it’s a good thing


An Artistic Eye…….

This  is a phrase that is well known to all -“raising a stink”.  My dad used to use it all the time- but out here, it takes on a new meaning!!

A dear elderly man from the area, who recently passed away, would always say, “Gotta go raise a stink now”. Now, I know what he meant……..

This is the time of the year when our hay fields are fertilized. That fertilizer has a very distinct aroma that assails the nostrils, and is hard to shake from your senses!!

My one dog has taken to sneaking away when my back is turned, to run far afield and search for delicacies left in the fertilizer- and of course, to roll in it!!!

I am talking about chicken manure! I can’t think of a fertilizer more FOUL (pun intended), except maybe fish emulsion!!!

Our neighbor tends our hay fields- cuts and bales the hay during the summer, and spreads manure from his chicken houses in the fall. He may even spread it in the spring, I don’t recall.

I was holding the horses for the farrier a week ago, and heard a tractor in the distance. Clouds of brown “dust” were billowing past the barn door, carrying with them a familiar “fragrance”! It was fertilizing time again! Thank goodness it was not quite warm enough to have the windows open!

Now, along with their usual “snacking” on hoof trimmings and manure, I will have to watch the dogs as they search out clods of chicken poop and bones.

When the horses are wormed, I try to keep the dogs out of the paddock, so they won’t eat horse poop with wormer in it. Now, I have to make sure they don’t swallow chicken bones!! As my daughter says- we now have dogs whose breath is “kickin’ “!

Despite the smell, we are fortunate to have a great neighbor who is willing to work the fields for us and share his manure.  Now, if Mother Nature will cooperate next year, and give us more rain than she allowed us this past season, we should have a bountiful 2011 hay crop of at least 2 (hopefully 3) cuttings!! A farmer’s prayer…..

you can click on the photo for a larger view

The sun is rising, the frost has painted the meadows, a chill is in the air- but all is well, bright and early, at Mountain Meadows this November morning…..

After many attempts to pull this thing off, my son finally rounded up about 15 of his friends, loaded up the SUVs and cars, and made the trek, 3 hours south of DC, to our 47 acre farm!

Purpose? A camp out, of course!!!

The first 2 girls arrived, all decked out in typical city girl finery-leggings, fancy scarves, and finely coiffed hair, topped with sunglasses. They needed to pick up some additional supplies, so asked me to direct them to the “general store”! I was happy to do so!! There was definitely a boost to the local economy that day- with all the items everyone forgot to bring from home!!

A tent city quickly formed in the middle of our back 20 acres. A variety of tents, the food and blankets, and all the camping equipment they forgot, (which, fortunately,  Mr. Green Jeans had stored in the garage!!!) were piled up in the field.

Setting up camp..........

Since everyone showed up about 2 hours later than planned- setting up the tents was an immediate priority- before darkness fell. The tractor came in very handy – the bucket was filled with all their essentials and driven over to the campsite.

One couple brought their adorable little dog. Pixel is a little white ball of fluff, sporting a dyed dark mohawk! Definitely a city dog!!!

Mr. Green Jeans had an old metal barrel that had been cut in half- perfect for their campfire. Since we had just recently come thru a drought – fire extinguishers were sent along – just in case!

We had a collapsible camp picnic table for them to use, and the heavy wooden one from under my tree was also thrown into the tractor bucket and taken to the campsite.

Everyone pitched in, and the tents were up and the fire roaring in no time.

The temperature at night was supposed to get a tad bit colder than expected, so I had to drag out my pile of vintage, thrift shop and auction quilts to help keep the crowd warm. The air mattresses were blown up (they are roughing it, after all!) and stuffed in the tents. Two of the girls had no tent, and were cramming a double air mattress into the back of their SUV! I pulled them aside and told them, if they needed to sneak into the house at night to sleep, that would be fine! The bathrooms in the house were available to all.

Since my son is in a band, and the band members were at the camp out- they had band practice out back!! I love listening to them play- they could only get as far away from the house as the length of all our extension cords! The guys probably would have played later into the night – but at about 9:30pm could no longer feel their fingers in the cold night air!!

 

Playing by the light of the moon, uh,- construction lamp!

 

My son, the drummer

The next morning, Mr. Green Jeans and I made breakfast for 15!! Gourmet flavored coffees (do it yourself), a couple dozen local eggs, bacon, rolls, raisin toast, and waffles, were eagerly wolfed down.

My son took Allie, the one of our dogs who plays well with others, to the river (her favorite pastime), and little Pixel (remember him – little city dog with the mohawk?) gamely followed along – doing everything Allie did!!!! His beautiful white curly hair, was a knotted dirty mess, by the time he was done!! He was, officially now, a country dog (altho’  still on a leash!)

Pixel, after the swim

Now the day’s entertainment began!! Horse riding for the adventurous few. The horses were so unnerved by the activities of the night before, and the tent city – we decided all riding would be within the boundaries of the paddock. My son, for the first time since his last horseback riding lesson at age 6 or 7- got on a horse, at the behest of his girl friend.  That will be made into a poster for my wall – since I doubt that I will see that ever happen again any time soon!!!

Woohoo!

One girl had the time of her life on Cisco, our new quarter horse! She hadn’t ridden in about 10 years, but like riding a bicycle – she got right back into it! My horse, “the big guy” , was perfect for all those who had never ridden and were slightly timid about it. He’s kind, and careful, and rarely goes faster than a walk!!!

Putting Cisco thru' his paces

Everyone got to shoot guns and rifles- I did walk the property later, to make sure no stray bullets had taken out any of the neighbors on the old country road! One guy was quite proud of the fact  that he was going to have a bruise from the recoil of the rifle- something to brag about at work on Monday!!!!

 

Shooting off the deck

All got to try the crossbow- that girl who rode the quarter horse, injured her thumb on the crossbow – but with a cup of ice, she was ready to go again!! Just because she was a city girl – does not mean she wasn’t tough!!! I would have been crying!!!

Crossbow - the target is on the round bales- no danger of losing an arrow!

The last event of the day, was the urbanite guys taking a turn at driving the tractor!! One guy had never even driven a stick shift, and Mr. Green Jeans bravely took him on!! All the guys did well- a good time was had by all, I think!!!

 

Kubota lessons

These were the nicest bunch of kids – not kids, really- all in their mid to late 20’s- I can’t wait til they come back again!!! I think we’ll have to invite them back during haying season!!!

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All is well at Mountain Meadows, back to “normal”, and a bit quiet………….

Just a few photos of what I see walking around the property.

Turn here to enter the root cellar

This winter's supply of potatoes

Neighbor's corn field reduced to the pile of silage (on the left) for his cowsThis is the neighbor’s corn field, reduced to a mound of silage, on the left, winter feed for his cattle.

Pearl

Clouds seen from my front porch

Weird, yet beautiful nightime clouds

Dusk visitors return...........

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All is well, and a bit cloudy, at Mountain Meadows this morning.

nighttime prayer

Whoa! What is that????

working on the "sanctuary"

Weeds grow well in the drought.....

drought plus aged tree equals only ONE!

vacancy

crow skull discovered

box turtle remains

more

the top layer just peels off, leaving the white carapace and plastron

And, if we hadn’t already figured it out…………Smokey is down the road to warn us:

Only YOU can prevent forest fires......!

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All is well, dry, windy and crispy, at Mountain Meadows this Labor Day weekend.

We are three years into this farming “thing” we embarked on. With a big move 2 hours south of the urban/suburban neighborhood we raised our kids in, we picked up, moved, and  immersed  ourselves in a totally new environment, lifestyle, and way of living.

We now have a pickup, a farm use truck (our suburban pickup in retirement), a soccer mom van turned rolling tack box/livestock herder, and a $30,000 Kubota(that’s  tractor to you- the uninitiated)!

We are in the second year of our vegetable garden and potato patch, 3rd growing hay. We understand fully now, how much work it is, how totally dependent on the weather a real farmer is, and how good it feels and tastes to grow your own vegetables!

We now realize that selling at the local farmers market is harder than it looks, not the money maker it would seem to be, and that there is always alot more to learn. And, that hybrid blackberries, while no tastier than the wild ones, are thornless, way larger, and thus, sell better than their smaller wild relatives! During a dry, hot, almost drought summer, wild blackberries will also NOT produce 20 lbs a day!

We now know that groundhogs are sometimes smarter than the amount of fencing and traps you  put out. They may still be cute, but are not as cute as they once seemed while we were living in suburbia. Their view of “sharing” and mine, are somewhat different, when it comes to my garden!

We know that weeds will grow, regardless of how little rain comes thru’, and that hay will not! We understand that we are getting a bit too old to “toss that bale”, especially when there are 300 of them sitting in the field! We now understand the phrase “make hay while the sun shines”.  We see how the dust can be flying,  the ground can be as hard as a rock from lack of rain, and the paddocks  overgrazed and not growing – but white capped mushrooms and other plants that horses cannot and will not eat, will manage to push their way thru hardpacked dirt and dot the landscape.

We have learned that wells must be dug deep (and thank goodness, ours is), that hydrofracking is bad for the environment, and rain is important for everyone.

We have come to understand small town way of thinking, and have learned to love and appreciate small town friendliness and helping hands.

We have learned to support locavorism.

We have learned that to grow a garden organically, while preferable, takes alot more work than does spraying a bit to keep away the bugs. We learned that if you forget to put a little mineral oil on the corn silks, you will have gross caterpillars hiding in and eating your ears of corn!

We have learned that while black plastic between the rows of vegetables will keep the weeds down, the intense heat reflected off the plastic will make midday gardening in the height of summer unbearable, and the puddles of water that accumulate there will attract mosquitoes and cause all the cantaloupes to rot just before they ripen!

We have learned that if you don’t keep up with the rototilling, the weeds will grow to be about 5-6 feet tall in the potato field!! On the up side, those hardy weeds are shading the potato plants from the sun, during a borderline drought hot summer!

I have learned to talk to myself (and my horse) as we ride thru the woods- to let the deer know we are coming – so Bambi and his mother don’t jump out of the woods in front of us and scare the crap out of my horse!

I have learned that hunting is a generations old way of life out here in the Gap, and that said – I only walk and ride in the woods on Sunday during hunting season! Oh, and day glow orange is a good color- on man and beast!

I have learned that hounds don’t sleep in the bed with their owners- they are chained out back next to a dog house til hunting season. They also don’t ride up in the front seat of the pickup, they travel in a port holed metal container in the bed of that pickup, heads hanging out, ears blowing in the breeze, excited about going to do what they were bred to do – track and hunt.

I have learned the difference between cows bellowing at dinnertime and cows and calves bellowing because they have been separated to be weaned. It has also dawned on me, that the reason we have milk on the table, is because dairy cows are constantly being bred, and their babies taken away and sold, so that their milk is in constant supply for us humans. I drink more soy milk now…….no offense to the dairy farmers.

I now know that the chicken one buys from the supermarket, is one of a gazillion cute,tiny, yellow chicks that has been factory or family farmed in towns like these, engineered to grow faster and bigger, to be ready for production in 6 weeks. I have also learned that pickup for these chickens can occur anytime- even at 3am !And, I will never get used to what I interpret as the sad looks on these chickens as they are traveling down the highway, crammed in crates, on the way to the factory……….and, yes, I eat less chicken now. I could never be a real and good farmer, feeling about animals the way I do. But, I am thankful that there are people out there who have made farming their life and do a good job at it!

I know, and am  less than thrilled to know, that there are seasons of the fly! Now we are in the bot scraping and large nasty horse fly season. There is NO good season of a fly, in my opinion!

I have also learned that small town folk are the best – willing to help whenever needed, no questions asked.

It helps to have a neighbor with a backhoe when you might want to bury your horse, instead of calling the rendering plant to haul it off. That neighbor might not understand, but he’ll dig that hole.

We have also learned that in small towns, everyone is related to everyone else, in one way or another- so be careful what you say!!!

Small towns are also used to doing things a certain way- it has been done the same way for generations, so why fix it, if it ain’t broke? For this little town, it seems to be working fine!

You can live in a small town for 25 years, but if you weren’t born here, and your family hasn’t been  here for generations back, you will always be an outsider of sorts. There is something to be said, for having family living, literally, a stone’s throw away……………

“Green Acres is the place to be, farm living is the life for me, land spreading out so far and wide, keep Manhattan (or DC), just give me the countryside….!”

There are many more lessons I have learned in these past 3 years, out here on the farm, but I will save that for another time, another post…………

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All is well, in the still darkness of the morning, at Mountain Meadows, at 4:47am…………

Life is never dull in the country, no matter what you have heard!!

Laid back, perhaps, but NEVER dull!

We have managed to get thru’ the Blizzard of 2010 relatively unscathed. It came and went, came and went, leaving way more snow then Virginia is used to.  Powers outages, collapsing roofs, artic temps, are just a few of the side effects of this snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/snOMG/snowmore!!!!

Glancing out my window the other afternoon, in the midst of this 3 foot snow vista, I saw something that caused me to do a double take! Under the cedar tree, where I toss the cracked corn for the deer, was a large gray, unfamiliar, yet, very familiar form!

The huge, gray, Percheron mare from across the river, had escaped her fencing and her massive nose led her right to the deer feed!

Can you see her?

I ran out to the deck for a better look!

I yelled up to Mr. Green Jeans, as I was throwing on my boots and coat, to call the neighbor – her horse had gotten out!

I ran out the door, grabbing a bucket of feed, and a dog leash(!) as I went! The horse tack was in the barn, and I didn’t want the horse taking off before I could get her!

As I approached, I guess she thought she was in trouble, and she started to circle the tree. But I continued to speak softly, and shake the feed bucket. Food won out, and the mare approached.

I’ve met her before, on walks across the river. She lives in a huge field, with cattle, and now 2 other horse buddies. She is very sweet, but HUGE, with dinner plate sized feet, standing 17.5- 18 hands.

She was large enough to know that I was no match for her. So, food was the link to getting her to follow me.  With the dog leash dangling from her halter, she followed me, and the food, to my barn. When we came thru the trees, she caught sight of my horses, and they saw her! She took off for the barn, thru the almost 3 foot snow, to visit some new friends!!

The “old man”, ever alert, saw this huge grey “thing” charging across the field – and just knew, it could not possibly be a horse!! Discretion being the better part of valor, he turned tail and ran to the far end of the paddock! The “big guy”, leader of the pack, now considerably dwarfed, and realizing he was no longer the BIG guy, was cowed for the first time in his life!!

With this mutant horse charging across the snow, the “big guy” decided the “old man” had the right idea, and followed him!!!

Little Miss Lilly, all 30 inches of her, ran thru snow up to her neck, leaping like a rabbit, passing the other two, in her effort to escape!!

Breeze, on the other hand, saw nothing to fear! He perked up his ears, flicked his tail in a flirty manner , and pranced in his best style thru the deep snow, to the fence, to greet this beautiful female intruder!!! She did look alot like  a mare he used to live with, but on a much larger scale!!!

I was a bit worried for my fence!! With her height, and the added packed snow, my fence only came up to her chest- and the electricity was not on!!

Mr. Green Jeans came out, with a proper lead- the neighbor was on the way. He was not going to let me try to lead this mammoth out- I might get hurt.

Since the snow kind of impeded my mobility, I let him take over!!!

It took a bit to catch her – she was very interested in Breeze. Eventually, food caught Breeze’s interest (it was near dinner time, after all!), which in turn, again, caught her interest, allowing Mr. GJ to catch her!

Got her!

The neighbor and her dog came running over – difficult to do in the deep snow.  We suggested she ride the mare back – but that wasn’t an option. My daughter wasn’t home – she would have jumped right on!!!

So, Mr. Green Jeans said he would lead her back home, over the river. It took a bit, to get the Percheron with the program, finally she settled down and began the walk home.  It wasn’t an easy walk, with the hard, deep snow, and those big hooves so close to his feet! The neighbor and I followed behind – struggling thru the snow, and trying to walk in their footprints!

On our way back home...............

Watch out for my feet!!!!!

We were about halfway there, in the above photo-Mr GJ had to take a brief break- note the red face- we were all (except for the Perch) out of breath!!!

Thank goodness, the river is back to creek level- but still above boot level!

(If you go to this previous post , third pic down, you can see how much the water has receded, after the rains, photo was taken at the spot Mr. GJ is crossing the water)

If you look closely, you can see the mare, just above the snowbank, safely back in her own paddock!

Mr. GJ and I trudged back thru our tracks, at a much slower pace!!!

I went back to the barn to finish the nighttime routine and feeding. The “big guy” was snorting and anxious – not wanting to go into his stall to eat!! He kept glancing thru the stall out the open barn door, sure that mutant horse was still out there somewhere! My ‘big guy” had lost his bravado!!!

So, I closed the barn door, coaxed him in for dinner, and eventually, he calmed down and began to eat.

When Breeze came a little too close, all of a sudden, the “big guy” remembered WHO he was, pinned his ears and rushed Breeze- as if to say – I AM the boss within these walls – and don’t you forget it!!! The “big Guy” was back!!!!

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Life is happy, and never dull, at Mountain Meadows this morning………..

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