spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Day Awakens


 5:15 AM. 

 

There is just a hint of light in the sky. I can distinguish the tree line as an undulating darkness, but I cannot define individual trees.

 




The birds are beginning their morning ritual…morning music.

 

At first, I hear a solitary bird. Soon, another bird joins in with different notes.  Shortly, I can no longer differentiate the number of participants.  The song transitions into a subtle symphony.

 

The music is happy.  I am happy.

 



The sky continues to lighten.  I can now see the pasture fence and the hint of green grass. The distant mountains come into view. Stillness prevails.

 

I feel like I am one with my immediate, natural world.  I am content.

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Friends of Gladys Taber Reunion - June 19-21, 2015


Another Friends of Gladys Taber Reunion has come and gone. 

 

This one was a bit different for me as it was held in my home state of Virginia which meant that my driving time to attend was greatly reduced from the usual day of driving Interstates to only just over an hour on  beautiful mountain roads.  It was the same in that the comradery of the attendees was tremendous as always.  Loyal Friends of Gladys Taber just have the best time when they gather.

 

Lynchburg was the venue for this 2015 Reunion.  Gladys had lived in Virginia for about 10 years when her husband served as Chair of the Music Department of the Randolph-Macon Women’s College, now named Randolph College since recently transitioning to a coed institution.

 

2015 Friends of Gladys Taber Reunion attendees in front of Gladys and Frank's home in Lynchburg, VA


back side of Taber home


As a group, we shared good food, good conversation and several organized presentations/tours in Lynchburg. 

 

Two other Friends, Janet and Penny, and I took off on our own during some down time to return to the Taber home and to Randolph College for more photos and spontaneous adventure.  We were thrilled when our outing developed into a private tour of the Music Hall on campus. It was Saturday and summer break, so we had the place to ourselves.  We quietly, and not so quietly, roamed the hallways and rooms envisioning the time back when Gladys and Frank were a part of this college scene in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.  This side expedition was definitely the ‘icing on the cake’ of this year’s reunion.
 

 
 


possibly the entrance to Frank Taber's office in Presser Hall
Presser Hall - Home of the Music Department

After the formal event, I had invited all attendees to come out to my farm for a barbeque of our farm-raised meats (beef, lamb and pork) with fixings which included three menu items from Taber’s own cookbooks (Rancho Baked Beans, Col. Murray Edwards’ Vichyssoise and Lemon Bisque - yummy) and to experience my small part of the Shenandoah Valley.  A good number of Friends accepted my invitation.  My husband Glenn was the tour guide as he offered mule rides (not the four-hooved variety, but the four-tire variety) around our farm.  Although I did not partake, I am sure Glenn spoke to our farm management practices which he is very passionate…mob-grazing and rotational grazing. 
 

 

getting ready to leave for a 'mule' tour of the farm
 
I certainly hope our visitors had as good a time on the farm as I had in sharing it with them.

 

I offer my sincere thanks to the two wonderful members who organized this 2015 Reunion (it takes a lot of time and heart) and to those who attended and contributed to a wonderful weekend.

 

Yes, another Gladys Taber Reunion has come and gone, but the memories will last forever!

 

 

NOTE:  If you are interested in joining the Friends of Gladys Taber, please go to www.friendsofgladystaber.org for the specifics.  New friends are always welcomed!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Future Flutterflies

wonderful color and pattern - Mother Nature knows her stuff!
Today while gardening, I noticed a caterpillar on my dill weed.

 


















It was pretty, green and just about blended in with the feathery foliage of the dill to be unnoticed.




I guessed it was a monarch caterpillar because of the coloring.  I was wrong.  On further searching, I determined it was a caterpillar more favorable to a swallowtail.

 

Whatever…this caterpillar was beautiful.

 

The fact that the caterpillar was eating my dill did not bother me as that dill was a volunteer from the previous year’s planting and I have no real need for dill this year.  I had not planned to put up pickles nor had I planned to dehydrate any dill for my spice/herb shelf.

 

That caterpillar was on its own and it could eat until content.

 

In truth, it was not alone.  As I glanced over the dill, I saw another caterpillar and another, and in total, I saw five caterpillars.  They were all the same species, but of varying sizes.

 

I will let all five be with the hope that five future butterflies will enhance someone's world.


Maybe that someone will be me!

 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cherry Picking/Pitting Time


Two nights ago, I ended, so I thought, my work for the day by finishing weeding a large section of my garden. It was after 8:00 PM. I felt I had accomplished quite a bit for the day which began with my morning walk with the dogs at 7:00 AM and included straightening the house, making sloppy joes, washing dishes, paying bills, and weeding twice.   I was tired and hungry.

 

I looked up and glanced into our tiny orchard where I noticed our sour cherry tree glowing red. Hmmm…I better go and check out that tree.

 

Sure enough, a good portion of the cherries had ripened and were ready to be picked.  I did not chance waiting another day and letting the birds discover my loot.

 

I called Glenn to see where he was.  Glenn was out in the pasture moving the cattle herd onto fresh grass.  I asked him not to dillydally, as he frequently does, because WE needed to pick cherries.  Glenn loves sour cherry pie.  Promptly, he returned to the house.

 




The cherry tree is small, yet a ladder is still required to reach the upper branches which were full of fruit.

 

Nearing 10:00 P.M., we had gathered the ripe cherries, washed and pitted them, added sugar and placed them into quart containers for freezing. We had three full quarts which does not sound like much, but it is plenty when standing and hand-pitting those cherries at the kitchen counter, so back-breaking, and all before we even had dinner.

 

 
My schedule is full for the next two weeks, so I am unable to make a fresh cherry pie now.  Glenn will have to wait.  The cherry-picking could not wait.  A second picking will be ready in a few more days.  Besides, I am still harvesting strawberries and we do eat those fresh on a daily basis.  A person can only consume so much fresh and delicious fruit in a day.

 

Glenn’s mouth is watering for his first cherry pie of the season…actually two seasons since we did not have any cherries last year. All I can say is…darn birds.

 

This morning, I realized that more cherries had ripened and were ready to pick.  The ladder was still in place under the cherry tree.  Glenn picked while I pitted, and pitted and pitted. This time I made myself a cherry-pitting station so that I could sit and be a bit more comfortable.  It included using a large cooler for a tabletop, large bowl to receive the pitted cherries, small bowl to receive the pits and stems, and of course, the plastic colander of washed cherries which was refilled several times from the large bowl of cherries-in-waiting.  Juice ran down my arms and dripped on my legs and floor, but my back was spared the stabbing pain which I experienced from my earlier cherry-pitting session two days prior.  Glenn picked for two hours and I pitted for five hours.  At the end, we added six more quarts to our freezer.

 


notice the radio to keep Glenn amused while diligently picking the cherries



That is a lot of time spent to harvest such a small quantity of cherries, but then they are fresh and our own.  All I can say now…I hope Glenn appreciates, really appreciates, his cherries. He did mention something about nine pies as he licked his lips.

 

There are still more cherries left on that cherry tree - ugh!

 

Where are those sneaky birds when you need them?

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, June 5, 2015

PATRICK TAYLOR - A New (to me) Author - On my 'Favorites' List


Recently, I discovered an amazing author that was completely new to my library and my readings.  And, where have I been?

 

I cannot even remember where I first learned about Patrick Taylor and his Irish Country novels, but I am so glad I did.

 

The Irish Country novels are set in Northern Ireland, mainly taking place in the 1960’s with flashbacks to the 1930’s. The central character is a lovable, in his way, country doctor.  (Mr. Patrick is a doctor, himself, and obviously following the age-old advice to authors - write about what you know.) There are also many wonderful supporting characters introduced and continued from story to story.  Within just pages, I connected with these colorful people and wanted to read more and more.  Also, I found the Irish ways and historic medical data, peppered throughout, quite fascinating.  Intertwine the novels with romance, war, family and Mr. Taylor has an appealing formula for success.  I must mention the wonderful Irish recipes and informative ‘Ulsterspeak’ at the end of every book.  You just got to know some Irish language to understand the locals portrayed in these wonderful books.

 

To date, Mr. Taylor has written 10 titles in his Irish Country series.  I started reading the first, An Irish Country Doctor published in 2007, in January of this year and have continued through all 10 finishing with the last a week or so ago.  Of course, you can start reading any book (#1-10) in any order and not be disappointed.  I am an ‘order’ kind of person, so I had to start with numero uno.

 




I enjoyed the books so much that I had to purposely read only a few chapters at each sitting to make sure each book lasted longer.  I could have easily read an entire book in one day as I adored each one so much.
 

The jacket art is by Gregory Manchess and is truly works of art. Each cover is a fabulous essence of that particular book.

 
I have been in e-mail contact with Mr. Taylor and am pleased to know that # 11 in the series will be published this fall (October) and that he is has just completed  writing #12 (2016 publication). Hurray!

 

Of course, I am anxiously waiting for October.

 

Have I sparked any interest in those of you who haven’t read Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country books yet?

 

I hope so!

 

Those who are loyal readers of Mr. Taylor need no further encouragement.

 

Patrick Taylor has certainly earned a prominent place on my very short ‘favorite authors’ list.

 

Kudos to Patrick Taylor…please keep writing!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wet and Wonderful Walk


We are still in a holding pattern with rain.

 

I am glad that the ground and plants are receiving some fabulous moisture, but it does put a damper (pun intended) on taking my daily walks. I have missed several days.

 

This morning I woke at 4:00.  I did my routine computer work, I baked cookies that I had mixed-up from the day before and refrigerated overnight as suggested  (pinwheels - my first and last time ever making this recipe - those pesky layers fall apart before baking), and  I quietly finished up my dishes (Glenn was still sleeping).  It was now 6:00 AM.

 

I needed to get out and take a walk.  I checked the Intellicast weather website and discovered a window of opportunity of 0% rainfall from 7 - 9.  The cloud cover was 100% for the entire day and the temperature was in the fifties. I was going for my walk.

 

As I left the house, I gathered the dogs.  Actually, they gathered me.  The dogs always anxiously wait for my appearance and OUR walk every day.  Even Snowball has learned to secretly escape his confine guarding the sheep to accompany us. Glenn and I are still trying to discover how he manages to get out of a completely fence-in pasture.

 

I knew my feet would get wet because of the previous days of rain, but more than my feet got wet.

 

There was no real window of 'no rain'.  Within minutes, the heavy mist gathered on my hooded sweatshirt.  Water streamed down my bangs onto my glasses.  I could have easily turned back, but I had committed.  The dogs were happy.  I stayed my pace and continued to walk down to the pond. 
 
even the earthworms had to leave their homes and 'get out' for a bit

 
the pasture grasses bent over under the weight of all the collected moisture on their blades
 
 
 


difficult to see, but jeans are totally saturated
The tall grass of the pasture bent over my narrow tire track of a path.  My pants were drenched in seconds. Even though I had rolled up the bottoms of the legs three times, the weight of the water just pulled them to the ground. And, the water wicked up each leg to just about my waist.  They were not just wet, they were saturated and dripping wet.  My shoes were now soaked and squeaky. My feet felt like ice cubes in minutes. I was still trying to protect my camera inside my sweatshirt.

My thoughts wandered. I am sure glad that we do not hay anymore especially when the weather is uncooperative during peak first cutting.  Glenn and I were always stressed.  I do feel sorry for those farmers who are trying to hay now and I hope that they do not have cut grass down that is rotting instead of drying.
 

I continued my trek.  The dogs all looked like the proverbial drenched rats.  They did not seem to care.  They ran and played as usual, always checking back to make sure I was still advancing.

 

As I neared the pond, as if on cue, a heron flew over my head.  I had not seen my heron for weeks.  The heron did not stop at the pond as three dogs typically deter such action, but just the quick flight over head was justification for this morning’s walk. That short presence of the heron was my bonus for the day.

 

Immediately as I returned home, my shoes and socks, my sweatshirt and my jeans came off.  I was COLD.  I wrapped myself in a blanket, stretched out on the couch and smiled.

 

That was a GOOD walk!

Be Gone With You


I discovered, this year, that I like to weed. 

 

I use to go out and weed for an hour, two tops, weekly and that would be my contribution to the maintenance of my flower beds.  The weeds outshined my flowers.

 

This year is different.  Almost daily, I go out gloved*, with hand spade firmly in my grip, and weed for hours.  It is difficult to stop, but I force myself to move onto other essential tasks.  Weeding is no longer a chore, but a FUN and satisfying activity. The result is perennial beds that are more specific to fragrant and/or showy blooms rather than obnoxious and overbearing weeds.  This is a novelty for me.  Besides, when spending the time removing unwanted vegetation, I can look about me at any time and relish in the flowers that are in bloom on that particular day.  I do not miss any changes.  Every few days, the prominent blossoms differ.  I love color. I love fragrance. I love flowers. I love to weed.

 




For the past few days, we have been static in a rainy weather pattern.  Weeding is on hold.  The upside is that each and every one of my plants relishes the abundance of rain.  Lush is an understatement. Normally, we experience more drought-like conditions and my plants are usually meager, at best.

 

Good rain, during the growing season, is almost an anomaly. 

 

I look out often from the windows around my house into the gardens.  I see healthy green foliage throughout highlighted with splashes of pastel and bold color.  The myriad of greens exhibited by all the diverse leaves, the many hues of flowers, the varying textures of the hardscaping and the ever-changing lighting, layers of sorts, all combine to form a magnificent and complete image.  Today, I enjoy dark purple salvia, airy gaura swinging in the breeze, deep orange and squash-colored daylilies, lavender spiderworts, and many other colorful flowers…my eye-candy.

 




And, the best part of the luxurious plantings is that it is all desired.  For a change, the weeds have not dominated my gardens. 

 

I no longer, at least for the moment, have to pretend that the weeds are not present.  Or, that the weeds are actually a prized perennial. 

 

Quite frankly, in all my years of gardening, my garden has never looked so good, even with three dogs traipsing directly through many of my flower beds.

 

The winning formula…weeds eliminated + abundant precipitation = vigorous perennials and a very happy gardener…me!

 

*A note about my gardening gloves… I use to garden bare-handed because gloves were cumbersome, hot and short-lived as holes wore quickly into the fingertips until a friend of mine gave me some great gardening gloves - they fit like skin, have reinforced fingers and palms, and I barely realized that I am wearing these gems - no more dirty hands and nails, no more broken nails - just easy weeding with comfort.  In reality, I have abused these gloves and they hold up extremely well to my abuse. 
 

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Surprise Gift


A couple of weeks ago, our vet left us a package in our mailbox.
 
Even without the phone call to inform us of said package, we would have known it was from him.






Mike kindly left us a surprise gift of fresh asparagus.  Our son was visiting, so Glenn decided to make the asparagus while Matt was home since Matt is always asking for vegetables.  Corn, he reminds us, is not a vegetable.

 

 
 
 
 
Glenn grilled the asparagus spears quickly with a bit of olive oil.  That’s it.  Pure asparagus prepared with a bit of crunch.  Both Glenn and Matt devoured the rare treat.  Their final bites ended, in unison, with, “I could have had more, it was so good!”

 

Now, how would we have known the unmarked gift was from our vet?

 

The details are in the packaging.  The asparagus was wrapped and placed inside an unused (I stress UNUSED) arm-long plastic glove - the kind any vet utilizes to conduct internal exploratory bovine exams.  True to the country spirit of using what is handy and available (see blog -  Flat Tire 5-18-15), Mike was using what he had handy.


 

It worked!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Strawberries - Sweet & Juicy


My strawberry plants are producing well this year.  I guess having the three raised beds fully weeded, for once, at the start of the growing season helped.

 




I pick the ripe berries daily. It is a back-breaking task, but the result is well worth my personal pain. We, Glenn and I, can just about eat these juicy and sweet strawberries as fast as I can pick them.  I do try to skim a quart off occasionally to freeze for a future time.  Yummy strawberry treats in the cold of December…pure decadence.
 

 

I use to make a mean strawberry shortcake, but of late, we have decided to forgo the cake (Why fill up the stomach space on flour?) for an extra helping of fresh fruit slathered in cream.   After all, you got to eat these beauties when they are just ripe - not hard, not white and not soft…perfectly firm and juicy. This freshness does not last long once I pluck the strawberries from their vines.  We have to enjoy posthaste.

 

I am so glad that we have an abundant strawberry crop as every one of our sweet cherries was devoured by our resident birds.  Not one of my cherries passed through my lips for a second year in a row.  So disappointing!

 

The birds have not discovered the strawberries and I do plan to keep them a secret.  Fortunately, the berries have an uncanny ability to hide among their green leaves.  As carefully as I pick, I go back a second time and still find ripe berries that I had overlooked on my first pass…incredible.

 

It is amazing to me how this ‘real red’ fruit can hide, but hide it does - thank goodness.

 

I do not feel like I need to share all my harvest with my feathered friends.  The cherries are enough of a sacrifice on my part.

 

Though, next year, I do plan to place a scarecrow in the orchard.  I want some of those sweet cherries, too!


Now... I am off for another bowlful of berries and cream - yummy!