Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ode to Winter

I know a lot of people like Spring because of the flowers and warmer weather and I know a lot of people like Summer because of the long days and flip flops and Fall's great because of the crisper air and football and pumpkins...but to me, the best season of all is Winter.  

I've loved Winter since I was a kid.  I can't really explain why I've gravitated to cold stark Winter.  Maybe it's because I love cold weather and snow (just maybe not in almost mid-March).  Maybe it's because I like rooting for the underdog and liking things most people overlook (and lets face it, around these parts most folks are all about flip-flops and nine o'clock bedtimes).  Maybe it's because I love comfort soups and stews and I can get by with cooking them more in the winter (The Husband is not as big of a soup and stew fan, but there is one I make every Saturday night that he absolutely adores: Shrimp Chowder.  Recipe to follow).  Maybe because it's so festive with Thanksgiving (my personal fave) and Christmas and New Years (and my birthday).  Who knows?  Maybe I'm just wired wrong or something.

Now that I'm grown (yikes!) and have started farming Winter brings a whole new meaning and I think I love it even more.  We close the farm at the end of fall and let out a collective deep breath.  I like to marinate on what we did this past year until after Christmas, and then we start planning.  It's the calm before the storm of Spring where we can decide what we want to do and what we want to add and plan it all on paper and have this wonderful idea of how we want the year to go before real life and the weather and time constraints mess it up.  It's the time where we can do a bit of traveling (mostly to meetings and conventions but it's traveling just the same.  This year we got to go to Lake Tahoe.  Lake Tahoe!).  It's the time where we can make plans with our kids and family without it having to revolve around what's happening at the farm this week.  It's a time where I can catch up on housework and cook things that take longer than thirty minutes.  It's a time of renewal and a time of hope.  
"What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?" John Steinbeck
Well, we have some exciting changes coming to the farm and a few new things we want to try and it all looks good on paper right now and we're very hopeful it's going to be great.  Now it's time to take that collective breath in, because we're in the last gasp of Winter here and Springs coming fast, and that means it's time to get out and get to work!
"There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter." Rachel Carson
As promised, here's my Shrimp Chowder recipe.  It's loosely based on one I found here by Sara Moulton (I'm a PBS nerd).  It's super easy and pretty quick to make, filling yet not heavy, and perfect for Saturday evenings at home.

Shrimp Chowder (I’d say it makes enough for a family of four or two very hungry adults.  If you’re feeding a crowd, I’d double.)
1 pound of shrimp (I go Atlantic Seafood on Royall and get the bag of already peeled and de-veined ones, because I’m lazy like that)
1 pound bacon (I really like Heritage Farms bacon even though it’s pricey.  It has amazing flavor.  Of course, any bacon will work.)
2 t butter
4-6 good hand-sized potatoes, I like the red ones.
2 stalks celery
½ onion
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons of flour, depending on how thick you want it.
2 cups of stock (I’ve used chicken, vegetable, or seafood, but currently I’m obsessed with making my own chicken stock so I’ve been using that.  I’ll include that recipe too.)
1 cup water (if I was using broth instead of stock I’d use 3 cups broth and no water)
2 cups milk
1 cup half-n-half or heavy cream, whatever you have.
Old Bay to taste
2 good pinches of dried thyme.
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon, I’ve done it all in one pot but I like to use a separate pan because the bacon grease can scorch if you have your heat too high and then you’ll have black bits in your white chowder.  Set the bacon aside and pour half to ¾ of your drippings in your soup pot and add the butter.  Once it’s melted add your chopped celery and onions and a good shake of salt and pepper.  Since I don’t like celery and onions and will pick them out I leave them big but you can cut them as small as you want.  Soon as they’ve softened some I had the flour.  I use two or three heaping soup spoons but it’s all what you want.  I let that cook a couple minutes until it starts to barely turn brown and I add the liquids. Once that’s combined I put in the potatoes, again, cut to how you like.  I try to go bite sized or a little more because the smaller they are the faster they cook and after I’ve cooked that bacon I’m starving.  Add the seasonings.  I like a lot of Old Bay so I probably put a tablespoon.  Once everything’s cooked through I add my shrimp and cook it until it’s just pink.  Sometimes I cut the heat off before I do this.  The longer they cook the more like rubber tires they will be.  I cut up a strip of crispy bacon and top with it.  YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE BACON.  It makes the chowder.  Enjoy!

Chicken Stock (I got this idea from Pioneer Woman, to give credit where it’s due)
1 small chicken (or the leftover bits and carcass from one you’ve baked)
½ - whole onion chunked
1 stalk celery chunked
1 large carrot chunked or 5-10 baby ones
1-2 cloves garlic, mashed

Put the chicken in the crock pot and stuff the vegetables in.  I only really cut them so they’ll fit in my crock pot and I mash the garlic with my knife and peel it just to help release the flavor.  If I’m cooking this to make chicken soup with I add salt and pepper.  If it’s going to be strictly stock I don’t, so I can control the amount to seasoning when I actually make my dish.  I either do this right before I go to bed and cook it on low all night, or right when I get up and cook it on low all day.  I have done it at lunchtime for chicken soup and cooked it on high all afternoon.  There is no right or wrong.  It will make a stock so good and thick and flavorful you won’t go back  to the bottled stuff.  And it’s amazingly easy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dove Season

When I was a kid these were the three harbingers of fall: Uncle Pat started picking corn, we had the annual Harvest Sale at my church (shameless plug the harvest sale is at Providence UMC in Mar Mac on Sat. Sept. 9 from 4:30-7:30, eat in or take out, BBQ and turkey, the best you’ll ever eat at a church function.  Uncle Pat’s in charge of the pigs and that sauce is to-die-for.  See me for tickets 😊), and on Labor Day weekend dove season came in.
I grew up on an almost mile long state-maintained dirt road with no other houses on it (except for the migrant workers Uncle Pat had when he raised tobacco).  All summer long we’d be surrounded by wheat, soybeans, and yes, corn.  It’s a bird paradise.  Hunting was a part of my life, my step-dad went, my step-brother, my uncle, my granddaddy, my cousin would even come from Chapel Hill and go…it was/is a big thing for my family.  We always had a dove hunt on my uncle’s farm, but when he became involved with Quail Unlimited it became massive.  He started planting sunflowers for them (and I fell in love with those beautiful yellow blooms of sunshine).  The fields around our house sounded like a war zone or something, all these men in camo shooting like crazy at these poor beautiful birds.  We couldn’t walk outside without orange on.  And for Sunday lunch my mama would fry them and smother them in gravy.  Those poor beautiful birds were pretty dang delicious. 
This is NOT my picture, but for those of you who aren't sure what a dove is, this is a great picture of them.
Ever since we started opening our farm to visitors we’ve had people ask about hunting it.  In the past, it’s always been a family thing.  The Husband and his three close cousins hunted it.  It’s always been a good place to hunt.  We have a swamp on the side favored by ducks.  We have a river that abuts the back of the property that the deer and such run down.  Anyone who’s come to the corn maze has seen evidence of their tracks through the maze.  The Husband’s always been turning over the idea of leasing out the hunting rights or hosting hunts on the farm to bring us in some additional revenue.  We have this amazing resource here that we have to make a payment on every year, why not use every opportunity to do it? 
They love hanging out on this fence.  The Girl says they want to play on the playground.
 Honestly, I’ve always been a little tentative to go the hunting route.  First off, I’m not a hunter.  I can understand the peace and solitude that people get from hunting and I enjoy the meat, but I think it has to be the most boring thing in the planet.  I went deer hunting a few times.  You get up at the crack before it’s light in the cold and go sit in a tree for hours being super quiet and still possibly to see nothing.  I just don’t see the appeal.  Second off, it’s a huge liability.  You’re going to let people with loaded guns ready to shoot them on your land.  What if there’s an accident?  Third, my plate is so full trying to organize and market our fall activities, plus my house, plus my kids, plus just life in general, I just don’t know how I can fit anything else on it (my wonderful CSA helper Melissa said to me yesterday, you need an assistant.  Yes, yes I do.  I just can’t afford one).  However, the birds have been CRAZY on the farm this year. Even I’ve noticed that every time I ride to the farm I scare up at least 20 dove if not more and that’s just by riding by on my truck.  The combination of the sunflowers and a wheat crop we weren’t able to harvest (don’t ask, it’s a sore subject) has made the perfect environment for a dove.  Not to mention since we’ve lived here (7 years) they’ve not been hunted on this farm, so they haven’t been conditioned to avoid it.  Sunday my husband counted fifty in fifteen minutes out of the back of the berry shed and 2 customers mentioned they saw 30 while they were standing there taking pictures. 
I felt like I was working for National Geographic trying to catch this one on my poor phone. 
So this year we’re hosting our first ever dove hunt.  If it goes well maybe we’ll open the farm up to duck and deer hunting.  Hopefully it will.  We’ve got a good lunch planned and a couple tickets sold so far we’re optimistic.  If you're interested in joining us, call JR at 919-738-2928 or shoot us an email at  We'd love to have you out!
And I had to include a sunflower picture, just because!

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I don't want to become a food blogger.  With my discriminating palate and crazy schedule I can't ever count on when we're having Japanese takeout or shrimp alfredo or fried chicken (which, honestly we don't have too much because it doesn't matter what I do or how I cook it I NEVER get every piece done through.  Instead I batter and fry boneless skinless chicken thighs.  It's not the same, but it's daggone close to me).  

However in support of my #tastythursday segment on Facebook ( I thought I'd cook tonight using a couple of the things from the CSA boxes this week and see how it went.  I get so many recipe requests I figured my little sheets might not be enough so I decided last year to start #tastythursday on the farm's Facebook in an effort to get people sharing about what they'd cooked this week.  Admittedly (like a lot of the things I do), I started with great intentions that fell off when I got busy (I tend to have a one track mind and if I don't do it RIGHT THEN I'll forget.  I was voted most forgetful in high school even.  Of course the more stressed I get the worse it gets and I have to admit, I've been pretty stressed lately).  But I thought it was a good idea so I've brought it back this year.  I missed last week, my apologies, but I'm on top of it this week so here's my attempt at food blogging.

Tonight The Girl was graduating aka being promoted to the next class at her preschool, so I knew I had to get started cooking earlier than normal so we'd be on time (I'm five minutes late everywhere and it grates on The Husband's nerves).  I decided on grilled boneless skinless chicken thighs marinated all day in Italian dressing, a squash and onion grill packet (thanks Melissa Vera for the idea!) and a cheesy potato grill (PTL for Pintrest!) packet.  The chicken is pretty self-explanatory.  Easy, light, delicious.  You can't go wrong.  The cheesy potatoes I just cut up maybe 2 lbs of potatoes (I peeled mine because I'm picky like that) into cubeish shapes that were on the small side.  I salted and peppered them and added a little Cajun seasoning, then put them in a packet with a tablespoon of bacon grease and 2 of butter (I never claimed they were healthy!), cooked them maybe 20-30 minutes on the grill and then peeled back the foil to add cheese.  If I'd had any thawed out bacon I would have added it instead of the bacon grease.  If I'd have thought about adding dry ranch dressing mix I would have.  Next time my friends, next time!  For the squash and onions I cut up two squash since really it's just The Husband who eats it and half an onion.  I tossed it in the same as the potatoes, salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning.  I added a clove of garlic that I just smashed and peeled, a tablespoon of bacon grease and two of butter.  I put the packet on the grill and cooked it for the same amount of time as the potatoes.  Basically, I put them on about five minutes before the chicken and when the chicken was done I pulled them off.  Now if you're not picky like my family you could mix the squash packet with the potatoes and I bet it would be wonderful, but we're weird so there you have it.
 You know how you have those nights where it doesn't matter what you do supper (The Herrings call lunch dinner and dinner supper.  Welcome to the south) is a fail.  Well, tonight it was anything but.  Everyone ate it like it was the best thing they'd ever ate at The Husband kept saying it was the best thing he'd eaten in a while (which, honestly I could take a couple ways but I'm going with compliment).  I think I've found how I'm going to cook pretty much everything all summer.  I hope you try these.  I thought they turned out pretty good.  And if you have any stellar recipes you'd like to share feel free too!
The 'graduate', and her trusty side-kick.  Matching clothes totally unintentional.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Week 1

Okay y'all, last week I blogged about the Matthew flood and literally A DAY LATER we had another one that was probably 90% of what Matthew was, so, with rain forecast again this week I have promised I will not talk about our second major flood in six months and I will not.  I will post pictures and let them speak for me.

This was taken Wed. evening as the water rose.
Thursday morning we woke up to Lake Odom

The water at it's height covering the back yard.  It was only a few feet lower than the Hurricane.

The canal of water flowing across my neighbors land from the little river onto ours.
 The first week of the 2017 CSA is behind us and it was, well, I'm looking for a better word than disaster and coming up short.  Maybe a semi-disaster.  A couple months ago Wayne UNC Health Care (formally Wayne Memorial Hospital) came up and asked us if we'd be interested in doing a farmers market there at the hospital.  We jumped at the chance even though we'd never done/weren't terribly interested in doing a farmers market.  Honestly, you work and work and work to produce the produce (see what I did there ;) and sell two wise it's never seemed like a huge win for us.  However I thought it'd be a great chance to get the word out about our CSA and would be a good opportunity.  Finally about a week and a half before we were set to begin I got the green light from the board.  So yesterday my new employee Melissa (of Adventures of Frugal Mom fame) set off.  I was not prepared.  Last week was super stressful because of the flood, then Monday I was horribly sick due to the perfect storm of something emitting pollen and mixing with those crazy winds (I have no voice today.  The Girl got up and said 'what happened to your voice?  Did it float away?  Maybe she has some lingering flood PTSD?).  In an effort to be efficient, I got the bright idea to 'lets pack some deliveries' at the farmers market while we're waiting for customers, so we dragged all out product from the farm with us, then down to the farmers market location (the sunken outdoor patio connected to the cafeteria), then we didn't use as much which meant I could have put that much more in my boxes but I couldn't, because people were already picking up at the farm and it wouldn't be fair.  Not to mention we didn't start deliveries until 3, which is waaaay later than I would like.  It was a huge mistake on my part that left me feeling horrible last night.  I emailed my customers and within minutes I had messages of support back which lightened my mood so much and made it where I could sleep last night (couple years ago I took a MBTI test for the Karl Best Ag Leadership class and got INTJ, when I make mistakes I tend to agonize over them until I come up with a solution).  Another instance of us having the best customers on the planet!

Odom Farming Company TO GO
But, now I know what not to do and what to expect at the farmers market, which I think was a success.  Everyone was excited for us to be there and we were excited for the opportunity.  We have a new plan of attack for next week and I only see good things in our future, even if we started off on the wrong foot.  In the words of Scarlett O'Hara...tomorrow is another day!

Monday, April 24, 2017


I’m going to make a blanket statement here.  I feel like of all the resources in the world, water is the most vital, and with our changing climate it will only get more so.  Without it you cannot survive.  You cannot grow food.  You cannot take care of yourself.  It can be your biggest blessing and your worst enemy.  As I sit here and watch this rain fall today, I know it has been both to me.  We've had years where our location to the swamp and river have proven vital to our survival.  We've had years where I just wished I could spread a tarp over the field and keep the water off the plants.  Farmers say a dry year will hurt you but a wet one will kill you.  I believe it. 

This is the Hurricane Matthew post.  I’ve sat down five or six times to write it.  I tried last fall and couldn’t.  I tried after Christmas and couldn't.  How do you sum up a disaster that big?  How do you convey the feeling in your heart when you drive up to your farm and see it under water?  We were blessed that our home was not hurt.  We were blessed that our families remained unscathed.  We had a lot of things going for us, but we had one big one going against us.  I know to a lot of people what we lost seems like nothing.  It was just a corn maze.  It was just a field of corn.  You can plow it up and plant again.  At least it wasn’t a building.  At least it wasn’t your house.  No, it wasn’t and believe me, I am beyond thankful it wasn’t.  But it was still important to us.  So here’s our Hurricane Matthew story. 

All that week we watched the weather.  It’s a compulsive habit of mine to check the weather every time I get on the computer.  We watched the spaghetti plots and rainfall estimates.  I was glued to every news outlet in Eastern North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center, and even those Facebook meterologists who are on iffy credibility at best.  Worrying about the weather is something I’ve done my whole life (honestly worrying in general comes natural to me.  I got it from my granddaddy).  One of my earliest memories was of a tornado outbreak that occurred when I was four or five.  I will never forget how hot it was that day or how black the clouds were.  I will never forget coming out of my house into a drenching driving rain into a yard that was flooded to my knees with hailstones floating on it (when it receded it cut a foot deep ditch in my yard).  I will never forget the fear in my mama’s voice as my daddy tried to get his truck up our dirt path, and the wind was blowing so hard he had the pedal to the metal and it was barely moving (he, of course, thought it was great fun).  I will never forget how scared I got for weeks after every time it clouded up and how she used to have to make me play outside (seriously, it was on my chore chart).  That experience instilled a great need in me to be prepared.  From then on I read every book in the Grantham school library about severe weather to learn all I could so next time I would know what to do.  I’ve also lived through Hurricane Fran where the wind was so strong it blew our front door open and soaked the entire living room and Hurricane Floyd where my uncles pond overflowed and crayfish crawled on Herring Road and we were without electricity for two weeks.  Still, all of my admittedly limited education and experience and first-hand knowledge were no preparation for a storm with a mind of it’s own. 

The back field where the corn maze would be after Hurricane Floyd, Sept. 1999
Where the sunflowers were last year after Hurricane Floyd, Sept. 1999.
That Saturday it rained, and rained, and rained.  I watched Facebook as people started to report water in their yards but it wasn’t until that afternoon that I realized what all this would mean.  Our biggest fear going into this was we’d miss a week of being open to deal with drying out.  We never thought we’d have the flood of the century, 19 years after the last flood of the century.  My husband is never one to stay put (especially after the lights go out).  He was riding around even at 3 or 4 that afternoon (like an idiot).  At 8 he went over to the farm.  He reported it was crazy wet, but relatively unscathed.  At 10 he went and called me with a tone of calm command.  He needed me to get ready to go out and help him, the water was up. It was still raining and the wind was blowing.  I got chilled to the bone as we rode over on the trusty Gator.  As soon as we crested the hill where the building sat I burst into tears and a chorus of "Oh My God’s".  The entire back half of the property was a rising river.  Under what is now the goat shelter we had lawnmowers and equipment parked.  We had an irrigation pump in our pond and a nurse tank slowly getting deeper in water from the swamp.  We pulled it all out with the trusty Gator.  Thank God he was antsy and decided to go check on things.  Then there was nothing to do but wait and see how high it would go (and play Skip Bo with The Boy). 

It went up about six more feet from where it was that night.  The corn was still standing.  We said a prayer and crossed our fingers when the water went down and the sun came out it would be alright. 
On Wednesday, the water began to recede.  Only then did we see the debris left behind.  Our corn maze that we’d spent countless hours planting and fertilizing and cutting out and mowing was now a hot mess.  Our neighbor had picked his corn and these huge masses and channels were now carved through our field and filled with tree branches, random trash, and two feet thick layers of corn stalks.  It didn’t matter that the corn was not blown down.  It had been mowed down by the river.  Well, now what could we do?  For two or three days I walked around in shock as we watched our community sink.  I wasn't prepared for this.  This wasn't supposed to happen.  As soon as we could stand up on the ground without miring completely we did and that first time we drove down there I cried.  This was our livelihood.  This is how we pay to keep our farm.  But, giving up isn’t something we do, so we made the best of it, took the corn maze off the schedule and cut the price, and I think in the end we pulled a decent season out of our hat.  We have the community to thank for it.  We didn't know how everyone would react with so many people having lost so much but everyone rallied.  You don't know how much we appreciated it.  We're just a little farm doing the best we can with what we have and you all make it worthwhile.

Now six months later it's easier to have better perspective.  If this is the worst that happens to us then we'll be lucky.  I can tell you this, it's going to take a few years before we plant a corn maze back there again.  We have healthy 'normal' children, each other, a dry house, and a beautiful farm to raise those kids on complete with the prettiest little river that once in a while turns into a huge destructive monster.  What more could we ask for?

Our farm path around 3 in the afternoon Hurricane Matthew came in.

The normal level of the Little River.
Our irrigation pond with the picnic area behind.

The entire back field and corn maze.

One of the channels made from the corn stalks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hello Again

I haven’t blogged in a really long time and I tell you, I’ve missed it.  I’ve had lots of stories but when I sit down to write I get stumped.  Maybe I’ve had writers block.  Well, all I can say is…I’m baaaack! (imagine me saying it in a sing-song voice and you’ll get the picture).

It’s spring break and we’re getting geared up for our CSA.  Yesterday we planted plants.  1000 bell pepper, broccoli, and pointed-head cabbage.  1000.  My legs are feeling it today.  I couldn’t get over the nostalgia as I did it though.  When I was little I used to stay with my grandparents when school was out.  My Uncle Pat raised tobacco back then and I remember being The Boy’s age and working in the greenhouse some during spring break wading through water an inch or two deep to help move trays of tobacco plants around so they could set them out (best job ever because I got to play in the water!).  Later, after I had a car, my sister and I helped with the setting out.  She was too young to be a super great setter, so her job was to wash the trays down with bleach.  My job was to walk behind the transplanter with a couple of plants and a peg and when the setters (my Aunt Patricia and Mrs. Brenda Scott) forgot one they’d holler to me that they missed and I’d plant that hole.  Sometimes when one of them would have something else to do I would take their place on the transplanter.  I liked that job way better for obvious reasons, until one of the last days we set.  It was cold and rainy and I sat on the back of that thing wrapped up in trash bags shaking with cold trying to set out with numb hands.  Even now I still say it was the coldest I’ve ever been.  We got a drink and a nab at 10 and 2, and an hour for lunch.  It was my first paying job and it was awesome…way better than taking it barns after the tobacco cured, which I also did, with much less success.  Hot weather and I have never gotten along well.

We didn’t ride on a transplanter yesterday.  The husband ran down the plastic with the water-wheel transplanter and punched holes in the plastic and once he went down a row he stopped and he and I and The Boy stuck plants by hand.  The Girl planted some too, because the plants were ‘so cute’ and needed homes.  But then she got distracted by lady bugs and asking constantly if she could go to grandma’s and would the ants sting her and a butterfly and picking strawberries.  Yes, we do have a few rows of strawberries.  No, unfortunately they’ll probably never produce enough for us to be open for picking.  We had to plant them so late because of The Flood that they didn’t get the root development they needed before they went into dormancy.  The way the weather was this winter (if you could call it that) didn’t help.  It was so up and down and then we had that horrible cold spell in March.  It’s turned into our personal strawberry patch, or The Girl’s strawberry buffet.  We wouldn’t have planted them at all but we didn’t plant the year before and while it was so nice to have the spring ‘off’, we missed having spring school tours.  We hoped we’d get enough to still do those and have some for the CSA, but it looks like that’s not going to happen so, Plan B.  Anyway, back to what I was talking about which was setting out plants.  While we were setting I kept thinking back to helping my Aunt and Uncle set out tobacco, and how great it was that my son was out there planting plants with us, and while we might not be taking some glamourous trip or something this spring break he was learning that hard work means something and if we work hard this spring and summer and fall maybe this winter we can take the glamourous trip.  Welcome to farm life.

I maintain that everyone ought to have to work a week on the farm.  If it does nothing else it will teach you the value of your education and an appreciation for those who choose to work with their hands (either because they have to or want too).  One of the best things it teaches is teamwork.  If we all work together towards a common goal there’s no telling what we can achieve. I can think of another place or two that concept might work…

Our poor strawberry plants.

She said "they taste like fruit punch."
The Boy is picky like me.  He said "they'd be good without the sesame seeds on them."  Bless his heart.

The sunset we were rewarded with as we prayed for rain.

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Been A Long December...

I have that Counting Crows song in my head "it's been a long December and there's reason to believe, that maybe this year will be better than the last."  It's capturing my mood perfectly these days because I tell you what, it's been a long December around these parts.

When we first decided to do Christmas Lights, I had misgivings (see previous blog post), mostly about the amount of time it was going to take to get it up and I didn't want to miss out on family time around the holiday.  Had I known how much blood, sweat, and tears it was going to take I'd have definitely put my foot down and no amount of persuasion would have been able to talk me into it.  It was hard, really hard.  The weather wasn't awesome on the weekends in November, we were trying to keep overhead as low as possible in case this wasn't a hit, and we ended up doing an insane mad dash scramble just to get the props up...and then since we've opened we've had light problems, wiring problems, generator problems, radio problems (if I never see another radio it will be too soon), weather problems (remember that rogue windstorm last week?  It blew down half our props and now it's going to rain most of this week)'s just been one thing after another every week.  Then factor in the customers...maybe that's our fault.  We decided to do it too late and weren't able to get the word out.  Maybe people don't really understand what we're trying to do out here.  Maybe they don't want to walk (it's not far I swear!).  Maybe it's just too busy of a season for us to try to do anything.  Maybe we're just burned out from the fall and the craziness that entails.  Maybe our heart's just not in it (more about that in the ensuing paragraphs), I'm not sure.  We've had some steady nights and we know it's going to take time for us to build up a customer base, but it's not been busy.  So if you're looking a light display show without a wait, come see us (of course, it looks like tonight might be our last night open, since the forecast is for rain the rest of the week)!

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
It's amazing how much Christmas lights will do in a cornfield.
Even the tractor got a little bling!
Another tough pill to swallow this year, we will not have a 2016 strawberry crop.  I know, I know, I hate it more than you know (even though I like to gripe about how much work they are).  It's like a part of our farm is missing.  I can't tell you how sad I am about it.  We tried to plant, we went and got all the materials, and then it rained, and rained, and rained, and so by the time it dried out enough to plant, we were almost a month behind planting (not to mention in the middle of the corn maze season and slam busy) and then The Husband got busy traveling around handling claims with his job (he works a lot in SC, where they had 30 inches of rain in a weekend) and when he wasn't busy, it rained again.  So we were a month and a half behind and every forecast I saw said it was going to be cold and wet.  We could push the plants if it was going to be a warmer winter, but if it's going to be cold, we found out last year, there's not any pushing you can do.  So instead of starting the season already behind and trying to run and play catch-up all winter and spring, we decided to lay out a year and plant again next fall.  We might be down, but don't count us out.  We will have a crop in 2017.

As if the business issues weren't enough, we've been through the ringer in our own family too.  I don't like to talk a lot about our personal lives here, because I feel like you're reading to learn about the farm not my life, but just this once, indulge me.  The first full week of December we were all sick with different things, viruses, colds, diverticulitis flare ups.  Then my 92 year old grandfather got sick and ended up in the hospital.  Three days later, last Sunday the 13th, he passed away.

I cannot quantify how much that man meant to me.  He was the rock of our family, the sun we all orbited around, and for me especially (I think maybe I didn't even realize how much until he was gone).  My parents were divorced and I have never been close to my father, something that has only grown worse since I've gotten older and had my own children (I like to live a drama-free life as much as humanly possible, and with my step-mother in the picture that's impossible).  I have a step-dad I love and who loves me, but he's not been the constant figure my granddaddy was.  Donald Herring was the person I measured all others by.  After my mama, he was the one who's opinion mattered the most, the one who loved me completely and unconditionally.  He was my role model and the best man I know or ever will know I think, though my Uncle Pat is a close second.  Now that he is gone, everything will change.  My grandmother has gone to live at Brookdale (what used to be The Pines) because she is unable to live alone (though so far she's doing well, a small blessing), when I have questions about things I can't ask my granddaddy anymore, my kids will never appreciate what an amazing person he was (I know I can tell them, but I've learned with trying to explain my sister to them that there are things they'll just never know.  The Boy will somewhat, but The Girl will not remember him much if at all).  Change is scary.  I know from losing my sister that our family will heal (as best you can) and it will not always be this way, but for right now we're hurting.
My grandparents taken the day before their 71st wedding anniversary last month
The Girl and her Grandpapa taken summer before last.
The Boy and Grandpapa, taken in 2010
So now that I've got you good and thoroughly depressed...

I can't end on a bad note.  Someone told me at the funeral my grandparents were strong people, both 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps' kind of people.  I agreed, and I hope that I've inherited some of that mentality.  I've had some pretty dark times in my life, and I have to say even though I'm sad and life will be harder for a time, this is not the darkest time I've ever experienced.  I have two beautiful healthy kids and a job I love and a family and community who is amazing, my cup runneth over.  Tomorrow is another day, 2016 is another year, the CSA sign ups are approaching and I'm excited to see what this spring will hold for our farm without strawberries.  We're exploring field trip and weekend event ideas, and it's going to be great.  So from my family to yours, please accept our heartfelt Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and lets celebrate being here to celebrate it!