Friday, July 18, 2014

Construction Party!

It's time for another work party!

Last go 'round, we focused on demolition. This time, while there could be some demo, we will focus on construction. We'll have a variety of jobs to do - and certainly cover a range of strenuousness. Frame in a wall, hang some drywall, run electrical wire, help install a window, or build our staircase if we don't have it done. Let your inner pyromaniac out - create and tend to a fire outside all day. Help me create the penny floor. There is something for everyone!

Work party day is scheduled for September 20, 2014. Come help be a part of Hummingbird Farm history! Get your picture on the blog! Help!

In exchange for your help, we will feed you and hydrate you well. Think BBQ. Think water, Gatorade, soda, lemonade, and beer. Stay as long as you can. We'll wind things down and relax by the fire in the evening.

The plan is to continue Sunday, September 21. Brunch to be provided. Work a few hours and in the afternoon, we will be celebrating Jonathan and Genevieve's birthdays! The 21st is Genevieve's 4th birthday, and just a week later is Jonathan's 6th. And if big brother Eric makes it down, we'll celebrate him too - his birthday is the 22nd! Hell, if Aunt Michele is there, we'll sing to her to - her birthday is Sept 13.

If you are coming from out of town and want to stay, I can recommend a hotel or two. You can also camp at the farm, or if daring, make it a ghost party and sleep in the house. I'll be back at my house, sleeping in my bed.

I posted a little event page on Facebook, but started this survey page to officially count. (Can you tell I'm digging the surveys?) Let me know if you can come and help! Be sure to choose an RSVP option and add your name.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This Farm Needs a Logo

We are hoping that within the next week or two, the hens will be laying and we can start using and selling fresh eggs.

Ghon's been wanting to have a logo for the farm for a long time. Something that we could include on a label for chickens or eggs. Last week, he sat down and created a little logo. Mind you, he is not a graphic artist.  He threw his design up on Facebook and asked for feedback. The first comment was to tighten up the lettering, so here is attempt #2.

Ghon's version 2.0

 After that, some of our friends went wild, creating their own designs for us.

Submission #1: Jeanette Smith

Submission #2: Jeanette Smith

Submission #3: Mike Kropp

Submission #4: Mike Kropp

Submission #5: Ryan Shuft

What do you think? Which logo would be the best to represent Hummingbird Farm? Don't judge on sharpness - I had to make them big enough for you to see. Which would make you interested in buying some eggs or free range chicken? Use the survey tool here to vote!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Blame it on the long, cold winter. Blame it on the lack of spring. Perhaps it's a greater awareness. Perhaps, it's just a fact.

There are more flipping snakes at the farm this year than the past.

We established quite some time ago that I am not a fan of snakes.

I do not like them in my yard. I do not like them at my farm.

Almost every weekend this summer, I've seen a snake. Or at least, that's how it feels to me.

First, it was the garter snake, Jim Bob.

Then, it was the black snake in the bird house. I'm searching, but apparently I didn't mention this little snakeisode on the blog. At the far end of our front yard, beyond the strip gardens, Ghon hung a bluebird box. One afternoon, Jonathan tried to look inside to see if there was anything living in it. He runs back saying there was something inside! Hand in hand we walk down, I attempt to peer into the opening to see if there were any birdies.

I jump back and we walk quickly back for Dad. Blasted snake was all curled up in the birdhouse.

Ghon comes down and opens the birdhouse, quickly jumping back in case the snake was a 'bad' one and it strikes.

Feathers. There had been birds.

Tim was with us, and he's not a fan of snakes either. He had the kids with him, at least 15 feet away. I was behind them.

Once he saw it was only a black snake, Ghon pulled it from the box and attempted to drop it on the ground.

Queue the scared dance.
Yuck, yuck, yuck.

He picked it up again, and that sucker was over 4 feet long. He slinked away into a small lumber pile that had been left behind and we'd never touched. And I never will touch.

Then, there was a green snake. Some random green thing. Passing through.

This was not taken at the farm. But what I saw.

Next up, a red snake, that of course, I had to find when I was at the farm with just the kids. I was mowing the grass with the tractor, kids in tow. I crossed over the front sidewalk near the driveway and there was this red striped snake crawling in the high grass next to me. Why was the grass high? It was sticking out of some lilies. Why didn't I weed it? Cause there's snakes hiding in it. Duh.

Heck no, I didn't stick around to take a picture. This is another internet photo, the eastern milk snake.

Thankfully, I was on the tractor and could just keep driving. Jonathan missed it, but Genevieve spotted it and started yelling "SNAKE! A SNAKE!" I had the eebie jeebies and drove the tractor to the other side of the field. Far, far, away from the snake.

I keep being told the black snakes are good and harmless. And I think I've got down what garter snakes look like. But dang it, some bright colored snake I've never seen before shows up, and no one to tell me what it is and if it's safe, I'm a little panicky. On my way across the yard, I started googling the snake to see if I needed to go back and run it over.

Apparently, eastern milk snakes are also harmless.

And last weekend, another yet another snake. There is still a good bit of metal we are working on scrapping near the old outbuildings. There is also some other stuff lying around on the ground, and since it's at the base of the mountain, it's prime habitat for snakes. I don't particularly care for walking around up there, or going into the outbuilding. But, I put on my big girl panties and went in to get the push mower. I was looking all around, as this time, I just knew there would be a snake.

Intuition is astonishingly accurate.

There are two plastic house shutters lying on the ground. They'd previously been propped up against the building, but had blown down. I don't make a habit out of picking stuff like that up. You never know what's living underneath. I walked across, grabbed the mower, and walked backwards out. The mower wheel was caught on the shutter, and there, next to it was a snake. Guess I woke it up on my way in.

To my credit, I'm not screaming much anymore. I didn't scream when I saw the milk snake. I didn't scream when I saw this snake. However, the paralyzing fear is very much present. With the first sighting last year, I screamed, couldn't move until the snake moved out of my way, then I ran. When Ghon finds snakes and hold them up, I usually start retreating. When I see one that I'm not expecting. I freeze. Then run.

So I stood there for a second, catching my breath and trying to figure out if it's "OK" or if I need to start screaming for Ghon. It looked like a garter snake, so I yanked on my mower, and left. Running down the hill.

I didn't ask him if his name was Jim Bob.

Given the number of snake sightings already this year, I suppose I have to get used to the idea that they are around. It does not mean I will like them any more or less. I have to get educated and know what is what.

This website, Virginia Herpetological Society has been a good resource for my little snake issue. It lists all the good and bad (only 3??) snakes found in Virginia, the regions they can be found, and pictures.

It's been about two weeks since I saw the milk snake. Seeing some of these pictures, I started worrying that maybe it wasn't a "harmless" milk snake, but a dangerous copperhead. That thing was definitely red though, so I think I'm in the clear.

 Here's a handy chart for telling the difference between a harmless and venomous snake.

I'm sorry, what? I have to find it's anal plate and count the rows of scales? Are you freaking kidding me? That would involve picking up the snake and looking at it's anus? To do that, I'd actually have to go near it.

The kids are still pretty fearless when it comes to snakes. We've brought home books from the library to talk about snakes. Jonathan has a snake shirt and like to tease me when he's wearing it. Heck, even Genevieve will sit with me and say, "you don't like snakes, right, mom?"

No Punk, I don't like snakes.

I really hope I don't encounter any new varieties. I don't think I can withstand the fear if any brown spotted looking things show up.

Lord help me and save the house if this ever happens.

If I walk to the house and there's a big ol' snake to greet me, I don't think I'll walk in that door in a long time. A very long time.

How about you? Do you have a fear of snakes, regardless of how rational or irrational it may be? Or are you a snake charmer?  Drop me a message in the comment section below. Just don't tell me to grow up and get over it. I'm doing the best I can.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard

It's interesting trying to explain the concept, "work hard, play hard", to two kids. 

Ghon's truck had been having issues starting for 2-3 days, it was hit or miss if the truck would start. Sometimes, it would reliably start by remote start, but not by key. Suddenly, or so it seemed, it worked fine for close to two weeks. Then two weeks ago, as I was attempting to leave to take Jonathan to Taekwondo, the truck wouldn't start again. And, for the next 4 days, it wouldn't start. Fortunately, a new starter was something Ghon could replace at home. When the truck suddenly started one day, we took it to the farm to park and wait for repair.

After working 10 days straight, Ghon finally had a day off on Saturday. We started the day by doing a little bit of running around. First stop was picking up a new starter. Then we were off to Lowes, 'cause it isn't a trip into town with Ghon without stopping at Lowes. We even threw in a trip to Tractor Supply, which oddly enough is one of the kids new favorite places to shop. Quick stops at the Farmers Market and a farm market (yes, there is a difference!) and we were back at the farm.

Queue the work part of the day. Jonathan wanted to know why we always had to work so much at the farm. I tried to explain to him that we had a lot of yard work to do and a lot to fix the house up, and that once we were done those things, we could have so much more fun. That today for example, we had to do some work, and a lot of it early and quick, so that we could have fun later with our friends. You have to work hard to play hard!

Genevieve and I dropped the boys off and headed back to our house. She helped me make a pasta salad for a party we were going to later that evening, and made PB&J sandwiches for her and Jonathan for lunch. Meanwhile I also threw together a hot roast beef sandwich for Ghon and I, packed up some fruit, drinks and ice. Genevieve and I put on our farm clothes and headed out.

While we were busy at the house, Ghon and Jonathan fixed the truck. Jonathan was a great help to Ghon. While Ghon laid under the truck, he could ask Jonathan for different size wrenches, like "the one with a 13 on it" and Jonathan would grab the right one. Quite a dynamic duo!

Lunch complete, it was back to work. I did some quick mowing and put our nused (new to me used) grill in place. I'd picked it up the previous week from a neighbor for $5! Can't beat that!

First up for Ghon - fixing the chicken tractor. We use this run to house meat birds. After being moved around the yard last year, it needed a little TLC. Jonathan helped Ghon tighten up the run and also build a small coop/shelter for the birds. They repurposed scrap wood for the whole project.

While they started on the mobile chicken home, I hammered t-posts out in the garden. Plan was to erect more fencing to help keep the deer out. Genevieve spent a lot of time with me, as she has taken a strong dislike to the deer eating her garden. Occasionally, both her and Jonathan would take breaks on the swing.  Genevieve also did a stint building the chicken home.

Genevieve wanted to use the drill too!

Helping drill the screws in place.

Measuring for the next cut.

It was a hot day. While we have plenty of water and gatorade (and sunscreen!) for the kids, if you add up the heat, the work, and some pretty intense swinging, or spinning rather, on the swing, it can knock you out. Jonathan claimed he wasn't feeling to good, so I told him to take a rest on the ground.

About ten minutes later he was good as new.

Sometimes, she's just too darned cute to not take a picture of her!

With the chicken tractor complete, it was time to move it into the garden. The idea is to keep the weeds down between the rows and also naturally fertilize the ground. However, the added weight to this tractor, since it was repurposed, was a little much. The lawn tractor pulled the eye hooks out, Ghon couldn't pull it and I couldn't push it. The little drag from the tractor was enough for Ghon and I together to maneuver it into it's final resting place.  I brought the chicks out and threw the kids into the pen. I handed them each a chick to put into their new home. Then, they tried to get them into their house so they would know where it was.

I kid you not, there are 30 little chickies in there.

In a couple weeks, Ghon will build another chicken tractor, lighter in weight. Right now, they all fit fine together, but they will need to be separated before long!

Chicks secured, goats fed, quail fed, it was off for the play hard part of the day. Back home for quick showers for the boys while I gave Genevieve a quick scrub down, then a quick shower for me and we were off to our friends house for a pre-July 4th party!

Genevieve and Jax have a love hate relationship. They had gone to the same daycare for over a year, until recently when Jax needed a place closer to his parent's work. Genevieve had been the youngest before Jax came on the scene, so they vied for their sitter's attention. Endless days I'd hear about Genevieve being in time out for pushing or hitting Jax. Now, they are buds, and wouldn't leave each others side at the party.

They even tried to head up to his room, but we kept them downstairs.

Jess and Clint host an amazing party that is very kid friendly! A pool, bouncy slide, pinata, goodie bags...


...and fire! Sparklers and fireworks!!

Once again, we were the last to leave. It was hard tearing the three of them apart to go. Thanks Clint, Jess, and Jax for a great evening!

The kids were up so late Saturday, we slept in Sunday. Jonathan didn't wake up until close to 10:30am! Since we missed out on church, it was out for our grocery shopping, home to unload then back to the farm!

While we waited for Ghon to get off work, we took care of the animals and started dinner. I was so tired last year of cheeseburgers every weekend, I'm trying new things out on the grill, and trying to round out our meals more so it's not just a burger. Or a hot dog/sausage. I was pretty excited at the farm meal I pulled together for Sunday!

Corn on the cob, leftover salsa pasta salad, bread and grilled chicken tenderloin.

The kids also did a lot of swinging. I was of course on pushing detail, so was able to snap this cute picture of them.

A seat large enough for two! Well, when they want it to be!

Before we left for the night, we gave our mailbox a little decoration for the upcoming holiday! The black eyed susans that Cindy gave me last year are doing amazing!

Switched out the hummingbird flag for a little patriotic skull. Each side tire has it's own flag too.

Ghon had off work Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Both days he spent at the farm working in the garden. He cut down some of the weeds and grass growing between the rows, weeded around the pumpkin and started installing some fencing to help keep the deer out. He'd tried a new approach to gardening this year. Deer issue aside, it seems to be working.

We have hard dirt and a lot of rock. Despite the tilling, it's not always the easiest to grow in. This year, Ghon build mounds - approximately 3x3 squares - and planted in those. Everything has been growing great - it's the deer that enjoy the fruit, or vegetable rather, of our labor that's the pain.  He worked in two very hot days, even in a few quick rain showers to get the garden in shape. He also did a quick task in the house, finishing the raising of one corner in the living room.

Jonathan had a much needed break this week, with no activities at all. That also means a nice break for Taxi Mom.  By Thursday, we were ready to do something. If you can't tell, it isn't to often that we aren't doing something.

The city of Winchester hold their July 4th activities on the night prior. There are some kids activities, corn hole, a band, roving clowns, balloon artists and other activities on the pedestrian mall in Old Town Winchester. The festivities end with fireworks.  We'd already had a big rainstorm, and although we were expecting another, the kids and I still loaded up a bag and headed out.

But first, I had them get into their swimsuits. On the pedestrian mall, they installed an awesome splash pad. I was going into this event with experience, and brought them prepared.

He needed no encouragement - he tore right into the water!

Genevieve took a little while to warm up to it. She didn't want to get in, then she finally touched one fountain, then started running the perimeter.

That is actually screaming laughter, not terror!

I couldn't get them to stand still for a picture together. The best I could do was have them scream photo bomb, so they thought they were bombing each other's picture, and go from there.

This is a photo bomb?
They were the only two playing for half an hour. I think the threat of more rain kept people away. After a bit, Genevieve was just as soaked as Jonathan. After 45 minutes of playtime, I got them dried up and changed in the bathroom nearby and we headed down the mall for pizza!

But first, we stopped for balloons. It was a good thing Jonathan got a sword - he got into a battle with some clowns, but he won! And these clowns I would classify more as mimes. They were very interactive, and we came across them several times that evening.

Genevieve did OK the first time we saw them. She stayed close to my side, but didn't get upset. Every time after, she screamed and cried. She didn't want to see them. What turned out to be the last time we spotted them, I saw them first, had Jonathan move to the side closet to them and scooped her up and told her to close her eyes. She still clung to me.

Guess clowns now rank up there with people/characters in costume. Not a good thing for Genevieve.

After dinner, it was raining. We still walked around in the drizzle. Jonathan wanted to try the Euro bungee, but was nervous. He finally said that sometimes, you have to do what scares you to prove to yourself you can do it - and got in line. I was so proud of him for trying! He had a great time bouncing while Genevieve and I watched.

The end of the night - fireworks. I stake out a spot in the parking garage that looks directly to the launch site. We watched the fireworks from the back of my truck with fresh kettle corn. Awesome night!

Now that is actually Independence Day, and I had the day off, it was time to work at the farm. Ghon had to work, so it was down to me and the kids to get somrthing done. With the animals taken care of, we were off to gather our first harvest!

Feeding the chickens their snacks

Genevieve going after the first zucchini!

Don't you love the outfit? Peep the zebra print pants! And that zucchini! It's bigger than her arm!

Jonathan's turn for harvesting a zucchini!

He was also able to secure the only squash this week!

The first harvest of 2014!

Not ready just yet, but we have tomatillo growing!

The pumpkin are doing great! They were hidden in a ton of weeds, but Ghon's work earlier in the week help clear them out!

Jonathan wanted to drive the tractor, so I let him help haul plants around. We'd bought a few blueberry bushes and a grape vine a while ago, but had never planted them. Ghon also picked up a few more plants while out with the kids early on the 3rd. 

Farmer Jonathan hauling the plants, water, and Genevieve to the garden.

While Genevieve helped me plant the additional melon and squash plants, Jonathan would swing. Then Genevieve would give up helping and swing. It kept them occupied: work, swing, work, swing.

Took him a few tries on the rope, but he's figured it out. And Genevieve can finally swing herself - a little bit. 

Back to work! Tim stopped by and offered to help with the mowing. He brought his lawn tractor down last week so that we could have two running if we had the drivers to do so. He set off to mow the far field and around the orchard, and Jonathan drove off on our tractor to help. Genevieve and I finished planting the blueberries and giving them a little drink.

Using her new watering can.

Tandem mowing. Tim on the left and Jonathan on the right.

It was a beautiful day! Mid 70s and a nice little breeze!

With most of the far field mowed, Tim took a break to buy some drinks and treat us to lunch. While he ran out, I loaded the kids into the tractor and mowed the front and side yard. Genevieve and I also spent some time using grass clippings to mulch around the plants.

After lunch, we took a walk to our friend Daniel's house to pick some wildflowers he'd planted. We ended up with a gorgeous bouquet to end our time at the farm. We headed home to get ready for dinner and for Ghon to come home from work, while Tim finished up more mowing. He mowed the orchard for us, and did an amazing job. Saved me much time for the rest of the weekend.

My wildflower bouquet!

Even though Pop and BJ made dinner that night, I was still busy working. Laundry to fold, dishes to put away, and reading to log. What? The kids are both enrolled in the local library's summer reading program. Once I had all their reading logged in and told them they were 15 minutes from winning the first prize, they both sat down with their tablets to listen and read stories! I'm pretty proud of how much they have been reading!

Ghon got home just in time for dinner, then we were back out the door. We dropped his truck off at the farm, took a quick walk around the garden then headed to Middletown VA for more fireworks!

At several points, I had three Eckleys laying on me. I couldn't feel my legs.

We left Ghon's truck at the farm and went home to crash. Another late night but fun day and evening.

Saturday, Ghon worked a closing shift. While the kids and I did a ton of running around in town, he was going to use the sweeper to collect most of the grass cut by Tim and I the day before, take care of the animals and go to work. I dropped him off on the way into town, and to switch trucks.

To our horror, the chickens were awake. We'd left his truck and forgot to put them to bed. We lost 4 more hens that night.

I really don't like raccoons.

We really need to work on installing the electric fence.

The kids and I had a long day. We hit up the library first for story time and for them to get their first reading challenge prize. The library was showing a movie with popcorn and allowed for a picnic lunch an hour after story time. The kids and I left, drove to Southern States to fulfill that part of our shopping list, then to a specialty store for honey, grabbed lunch and back to the library to watch Underdog. Next we were off to Lowes, window shopping (as in looking) for fruit trees at Home Depot, a quick ice cream treat, then weekly grocery shopping. Jonathan was feeling sick, with a fever and sore throat, and I ran them down today. Both kids fell asleep on the way home. No farm work Saturday.

Come Sunday, we all slept in. Well, except Ghon. He worked so late Saturday night, he actually didn't make it home until close to 2:30 am and left again at 6am. I stayed up, half waiting for him and half just wide awake. I could hardly call sleeping until 8:00 sleeping in when I didn't go to bed until 2:30 and was up for a bit at 5:15 when the alarms started going off.

Quick breakfast, wake the chickens, and off to church for Vacation Bible School for the kids. I really love our church. Everyone is super nice, and for being a small church, they do so much, especially for the kids. I am really glad we joined!

After church, we headed home, ate lunch, except Jonathan, who still wasn't feeling well, and changed to our farm clothes. Off we went to pick up a few more trees for the orchard - end of season specials! The day went so quick, by the time we made it home to the farm, it was time for dinner!

Marinated and grilled chicken thighs with grilled zucchini from the garden!

After dinner, we had some watermelon. I was showing the kids how to eat the watermelon without their hands, trying to get them a little more excited about the idea.


I can't remember exactly how it came up, but Jonathan asked about keeping the baby chicks. Now, the kids eat a lot of chicken, but we didn't think they had completely connected the dots that chicken nuggets and chicken tenders are in fact, chicken. That last connection was starting to happen for Jonathan. Lucky for me, I had my phone in my hand when he tried to confirm that the baby chicks would be dinner one night.

Chicks? For dinner?
He felt better when I told him that we wouldn't be having them for dinner until they were bigger. He couldn't bear to think about having them as babies. He really took some time thinking about this. A day later, he brought it up to me again, and couldn't understand how the chicken tenders at Applebee's came from chickens at the farm. In his mind, there was no way the chicken could get from the farm, to Applebee's, prepared and cooked for his meal in that short of time. Such a cutie and so smart!

After dinner, Ghon grabbed Dora for a few minutes of attention. Sorry for the crummy pics - my camera is still in repair and I'm only using my cell.

I promise, he's not strangling the goat, just giving her a rub!

Next, it was time to round up the chickens for bed. Occasionally, 1-2 will get out of their run and need to be caught. Genevieve loves to pet them still, so whenever one is in hand, it becomes a momentary toy or pet.

Captain Chicken

Chicken Love

On the house front, we still haven't done a whole lot inside. Ghon did jack up a living room corner where there was still some ceiling sag. Once upon a time, the upstairs bathroom had a leak in the shower, and it looks like there was some water damage that caused some rot and the floor to then sag. This week, Ghon will probably be shoring that section up.

Hopefully, Ghon will also be able to get the covering over the chicken pen. In the last two days, we've seen a chicken get out and decide to perch in the nearby trees. Tonight when Ghon headed down to put them to bed, he found three chickens in the run. All of the other chickens were perched in nearby trees. He was climbing trees and using poles to knock them out of the taller branches to try and get them back to bed. Stupid chickens. Perhaps they think they could hide from raccoons this way. Little do they know...