Posts Tagged ‘weather’

Spring has sprung, and farm life is busy. It has been busy for a while, really, with calving season now almost finished. It has been a good season, with only three losses so far and well over a hundred calves born. One mama who had twins last year– and nursed both– did it again! We are quite proud of that mama!

Two donkeys, mother and daughter, joined us in January for coyote control. We have them in with the mama cows, in pastures on opposite ends of the farm.

Cocoa, the mama donkey

Cocoa, the mama donkey

The mamas and babies don’t seem to notice the new guardians. They were very curious, however, about me in the farm truck:

Sniff, sniff... got any hay in there?

Sniff, sniff… got any hay in there?



Today I planted the hellebores I bought yesterday, and potted the lemon balm and rosemary so I can bring it inside until well past the last frost.


rosemary and lemon balm

rosemary and lemon balm

This afternoon was gorgeous, bright and cool, but this weekend promises more freezing temperatures and possible snow. Seriously? Snow?

spring sky

spring sky

apricot blossoms

apricot blossoms

our wild yard (mint family)

our wild yard (mint family)


sunset over the shed

sunset over the shed

Whatever the weather, happy spring!



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Today saw 104 degrees. Stepping outside, the breeze that normally cools the porch felt instead like the rush of heat from an open oven. Crossing the yard, grass crunches underfoot like leaves in fall. Yield losses mount as we try not to watch the skies. Even the corn looks to be holding its breath, folding itself up against the oppressive heat and high pressure. A quick walk around the field roads left me drenched and exhausted.

the popcorn patch

The milk thistle shows its evolutionary wisdom: to survive, it must die.

milk thistle, fully dried down


Although the air was so hot it felt difficult to breathe, the drying clover along the field ditches smelled like honey, and even the browning grasses held their own special beauty.

We celebrated our daughter’s fifth birthday on Tybee Island, Georgia, earlier in the week. We returned home to discover the chicken pen project was complete! Notice the windows on the coop!

chicken fence and coop

The fence is secured along the ground, with trenches dug out and PVC pipe stabilizing the bottom edge so that our next batch of chicks will be just as safe as the larger birds. The compost is contained inside the fence so the birds will have access to it.

meat chickens

These boys are nearly grown; almost all the birds are contained now. Tonight Brad hopes to catch the three remaining rogues and put them in with the others.

I passed the heifers’ pasture at the end of my walk. Some had ventured out from the shade for a drink:

thirsty pregnant heifers

Brad and Max waited for the sun to go down before working in the veggie patch, staking tomatoes until they couldn’t see. Tomorrow we’ll all continue where we left off today, stopping when it gets too hot and waiting for the rain.



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almost all the seeds...

The deadline for hypothetical discussions arrived in the mail. We’ve been evaluating fields, gauging weed pressure, considering our available equipment and how to prepare the land. The tomatoes and peppers will all be started in hoop houses on the family farm, with much warmer soil to hurry them along. Greens will stay in yet-to-be-constructed raised beds by the house for easier maintenance and harvesting. Herbs and flowers also go mostly around the house, although various sunflowers and some of the zinnias for market will likely need to go in the field. Melons, squash, zucchini and all the beans will go straight in the ground. I still haven’t decided where to put the carrots. We’ll start seeds and begin our race against the rain, juggling equipment between farms on dry days and pacing with bated breath through all the wet ones. We should have more than enough to grow all we can eat, including enough to preserve for all our winter eating, plus copious amounts for Brad to take to market. I have ordered my pressure canner and some new books on alternate preservation methods that I’m eagerly awaiting. Here we go…

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A few days ago my father-in-law and Brad were discussing moving the mamas around to get ready for breeding, “since they’re obviously done,” then Brad went out and found a new calf. This boy was well overdue judging by his size, comparable to others two weeks his senior. I’m amazed the mama didn’t have any trouble with the birth. Then last night another mama which we suspected was still pregnant had hers, so we’re up to 92 live ones at this point. Iris and Finn went out with Granddaddy for the tagging (although they stayed in the truck for safety). Naturally a mid-morning bubble bath was required after getting a few pieces of hay on their wee feet.

The weather has been tumultuous all around here lately, with every rain a thunderstorm and frequent tornado watches and warnings. This farm offers impressive weather watching, with the house on a high place and surrounded by so much pasture and long views. We can see storms coming from all directions here: Rome to the west, Dalton to the north, Jasper to the east (although we send rather than receive them from that direction), Adairsville to the south. Thursday afternoon the storms built up fast all around. Lightning danced through towering cumulonimbus and thick nimbostratus across the southern horizon visible from our kitchen and dining room windows, across the west visible from the veranda. I counted seconds, gauged distance from the thunder’s measurable travel delay. It all stayed far enough from us and eventually released enough energy to wind down, but it got a bit disconcerting to watch for a while.

If anything we were rewarded today, though, with simply stunning (and calm) weather. I’ll chalk that up to the luck o’ the Irish– gorgeous and warm, a day when I don’t have to dissuade my daughter from her precious pink flip-flops. Cousin Maddie came over to play and I had to dig out the sunscreen for them to go out! Spring is upon us, my seed order has shipped and I am soon to be neck-deep in more work than a team of professional gardeners could get done each day. At least it’s good work, and work of my own choosing. Always grateful for that.

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The births have slowed to a trickle now, with days often separating one birth from the next. The seventy-ninth calf has been tagged, and we can only guess and hope for what the final count will be. We heard from neighbors about a mile from here that a surprise feline visitor graced their hidden camera recently. Set up to watch for where turkeys might be crossing for the upcoming season, the camera instead discovered a mountain lion passing through in the night. Big cats such as this have a very large range, and with river frontage connecting our farm to several others this one could easily come close enough to pose a threat here. Ironically our best defense against this cat will likely be the coyotes, whether by territorial behaviors or by feeding her (or him) themselves. With as much coyote sign as we’ve seen all over this farm, I’m still pretty confident that the one victim we’ve had was taken by a canine, but this does introduce another variable.

It has turned off cold again this week, and although it keeps us indoors I am glad for it now rather than later. Already our blueberries are beginning to bud. Cold weeks now give us better odds for dodging a crop-killing late freeze later. Meanwhile I’m finalizing my seed order from Johnny’s and selecting a few fruit trees I hope to add to the front yard. I should be starting seeds already…

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mama drinks, baby follows


Writing time has been hard to come by this week. Calves keep coming, two and three a day most days. Brad tagged the sixty-eighth one this morning. We had our first coyote victim a few days ago, a three-week-old calf, healthy and strong. The men loaded their guns, watched and waited. A family friend fired at one I spotted in the field behind the house; we hope he gut-shot it, but at such a distance we can’t be sure. Brad goes out after dark and searches, hopefully running off any that might be around. Another three-week-old calf was dead this morning, this one by the hay bale, with no observable injuries. It may have gotten trampled, or perhaps it simply died. The mama wanders the field, calling. She comes over to us at the fence when we walk past and follows us, bellowing, as if we might lead her to her calf. She is called “Lumpy” for her swollen face; the vet gave her a shot of antibiotic last October for her apparent infection, but too much calcification surrounds the mass and she isn’t improving, which may be somehow related to her calf’s demise. She may have to be culled. The harsh realities of herd management…

Virginia Willis ordered a hundred pounds of grits this week, so Brad will spend all day tomorrow milling. At least the weather has been decent, if a bit warm for the season. The field roads are still puddled and mucky; Steve (a friend of my father-in-law) worked on moving some gravel around with the skid loader this morning to smooth out some of the bigger potholes.

The frogs are loud and plentiful with such mild temperatures and wetness. So far it really hasn’t been a proper winter at all, even for Georgia. I wonder about crops: have the peaches and pecans gotten the cold they need? The apples? Will we get bitten by a late snowstorm after the blueberries have set flowers? What about the strawberries? So much vulnerability. Perhaps I am thin-skinned, but it irks me when I hear people joke about global warming. It seems to always be the same people who complain that their groceries aren’t cheap enough. Which way do you want it? Crops are our livelihood. If that doesn’t matter to you, perhaps you should stop eating.

froggy bog (highest water level; stays dry most of summer)

We’ve been diversifying our homeschool process over the past week. Although we are unschoolers, I was delighted to win a year’s worth of materials from Oak Meadow  and have been incorporating many of their ideas, particularly in keeping artistic materials more handy and using them myself. We will spend tomorrow at the Tellus Museum with other homeschoolers. The kids and I all are excited to see friends, and I am excited to have an outing planned that won’t involve too long of a drive. With so much to do at home, it gets hard to leave…

Tom rests high in the hay barn, enjoying safety from Zen, the cat-tormenting dog

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Another powerful thunderstorm last night brought four more calves this morning. With forty-one born now we’re getting close to the halfway mark. Lightning struck close enough to shock Roger at the field gate, sending blue arcs into the air, and the concomitant thunder shook the house hard enough to rattle a copper knickknack off the windowsill, sending it crashing onto dishes in the kitchen sink. All the low places are flooded again, and thick grey stratus blankets the sky horizon to horizon. January has always been one of the wettest months here, but the strength and fierceness of these storms is usually reserved for later in spring.

One calf, 235, appeared to be missing this morning. Carter (my father-in-law) found him on the wrong side of the fence. Back in the herd, all calves accounted for, each endured being followed around until Brad had seen that all were nursing. With mamas and babies all paired up he could come in from the rain and worry about something else.

January with its frequently inclement weather finds me staring at length out windows and thinking. This year I have new medicinal gardens to create, some raised beds to build for a few just-for-us crops that are too labor intensive to produce on a large scale, and then our market and CSA crops to plan. I grew up with a backyard garden but ensuring enough beans come in at once to fill perhaps four hundred boxes is completely different territory. Surveying our back yard, at least five 4 x 8 beds will fit easily just below the patio area, and can hold strawberries, annual herbs, and perhaps a few vining plants that need support. These will make good test plots, too, to reduce the investment risk on a few first-time varietals I’m curious about. I pore over catalogs, make lists and calculations. I struggle to cut enough from my wish list to be economically reasonable while still growing what we want to eat. I am not yet decided…

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