Archive for Country Living

Sign of God’s Eternal Covenant: The Rainbow

Photo by Luanne Johnson

It was a beautiful evening. Late afternoon storm clouds darkened the sky to the west and north over the James River. The gentle breeze that blew all day became brisk and the yellowing leaves on the birch trees fluttered to the ground. A gentle rain watered the earth.

Just before dusk, the sun burst through the clouds and the sunlight glistened off the still falling raindrops creating a stunning huge, tall, full rainbow in the east. There actually was a double rainbow although the second one was not as brilliant. I didn’t see it at first as I was more focused on the sun reflecting on the roofs of the silos.

If you look closely you can see the faint rainbow to the right of the brilliant one.

I remembered God’s promise and the sign he gave us a reminder. I said aloud, “God I remember”.

Genesis 6-9 tells the story of Noah and the great flood that destroyed every living creature and all humans on earth except for Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. Why would God do such a drastic, awful thing? It was judgement for the violent, evil, and godless culture that had turned against him. Noah and his family were saved because they were righteous, the only ones in the whole earth. It took them one hundred years, but they built an ark with God’s direction and they along with two of every kind of animal that God brought to the ark were saved. It is a fascinating true story.

One hundred and fifty days later, the flood had subsided and the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. Noah and his family along with all the animals came out of the ark into the clean, fresh earth bursting with lush green plants and trees. Noah immediately built an alter and worshipped God. God set a brilliant rainbow in the sky-probably the first ever seen. God told Noah that he was establishing a covenant with him and all future generations and living creatures. Never again would the earth be totally destroyed by a flood. God gave the rainbow as a sign of the covenant. And God said, “When I see the bow, I will remember my covenant.” The rainbow is not only a reminder for our benefit but also for God to see and remember.

I turned to walk back into the house and behind me the west was also blazing with God’s glory of a different hue, the stunning beauty of the setting sun.

Several years ago we visited the Ark, a full-scale replica of Noah’s ark in Williamstown, Kentucky. It was an incredible experience to see, feel and think about what it really was like for Noah. I highly recommend this adventure.

Noah’s Ark

The Pecan Man

This was a good pecan producing year. Some years are, some years aren’t. We picked up buckets and buckets of pecans. Summer and I shelled at least one 5-gallon bucket full. Over Christmas a bunch of the family went out and in a short time gathered six more 5-gallon buckets full. Suddenly the task looked overwhelming.

We have one tree that produces small pecans. They are good and meaty but difficult to crack. Years ago I had gotten an electric table top cracker which I liked but back then we had three trees and the nuts were larger. The cracker can not be adjusted down for the small size of these nuts.

When mama starts thinking watch out! I have some cousins in South Carolina who grow grooves of pecans and have a large nut cracker. I talked to them about paying them a visit and cracking my nuts. But before I got that accomplished, a friend (sales rep) from North Carolina was here and mentioned one of his neighbors has a nut cracker and did some nuts for him. Wilson, NC is a lot closer than Denmark, SC.

So today my friend, Donna, and I took a road trip to Wilson, North Carolina to the “Pecan Man” with 111 pounds of homegrown pecans in tow. It was a fun day and made for an interesting “field trip”.

Jr. Etheridge has two crackers. One for large nuts and one for small. Surprisingly, mine qualified for the large cracker.

He poured the nuts into metal baskets and then set them into hot water for a few minutes until they came to a full boil.
After boiling, they set the basket aside to drain a few minutes before pouring them into the cracker.

I found it very interesting that they boiled the pecans before cracking. They said it makes them crack better. I had never heard that in all our years of raising pecans.

The inside of the cracker. A motor turns the shaft and the beaters break open the nuts. It is amazing they leave the nuts whole.
The Pecan Man’s helper. The crackers are inside those wooden boxes. Large on the left, small on the right.

The pecan’s drop into the chute after they are cracked and take the elevator ride up to the sifter which separates most of the shells from the nut. I still will have to sort out the rest of the shells-every tiny little piece.

Cracked pecans coming out the chute.
Beautiful. The Pecan Man said the end yield is about 60%.
The trash!
I ended up with three of these boxes almost full. 65 pounds of nuts.

There are still pieces pf shells in the nuts and we will have to pick through them and clean out the trash. It was suggested to pour the nuts on a bath towel to sort out the trash from the nuts. The little pieces of shell will stick to the towel making it easier! Oh how sweet those little tidbits of info were! When I was cracking the nuts at home, we had a hard time getting them out as halves. I was amazed how big my halves looked!

They told me a true story, just in case I didn’t know! One person took their nuts home and made a pie just like you see them in the box! They discovered the horror of shells in their pie!!!

The Pecan Man’s waiting bench. It really did not take long. We were probably there an hour.
Jr. Etheridge the Pecan Man!

I enjoyed our short visit with these two guys. They were interesting characters and had a funny sense of humor. It was obvious they love what they do and their hangout was full of interesting signs.

It was obvious we were in Dale Earnhardt country.

Going home Donna got thinking and asked me how much these pecans ended up costing me. It was two hour, 20 minute ride one way so my gas bill was $39.00. He charges 50 cents a pound to crack. I also had to feed Donna! I figure they ended up costing me about $1.50 a pound. We had a fun day, I went home happy with 65 pounds of shelled nuts and I was saved a lot of work. It was so worth it and I will go back again next pecan harvest!

Oh The Games We Played

Recently I posted on facebook a comment about the games I remembered playing as a youngster. The response was so interesting, resulting in a trip down memory lane for many of us. It was funny how we had trouble remember the names of the games or even how to play them. But we remembered bits and pieces. That must be a sign of our age! I didn’t remember that so many were rough and tumble, contact games that involved chasing, tagging, catching, running into each other or hitting another with a ball. Parents today would probably shutter at the thought of their snowflakes playing these games. We all had memories; mostly good and few bad. I thought I would list the games. The descriptions came from the people who listed the game.

  • Tag, Freeze Tag: One person is it and runs to tag another. The tag person is now it and does the tagging. In Freeze Tag when you are tapped you have to freeze exactly as you are until someone unfreezes you. The goal is to get everyone frozen.
  • Hopscotch, Russian Hopscotch: Russian Hopscotch was similar to Hopscotch but consisted of 2 sets of three large squares side by side. We’d throw the rock into successive squares and hop with one foot into the squares with no rock, not touching the line or falling and pick up the rock.
  • Red Rover: Two teams line up facing each other holding hands in a horizontal line. One team says, “Red rover, red rover send dear _______ (person’s name on other team) over”. That person runs over and tries to break through the line. If unsuccessful, they have to join that team.
  • Piggy Wants a Beckon: It is a version of Hide and Seek that can go on for a long time. “Piggy wants a beckon” is what a player shouts from base when they are caught. You need to see someone that is hiding wave their stick to you… beckon…before you are free to steal away from base.
  • Dodge Ball
  • Basketball
  • H-O-R-S-E: Competition between two or more people shooting basketballs. One person would shoot a basket. The next person had to copy the exact same stanza and distance. If they succeeded they got to be the leader. If they failed, they earned an “H” and that continued until someone spelled H-O-R-S-E and they were the loser.
  • Hide and Seek
  • Softball
  • Prisoner’s Base
  • Badminton
  • Croquet
  • Horseshoes
  • Button, button, who has the button? (Or thimble)
  • No Bears Out Tonight: We would take off from the porch, run around the trees by the road and have to get back to the porch without being caught by the “bear” (another sibling), who was hiding in the darkness to chase us down.
  • Annie Over: Form two teams, one on each side of a building and we would throw a ball over the roof to the other team, while yelling “Annie over” – if they caught it in the air, they would run around the house to try to tag someone before they got to the other side of the house. If they missed it, they threw it back, again shouting “Annie Over.”
  • Mother May I: One person is “mother” and everyone else lines up in a vertical line about 25 feet away from “mother”. Mother gives each player a command. They have to say, “Mother may I” before beginning to do what mother requests such as take 2 steps forward, etc. If they don’t, they have to go back to the starting line. The person who makes it to mother first wins.
  • Kick Ball
  • Jump Rope, Run Through the School
  • Football
  • Blind Man’s Bluff: We tied a man’s hanky around our eyes and you had to find someone and guess who they were.
  • One O’clock Ghost: A form of Hide and Seek
  • Burney Ball: The person who submitted this said, “the players stood in a circle and a bouncy ball was thrown into the air. That’s all I remember”.
  • Twister
  • Old Gray Wolf: A form of Hide and Seek
  • Marbles
  • Bum, Bum (New Orleans Here I Come): We would divide into two teams. One team would figure out something to act out and tell the other team only the first letter of each word and act it out. Then the team doing the guessing would ask the questions and the team doing the acting would answer. Where you from? New Orleans. What’s your trade? Lemonade. Get to work and show us something. When guessing what they were doing was correct, the “acting people” turn and run back to their home base without getting tagged. Losers transfer to the opposite team until one team wipes out the other.
  • Football
  • Drop the Hanky: Everyone forms a circle. The player who is “it” runs around the outside of the circle and drops the hanky behind a player who picks it up and tries to catch the one who dropped it. Whoever makes it to the spot where the hanky was dropped is safe and the other has to go around the circle and drop the hanky behind another player.
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Bouncy Ball: A schoolyard game where players hit a bouncy ball against a wall, using their hands. The game requires the ball to be hit to the floor before hitting the wall.
  • Run For Your Supper
  • Four Square
  • Crack the Whip

Besides all that, we caught lightning bugs, played in the creeks, climbed trees, went fishing, swam in the creeks/rivers, ice skated on the ponds, roller skated in the basement/sidewalks, sledded down the hills, walked on stilts, rode bikes on the road, slide down metal roofs, walked the top rail of the board fence, and took the gullible on snipe hunts. A lot of our friends and family had hay barns which were great fun. Those were the days when all the hay was square baled and stacked/piled in big barn. We loved to climb the mountains of hay, build tunnels and forts and swing from the rafters. Us girls did all of these fun activities in our dresses!

Our yard swings hung from long ropes hanging from the tallest tree, not a chain from an eight foot metal A-frame. At our home the big elm tree close to the house made for the perfect swing. We could go upstairs, crawl out the bedroom window onto the front porch roof and jump off the roof with the swing that was thrown up to us. It was thrilling, however, I never got brave enough to do that daring feat!

You can see our swing hanging at the corner of the house from the tree.

We had a good childhood. Our play was creative, competitive and interactive. We were not afraid to get dirty and didn’t worry about getting hurt. I wonder how many of today’s children know what half of these games are. The only telephone we played was the gossip game. We would sit in a line and first person would whisper something in someone’s ear and then would repeat it to the next person to the end of the line. The end result was often hilarious.

These were only the outdoor games. We had a whole arsenal of fun indoor games. That is a post for another time!

Feeding the Birds

I enjoy feeding the birds. They are actually on welfare and look for the daily free handouts. This spring I have taken pictures of the variety.

I have a Pileated Woodpecker living in my yard-at least I think he is as I see him almost daily. This has been a special treat as they are very elusive. I wrote a blog post about him: Woody Woodpecker.

Blue Jay
Slate Colored Junco
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Male Cardnial
Hairy Woodpecker (This could be Downy but the Downy has a few barred feathers on the white tail feathers. I need to get another picture to be certain.)
Female Hairy Woodpecker

Sparrow. Maybe a Song Sparrow?
Brownheaded Cowbird
Robin
Evening Grosbeak
Mourning Dove
White Breasted Nuthatch
Redheaded Woodpecker
Purple Finch

And Mr. Squirrel, he may not be a bird but he sure likes to dine at the table and entertain us! I only have two and they are a lot of fun to watch scampering up and down the trees.

Woody Woodpecker

Woody Woodpecker

I have only seen a Pileated Woodpecker a handful of times in my life and now I think (hope) I have one living in my yard. This is beyond special!

I started catching glimpses of this illusive bird but never long enough to get a picture. Now it is multiple times a week and I have gotten several pictures.

I have a large walnut tree at the edge of the yard that has been trying to die for years. It was rotten and struggling to live when we got married way back yonder. I wanted to cut the tree down but not Gene. He wanted to give the tree a chance. It really was a sorry looking tree and I knew the tree was not going to survive much longer and planted a maple beside it for replacement. (For the story of the tree click on the link at the bottom of the post). For forty-nine years the walnut tree has defied expectations and lived; not only lived but grown. There was no way that black walnut tree was going to bow down to a spindly maple tree. The main trunk is half dead and makes a wonderful woodpecker habitat. I suspect that is where Woody has rented a condo.

Woody spends a fair amount of time sitting in one area of the yard pecking furiously at the ground and tossing the dirt back over his head. It lands several feet behind him.

I goggled information about a Pileated Woodpecker. The female looks like the male except he has a red strip on the side of his cheek right behind its beak. I am wondering when Woody is going to show off his wife! They drill a distinctive rectangle shaped hole in a rotten tree. I will have to check out my tree and see if I can find his home address. They are very fond of carpenter ants and other insects. According to goggle, in the winter each woodpecker excavates its own hole and roosts by itself. The male may hang out the same hole they used for nesting as the young birds have already grown up and dispersed. I am hoping the male likes my yard and will bring his mate to live here.

This is a really cute two minute youtube video of Pileated chicks at the nest. The call of the Pileated is shrill and choppy, reminding me of my male guinea.

The Pileated Woodpecker, measuring 16-19 inches in length, is the largest  woodpecker found in North America. It looks as big as a crow. Their bill, which is as long as its head, acts like a chisel to chip wood away to make their homes in trunks of large, rotten trees. They start nesting at one year of age and will hatch eggs between May 13 and June 15. They rarely use the same nest over again and nest construction takes 3-6 weeks. They may used wood chips but do not use any lining material for the nest. They can live up to nine years if they survive the hawks, coyotes, foxes and other hungry predators.

The Tale of Two Trees

Full Worm Super Moon – March 9, 2020

I love taking pictures of the moon. Tonight was no exception. It is technically called the Full Worm Super Moon, named as such by Traditional and Native Americans. They had a name for each full moon to help track the seasons. In March as the ground began to soften, earthworms would appear, drawing more birds to feed.

Then God said, "Let there be light", and there was light. 
And  God saw the light, that it was good; 
and God divided the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. 
So the evening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1:3-5

Nighty Night, Groundhog

This afternoon I was out in the yard and discovered a groundhog had tried to dig two holes under the storage building in the yard. One he had just started and the other was a small hole but I didn’t think he had succeeded yet in getting under the shed.  The holes were in my hollyhock bed.  I filled the holes in and went to gather eggs and feed my hens. I came back about twenty minutes later and the larger hole was redug and enlarged. He was definitely now under the shed. That rascal is fast.

I filled the hole in again and went to water the greenhouse and feed the baby chicks. I came back and the hole was reopened and he had worked on the second hole again. I went to Gene with my problem.  I baited and set a trap by the closed up hole and left. About twenty minutes later, the hole was opened again. That was four times in maybe an hour.

Hubby to the rescue.

 

Hubby hooked the hose to the exhaust on the truck and stuck the hose under the building through his hole and carefully packed dirt and mulch around to seal it. He piped the fumes under the shed for probably two hours. At one point the groundhog did some frantic scratching and pushing on the metal but then all was quiet. Hopefully he went nighty night, permanently, before he had a chance to do lots of damage and destroy my garden and flower beds. I could hardly believe how fast he worked.

My prized hollyhocks are stock from Dad Hertzler’s in Denbigh that he brought to Powhatan fifty plus years ago. When the hollyhocks and roses start blooming I think summer is here; blooming after the daffodils, tulips and peonies.

 

 

One hour later…..

I came in, smugly wrote my blog post and went back out to check on my success.

He won!

Rascal!

I hope he is running for his life cause I am hot on his trail!

Spring on the Farm-2019

I  love the sights, sounds and smells of springtime on the farm.

Sights: lush green grass, buttercups and daffodils, white clouds drifting across a blue sky, trees bursting with leaves and flowers, baby calves frolicking in the field, billows of green pollen drifting across the field, asparagus popping out of the ground, and birds busy nesting.

Sounds: birds chirping, chickens clucking, bulls bellowing, their testosterone raging, bees buzzing, and wind blowing.

Smells: freshly mowed lawn, flowers, spring rain, and freshly tilled garden soil.

Some pictures from the farm this month.

Raised bed of lettuce and radishes,

Raised bed of spring onions.

Asparagus stalks.


The bull was bellowing and pawing the ground.

Wisteria tree at the edge of the woods.

Heifers grazing among the buttercups.

Field work….trying to smooth out the rough areas where the cows really rutted up the ground during the wet winter.

Full moon.

Full moon approaching Easter.

Strawberries blooming.

Bees pollinating the blackberries.

 

An Evening in Victoria

Let me tell you a story.

This past Saturday evening we decided to go to Victoria, a small town nestled deep in the heart of central Virginia, about an hour’s drive from our farm. It was a spur of the moment decision. Gene came in from feeding the cows and asked if I wanted to go. He had heard about a country bluegrass group singing at Victoria Restaurant that evening on WSVS,  a small town station located in Crewe at 800 AM that plays country and bluegrass music. The afternoon DJ each day is Bobby Wilcox from our hometown of Powhatan.

It was a cold, dreary, rainy evening but what we found in small town USA was a warm and welcoming reception.  We arrived one hour early thinking we had plenty of time for the buffet supper. Actually we were about the last to arrive and most had already eaten.  We didn’t realize we needed to make reservations but we were welcomed in with the assurance that they would find us a spot in the already packed room.  They first found us a table in the side room where the musicians were eating and preparing for their performance, to eat our supper.

The buffet was a true southern feast: fried chicken, meatloaf, mash potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans,  white navy beans, macaroni and cheese, hot homemade rolls, banana pudding, and blackberry cobbler. The musician in charge of the group interacted with us, asking where we were from and what brought us to the event. When he discovered we were from Powhatan, he made the instant connection to Bobby Wilcox and mentioned that he was in house that evening. It was obvious that Bobby was a well-known and loved radio celebrity in that part of the country! He went and found us a spot to sit…. at Bobby Wilcox’s reserved table.

The opening band was “First Time Around”, a local group who sang country gospel music for one hour. They did an excellent job and were very open in sharing their faith through testimony and singing.

The feature group was “Appalachian Express”, a well-known country bluegrass group with a list of credentials and awards to fill a book. They entertained us well for almost two hours.

At one point during the evening, they expressed appreciation for all the musicians and singers in attendance that evening, and there were quite a few.  Most we didn’t know (except for Rusty Yoder), but those mentioned were well-known by those who follow bluegrass music.  We discovered that seated beside us was one of the extended Clark family who has personally preformed on Hee Haw.  Victoria is in the area of Virginia where Hee Haw’s Roy Clark, now deceased, lived. As they wound down the evening, they raised the roof with the foot-stomping “Rocky Top Tennessee”. Then they asked all the veterans to stand. As the 50 or more older men, out of the group of 125 or more, rose to their feet their faces showed emotion as they were thanked and the audience clapped their appreciation. The leader of the group, the man in red in the picture, asked one of the veterans to retrieve the flag in the side room. As he stood straight and tall off to the side, they sang “America the Beautiful”.  The audience instantly rose as one, hats came off and right hands were placed on hearts in respect and honor for our great nation for whom many had fought and suffered. The “man in red” closed by saying, “Thank you and good night to everyone. Tomorrow, attend a church of your choice.”

I snapped this picture just before the veteran removed his hat and handed it to his wife.

It was a special evening and as we traveled home we talked about the evening. Not one person used the venue to mention politics, speak an unkind or vile word, make a crude or belittling insult towards any person or group. No one stomped on the flag. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was respect for the flag and honor for our veterans who gave so much for our freedom.  There was love for our country with no resisters or jeers of protest.  And most of all, faith in God was openly expressed without shame or fear. God’s redeeming love was proclaimed and no one was threatened with hate.

Rural hometown USA is different than how the media portrays in the news. This was “God and country” territory; the America we know, love and cherish.

A little bit about Victoria Restaurant…..

They are located in the heart of  a little city with 17 streets. They are located 1411 8th St. Victoria, VA 23974. On Friday evenings, locals play and sing as you dine and there is no charge for the entertainment. On Saturday evenings, they have scheduled groups and there is a $10 per person fee plus the food.

They also have a facebook page where you can follow their schedule of events.

Powhatan County Labor Day Parade-2018

The Powhatan County Labor Day Parade….Powhatan patriotism and community unity at its best.

11 a.m. sharp….Siren’s wail announces the start of the parade.

Honks blowing, sirens shrieking, motors reviving,  cycle rumblings, bands marching, hands waving, neighbors chatting and candy throwing…. Powhatan County spirit in full display….the modern, the antique, the young and the older!

A few pictures….

These guys had a blast doing doughnut circles all over the road.

Powhatan Mennonite Church float featured Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes. Our church is the drop-off location for Powhatan County. It is almost time to start think about filling shoe boxes again. You may get instructions on how to participate at the Samaritans Purse website or call the church (804-598-3365) to pickup empty shoe boxes and labels. Information will also be on our church website (www.pmchurch.net) very soon. Collection week will be November 12-19, 2018.

Pre-parade…ready to roll.

Here we come!

Chick-Fil-A mascot

 

 

 

 

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