Archive for Country Living

Evening Primrose

One of my favorite flowers is the Evening Primrose. If you have never seen one open, you are missing a very special treat. They open in the evening just before dusk. Right now it is around 8:45 p.m. You can literally watch them pop open.

The head of each stalk contains lots of little blossom pods.  Before opening the pod swells up.  In the picture above you can see the already open flower and the one ready to pop open in about half a minute. The two larger pods behind with the reddish tint will open tomorrow evening and the next larger ones in two evenings.

The stages of opening:

 

 

 

 

Just about as fast as you looked at these pictures, it happened.

The flowers only last one day. By tomorrow evening it will be drooped and wilted and start to fall off. (Picture below)

Years and years ago, a friend gave me a start and I have had them ever since.  They are bi-annuals meaning they bloom the second year. After they finish blooming the little pods you see sticking on the side of the stalk in the picture below will fill with very tiny black seeds.

This fall they will shatter to the ground. The plants that come up this fall or very early next spring will bloom next summer. The ones that sprout later-maybe April or May will stay little all summer and bloom next year. (See picture below).  These are tucked in the flower bed under the blooming plants.

The flowers are very fragrant and at the peak of blooming the plants are loaded with bright yellow blossoms. But this is one plant you have to sit outside in the evening to enjoy. By the time the sun is up in the morning they are on the decline.

One thing you have to remember is, you don’t just watch one blossom open. Everyone of those flowers opened tonight plus  more that aren’t on the picture.

The hummingbird moths love this plant. They look like a cross between a hummingbird and moth with the body of a moth and beak and hovering of a hummingbird.  Under cover of dark, shortly after blooming, they buzz in and fill their beaks with the luscious, sweet nectar. I have two kinds of hummingbird moths; one with a short beak that buries his head into the blossom and the other with long, dangling beak that hovers above the flower and drops his beak into the blossom.  The picture below is the long beaked moth. I don’t have a picture of the short-beaked one.

The Evening Primrose also comes in pink (which I don’t have) and it is a low spreading plant where the yellow one grows 3 feet tall. They are also considered a wildflower and if you are looking for them, you can find them in the ditch banks along roadways in unmowed areas. Most people never notice them because they are night-time blooming.

This 1-minute video shows a flower opening in real time. There was no editing, no shortening of time.

If you want to see this spectacular God-show, I would love to have you stop by (call first to be sure I’m home). Right now they are at their peak and by mid-July it will be almost over. It will be an evening you will always remember.

Drivers Ed on the Farm

Grandkids, Karla and Ryan, are here with us for several days while their folks are celebrating their anniversary in Cancun. My instructions from her mom was to teach Karla to drive. She can get her learners in March but has zero driving experience nor a good place to learn. The biggest and fastest vehicle she has driven has been my golf cart.

 

Lesson 1: I drove the pickup across the cattle guard to the driveway into the cattle pasture. I turned off the truck, hopped out and said, “Let’s change sides.”

K: Grandma, I’m terrified.  I don’t think I can do this.

G: Yes, you can. It’s not hard.

I told her how to start the truck, what the letters (P, R, N, D, L) meant and what the brake and accelerator were. Immediately the right foot went on the “go” pedal (according to her) and the left on the brake.  I smiled to myself but didn’t say anything. Sitting on the front of her seat, she grasped the steering wheel for dear life and started the truck.  It immediately started moving forward very slowly.

K; Grandma. It’s moving. How do I stop? I’m terrified!

I think she used the terrified word at least two dozen times!

G:  You are doing just fine. But you can push the brake to stop.

Her left foot instantly pushed the brake to the floor.  We were probably going one mph but we also immediately lurked to a stop! By now we are both laughing so hard she can hardly drive.  The next lesson is on using only the right foot for both petals and pushing the pedal evenly.

K: “But grandma, what if my foot is on the “go” pedal when I need to stop?”

G:  “Your foot can move from one pedal to another”.

The concept of only using one foot seemed totally unrealistic to her. After all, you have two feet and two pedals! I explained the safety issue involved with using two feet. You don’t want to push both petals at the same time!

Karla did a great job. She made it to the end of the field and back several times at the neck-breaking speed of 4 mph. I assured her she was not going fast and that on interstate you go 70 mph and that eventually she would have confidence and experience.  Suddenly going 70 mph and entering traffic on interstate seemed like an paralysising feat and she just did not know how her dad did it.

When we were done, I had her drive over the sixteen foot wide cattle guard back to the yard and park beside our car.  She was sure she was going to hit the side post of the gateway but she did it perfectly.

This was a hilariously funny event. I laughed and laughed at her crazy thoughts and expressions.

Lesson 2:  We had a lesson on reverse, signaling, the horn and windshield wipers. This time I let her drive to the field which meant she had to back out of the parking space beside our car.

K: “But, grandma, I can’t see behind and I might hit something!”

We talked about how to see behind using the mirrors or turning your head and looking. She just knew there was going to be something in the wide open space behind her that she couldn’t see and was going to hit! We made it to the pasture and this time went further; through a second gate opening into the back pasture.  We saw two wild turkeys and a coyote which was an extra little bonus.  She loved the turn signal. When we came to the end of the road and she had to turn around in the pasture, she stopped and put on her signal. We did squares in the pasture and at each turn, she signaled. But she had to stop in order to signal. I explained that when she is driving on the road, she will use the signal to let other drivers know she is planning to make a turn. This also means you have to turn it on while you are driving and before you get to where you are going to turn.

The cows were out grazing in the field and several crossed the driveway we were on. She pretended it was a pedestrian crossing. Again, she was sure she was going to hit one of them but I showed her how to keep easing forward very slow and they would move. On the last lap back to the house she reached the unfathomable speed of 10 mph. She beamed with pride!

Lesson 3: This time there was a big improvement in her confidence. She adjusted the seat and leaned back. She maneuvered the truck out of the parking spot and into the field. This time we went exploring across the pastures. She had to ford a small creek with a somewhat narrow opening and was astounded that I thought she could do it. The cattle were also out moving around and at the same time they were wanting to cross the same creek. We had to sit and wait until the last cow had crossed so that she could go. One cow was being stubborn and was standing in the way, facing the truck and still eating the grass hanging out her mouth. Karla beeped the horn and the cow, with a defiant posture and stern look, immediately responded with several loud moos. We laughed and laughed. I just wish I had my camera! Grandpa had driven in the field that morning checking the cows and left tire tracks across the field. She had great fun following them as they wandered across several different pastures.

Lesson 4: This time I handed her the keys to the car. Her eyes got as big as saucers. This was very different from the pickup. It sits lower, is smoother driving, the wipers are on a different lever and the lever to put the car in gear is on the console. She was sure she might hit something but took to the change with ease. She eased up to 20 mph for a few brief moments. This time after driving the pasture driveway, we went out and back the driveway. I noticed she actually turned on the signal while driving.

Karla is going to do just fine. We will have several more lessons tomorrow before she goes home. Each time we drove, I could see her gaining confidence and that she was very happy and pleased with herself.  It was a priceless privilege to be the one to share this first time experience with her. I will always treasure the memory.  I just wish I could have taped all her comments.

Ryan, who is two years younger was just yearning for the privilege of driving.  I told him yesterday that if he helped to complete the mulching job we were working on, I would let him drive. I had a very hard-working, willing worker! Where Karla was cautious and unsure of herself, Ryan was bubbling with eagerness and anticipation.

When we had completed our lesson, he hopped out of the truck and with a huge smile said, “that was awesome!”

Farm kids have a huge advantage over others in learning to drive. They are privileged to the open land and learn at a young age to drive a lawn mover, four-wheeler, motorcycle, trucks and other farm equipment. By the time they reach driving age, they have accumulated a vast variety of  experiences, including; backing trailers, maneuvering narrow spaces and different weather and terrain conditions.

I remember learning to drive. Daddy had an old stick-shift dodge truck that shifted hard that he let me roam the pastures in. It was almost impossible to put into gear without grinding at least a little.  The truck was parked in a narrow lean-to on the side of the bank barn that was on a downhill slope. I had to learn to back the truck into the shed which had about 12 inches (or less!) to spare on each side of the rear view mirrors and pull out of the shed without coasting backwards. Only those who have driven a stick shift can appreciate how truly difficult that was. I am still amazed I learned to do it without ever hitting the barn or coasting backwards.

Peonies

I have numerous favorite flowers but I have to say the exquisite, perennial peony has to be top, even though roses and daisies follow close behind.  I can remember my mother having a long row of the fragrant bushes on the farm where I grew up.  When I got married and moved to Powhatan, I discovered that Gene’s dad had planted a stunning row of them beside the house several years prior.

I can always count on them starting to bloom the week before Mother’s Day. They don’t last more than 2-3 weeks but the fragrance is like no other flower. It just begs for you to bury your nose in the soft, velvety petals and breathe deeply. They do really well as cut flowers and make a stunning, fragrant bouquet that catches your attention when you step into the room.

 

It is best (they last longer) to pick the flowers while they are still buds. This will also decrease the amount of ants you carry into the house! Ants are attracted to the sticky sweetness and also help to open the buds. The first, “on my own,” gardening year, I sprayed them with pesticide to kill the pesky rascals. That was a mistake! I learned the importance and value of ants.  To determine when the bud is ready to pick, take hold of the bud between your thumb and first finger and gently pinch. If it is squishy, not hard, it is ready. Within a day of being cut, they will open to a full flower.  (I just recently learned this trick from a gardening friend, Lisa Ziegler).

My row of peonies is at least 48 years old, maybe older.  I have never divided them, although it probably would be a good idea. I am afraid I might mess up a good thing. They say peonies need very little care and can produce for 100 years.

In October after the stalks have died, I cut the dead foliage off as close to the ground as possible. That is all I do to prepare them for winter and the following spring.  If you are want to transplant or divide the plants, October is the month. The first year after replanting they probably will not bloom.  You need to be very careful in replanting that you only cover the roots with 2-3 inches of dirt or they will not bloom.  Peonies love sun but also like some shade protection during the hottest part of the day. Mine are planted on the north side of the house but because they are about 6 feet away from the house they have the benefit of a lot of sun and a little shade. It has been a perfect spot.

Peonies come in different colors and varieties, the most popular and hardy, being the old-fashion white. I also have a lovely, soft, light pink and a medium pink. The red I have replanted several times, I just can’t seem to keep it.

 

Rain is not kind to peonies once they start to bloom. Because of the very large flowers and multiple blossoms per stalk, the rain weights them down and the blossoms quickly turn brown. This year was especially hard on them. We have had 5 inches of rain in the last week just as they are at their peak. Even the buds hang their heads.

I like using peony rings with my plants. You can’t see them and it helps to hold the heavy stalks and keep them from falling over. I prefer the open two-ring style that looks like a tomato cage, only shorter, rather that the one with the grid top.

Resource:

 

Super Blue Moon-March 31, 2018

This shows my ignorance but I really thought the moon would have a blue tint to it, after all it is called a “blue moon”.  The full moon was huge tonight and beautiful and I got several really nice pictures. I didn’t have any city skyline or magnificent building for a back drop, just a quiet country sky with a million stars shining.

When the moon wasn’t blue, not even a hint of  blue, I went to my friend “google” and did some research. When there are two full moons in one month, the second full moon is called a “blue moon”.  Now, that is not even creative in my mind but what am I to know!

This doesn’t happen often.  Ironically there were two full moons in January (January 2 and 31) of this year, none in February and two in March (March 2 and 31).  This will not happen again until October 2020. The added excitement for tonight’s full moon is that it is just hours from dawn on Easter Sunday. There is a more detailed explanation at the following website 201 2nd Blue Moon on March 31. There is a phenomena when there can actually be a bluish colored moon when there is volcanic dust or smoke in the atmosphere. The other phenomena is when you photo-shop the picture. This is my blue moon!!!

I also love the picture I took of the moon last night as it slid in and out of clouds. I had gotten confused and thought it was blue moon night.

 

A true story….. June 2, 2018

A friend related this story to me the other when we were talking about the very wet weather and all the flooding in May.  Years ago my friend, I ‘ll call him H, was chatting with an old-timer, Albert May in Powhatan. Albert asked him if they had their corn in the river bottom low ground harvested yet. Albert went on to explain that there had recently been two full moons (that is called a blue moon) in one month and that meant very wet weather and flooding was coming and they had better get their corn harvested. H said he went home and related the story and they had a good laugh at the old man’s wisdom.  Several weeks later their corn was standing in water with only the top of the tassel showing. H said, “I have never forgotten that.” H said, “I knew this wet spring (May 2018) was coming as I have never forgotten that experience.”

Field Trip to Virginia Dairies

We have guests/friends who are dairy farmers (Valter and Lida Medeiros) visiting this week from Bermuda and they wanted to see a dairy farm while they are here. We chose Cub Run Dairy owned by Gerald and Anita Heatwole of McGaheysville, VA for our field trip on Saturday.

 

The new dairy facility is complete with observation decks and conference rooms welcoming people and tour groups to visit.

The Heatwoles along with their son, Monte, milk over 600 cows and in the past several years have done extensive upgrades to their operation. It was a fascinating and amazing experience. I am a farm girl; raised on a dairy farm and married a dairy farmer. I know all about milking and feeding cows, bottle feeding baby calves, scraping the barnyard, computer monitoring and all the other too many to name chores on a farm. And yet I was absolutely stunned, fascinated and amazed at the advances in technology and the vast management requirements for such a large dairy. The most Gene ever milked was about 100 cows in a double four herringbone parlor which was “modern” in our time.  We went out of the dairy business in the mid-nineties.

Just a few pictures from our day.

 

A double-24 which means they milk 48 at a time. If I remember correctly, Gerald said it takes three persons about 1-1/2 hours. They milk three times a day.

This is the backside of the previous picture.

 

A neat view underneath the cows being milked. The cows and facilities were very clean.

Milking meters record the amount of milk each cow gives and the information is sent to an onsite computer.

Each cow wears a pedometer that records their steps. Increased activity signifies the cow is in heat and sends the information to a computer which alerts them that she is ready to be bred. Decreased activity can mean a cow is sick or injured.

Feeding time.

Cows have access to pastures when the weather permits. The cows were very contented, chewing their cud and enjoying the warm sunshine, all within view of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.

 

 

We were especially pleased to see they feed Purina Milk Replacer!

 

Combine coming in from harvesting soybeans.

 

 

 

Anita took us down the road about three miles to the second largest dairy in Virginia, Stoney Run Farm. They milk 2400 cows on a carousel, stopping only long enough each day to clean and disinfect the facility. Incredible. Here again the dairy was very clean and the cows were very contented.

The cows get on this ride without being forced. In fact, they were standing in line, on their own, and as soon as a cow got off, the next one was ready, anxious and pushing to get on.  Very few cows dropped manure on the ride which was amazing to us. Those of us who know cows, know how often they drop their piles of manure!! They just chewed their cud, looked around and smiled as they enjoyed the ride.

The technology used in farming is amazing and the management skills and capital needed, staggering.  Most people have no idea what it takes for food to get from the farm to the table. If you ever get a chance to visit a farm, do so. I suspect it will increase your admiration for our hardworking men and women who love their animals and occupation with a passion. The Heatwoles’ are a true working farm with three generations; grandparents, parents and grandkids all working together and loving it.

 

Bald Eagles

The last two days Gene has been seeing a pair of bald eagles flying around the farm. This is so exciting and we are hoping that they are calling this home.

Yesterday afternoon Gene called me as he was feeding cows and said he was pretty sure he was seeing Bald Eagles. They were perched in a tree down along the woods and wondered if I could see them from the house.  I couldn’t, so I grabbed my shoes, coat and camera and drove the car down the driveway towards “the back 40” to get a closer view. By the time I got there, they had circled and were gone.

This morning while he was feeding the cows he spied them again. This time they were in the field directly behind the house, about halfway to the feed bunk. I was able to pull them in with my camera and get some pictures. I discovered they were eating something dead. It looked like a small calf or deer. Since what they were eating was already dead and there was nothing he could do about that, he let them be while he got ready for church.  Before leaving for church,  he drove down to see what it was. It was a Red Fox! We wonder if they nabbed him trying to cross the field or if he died as he was crossing.

I don’t know if there is a down side to having them hanging around but right now if feels very special.

I hope I can get some clearer and closer pictures of these majestic birds. (This was a shot of about 500 ft. which is amazing for a camera).

A google search revealed some interesting facts on Bald Eagles. They nest in the winter. Their nest can be 5-9 feet wide and 15 feet deep weighing up to 2 tons!  Wow. We should be able to spot that nest in a tree if they choose to call this home.

11 Interesting facts on Bald Eagles in Virginia.

American Bald Eagles

Fall-2017

I love the beauty of fall; the smell of wood smoke in the air, the crisp, damp evening air, geese honking as they fly in V formation overhead, swarms of starlings flying in a haphazard but well orchestrated pattern, the musty smell of colorful, falling leaves, beautiful spider webs that pop up overnight, colorful sunsets, and the list could go on and on.

This post is just some pictures I have taken, trying to catch autumn’s beauty even though the leaves are not as colorful this year.

Morning dew on an overnight spider web built on my golf cart.

The James River

 

 

 

 

Spider webs in an unused portion of the chicken house. They formed almost overnight!

 

Deer 50 feet from the house.

 

 

 

Sunrise from my kitchen window.

Sunset from my front door.

Pecans from our trees.

 

Years ago I ordered a dogwood tree, thinking I was getting our state tree. It turned out to be similar but different.  In the spring the flowers have a greenish hue to them and in the fall the tree is loaded with soft red balls. I have recently discovered it is the Kousa Dogwood and the fruit is edible!!! I have not tried it but I do enjoy the uniqueness of it’s beauty.

Fall decorations and communion service at church.

 

 

Eclipse of the Sun-2017

Today I joined millions of other curious gazers staring at the once in a lifetime opportunity to see a unique eclipse of the sun. Everyone was looking up-heavenward to see a marvelous wonder of God’s creation. Did you just see the eclipse or did you also acknowledge the awesomeness of the Creator?

Several facts about the eclipse: (taken from Richmond Times Dispatch, August 20, 2017)

  • Here in the Richmond area we experienced an 86% solar eclipse today. The next partial solar eclipse will be April 8, 2024.
  • The last total eclipse for the Richmond area was July 20, 1506. The next time we will be in the path for a total eclipse will be September 14, 2099.
  • The last time a total eclipse swept from coast-to-coast was in 1918.

We put on “eclipse glasses” and I also looked through a welding helmet. The welding helmet had the sun looking orange and the glasses had it looking white.

There were lots of clouds today but I still was able to get several really neat pictures of the eclipse.

The moon is the little blue sliver.

The picture below does not show the eclipse but I loved  how it turned out.

This evening the sun went down as a stunning great ball of fire.

 

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens.”

Psalms 8:1

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the heavens show His handiwork.”

Psalms 19:1

 

A Mulberry Tree

I have never had any interest in mulberry trees. None. I have never seen, tasted a mulberry or even thought about one until today. Well, actually the “seed” (of thought) was planted last week. Today that tree burst onto my horizon and I tasted of its sweetness.

Let me tell you a story….

Last week a well-known Powhatan local, previous business owner, (Flatrock Hardware) Jack May, stopped in the store and we started chatting. I could have listened to him for hours. You see, Jack used to live on our farm way back in the 40’s. Jack has a bank full of memories and stories about our farm.

One such story is the about a huge 5-foot diameter (according to Jack’s tale) mulberry tree that was beside a pig pen just down the hill from the house behind one of our house trailers.  A tree that big had to have heard Indian tales. He recalled climbing the tree and eating the sweet berries.

His grandpa, Henry May, owned the farm but Donald May, Jack’s dad, lived here and cleared/tilled the land. Grandpa Henry owned a prized Hereford breeding bull for which he paid a lot of money. The bull was not mean, but he had developed an intense dislike for Jack who was a young lad. For Jack to go to the barn he had to go around the mulberry tree and through the pig pen to stay out of the area the bull was kept.

One day when Jack was home alone, he decided to go to the barn. As he headed for the mulberry tree he skirted too close to where the bull was chained and found himself in a dangerous situation. To defend himself, he picked up a softball size rock and hurled it at the charging bull. The rock hit the bull in the center of the forehead, right between the eyes, dropping him instantly to the ground. Jack says he learned to pray that day!!! He thought he had killed grandpa’s bull and he was scared to death of the repercussions!

The bull finally started shaking his head and eventually got back up on his feet.

The mulberry tree eventually met its demise.  After hearing Jack’s story, I found myself thinking about that huge tree and wishing I could have enjoyed it’s beauty and sweetness.

This morning brought with an unexpected wonder.  The past several weeks we have been cleaning up the brush and weeds that have grown up behind and around the house trailer which just happens to be the area where the mulberry tree was.  There are now several big stately oak trees growing there but also a dense jungle of scrub bushes, poison ivy and other trees: Rose of Sharon, gum, maple, etc. I told the guy doing the cleanup to take out all the little sapplings except for one nicely formed tree that was getting some size to it.  I was standing under the tree when I happened to look up and to my wonder, my eyes suddenly fixed on red and black berries that looked like elongated blackberries. Mulberries? This had to be a mulberry tree! (If it hadn’t been for Jack’s story the previous week I would never have given a second thought about what it was).

A quick internet search confirmed that it was indeed mulberries.  The berries were almost gone but I was able to feast on a few deliciously sweet berries. The deep dark red, blood colored juice stains your fingers purple.

I am not aware of any other mulberry trees growing on the farm. It makes me wonder, could this sapling by chance, after all these years, be a descendant of the original mulberry tree? It is in the right area.  Coincidental-maybe.  By chance-perhaps. Does it matter? Not really, but I am going to speculate on the wonder that it just might have some Powhatan history in its DNA.

 

A resource: Mulberries- Sweet but Beware Their Dark Side

A memory: When we were kids we used to sing and act out the nursery rhyme “Here We Go Around the Mulberry Bush”.

Blog post about the history of this farm:  “Once Upon A Time”.  I now have to change the history of this blog to reflect the Mays!

Whimsical Spring

What a spring!  Officially spring is just around the corner, but it pretended to start way back in February or was it January? Now that it is mid-March, I gave in to my spring fever bug and today I planted lettuce, broccoli, radishes, spinach and onion sets. Well…… confession time, I did “try an experiment” and planted some lettuce and radishes back during those 80 degree days in February just to see if they would make it. The radishes never came up and the lettuce only sparsely. The Red Sails lettuce slips look good but I have had them covered with milk jugs.

With the frigid teen temperatures we had this week, I am watching to see what will happen to the trees, bushes and flowers that have burst into bud.  March is one of my favorite months. Maybe, because it is my birthday month, or it could be because new life is bursting at the seams. Surely it is a relief to wave good-bye to the blustery, wintery cold, and just maybe, it is that burst of new energy and joyous anticipation of summer fun and activities. There is one thing I do NOT like about March. MARCH WINDS! Maybe it would be better to say I have a very strong dislike for March winds and all the millions of twigs I have to pick up from my birch trees.  It is amazing that the trees are not limbless by now!

In the spring everything is a picture; every blossom, sunset, billowery cloud, bird, baby calf,  rain storm, snow squalls, etc. I am posting below some pictures I have taken in February and March.

Morning sunrise from my kitchen window.

 

Sunday afternoon fun.

 

Coyotes crossing the pasture in the middle of the day!

 

One of my mother’s beautiful African Violets

Repair job on the farm

March ice storm.

Ice on the tree tops and trees pushing bud.

This evening…..a rain shower this evening put water droplets on the sunporch window screen.

The sky was dark and stormy and the sun was brilliant as it dropped below the clouds.

The sky was so dark and stormy and the setting sun cast a warm, yellow glow over the homestead.

The cows contently grazing in the pasture.

 

it

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