Friday, May 17, 2013

My Secret Place

When I was young living in the mountains of North Carolina one of my favorite things to do was wander to a creek situated on the far side of our property.  I now know it was a special place.  I don't recall feeling as though I needed an escape but maybe I did.   I can still hear the gentle trickle from the water.  As if I was right there I can still feel the blanket of nature around me.  I would spend what seemed like hours there.  There was one spot in the creek that leaves would dam up the water flow and my mission, first thing upon arrival was to free the water.  I never asked or wondered if mother nature wanted me to.  It just seemed like the water wanted to flow....

So, here on our farm there is a spot that reminds me of that same place from my childhood.  This creek is quite a bit wider, probably proportionate to a grown up version of what I saw then.  In my 'adult' creek I have depth and can see wonderful reflections of the trees on the banks edges.  If you look in the right spot you can see fish darting about.  The water is very still.  Its so peaceful.

I have read that Alamance County N.C. supplied the gold to the US government prior to the California Gold Rush.   I wonder if anyone actually panned this spot in the mid 1800's?  Maybe our fortune in gold has been left, yet to be discovered!  Hmmm, maybe I should be panning, not blogging!
Often, I peer up and down this creek and imagine Native Americans skipping across stones or even local settlers making their way down the path to a neighbors.  We've also been told there was quite an active liquor still on the property.   I learned on PBS that a still requires a water source  be close.  So, maybe, ya think it was here?  I'm always on the lookout for signs of activity from people before me.  There is a fairly large mound of stacked rocks very near the crossing, who did that and why?  Who else might have walked across this same path?  Did this 80 year old stand of Poplar trees start from a bird carrying the seed or did someone plant them?  I know, this is nothing more then an "if walls could talk" thing.  Clearly certain places conjure more curiosity then others.   Maybe its the age of all that surrounds me?

Serious though, can't you imagine parking your bum here on the banks edge, listening to nature?  Pull up a rock, it will take you awhile to take it all in.    I don't know about the rest of you but I feel closer to God in these natural spaces then anywhere.  Surrounded by the awesomeness of earths beauty.  
And, I must admit, that little girls imagination is still with this adult girl, especially in places like this.  Maybe it's the peace and quiet that frees my mind?  

Dwarf Coreopsis, also know as Mouse Earred

 I don't think I consciously declared this spot as my secret place but that's what it is becoming.  The floor of the woods has had a few years of rest from the hooves of cattle tromping about.  Now, with each new season  I am greeted by new native wildflowers that pop up out of who knows where.    This is just what's there now, spring!  The summer will behold different ones and fall, and winter...well, I'll have to see.
Wood Violet



MayApple emerges in the spring and produces a flower in May that later bears the fruit, or apple. Looking down upon the plant you cannot see the flowers, protected by the canopy of the leaves.  Just who can you imagine has the vantage point to see those flowers?

The fern, as prolific as it seems to be in the richly composted forest soil, it always catches my eye.  The bright lime green against the brown leaves...  nature, our greatest interior designer.

I've been adding to my wild flowers, being careful to include only native varieties.  Saturday mornings, after I've set up my vendor booth for the days farmers market I venture over to see Tim and Helga MacAller of FourLeaf Farm in Rougemont NC.  I like to tell myself I'm going to say my morning hello's but something unusual  lures me in further.  Always truly excited about what they have I love hearing them describe what graces their tables on that particular Saturday.  Usually, I cannot resist something, at least one little treat.

As I hurried to discover whether some of my additions I'd planted the year before had decided to charm my woodland setting, I was so excited to see....
Solomon's Seal

Dwarf Iris not yet in bloom

I also planted Trillium but cannot find any sign that it came back.  Tim MacAller told me though, "don't give up on it, it's a funny plant".  The way he said it I'm convinced it's yet to appear.  I finish this blog today, Friday...the day before my Saturday market.  I'm thinkin I'll say hello to Tim and Helga......

Thursday, May 2, 2013

April. Did I miss it?

Where does the time go?  We always hear folks ask that.  If I didn't have so many notes all over the calender for April 2013 I'd swear something happened to that whole month.  Like a whirl wind, come and poof...gone!
Shearing Day over 100 visitors
Fact is April is a very busy time for us.  When April appears we have usually just finished shearing all of our sheep and wool is everywhere.  We always hope our Shearing Day event will reduce the numbers of fleeces we have to deal with as folks in attendance buy them right off the sheep.  We do have fewer but we still face what seems like a mountain of wool!
 Yes, I must admit, the quantity of fleeces can be overwhelming and it takes me longer then it should getting round to sorting through them deciding which will go for yarn, roving or which will be kept to sell as raw wool. Several of them will be too full of vegetation, some matted, or not the quality you'd want to sell to someone in any form.  So, what to do with each bag of wool?  As I have them stored under a shed roof for now it's a BIG task that smacks me in the face each and every time I walk out the front door of our house.  Guess I should have picked a better place to put them?  Maybe if I didn't have to see them they'd disappear like April.  
Mi Sueno

Yes, April is also a BIG month for lambing.  In the fall we put the ram in the pasture with the ewes for 60 days.  That's much longer then most farms would leave the ram with the ewes but our primary ram, Mi Sueno, has my husband speaking for him...get my drift?  The primary downside of leaving Mi Sueno in with the 28 girls longer could be that our lambing might take longer.  Mi Sueno is not a romancer, he's a, he's a, how should I put it?  Wham bam kind of ram?  How do we really know that...lambing was DONE in less then 30 days.

Anyway, basically 149 days from 1st exposure to the ram you start preparing for the possibility of lambs.  Over time you learn tell tale signs and you get used to your girls.
Soon Please!
March 29th was the 1st possible day, no lambs.  March 30th, nothing.  Then on April 1st the lambing began with one ewe and twins.  Within a few hours the lambs take on personalities and we're able to assure them the nursery will be full very shortly. 

As the days progressed we were gathering sometimes 6-8 lambs per day.  Mind you, were a small operation! Each lamb happily greats the new one(s).  Each mom is different, some very protective, others experienced and calm others know they have a responsibility and they'll give off their lamb specific bleat to let the wee one know where they are but other then producing milk and feeding it they're kind of like..."What?  I'm over here!"  Regardless, It's an amazing process to behold.  I am sure some would accuse me of being too imaginative with this whole process.  Maybe I am to some degree but mostly I'd disagree.  Each of these animals is unique, with personalities and feelings.
This year we were blessed with 37 beautiful lambs and only one didn't make it.  Sad fact, they say 10% loss isn't unreasonable. So, as farming goes we'd have to chalk it up to a very good year even with the loss. For those that follow us on Facebook you know about our loss, it was a very tough day.  After 6.5 hours of hard labor she gave birth to the biggest lamb we've ever had on our farm.  A real beauty!  We checked the mom for milk and made sure they had bonded and a few other aftercare protocols.  They were both exhausted!  He didn't make it through the night.  You beat yourself up, what could I have done, what didn't I do/see...this the hardest part about farming to me.  We face a lot of life and death realities around here.  From the raccoon eating our chickens to the lamb that struggles to be born only to pass before his romp through the green pastures.  We often cry but mostly we carry a heaviness for awhile.  Then we find ourselves standing on the fence line watching 36 lambs jump and play without a care in the world.  They gather in a bunch, all of them, and like a swarm of bees they run, kicking up their heels, happy to be alive!

That's where April went!


These harsh realities of nature are not easy yet we know we are in a close relationship with Mother Nature and knowing her we feel grounded. 

Nature reaches out to us with welcoming arms, and bids us enjoy her beauty; but we dread her silence and rush into the crowded cities, there to huddle like sheep fleeing from a ferocious wolf.   Kahlil Gibran