spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

spring greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Bird Sightings


Today was one, maybe the best, bird watching days to date for me. And, I have been having quite a variety of great bird watching days recently. Some I have already mentioned in my blogs and other recollections are still waiting in the wings (pun intended, of course).



Not only was my activity down at the pond being monitored by my frequent heron visitor from his perch in the top of a nearby persimmon tree, but…



I saw, and not only saw but took a few decent photos, of two birds that I have never seen prior to today. And, I saw them both within a five-minute time frame.



That’s right.  I added two new birds to my growing list of birds observed.



AMAZING!!!



Now, you ask, what are the two birds?



Drum roll, please….

BEAUTIFUL cuckoo   and

FABULOUS Flycatcher



A yellow-billed cuckoo and a great crested flycatcher.  Whew!



I never thought I would see either other than in the pages of my bird identification book.



Am I a lucky person or what?



Glenn chalks up the increasing bird bonus experiences to his revised farm management practices.  Add to that my improved observation and listening skills.  The result…



a very HAPPY DAY!!!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

More Bull Power



Becky has 14 breeding females on her farm.  And, she had three bulls which included our main herd bull.  We have 54 breeding females at Mountain Glen and one very young bull. A slight askew ratio of males to females.



Glenn finally decided that he better bring the main herd bull over to our farm to help out with the breeding.  He was sure that his young bull would not be able to service all 54 females.



The herd bull, Scruffy Jr., arrived quietly and without fanfare.  All he was interested in was accessing more females. 

 

Scruffy Jr. unloaded from the trailer easily.  He immediately walked in the direction of the pasture where the cattle were currently hanging out.  Within seconds, the entire herd came over to greet the new arrival.  And, within a few seconds more, Scruffy Jr. was in pursuit of a likely female partner.








But, there was one distraction.  The original bull (yet unnamed), even younger and smaller than Scruffy Jr., was a bit miffed that another male had arrived.  A small scuffle ensued.  It soon became apparent that Scruffy Jr. was indeed the head of the herd.  The younger bull conceded and took his place as second without too much physical    exertion     expelled. 
Some bulls will fight until one is injured or killed.  We were thankful that the bulls recognized their hierarchy quickly.





Now, our cattle breeding season is in full swing.  And, come next March, the baby calves will begin to arrive. 



The cycle continues.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Delicate and Discernable

SMELL the ROSES...



...while you can!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chamomile


Chamomile prior to first picking.

chamomile - dainty daisy-like blooms

a solitary blossom


Chamomile after the first picking.  Notice that most of the flowers ae gone.

Chamomile flowers spread out on a plate for bugs to crawl out.
Chamomile blossoms spread out on a screen for final drying.



I just finished my third picking of chamomile flowers.  The harvest was meager compared to my two earlier pickings in late May and early June, but I wanted to make sure to put up as much of this delightful herb as possible. I also tied up two fairly nice-sized bunches of chamomile stems that I hung in the solarium.  The scent, many find it akin to apples, sweetens the surroundings very effectively, even with the windows open and vent fan running.  The flowers left on the plants outside will remain to go to seed for next year’s crop.





My grandmother gave me a jar of dried chamomile flowers when I was in junior high school. She had that jar in her pantry for years.   I used the flowers to make a rinse for my hair.  The fragrance was lovely.  Chamomile will always foster memories of my grandmother.   



In previous years, chamomile was just another wonderful and aromatic plant in my garden. I never harvested the flowers.  I had no intention of harvesting chamomile this year since I had no chamomile last year and did not plant any seeds this year.  But, as spring arrived, so did the chamomile plants.  Lots of them. They just sprung up in an area of the garden where they had been growing two years ago. 



So, this year, I decided to make up my own jar of dried chamomile.



Since the plants and flowers flourished, I thought I would take the time to harvest, one blossom by one blossom, and dry the flowers for tea. 



This third picking should just about top my storage jar off.  I will enjoy looking at the filled jar of little daisy-like flowers before actually using them for tea.  After all, the picking is very time-consuming and I want to admire the results before the contents are used up.



Like most garden harvesting, the task is usually tedious and consumes a lot of time.  But, the reward of fresh and home grown anything makes all that effort so worthwhile.



I will use my little jar of chamomile wisely and I will enjoy every little bit!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hurray for Hay


I was inside the house when I heard an unfamiliar mechanical noise…almost like a train was approaching which I do hear from time to time, but somewhat different.  I went outside to discover that Glenn was cutting the grass in one of the pastures (10 acres) to put up for hay.





You read that right…put up hay.



Yes, I remember a few years back when I mentioned that we would no longer be making hay. We had changed our farm management a bit and decided to buy hay if we needed to supplement our ‘grass-fed on pasture’ program.  Glenn went as far as selling all our hay-making equipment.  It was good equipment which we sold for an almost fair price. We always seem to buy high and sell low.  But, we no longer needed it.  So, he said. So, he assured me.



Recently, Glenn decided to fine-tune his management program and with that decision came the announcement to put a bit of haying back into the mix. He discovered that the pastures needed mowing every few years to help eliminate the undesirable plants that the cows nor the sheep were eating.  Left unchecked, unmowed or uneaten, these nuisance plants would keep taking over a bigger chunk of the desirable pasture. That is not in THE PLAN.



Well, you can probably see where I am going.  Yep…Glenn had to buy hay equipment so that he could hay again.  Naturally, we bought used and a bit on the high side priced equipment.  And, today, Glenn started to cut the grass down which is the first step in haying process.  He never told me his plan, but I sure did hear it.



I am a bit confused, though, as to the piece of equipment he was using.  We use to cut our grass with a haybine.  The equipment Glenn was pulling around the field was no haybine.  And, the sound it made was not the sound of a haybine which thuds like constant pounding.  Today’s sound was like train wheels rolling with a bit of high-pitched whirl.  I will ask Glenn when he gets back up to the house.



The next step…letting the grass dry.  The forecast calls for at least four days of sunshine, so I hope all holds true.



This is where haying gets tricky.  The grass needs to dry completely without a bit of precipitation falling on it. Well, that is the best case scenario.  It is also the part that causes the greatest anxiety because many times the forecast is wrong and the rain comes. Rain denigrates the quality of the hay.



Now, we will just wait and see.  Once the grass is dried, it will be raked into rows and baled.  I did not think we even had a baler yet, but a baler is crucial to putting up hay.



I guess I will ask Glenn about the baler, too.



The upside is that I love the smell that permeates from the hay-making process – fresh, earthy and kind of sweet.  I also like how the barn swallows swoop around the tractor, as the grass is being raked and baled, catching insects. 



I am glad we are back in the haymaking business, if only in a limited way. 

raking dried grass into rows

picking up grass and rolling into huge round bales

morning after baling - beautiful!




Update:  There has been no rain.  The grass dried. Glenn raked the rows into larger rows on Friday.  I was right…we have no baler at this moment.  A neighbor, who owed Glenn some time or money for a logging job he did a month or so ago, came over to bale the hay to reimburse his obligation to us.  Now, Glenn is out in the hot sun moving the huge round bales of hay, 32 in total, out of the field and into the pole barn for storage.  With a roof overhead, these bales can last at least two years and still be nutritious for our cattle.



As for his mower, instead of a haybine, Glenn had purchased a used rotary disc mower.  He decided that was a fine purchase and he likes this style of mower over his old haybine.  Yippee! Chalk one up for doing something right.



Now, Glenn is looking for a used baler to put back into his equipment inventory and to have the next time he needs to bale which will be at the end of summer since he just planted 40 acres of millet (a future blog – check back again).



Hurray for HAY!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Cherry Season


My expectations of the 2016 cherry season were grim.  With the extremely warm temperatures in March causing many plants to break dormancy early including my cherry trees which flowered profusely, beautifully and fragrantly; followed by many days of freezing overnight temperatures and ending with weeks of continuous rain, I gave up all hope of any kind of cherry harvest.



I was wrong.

sweet cherries






look closely for the ant
Even though the sweet cherry blossoms were in full glory when the freezing temperatures returned, we had a very decent crop compared to the non-existent, as in not one sweet cherry, crop of 2015. So, this year’s cherries tasted all the sweeter.  We beat the birds to the harvest, too.  Actually, what damage/loss we had to the fruit was the result of black ants.  The ants were small in size and numbers, so they did not prove to be much competition in absconding with the ripe berries. 



Besides the actually harvested cherries, the best are those eaten on the run while doing chores in the orchard area. If I needed a treat, I just grabbed a handful of juicy red fruit and popped it into my mouth. Yummy!



Our sour cherries were harvested about one week later. 



Again, early on, I thought that the sour cherries would not produce much useable fruit.  The cherries were no larger than the size of the pits within as they started to turn red.  But in a few short days, the fruit plumped, deepened in color and was ready to pick.



The small tree was full of cherries.  Glenn was so happy.  This tree is growing in our yard for the sole purpose of providing fruit for Glenn’s favorite pie…cherry.  The work to harvest and prepare for freezing is tedious.  Definitely, a labor of love.



Glenn picked most of the cherries while I ran the filled bowls into the house for washing. Only the biggest and reddest cherries were picked.  It was obvious that a second picking would be necessary in another few days as a good portion of the cherries were still pinkish.



Once all the red cherries were picked, the work became all mine.  I washed, pitted, mixed with sugar, ladled into freezer container, labeled and placed the containers safely in the freezer.  When I am ready to treat Glenn to a homemade cherry pie, I will just go and get a container of our homegrown and oh, so delicious cherries out of the freezer to place into my homemade pie crust.  No store bought here. 

notice the bird detractors?

sour cherries





The worst of the process is the pitting.  It took me four hours to pit about 7 quarts of cherries.  I ended up very sticky – hands, arms, legs, head. Cherries are quite juicy. As I stood up from hours of sitting in one position, I lost my balance because my legs were stiff. I was carrying a bowl, empty of cherries but about a quarter-filled with cherry juice.  The sticky liquid went flying… all over me! Besides numb limbs, my back feels like it will never quite be the same – oh, the pain.  What a person, me, does for love – ugh!  Fortunately, once I stretch and get out all the kinks, I feel fine again.



Later in the day, I walk past that sour cherry tree and it looks like we never harvested one cherry.  Oh no…I see another grueling day in my near future. 



The up side is that once all the cherries are harvested, that is it for the season.  No new cherries are produced.  Unlike raspberries or strawberries which can keep producing new fruit ad nauseum for weeks. Therefore, an end is forthcoming with cherries, and I can transfer my attention to other back-breaking produce harvesting.



And, then it starts all over again the next year. 



The joy of growing and eating your own foodstuffs…actually, the hard work is well worth the amazing taste and personal satisfaction.