Archive for Life on the Farm

Natural Fertilizer-Spreading Cow Manure

We used commercial fertilizer on our fields but we also utilize the tons and tons and tons of “free” fertilizer from our beef cattle. Technically it is not free, as it the waste from the cows eating lots of good grain and hay. For several years Gene has been “piling” and has accumulated some huge mounds of now partially composted manure that needed to be spread.

After starting with his chain flail spreader, he became overwhelmed with the magnitude of the job and rented a “big” pik rite HP 380 spreader with vertical beaters from Mr. Knicely in Hinton, Virginia for the week.  This is making the job go much faster as every pik rite load is equivalent to 3-4 of his flail spreader. Or another way of looking at it, he spread 10 acres with the flail spread in 3-1/2 days and 50 acres with the pik rite in the same amount of time.

 

Vertical beaters on the back give a more even and wider spread.

The pik rite spreads 35 foot wide swaths at a time versus the 8 foot of the flail spreader.

One of the several piles he had to spread. The cows love messing around/playing on top of the piles. The calves often jump and run around and over them.

More piles.

Signs of Spring-March Madness

Spring has sprung. It is officially here even though some days do not feel like it yet. There have been signs for several weeks that spring was around the corner. The signs give us hope and anxious anticipation of warm sunshine, sandals, bare feet, digging in the dirt, supper on the deck, flowers, and the smell of freshly mowed grass, a welcome relief from the cold, colder and coldest days of winter. I know, winter has it’s own beauty and it is a vital part of our balance of seasons, but spring is refreshing and energizing.  I pour over seed catalogs and look at the stunning pictures of vegetables, dreaming of my own garden, fresh vegetables and flower beds.  Even though I can never match Burpee’s standard of excellence, something stirs within me to try again and again and again.

Some pictures from the farm….signs of spring and a last wintery snow fling (hopefully).

One day and then…. the next day!


Robins are a sure sign of spring.

 My early broccoli, cabbage and Red Sails lettuce.

Blackberry bushes covered with snow. They were already shooting new spring growth.

Yes, we had a real March snow storm, however, it was the prefect snow storm: it snowed hard, 3-4 inches, was beautiful, and the next day was gone.

Mating Season: The wild turkeys were out grazing in the pasture and the gobblers were in full strut.

 A herd of seven deer grazed for several hours in the pasture in the warm sunshine.

 

When I flipped the calendar from February to March it felt like spring was already here. After all, it was March 1 and the signs of spring were all around us. But signs only point to the time, the appointed day when spring officially happens.  It reminds me of a another season of time coming on God’s calendar.

Two thousand plus years ago, Jesus came to earth as a baby, to live among humans, to teach and show us the way to the Father and heaven. He was severely tortured and killed in the most cruel and inhuman way-crucified, not because he was a criminal but for the crime of being the Messiah. Satan did not win that battle and death could not hold Jesus in the tomb. After three days, Jesus arose from the dead, as he said he would do.  This is why Christian believers celebrate Easter. Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins so that we could be saved. To be saved is a choice each person has to make. We have to choose to believe, choose to accept Jesus as our Messiah, Lord and Savior. Before Jesus returned to heaven, he told his disciples (and us) that he would return.

Before Jesus returns,  there will be a terrible time on planet earth as it implodes with evil in a way the world has never seen. When that happens, Jesus warns us that end of the world is near. He has told us what to expect and the signs so we can be faithful and ready, prepared and watching for his return. Matthew 24, Mark 13, II Thessalonians 2, II Timothy 3, and Revelations are just some of the scriptures that refer to and tell us the signs of his second coming. The signs point to a specific time when Jesus will return.  We can not point to a calendar and say this is the day as we do with spring.  But the signs of his return give us hope. It stirs in our spirits that a new day is coming, a glorious day of new beginnings and sin and evil will be conquered once and for all.

The disciples were frightened and troubled at what Jesus told them and wondered when that time would be. Jesus tenderly and firmly spoke words of truth and comfort in John 14:1-3,6.

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to myself so that where I am, there you can be also….I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father (God) except by me.”

If this has spoken to your heart, ask Jesus to open your eyes to the truth of His word. Start by reading the Gospel of John and then get on your knees and ask Jesus to forgive your sins. I promise you, He WILL.

 

Two Good Samaritans

Gene hauled a load of feeder calves to the livestock sale in Harrisonburg today which is 130 miles away.  It’s his least favorite market to go to as it is the furthest from us and the further you go, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong and he also has to cross the mountain which is a hard pull for the truck. Now, if anything is going to go wrong, it is when you haul a load of cattle.  He wanted to sell one more load of calves this year and it was the only market open this week, in between Christmas and New Year.

In preparation to hauling the calves, yesterday he checked his pickup and trailer and plugged a small leak on a tire on the trailer. This morning the tire was seemed fine and had held pressure overnight. On the road (interstate) about 45 minutes from home he felt an ominous vibration and thump, thump, thump. He started pulling off the road and a truck zoomed by pointing at his trailer. The tire had shredded.

After surveying the situation, he decided to limp to the exit just ahead at Hadensville.  He pulled into a small country store and asked the clerk if there was anyone around who could fix a tire. Yes, Walter. He lives just behind the station. She would call him.

It is 10 AM and Walter is just getting out of bed but yes, he could help and would be right there. While waiting for Walter to come, a SUV pulled in and Gene thought it was Walter. But this guy’s name was Roger. Roger lived about a mile up the road and he had a full shop on his place to work on his bulldozers, complete with everything a mechanic needed except for a tire changer. Walter soon appears and he thinks he has a tire that will fit.  After conversation between Walter and Roger, Walter goes to get the tire and Roger leads Gene to his shop. Roger had an impact wrench and air hydraulic jack and they soon had the shredded tire off.  Walter’s tire was on a rim and had to be manually removed with tire irons and hammers and put on our trailer rim. That was a job! At one point they had a chuckle about three “older” men (62,65,68) struggling to mount the tire but they got the job done.  They charged him $40 for the tire and handed him a business card that said “two retired men”!  It turns out that Walter has worked for Roger for years. As Gene got back on the road they said,  “If you have anymore trouble on the road, give us a call.”

Gene was very grateful for Walter and Roger, two super nice strangers, who were “good Samaritans” and took time to come his aid.

 

 

 

At My Mercy!

 

This afternoon I was in the house working when I got a call from Gene on his cell phone. “I need you to come down here and set up our ladder. It fell.”

Gene and Tim were doing a “get ready for winter” project….. putting a roof over the creep feeder to give the calves some shelter and keep the area from getting so muddy.

Both men were up on the roof and the ladder slid away.  I could “smell” a story!!  I grabbed my camera and as I hopped on the golf cart to go the rescue, I was contemplating the smart remark I was going to make!!! I rather liked the idea that I had them at my mercy!!!

There is Gene perched on the corner of the structure. He reminded me of a cat in the tree trying to figure out how to come down!!! I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture. “I need a new dress and a new car,” I quipped!

I heard Gene say to Tim, “What did I tell you, we are going to be fodder material tonight.” Now what I would liked to have heard is the conversation they had before they called me. I guess they can be glad for cell phones or they might have missed supper and had to spend the night on the roof! I also bet there were some cute pictures I didn’t get of them peeking over the edge trying to figure their way out of their predicament.

I had to get one last parting shot (picture).

 

It was so fun to have them at my mercy!

All Is Well That Ends Well

Our flatbed delivery truck sprung a water leak when out on the road this week. Gene wanted me to go with him in the rollback truck to retrieve it as he knew that it was going to be too big of a challenge to load all by himself.  The important piece of information in this story is that the emergency brake on the flatbed does not work.

We drove to where the truck was parked and Gene backed the rollback into place. My job was to put blocks behind the back tires of the flatbed as he drove it up on the rollback. I had to be very careful and not get behind the truck or get myself into a dangerous position…just in case the truck rolled backwards. The truck did not have enough power to drive up the steep slope of the rollback, it would only go about half way. Gene had me securely block the back tires while he mashed the brake.  After the tires was blocked,  he got out of the flatbed and careful hooked the wrench on the rollback to the under girth of the flatbed. As he wrenched the flatbed forward, I had to keep moving the blocks forward, keeping them tightly tucked behind the back wheels. Finally, we got the flatbed up on the rollback. I breathed a sigh of relief as he raised the bed of the rollback and moved it forward into transport mode.

That was when I suddenly noticed a very distressful situation. The front tire of the flatbed on the passenger side was off the side of the rollback with maybe a skimpy inch of rubber still on the rollback. This was NOT good. We now had a dire predicament. I was sure we needed to call a wrecker to safely pull the truck over a few inches.  I could see no way we could back that truck up and keep the  flatbed from flipping off the truck over onto the pavement.

After a little thought and evaluation, Gene very, very carefully unwrenched the flatbed letting it roll backwards inch by inch, carefully adjusting the steering wheel and me again moving the blocks, this time backwards all the while saying, “Lord, help us” over and over again.  Once it was unloaded, we had to go through the loading process again.  I DECIDED I DID NOT LIKE BEING A WRECKER ASSISTANT as it is too hard on the nerves!  After it was loaded on the rollback and the bed brought up into level position, I was given my second job. I had to sit in the cab of the flatbed-way up high in the sky in a truck on top of a truck-and steer it! This simple feat was accomplished by watching Gene’s upraised finger twitch in one direction and then another.  I could not see the sides of the rollback bed as he wrenched the truck with me sitting in it forward!!! This has a way of making ones heart beat twice as fast as normal. Once into position, I had to keep my foot mashed on the brake until he had the truck securely strapped into place. Believe me, I obeyed, and there is a dent in the floor board where the pedal meets the floor!

I rather enjoyed the ride home. When riding in the cab of the rollback, you are sitting up higher than most of the other vehicles on the road and it feels like you are king of the road with a big load and a good view.

Now my friend, this picture shows the spacing of the tire when the truck is loaded properly.

The Lord did help us and I was so grateful when the truck was safely and properly loaded and we were home.

All is well that ended well.

 

“I Will Remember”

Dark, stormy clouds, driving rain from the east, and a brilliant sun setting in the west made perfect conditions for a rainbow. I kept watching and suddenly, there it was….the sun reflected on tiny droplets of water creating a beautiful arch of seven colors with one end touching down between the woods and silo right behind our house. The spectrum of colors are always the same and in the same order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

I have never seen the end of the bow touch down so close.  I tried to get a picture but the rain was blowing in the door and I had to snap fast.

Ancient “folklore” says there is a pot of gold at the end of the bow if you can find it.  But Genesis records “ancient fact”, the real story of the “great flood” that covered the whole earth, covering the highest mountain tops.  Only Noah and his family were spared because they were righteous. The Bible says that God was so grieved at the sinfulness of man that he was sorry that he had created him. When the flood was over and Noah, his family, and all the animals emerged from the ark, they offered a burnt offering to God. God was pleased and blessed Noah and all his future descendants (which includes every living person on the earth) with a promise.

God said, “The rainbow shall be in the cloud and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and  every living creature on the earth.”

Genesis 9:16

When God sees the bow in the sky, He remembers His promise.

Do you know what that promise is?

“I establish My covenant with you; Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Genesis 9:11

When I see the bow, I remember that it is a reminder of God’s promise.

It was neat to see the rainbow and remember God’s special promise this evening. I always, always, always, remember the meaning of the rainbow when I see one. I was also reminded again that God sees the rainbow.  He saw it touching our farm. God’s gaze was close at hand and He remembered.  This evening on our farm, God was reminded of a promise he made long ago: a promise that He is and will keep until the end of time.

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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A Little Push From Behind

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The snow this past weekend made our driveway very icy and slick. The 7 plus inches of snow was light and fluffy but underneath it soon became a sheet of ice. Gene scraped the driveway but because of the frigid cold and very little sun it did not melt, just developed a hard, slick glaze.  Our store is located down a hill just past the house. We had several tractor trailers in on Monday and they needed a little boost to make it back up the hill as they were leaving.

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I saw it as a good illustration of our journey in life.  How many times have I needed a little “push from behind” to get something accomplished, achieve a goal or survive a difficult challenge?

When I was around six, I became the proud owner of my first bicycle.  The excitement soon was replaced by fear but with a little push from behind I soon accomplished riding on just two wheels!

When I was in the fourth grade, the teacher called me into a conference room for a little talk. She needed to know my version of what I had witnessed in an incident involving another girl. I lied to protect my friend and the teacher knew I was lying. She asked me if I wanted her to call my mother. Absolutely not! That little push from behind made me confess the truth and I have been very careful with truth telling ever since.

When I was a young adolescence, the Sunday School superintendent would ask at the beginning of the year how many had read their Bible all the way through the past year. Two very quiet, older women who had very little education always raised their hand.  I noticed and it so touched me that I wanted to be like them.  That little push from behind has motivated me to have disciplined daily Bible reading as I have read through the Bible 40 plus times.

Back in the early 90’s, I was asked to lead the Sunday School department at our church and to be in charge of children’s worship. There was no way I could see myself doing that especially having to follow the lady who very successfully had done it for a number of years with a big children’s musical. I said, “no” but with a little push from behind finally accepted and the following years were a delightful highlight of ministry for me.

In 1978, we experienced the devastating illness and death of our five-month old daughter. During her time at MCV hospital, we were faced with many decisions and questions. One evening in the midst of a very difficult time, our local family doctor called to just check on “us” and let us know he cared and had heard about what we were going through. I poured/cried out my heart to him and when I was done he said, “Just remember, Keith (1-1/2 year old) needs a mommy, but Karla needs a nurse.” That was the push from behind I needed to say no, we can’t bring Karla home from the hospital with a roomful of medical equipment and round-the-clock care.  Oh, the peace that came from that loving, gentle push from someone who dared to see the bigger picture.

About a year after our second son died from the same genetic illness as our daughter, our Sunday School class at church decided to help a family who had just moved to Powhatan and had two Cystic Fibrous daughters. The “motivator” behind the service/care project decided I needed to go see this couple. I honestly wanted nothing to do with them. I did not want to be involved with more sick and dying children. The “motivator” pushed and pushed and finally I agreed to take a meal.  I fell in love with the couple and we became instant best friends. That big shove from behind led to one of the most endearing, God-sent friendships for my husband and I and numerous other opportunities to walk hand-in-hand with grieving families.

In 2011, I had a customer/friend who kept telling me I needed to write a blog about life on the farm. I wasn’t sure I had anything worthwhile to say but she kept assuring me I did!  With her little push from behind, I bravely posted my first blog on January 8, 2012.  Five years,  256 blog posts and 90,255 views later, I am hooked and you are stuck with me!

We never know what a word of encouragement will do for someone who had a little hill in front of them to climb or maybe even a mountain. Sometimes the greatest comes from those who thought they couldn’t.  Sometimes an unforeseen opportunity happens for those not looking.  Sometimes your life passion is unknowingly spurred by another. Sometimes you can’t see over the fence because your nose is pressed against the planks.

I believe the hand of God directs our “push”, bringing people into our lives to encourage, support, direct and give us wisdom. We may never know what a kind, encouraging word can do to help another. That push from behind just may be the stabilizing force that keeps someone from skidding off the cliff or careening down the mountainside.

Thank you to all who have and will “push me from behind”.

A Snowy Weekend

I love the beauty and quietness of snow but for a farmer it means lots of extra work in the cold, raw weather.  Rain, snow, cold or shine, the cattle need to be fed.  Gene is very grateful for tractors with cabs.

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After the snow melts, we can look forward to MUD; lots and lots of squishy, soggy mud! Snow is beneficial to the soil as it is a natural source of nitrogen. Have you noticed how green the grass is after snow melts?  The freezing and thawing also helps to soften the soil.

Snow cancels plans, slows life down and makes extra work for some.  On Saturday the store traffic was reduced to a few brave men in their four-wheel drive trucks.img_2218

Church was cancelled today and we had to change our plans about traveling to a family reunion in Harrisonburg. Instead Gene’s work increased tenfold; feeding cows, thawing water, scraping the driveway (we need to be able to get 2 tractor trailers in and out tomorrow), protecting his equipment from freezing, and filling the wood furnace (I helped with this some).

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Gene says it is exhausting just to tote an extra forty pounds of coat, coveralls, boots, etc. around!

For me snow is a mixture of beauty, a little extra work, sleeping in a little longer than normal, taking pictures, resisting or yielding to the urge to bake, make soup and play board games.  The automatic waterers in the chicken house froze and I had to tote water to my little ladies. I made party mix and resisted the almost irresistible urge to make doughnuts or apple fritters. I knew neither one of us should (diabetic) or needed (watching weight) to eat them. You can’t make them and not eat them!  The grandkids came over this afternoon and Emily, Lauren and I played board games;  “Settlers of Catan” and “Ticket to Ride”.

They say that no two snowflakes are alike. That blows my mind to think of the millions and millions of tiny and uniquely different icy flakes piling up outside.  Isn’t God amazing!

The brightness and whiteness of the sun shining on newly falling snow is blinding. While we are talking about God, did you know he speaks about snow in the Bible, his Word?

  • “Though your sins are red as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18
  • “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalms 51:7
  • “His countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow.” Matthew 28:3

The first two verses are talking about our sins and when they are forgiven they are as blinding white as snow with the sun shining on it. Dazzling! The third verse refers to Jesus appearance just after he resurrected from the tomb. The guards who were protecting the tomb shook with fear and fell to the ground as dead men.

Through the lens of my camera….taken from the warmth of my house!

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Mid-morning on Sunday the cows came out of the woods where they were bedded down and stood with their faces to the warm morning sun.

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7-1/4 inches

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Monday follow-up……

This morning it was a very cold 0 degrees outside. It was a cloudy overcast day and the temperature stayed in the teens. Even though the driveway was scraped yesterday it did not melt. It actually became very slick. We got the two tractor trailers in and out today with a little push from behind. This French man from Canada didn’t speak much English and had a hard time understanding what Gene wanted to do but I think he was happy with the help with the hill.

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October Day on the Farm

This afternoon I rode around the farm, enjoying the beauty of a warm fall day and looking for photo opportunities.

This is the end of October and there is only a slight tint of color to most of the trees.  The leaves are just turning brown and falling without turning color.  I did find one brilliant red tree.

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The cows were laying in the sun by the edge of woods contentedly enjoying the warm late afternoon sun.

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The Cowbirds were hanging out by the thousands around the cows that were grazing.  They were furiously pecking and eating seeds, bugs and shifting through the manure for goodies.  After a few minutes they would flutter to scavenge by another cow, rotating around the pasture.  It was fascinating to watch. They didn’t seem to bother or annoy the cows.

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A young calf just as curious as I was about what those crazy birds were doing!

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If I got to close they would take wing, circle around and land a short distance away. I wonder how they miss colliding in mid-air!

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 Several weeks ago Gene planted some annual ryegrass in the pastures to give some additional grazing for the cattle.

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A final resting place

Additional October pictures

October seems to be the “month of the spider”!

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Fire side and smores.

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Gene planting fall crops.

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Full moon shining through the boughs of the pine tree.

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Beautiful sunset.

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The beauty of God’s creation is all around us; every year, every season, every day.  The canvas may be the same but the artist’s brush paints a stunning, magnificent, oh so uniquely different, picture.

“O Lord, our God, 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 firmament shows his handiwork”.

Psalms 19:1

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

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