Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Scream at Midnight

         I've heard several times from some of the old timers that a bobcat screams at midnight. I know that we have bobcats in our woods. Last year Tim had one come by his tree stand while he was hunting. But I'd never heard one scream at midnight until last night. Well, it was actually 11:54 But close enough. I was in a sound sleep and it woke me up like a shot. You know that feeling when your heart is pounding in your ears and the goosebumps are standing up on your arms? Yeah, that was me last night. In the fall of the year, I don't close the barn up tight at night because I want my animals to grow good, thick coats. I want them to feel that chill and do what nature tells them to do.  The windows are open and the top of the Dutch door is open. I never worry about anything getting in there because I have Kaloyan, our Karakachan, in with all of the animals. Within a split second of the scream, I could hear Kaloyan barking like a madman. The coyotes have been really close lately, so he has been a little on edge anyway. I grabbed a flashlight and went out to the barn. Everyone had that sleepy look about them and you could tell they were wondering what I was doing there that time of night. I took a quick head count and calmed Kaloyan down, telling him what a good job he was doing and headed back to bed. I will be trying my hand at trapping this year and a bobcat is certainly on my list.
         In other news, we have a new face in the crowd. Tim has a new colt. Drifter moved in a few days ago. Luke is thrilled to have a buddy. So far, Drifter has been kept in the barn until he forgets about his mama, so he and Luke have been getting aquainted through the windows.  In a few days we'll be able to turn him out in the pasture. We also have a baby llama coming at the end of next month. We are excited to get her here and start working with her. I'm also looking forward to spinning her fiber. I've heard such wonderful things about it. We have twenty new chicks growing in the brooder, getting ready to replace our old girls. The does are all bred back for January freshening. The garden is winding down. I'm canning potatoes this week and still a few hot and sweet peppers. We need to dig some horseradish before the ground freezes.  We also need to cut more firewood. And so on and so on....it never ends around here. I feel like we never get caught up. I guess that's life on a farm. Happy Fall wherever you are!!




Friday, August 28, 2015

While you were sleeping...

       Everywhere you look on this old farm right now, you will see the work of the orb spiders. Nearly anywhere there is a corner, you will see their webs. Some are wider than a foot across and some are no bigger than a quarter.  It's just one of the many signs of an approaching autumn. I never get tired of looking at these webs, especially in the morning when they are glistening with hundreds of tiny dew drops. They are such a masterpiece! Have you ever taken the time to watch one being constructed?  Such immense patience of the tiny spider working her way back and forth, attaching strand after strand of silk.  Some strands she makes of a sticky substance to catch insects and some aren't so that she can walk on those. When an insect flies into her web, she quickly grabs them and begins to wrap them in silk, turning them over and over. Did you know toward evening, she usually eats what is left of the web and then begins to spin a new one for the next day? Isn't that amazing? How wonderful that we know the Creator of these special little spiders. He instilled the knowledge into each spider how to build a web and provide for herself. And I will say it again...what an awesome God we serve!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How does it happen?

       How does it happen that in just a few weeks, we go from a newly planted garden and being excited to see the first lightening bugs, to feeling fall in the air? The windowsills are all full of ripe tomatoes. The shelves in the pantry are quickly filling up. The zucchini and crooknecks are done and the vines are drying up. I can see orange pumpkins peeping through the leaves. The cabbage are full and just waiting for the Almanac to tell us when to start the sauerkraut. The pepper plants are heavy with their treasures. New potatoes are melting in our mouths several times a week. The kale plants are taller than my knees and feeding hungry rabbits daily. There is a rustle in the corn leaves that wasn't there last week. The crickets are tuning up every night now and singing us to sleep. The Joe-Pye weed is on its way out,  just to usher in the vibrant purple of the iron weed. Queen Anne's Lace is bobbing on their slender stems every where you look. The woods are full of half grown turkey poults and the deer fawn are losing their spots. The antlers on the bucks look huge with all their velvet. The monarch butterflies are flitting over the milkweed, laying their eggs. The smell of a rutting buck greeted me this morning in the barn, reminding me of a whole new crop of baby goats that will appear in just five months. The new smokehouse is ready to smoke the bacons and hams and the deer meat that will be harvested. Wood is beginning to stack up, ready to warm us this winter. Everywhere you look the signs are there.  How does this happen so quickly? I wonder why summer seems to just fly by? I'm so thankful that we have a God who is in control of the times and the seasons, Daniel 2:21. We serve an awesome God!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Four weeks?

        How did it get to be four weeks since the last time I posted? Sheesh! I tried to take the above picture in the same spot I took the other one so you can see how the garden is growing. And yes, I need to weed. We have had a VERY wet summer so far. It has made weeding rather difficult, to say the least. On the flip side, the plants are loving it. We will be harvesting zucchini and crooknecks in a couple days. We are enjoying the kale immensely! And so are the bunnies! We have tomatoes as big as baseballs but they are still very green. 
         All this rain has made it a challenge to keep animals dry and happy. The barn stays wet when they are in it all day and it makes it miserable for them and us. We are doing the best we can but it certainly is trying some days. We would love to be able to get more hay up. We were able to bale twenty round bales a couple of weeks ago but we need at least twice that many to get us through the winter. The hay is ripe and ready but no dry days in which to get it up. We are expecting another three inches this weekend and rain all next week. Well, we will keep trying. Maybe by July or August things will start to dry up a bit. I hope you all are enjoying your summer. I've got weeding to do before the next batch of rain starts. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

View from the office...

        Doesn't look like much, does it? But in just a few short weeks we will get enough from this garden plot to feed us for another year. The cabbage row will give us enough cabbage to can fifty or better quarts of sauerkraut, not to mention the yummy coleslaw that we will eat. There is over one hundred tomato plants there. That's enough for ketchup, stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, chili tomatoes, salsa, tomato juice and of course, lots of  'mater sandwiches with plenty of mayo. The peppers will give pints and pints of hot peppers to enjoy this winter. The potatoes will give us new potatoes to cream with peas and then I will can what's left at the end of summer. On the far right is two rows of kale. We love to eat kale. There is nothing better than lamb chops baked in a cast iron kettle on a bed of kale. Oh my, that's good eating! We eat kale all summer long. It also gets fed every day to all our rabbits on the farm. They also love kale and it helps to offset the cost of feeding the rabbits in the summer. You can't see the zucchini, crook neck squash, hubbard squash, cucumbers or pumpkins but they all provide also. We are so blessed to be able to eat out of our garden all summer. I love canning it up for the winter also. How's your garden doing?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

View from the office...

          Today's view is one of the lettuce beds. We have an abundance of lettuce, spinach, green onions and radishes right now. Tim built me two raised beds last year right by the kitchen and we have them filled with greens. It's so handy to have them close by and be able to run out the back door and grab a handful of whatever I need. The spinach is trying to bolt, so I cut them back and will give the tops to the bunnies. I have found with the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, if I cut it, rather than pull it, it will give us fresh lettuce all summer long. I plant the onions a little at a time, so we always have fresh green onions all summer too. I just picked a huge bunch of green and red lettuce...how about taco salad for supper?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

View from the office....

            As the reality of "retirement" sets in, life begins to slow down. I'm not sure one could call this retirement, as I really have quit work to take care of my Mom. She turned 93 last month and I can see her really starting to fail. She has some dementia and her body is just wearing out. It was heavy on my heart that time is short and I felt I needed to spend this time with her, not running off to an office. So it is and here I am. I am used to doing all my chores at breakneck speed but I'm learning to slow down. I'm also learning how to sit on the back porch with my Mom beside me. We talk, she sometimes dozes off, while I sit there and listen to the birds sing or the frogs croak but I want no regrets. No wishing I would have sat there a little longer. The chores will still be waiting for me. The hurry is gone and I love it.
            As I was planting potatoes yesterday, I looked up from the ground and the view was incredible! The sky was the deepest blue, the grass so green and the pasture was dotted with sheep, goats and a couple of ponies. I sat there in the dirt and thought "This is the view from my office". The bluebirds were singing from the fence railing and the swallows were chattering and swooping over me, hoping I would stir up a bug or two for them. I decided I would start some "view from my office" blog posts.
              So the above picture is my view for today. The baby goats are nearly weaned. I have one bottle lamb named Piper and believe me, she earns her name! She is just three weeks old, so will be on a bottle for awhile yet but the milk is in abundance. I am bringing two gallons to the house each day. We are eating cottage cheese, chèvre, feta and ice cream every day. Today is a drizzly, rainy day so I started a batch of cottage cheese to eat with supper.  Now off to dodge raindrops to pick some rhubarb for dessert!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Oh, Those West Viginia Hills

       This farm is surrounded by hills. No matter which direction you look, there are hills. Some are taller than others, some are more wooded than others but they all have their own characteristics. Last night, as I was getting ready to crawl into bed, I looked out my bedroom window, just like I have done every night for the past 23 years, at the hill to the south of this farm. Now, you would think that in the dark I wouldn't be able to see that hill but I could. Even on the darkest of nights, I can usually see the outline of it. As I looked out last night, I started to think about how dependent I am on that old hill. I know that on a moonlit night in the middle of winter, when I look out and see it clearly, we are in for a cold, clear night. If it looks hazy and fog is draped around it, I know that the night will be more mild. In the early spring, on this hill, the maple buds are pink and red and then turn to many shades of green as the tiny leaves pop out. It's on this hill, that toward the middle of next month, we will hear our first Whippoorwill call out. It's also where we will find our first morel mushrooms of the season. I know right where to look. Spring gobblers will call their hens from this hill. I've found little spotted fawns nestled down in the deep leaf matter. There is a spring, even on the driest days of autumn, that still flows cold and quiet out of this hill. I found my first Jack in the Pulpit there. Pink Mountain Laurel wave their breathtaking blooms in late May up there. It's there that I found a turkey nest one spring. I almost stepped on it but just in the nick of time, saw the creamy, spotted eggs half covered up with leaves. I know that when a summer thunderstorm is brewing and rumbling about, when that hill disappears, we better be running for cover because it's going to be a good one. I've watched the clouds creep over it and I've watched as it begins to peek back out, more times than I can count. I've seen many a rainbow after a summer shower on this hill.  I can show you right where the first Scarlet Maple tree will begin to turn in September. Then in a blink of an eye, it's a riot of color, red, orange, gold, yellow and even pink. And then, before you know it, it will be covered in a blanket of snow. Many times, as I've come out of the barn late at night, it's on this hill that I will hear a coyote howl, raising the hair on the back of my neck. In late January, the Great Horned Owl, will hoot loudly, calling to its mate as they begin to nest. I've heard foxes barking and bobcats screaming on that hill. Red Tail Hawks nest up there and soar down over our farm, looking to see if they can pick up an unsuspecting meal. It's just one hill in the midst of thousands but so important to me. Oh, those West Virginia hills, how majestic and how grand.....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Always Amazed

            How do they know? The thermometer reads fifteen below and yet our little harbinger of spring is belting out his song. Have you ever watched the Song Sparrow sing? They tip their heads back and sing with all their might..."Madge, Madge, Madge...put on the tea kettle, ettle, ettle." They don't mind fifteen below. They know that spring is coming. I suppose it has to do with the lengthening of the days because it sure isn't the temperature that sets these little guys to singing. They are the first sign of spring in our deep hollow of these West Virginia hills. Once you hear the the Song Sparrow, then you know it's time to start checking the buds on the pussy willows. They will be starting to swell. When this snow melts, there will be little purple and yellow crocus peeping their heads up out of their brown quilt of leaves and then before you know it, a whole bank of snowdrops will pop out one morning.
            There are lots of signs that winter is loosening its icy grip. The barn is full of baby goats hopping and playing tag. Their favorite game is playing king of the mountain on the manure pile out in the snowy barn lot. There are also baby bunnies all snuggled down in their mama's soft fur that she has pulled to make them a nice, warm nest. There are little peeps peeking their heads out from underneath Mama Silkie's wing. Another sign is watching the hair just fly in a cloud around our pony, Luke, when he shakes. You can also see the ewes' bellies starting to swell with baby lambs that are anxious to get out and play. Up in the woods, you can hear hen turkeys clucking and on the next ridge, a gobbler answers in return.
         The thermometer might say it's winter but if you look closely, the signs are all there. Warmer days are ahead. Soon we will be hearing the wood frogs quacking and the spring peepers will be singing. The coltsfoot will be blooming on the banks of the road and the daffodils will be nodding their yellow heads to us. And it all starts with a little, brown bird telling us so.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Handsome Gift of God

            To those of you who read my ramblings, you'll remember that I posted about our new guardian dog, Kaloyan. His name means Handsome Gift of God. He is a Karakachan from Bulgaria. I have a friend who is raising these dogs in Preston County. www.hoppingacres.com Kelly has been very picky about the dogs that she has imported, so that they are of the finest. One of her females had a litter in October and I was fortunate enough to be allowed to buy one. Again, Kelly was very careful who bought these puppies, so that they went to good homes with the right supervision and flocks for these dogs to care for. In the three weeks that we have had Kaloyan, he has impressed me more than any pup we've ever owned. He is so intelligent and so willing to learn. He isn't flighty or scared. He's a thinker too. Right now he's in the house and the barn. He's not ever left alone in the barn yet. Although it won't be long and I think he'll be ready for a full time job. He does fantastic around the sheep and goats. He also leaves the chickens and rabbits alone. My biggest concern is that he will get under Luke's feet and get stepped on. So as soon as I feel he will stay out from underneath horse feet, he'll be out there all the time.
             When we went to Kelly's farm to pick up Kaloyan, she surprised me with an early Christmas present...a gorgeous black Angora buck rabbit. I can't wait to spin his beautiful fiber.  I have a full bobbin on the wheel right now of white angora from Primrose. I just can't decide what to ply it with. We will be breeding these two bunnies as soon as the new buck is old enough. I can't wait to have little angora baby rabbits. We also just purchased a pair of registered English Lop rabbits. We love all of our bunnies. With our new ones, we now have eight.
            We have our first doe due to freshen in less than two weeks. We cleaned and dusted the milk room and gathered towels and everything we need for babies. Last night all the does received their copper and selenium boluses and also their cobalt boluses. Everyone was vaccinated with the CD&T. So now we just wait. Arwin is due around the 15th, Marshmallow two weeks later, then Franchesca and Cloudberry are two weeks behind her. LuLu came in way behind and isn't due until the end of April. Somewhere in between all of them, we should also be lambing, if Wooliam has done his job.
             Not much of a winter yet...mud everywhere. The ground isn't frozen, and we've had so much rain. It's just mud, mud and more mud. My mud room is truly living up to it's name right now.
             We are looking forward to this new year that God has given us. We have so many plans and so much to get done. I hope we can get even half of it accomplished. Happy New Year to all of you!