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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Prep Work is the Hardest

~ my love hate relationship with the beautiful thistle ~
Before starting on the day, I wanted to ask a favor for a blog friend. Patrice, she of Everyday Ruralty and Chats on the Farmhouse Porch, wants to take a course on Nutritional Psychology Coaching. Along with being a wife, mother and farmer alongside her husband, Patrice is also a chef. She's learned the hard way about food allergies, in her video she states one of their daughters could only eat five foods! Patrice is asking folks to "like" her video, click here for her post and, if you're so inclined, please vote/like Patrice's video. It's for a scholarship to take the course. Thanks!
~ Primary Route 91 ~
I've been calling Duchess Dairy for days but to no avail...until this morning around 8:30 when they answered the telephone. I told them I needed cream in order to demonstrate churning at the Tazewell County Fair and they said, "Sure, not a problem. We milk on Mondays and Thursdays so today is good." By "milk" they meant they put milk in jugs for retail sales. There's no easy way to get to Rural Retreat from where I live...a week ago Friday, I-77 was shut down due to a tractor trailer catching fire in the tunnel so I decided to go the back way. Route 91 is the only primary dirt road in the Commonwealth of VA. As you can see, it's narrow although two vehicles may, very carefully, pass each other. When it's a big truck with a 24 foot livestock trailer, I just pull over and sit very still and quietly and give them the total right of way. We also don't waste a lot of tax dollars on such nonsense as guard rails. -grin-
Thistle Cove Farm, 3.3 miles away 
Kudzu is Very Invasive and is taking over the world, tree by tree. When the blooms are open, they smell exactly like grape juice. Some enterprising folks are making beautiful baskets from kudzu and I applaud them! 
A little over the top of our portion of the Clinch Mountain Range and here is Dogpatch. Don't even ask if it's available for rent because there's no electricity, toilet, running water or much of anything. It is a sweet little cabin though and the folks that own it, at times, still stay there. 
~ beautiful stone wall, generations old ~
~ cute mailbox design ~
~ perhaps part of a plane? ~
Some time back Little Tumbling was named one of the top ten trout streams in the USA. 
Part of my journey took me on both Saltville Highway and Possum Hollow Road, over in Smythe County, our next door neighbor. 
This lovely 360+ acre farm in Rich Valley is going to be auctioned off, regardless of price, August 23rd by Albert Burney. I've read their website information and it bothers me they're saying "Blue Ridge Mountains". I hear that a lot from folks who live around here and it's simply not true. While it's true the Blue Ridge Mountains lie in the Appalachian chain, it is not true the Appalachian chain is the Blue Ridge Mountains. It bothers me because it's the "you ain't from around here" and "we'uns just as good as anybody else" mentality. If you believe you're as good as everyone else, you don't have to beat others over the head, just go do the best you can. Many years ago, during church youth service a young man proclaimed, "I'm going to go to XXXU and prove it doesn't matter we're from Appalachia, we're just as good as anybody else!" After the service, I whispered to him, "No one cares where you're from, they care what kind of man you are, and by the way, that university you're headed's in Appalachia too." I'm not sure but I think he's still shaking his head over my comments. At any rate, this property is breathtaking! The homestead sits on a little peninsula and the North Fork Holston River meanders by in a U formation. But hey! what do you expect boys from Huntsville, 'bama to know anyway? "You'uns ain't from around here r ye?" -grin-
My drive took me by Hungry Mother State Park (twice) where it's said generations ago, some Anglo settlements were destroyed on the New River, south of the park, and Molly Marley and her young child were some of the survivors taken to the the raiders base. Molly and her child escaped but she, eventually collapsed, and her child was found but could only say the words "hungry mother". The search party found Molly where she'd fallen and died; the mountain where she was found is called Molly's Knob and the creek is Hungry Mother Creek.
After more than two hours of driving, I arrived at Duchess Dairy Products, in Rural Retreat, where only milk from Jersey cows are bottled. Aunt Bonnie, Daddy's oldest sister, had a Jersey and a Guernsey cow that she milked twice a day then churned a few times a week to make butter, buttermilk and cottage cheese. She taught me how to do all of that and then she gave me her churn which had come from her mother and, possibly, her mother before. Aunt Bonnie knew out of all the children, nieces and nephews, I was the only one who would ever keep the tradition alive and I do proudly. Some in my family think I've a screw loose but I love keeping the old ways alive and, when the butter is ready, they love eating it. 
~ the Duchess men ~
It really does make a difference when Jersey cows are milk vs. Holstein. Jersey milk has a butterfat content of around 34% while Holstein is around 9-12%. Jersey milk has 17% more calcium, is higher in protein and has a 20% smaller footprint than her black and white cousin. A Jersey will take 32% less water and 11% less land to produce cheese from her milk and, if you're ever able to do a taste test, you'll find the Jersey milk is superior in flavor as well and their disposition is calm and gentle, the perfect milk cow for someone starting out.

It took another two plus hours to drive home and yes, I am exhausted! Part of the way over and all the way home, I drove Rt. 16 which is nothing but two lanes of switchbacks, U's which make for beautiful scenery but my poor hands are aching from gripping the steering wheel! 

Now you see why it takes me to do almost everything once I leave the farm. There's no easy way to get from here to most anywhere else and it takes hours to get the most menial errands accomplished. Still and all, I love my farm and the surrounding valleys. Appalachian is the home of my heart (until I get to heaven anyway), my roots go deep and wide and I've never lived anywhere I've been happier. Yes, I am sorry to say good-bye (when that time comes) but it's time to move forward. Like I told Dave the other day, "Just because I'm moving on doesn't mean I'm forgetting you." (I'm not sure but if I could put that to country music, I could make a small fortune!)

Blessings ~ safe trip across those mountains ~ Jersey cows ~ Holstein cows ~ Duchess Dairy ~ Appalachia ~


  1. Thank you for taking us along on your drive! The company was wonderful!

  2. You sound like the Prairie Home Companion, my precious Sandra. I loved every single word of this post, and found out a lot of good and useful information. How I hope to get into a conversation about milk cows sometime soon. xx's

  3. Hello Sandra,

    We have so enjoyed tagging along for the ride with you but, we are definitely delighted not to have had to do the driving!

    Jersey milk is indeed like no other and does make the most fabulous cream and butter. You have our mouths watering just at the thought of it all. And, yes, it is so good to keep the old ways alive and fascinating for young people who may never have seen it before.

    We do marvel at how much you accomplish with so many arduous tasks on the farm which demand your time and energy, not to say your expense. Of course, it will always have a special place in your heart but an easier life is something you deserve.

    Happy week!

  4. What a GREAT post! I thoroughly enjoyed riding along with you and the scenery and the stories were fantastic. I would be gripping the steering wheel too. Here it is nothing but flat, straight roads, no switchbacks. Boring as all get out too. Your area of the country is beautiful. We have some lovely aspects of living here, but to me there is nothing like beautiful countryside with hills, mountains, streams, etc. I got excited the other day when I noticed 3-4 cows on a piece of property off one of the busy roads here. They used to be all over, but not anymore. Development has done away with all of that.

    I think it is wonderful that you know how to make butter the old fashioned way.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  5. Thank you for taking us along on your jaunt! I didn't know that about Jersey cows, so I learned something today!

  6. I enjoyed our little trip together!! I hope you are doing well....and I hope you get a respectful buyer for your beautiful farm. I like that you keep the old traditions alive...if it weren't for folks like you, we would have already lost them all! Love you!

  7. Beautiful and interesting shots of the countryside. I grew up in a county called Tazewell County in Illinois.

  8. I really enjoy reading about your seems like an adventure! Checked out the kudzu baskets...very pretty. We have grape ivy here, but I have only been able to make some simple wreaths with knobby and breakable.(Unless I'm doing it wrong)These farms are so beautiful...seems to me someone would just love to live there....

  9. You're wise, Sandra. You haven't rushed the moving on and you are always remembering Dave and your love for each other.

  10. My dear friend-- no body tells a story like you do-- your life really is an adventure. While your story is beautiful in so many ways-- the scenery is stunning-- I do understand how you could be ready to live somewhere a little closer to "stuff".

    I'm praying that your dreams come true--

  11. I believe what Sandra says . . . Jersey cow it is!
    Oh my . . . I am happy I wasn't driving . . . and if I had been riding, I would have been under the seat . . .
    Going to take a look at your friends post . . .

  12. That is quite the trip for cream but lots to see along the way. While in Colorado, we did day trips that were 3 hours roundtrip. Really not so bad when you break it up with lunch and things to do. Have a great day. Tammy

  13. Pure Appalachian on my dad's side. He was 1st to get a college degree in his family. His mother was sold as a girl to another family for labor. 2 great great grandmothers 100% Cherokee.

    Dad was Air Force test pilot then NASA engineer thru G-M-Apollo, a brilliant man.

    Proud? You bet.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

  14. You're right -- those lines would make a fine country music song! Hmmm.
    I'm also full-blooded, long-term Appalachian, although I'd never really thought of it that way. Both sides from E. Tenn. mtns, Bluefield, and then W.Va. for many generations. But I'm sorry to say, out of necessity, I've wandered far, far. Still mis those mountains.

    Anyway, thank you SO MUCH for taking us along on your trip for cream! Julia and I watched the tunnel fire video in amazement -- a tunnel we've used many times. Wow! Looks like you had a beautiful trip over hill and vale, wish I could have come along. Truly, I'd LOVE, love to sit by your side and learn all the things you learn and know about the old ways, as you say. They are in my heart too.


Thank you for visiting Thistle Cove Farm; may God bless you, yours and the work of your hands and heart. My goal is to respond, here, to your comments although it may take a while.

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