All of the hard work over the past couple of years on the hayfields is starting to really pay off.  Over a hundred tons of lime, overseeding clover, and twice-annual mowing and just laying it down to feed the soil is resulting this year in a very thick and rich clover stand amongst an every-increasing grass stand, and ever-decreasing weed stand on the long-neglected pastures.  I already have all the hay sold on the 150 acres, and what a great crop it should be!  Of course, it hasn’t hurt that we’ve had copious amounts of rain this spring, too.

The red, white, and yellow clover that we have overseeded over the past couple of years, plus the proper management of it has resulted in just thick, thick, thick masses of it everywhere now where it was hardly seen before.  Having too much clover in your field is like having too much money in the bank – the clover provides a free nitrogen supply to the grasses and forbs, and provides more protein than the grass itself.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress.

Mixed Clovers

Mixed Clovers

Proper management of grasslands builds true, longlasting, soil fertility faster and better than anything in the world.  The whole success of mid-west croplands has been entirely dependent on the deep, rich topsoil, (now almost entirely depleted) created by centuries of previously being grassland.  Grassland has in the past built empires, and the loss of them have caused empires to fail.  We’ll continue to maintain our grassland, and continue to build the natural soil fertility of it as best we can.  And clover plays a BIG part.

Now let’s hope that the weather cooperates for the harvesting of this years crop.


Absolutely gorgeous spring day on Sat – perfect for a massacre.  Garlic mustard is the latest invasive exotic threatening the woodlands in Floyd (and throughout half the US). I’ve seen pictures where the entire forest floor has been taken over by it.  Right now it’s blooming and easy to see – I pulled up thousands of them yesterday.  The Ailanthus is also starting to leaf out, identifying those that I haven’t killed in the past two years.  The good news is that every single one of them larger than a pinky are now dead.  The bad news is that they are now already falling over everywhere – into pastures and paths which will require serious work to clean up.  And there are still thousands of sprouts smaller than a pinky.  Did the “hack and squirt” on hundreds of them on Sat.  It was a good day.

Below an aggravating sight – garlic mustard, ailanthus, and multiflora rose all in a 2 square ft area.  Sometimes the task seems overwhelming….

Unholy Trinity

Unholy Trinity


One of the many ecological problems with the farm was that there are a lot of steep hills that had previously been used for pasture  that maybe shouldn’t have been.  Last year, I mowed every inch of the farm I could with the tractor – about 150 acres.  I then met with our local forester, Dennis Anderson, and worked out with him what to plant on everything else.  We both agreed that white pine would be best for much of it – white pine grows GREAT in Floyd (witness some of the big WP trees we used to build the garages).  White pine can also act as a “pioneer species” around here, encouraging a true long-term mature hardwood forest to eventually develop on these steep hillsides, protecting the precious soil and providing more habitat for indigenous flora and fauna on the farm.

We hired a crew to plant these trees just about this time last year, and Dennis just now sent me pictures of them doing it.  Good job guys – thanks!  Thousands and thousands of trees planted.

Tree Planting

Tree Planting

Crew

Crew


It’s been COLD here at Crooked River Farm the past few weeks.  Cold enough that the river has frozen.  Mark, the mason, said that he walked all the way across it a week or two ago.  He’s been held up with his work as it’s just been too cold – 5 degrees F at times, and you just can’t lay block/brick in that kind of weather.  Rather unusual for this time of year – we’re on track for this to be the coldest December on record.  And the forecast for the rest of the winter is no better.  I was told today that all of last miserable snowy winter the temperature never dropped below 10 degrees.  Lawd’a mercy!

Frozen River

Frozen River


When building a house, there are bad owner months and good owner weeks.  Progress will seem to drag on and on and on, and then all of a sudden, big apparent progress will happen.  Putting up a timberframe is one of those ecstatic owner weeks as so much seems to happen all at once.  Sheetrock (drywall) going up is another.  Windows is a big one.  Windows went in this week.  It was a good owner week.

I designed many of the windows to go all the way to the floor.  Sure, it means you can’t put any furniture up against the wall there.  But older houses often had them, and they are truly wonderful, particularly if you have nice views out of them.  Furniture, other than a bed, a few chairs,  and maybe a few tables, is highly over-rated compared to windows.

South Windows

South Windows

Breakfast Nook

Breakfast Nook

East Windows

East Windows


Well, the house is finally mostly dried in.  The roof sheathing is all mostly in place in any event.  We’re using this product, from AdvanTech, which is basically plywood, but with a rubber-like coating on it that sheds water.  You seal the joints with a special tape, and you have a non-leaky roof for a while – at least a year.  Beats the heck out putting up tar paper and going back up to fix and replace periodically.  The wall sheathing is a similar AdvanTech product, so no need to put up ugly Tyvek there, either, with similar problems.  Good products – we like ’em.

The windows will be delivered in early November.  Until then we have put plastic or sheathing up just about everywhere to start the process of drying the house out.

In the picture below, you can see the porch piers in place – building the wrap-around porch is the next project for the carpenters.  While the  porches are pretty big themselves, we’re hoping they will actually make the house look smaller, as they should tie the house to the ground much better.

 

Dried In

Dried In

 


Well, fall colors pretty much peaked here in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are starting their way down around the farm.  Absolutely gorgeous day today.  I just bought a new DSLR and it came with a photostitch application, so I thought I would give it a try today and take some pictures from the highest knob on the farm to capture the whole 360 degree view.  It took twelve pictures to make these panoramas.  I tried to merge all three into one, but it was just too big for the software.

Mostly West

West and North

Panorama 2

Mostly East

Mostly South

Mostly South


 

Turkeys

 

Around 1900, wild turkeys in North America were verging on extinction.  Thirty five years ago, there were only about 1.5 million of them in North America.  They have been on the continued upswing – today, there are about 7.5 million of them.  They are very cool – they can run up to 18 miles an hour and fly at 55.  We have a couple of gangs of them on the farm and it does my heart good every time I see them.  Here, one of the gangs feasts on recently dropped dogwood berries.


After putting the main tower cap in place, we were able to get some more remote-cam shots from the end of the crane of the roof in progress.  This has been something of a nightmare – 50-some individual roof sections – and the last few months just putting this together.  These shots are from about a month ago – thankfully, the roof has been almost completely sheathed since then – we’re mostly dried in now as far as the roof is concerned. Which is a nice thing, as I right now hear rain on the roof for the first time in a long time….

More Roof
More Roof
More Roof
Even More Roof

While progress is being made, there have been a few recent setbacks, too.

Brad, one of the most valuable guys on the crew, got in an accident about a month ago and won’t be back on the job for months and months still the docs say.  Biggest setback, of course, is for Brad, who has been in a lot of pain, and can’t work.

And then Bruce, the general contractor, just had to go and do about the same.  Got himself in an accident last week, and broke his knee and wrist and generally banged himself up.  Three months ’till he can put weight on his left leg, the docs say.  He pretended when I saw him today that he plans to be on the job site this week.  He really looked like it.

Bruce Recuperating

Bruce Recuperating