Busybusybusy…and sick.

So classes have been keeping me extremely busy, on top of all the illness floating around this house.  Elan started preschool in mid-March the same week Mark started a new job with the Roanoke Parks and Recreation Department.  The first week  Elan brought home a minor cold, no big deal.  Then they were closed for Passover but he went on that Thursday, and brought home a MONSTER sleep-preventing cold that lasted the whole next week.  He kept us up for many nights in a row until the point of being unbearable.  Preschool was closed anyway for spring break so it was just as well, but as he improved, the adults started to come down with it.  I’d MUCH rather us be sick than he (we handle it much better!) but this cold is still here.

Elan returned to preschool the following week only to pick up a stomach bug after just one day’s exposure, and subsequently missed the second day.


And now here we are.  Hoping for HEALTH for awhile.

Meanwhile, back during his first week, as I returned home I spotted a pair of wood ducks on the pond.  Unfortunately the car scared them off.  The next week it was a pair of Mallard ducks, and this morning, a pair of green heron, also scared off by the car.  Richard’s idea of moving the driveway is sounding better and better!  We also have a blue heron who comes around occasionally.

The spring peepers were out in FORCE a couple weeks ago.    Next to the wetland conservation area the sound rattled one’s ear drums.  It was incredible.  Lately the  Gray Treefrogs have been calling as well.  You can listen to these guys at http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/amphibians/frogsandtoads/frogs_and_toads_of_virginia.htm

We hear lots of red-winged blackbirds amongst the other song birds, including a Carolina Wren who had to be deterred from building a nest in the sun room.

The green is exploding all over the place and I have been able to identify most of the trees around the house, of which there are a nice variety.  You’d never know that a couple weeks ago it was snowing.




Pom and Sarah, still best-buddies.



Creeping Jenny




Pieris japonica


Apple blossom

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I know, it’s been awhile.


First, we discovered that the Bedford County Department of Environmental Quality has approved the use of sludge a.k.a. “biosolids” on over 13,000 acres of land including 33 acres next door, UPWIND (most of the time) and UPSTREAM from us.  Joy.  Sludge is the byproduct of municipal water treatment plants.  It is processed to be “safe” by EPA standards  (yeah, right!  see http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Portal:Toxic_Sludge) but has tested positive by our own United States Geological Survey for pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, detergents, fire retardants, heavy metals, steriods, disinfectants, and a bunch of other nasty stuff.  http://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/biosolids.html


So we attended a meeting in mid-March where no one was permitted to speak, but a few officials were available for questioning.  It was pretty pointless except that we got to meet a few like-minded people, and ran into a few we already knew who were there to pick up their permits.  Based on comments these people are motivated by either 1. a seriously misguided intent to steward the land, thinking that using sludge is recycling   (it is) but completely unaware of it’s implications, or 2. using it to save money.

There’s more to life than saving money.

A local activist recommended we pick up and leave town for a couple weeks when it’s put down to avoid getting sick, as so many have.  I have yet to contact our neighbor to see if we can get a head’s up on that, but I haven’t yet.

Since then I have discovered the amazing world of bioremediation.


Specifically, phytoremediation.  Greek for plant, Latin for, restoring balance.   Certain plants take in or accumulate certain toxins, especially heavy metals.   Sunflowers take up arsenic.  Willows take up cadmium.  Poplar, Ragweed, Indian Mustard take up lead.

And since it was made clear to me in biodynamic bee-keeping class, the bees can’t be left to their own devices.  One has to be sure they have enough forage.  There are many possibilities.  But I’m thinking we have A LOT of sowing and planting in our future.


Last weekend Mark went crazy with a rented bush-hog.  It monopolized all his time so he could “get as much use out of it as possible.”  Elan thought it was pretty great too.


Now the vegetable garden is cleared and ready for tilling, the invasive Chinese privet and bamboo have been temporarily tamed, and a bunch of other areas have been taken care of, I’m told.  As of this writing I am not sure what the other areas are…

Elan helped plant some vegetable seeds,


and we moved them into our new shelving set up in the addition.


Mark with his upper half in the crawl space looking for Cali-cat.   She disappeared for 3 weeks but is back!



The maples are blooming!


Lichen on an Apple tree in great need of pruning.

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Another project on our to-do list: invasive ivy removal.  Ivy roots have completely blocked the downspouts on the north end of the house.

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Debris pile above the pond in an area that would make a nice garden.


Bamboo and Privet before it was mowed.


Some kind of bulb (Narcissus?) coming up amongst the Vinca below the pool.




New anti-Elan fence.


Shed sans 2 truckloads of styrofoam.




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The girls make themselves at home in the old corn crib.  We lost our Silver Spangled Hamburg to natural causes sometime after these pictures were taken.

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What NOT to do to a tree.



Bush-hogged vegetable garden.


This morning’s snowfall.


So many ideas. So little TIME!

OK guys.  This is it-  I am starting this blog in case anyone is interested in what we’re thinking over here in Goose Creek Valley.  And so I, Lexi, can play around with pre-coded established website design, in contrast to all the tedious, time consuming, generally pain-in-the-neck hand coding that I have been doing lately for school.
One of our lofty plans so far:  BEES.  Signed up for Beginning Beekeeping with biodynamic world-renowned expert Gunther Hauk in Floyd on Saturday.  And 3 more classes after that.   http://www.spikenardfarm.org

Mark and I are already taking a class through SustainFloyd http://www.sustainfloyd.org that meets once a week.  It focuses on wholesale organic vegetable production on at least an acre and a half.  The good thing about it is that it uses some formulas to help take some guess work out of deciding what to grow, how much, and for whom.  We’ve completed one soil test through VA Tech so far of the vegetable garden, with plans to do lots more samples of upper and lower fields.  I am tempted to sneak next door to sludge-land in the dark of night and sample there too.  The vegetable garden profile looks good so far; perfect ph, high in major minerals, more than sufficient in micronutrients, but lacking greatly in organic matter.  So though we’ve been slowly adding to a compost pile we are probably going to have to order a truck load.  Of course before that Mark needs to wrangle up a bush hog and a large tiller.  And I need to get those seeds started!

Mark attended the Virginia Biological Farming Conference in Richmond last month and came home inspired and enthusiastic.  He loved the lecture by Essex Farm http://www.kristinkimball.com/ and was intrigued by Mushroom Mountain http://www.mushroommountain.com and mycoremediation.  We like the idea of mushrooms 1. because they are yummy, and 2. they are relatively low-input, like beekeeping.
In conjunction with the SustainFloyd class we are working on lots of other info as it applies to the farm;  obtaining government documents on well placement, property lines, etc.  A lot of the class info is not new to us, but the commercial perspective is, and we are most interested in marketing and business aspects.  The model’s goal is to bring in a decent amount of income taking into account expenses that include living expenses or a salary.  At this point starting something here based on this type of formula is in some ways more appealing than starting something on the side as Mark works full time, since any available paid work elsewhere is compensated at levels just SLIGHTLY above the national poverty level.