Record Rains and The Circle of Life…

I’m afraid that the rain that has been pounding our area has not let up all month. We now have a new area record for June rainfall so far and the month isn’t quite over yet. Before it started pouring this evening, the reported June rainfall was 13.10 inches which averages to nearly 1/2 an inch a day. UGH! Goodness knows what the total will be, but we know that it has been quite devastating to the farm. More than the rain, the storm that rolled through last night with high winds, hail and tornadoes was sadly quite damaging to the orchard and other areas of the farm.

We had straight line, powerful winds and heavy rain from the west which flattened some of our 4-5 year old orchard trees and did much damage to many other trees and parts of the farm. Here is just one row of trees leaning nearly 30 -45 degrees due to straight line wind last night! IMG_8335Here is one of our lovely apple trees that was snapped off at the base of the tree and actually carried several feet away! IMG_8329

This is the snapped trunk. Ugh!  IMG_8330Here is another apple tree that was pushed over from the base and yet still attached at the roots so we had a glimmer of hope that we could save it with some careful manipulation.IMG_8326We attempted to right this tree (which was full of apples…adding to its weight!) by pulling it back upright and bracing it with tethers. So, we rushed out to buy stakes and rope and cut up some old rubber hose to make supports. IMG_8336We then pounded in the stakes, threaded the pieces of hose with the rope and tried to re-secure the trees as best we could. It was a two person job at best! Crossing fingers, but here is the apple tree (now upright) that was nearly flattened in the previous photo.  IMG_8327We did this to all trees along the orchard lines to the best of our ability today, pulling trees back into place and hoping they will recover.  IMG_8338In addition to the damage in the orchard, the strawberry patch was assaulted by a limb from the nearby oak tree but shouldn’t be affected long term. IMG_8325The blueberry patch suffered minor damage. In one row, two 5 foot tall end posts broke off at their base and collapsed the bird netting but managed to avoid damaging the berry shrubs. I was able to harvest again today in a break in the weather so I’ve picked more than 81 pounds so far this year. THAT IS A LOT OF BLUE BERRIES! Here is a very small representation of what I have frozen so far. IMG_8263The bees at Seven Oaks have also managed to produce 92 pounds of honey so far this year which is impressive considering the wet season they have dealt with this year! The poor, wet bees are not happy either!

Despite the depressing weather and farm reports, we had several delightful, family highlights in the last week which I wish I had found time to share  earlier when were in celebration mode. Kate and Jason celebrated their first wedding anniversary last weekend (June 21st) and we had a fun photo session with two month old Coulter in the photo to help give perspective of all that has happened in the past year to change all our lives forever. We are all so blessed!IMG_1980This past weekend Kate and I traveled with Coulter to a Luehrman family reunion in Lexington, Missouri and enjoyed seeing extended family members there for a luncheon. Highlights of that 33+ family member group included seeing my dear Aunt Helen (my godmother and dad’s younger sister/only surviving sibling) and her husband Bob Brotemarkle who traveled from Phoenix for the event as well as cousins Peggy (from Maryland), Janice (from Virginia) and Mary Edna (from Iowa). IMG_8284Coulter, the youngest of all family representatives, stole the show…I loved his first name tag! IMG_8281June 2015 has been memorable in so many ways…the circle of life continues with little Coulter. IMG_0036He says it all for me here…life is full of wonderment…enjoy!

Blueberries and Birthdays

I feel like a new person today. The reason for this is that the persistent and constant rain that has dominated our area lately has finally let up after days and days of monsoon like rains. The ill affects of the precipitation we received was devastating to many of our vegetable crops and we are not yet sure what we will do to recover from this other than to plow under some of the fields (if it ever gets dry enough to do so) and start again. Our rain gauge showed that we had an average of an inch a day for the last six days and the month total (after only 20 days) was 7.71 inches. This is way too much rain for our fields! We can’t even get into to them to weed or manage them since we would be knee deep in mud if we tried. If this were the expected rain amounts, I guess we would be planting rice paddies! Ugh!

It’s hard to complain since other parts of the country (Texas and Oklahoma, for instance) are even more devastated by the rain amounts they have received in the last months. But then, of course, there are droughts in California to contend with so it seems like we should be thankful that although this is difficult to swallow, we aren’t in either of those extremes, despite the fact that this looms large for the efficiency of the farm in 2015.

The tail end of the strawberry harvest was affected by the month of rain so our total numbers were way down in comparison to other years. This didn’t prevent me from preserving 36 half pints of jam in addition to massive freezing efforts. Here are just a few of the jars. IMG_7997 If anyone remembers the ‘Quasimodo’s Lips’ strawberry from last year, here is the winner of the crop this year. It resembles a toy jack to me. I’m not sure why this berry has so many ‘points’ but mother nature is fascinating, eh? IMG_7999Despite the ‘Debbie Downer’ tone of this post, I have a bit of good news to report on the blue berry crop. I’ve only been able to access the fields twice so far this year, but we are having a bumper crop so far. Last week I picked 10.156 pounds from 3 of the 5 varieties we have planted. Today (the first day to get back to pick) I harvested 22.383 pounds (4 hours of steamy hot, humid back breaking work) from those same 3 rows bringing the total YTD to 32.539 pounds which is 57.5% more than last year at this point. Despite the high heat and humidity I managed to keep a smile on my face since these blueberries are so wonderful! I think they are the size of grapes or cherries and taste so wonderful!IMG_8170I’m reminded of the blueberries (and banana) that Kate enjoyed as a 15 month old sitting in her highchair on our Georgetown apartment patio. Perhaps we can get Coulter to replicate this photo next year with blueberry stains on his little face!IMG_8171Other farm news was fun for us as we continue to welcome the Wards to our area. We had a little adventure one early Saturday morning driving our old riding mower from the farm to their house. Here is Dave (I walked beside) driving this vehicle the 1.5 miles along the back streets and pathways between our houses. IMG_8079 We are glad that they have a use for this machine since the farm was in need of a zero turn mower. Here is Dave…on his 59th birthday with the new machine. IMG_8002Although we seem to be almost all plant based in our diet these days, I managed another interesting experiment recently that I figured I should share since I’m slim on reporting the veggie side of things!  We purchased a brisket to share with family when they were all in town during my mom’s final days. I took one look at this particular cut of brisket and gave it the thumbs down due to the excessive fat layer on the bottom side. We replaced this with a more reasonable piece for the family dinner but I was left with this ugly slab of meat. I decided to cut it up and make it into tasty burgers using my meat grinder. With an inch or more of fat on the bottom of the cut, I sliced it up in order to separate the fat before grinding. IMG_8105I then weighed the meat vs. the fat and added in the amount of fat I wanted to introduce to the ground meat. IMG_8106After adjusting the meat and fat ratio and dicing them both, I froze the combination to get an easier grind. IMG_8107After an hour of freezing, I started to grind the combo which took much more effort than I expected.IMG_8108We wound up with a large dish full of ground brisket meat…IMG_8109…as well as the reminder that the blade of the grinder is very sharp! This is my favorite wooden spoon (RIP) that I was using to push the meat down into the feeder tube. Good thing I wasn’t using a finger. Ouch avoided!IMG_8112 I then weighed out the ground meat into equal portions…IMG_8110to make 1/4 pound patties….IMG_8111These were portioned out into freezer bags for the Sauerhoffs and the Wards and we have all been enjoying Brisket Burgers! The grinder required some maintenance though and here are the parts that once cleaned and dried, needed to be sprayed with food grade silicone to keep the working parts ready for the future uses. IMG_8113After all of this effort, Kate managed to remind me that there are electric grinders available now! Oh well, this was fun and everyone seemed to enjoy the brisket burgers!

The bees have not been pleased with the massive rain amounts but we are looking forward to a future honey harvest in the next week or so. There have been many swarm cells this spring/summer so we have been trying to keep swarming to a minimum but also took one of the better formed cells from Seven Oaks to another beeyard to try to replace the queen there with this newly formed, future queen. Fingers crossed for a decent honey harvest after all this rain.

We are enjoying regular, daily, sessions with Coulter here at the farm while Kate has started curriculum meetings at her new job. He is such an easy baby and we feel he is getting more and more comfortable with the routine here, including Farley who is a Nervous Nelly as he tries his best to protect Cal at all cost.  Nana and Gramps cannot get enough of this little guy! IMG_0032June birthday recognitions: Dave turned 59, Farley turned 13 and my mom would have been 84 today. Thank you to all those kind notes on her behalf…she would have enjoyed knowing that so many people thought kindly of her. God bless them all.

Fawn-ed Again

This is the time of year when we see deer with their fawns. I so clearly remember the one we spotted right before the wedding last year so we have been on the look out recently for spottings of a mother deer with a fawn.

Although I rant and rave against the over population of deer in our area, I have such a soft heart these days for anything tiny and young. So, as it happened, we had sightings last week of a mother and its young fawn meandering about the property perimeter. I was really waiting for the mother to deposit the youngster in our fields…as they are wont to do…and I finally spotted it yesterday and tried my best to photograph the experience.

I approached with caution, toting my zoom lens as if on safari, and saw this little bundle sleeping outside of our wrought iron fence on the southwest side of the property. IMG_1867As I crept a little closer he peeked with one little open eye…

IMG_1868Then he raised his head a bit more to perceive what was happening…IMG_1870And then was quite alert and alarmed to something…yikes…IMG_1871

Darn if he didn’t run off and squeeze thru the fence!

IMG_1872Which meant he was trapped INSIDE the deer fence enclosure! Silly goose!!! He then could not easily get out of the enclosed back area and had to figure out how to reunite with his mom.IMG_1873So I called for Dave and we instantly set about opening all the gates to the try to allow this little one to escape and reunite with his mother which he managed after several attempts.

These days I don’t need to be reminded of the joys of little ones as our interactions with baby Coulter are so special! Smiles and coos galore at this stage…this is one happy guy!   More farm updates coming soon!


My Mother Is At Peace

My dear mother, Marilyn Luehrman, finally found relief from pain and therefore eternal peace early last Friday when she was reunited with my dad in death. Marilyn suffered from various health issues that complicated her life in the last several years but she seemed very pleased to have lived long enough to welcome her first great grandchild, Coulter, and have a chance to visit with her four children as well as other family members in her last days.

I spent much of the last 11 months at her side as she navigated her final pathway thru a maze of doctor visits and living solutions until palliative care became her balm. She used to tell me that she didn’t want to ask me for my time until she really needed it….as if she were saving me in reserve for future use when desperately needed it. Not unexpectedly, we got to the point in the last months and weeks when she finally said, ‘Don’t leave me’, and I didn’t. I have no regrets about that since I cared so entirely for her until the very end.

She would be pleased that so many people who interacted with her in her final weeks have since contacted me to send their condolences at her passing. The woman from hospice who came to bathe her, Angel, called and was almost in tears and many others have done the same.

Marilyn never liked the camera since she felt it didn’t like her, but I can’t resist a few of my favorite snaps here. This is my favorite photo of her with my dad. They posed for me for fun on the motorcycle of their dear friends, Martha and Bert North and I remember that day with them very clearly. IMG_8099Here is another one that she actually liked…it is one that I took when I was a senior in high school using my old Canon film camera (I’m sure I can find the old B&W neg if I look in the right places) when she was so glad to see my brother, Tim, back from Amherst College for a visit at home. Marilyn and TImI have many more photos of her that I could share but she would probably want me to stop there with her favorites.  In the end, her goals in life were to be a constant mother figure to her children and to spend as much time with my father, her Dear Pete, as possible…I hope that is exactly where she is right now, reunited with him at last.