Please bear with me for a bit while I get my computer repaired after a lightning strike. The storm tore down trees, burnt up fence chargers, and scared the puddin’ out of me. We are fine and I will be back with catch up posts when the computer is repaired.
I’ve been out of touch for a bit (two weeks) due to a bronchial infection brought on by all the pollen in the air but I’m back up and running! Here’s a touch of things that have gone on while I was down.
On June 7th we finally got a break from the rain that saturated the ground. Eddie headed to a small meadow that is in front of our house.
He moved on to a field that we normally pasture but this spring the grass is waist-high to my tall farmer and he didn’t want the cattle moved on it to only eat the short under-growth and waste the chance for a few extra bales in the haylot. THEN EVERYTHING CAME TO A HALT!!
There are two rollers with heavy rubber that looks like big tire rubber under the outer frame of the haybine. One end of the bottom roller had some heavy damage and the hay started wadding up between and on the end of the roller causing bearings to burn up. No hay made for two weeks waiting for that roller replacement to come in and a half day to replace it on the machine. Eddie had the awesome help of our farming neighbor, Andy Hutton, to fix the haybine! The parts to repair cost almost $4000. No farming is NOT cheap. While waiting on the parts to come in, Eddie called other farm equipment dealers and talked to other farmers to find out what kind of an ordeal he was in for and no one had EVER heard of a roller wearing out!!
Anyway, the equipment is repaired and we’re ready to roll on the hayfields again but we have to wait for our next four days of rain to come in and move out!! Life goes on!!
We should have another bowl full by the weekend and then another patch on the farm should start ripening! I’m so excited that I have something to finally store for the winter of 2018.
Three years ago we had a bumper crop of blackberries all over the farm. I froze more berries that year and made more juice than we had ever had. We think what we didn’t pick, reseeded or the birds and raccoons ate them and reseeded everywhere they went.
Three years ago I bought some rhubarb tubers for my garden.
We had some extra old tractor tires that I decided to use for the rhubarb bed. I didn’t put them directly in the ground because we have such a problem with wire grass. Wire grass regenerates itself by spread roots underground and it’s really hard to get completely out of any garden bed and flower bed. I laid black cloth under the tire and then filled it with garden soil and manure from my chickens and rabbits and mixed it up really good.
I expected it to grow but not as much as it did. The tire bed is 12 inches deep and 44 inches around. Three years later the bed is too crowded and my rhubarb it way too thick. I dug out two of the four plants in the bed and and divided the tubers into six pieces each and started a new bed near our quince tree in the corner of the garden.
The tubers are 12 inches apart in up and down the bed and across the bed. I fenced it off to keep the chickens from digging it up since we haven’t fenced off the garden yet.
The tubers in the tire bed have twice the room to grow and now maybe they won’t bloom as quickly.
The rhubarb stalks were getting about 8 inches long and then blooming, not good!! I always pull off the blooms to send the energy to the stalks.
I froze a lot of rhubarb last year. My favorite recipe is to clean and cut the stalks into one inch cubes (about four cups) and pour just enough water over the cubes in a saucepan and slow cook until the rhubarb cooks up. I take it off the heat and add two cups of sugar and box of our favorite jello. We especially like strawberry or raspberry jello but I’ve also used cherry or blackberry, yum!! Let it cool completely in the pan and serve. This usually makes enough for four pints of fruited rhubarb and I pour it in plastic tubs and freeze three of them. It freezes well and it’s fantastic to eat like applesauce or on toast like jams/jellies. DELIGHTFUL!
The last three weeks have been warm and then cold, rain, ice, sleet, snow, we’ve had it all.
Our cherry trees were in full bloom and BAM and now they’re brown and all the blooms have fell off.
Our peach trees had started blooming and BAM, the blooms are falling off.
Heavy bloom on the plum trees looks now like they’ve been burnt.
The apple trees are budding and the quince tree is budding. The rhubarb leaves are curled up and the asparagus stems are mushy.
We’ve had a lot of very warm days and then the temps drop in the 20’s*. Mother Nature just isn’t being very nice in this spring of 2018.
The last two weeks have shown us a beauty of nature that we rarely see.
Adult males in spring and early summer are bright yellow with black forehead, black wings with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail. Adult females are duller yellow beneath. We normally don’t have them at our feeders or in the fields until late spring, early summer so this is a real treat.
Since they’ve arrived so early I’m hoping with all my heart that spring is truly just around the corner.
Crazy isn’t it?? We’ve just about finished a heating season and now we start preparing for another one! It’s not a vicious circle, it’s life on the farm!
We covered it up so it would continue to dry. The wood house was about half full and we didn’t want to add any to it because a lot of it had been seasoned for 2-3 years and needed to be used. So we emptied out the woodshed and didn’t have to cut any firewood all winter. We used about half of the stack in the photo above and I just recently stacked the remainder to start our fuel for next winter. We NEVER burn unseasoned firewood! Flue fires are not on our list of fun!
Hubby has already cut down four huge dead oak and wild cherry trees to complete the harvest and we have two truck loads of already cut up but needs to be split. We use locust, ash,and maple for firewood, as well.We’ll try to get this done in the next month so it won’t interfere with hay season and it won’t be full of bees and snakes.
Just a little more work on the farm!
Today a job that should have been done a month ago was completed. Weather changes and the fact that Eddie and I have been sick for a week prevented us from pulling a bull from our fall calving herd.
Buckshot has been with this herd since November 30th, 2017 and we normally only leave the bulls with our herds about three months. Moving a bull away from a herd is not always easy but today it was a piece of cake!! A bucket of feed, a cattle prod and competition down the lane will work every time. He stood at the gate with 46 cows and calves and all the master had to do was walk him to the front of the line and when he herd his brother bulls down the lane he came through the gate pretty as you please!! He is now in the bull lot with the other two bulls showing them whose boss or so he thinks!!
Now, our mountain long field is opened up and full of the Fall calving herd and hopefully all of them mother’s have been bred. There’s 23 cows and 23 calves grazing our part of Little Mountain today and it will be wonderful sitting on the front porch watching them graze but not today!
I’m back in the house out of the wind nursing my sinuses and trying to get well!! We’ve been sick since last Tuesday and a week is too long to not be out on the farm or at least on the front porch! I’m so tired of being cooped up when the sun is shining. The wind is still blowing so I mustn’t take chances of being out too long.
You would think that I have enough to do on the farm but alas NO!! I have a friend that had a big flock of ducks and she had been giving me her duck eggs because they don’t eat them. They butchered most of their flock and asked me if I wanted the what was left over.
I got two drakes and five hens and what a beautiful addition to our farm animals. It only took one day for them to get use to their new owners and home. They’re very easy to tend to, all I do is put out feed which is usually whole corn and maybe some leftover biscuits crumbled up for them. They get water from the pond and in the winter I will keep a trough of warm water out for them to drink. They don’t like being cooped up, so they’re free to range the farm as they wish!
I’m very lucky to have them because I love to bake with duck eggs and they are awesome when making French toast, cakes and pies.
This morning we woke to snow on top of last weeks snow but we had a beautiful blue sky. Last week we got about 10 inches of snow and the most we’ve had all winter. Over half had melted and this morning we woke to five more inches on top of the leftovers. It was 25* when we woke this morning and now its 38* now. The best part – we didn’t lose any calves this time. Here’s a touch of our beauty in western Virginia and Craig County on the mountain:
It’s melting now and by mid-week we’ll be in the 60’s and rain. It will be a sloppy mess but needed for our crops and gardens. We haven’t had snow like this for a couple of years and we all knew it was time. I’m not saying the spring snows are over but sure hope they are.
We have six more cows to calve from our spring herd and these mom’s and their little ones could sure use a break.
My chickens don’t like the snow either and a few got trapped under the grainery last night and refused to walk through the snow to their warm house but it looks like they all survived and are ready to see some green grass and mud!
Everyone be safe and spring is here even though it doesn’t look like it!!!
We got another batch of wintry mix last night that started as rain.
Hubby has gone out to feed the cattle and check for new babies. Thank goodness those expectant mothers held out for at least another day.
It’s still snowing but supposed to end sometime this afternoon but not looking much like it right now. Everyone stay warm and enjoy the bright whiteness while you can. As farmers we don’t mind this very much because we know our fields, pastures and garden will grow abundantly in the coming months!
Have a great second day of spring!!
March 17, 2018 and we have a huge thunder and lightning show around 8:30 last night. We were sitting in the living room watching TV and I saw the flash and heard the boom immediately and it just about rolled us out of our recliners!!! I jumped up fast and ran to the computer to unplug everything, hoping it wasn’t too late. In the past I’ve had three computers, phones and phone jacks burnt up by lighting rolling through our phone lines.
It’s so hard to believe how green everything is. We expecting more winter weather on Wednesday and hoping all of those spring calves come before or after this weather gets here. Hubby is out feeding now and checking the fences to make sure the lightning did not hit the fence chargers. It does that a lot around here when we have these storms. When we know the storms are close and coming our way we unplug the chargers.
But for this Sunday we will enjoy and feel blessed to have such a glorious day! Yes, there’s lots of mud but we will take the rain soaking up our fields, pastures and garden for now.
I think I’ll cook up some fresh trout, pinto beans and fried potatoes for our dinner tonight which will top of the spring day!
Our first calf was born on March 4th and since then we’ve had six more, two this morning. I didn’t get to see any of them until Sunday and those four were quite lively. They’ve all been smaller than usual and one of the two born this morning in low 20 degree temps and high winds is not doing well. Eddie says it’s very weak but is getting up, when it’s up his mom is laying down. He took me to see the spring her and their new babes on Sunday afternoon.
After feeding the grain and we were leaving the field I got this closeup and he was looking for mama and bawling. She went running!!
The little ones born this morning are doing better than we expected but we’ll keep a close eye on them and in the meantime, we have another mama trying to deliver while I’m posting this little ditty!!
Hubby and I had a quick window of time to collect our sap this year and it turned out perfect! We decided to make the syrup by ourselves this year because of the unpredictable spring weather. We also decided that about half a batch would suffice so we only filled the sap tank with 135 gallons of clear maple sap!
Our morning ritual around here in the winter season begins shortly after breakfast and I always fix us a good breakfast to start the day.
Hubby heads out to feed the three small herds of cattle. Each herd is a little different but the two biggest herds (25-30 cows) get two 4×5 round bales of hay every day. One of these herds also has 24 calves with them which are 2-3 months of age. They mimic mom and eat some of the hay too but mainly depend on her milk until they’re about 5-6 months old. The third herd consists of 14 heifers that will be bred in June. They are fed one 4×5 round bale each day along with a five-gallon bucket of corn gluten/whole corn mixture every other day. Then we have our herd of bulls which is only three but those guys can eat and get two square bales of hay each day and corn gluten once a week. Everyone is fat and sassy!
My feeding schedule consists of three rabbits that we use for breeding stock. They are part Lop but the perfect size for meat rabbits. Each morning and afternoon they are given fresh water, a cup of rabbit pellets, a carrot and half of a sweet apple. They love apples and I treat them in the winter time because there is no fresh grass to feed them. I keep a bat of hay in their hutches for eating but I also keep hay covering the wire floor of the hutch to keep the frigid wind off of them. They have a nesting box in the hutch in the winter time to get out of the wind. Their hutches are cleaned weekly regardless of the weather.
Then I head out to the chicken house with a gallon of hot water, an egg basket and any scraps from the table. I have 33 chickens, one of which is a rooster. I have five young hens that tend to roost in the egg nest every night after I shut them in the building. Each morning those nest have to be cleaned out so the eggs aren’t nasty because chickens just don’t care what they lay those eggs on. The chickens have a large tub outside of the building for water during the day and a large pan inside that doesn’t freeze often but when it’s in the 20’s it has to be refilled four or five times a day and the eggs are gathered more often too. They have a feed trough that is four feet long, six inches wide and about four inches deep. I fill it every day with scratch grain, black-oil sunflower seeds and during the winter laying crumbles. In the summer they forage the entire farm but there’s not much to be found in the wintertime. A few times a month they get a treat of dried mealworms which they love. Currently with all those chickens I’m only getting about a dozen eggs a day but they’re wonderful eggs that are large, brown, pink, green, blue and a couple white ones. Egg production will pickup in the spring!
Once the feeding is done and the eggs are gathered, I’m off to the wood shed to bring in enough to fill of the stove for the night and if it’s calling for rain or snow, I fill up one end of the porch. The bird feeders are then filled and then it’s time to come in and make preparations for dinner!!
Can you believe it’s the last day of January?? I spent the morning do normal indoor chores like, sweeping and mopping the floors, making the bed, two loads of laundry and other minor jobs after having breakfast with the Mister! I got pork tenderloin out of the freezer for dinner and then saw that the temperature had risen to 40* and no wind. OUTSIDE I GO!!!
We’re still in for some cold weather and hopefully some snow because our pastures, yard, hayfields, just the earth in general needs a good soak before spring really appears! I knew I had some pruning to do on some fruit trees but the grapes needed it worst than the others.
In order to get those beautiful grapes they need to be pruned each year. Grapes grown on new stems each year!
I use some wonderful little hand pruners on all of the small vines, trees and my rose bushes. It’s very important to sterilize them and I use just plain old rubbing alcohol. It took about an hour but they’re all trimmed and now we wait! While waiting we pray for no late frosts to kill them.
After I finished pruning the grapes I went around the garden and trimmed suckers and water sprouts off the green gage, peach, pear and blue plums. The big job will be trimming the apple trees which seem to get less attention each year but I’m going to get what I can from the ground and hope for some help with the higher branches.
I am so ready to start growing something!!!
I don’t like being unprepared for much of anything but the last two weeks or so of frigid air gave me a real kick in the pants! We have been used to teens and single digit weather but not with 20 – 45 mile an hour winds. We were able to keep the house good and warm but had to keep heaters in the cellar and laundry room around in the clock. We didn’t have any frozen water pipes or lose any of the valuable canned goods.
We did however have to keep chopping holes in the streams that water our cattle. We had to move two herds due to the mountain springs freezing solid and the feed we gave them was increased by an extra roll of hay each day, giving the two larger herds three round bales and the heifers two. The heifers and bulls were given corn gluten every other day.
January 3rd we went to Rural King to pick up salt and feed for the chickens and he bought me a new insulated barn coat and insulated bib coveralls!!! Along with the Extreme socks Heather bought me for Christmas, the flannel lined jeans Shawn got me and these from Eddie the winter weather coming would not be taking hold of me!!!!
I know how the Pillsbury Dough Boy feels now, waddling around!!!!
January 5th was the worst day and the pickup wouldn’t start, the big tractor fuel was frozen and wouldn’t start, and we used the small Kubota until the hydraulics froze up. At this point the cattle were fed the old fashioned way by using 15 square bales of hay loaded onto the old Dodge pickup for the larger herds and 10 square bales to the heifers. We keep bales of hay in the loft of the bull barn for the bulls and they were fed hay and grain. I had filled up the firewood on the porch and in the house and was constantly chucking it into the woodstoves. I made a huge pot of soup on the stove and our bodies stayed warm and full on the inside!!! The chickens and rabbits were checked hourly along with Mischief, our coon hound and all were given fresh warm water. Mischief stayed wadded up in her house with enormous batts of hay! We had been feeding her extra food to keep some fat on for just this kind of weather. We take good care of all of our animals. The temperature that day finally reached 12* but the wind was raging and expecting to last through noon Saturday. With the wind chill the last few days our temps were ranging from -12* to 0*. Mr. Caldwell was working on thawing the tractor all day in the frigid cold and wind!
Finally on Monday we were able to get out and do some extra winterizing to prepare for the next onset which might be within the next week!
So with the rabbits taken care of before the next batch of frigid weather, I went straight to the hen house. Extra bedding was put in their nests to help keep the eggs from freezing. There’s not much I can do with their water freezing except take them warm water more often. Hopefully in the spring the electricity will be added to their house but this new house is much warmer and cleaner than the old one.
I use a metal pan for their water so that when it freezes I can take it outside, pour a little hot water over the bottom and the ice pops right out. I do carry a jug of hot water with me when I go check the water for the rabbits, chickens and the dog. They love that warm water to warm their insides! I’m keeping the rabbits and the chickens feed bowls full. If they have plenty to eat their fat stores will help to keep them warm.
Now that the animals are better prepped for the frigid air to return it was time to fill up the porch with two types of firewood.
We have two piles of wood outside and one is seasoned, split and covered. The other is dried but not fully seasoned and not split. We have plenty more in the woods ready to take down and bring in to the house.
We’ve made it through the first of the really cold winter weather but we’re ready for the worst to come in the next three months. Between now and then I’ll sit with my new seed catalogs and prepare for what we all hope to be an early spring!! When we expect high winds and possible power outages I keep plenty of buckets of water in the laundry room for flushing the toilets and several gallon jugs of water for cooking and hand-washing. We keep supplies of candles, oil lamps and matches on hand and small wood on the side porch for the wood cook stove. Four small tanks of propane are always full to heat the laundry room (holds our main source of water pipes) and the cellar.
Stay warm and don’t forget to prepare for the next winter hit of weather!
A “before and after” view of our mountain is such a huge change and it took several hours and days to complete. Our mountain view has disappeared over the last few years due to barberry, alm olive and other obnoxious shrubs. We contacted Aaron Calfee from Paint Bank to do the work for us. He has a bushhog that fits the front of a track loader (Bobcat, maybe). The shrubs had taken over a lot of really good pasture land for our cattle. It’s very steep and Eddie just would not get on the side of a mountain with any kind of equipment. It looks really great now and we’ll have to keep a watch on it in the spring and do some spraying to keep it knocked down and the cattle will eat a lot of the tender young sprouts. Here are some after photos that show how the mountain opened up.
Today and tomorrow I’ll be finishing up some posts of 2017, so bear with me.
It’s been such a busy year and I just don’t understand how it can be the end of December 2017.
On Christmas Eve morning I went to Covington to pick up my brother Dean and brought him to the farm to spend the day.
On Christmas day we drove to Roanoke to spend some time with hubby’s sister Dreama. She was full of family gossip and news and she seemed to like the gifts we took to her and we thoroughly loved the gifts she had for us.
We had a wonderful evening with the kids the day after Christmas.
Heather fixed a wonder dinner of baked ham, mashed potatoes, bacon wrapped asparagus, and so much more. We were all stuffed but still able to trod upstairs to open the gifts. Our children always gift us with wonderful things that we can use throughout the year and this year was no exception.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Happy New Year!
The chickens needed a new home due to the age of their existing house! It leaked like a sieve. Critters were getting in no matter what we did and killed eleven of my new chicks that were under two months of age. The hill I walked to get to it was becoming a hazard for me in the winter months. We moved the chickens (they were not happy at first) into a cinder block building which has electricity and water and a separate room for their feed.
Now the chickens use the remaining area as a dusting bath! Next spring I’ll spread it out a bit and start a new area for gardening.