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Blue Skies and Sunshine

April 4, 2013

Hey y’all, Hope everything is wonderful in your world today!

We’ve had a couple of gorgeous working outside days, I’m really beginning to feel like Foxfire Holler is going to make it. The barn is so close to being finished I can almost taste it.. We worked on the new chicken house/lot yesterday… Several people came out to help, I am so thankful. My friend Hanneke Lohse is here from California, they have a place in Todd, and she has come out here two days in a row to help out. Hanneke  is a ballet teacher and will proudly tell you her 70th  birthday is coming up here in a couple weeks. That woman worked my sorry butt into the ground yesterday!  She’s like the energizer bunny! It was fun getting to work on the barn stuff yesterday, seems like every day that Todd and Rob have been able to come out and work on it  I’ve been tied up with animal stuff. Yesterday we just kicked chicken coop butt though, and it was a total blast.

My Uncle Jack, Daddy’s youngest brother, my cousin Becky and her 2 gorgeous children came for a visit yesterday. Becky and family have been on sabbatical in South Africa doing research this winter.. What a blessing to have them take time for a visit with their mountain family before heading back to North Dakota. I just wish I had time to sit on the porch and just visit with them all afternoon, but they were very understanding  and pitched in to help on the chicken lot too.

Had a call from our NC Agricultural Extension Livestock agent Micah Orfield yesterday, she is working with Dylan Lightfoot at the Jefferson Post on a series of articles focusing on Ashe County agriculture. He needed a chicken person to talk to ASAP. The place was a mess (What else is new? )  but I told him to come on anyway. He got some good pictures I think, I hope… and went home with 6 of our Buff Orpington pullets. Tried to send him with a piglet or two, he wasn’t buyin’ !  He wanted some kind of profound quote, my head was in chicken coop mode, Lord only knows what I said… I’ll probably sound like an idiot in the article.. reckon it ain’t the first time for that!  I did sincerely enjoy our visit, feel like I made a new friend.

Speaking of phone calls, here’s a funny for you.  Thursday after I left for Union Grove, there was a call from someone that Mama understood was with National Geographic. Well, I debated about returning the call, finally figured it couldn’t hurt to just see what this Brent guy wanted. So Monday morning, which just happened to be April Fools Day, I did. Wellllll, Brent was looking for a family in the mountains living off the grid and close to the land.  Turned out he was producing a reality show for the National Geographic Channel, and got my number from the Ashe Chamber of Commerce.. geeze louise.. We aren’t off the grid, but even if we did qualify, I explained quite clearly to him that there wasn’t enough money in the world to get me to participate … ICK !  I’m still giggling over that one!  He wanted the “real deal” , wanted someone with a beard and a flintlock rifle… Told him I could probably manage the beard (menopause, you know )  but I wasn’t much good with a flintlock rifle. Lord have mercy !  I think he wanted a caricature of something that hasn’t existed in Ashe County in a very long time. People like that, well, you could explain it til the end of time.. they’re never going to understand how offensive it is.  Tried to give him Sharyn McCrumb’s definition of a Cosmic Possum. He couldn’t wrap his head around that at all.  Lawsy!  I’m sure he will find someone who is willing to play the part somewhere… I wished him luck. 

We had a sad thing happen a couple days ago, one of the girls let Chester out of his crate without anyone around to watch him. He played with Tiny Tina Lamb and injured her pretty badly.  Hanneke and I sewed her up, she’s on her feet and eating well. Hopefully she will make it. We have to find a home for Chester though. We love him so much, but he’s a prey driven dog and we can’t let him out of our sight for a second. This results in him having to be confined in someway much of the time, and its just not fair to him. He’s a great puppy, smart and well mannered,  he’s just not a good fit for the farm.  We found him in October, someone had set him out. He was pitiful, about 4 months old and… well oh gosh… honestly.. I’ve never seen so many bones on a dog in my life.  He was very close to starved to death. We’ve had 6 wonderful months with him and I really do hate to see him go, we just can’t risk our livelihood to a pet.. no matter how cute he is.  

Mama’s 74th birthday is Friday, we’ll be partying up at the Fish Fry at Riverview. In case you aren’t familiar, Ashe Outreach Ministries does a fish fry every other Friday night to help support their food ministry.. Mama wants everyone to come and share birthday cake and eat fish(or chicken) and try to raise a little money for Outreach at the same time. No presents, just your presence !  We’ll be meeting up there around 5, there will be good music and the food is always wonderful. Please come !

Well, it’s after 6, daylight soon… this silly Mabel Lamb has the scours, reckon I’ll go find her a dose of Kaopectate and see what we can do for her, and then go get the feeding and milking done.

Much love from the holler, Nancy and the Critters


Just Catchin’ Up

March 31, 2013
This is Bubba and part of Blossom's November litter our enjoying a sunshiny spring day.

         This is Bubba and part of Blossom’s November litter out enjoying a sunshiny spring day.


Hey y’all,

It’s been a few days … ok … a couple weeks, but who’s counting? Let’s see, what’s new since last we talked? Hmmmm….

The piglets are here!  Both litters.. The first sow earned her name, she is a great mama!  Agnes had 2 stillborn piglets, and one died, but she has raised nine and done a fantastic job so far. She is a very impressive first time mom. Conversely, her sister Lucille, may need her name changed to Sausage.  She had 12 live babies on the 19th of March but has only managed to keep 4.  Tater did much the same thing in November, but because I am so attached to her.. she got another chance. She should be due the middle of April and we are praying this time is different. Lucille is a different story, and the hard fact of life is that it costs a lot to keep a sow if she isn’t going to do her part to pay for her keep.  This is hard for me, but wishing won’t change it. Suck it up, Buttercup!  I am looking to trade Bubba for another boar hog, also. If y’all know of anyone that might be interested, please have them holler at me.  He is solid Tamworth, about 700+ pounds, easy to handle..well.. unless you are trying to give him a shot. I’ve just used him up, have several of his offspring that I want to keep for sows, and I need a new feller for them.

Agnes in labor, I think she had 4 or 5 pigs at this point. She's such a good girl!

Agnes in labor, I think she had 4 or 5 pigs at this point. She’s such a good girl!

It has not been a banner lambing season, nothing we can put a finger on… just several dead lambs and ewes.  Some predator problems, some old ewe issues, some low ewe energy resulting in stillborn and generally unthrifty lambs.. Some years just aren’t good years for sheep and goats, last year spoiled me. I  take responsibility for this and say that my  lack of energy and general apathy over the last couple of years has led to a lack of good flock management. Ewes that should have been culled (sold or relocated to freezer pasture)  but instead were allowed to breed and their ewe lambs were kept and allowed to breed also. Lack of selective breeding, lack of creative pasture management… the list can go on, but what’s done is done.

Thursday morning I was walking back up from the barn, carrying a chilled lamb, after having lost 2 lambs and a piglet in a 24 hour period, bawling my eyes out, thinking about the time that JoAnn Leach  looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m just so damned tired of burying sheep”  I know just how she felt.  A friends husband,  a veterinarian, said once that sheep are little cows born looking for a way to die.  I know it’s fact, I just don’t like it.

I took a few days off and went with my wonderful  sistercousins to the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention this weekend. It was good to relax and unwind with some good music and good friends for a bit. I met so many new folks too.. Chrissy, Lori and Matt took excellent care of the farm while I was gone. I’m so blessed they love me so much!   Took the 2 bottle babies with me, much to the dismay of my granddaughters.  It was fun having them there, put diapers on them and they slept in the camper with me. The chilled lamb that I brought in that morning found her springs while we were there. She also found her obnoxious lamb gene, which is a good sign of a healthy lamb, and wouldn’t be at all irritating  in the pasture or barn… but it surely is in a teeny weeny camper!  She earned the name Mabel from continuously jumping up on the table seat, then onto the table, bouncing around like she was queen of the hill.Maybe she thought since she was at a fiddlers convention she needed to learn to flatfoot! Anyway, Mabel dancing on the table… it just kinda fit !

I was just tickled pink to run into a couple of  old friends from Spin a Yarn… One was Phyllis VanHoy whose family owns the farm that the Fiddlers Convention is held on. She was working with the small business incubator at Wilkes Community College when I met her and was a great encouragement to me when we had the shop. So, as today’s conversation shook out, at next years Union Grove Convention, we will be teaching spinning and weaving workshops, doing some hands on stuff with kids, and hopefully selling enough stuff to cover our camping fee .. all while getting to visit and enjoy good music. It’s a wonderful opportunity, one that I am quite thankful for.

I took some time to do a little thinking on what direction I want the  farm to go in, and where I want the sheep to be in the grand scheme of things. Doing  a lot of prayerful ruminating  on that front!  We’ll just see what happens. Came home to a phone message that was just too good to be true.   I don’t think I’ll share this news ’til I find out for sure if it is or isn’t  a joke.

The new barn is very close to being done. I have so much, so many people, to be thankful for.

Well, I’m off to bed. Much love from the funny farm, Nancy

A Watched Sow Might Farrow?

March 14, 2013

Morning y’all,

I just got in from the barn, thought I’d sit down with a cup of coffee and try to get warm. Made the mistake of looking at the temperature, according to Ray’s Weather  it’s 19 F…..  5.4 with the windchill. Wish I hadn’t looked, I think it just makes it colder!

When I got to the sow pens this morning, they had each moved every blade of hay into a nest. Bare floor all the way around, and big sows laying in a circle of hay. I knew I should have cleaned  their pens yesterday! I put in some fresh hay, off to the side, not in the nests. Well, they both got up and started fussing at me!  Then they went to work, carefully  integrating the new hay into the nests.  Piglets today ? Maybe ? We’ll see…

OK .. I seem to have some feeling back in my toes, reckon I’ll go feed the hogs and try to rig up some heat lamps for the sow’s pens that won’t disturb them too much.

Much love from the holler, Nancy and the Critters

Thank God

March 11, 2013

Morning y’all,

Man, that wind sure is blowing this morning. I need to go get feed, sure hope the rain holds off long enough to get it hauled in the dry. I’m thinking that may not happen though, Lori took my truck to work so that Chrissy could take her car down the mountain to school.  Juggle, juggle, juggle..

Our neighbor Timmy borrowed neighbor Roberto’s Bobcat and pulled my truck and trailer out yesterday. Thank God for good neighbors. I sure have done my share of taking from them the last few years, Lord willing, one of these days I can return the favor. Tim worked on the driveway with it too…wish the rain would just hold off til I could get a couple loads of gravel on that curve …Reckon that ain’t going to happen either though.   Daddy always said wish in one hand, spit in the other and see which one gets full first …. Ok .. so he didn’t say spit, but you get the point!

Rob came over and he and Matthew pulled the rest of the barn down,  hauled the lumber and finished the roof on the new barn. Todd came by and worked on the chicken house too. Thank God for good neighbors.

Thank God for teaching me that sometimes you have to shut up and accept help. Sometimes you have to remember that it’s just not your turn to give.

Still no piglets… Y’all should see these sows, I have no idea how they are NOT having them. Poor things are miserable and huge. I feel so sorry for them.

We finally let the last litter out of the barn yesterday. I wish you could have seen them running all over the hill in the   hog pasture.  Way cute!  Bacon bits !

Time to go milk, thank God for Penelope… She is truly a gift.

Remember to love someone today y’all, it’s a verb you know !  Nancy and the Critters




60 degrees ? Really ?

March 9, 2013

It is truly a gorgeous day !  Despite this stomach bug that has me feeling like a wet dishrag, I’ve been out enjoying the sunshine this morning. Rob Henson just came up, he said it was supposed to be 60 degrees today. Man this weather is just weird!  How many days of wind and toe numbing cold have we had? Then all of a sudden, 60 degrees?  I’ll take it. He and Matt are taking down the rest of Grandpa’s barn and the Granery today. We will be reusing the wood on the new barn.  I am so excited about getting all of those things done.

Lori milked for me while I did the chores in the brooder house, then I walked down to open gates for Matthew as he attempted to take the trailer to the barn.. The plan was to load up the ewes with lambs older than a week, and take them to the Vineyard today. Well… I plan and God laughs, you know.  Couldn’t get the truck through not even one of the gates. It’s just too muddy… So, OK, no problem… just bring it back up the hill and we’ll walk the sheep to the trailer.  Would have worked,  except I got the truck stuck in this awful curve. If you’ve been up here lately you will know exactly where I am talking about. In the course of trying to unstick it, I wound up with the trailer partially off the bank, 2 tires are floating … soooooo, needless to say, it’s not going anywhere for a little while yet.

When I got to the barn, EB had just had her baby, a little boy.. EB was last years bottle baby,


This is EB and Littl’un taking a nap in the sun last spring.. Bottle babies can sometimes be a little flaky with their first lambs, since they had no mother modeling. EB is no exception. She cleaned him up really well, but she hasn’t let him nurse yet. Lori and I milked a couple ounces and fed him, but I think we’re going to have to do it again.

As I was putting her and the  little one in a lambing jug, I noticed another ewe with a lamb. Smart old girl  standing in what had been a  jug, but didn’t have a front panel on it at the moment. She was just waiting for someone to shut the door and deliver the queenly rations … Here’s my lamb, where’s my treats?  Sheep are so funny !  Lori said, “Mama! Neither one of those were there when I came in to milk!”  I had to laugh.  She has been a huge help lately.  Trying to resist becoming dependent on her, or it will be hard when they move out.

I found a stillborn lamb in the pasture. Couldn’t identify a mama, so it may have been a twin to one of these 2. Sad, but a fact of life I reckon.

Still no piglets. I’m kind of surprised, but I shouldn’t be, my pigs don’t seem to farrow when I’m expecting them to.   I can only remember one litter that I was right about, in fact. At least I have the peace of mind of knowing they they are in a safe, warm place when they are ready.  What’s 2 more water buckets ? builds muscle!  Actually, it just this very second occurred to me, it’s warmed up !  I bet I could run a water hose and fill buckets instead of carrying them. Lovely !

Reckon I’ll go milk this ewe again, we need more colostrum in the freezer anyway. Maybe we’ll get lucky and she will have let him suck by the time we get there.

Love from the holler, Nancy and the Critters


A Watched Sow Never Farrows ?

March 8, 2013

Morning y’all,

24 degrees out this morning, according to Ray’s Weather. I went out at 4 to check on the sows in the barn and it felt warmer than that to me, but that could just be because I’ve been so looking forward to this forecasted break in the cold !

We got the other gilt, also due to farrow, in the barn yesterday finally. The 2 are littermates born last March and by dark last night they had built a big nest in the center of the pen and were laying face to face sound asleep.  I had Christy take a picture because it was so sweet, and then my awesome daughter in love, Esther, and I put up a panel between them.  They can still see each other, but not freak out and step on each others babies if they panic when they start having them. I also hung a heatlamp for the babies, just in case they had them last night. I don’t think they were real happy about it though, when I checked on them this morning they both looked up and “whuffed” at me. I think they were mad at me for hanging that light in their pen and disturbing their sleep!  Hogs are such fun animals. So much personality! As soon as we separated them,  they built new nests. I’m kind of surprised at least one of them didn’t have babies last night. First time mama’s… they don’t always follow the rules.

Jessica is coming to help me today with the hogs, and with getting crates ready to take some chickens to the sale tonight. I’m so thankful for her help.. She has so much energy it’s all I can do to keep up with her!  I remember being young like that, vaguely, but there is some memory 🙂

Reckon I better get off the computer and go check on them again. If you don’t mind, keep us in your thoughts today please, first litters are so iffy with pigs… Much love from the holler, Nancy


Just Catching Up

March 6, 2013

Morning y’all, 599876_575642725779232_1794085977_n

It’s snowing. Again. I’m so ready for warm weather!

The calf’s bottle is warming in a bowl of hot water, I usually feed him about  7:15, feed the chicks, then turn out the hens and go down to the barn to milk Penelope, feed the pigs and the sheep.  Thinking this morning I would like to get to the barn first though, we had a new lamb last night. He had just hit the ground when I walked in to do the milking. Mama is one of Jo Ann’s old girls.. A Coopworth Rambouillet cross, she is a wonderful ewe.. one of those who looks at you as if to say,  ” Here’s my lamb, where’s my pen?”  I picked up the lamb, still wet, and walked into an empty lambing jug (pen) and she walked right in and started cleaning up the baby. She was very vocal about the fact that I milked before getting her grain, water and hay. They know the routine !

The new barn has most of a roof!! It’s so beautiful.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see it nearing completion.. Just a couple more warm days and they will have it licked.

Got an email from Amanda this morning, I reckon the Penzey Spice people are still interested in us for their catalog, even after my weird email to one of their reps… Lord only knows why 🙂   It could gain us some new customers from other areas though.

Ok … I’m going to get out of here and get’er done,  y’all stay safe and warm!  Much love from the holler, Nancy