Tag Archives: farm life

Autumn on our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel


An excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 EPIC eBook Award Finalist:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” ~ Anne Frank

(Image by my mother, Pat Churchman. If you look closely you can see my daughter Elise as a child and her little friend, James, peeking our from behind the trees.)

“A cold autumn wind blew as my younger daughter, Elise, and I scurried about the garden in the last of the light to gather in our treasures. She heaped great orange Cinderella pumpkins into the wheelbarrow and picked the rest of her pink and blue Indian corn. Beams of sun touched the crimson cockscomb flowers just coming into full bloom, an antiquated variety that I seeded late and coaxed through our wet summer. (Cinderella Pumpkins, image by Elise taken this fall)

The vibrant color of the plumes stood out against the grayish black clouds like a king’s velvet robes. This wealth will quickly dwindle if the temperatures dip too low tonight. The weather is quite cool here today. Forecasters are calling for the chance of frost tonight, but only if the gray blanket covering the sky clears and bright cold stars come out. Then maybe Jack Frost’s chill breath will silver the hoary earth.

I must get myself to the garden and pick the last of the orange persimmon tomatoes–truly the most luscious variety in the world–and the heirloom lima beans, called Christmas limas. These beans are mottled a lovely wine color and very tasty. Perhaps I can get our dog, Mia, to help me. But I doubt it. She takes no interest in vacuuming or dusting either, just wants to know when its time to eat.

I have this wild hope in the back of my mind that maybe I will wake up one day and find the house ordered and gleaming, all put to rights while I slept. I suspect this delusion comes from my having read The Elves and the Shoemaker too often, and other fairy tales. I have also seen too many Disney movies.”

(Colorful maple tree near green rye field on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley, image by Elise)

***Shenandoah Watercolors is available from Amazon in kindle and now paperback with lovely photographs taken by my family.

***For a seed link to the Christmas Pole Lima Beans click HERE.

***For a seed link to Cinderella Pumpkins click HERE

***For a seed link to my favorite Orange Persimmon tomatoes click HERE.

After your initial purchase you can save the seed.

August in the Shenandoah Valley–Country Life–Beth Trissel


Another late summer excerpt from my nonfiction book,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 Epic eBook finalist. Free in Amazon Kindle from August 19th through the 23rd.

We’ve had many misty starts to the day this August. Haze hugs the pond, parting just enough to reveal the long-legged blue heron fishing for his breakfast. There’s a country saying about the number of foggy mornings in August being an indicator for the amount of snows we’ll have this winter––a heap, at this rate.

Dozens of swallows skim over the pond as the sun sinks below the Alleghenies. If I were standing on a distant ridge, would it sink behind me, or the ridge beyond that one?

The water is calm now but was awash with waves during the storm that hit a short time ago. The grassy hill and maple tree are reflected on the surface, silvery and streaked with rose from the western sky. All is peaceful as a soft twilight settles over the valley. Utterly idyllic, until I pause to consider what all of those swallows are after. There must be clouds of mosquitoes.

Here’s another thought, where do all the birds spend the night? Are the woods up on the hill lined with birds perched wing to wing jostling for space on the branches? I’ll bet they make room for the big red-tailed hawk. He gets the whole tree––as many as he wants. It’s good to be king.

**Image of our pond taken by my mom, Pat Churchman

**Image of Hawk by daughter Elise taken up in the meadow behind our house

People with Goats Succeed!


I saw this quote: “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” E. Nightingale–But I read goals as goats, which got me to thinking.  Would it really make all that much difference, goats, goals???  Either one gives you purpose and sure as heck keeps you busy.  Ever tried to confine a goat?  They’re escape artists.  We once had a baby goat (for a short time) living in one of our calf pens with a calf, of course.  But the noisy kid didn’t want to hang out with the calf and bleated most pitiably which is why he went to live with the goat clan.  It was either that, or import a flock to keep him company and goat-proof all our fences…if that’s possible.

Other great quotes for motivation:

One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.” –Hannah Senesh

Again, this is very true, and again, goats might well provide that.

“Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” —Helen Keller

Such as keeping goats.  I also suggest gardening, which is a worthy purpose  and can be quite gratifying, depending on the vagaries of weather, bugs, and whether the goats have gotten out and eaten everything…or the cows…or (insert name of varmint here).  I’ve had many trials in gardening, also inestimable rewards.

“I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”Henry David Thoreau

And he may well meet with escaped cows galloping through his yard and garden, or goats.

By all means, count me in for the unexpected success.  I’m up for nice surprises. But am more likely to encounter cows out, or barnyard geese too near the road–again.

Remember, when the going gets tough, the tough get goats!

And, People without goats are going nowhere.

(These particular cows are in our meadow where they belong. Image of me and daughter Elise on a walk)

***Royalty free images of goats

Rescuing An Orphan Kitten


Excerpt from my award-winning nonfiction book Shenandoah Watercolors:

“Elise and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a shadowed corner of the old barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Manure and hay stuck to its fur and its head was slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue. We carried the mewing puffball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared. After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well, and warm. (Use a tiny pet feeding bottle or syringe)

This baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I’d poured into a lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room. Assorted farm coats, jeans, and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that farm smell clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet.

Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.

Fortunately Mia also likes her dog bed in the dining room because she can’t be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, but she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature this implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten and Elise is at that time. Perhaps I am too.

Oddly, it would seem Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She’s never had a small furry friend and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement, over everything and anything.

My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the play smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.”

Since I wrote this piece, Elise and I have gone on to rescue several other kittens.  If it weren’t for the restraint urged by my husband, we would have many more.

***Images of kitten and gosling and Mia as a young dog with our rescue kitten Percy taken by my mom, Pat Churchman

***Our latest rescue kitten Pavel,  Pavel with my niece Cailin, and Grandson Colin holding rescue kitten beside my tiny pom-poo Sadie taken by Elise