Spotted in the Backyard

About an hour after many neighbors spotted a bear on our road at morning bus stop time, I looked out the window and spotted this:

A wild turkey.

She wouldn’t let me close enough to get a decent picture (this is cropped so you can see her better).

This kind of visitor is far preferable to bears, foxes and raccoons, that’s for sure.

Surprised By Lilacs

Have I ever mentioned that lilacs are my all – time favorite flower?

I like a lot of flowers, really, and it’s hard to pick a favorite.  Peonies have a special place in my heart because their scent never fails to remind me of my grandmother.  Ann Magnolia trees with their giant pink saucer – shaped flowers remind  me of spring in New Jersey as a child, when it seemed to me they were everywhere.  When the wind blew and the loose petals would fill the air I thought there could be nothing more magical. It was like a fairy tale.

But lilacs. Beautiful white and purple lilacs.  They have the best scent of any flower, bar none.

My grandparents had lilac bushes growing near the hotel (as well as the peonies….and mulberry trees!!) and I have a photo of me at about Neve’s age, with my messy and super – white hair, sitting in the grass holding a giant bunch of lovely lilacs.

Later when we lived up in the Adirondacks the springtime was full of lilac trees everywhere.  Growing all over the roadsides and in backyards.  You could stop almost anywhere and pick as much as you could carry, and it wouldn’t leave even a dent in those huge, densely packed branches. Then we;d bring them home and put them in vases all over the house and the scent of lilacs would faintly waft all through the house.

I miss that.

Since we moved to the south it has been much more difficult to come across lilacs.  Either they are just not as popular here or the growing conditions aren’t quite right.   I’m not really sure.  Some people here certainly have them, but they were fairly hard won – a lot of soil amending and proper placement and care and whatnot.

A few years ago (3 years?  maybe 4) my mother gave me a small lilac sapling that was supposed to be just right for our climate.  I was excited, but cautiously so.

I planted it and kept an eye on it but every spring since I have gotten nothing but a mass of dark green foliage.  Pretty, but no flowers.

This spring I’ve been so distracted by all the stressful things going on that I didn’t even notice until I was bumbling by the tree on my way to the chickens that it had bloomed.

Two large, beautiful, perfect purple cones of lilacs.  What a moment that was.  I didn’t dare cut them to bring them in.

When I came out of my moment I realized that spring had bloomed all around me and I had barely noticed.  How awful , to not even have noticed the brief and beautiful display going on all around me!

The azaleas were fairly shouting for attention!

When we finally move, I will be digging up that lilac tree and taking it with me, as a reminder to never be too shut down to notice the beauty around me.

And I am so buying more of them to plant!!!

Susie’s Warming the World

My dear friend Susie is at it again.  She’s hit on a simple yet brilliant idea; one which should be staring all of us in the face if we’d only take time outside of our busy little bubbles and see.  I am re-posting her blog from earlier this week here and will be doing my part to carry it forward.  Will you????

A couple of weeks ago, I was on the way Washington D.C. for a meeting with Tanis when I pulled into a convenience store for a Diet Pepsi. On the way back to my car, I noticed a homeless man huddled up by the side of the building, trying to make himself as small a target as possible for the bitter cold wind. He was bared-headed and his coat would have been inadequate on a day that was 10 degrees warmer.

After I got back in my warm car, after I turned on my seat heaters and adjusted the heat to full blast, after I took my wool coat off because I was suddenly too hot, I realized how miserable I was spending less than a minute out in that cold and wondered what it must be like to have to live in it.

And then I glanced into my back seat and saw a giant box, over flowing with the lovely Red Scarves we, you and I, made for the Red Scarf Project. I wondered briefly if I should have given him one, if the maker would mind it going to a cold homeless man rather than it’s intended recipient, but by then I had arrived at my destination and I put the idea and the man out of my mind.

He wasn’t out of my mind for long though. I have spend some part of every day since then just sick about the fact that I didn’t think to give him a scarf. I can tell you this without a moments hesitation: if I had seen a dog suffering in the cold they way that man was, I would not have walked away and left it there. I know I wouldn’t have.

I can’t imagine how cold he much have been. I can’t imagine the turns his life took to get him to that parking lot. I can’t imagine the misery. I’ve tried. I just can’t.

There is another box of scarves in my back seat right now. Scarves and hats and a few pair of mis-matched gloves. The next time I see someone who looks cold, I will step out of my toasty car and my comfort zone and offer him or her something to help keep them a little warmer.

And I’m asking you to do the same. Please go through your closets and make a pile of the hats, scarves and gloves no one wears and put them in a bag in your car. If you have the time and the inclination, it would be lovely to include a couple of hand knit scarves and hats as well. It doesn’t need to be fancy- warmth is what we’re aiming for here.

I briefly considered turning this into some kind of giveaway but then I realized that would be silly. You are lovely, kind, amazing people and you won’t need any incentive. Please do this for me.

Fabulous Shearing Weekend!

What a weekend!

The fall shearing celebration at Juniper Moon Farm was this past Saturday and it brought not only an excuse to snag wool and watch Emily the Shearer at her art,  it also brought many of my friends from their various corners of the US to stay at the farm.  The weather was gorgeous, the food was excellent, and all of the people made the day just perfect.

Wool, sheep, goats, friends, food, perfect fall weather.  Ummm, I didn’t die and go to heaven, did I?

To see more pictures please check out Susie’s blog.

Old Farm Day!

Today was one of my favorite days of the year.  Our county holds “Old Farm Day” every October to showcase local farmers, 4H groups and small businesses, as well as antique cars and farm equipment.  As if October needed anything to make it better!!!

The weather was perfect this year as well.  After a week of rain the skies cleared and the sun came out and warmed us up to about the  mid 7o’s.  The smell of hay, pulled pork bbq and funnel cake was in the air and there was a light breeze.  Cows mooed, sheep and goats baa’d and children were squealing with delight.


Emily reeeeeeeaaaaallly wanted these.  I am not positive, but I believe they are Exchequer Leghorns.

Sheep!!!  There was also a Rambouillet lamb for auction.  Oh, if only.

I want one of these portable sawmills.  Think of all the fencing I could make!!!!

Beautiful mule getting a nice mani/pedi.

This look says, “Oh please may I have this puppy????”

$5 pony rides.  EACH. These people know how to support their pony upkeep!

Mechanical Bull rides.  Also $5 each.  Emily lasted 8 seconds.

Neve lasted 22.

Emily maintains that they set it on an easier speed for Neve, and that she was therefore “robbed”.

Open – kettle apple butter.  Yummy!!!!  I am going to make some stove – top apple butter tomorrow, I think, and can it.

Oona loved riding on Brittney’s shoulders.  She was one tired little baby by the time we left.

I was pretty tired, too.

It’s a lot of work having this much fun.  Can’t wait for next year!!!

A Tiny Visitor

We had a tiny visitor here the other day. I have no idea how Paul even spotted him.

He was dang cute, though.

Look at that little froggy!!!

After we were done “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” over him I placed in him the garden, where I hope he’s safer than in the driveway or garage.

Lovely Japser- cat scratch on my hand, no?

Got Poison Ivy?

We won’t.

This little girl is a mighty ivy eater.  She inhales it like fine cuisine.

I’ve been taking her out of the fence to eat all the weeds that are cropping up.  Today I’ll be turning the electric off and having her walk the perimeter – there’s a ton of the poison stuff threatening to overtake the wires, which would short out the fence.  The bad thing about poison ivy is it’s very difficult to get rid of.  If you pull it all out you have to be very careful to wear protective clothing and thoroughly clean whatever tools you use.  You also run the risk that it will all grow right back if you don’t remove all the root vines and seeds.

Spraying weed killer is another option, but then you’re using poison (and I personally don’t like using poison unless I have to; more so because we have a well, and whatever goes into the ground…..eventually goes in the well.   Hear that Chem-Lawn???  Stop sending me flyers!) Plus we broke down the second year we lived here and sprayed like mad after I got two heinous cases of poison ivy rash.  Let me tell you…… all came right back.

However, a hungry goat is a great option.  A lot of towns all over the US use goats to clear out invasive and unwanted plants from public lands.   Check out this one.  It’s a win – win.  In many cases the goats are loaned by a local farm for the duration of the clearing.  The farmer gets free food for his goats, the town gets free weed control.  Goat droppings are not an issue; they’re practically pure compost.  (just like llama droppings!)

Milkshakes is really in her element when we’re out clearing plants.  She mows it down fast and efficiently.  As we clear out our property we hope to be able to move the animals around as needed to clear out brush – both for their benefit and ours.

The babies have also been eating grain and hay and soon should be ready to partake in weed control as well.  Milkshakes is growing impatient with nursing them.  As a mother who breast – fed 3 babies for almost 2 years each……I can totally relate.  Having someone hanging off you all the time can get rather old.

Jerry will get his turn outside the fence eventually.  First he needs to learn to respond properly to haltering and walking on a lead.  I’ve gone out a few time since his “brain removal surgery” and gotten the halter on him – not without a fair amount of trouble I may add – but I can do it.  Then he can help with the stuff growing higher up.

The chickens and guineas…….we’re getting about 4 eggs a day now, but the ticks are pretty bad.  Guineas are fabulous tick control, but we only have two.  If we had a lot of land and not a lot of neighbors I’d get a whole flock of them and make darn sure we didn’t have ticks.  But the thing is….they’re really, really loud (don’t believe me? This is what we hear every day).

So, no more guineas for now, and the chickens will have to deal with staying inside the pen to avoid being eaten by something.

Someone should tell Mabel.

Can I come in????

Mud Slinging

Somewhere in this picture there is an epic fail.

Need a closer look?

Still don’t see it????

How about now???


Paul’s got this thing, you see.  This thing where he has to get something stuck in the mud at least twice a year.  I don’t even bother mentioning it anymore because it’s no longer newsworthy.  Plus he generally is able to manage the situation on his own.  Occasionally, though……he gets in over his head.  Or in this case, WAY over his head.

This is a rented bobcat.  We’re clearing out the back acreage to make room for the pool, the animals, and a big garage.  Our neighbor Jack is likewise extending out his yard, fence, and house.  So they rented this big toy.  It’s the kind they recommend for work in muddy, swampy conditions.  Because it’s not supposed to get stuck.

He tried digging it out with shovels.  I felt pretty sure that if he kept up with that he would just make that thing sink deeper and deeper.  The place where the machine got stuck is smack dab in the middle of the stream out back and the water was rising every time more mud was removed from the scene.  Time to call in a tow truck.

Big truck.  With a winch and lots of pulling power.  Oh, and a total wuss behind the wheel.

The winch wasn’t powerful enough.  He didn’t want to back the truck too close to the mud, and he certainly wasn’t going to drive down the powerline path on the other side of the stream to pull the bobcat out that way.  He wanted to try driving it out instead.  I don’t know why he thought it would work.  I think he managed to get it stuck even worse.  $175 later we still had a stuck machine on our hands.

So our neighbor, Jack, did what the tow truck guy wouldn’t.  He drove down the power line path to try and pull it out from that side.

This is when I started to feel the frustration that these guys must have felt.  Jack’s truck just didn’t have the power to pull it out – but that tow truck could have done it without a doubt.

So we called in further reinforcements.

Another neighbor, with a much more powerful winch.

Who then got stuck and had to be pulled out.

Jerry snacked on some trees while keeping one eye on the excitement around him.

He doesn’t understand why we would want to play with such big toys to begin with.

Once all of the rescue vehicles were unstuck we hooked up the big, bad, super duty winch to the bobcat……….and after almost a day’s worth of trying, failing, worrying, trying again, failing again and worrying some more……they pulled it right out.  Just like that.  Like it had never been stuck at all.

After that Paul drove it down the power line path and out onto the road to come around back home.

Wonder why he didn’t just drive through the stream again????????????

p.s.   I need a shower now.

Happy Birthday TJ??

I just realized it’s already April 13, and only because all of my fellow UVa alums have been wishing Thomas Jefferson a “Happy Birthday” today on Facebook.  It unfortunately make me vomit a little bit to think of UVa because it was such a tough time for me, both as a student and as a staffer.  At the same time, I realize just how much happier I am now, and how far I’ve come since then.  I finally feel like I am on the path I have always wanted to be on, but just couldn’t quite get to.  So I promise I won’t UVa bash.  Too badly. It’s pretty great to be able to say I am finally doing what makes me happy and I have lots of friends and supporters to keep me going at it.  Thanks all of you!!!!

April 13 also means we are moving far too quickly toward summer and I still have a lot of landscaping and planting to do.  I need that truckload of dirt so we can get the pool put in before the kids rend us limb from limb.  It’s already been in the 90’s here and our neighbors have their pools open already (as a former New Yorker…..I just find this wrong somehow).

Oh, and we’ll probably get a baby goat tonight because not only is it cold and rainy and windy and miserable out, but LOST is on.

I’ll let you know.