Friday, November 21, 2008

Here we go again.

Here we go.

We went on vacation a couple weeks ago and when we left the leaves were all gold and red. The temperature was mild. It was a very memorable fall out here on the farm.

And now, I get home and the most I can say is the winter rye has come up on all of our fields and the rye is bright green.

As for everything else, if it wasn't for the memory that spring does eventually return, I would begin to believe in some mythological world where vengeful creatures punish and torture the world for some unmentionable wrong.

Winter is coming.

The trees are bare, the plants are dead. The birds that stayed behind are hiding and shivering.

Even the weeds have frosted over and turned death brown.

Last night just so we would know winter had firmly overtaken us, the temperature dropped all the way down to 19 degrees.

This morning we were out in the cold cutting down the asparagus stalks and the dead banana trees (the one Chinese banana we bought four years ago has proliferated, each spring it emerges from the roots of last years stalk as not one but three or four new trees. At this rate it will be just a few years and I might be giving a banana tree out in the spring shares).

I had until now postponed winterizing the 200 foot long hoop house hoping that if not summer at least a civilized fall would remain around a little longer and the eggplants growing inside would continue to bear fruit.

Not so after last night. Now everything is dead and we’re heading out to pull of the dead eggplants and roll up the plastic mulch.

Other farm news?

Early sign up for 2009 shares.

Each year we let the previous year's shareholders sign up early. This year the number of early sign ups almost doubled the number of those signing up early in the past.

Our 2009 subscription sign up will begin in February. If you received this newsletter, you will be contacted then.

The day old chicks that were shipped to us in September have almost reached the size of full grown chickens ( and while those chickens you see in the grocery store all gutted, plucked, sliced and wrapped in plastic aren't any older than these chicks, ours are egg laying birds. And egg layers don't reach maturity until over 5 months.

That means, first, you won't see us out in the back yard plucking the feathers off our chickens and second, they won't be old enough to lay eggs for another three months.

Again, if you were an 08 shareholder and want eggs just come on out. Even if you weren't an 08 shareholder I might have extra eggs. It's best to contact me first.

Cows/beef. There are still two of my neighbors cows available for meat come January. If you are a meat eater with a freezer this is a good deal. Pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free (they are fed extra grain the last several months to up the taste of the meat). I bought a quarter cow last year and those were the yummiest steaks I have ever eaten. Contact me and I'll send you details.

On top of that another 25 chickens, this time those green and blue egg laying Ameraucanas chickens, are supposed to arrive within the week (they arrived this morning and I just put them in their special place in the barn with their own heat lamp. They seem healthy and judging from the chirps, happy).

Since I hadn’t seen a bear in well over a month I thought they might have given up and gone off to hibernate. However, a neighbor reported seeing that mother bear with her two cubs down by the lower beehives. The neighbor reported they were standing just outside the electric fence with eyes on the honey (one of those hives has so far this year escaped being looted by either me or the bears and probably has close to a hundred pounds of honey on it).

So, there I was last night, walking through the woods with a flashlight fully prepared to find a vandalized mess.

Honey boxes thrown in all directions. Frames of wax torn apart and huge bear paw prints left where the honey once was.

Those beehives are down the hill from house with a steep bank maybe a hundred feet high to their back.

I slid down through the leaves, jumping from boulder to boulder, and then climbed out through the trees with my light in hand.

I turned on the light and there were the hives.

The hives were all intact. I flashed the light back and forth.

No bears.

Apparently the new battery I hooked to the electric fence charger worked. .

Either Momma or her babies or maybe all three of the marauders stepped up to the hives, touched the wire...

And got a shock strong enough to make them reconsider sitting down to a hundred pound honey meal.

There’s a picture of the mother and babies raiding these hives earlier in the season on our webpage. This is before I repaired the electric fence.

And speaking of pictures. 

I need to change the pictures on our webpage. That one of me standing on top of the mountain is now out of date. As of this week the top of the mountain is no longer part of our farm.

It's been 40 years now that we've been hassling with the state over property lines and how to divide up a jointly owned piece of property (meaning we owned 75% the state 25% without any sort of a division on who owned what). This week, however, we signed the papers, went to court and the state of Virginia now owns the top of Highpoint Mountain (and we own the 75% lower down on the mountain).

Which would be just fine if the state, meaning us, you and me and the woman next door, were able to enjoy this beautiful piece of outdoors. (for all of you that have hiked up there you know what I mean about how beautiful it is, and if you haven't look at the pictures on our webpage). It would be nice if the top of the mountain was connected with other state owned property in the Bull Run Mountains and made into a trail. A park.

The far side of the mountain.

Unfortunately, this might not happen. In the past VOF, that's Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a public/private agency of the commonwealth that accepts private donations, which is the one who controlled the 25% and a lot of other land in the Bull Run Mountains, hasn't always had the publics interest at heart. About a dozen years ago Virginia was left the neighboring farm, a Dupont estate, to be turned into public land. This is the hundreds of acres of wooded land right below the cliffs in the picture.

Instead of turning this resource into public land, into a park, VOF quietly sold it at a below market price, without taking other bids and it sold this farm to a family member of one of its wealthiest funders So the estate instead of being turned into a park was quietly sold to a family member of one of its long-time high funders.

There are a number of people that worry that the same thing will be done to the top of the mountain.

(this is more than a run of the mill 'worry'. VOF attempted to sell the top of the mountain to the sister of their benefactress several years ago, only at the time they didn't own the property. (remember 75/25%). Now that Virginia has a clear title to all 100% we're afraid that instead of letting the public have access they will use the fact that they once sold it as an excuse to now sell it again).

What to do?

I don't know. In the past it was our issue. This was our land. Now its a public issue and our concern in this is that of any one else, particularly people that enjoy the outdoors and that have an interest in open trails and public land. When we owned the top of the mountain (well, 75% of it) we let people hike up there. Virginia should continue to let people to continue to hike up there. If it's sold (which it shouldn't be) it should be sold with a public trail easement. This land and the view on top is way too beautiful to go into private hands and the public kept out.

But that's just my opinion. Now, though, whether people are allowed to continue to hike along the top of the mountain to those magnificent cliffs is a public issue. An issue between the public and their government.



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