Virginia Garden Tours—Winchester, VA

One of our favorite times of the year for my daughter and me is the Virginia Garden Tours every April. Gorgeous homes all over Virginia are open for these tours. Waiting to see which ones will be on tour are an exciting part of the Spring season for us. Though it would be great fun to visit all the homes around Virginia, we visit our town, Winchester, VA.

Area garden clubs choose homes, and should the owners agree, a fabulous showcase is put on for we guests. These tours are never disappointing. The homes are historic, beautifully appointed, and have amazing history attached to them. The flowers the ladies put all around each room are absolutely stunning. The garden club ladies give the tours of the homes. Owners are found sometimes out in their gardens. A chat with them adds all the more to the tours.

Photographs are not allowed inside the homes, only the grounds and gardens. You are invited to take a stroll with us around these lovely homes of our town.

These are privately owned homes, not opened to the public. As one of my friends said about one of the them on this particular tour, “I have been waiting thirty years to see the inside of this home!” It was well worth the wait. She told me of one of the homeowners who began last year in preparing her gardens for this tour!

Seeing the gardens and homes give fun, fresh ideas for decorating our own spaces. Visiting these historic places adds to our appreciation of our town and folks that live and work here, past and present.

The slate roof is beautiful.
The elegant dogwood (our State tree) adds extra beauty to this stately Winchester home.

Who is going to Feed the Pigs?

Our discussion revolved around pigs. A family member that is vegetarian expressed an interest in ‘saving’ all animals from slaughter. It sounds very noble to not want to kill farm animals for food. It is a hard, dirty business to be sure. The problem is it is not practical.

Twice a day, everyday of the year regardless of weather or personal inclination, livestock needs tending to. These are the realities of having animals be them house pets or farm animals.

But consider these ideas. Our society is transient. How many of us live in the same home our parents lived in, or even the one we grew up in ourselves? How many hours are you away from home everyday? How often do you travel? How long are you gone when you do travel? Do you have a summer home separate from your winter home? How about a summer cabin? Summer vacation?

So, who is going to feed the pigs? Day after day, year after year for all their long lives? And that is just pigs.

Yes, it is hard sending our cattle off to slaughter. I was thanked by a man recently for raising cattle for beef. He said that because he recognizes the fact that if cattle are not used for beef, they would be extinct! Because—who is going to feed the ‘pigs’?

In Focus? #2

There are three sets of twins in my family. No, this is not an April 1st joke. My mother and Auntie Bliss were twins, an older set of twins are ahead of myself and my twin. One dear older brother was our only male sibling.

I am asked all the time what is it like to be a twin. Not trying to be a smart aleck about it, I ask them what is it like to be a single! Truth is, we all have a lot of fun confusing folks!

Twins, what does that have to do with photography? I am especially drawn to mirror images. So I humbly offer to you some identical images that nature has shown me through my lens. I hope you enjoy them, comment on them, and share some of your own.

A Soup a Man would Like (as long as it is served with a Hamburger)

It seems to be a basic fact: woman like soups far more than men. Unless there are loads of beef, sausage, or ham in it. Does that sound pretty accurate?

Carrots and sweet potatoes make this a pretty orange soup.

This soup has our beef stock added to the it. Thus giving it a heartier taste, sure to please the men at the table. Though I would still serve a juicy hamburger with it too.

Beef stock is easy to make. Another good reason to purchase 1/4 or 1/2 of well-raised beef (like ours!) as bags of great beef bones are part of the order. This post though is for the soup recipe. So here it goes!

Our homemade beef broth from our beef makes excellent, hearty stock.

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

2 medium onion thin sliced

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

1 tsp dried thyme

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

4 c water

2 c beef broth

1 T apple cider vinegar with ‘the mother’

4 T chopped fresh parsley (2 T for soup, 2 T for garnish)

In iron skillet heat oil and butter, sauté onions. When nicely caramelized add to soup pot. Add water and beef broth (they should both be room temperature). Add carrots and sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until potatoes and carrots are tender. If you have time after that, turn soup off and let it just ‘rest’ for awhile. Heat back up just before serving. If you prefer ‘lumpy’ soup, mash it with a potato masher. If you prefer a puréed soup, use your immersion blender. Season again with salt and pepper if needed. Garnish: Fresh chopped parsley and a big spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. Enjoy!

Tip Dry roasted pecans additionally make a nice garnish. Also, be overly generous with the chopped fresh parsley. It is full of Vitamin C, and is great for the tummy. 🙂

Chopped parsley, yogurt, and dry roasted pecans are a lovely garnish. ~Enjoy~

In Focus?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. Most especially through the tiny viewfinder on the camera. I have taken photographs all my life. Which is now turning into a long time. I thought getting old would take longer.

The camera has no opinion of my age, though it does have a way of telling me my eyes are not what they used to be. Lighting can be manipulated, color, tone, etc as well. But not focus. On days I am feeling especially smarty, I tell folks I meant for that photo to be out of focus!

I took a photography class not long ago. The instructor said if our photos are not shared, but most especially not printed, our photography is incomplete. So I have decided to regularly post some of the photos that folks seem to like.

It would be a great joy if you would comment and share some of your photos as well. Include stories associated with photograph, if you like. Which one do you like, and why? I appreciate the feedback.

This one was meant to be out-of-focus. Seriously.

A Good Old Senior who turned 30 Today

This post is from last year when BR turned 30. Now he has turned 31! I thought I’d repost this blog as not too much has changed since last year, except perhaps, a little more white in his coat.

Primary Farm Operator

He was a keeper. That was easy to see from the first. He was the right color, good temperament, but best of all he showed signs of being the perfect height and build. Yes, indeed, he was a keeper.

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He was put together very well.

Foaled February 12, 1988 at Mom’s Tag-Along Farm located, at that time, in Gaithersburg, MD. She had big plans from the start for him. She, and my step-father, Carl, bred, raised and showed Miniature horses for 20 years. It was their retirement ‘fun’. And fun they had. His registered name is Tag-Alongs Boomerang, which was quickly shortened to BR. It has held ever-since.

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Mom and BR had many fun outings at miniature horse shows.

He was just a baby when Tag-Along Farm moved to Clifton Forge, Va. Days were full for this miniature horse who was sure he stood 16 hands tall! He was one…

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Only in Winter

Only in winter, and even then, it does not happen often nor stay too long. However, this past Monday through Wednesday was a different story. An ice storm that kept our part of the world heavily clothed in its command for two full days, and one night.

There was a frightfully, intriguing appeal to being out in that winter storm. Venturing out several times with camera in hand and hoping to capture an image of this beautiful, powerful storm kept me busy looking and watching. It seemed to want an audience. As if it wanted to remind us of just how helpless and small we truly are. Breaking, falling limbs, and trees crashing all around. First a small, creaking sort of sound, followed by a mighty rip of wood falling without knowing from where or to where. Best not to get too close. And the air. It was filled with the sweet smell of fresh split pine. How full the atmosphere was of that woodsy, comforting smell.

This magnificent storm captured my attention and imagination. Perhaps my images will convey part of its mighty story to you.

By the breath of God ice is given,

and the broad waters are frozen.  Job 37:10

What in the World are you Doing?

This is a legitimate question to one who is not familiar with this procedure. It seems so awful, and cruel towards the horse at first glance. Sometimes not everything is as it seems. In the horse world it is called “floating a horses’ teeth.” It can be a life saver for neglected horses because these painful, sharp tooth points interfere with eating and drinking.

At first glance this procedure looks so cruel.


Horses teeth do not stop growing over their life. The expression “long in the tooth”, comes from the horse world. An old horse is described as being ‘long in the tooth’ because their teeth grow longer as they age. Because of this growth, horses need regular dental care. This procedure is called ‘floating the teeth’. In simple terms it is like filing one’s fingernails. Floating grinds down the sharp, uneven surfaces of the teeth. Many times sharp, painful points are formed on the teeth. In the above photo, Dr. Rhode is feeling around Duke’s mouth to find the sharp points. These points are what need grinding down. They can cause pain in the mouth when eating, and could cause problems with digestion as well.

Tracy is an amazing assistant to Dr. Rhode. Duke was in very good hands with her.

Horses are sedated before the procedure is started. In the above photo Duke is obviously not feeling too much pain. A bright light is attached to the mouthpiece that holds his jaw open. In the below photo, it has been circled in a green marker.

The flashlight is that square in the middle of the green circle. It is very bright, as is seen in photo.

His heavy, sedated head is resting on a sling. A close look in the above photo shows Tracy’s gloved hand holding the pole steady. Tracy said Duke was very good because he did not shake his head from side to side, which makes for a very difficult job. I was very thankful.

The sling Duke’s head is resting on can be seen in this photo also. Dr. Rhode’s power drill is loud and big, but it has big teeth to grind down.

After the points had been ground down, tarter was removed from his canines. This was the last thing to do. Duke’s dental appointment was over. Good, good horse. Great vet and assistant.

Tarter is being removed from his canines.

I am not able to post the video for some reason. It can been seen on my Instagram account @primaryfarmoperator.

History Note: Before hand tools were available for this job, it had to be done by the vet with big heavy files by hand! 

  

#chickensmakeuschuckle

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones’, so advises The Book of all books. This comes from the book of Proverbs 17:22, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. It has been said that this book of Proverbs is our guide for person-to-person relationships.

This timely advise forms the foundation of why I created this hashtag #chickensmakeuschuckle. I like to laugh, and it is even greater fun when others join in! So, this is my mission, to spread lots of chuckles to all that love the good medicine of a joyful heart.

Chickens, it seems to me, are some of the most industrious, busy, noisy, funny, sweet and beautiful of all farm animals. They are never ‘off-duty’. How could they be? When one is literally everyones potential lunch? Even when in the coop at night, they all have something to say before finally getting quiet! They fill this farm with laughter every single day. There is not a chicken owner alive that I have met that does not have a funny chicken story and/or photograph.

#chickensmakeuschuckle is THE hashtag to spread the fun, joy and chuckles of life with chickens intertwined with we all-too-serious-humans. Since starting the hashtag last fall, we have nearly 500 delightful chicken photos shared. It was SO difficult picking out these ten. So to have a real fun time follow #chickensmakeuschuckle to be sure to get a daily dose of laughter. Remember, it is good medicine!

Top Row L-R: @poultry’nmotion; @whimsyofwillowsfarm; @lakefronthomestead

Bottom Row: @chickenchikita; @melton_homestead

Top row L-R: @honeycreek_farm; @farmgirllizzy; @my_backyard_paradise

Bottom two: @shortgirlfarm; @glaistighomestead

These accounts are on Instagram. I am very grateful for everyone that shares their chicken fun with us. Go check them out and follow them. They are full of lots of chicken chuckles. You too are welcome to join the fun and laughs. On your Instagram account tag me @primaryfarmoperator, or better yet ‘follow’ #chickensmakeuschuckle. The winning photo is posted every Monday morning. The best way to start the week is with a good laugh, so join the fun with #chickensmakeuschuckle.

Always a Winner- Chili

Happy New Year! Real winter has yet to start here in our part of Virginia, the Northern Shenandoah Valley. We have had snow and ice already, but typically we get blasted in January and February. Which makes this recipe a winner all the time.

It is easy to put together, and by the time your family storms through the door at the end of another busy day, they will be asking when will it be time to eat. Perhaps they are running in only to run back out, then you may catch them eating straight from the crock-pot!

In your frying pan:

Heat: 2T oil of your choice (olive, safflower, sunflower, avocado).

Add : 2 cups chopped onion, and 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Add: 2 lbs ground beef (Our homegrown beef of course!). Brown beef with onion and garlic well, drain off fat (will not be much with our beef. :))

If the beef is still a bit frozen, place a piece of aluminum foil over pan to help cook meat faster. Set pan on edge of burner to help drain fat.

Rinse and drain:  4 1-pound cans of red kidney beans. Place in crock pot.

Add:  2 28-ounce can tomatoes, 1/2 cup beef stock (I use Better Than Beef bouillon)

The goodies that make it yummy: Remember: T=tablespoon,t=teaspoon

4 T chili powder

1.5 t salt

1.5 t paprika

1.5 t oregano

1.5 t ground cumin

1/2 t cayenne pepper (or a bit more if you are daring)

Add beef mixture, mix well. All ready! Cook on LOW 8-10 hours, or high 5 hours, or on automatic 6 hours.

This chili will take the most wonderful additions. Try any or all of the following:

Shredded cheese; sour cream, greek yogurt, jalapenos, tortilla chips or fritos. Let me know if there is something special you put on yours!

Kitchen Tips

I always season beef when browning. Use your favorite brand.

An excellent way to get iron in one’s diet is cooking with a cast iron skillet. Remember, they are heavy. I would recommend an 8″ skillet. The weight and size are great!

If you noticed in the photo of beans, there was a can of black beans. That is because I did not have enough kidney beans. They worked very well!

Do not be intimidated by recipes. By trying something different you may just discover something wonderful!

Homemade is always best