The Fence Post - News from the Farm

Midwinter, 2014

It is time for the annual farm update, and there is nothing like a good snowstorm for settling in in front of the wood stove with a cup of steaming tea before beginning to write. Storm preparations included the usual: extra round bales out in the fields, buckets of water in the tub, topped off water troughs, firewood stacked on the porch, a few extra staples for the pantry. The snow started falling at dusk on Wednesday, and we awoke to a winter wonderland with over a foot of fluffy snow. Beautiful. And quiet.

There are many things I love about a snowstorm, and Nor'easters in particular. First, the quiet. Even though we are out in the country and off the road a bit, sound travels in our little valley. When outside, we often hear the faint hum of cars on the road, a neighbor's dog barking (or perhaps one of our own!), the train as it makes its way from North Garden to Red Hill, the yipping of coyotes, a crowing rooster. The sound of the train intrigues me the most, since even though it is located miles away on the other side of the mountain behind us, its distinctive and distant rumble settles around us at various times each day - but only for as long as it takes the train to travel that short stretch. So after a heavy snow, there is that elusive period of quiet, an almost total stillness that is so rare and so brief. Though I love the sounds of life in the country, I treasure those moments when the silence is all-encompassing. And Nor'easters ensure that I'll have the opportunity to enjoy that snowy silence since they typically bring lots of snow. And the more snow, the longer the quiet lasts.

With today's warmer temps, new sounds emerge as the snow turns to slush and begins to slowly disappear. There's the steady beat of dripping water in the gutters, the hum of the tractor as the driveway gets cleared, the rustle of birds in the cedar tree next to the house - all indicators that life is returning to normal.

Snowstorm February 2014 007

 

January 2013

Weather-wise, it has been another roller coaster winter. Last weekend, we rode the mountain trails near Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA, with temperatures peaking out in the high 60’s/low 70’s. It was a hot day for the horses since they are sporting their thick winter coats, so we didn’t do more than walk, but even so, those steady mountain climbs left them drenched in sweat. The weekend was followed by days of steady rain, leaving the paddocks a muddy mess, and now forecasters are calling for our first arctic blast to arrive this week. In preparation for the freezing temperatures, fresh round bales are out in the fields and I’ve topped off the water troughs and drained the hoses. Now bring on the cold!

We got a good bit of fence painting done on the farm last year, so our focus will shift this spring to getting in a garden. Lack of a deer-proof fence has kept us from planting a large garden like in years past, but with all the beans, vegetables and winter squash that we eat all year, we’re ready to expand our garden. To do so without a deer fence would be a complete waste of time and energy (not to mention money – those seed packets are expensive!). Drive up our driveway any evening, and you are likely to encounter our local herd of twenty-plus Odocoileus virginianus bedded down or grazing in our fields. Needless to say, we have a very healthy resident white-tail deer population. 

Plans are well underway for our 10th season of Camp GooseChase, and for the first time, we’ll be attending the CharlottesvilleFamily Fun Fair & Camp Expo on February 10. Though I hate to miss a day with the horses, I’m looking forward to talking about camp and our “unrushed summer days” here on the farm. I love thinking about summer during this longest stretch of winter; it can’t help but make a gray day seem brighter. 

January 2012

I don’t know about you, but I’m missing winter. I really shouldn’t complain; we’ve had a remarkably long stretch of rideable days and I haven’t had to spend any time breaking ice in the water troughs. But I’m growing tired of the rain, in part because it turns portions of the fields into mud. Instead of just dealing with mud during the month of March, we are dealing with it all winter long! We even heard spring peepers last night—a first for this time of year. We’ve never heard them in January before; they are weeks ahead of schedule. We’ve also had hundreds of robins out in the yard, so I’m guessing that this will continue to be one of those rare mild winters.

The horses are all doing well. When I was delivering round bales out to the large field last night, it was near dusk and the horses started galloping through the field in large circles around the tractor. Even after I had positioned the bales where I wanted them, they continued to run. They were far more interested in racing one another than they were in eating. Such power and beauty all around me, and of course, I didn’t have a camera. Oh well…

I never got around to painting fences last year, so that is still on the “to do” list. We did get the “Wood Ring” trail built (a wide, looping figure eight trail up in the woods where there is also a second round pen to use on hot summer days). On one of our recent warm December days, we cleared a section of overgrown trail up on the mountain behind us. We should now be able to ride from our place all the way up to the fire road that leads to Pot Rock (great views of the Blue Ridge) and to points beyond. Portions of the trail are fairly steep, so it needs to dry out some before we finish tackling the trail on horseback. We’ve made it almost the whole way, but had to turn around because of time constraints. Given how much the horses were slipping and sliding, it was probably a good thing.

Plans are underway to train for some more endurance rides this year. I can’t wait! I bought a used Stonewall Endurance Saddle (which is essentially like an old Cavalry saddle), and I love it. It only weighs 12 pounds and is very comfortable and secure. I’m looking forward to some long rides soon!

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