12 August 2016

Two complete Orbits around the Sun

Rain and humidity have been the norm for the last few weeks, accompanied by higher than normal temperatures. Some nights have barely descended into the sixties. Oddly, there has not been a typical amount of fog this year - until dear friends from New Mexico came to visit. The Fog God ended his vacation time and returned with renewed vigor. Just when it behooved me to show old friends some of the 60-mile panoramas of Virginia, visibility dropped to near zero.

Its been nearly a month since conditions were ideal for driving or washing the cars - but now that the New Mexicans have moved onward, the sun and lower humidity have returned, perfect for bathing the Morris Minor and the Ford Coupe this morning. These cars have a particular poignancy today, the second anniversary of The Divorce Settlement, since the ex had declared she wanted (and would get) the Morris and probably the Ford. Not, mind you, that she could drive a stick shift - or see over the hood of the coupe... My faith in the legal system is very circumscribed but after adequate time for being  tortured, it finally came through for me.

Life is now peaceful, rewarding, and very, very full; as good as its ever been. I am so fortunate.

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.” Lao Tzu

06 August 2016

Much belated

On Sunday nights, a local wood fired pizza joint and beer parlor (with about a dozen craft beers on tap) host an open mic. You never know what will show up, sometimes it blows your socks off and sometimes it just blows. The only way to know is to go to the show. This particular night was heavy with locals and given the depth of the talent pool here, that guarantees some good tunes. Stage photography is on of those subjects were digital photography is hands-down superior to film. Despite half a century of experience, I would not be able to equal these results with film. The opening image is Jeff Liverman and his red-hot harmonica player.
 The guitar player to the left is Will Norton, a singer song writer who often tickles my fancy with his lyrics. The gentleman picking the banjo, Phil Woddail, is an old time musician with great talent and authenticity.

On open mic night, each musician may play three songs. Perhaps it is my imagination but it seems the least talented play the longest tunes...

Instruments this summer have run the gamut from dulcimer to bagpipe.

Another reward to Floyd life.

26 June 2016


Even after more than seven years, friends, both old and new, politely inquire as to whether Mr Fuzzy misses his old digs in New Mexico. Except for dear friends, green chile, and the wonderful home designed by Malcolm Worby, the answer is simple: not at all. My home here is nestled into  the forest like a babe in its mother's arms but my open view southward is to the horizon. In the winter, when the forest is without leaves, Buffalo Mountain, about 20 miles away, is easily seen. The clouds are every bit as beautiful here, and the iconic flower of the Southwest, the yucca, naturalizes here very nicely.

Wildlife abounds on the farm, especially deer and turkeys, both sometimes making themselves pests. Eagles are seen every once in a while, saw one riding the currents yesterday. The sound of frogs and forest insecta are literally music to my ears at night. Here is a photo of a doe and her twins, taken by my old friend, Gary, who is visiting.

No desire to return to New Mexico whatsoever. I love it here.

18 June 2016


After a cool and wet spring, lasting into mid-June, the rains suddenly halted and old Sol reigned supreme. The days were clear, hot, and relatively low humidity. This break in the weather came just in time for haying- the grasses were mature, dry, ready to harvest. A high wind might have laid them down, ruining all.

   With a lot of assistance from my neighbor, we worked on both his hay and mine. My role was kicking the hay, the process after the mowing and before raking into wind rows. The kicking scatters the hay so it dries well. The days were hot and windy so the drying process proceeded very quickly. It looks like the week long heat spell allowed almost everyone to bale their hay. My yields were very good, maybe a record, we'll see when the bales are counted.
Kicker at work behind me
   After baling, the grass is tender, its leaves shredded makes for moisture loss and with no cover, the roots become hot and dehydrate readily. The heat hung on days after the last bales were tied, causing some amount of worry. Then two days ago, an unforecast large storm cell drifted over the county and dropped 1.25" here at Stratheden Farms (over three inches in Roanoke, enough to cause flooding). The thirsty ground absorbed nearly all.
   Then yesterday, another quarter of an inch fell and about the same today. The pasture, garden and farmer are all content.
view from the Blue Ridge Parkway today

01 June 2016

Yard (sale) & Gardens

One of the major cultural landmarks of this region is the huge flea market held down the road thirty miles in Hillsville on Memorial Day weekend. Purported to draw 500,000 potential buyers, the effect of the sale radiates outward through adjoining counties. Along State Highway 221, from Roanoke to Hillsville, for 70 miles, every farm house and parking lot has folks trying to dispose of junk without making the trip to the dump- by making it someone else's junk. Just a walking distance away from the farm, the Falling Branch Methodist church has a good flea market; Stratheden Farm doesn't need anymore junque but there are always a few cakes and pies for sale, made by ladies old enough to know how to make them from scratch. Mrs. Sower's German Chocolate Coconut Pound Cake (for $6.00 - the ingredients cost more than that!) went back to Stratheden to be destroyed at leisure.

This is gardening season, The little garden, although having been tilled twice already, was about to be overtaken by weeds/grasses and needed another turning before more seedlings could be transplanted.

Much of the garden is still vacant, most seedlings still not yet of adequate size to go into the ground. The flea beetles have already attacked tomato seedlings as they sit on the patio. A Japanese beetle was also spied - and destroyed. It seems several weeks too early for these destructive pests.

Writing must cease and weeding must begin. Until the next post, best wishes to you.

27 May 2016

Its Summer!

How do you know its summer in Floyd? Three dramatic additions to the landscape:
1. daylilies in bloom (Stella d'Oro here)
2, peonies in bloom
3. Fireflies (or lightning bugs, depending on where in the South you grew up) are dancing all evening in the pastures.

It has rained twelve of the last fourteen days and of course, the skies have been gray. Mostly unseasonable cool temperatures, with morning lows about 50F.

Tuesday and Wednesday were delightfully sunny, stimulating the peonies and early daylilies to explode into bloom after two weeks of holding their buds closed, awaiting just the right ray of sunlight.

Mr. Fuzzy spent two weekends ago with good 18th century friends participating in The Raid at Martin's Station, a recreation of the devastating Cherokee raids on the frontier in the 1770s. The weather was clear and dry, always good since dragging wet canvas tents home in the back of the car ceases to be fun very quickly. The temperatures were surprisingly cold, with the Sunday morning reading being 37F.

The entire event was a fine example of "I get by with a little help from my friends." Having only packed one thin blanket (the three day forecast was terribly wrong), the only way the nights were passable was thanks to loans of blankets from Bill B., Bill C. and George M. Thank you so much my friends, it would have been miserable for my old bones without your kindness.

Due to a single narcissistic personality, the hunters' camp crew found other places to lay their bed rolls, thus dispersing a long standing community of talented re-enactors. One feature of the old camp was gourmet meals, sadly lacking now. Mr. Comer provided your humble correspondent with a much needed black and tan one evening at the new camp and a communal dinner of no mean quality was devoured. Lisa C's strawberry desert was delectable in the extreme. Walking back to my tent, Dolly inquired if I might like a bite of rhubarb pie. Well, do bears have ticks? REAL rhubarb pie, no other fruits. Oh my, the ecstasy after each bite! Thank you so much.

The cultural life in tiny Floyd is always a source for amazement. A few nights ago, The Jacksonville Arts Center hosted two Irish musicians for some wonderful traditional music. Its fair to say everyone present had a fine time listening to the fiddle and accordion duo. He was also a great storyteller in the Irish tradition.

12 May 2016


Despite the odd winter which cycled from frigid to warm throughout the season, it appears that relatively few plants were seriously damaged. A prolonged and very warm spell in December caused some iris to break dormancy and send up leaves. Despite nights in the low single digits, the leaves endured and now have produced some spectacular blooms, both in size and number. Its difficult to appreciate from the image but the deep purple/blue iris blooms are the size of my hand.

The wild iris have also prospered this year. The common blue iris (Iris Virginica) is opening all over the farm, adding those intense touches of blue here and there.

A farm buddy down the road gave me a five gallon bucket load of yellow bog iris (Iris pseudacorus) from his field two years ago. Considered an invasive pest in many areas, these were planted in the "it won't hold water pond" fro whence they are unlikely to escape. Bless his heart, Warren has since died after a valiant battle with cancer - his iris will remind me of our friendship year after year. 

The grasses and attendant weeds are also thriving. After lubricating every grease fitting on the riding mower, it is back in service for the season. Although carrying the Sears brand, it was made by Husqvarna and has been a durable performer under difficult conditions here on the steep landscape. Its main use is around the house, under trees, and on slopes too steep to safely take the big tractor. The wee spreader is handy for applying lime and fertilizer in spot applications.

The Yanmar continues to exceed expectations. The underbelly mower was lubricated, belt checked and remounted tot he tractor (you cannot plow snow with it mounted). Theoretically it is a mower, not a bush hog, but it will whack a fair sized locust with aplomb.

The seedlings are rocketing upward. About five hours were spent yesterday in transplanting wee seedlings i their Jiffy-Pots into 4" pots.

Summer is just around the corner - what will it bring? Wet? Dry? Hot or cold? Or a real surprise, might it be normal?