Monday Journals

April 14, 2018

Spring!  I think it is here!  Several absolutely beautiful days have convinced me that Winter has retired for the season.  I know we will still have some cool days and nights, especially in the mountains, but the feeling that we are finished with winter brings a renewed energy and a determination to meet the challenges of the work load we have in front of us with anticipation.  Things could seriously feel overwhelming at this point with all we need to accomplish, but we are just trying to focus on the tasks at hand and enjoy them.  Both Mike and I are very driven, goal oriented and focused putting out in quantity and we have to make a conscious and concerted effort to “chill out” and live with intention.  We had opportunity to do that yesterday.  We worked hard and long out doors putting out a lot physically but when one of our friends stopped in and said he was headed to the church to do a few things, we stopped what we were doing and went over as well.  With four of us there (another lady had been there for a while working on the flower beds), we finished up in short order and then had opportunity to visit a bit before heading back home.  An added bonus was the absolutely beautiful view of Buffalo Mountain form the church cemetery. 

Mostly yesterday I worked on grounds cleaning while assisting Mike with fence building.  I held boards for him as he nailed them but between boards, while he was measuring and cutting or digging more fence post holes, I would clean the areas where we would be working next.  Up and down the steep terrain we went with brush, wheel barrow loads of leaves, sticks large and small, rocks of all sizes, fencing materials, and tools as we worked all day.  After a long winter, the sunshine was addictive and I was just thankful to be outside in comfort.  I have never minded hard physical labor.  It makes me feel accomplished and when I can combine that with fresh air and sunshine, I am happy.  The hard part at this stage of our lives is knowing when to hold back and not push ourselves in further.  Mike and I have always been so used to “pushing through” physically, lifting more weight than we should, and stretching our limits.  We both “need” to be smarter about things and avoid stress and strain on the areas of our bodies that give us some issues.  For Mike, that is his shoulders which still give him a lot of trouble. He has never completely gained back the mobility in the shoulder where he had surgery and the other shoulder has issues as well.  He also recently strained his lower back and he has never had lower back issues previously.  For me, I have to be careful not to lift too much weight but otherwise, I find that the walking, bending and stretching probably makes me feel better even though I am stiff before and after.  We are slower.  We feel the strain more on our 50+ year old bodies, but getting out and doing is what makes us happy and is probably what is best to keep us healthy and active as we age. 

Two of our pullets are now laying, one with a light brown egg and another with a light green egg.  It is such a joy to be getting fresh eggs again.  The chickens were so scared when we first got them, having never been handled.  They now “attack” me when I go out to visit them.  I always take them a treat of some sort and they expect it.  We have ten, but I am convinced that one of them and maybe two are crossed with a bantam breed.  The whole flock is just mixed breed birds.  I am hoping to get at least another 18 birds but for now, these ten will do. 

We have not built a fire at all this trip and have been able to open the windows during the day and air out the house.  Except for a few warm days here and there, we have had part of the house closed off and it is nice to have all the rooms open again and be able to open the windows as well.  I cleaned the ashes out of the fire place yesterday.  I thought it might be cool enough last night that we might need to build a fire, but we were both comfortable without it.  I was so tired from so much physical activity, that I was asleep before ten.  However, I woke up just before three this morning and after deciding I wasn’t gong back to sleep, started laundry, a pot of coffee and decided to catch up on journaling since I have not been able to make the time to do that this week. 

My grandma celebrated her 89th birthday on the 10th.  I would have liked to have been there for her birthday but we were not able to do that because I was needed here to watch the grandkids.  I knew she wanted it to be special and was afraid no one would remember, so I asked friends to send cards.  I think she ended up with over 30 cards and two bouquets of flowers.  Mike and I sent her a large bouquet and she got another arrangement from someone else.  She spent the morning at McDonalds with friends and Jimmy and his wife came to have breakfast with her there.  She loves to show off her grandkids and was thrilled my brother came to eat with her and her friends.  Every Tuesday and Saturday she meets a group of senior ladies there for coffee.  She and Lou (my cousin who stays with her four days a week) must have gone straight from McDonalds to another restaurant in Rome which is about 30 minutes away to eat a birthday lunch.  At day’s end, Grandma was very content and told me “I thought my birthday was not going to be a good day but it ended up being a great day.  I guess it does pay to get older.”  I’m thankful for those who took the time to send grandma cards, flowers, and call her on her special day. 

The 13th was Alissa and Gabino’s anniversary.  I am afraid they were not able to do anything in particular for their special day.  I am not sure if they had anything planned, but Analia came down with a fever, an ear ache and a nasty cold.  It looks like she picked it up from Mike.  He came down sick last week while Analia was staying with us in Laurel Fork.  I kept telling Analia to wash her hands and not put her hands in her mouth.  We tried to stay away from Papa as much as possible.  He slept on the couch and Analia and I slept in the bedroom but a virus is a hard thing to avoid, especially when you are a little girl who always puts her hands near her mouth.  I have been doing all I can to keep my immunities strong and I am praying I don’t get it, but with my going back to care for the Little People this week, I am fearful it will be difficult not to get sick as they will want to be held and being in close proximity is impossible to avoid.  I am taking echinacea twice a day and hoping that is enough to ward off the virus. 

Back in Staunton earlier in the week, we had to spend some time at both antique malls.  Gab was off on Monday and watched the girls for about an hour so that I could go with Mike to Verona Antiques and work on the booth there a little bit.  Mike typically handles that mall since I am unable to get there when they are open.  We had sold some larger pieces out of that booth and needed to take some new pieces in to fill up the space.  Tuesday, I did a total rearrange at the booth at Factory Antique Mall.  Mike had bought a very large display that has been at a museum in Gettysburg, PA depicting a war scene with small soldiers, tanks, bridges and a lot of topography.  This piece is probably seven feet long and three and a half to four feet wide, taking up a lot of space.  I had to clear out one whole end of our booth just for the display.  It’s not a piece that I would have bought for multiple reasons but Mike does have a good eye for the unique and things that provide us with a good mark up.  He insists that this is one of those items, and I think he is probably right.  I have a feeling it won’t sell quickly due to its size, but it is a unique piece that will appeal to someone with an interest in war history and memorabilia.  Tuesday night was pretty stressful for me.  Both of the girls were hard to handle.  Analia was having a hard time listening and Rory was a very unhappy girl.  On top of that, Alissa had a late night and didn’t get back until 10 pm.  I had finally taken the girls downstairs and rocked them both at the same time until they went to sleep, Analia sitting beside me in the chair and Rory in my lap.  Mike was sick and cranky and the combination of all three of them had about pushed my patience limits.  I was so ready for Alissa to be home! 

Wednesday morning Mike and I called in the Jerseys and I wormed them.  He was going to assist but got a phone call about the time I got them in, so I got them and then he wormed his Herefords that we have at the house there in Staunton.  They are a little harder to worm because they are not tame and we don’t have a chute there to work cattle.  We had a trailer load of fencing material to bring with us to Laurel Fork on Wednesday and didn’t want to be too late getting on the road.  After packing and running errands, we got away midafternoon.   The trip was pretty uneventful until we got within a few miles from the house when we started having issues with the truck and by the time we pulled in our driveway, it was smoking pretty bad.  We think it was the transmission.  We were pulling a lot of weight and one stretch in particular is pretty steep.  We were thankful to arrive safely.  We had another “key incident”.  We had no sooner left Staunton than I asked Mike what we had done with the keys to the Ford truck that we had left in Laurel Fork.  He insisted that he had given them to me.  I searched every bag I had three times.  I stressed and racked my brain.  I texted Gabino and had him search the house and cars in Staunton so he could overnight them to us if he found them.  Nothing.  I then wondered if we had left them in Laurel Fork after all.  As soon as we reached the house, I ran inside and began searching.  No keys.  Mike and I had fussed at each other the entire trip, him telling me that he was sure he gave them to me and me not remembering that at all.  After all that, Mike found them in his jacket pocket.  I was so relieved, I couldn’t even be upset about it.  The back and forth and needing things at both places is enough to drive us crazy at times. 

A huge breakthrough this week (a little sarcasm here) is that Mike let me mow the grass.  I always laugh and say that I don’t allow Mike in my kitchen and he doesn’t allow me to mow his grass.  Truth is, we are both control freaks about some areas of our lives.  I have a hard time giving up space in my kitchen for anyone, no matter how much I love them.  And Mike can’t stand to let anyone else mow the grass because we don’t do it exactly the way he does it.  I mowed the grass a few times when Mike and I first started living together and he complained about it every time, so I told him he could just do it himself, and he has every since.  We have a lot of grass to mow and have only a push mower in Laurel Fork.  He has been so busy building fence, I knew it was something I could do to help him and truth is, I have always enjoyed mowing grass.  I used to mow all the grass before Mike and I met and when I lived in Alaska, I often mowed my grandparents grass as well.  I told Mike when I finished mowing that I was sure it wouldn’t meet his high standards but he told me multiple times how good it looked and thank you for doing it.  I’m not sure I am ready to invite him to help me in the kitchen yet though!

My bird feeders were empty when we arrived in Laurel Fork.  I thought perhaps a squirrel had found them and wiped them out, but after being here a few days and observing, I have not seen any evidence of a squirrel raid, just a lot of birds feeding.  The birds like to get between the porch and house and make nests and I have a pair of Phoebe birds there this year.  They make a terrible mess that falls on the back side of the porch against the side of the house and I took some time yesterday to scrub that clean.  It will be an ongoing job I am afraid.  Last year, they made a nest just under the metal awning outside the back porch and it was a great place to watch the babies hatch and mature.  I was hoping they would build there again this year.  Yesterday morning we say a turkey hen come to water to get a drink.  I am assuming at this point that she is laying eggs.  The Toms and hens have separated off from the larger flock now.  As we were working on fence, we saw two Toms come out of the woods and walk across our field just above where we were working.  Mike made “hen noises” and the Tom responded.  It was funny because I am so used to hearing the domesticated Turkeys we have back in Staunton gobbling all day, that when the wild Toms gobbled in the woods before we saw them, it didn’t even register until Mike asked me if I had heard them.  The pair of Canadian Geese are still at the pond in the meadow across the road.  The female must not be setting yet as I see them walking around together during the day.   And one of the things I love the most about warm weather here is the sound of the frogs at the stream. 

April 15, 2018

I found out yesterday that it is spring gobbler season.  I wasn’t too happy about that.  I am not against hunting and realize that the responsible harvesting of wild game is good for the environment.  I also realize that gathering food from the wild is often healthier for an individual than buying it from the grocery store and I have thought about harvesting a fall turkey for our Thanksgiving table sometime.  However, I really get irritated with the attitude of so many hunters who are out to bag “the biggest and best” and who go hunting with an attitude to prove themselves and boost their ego.  Hunting to me should be about harvesting food for the table not bragging rights or a trophy.  Truth is that I have watched these turkeys for a year now and seen them on almost a daily basis and I have grown attached to them.  To see hunters in the meadow across from our house (which we don’t own and over which we have no control) made me sad.  Yesterday morning, right before dawn, the hunters were ready to shoot “my” Toms and I was not happy about it at all.  Probably as much as the fact that someone is hunting the turkeys is just the fact that I hate waking up to see a car parked across the road and people roaming in the meadow.  I prefer to just see wildlife. 

On Thursday we had Tim from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) out to the farm to walk the property with us.  He was a very nice man and spent a good bit of time looking at our property including some of the issues we are facing with erosion.  He will go back to the office this coming week and try to draw up a plan to present to us for possibilities on ways we can improve in the care of the land.  We are not sure that we will go with any of the programs they offer at this time, but we wanted to see what our options might be and get his input on some specific areas of concern.  We know that regardless of what else we might do, we are going to fence off one section of the property to keep the cattle from using that area and probably plant trees there to help with erosion.  We are looking forward to seeing Tim’s suggestion and we have a lot of decisions to make in the next few weeks. 

Yesterday, after a year of trying to get someone to work on the barn roof, we finally had a man show up with a crew.  I am thrilled to get the process started but as with everything we try to do here in Laurel Fork, things are not going exactly as planned.  We really have not had a choice as to who we would get to do the roof as we simply couldn’t get anyone to follow through with the project.  Except for the young man last year who wanted money in advance to get started and then didn’t do any work (taking several hundred dollars of our money), this is the only individual to actually show up and get to work.  This is an experienced foreman for a reputable contractor who is doing this as a side job but when he got started, I think the job was a little more complicated than he had anticipated.  The work went exceptionally slow and where they had anticipated getting one side completely finished yesterday, they left it incomplete with a major rain storm coming in today.  We are very disappointed.

I have been assisting Mike every day with the fencing.  It’s a slow process because we are working on a steep bank and Mike is digging all the holes for the fence posts by hand.  I hold the long boards in place while he nails them most of the time.  Occasionally, he holds the boards and I nail them.  A friend loaned us a nail gun which is pretty cool.  In between, while Mike is getting ready for the next section, I work on clearing brush and debris trying to make good use of time.  Yesterday, I also started bread in the morning and would run back to the house to knead it for another rise and eventually to put it in the oven for baking.  The bread turned out beautifully and we consumed close to half a loaf when I pulled it from the oven.  Later in the afternoon, I picked out some fabric from my stash to start a baby blanket, decided on a pattern, and got the fabric cut.  I have made all of our grandkids a baby sized quilt and with a new grandbaby being born in August, I want to make sure she has her own quilt as well.  The guest cabin above the garage works well for a spacious place for me to sew and I was close to the fence where Mike was working so that I could run out and help him when he needed a hand. 

We got a lot of the trees and brush cleared between our house and the pines as well as between our yard and the barnyard.  Large, dead trees that Mike cut down several weeks ago he finally got cut up.  Some of the wood we hauled in the back of the truck and stored inside one of our outbuildings.  The rest of it we ranked outside because it was just too much to haul up the steep bank to get to the truck.  Where it is stacked it won’t be too difficult to walk across the yard and retrieve it next winter. 

It’s really easy to stand back and become overwhelmed with how much we have left to do or how slowly things are going but we are trying to focus on what we have accomplished instead.  This week we accomplished a lot and things are starting to look really pretty around the place as projects progress and as the spring grass and flowers grow. 

April 16, 2018

I have to admit when we turned off at the Verona exit and all three of our electronic devices went off with a tornado warning stating a tornado was on the ground in our area that the adrenaline started pumping.  Having grown up in the Midwest and knowing full well the devastation caused by a Tornado, I wanted to be in the basement with Alissa, Gabino and the girls rather than out on the road.  I first heard of the potential for a tornado when I looked at FB and saw where a friend had posted that she and her family were in the basement sitting it out.  We were around Greenville, VA at that time and it wasn’t long until I got a warning on my phone that the area we were driving through was under a tornado watch.  I couldn’t bear to watch the road.  The rains were coming so hard and the wind was blowing so bad that many cars had pulled over to the side of the road and a lot of those in front of us on the interstate had slowed down to a crawl with hazard lights blinking to warn others of their slow speed.  Mike was having a hard time driving but kept going.  Every time I would look up, my heart would beat a little faster, so I mostly kept my eyes down and wishing us safely home.  When we arrived at the house, Mike ran through the rain and wind to check on the cattle and open some additional shelter.  I had hoped not to use that shelter until calving since I had it all cleaned up, but with the type of weather we were having, it was best to let the cows inside.  One of the cows, a miniature dairy x beef named Sharzee, is looking close to calving so Mike put her in a shelter by herself.  She was separated from the others by a gate and perfectly content to have her own space.  Mike didn’t think she was quite ready to calve but didn’t want to take a chance of her calving out in the weather.  Her very first calf was a heifer that we named Stormy after she was born in a crazy, February rain storm.  (We still own Stormy and she is part of our beef herd.)  All ended well for us, but things were not so good in other areas of the state.  Alissa’s grandparents and additional family members and friends live in Lynchburg and that area was hit hard and is under a state of emergency.  Alissa was able to contact her family there and they are all safe for which we are thankful. 

I went to church yesterday morning by myself because Mike is still coughing and has a lot of congestion, although he is much better.  We just don’t want to take any chances of him spreading any type of infection to the elderly people who attend.  It was nice to see everyone.  I had to smile when the visiting pastor (who is a regular fill in for the congregation) and one of the members played “Will the Circle be Unbroken” for the offertory music and asked the congregation to sing along.  I am not familiar with a “typical” Presbyterian church as this is the first one I have ever attended, but I feel certain the Appalachian roots of the members play a part in the choice of songs that are sung and played.  Often, mixed in with traditional hymns will be old time gospel songs, blue grass or a touch of old Appalachia.  After church as one of the members and I walked out to the car, a wild goose flew just over our heads so close that we could almost touch it.  It appeared to have come up out of the cemetery.  The scene was so pretty with the rock wall of the cemetery in the background with Buffalo Mountain standing tall beyond that and everything bright green and accentuated by the water left from morning showers.  For a moment, all felt right with the world.

After church, Mike and I had leftovers and then I spent the next few hours prepping to leave.  I always like to have the house in order, laundry done up, and things as clean and tidy as possible without going into full cleaning mode.  The weather started in before we left Laurel Fork and we would have high winds and strong down pours that would taper off to a steady rain before surging again.  The water in the streams rose almost immediately and began to rush.  When we checked the reports last night for Laurel Fork, the area had received close to two inches of rain already. 

Things are calm this morning.  I was up at five to make coffee, check on my cows (Sharzee was curled up in the hay chewing her cud), and shower before my long day with the Little Girls begins.  Both girls are under the weather with bad colds and congestion, so they are probably going to want to be held most of the day.  I’m taking my supplements, washing my hands every few minutes, and praying I don’t get sick. 

It was a fast week.  We worked hard at times and the days flew by.  I expect the same this week and in fact, the weeks ahead until we slow down once again in the fall.   

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