Sunday, April 27, 2014

An Evenings Walk and Rigging for Heavy Weather

Late yesterday afternoon we took a nice leisurely walk around the farm and then came home and had our neighbor Roger over for some homemade soup. It was a nice close to the day and though it may not sound exciting to some it has become a common routine for us and we find it's very satisfying.

Our farm is small and we would love to have more land than the 23 acres we currently farm but I think that having that little amount of land gives us a more intimate connection with our land than if we had a bigger parcel. We know our trees, bushes, roads, wildlife etc almost as old friends and its our oasis in this increasingly chaotic world. Likewise we have come to think of our small community as the most literal sense. We care about what happens here, we grieve when one of our neighbors passes, and we enjoy the feeling of being "home" here where when we are working in our yard just about everyone who passes waves or honks and people stop by for no other reason than just to visit.

We worked hard this day and before we took our walk we sat out back and had a cold drink of water and sat a spell. This time of year is nice with cool evenings, everything is awakening from winter slumber, and we seem to get a spurt of energy and tackle big projects. The down side is we both suffer from a lifetime of hard physical activity and the aches and pains remind us that we need to slow down and use moderation sometimes. I am right handed and suffer from arthritis in my right hand that requires surgery to re-set some previously broken bones (its particularly swollen in this picture), my back causes much pain and Holly has a hip that needs replacement but we are just too busy for all that so we make due. Bandit is also aging out and can hardly get into our laps anymore and though we may all look funny going on our walks with all of us limping..they are happy and satisfied limps!

We greatly expanded the lower sheep pen yesterday which put some previously unused grass into good use while removing yet more grass from my mowing schedule.

Tulip and Cocoa really like it and we have purchased a new Ewe to join them and we should have her in about two weeks. We will then breed them all to Nike (our ram who is kept in a separate pasture) later this summer.

This is one of the barn cats who just had a litter of kittens. She is wild and we cant get close to her but she made a nest in the Sheep's pen in the barn and they all (the mother cat, her kittens, and the two Ewes) lay together in the straw and are very protective of each other. The barn cats keep to themselves and subsist on rodents and the occasional rabbit so they earn their keep and they are part of what makes this farm feel alive.

We poured this back patio for Judy 3 years ago and she planted a bunch of bushes, trees and flowers and she now has a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy life. The snowball Viburnum in the back has the most fragrant blooms and the whole area smells life a flowered perfume.
We started our walk this particular evening by going from Judy's place where we saw the Viburnum in the picture previously to the side of our farm house where this apple tree and Eastern Red Bud are in full bloom. This area was completely overgrown when we bought this place and we didn't even know the apple tree was there until the second year we were here and the Red Bud was just a foot tall twig. It was about 75 with a slight breeze and all we could hear were hundreds of song birds and the occasional cow in the distance.

We have already started to advertise for our opening day on 1 May and I believe we have counted over 1000 different offerings so far...vegetable and flower starts, bushes, trees, quilts, hanging baskets...its been a busy year so far.

Turning towards the road to our south pasture we have this Bridal Spirea with several large Lilacs in the background that are just starting to show signs of blooming...maybe another week or so and we will have beautiful purple flowers all over them.

One of our projects this year was to treat the wooden fence posts with stain/sealer and refurbish the gates and we started with this one. This was an old gate painted blue and we sanded it, primed it and painted it Oliver green enamel and we think it looks a lot better.

We fertilized the pasture a week or so ago and with the rain we have been having the pastures have gotten off to a good start. We enjoy seeing all of the wild life on our farm and we have lots of rabbits like this little guy, squirrels, Wild Turkey, deer, raccoons, opossum, armadillos, and there has been a panther spotted and photographed via a game camera a couple farms away. There is even a black bear family that has been raiding garbage cans in the area though we haven't seen them yet.
We never get to walk alone. If we are in the cattle pastures the cows follow us like dogs, in our south pasture like this day you can see Bandit off in the distance, with President Grant (the white cat), Piggy (in the middle) and Whiskers leading out in front of us. They will run ahead and then lay in the road waiting for us then repeat the cycle and we enjoy their company. Bandit just showed up at the farm when we moved in and never left, President Grant was from a barn cat litter, Piggy was thrown from a moving car and showed up on our doorstep a couple years ago seriously injured, and Whiskers was a pound rescue. They seem to know they have it good and got a second chance and they all add a lot to our enjoyment of this place.

This is a beautiful Flowering Dogwood that we have plans to highlight by clearing out some of the surrounding Cedars and brush...just not today.

This is an old apple tree that probably goes back to around when this farm was first established in the early 1900s and it is full of blooms. It was buried by Cedars and wild grape vines until we cleared out around it and we are hoping to get a lot of apples from it this year.

Its nice walking your own property and looking towards our farmhouse in this picture we can see all that we have built so far and mostly what we think is how awesome it is that we had this opportunity.

You can see the old pig barn in the foreground buried in the trees and our newest building the pole barn shop in the very back. This place was pretty well abandoned when we bought it but we could see the potential and it had everything we were looking for at a fire sale price. What some saw as a run down old abandoned farm we saw as a home.

This farm was a blank slate for us to build our dream and when we look at even simple things like this fence line we know that it was our hands and our labor that built it...we pounded every single T-post on the place, sunk every corner post, strung every piece of barbed wire, reclaimed over grazed and weed infested pasture, landscaped, planted, built and repaired structures and made the place live again. Our farm is much like our animals in that it was given a second chance and its repaid us many times over. We followed our hearts instead of our heads with this place and I think if we had really sat down and thought about it long enough we would have talked ourselves out of  tackling this.....but we are truly glad we are both romantics.

They don't show up too well but a raccoon had crossed here right before we got to this muddy part of the south road. This road needs constant maintenance and I need to box blade it as its full of ruts right now but its an interesting place to see various tracks.

The bitter winter has been hard on a lot of plants and we were fearful that our grapes might have been lost but the grape arbor is budding out and the fledgling vineyard also survived.

All of our chickens are doing well with the more moderate weather and we are looking at adding ducks and quail to our livestock...that project will follow in a future post.

Judy planted a Hosta garden that is thriving and we have lots of Hostas for sale. This corner of the farmhouse seems to suit them well and they all survived the brutal winter.
As for rigging for heavy weather, the was the NEXRAD earlier today and we were under threat of possible tornadoes, wind to 70 mph, severe thunder and lightening and tennis ball sized hail so we had to button everything up and get all the plants indoors.

We moved the plants into the greenhouses and basement and put anything that could blow away or be damaged from hail under cover.

We are together every day working on the farm and have been together as a couple for 20 years and I still find her just as beautiful and sexy as the day we first met. But even more important, we are best friends and we just enjoy each others company. I couldn't have asked for a better partner in life.

All of our plants are grown from seeds or cuttings and this takes a lot more work than it might first seem.

So we didn't want to lose anything to the storm and some plantings ended up back in the basement. Most of the storm has now passed but we are still under tornado and severe storm warnings for the next 24 hours as this storm lingers and its just part of living around here. We didn't get as high of wind gusts as expected (we only got to about 40 mph), no hail yet, and the rain, though heavy, was actually much needed and didn't come down in the gully washers we have had before. We will stay up until about midnight tonight, check the radar, and then probably go to bed and get ready for tomorrow.
Finally, since I passed my 6 months of Fire School and got certified as a FF II and am not starting college until June I couldn't let May slip by without something to occupy my time so I am now attending the Fire Service Instructor I course that starts this coming Friday. This will also require a lot of study and sitting for state exams at the state capital for national certification after completion of the course.....Holly thinks I'm nuts; me, I'm just enjoying the Simple Life.

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