March 26, 2009

Catching up

March 25, 2009

Another batch of rainy days has arrived. It looks like we are in for 3-4 days of clouds. I really am enjoying rainy days more and more lately. Tomorrow I will be running errands and working in town, so it can rain all it wants. I was hoping to get the chicken pen finished ASAP, but this will just be good patience practice.

We have managed to accomplish a lot in the past few days. Large sections of the garden have now been prepared and planted with early spring greens, peas, broccoli, etc. The first of our greenhouse plants are coming up!! We check on them several times a day, looking to see if any new seedlings are pushing their way out. It's so exciting!

Our most relieving and gratifying accomplishment of the past few days was the completion of our regularly scheduled spring bee-hive maintenance. Bee-hive maintenance requires a combination of good weather and a tranquil mind, a tall order sometimes, especially when the very thought of getting up-close and personal with 50,000 stinging insects can chase away a tranquil mind on even the most beautiful of days. We began in the usual way, by approaching our bees with a puff of smoke in their front door to "calm" them. Apparently not getting the message, they responded by getting irritated (would YOU be happy if someone was planning to rip the roof off your house and randomly move rooms about?). Of course this triggered our natural tendency to become fearful and agitated ourselves, which only makes matters worse. There is an amazingly direct and immediate connection between the beekeepers' state of being and the bees' mood. Our attempts to present a peaceful exterior had not fooled the bees for a second. After stepping away for a moment and taking some deep breaths, we were able to regain our confidence and trust and continue successfully (aka stinglessly) with our task. We both came away with a renewed sense of wonder and gratitude for our bees. They truly are amazingly gentle. They seem to trust us, despite our crazy intervenings in their affairs, surely we can do the same for them. And now, my little sister is embarking on her own journey into the beekeeping world. Go Jenny!! :)

March 22, 2009

When to say when - that is the question. It is very hard on these beautiful, sunny, early spring days to say enough is enough, job well done, and call it a day. The mental to-do list is never-ending, but my energy supply is not. Today was one of those days when I managed to go full-steam ahead until finally, when the sun was getting low in the sky, I hit my wall and realized that I was tired, dirty and desperately hungry. Of course, at that point I still needed to bring the goats in, put away tools and cook dinner. It sure does feel good to sit down and soak up the last rays of sun coming through the window. Dinner is a little bit odd, but it's the best I could do considering my random list of on-hand ingredients and need for quick improvisation before starving.

Joe spent the morning preparing sections of the garden and planting seeds, while I worked on manufacturing a second potting table for the greenhouse. After lunch he helped me finish up the potting table and situate it in the greenhouse before he and his mom headed to a Non-Violent Communication seminar and potluck in Floyd. I spent the next few hours in my newly organized greenhouse/shower planting seeds. I planted five flats of flowers - marigolds, dahlias, zinnias and misc - to be eventually transferred to the holes in the cinderblocks lining our garden beds. Vegetable gardens are so much more exciting with lots of color!

No photos until I find my camera. :(

March 18, 2009

Yesterday was Saint Patrick's day, and in honor of the holiday, the world turned green! (Must not have wanted to get pinched.) We have just finished up with four straight days of rain. It was some of the most delightful rainy weather I've had in a long time. We took full advantage of the rain as an excuse to do almost nothing. In fact, I think there was one day I never really changed out of my pajamas. I just read and wrote letters (the old-fashioned way) all day, and enjoyed every minute of it. But NOW! The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the world did indeed turn green overnight. As even more proof that spring IS just around the corner, the birds are singing their hearts out. It's a small chorus right now, consisting only of the brave over-winterers and the super early spring arrivals (I heard a field sparrow this morning!), but they are making up for their low numbers with increased gusto. I was even inspired to scrub the hummingbird feeder clean, but I'm not sure if I should put it up yet or not.

Lily and Wilson didn't let the rainy weather slow them down much, which is totally out of character for Wilson. I think all the talk about economic crisis (we've tried to shield them, but word gets around anyway) has motivated them to take their security into their own hands. They've stashed away enough deer carcass parts to ensure their survival for months! Wilson is definitely the saver, while Lily is more of a "spend it while you've got it" mentality. Wilson, being the older and wiser dog that he is, usually wins out. For instance, I gave them each a rawhide for entertainment the other day. Wilson took his outside immediately to bury in the woods. Lily was happily chewing away on hers, but she allowed something else to distract her for a moment. Wilson seized the opportunity and buried hers as well. She may cry now, but she'll thank him for it later when times get really tough.

In our own, less grisly, form of future security, we have planted all of our seeds in the green house and are excitedly awaiting those first little green leaves. Joe also planted some greens in the garden. I'm finding it hard to be patient as I'm already anticipating the delicious harvest in days to come. I wish it were berry season already!

March 13, 2009


Lily has managed to do the impossible - turn Wilson into an early riser. In fact, they have developed an early morning (approximately 6 a.m.) game I like to call "Thundering". The rules of the game are difficult to determine, but the sequence of events is as follows: Both dogs race through the dog door as fast as possible (extra points if they squeeze through at the same time), across the porch, down the stairs, a quick lap around the property (this is just a guess as I'm still trying to pretend to be asleep at this point), back through the dog door and in to their beds. The winner is apparently whoever makes it into the bed under the dresser, kind of like musical chairs. After a brief pause to catch their breath, the loser initiates another round by crashing through the dog door again. It's like having an alarm clock without a snooze button. ;)

You would think that because goats sort of look like deer and spend their days doing the same basic things as deer, that they, like deer, would be most active at dusk and dawn. Not so. Joe rises quite early and usually transfers the goats from their pen to the pasture first thing. Rather than jumping right into the important business of grazing, they spend the first hour or so standing end to end, heads drooping, almost motionless, like goat statues. If they had thought bubbles over their heads, I'm sure they would say "Why am I not still in bed?"

The other day, Joe called me at work to ask me if you could make yogurt with buttermilk. Hmm...all kinds of red flags went up. We had bought milk a few days before but had lost our yogurt starter in the move from Va Beach, so it sat in the fridge a while before we could make it into yogurt. Joe desribed the milk as "chunky" but not smelling bad. He decided to give it a try. As a lesson to anyone who would want to attempt such a thing in the future, here is a photo of the result. Wilson and Lily loved it. (Of course, they've been enthusiastically dragging around chunks of old deer carcass for days, so you can't say much for their food reviews.)

Joe is happy to be able to return to his favorite form of transportation.

Joe is also very happy about our over-wintered spinach patch!

Happy hay-eating goats.

A couple more pics of little Lily. She always has her ears turned inside out. The better to hear you with, my dear.

"I'm only half listening."

March 08, 2009

The winter wonderland is gone, chased away by a springtime paradise, albeit a muddy paradise. The birds are singing; the sun is shining. I'm so tempted to pull out the hammock and start planting the garden. March is a month of teases, meant to teach us patience I guess. The melting of the snow brought a nice surprise - vigorous spinach patches in the garden that have made it through the winter! Fresh greens already. :)

We have managed to get most of our stuff put away. Only a few remnants of hurricane Wareing are still visible throughout the shanty and surrounding landscape. In the spirit of putting things back where they belong, we brought Banjo and Yoda (the illustrious goats) back home today. They have spent the last three months down the road at our friends' farm. After an amusing hike back home, more resembling a circus than a transfer of livestock, they settled right back into their normal routines. At first glance I thought Yoda had grown, but I'm now thinking it is more her wooly winter coat than anything. Looks like we might just have a little midget goat on our hands.

Our family has grown a bit to include a sweet little hound dog puppy named Lily. Our primary goal in acquiring another dog was to provide Wilson with a friend to go on adventures with and keep him company for when we have to leave him behind at times. I can't say that Wilson had the "love at first sight" reaction we were hoping for, but she seems to be growing on him. It appears that Wilson suffers from jealous only-child syndrome as well as grouchy old man syndrome. He really liked Lily, until he realized she was going to live with us. But, Lily is an enthusiastic little sweetheart and is determined to win him over. Foxy is also giving her the cold shoulder, but she isn't taking it personally. She's already won Joe and me over, and we're the ones that buy the food. ;) I'll try to post pictures and more information on the website soon. Wilson may not want to share his bed yet, but he will share his webpage.

Here's a quick picture, taken by her initial rescuer (she was found abandoned on the side of the road with two other puppies), she's the big one in the middle.

March 05, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

We are home again!! And what a winter wonderland we arrived to find. It was really cool watching the snow "grow" as we crossed the state. We started out with a dusting in Va Beach and ended up with almost a foot in Pilot. I've never driven across the whole state and been in snow the whole time. Driving conditions were great the whole way (thanks VDOT!) until the last 5 miles or so. Our road hadn't been plowed at all, but a few adventerous souls had packed down some tire tracks. Then we reached our 1/4 mile (?) long driveway. Joe was determined to "charge it", but we found it covered with two foot drifts and chickened out. We ended up parking at the gate, dumping out a very happy beagle and a not so happy cat, and carrying a few essentials back to the shanty. It was so beautiful!!

We set to making a fire right away. The shanty was in great shape, just a little dusty. An hour later, Joe went back to the car to fetch another armload of essentials (we'd forgotten out toothbrushes!) and found Foxy under the car looking miserable. Wilson was having a gay old time reconnecting with the place. The next morning we hiked back to the car to get some more stuff, and Joe was met with a renewed surge of bravery. Much to my surprise, and delight, our little Subaru DID charge right through those 2 foot drifts.

We took our time getting unpacked and have managed to find a place for everything. Of course, we also both did a pretty serious purging of stuff. My car is full of items for the thrift store. Like Joe said, it's almost worth going to the thrift store and buying stuff just so you can get the wonderful feeling of getting rid of it again later! :) We interspersed our unpacking day with bouts of playing in the snow. We have a great sledding hill. :) Here's a few pics.

Of course, being home means no immediate internet access, so I won't get to post as often. We'll just have to focus on quality, not quantity. :)

March 01, 2009

Rainy day adventures

Our last day in Virginia Beach, and the heavens are crying their eyes out to see us go. :) The rain is making it difficult to actually get stuff into the car, but we have managed to turn Lisa's house into a disaster zone. All of this rain is SNOW back home, which may affect out travel plans in the morning. I'm hoping not, because I really want to see our place buried in snow!!!

Wilson and Foxy are all keyed up. The rain means no real walk for Wilson, and they can tell something is going on. Wilson keeps stealing things out of boxes and piles to play with. Foxy is trying to convince us that moving is so stressful that he should get extra feedings to compensate. :) Joe and I are both having allergic breakdowns. Oh the joys of moving.