Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two Perspectives

"Might not want to go into the barn just now," I tell my spouse.

Trick the Barn Cat found a nest of bunnies in the garden. I suspect he named them breakfast, lunch and dinner. I didn't ask. I was glad he was doing his job.

The spouse wasn't. He goes into the barn, retrieves the bunny and returns it to the nest.

"Do you think we should put wire mesh around the nest so the cat can't get the bunnies?"

Standing in the garden, among the rows of lettuce, spinach and beets that didn't "germinate," I stare at him.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lily and the Grazing Muzzle

My friend calls Lily the Dyson of the Haflingers.

I can toss her a flake of hay, feed the other critters, and go back to her stall and find no evidence of hay. She eats that fast.

Because of that, she's always had limited pasture time. But then, I always feel bad that she spends 20 hours a day in the paddock.

To change that, I bought grazing muzzles for the Haflingers this year.

There is a small hole in the bottom of the muzzle where the horse can get grass. They just can get giant mouthfuls of grass. In other words, it allows them to graze -- rather than vaccuum the pasture.

When the horses returned home this week, I put the muzzle on Lily and took her to the pasture.

She shook her head. How would she be able to eat?

It took her three minutes to figure it out.

Pictured are Lily (with the muzzle) and Jet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Responding to the Lamb's Call

What did the 10-pound lamb think when she cried for her mother, and a 900-pound Haflinger came trotting her way?

Jet, the horse, was only curious. When she left the farm two months ago, there were only sheep, no lambs.

The lamb wasn't comforted. She cried louder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Cat takes on the Border Collie

My mother-in-law brought back a stuffed Border Collie from New Zealand.

Unlike the real ones, it stands about eight inches tall, barks only when asked, is a couch potato and clean.

I sat it up on the wood secretary desk alongside the stuffed cat and rooster.

Dewey Kitty spotted it within hours. He paced along the base of the desk, calculating the four-foot leap required to reach it.

Once on the desk, he batted the Border Collie to the floor, then hopped down after it. With some effort, he took the Border Collie in his mouth and carried it to a corner where he beat it into submission.

Satisfied, he curled up on the recliner and took a nap.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter Story

I wasn't looking forward to my lunchtime task: burying a rooster.

I'd found him that morning when I let the chickens out of their shed. Apparently, he'd gotten into the wrong chicken shed and fought with the resident rooster. In the early morning light, I'd found him lying on his back, his feet stretched skyward, his eye swollen closed.

I planned to bury him at lunchtime, when there was more light and, hopefully, it wasn't raining.

I returned to the shed at lunchtime, and saw him lying in the same spot, on his back, his feet in the air. As I reached to pick him up, I noticed his chest was moving. Upon closer inspection, I saw he was breathing.

When I picked him up, he emitted a weak dinosaur roar.

Holding him up, I saw that one eye was swollen shut and the other was open and bright. His face and comb were spotted with dried blood. I carried him to the rooster condo where he would be separated from the flock, then gave him some grain and water.

A few minutes later, he gave his "come hither" crow to the hens.

"If you survive this, you've earned a name," I told him.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Good Caeli

Caeli ran through the water and mud to fetch the sheep from the far end of the pasture.

After bringing them to me, mud clung to her legs, underside and tail. She was so happy with her work, that she rolled on her back, muddying her face and topside.

I cleaned her off as best I could, but she was still the dirtiest dog at the herding clinic.

At the end of the day, she hopped into the back seat of the truck. As I was saying my good-byes, she found the hamburger buns, opened the bag and munched on a few. Later, she climbed into the front seat, found my bag and ate the dog food inside.

When I returned to find her, sitting in the front seat, with mud smudged on her smiling face, I smiled too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, and my earth is soggy.

We've had an above average rainfall this year. More is expected in the coming days.

Seeds, onion sets and potatoes await planting. Squishing sounds surround me when I walk through the pastures and hay fields.

Yet spring marches on.

The grass grows. Birds build nests. Lambs are born.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Lowly Lamb

I was pleased this week to find two articles about lamb in the New York Times.

The first focuses on one of the few certified organic flocks in the United States.

Lamb -- unlike beef, pork and chicken -- hasn't been taken over by agribusiness. Most sheep are still raised on pasture and finished on pasture too.  Most are raised by family farmers.

This meansit takes a little more work to find American lamb in the grocery stores. In my post-college days, I remember being delighted in finding lamb chops in the meat department at the local IGA. It was in late August, after the county fair. After that, I didn't see it in the meat case for months.

Now that we're raising lamb, we're eating it more often, and I'm always on the lookout for recipes.

I'm looking forward to trying one of these leg of lamb recipes this evening.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April Showers bring Lambs

The overnight storms brought wind and rain. They also brought another set of lambs.

When I walked into the barn this morning, I found Miss U with twins, one still wet from birth.

We now have two sets of twins on the ground. One was born in the spring sunshine, the other in a spring storm.

Will the sunshine set have a bright outlook on life? Will they always seek the sun? Will the storm set feel secure in the warmth of a barn? Or will they be content with having a mom that feeds them and a sibling to keep them company?

The photo shows Miss U with a ewe lamb and ram lamb. They are about three hours old.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Morning Amazement

In the thirty minutes it takes to do the morning chores, I am amazed by the:

Easy lope of the Border collies as they travel through the hay fields.

The sprouts of spinach that just days ago were dry seeds tucked into the ground.

Day-old lambs that prong in their stall and know to scurry to their mother when she alerts to me.

The rooster's iridescent feather patterns that shimmer in the morning sun.

Trick the Cat's leaps into the rafters in the barn.

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Lambs of the Season

I spotted the ewe and spots of white when I walked from the garage to the house.

Price was standing by herself at the back of the pasture. I knew the spots of white weren't clumps of sheep hair.

Before I unpacked the car, before I said hi to the husband, I went to check her out.

Price delivered our first lambs of the season, a ram and a ewe. Although five days early, they are healthy, walking and nursing.

We are smiling.

Friday, April 15, 2011

No Snooze on this Alarm

I spent the previous day attending a herding clinic and was looking forward to sleeping in.

Dewey Kitty did not attend the clinic, and instead spent the day alone. He was looking forward to playing.

In the darkness of night, I felt the paw on my face.

I looked at the clock. 5:32. I closed my eyes.

The paw returned, this time with claws extended.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sometimes They Die

I remember my parents having this talk with me when I was a first grader.

We'd ordered day-old chicks and I was in charge of feeding and giving them fresh water. In the morning, I awoke and found one chick died.

Sometimes you do everything right and one or two die. That's nature's way.

Nature can be beautiful, miraculous and cruel.

I think of that as we await lambing season. I hope to awake one morning soon and find two fuzzy lambs nursing beside their mother. But, in the back in my mind, I always remember that sometimes not all goes as planned.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning

When the spring cleaning bug hit this weekend, I headed to the barn.

After a long winter, the two Haflingers needed more than the standard five-minute pre-ride grooming.

I curried their necks and bodies twice, removing all of the dead winter hair that would let go. Using the soft curry comb, I rubbed their faces and legs. By the time I moved onto the body brush, there was enough hair on the floor to line an ostrich nest or two.

But I wasn't finished.

I trimmed the long facial hair, ear tufts, bridle paths, legs and tails.

Then I tackled the big job -- the Barbie manes. Both mares have manes so thick that they fall on both sides of their necks.

Over winter, the new growth mats and tangles if not picked out. My fingers appreciated the warm air as I untangled manes.

The mares alternated between enjoying it and finding it annoying.

"It's hard to be a princess," I told Lily.

She shook her head, anxious to go outside and roll.

In the photo, Lily shows off her Barbie mane.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Sausage Thief

I grill four lamb sausages, eat one and place the remaining three on a plate in the microwave.

When the spouse comes home, I heat the sausages, place the plate in the cubby above the microwave, heat the beans, and wash the dishes.

Returning to the food, I see two sausages on the plate.

"Did you eat one of the sausages?" I ask the spouse. I wouldn't blame him. The sausages are yummy.

When he says no, I check the grill. Sometimes I leave one there so I'm not tempted to eat it. No sausage.

Had one slid off the plate and fallen between the microwave and refrigerator? Shining a flashlight, I see no sausage hiding there.

I look around me. Caeli and the foster dog are in crates. Tag, the other Border Collie, is standing at my side. He is one of the few dogs I know who waits for permission to eat the food dropped on the floor -- even if it's a steak. I don't suspect him.

Louie Kitty is sitting by the window watching the birds.


The cat who is always at my side is nowhere in sight.

I run upstairs to my office.

He is crouched in the middle of the floor eating the remains of a sausage.

He growls at me.

I growl back.

Friday, April 8, 2011

White Stuff in April

The snow no longer falls from the sky. It now comes from the sheep.

Shedding season began a few weeks ago with bits of hair here and there. In the past few days, the sheep's favorite scratching posts turned white with fiber. Clumps of hair dot the paddock and pastures.

The splotches of white will dot the ground until mid-May, when the dandelions take their turn at providing contrast and texture to the landscape.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Dinosaur Roars

The Buckeye chicken description always leads to the question: How does anyone know the sound of a dinosaur roar?

No one will dispute that the Buckeyes make a unique sound when distressed. Sometimes I'll go weeks without hearing the dinosaur roar.

I've heard it twice this week.

The first happened when the rooster flew over one too many fences and ended up in the yard at nightfall.

Caeli the Border Collie attempted to herd him back to his shed. He'd have none of it and ran in circles. Caeli, as Border Collies are prone to do, upped the ante and grabbed a mouthful of feathers.

I sounded like a squawking hen as I went after Caeli. After securing her, I picked up the rooster and heard his distressed roar.

It carried over the dark fields and up into the starry night.

He settled when I placed him with his hens in the henhouse.

Today, a hen sitting on her nest gave the dinosaur roar when I reached under her to grab eggs.

The noise sounded like it came from a half-ton beast -- not a seven-pound bird.

Do my chickens roar like dinosaurs? I believe so. No one has proven otherwise.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smart or Stupid?

When the ewes saw that I was opening the gate to the prime pasture, they came running.

But the puddles made them stop.

Water from the recent heavy rains still stood in the low-lying area between the barn and the good pasture.

I knew the ground wasn't boggy and the water wasn't deep, no higher than my ankles. But the sheep weren't going through it.

Sighing, I walked through the area. Seeing it was safe, they followed single file.

Later in the evening, they returned on their own, without me to guide them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Saving the Red Ball

It rained and rained and rained.

I watched as streams formed in the fields and carried the raindrops to the waterway.

I watched as the waterway filled with water and inched closer and closer to the red ball that Caeli had left there on her morning walk.

Finally, I could stand it no longer.

I put on my raincoat and Muck boots, and I walked in the rain to retrieve the ball.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Double Yolks

I remember my early childhood days on a farm as a series of magical discoveries.

The double yolk day came when I cracked open an egg and saw two yolks fall out. As a seven-year-old, I don't recall noticing that the egg looked larger than the others. I bet it was.

After seeing my first double yolker, I paid closer attention to egg sizes and shapes. Sometimes our hens lay eggs that are almost double the size of an average egg. Sometimes, it's just a bigger than average egg. Most often, it's an egg with two yolks.

If I have one of these eggs, I try to include it in eggs that we sell to families with children. Because, I believe, they too should experience the magical moment of discovering a double yolk egg.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Perfect Blend

For sheep vaccination day, I dress in a cotton T-shirt, cotton sweatshirt and cotton denim jeans. When we're finished, I expect to be wearing a wool-cotton blend. The ewes began shedding last week, and they are leaving bits of fiber on the ground, on the fences, on my hands.