Saturday, December 24, 2016
Glenn had been planning to burn the broom sage in the pastures at the Jonestown farm ever since we had purchased the property earlier this year. Broom sage is not a desirable vegetative species food source for our cattle. Unchecked, broom sage will spread more and more throughout the pastures with each passing year taking up more and more space where the essential and more palatable forages should be growing.
This property, prior to our purchase, had been leased for over a decade. Renters usually do not give much thought nor much attention to improving the condition of the pastures they are renting. Thus, the quality of grasses and the overall condition of the pastures decrease over time. And, the broom sage increases.
Last night was the time to begin the eradication process. The fire ban had been cancelled, the wind was negligible, the broom sage dry and hands-on-help was available. Let the light show begin!
The closest neighbor to the burn site is actually a professional fireman. He was anxious to help, but when zero hour arrived, he was called into work. His last words to Glenn were, ‘Everything should be alright.’ These are ‘famous’ last words or, at the very least, words often shared prior to iffy situations.
I had no plans to help or even to attend the fireworks. I get nervous, anxious and over-the-top excited, and not in a good way. But, I relented to take a peek and to take a few photos for our farm journal.
I arrived at dusk and remained for over an hour as the night sky darkened to black. The flames were so impressive in the absence of daylight. A fabulous show.
The flames grew and traveled following the contours of the ground, hopefully, leaving charred broom sage behind. The blackness glowed a bright orange as the fires burned…wonderful Christmas Eve Eve lights.
After nine p.m., I was still waiting for the fire crew to return home, hoping everything was OK.
To make a long story shorter, the fire department arrived because a neighbor claimed his barn was on fire…Not! The firemen were ready to jump the fence with water hoses in hand to put out Glenn’s beneficial fire. A fire burning on our property. Glenn promptly yelled that they better not put his fire out. The firemen left.
Today it is raining. The ground and vegetation are wet.
The burning was perfect timing on Glenn’s part. His plans do not always work out so ideally. This time all the elements of a safe and efficient burn were present and worked to Glenn’s advantage.
Glenn one, Mother Nature….
Wednesday, December 21, 2016
The days surely pass so very quickly and I realize that I have not posted a new blog for what seems like forever...yes, forever is a long time.
So, that being said, I wanted to make mention, before any more time passes, that I am already planning my New Year's Resolution and I want to share it with you here, in the hope, to give me the incentive to follow through on the promise to myself.
My 2017 resolution, one of many I might add, is to post regularly to this blog. The blogs might be a bit different than those I have actually posted over the years - they may be shorter stories, a simple recalling of a moment, or my usual long account - expect anything. Every day provides some kind of interest and I plan, resolve, to document that which is of interest to me and, perhaps, to you.
My other resolutions include, in no particular order: get healthier, lose some weight, spend more time with Snowball and Buddy, take time away from the farm with Glenn to explore and have fun, keep the gardens looking neat and trim, read more books, write more stories, practice painting - as in pictures, improve my photography skills, keep in better touch with family and friends. I am sure that this is not a complete list. I know I will add more as the year progresses. There is something more I always want to do.
Notice the absence of 'increasing housecleaning hours'?
Yep...that will never make my resolution list. NEVER!
Kudos to those of you who are able to keep a well-tended home.
Monday, November 7, 2016
Today is the day before the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Personally, I feel,no matter who wins, that the United States is going to be in for big changes and these changes are not going to be good...for anybody. Call me a pessimist, but I have been following the political scene for years. I probably am more enlightened than a lot of the US population. So, I am prepared in a way, yet I am not prepared at all. I do see some hope, but that hope will depend on all of us working together to get back to common sense, basic morality and downright love for each other. That will be a tall mountain to climb, but it is possible. Can we do it? Only you can answer for yourself.
That being said, I went out on my usual walk to absorb as much natural beauty as I am able. The farm, the surrounding mountains, the blue sky, the setting sun did not disappoint. I was at peace…at least for the moment.
A few days ago, my walk was so very quiet. I did not see, or hear, any birds. Not one. I returned home with no new photos documenting the tranquility. It was odd.
This afternoon, thank goodness, a few birds accompanied me along my journey. I was content.
A world without birds (fill in the blank with your own fancy) is not complete. Either is a world without family, friends, love, security, dreams, peace, goodwill, food, health, freedom, …
Will my world be complete on Wednesday? Or the day after? Ever again?
I truly hope so!
Friday, November 4, 2016
Yesterday, my lovely specimen of a sugar maple tree in my yard was full of brightly-colored red and orange leaves – an iconic autumn view.
Last night we had a sprinkling of rain. We
actually need inches as we have been dry for over one month. Unfortunately, we must have had a bit of wind, too.
This morning I looked out my kitchen window to that same maple and saw a naked-branched tree. What the heck! The leaves were actually still there but, instead of on the tree, the leaves covered the ground beneath the tree. On the down side, I already miss the blazing glory high in my tree. Yet, on a positive note, this was my opportunity to take my annual crunch walk through the downed leaves. I love the sound of dried leaves crunching under foot.
This is a perfect life’s lesson…enjoy each and every moment as you do not know what the future will bring. I knew the leaves would eventually fall off, but not so fast and not so complete.
There are still many trees in color and just about as many already sporting their bare branches common to the winter season.
I faithfully make a conscious effort to enjoy the autumn splendor before I eventually say, “There is always next year.”
Just a bit advice…do not wait until next year, take advantage of every moment now!
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
My favorite month, October, has ended. As always, I enjoyed every day, every moment.
October 1, 2016 - greens of summer are about to change
The days were warm, sunny and comfortable. My daily walks with my best two buds were relaxing. The atmosphere was peaceful. The colors of the deciduous trees started out with their summer green foliage and ended with a magical change. The ending hues are a bit on the muted side this fall, but nonetheless, spectacular.
|mid-October lovely muted sage greens highlighted with some squash-orange|
I believe October 31st proved to be ‘peak’ for us autumn color aficionados.
|the color change progresses|
|green heron staying a bit long into the season|
The summer, exotics as I like to call them, birds have moved on. I miss their diverse songs and calls, their presence. I am already anticipating their return. It will be interesting to see how many different species return to our farm which has become quite a bird sanctuary.
A two-day side trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a quick overnight stay with my son in Fayetteville was just the proverbial ‘icing on the cake’. It was fabulous to be able to swim in a pool. The water was as cool as our pond, but I did not have to worry about fish biting me…ahhhh!
October just could not get any better than this year’s, but then again, I think I say that every year.
As always, October did not disappoint and it remains my favorite month.
Today is the half way point between the start of fall and the start of the next season.
On toward… winter…ugh!
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Today we are having another spectacular autumn day – sunny and comfortable with a breeze.
The black walnuts, acorns and persimmons are ripening and falling from our trees. The walnuts fall with a particularly loud thump.
I have to be especially careful when I walk under a walnut or oak tree. If I step on a nut, I could easily lose my balance as my foot rolls away from me and I could easily injury myself when my body hits the solid ground. Walnuts are the worst because they are bigger in size and much easier to roll under foot, but those much smaller acorns can do a trick as well. They are roundish and they roll, too. My steps become much shorter and my eyes are peeled to the ground when I walk under the walnut and oak trees.
I also have to be careful from a walnut falling from overhead. Those nuts are so big and heavy. I could be knocked out if that walnut directly hit the top of my head. When it is windy, like today, I hold my hand over my head to protect it from any walnut that might take aim.
The persimmon is more forgiving as it is a soft fruit and squishes under foot. Not as dangerous to my well-being, but a bit messy if I step on too many.
But, I do enjoy seeing the big green walnuts before they turn brown and their outer shell peel off to reveal a much harder casing beneath before you even reach the nut itself. The acorns are cute with their stemmed caps. And, the persimmons shine with a golden orange glow, with sunshine or no sunshine.
Nature’s bounty is beautiful and far superior to the negatives it might offer.
Yet, I still watch my step!
Friday, October 7, 2016
My October celebration continues with an off-our-farm visit to another local farm – a dairy farm smack dab in the middle of chopping corn.
That was the plan.
We are a beef operation. Our cows feed primarily by grazing (100% grass-fed) so the process of putting corn up for cows, is very different and interesting.
I wanted to see how this dairy’s huge storage area (bunk) was filled with feed. Feed that would be used by their milk cows throughout the next 12 months. (Note: I observed the same operation at a different local dairy last season. See Blog “Silage Up Close” 9-17-15 - like I mentioned, I find this activity very interesting.)
The chopper runs almost continuous. When the silage trailer, hauled by a tractor, is filled, it returns to the farm storage facility for unloading. Another tractor/trailer is already waiting to move into place to be filled. This routine repeats over and over and over…
At the storage facility, another crew of two spread and pack the chopped corn (silage) in order to obtain the maximum storage capability and to ferment the chopped vegetation.
|when the bunk is full, the white plastic will cover the silage and be peeled back as the silage is used|
|freshly chopped corn - see the stalks, leaves and kernels|
The silage cut now has to last for one year until the entire process of planting, growing, cutting and storing starts again.
only a vey few of the over 400 'happy' milk cows on this large dairy farm
The result…happy cows. Happy cows provide delicious milk. Milk provides healthy nutrition for your family.
I thought this getting feed was all for the cows, but now I realize it is really all for me.
I am a daily milk drinker! I love milk!
Note: Daughter Becky is behind the wheel in the top video.
Monday, October 3, 2016
Today was another great autumn day. Sunny and 70 – the perfect temperature for my personal comfort!
I changed my walking routine from early morning to afternoon since the first of this month. So far, I am satisfied. My dogs are a bit confused and are still waiting at the back door early for my appearance from inside the house. They wait patiently for hours.
The days are now less humid and cooler, so the afternoon works well. The best part is that my feet no longer get wet from the always present early morning dew. The overall bird activity is decreased, but I think that is due more to season than to time of day.
I encountered three green herons down at the pond this afternoon. One flew from the cattails into the nearest walnut tree. I was able to inch closer and closer until I was just about directly under the tree. In fact, I was so close that it was difficult to get that perfect photo that I have been pursuing.
While taking pictures, and the attached movie, of the heron in the tree, I could hear the chirp of a heron hiding in the large clump of cattails directly behind and only feet away from me. I caught a glimpse of this heron minutes before when the dogs scared it up from the tall grass as I was feeding the fish from the deck of the pond house. The small heron quickly flew to the safety of the much thicker cattails. As this heron sounded, a like response came from a much smaller clump of cattails at the dam edge of the pond. Ahhh…a third heron. I had passed by this exact spot only moments earlier as I crept from the pond house to get to the walnut tree. I had no indication that there was another heron hiding just inches from me at that time. Kudos to the heron for keeping its location secret.
When watching the movie, listening to the background closely (try to ignore the loud crickets) and you will hear the two hiding herons speaking to each other.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Today, I had some fun down at the pond with my little green heron.
This guy resided at the pond all summer, then disappeared on September 1. I thought he had left on his travels south. But, he appeared again a few days ago.
But, surprisingly, what I thought was one heron was actually two.
As I approached the pond, the first heron flew up from the grassy shoreline and flew across the pond landing in the walnut tree. I thought I had missed another opportunity to get a photo of this guy in flight. He always looks like a black duck to me when in flight. As I continued to make my way toward the pond house, the second heron flew up, all of a sudden, from pretty much the same location as the first. I was not expecting a second heron. I pointed my camera and snapped. I had no time to focus. I just took my chances and hoped for the best.
|looks like a black duck to me...|
I spent another 60 - 90 minutes watching the herons. They perched and preened themselves from fairly open branches in the walnut. (Walnut trees lose their leaves early in the season making my observation so easy. During the summer, once the heron flies into a tree, it is hidden from view by all the leaves.) Then, they circled a couple of times over the pond and around the deck where I was sitting. Little green herons are not very patient. A Great Blue Heron can sit totally still on a tree branch for hours, but the greens seem to like to be on the move. I lost sight of them again until I saw heron #2 fly across the pond and into the tall grass disturbing heron #1. Buddy saw that incident, too and ran to their location. Both herons immediately flew back up into the walnut tree. As I left to return to the house, I looked back and I noticed one of the herons fly back into a different section of tall grass along the edge of the water. Within a second, he had vanished.
|two little Green Herons in flight...can you see them both?|
|preening while in the walnut tree|
|green heron coming in for a landing...notice the length of its neck - it changes|
|amazing Green Heron perched on a Black Walnut tree branch...even the walnuts look amazing|
This was my most active heron sighting day to date. Ever!
Extremely good luck or extremely good timing…whatever the case, I was a very appreciative recipient!
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Today is the first day of my most favorite month of the year…October. I just love autumn, especially in October. I make a point to enjoy each and every waking October minute.
Even though the calendar says fall, my world still looks like summer…the past few days of heavy rains helped put lots of green back into the previously droughty pastures and lawn…
… the tree-covered mountains display their bountiful summer green foliage,
…pastures are peppered with Sulfurs and Whites – butterflies floating from wild flower to wild flower,
…the colorful kestrels grace my view, from time to time, as they swoop down to gather a juicy grasshopper and then back up onto a tree branch or utility line.
It might still look like summer, but there is definitely a hint of autumn in the air. I can smell the change. I can feel the change. I can hear the change. Soon, I will see the change.
And, fall is not fall without at least one iconic mum flowering in the garden. Here is mine!
Can you smell the spicy fragrance? An aroma that can only mean that autumn has arrived.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
I was taken quite aback today when my daughter announced a revelation to me…NASA scientists decided, with more detailed research, to change the zodiac. It now includes 13 constellations, not 12. The zodiac actually always contained 13 constellations, but the 12-month calendar was not favorable to 13, so one of the constellations was dropped. Now, all of a sudden, the scientists have developed a conscience and they want to portray the zodiac accurately. Really?
No. How can another constellation be added I roared? This is the first I heard of this nonsense. When did this happen?
Come to find out, many individuals now have a different zodiac sign. In my family alone, as Becky informed me, she was Gemini, now she is Taurus. Glenn was Aquarius, now he is Capricorn. Matt remains a Sagittarius. I, being a once proud Sagittarius, am no longer. Lucky me, I am now the add-on constellation, Ophiuchus. I cannot even pronounce it – ugh!
I embroidered a lovely Sagittarius archer on a pair of jeans back when I was in college. I spent hours on that creation. Hmm…I wonder where those jeans are now? They were green. I know I still have them. I would not throw away a pair of jeans with my handiwork on them. But, doesn’t matter as I would not be able to squeeze into them anyhow.
I wonder what an Ophiuchus is? Maybe it is time to embroider a new, as in ones that fit, pair of jeans. After a quick search, I discovered Ophiuchus to be the ‘serpent-bearer’. At least, I do not have a phobia to snakes as a friend of mine does.
Now, I say...is this really change in the zodiac more science or more economics. Just think a minute…jewelry has to be updated to reflect your new zodiac sign, new books have to be written and sold to reflect the newest sign, and horoscopes will increase in size wherever they appear.
And, aghast, think of those people who married an individual with a particular zodiac sign on purpose…probably already divorced…it was in the stars the whole time don’t’ you know.
Is anything sacred?
I am guessing not!
Bigger changes are coming. I better accept the smaller, less significant ones so that I can better accept the mammoth ones in store for us.
Well, time to collect eggs...
Monday, September 19, 2016
Unhappy dogs do not necessary translate into happy us, but this time it does.
My dogs are unhappy because I did not take them on their walk yesterday and it looks like today I will not be walking for a second day in a row.
First, I did not walk yesterday because the day before I spent most of the entire day and into the early hours of the next day pickling and canning/freezing beets.
I knew it was going to be a long job, so I asked and got the affirmative from Becky that she would help. We decided Saturday was a good day. Saturday came and we verified, so I started without her pulling the beets out of the ground and washing them. By the time she arrived, about noon, I was already getting tired, so she was a welcoming sight. She took over the washing while I gathered cooking pots. We had three large pots going at once even though the pots barely fit over the burners of my stove. The beets were so big that they took forever to fork-soften…hours of boiling. Then, as the beets came out of the pots, new beets went in to begin the boiling all over again. I had a lot of beets.
Early into the boiling process, Becky announced that she had a small high school reunion/gathering/picnic to attend. WHAT? She had to leave at 4:00. It was already 2:00! If I knew that prior to starting this project, I would have rescheduled. Then, she mentioned that she needed to bring a food item to pass. My house was just about bare except for a good supply of our farm fresh eggs and plenty of frozen meat. I suggested making deviled eggs and she concurred. Now, we had to move a pot of beets off the stove to make room to make hard-boiled eggs. Well, at least this gave me the chance to show Becky my new, never-fail method, of making hard boiled eggs with shells that slip right off.
Deviled eggs made with a little of this and a little of that, Becky had to leave. The beets were still in the pots of boiling water. And, I still had to slice onions, peel and slice all the beets, make pickling liquid, pack the canning jars and process the canning jars in a hot water bath. I made two batches of 7 pints each and decided to freeze the rest. So, off to find and wash freezer containers. I froze more beets than I canned.
some of the canned beets - they are worth canning for the color alone -
gorgeous ruby red
By the time the last beet was totally processed. It was after 1:00 AM. My back was aching and I was tired. But, the beets were done and will be so tasty within the next year. I went to bed already making the decision to forego my early morning walk. Thus, unhappy dogs. They waited at the back door for my appearance along with the cats who wanted to be fed. Dogs do not understand a change in routine.
Today, Monday, I again decided not to take my walk. I woke to the lovely and most friendly sound of a slight drizzle which progressed into a light rain.
We have been under drought conditions for weeks. My perennial plants had started to die which is my sign to start watering the plants with the garden hose. I had been watering daily, a different section of my gardens, for over one week now. I was just barely keeping the plants alive.
Our pastures, due to our management techniques, were in pretty good shape and we still had plenty of grass for the herd to graze. Glenn and I took a ride over the mountain to buy apples (my trees did not produce one apple this season – ugh!) yesterday, and we noticed all the pastures were brown and eaten down to nubbins. We felt a bit of pride because we rotational graze resulting in better pasture quality. Any farmer can utilize the same technique, but the majority do not. Their loss.
And, this morning, finally…a bit of rain. Sorry pooches…I will be holding our walk off for yet another day.
|a huge toad was out enjoying the rain, too|
As for the rain, keep on coming. I am not unhappy.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Yesterday was Labor Day. And, we all certainly labored.
When Glenn and Becky asked me to help as the third body, fifth and sixth hands, I knew the job coming up was going to be involved. Otherwise, I would not be asked. I have been known to be more trouble than help.
Yesterday, was the BIG Moving Day. Not for us, but for most of our cattle herd.
After working over three months, every day, usually with a crew but sometimes alone, to build lots and lots of fence and a water system on our new farm, Glenn decided the farm was ready for its new occupants…our cattle.
Glenn and Becky separating the herd...
cattle at back stay at Mountain Glen Farm and the cattle in the foreground are moving to the Jonestown farm
|trailer in waiting for its first load of cattle|
The older cows and their calves and our largest bull (the younger cows and their calves along with our young bull remain at Mountain Glen Farm) were loaded on our stock trailers and driven the 10 minutes to the new farm. The entire process of separating, loading, driving and unloading took about five hours and five trailer loads. I helped with the loading and tried to document the ear tags numbers of each relocating animal the best I could. Either heads kept moving or the ear tag numbers were faded or covered over with dried manure. Glenn drove the newest trailer and Becky drove the vintage trailer.
The process was slow. The loading area did not work well with the new trailer as the trailer was too tall. The cows did not want to load. One cow even tried to jump the fence to get away but Glenn physically stopped her progress and she retreated back into the loading area. Glenn had problems with his truck as it got stuck in 4-wheel drive which was not helpful once we got on the highway. Becky’s trailer was dragging its low-mounted jack as she tried to move up the steep hill out of the pasture. But, thank goodness, those were all minor snags.
|at the Jonestown farm to unload|
Once at the new farm, the cattle unloaded quickly and happily. They were initially unloaded in the lot at the old barn. This lot adjoins a neighbor whose steers greeted our cows at the shared fence line. After much sniffing and smelling, the interest between the groups waned fast. The new stock tank was easily found and the cows drank water from our new system. Success all around.
|Becky double checks my list of ear tag numbers of the 'movers'|
After the first two trailer loads were safely unloaded, we returned for the next group. At this time, some cows and their calves were separated, on different farms, and we wanted to unite them soon. Mama cows get a bit anxious without their calves nearby.
As the last trailer was unloaded, all the cows found their offspring and they were, once again, content.
This morning, Glenn went back to check and to move the Jonestown herd from the barn lot into the first, newly-fenced pasture. Grass is plentiful, so these critters should be well-satisfied with their food supply. (Note: When we purchased this farm, the previous tenant had to move his cattle off immediately and we were able to rest the abused pastured for a full four months before bringing our cattle over.)
Glenn had 10 pastures permanently fenced. These large pastures will be further divided into smaller pastures with temporary electric fencing. Our pasture management is fully rotational, so the animals get moved onto fresh grass and forage every day or two. The pastures never get over-grazed. Over time, the pastures will continue to improve.
And, our cattle will come to know this farm as their home.