The Keezletown Community Cannery

“We deliver everything but babies”. If this is not the motto of the trucking industry, perhaps it should be. Indeed, this industry keeps the world moving.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we locals love to complain about the number of trucks traveling on I81. What would happen, though, if the trucks stopped? Even for just a few days? Ever notice how quickly food sells out of grocery stores with the announcement of snow over the radio? It does not take long. How long could anyone last in regards to food supplies should trucks not run?

These are questions worthy of some thought. Not to cause a panic, but rather to elicit the thoughts of a ‘plan B’ should our food supply deliveries suddenly, for whatever reason, come to a halt.

Canning our own food. What? Whoever does that anymore? How in the world does anyone do it? Oh! Only the hillbillies can their own food anymore. It is not sophisticated enough for us. We have risen above that silliness and hard work. One might get sweaty and dirty. Right? Suppose that depends on ones point of view. We all still need and like to eat. Funny thing is, very few folks like to cook, much less grow their own food. That is far too much effort and hard work. Who has time for that anyway?

The Keezeltown Community Canner could help with many of these questions. I say ‘could’ because it is due to close this November—for good.

So come take a peek inside and see why it would be sad to have this community cannery close its doors.

This community cannery is a plus for folks in the area for many reasons. Come take a peek inside and see why.

Victory Gardens. Isn’t that a wonderfully invigorating name? Ever heard of them? They found their beginning during WWI to aid in the war effort. Commercial food was shipped in great quantities to feed the soldiers. Farms had been turned into battlefields. Farm workers were recruited into military service causing food to be in short supply. Our government encouraged we citizens to grow food to assist in the war effort. A school program was even initiated by the federal Bureau of Education to encourage children to enlist as “soldiers of the soil”. It was called the U.S. School Garden Army (USSGA).

The results were huge. In 1918 an approximate 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables were generated. The canned food was shipped overseas, and the extra was put up for our own supplies here at home. Smart, effective and proactive. It was the patriotic thing to do. By the end of WWI many folks had stopped gardening though.

Image result for world war one victory garden posters
Image result for world war one victory garden posters

The onset of WWII however brought on a renewed interest in the victory gardens. Food rationing began in the spring of 1942. This caused an even greater interest in gardening. Again, it was very successful. These gardens promoted patriotism, boosted morale, and provided protection from food shortages. The year 1942 saw an estimated 15 million families gardening. By the time 1944 came around, victory gardens had grown to around 20 million. This provided over 40% of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the US. This amounted to roughly 8 million tons of food. Is this not amazing?

A Victory Garden was even planted on the White House lawn by Eleanor Roosevelt!

The Keezletown Cannery began in 1942 in the basement of Keezletown School. It has been operating every since. It is one of the oldest in Virginia.

The cannery makes fast work of putting up food supplies because everything is there, except the food.
Innovative tools have been created to make the process even more efficient and fast. RT Hammer made this clever and fast apple slicing tool.
This amount of canning cannot be done in a private home. There simply is not enough space or equipment.

RT and Trudy Hammer ran the cannery for seventeen years. Sandra Hammer runs it now.
The wall behind the desk has several interesting articles about the cannery.
Sandra Hammer with my sister, Kay. Sandra has been at the cannery for fourteen years, the last three she has run it alone. She also bears all the expenses of running it.

What newbies do not know about canning, Sandra can answer. She is adept with the entire process. It is all run by steam and pressure. It is an amazing, efficient process.

This past week I canned one bushel of apples at my house alone. It took seven and one half hours! In October, my sisters and I canned three and a half bushels of apples in five hours. It is amazing the amount of food that is able to be processed at this cannery.

Home-canned lard. Neato!

This cannery serves as a way for non-profits to make money as well. Many a pint of apple butter have been processed by local churches to sell for fund raising every fall in this richly historic building.

There is so much to learn about food, physics, machinery, timing, providing for oneself , and of course canning food inside the walls of this cool shop.

Open only five months of the year, first Monday in July to the second Friday in December. The middle, end, and canning portion of our gardening season. This cannery has provided a great service to it’s community over many years. Located in the quaint town of Keezletown, VA, in the shadows of the lovely Massanutten Mountain. It is a treasure I would hate to see go. In fact, I’d love to teach canning to our next generation in it! That would be grand!

Preparing the jars for packing. They must be hot, hot, and sterile. This steamer makes one fast job of this part of the process.
The weight used to hold the door for steaming jars.
The setting is beautiful. Set in the shadows of the Massanutten Moutains.
The boiler room, where all the steam is generated.
We share lunch together around the desk. Wonderful fellowship time.

The Keezletown Cannery is a productive piece of community history in this area of Virginia. It has served it’s community members well over these many years, and still does to this day. To see it close would be a sure loss of vital history and active productivity for surrounding area folks, myself included. Growing, preserving, and being an active part of our food source is an important part of life that in these days and times should be of top interest to everyone who has to eat to live.

The cannery has served it’s community well over these many years, and still does to this day.

La Petite Tronconneuse (The Little Chain Saw)

It is fall. Time for wood cutting and chain saws. This post is still true today. Happy wood cutting with your chain saws!

Primary Farm Operator

It seems smart, when one has free fuel, to use it.  The free fuel here at Blue Rock Horses & Farm is wood.  With a wood stove in the  basement and fireplace on the main floor, this fuel is welcome heat.  The one thing not free about it though is gathering it.  Oh well, just another reason to be beckoned out-of-doors into beautiful fresh air and thoughts.

Moving out to this 14 acre farm last summer made two tools obviously necessary for this PFO.  First things first, a Z-trac John Deere mower was purchased.  Before the ink dried on that sales ticket, the baby chain saw arrived.  Every working farm around has a ‘farm boss’ chain saw or similar.  These are for the men to operate.  This PFO can hardly pick it up, much less start the engine and carry it!   That is why we brought the baby home…

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Children & Farm Animals

Two of my favorite subjects. That they go so well together is a big plus for this primary farm operator who runs around the farm with a camera in her hand.

Children make animals better. Provided they are taught properly how to behave around them. The very first step is respect. Some children are afraid of animals. This is a good step towards respect of the animal. I have found that children who have no fear of animals are a bit harder to manage. Mostly because they want to get “in their face” too quickly. This can make an animal very nervous . Animals of prey, such as dogs, and cats may strike at them in defense of this nervousness. Preyed animals, i.e., horses, chickens, pet birds, will run or fly away in fear to get away. However, always keep in mind that any animal will strike out if cornered. Never corner an animal unless you are looking for a fight.

It is always smart to move slowly and quietly when meeting farm animals for the first time. Extending a hand so they can smell it is a nice way to say hello. Look them in their eye and smile. Give them a soft pet on their nose or ear. Talk happily and kindly to them. They will respond positively to all these actions. Should they look nervous, take a step back and get out of their space. Let them check you out! Sit quietly, and they will most likely come to you. Yes, a budding friendship has begun!

Here on our farm, children are encouraged to interact with the animals.

Animals make children better. There are any number of positive qualities animals give to children. The first is responsibility. A child must be responsible for the way they manage themselves around the animal. If we want animals that are nice to be around, we must first be nice and good to them. We are their stewards, not visa versa. Teach your child to “read” the animal, for this is how they “talk” to us. This is learned by simply watching the animal.

Stand quietly, extend your hand and let them
smell it. Such a nice greeting!
Let them take small steps when getting comfortable around larger farm animals. Give everyone space.

Children know their own comfort levels around animals. Go at their pace. You, the animal, and your child will be happier and more confident. This is our goal out here on the farm. We want the children to know how to handle themselves and the animals. So much of this learning is carried into their adulthood as they work to manage gracefully their own lives.

The fence provides the protection for this little fella to say hello to Duke. They both look happy to greet one another.
My twin and I learning early how to be quiet and polite with a foal.
Spending time with animals is always time well spent and lessons well learned.

You are invited to come out to the farm and meet our animals. You may end up wanting one for yourself and your family!

Animals are good for the young-at-heart too!

Enjoy your children and animals! They are gifts!

Who blesses Whom?

This past Wednesday morning made a gentle, lovely entry here on the farm. Good. We needed it for the folks coming to visit. It showed all the signs of a day made to order.

These delightful visitors had special needs. “Make sure you put the canopy up for them. It is going to be hot!” our daughter called out before leaving for work. ‘Be sure the chairs are on level ground, with room for the van to get around easily”, was her last detailed order before closing the car door and departing.

A week in the making, everything was in it’s proper place. Except…the canopy! It must be set up! Our visitors must be in shade. A big sigh of relief was heard with that last detail was completed.

“We are loading up! We will be there shortly! The text came across my phone, and immediately put my two helpers and myself into high gear. “Tack the horses, Sarah! Sam, I’ve already brushed them, get your riding boots on. I want you two riding out in the yard when the van pulls up!”

Smile, and enjoy yourselves! It’s our Show Off Day!

I was so grateful for my two riding students, and their mom’s willingness to bring them out to help. I could not have done it without them.

“Today is our Show Off Day! Smile, look lively, and most of all enjoy yourselves!”, were my last minute instructions once they mounted up.

Our students were a huge help!
I could not have done these visits without these two terrific students. Love, love those smiles!

The van quickly arrived with our delightful guests. Off they came in their wheelchairs and walkers. These lovely guests were from Shenandoah Valley-Westminster Canterbury. Our daughter, Helen, is their Activities Coordinator. This past week was National Assisted Living Week, and Helen planned two visits here with the residents.

The van quickly arrived. Whoopie, our official greeter, was the first to say hello!
Our guests were a joy to have.

One group came in the morning. The second group arrived early afternoon. Time between the two visits was filled with pizza and an ice cream trip to Pack’s just down the road.

Animals have a sense of their surroundings and people that I do not fully understand, but can clearly see. They are quite, gentle and patient with these senior citizens. They move slowly around them and stand quietly for a scratch. I hope you enjoy these special photos:


Everyone got a big chuckle watching the chickens following me! #chickensmakeuschuckle

Who blesses whom? I think that is easy to see. What do you think?

Our Perfect Hostess

We had the pleasure of entertaining special visitors here on the farm this week. Our daughter, Helen, works as an Activities Coordinator at Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community. A premier retirement community here in Winchester. I will be posting a blog with delightful photographs soon. This little blog, however, is about our perfect hostess, Whoopsie.

Whoopsie is the perfect hostess by unanimous vote. This little blog is a photo story illustrating her keen hostess abilities. We are sure you will agree!

Whoopsie takes her greeting/hostess job very seriously.
She must be sure she sees every single guest!

Just look at that happy little greeter giving our guests a hearty “Hello! Welcome to the farm!”
Ahhhh, our perfect hostess is being unceremoniously excused from her job! For shame, Helen! (Actually, she had to move to make way for the wheelchairs.)

The Lazy Man

I may be lots, I told myself, but one thing I am not and that is lazy.

Is that so? The next thought begged the question.

My thoughts immediately turned on their defensive mode. I grew up in the tourist industry on a big farm. We twinsters started earning paychecks long before our hours could be legally reported. No, no, I am not a lazy man!

Yet, there they sat, all ready to go. My photographs. Carefully place in frames that added to their visual appeal all ready to be entered into the county fair. Why bother with this fair in this other county? You have already won ribbons from your own county fair. You do not want to take the time to drive all the way over there. Think of all the work you could get done here in the time wasted doing all that mess! My thoughts nagged me.

Does anyone else have thoughts like these? These: don’t do it; it’s a waste of time; it’s not worth it, kind of thoughts? What a battle! I was exhausted! When suddenly floated in the encouraging words from my daughter:

“Yeah! Go for it, Mom!”

“You will have fun!

“Your pictures will win, they are great!”

The urge to not let my main cheerleader down pushed me to grab up the photographs and head to the fairgrounds.

It was in this struggle that the truth of Proverbs 13:4 hit me head-on:

“The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”

Just how diligent am I being toward gaining my personal goals? What are my personal goals? It has struck me that I am a worker. I know how to work. But this Proverb did not speak of work. It spoke to me of desires. These are two different notions.

I do work hard. It is hard work to keep our animals healthy and well cared for. It is hard work maintaining the gardens and farm. However, I desire to become a better amateur photographer, a better blogger, a better horsewoman, a better Christian.

I realize I must be diligent in working toward my desires. After all, they will not improve just because I want them to. I must not be lazy in working to improve them. These desires add a great richness to my life. A cheerleader is another important piece to this puzzle. I did not want to disappoint her hope in me. Everyone needs a cheerleader in life.

As for the entries in the fairs? I won eight ribbons between the two fairs. It was a fun surprise to see which ones won. Call me sappy if you like, but when I saw that blue ribbon hanging from the photo of our steer, it put a lump in my throat!

I am rich indeed.

Ribbons won from both the Frederick County and Clarke County Fairs.
The blue ribbon on this photo of our steer put a lump in my throat. Yes, I am sappy.



Trouble the photos—Grrrr…..

Computers are like cars. They are great when they are running as they should. But when they do not! Grrrrrrr…….so blasted aggravating! What have I done with the photos?

Since my last post, ‘something’ has happened to my photo gallery. I am unable to post photos. I know they are in here somewhere. I just do not know how to ‘find’ them and put them back where they belong so they can be added to my posts. Man! This is so frustrating!

I need help, and am hoping my computer savvy son will be able to set it aright. Will be back ASAP! 🙂

Largest in the World

We came upon it by chance while visiting the gift shop in Plymouth, Massachusetts during our twinster vacation this spring. We noticed a postcard of it, realized it was nearby and decided to pay it a visit. Wow! Amazing! Astonishing! How did we not know about this magnificent monument?

It is the National Monument to the Forefathers, in Plymouth, Mass.

This is the description of it on the postcard we purchased: “Erected in 1889, this 81-foot memorial is dedicated to the four virtues that brought the Pilgrims to the New World: Morality, Law, Education and Liberty. It is the largest freestanding granite statue in the world.”

It is absolutely magnificent. Have you visited it and spent time with it? It is a must see while visiting Plymouth, Mass.



The base reliefs all around the monument tell the story of the Pilgrims.
The detail is stunning.

It is a magnificent, beautiful monument.
Standing 81′ tall this National Monument to the Forefathers dwarfs my twinsters.
It is this u-tube with Kirk Cameron where I learned about this beautiful monument.

I’m Glad I’m not Married to YOU!

The salesman meant every word of that when he said it to me so many years ago. I had hauled the digging iron up to the counter at our local hardware store, happily paid for it, and proudly announced I was, “Getting it for my husband for Father’s Day!”

That salesmans’ mouth dropped open and his eyes about burst from their sockets. “I’m glad I’m not married to YOU!” he promptly proclaimed.

Golly, I thought to myself, at least it is not a hand-held post hole digger! I thought digging irons were cool. Guess not.

Isn’t this a cool digging iron? I thought so.
See how nicely it has aged?

I thought it was a great tool and idea. It would keep my main squeeze in GREAT shape! No need to waste money on gyms.

And last week my husband brought something home to me. It made me think of that funny incident way back when at the hardware store in town. And this is what he brought me:

A brand new gas-powered weed-eater!
Now we can weed-eat together. Ain’t that cozy? 🙂

Hey now! Is he trying to tell me I’m looking FAT!! Uh-oh…..

In Focus? #3 – Negative Space

Negative space is an element I enjoy incorporating in my photographs. I have discovered some folks enjoy negative space, while others do not. They want the area filled in with something. Anything! Just do not leave all that empty space. Sort of like putting one beautiful slice of a garden tomato on a huge dinner plate. Fill that plate up for goodness sake!

I can understand this philosophy. Being wasteful is not a bragging point. However, I appreciate the way the negative space emphasizes the beauty of the one or two objects in the photo. Or for that matter also in a flower arrangement, and even sculptures. It leaves a space for the viewers imagination to fill in with their own experiences and ideas.

So take a stroll through this gallery. Fill in your own stories, and share your thoughts. Have fun!