Tag Archives: Doodle

I’ve often said that one of the biggest adjustments to farm life is the inability to have a plan for the day and actually see it through. Events on the farm have a way of just unfolding in their own unpredictable and sometimes urgent manner. As farmers, we try to effectively respond.

Today began with rain as expected, which meant it would be a good time to catch up on indoor work and errands. Personally, I had a really long (and unrealistic) list that I hoped to tackle and Bruce and Rick went to do off-farm tasks.

Sara’s mom, Katie, is visiting and around midday went to check on the does and their kids -- this is (finally) the exciting part I’ve been leading up to.

Apple and her kids

The goats had chosen today while it was pouring to ESCAPE! Katie thinks that a (mischievous) goat kid led the way through a small hole in the fence. Eight other goats (large and small) followed and were happily grazing by the tractor barn when she discovered their mischief.  (We didn't get pictures of this so we'll substitute generic cute goats).

kids climbing mom

Sara, our goat whisperer, dashed down and in no time had those errant goats back where they were supposed to be. Armed with a bucket of feed and their favorite call, “hey ladies” they would follow Sara anywhere!

Doe with kids

 

I got back to the farm before Rick and Bruce and (very proudly) fixed the fence. Snickers and Doodles supervised and protected me from all kinds of imagined beasts.

So, I’m a bit late writing this blog.  I had originally planned to write about our adorable kids rather than than our mischievous kids. But, this change might be ok because we’ve actually had a couple people tell us to turn down the “cute factor.”

Did the breakout succeed in lessening the cute factor?   I don’t know—they really are cute!

2105 buckling

Right now, their favorite game seems to be bumper cars. They zoom here and there and occasionally crash into each other. There’s a few who are climbers and will get in the feeders or stand atop the salt block and a couple who are ballet dancers and gracefully leap through the air—yep, they’re pretty cute!

kids at play

They have all been tagged, given a vitamin booster, weighed, and photographed. Now, they need names and that’s the job of Laura (age 10) and Maya (age 7). Every year we pick a theme for naming our female goats --I’ll let you figure out why we don’t name the bucklings. Of our 31 kids, 16 are doe-lings and need names.

Laura & Maya with new kids

Last year. Laura was learning about and fascinated by Greek goddesses so that was our theme. This year is a little tricky for the girls. We chose wine grapes so we’re making a list of white grapes and red grapes and then the girls can assign names. So far, they’ve named the first and last born.

Champagne, 2015 doe-ling

 

This is Champagne,  first-born white doe-ling born.

Petit Verdot, 2015 doe-ling

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, this is her petite brown sister named Petit Verdot.

 

 

 

 

This cutie is Sherry, the last doe-ling born.  I wonder if Laura and Maya will name one Port?Sherry, 2015 doe-ling

We’ll try to keep the “cute factor” under control in future posts but it's a challenge!  Stay tuned for some videos of goat kids at play.

kid at rest

We've been really busy harvesting, sorting, and pressing for the past week.  As of Saturday night, we've progressed to the wine making process for Pinot Gris, Viognier, and Chardonnay.

Pinot Gris was the first to be harvested--approximately 4 1/2 tons, which will make about 300 cases of wine!  As you can imagine, harvesting goes much faster with many hands.  So, we were fortunate that along with Bruce, Rick, our regular farm crew, and me, our friend, Brandon, stopped by and helped.

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Like every job, there's a certain amount of prep before you get to the main event.  Before harvesting, there are two main tasks. The order doesn't really matter. The bird netting needs to be unclipped at the bottom and raised up.  For me, this is the worst part -- lots of bending and sometimes contorting to get the clip undone.  Also lugs to hold the clusters have to be distributed every few plants along the rows that are going to be harvested. Each lug holds 25-30 lbs and at the end of the harvest we drive down the rows and load the full lugs on the truck or trailer.

 

The actual harvesting was really fun, as harvesting anything you've grown always is!   Each cluster of grapes is inspected before we clip it and drop it into a lug. We check for sour rot (smells like vinegar) and bird, bug, or critter damage and remove the bad grapes.  This makes sorting at the winery go much faster.

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In addition to our 2-legged harvesters, we had Snickers and Doodle.  Their job descriptions were at first unclear but Doodle quickly appointed herself "official protector of filled lugs" and took this job very seriously.  Snickers did what herd dogs do--she herded me and made sure I didn't get lost in the vineyard.

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IMG_9426Once the grapes are loaded up, it goes to King Family Winery for processing.  First, it's refrigerated overnight and then the next day it gets sorted--once again looking for bad grapes--and pressed.  The sorting table  always reminds me of  Lucy and Ethyl hiding chocolates in their hats (and elsewhere).   For that reason, I've initiated the Lucy and Ethyl Club for all our friends who graciously volunteer to help with this task.  Pam is the most recent member of this very exclusive club.

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From the sorting table, it travels up the conveyor belt to the press, where the grapes are pressed and juice is extracted.  The juice goes into a fermenter for 1-3 weeks depending on the style of wine being made.  From there it goes into either stainless steel tanks or oak barrel to await bottling. The winemakers, Matthieu and Bruce, monitor it along the way for flavor and body so that's it tastes just right when it gets to your glass!

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Bruce, Rick, Sara, Snickers, Doodle & I all want to say THANK YOU for choosing us as your destination for U Pick strawberries!

Thank you for supporting local farming!

Thank you for being kind to the plants (so they can keep on producing)!

Thank you for keeping our farm and creek clean!

Thank you for spreading the word!

Middle Fork Farm U pick

Middle Fork Farm U PickWe loved meeting so many enthusiastic berry pickers, strawberry spread tasters and picnickers over the Memorial Weekend.   From what you told us, you were busy making a lot of strawberry pies and ice cream once you got home. And, of course, eating good ol’ delicious berries right from the bowl.

Middle Fork Farm berry picking

 

 

It was wonderful to see berry pickers of all ages, including a lot of multi-generational families sharing holiday fun. The toddler set definitely had an advantage due to their proximity to the berries (but probably limited by their attention span).

Middle Fork Farm creek

 

 

After picking, the  creek was a fun place to cool off.  Our creek (Middle Fork of Cunningham Creek) is quite healthy so we heard lots of shrieks and giggles as kids caught (and released) frogs, crayfish, and baby turtles.

 

Snickers and Doodle were much less active than the kids. They greeted a few early pickers and then decided to sleep at the check-out table for the rest of the day—we should have hung a "do not disturb" sign on them.

MiddleForkFarmSnickersNext weekend we’ll be sampling our brand new strawberry spread flavor, Strawberry Merlot (in anticipation of our tasting room/winery opening in 2016).

Weather permitting, we'll be open weekends through the end of June--check Facebook for updates.  We're also available for private pickings for groups of 10 or more on Wed., Thurs., and Fri.

Come see us, taste all our yummy spreads, and pick your own berries.

 

You’ve already read a lot about our goats and you’ve met Snickers and Doodle, our Australian Shepherds, but lots of people want to know what other critters live on the farm. So, this blog is all about the non-human residents of Middle Fork Farm--horses, a mini-mule, cats, and chickens.

I’ll start with horses and introduce you to our newest barnyard resident, Cunningham (aka Charlie).

MiddleForkFarmAvery&Charlie

Cunningham is a Warmblood colt born on April 15 to my mare, Avery. He’s a big guy and quite rambunctious. We were lucky enough to get to watch his birth, which was really exciting. Avery is doing an amazing job as a first-time mom. She’s super attentive to Charlie, but perfectly happy to allow us in to handle and admire him.

MiddleForkFarmCharlie

 

MiddleForkFarmGracie

 

Avery’s herd-mates include Gracie, Isabelle, and Jackson.   Gracie is a registered Paint without any spots. This is known as a breeding stock horse. She’s a wonderful trail horse and even though she’s the smallest, she’s the alpha mare.

 

 

MiddleForkFarmIsabelle

 

Isabelle, another Warmblood, is my friend, Bennie’s, dressage and trail horse. She and Avery are best buddies and before Charlie, were always together.

 

 

Jackson, our clever and precociousMiddleForkFarmJackson mini-mule has experience as a foal-nanny and can't wait to play with Charlie.  Last fall he discovered a way to escape through the electric fence. After we caught and returned him several times, he decided he didn’t need an escort and as soon as we got close, he’d take off and put himself back in the pasture.

 

Keeping the horses company in the barn are our 5 wonderful barn cats. They are friendly and earn their keep as incredible hunters! Two years ago a neighbor gave us Jewel and her week-old kittens. All are solid grey. Two, Subway and Pepper, went to live with Sara and Rick (really with Laura and Maya), one went to a friend, and other two stayed with us. As they were identical, it seemed only appropriate to name them Darryl and Darryl.

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MiddleForkFarmLarry

 

 

And, since we had Darryl and Darryl we needed a Larry (see Bob Newhart show). Larry is either trying to roll over on the top fence board or following someone around. He was with us to watch Charlie’s birth!

 

 

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Ty Kitty is our last addition. She was a rescue after Sara’s friend found her stuck in the engine of her car. She was a tiny kitten when we got her and has since grown into a beautiful fluffy cat determined to catch the birds in the rafters of the barn (totally impossible!).

 

 

Twelve laying hens round out the barn. We do love our fresh eggs but have discovered the origin of the expression "dumb cluck."  Recently we added 7 Cochin hens to our flock.  I was warned that this variety likes to "sit" (i.e. sit on eggs and try to hatch them, even if they're not fertile).  It was certainly not an understatement. How many chickens do you see in this box?

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The answer is 3.

If you’ve been following us, you know our goat herd has grown. Most of the kids have moved on to new homes, but we added 7 doelings from this year’s group to our herd. We do have our last 3 bucklings are for sale (for more information contact Sara at 540-540-424-3986).  Two of the bucklings (now wethers i.e. neutered males) are 4-H market projects and will be for sale at the Fluvanna Fair in August. Quizno, our buck, will be with us through this year’s breeding season.

MiddleForkFarmDoelings

Snickers and Doodle haven’t gotten into any trouble for awhile, although Doodle did present us with a dead raccoon this week—it is the beginning of raccoon and possum hunting season for Snickers and Doodle (mostly Doodle). They had their spring buzz-cut and, as you can see, look like puppies with big feet.

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Strawberry News

The berry fields are looking quite white with blooms. We will be opening for Pick Your Own on Sat. May 23 and continue to be open on Sat. and Sun. through June (maybe even July, depending on the weather).  Exact dates and times will be posted on our Facebook page. If you have a group of 10 or more, we will schedule a special private picking for you during the week.

Please come visit us, pick some berries, meet Snickers and Doodle, and enjoy a picnic by the creek.

MiddleForkFarmBerries

 

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Our critter population has increased by about 600 and things are buzzing at Middle Fork Farm-- we’ve added two honey bee hives.

The hives started as kits with not just some, but all assembly required and no instructions. Even though Langstroth hives are really common, assembling them was not intuitive so, I opted for the 21st century default method–YouTube.  After a couple of videos, I had a plan.

Normally, I’m pretty useless at construction projects but not this time! Bruce put together the P1050736P1050757P1050758P1050761boxes, aka supers, and I (proudly) assembled the frames, where the bees make honey. Each super has 10 frames that hang like folders and can be easily removed when full of honey. Step 1 was to use the claw end of a hammer to remove a portion of the top piece called the wedge cleat—which then gets reapplied later. Next,  I used the staple gun to assemble the frames and checked each one to be sure it was square. I know as far as power tools go, the electric stapler isn’t impressive but for a novice it was still a little challenging as the staples didn’t always go where they were supposed to or as deep as needed to hold the frame together. Due to my skill level  I made slow but steady progress.

The next part was inserting the wax foundation (ultimately where the honey is stored and eggs are laid, see http://galwaybeekeepers.com/bees-wax/ for a good explanation) into the frame. The foundation drops into a groove in the bottom of the frame and then the wedge cleat is set  on the foundation wire and stapled to the top of the frame. This was even slower and more frustrating as the wax is limp and easily punctured. Each super has 10 frames and each hive has two supers, yep, that's 40 frames.

Once this was accomplished we were ready for the bees.   My friend and experienced beekeeper, Marca-Maria and I picked them up in Remington from VA Bee Supply (http://www.virginiabeesupply.com/). When we got back to the farm Bruce was setting up cinder block pads for the hives on Possum Hill (so named because used to Doodle return from there regularly with possums.  One day, she even got 2!  Currently, she seems more interested in collecting cow bones. She’s added another vertebrae since this photo was taken).DoodleBones

Back to beehives…After Bruce leveled the hives on cinder blocks with the opening facing east, we set the slatted rack and bottom board, then the super, the feeder, and finally the cover. The second super will be added once these frames are full of honey.

Until spring comes into full swing, we need to provide the bees with food. Marca-Maria traded out one of our new frames for one of her frames that was full of honey. We also added honey water (1:1 solution) to the top feeder, which despite its simple appearance required another visit to YouTube as well as a phone call to VA Bee Supply.

Finally, we hived the bees--actually Marca-Maria did. First,  wearing bee hood and gloves,  she removed each Queens’ chamber from the carrying container and hung it between two frames in each of the hives.

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Then she released the rest of the bees downward into the hive and replaced the top feeder and cover. We put the case by the entrance to allow the remaining bees access to the hive.

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Two days later, we refilled the honey-water feeder, checked to see if the bees had started drawing out the wax (yes!), and if there was pollen in the bottom board (there was !).

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Most importantly, Marca-Maria opened the hive to see if the queens had left their chambers and, hopefully, taken their nuptial flights. Since we didn’t camp out or have video surveillance we couldn’t be sure about the nuptial flight but both queens were out of their chambers and the hives were full of activity, which was a good indication that the deed had been done and the queens were with children! If you want to see an actual mating, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaJ3K9qRVwo. This segment is from a British film about the global bee crisis called More Than Honey. They say it took 10 days to capture that 36-second flight!

Our last set-up task was a bear fence around the hives. Our good friend, Lois, told us that the Farm is a known black bear route—oh boy! Since Possum Hill doesn’t see a lot of activity except by a certain Australian Shepherd and during haying season, we decided that an electric fence around the hives would be a good investment.  So, with a combination of planning, care, and luck, we’re hoping that it'll be a sweet year!

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