Monday, July 18, 2016

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

...well, almost.

Usually, we are returning to normal life after harvest in the middle of August, not the middle of July!

We finished picking last Friday, the earliest finish ever. Monday the 11th was our last day of picking into flats for the processing plant. We were fortunate to make arrangements for picking for juice (into barrels) for the final time over the field. When it came to Friday, we only had a half day of picking left -- and after the kids had worked 4 hours for 4 barrels, Randy said, "It looks like we were done yesterday."

Oh well, we were close.

And could be certain that we had not left too many berries out in the field -- a good way to end.

Now we are back to normal living, still plenty of work to do, but not the pressure, or the unceasing schedule. No kids laughing on the deck at lunchtime. Not so many back rubs for Daisie. No more reminders about food safety rules, No more visiting with great kids, who are funny and clever, and kind. No more Otter Pop or ice cream bar breaks.

But it's all good. The crop quantity was good. The quality was great in spite of all the showery days that we picked through. There was very little mold. No breakdowns. The crew were troupers, working in showers for twelve of the thirty-one days the machines were in the field. That's a lot! No complaints, and good attitudes.

Our harvest spanned 5 weeks -- 35 days, picking on 31 days, rained out 3 days, off for one.

Inevitably, after being together day after day, and doing the exact same things day after day, we are all eager for the final day to arrive.

But when it does, it always seems like an abrupt end. There's just a touch of sadness that you won't be seeing these people who have been your whole world for the last 35 days daily anymore.

We all decided that we should have one more get-together with everyone there...a Turn In Your Hours Party. But already, the crew is busy with new things. Some can make it one day, others can't make it til another, some are already out of town...It usually goes that way. We want to, but it's hard to work it out.

Everyone goes back to their regularly scheduled programming...with good memories of another summer on a job that seemed like it would go on forever, but is already in the rear view mirror.

It's a nice view. Now onward...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Abner & Dexter...

Abner and Dexter left home today…

Ten weeks have already passed since that eventful May evening they were born.

In the meantime, I pondered whether to keep all the babies but realizing how overnight I went from a pair of goats, to a HERD of 6, I thought it the better part of valor, to part with two.

As God would arrange it, my friend, Jamie – whom I mentored in prayer group when she was in high school – was quite interested in becoming a goat farmer. She saw my baby goat posts on Facebook and she with her animal lover youngest son, Lincoln, came to visit.

And they were bit by the goat-lover bug. Perrrrfect!

Soon she brought Kyla and Bennett, her other animal lover kiddos. Eventually, her husband, Eric, who was not completely immune to the goat-lover sickness, came too, and acquiesced to the majority of goat fanatics in his family, saying YES, the goats could be added to their little farm.

In my opinion, this was indeed, perfect!!

Before the babies were born, I had decided I would keep any girls, so Clementine was a keeper, no question. After that it was very difficult to decide…I love Dexter’s coloring the best, speckles are my favorite. Abner has the symmetrical markings, though not the coloring of his momma, and he is the most laid back. Bo is striking with his bovine markings, and he is the friendliest of all…

After much, agonizing, I decided that Bo was the boy that was going to stay. If Jamie and her family wanted them, Abner and Dexter were theirs.

They spent the next few weeks coming often to visit, winning the skittish Dexter and shy Abner over with their quiet attention, and well-placed raisin treats. Eventually, Dexter was coming up to them without coaxing. Abner was a relaxed heap in their arms. I was privileged to hear the giggles and see the excitement of the kids – human ones, playing and snuggling the caprine ones. And don’t think that Jamie wasn’t in on it…She was as excited – maybe more so – than her daughter and sons!

I loved their visits, and they were wise to invest the time, because by today, Abner and Dexter knew them well, and trusted them. They knew their smell and that they always brought treats and fun. So without much ado, Abner and Dexter went into the crate on their way to a new home.

Jamie and I had expected a bit more drama – desperate bleating at the separation of mom and babies. There was some noise-making when they left the pen, but then it was mostly a non-event. Imogene did not cry like she has when I had taken the kids to the vet. Clementine was unfazed. Bo looked around for someone to play with, and eventually decided that Barnaby would do. They butted heads for a while and rammed each other off the teeter totter. Then it was business as usual.

Jamie reported that on her end of the transaction, Abner and Dexter were a bit cautious but very curious about their new home but soon were eating, playing on their new table, and napping.

It seems we had our timing right, and Jamie’s visits made a nice easy transition for the boys. I couldn’t be happier about the home they have! Jamie and I are peas in a pod when it comes to loving our animals. They will get the proper care, and lots of love – and I can still visit them now and then! Part of my goat farm dream was that I might be able to provide animals to others who would enjoy them. Already that has come true, in a better way than I could have imagined.

So I am not sad tonight. I am thankful, and happy. If Imogene was crying, I admit that then I might be too. But if she knows that the time is right, and it’s all good, I think I can handle it too.

Best wishes Little Cheerful Abner & Dexter! We’ll always love you. Go bring good cheer like you were raised up to do.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Garden Grumblings...

I'm drinking coffee, and looking out my west window where a big dark bank of clouds is hanging. Not encouraging. But -- I am thankful for a good breeze that's drying the bushes, and brief sun breaks. Should be a better day than yesterday was.

Because we picked for a LONG day on Wednesday, we were able to let the kids go home after a half day yesterday. We had covered all the fields that were a day late on being picked because of our July 4th holiday. Of course, it stopped raining when we stopped working...

But it was okay. The kids were troupers, once again. Oh, I appreciate them! We'll pick it up today where we left off, not really behind on our rotation, and not under great pressure to cover ground.

I was planning to work on my garden, and clean the goat pen today. One thing I like, and one, I don't. Rain may keep me from doing the one I don't like (the garden); but it won't keep me from cleaning the goat pen. I love doing that! For a person who is not really into details, it's much easier to get a goat pen clean than a house!

My flowerbeds are reaching a stage where I do enjoy them as they are yielding bouquets for my table. Don't the zinnias look good in the old milk glass vase? :)

The garden? Not yielding much but aggravation despite the early start. I wish the Farmer had more time to give to the garden crops, though maybe after our early harvest, he will. My plantings are looking puny. I'm not sure why I keep planting more garden...What is the big compulsion for me to add work I don't enjoy for results that are barely profitable to my summer? Somehow I have defined this as "responsible", and heaven forbid that I should be IRresponsible!!!

The amount of veggies I harvest really does not justify the compost problem I create by growing them... The cost of seed and plants outpaces the value of the yield, especially when you consider that the veggies I am growing are at their cheapest in the store at the same time. If garden yields are good, you need to can. Canning {anguished face}-- I look forward to the day when I can retire from canning. You always need to can on the sunniest, hottest days of the summer, when you could be sitting in the Not Hot Tub reading a book, or when you want to go to the Fair.

And yet, every spring, I feel hopeful and enthusiastic and plant the boxes full. This year I even added 20, count them, 20 dahlias!

Spring fever is real, folks. I am perennially delusional when it comes to spring planting...and am paying for it now. I can only hope that August brings renewed enthusiasm because of a sufficient harvest...But it won't be until after the beans are canned and in the pantry. I can guarantee that.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another Rainy Harvest Day...

It’s another rainy day in this harvest season, which is 4 weeks old as of today. We’ve endured a lot of showers this harvest, which is quite a contrast to last year’s endless summer. When it was so warm in May, I expected another endless summer – but now I’m wondering if that was it. Hope you enjoyed it.

Rain during harvest just makes me sad. I hate sending the kids out in it. And it creates a lot of questions and decisions to make… Pick or not? Will the quality be good enough for the product we are packing? How much mold will come as a result? What can we do to minimize the impact?

However, we are at the tail end of harvest, and these issues are less pressured since most of the fruit has already been picked.

I’m thankful for all the excellent resources we have to assess the weather of the day. I have several sites that I visit, and try to average out the info to predict when the rain will come during the day. Looks like today we will start with rain, then have a break until late afternoon. Predictions are not for rain steadily.

So the kids will go out in the field…and I will watch from the house while drinking coffee, and feeling badly for them.

It’s tough being the boss.

Yesterday we learned that the company which receives raspberries for juice will not be taking any more fruit this year. We usually finish out our season with a few days of picking berries into barrels for juice. The last week of harvest there is not enough fruit to justify running the processing plant, but still enough to pick, so we pick into barrels for juice. Not sure what we will do now. And we are fortunate that we do not pick most of our crop into barrels. There are others for whom this is a greater blow.

Oh, Farming! You grow your crop, pick your fruit – the expenses are all the same, even if you don’t have a place to sell it! But as I’ve said before, no one is forcing us to farm.

In other news, the all goaties are still present on my Little Cheerful Farm. It seems I was wrong about when you can wean kids and send them away from their momma. Not 8 weeks – 10 -12 weeks is the preferred age. So Dexter and Abner are still with us, and their delightful new family comes to visit them and add fun to my day! Yesterday we attempted to take them all out of the pen on leashes…EXCEPT Momma Imogene did not think this was a good idea and would not budge a step toward the gate. She was calling out alerts to the kids so they were not keen on stepping outside either. We only succeeded in creating a rodeo with a swarm of little goats flying around the pen. I know when I’m licked, so the leashes came off, and we tried to regain our preferred status by generously passing out the raisins. The Foursome all have their collars on now – which basically acts as a goat handle – and they look so cute!

And I am, officially, the owner of Little Cheerful Farm as I have become a bona fide member of the American Dairy Goat Association. I have a registered herd name, and can register any babies that have registered parents. I will be registering Little Cheerful Clementine. Doesn’t that sound good? And it’s true besides!

I think I’ll hang out with Clemmie and her brothers today. I could use a Little Cheerful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Surprise Visitors from Bulgaria...

Yesterday, berry production jumped! We were on our strongest section of the field, and Randy had to unload the picker after each round – just not enough room for all the flats they were getting off each row. Exhausting for the crew to handle so many berries! And a long and busy shift at the plant later!

To add to our busiest day yet, a group of berry farmers from Bulgaria showed up at our place for a tour…a tour that Randy forgot to put on his calendar. (oops-mumblemumble) Of course, they would arrive when he was gone to town for supplies. My crew came up to the deck for lunch and excitedly told me that a whole bunch of Bulgarians were walking in the field, getting in the way of the picker and taking pictures of everything – even crew members!

I wondered if I was having a dream since I had just roused myself from falling asleep at my computer. “Bulgarians? Is this real?” I was wondering. “I think I’ve had dreams like this before…A whole tour group showing up and I’m completely unprepared…and I don’t speak Bulgarian.”

But it was very real, and gracious Bev, our researcher friend and director of the tour, briefed me on the event and told me that she had already talked to Randy who was on his way home and apologetic for his lapse.

So I ran to get my clipboard and get the signatures of the visitors on our Food Safety required Visitors Log, and tried to explain to people who don’t speak English what our Food Safety practices are, while attempting to corral them out of the harvest area. (Not entirely successful, I might add.)

Then I answered questions with the sound of confidence, though really, I was not sure of the veracity of some of my statements. How much does a harvester cost? How many tons of fruit are picked? What sprays are used?  Randy arrived back home just in time to unload the machines, answer a few questions and then leave to bring fruit to the plant. A couple of earnest-to-learn Bulgarians were visibly annoyed.

I invited the now restless tour group to the deck, quickly cutting my Royal Raspberry Cake into small squares and serving it with ice water – as if I had planned it all along. (Thank you Lord for prompting me to make a cake!)

Fortunately, before a few of the most…um…assertive guests became frustrated, Randy returned to answer more questions and show them more equipment. Before they left the farm to briefly visit the processing plant, they graciously presented me with a gift for our hospitality.

Then they continued their zealous investigations at the plant…which is much more sacrosanct than our harvest field. Thank you to JT for the security services…Oh my…I promise it won’t happen again.

It was really not a great day for visitors, as we were running around trying to keep up with the fruit production. We didn’t have time to give much attention, (and it didn’t help that we forgot they were coming {eye roll}). On the other hand, it was a great picture of the contrast for the Bulgarian farmers, where they do not use machines to pick raspberries and must get hundreds of workers to harvest their crop. I wouldn’t want to trade places.

They spoke of the great trouble they have getting enough labor to harvest their crops and asked how we keep our workers coming back each year. When I asked where they got their migrant workers, they said that there is a lower class in their country, the Gypsies, that provide manual labor -- no migrants. However, they are illiterate and undisciplined, wanderers, and obviously not respected by their employers. It struck me how politically incorrect Americans would find this information. 

Most of the guests were courteous and thankful for the opportunity, and the leaders of the group were very appreciative, and respectful. But they have their hands full with some of the group who are pretty assertive in their quest to learn, and unfamiliar with our culture. It’s obvious that US growers are far ahead in food safety requirements and procedures. They were not familiar with that at all, and very surprised and disbelieving about a number of rules that we must follow.

Some days, I am disbelieving about the rules too…but our guests lack of knowledge of food safety rules reminded me once again that food from the US is the safest in the world.

And I was also reminded to be more diligent with our calendars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kinda Ridiculous...

So we’ve been picking for 18 days and it’s only June 27. Kinda ridiculous.

Also kinda ridiculous? The weather acting like summer all April and May, then returning to typical June weather almost as soon as we needed to pick berries…

There were some rugged days out there for the crew. Most of the days, the rain was not steady – but while it rained, it dumped! And there were a couple of days where the rain was steady for some hours.

Normally, these conditions would have created a perfect environment for lots of mold growth. Our saving grace? It was downright cold – and we kept picking in spite of the conditions. I was sorry for our crew, but continuing to pick was the right decision. The cool weather was miserable for the crew, but it kept the mold from growing. Most of the times the weather changed back to sun were accompanied by drying breezes, and slow warm ups, if any. Perfect transitions!

To date, mold has not gotten a foothold in the field, and quality has been good. Harvest is going well, and I am very thankful…

…And just the same, looking forward to it being done.

In other news, the goaties have been growing like weeds, with the exception of Clementine. She’d been looking more and more puny as her brothers’ growth outpaced hers by several inches.  I feared that something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out any symptoms that made sense. Finally, I just brought her in and found out that the poor baby had an overpopulation of coccidia in her gut, and they were robbing her of enough nutrients to grow well. Five days of medicine and she is much better – feisty, and tail up happy! It makes me smile after seeing her so timid and overpowered by her big, strong playful brothers. She has always liked me, but now she loves me loyally because she loved to eat the banana flavored medicine that I administered. If I am in the pen, she just follows me around – and right out the gate to wherever I am going as if we belong together at all times.

The brothers all got fixed on Friday, and that made them a lot less playful for a day…but just a day. In a week, the babies will be 8 weeks old. Abner and Dexter will be moving to their new home. I’ll miss the little beggars, but they are getting a great home at my friend Jamie’s farm where they will not lack for attention from her and her 3 animal lover kiddos. Best way for me to give them up…

Bo and Clementine will be staying here with Barnaby and Imogene. I expect that both farms will experience a day of separation crying, and Jamie and I, bleeding hearts that we are, will feel terrible for a little while. But that is the way of farming, and soon enough, everyone will be happy on their own.

I had hoped to post so many more goat pictures and stories of their antics because they are kinda ridiculously cute! But early harvest messed up that plan… Abner, Bo, Clementine and Dexter have been a great gift of fun and laughter – and just plain therapy for the stressful days of an early, rainy harvest. I’ll try to catch a few more antics on video to share because I know you all like their ridiculous cuteness as much as I do.

So – a little catch-up on what’s been going on here. It’s a busy, busy season already this June…and to think that most years, we would just be thinking about starting to harvest now! We likely only have 2 weeks left to go…And after that, we will have a bunch of summer left to enjoy!

I can handle that kind of ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Favorite Organizing Tool...

I’m behind on everything…the yard, the lawn, the house. The goat pen, the harvest preparations, the writing and implementation of Good Agricultural Practices. The Farm Bureau and Museum writing duties. Even the fun things…bridal shower plans, visits from friends plans…


It doesn’t help that a cold I caught turned into a 3 week ordeal, that ended with antibiotics, and a small relapse at the end of their course. Pretty much every day I was ready for a nap right after I got up.

Thankfully, I am seeing improvement now and am able to begin efforts to remedy the situation.

Note that “able to begin” is not the same as beginning…

I can see that I’m going to have to employ my best organizing strategy on a much greater scale.

Let me introduce you to my favorite organizing tool…

…the Door.


When we had the opportunity to create our house plan, I was determined to solve the back door problem that most farms have. All the members of a farm family have boots, and work shoes, and work coats, gloves, hats and other clothing items that don’t get stored with all the nice clothes, that is, Town Clothes, and they end up in a big jumble by the back door. We designed our utility room to be a large room with a big locker for each person. The usual back door jumble could be kept behind a door.

And it would look ALL organized in the utility room…Even though, in fact, it was pseudo organization. Kind of like that biggest file in your cabinet that says Miscellaneous. It looks like you’re organized until you open it and find a jumble within.

This is the same principle on a larger scale. I recommend the use of this strategy in all spaces in your home! 






And as for the outside of your home? If it looks good from the road, it's beautiful.

If I meet you on the porch and close the door, you’ll know how far gone things are…

And if you see I have put a gate on the driveway, all hope is lost.

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life ( and one where I can vent. (