Monday, November 11, 2013

Snow Awesome

We've had snow two days in a row now!  I get to stay home with the boys today (Veteran's Day holiday), and Thurgood and Miles are taking full advantage of my time off.

We went on our morning walk at 6:30, then the boys had breakfast.  Immediately after Ben left for work, the boys demanded some playtime.  After about an hour of playing with the squeaky Kong football-tennis ball hybrid toy, I realized that they weren't going to give me any peace until we had a proper romp outside in the snow.  So, I put my snow boots on, and off we went.  Miles mostly wanted to play with his toy and chase me with it.  Thurgood opted for a walk through the woods for his second outing of the day.

This is the best toy ever.  It has an incredibly loud and long-lasting squeak, and it bounces like crazy.  It's also St. Bernard-tough.

Last "winter" in Virginia, we didn't even get enough snow to put in a globe.  Miles found a patch of ice one day on a shadowy patch of grass, and he rolled around on that little icy island like he was experiencing true ecstasy for the first time in his life.  I felt like a bad mom.  Raising Thurgood and Miles in the South was like keeping an alligator in Alaska -- generally a bad idea.

An abundance of trails to explore.

I think that all of us are excited about winter this year.  I look forward to making snow angels with Thurgood, ambushing Ben with snowballs, and watching Miles feast on fresh snow.  When my fingers freeze, I'll add some wood to the furnace and hang out with Miles while I work on a quilt.

The blueberry field this morning.

Yes, I know that the coming season will be intensely cold and challenging.  I know that I'll have to experience a full winter in Vermont before I can truly understand what the hell I've gotten myself into. But I'm not gonna be a Negative Nancy.  I'm gonna slap on some snowshoes and have me some fun. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Freedom and Unity

We made it!  I've been trying to write this post for a few weeks now, but whenever I sit down to do anything, the boys make me get up to play with them or go for a walk.  Yes, I'm blaming my procrastination on the dogs.  

The boys love the weather, the landscape, and the house.  They have a lot more energy, and Miles' skin problems and ear infection have completely cleared up.  Must be the air.  

Miles has his own little apartment here, so he no longer has the opportunity to antagonize his brother.  But don't worry, Miles won't be lonely in there.  He said he'd lease one of the rooms to me for a sewing studio.  Thurgood is enjoying the rest of the house, and he spends his down time stretched out on the bed, occasionally lifting an eyelid to look out the window.

Thurgood Morsel

Ben and I start our new jobs on Monday.  Though we'll be working outside of the home full-time, we'll still be able to let our freak flag fly on weekends and holidays.  Luckily, both of us are thrilled about our new careers.

Now let's get to the fun part.  Our new home place has about two dozen giant old apple trees scattered about.  We arrived just in time to harvest some of the later varieties.  Two of our loveliest new neighbors helped me pick (Thank you so much!).  We ended up with four bushels total.  If we had picked all the apples, we would have enough to feed two Asian elephants for an entire year.  

Most of the apples are tart, and some are sweet - a great combination for hard cider!    There are a lot of great resources out there for the home cider maker, so I won't give you a how-to (as I rarely do anyway).  I looked to the Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible, The Homebrew Helper, and Home Brew Hard Cider from Scratch on Instructables.com.  We don't have a cider press yet, so we used our juicer.

This is our first go at hard cider, so everything is an experiment at this point.  The process is not much different than brewing beer or making fruit wine, and all of the equipment overlaps.  

Oh yeah, I never gave a final review of our fruit wines.  Both the dry and sweet strawberry wines were decent and drinkable, but not really good enough to share with the world.  The blackberry wine was a little too good to share, and our blueberry peach wine is still aging in bottles.  

If you ever get a wild hair up your ass, I strongly recommend fermenting your own beverages.  It's not rocket science, but it can make you feel like a genius.  If you can read, you can brew!

Just so you know, we haven't just been sitting around on top of our thumbs watching airlocks bubble.  We managed to plant everything we brought with us!  That's seven varieties of garlic, 105 blueberry bushes (some are in nursery rows), six pawpaw trees, and five Asian pears.  Thanks to Ben's hard work and planning, we've begun a new micro-mini farm here in Vermont.

Baby blueberry bushes

We have a lot of work to do on the house.  Luckily, the majority of it is cosmetic.  Carpet is not a good idea when you have two St. Bernards, and the kitchen counters and some of the walls are pink!  The list goes on.  I'm looking forward to chipping away at these projects.  For now, our living room is our bedroom until we paint and change the flooring upstairs.

I'm looking forward to lots of new adventures, and meeting new people.  So far, I love everything here.

We miss our friends and family, but we don't miss the stinkbugs - they came with us!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

From The Blue Ridge To The Green Mountains: Fat Bear Farm Begins A New Chapter

Fat Bear Farm is moving to Vermont!  We are embarking on this grand adventure with our two copilots, Thurgood Morsel and Miles Giles.  We're taking 100 little blueberry bushes, a few fruit trees, and beginning a new life on 27 acres in Orange, Vermont.

Unfortunately, our beloved chickens will not be making the trip with us.  However, they'll get to have an adventure of their very own.  Our best friends have been kind enough to give our hens a home.  They'll get to live out the rest of their lives in the company of several other chickens, peacefully coexisting with a  herd of rabbits.

Our new neighborhood

The three years we have spent on our Virginia farm have been educational and colorful, to say the least.  We moved into our Stuart home in June of 2010 and if you take a few moments to scan the pages of this blog, you'll see what we've been up to since the beginning of 2011.  From planting 1,000 asparagus crowns to raising baby chicks, our time here has been full of new experiences.

  Though we are sad to be leaving our dear friends behind, the relationships we have built will last a lifetime.  We're hoping that all of them will visit and maybe even make the move from VA to VT themselves!

This will be a fine place for blueberry bushes!

We are so excited to begin a new chapter of our lives in a place where:

 The unofficial state motto is, "We Do What We Want."
Thurgood and Miles can enjoy snow several months out of the year like all St. Bernards should.

Affordable healthcare is available for each and every resident.

Marriage equality is the law of the land, and gays and lesbians aren't treated as second class citizens.

There are more craft breweries per capita than in any other state.  Vermont has about 26 breweries (one for every 24,067 people).

There are MOOSE!

We can get the freshest Ben & Jerry's ice cream and enjoy the best maple syrup in the world.

Cheese is an art.

We can enjoy 52 state parks with our furry friends.

Confederate flags are not commonplace. 

I could go on for days about all the reasons we're making this move, but I think I'll just blog about all the awesomeness when we get there.  I'm still not sure if I'll start a completely new blog once we're settled, or if I'll simply continue this one.  Either way, everyone is invited to join us at Fat Bear Farm Vermont on the Interwebs!  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Have YOU Ever Seen the Rain?

Boy, have seen the rain!  It has rained eight days this month, and it's only the ninth day of the month!  It rained fifteen out of thirty days last month.  

Though the rain destroyed almost all of our strawberries (we only had two weeks of harvest), it has been quite a lovely thing for the blueberries.

 We grow about half a dozen blueberry varieties.  The first to ripen are a true treat.  They have delicate vanilla undertones that give them rockstar status around here.  We'll do our first harvest this Friday!

So, how do we know when they're sweet?  The berries are ready to pick when the base of the stem turns blue.  As you can see, the berries above are preparing themselves for market on Saturday.

Much to the birds' delight, we don't use wildlife netting on the blueberries.  We have so many bushes that it just wouldn't be practical.  Luckily, the birds have been kind enough to share the bounty with us.  Unfortunately for the deer, we do have an electric fence to keep them at bay. 

While watching the berries ripen, we've been keeping ourselves busy harvesting, drying, and cleaning garlic.  I've had a lot of fun making braids this week.  The garlic braids will be tagging along with the blueberries this weekend at market!

Monday, June 3, 2013


Aren't these little ones adorable?   I wonder if their mother is the same bird that nested atop our porch light last year.  Anyhow, she's definitely of the same species, whatever that may be.  It made me so happy to see them doing well this evening.  

What a face!

Can you see the Saint Bernard hairs in the nest?  Thurgood's and Miles' fur is always highly sought-after building material.

Safe and sound.

Sadly, tragedy struck the Mourning Dove nest last night.  A black snake got one of the two newly hatched Mourning Doves.  Ben was able to rescue the second chick, but the nest was completely empty this morning.  Mama Dove sat on her eggs for weeks without moving much at all.  She grew on me, and I admired her dedication.  I was very disappointed about the way things turned out for her family.
Damn, it's a rough life out there.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

First Came The Rain, Now The Heat Is On!

 We have had beaucoup rain this spring.  If it wasn't raining cats and dogs, then it was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  I'm not one to complain about rain (I've seen plenty of droughts, and that ain't pretty either), but we really needed a drying-out period.  It feels like summer now, and it is H-O-T.
The lettuce and asparagus are handling the change in weather just fine, but we've eighty-sixed the spinach in the high tunnel.  The heat-loving crops are now having fun in the sun!

All eleven varieties of tomato are flowering in the high tunnel.

 Some of the plants even have lil'maters on them!

I love the bamboo stakes Ben procured for us.  They are sky high.

Cilantro on a hot day means it's salsa time!

Basil + Tomatoes = Heaven on Earth

The blueberries are putting on quite a show.

We'll be picking a little over a month from now.  My favorite.

I'm glad that we have enough strawberries to share with the birds.  They've been polite about pilfering so far.

 Strawberry shortcake is in my future.  Whipped cream or ice cream?  Hmmm...

Monday, May 20, 2013


I was all over the place today, both mentally and physically.  I was a busy-body and completely unable to focus.  I wish Ritalin were available over the counter.  Here are some snapshots of my scattered day.

Mama Mourning Dove is sitting on two eggs.  She is fierce.

All three elderberry bushes are fruiting!  We planted "Variegated," "Thundercloud," and "Emerald Lace" two years ago.  Here's a photo of the "Emerald Lace."

"Thundercloud"  has pretty pink flowers.  The birds eat the berries as soon as they appear.  I will never see their glory.

I picked strawberries today!

The "Gaviota" are the first to ripen.

This puts a smile on my face.

The butterhead lettuce is enjoying the weather.

The red butterhead lettuce is ready for market.  We'll offer both red and green this week.

I'm off to feed and walk the boys now.  If they weren't around to keep me on schedule, I don't know if anything would ever get done. 

 Dog is totally my co-pilot.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fat Bear Feast

 The spinach in the high tunnel is still thriving.  The leaves probably grow about an inch a day.  It's a challenge keeping it picked between markets, and we eat it nonstop.

So, what to do with leaves the size of a human hand?

I used about three pounds of homegrown spinach, garlic, eggs, and herbs.  I added some feta and onions to the mix, wrapped it in frozen phyllo dough, and we had ourselves an easy meal.   I think I'll add some shiitakes next time.   We roasted some of our beets and sweet potatoes to go along with it. 

Now, for dessert.
Ben's wonderful mother has a gorgeous rhubarb patch in her garden.  She was very kind to share some of it with us.  I immediately made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler with it.

None of our strawberries were ripe yet, but I had back-up.  We froze a ton of fruit last year, so we still have several quarts of strawberries in the deep freezer.  Lucky ducks, we are!

If the weather is kind to us, it looks like we'll have ripe, plump strawberries to bring to market next week!  I must also keep my fingers crossed that the birds will be kind to us.  It seems like the bird population has exploded this year.  We have two nests on our front porch (we've only had one nest for the past two years), and there are Mourning Doves and Whatchamacallits everywhere.  Hopefully, the birds will opt to eat cicadas instead of strawberries.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Rough Guide (2013 Outlook)

If you're curious about what the heck we're growing around here, I hope this post will be helpful.  I've listed the items that we plan to bring to market this year, as well as their approximate availability (emphasis on "approximate").
Due to the nature of our schedule and micro-mini workforce (Ben may be a tall drink of water, but there are only two of us), Fat Bear Farm produce is only available at farmers market at this time.  All of our items (along with artisan cheeses, local meats, baked goods, soaps, and other excellent produce) will be conveniently available at the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Old Salem this year.  We hope to see you there!

The Dawning of the Age of Asparagus has come!  Our asparagus is available right now.  We will continue to harvest through the beginning of July.

It's available now until Mother Nature says tells us that it's too warm.

We've got lil'greenies on the plants right now!  It looks like they'll be red and ripe by the end of May.  We grow three varieties that mature at different times.  We hope to offer strawberries through the rest of spring, most of summer, and autumn.

We are growing green, light green, and red varieties of head lettuce.  They will be harvested this month and next.

Basil, cilantro, and sage are growing in the high tunnel.  We'll be bringing them to market from late May through autumn.

The leeks have been transplanted and are growing strong.  I have to admit that I'm only guessing that leeks will be harvested late June through early July.  This one will be a surprise!

Scapes will be coming in the next several weeks.  We'll harvest the roots beginning in June.  We expect to offer garlic at market from late June or early July through autumn.  Our varieties are: Elephant, Music, Purple Glazer, Chesnok Red, Persian Star, Kettle River Giant, Mother of Pearl, and Georgian Fire.

This year's varieties of salad tomatoes include: Gold Rush Currant, Egg Yolk, Tommy Toe, Black Plum, Yellow Pear, Red Fig, and Brown Berry.  The names are great, but the flavor is even better!

The start of July through the beginning of September is blueberry season.  Dig out those pie and jam recipes (we will gladly taste-test your creations for you)!

I grew these last summer, and we ate them all in grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.  They were so good that I had to grow more to share with the world!  Maybe July through late autumn?   It should be a long season for them because they're growing  in our high tunnel.  Pimiento cheese, anyone?

We've sold out of our winter storage supply, and we just planted this year's slips yesterday.  We will offer Beauregard (deep orange flesh) and white yams.  We'll dig them up at the end of August (they grow very quickly in our soil) and begin bringing them to market in September.

My fingers are crossed that this year will be as good to us as last year was.  We're growing ginger in our greenhouse and high tunnel.  It will be available at the end of summer.

Life is no fun without surprises.