2021 In the Rear View Mirror
2021 was a year like no other. There were good and bad times for most folks – worse for some than others. I know many families suffered devastating events in 2021. Our family was fortunate that we did not.
Record-breaking Snow and Freeze
February, 2021 saw record-breaking amounts of snow and the longest stretch of freezing temperatures on record! At the farm we had 9″ of snow and were without electricity for 3 1/2 days and without water for 3 days. Luckily, we had a generator that would power the television, the blower on the fireplace insert, crock pot, one lamp and the charging tower. We kept the laptops and telephones charged for everyone on the farm. Our home is all electric, so we had no way to cook, other than the crock pot. Both boys had gas cooking in their homes so they were able to prepare hot food. Both of their homes also had fireplaces, they just couldn’t run the blowers to throw as much heat out into the room as we were able to do.
I emptied the refrigerator and freezer in the kitchen and put everything into ice chests on the front porch! I left the lid closed on the big chest freezer and it did okay. Luckily, in January I had made several frozen complete meals to cook in the crockpot! It is funny how things work out like that, isn’t it?
Knowing the weather was predicted to be miserably cold with a lot of snow and ice, I cancelled the upcoming reservations for the vacation rentals. Both families were thrilled that I did that and that I allowed them to stay at a later date. I was SO glad I did after the electricity went out and was out for the entire weekend!
We, like everyone else, lost a lot of trees and shrubs. They just couldn’t take the extended hours of freezing temperatures. The gardening experts said the pyracanthas, mountain laurels, loquat, and Palo Verde plants would not come back out from the roots, and to go ahead and pull them out. I had two huge pyracanthas taken down at the farm entrance, and now wish I had not. The two other pyracanthas at the homes have put out from the roots, as have the mountain laurel, Palo Verde and loquat trees!
The farm looked like a Currier and Ives Christmas card with the heavy snow covering everything! It was beautiful and we hated to walk or drive over it to mar its smooth surface.
Coyotes and Goats
2021 saw a return of the predation of our goat crop by coyotes with a vengeance. There has been so much growth in subdivisions and homes within a three mile radius of the farm, that much of the coyotes habitat has been gobbled up. Therefore, they have fewer rabbits and small wildlife to hunt, and they begin picking off the baby goats. Many are taken during the day when they are browsing in the back pasture near a spring-fed creek with heavy woods behind it. The coyotes hang out there. Dan was walking in the brush one day and almost walked up on a sleeping coyote! They were both startled – Dan jumped and the coyote took off into the thicker growth.
Now, we are down to four nanny goats and a buck. We have three new babies on the ground. We had a good lucking young buck, about three months old, that disappeared this week. I’m not sure what the solution might be, but I really hate seeing the herd decimated like it is! I know that is part of farm life, but it still hurts.
Dan with 2 day old baby goat January 2022
The boys had always drooled over getting a saw mill. David sold a lot of hay and was saving his money for one. Dan pitched in and helped with the cost and he was able to get it ordered, but it took four months to get it built, shipped and arrive at the farm. David wanted to surprise Daniel, his older brother that also lives on the farm with his family. David built the base for the saw mill and put down footers for it to rest on. I thought Daniel would be curious about them and ask what they were for, but he never did. David said he figured I had slipped and spilled the beans! I assured him I had not given even a whiff of a hint. Once the saw mill was delivered I asked Daniel why he never asked about the gravel and cement block base. He said he just figured it was another place to stack fire wood that got split for the houses on the farm. They have really enjoyed milling lumber from trees on the farm. Their first cut was a large cedar tree and they made a mantle from it. Neighbors saw the posting and came to watch it being cut and bought it for a mantle for their fireplace!
Sawmill ready for action
We had new guests in The Palette Pad. He called the day after they arrived and said the rug in front of the toilet was soaking wet – ugh oh! The boys ran down and thought the toilet was leaking, so they took it up to put in a new wax ring, etc. They discovered it was not the toilet, but the hot water heater in the closet behind the toilet that was leaking!
Now, when my Dad built the Palette Pad the hot water heaters were a LOT smaller than they are now. When we replaced the water heater in 2010 the guys had to trim down the studs on either side of the closet door to make the new one fit. Ten years later, and the water heaters are even wider, so there was no way they could get one with the same capacity in place. We got on the telephone with Lowe’s and they had one a few gallons smaller and it would fit – barely.
Daniel and I ran into Hutto to pick up the water heater while David stayed and worked on the toilet. They got everything completed and cleaned up by 9 PM. The guests had returned home by then, but enjoyed sitting outdoors under the heritage oaks, enjoying a comfortable night. They were very good sports about the issue and they were thankful we were able to resolve the problem so quickly. It could have been worse – it could have been raining and freezing, so we were thankful for the nice weather.
Scottie Jones is the founder of Farm Stay US, a non-profit agricultural association association that helps market and promote stays on farms. I found her web site in 2016 and listed both of my farm stays on the site. It has proven to be an extremely profitable association for me. Through Scottie and Farm Stay US I was one of five farm stays featured in South Magazine, one of six farms featured in a Frommer’s article on farm stays, and was a semi-finalist in a Switzerland television cooking show. I never could have afforded to pay for the free advertising I received through Farm Stay US! And, now a large portion of my reservations find me on Farm Stay US, or they are returning guests that found me there originally.
In April, 2021 I volunteered to help Scottie contact some farms by telephone to enroll in Farm Stay US. I was retired from a sales career and didn’t mind spending a little time on the telephone talking about something that had benefited me so much. She said she would hire me, and I said “Okay!”
Dan thought I was out of my mind, and couldn’t understand why I would want to work when we were “retired”. I explained it kept my mind active and I felt like I was making a difference and was needed. Scottie realized she needed someone to do research to find new farms to contact and asked if I knew anyone that was good at that. As a matter of fact, I did – Sherry, my daughter-in-law, and she also lived on the farm. She had done research for Daniel’s IT company in Dallas and was quite good at it. When we lost one of the ladies that built the websites for Farm Stay, Scottie asked if I knew anyone that would be good at it. And, of course I did – my son, Daniel! We made a very good team and worked well together, along with another team member, Taunia.
I wanted to do something specific with the money I earned, not just stick it in the bank, but something tangible so that it really meant something. I used it to pay for the first semester of college tuition and expenses for our two granddaughters!
It is amazing to me how Covid-19 has polarized our country! Because of Dan’s compromised health condition, we were vaccinated as soon as we were able to get appointments, we got our boosters as soon as possible, and we wear our masks everywhere! I have some nieces and nephews that choose, even refuse, to be vaccinated.
In the past three weeks I have had two sisters and a sister-in-law get Covid, even after getting the vaccines. One sister had a mild case, one a very painful case with all of the symptoms, and one with a light case. Luckily they had been vaccinated and did not need to be hospitalized! There have been 30+ cases at church and a couple of deaths and other lengthy hospital stays. Yet, it is reported that you can count on one hand the number of folks wearing a mask.
We have chosen to do everything virtually to minimize the risk. We have missed going to the gym since 2020 and have not eaten in a restaurant since February 2020 (other than Wendy’s and Burger King at odd times of the day when we are the only ones there). We go to church virtually and are again doing most of our grocery shopping with curb-side pickup.
A side benefit to staying at home more is that Dan and I have more time together. Luckily, we are best friends and do enjoy each others company. Dan loves it – he was always wanting me to slow down and not be so involved in so many things! I am more of a people person than Dan, so I tend to miss getting out more more than him. I think that is why working with Scottie and Farm Stay US was so appealing to me.
Two of our granddaughters ventured off to college. They both are attending San Angelo State University in San Angelo TX, where both of their parents graduated from. They are able to room together in a four-plex, so each has her own room. Due to Covid, only two students are permitted to live in each unit, so they have plenty of room. As it turns out, their living area is a little larger than their friends’ so their apartment is used as the gathering place.
It wasn’t too long into the semester until they realized that presented a problem. Many of their friends were night owls and wanted to stay until midnight and later, even on school nights. The girls had to get away from it one weekend and we discussed it with them. They returned and talked with their friends and explained they really needed study time, so week nights were off limits, and weekend visits had to end by a certain time. It all worked out for the best, and the girls learned lessons in diplomacy.
Vacation Rental Farm Stay Business
Farm stay business owners have benefited tremendously from the travel situation Covid-19 has caused. Most of us were fully booked during 2021 as more and more people traveled and stayed closer to home, and more people refused to stay in a city in a hotel or condo. They wanted to stay in rural areas where there were not as many people and they could do outdoorsy things. Farm stays totally fit the bill!
I knew I had a lot of returning guests, especially in the October to December time frame. In January, I actually looked at the numbers and 58.8% were returning guests! One family visited five times from November, 2020 through December, 2021! During their Christmas visit, Tal told me he and Hila had been talking and “There is just something magical about the farm”. I love these returning guests and many have become friends! I want all of my guests to feel welcome and want to return.
Will this trend continue after Covid? Some pundits wonder if it will. I can’t help but believe it will! So many guests that have stayed at Scurlock Farms had no idea where their food comes from or what is involved in producing it. During the free tours around the farm, they all receive a little education. We need many more people interested in farming.
Veteran Receives Christmas Miracle!
2021 ended on a high note for me. I am a member of Chapter GZ P.E.O., a women’s philanthropic educational organization, providing scholarships for women and help for anyone in dire need. In November Karla, one of our members, happened to read an online article about a 71 year old Veteran that was living in a tiny travel trailer that was literally falling apart around him. Moe had not had a working commode in 8 years, the overhead lights no longer worked due to water damage, black mold was a huge issue, and he had to sleep with a towel over his head when it rained. Karla contacted me and the President of our chapter to see if we could assist him by applying for a grant from the TSOFI, Texas Star Oak Fund, Inc., fund. We all agreed his needs were dire and I should contact him.
Some of Moe’s friends from church had began an online fundraiser to raise funds to purchase another used trailer for him, thinking it would be about $20,000. They were disheartened when they realized it would be at least $24,000. I knew Moe because he had also volunteered at The Caring Place, where I had volunteered for seventeen years. The number they had for him was no longer a working number, so I became a detective locating his church friends and a way to contact them.
I called Mr. Workman and told him about the possibility of a grant and asked if we could meet with him and Moe. He said they were actually sitting at his dining room table at the time, trying to decide whether to continue going for a very small travel trailer or attempting to raise another $11,000 to be able to build a small home for Moe, which had been his longtime dream. My call was like an answer to a prayer!
Long story short, we applied for the maximum of a $6,000 grant and a member of our chapter said she would match whatever amount of grant he might receive. The TSOFI Committee granted the entire $6,000, so with the matching grant, they had the entire amount needed to complete a small home for Moe! Mr. Howard is a contractor and he donated all of his time and expertise, and he lined up many volunteers that helped build the home. That home was a labor of love by many.
Our chapter held a small open house for Moe the week before Christmas and he was beaming and so happy with his new home! I asked him what his favorite part was and he said, “the commode!” He explained the small bathroom at the back of his new home was larger than his entire trailer had been, and to him the home was like living in a mansion.
2021 had some unique challenges, but overall it was a very good year for Scurlock Farms and me personally! I have always loved trying new things and I am not afraid of failure. It certainly keeps life interesting! I will be 76 in one month, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I hope 2022 is as much fun as 2021 was!