Category Archives: Country living

Spring Activity – 6/2/2018

Spring is fully upon us.  Instead of April showers, we had snow and May started dry then turned very wet.  June is still wet, but it hasn’t been terribly hot so the open windows and ceiling fans have kept us comfortable.

Between rains, we have resumed our fitness walks and the lovely weather has brought out the flowers and the critters.

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A box turtle assisted off the trail, just shortly after a black snake startled me but slithered off too quickly for a photo.

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A very protective goose and her gosling and another goose that seemed to want to make friends.

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Water lilies.

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Mountain Laurel.

Some evenings produce beautiful sunsets like the header above.  Next week is supposed to be cooler and drier and hopefully the much needed weeding in the garden will commence.

 

Away, back, away, and back again 3/2/2018

Finally settled back home from a couple of weeks of flurried activity, first with our cruise and as soon as the laundry was done and the dust settled, I was off to the winter version of the spinning retreat. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of very nice weather, enjoying the western Caribbean toward the end of their rainy season, so not too hot and only a few random showers. There were two nights of heavier rain, but it occurred after we had settled for the night. For the most part the seas were calm, though I tend to motion sickness and had one bad evening when I had failed to take Bonine in the morning, did a water excursion and back on the ship just as we were about to leave port. The ship store sold motion sick bands and a couple of Bonine and I was okay after a few hours. We had a great time on a much needed vacation.  And we returned to spring like weather at home.

The spinning retreat is an event that I look forward to, rejoining friends that I see infrequently, laughing, eating, spinning and knitting. The motel at Hawk’s Nest State Park lacks a restaurant at this time, but Tudor’s Biscuit World is just down the road and Pies and Pints Pizza is only a short drive away, so many of us go out for breakfast and lunch. Dinner started as happy hour and morphed over the years to a grand pot luck. This year the pot luck was so immense that one night we had 5 or 6 crockpot dishes, plus salads, crackers, cheese, dips, and desserts. Though I had not asked prior to the event to vend as I was unsure having been away, I took some soaps, salves, yarn, and knitwear and because there were few vendors, I did get to set up and was able to sell enough to pay for the weekend which is my goal.

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This retreat did take a negative twist though as I awoke each day with a few more itchy spots, unsure if I was reacting to their detergent or if I was being bitten. Sunday morning, I was pretty sure that they were bites, notified the office as I left, washed my bag and clothing in hot water as soon as I arrived home. By Monday, it was apparent, that I had had a bed bug encounter, something I have feared in hotels, but not expected there. I have always been over reactive to insect bites and have broad itchy bands surrounding the rows of bites, characteristic of bed bugs. Now a week out, I am still on antihistamines, anti itch creams, and trying not to scratch. I am hoping that I did not bring them home with me. My spinning, knitting, and vending items remained in the tiled conference room for the weekend, but traveled home in the back of my car with my suitcase, though in a plastic box crate and in trays strapped to the top of the crate.

The week remained delightfully spring like until last night. We have howling wind and woke to snow flurries. The upcoming forecast is more seasonal. We lost our power briefly last night and again this afternoon for a couple of hours. Fires have been lit in the wood stove and fireplace in case of another failure. It is supposed to go down into the twenties tonight and we want the house to stay warm.

I am continuing to knit on the new shawl that is a design on the fly that I will probably never write down.  The yarns are lovely though.  It is a mitered shawl of a Freia Ombre Shawl ball and a craveyarn Santa Fe solid.

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I am nearly to a point where I need to make sure I have a multiple of the number of stitches needed for the fancier lace that will be the bottom lace band.

Also on the needles are Log Cabin squares for a gift blanket in the works.

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The warmer weather and longer days have the hens producing generously again.  My egg buying friends were all grateful today when I was able to bring them the quantities they desire.  Each day gathering 8 to a dozen from the 16 hens.  I’m still unsure whether the two with the pale combs are laying, so I may be getting them from just 14 hens.

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The power has been restored and flickered off and back on again, so I should get our dinner going in case it goes out again.  Until next time.

The Empty Nest

When I moved to the mountains, leaving hubby to work on the coast for a couple more years, we still had one young adult at home and he and hubby shared space for those 3 years.  I was in an apartment for about 15 months, solo except for visits by hubby, son the younger,  or daughter, then moved into the house that we were building with son the elder, daughter in law, and grandson #1.  They shared the house for a couple of years then moved to town as hubby retired and moved to the mountains, leaving son the younger on his own, soon to become engaged and then married.  We had an empty nest for a few years, adding two dogs to the household.  Three years ago daughter and her two kids and their dog moved here while her husband stayed to sell their Florida house and find work here, he joined them in May of that year, bringing their two house cats.  The house has been full of life and energy for the past three years.  We have gotten the kids up  and ready school,  home from the afternoon bus and to Taekwondo a couple days a week for a couple of those years.

In November they bought a house about 18 miles from here in a different school district, but probably 30 minutes closer to work.  They continued to stay here while they got the house ready to move in and while they moved their household furniture and other accouterments from storage  and to allow the grands to finish at the school they started this year up to the Christmas break.

On Thursday, they spent the first night in their new home.  On Friday they got to go to see their new schools and grandson got to meet his teacher.  As their furniture has been removed from two bedrooms, ours has returned.  One room has been cleaned from top to bottom, the bed set up with a brand new mattress, the chest, night stand, rocking chair and lamp that have been stored or relocated for the three years , and that room has been sealed off from the cats.  Tomorrow new curtains will be purchased for that room as one of the Roman shades has been broken and the other two  shades are dirty and faded.

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The other bedroom needed new bed rails and though it has been put back together, their animals are still here until the end of this week to allow floor installers in their house without the dog and cats trying to escaping.  Once they are moved to their new house, that room will be wiped down from top to bottom and the decorations and heavy quilt returned to it.  It will get new curtains soon also as the decade old shades are dirty and faded.

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With them gone, the house looks and seems empty and quiet.  I miss them though we will still see them often, but the quiet is nice.  It is going to take some time to readjust to the empty nest.

Grandson #1 will be happy to have “his” bedroom back when he visits.  For the years he lived here and when he visited until they came, he slept in the south, smallest bedroom that the resident grands have been sharing.  While they have been here, he has slept on a futon in the basement during his visits.  Son the elder and his wife prefer the 4th bedroom in the basement as it is quieter and away from the animals that aggravate allergies.

With the basement, bathroom, two bedrooms, and kitchen cleaned up and reorganized, I need to tackle the loft and our bedroom.  Since hubby got me a nice Dyson vacuum for Christmas (yes, I asked for it), a thorough deep cleaning is in order.  Spring cleaning in the middle of winter.  Come spring, screens need to be repaired or replaced and windows cleaned, but that will wait for warmer weather.

 

 

6/3/2017 Beautiful late spring

The past few days have been perfect weather.  Cool, crisp nights, warm clear days, some wind but dry for a change.  We have a rainy Sunday evening and night, but next week is to return to nice weather.

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This is just in time for Jim’s participation in the 5 state Harley Davidson Bike rally to be hosted by his chapter of HOG.  He is scheduled to lead 3 rides, two back to our area for a tour and lunch at Mountain Lake Lodge, the third a very long day ride from Roanoke to the Back of the Dragon, along that 32 mile winding road, and looping back to Roanoke, a total of 275 miles.  He road it on his bike yesterday with his sweeper and got home exhausted last night, having questions that he thought of, so today we repeated it only in the car so that I could be his spotter, looking for things he can’t look for while focusing on the technical ride.

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It is a beautiful area, with a lunch stop at a wonderful little restaurant in Tazewell, Virginia.  By the time we were home, I was tired of being in the car, put away the morning purchases from the Farmers’ Market that had travelled with us in a cooler.  Lamb chops had been part of the purchase and Jim enjoyed 4 small rib chops for his dinner with fresh sugar snap peas.

After our dinner, I took a brisk walk on our hilly road, climbing beyond the state maintained part, farther than I have climbed before.

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You can get some idea of the steepness of this section of road by looking left above the halfway divide of the photo, you can see the lower end of this road.  A walk back down this steep and then back up the other side of this hollow on another steep road, then up into the woods to the top of the hill above our house.  This allowed for a photo of our house down in the next hollow as the sun was setting.   That photo is the heading above.  Though this walk is only a bit more than 2 miles, it was done briskly and is a lot of extreme elevation change, with minimal stopping to allow my heart rate to recover.  I am still hopeful that my efforts will help me be prepared for the upcoming backpacking trip with eldest son and his family.

 

5/20/2017 Community Fun

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Today was a good day.  The Newport Community Center held an Open House to show off the community and some of the activities that go on at the center.  The 4H barn on the property had pony rides and a baby farm animal petting zoo.  The volunteer rescue squad is right next door and they had one of their trucks on display.  There was softball, a stone carver, a basket weaver, my friend Josh, the neighborhood blacksmith shown above with some of his awesome hooks that he was making.  There was barbequed pork from the smoker/grill, all the trimmings.  The LoCo arts room hosted an anti pipeline banner painting event.  An art sale, a silent auction, used book sale.  The Quilter’s Guild had their gorgeous quilts hanging around the perimeter of the big cafeteria room.  Another friend, David and I had a display of plant and animal fibers, hand spun yarn and handspun handknit clothing items while we demonstrated spinning and answered questions from adults and kids.  My almost 200 year old wheel sat on the table top and was brought down for a few minutes of spinning on it as well.  During most of the event there was live music from families singing to a young man with outstanding guitar skills.

There were many folks from the community that participated and I think everyone had a good time.

4/28/2017 – More Progress

Another nice day.  Last night Farmer Jeff brought me two more bales of old spoiled hay to finish the garden prep and for mulch for the new flower beds that are going to be on the outside of the fence for the vegetable garden.  After he brought the second bale, a small collapsed 3 year old bale, he tractored off in the rain showers that last night brought.  When it was getting dark and the rain let up, chicken lock up commenced and when I look where the second bale had been placed, it was gone, just a few strips of compacted hay in it’s place.

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The bale must not have been as collapsed as he thought, it took off downhill about 100 feet.  A photo was texted to him and we both had a good laugh.  It is a small enough bale that our little tractor could push it back uphill to the garden.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that if the fence was moved to the lower edge of the active garden that the fallow part could be accessed by the tractor, so fencing was moved, involving pounding in several T posts and I didn’t bean myself with the driver this time. Today, the rocks that had been place over weed mat at the lowest end were moved away from the garden.  Some of them were too large for more than rolling into the tractor bucket.  The weed mat was pulled up along with hundreds of pounds of weeds that grew on and through the mat.  Old pieces of wood that had been holding down the mat and it had been hoped, providing a barrier for the weeds at the edge of the fence line were gathered, the most rotten ones with grubs and ant eggs were tossed into the chicken run for them to attack.  The lip of the tractor bucket served nicely for pulling T posts out of the ground.  This gave me a relatively clear, though uneven area to work.  A few drags across the surface with the back edge of the tractor bucket to level it and the ground cover was sown over the entire area.  The vetch, oats, and field peas can grow there, if the deer find it, it won’t be a disaster and hopefully it will help keep the weed growth down.  Maybe that area can be plowed in the future if a larger garden is desired.

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The cardboard and spoiled hay is down around all of the boxes and blueberries, the only area to still be worked is the 3 sister’s garden.  Once that area is ready to plant, the new flower beds will be tackled.

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The bluebird house in the lower right corner behind the large bale of hay is the bottom edge of the garden, this photo was taken from the top.  The raspberries need to be thinned, weeded and cardboard placed a bit closer to them.  The radishes and turnips are sprouted and the think the second attempt at peas is working this time.

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Here are 3 or the 4 Welsummer pullets, I really love their feathers and they seem friendlier than the Buff Orpington pullets.  These 16 should be a fine laying flock in a few more months.

I still love this mountain life.  The garden will hopefully be productive and easier to maintain.

Wildflowers -4/13/2017

 

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Virginia Bluebells
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Pig Hole
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Wild violets
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Elderberry
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This area was clear cut last spring and summer and is being made into grazing fields.
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House in the hollow.

An evening walk was in order on the end of yesterday’s beautiful day.  This senior body has been too sedentary this winter and is in need of daily exercise to make the garden and fence work a bit easier on it.  More walking, more stretching.  We live in the perfect place to walk.  Our road is .8 miles of dirt and gravel with several steep inclines and declines passing through woods and farm fields that are laced with cow paths through the thickets.  The hill to our west holds a large cave, open at the top (the second photo) with a fence around it for safety.  It’s name comes from the remains of a pig that was found deep in the cave on a ledge.  The cave sinks deep into the hillside and turns east with a second enclosed and locked entrance that I understand requires some agile moves and no fear of claustrophobia to enter.  I don’t want to do that.  The Virginia Bluebells bloom in profusion at the open mouth at the top behind the fence. Up on that hill, you can look down into the hollow and see our farm, our log home, the coops and gardens.  This early in the spring, walking the fields is a pleasure, the grass through growing quickly is still fairly low, the invasive stickweed has yet to show, the ticks still at a minimum.  In another few weeks, the fields will be hard to traverse until after hay mowing in early June and after that, our fields and the fields east of us can be walked again.

The wildflowers and flowering trees abound on this walk.

Today is another beautiful day and my plan is to walk up through the woods to the highest meadow on our cattle raising farm neighbor’s property.  From there the view is amazing, above the tree line miles to the east and to the west.  North and south blocked by ridgelines much closer.

This is a beautiful part of the world.

 

The Winter of the Wind

Each year since moving to the mountains, more than a decade ago, it has snowed on Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes just a couple of inches, sometimes a foot or more.  This time of year has been noted for it’s cold and it’s snow, but this year is different.  There has been very little snow, mountain snow showers, yes, a trace here and there, but only one really measureable snow of about 3 or 4 inches. The temperatures have yoyo’d from parka cold to 80ºf (27ºC), definitely not mid February in the mountains weather.  The trees are confused, already they are budding out, some of the maples have tiny leaves.

But this has been the winter of the wind.  Our log home is in a hollow with a mountain gap to the northwest and the wind at times howls through that gap sounding like a locomotive bearing down on us.  We have experienced that wind many times in the decade, but it seems this year like a constant force.  It howls and rattles.  Our home is a large sturdy structure with a three story west side of logs on a stone faced concrete footer wall.  It isn’t going anywhere, but some days it seems like the whole house is shuttering.  The window choice of the log home company from whom we purchased are not the best, though they are double hung insulated windows, we have hung insulated Roman shades on those windows.  The ones on the west end of the house have been closed more times this winter than most winters in the past.  Opened in the late afternoon to allow in the sun’s warmth, then closed again at night to block the chill from the wind. Today is cold, mostly cloudy, and a high wind advisory again.  Tomorrow it is going to be spring like again and calm, reaching unseasonable temperatures for most of next week.

The Virginia and West Virginia ski resorts are probably fretting this year, having difficulty even making man made snow at night.  On our way home from out son’s house last weekend, when the temperature was rising to 80, we passed one of the resorts, they had two long parallel man made runs with snow in the otherwise very unwinter like surroundings.

The winter has produces some beautiful morning skies.

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“Lions and tigers and bears…”

Well, no lions and tigers, but we do have bears occasionally.  Last night while daughter was putting the finishing touches on dinner  and we were visiting with each other,  looking out the kitchen window we saw a large dark animal moving in the hayfield.  Deer are dark this time of year, but even a good sized buck is not as large as what we saw.  We have an all black coyote, but it too is not that large. Realization that one of the regions black bear was ambling along the tree line a couple hundred yards away.

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This is the best we could do with a cell phones telephoto lens.  A quick shout out brought the whole household out to have a look.  The doors opening at the house, stopped the bear to look up at us taking pictures.  This was the largest bear we have seen on our farm but not the closest.

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This curious little fellow a few years ago was about half way down the driveway and also curious about us taking photos, but quickly dashed into the woods.

We have seen them in the fields, crossing the roads, but so far, never around the chickens or in the garden. It is fun seeing the native animals wandering in the fields and woods.

Fading of Autumn

This week has been spent away from home, helping out at eldest son’s house.  He works very long days at a university an hour and a half to two hours away depending on traffic.  Daughter in law is working even father away this week on an art installation of a piece in a commercial building that was commissioned by an artist with whom she works.  I have grandson duty, getting him off to school, supervising homework, guitar practice, evening shower, preparing him breakfast and dinner and seeing him off to bed. His Dad hasn’t seen him since Monday, his Mom since Sunday as she is not even trying to commute this week.  This makes for long solitary days in their rural home, lots of time for spinning, knitting, and a little reading, though the book I brought puts me right to sleep, definitely not one to recommend.

Being on the edge of the Shenandoah Park, I had hoped for some woods walks while here, however, the very first night I awoke feeling like I had been hit by a truck with head congestion and body aches.  Grandson was home from school all day Tuesday due to the election, I dragged my achy body to the grocery for some decongestants and a few groceries, fed him lunch out and came back to rest while he played outdoors with the two kids across the road.  Wednesday was cool and rainy and I didn’t want to be out in it, so I stayed in and continued to rest.  Yesterday I was beginning to feel better and it was a beautiful day, but exertion caused me to cough, so again I mostly stayed in and today is chilly and gray, though I have yet to build a fire in the wood stove.  Tonight is predicted to drop below freezing which will put an end to the plants on the deck.

My garden is long gone for the season, they moved in during the summer and did not have time to put in a garden, but there is a tomato on the deck.

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It is likely the tomato and mum will both be burned off by morning with another below freezing night predicted Saturday.

As I sit in the living room on the computer or spinning and knitting, I see the nearly barren ridge across the road.  A few evergreens and a few leaves, the color gone for this autumn.

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Tomorrow, I will return to our farm, continue to winterize and plant the garlic for next growing season.  We had our first frost the night before I left and I pulled the remaining peppers and plants before I left home.  The cull chickens have another week to fatten, they will be killed and butchered on the 19th and I will be down to my laying flock for the winter.  We are still not getting but an egg or two each day due to molting and the pullets just not mature enough yet to lay.  Hopefully their production will pick up enough for holiday baking and having family in the house for the holidays.  If not, I will buy from a local farmer when I go to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey.  I raise a breed that lays in the winter, though not as prolifically as in summer.

I still have not adjusted to the end of Daylight Savings Time, maybe because of all the time on the road in the past week and the change in schedule here over home.  Maybe by next weekend, my first Holiday Market for the season.  I need to get my stuff organized and decide which displays I plan to take.  I am hoping for a mild, dry day.

I’ll check in again from home.  Have a good day.