Category Archives: Farm Life

Olio – 4/4/17

Olio- a miscellaneous collection of things

We have had spring again for a few days, but winter is rearing it’s ugly head again, starting with heavy thunderstorms, wind, and possible hail tomorrow afternoon followed with near freezing nights for a couple of nights and even snow flurries on Friday.  The peas haven’t broken ground yet, but they will be covered.  The onions are up and they will be covered with spoiled hay.  The grass already needs to be mowed, almost a month before we usually have to mow.

The Asian pears are blooming, they are my favorite fruit so we are hopeful that the blooms don’t freeze.

Pear

Taking advantage of the beautiful day, we went to Lowes and found flexible corrugated nearly transparent plastic sheets that were 8 feet long and 26 inches wide, the perfect size to enclose the sides of the broody coop.  A box of screws and thirty minutes work and the coop is enclosed on the sides.

Babycoop

The baby chicks look like little dinosaurs and are nearly feathered.  If it wasn’t going to get cold, I would put them in the baby coop, but I guess they will have to wait another week before they move to bigger quarters.  While working outside, the netting over the chicken run got re-fastened to fences and long posts so it doesn’t catch in hair and flap in the wind.  Tomorrow is nice for about half a day so maybe at least part of the fencing will be installed.

My car went in for its annual inspection and she is 13 years old and just shy of 200,000 miles.  We knew going in that she needed some work.  We need new front brakes again, 4th time in 3 years, 4 new tires and an alignment, and a new starter, so this is an expensive inspection, but hopefully will keep her on the road for another 80,000 miles.

Bloodroot

The Bloodroot is blooming in profusion along our country road.  The trillium haven’t been spotted yet.

A couple of years ago, one of our vent stacks began to leak around the boot, ruining a section of our newly finished basement ceiling.  At Christmas that year, eldest son ripped the drywall off the soffit under most of the pipes in the basement and build a set of panels of wood siding and finished framing boards that can be removed by undoing a few screws once the leak was repaired.  About a  year later, we developed a leak at a different vent stack, ruining a different section.  He is going to do the same thing in that area now that the leak is repaired.  Yesterday in the torrential downpours, the original area began to leak again.  Quick work with the power driver, allowed the removal of part of that soffit so that a catch pan could be put in the ceiling until the roof can be repaired yet again.  It was nice to be able to get the soffit parts down without the being ruined.

leak

 

The old adage, “When it rains, it pours” is literal in this case and figuratively in accrued costs for the car and the roof repair.

Family Worn Out

An early start sent Jim off on the BBH to a ride, a funeral for a Hog member, and a class in preparation for the big 5 state rally that his chapter is hosting.

A bit of laundry washed and hung out, a trip into town with daughter’s family to get cat food and lunch together and then we returned home to plant trees.  They gave us an Arbor Day membership for Christmas and that comes with 10 trees.  They came a couple of weeks ago and were all deciduous trees that had to be nurseried for a couple of years before planting in their permanent places.  They are the ones that I built an extra garden box for them to live in for the two years.  That I managed on my own, then this week, the ones they ordered for us came.  A dozen various fir trees, Norway Spruce, Canadian Hemlock, and Eastern Red Cedars, a 4 foot red maple, and two Forsythia slips.  The firs needed to be planted where they will grow as they don’t transplant well.  There is a windbreak row of pines that eldest son and I planted about 9 or 10 years ago that were Earth Day twigs and are now 8 to 15 foot trees, but there are some holes in the windbreak and some holes up where we have planted live rooted Christmas trees and lost one.  There are some areas of the property that we consider yard and don’t save for hay that we have worked to reforest.  A contribution to reducing our carbon footprint.

The 5 of us (grands wanted to help dig), set out with the tractor, a couple shovels, a garden fork, a maddock, the bucket of tiny trees in water, and another bucket with water.  The maple was planted in the row of deciduous trees and then we extended the windbreak, filled in holes where trees didn’t take, moved up to the Christmas tree area and spaced out 4 others.  A total of 15 holes were dug, 15 areas cleared of sod, 15 trees and shrubs planted and watered in.  Each young tree is marked with a 4 foot pole and bright green marker flag so they don’t get mowed down when the grass grows up around them.  That took us a good bit of time.

Near one of the trees was an area that was impossible to mow, a low, partially covered rock pile.  For the past several early springs, I have loaded bucket loads of rock from that pile thinking that I was getting it low enough to mow.  We decided to finish moving the pile and man oh man it was a job bigger than we anticipated.  The pile was more extensive and deeper than appeared possible.  We moved 15 or 20 tractor buckets full of rock, used the tractor bucket to dig up at least a dozen rocks that were so large that they could only be rolled into the bucket to remove them.  Though the area is now torn up, it is rock free and smoothed as well as the tractor and our hands could manage.  I think it is going to be an area that can be mowed with the brush hog this summer.

The only remaining big job is the chick pen fence and we still have about 4 weeks to do it.  Tomorrow is going to be rainy and windy and this senior body is likely to be too sore to do much physical anyway.

I am grateful to daughter and her family for all of their hard work and help today and for getting us the trees to help with our project. Hopefully the little trees will thrive and grow quickly.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the Smithfield House at volunteer training.  Hopefully within a few weeks, I will be doing interpretative tours at the house as well as spinning on the dates that have been scheduled for it.  I think I learned more history yesterday than I ever learned in school.

Recovery Day

It seems that after a day of toil in the garden, this senior citizen needs a rest day.  Yesterday was basically a nice day, mostly cloudy, but warm, but the body said no more.

The spring cover crop seed has arrived and it needs to be planted, but the area in which it is to go must be cultivated, sown, then raked. We don’t own a tiller, nor can either of us manhandle more than a small one at this point and the only other option is to take the 3 prong cultivator and do it by hand.  It is a large area and the tractor drove back and forth over it while clearing it and moving soil for the boxes, so it is fairly compacted.  Instead of tackling it yesterday, I opted to stay in and craft.  There is a good supply of Leister Longwool fiber from Sunrise Valley Farm locally and a plan still in place to spin enough to make me a sweater from it.  The first attempt was just too heavy trying to do Fair Isle with yarn that was at least light worsted weight.  One bobbin was full of a very fine singles and another was started.  By last night, the second bobbin had been spun and the two plyed into 405.33 yards if fingering to sport weight yarn.  If knit on slightly larger needles than that weight would normally call for, I think it will be a nice draping fabric for a sweater. There is a lot more of the fiber to go and more from this year’s shearing reserved for me.  More must be spun, about 3 or more skeins that size, a pattern selected, and a decision about whether to add color, keep it natural, or dye the completed sweater.

Yarn

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In the midst of the spinning, grand daughter announced that she was old enough to learn to knit and wanted to learn to spin.  The first knitting lesson was given with her sitting between my legs and me doing the wrap while she held both ends of the circular needle, picked up the next stitch, criss-crossed the ends in the right position, let me wrap, then over the top and off the needle.  She did a row and a half before her brother came home and she wanted to go outside and play.  She is in no way ready to knit on her own, but she is eager and understands what she has to do.

Also breaking up the spinning on the Louët, making the yarn for the sweater, continued practice occurs on the great wheel.  There are still a couple of issues that a solution evades me.  The post that holds the wheel if fully set causes the wheel to drag at one point.  If it is shimmed enough to allow the clearance, it tends to pivot slightly causing the drive band to walk off.  This requires fairly constant readjustment to prevent the drive band from falling.  The mother of all that holds the quill is slightly loose in it’s mounting and even the light tension required to draft the fiber causes it to pivot slightly which can also cause the drive band to walk off.  Both of these problems need to be solved, though the process of long draw spinning and winding onto the quill is getting more consistent.

Last night the wind howled and at first light when taking grandson to the bus stop, it revealed that both row cover domes had blown off the beds.  Once both kids were dispatched to bus and preschool, a bit of repair work was done, hopefully to stay in place during today’s continued cold wind.  Tonight is supposed to drop to 24ºf (-4.44c) and though there are no sprouts yet, the beds need protection.

The plum trees still need to be planted.  Maybe after lunch.

Getting It Done

One tiny step at a time, the prep and early planting is getting done.  It warmed to above 60 after lunch with sunshine until about 3 p.m. Jim hopped on the BBH and took off on a ride, and it seemed a good day to get some more gardening done.  Yesterday never warmed and the sun disappeared early never to show again, so the garden sat idle.  The baby trees had to get in the ground.  They had to soak in a bucket of warm water for 2 to 5 hours before planting, so they were set in the bucket late this morning.

The little garden cart full of necessary tools was wheeled out, the nursery bed raked smooth and any rocks and weed clumps that were scooped up by the tractor bucket were removed and the 10 little twigs were put in good composted soil, marked with dowels with the tree type on them, watered in, and mulched down with spoiled hay. It is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow morning, so they will get a good soaking.

Baby trees

 

The box at the top of the garden near the asparagus bed was planted with 130 yellow onion sets and the row cover dome placed over it and clipped in place with granddaughter’s help, then the lower 4 X 4′ box was planted with 5 rows of peas and also covered with row cover.

First plantings

 

More mulching between beds was done, but the weeds really haven’t started due to all the soil movement and box building and other jobs needed to be done today.  Four boxes are now planted, one with asparagus, garlic, onions, and peas.  Soon radishes and turnips can go in the ground too.

The white grape was moved against the garden fence where it will be trellised.  Some leveling of the area above the garden was done in preparation of planting one of the two plum trees, but more needs to be done.

Deconstruction was accomplished on the chick pen that had shredded plastic stapled to the sides of the coop and a 2′ high wobbly row of garden fencing not even on real fence posts with a layer of plastic bird net to keep the chicks inside.  Not secure, not high enough, and a major hassle to mow around.  The fencing was all removed and rolled to use as tree rings when the nursery trees get replanted in a year or two, the bird net and shredded plastic put in a big garbage bag to be recycled.  Mowing the thick weedy mess that had grown up between the fence and net could not be done as there was no gasoline for the mower.

Deconstruct

 

The fence line needs to be mowed short.  One fence post was set, but three more need to be relocated and set.  Once that is accomplished, the rabbit fence with tiny holes at the bottom and larger ones near the top will keep the little ones safe inside the enclosure.  The new fence is taller than the garden row that was there and some sort of protective cover will be erected to keep them safe from flying predators.  The coop is about a foot off the ground, so they can run underneath when threatened too.  A few feet outside of the old enclosure is one of our peach trees.  It would be nice if the enclosure was larger, but the big chickens killed a good sized peach tree in their run in only two years with their scratching and pecking. Perhaps the tree can be heavily mulched to keep down the weeds and a ring of the fencing around it to keep them from the roots and trunk. That would put a little shade in their pen and give them a larger enclosure to grow in until they are large enough to not get through the fence holes and their pen opened up to the cull pen.

While the work was being done, granddaughter donned her bike helmet and walked her bike up the hill near the garden and rode down and around the back of the house over and over.

Rider

 

If the rain stops in the morning, perhaps the leveling of the area above the garden will continue, the plum trees planted, and if the gasoline is purchased, then the weeds can be mowed in the fence line in preparation for setting the new fence for the baby birds when they are ready to go outside in another 4 or 5 weeks.  The sides of the coop still need to be enclosed and the nesting boxes mounted inside.

The bluebird box also still needs to be mounted on it’s post, maybe in a different part of the garden from the existing one.

 

 

Come on spring

Saturday mornings are always breakfast out followed by Farmers’ Market if we are in town and well.  Today started out beautiful, a tad cool, but with a day that reached 60ºf by mid day.  We followed our usual routine then set out to see about getting the last garden box.  After getting the prior one, the first 4 X 8′ model, because of the possible designs, it had 6 extra boards if assembled in the manner of the other ones.  The corner posts a bit higher, but that is okay.  I decided to buy another 4 x 8′ one so that there were 12 extra boards total and with some 2 x 2″ boards that could be cut into corner posts, an extra box could be made.  Though the vegetable garden plan doesn’t require it, the new tiny trees should be put in a tree nursery for a year or two, so the extra box will fill that bill.  While we were out getting the box, another two stops were planned to get the wire hooks to fasten the fence to the posts for the chick pen and to get enough row cover to be able to plant the two 4 foot square boxes for onion sets and peas.  We found plum trees about 4 feet high and since they have been in the orchard plan, two of them came home with us too.

After heavy rain last night, the garden soil was wet and heavy, but with the tractor’s help, enough good composted soil was gather to fill the two new boxes.

beds

The kit bed, nearest left was assembled, the soil spread and raked, but it was too wet to do too much with and a thunderstorm arrived while the work was being done.  Inside, the two flats of seedling blocks were set up, the tomatoes, tomatillos, and hot peppers sown in one, the chard, parsley, and cilantro in the other.  The garden still needs a few sweet peppers and some other herbs, beside those two and the basil that has such a short germination time that it will have to wait.  There are still some seedling cubes that can be sown, so the other seed will be sought tomorrow if we go into town.

seeds

Once done with that, the storm had passed enough to go out and assemble the non kit box, but again the rain started, so the soil is just heaped in the middle of the box.

Tomorrow isn’t to be as warm, but will be sunny, so the tiny trees, plum trees, onion sets, and peas will all be planted.  the row cover frames were put in place today and the peas and onions will be covered until it is warm enough to leave them to the elements and the peas need trellising.

There is still some cardboard to put down between boxes and mulched, the three sisters garden bed needs to be prepped when the soil is drier and the rest raked for the preparation to seed the spring cover crop that will have oats and field peas that later will be harvested for making chicken feed.  That cover will also have either a row of flowers for the bees and butterflies or perhaps randomly sown within the cover.  The garlic that looked a bit beat up after the deep freeze, appears to have perked up some.

The daffodils in town near the market are beginning to perk back up, so they seem to have survived the cold as well.

Olio-Week’s end-March 17, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

This bitter week is winding down.  Last night was hopefully the last night in the teens that we will experience this winter.  Spring on the calendar is but three days away.  The garden planner alert today was to plant the peas and onions under cover outside and start the peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos inside.  The cover fabric from prior years is gone so a trip to Harmony Organics in town is necessary to procure more for the two boxes.  The garlic looks like it suffered some damage from the cold, but hopefully it will perk back up with the milder weather.  The daffodils in town are all laying face down on the ground,  the forsythia, ornamental fruit trees in town are all browned, our peach tree lost it’s blooms.  Our forsythia had not bloomed yet, so we may see some of the sunny yellow soon. The weekend is to be milder and Tuesday actually making it into the low 60’s, so some garden time is in order this weekend and early next week.

For Christmas, daughter’s family gave us an Arbor Day membership which provides 10 young trees, plus an additional purchase for our windbreak and flowering shrubs for the driveway bank.  Yesterday, the first of those young trees arrived and they must be put in the ground within a couple of days of arrival.  The suggestion is to put them in a garden area for a year or two to let them begin to establish fibrous roots and gain some size before planting them in the location of choice.  I guess that is going to make part of the lower garden a tree nursery for now, a good use for that otherwise not in use area.  The tree planting helps reduce our carbon footprint and is helping to re establish some areas of woodlot on the farm, where we need a buffer or where it is too rocky to mow.

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The cold weather brought many birds to the feeder and to the deck to clean up the spilled seed.  Feeding the neighborhood birds and trying to foil the squirrels was an enjoyable pastime when we lived in the suburbs on the coast.  With bear in this area, a feeder has been absent for the past decade, but a small cage feeder was hung outside of the kitchen window this winter, high off the ground and it has been enjoyable to see the fearless little birds feasting.  Granddaughter observed this morning while watching them during breakfast, that the chicks in the brooder are the same size as the little finches, juncos, and titmice.

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The daylight saving time change last weekend has school bus delivery back in the early morning with the sun just peeking over the ridge while we wait.  Once home and on to do the chicken chores, it can be seen over the ridge, but not yet over the trees and with no leaf cover yet, it creates an interesting morning view.

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Shooting directly into the sunrise it looks like the sun is shining through the ridge.

The brooder chicks are thriving, growing little wing feathers and boldly hopping up on the heat table to check out the world.

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Fortunately, the screen on top should prevent any fly outs that are inevitable in another week or so.  The outside brooder coop needs a new layer of straw, the brooder nest boxes mounted inside, the sides covered for protection and the pen surrounding to have the new rabbit fencing installed to keep the littles in and the bigger critters out.  It will be time to move them outside in just a few short weeks.  Hopefully these littles will be grown enough for the big girl coop about the time brooder season starts and the great chicken shuffle begins.  The littles will become the layer flock with the Americauna and the half breed, the broodys will go to the brooder coop  and any remaining older hens and Mr. Croak will go to the cull coop where they will live for the summer and as this year’s chicks get large enough, they will be moved to the cull coop as well to provide our families with chicken for the winter.  One young cockerel will move in with the young pullets to be next year’s rooster.  This year’s brooder chicks will be out layers for the next couple of years before they are replaced with new young.

We love our little farm and the chores help keep us young.

The March “Blizzard”

I know that points north of us have gotten and are still getting deep late winter snow.  We only got about 3 inches and the roads stayed relatively clear.  The snow is wet, sloggy snow.  The cedars and pines are heavy with the wet glop.  The snow less of a problem than the ice layer beneath it.  Brushing the snow off of the car revealed an ice glazed vehicle with doors frozen shut and ice glazed windows.

Our local county schools closed for the day, announcing last night, the other counties around us opted for a two hour delay which would have been a better option for here, but the western half of our county may have received more snow.  Granddaughter’s school in the next town was not closed and driving in it was apparent that they received much less than we did, and her teacher said she received even less in the valley.

It is enough snow that the cooped chickens will not go outside their coop.  Though it is not a practice employed often, their food and a bucket of water were put inside for them but the pop door open if anyone gets brave.  The 16 chicks are cozy in their brooder as we fortunately did not lose power.  Tonight we will build fires in the woodstove and fireplace to help take the edge off for the heatpump.

Tonight we are going to have the first of three nights of temperatures in the mid teens (-9ish C),  The ice glaze, snow melt during the day today, and plunging temperatures with more flurries due today, overnight and tomorrow, the roads are likely to be a slippery mess tomorrow, especially the mountain roads to get to the main road that is always well maintained for the truck traffic that uses it instead of staying on the interstate.

This school closure makes one more day to be made up.  The built in days have all been used and they are down 2 days now.  There may be another day or two built into their schedule.  It isn’t common to get much snow this late in the winter, but it is always a possibility with our last frost date not until near Mother’s Day.

At least the garden planning and indoor seed sowing doesn’t rely on what is going on outside, as it continues to flurry.  Of the 4 small sweet potatoes saved from last year’s crop, the two purple one have roots and shoots,  one of the orange ones has roots though the other one got mushy and had to be composted.

Sweet potatoes

As soon as the slips are large enough to root, they will be broken off and rooted.  I guess the orange ones are going to have to be purchased at the Feed store when they come in later this spring.

The birds have found the feeder that was hung earlier in the winter and is now frequented by Tufted Titmice, House finches, an occasional chickadee, and the tiny ground feeding juncos enjoying the spillage on the deck. One of the birdhouses on the garden edge deteriorated and fell apart last year so there was only one.  It  too needs repair, but as we have a couple of families of blue birds each year, we bought another box to mount on the second pole.  With all of the scrap lumber in the garage, I should be making them myself.  Perhaps this one will get measured and a plan drawn before it is fastened in the garden.

Birdhouse

For now, it will be an indoor day with more cancer/heart health garlands being made for the yarn bombing efforts of a knitting group to which I associate.  Breast cancer, heart health, children’s cancers and melanoma sections have all been mailed off.  The skin cancer is about half done, crocheted this time, then on to white for lung cancer and a second skein of gold for children’s cancers.

garland

Nice days

The beautiful weather has encouraged outdoor time. The peach tree that needed pruning was done.

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mess

But what a mess is there to clean up now.  This tree won’t produce this year, but when it does next year, we will be able to reach the fruit.

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The help

 

The help wasn’t too helpful, though they did seem to enjoy the supervised free range time, foraging for bugs and seeds around the outside of the gardens and under where branches were falling.

Yesterday again dawned a near summer day, laundry was started with the idea of hanging it out on the drying rack, but hubby suggested a day trip to recalculate the mileage on a circuit that he had submitted as a potential ride for the regional Harley Davidson rally in June.  He also wanted to check for restaurants at the near halfway point that would accommodate parking a dozen motorcycles and seating their riders plus some passengers.  Though the day was nice enough for a ride, this passenger is only in a closed vehicle on 4 wheels, so the day trip was taken in the car. Restaurants other than fast food were hard to come by, a local pizza place, a Mexican place, and a Chinese place.  The Mexican was a possibility, the Chinese place didn’t look like it could handle that many folks.  We tried the pizza place and ate their pizza and salad bar buffet.  It wasn’t great by any means and costs about $8 each, so for what we ate, was fairly expensive. The halfway point town is an example of how humanity can take a beautiful spot and make it ugly.  Generally, the old downtown areas of the small towns are nice, not so this one.  The focus of the ride is a road of steep switchbacks called the Back of the Dragon and even with the bare trees, or maybe because of them, the views were stunning, watching the ridge undulate ahead and behind us and looking down into the valley farms.  Though this is only 80 road miles from us, much closer as the crow flies, the contouring of the slopes is much different than here.  Perhaps due to heavier glacial activity?

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Dragon1

Needless to say, the laundry ended up in the dryer, but did get done before the sheets and quilt were needed last night.  The daytime temperatures have been in the upper 60’s, yesterday in the 70’s, but it is clear and cooling back to the 30’s at night.  Today is another beautiful day, the peach tree mess is still calling for attention.  The lopers and saw will be hauled back out and the branches cut into woodstove lengths to use for kindling next winter.

 

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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bluesky

sky

Sky

 

Habits

Waking before the alarm is my norm.  The alarm is always set, just in case, but it rarely goes off, even if sleep has alluded me at bedtime or having one of the sleep is optional nights when something awakens me after an hour or so of sleep and then no sleep comes again for hours.

At this time of year as the days lengthen, the sky has lightened just enough to see movement in the yard upon awakening, but dark enough to not know what is moving.  This morning, just below our window, were several dark shadows moving slowly away from the house.  By the time the morning ritual and dressing have occurred, it is light enough to distinguish what animals are out and about.  This morning was rich with wildlife, not all on our farm.  The shadows below the window had moved along the treeline to the upper edge of the hay field, 4 large does that stopped and warily looked toward the house with the activity of letting the dogs out and getting them fed, the coffee started, and the “barn” kitty fed on the front porch.

At this time of the morning, the eastern sky is lightening, but the sun has yet to rise above the hills and trees, but its back light highlighting the skeletonized leafless trees on the ridge in the header photo.

Forty minutes later, while waiting at the road for the school bus, the sun is just beginning to climb above that ridge.

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Once home again, chickens let out, watered, and fed, it is fully light and  Girlie, the barn kitty, always seeks a point high enough to enjoy the sun’s warmth.

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The picture that was missed was the flock of a couple dozen turkey down by one of the covered bridges, slowly crossing the road and ambling up the hillside.  They have been spotted several times in that area recently, but not in a place safe enough to stop and take a photo.

Today we are expecting record high temperatures and this morning was already so warm that only light jackets or sweatshirts were needed by the grands as they headed off to school and preschool.  We will enjoy today, a slightly cooler but still springlike day tomorrow, then plunge back into winter for a short stent before another trip up the yoyo string next week.  This has not been a typical winter in any sense.