This site is about my life as a farmgirl, wife, mother and grandmother. We have a beautiful granddaughter and the cutest grandson. We own two farms in Craig County Virginia, leasing one and raising beef cattle on the other.
In six days it will be September 1st, where has the year gone?!?!? We prepare for winter all year practically by canning and freezing food, fattening the cattle, making hay and, of course, that critical harvesting firewood to stay warm.
Winter is upon us and 90* weather doesn’t much help the process so we continue to clean out the gardens, can and freeze all we can for us and the kids, and do minor repairs to the house and buildings as needed. Potatoes will be dug in the next week or so and then the apples will be harvested and stored. There’s more fencing to replace and of course, we can’t forget deer season is here in October and I have a new bow to use!!
The green is turning gold and brown, the wild grass seeds are a very few and the wind has a bite to it. My body is not ready for winter chill and blast of wind but I fear it is upon us!
This morning while fixing breakfast I looked out the kitchen window and saw a beautiful sight.
The backyard, where usually a hammock is swinging in the breeze, the ground was covered with little birds of all makes and sizes!! This is my winter bird feeding station and from the looks of it I really need to add more feeders. I filled and hung the feeders last week and have seen titmouse, sparrows, yellow finches, red headed wrens, cardinals, Carolina finches and so many more breeds of small birds. There’s also doves, bluejays, red-headed woodpeckers, Downy woodpeckers and more. BUT, this morning the ground was ever so active with small birds. I love them!
I love watching the birds and they will make my winter just a bit easier to contend with!
Maple sugar time is upon us and because of the freaky weather we may not get to make any this year. It’s either raining or icing our world and we’re sure the sap has come up but we’re expecting 20 degree weather over the weekend and next week.
We’re still waiting on the heifers to drop their babes but have only had one of fourteen to calve so far.
The one little calf needs/wants a playmate so much. Today he was running laps around his mom for fun!
Goodbye February! We’re anticipating the March winds, have had enough showers so April can be semi-wet and bring in some of those beautiful May flowers!!!
I’m thinking ahead to spring when it gets so frigid that you want to bring the cows in!! One of the first crops we see here in mid to late May is rhubarb. A lot of folks don’t like rhubarb because its so tart but I have a remedy for that. Before I give you that little tidbit let me tell you what I did last summer before the first leaves of rhubarb showed itself.
For two years I had not cut as much rhubarb as I thought there should have been. I used a huge tractor tire for the rhubarb bed because moles kept eating the tubers when I planted them directly in the ground. I placed the tire on the edge of the garden where it would get lots of son and on top of some heavy black garden fabric that I folded to fit several times to keep the moles out. It worked!
The tire was filled with good soil and chicken litter and four rhubarb tubers. The tubers produced but the stems were thin and spindly. In the spring of 2018 I decided to thin the tubers and see if that helped and I was also concerned that maybe I had amended the soil with too much litter. I cleaned up two more areas on both sides of the tire of weeds and only amended that soil with some rabbit litter but not much!
Neither of these areas produced anything but I kept them moist and sprinkled with epsom salt in hopes of new rhubarb patches in spring 2019.
The original tire went crazy!! I took off three batches of rhubarb and we have plenty in the freezer for the coming year and the year after that.
Now for my recipe for the freezer rhubarb jam:
5-6 c. of fresh rhubarb, cut in 1″ cubes
Water, just enough to keep the rhubarb from sticking in sauce pan
2 c. sugar
1 3 oz. pkg. of strawberry jello, cherry, raspberry, or even blackberry
Cook the rhubarb in the water until soft. Add sugar and take off the stove; stir to combine and sugar is completely melted. Add the jello, stir and cool completely. I then pour into small containers and freeze. It’s wonderful on biscuits, bagels, toast and fresh sliced bread.
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.
Finally we had some snow this morning to help the spring pasture growth!! Here it is the middle of March and we get around five inches of the white stuff. It started a little before 5:00 this morning and now it’s over and there are hints of blue sky peeping through.
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!
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.
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.
officially begun! Two small meadows were mowed yesterday along with a corner of one of the large fields. Today and tomorrow will be a mad rush to get all of it baled into 4 x 5 bales before another good chance of showers rolls in.
Although it’s been cold here this winter it’s been nothing like last year and the before. We only had a total of six inches of snow the entire winter. That being said we still have a woodhouse two-thirds full of seasoned firewood.
From several downed apple trees and locust trees we think we have enough cut for next year.
Apple wood is a good wood if it’s dry for getting a fire started. Most of the wood in the woodhouse is oak and from trees that have died on the farm and were already seasoned. If you need a hot fire that will last overnight we use seasoned locust and there are times it has run us out of the living room at night because it heats up so fast and lasts so long.
Another neat thing about having the splitter is all of the kindling that builds up under it while you’re splitting. I gather all of it into feed bags and store it in the woodhouse for starting our fires.
REMEMBER: Season your firewood!! No one needs their home to burn down at any time but especially in the middle of winter.
Warm weather has us in the mood to clean even though we know there’s probably still some winter weather ahead of us. I’ve worked in the yard several day and got some help from hubby to get those maple leaves out of my flower beds and around the house.
We have cleaned out all of the yard except for the corner of my rose garden.
The rose in the very corner and tallest stems you can see is an old-fashioned rose planted by our ancestors shortly after the house was built. The bloom is white with a hint of pink around the edges and they’re about two inches across. It blooms most of the summer if I keep it pinched back (faded blooms). Another one just like it but much smaller is at the entrance of the front gate. I have to clip it back all summer long. The fragrance is divine!!
This corner will soon be cleaned up and I’m hoping to add a couple new roses to it during late spring. I don’t have a lavender or a blood red rose in that bed and think it’s time. I had a hibiscus in the middle of the bed and it just towered over all and lots of pretty bloom was missed unless you walked through the bed. Last year I planted some sweet william in the front row and they have survived the winter. I hope they will add some color while waiting for the roses to bloom.
Here’s a photo album of the rest of the yard clean up:
I forgot to get a photo of the backyard but it was the quickest and smallest area to clean up. All I have to do back there is hang our swing and wait for the hostas, shasta daisy and daylilies to spring up.
Now I need to take care of the outside of the yard including some new planting at the gazebo at the pond.
Do you ever have those days when you have so much work to do but just can’t get into it? Do you have those days when you just need to get out of the house but the a guilty conscience tells you “No, not today!”? Wouldn’t you like to knock that guilt angel off your shoulder and just go?
I have a spot I love to go and don’t have to leave the farm!
That would be woods behind our house where my tree stand is located. I could sit back there for hours with a book and camera and just drink it all in!!! If our world gets much crazier I’ll probably be spending a whole lot more time there too!
This spot is my hunting spot about 500 yards from our house but only a few people know where it is. I hunt there, I read there, I think there, I watch wildlife there and I take lots of pictures there!
Most of my reading is done in this little cottage in the woods! It’s not a cottage really but it is a 5 x 5 building that has windows on three sides, it has a raised seat that sits one person quite comfortably and it has a hanger for my hat, gloves, camera and bow and it has a storm door on the front with a drop down window for shooting. Best of all it’s not up off the ground!!! Hubby made it for me!!
This past hunting season I was privileged to see raccoons, deer, turkeys, bobcat kitten, chipmunks, wild birds galore, squirrels and enjoyed the peace of the woods in a rain shower and a light snow fall. I read four books while waiting for just the right game to come into focus. It’s my getaway from this crazy world we live in!!! Hubby doesn’t mind me slipping off to it occasionally because he has his spots too!
The bag of charcoal is in the floor to absorb any human scent so as not to scare off the wildlife. I have a big 4″ thick swing cushion for the bench so my butt doesn’t get tired or cold. I take it in after hunting season is over so the mice won’t use it for bedding. The step is to keep my legs comfortable and not dangling off the edge. I have a hook latch on the inside to keep the door shut tight.
Just a quick note to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and to remind all to remember the real reason for the season!! I’m wishing all of you a very blessed 2017 and hope to hear from you through my blog in the coming year!!! Blessings to all and on this joyous day, and throughout the coming year, may your life be filled with good luck and prosperity.
I’m whipped in a good way and made a major accomplishment with the aid of my wonderful husband today.
This morning hubby tilled up the entire area for me and afterwards I worked for three hours raking, leveling, pushing, prodding and now we have a really nice bed to show off some of my favorite flowers.
It turned out a lot bigger than I had originally planned but it will be beautiful when all the plants are up and blooming.
I’ll be filling it full of tall flowers of hollyhocks, hibiscus, and coneflower and others as I find what I want but they’ll all be perennials and I’m planning to put a snowball bush as the end closest to the driveway but on the outside of the bed. There’s a young peach tree full of pink buds today at the other end of the bed. I will be planting all of the seeds in a couple of weeks after we warm up just a little bit more. I have a friend in Colorado that has just had another snowfall and I want to wait for that system to pass us by.
I think it’s going to be beautiful and will show off the side of the house as well. I can’t put a lot of perennials in the yard because there’s too much shade but this bed will get sun all day and will be somewhat protected from the north and west winds.
You know spring is really on it’s way when the Caldwell family fires up the sugar house and loads the maple trees with sap buckets. Eddie and I tapped our maple trees last week with the awesome help of our son, Shawn. It was a spur of a moment decision because of the unpredictable weather situation. We tapped fourteen trees with 1-5 buckets depending on the size and condition of the tree.
We gather the sap every two hours so by the time we had all of the taps drilled, plugged and a bucket hung on them it was time for Shawn to start making the rounds to each of the trees. The sap was running like a heavily dripping faucet and soon the buckets were running over. We had a total of 52 buckets hung and we hauled it in milk cans from the trees back to the 210 gallon storage tank. The tank was filled well past the holding mark giving us about 225 total gallons of sap in 2 1/2 days. On Tuesday afternoon we pulled the taps and buckets, cleaned them and put them away for another year.
At this point we stored the tank full of sap in our garage where it would stay below 40* until we were ready to make the syrup and would be okay for 10-12 days as long as it stayed cold. We now waited for weather that was cool, dry and not too windy to fire up the sugar house.
On Friday, Eddie hauled in the firewood to use for the fire. It had to be dry and a sturdy wood that would stay really hot. We had a stockpile of old locust post that came from replaced fencing on the farm so he brought in two loads and placed them on top of three other posts laid out on the ground to keep the wood dry in the event it rained again before we started the fire.
Friday night we made the decision to make the syrup while we had at least one good day. I emailed the kids and we set the syrup vat on the fire pit. The syrup vat is a stainless steel vat with four sections.
We put the vat on the firepit around 9:00 p.m. Friday night and we thought we had everything ready. The sawed up fence posts were in the pit along with kindling and we don’t put the sap in until right before lighting the fire. (Don’t want no varmints sucking up the water or worse walking through it. The lights for working in the dark first thing in the morning were set up and ready. The hose was hooked up to the tank, buckets in place, and all we had to do was try to get a good nights sleep because it was going to be a long day.
The next morning Eddie got up at 5:00 a.m. and got the vat filled with sap, started the fire and when I got out of bed at 6:00 I could see the steam coming out from under the sugarhouse roof. It had been cooking good for about half an hour and Eddie was going to add more sap and the waterhose from the storage tank to the vat was froze. We were really doing some hustling trying to unthaw it. First he tried a small propane torch but that didn’t work and would have melted the hose. Then we tried running hot water from the house to the hose and that didn’t work. Finally we ran straight hot water into the hose, whipped it against the ground to beat up the slush and ice in the hose and finally after thirty minutes and almost scorching the syrup in the pans it broke free. At this point we filled the vat sections quickly again but this time we kept the hose off the ground by placing it on several milkcans from the garage to the sugar house.
After this things went pretty quickly and I left him to go to Covington at 9:00 to visit my younger brother. This was a short trip because he wouldn’t get out of bed and didn’t want to talk. I got back home a lot sooner than I expected and our daughter, Heather, had joined her Dad around 10:30 and things were going pretty good. Only about 75 gallons of sap had gone through the vats during my absense but I had about two gallons of syrup to strain and process. It was beautiful and so sweet. You have to remember though that when we collect that sap from the trees it looks and tastes like clear water.
We had a very successful day ending up with 53 pint jars and 6 quarts. We’ll sell the pints for $8 and the quarts for $12.
Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.
Our granddaughter, Victoria, and her new beau joined at the end of the evening just in time for french toast and sausages. Fun and hard work was had by all!
My daughter can operate just about every piece of equipment on our farm. The only equipment she hasn’t used is the backhoe but I know it’s just a matter of time until she is on it to. Here is her newest accomplishment completed today:
I believe she has been whining about the snow since last week and today she’s out in it playing and taking pictures of the farm and the wildlife.
This is the blog for our little farm in Skagit county. Here we have Shetland sheep and Nigerian Dwarf goats. In addition we have donkeys, cattle, pigs, chickens, geese, and peafowl. The blog describes the weekly activities here.