25 May 2015

going Rogue

Its been dry here at Stratheden Farms. The last decent rain, half an inch, was a fortnight ago. In the interval, it has been warm and breezy, sucking moisture from both soil and plants. The subsoil moisture was enough to sustain life but today there are signs appearing on both trees and smaller plants that they are in need of water. The national Weather Service has forecast rain every week for the last three weeks, and only one has materialized, noted above. The forecast beginning tomorrow is for about five days of precipitation, which would be very pleasant.

Many farmers have used this dry spell to mow & bale their hay. We are hoping for this rainy spell to give one last boost to the plants before mowing. Like everything else in farming, its a gamble. This time last year produced a record hay yield from the farm but this year will likely be less than 75% of that amount. Below is a photo made today along Highway 8 between Floyd and Christiansburg with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

It was a red letter day for Mr. Fuzzy. The venerable 2004 Honda CRV has 200,000 miles on it now and some of the electronics have developed pesky problems. It has performed yeoman's work on the farm for six and a half years, towing trailers full of gravel, mulch, fencing supplies, towing the tractor out of the mud, etc.But its reliability on a long trip is now in doubt.

After much research, inspections, test drives and cogitation, a new Nissan Rogue was purchased today from New River Nissan in Christiansburg. The salesman, Stanley Foulkes, was nice to work with, a good person and extremely knowledgeable. Here he is about to hand over the "keys" (its a keyless car, that and many other high tech features are going to take some learning at Mr. Fuzzy's end). Very few automobiles met all my criteria, which included:
all wheel or four wheel drive
good sized cargo space
good ground clearance (4WD is pretty useless without it)
at least 30 mpg on the highway

Ye olde Honda will be have its category changed at the DMV office to "farm use only" which will cut the cost of keeping it to almost nothing. It was worth less than $4,000 to trade in and this seemed a more noble application. The CRV will still perform the hard work, including local hauling & towing tasks, thereby allowing the Rogue to remain pristine (with some luck).

Let's hope the Rogue gives such good service as the CRV. It should.

16 May 2015

Flowers everywhere!

Despite an odd winter which constantly cycled back and forth from cccccold temperatures to record breaking warmth, most of the trees and plants seem to have weathered it well. The prior winter was more typical and never got as cold but caused more floral losses.

I'm conflicted about being where nearly every type of tree has a significant flower bloom. Yes, it causes severe allergies but my, oh my, Mother Nature has decorated trees more spendidly than a Christmas tree. Especially outstanding this year are the tulip poplars and the locusts. The flower of the tulip poplar, if not dislodged by wind or hail, becomes 'woody' and makes a fine everlasting decoration for dried arrangements and wreaths. If you look in the bottom left corner, one from last year, much abused by the elements, is still attached.

Easy to see why it was named "tulip" poplar

a detail of the "tulip"

flowers on a locust tree

The wildflowers are also prospering thus far. Currently in bloom are greater tickseed, fire pink (aka catchfly), a bumper crop of blackberry blooms that should provide a bountiful harvest for both the human and the bears on Stratheden Farm. Already bloomed out are the cherries, dogwoods and red buds trees. The coltsfoot has gone to seed.

Of special mention this year are the globular buttercups. The flowers are larger, there are more flowers per cluster and the number of clusters is at least thrice the norm. The meadow below the house must have upwards of 10,000 buttercups brightening the landscape.

Yes, indeed, this is an earthly paradise.

05 May 2015

Priceless Neighbors

Today was 79F degrees and felt every bit of it. Summer has arrived early. Have never seen blooms still on dogwoods and such high temperatures simultaneously. Not only is the air warm but so is the ground - meaning its time to direct sow seeds into the gardens.

Of course the gardens need to be cleaned up and tilled to be prepared for planting. Alas, Mr. Fuzzy is not up to the task of using the hand tiller - the flu robbed all the energy reserves. Twenty minutes of moderate labor is followed by near complete exhaustion.

A dashing knight on a silver steed to his rescue; also known as the Great Neighbor, Clay, on his old and venerable Long tractor, bearing a rear mounted tiller.  Because of its width and forward speed, Clay was able to achieve in about twenty minutes what the hand tiller would produce in an afternoon (or longer).

Clay saved the bacon of the farm by preparing the garden for seeding. The time is NOW - by the time Mr. Fuzzy has his strength back, even if recovery is as rapid as a fortnight, the window to plant some seeds would have been passed. Thank you, Clay.

Late in the day as the temperatures began a slow decline and a light breeze developed, Mr. Fuzzy did manage to mow for about 45 minutes. As his attention began to drift, it was time to cease operation. A trio of whirling blades cutting a 60 inch wide path is too dangerous to operate without total focus.

My grandfather contended that the two greatest blessings in life were health and good neighbors. Stratheden Farm is extremely fortunate to have great neighbors. We count our blessings.

03 May 2015

Cough, hack, sputter...

It was nothing less than a miracle: virtually every day Mr. Fuzzy was in Scotland and England contained some sunshine, in fact, most days were entirely sunny. The mercury soared to 65F one the final days, a summer time reading. The image to the left is from the last full day trodding Sacred Soil. Scotland has always treated Mr. Fuzzy well and this adventure was no exception. Except for a missed connection with friends in Glasgow, its challenging to consider how this tour could have been better.

Arriving late in the evening in Washington, DC, the night was spent at a nearby hotel. The next morning saw a short jaunt almost directly west to attend the premier 18th century trade fair in the South: Fort Frederick, Maryland. If it looks cold - it was! The high temperature was about 44F and although Mr. Fuzzy was headed homeward by then, it snowed the next morning. Time there was brief, just four hours, not even long enough to visit all friends but better than nothing.

The first day back on Stratheden Farm was more like Scotland than Scotland had been - a day long fog and very cool. A neighbor reported it rained at least every third day whilst Mr. Fuzzy was in sunny Scotland, where it rained but once.

Mr. Fuzzy ran hard in Scotland & England, so many friends to enjoy, so many new adventures to find, old sacred sites to revisit, and not the least, the world class cuisines now found in almost any village. British cooking used to be, deservingly, the butt of many jokes, but that has dramatically shifted in just the last few years. Much more on that in a subsequent post.

Between running to near exhaustion, the afternoon in the chill of Fort Frederick, the cold humidity of the farm, and a huge dose of nearly crippling hay fever (from mowing about 3 acres), perhaps it is not remarkable to note that by Tuesday, Type B influenza put the traveler into bed for the next five days; only today has the fever-fog lifted. This experience could have been omitted, if anyone had just inquired... just when the farm needs immediate attention, sigh.

Stay well.

26 April 2015

A needed vacation

Dearest Reader.
Mr. Fuzzy deeply apologizes for the month long hiatus in postings.
Between tying up loose ends and 17 days in the Homeland, it has been a while since there was enough time for a coherent post. Now, freshly arrived back from Scotland and not well rested (he vacationed to total contentment and exhaustion), there are some 1,100 images to sort through and friends to thank for being amazing hosts.
Here are two images just to whet your eye's perceptions. The color image is from near Aberfeldy, Scotland, where the poor Ford Focus got a workout for which it was never designed on an ancient one lane dirt track going up a Ben; the view was dramatically improved by rising perhaps 600-800 feet from the main road in the valley bottom. The sepia image is from the ancient English village of Pickering in North Yorkshire. A reminder: you may click on either image top enlarge them to an almost decent viewing size.

There will be much more later once Mr. Fuzzy recovers from jet lack and haggis deprivation. May your past weeks have been as fruitful and peaceful.

29 March 2015

New record low temperatures

Its official - its cold this morning, 18F here at Stratheden Farm. Below is from the National Weather Service:

828 AM EDT SUN MAR 29 2015




BLACKSBURG VA      17 F        17 F (2001)        1952-2015
LYNCHBURG VA       17 F        23 F (1982)        1893-2015
DANVILLE VA        21 F        23 F (1996)        1948-2015
BLUEFIELD WV       18 F        19 F (1966)        1959-2015
LEWISBURG WV       16 F        18 F (1982)        1973-2015


The wood stove is keeping the house warm, fortunately there is no wind; the day is forecast to warm into the forties with fifties to follow soon. The ground remains soft as it is warm so damage to flora may be mitigated. Nonetheless, it looks like every daffodil froze. It remains to be seen how the two-four inch high daylilies have fared.

28 March 2015

Whether winter weather went whither-

Dear Reader,
   Remember the post proclaiming this may be the best bloom year yet for the daffodils? Premature speculation it seems. Thursday was 71F and cloudless most of the day. Yesterday it snowed (see photograph) madly. Today, at 10:00 a.m. on a cloudless morning, the temperature has struggled to warm to 23F (-5C).

   Yesterday's heavy, wet snow bent the blooms over and collapsed their stems (the stem wall in a daffodil bloom is but paper thick). The severe cold last night seems to have "nipped in the bud" the blooms which were about to open. Tonight is forecast to be even colder before a warming trend into the high 60s begins. Perhaps there will be no more showers of brilliant yellow daffodil blooms this Spring.
   Last weekend one task on the "to do" list but not achieved was to clean the fireplace for the season. That would have been a wasted effort! It will be devouring the last bits from the firewood stack at least through mid-day tomorrow.

May you, dear reader, have the good fortune to have missed this last hearty gasp of winter.