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Posted 12/23/2010 5:40am by Jeanette Wilson.

It is going to take some getting ready for Christmas Day in a big way this year.  Weatherfolk are calling for some heavy snow and we need to be ready.  Not just my wrapping and cooking for the family that will come, but hay will get put out by Frank and more put in place to be easily accessible if it gets deep.  Waterers have already been equiped to stay unfrozen no matter the air temperatures. Fuel will be in place for generators.  And animals will get access to barns if they need it.  We have done this drill before.

Christmas around the barn is still a vivid memory from my childhood.  Evenings grew dark so early that our feeding and milking had to happen earlier too.  Dad and I would split up and while he went to the loft to drop down hay from the openings in the floor of the loft into the mangers for any cow or calf in the barn, I took any buckets of feed to their stalls.  I can't remember a time I didn't help feed, so I guess I was small for a while.  My first show steer came when I was 9, and I remember the judge asking what I weighed and making a point about a 60lb girl handling a 1100 lb steer so well.  Probably because I had rubbed him every night for months while he ate.

At Christmas, I always stuck a little pine branch, or a red tag from a feed bag or some twine around to "decorate" especially for our milk cow.  She was mine.  I wanted her to listen to the soft music we kept playing on a radio in her stall. (Now thats where, so many years, later we start our baby chicks.)  

I talked to her about the meaning of Christmas and hoped she wouldn't kick while I filled our bucket and squirted the cats' faces nearby.  She was just happy that her trough was full, and my hands weren't cold.  

In a university Animal Diseases class years later, a professor lectured me and the rest of the class about the dangers - nay certain illness - that came from drinking unpasteurized milk.  I came home with my newfound knowledge and questioned my folks to see if they even knew of the horrors that could  have come to us.  Dad was patient.  He had heard of all these things.  They were possible.  He did take steps to avoid them.  In the end, I found that my childhood trust was not misplaced.  I am not advocating we all start drinking fresh milk, but it is a picture of another sort of education I got once grown.

As a grown-up I  met many folks away from my home who would also find the belief in a Savior, the need for one, the miracles, and the future predictions to be as shocking and old fashioned as owning a milk cow and far more scary.  People with authority, people with opinions, people who had a wider range of experience than a little mountain girl.  I had to ask hard questions again.  I had to go through heart wrending experiences.  Would that trust be strong enough to survive the trials? Or would it be wisely discarded like so many uninformed ideas we need to leave behind?

Well, like a famous little girl named Virginia, I got an answer eventually.  Not about Santa Claus.  I had to fill that role for those barn animals.  But about a much bigger, bet-your-life-on-it question.

As I look forward to celebrating in a few days, the excitement is just as fresh and may it ever be!

Yes, I still believe the Truth of a created world, who needed a Savior, who did come, and will return.

A Savior which is Christ, the Lord.

Now that -  come snow or hardship, is worth celebrating wherever you are!!

 

 

 

 

Posted 12/9/2010 11:45pm by Jeanette Wilson.

It's beginning to seem like bona-fide winter around here!  Lows in the low teens gave us cause to fret since we have not had the high-tunnel greenhouse in nights that went that low yet.  We were anxious as to what we might find after a night like that.  Even though there is a double layer of plastic on the roof, we added another layer over all the most delicate things inside.  And went home to snuggle in a house so warm from a wood stove, that we could almost ignore the icy wind outside.  The cat came in.  The plants stayed where they were.  

In the early daylight hours, our peak inside showed greens so frozen that they looked like an ice storm had come inside the tunnel.  But we left them to themselves, trusting those who told us they would recover.  And miracle that it was - around 10a.m. they were fully perked up, the temperature in the house made you take off a coat, and all was right once again!  Not that we want to do the temperature limbo - and see how low we can go- but it sure does our hearts good to see something so low tech achieve something so remarkable.  

I never really suffer from that syndrome that leaves a person depressed in winter.  I guess if you bust yourself working in the summer, it just seems like a pleasant reprieve.  But should I get to yearning for better days, at least I can step into my time-travel tunnel and scoot right on into March and come out with some fresh spinach and carrots.  Wintertime? Bring it on.

Posted 11/20/2010 1:27pm by Jeanette Wilson.

In less than a week, we will sit down as a nation and most of us will express some level of gratitude for our lives.  Why once a year?  Perhaps we get overcome too easily with the daily struggles to think of it.

Farmers are often looked at as hard workers.  I have been connected to this lifestyle all my life, and would admit to days, sometimes long, which exhaust one if they all run together without a respite.  Summers are like that.  Winter feeding is like that.  Markets can wear us out.  

So do days as a nurse, business owner, delivery driver, factory worker, miner, clerk, builder, Mom,  and so on.  

My point?  In the midst of busy days, we still live in a great place with opportunity.  (Don't get me going on recent legislation which makes that harder.  For us, government good intentions may make it tricky for us to stay in the vegetable production business.  I am holding my breath to see if reason prevails.)

All in all, though, I sure am thankful to be here.  Doing something of my choice, with hope to help others and my own loved ones while I am at it.  I won't be putting that turkey in the oven for a few more days, but I am going ahead with my Thank You prayers.

 

Posted 11/6/2010 5:57pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Though we are full-blooded southerners, some of our crowd is not as familiar with the many choices of greens as we should be.  Or how to prepare them.  So one of my winter goals is to learn to both cook and love these healthiest of foods.  

I am amazed at all the things that are still available from the garden and unheated greenhouse right now, and when I look at the offerings for our delivery customers, I realize I personally have a long way to go. Kale, Chard, Collards, Mustards, Turnips and Pak Choi this week, in addition to the ones I use for salads like lettuce, meslun and spinach.  

Ever since I read some of those menu-altering books, like The Omnivore's Dilemna and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,  our diet has steadily taken a turn toward increasing health.  I went from being thrilled with the magic of double coupons and almost free processed food, to avoidance of many sections of our local grocery.  A drastic shift came when our remaining teenager decided to forego anything with high fructose corn syrup.  (And this is the one who eats like Jethro Bodine of the Beverly Hillbillies right now.)

Growing our own food is a real blessing for us personally and a joy to make into a small business that serves our neighbors.  It's not like we never have sweets: on the contrary, we just make them with the best real ingredients we can find.  And Jethro (not his real name ) does some farm work to offset the cost of his cookie habit.  

Now Mama is the one learning to eat new veges.  Maybe this is the year someone will come out with a study suggesting that collards are healthier for you if you dip them in dark chocolate!!

Posted 10/30/2010 1:56pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Ours had become a rocky relationship and it got worse before the end.  He came as a surprise - a surprise chick in with our laying hen chicks a couple of years back.  Free means one thing in the chick world - Rooster!  

He grew into a handsome, although strangely colored guy and the hens never really gave him much respect.  He was smaller than they are and took his job overly serious.  Or so I thought.  

His life consisted of a few main responsibilities.  Wake early and crow.  He did that.  He also was given to keeping the ladies in a relatively close range when they were foraging.  That's one of the wonderful protections that hens with a rooster enjoy.  He was supposed to sound the alarm and face danger if the time came.  With a rooster, the hens don't go nearly as far from the area surrounding their house and can seek its shelter quickly.  

His other job was to make fertile eggs.  Then hens saw this as purely a business relationship and his technique looked a lot like a hostile take-over.  No lovely courtship dance like creatures in nature films. Just a flying tackle.  

This summer, I noticed that he had begun to grow some long spurs on his legs and would watch me sideways when I came by.  Eventually he made his first try at my legs.  As a bit of background, I suffer from traumatic rooster assault syndrome if there is such a thing and have struggled with it since chilldhood.  You can imagine how that affected me for years.  So much for the romance of a farm kid's life. 

But a conscious effort to overcome it, coupled with a passage into the years where a woman is too sure of herself to mess with, has made me less timid.  That rooster's dance into my space was met with a broom or rake, or firm shoe.  And a fuss to send him into the brush, ashamed of himself for trying.  

A few days ago, I missed his crow.  His midday one, in fact.  And though I investigated there was no sign.   The hens did not let on.  I considered asking about their whereabouts between the hours of 9 and 11 on Thursday, but they merely continued their extended stroll into the farthest corners of our lawn and down the woods to my folks place.  Without Mr. Cautious they know no bounds.  No shrub is left with mulch unturned.  

And a few days later, I heard a loud cackle and ran to check and just glimpsed something largish and brown easing into the brush behind the hen house on its way to the woods.  My guess is a fox, since it didn't climb a fence to get near them.  No one else has turned up missing so far.  And the ladies seem suspiciously happy to be on their own.  

Posted 10/24/2010 1:11pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Yesterday was as beautiful as any in my memory.  And like many fall days in our lives, we got around to a walk as a family.  Over the years, they usually happened on Sunday afternoons, when the hardest work of summer had passed and we had a chance to casually stroll through the beauty that is so near as to be taken for granted. This time was similar and yet different.

This year, before Frank and our daughter headed out on their walk, I thought of how the years had passed for us and she had grown up - on a total of three farms in her lifetime - how fast it had gone and perhaps what lessons she might carry from that.  Maybe many lessons, but a few were on my mind.

1 - Beauty is often a product of adversity.  How many giant old oaks do you see in the forest?  Yet how many acorns fall to the ground each year?  All plants produce an abundance of seeds, but it is those who survive the adversity that we get to see as beautiful later.

2 -  Hard work is necessary, and few folks will realize the work that goes into any thing or event of value.  The workers may well be unseen and unrecognized but they were there.  On the flip side - laziness and selfishness are close kin - and like bad weeds - should be pulled out by the roots if you want to enjoy a beautiful life or garden.

3 -  Family and Friends, working together, create the most beautiful of memories.  Since we have an eternal perspective, our investment in the lives of other people is the most enduring one we can make.  Many adversities are turned into joys because of the people around us.  

This year's walk ended differently than the ones in the past.  At the end of their walk, Frank placed Maria's hand into that of a wonderful man who promised to love and care for her from now on. And when we left, she left with a new last name.  It was as pretty a day as we could have hoped to enjoy.  And from now on, we have one more around here to include in those walks.

Posted 10/15/2010 7:15pm by Jeanette Wilson.

I love meeting our customers at the market each week.  Or even more fun, taking our fresh items to their door on our end of town.  What a treat to know where our farm products end up! 

I can tell that folks get used to seeing me too.  And Garrett, the gentleman who is always there as well.

Garrett is familiar to many since he has been working with vegetable production for several years.  And if there is a gourmet food question, I usually look to  him, since my repertoire is heavy on southern comfort food.  

But there is someone who never shows up at market, unless it is a drive-by handoff of something we forgot.  This is the one on whom the whole farm depends for planning and executing any major project, handling any crisis, and supporting with outside work.  On market days, he is working hard on his long list of never-ending repairs or new upgrades.  So I head to market.  And I am most often the one on the phone with customers.  And usually lugging coolers to and from deliveries.  

Now and then I wonder if our customers realize all that it takes for us to get those items we have to the market.  Mostly I wonder if they know about the one they don't see.  But unless they've stopped by the farm, they may not.  

So where could you see my best kept secret?  Well, if you come by and the hay baler has come apart during baling, he will be there, with my brother, putting it back together no matter the hour or pressure to get that job done.  If it's the middle of the night, and a new calf has had a struggle to get into this world, he will be the one massaging a wet body vigorously to get that first breath to come.  If it is winter and the wind is cutting, you will find him at daylight taking feed to a hungry herd with no complaint.  And if he calls, they will come.  

If you see a toddler hurrying to get out to the barn to "work" with Granddad, you know he is nearby.  And if it is Sunday, and you hear an Amen in an otherwise quiet church, you may look around, and there he is.  

So, please say hi to me at the market.  I love to hear about your week and your plans.  I pass them on to all the folks at home, since we are all enjoying the connection.  But always know that there is one, my dear Frank - who, incidentally, never reads a blog - who makes all this look easier than it really is every Saturday morning.  

Posted 9/24/2010 7:47pm by Jeanette Wilson.

I have been wanting a greenhouse for a long time!  

My last year in high school, I begged Dad to knock out a wall on the side of our brick house to add a greenhouse addition for me to try some of my ideas.

He wisely said no - and reasoned that I would soon leave home and he would be stuck with it.  (Come to think of it, he used that same reasoning when I wanted a Saint Bernard pup, too.)  And he was partly correct.  I did leave home, go to school, get married, raise a bunch of kids - who are also almost all grown.  But eventually, I did come back.  With my husband and a couple of almost grown young folks.

And now we have in place a wonderful high tunnel greenhouse where all of us - even Dad, who loves it as much as I ever will - can practice growing to our hearts content.  It was worth the wait.

putting plastic on the greenhouse

 

 

Posted 9/10/2010 7:23pm by Jeanette Wilson.

It is too early for Thanksgiving - but then maybe never too early for that.  So on my list of reasons to be thankful at this point I would list our neighbors and friends who have believed and supported our farm for the last couple of seasons at the Tailgate at Biltmore Lake.  

Once a week for the last two summers we have shown up rain or shine to set up in their lovely parklike area near the lake and community building.  These neighbors of ours have shown up also - rain or shine or heat - and selected items from us and our neighboring farmers.  These farm products went right home to become dinners and treats for families in this community.  When I think about it, that is really a beautiful thing!  

As we move into fall, we begin a small practice of delivering right to our friends doorsteps.  Rain, or whatever - we all keep farming and eating.  And though my home here is very different from theirs by virtue of mine being the middle of a working farm - we find we have in common a shared comittment to healthy foods and communities.  For that I am thankful.

Posted 8/9/2010 9:07pm by Jeanette Wilson.

Just a quick update - about something coming up soon!  Last year we were part of a small version of the Wine and Food Festival here.  It was a warm but pleasant Saturday afternoon down by the French Broad River with folks who were really interested in several pleasures, among them fine food (which is our goal for our farm products.)  

This year, Saturday August 14 we will be part of a large version called the WNC Magazine Wine and Food Festival.  I am still considering what all to do for samples, but everyone there in the new Expo building at the Mountain State Fairgrounds will be offering samples of all their best and eventually attendees will get to see the finals of the Chef's Challenge which has gone on around here all summer.

If you think you would enjoy a few hours of continuous sampling of some of the most exquisite artisan foods and drinks in our region, come by.  If you want to try some honest homegrown food  - look for our sign with the sketch of our barn in the middle.  We will have some beef and chicken for sale.  And we will be trying to look sophisticated enough to fit in at something so special.