summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

summer greens at Mountain Glen Farm

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Who Put That There?



take a close look...do you see the sunflower?


I just returned from a walkabout my perennial flower beds seeing how they were faring during these drought and hot days of July.  They have been better.



But, what I did notice, over and over again, is that many of my plants are those not planted personally by me.  At least, not in the spot where they are currently growing.



It seems as though many of my plants have walked from their original planting site to elsewhere throughout my garden.  Since they are green and alive, they will remain. Why waste such a beneficial opportunity.



One big surprise was a sunflower I just noticed growing in the field.



Now, mind you, I planted at least 21 sunflowers seeds along the side of the pole barn. Presently, there are only two growing.  Sunflowers are normally very easy to grow.


SMILE!

 But, there is that sunflower in the pasture that I know I did not plant.



A sunflower is a sunflower no matter where it growing.  And, I just have to smile every time I glance at it.



Who wouldn’t?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Amazing Flavor


The cupboard is just about bare.  The freezers, on the other hand, are full of meat.



But, I need more than meat to be satisfied.



I asked Glenn to go out and see if he could find some potatoes in the garden.  He did.



The potatoes are not big, they are still growing, but…





After one bite, my mouth and stomach were begging for more.  The flavor is big, robust, all fresh potato.



Unless you have eaten a freshly dug from the garden, freshly baked potato you have no concept of full potato flavor.



Amazing!

May I recommend...plant a potato or two in your garden next year. You will be amazed, too!


Friday, July 21, 2017

The Dog Days Are Here

                                                                      

Today's early morning sunrise...
 


July is definitely exhibiting the dog days of summer.  My walks have to be completed before 8:00 AM so that I take advantage of the coolest and most comfortable part of the day.  Any much later, not only do my dogs hang their tongues, but I think mine is hanging as well.



Quickly, the temps soar into the 90’s and are sunny, humid and HOT.  As the temperatures soar, my activity level dramatically plummets.  Outside endeavors are forbidden, self-imposed, of course. But, inside is not much better.  We have no AC.  Ceiling fans bring only very minimal relief as the hot air swirls around.



My garden is nearly as dry as Death Valley.  I water, as much as possible, in the evenings just to give my perennials and veggies some relief.  I am only trying to keep the plants alive until our next soaking rain which, at the moment, is absent from the short-term and long-term forecasts.



When I feel really uncomfortable, I usually take a drive.  My car has AC.  Unfortunately, my car is in the shop for a fuel pump replacement – ugh!



Glenn has been spending a lot of tractor time on the farms. I understand quite well…the tractor cab has AC.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Equipment


Glenn bought himself a new farm toy. And, this is the reason I drive an old car.  Farm procurements take priority over most anything for me.  After all, I am a hermit.  Why would I need a newer, not new, vehicle? The answer is simple…I don’t!



A super-duper headgate/chute portable cattle working area.  Check this thing out.  This is how it looks when being transported.








a happy farmer




The first thing on arrival, Snowball christened the behemoth with a pee to the tire.  I guess this apparatus met with his approval.  After all, dogs are pretty easy to satisfy.



Over thirty years ago when Glenn and I bought our first Virginia farm, Glenn made his first headgate and chute out of wood.  It worked. Not well, but it served its purpose.  When we moved to our second farm, we had a metal headgate permanently attached to the end of a wooden chute.  Glenn constructed that chute as well.  The factory-fabricated headgate was an improvement for us.



Today, we own this totally transportable, heavy-duty metal complete cattle working area. The bells and whistles are amazing. This is a plus for us since we raise cattle on three separate farms.



The theory is that one person can work (attach ear tags, pregnancy check, castrate, etc.) livestock without any other help.  And, that person can work with ease…on a cow, on a bull and even on a calf.  Even, a getting old person…Glenn.



Although this theory has yet to be tested on our farms, I am sure it will pass the test.



 Just as long as I am not the one person working the livestock.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

First Swim





Sunday was the first day of the 2017 season that Glenn and I actually visited our swimmin’ hole.  Mid-May is an early start for us, with early June being more the norm, but Mid-June is the latest we ever began the swimming season.

 

 I visit our farm pond almost daily on my walks, but I do not get in.  I take my walks early in the morning when the air temperatures are still cool and my activities, at that time of day, include feeding the fish and watching birds.



This spring was cool, and lately we have been having a lot of rain, so I thought the pond water would still be on the cold side.  But, I was proved wrong.  The water was ideal. I floated on a huge tube until, suddenly, a dark cloud moved in with surprising speed. The rain began.  I have been caught on the pond before during a rain storm and it gets pretty down-to-the-bone chilly.  So, I retreated to get into the shelter of the pond house quickly.






 The rain was short-lived and soon the hot sun was shining again. 



I went back into the water, first with a short swim before returning to my relaxing float.  Because of our biting fish and two resident snapping turtles, I am guarded. I make sure Glenn is swimming at my side for protection.  I love to swim and tread water at length but the pond does not provide the perfect conditions for my active water recreation. I float more on top of the water than I am in the water.  Nevertheless, I enjoy the peace and tranquility of our small pond. I can float for hours.



As I floated, Glenn made a few casts to try to catch dinner.  He was after a catfish but caught a medium-sized bass instead and decided to keep it for dinner.  I am not a fan of our catfish, they are big and ugly, but I was willing to try the bass.



Once home, another storm materialized and Glenn was unable to grill outside.  The bass, now fileted, had to wait.



My next pond visit…sooner than later, I hope!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

In A Fog


I was in a fog during today’s walk.  Literally, in a fog.



I could not see as far as I normally can.  I could not take any bird photos.  In fact, I barely saw any birds.  I heard a lot of chirping and tweeting and warbling, but I did not see the birds that made those sounds.



Walking in a cloud is mysterious, but also a bit scary.  What would I do if I walked up on a bear?  It is possible and this thought put a bit of fear into my usually pleasant outing.


 Even the dogs, my two and my daughter’s one who I happening to be sitting at the moment, were a bit leery.  The dogs have free rein and usually run off in all directions.  Not today.  These three stayed within the short sight of me.  Of course, their close proximity made me feel a bit more relaxed.




The heavy overcast certainly kept the temperature at a comfortable level. 






At the pond, I could see the large silhouette of a Great Blue Heron in the top of a tree.  He was motionless and just about my only bird sighting of the day.



As soon as I returned home, the fog dissipated, the sun shone brightly and I was hot. 



The fog was definitely an interesting change.  But, I prefer a wider field of sight.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sour Cherries Galore


The sour cherries are ripe.  And, very plentiful.

small tree with tremendous yield

one regular-sized pie and one smaller tester pie




I made my first cherry pie of the season by processing the cherries right off the tree. Glenn did the picking and I did the pitting - ugh, and pie-making.  I used my usual pie crust recipe with a twist/tip I had just read about.  When rolling out the pie crust, roll the dough in whole wheat flour for a bit of crunch.  Great tip!



Now, I still have a tree full of cherries to process.  One pie made no dent in the abundant harvest.



I decided to try small batches instead of the marathon pitting sessions that I did last year.  I am thinking that the job will not be so overwhelming.



I processed my first batch of cherries two days ago.  Glenn picked, and I pitted and froze three pie-sized bags of cherries.  Yesterday, I processed four more bags.



Now, I have about 15 more bags (estimating) to go.  I know I will freeze three more, but 15? 



How many cherry pies do we need in a year?  Not 15.  Besides, I do not even like cherry pie, so I barely indulge in my efforts.



The cherry pies are almost totally for Glenn.  Cherry pie is his favorite kind of pie.



Normally, Glenn is not a dessert person, but he does enjoy my homemade cherry pies…from time to time, not all the time.  So, I am guessing 15 pies are over the top.  Besides, I still have frozen cherries from the 2016 season.  Yet, I hate to see these beautiful fruits go to waste.



Today, I decided to try a batch of sour cherry jam.  I have made both strawberry and grape jams, from our homegrown berries and grapes, of course, but I have never tried a cherry jam.



I am running of time today, so I will just process the cherries – pick (by me as Glenn and Becky are busy with the cattle), pit and chop in a food processor.  I will refrigerate the cherry mash until tomorrow when I will make the jam.  I will let you know how that turns out.



I never thought I would say this, but maybe the birds will start eating the cherries. They have not to date. We do have plenty of birds that hang out in the orchard area.



Come on birdies…help me out!










Saturday, June 3, 2017

It Just Keeps On Growing


This year is definitely the year of grass.



Our pasture management combined with ample rain has produced the proverbial ‘bumper crop’ of grass.



Normally, the cattle move onto fresh pasture every day or every other day.  Sixty days later the herd returns to the same pasture.  Sixty days provides an ideal time for the pasture to rest and to regrow.  This year, Glenn is finding that the grazed pastures have recovered in 14 days.  The cattle will never keep up with the grass this year.



As much as the exceptional grass is a benefit to our cattle, the main priority, it does prove challenging to me for my daily walks.



Early in the year, the grass was just over my ankles.  As the weeks progressed, the grass grew taller than my knees, then my hips, then my waist, then my armpits and finally, in some places, over my head.  Not only do my shoes and socks get wet from the heavily dew or moisture laden grass which is the norm, but so does the rest of my body.  More importantly, walking in the tall grass is dangerous.  I have slowed my pace to keep as safe as possible, but that grass just reaches out and grabs my shoes and causes me to trip.  I have asked Glenn to bush hog a trail for me, but he says he does not want to waste the grass.  News flash Glenn…there is an abundance of grass.


Today, even though I was walking at a snail’s pace, I fell to my hands and knees. Fortunately, I was walking uphill; otherwise, the fall might have been much worst…like head first downhill.  And think about it…the ground is much closer to a fall uphill than a fall downhill.  I really hate to fall uphill or downhill.  I think I am OK, but my wrists are a little sore.  I do not want a repeat of that little incident.  Glenn promises to get a trail bush hogged, but I am not confident.  He has plenty of other more pressing work to get done first.


My safety…low on the list!

Update:  After my fall, Glenn actually bush hogged a trail for me because he was in the same general area bush hogging a grazed pasture.

Much better!




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back to the Garden


After a few days of guests and several days of rain, I am finally get back out into my garden to…weed.  And, does it need weeding.  My garden more closely resembles a jungle than a garden – very lush and very green.  I do not always have the luxury of this amount of rain.  I am not complaining as my plants look so very healthy.  But, there are still those nasty, non-stop growing weeds to attend to with plenty of vigor.



I put in a bit of morning time on the flowers bed in the lower end of my yard.  This perennial bed takes up a small corner of the much larger vegetable garden which still needs to be planted with corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers.  I am just glad that we have a fairly long growing season and still have time to get these veggies planted.  Of course, a long season also means more weeds – ugh!



After a quick lunch break, the temperature was a bit warm, so I decided to return later in the evening.  The soil was perfect for pulling weeds in the morning, but was now drying out fast which makes weeding more difficult.  Fortunately, a short but very effective rainstorm dampened the soil sufficiently to keep my weed pulling easy.



Snowball joined me, like he always does, and got right in my way.  Then, he dug a dog-sized (large dog I might add) hole in the middle of the flowers to lay in to take a snooze.  I do not know what is worst…a huge hole or an attention needy pooch.



I also came across two other, very small visitors.  Snails.  I just had to run for my camera because these little guys were so cute.  Check out their shells.  Pretty fabulous!






song sparrow


Two sparrows were also my constant companions.  They chirped continuously nearby indicating to me that I was getting close to their nest.  I never did see the nest. But, I am sure they were happy to see me finish my weeding for the day.



just a fraction of our 2017 crop - there are plenty more cherries on the tree,
not to mention all those sweet cherries already enjoyed
Before heading in, I called Glenn to help pick some sweet cherries.  Our one sweet cherry tree is full of deep red and sweet fruit.  We have never had such an abundant crop.  So, at the moment, sweet cherries are on the menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for snacks.  The cherries taste best plucked right off the tree.  The sour cherries ripen later and they are just starting to turn red.  The sour cherries, when ripe, will be picked, pitted and frozen for my future cherry pies which are Glenn’s favorite kind of pie. 



Well, time to hit the cherry bowl…yummy!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Great Birding Day


A few days ago, my daily walk tendered quite a bird-watching extravaganza.  Birds of many species, both known and unknown to me, were flying here, there, and everywhere.  An experienced birder would have had quite a large number of species checked. These experts could probably chalk up additional numbers by identification of not only perched birds, but those in flight and those hiding out given away only by their unique calls.  I, on the other hand, am quite limited in my identifying abilities.  I saw and heard many more birds than those that I could readily name.



But, the ones I could easily ID, were definitely amazing.





First, right from the onset, I noticed a bird silhouette at the top of a dead snag.  On closer exam through the lens of my camera, I was able to verify the bird as a red-headed woodpecker.  WOW!  This is a bird species that I have had the pleasure of seeing only a few, maybe as little as three, times before.  The sighting was brief, but certainly exciting.



Next, I came upon a baby bluebird, just one step ahead of me, sitting in the tall grass on my trail.  Even though my eyes are constantly in motion looking up and around for my next sighting, I also look down frequently to keep from any missteps that might cause me to fall or twist my ankle.  And, it is a good thing I was looking down at that very moment or the little bluebird might have been squashed.  Tragedy averted, I treasured the few moments watching this baby up close and personal while, at the same time, drawing my dog Buddy’s attention elsewhere.  We continued on down the path.  I hoped that little bluebird, still unable to fly, was safe.


 

Once down at the pond, I sat on the deck watching the regular residents; tree swallows, bluebirds, and red-winged blackbirds, go through their usual activities.  I was wishing for something fantastic to happen.



I was rewarded…a Great Blue Heron flew past me coming from behind the pond house, turned and made one fabulous landing on the water right in front of me.  I had not seen the heron for months and when I do, he is usually flying away from the pond as I approach.  Both of my canine companions had been resting on the bank, but immediately sprang into action on the arrival of this heron.  The Great Blue is a huge bird and cannot be missed.  The dogs ran quickly along the water’s edge.  I knew my time with this heron was limited.  As the dogs neared the heron, the majestic bird flew off with measured wing movements gaining height slowly.  The heron was never in danger as I knew the dogs would not enter the water, but the heron was unaware of my dogs’ capabilities.



Definitely…FANTASTIC!



The following day, the heron returned as I was at the pond, but this time, diverted his landing to a nearby tree.  He perched in the very top branch of the tree to optimize his view of the area.  I continued on my walk back home, the heron still standing sentinel from that tree top.  But, I am sure, that once the dogs and I were well away from the pond, the heron made a fishing expedition.  Planned, of course.



FYI – My walk times vary day to day, so to catch a sighting/a glimpse of any bird is quite by luck – I consider myself to be very lucky.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Time to Breathe, Time to Seed, Time to Harvest


Spring days are so full of chores and activities that I barely have time to breathe.  But, they are also so pretty and so fragrant that I do consciously breathe for the sweet aroma alone. 



A few days ago, after my walk and my routine chores, I went out to get a few seeds in the ground.  The forecast was calling for several days of rain and I wanted my seeds to benefit.  I planted beets, lettuce, sunflowers, marigolds and transplanted an ailing blueberry bush to a different, perhaps more desirable, location…only time will tell.  Glenn planted three rows of potatoes. 



This is only a start, late one at that.  More veggie seeds need to get in the ground soon.



As I was walking about my gardens, I noticed that the chamomile was in bloom.  With rain on the horizon, I opted to pick the blossoms.  This is only the first harvest of several to come during the growing season.



I had no intention of picking chamomile this year.  It is a tedious task.  Becky said she wanted the chamomile.  My reply was to go for it, but I would not be doing the picking.  I knew Becky was busy and the only way to save the first harvest was for me to pick it – ugh!



after picking, the chamomile blossoms are air dried
The upside, while I was sitting on my overturned bucket plucking one flower at a time, was being serenaded by either a mockingbird or a brown thrasher.  Both reside in my garden, both sing beautifully and both have quite a repertoire of tunes.  I did not get up to investigate as to the rightful owner of the melodies, but my task was a bit more pleasant to complete.
Time ti



The rain arrived and contributed more moisture for all the green growing things on the farm – SUPER!






bird sighting of the day, rare to boot...male Baltimore Oriole - just gorgeous!


on

Friday, May 5, 2017

Catch-Up Rambling


Days have just been speeding.  Time stops for no one, even though I wish it would slow down for me. I have so much to do and not enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I thought once the daylight hours increased that I would be OK…not!  I just added more tasks/activities to my schedule.



I have been busy with my regular chores (minus writing this blog), my daily walks which always includes birdwatching with my canine buddies, gardening/mowing, and thoroughly cleaning the kitchen cabinets – ugh - I hate to clean.  But, since the ceiling was painted two weeks ago and the kitchen counters were cleared out for the job, it is the perfect time to tackle the cabinets.  Cleaning is also including a bit of down-sizing of kitchen tools/utensils/bake and cook ware that I no longer use.  This down-sizing is a bit of challenge for a packrat like me, but I am seeing some progress.   I also tossed a bunch of old, very old food that had been tucked in the back of the pantry cabinet.  Now, there is plenty of space for the food we actually eat.  And, I did not actually toss the old food.  It was enjoyed by the chickens.  No waste for us.



As you can see, I am not very fast in the cleaning of kitchen cabinets.  I am only about one-third done.  I would rather be outside gardening. But, I try to complete a bit every day. Yesterday, Glenn smoked up the kitchen with his cooking which did not make me happy. My freshly painted ceiling, my clean cabinets.  I wonder how much film adhered to the clean one-third? 







The past few days have been quite wet and combined with the showers we received at the end of April, my gardens and the entire farm is quite lush and green.  The spring flowers are gorgeous.  My yard is full of flowering irises – bearded, Japanese, Siberian and Dutch – orange, copper, white, periwinkle, purple, yellow, yellow combined with purple.  Some I planted and most have spread about on their own.  I could not have planned the plantings better. Oh, I cannot forget the common iris…not at all showy like my other varieties, but the one with fullest, sweetest fragrance.  The scent from one stem can permeate the entire house – fabulous! Other flowers currently in full bloom are: azalea, rhododendron, soapwort, bridal veil, money plant, spiderwort, and leadwort.  It is a good thing I have plenty of perennials as they grow and blossom at will.  My annuals and vegetable garden…not so much.



I still need to get out and plant some annuals, mostly sunflowers, and most of my vegetables. The sugar snap peas and radishes have been planted and are growing nicely.  But, I still have a lot more to plant.  Good thing we have a long growing season here.  A late planting only results in a later harvest which is fine with me. That makes the canning and preserving when the temperatures are a bit cooler.



More seasonal birds are starting to return and mingle with our year-round feathered friends.  I love the diversity and the challenge of trying to get one good photo of each species.  Buddy has always been conscience of my picture taking and sits quietly.  Finally, Snowball has learned the routine and sits at my side…occasionally.  He tries.



Snowball is a bit lost, at the moment, since Glenn sold our entire flock of hair sheep about two weeks ago.  The coyotes finally did us in.  Snowball was a big help in the protecting the sheep, but he was not 100%.  We were nearing the end of lambing, so ram, ewes, pregnant ewes and all the little cute lambs, born to date, were sold.  The farm is a lot quieter now, but it still feels like something is missing. 



And, Snowball needs a new job.  Hmmm….


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

He's Back


Yesterday was a RED-LETTER day for me…well, at least I made a notation, in pencil, in my calendar.



My Green Heron returned to our farm pond. YIPPEE! I love that little guy.  He made a quick appearance, as if to say, “I’m back!” and disappeared.



No great photo yet, but I did get a funny little silhouette, today, of the heron flying from his perch in the walnut tree.  He flew directly to the middle of the cattails and disappeared, again, from my sight. 



cattails...here I come

















That’s fine.  Just knowing that he is back, and hopefully here to stay through the summer, is outstanding.



I look forward to our daily interaction.  Little Green, as I call him, puts a smile on my face!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Timely Teals


Nearing the pond, I saw a bit of motion in the cattails.  Was it an ever-present blackbird?



No.  Another few steps closer, the movement took to flight…two ducks.  I was disappointed that I missed them on the pond.



But, that disappointment was short-lived.  The ducks circled the pond a few times and returned. Lucky me!



I was able to watch the pair for quite some time before I decided to take leave and let the ducks enjoy their time on the water.



Once back home, I had to go directly to my bird ID book.  I was at a loss at identification.  Ducks rarely visit our pond. 





These two were a Blue-winged Teal couple, migratory in my part of Virginia.  



I am glad that they decided to stop by our pond and I am glad that I timed my morning walk perfectly to meet these two. 



My life is full of wonder and surprise.  Today, Teals.  Tomorrow…

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bird Frenzy


This morning I glanced out the window on the orchard side of the house.  The apple trees, as well as the sour cherry, still stood naked.  The sweet cherry tree had just a hint of green from recently expanded buds.  The raspberry canes not yet growing.



But, there was a definite bird frenzy going on.



There were the usual morning birds of Blue Jays, Robins, Mockingbirds, Mourning Doves and Red-bellied Woodpeckers flying from tree to tree, from tree to ground, from ground to tree.



Brown Thrasher...could be male or could be female
Suddenly, my eye caught a reddish-brown glimpse.  On closer inspection, I determined I was watching a Brown Thrasher. Seeing this bird is a rarity for me.  At first, he pecked around the grass.  Soon he wandered into a small bed which is filled with crape myrtle shrubs.  A friend was supposed to come over and dig those out two years ago to use to line her driveway.  She didn’t.  The ground was covered with a thick layer of browned leaves under these bare-branched shrubs.  And, that brown thrasher had the best time flicking up the dry leaves, even so much as flipping the leaves out from the bed onto the lawn. I assume he was looking for food and having fun to boot.



male Eastern Towhee

Soon, another rare species for me, an Eastern Towhee, joined in the leaf-flipping game.



male Northern Flicker
















Then, two huge Northern Flickers joined the party.  One f licker had a small tiff with a woodpecker.  Both birds hovered about six inches above the ground verbally abusing and threatening the other with outstretched wings.  The red of the woodpecker’s head and the bright yellow of the underside of the flicker’s tail feathers were radiant.


male American Kestrel


I could not have watched a better show than the one I witnessed just outside my window.



I am coming back tomorrow, same time, just in case there is an encore.



And, for the proverbial ‘cherry on top’…an American Kestrel and Belted Kingfisher were part of today’s bird sightings. 



A bird frenzy, indeed!