Saturday, May 29, 2010

Our Farm

I don't know if you know it or not, but we are farmers. Sure, we are sophisticated urban types, but we are farmers nonetheless. (You did see my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek when I wrote of my sophistication, didn't you? I AM of course, but I work very hard to not overwhelm you with it on a daily basis.) In fact, we are currently working our collective buttocks off growing hay.

This is an arduous task involving making sure there is enough water on a regular basis. Our needs in this area have been met through rainfall, so our dancing has paid off. We must also wait for it to grow and not mow it down. This, too has been done. It might sound easy, but our place really looks better mowed and we don't get nearly as many ticks embedded in our flesh and that of our new puppy when the grass is low. This is an unpleasant thing to find on yourself and removing them from others is also unpleasant, so we don't cut at a great sacrifice. Now we are waiting for a local farmer to cut and bale it for us. This is nerve wracking as he has to cut it at the right time and we have no control over his coming, so a lot of stress for us.

In addition to growing hay, we are also engaged in growing blackberries. When we first moved here, there was so much growth everywhere it was hard to see what we had. We spent a considerable amount of time clearing and now we have to keep it up. We are waiting to see that which is to be hay and then we will cut the rest, EXCEPT where there are stream beds running through our property. There doesn't seem to be any water in these beds, but there ARE tons of blackberry bushes. Not the nice plump berries you see in the market. Ours are the wild kind with thorns and bugs and a bazillion seeds. But they STILL make a great jam. I didn't make any last year, but I am going to THIS year.

Now, those are the crops we have currently. In addition to these that we have in abundance, we have just planted a veggie garden. I would like to extend it, but it may not be worth the work. It is completely fenced and we don't have a problem with deer and rabbits, so the existing fence determines the size of our garden. We just planted tomatoes, basil, yellow squash, zucchini, rosemary and mint. The mint is for mojitos!

We have our small orchard, too. Unfortunately one tree was a victim of peach leaf curl, due to my negligence. The times I should have sprayed we were too snowed in to think of it and then spring came and I got busy with other things. So nothing there for another year. We would only have had a few anyway as it is still growing, but there were 10 or so small peaches that will not be. Next year, as God is my witness, I won't forget to spray!

I am unhappy with the state of our blueberries. The guy from Gross' Orchard, where we buy our plants, said to put sulphur on them and we did. We have a few berries, but not a lot of foliage, so I guess we will wait another season or two for them, too. I may have used too much compost, but it is old and the soil where we planted them is so rocky, thought it would be OK.

We have a few apples growing and that should be fun. All of our trees are young, so we can't expect too much of a crop for a few more years. I would plant a lot more, but each tree has to be fenced to keep the deer off and then we have to mow around them and round up inside the fence line, so we will stop with what we have and see what we get in a few years.

I don't suppose our 10 fruit trees will be a crop that we can sell, but I can make pies and jam and that is what I want them for. I would like to cut more hay and have a pick-your-own blackberry farm, but that is for the future. I'll keep you informed of the progress on that front.

Our current best crop is the compost, or processed hay, we get from the horses. It is the source of any success we might have with any of our other "crops"!

My wonderful daughter-in-law told me about another "cash crop" I am considering. It is called Air BnB and users sign up to have a spare room or house or even castle (assuming you HAVE a spare castle, which I currently do not) be listed for travelers to book a room, etc. and if you like them you can have visitors come and pay you as though you are an established bed and breakfast. It sounds fun and I am going to look into the notion. A "farmstay" in the country! Any thoughts or suggestions?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Last One

We have had a wonderful and exciting week. Tara graduated from Virginia Tech. Not only that, but she did it in three years with a degree in Biology and a minor in Psychology. AAANNND she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Is it any wonder that we are proud of her?? Of course her siblings are not slouches either. Travis is working on his Master's in Mechanical Engineering and Trista has a Master's already. So they are a bunch of smart and hardworking kids and I would like to take full credit for it, but I am basically lazy, so I can't.

One of the best things about this graduation week is that all the kids came together for it. Travis came from New Orleans. His wife, Vanessa could not as she still had school, she is also working on her Master's in Mechanical Engineering. Trista came from England and brought her boyfriend with her. They live in Nottingham and as it happened they had to miss most of the Robin Hood celebrations there, so we feel extra special!

So, congratulations to Tara. We are so proud of her. It was extra hard for her as she has had a major flare up of her Rheumatoid Arthritis and add in some scleroderma and a bit of a gluten allergy and she has really had a hard time. So we want her to take her time to get just the right job. Hopefully she can find one that suits her skills and in Northern Virginia where most of her college friend live. I am sure the right job is out there waiting for her. Go Tara! We are so Proud!

More Puppy

I had intended to write about all the improvements we have made in our new home since we moved. Granted most of them were done long before I started this blog, but I wanted to show some of the work involved with taking on a home of this size and location. Nonetheless, that will have to wait for a future entry. I am going to write a bit more about RJ and include more cute puppy pictures. I would say it is because of an out pouring of requests, but there were none, so here it is anyway.

His current name is RJ. There are quite a few reasons for this. He looks a lot like the best dog I had growing up, Rebel. I considered Rebel Junior. He also has some mannerisms of my aunt's dog, Josh. One of the reasons I had to get a dog now was because of the death of my sister, Rosalind. I needed something to love on and I couldn't be with her. I guess I got hormonal or something, but it became very important for me to find a puppy. I had thought about getting a girl dog and naming it in some way after Roz, but I loved this dog and he is a boy. No self-respecting boy dog would like being called Pinky or something girly like that, so I settled on RJ. Her initials are RJJRY, but I stuck with RJ to honor Roz and Rebel and Josh. It works for me, now I have to convince the dog to come to his name....or rather his initials.

Now I know a dog is a long term commitment, so I didn't want to get just any old dog. I also had to keep in mind the cats. They would not like any interloper, so I had to get a young dog that would be cowed by their irritability and not chase them. I also preferred to get one from a rescue shelter. I would never buy one from a pet store as I would not want to contribute to the puppy mill industry. There is an animal rescue in the nearby town of Fincastle. It is called LAP for the League for Animal Protection. We have gone there off and on since we moved here. None of the animals quite fit the bill for us. We had always had Golden Retrievers and loved them, but we wanted a different dog this time. All our Goldens had ear problems, in part because of the long floppy ears keeping a moist environment in there, so we wanted a dog with pricked ears. Lee and I both love German Shepherds, so we were looking for a mix that was predominantly German Shepherd. We didn't want a pure bred as we hate what the breeders have done to the hind legs. In order for them to look more powerful they have bred them to slope down in the hind end and this has caused a lot of hip problems.

So now we have a German Shepherd mix. The problem with this is we have no idea what is "mixed" in. He is obviously mostly GSD and hope the rest is some sort of retriever rather than some sort of pit bull! So far he is happy-go-lucky and sweet, so we figure whatever it is, it is a good mix for us.

RJ loves to go to the barn with us in the morning. At first he hated to get put in the Mule and he wouldn't get in the back, but now he hops in and rides with a big smile. When he gets bigger and more trustworthy I will work on getting him to hop in the back, but for now he steps in on the floorboards and either rests his front feet up on the seat or he hops all the way up on the seat and we have to scoot him over in order for us to fit!

RJ is very cautious around the horses. he doesn't bark at them, other than the first time he saw them running to the fence to be let out for dinner! Now he just stays to the side and keeps a cautious eye on them. They are BIG and their feet are HARD. He runs happily around the barn when I am working and eats horse poop when I am not looking. I would advise all visitors to avoid getting kissed. As an aside, he has also discovered the never ending porcelain bowl of water we keep in our bathroom that is just the right height for RJs so I mean face kisses!

We are working on decorum in the house. Rhett is very curious and comes around, but does not let RJ get too close. Ashley is still avoiding him and stays up on bookcases most of the time. We lock the dog in our room at night and the cats out. The cats have always been locked out as they think 3:00 is a wonderful time to wake us up and cannot be convinced otherwise. So they have the run of the house when we sleep and whenever we take him to the barn or when we put him in the crate, which we do when we leave the house. I try to only pet him when he sits and is quiet...thanks to the advise from the Dog Whisperer! I am using a lot of his principals for training this dog.

He seems to be potty trained. On the other hand, we take him out a lot, so maybe we are the ones trained!

Mostly this post is to show the cute puppy pictures and so you can oooh and aaaah over the puppy and I can get on with writing about other things. But like any proud mommy, I love this dog and I want you to do so, also! The biggest hardship so far is the fact that I have to vacuum a LOT more, now. Mopping will also have to be stepped up. Of course I could blame it on all the "kids" that came for Tara's graduation. Yeah, that's what I'll do. Blame them!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Puppy

I have been wanting a dog for a long time. Our last dog, Nugget had to be put to sleep and it was a very hard decision. Then, because we knew we would be moving in a few years, we decided to wait. In the meantime Tara and i did some baby kitten fostering, just to get the feeling of having a pet. You can see it coming, can't you. We kept not on , but two of the kittens we fostered. Moving with cats was tough and then we had horses and cats and it just seemed that a dog was not going to work.

Lee and I went to many shelters and looked, but none was just right for me and by this time lee was concerned that one more animal, and a dog at that, was just too much. Not that I disagreed with him, but we had ALWAYS had a dog and I missed that companionship. I kept thinking that 57 acres with horses and deer and groundhogs sounded like dog heaven and we should get one.

Last week the Fincastle Herald had an ad from LAP, the League for Animal Protection. It is a local no-kill shelter that rescues dogs and cats. We have been there many times, but never saw the right dog. This time they were getting in 3 German shepherd mix puppies and I wanted a look. They had 2 puppies that I liked. The one I didn't like had too much hound and his legs were long and skinny and looked like they were put on sideways because they toe-d out so much. The other two were a boy that looked very shepherd-ish and a slightly smaller girl that was mostly brown and also very sweet. We went for the one that looked mostly shepherd.

Lee was not a happy camper. He really didn't want a dog as I work five days and he is usually home and most of the care during the week will fall to him. Particularly as summer is coming and he will not be doing any bus runs for 3 months. But he is so nice he will tolerate this new dog. Don't get me wrong, Lee likes dogs, but a puppy that has to be watched all the time will be a big chore for him.

We intend to buy a gate to finish the fenced in yard off the basement. It also has a dog door from the basement, so we could confine him down there with 2600 square feet of room, so maybe confine isn't the right word. Or we could re-install the wire so our invisible fence would work. What we can't do is fence all 57 acres. And we can't let him run loose. Cars, trains, coyotes, bears, cougars and irate neighbors with guns will make sure we know where he is at all times.

Now I have also really irritated our cats. They have been top dog, as it were, for their whole lives. They have even forced us to give away a very lovely cat that showed up at our door, they were so mean to her. So now, they will have to adjust. Rhett is sticking around and giving the puppy the evil eye and Ashley has moved upstairs to the top of the bookcase for the time being. He has come out at night to use the litter box and to eat, so I hope things will get better soon.
This puppy is very respectful of the cat's obvious superiority, even though he is slightly bigger than they are. So things should even out soon. He has only had one accident, the first hour or so, so that looks promising. I am hoping for a smooth transition and I hope Lee and the cats will forgive me when they see what a positive addition this is going to be:)!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Our most wonderful and caring niece has put together a loving tribute to Roz. Anyone that wants to see her as she grew into the beautiful, talented person she was should visit this on YouTube. (I tried to cut and paste it here and then I just typed it in, but it wouldn't show up. So frustrating. So, unless you can tell me how to get it to show up here, go to YouTube and search for Rosalind Risser Yasui.)

Thanks Natalie. I watch it every day...and usually I cry, but sometimes I just smile and remember.

Leave me a comment and I will send it on to Natalie.

Small Town Life

When we moved to Buchanan, we deliberately chose to be here because we wanted a small town. We try to enjoy a lot of the things you can find here. For instance, two weekends ago Buchanan hosted a Civil War re-enactment. My Aunt Suzy came up with her friend Ann. We had a kick going into town and watching the festivities.

We went for the street skirmish. Rebels and Yankees...oops, I mean damnyankees, it's all one word...met on the streets of Buchanan. One of the damnyankees had earlier been a Reb, but got "reassigned", not surgically and only temporarily. It seems more Rebels than Yankees show up sometimes and so, in the interests of having someone at which to shoot, they change uniforms and cross dress, or something like that. So this poor Yankee got shot in the street and carefully lay down. Some of the Rebels, girls in Rebel uniforms, liberated his boots. Then the cavalry came to save him, but because the street isn't very wide, they were in danger of killing him instead. So, he had a miracle cure and crawled to the sidewalk.

The cavalry rides in a double column. The two men in front shoot, then swing wide so the next men in line can shoot. While they move up in this fashion the first to shoot reload as fast as they can....and by the way, they need to work on their speed... then when they are in front again, they are ready to shoot. They cleared the street and then we went for a drive to the White Oak Tea Tavern. It is a log home built in the 1600's and restored. It is a wonderful place for tea and gifts and they serve a great lunch.

The next morning was Sunday, so we went to the church service. There is a circuit riding preacher that follows re-enactments and we heard him give his sermon. There were ladies dressed in 1860's era clothes and they came, along with any soldier that cared to come. There were no Rebel uniforms that I saw, so I guess they crossed back. Afterwards, we walked through some of the sutlers tents to see what sort of things they were selling. They had a lot of clothing and accoutrements that re-enactors could purchase and books and things for kids. I bought some loose chai tea in a bag, but I have no idea if this was a staple of the time. I doubt it, but maybe they had run the blockade!

In the afternoon we went for the big battle down on a field outside of town. I took some pictures, but it is hard to see what all was happening. There were cannons on both sides facing each other. Each side had a number of infantry and cavalry. The infantry tried to draw out the cavalry and then it became a free for all, with everyone shooting...V E R Y S L O W L Y. Even the cannons were slow. Suzy suggested they drew it out because it was probably costly each time they shot! At any rate it was very loud and made us jump each time, even though we were expecting it! There was a rush of air that we could feel from the force of the explosion. A haze from the gunpowder took some time to dissipate and by the time they had been fighting for a while you got a bit of an idea of how a battle zone would sound and feel. No one got hurt or died, so there is no way to really feel the intensity and fear, but you could smell the gunpowder and feel the thump in your chest with each cannon shot. Soon the cavalry had to quit using their guns. They were too close to re-load so they fought with sabers. Suzy and I looked at each other and smiled. It reminded us of grown up little boys playing war games or cowboys and Indians.

There did not seem to be as many people as we have seen in previous years. I think this is only the fourth year they have been having them, but it seems to me the crowds were bigger last year. They had the events spread out over more days and that may have affected the size at each individual event. Also, the news had been warning of severe thunderstorms as a possibility. In fact we left the "Battle of Buchanan" towards the end when we saw dark clouds heading our way. We got home just in time. The clouds opened up and huge raindrops the size of quarters came thundering down. The perfect, dramatic end to a fun weekend.

Last weekend there was the Annual Strawberry Festival in Roanoke. It is a fund raiser to support a local school. We go to this every year, also. Not for the music or the vendors, although we enjoy the music and usually buy something from a vendor or two. But we go to pig out on the strawberries! In fact, I couldn't find any strawberries in the market the day before. I wonder if they bought up all the strawberries in the Roanoke Valley. They certainly had some beautifull ones. They had gorgeous ones to dip in chocolate and we never miss the strawberry shortcake. By then we are very thirsty and have to have a strawberry smoothie...OWWWW...brain freeze! We just love the Strawberry Festival.

So there it is. A synopsis of our wild times living in the country. It may sound tame, but we like it. It is what we were looking for when we moved here and we are glad we came