Tag Archives: hiking

A Week On the Farm – April 24, 2016

A Day Late!

Busy weekend.  Daughter and family went away for the weekend, but eldest son and family arrived.  Daughter in law had a job reinstalling an art piece for an artist that she works with.  They had de-installed it a couple of weeks ago and packed it up for the owner, who drove it to their new house about 45 minutes from here.  DIL and son went over yesterday to install the piece and we got eldest grandson time.

Today was dedicated to work and fun on and near the farm. Last year, we tried to use the chicken tractor that was too heavy for me to move by hand and not sturdy enough to move by tractor as a brooder coop, inside one of the chicken runs.  It ended up being a disaster, we lost batch of chicks after batch of chicks, regardless of how we tried to secure it.  Son was determined that we could make it work.  Last fall, he cut some cedars, stripped the branches and brought the trunks up near the chicken pens.  Today, we set about making a base for the chicken tractor that lifted it up off the ground on a solid floor.  One of our goals was to not spend any more money on it, as it probably only has a couple more years of life before the reclaimed wood fails.  My idea was to put it up on blocks with a plywood floor.  He said that was too expensive.  We had many old cedar posts that were being used mostly unnecessarily to try keep weeds out of the garden or to keep the chickens from going under fences.   We decided to use them.  Four large fairly flat rocks were located in rock piles and used as the corners instead of cinder blocks.  Two of the cedar trunks were used to be floor beams and the cedar posts, cut to length as the floor joists, surface.  Now I need to let you know that at this point, I threatened to rename son, Huck and give him a paddle.

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The end joists were screwed to the cedar trunk beams and the rest packed as tightly as we could put them.  “Huck” questioned whether they were close enough together and though they are, they surface is neither smooth nor flat.  I said that I would spread a thick layer of newpaper, wood shavings or hay over it and that would probably do.  DIL had the idea that we could make a sod house type floor to smooth it out instead.

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We started laying hay over the raft perpendicular to the floor.

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A few tractor buckets of soil and sod were layered on top of that, the rocks removed and packed down.  Thereby creating a sod floor over the cedar raft.

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The fence was removed from the meat chicken pen’s upper end (no chickens in there right now) and son and I wrestled the tractor out and adjacent to the sod covered raft.  The two of us could not lift it alone, but a neighbor and his friend were using metal detectors on our field looking for civil war treasures and they came up to help out.  With DIL eyeballing where it should sit, the other four of us each picked up a corner and set the tractor on top of the sod covered raft.

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This left a few gaps and we decided to line up the rocks that we had pulled out of the soil around the interior perimeter.  The shot I failed to get was son on his hands and knees inside this structure as I handed in rocks for him to fill the gaps.

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The structure is now soundly in place and as secure as we could make it.  The lower hardware cloth sides are going to be closed in, leaving the upper triangles for vents, a ramp built and the nesting boxes installed.  A low chicken wire fence will surround it to allow the chicks and their mommas outside once they are a few days old.  I still need to reattach the fencing that we removed to get the tractor out of the run.  A predator will now have to climb, and gnaw in to get to the babies.  Perhaps we will have better luck raising them this year.

Once we finished and had lunch, we took off on a hike that was a portion of the hike we did last summer backpacking.  The hike is about 5 miles total with the first half a steep climb to a ridge that is a beautiful, fairly level walk out to a rock outcrop that allows us to look through the gap to Blacksburg and Christiansburg in the distance.

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In spite of the beautiful blue sky, there was quite a haze off in the distance.

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The first shot, looking east toward the towns and the other looking west up the valley and the farmland.  Sorry they aren’t clearer.  It was definitely still looking like winter up there though the temperature was summer time.  There was no leaf cover at all at the elevation.  I certainly got my steps in today, almost getting twice the 10,000 step goal with 19,780, walking/hiking 8.63 miles, and the equivalent of 111 flights of steps.

They are headed home.  Daughter and her family have returned from their trip.  Leftovers prepared, eaten and cleaned up for dinner, a shower taken and now I am ready for bed.

Tomorrow is the last nice day for a week of expected rain, so I will try to repair the fencing, enclose the brooder coop and work more on garden prep.  We are approaching our last expected frost date and I will be able to plant the tomatoes, peppers, beans, popcorn, pumpkins, bush beans, cucumbers and flowers.  The part for my car came in, and that is also on my schedule to get the part installed and the reinspection.  An appointment has been made to get another estimate on replacing the ball joints in a few more days.

Loving life in the mountains.

Sunday Thankfulness 4/10/16

What a difference a day makes in the mountains.  Yesterday we awoke to snow and got a couple of inches before the temperature got above freezing and the ground snow melted while it was still snowing and blowing horizontally.  I think it got up to about 40ºf yesterday and dropped to 22ºf last night.  I fear there will be no fruit in our orchard this year.  Unfortunately, all 5 apple trees, both peaches and both Asian pears were already blooming.  The garden seems to have survived and the chickens didn’t even notice.

Today is bright and sunny, the wind has calmed and it is 62ºf.  Much too nice a day to stay inside, yet too iffy, especially at night to do any garden work, so I tied on the sneakers, grabbed my trekking poles and hiked away from the house while the kids were having quiet time and Jim was sitting in the loft, still recovering from another bout of bronchitis.  I decided to take a hike that I had not previously taken, down the gravel road, took a right and hiked up the cow paths to a ridge we see from the paved road when we go up the mountain.  The views from there were fabulous.

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A shot east and the steeple of the church half way up to our house.  A shot west up the valley. And a shot south toward the highway we can hear trucks on, but not see from our house, to a house that has been built in the hollow over the ridge.  I got my 10,000+ steps, climbed the equivalent of 77 flights of steps, enjoyed the bright sunny day for well over an hour and a half.  The fresh spring air was delightful.

While hiking along the cow paths, I spotted many tiny violets blooming in the woods.

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After coming back down from the ridge and crossing the road, I climbed the hill above our house and walked back around that hill and returned to the road and the walk home.

Soon those cow pastures between the woods will be too tall to walk and I will have to stick to the woods and roads.

Tomorrow is another beautiful day and after a late morning appointment, I plan to try another trail that I have never hiked before it gets too overgrown as well.

The Hike

Thursday, I drove to Northern Virginia to pick up Son #1’s family for a few days visit with us and for us to have Grandson #1 for a month of his summer vacation.  Friday, I picked up Grandson from summer camp, met Son at home to get dinner and take Grandson to guitar lesson, then home to wait for DIL who had taught pottery and ceramics at the same camp for the past 6 weeks.  The staff had to take down all of their decorations, clean up the classrooms that they had used at an exclusive Girl’s school in the area.  She didn’t get home until after 10, showered, packed her remaining things and we set off for home, not arriving back in the mountains until about 3 a.m.  Saturday we just took it easy, did a few errands, went out for lunch with the two of our children and their families and mentally prepared for the backpacking trip that Son #1, DIL, Grandson #! and I were to embark on Sunday morning.  The Hike didn’t sound too bad when it was presented to me, about 8 miles on Sunday to Kelly’s Knob, camp there for the night and hike out 4 miles today.  What I didn’t know was that the hike started with a 2000 foot elevations drop, hike along a valley briefly, then climb 2000 feet to the Knob.  Hiking uphill is slow and ponderous with breaks to let my heartrate stabilize, but down hill takes a serious toll on my knees.  DIL has bad knees, so we gave her my hiking poles to use for the trip.  By the time we had gotten to a shelter near our lowest point, I was already feeling the stress in my knees.  The shelter area was gorgeous with our first water supply, knowing that there would be none again until today, drank all that we had left, filled all of our bottles and a 5 liter water bladder, which was strapped to the top of Son’s pack.  I am an Ultralight Backpacker, though I haven’t done it in about a decade, my pack with pad, sleeping bag, hammock, tarp, cup and spoon, flashlight, change of clothing including a light rain jacket and a fleece, first aid kit, 2 liters of water and food for a weekend for me only weighs 19-20 pounds.  I don’t even want to think about what Son’s weighed as his pack alone weighs  half of what I carry in total, plus he carries a non backpacking tent for his family what must have been 8-10 pounds, plus his own gear and he carried half of the food for the group.  DIL had the community cooking gear plus her own personal gear and Grandson carried his sleeping bag, water, and a change of clothes.

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This is what we found at the shelter.  Plastic garbage bags in the fire pit, food wrappers in the shelter, liquor bottles in the fire pit.  Son and I cleaned it all up, wrapped it in a half of a plastic poncho that was in the shelter and he carried it all up the 2000 feet too, along with all of that extra water, and back down the 1200 feet over 3-4 miles this morning.

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DIL  and Son watching Grandson cavort at the shelter where we stopped for lunch yesterday and before our climb.  The shelter where we cleaned up the garbage.

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Our campsite last night.

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Kelly’s Knob, just feet from our campsite with views of Blacksburg and Christiansburg through the break in the trees.

The camp was nice, we ate well, watched the sunset from these rocks and all were in bed by full dark.

Our morning began a 1200 foot elevation drop again over 3 to 4 miles down to the road where Mountaingdad, Daughter and Granddaughter #2 were to meet us and bring us back to showers, clean clothes and tonight our own beds.

It was a great 24 hours with them, I am sore, my knees hurt, but I look forward to being able to hike and backpack with them again.  It is an activity that I was doing before meeting Mountaingdad, curtailed once children were born and not resumed until Son #2 was in scouts and didn’t mind me being along on the backpacking trips.  With those trips and my involvement in the BSA for many, many years as an adult leader, I made many friends and the leaders formed our own Over The Hill hiking gang that took additional hikes sans the boys in the troop.  Once I moved away from them, I figured I would never backpack again, so this was a joy and blessing to be able to hike 12 to 14 miles of the Appalachian Trail that I had never before hiked and doing it with Son #1 and his family.  By the way, this son hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2000 when he was 20 years old.

Holy Mother Nature!

Son #1 and Grandson #1 arrived in a horrendous rainstorm in the wee hours of Saturday morning after a harrowing bus ride from Northern Virginia.  Once everyone was up and fed Saturday morning, we set out to finish the Chicken Palace, the cull/meaties coop.  The plan involved using more of the leftover metal roofing to secure in the increasingly larger hole down each side of the coop to the ground.

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If you look at this photo from the day we built the main structure, you can see the triangular hole down each side as the back of the coop is a couple of feet higher than the front due to the slope of the land.  We cut the trapezium shaped pieces and fastened them to the nailers from inside the coop using roofing screws with the chicken wire that I had previously stapled up outside the metal.

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The front was half covered as well.  The coop still needs rocks or logs along the edges inside and out to discourage digging, but it is reasonably secure now.  If anything other than a bear can get it, it will be fairly small and probably won’t take on more than one adult chicken.  I also need to put up some fencing for a run to protect them from the dogs.  After we finished, we captured Midnight, the randy 20 week old Americauna cockerel; Romeo, the two year old Buff Orpington rooster whose spurs had become lethal weapons; Buffy and Buttercup, my two oldest Buff Orpington hens who proved not to be good Moms, they are the ones that abandoned they nests as soon as the younger hen’s eggs hatched.

Sunday morning, bright and early, before the family was up, Son and I dispatched the four of them to freezer camp, leaving us with no adult males for now.  The plan is to keep one of the cockerels from this summer’s hatchings to be the new king of the coop for next year.  We are on chick watch, with the last broody due to hatch the end of the week.  We have had a strange situation in the coop for the past few days.  The Momma hen who lost 4 of her babies two weeks ago and was placed in the coop with her remaining three, spent the first week taking them into a nesting box at night, then after a week she went up to a perch each night and the chicks wouldn’t follow, but instead, tucked under the broody who would accept them at night.  Mom would then take them outside during the daytime and teach and protect them.  I think last night, the chicks pushed 5 of her 11 eggs out of the nest.  I candled them and two appear to have chicks.  Since I’m not sure how long they were out, I put them back under Mom.  The other three do not seem to have chicks, so they will be discarded.

Late yesterday afternoon, Son, Grandson and I set out to take them back home by way of a 5 mile hike to Dragon’s Tooth and back to the car.  I managed all but the top smidgen of the up hike handling the steeps and even the rock scrambles until we got to this. . .

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I decided that with my bifocals and in a skirt, that though I might get up that, I wouldn’t safely get back down it.  The white dot just above center right is my 6’4″ tall son.  Grandson and son left me sitting at the base of this with my water bottle and finished the last 2/10 mile to the top of the tooth and then back to me.  We started out at about 5:30 p.m., made it back to the car just before 8 p.m. and took off for Northern Virginia.  With a dinner stop, rain and the semi trucks, and finally stopped by a huge accident on I-66 just one exit from his exit, we were about 1 a.m. getting there.

This morning we awoke to light rain and I took Son to work and headed for I-66 to return home.  Between morning traffic and harder rain, I missed my turn that I usually take and continued out Braddock Road as I knew I could get on the interstate farther out, but when I got to that turn, traffic was backed up as far as I could see in the direction I needed to go.  I turned south and headed for Manassas to get on there.  As soon as I climbed the ramp to the interstate, it began to rain barrels full and there must have been nose to tail semis in almost all lanes spraying more barrels full onto my little car.  I promptly got off at the next exit and headed south down the middle of the state on a route that I knew would get me home, but would take much longer.  I wasn’t too far down that route until it started raining so hard that I couldn’t see the car in front of me, my cell phone alarming “Flash Flood” warnings, and several inches of water standing at every intersection.  Needless to say, my 60 mph posted speed limit was more like 25 or 30 for about 2 hours.  Once I cleared the Charlottesville area, the rain stopped and the drive improved until I got back to the point of getting on the interstate again. Being tired and stressed, the semi traffic was too much to handle.  As soon as I could get off and take a back route home, I did.  The normally 4.5 hour trip took 8 hours, but I am home, the sun is shining and it isn’t miserably hot, so life is good.

To end on a laugh, Granddaughter just yelled up to me, “Mommom, what are we having for dinner?”  My response was that we are going to The Cellar (a local restaurant).  She fled back to her mom, fretting aloud, “Oh no, we aren’t having anything for dinner (she knows that part of our basement is the root cellar).”  I can only imagine what was going on in her little 3 1/2 year old head.

Family Outing and Chicks

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Tropical depression Bob descended on us around 2 p.m.  With SIL’s mom visiting for the weekend, we wanted to take her on a hike one that the kids had not done before, so after the morning Farmers’ Market run we set off up the mountain to a nice 2.6+ mile loop trail that has a gorgeous rock outlook about halfway through the hike. It has a 180 degree view that is totally unspoiled, not a road, power line, nor structure can be seen.  The easier part of the loop goes through a forest that once was home of American Chestnuts before the blight destroyed them almost entirely.  You see Chestnut Oak there now, but not native Chestnuts.  There are some medium sized Hemlocks that have not succumbed to the Wooly Adelgid that is destroying them as well.

The last Mountain Laurel and the first Rhododendron of the season, wildflowers, bird’s nest, interesting fungi, fern fields, cool breezes, shade were all present for a delightful walk.  On our way out on the more difficult part of the loop, where the elevation drops many hundred feet on a series of switchbacks to a few hundred feet of creek crossing and walking through a Rhododendron thicket, the lost elevation must be regained a bit more gradually, but still challenging.  As we were beginning the ascent, the thunder began and we kicked into overdrive to get back to the car before the storm descended on us on the ridge line.  Granddaughter, the 3 1/2 year old was a super hiker, being carried only part of the way in each direction, especially when we had to really kick up the pace.  As we settled in the car and started the drive back the 12 miles across the ridge and down the mountain road back to the house, the rain began.

Yesterday, Momma Hen 3 hatched a trio of her 9 eggs, but 2 of them did not survive, the remaining chick has settled under Momma Hen 4 in the next nesting box.  The remaining eggs should hatch by Monday from both hens.  We now have 8 chicks a few days old, 2 that are 4 weeks old and still waiting to see what else might emerge in the next day or two.  I fear we may not get as many chicks as we had hoped for flock replenishment and meat for the freezer.  I really don’t want to have to purchase chicks and raise them in a brooder and hope that we may yet have enough chick hatch this year to make this a viable experiment.

Sunday Thankfulness and Fun

After two days of hard work with eldest son, as a family we decided that today was going to be a fun day before they caught a 3 p.m. bus back to Vienna, VA, leaving their son, our eldest grandson, now 9 years old to spend most of the summer with us.  Summer care for him was both expensive and hard to come by but also difficult to fit with their schedule as our daughter in law leaves for her Art Camp teaching gig at 6:50 a.m. and returns to the house at about 5 p.m., our son leaves on his bicycle to ride to campus at 7 a.m. so that he can make the 45 minute bike commute and get a shower at the Aquatic Center to be at his desk by 8:30 and he doesn’t get off until 5 p.m. and has to make the 45 minute bike commute home.  We adore having grand-kids with us and love that we are trusted to keep him until mid August when the Art Camps are over and he and his mom will travel to Virginia Beach to spend a week or so with the other grandparents prior to school resuming for everyone.

For our fun day, we decided to hike to the Cascade Falls, a 2 mile uphill hike to a beautiful view followed by the return 2 mile hike back down to the car.  The hike included a swim in the icy water by son and grandson and an extensive trash pick up by all of us that we carried back down in my bag.  There were about 45 incoming freshmen from a local university that had hiked up and they seemed to be mostly responsibly for the trash.  I gently confronted the group about what we had collected and was met with denial that it wasn’t them, but when they got up and left, they failed to pick up several GatorAde bottles, a gallon water bottle and 25 zip lock bags along with granola bar wrappers, candy wrappers and other debris.  We collected all of that also and hauled it back down the trail to the trash cans at the parking lot, collecting additional wrappers on the way down.  It baffles me that they could be so inconsiderate and wonder where they thought their plastic, cellophane, and mylar was going to go.

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Rhododendron season, these are traditional pink, but most of the ones we saw today were white.

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The pile of debris we hauled down from that beautiful falls and stream.

While hiking down, I got a call from our neighbor asking if we saw his big brown dog, the chicken killer down here again.  Fortunately, I was a bad chicken keeper today and had left them cooped up when we left for our hike.  He apparently walked down looking for the dog and couldn’t find him.  Later he texted that the dog was in the house and we let the chickens out.

This afternoon, we put our son and his wife on a bus home and we brought our grandson home with us.  He helped me extend the 4 foot fence up to 6 feet by putting a lighter weight garden fence secured with fiberglass poles to the top.  This will prevent the youngs from flying out and hopefully will discourage Brown Dog from getting in.

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