Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When Ma Nature Gives You Snow...

Lambs are to be born into sunshine and the promise of green grass, not freezing winds and snow.

But this has not been a normal winter.

With lambing season days away and a weather forecast calling for high winds and below freezing temperatures, I find myself in the barn, figuring out how to find space for 10 pregnant ewes.

The sheep and horses spend most of their time in the pastures or under lean-tos that provide protection from rain and west winds. They seem happier having space to move around--and I am not spending hours mucking manure from stalls.

In normal springs, I don't worry about ewes delivering lambs outside. Only once have I had a lamb chill in the spring winds--and a hair dryer dried it and warmed it.

Freezing winds will chill a lamb quickly. So, I've tucked the ewes in groups of three and four in horse stalls for a few days, just in case lambs don't want to wait for sunshine.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meet Apollo and Bon-Bon


After months of calling them "the Boys," we had a naming contest for the white ram lamb and his buddy, an almost 2-year-old Dorper/Katahdin wether.

It reaffirmed what I knew: I have lots of creative friends.

Suggestions included lots of pairs: Lenny and Squiggy, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry and Lloyd, Shaggy and Scooby, Gandoff and Frodo, Woodward and Bernstein, Bill and Ted.

And then there were descriptive suggestions: Ebony and Ivory, Salt and Pepper, Coffee and Cream, Mounds and Almond Joy.

One contestant tip-toed into the political with Bernie and Barack.

Several suggested variations on the beer theme: Pale Ale and Stout, IPA and Stout, Suds and Stout.

That led to a few discussions in the household where I'm an IPA fan and my husband is a stout fan.

IPA would be a good name for the ram lamb because, like IPAs, he won't be around for long. After breeding season in the fall, he will be sold and hopefully go to another farm. The black wether will be kept to be a companion for the next ram lamb. He is like many stouts, kept around longer and getting better with age.

The name Warlock, a favorite stout in our household, was floated around, until my husband pointed out that no wether could have a name like Warlock.

And, so this was the winning entry:

Phoebus Apollo - Usually just called Apollo. A son of Zeus and Leto and Artemis’s twin, he is the god of Light and Truth, the master of Poetry and Music, and the god of Archery. His Oracle at Delphi is revered for her powers of prophecy and truth. this is for the white one. the black one I name bonbon.

This made me laugh... and I'm sure if anyone hears me yelling, "Apollo! Bon-Bon! It's time for dinner," they, too, will laugh.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Still Magical



The first crocuses opened yesterday, announcing that spring is on its way.

Even though it was T-shirt weather, and the furnace hasn't run for a week, and the ice on the pond melted weeks ago, I find them magical.

As a child, I was awed when these little flowers peeked through the melting snow, and kept right on blooming in the wet March snowfall.

I plant crocus bulbs randomly in the yard, and feel a moment of surprise when I look down and see the yellow, blue and white flowers where I am about to step.

For a few weeks now, I will walk slowly on my trips to the barn, the chicken shed and the pastures, looking for flowers and sidestepping those little blooms.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Better than Chocolates and Flowers

When I pulled into the driveway after work, my heart skipped a beat.

In front of me, two white strips of fresh gravel stretched for a quarter of a mile.

In the pastures, white gravel dotted all the gate entrances.

Best. Gift. Ever.

When you live on a farm, you learn to love gravel.

Instead of frozen ground and snow, we've had rain and mud this winter. High traffic areas, like at the pasture gates, developed into boot-sucking muddy bogs. New potholes sprouted in the driveway daily.

But then the sun came out, and temperatures soared into the 60s.

On the fourth sunny day, my husband ordered tons and tons of gravel, and spent his day off work spreading it.

And, I am all smiles.






Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Sweet Treat

I spent my lunch break how I'd like to spend every lunch break: doing something that makes me forget about the paying job.

Walking in the woods and lugging buckets of sap will do that.

It's maple syrup time in Ohio, and like in years past, I help the local park district with sap collection. The park district employees and volunteers tap a couple dozen trees each year and boil the sap in a sugar shack built to replicate how syrup was made 100 years ago.

Sap collection is done daily. Sap flow depends on outdoor temperatures and the sun. Sunny days with temperatures above freezing and clear, freezing nights are ideal for maple syrup production.

Apparently they aren't ideal for hikers. When I was collecting sap, temperatures were in the mid-30s--and my Border collie and I were the only ones in the park.

We could listen to the birds sing, the occasional rustle of squirrels on the decaying leaves, the river water meandering southward.

Gathering the collection containers, I walked from tree to tree, popping the metal coverings from the buckets hanging on the trees, and emptying the sap into my collection containers. A few buckets had ice floating in the sap. Some contained a few inches of sap while others were half full.

When my collection buckets filled, I hauled them back to the sugar shack, dumped them into a 30-gallon barrel and repeated. After the second trip to the sugar shack, I removed my coat and hat. Hauling sap is a physical workout.

But it is a joy to be in the woods, walking on uneven ground, feeling cold air on my cheeks and listening to the sounds of nature.

It took me just under an hour to collect about 30 gallons of sap. When finished, I returned to work, refreshed and ready to focus on the task at hand.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

When the dog and the cat go to the vet...

If I let him, Jack would spend hours staring at cats. It's a habit I try to discourage--unless we're going to the vet.

Vet offices provide loads of distractions for busy Border collies. Rather than letting other dogs, people, smells and treats distract him, I let Jack, the Border collie, stare at Dewey Kitty who was sitting rather unhappily in his cat carrier.

Dewey Kitty  is no fan of vet visits nor car rides. After receiving his vaccinations and examination, he sulked in the cat carrier that was perched on the bench.

Jack, who was visiting the vet for his periodic adjustment and massage, paid no attention ran her hands over him and manipulated his joints. His eyes were on the cat.

When the vet showed Jack the spinal accelerometer, a little hand-held device that looks like a power drill and makes popping noises, Jack didn't react. His eyes were on the cat.

But when the hand-held device popped behind his ear, Jack, all 48 pounds of him, dropped to the floor.

We got him back on his feet and showed him the device. He stared at the kitty.

The device popped, and Jack dropped again.

"It's the cat," I said. "He thinks he's in trouble for staring at the cat."

"I hope I haven't given him a fear of cats," the vet said, as she worked on him on the floor, out of view of the cat.

When finished, Jack stood--and returned to staring at the cat.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

An Impulsive Chicken Moment

"24 Buckeye chicks," I told the owner of the country hardware store on Saturday morning.

My husband and I have kept a flock of Buckeye chickens for 13 years now. Every year we incubate eggs, and often a hen raises a few chicks. Because we've seldom brought in an outside rooster, the flock has considerable inbreeding.

Buckeye hen with 2-week-old chicks.

Noticing the local hardware store was taking chick orders and that Buckeyes were on the list, I suggested ordering chicks this year and adding them to the flock.

While ordering the chicks, I glanced over other chicken breeds available.

"No wait," I said. "Make that 18 Buckeye chicks."



Photo by Mt. Healthy Hatchery.

"And six Silver-Laced Wyandottes," I said. "We'll add some more color to the farm."