Archive for Country Living

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.

 

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Spring in February

I am loving this sunny, warm, spring-like weather in central Virginia. I have been hit with spring fever; cleaning up flower beds, trimming roses and bushes, and even though I know better, planted some lettuce and radishes in one of my raised beds. The only thing I have to lose is less than a dollar’s worth of seed.

But, this really it is not good.  It should be cold, snowy and wintery.  A mild winter has its down side.  We need cold to freeze and thaw the ground to make is soft, kill bugs and snow to add nitrogen and moisture to the soil.

I noticed on Friday that the maple trees are bursting forth a reddish hue of buds.

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The dandelions and daffodils are blooming.

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The pastures and lawn have stayed green all winter. This morning the warm sun was shining and the birds were singing their hearts out. The cows are grazing more and eating less hay. It was hard to decide what to wear to church this morning: stay with my winter clothes or bring out a spring dress. I opted to stick with winter. My granddaughter came over this afternoon and she was skipping spring and stepping right into summer!

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Later in the afternoon we went over to Keith’s place; they were riding four-wheelers and dirt bikes.

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Noah

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Yep! That is fearless Keith up in the air!

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Emily

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I was given a ride around the trail at “grandma pace”!!!

On the way home, we stopped by one of our fields to check on the trical (hay) growth and a farmer neighbor stopped and chatted a few minutes. It is so fun to watch the guys posturing while they are chatting.

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Gene has been watching the extended forecast and the weather through March looks mild.  However, Easter is late this year (third weekend in April) and I always say it does not get warm to stay until after Easter.  That should mean a late spring. The fruit trees will soon start pushing bud if we continue to have 60-70 degree weather. As much as I love the warmth and early spring-like weather it truly is NOT good.  Is this what they call global warming?

Redneck Girl!

So. I sent Summer on a delivery to Chesterfield and she also needed to make some stops to pick up some supplies. She came back to the store carrying her tennis shoes and said, “People in Chesterfield must not know what boots are! They look at you like you are weird”.  It was rainy and I can understand the boots for where she was going on the delivery.  But…

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I said, “You didn’t go into Lowes and Sams looking like that???!!!”

I am sure you can guess her answer…. “Of course!”

I started laughing. The redneck girl went to town to buy, of all things, a chandelier for one of our customers in Bermuda.

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Looking like this!

Maybe sometimes it is just better not to know!!!

Like they say, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl”.

 

Brown Eggs Versus White

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There is a big misconception in people’s minds that brown eggs are better than white eggs. Let me explain.

There is no difference between a brown and white egg. It is simply a difference in the color of the shell.  The difference comes in what a hen eats.

Commercial growers use White Leghorn hens.  They are smaller in size,  have the best feed to egg conversion, and lay white eggs. They are a flighty, more high-strung bird. Backyard and producers of free range eggs prefer more colorful, docile breeds such as Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Red Sex Link, Buff Orpington, etc. that lay brown eggs.  The more grass a hen eats, the richer and darker the yolk.

People think brown eggs are better. That is often true simply because of what the hen eats.  Because hens grown commercially aren’t fed grass, their yolks are lighter in color. White Leghorns that free-range or are fed grass have the same rich color of yolk.

Some frequently asked questions:

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  1. Are blue and green eggs cholesterol free? There is no scientific proof that this is the case. Again, it is simply the color of the shell. Americana and Aracauna hens lay colored eggs. The quality of egg is determined by the diet of the hen. Hens fed Omega enriched feed, have added omega health benefits.
  2. What determines the size of egg? The amino acid balance in the feed helps determine the size of egg. Some hens, such as bantams,  naturally lay smaller eggs. I feed Purina Layena. It is formulated for extra large, jumbo eggs. However, I have found that you do not want to feed it to Bantams or Leghorns or you will have trouble with “blow out”.  I recommend you use Purina’s Country Acres or Homegrown formulas for these birds.
  3. How do I know what color of egg my hen will lay?  A hen will only lay one color of egg. Most hens are brown egg layers.  White egg layers have white ears.
  4. Why are fresh hardboiled eggs hard to peel? Fresh eggs are almost impossible to peel. An egg has to be about one week old before it peels easily.  If you need to hardboil fresh eggs, put 1 tsp. baking soda in the water and tap the egg on the side of the pan to put a crack in the shell before cooking. They will peel much easier.
  5. How many eggs will a hen lay each day? At the most, a hen will only lay one egg a day. They go through cycles and a hen will not average an egg every day.
  6. Why do they quit laying in the winter?  A hen has a light-sensitive gland in its eye that determines their laying cycle. When the day length shortens, they stop laying and molt. And yes, this is in the winter. As the day starts lengthening, they feather out again and start laying.  You can prevent this by putting a light on a timer and lengthening their day to 18 hours. Do not leave it on all night as they need time to rest and sleep.
  7. How can I get a double-yolk egg?  The first several weeks a hen lays what we call a “pullet” egg.  It is very small and helps to get the hen adjusted to laying eggs. As she starts to lay larger eggs you will find some double-yokers.  Once she is adjusted to laying, the eggs are more consistent in size. As the hen ages, you may again see some double-yokes. I actually have had some triple yolks and several times I have had a complete egg, including the shell, inside of an egg. That was exciting!
  8. What is the best white egg layer?  White Leghorn.
  9. What is the best brown egg layer? Golden Comet or Red Sex Link. They are the same hen, just called different names. They are a cross between a White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red. You get the egg production of the Leghorn with the disposition and brown eggs of the Rhode Island.
  10. Why are the beaks clipped on some ready-to-lay hens?  They do it to prevent cannibalism. That is a very bad problem with hens.  If they see a hint of blood or sometimes for seemingly no reason, they will attack and degut one of their own. This is an awful problem. I personally will not buy ready-to-lay hens that aren’t debeaked. It does not hurt the chicken nor does it hamper their eating. Animal rights activists will disagree but I prefer a nipped beak to having a hen that is literally degutted live by another hen. With free-range or only a few hens this is not a big problem.

 

Little Things or the Big Picture

The warmth of the December sun beckoned me outdoors this afternoon for a ride on my golf cart. I wanted some holly and cedar branches for my Christmas decorations and I knew just the spot on the farm to go looking.

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Only the female Holly trees produce fruit and they are loaded with bright red berries. The boughs of the female Eastern Red Cedar trees were hanging heavy with dark blue berries. I had forgotten that they also produce berries.  These are technically juniper trees.  The male trees have small tan colored pine cones. Click on this link for a very interesting read on these trees.

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As I was nipping branches to bring home, I suddenly became aware of the “little things” in the woods.  It is December but it was a beautiful, warm, sunny, peaceful day.  I heard them first and then saw two squirrels scampering over a log laying on the ground in the woods.  I watched as they frolicked in the leaves and chased each other over the log, up a tree and down again.

I continued to notice “little things”.

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A small tree with one little leaf left at the top of it’s two tallest branches.

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Another tree with brilliant red leaves at the top like a tuff of hair on a bald head.

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The beauty of nasty gum balls.

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There were 3 sets of paw prints in the soft dirt.

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Pine Cones

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Milk Weed

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Killdeer

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A squirrel’s nest high in the pecan tree.  He certainly built where his food source was!

Depending on the day and time, the big picture can be drab, barren, discouraging…….

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or it can be stunning, breath-taking and beautiful……

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When we look at just the big picture, we miss the simple beauty of the “little things”.

If we focus only on the “little things” we miss the scoop of the big picture.

 

The Scoundrel

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This dude has taken a  liking to broccoli, lettuce and cabbage.  So do I and I do not like to share with a rodent. He has been lurking on the fringes of my yard for several years, skillfully avoiding all attempts of capture. I smoked his hole but he must have been visiting his girlfriend at the time. I baited him with fresh sweet corn, but he preferred to pick his own. He really wasn’t making a nuisance of himself so I have tolerated his presence.  But this summer and fall he began eating my veggies, digging holes in my raised beds and destroying what I planted, toting off my tomatoes (I saw him running with a tomato in his mouth) and biting holes in the cantaloupes.  He apparently doesn’t know the saying, “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

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He has been very sly and only on occasionally would I catch glimpses of him.  He has three strategically placed holes. One under the storage building by the garden, one down the hill by the pigeon pen where he can salvage seeds the pigeons dropped, and one across the driveway at the front of the house.  That gives him a fairly long run and he can haul tail!

But lately he has gotten very bold. This morning I watched him sit on his hind hunches by the edge of the garden and tauntingly eat his lunch in full view. Then he went to the sunflower stalks and helped himself to fresh sunflower seeds. He has gotten rather plump over the summer and I do not have a trap big enough to catch him.

War has been declared and he has been warned!

Plan number 2.

This evening “papa” target practiced, sighting in his rifle with the new scope.

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He set up his target.

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Shooting from close range.

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After a while I saw him setting up sticks. At first I couldn’t figure out what he was doing but then realized he was fine tuning the placement of his shots.

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He moved further away.

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Finally he was satisfied that he was hitting close to the bulleye.

It was dusk and we figured the scoundrel was “holed up for the night”.  Gene went ahead and set up his ambush area for morning. The gun and shells were by the patio door and a chair was in place to lean on.

About fifteen minutes later I spied him.  On the back side of a chainlink dog kennel.

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Gene quickly and quietly moved into place. It only took one shot.

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Rest in peace Mr. Groundhog.

July on the Farm-2015

I  have to share a few pictures that I have taken around the farm the past several weeks.

Like the rest of you, my garden is producing a bountiful harvest-except for tomatoes.

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Better Boy tomatoes.

I finally picked my first two little ones last evening. I have beautiful vines with lots of green tomatoes hanging on. They are just slow!

I am canning snaps and the okra is just starting to produce.

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We are eating cucumbers and Incredible Sweet Corn.

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The Hales Best cantaloupes are huge. Some critter was in the process of helping himself but I found it just in time. They are large teeth marks but it didn’t not penetrate the skin of the melon.

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I brought this cantaloupe in last evening and it is 10 inches long and 7 inches high.

 

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The twins.

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The family portrait!

IMG_8597The cows were contently grazing in the pasture until we rode out with the golf cart. They had worked their way up to the corner where there is a gate into another pasture.  They thought “daddy” was going to open it and let them in. The video clip tells their displeasure when he didn’t.

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Big Daddy

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Huge, fluffy, magnificent clouds.

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A deer on the pipeline. I never understand why environmental groups complain about pipelines. The gas line is buried deep in the soil. The gas company keeps it mowed. It makes a wonderful place to see, take pictures and yes, even hunt, deer and turkeys as they  pass from the woods on one side to the other.

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Venus shining brightly above the moon.

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The tiny spot on the far right is Jupiter.

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Rose of Sharon bush

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The bees bury their noses into the blossoms sucking up the nectar.

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The butterflies love the Gold-Mound Lantana

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Black-eyed Susans

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Zinna

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Zinna

 

Sunday Evening Ride-May 2015

Just a few pictures of our Sunday evening golf cart ride over the farm.

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Newborn calf sleeping and hiding in the grass.

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It didn’t take long to figure out who the mama was. She may not have been beside her calf but she knew what was going on and I did not venture far from the golf cart!

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I saw something way across the field on the lower post and zoomed my camera on it. That is when I saw the buzzard on the top post.

Then I saw the next picture….

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The one in the middle and on the far left are bucks!

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Where, oh where, are the American Pickers?????

 

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