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.

25 March 2015

Old friends

Twas a delight recently to host one of my oldest friends; we met so far back in the seventies neither of us can remember the year although the place is certain: The Knox Street Pub (which still serves beer but is nothing like the old hole in the wall and sadly, the old quirky, tree-lined, lovely neighborhood was destroyed, now populated by multi-story commercial buildings). On the other hand, Gary is quite recognizable, the years have had little visual impact. In a world of rapid and chaotic change, there is no other anchor point like an old and dear friend. Many brain cells were sacrificed on the altar of yeast & grain during the visit, old times relived and analyzed, new experiences created and philosophies & sciences debated. We have never been out of touch and it seemed inconceivable that we last saw each others faces in 1997. It was sad to watch his rental car roll down the driveway.

From my end, contact was lost with a number of friends in the turbulent and stressful two-year divorce saga. Its been most excellent to be reacquainted with my brother of a different mother, Kenzo, the most brilliant of 21st century Daguerrians. Its a curiosity of life that being raised in such radically different environments, the outcomes, including physical appearance, were so similar. Our paths collided circa 1979 and have entwined on and off continually since. Surely only a twin can understand the fullness of being with a nearly identical creature; this is not, surely, at that level but it is most reassuring to know he is "out there."

Isn't it one of the great miracles of existence how good friends can pick up where a conversation ended a decade ago as if it were yesterday? What a blessing.

The weather at Stratheden Farms has definitely been in the category of "Spring like." The forecast high for tomorrow is 70F (22C).  And, with the wild weather of the Blue Ridge mountains, the forecast low for two nights later is 25F, or a killing frost... after last weeks snow, an odd phenomenon was observed - snowy spider webs. The ground was too warm for the snow despite subfreezing air temperatures. The snow melted instantly ion the ground but was captured and preserved for a day by the cobwebs.

Plants are bursting forth into new life, buds opening, leaves emerging, flowers shining. It is a good year for daffodils: the percentage of plants bearing blooms is very high, the blooms are large and radiant and clearly the bulbs multiplied nicely since last Spring. The same may be said of the crocus. Tulips are producing larger than usual leaves which hopefully augurs spectacular flowers in a few more days. The first of the forsythia flowers opened today and they, too, seem especially resplendent this Spring. The winter was harsh with wilder swings of temperature than normal, some new growth from the autumn was definitely killed, but overall, perhaps it was the best conditions for many of the resident flora.

This is the time for preventative action on the farm, aka weed control. Wild roses and brambles are a major invasive here and almost impossible to control (never eliminated). In the forest at this time, no small plants or wee bushes have yet emerged, hence the bright green rose stems are easily seen against the brown leaf litter background. Thanks to frost heave and moisture, the soil is friable and the long runner-roots of the roses can be pulled up intact. The thickets of roses must be attacked now, too, but for a different reason: once leafed out, its impossible to see what you are doing. Unless a horticulturist is deeply into self abuse & pain, rose and bramble thickets are best entered whilst wearing heavy denim or canvas jackets, gloves, heavy trousers and of course, gloves. Soon it will be too warm to don such armor; as Confucius said: man working in thorns without armor should not be allowed to bare arms later. It may not look like much, but it required two hours and some minutes to hack into this rose thicket. Now the rose bushes can be attacked the base and huge numbers of thorny stems cut loose by a single cut to the common base.

Spring is also an ideal time to tackle erosion. The soil is easily worked (i.e., not frozen or dry-hard), it can be reseeded and covered by new growth quickly, and this is all best done before Spring rains have an opportunity to exacerbate erosion. Again, it may not appear to be much, but the fill dirt shown represents ten buckets; am so thankful for the Yanmar tractor and its front bucket.

Today was the first day sans farm work after four afternoons of activity. Ye olde body's stiffness and aches suggested a day off might be a fine idea. Gary, tonight I'll have the pleasure of consuming one of the craft beers you gifted. As Grand-daddy said, the two greatest blessings in life are health and friends. Thank you, my friends, for enriching my life in such marvelous manners.

17 March 2015


Yesterday the high temperature here on the farm was 72F despite a very slow start in warming. It was a typical spring day with a very gusty winds from almost every point of the compass. Information from the National Weather Service indicated this was a cool temperature for the region:

It almost certain that the first daffodil will open today. The forecast low for tonight is 30F and a significant cold front is headed this way. Spring? Winter? Both? Either?

As noted in the prior post, the conditions on I-81 in central and northern Virginia whilst driving to the Honourable Company of Horners meeting were far from ideal. My passenger would take the wheel and your author would stick a camera out the window to capture a few scenes for you, good readers. They require no comment except to note there were proportionally as many cars as trucks but the latter were easier to capture for your edification.

10 March 2015

The Honourable Company of Horners

   This past weekend was the 19th annual meeting of The Honourable Company of Horners, an organization devoted to preserving and perfecting the techniques and aesthetics of horn work. See their superb web site for tons of useful and engaging
information: www.hornguild.org

   For the last few years, the meeting site has been the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Located on I-81 and not far from a major airport, they have been very kind hosts to the Guild meetings. It is a state-of-the-art building with excellent lighting, spacious, ultraclean, with food service, huge parking lot and every electronic presentation device known. The Guild uses rooms for displays, for the presentations, for demonstrations of working technique and the banquet dinner.

   The Guild is a 501.c.3 organization meaning its main goal is education. The annual meeting is one long educational experience including round table discussions (this year it was "Powder Horns up to the American Revolution"), Master's presentation (Jim Leach on blowing horns), demonstrations of technique (Guild Master Dick Toone showing the use of a foot powered spring pole lathe, Erv Tschnantz on turning horn, John DeWald on scrimshanding, etc.), awards and recognitions, and promotion of Guild members to higher levels. The main room is filled with modern and antique powder horns for close-up examination and edification. Basically it is a 48 hour university seminar about horn.

   Mr. Fuzzy has been involved since the birth of the organization and has held most offices. He has never seen more devoted group with a better sense of working together to achieve common goals. Next year is the 20th anniversary and should be an especially amazing meeting.

02 March 2015

Divine Humor

The farm has enjoyed two gorgeous days, back-to-back. Its been sunny all day (now 4:00 p.m.), dead calm, and in the high 40s but feels a good deal warmer. Mr. Fuzzy spent an hour or so doing yard and garden cleanup sans jacket or sweater. The black cats, in particular, were smiling from ear to fuzzy ear sunning themselves, soaking up that flood of infrared radiation.

It feels like Spring and it look like Spring - buds are swelling, new cold weather grasses are making an appearance and some daffodils are now 3+ inches above ground. The driveway is entirely clear of snow and ice, even in deep shade (but mud only a connoisseur could appreciate has formed). Could this be the end of Grumpy Old Man Winter?

Not so fast. Here's the weather forecast from Wunderground, copied just a few minutes ago; this is real, too early for April Fool's Day. Yes indeed, a 60 degree day and the next night into the single digits. What more proof is necessary that God has a sense of humor?

01 March 2015


Too much time to think, methinketh. Time to rearrange the upstairs into a more pleasing & useful configuration whilst winter rages outside. One five inch snow deposit since last we communicated and a few bitterly cold nights.

The bedroom has been in the smallest room (other than the bathrooms) of the house, on the cold and dark northwest corner. It was likely intended as a guest room, positioned next to a full bathroom. There were windows to the north and west sides, good views of the immediate forest and walled back yard, but no view greater than about 75 yards. It was cold in the winter and toasty in the summer (when both walls were illuminated by the sun). Just large enough for the proper appurtenances of a bedroom, it was satisfactory but not by any means inspirational. Mr. Fuzzy admits to enjoying passing into the land of winking, blinking & nod whilst watching the stars swirl or the weather at labor and therefore began to cogitate on the possibility of exchanging rooms.

The largest room in the house (same size as the living room) is the upstairs master bedroom which by default ended up as a storage room and half-hearted den wherein the stereo and television languished. With the best views of any room and the highest ceiling, the thought struck that it should become the bedroom once again; the old bedroom could be transformed into a library, allowing about 60% of the books to all be in one room. One of the great frustrations has been the difficulty of laying hand & eye upon a given tome... As a relatively dark room (camera obscura), it would also be a logical place to position potentially light sensitive works of art.

Super Sliders Reusable Round Furniture SlidersThus, as the snow swirled, Mr. Fuzzy and three of the cats utilizing 'furniture gliders' managed to move a queen sized bed, two large dressers, two seven foot tall bookcases, a glass display case, AV system, couch, chairs, etc., sans assistance. There are numerous fine points to be addressed but the bedroom furniture is all in final positions. The library furniture is pushed to the center of the room to allow wall repairs and repainting. Assistance will be required to lift two 9 foot bookcases from the basement to the upstairs; it will be a major task involved removing the stair hand rails and banisters.

This is the new view from the bed with Miss Lily checking it out:

Spinning 180 degrees, the bed with three room mates:

All the denizens of Stratheden Farm are pleased to note that the weather forecasters completely failed to predict today's weather. As late as the ten o'clock news last night, the area was under a winter storm watch with ice pellets, ice and snow expected. Instead, it was largely sunny and at 50 degrees for a high, the warmest day in over a week. We all enjoyed it immensely. Hopefully your day was fine as well.