Monday, May 28, 2012

Irises as big as my head!

Farmer John's uncle gave these irises to his grandma. They are planted next to the cabin. And I'm not exaggerating when I say they are huge!

Gosh! Aren't they pretty? My pictures don't do them justice at all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Moving day

The chicks have finally outgrown their growing pens. Last week we got them moved into their new coop. Farmer John and his mom had cleaned it up several weeks ago. The new coop is in the upper building and will be where the chicks stay until they are full-grown. Eventually we'll move them to be with all the other chickens. 

The next trick was how to move the gals. Farmer John just ended up grabbing them out of the pens and putting them in a milk crate. (We use milk crates for everything around here!) The basket on top is just to cover them for the short trip from the shop to the upper building. 

We got about 4-5 chicks in each load, and only had one escapee. They were not so happy about being grabbed and put in a milk crate, but settled down as soon as we started to carry them across the yard. 

Once they made it to the coop, it was pretty exciting. There was a lot of running around, wing flapping, and scratching. They also walked around really awkwardly. My guess is that their feet were used to being on wire, and now were on a flat surface. 

I don't have any photos of it, but we added some pine shavings as a bedding for them. They then decided to kick it all around and fill up their water with shavings. Farmer John had to hang the water, and this solved the problem. 

After two days in the new coop, we found one dead chick. It was missing a leg, which points to a predator. So, this is not the most secure set-up, but we haven't lost anymore chicks in the past week. We hope the chicks will be happy and healthy in this temporary coop until they are big enough to join the rest of the flock. 

ps- thanks to our IT guy for fixing my computer all the way from Wisconsin so that I could post this! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


A kindergartner came to school today with a cast. He broke his foot last night. When asked how it happened, he replied, "Wrecked into the chicken coop."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The farm in bloom

Just about all of my favorite flowers are blooming right now. Some of them are flowers that I've planted this year in containers and around the house. Others have been there since before my time at the farm. 

The mock-orange grows next to the front porch and threatens to take over the side of the house. It smells so fresh and delicious. 


These pansies are on the front steps. They have been adding cheer and color for a month or so now. 

I didn't think the wisteria was going to bloom at all this year. It got caught in one of the hard freezes we had at the end of March or early April. However, it's come back with abandon and is climbing its way all over the back porch. 

Last are my absolute favorites - the irises. They are starting to show up all over the farm. Many of them were planted by someone else. Maybe it was Farmer John's grandma (Nanny)? My goal is to have irises planted all over the place someday!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Pipeline aftermath - Part 1

After months of pipeline work, all the heavy equipment is gone. There's no one left working in the hayfield.  A pipeline is running under a significant part of our property. The field is quiet now. No fires burning, no floodlights throughout the night,  no semis. This is what's left. 

A path where they'd built a temporary road. In the photo there is hay growing on the left, and the bare patches are where the field had been covered. This has not been reseeded. We will lose a significant amount of hay this year. 

There is trash in the field. Including this sign.

This yellow stuff appears to be some type of foam insulation. It's scattered all over the far end of the field. 

Here is the main part of the work area, with a view of where the pipeline ran up the hill. The hill has been reseeded, but the rest of the area has not. 

There is a hollow (holler) just next to the large hill, where a small stream runs. Normally this stream creates its own channel and flows into the creek. Right now, it's flowing all over the bare area, making it a muddy mess down there. 

This is one of patches where they had burned brush. (With Beast included for size reference.)

 The bright orange stuff appears to be a kind of lichen growing among the charred bits of wood. At least, that's what I'm hoping it is.

Finally, here's one thing we're happy about. All that wood stacked at the end of the field. It will make cutting and hauling firewood pretty easy for the next few years. 

(As I finished typing this post, an excavator appeared in the hayfield, funny how that works)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to our moms, and the farm moms. Here's this year's calf with his mama. 

And this gal is a soon-to-be-mom, at least we hope so!

P.S. - West Virginia fact from Farmer John: Mother's Day originated in Grafton, WV. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another reason I love living in the country

Today was West Virginia’s primary election day. So this afternoon Farmer John and I went to vote.

Now, we get to vote in one of the best places ever. It’s someone’s garage. Yep, you read that correctly. We drive about 6 miles up the road to someone’s house, park in their yard, and walk right into the garage. It is a nice garage – complete with concrete floors and a small bathroom, but still, it is a garage. The d├ęcor includes a “Papaw” license plate nailed to the wall, large tool bench, and at least 5 mounted deer heads.

When we walk in we are greeted by six ladies, the same ladies that greet us each time we vote. They are always friendly and seem happy to see us. Ruby – who appears to be the crone of the group – checks us in. She calls Farmer John “the Jennings boy” and remembers that I have different last name. (I can only imagine what they say when we leave!) After we vote, Shirley takes our tickets and we head back to the farm.

Today was a bit different than our usual voting experience. We had to wait to vote. There were four people ahead of us. Well, everyone got to chatting – not about politics, or local gossip, or even the weather. We talked about everyone’s gardens. Who got their potatoes in first, who’s crops were up, who still had potatoes left? There was some debate about planting under the signs or with the moon. Some people swore by “The Almanac”. One fellow voter talked about how big his potato plants got last year, while Ruby put her two-cents in about seed potatoes (“they’re worthless if they’re sprayed”). Eventually the conversation died down and we did our civic duty, gave the resident horse a pet on the nose, and headed down the gravel lane back towards home. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Dinner tonight was a big garden salad and bread. It also came with a beautiful evening full of birds singing, cows grazing and swallows swooping. Spring meals are some of our favorites! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fresh pasture

Last year we began doing some rotational grazing on the farm. This means we move the cows when they have eaten their pasture, and put them on fresh grass. We don't do it as intensely and purposefully as some farmers, but we do our best. This past Sunday we moved them again.  

First, Farmer John mowed a path where the temporary fence posts would be placed. Mowing helps in two ways. First, it prevents the electric fence from grounding out on high grass. Second, it (hopefully) discourages the cattle from pushing through the fence to get to greener grass. 

Next, he set up the posts. They run in a path from near the chicken coop, around part of the hayfield and back up the hill. It's hard to tell, but the next photo shows almost the whole area that we fenced off, not including the two garden patches. 

After the posts were in place with three insulators, we began stringing the electric rope. Farmer John got a nice spool to help with stringing rope and cleaning up when we move it again. This prevents the massive knot we had to deal with last year.

Last year we only strung two lines of electric, and we were constantly herding the cows back to where they belong. The cows would push their way under the lowest line to get to the grass on the other side. They didn't get a shock because their horns were what was touching the line. This year we strung three lines. Hopefully the very lowest line will zap their nose and not their horns, and keep them inside the fence. 

After all the fence was in place, and getting a good charge, we started the best part - moving the cows. This involves Farmer John yelling "Heyyy shaggy coos!!!", and several in the herd come running. Here he is with the first cow to enter the new pasture. 

As soon as they cross into the old fence line and onto the fresh grass the munching begins. They are like huge lawnmowers chomping away. 

A couple got confused as to how to get into the pasture, and ended up headed towards the barn. Farmer John herded them back up the hill and I got them headed through the open part of the fence. 

Highland cows on lush grass makes everyone around here very happy. It's tricky to see, but that big guy is smiling. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's new?

What's new around here? The garden is growing. So far we have lettuce, spinach, peas, onions, dill, collards, more lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage in the ground. They have all survived the swings between frosty mornings and 80-degree afternoons. 

Despite all that being in the ground, the only thing we're eating from the garden is the lettuce. It's delicious!

The chicks are getting BIG! Farmer John and his mom got a new coop set up last week. But, the gals aren't quite ready to move just yet. For now they'll keep hanging out in their pens. We gave them a little more space by hanging water and food troughs on the outside of the pens. They can reach their heads through the wire to get whatever they need. 

And....look at that lush grass. More about that soon. 

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