Before the Rain Comes

Only a couple hours before the rain was to start and then to linger for the next couple days. By the looks of the sky, this weather forecast seemed accurate.

I had a weather dependent project to be done. Days have just begun warming up so the time was right, that is before the rain came into the picture. Projects that stay on ‘the list’ too long start screaming at me—“Looky, looky! I’m still here waiting to be done. How long is it going to take?” This particular project was mulch. It had been frozen all winter, and was just warmed enough now to get. The barn was in desperate need of a fresh layer of mulch all in front of the stalls where the horses live. It really is a never-ending project because it gets picked up with the daily barn mucking, and the chickens scratch it all over the place!

Over the past year our neighbor has had many trees removed from around his home and property. Much of it was turned to firewood but a heavy load was shredded into lovely, big mulch piles. He kindly told me I can take what I need. A generous offer he did not have to make twice. Corralling my daughter and son-in-law for some fast help before the rains came was easy. I knew our new SIL, Jon, had never driven a tractor and being the fine car/truck mechanic that he is with a passion for all things related to engines and four wheels, I knew this would be an easy sale. Not only that but he is very sharp and clever.

Using the loader to fill the club car and hauling a load with the tractor as well was a sure bet for getting this project done quickly. After a basic lesson on tractor driving skills and working the front-end loader, he was off and heading to the mulch piles. Just as I knew, he caught on very quickly, smiling all the way. Tractors have a way of putting a smile on one’s face. There is something magically fun about them (though I suppose if I were on them 10 hours a day I’d have a different opinion).

Anyway, it was a successful project. Rain was falling with purpose when we dumped our last load. Time to check it off that perpetual farm work list—for the time being.

As for Jon? I heard he quietly whispered to his young wife—“We need to get a tractor!”

Five Minute Friday Writing Prompt—Spring

Spring, Spring in the air!

Here in our part of Virginia frost date is in May. So it can still feel a bit like winter for awhile. However the cold is not as bitter, the ground is warming up, the daffodils are in bloom, and the chickens are out in the yard..

But the best part, the neighbor children are outside running over to visit chickens, horses, the dog and cats! Full of chatter, they happily feed the horses carrots as they visit. All talking at the same time!

Oh! The joys of Spring!

All in a Days’ Work

I grew up working in the hay fields at home on our 1,300 acre farm at Endless Caverns in New Market, Va. I always loved being out in the hay fields. The fresh cut hay always smelled so good, the rhythmic sound of the machines, and of course, hay can only be made ‘when the sun shines!’

That farm was sold many years ago. Though memories still linger, most especially in springtime here in the valley when hay making is in full swing. In this time of year barns are full of the fresh hay of this past season. A barn full of new hay is a sweet smell indeed. Folks have come into our little barn and remarked about how good it smells! We do not have enough land to make our own. It must be purchased.

Our barn is small, so we have to go often to restock our supply from our man in West Virginia. He has beautiful hay, and has been our supplier for many years. Our horses are in good care with the quality of his hay. I am a hay hog, or so I have been told. I do not feed our big horses grain, but I do feed them lots of good hay. On cold, blustery nights and days, hay is a far better feed for the horses. It keeps them warmer longer than grain. On bitter winter days, I have ‘hayed’ them three times during the day. There is such a thing as horses getting what we call a ‘hay belly’, but I have found that is mostly because of poor quality over quantity.

Most hay is now baled in big rounds. Ours come in square bales. We prefer it that way. It is more work on our part as we must tend to the animals morning and evening. However, there is not as much waste. Horses are picky eaters. Ours lick up their daily supply! I also like to shake it out on the ground for them to check for weeds, and, believe it or not, I have actually found a baled, dead field mouse in one bale. Yikes! It happens occasionally.

Time is nearing for another hay run!

HoneyPie eating sunflower seeds chickens left behind!
Eating time!
Time for a drink.

Our Meadow

Out here on our little farm, we have worked to keep the fields bush-hogged throughout the summers. This year, however, we managed them a bit differently. We decided to mow paths around the edges of the fields inside the fence rows. It created pretty paths for walking around the property. Everything likes to walk on paths, i.e. horses, dogs, cats and folks! Out in the field it provided great cover for birds to raise their young. We have watched more beautiful meadowlarks than ever before. They like cover, and build their nests in long grasses on the ground. While out walking one late afternoon after feeding, HoneyPie flushed up a turkey hen and her bunch of tiny chicks. They scurried to hide in the woods, and mother gathered them up quickly after we passed by. Another benefit is the Timothy grass. It was able to go to seed, which will help the pasture next season.

Winding, connecting smaller trails were tied into the ones on the outer edge providing an variety of paths and ways to walk through the fields. One can actually see the effects of the wind as it wafts over the tall grasses and wildflowers–very dreamy. There are pretty wildflowers growing all over, though I know not all are beneficial.

I was a bit concerned about snakes, but have yet to see any. Probably the horses and dogs keep them at bay.

Now that the good grasses have gone to seed, it is a smart idea to start mowing again so as to keep the late summer weeds from going to seed. Those we do not want to reproduce.

Another bonus is we saved fuel and manpower. It takes a good many hours to mow the fields. Summer has passed too quickly for it is past time to mow, and there is one more field that needs attention. Perhaps this afternoon!

Meadowlarks
Timothy grass
Fledgling meadowlarks.
HoneyPie loves the long grass!

Pretty meadow wildflowers

Five Minute Friday Writing Prompt–Order

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”

Rosie, the robot, always said that on the cartoon The Jetsons, as she would methodically go around the house putting everything in order.

It makes me laugh when I say it too as I clean my house. But order makes me happy and keeps me sane. Though I do not consider myself a ‘clean freak’, things must be kept in order.

It is amazing to me how well our animals here on the farm even respond to the order of the day. They know how the day is to begin and end, and are quick to remind me if I am late.

It seems our good God of order has placed that sense in all of His Creation as well. Glory!!

There is order even in flowers.

Fast Blog!

This has to be a fast blog! It has been a while since I have written a blog and I do have good reason. Her name is HoneyPie! Our new puppy! I spend every one of her waking hours with her, and have to do many chores while she naps. It has been happily busy around here over the past five weeks we have had her.

She is a Tri-colored Pembroke Corgi with her tail! We ordered her tail before she was born. Our breeder said we were the first folks to ever request the tail from him. He was so happy, he would send photos saying, “Look at that cute little tail!” He also told us Corgis cannot be shown anymore in Great Britain unless they have their tails. Docking them is not allowed anymore there either. It is considered cruel and unusual punishment. We are not there yet here in our country, but I have noticed many more folks wanting their Corgis to have tails.

So please allow me to introduce to you our HoneyPie:

HoneyPie, 8 weeks old.
Being a puppy is such hard work!
Our future chicken herding dog.
Time to catch a nap!
See that cute little tail?
Life is busy and happy with her!
She also loves getting wet. She needs a larger pool!
Running in tall grass? Oh boy!!
But it does not beat the pond…
Such a happy face after a swim in the pond.
Good, smart puppy—Come!

In Focus #8—Birds in the Hood

Catching photos of birds has always been a joy and pain at the same time. It seems my camera is always not on me when I see a great photo. Forget about running into the house to fetch it!

Bird watching has been a wonderful pastime for years, learned from my dear Aunt from many a walks in the woods. I started keeping a ‘life list’ of the species in my 30’s. I only have about 130 species checked off so far. The last, very exciting species I saw (and have only once) was the Bobolink!

Our feeder is filled daily with sunflower seeds. The bird bath is next to the feeder. Watching a bird take a bath will make one laugh! One day I’ll catch a photo of it. BTW, sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches as well (some folks insist thistle seed is the only feed to attract goldfinches). Truly, life is not the same without the beautiful, cheerful Goldfinch in it.

Another fun discovery for us with sunflower seed is how easily they grow all around the house and garden! We have beautiful sunflowers from the seeds the birds drop all around the house. We leave them on the stem and enjoy watching the birds, especially the Goldfinches, eat on them all through the fall and winter. Bonus! If your zinnias are left to dry out in your garden, you will see the birds eating them as well, plus they will re-seed themselves next spring. Double bonus!

There are many other birds around here on the farm than posted on this blog. These are the few that just happened to turn out rather nicely. Thought it would brighten the day to share a few of these lovely, happy neighbors that are all around us.

Thank God for birds. A friend of mine recently told me where she read “of another service rendered as the birds sing their praises in the morning…that somehow the vibrations of their voices actually affect and aid in the awakening of God’s creation for the day.”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought?

The Time Warp

Shirley is a granny.

She has been a granny for ten years. She says she has grown pretty used to it by now. In the beginning it took a lot of heavy thinking and re-arranging of herself to grab onto the thought of grannyhood. Gettin’ old was for everyone else. Shirley just knew she would not have that issue. Ha! Sometimes things have a way of sneaking up on a person. Age, for Shirley, was one of those sneaky little things.

Used to be when she talked about her life twenty years ago, she was a young momma with little babies running all over the place. Not so anymore. Twenty years ago she was a middle-aged momma, with a bunch of teenagers on the loose! How did that happen? Don’t ask Shirley. Time seems like a mystery to her. An enigma. Shirley remembers her momma telling her that the 30’s and 40’s were the busiest times of ones life. What she did not realize was that those years would vaporize into a vague misty memory. Her momma never told her that.

Caught in a time warp somewhere along the way. Sorta like flowers coming up in springtime. They seem to be so slow in bursting forth to color the dull winter earth. But are they? Eyes were just taken off the emerging plants. Had there been a more careful watch, the growth may have been noticed. More times than not they actually start growing before one thinks they should. Shirley finds herself gingerly stepping all around the bird feeder as they make their tiny, magical entrance. Then suddenly blooms are dancing in the breeze!

Maybe that is what happened in the middle of lifehood for Shirley. She got so busy and tied up with daily going ons that she missed that whole transition from young momma to grannyhood. Poof! It just seemed to appear!

A real strange thing happened to her the other day. Her husband, Snoot, was looking through old photos. He came upon an old family photo of them. Shirley just looked and looked at that young woman (that was she). After a few moments she quietly remarked, “I knew her once.”

Surprised by her own words, and the feeling of the vapor of time, she was caught again in the mysteriousness of it all. How can something, dear reader, seem so long ago, and yet like only yesterday at the same time?

Not that she would want to go back. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Pushing ahead into a new day has always brought joy and excitement to her. Today is a day that has never been she thinks with anticipation to herself, wonder what’s in store for this fine, new day.

She plans her days to be sure, but there is a question to everyday that no one but God Himself knows. Life happens. Shirley would say that far more than we think is out of our hands. Just try not putting make-up on a day because it is Saturday and it simply does not seem necessary. Or putting on that ugly old shirt that should have been thrown out months ago. Well, there is the ‘invitation’. Nine times out of ten somebody will decide to drop by that very day for an unexpected visit.

There are, of course, very serious events in lives that completely re-arrange one’s whole life in a moment. Those are beyond the scope of this little blog. Shirley’s thoughts are centered around the normal, daily passage of time. Those daily moments that fill a day, consume a year, and turn into decades often without even being noticed. How many full moons do you see, dear reader? How many stars do you gaze at regularly? Do you ever watch anymore the sparks of a fire as they rise up to Heaven? Have you listened to the Mourning Dove’s early morning song? Do you even know it? Are these the things that fill the time warp?

Shirley and Snoot live on a farm. Life is very much the same day in and day out. Routine is important to the well being of livestock. Truth is routine is important to humans too. Shirley says don’t mess with Snoots feeding times unless you want trouble. Routine can become boring though. Shirley has ways of shaking things up. It is funny watching her chase the horses around the fields with an empty trash bag snapping in the breeze to get ’em going. Getting the dogs and cats all excited and watching them run around like mad makes everyone laugh.

One word Shirley really loathes, and has all her life—‘bored.’ She would not allow herself to say it as a young girl, neither were her children, nor will she hear it out of her grandbabies. Life is simply too short to ever be bored.

Intentional. That is Shirley’s word. She has determined in herself that life is magical. Every day, moment, season of life, with nothing to be taken for granted. The following song is a favorite of Shirleys. It says it all so beautifully. “Don’t let me miss the Glory”, by Gordon Mote.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBfgDR8dYWI

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?

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.