26 June 2009


Humbug! Mama just set me up with my own Blogger account so that readers wouldn't be confused thinking that SHE writes these posts. Ha! I AM A SMART CAT. But I am kinda ticked off to see that the last post featured a picture of the mini girl cat. Evil things!

Mama says I'm supposed to be writing on the things I've been overseeing here on the farm OKAAAAY MAHM! (Mom's still stuck cleaning that room of hers.)

So outside, in my domain, has been all in an uproar. Mama kept us inside part of the day for Two Whole Days (meanie!) because this guy called Mr. Simpson The Cattle Farmer Next Door came over with a noisy tractor and stuff stuck on behind it. Each day the stuff changed and now the scary tall grass is all gone. I've seen Daddy "mow" but this guy was waaaaayyyyyy faster and I *think* the big blocks of grass smelling things are where he put it. I didn't get to see how but a quick Googling leads me to believe he used something called a "round bailer" to make them.

They're sort of pretty and we can climb up on them but it's all in the hot sun so not fun most of the day.

OK... job done. Now I can tell you what else I saw today. I saw Mama let the short haired orange baby out into the patio today. I don't think Mama saw me watching from the day lily patch but I saw this With My Own Eyes! They were only out for twenty minutes or so but STILL!

22 June 2009

Almost a Camera!

Last evening I figured out how to use the webcam thing on this laptop so now I can show you at least a few pictures while we're passing through the Valley of Camera Death. I still have my first digital camera... it's about ten years old... and when I find it I promise to take some pictures on the farm. For now, enjoy this little picture of Baby Bea on the studio carpet.

I haven't seen more than a few square feet of it since our stuff arrived and yesterday was spent having a happy little clear-out. The kitties have lived in the room off and on so you can guess how gross it was because I couldn't get in there to properly clean. Turns out the Rug Doctor pet stain remover is as good as it says. I sprayed it on late last night and this morning all but the two worst stains are gone. Now I'm off to run the machine and get the carpet all nice and beautiful again.

Not sure how the lady in the picture is swinging that machine.... they weigh 35 pounds and there's no handle!



That little machine sure did the job! Even the unspeakable gifts the kittens hid under the furniture are gone. Not mostly.... totally!

Doesn't that look better? Now to put everything back after the carpet is dry. I think I'll be making a giant trash pile with all those years' worth of excess accumulation!

20 June 2009

Pictures, Please!

I'd love to show you pictures of our cute little town all tarted up with streamers and plastic flowers... the big parking lot full of local craftspeople selling pottery, jewelry, tie dye (worth wearing!)... the stage-on-a-trailer and the little dance floor set up in the new park... the food vendors with portable wood fired pizza ovens and big smiles.

But I can't.

My camera went tits up, as Mr. Fuzzy would say. The lens moves around and then selects a random point to decide to crap out. After four tries I got lucky and it's almost all the way in and the cover is almost closed-- so at least it fit in my purse while I walked around and enjoyed myself at the Floyd Town Jubilee this afternoon.

19 June 2009

Nosing Around

So, yesterday we had a little worry along the lines of the "what the hell are the neighbors up to?" variety. As you may recall, the property next door is up for sale either in its' entirety or as two parcels (house / land.) To sell the land separately requires an access easement on the house section and we thought "oh no, they're putting in a road to improve its' saleability."

So, sneaky, sneaky, sneaky I turned the wrong way out my drive and took a look see. At least whatever they're doing it'll be done right because Tim Boothe was on the job.... and blocking the spur road with his dump truck.

Sooooo... later in the day we go for a wee wander to see what's up. Can you say:

"The Fuzzies are neurotic." ???

I thought you could!

We discovered it was not an improvement or extension of an existing old roadbed that pops out on our lower property line but a bang-up job of road improvement along a section of the spur as far as the next neighbor over. Gravel, grading, new ditch, lots of gravel... and a big cleared area. Hmmmm...... who owns that lot 'cause it looks like a house trailer might be going in...

A few inquiries and it's all OK. Our next neighbor over was just at the end of their string with all the washouts that spur has had this year. All our rain has been nice for the ground but not so good on that ancient and ill-kept farm road.


16 June 2009

Jumpin' Jehosphat

The seeds are a-jumpin' up! Planted just last Wednesday afternoon, the beans began showing themselves by Saturday afternoon. Much of the corn (all three types) and the Russian Red sunflowers (but not the Giants) have also shot upwards in search of Old Sol. Can't say that I've ever seen corn germinate so quickly.

It has rained virtually every day since the seeds were planted. I'm really surprised that there has been enough sun for them to grow. Enjoyed breakfast at Hardy's this morning with a Lodge brother and a couple of his old buddies, all in their sixties and local, none of whom could remember a spring and early summer as damp as this year.

Mrs. Fuzzy's plants that she started in the green house and has now transplanted into the raised beds are also thriving. The squash (pictured here) are getting huge and bloom madly. Some have little three inch long squash already.

UPDATE: I went out just before dinner to inspect the garden again - you can't be too vigilant. Now several more sunflowers have reared up, nearly all of the beans, most of the corn, some of the melons and squashes, the Delaware tobacco (teeny, teeny sprouts)... in fact, everything except the Giant Sunflowers. Given that there was no sun whatsoever today and the high temperature was 62F in the fog, this seems pretty surprising.

13 June 2009

the bounty of Stratheden

We are grateful to the original builders of this house (1991) who planted a sweet cherry tree. The folks we bought the farm from never saw it bloom heavily but this spring it was truly covered by blooms. Hence, a wonderful harvest of cherries a few days ago. Mrs. Fuzzy (aka Cherry Monkey) climbed the tree to harvest them and Mr. Fuzzy plucked all branches within his reach. The bounty totaled six pounds; about four pounds went into a grand cherry cobbler...

The apple and peach trees are loaded with fruits, too, enough to eat all we can and preserve the rest... and share with our friends. We've already shared them with the little worms...

Finally the lower garden is planted with Mrs. Fuzzy's seedlings and some seeds (Hopi corn, for instance). I am so deeply grateful to our neighbors down the road for loaning me a plow... and then bringing their tractor with a tiller attachment to break up those furrows into nice loose soil already formed into raised beds. Thanks you so much, John and George, for being so kind. Oh, and thanks for the kale from your garden!

09 June 2009

My legs hurt, and, frankly, so do my hands. Must mean yesterday was another long day in the garden for me. We've had more rain than sun of late so we gotta make dirt while the sun shines.

I finally finished the fourth bed in the raised garden. What takes so long is separating the soil from the sod we dug up. At first I was saving the sod to help an erosional area (done!) and now I'm using the grass parts in the compost pile. Lots of good mycillium in there and plenty of worms. We also figured out what to do with some existing (ugly) raised beds against the west-facing retaining wall. The heavy clay soil in them turned pretty easily so I just worked in a whole lot of vermiculite and some compost. I hope the melons I planted will be happy. We'll have greens out of those boxes too, at least until the melons take over!

Mr Fuzzy spent most of the last two days working in some compost and planting his garden. We've got corn, beans, melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes to go down there. Today we expect to get that bit finished.

He was having some troubles getting the plow to turn over correctly so he called our Yankee Neighbors for advice... Mr. Fuzzy realized that he'd always used at least a three-row plow and thought maybe there was some trick to a single moldboard plow. Turns out the trick is a spring that's missing from our tractor. Looks like our next rainy day will see us to the New Holland dealership in Meadows of Dan. There are three eateries in the village so we'll make an afternoon of it.

So, our plow problem diagnosed, the younger Yankee neighbor, we'll dub him "Taciturn Yankee," went ahead and showed us how he does it... with four or more passes with the cultivator. You learn something every day around here. That day we learned the best plow is not a plow. In less than an hour Taciturn Yankee made us four raised beds each about 25 feet long and neat as a pin. I would normally have taken over about three dozen cookies as a thank-you but The Bronx Babe (that would be Mr. Yankee Senior's wife) is a cook to beat all cooks and her son will be well supplied with tasty morsels.

Any suggestions on a good "thank you" gift? He's a really nice guy to have thought to bring the cultivator and to have just done this without our asking.

06 June 2009

Dred Organizers Grow on Trees

Or so it seems. We've had many dealings with such types in the last few days. Perhaps they grow them like cabbages in the next holler?

Today I took five of the second-cutest kittens up to the little college town of Radford where I met two other Floyd Humane Society volunteers to show off dogs and cats to folks visiting the Grove United Methodist Church annual yard sale & community 'do. They had a helicopter and a fire truck too... which meant large numbers of young children waiting until the 'copter landed. "Something to do" translated as "pet the kitties and doggies." It was lovely.

Then last night was First Friday at the arts center. ooooh Lots o' organizers there too. Terrible people. They hang shows of local art and have lovely classes to teach you new arts and crafts. Don't mess with them, though. They have blacksmiths and glassblowers!

And then there are those pesky village governments out in the county. Off they go donating the village hall, sound system, and hot dogs to throw a beneft to help an unemployed lady fighting her second bout of cancer.

Naughty, naughty people!

But it gets worse. There's this group called Angels in the Attic who run a really inexpensive thrift shop and send nearly 100K a year (their total earnings) to various local charities in need. And the worst of the worst... Plenty... a loose association of kind people who grow extra vegetables and keep extra laying hens to share the surplus with housebound and poor neighbors.

Why am I telling you this, in this way? Because someone tried to insult me for being something a pinko ecohead because I posted a wee thing from some other, national, community organizers on my Facebook page. See, your average pinko commie conservationist about Floyd is as likely to be an old school conservative Christian and Republican as she is a head-in-the-60's Democrat.

Ain't that cool?

03 June 2009

Progress by Dribs and by Drabs

Let us begin with this: it's bucketing like mad out there and has been for the better part of two hours. Too bad we don't have a major rain collection system! Two thirds of an inch an hour on our roof is a LOT of water! Thankfully, we have laptops and wi-fi so you can hear about today's progress!

Everything takes ten times as long as you think it will. The rule applies even when you apply the Scotty Principle and tell yourself the task will take ten times as long as you think it will. That logic only makes a thing take ten times ten times longer to complete.

And such has been the building of a raised bed garden. Every day I get a little closer. (Well not today because the road to the organic farm supply place was seriously flooded.) As you will see, I've got the 4th box nearly done and the last one to do. I'm planting as I go. In a month or so I'll have to get the trellises up to hold the tomatoes, squash, and melons. I'm playing with vertical gardening here. That should take exactly three hours of work. Do not tell me to allot more time. Remember the rule stated above?

We have another new toy, too. Um, tool. Did we tell you about it? I can't remember. It's a Craftsman Lawn Tractor. Super duper top of the line blah blah blah.... what's great is it mows a 54" swath and it pulls stuff. Stuff like the little lift-gate trailer that came with the property. The one that holds three wheelbarrow loads of heavy compost. Can you guess I'm getting some good practice at backing up with said trailer?

I'm doing this in stages. As a box gets built and filled the plants go in. Right now I've sunk my cucurbits into the opens spaces of two beds just to give their little roots some room and food. These will be popped out and planted in the row garden. Eventually I'd like to have ten or fifteen of these but I'm NOT building five in one go again!

Lesson learned.

Mr. Fuzzy is in the process of breaking another area as a more traditional garden where we'll plant more tomatoes, more melons, corn, beans, more pumpkins, and lots of cucumbers. The cuckes are a little experiment. Or, rather, several.

Experiment #1 is can a cuke produce if you started them in a pot WAY too early and then tore off the bottom of their styro cups, plonked them into a bed of primo compost to hold them another week while giving the roots some space and nutrition?

Experiment #2 is do cukes do better in some shade or all day sun?

Experiment #3 is will they actually deter racoons and possums from getting into your corn?

We'll find out.

We borrowed a cute little single-row plow from our Yankee Neighbors at the end of the road. She's from the Bronx and he's a dairy boy from the Hudson Valley, a carpenter by trade. They're wonderful people who have been gardening some pretty ravaged land for nearly three decades.

Getting to this point also took WAY more time than Mr. Fuzzy had hoped. The plow was brought over on Monday and we promptly discovered that the tractor hadn't been serviced in a decade. Not so much as an oil change. Off to lovely Meadows of Dan to the tractor store for:

oil --- hydraulic fluid --- air filter --- hydraulic filter ---fuel level indicator --- grease fittings

Can you guess where this is heading? We had already bought a fuel filter in Christiansburg... it wasn't the right one. The oil change went just fine but now that the tractor is clean we can see a few leaks. The manual gave a too-small volume for the hydraulic fluid, our drain pans were woefully small, and we'd forgotten to get hose clamps for the fuel indicator (it's a piece of tubing.) And then there were the grease fittings. First it was a struggle to get them out. Then we discovered that there are two ways to cut a thread and we'd gotten the other one. Mr Fuzzy gave up for the evening and just crammed the old ones in... not too many would leak if the tractor didn't get moved.

Today a little trip to the Napa store and all is well. The old Ford has shiney new grease fittings and a perky yellow fuel indicator to match the yellow lettering on the gearing diagrams.

Next task was locate the drain field. After much scratching of heads over a rather poor record from the County Health Department, we decided to just put the plowed area well away from the house. It isn't where we'd imagined it but it'll do. Not too far, not too steep, and not too ugly. The first three rows have been cut. Then the heavenly spigot opened up and we had to quit our farming for the evening.

Feeling more like myself

Perhaps the title begs the question: what else could I feel like? Without a darkroom, it is difficult to feel like a photographer (contrary to what all of the digi-heads think... they're afraid of the dark). Yesterday, with Mrs. Fuzzy's indulgence, the JOBO processor was carted from the basement to the kitchen sink where four 4x5 black & white negatives were successfully processed, the first here at the farm. You are unlikely to understand the relief and elation engendered by seeing the four negatives hanging on the drying line.

Another benchmark passed at Stratheden Farm.

01 June 2009