Tag Archives: nature

Cacti Bloom A Little Early

I brought all of my flowering Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti in the first week of October and now my upstairs foyer is full of color!   Everything outside has lost its beauty since the leaves are gone and we’ve had so many frosts and freezes!  The beauty inside is grand!

CASS Railroad Trip

Hubby and I have had more dates this year than we have had since we moved on this farm.  I’m not sure why but don’t question it because I love every minute we’re together whether it’s here or away from the farm.

On September 26th we went to Cass, West Virginia, and took a rail ride that was awe-inspiring and I would recommend the trip to everyone.  I’m going to leave you with a little snippet from their website and then a pictorial or our wonderful day trip.

Cass Scenic Railroad, an 11-mile (18 km) long heritage railroad that is owned by the West Virginia State Rail Authority and operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.

Founded in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company (now WestRock), Cass was built as a company town to serve the needs of the men who worked in the nearby mountains cutting spruce and hemlock for the West Virginia Spruce Lumber Company, a subsidiary of WVP&P. At one time, the sawmill at Cass was the largest double-band sawmill in the world. It processed an estimated 1.25 billion board feet (104,000,000 cu ft; 2,950,000 m3) of lumber during its lifetime.

In 1901 work started on the railroad, which climbs Back Allegheny Mountain. The railroad eventually reached a meadow area, now known as Whitaker Station, where a logging camp was established for the immigrants who were building the railroad. The railroad soon reached to the top of Gobblers Knob, and then to a location on top of the mountain known as ‘Spruce’. The railroad built a small town at this location, complete with a company store, houses, a hotel, and a doctor’s office. Work soon commenced on logging out the Red Spruce trees, which grew in the higher elevations.

Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed our day.  It was our first ride on a train and I would go again in a heartbeat.  For more information, here’s the link to their website,  http://mountainrailwv.com/tour/cass-scenic-railroad-bald-knob-trip/ .  They provided us a lunch and when we returned from the ride we took in the sites around the depot.

The depot, a souvenir shop and a restaurant are on site at the entrance of Cass Railroad.

Snack shop where the train reloads water for the engine.

Beauty of Summer



I remember my roses being beautiful last summer but they’ve outdone themselves again this year.IMG_0006IMG_0007IMG_0008

Peach rosebuds yet to unfold.

Peach rosebuds yet to unfold.

White rose at it's peak.

White rose at its peak.

The botttom was blooming last week and the top was full of buds.

The bottom was blooming last week and the top was full of buds.

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Old Timey Rose and no matter how much I cut it back it bushes out and full of blooms.

Old Timey Rose and no matter how much I cut it back it bushes out and full of blooms.

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The roses are beautiful but when you add a little nature . . .

We have wild rabbits everywhere and sure hope they don't get in the garden.

We have wild rabbits everywhere and sure hope they don’t get in the garden.

then you add a view like this . . .

View from the front porch.

View from the front porch.

And a view of the mountain

And a view of the mountain

beauty is everywhere!!!

1st Hummingbird of the Season

It's amazing how something so tiny could be so fast!

It’s amazing how something so tiny could be so fast!

This is a 2015 hummingbird but looks much like the one that arrived yesterday.

This is a 2015 hummingbird but looks much like the one that arrived yesterday.

My first hummingbird of 2016 arrived around 6:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon. He’s a fat little male and so beautiful! He was too quick to get pictures but they have arrived!! I hope you have a very blessed 2016 spring!

The Beauty of our National Bird

The pictures say it all!

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Bald Eagle 02272016 (2)We watched him and took the pictures from our front porch.  These were taken over a month ago but we saw it and a younger one that hadn’t matured with the white feathering last week.  We also had a golden eagle here most of the winter.

Sugar Time at Caldwell Farms

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.

Sugar maple tree with tap

Sugar maple tree with tap

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.

This is one of the sugar maples in our front yard that provides us with plenty of maple sap in the spring and glorious shade in the hot summers.  This tree held five buckets this spring.

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.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

These are some of the tools we use to start the process of making maple syrup.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

Stock water tank holds 210 gallon at the top ridge of the tank.

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.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

Cooking tank has four sections. The first two on the right have a opening so that the sap runs from one side to the other. The next section is the first thickening section and the narrow section on the far left is the last section before straining off. The pain has grown dark over the last few years and each year our syrup gets a little darker and sweeter.

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.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

The sugar house sits down over the hill from the garage about 50 feet and it was warmer down there than it was up the hill at the garage.

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.

First pot off the firepit and it's ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

First pot off the firepit and it’s ready to strain once more, heat to boiling and put in the sterilized jars to seal.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it's strained twice once it's cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to pour it in the storage tank.

Cheesecloth for straining the syrup. I use about four layers of cloth when I strain the syrup and it’s strained twice once it’s cooked. We also use a bucket with a straining net to strain from the tapping buckets and pour it in the storage tank.

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Regular and wide mouth jar lids

Sterlized pint jars

Sterlized pint jars

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.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Pints and quarts of heavenly fresh maple syrup.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients.  We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Caldwell Farm labels include the date made and the ingredients. We do not add any preservatives or other sugars.

Here’s some of the pictures shared throughout the day.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

Frosty morning started at 29* at 6:00 a.m.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

At times the steam in the cool air made it impossible to see what was going on in the vat.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Boiling maple sap to scrumptious maple syrup.

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Our daughter Heather after a steamy day of fun!

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the "sugar monster" at the end of the day.

Mr. Caldwell considers himself the “sugar monster” at the end of the day.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared and Crystal joined in the afternoon. This was Crystals first trip to the farm and she also got to feed the baby calf, Miracle.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

Jared hanging out in the sugar house.

End result!

End result!

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Sassy guarding the woodpile from mice and voles.

Undescribable smell in the air!

Undescribable smell in the air!

Vats are full and boiling.

Vats are full and boiling.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

Boiling sap almost maple syrup.

He's stays busy during the entire process.

He’s stays busy during the entire process.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Sugar Monster fueling the fire.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Crystal and Jared enjoying the day.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Jared and Eddie catching up on everything and planning their spring gobbler season.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Red hot coals from old locust posts keep things hot and sap boiling from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

The steam makes the whole area smell like maple syrup.

Firepit in sugar house

Firepit in sugar house

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!

 

Season changes and colder weather

The porch is covered with dried firewood.

The porch is covered with dried firewood.

The yard is covered with leaves.

The yard is covered with leaves.

The perennials are black, wilted and almost gone.

The perennials are black, wilted and almost gone.

The trees are getting bare.

The trees are getting bare.

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                Fall colors on the farm before the first freeze.

Fall colors are red one minute.

Fall colors are red and golden one day.

Apple trees are bare with a few red apples left hanging.

Apple trees are leaf bare with a few red apples left hanging.

The flower beds are empty.

The flower beds are empty.

The trumpet vine covering the gazebo is no longer green.

The trumpet vine covering the gazebo is no longer green.

Little mountain is brown instead of red and golden.

Little mountain is brown instead of red and golden.

I love early fall but after the first freeze everything changes.  We’re actually shocked that the pasture and hayfields are still as green as they are and the yard.  Old man winter is touching us in many way but thankfully not as hard as last year when it started bitterly cold in late October and didn’t let up.

Bundle up and get out and walk in the woods while you still can!!

Retirement adventure #1 – Dismal Falls

Well it’s been two months of retirement and I stay so busy.  Hubby and I have decided to try to make a point of taking a day trip alone at least once a month and I wanted to share our “1st Retirement Adventure” with you.  I packed a lunch and we loaded up the cameras and took off for natures beauty that surrounds us that I either had not seen or it had been a long time.  Our first trip was to Giles County and a little place called “Dismal Falls”.  I hope these photos express my awe at the beautiful little spot in the woods that is hidden just off Route 100 and on a forestry road.

Dismal Falls view from the top of the path leading from the road.

Dismal Falls view from the top of the path leading from the road.

Sign beside the forestry road.

Sign beside the forestry road.

There was a large variety of wild mushrooms on the path including these which we call woodfish. We gather these in the fall, flour and fry them up. DELICIOUS!

There was a large variety of wild mushrooms on the path including these which we call woodfish. We gather these in the fall, flour and fry them up. DELICIOUS!

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Path we used to get down to the falls.

Path we used to get down to the falls.

Beautiful open forest leading to the falls.

Beautiful open forest leading to the falls.

Eddie overlooking the falls and creek below.

Eddie overlooking the falls and creek below.

Eddie waiting on me to catch up because I was taking so many pictures.

Eddie waiting on me to catch up because I was taking so many pictures.

This overhang is used a lot by hikers and visitors. There was a fire pit under the rocks and easy to get under without banging your head.

This overhang is used a lot by hikers and visitors. There was a fire pit under the rocks and easy to get under without banging your head.

Rock steps leading down to the water and bottom of the falls.

Rock steps leading down to the water and bottom of the falls.

Firepit under the rocks.

Firepit under the rocks.

The following are views of the water leading to the falls, below the falls, and the falls.  The water is as clear as glass and icy cold.  Normally, this time of year there’s not a lot of water in the falls but because of the rains we’ve had all spring and summer they were beautiful.  We plan to go back when the weather is cold and the water may be frozen.  The falls are not really tall but they’re beautiful and a great outing for one day!!

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Dismal Falls view from the top of the path leading from the road.

Dismal Falls view from the top of the path leading from the road.

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After the visit to the falls we went up the forestry road and found a cool rest stop to have lunch of grilled chicken, cheese & crackers, and fresh fruit.  From there we took off through another road of Giles County called Sugar Run which ran through some awesome forest land and we found this fine creature crossing the road but don’t seem to be able to find out what type of moth he will turn into.  I’ve inserted a close up of him and one of him beside my husbands size 10 boot to give you an idea of how big it was.

It has two sets of red antennae.

It has two sets of red antennae.

It's about 1/2 " - 3/4" around.

It’s about 1/2 ” – 3/4″ around.

I've seen them, I think, about half this big but never really took a close look at them.

I’ve seen them, I think, about half this big but never really took a close look at them.

We also saw these structures as we were about to leave Sugar Run.

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Several deer, squirrels, a few turkeys and wild birds were seen but I got of picture of this one grazing along the road.

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And we passed an exotic farm and saw these along the road.

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It was such a fun and peaceful day spent together and not working until we were bone tired.  This is why we decided to take an adventure at least once a month.  I can’t wait to see what we do in September!!

 

Heat

Winter 2014 warmth stockpile to be completed.

Winter 2014 warmth stockpile to be completed.

On Sunday morning we took off to the woods and started cutting for the 2014-15 heating season.  We found two oak trees that had been dead from the gypsy moth invasion three years ago and put more than a ton of weight on the farm truck.  Here’s a view of the visit with nature.

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IMG_0014We were there for about one and half hours and Hubby sawed the trees up and loaded the heavy pieces which were way to heavy for me and then I loaded the lighter stuff and enjoyed being in the woods.

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IMG_0004I enjoy anything that involves us being outdoors together and I love the smell of fresh cut firewood.  One of the trees was blown to the ground and heavier than the other because it soaked up the last rain.  The other tree was still standing but the bark had fallen off.  This will keep us nice and toasty next winter.  All we have to do now is split the big stuff and put it in the woodhouse.

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Mother’s Day 2014

Mother’s Day was a whirlwind of activity.  My son and daughter came early and spent the entire day with us.  I also had friends from the office join us for lunch and we visited the babies, picked asparagus, walked a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  The day started for me at 6:00 a.m. and everyone was gone by 5:30.  Then,  hubby Sassy and I enjoyed some quiet time.
Heather and Shawn bought me beautiful cards and a push mower for the yard which I’ve wanted for two years and was going to buy in June.  It’s part of my new weightloss program.
New toy from my daughter.

New toy from my daughter.

Mother's Day card from my son.

Mother’s Day card from my daughter.

Mother's Day card from my daughter.

Mother’s Day card from my son.

Eddie made me a beautiful hanging flower table out of a old wagon wheel and bought flowers to go on it.  He had to have the kids help him hang it in the yard while I was preparing lunch for our other guests.  I absolutely love it and never thought for a minute he would re-purpose something like this.  I may be rubbing off on him! 😉
Antique saw blade will be inserted in the center of the table.

Antique saw blade will be inserted in the center of the table.

Antique wagon wheel re-purposed into a hanging flower table.

Antique wagon wheel re-purposed into a hanging flower table.

Not only did he build the table for me but he loaded it with plants that I’ll repot as soon as the cold snap passes this weekend.  He also went to the woods and brought me this beautiful bouquet of trillium.  The blossoms are so delicate and elegant, don’t you think?

Trillium from the woods behind the house.

Trillium from the woods behind the house.

They adorned our kitchen table where I served our guest and my family their lunch.  We’re going to try to transplant some to my shaded flower gardens later this week or next.  Hopefully with all the shade they’ll think they’re in the woods and thrive.  He also got me a beautiful card and all of my cards made me cry!!  I am so loved.

Hubby's card for my day!!

Hubby’s card for my day!!

To top the day, one of our gielbiev cows delivered a calf which was perfect for Mother’s Day.
 
I hope your Mother’s Day was as wonderful as mine.

New visitor at the farm

A few weeks ago when the weather got colder and most of the weed seed was gone I filled up the feeders at the bird station.  I had dried some sunflowers of different variety and sizes and hung them in the wood house to dry so I would have some new things to put out for the different birds.  I had also picked a lot of different varieties of grasses and hung them to dry also.

Hubby's uncle made this whopper of a feeder years ago and it holds 20 pounds of feed.

Hubby’s uncle made this whopper of a feeder years ago and it holds 20 pounds of feed.

Hubby made this squirrel feeder for me years ago and I'm begging for more.

Hubby made this squirrel feeder for me years ago and I’m begging for more.

 

The birds love the feeders and I have doves, bluejays, juncos, wrens, sparrows, cardinals and three different woodpeckers feeding from them this year.  We also have this little rascal feeding as well.  I grew up calling them fairy diddles and my husband’s family calls them mountain boomers.  They are a miniature squirrel and you won’t believe how fast he moves.

We call him "Boomer".  He's eating a piece of corn.

We call him “Boomer”. He’s eating a piece of corn.

 

He’s hilarious to watch and I’ve decided he’s living in our wood house and may have been the critter that ate all the seed pods and sunflowers.  They mysteriously disappeared right before we started seeing boomer.  He chases the birds but I think in fun.  I’ve started adding mixed nuts,  peanuts and fruit on the table where the big feeder is stationed.  Boomer takes all of the nuts and puts them in the gallon jar on the swing post. If you look closely you can see the bottom half is whole shelled corn and the upper part of the jar is FULL of nuts.

Boomer is so tiny!

Boomer is so tiny!

 

That's a six inch stretch from tree to corn.

That’s a six inch stretch from tree to corn.

The squirrel feeder is a tractor with spikes coming up on both sides of the seat.

The squirrel feeder is a tractor with spikes coming up on both sides of the seat.

 

 

Boomer sitting on top of the squirrel feeder.

Boomer sitting on top of the squirrel feeder.

 

Hummingbirds

We started out with six hummingbirds in mid-April and then it got cold and up until two weeks ago we only had one.  I kept the fresh nectar out for him and finally we have five which I hope will multiply soon.

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Normally I have five to seven feeders on the front porch by now but they’re only using the two and I’m refilling the feeders about twice a week.

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I love these little guys and could watch them for hours.  I make sure they have plenty of their favorite flowers in the yard as well.

IMG_0014They’ve been very busy this weekend and I’ve heard their courting rituals several times today.  The dipping dance they do is quite something.

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They’re quite territorial at the moment and they whizzed right in front of my face and caused Sassy to change positions on the porch for fear of getting “hummed”!!

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Peace of driving to work

On my way into work this morning was much cooler than the last few days but the beauty I saw was so peaceful.  Try to imagine this without pictures.

  • Fields of orchard grass waving in the wind and looking like waves of green water.
  • A sky so blue that you think you’ve never seen that blue before.
  • Small, scattered, wispy, white clouds trying so hard to invade the blue sky.
  • Full grown brown rabbits sitting along the road enjoying the warmth of the sun.
  • Flocks of barn swallows flitting together overhead like aircraft gracing the skies in formation doing their intricate stunts
  • A huge United States of America flag gently waving in the wind.
  • Gorgeous orange poppies in flower beds bending gracefully try to touch one another.
  • A long legged doe gently grooming her fawn while trying to hide in the tall orchard grass.
  • Green leaves fluttering like butterflies in the tops of the trees.
  • Quiet country road with no traffic but me until I come to the main roads.

Country life is so precious, peaceful and quiet!!