently relocated sewing machine was the perfect size and in the perfect spot for my new holiday tree.
 
I temporarily moved a watercolor picture off the wall and hung an antique mirror in its place. The tree is positioned right in front of the mirror which greatly intensifies all that sparkle.
 
The white of the tree, the glitter that coats the twig-like branches, the glow of the LED lights and the glass and crystal ornaments all make for amazing energy.   It brightens my every moment when I walk by it. 
 
Now, just after Christmas, I realize I have an additional benefit. This tree can remain up long past the Christmas holiday.  It will not dry out, it will not lose its needles and it will seamlessly blend into the winter season.
 
When our weather eventually turns cold (it has been very mild) and maybe even snowy, this tree will not cause a chill, but it will be a beacon in my home… warming my spirit and my heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

December...Really?

Recently, my regular walks have been on the quiet side.  The resident birds, normally quite vocal, have been scarce.  Where do these year-round birds hide out in the winter?
 
 
 

Yesterday, though, the robins were out in large numbers.  A large ash tree that I pass was chockfull of these birds which were quite active twittering and flitting from bare branch to bare branch.  They sounded as if it were spring, which at 70 degrees, felt like spring. The grass is still green. The only hint of the actual season is the leafless trees.
 
December has been quite mild sporting daily, lately in the mid-sixties and getting into the seventies, very comfortable and non-humid temperatures. 
 
My mind and activities have wandered from the holiday season and all that entails - cookie baking, decorating the Christmas tree and house, writing Christmas cards - to getting outside and immersing myself back into gardening.  I do not want to waste a minute of this fabulous weather.  In December, it can change quite rapidly.
 
I am still cutting back browned perennials and doing a basic clean-up of all garden beds. Overall, the garden looks great for the season, but there is always something more to do.
 
Hence, I started to construct a bottle border around one of my perennial islands.  This activity has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time.  I have been collecting empty beer and wine bottles for years (my packrat tendencies).   I do not imbibe beer or wine as Coca Cola is my drink of choice, so I gather the empties where I can. Most bottles rarely get recycled and end up in the trash.
 
 
The ground not yet frozen, I got to work.
 
My intent is to build a small section initially and then see how it weathers the winter season before spending too much time and energy completing a full border encircling the bed.
 
As I started, Snowball wandered by and knocked down a five bottle section - ugh.  Hmmm…even if this border survives the winter, will it survive the likes of Snowball?  My Great Pyrenees has quite a mind of his own and stepping over a bottle border is probably not part of his radar.  Absently padding through is.
 
I have been told (names will be kept anonymous) that the project sounds ‘tacky’.  I think of the glass border as a repurposing task in progress.  Check out ‘glass bottle yard art’ on the internet for a plethora of photos of bottle borders, bottle walkways, bottle screens, bottle trees and more.  I find the creative uses of empty bottles quite intriguing, colorful (I love color), and whimsical.  Even my small section makes me smile.
 
I also discovered that creating such projects takes a lot of bottles.  I started with a pattern of one blue wine bottle and three brown beer bottles separated by one green beer bottle repeated five times before adding another blue wine bottle.  I have plenty brown beer bottles, but I quickly ran out of blue wine bottles and green beer bottles.  Donations will be gratefully accepted especially for those exceptional blue wine bottles.
 
Having finished an approximately nine foot section of border, I now wait.
 
Is this a project I will continue come next spring? 
 
Come back and find out.
 
For now, I will be taking advantage of the lovely weather staying busy…outside!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Near Perfect Autumn Day Except For...

Thursday was probably the last summer-like fall day of the season.  A cold front was scheduled to move through our area on Friday. And, rain is close behind.
 
My routine walk was not only in order, but pressing, as I wanted to enjoy the autumn colors surrounding our farm at or just about at peak before a rainstorm would start the inevitable degradation of my favorite season.
 
The minute I step outside the house, the dogs sense that it is walk time without my having to call and get them to follow.  They know the routine well and they take the lead.
 
 
 
 
I was enjoying the autumn colors but not the autumn aroma.  What was that disgusting odor? It was not the typical earthy leaf mold or hint of burning firewood.  Then, I remembered.  Glenn had a lot of poultry litter spread on the fields the previous day.  Yep, that’s the smell…poultry litter, more commonly known as poultry manure.  Poultry manure is quite potent and very disgusting.
 
 
But, the day was warm, pleasant, sunny and just about perfect.  I tried to ignore the unpleasant air swirling about me.
 
As the dogs and I reached the pond, we frightened a fairly large bird away.  Unidentified, I could only make a guess as to a hawk or an eagle. 
 
I fed the fish and relaxed on the dock panning my view.  Everything was tranquil and beautiful. The colors; red, orange, yellow, burgundy, gold, squash were gorgeous.

 
Then, I heard a distant rumble which seemed to be moving closer and closer.  At first, I thought it was Glenn returning to the farm driving his log truck.  After all, he was off farm all day logging.  Suddenly, I saw a huge truck pull out into the pasture.  I was wrong.  That was not Glenn driving his logging truck. It was the litter truck and the driver proceeded to spread more poultry litter - ugh!  The dust was flying everywhere.  He was spreading on the left hillside, and then he moved to the right. 
 
I was in quite a predicament.  I still had to walk back up to the house via said hillside.  Either return trail I chose would take me through the freshly spread manure.  And,  if I made the wrong choice,  I might just end up in the middle of one of those dusty manure clouds.  Do you really think the driver would curtail his task on my account?  NO!!!
 
 
Foul smell is one thing, flying blobs of manure is quite another.
 
Fortunately, I made the correct decision and walked safely up the hill and back home without having to comb gobs of poultry poop out of my hair.
 
Perfect autumn day…pretty much!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Only Good Thing About Butternut Squash...the bisque

I am not a fan of squash.  Any squash.  But, I do grow butternut squash and put it up for one use and one use only…Susan Branch’s recipe for Butternut Bisque (check out her book, Heart Of The Home  Notes From A Vineyard Kitchen (1986) for the recipe).  I do love this Butternut Bisque.
 
So, I grow a few vines in my vegetable garden and forget about them until harvest time in late September, early October when the vines and leaves die back and I can actually see the pale orange vegetables. This year, 34 squash of various sizes and shapes, were harvested.  Most have the typical butternut squash shape, but others seem to end up more rotund with less tapering toward the vine end.
 
Last season, I washed and dipped each squash into a weak chlorine solution to combat any bacteria prior to storage.   I laid them all out on a table in my living room for about two weeks to harden their skins which helps them keep longer.  I then placed all these squash in a small storage room which I refer to as my root cellar.  It is not formally a root cellar, but a small room in the basement.  Then, I forgot all these squash were stored there.  Some stored well and others rotted and deteriorated into mush all over the floor.  I remembered the squash when I smelled the squash remnants - ugh!
 

 
This year I am trying a new-to-me technique for preserving my butternut squash.  I think it is ideal as the result is a product ready to use in the bisque.  The recipe calls for cubed squash, 2 - 2 ½ pounds.
 

 
 
 
I wash the squash, skin and remove the seeds, and cut into cubes.  I place the cubes on a cookie sheet into the freezer to thoroughly freeze before placing the cubes into recipe-sized freezer bags.  Now, when I want to make the bisque, I will just go to the freezer and grab a bag.  The hardest part of making the bisque is preparing the squash and now it is done in advance.
 
 
 
 
Now, if someone out there reading this blog knows that this technique does not work, please do not say anything to me.  I have already finished freezing about half of my harvest and I do not care to know…let me discover any sad news on my own.  Until then, I will keep thinking of making more Butternut Bisque.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I only have 14 more squash to process.  I am in no hurry. I am taking my time and enjoying the bags full of the bright orange cubes of squash.
 
 
Aren’t they pretty?  They sure brighten up my freezer.
 
 
And, they put a smile on my face when I go into that freezer and am greeted with these bags of sunshine.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

All About The Color

autumn  - greens, oranges, gold, burgundy and bare branches


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
October is my favorite month.  I make a real effort, in a good way, to enjoy each and every moment.
 
 
 
 

The leaves are changing colors, the daylight hours are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler.  Chores; like harvesting the last of the garden veggies, cleaning up all the perennial beds, outside painting, become hectic in trying to finish before the freezing temperatures come and stay.  Daily life becomes more of a race as all the characteristics of this brief season are here signaling the fast approaching winter. 
 
I am outside as often as possible taking in the last of the season’s glorious color. I make the most of each minute.  I slow my pace to relax in the tranquility of my world.
 
lavender asters among the golden mums
 
 I immerse myself in the color.
 
And, I am having a grand time.
 
 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Sun Returns


Today, finally, it was sunny.  It had been raining and heavily overcast for over the past 2 ½ weeks. 

 
 
Buddy laying on his back and sunning his belly in full nap mode
 
 


Buddy took advantage of the sun during his nap.

 

I was pretty near out of socks...can you tell?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I took advantage of the sun to hang the laundry out.

 

Everything and everybody just seemed to enjoy the coming out…of the sun.

 

I decided I had to get back to my routine of taking a daily walk.  The rainy days prevented such an adventure, but so did my recent run-in with Snowball.

 

My foot is still a little swollen.  My foot is still a little bit black and blue. And, my foot still hurts a little bit, BUT I had to get out and absorb the rays and get more active than just hobbling from room to room inside the house.  I planned to walk slowly, take an abbreviated outing, and just be super careful.

 

I gathered my camera, my bamboo walking stick and phone.   As I stepped outside, Buddy saw me and knew exactly what was happening.  He immediately perked up and became ecstatic. Even though Buddy wanders at will, he still enjoys our walks.

 
two, very happy dogs
We met up with Snowball at the gate and the three of us ventured forth. 

 

Snowball made me a bit anxious when he decided to walk next to me as if our legs were connected.  Occasionally, he would vacate his post when Buddy swiftly took off running.  I did not mind them running at full speed away from me, but when they turned and came back at full speed toward me…well, I was worried.  My eyes were fixed on Snowball.  If I saw him coming, I could divert his path away from any collision with my body.  I do not need another incident to occur between me and him especially while I am still healing from our previous accidental encounter.

 

I watched Snowball as if I was the ‘proverbial’ hawk.

 

I walked further than I had initially planned and, by the time I arrived home, my ankle/foot was telling me I just about over did my first excursion.  And, I still had Butternut Bisque (Susan Branch’s fabulous recipe) to make.  I had a few squash left from my 2014 growing season.  I sent Glenn out to dig a few potatoes and when he came back, he reported that I had 33 butternut squash (the 2015 season) out in the garden.  The bisque recipe uses two large squash.

 

I am sure glad we like Butternut Bisque.  Paired with my homemade buttered potato rolls…yummy!

 

Autumn definitely provides numerous kinds of joy - color, food, activity, smells…go out and realize your favorite joy of the season.  You will be glad you did.
 
I was...I am.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Deviation from Routine


Exactly one week ago, I had a slight mishap.

 

A neighbor called Glenn to let him know his cattle had come over onto her property.  He responded with, “I’ll be right there.”

 

Looking out the window and down into the pasture just below the house, we saw bunches of cows and calves.  Evidently, not the entire herd went over to pay a visit. 

 

Glenn informed me that he would need my help to be guardian of the gate.  This way he could easily slip over on his ATV without having to get on and off to open and close the gate and it would guarantee that the remaining herd would not follow him onto the forbidden grounds through the fence vulnerability which had not yet been found…by us.

 

I had not gone for my morning walk since it had been raining and still was.  So, the reprieve from the wetness I thought I had gotten was not to be.  I had to go out into the pouring rain.  I followed Glenn, in tractor, down in the ‘mule’ and was able to guard the gate without incident.  I stood solid while the herd crept closer to me.  They did not intimidate me. The cows and bull gathered within feet of me but not one tried to make a run through the inviting open gate - ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome.  Shortly, Glenn retrieved one calf and one cow.  Not the numbers we had expected.  The two easily ran back through the open gate and joined the herd in waiting. Two delinquents are easier to rescue than 40.

 

On his return, Glenn wanted help with a second gate while he went to fetch some of that amazing corn he gleaned last week to feed to the cows.  As he approached the gate, I opened it for his access while the cows looked on with eager anticipation.  They cooperated, again, by following the corn laden tractor deep into the pasture where they would spend the next few hours munching to their delight.  But, where were the sheep?  I could not see them and I did not want to reclaim my mule and have the flock decide, on their own, to change fields.  I waited and waited for Glenn and his turn to watch the gate for me.  I was getting soaked having only layered with two sweatshirts and no raingear. The dogs, quiet by my side,  waited for some indication of my intended plan.

 

Finally, I decided to take a chance and check on Glenn.  Just a few steps from the gate, I felt a horrendous jolt to my ankle and went down to the ground instantly.  Snowball either decided to run at me with his full force or he was playing with Buddy and jumped without thought of where he would land.  I do not know exactly because my back was to the dogs. All I know is that he collided with my ankle with the entire weight of his body.  Snowball is one big dog, a Great Pyrenees to remind the readers. 

 

I was prone in the mud and manure (again, remember that the cows were just waiting in that exact spot and when they stand around they just go through their normal activities - relieving themselves of excrement, for one) with the rain falling at a steady clip. 

 

My entire left ankle was throbbing in pain.  I immediately thought I broke my ankle and about all the things I would have to put on hold.  My dogs are no Lassie.  They stayed by my side, jumped on top of me as if I was playing and made no attempt to get Glenn.  I put up an arm to wave to try to get Glenn’s attention, but he was still a distance  away inside his tractor cab which is quite comfy - no rain and no noise (as in my yells) for him.  Eventually, he made a turn to where he could catch a glimpse of me on the ground.  But, would he? Thankfully, he did.  He drove me back home in the ‘mule’.  I undressed from my wet and soiled clothes, hobbled to the recliner, covered up with an old blanket and remained as still as possible, cold and in pain.  Glenn did bring me an ice pack (oh, so cold) for my foot, heating pad for my body, and two ibuprofen.  Sympathy was not in the picture.

 

Five hours later, I managed to get up and walk slowly if I kept my foot straight and stiff.  After 5 hours of sitting, I was quite bored. 

 

I could not wiggle my toes without pain. I self-diagnosed…a bad sprain.

 

I told myself that ‘Tomorrow, I will be back to normal.’ That was my hope, anyways.  Ah, wishful thinking…

 

Still, I know I will need to be careful for weeks.  My plans of getting my perennial garden fully weeded in the next few weeks might be delayed until spring.  My entire ‘to do’ list is based on my ability to move about freely and with vigor.  Not this past week, maybe soon.  I did go out into the garden for a bit on Friday, four days after the incident, and was overcome with pain. Ugh - more rest.  My recovery might take longer than I want it to - double ugh!

 

A couple of years ago, I chipped a tooth while I was guardian of the gate.  A cow slammed the gate into my mouth. I never saw that gate coming. 

 

Farming, at least gate duty, is certainly hazardous to my body.  And, being careful is irrelevant to blindsides.

 

Maybe next time I should gear up with full-body padded protection…couldn’t hurt.

 

Update:  I am still hobbling with a swollen ankle/foot - a totally blue foot to be more accurate.  My dogs are not happy and they are confused as we have not been on our daily walks.  Can they not notice that I am barely walking?

 

The up side is that last week it rained daily and the forecast for this week is the same…more rain.  My outside activity has naturally been minimized giving me a bit more guiltless recuperation.  No great photo opts from inside the house, though.  I do miss seeing my birds and nature’s daily changes I realize on my daily walk with my canine buddies. 

 

I will return…routine here I come!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumn Arrives


I was awakened this morning to honking geese flying directly and low over the house.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This appropriate gesture from Mother Nature was a fantastic way to begin the official autumn season.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






 


Happy Fall Y’All !