Category Archives: Country living

He came and conquered – Nov. 2, 2018

The day after our mower quit, the hayman returned with his big tractor and 10′ mowing deck and made short work of the rest of the big south hay field.  The spring bales are still there, but he said his young helpers were going to come pick them up and cut up the downed tree and the dead standing tree, leaving us with part of it for our winter warmth and enjoyment.  His return allows us to delay the purchase of a new mower deck until spring, the old one to be sold off as parts and scrap.  There is probably a farmer out there with the equipment and skills to weld on some plates on the deck, rebuild the trailing wheel support, and put on a new blade.

Our county is noted for it’s rocks.  The joke around here is that the county’s main crop is rocks.  You can mow an area one year without an issue and the next year hit a rock where the soil settled or the frost pushed the rock up just enough to clip the blade.  It is hard on the blades and the play in the blade then hitting the deck housing is hard on the housing.  Brush hogs are workhorses, they take a beating keeping the Autumn Olive and blackberries from the edges of the fields and mowing tall weedy hay.  They aren’t neat finish mowers used on golf courses and large lawns.  Our mower is more than a decade old now and wasn’t a heavy duty one in the first place as our tractor is only 28 hp.

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The farm looks so neat right after the haying or fall mowing.  One benefit of our smaller tractor and smaller deck is that we can get much closer to the rock piles scattered throughout the farm, keeping the brambles from escaping out into the fields.  Since our deck is no wider that the tractor’s rear tires, if they clear without hitting rocks then the mower deck clears also.

In the couple of days since I was mowing, the woods turned autumn colors, almost overnight.

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The top picture was two days ago, the lower one a zoomed one of the same area.

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Two maples, one wild, one planted.  The wild one in back is huge and turns a beautiful shade of golden orange, the planted one a vivid yellow gold.  As you see, both have lost about half of their leaves already as have most of the other trees in the area.  The wind storms of the past few weeks have stripped many leaves before they turned colors.  Soon the woods will be bare and we can voyeuristically peek at the wildlife in the edges of the woods as they seek nourishment from the evergreen scrub, acorns and other wild nuts that have fallen.

The fields were done just in time for several cooler, rainy days.  We have yet to build a fire this year, but maybe we will this weekend.  Maybe the sack of frozen tomatoes will get cooked down into sauce and canned or frozen as sauce.  Maybe a good book, some knitting or spinning, and for sure, lessons for a new spinner.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.

Summer is Gone – 10/17/2018

The thermometer on the front porch is sheltered under roof and protected from the wind.  The sensor indoors indicates it is 47ºf outside this morning, but tonight’s forecast is for our first frost.  A frost tonight would be right in the average.

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Yesterday’s high on the porch was 62, today’s is predicted to be about the same, but the nights are getting progressively colder until Monday night when they will warm slightly.  It is the season.  We will have some warmer days, some milder nights before true cold weather sets in, but it is time to pull out the heavier quilt and replace the summer quilt on the bed.  Last night my feet were cold.

A frost will mean the end of the garden.  This is always a time of mixed emotions, glad to be done with it for the year, sad that there won’t be more goodness from it.  It could be extended if I covered the peppers and lettuce tonight, but the tunnel that was purchased this summer to cover the fall veggies deteriorated very quickly.  The cabbages will be okay tonight.  The lettuce will be picked once my hands rewarm.  After feeding the chickens and setting them to roam for the day, two baskets were filled with jalapeños, seranos, and Anaheims.  The baskets would hold no more, though there are many peppers still on the plants, and my fingers were numb.

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All of the Anaheims were harvested, all of the red seranos and red jalapeños as a batch of homemade Sriracha sauce has been planned since they were planted last spring.  The large fat green jalapeños were picked to pickle another jar or two, maybe try Cowboy Candy with a jar or two.  Hubby would hate it and likely it wouldn’t appeal to me, but son the elder loves hot peppers and pickles and would probably like it.  It was cold harvesting them, colder than the thermometer registered, windy and damp.    Later more will be harvested, the rest still on the plants will go into the chicken run for them to peck, along with the tomato plants and the last of the bean plants after mature beans are picked to dry for next year’s seed.  The barriers will be relocated around the cabbages and the chickens will have the run of the garden for the winter, scratching for bugs, weed seed, and turning the soil as they dig.

This fall’s hay never got cut due to the rain.  The hay man said he would brush hog it with his 10′ mower and larger tractor.  Though he can’t go everywhere that our smaller tractor and 5′ mower can go, it will save a couple dozen hours of mowing for us.  The driveway needs to be regraded, again after all the rain, then the brush hog put back on the tractor so that the parts he can’t get, can be mowed before winter.  The brush hog will then be stored, the blade reattached to the tractor to plow us out if we have deep snow.

The neighbor’s cows have serenaded us for the past couple of days.  She may have separated out the young ones to wean before market time, but they are calling back and forth.  That is one of the pleasures of living out away from towns, hearing the cows, turkeys, screech owls, watching the deer and the occasional bear or fox.  The coywolf/coydog howls are interesting, but unwanted.  There are too many with no real predators and they are predators of chickens, calves, fawns, barn cats.

The days are shortening, the nights are chilling.  Soon it will be time for fires in the fireplace and woodstove to take the chill off and for the ambiance of sitting mesmerized by the flickering flames and close enough for the warmth.  Sitting with a good book or knitting, a cup of hot tea, and a warm sweater.  The season of more leisure.

Peace and calm until next time.

Good Intentions Foiled – 7/12/18

I planned to rest today, especially since the guys didn’t get home until after midnight and then I had a sleep is optional and restless night, but when I went out to plant the bean seed, I attacked the last aisle of weeds that was hidden by the asparagus ferny tops.  While doing so, I realized why the egg production has been down recently.

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There were 11 eggs in a neat nest hidden between the asparagus and the peppers.  Those eggs aren’t fertile, there is no rooster, but can’t be sold because I don’t know how old some of them are, but I hate to throw them away, so I cracked each one into a bowl individually, scrambled them and put them in an ice tray.  They freeze nicely and can be used for baking later.  It takes 2 cubes to equal one egg.  I haven’t figured out how the chickens are getting into the garden.  The Welsummers can fly over the fence, the eggs aren’t Welsummer eggs, but the Buff Orpingtons are too heavy bodied.  There must be somewhere they can get under the fence.  One solution I can think of is a taller fence and an edging they can’t get under.  I want them to be able to free range, though even with 30 acres to wander, they select my flower beds to scratch in and get into the garden even easier.  I have considered the step in movable electric fencing that would allow me to give them a new section of grass every few days, allowing the section they had been in to recover.  That way, they are getting pasture but not creating a wasteland or ruining my flower beds.

After weeding the area, I tackled the the tree nursery bed.  It had been weeded a few days ago and I realized the size they were getting. The first young tree I tried to transplant a few weeks ago was a failure.   It had gotten to be about  5 feet tall in a year and had too extensive a root system.  The other trees were smaller and I hope to be able to move them successfully.  I also made the mistake of not removing enough rocks from the bed when I made it and trying to dig around rocks that range from golf ball to hard ball size made the digging the saplings up more difficult.  There were two sweet gums, a hawthorn, a dogwood, another maple that was smaller than the first one, and an oak.  They were dug with decent root systems and put in a bucket of water.  The hawthorn was put in the ground before the heat wilted me, it got 10°f hotter than the forcast.  I will get up early tomorrow and try to get the others in the ground before it gets too hot.

Over the rest of the summer, I will continue to sift rocks from that bed, amend the soil and build the bed higher.  In the fall, the blueberry bushes are going to be moved into that bed and mulched heavily.  The garden fence is going to be moved to make the garden area smaller, it has just gotten to be more than I can handle.

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The empty box just above the barrel halves will become the blueberry bed, the barrel halves moved to the left and up. and the new fence will be just below that bed.  The pumpkins, now in the lower left can be grown in the prior year’s compost pile as that pile rotates from the north east corner to the north west corner each year.  After the compost has been dug to enrich beds, the remaining soil is the older compost and is still rich and deep.

I did get the beans planted and watered.  Now hopefully they will come up and provide us with more beans before the season ends.

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This is aimed south and shows the asparagus greenery with the cucumbers and sunflower volunteers to the left of it.  It was between those beds that I found the eggs.  The beans are just to the right and down one row of boxes.  This year’s compost pile is to the right of the asparagus, so next year the pumpkins will go there.

In picking beans, I realized that none of the sweet potato starts took, so there will be no homegrown sweet potatoes this year.  I will buy some at the Farmer’s Market when the season is ready.

The first harvest of cucumbers and jalapeños was made today.  Pickling will commence.  Today I ordered some fermenting weights and fermenting tops for jars so fermented dill pickles, kraut, and maybe some fermented tomatoes can be done too.

I don’t know what the header flower is, it was in one of the Seedles that I planted in that barrel, but it is pretty on it’s thin stems that bob and weave in the slightest breeze.

 

 

When the Cat’s Away… 7/10/18

The mouse will work her rear off and eat the things that aren’t usually served here.

My morning began early as Jim and eldest grandson took off for a history tour of eastern Virginia.  Though grandson has spent all but a few weeks of his life in Virginia, it has been mostly here in the mountains or in the northern part of the state.  The eastern part of the state is ripe with history with Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, as well as a Busch Gardens, so off they went.  Today was to be the history tour with granddad narrating and tomorrow a fun day at Busch Gardens.  I stayed home with the farm to deal with the critters, the garden, and work on the flower bed that has been evolving over the past couple of years down the east side of the garage and around the back on the south side.

After seeing them off, I donned long pants, long sleeves, boots, and sprayed myself generously with Deep Woods Off, and headed out with a metal sieve to pick berries, the blackberries are just beginning to ripen and the wineberries are ripe and the canes heavy.  Enough of a mixture of them were gathered to make a batch of wild berry jam tonight.

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The first pick of the day

Once they were rinsed, crushed, and sealed in a container until this evening, I took off to a friend’s farm with some daylily divisions to trade with one she was dividing.  I won, not only did I get daylilies, but I came home with kale and zucchini, plus some coreopsis divisions and Columbine seed.  Tomorrow, I am taking her a division of another daylily that I had and she did not.

A trip to Lowes and a trunk full of bagged mulch set me up to finish what I started yesterday and continue the flower bed another 15 feet across the back of the garage.  The new daylily starts were planted in two spots, the coreopsis divided with some in the ground and some in the last barrel that had not been planted this spring and the Columbine seed along with some poppy seed joined it in the barrel.

The entire bed from the front of the garage, down the east side, and continuing across the south side were mulched down with dark brown hardwood mulch.

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The beast overseeing my efforts.

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The upside down flower pots are chicken deterents, but a better solution must be found or all of the newly spread mulch will be in the grass and there will be dustbaths in the beds.

When I met Jim more than 4 decades ago, I was a vegetarian and he is a Texan, meat and potatoes preferred.  He likes some vegetables, tolerates other, and refuses some.  In deference to his tastes and so I am not preparing two different meals, I eat a little meat and limit the vegetables to the ones he likes and occasionally one he will tolerate. Kale and summer squash are in his tolerate occasionally list, so with him away tonight, the gifted kale and zucchini were cooked along with an ear of corn and I am feasting to my delight on vegetables.

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And I have left overs for tomorrow night as well.

It is wild berry jam making time.  The header shot are bees busy at work on the two volunteer sunflowers.  Not a single one that I planted came up.  I think this fall, I will just throw a handful of sunflower seed around the perimeter of the garden and let the volunteers happen in the spring.

Love our mountain farm.

Garden and Prep

Late yesterday afternoon I went out to pick the last of the peas and enough bush beans for dinner.  I ended up picking the peas and pulling spent vines for the chickens to peck through.  The bean patch was full of ripe beans and a whole basket was brought in, some enjoyed with dinner, the rest blanched and frozen for winter meals.  There was now a 4 by 8 foot bed empty from the peas and another planting of beans will be made there, the local natural foods store carries the Southern Exposure seed that I prefer and they still had the beans in stock today.

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My plan for today was to make fermented horseradish mustard for eldest son and one for me.  Going over to dig the horseradish root ended up with a major weeding in that corner of the garden that is my compost area every other year.  It was full of tall lambs quarters, some plant from the mint family that doesn’t smell particularly good, and other intruders.  That done, I could get to the horseradish and dug a good handful to soak, scrape, and grate.  Two pints of mustard are fermenting on the counter.

Each time we have enjoyed sweet corn this summer, bought at the local village store (I don’t grow sweet corn), I come home with three because they always have it priced at 3 for $1.59, but we usually only eat two, so the third one has been cooked and cut from the cob and frozen.  Today, it was turned into 4 half pints of corn and tomato relish, a slightly spicy one with a chopped jalapeño in it.  The peppers are beginning to provide in small quantities.

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While I was moving through the aisles to get to that corner of the garden, I realized that the onion tops had toppled, the clue to harvest them, so a wheelbarrow full of onions was brought into the root cellar and they were spread out on the shelves to cure.

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In the midst of all of this, a friend texted and asked if I wanted part of a daylily she was dividing and I never turn down perennials, but my bed was in need of some work, so grandson and I got it weeded, a new edge cut in, divided two of mine that needed it and planted them.  She will get a division of the peachy colored one in the header.

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And just because they are pretty while blooming, the barrels of herbs and flowers are included.

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It is a good time of year, with produce to put by, flowers to enjoy, and fresh herbs for cooking.

Still love my life on this mountain farm.

Jam session and soon in a pickle-7/8/18

Not music, canning.  As the raspberries ripened a cup or two a day, they were enjoyed fresh, but most frozen.  Once enough had been accumulated, the first canning session of the year was conducted.  Realizing that I should have crushed the berries prior to freezing so that the amount I had was accurate.  The first batch was made and canned in tiny quarter pint jars, there are many of them in the house and they don’t have much other use, though I think I may just freeze herbs and pesto in the rest of them this year.  The lesson to crush before freezing was heeded and the next week or so of berry collection was frozen crushed and batch number two made when enough were accumulated, this time canned in half pints.  At yesterday’s Farmers’ Market, we purchased several pounds of blueberries.  We had planned to go pick them, but each time we planned to go, it was either blazing hot or raining.  Also  peaches and plums that were brought in from far enough away but still within the 50 mile limit that they survived the mid April freezes and snows. Yesterday before we took off to go see a play at Blackfriars American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, I made a batch of Blueberry Double Ginger jam, this morning, a batch of Blueberry Maple Jam, and this afternoon, a batch of Peach-Plum-Ginger Jam.  That shelf is filling for gifts, family sharing, and our use.

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The wild raspberries and blackberries are just beginning to ripen.  We will gather them and depending on the quantity, batches will be made into either individual jams or a mixed berry jam.

Soon the cucumbers will begin and the peppers will develop and pickle making will commence.  The only pickles made so far are a few jars of dilly beans.  There aren’t enough of our beans to make too many jars of them.  I will be freezing as many of the remaining ones as possible for our enjoyment when the season ends and we can no longer pick them from the garden or purchase them from the Farmers’ Market.

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The pickle shelf will begin to fill soon.  I generally store the canned goods other than jams in the root cellar, but I love the look of the pretty jams and pickles in my beautiful open cabinets, so this year, two shelves will be dedicated to them and the over flow along with the fruit sauces, tomato sauces and salsas will go to the root cellar with the garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins as they are harvested.

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.