Sugar Plums in Virginia?

“While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.” So reads a happy line from the famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas. Written in 1822 for his children. Published anonymously in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel. It was thought to have been given to the paper by a family friend.

It has been illustrated many times over the years. During the 1860’s it received its’ best known illustrations. Done by Thomas Nast for the Harpers Weekly. Nast, a political cartoonist best known for his Republican elephant and Democratic donkey, dressed Santa in the recognizable red fur trimmed in white and black belt today.

Diospyros virginiana is our sugar plum here in Virginia and thankfully is on our farm. Best known as the Persimmon tree. It is also called American persimmon, possum apples, or sugar plum to name a few. Wildlife enjoy them every fall, and so do our horses. So do we! We have had them on every farm here in the Appalachian Highlands.

Diospros virginiana, aka Persimmon, possum apples, or sugar plum.

Old timers used to tell us they were not good for eating until after the first hard frost. And if one wants a good laugh at the expense of another, give them an unripe persimmon to eat. They are so bitter, and makes one pucker! Truth is after a spell of good cool nights and days, they can be eaten. Just be sure to know the difference between the ripe and unripe. The ripe is soft to touch, and has a pretty deeper color then unripe one. In above photo, the ripe fruit is in the center of the frame. Do you see the difference in colors? They grow deeper in that pretty orange-like color as they ripen even more. In the photo below the beginning-to-ripe persimmon displays both yellow and reddish colors. And like most ripe fruit, they are plucked easily from their branches.

These are only beginning to get ripe.
They look like little Christmas ball hanging on the trees all late fall and winter.

Many folks do not know they even have these sweet trees on their property. The native ones do not get very large. It is rather like a treasure hunt finding them. In springtime they have the most lovely little white blossoms. The petals curl back on the flower. But for sure your horses know where they are. They will quickly clean up the fallen ones as will all the wildlife. They are a sweet treat.

Image result for photo of persimmon flowers
Internet photo

Ours grow on the western boundary line of our farm behind the barn. This area is not fenced so none of our animals can get to the trees, though the wildlife can. I pick them up and give them as treats to the horses in the evening. So far I have not found any in the woods.

If they see me going out behind the barn, they know something good is coming.
I try to be sneaky about it. They do not get them everyday.
The pretty orange-red color of ripe persimmons.

If the horses could get to them they would eat up every single one. Much of the fruit clings to the trees. A steady wind will bring them down though.

They are sure enjoying their treats!
See how rather little they are? The pine tree is much larger.
Yummy little sugar plums. Enjoyed by man and beast.

On your next walk about outside, look and see if you can find this sweet treat tree. You will have found a friend!

An interesting fact—A friend told me years ago Persimmon wood is the preferred wood for golf club heads.

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!

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.)

Beef comes from Where??

What a silly question you may be thinking. However, it may not be so silly after all. Years ago, while at a homeschooling convention in Richmond, VA, my friend and I noticed an excited bunch of folks gathering outside the mall in the courtyard. We asked the food service fella what it was all about. He said there was a milk cow out there for folks to see! Really? All that excitement over a milk cow? How odd we thought. Everyone knows what a milk cow looks like, right? Actually, no.

A lot of years have gone by since that day. It seems a milk cow is not the only thing folks think comes from Costco, the local grocery store, or farmer’s markets. So here is another insight into our lack of food source knowledge:

Beef does not come from food markets either. Neither does chicken, pork, lamb, duck, or fish. Or anything for that matter.

This seems like a no-brainer to the majority of us. But please do not ask a youngster if chocolate milk comes from a cow!

This is not to say we all should have our own milk cows or grow our own beef. However, we would do well to remember that all these grocery store items and meats are grown with care (mostly) by many farmers. However, growing a few vegetables regardless of home location is rewarding, not to mention delicious.

All this comes to my mind today because our Herefords went to the slaughter house two days to be processed. It is one of the hardest times on the farm for me. Death is hard but it is a part of life.

Why not visit your local farms? Many farms are open to visitors. It is fascinating to experience a working dairy, or cattle farm. Have your child help gather eggs with the local egg lady. A summer spent working on one of the farms would have a lasting impression on anyone. Donning a pair of muck boots and getting down and dirty on the farm gives everyone an appreciation for the farmer that works to bring us all this good food.

Our children need to know where our food comes from. It helps us understand the hardships of growing food and feeding this big country of ours. Perhaps, just perhaps, we would cease being so wasteful and careless with our sustenance.

You are welcome to stop by our little farm and meet these critters that live here. Hold a chicken, pick a bean from the garden, toss some hay out to the animals, take a tractor ride, sit on some sweet smelling hay. You and your kids will be glad you did!

This is where beef comes from.