Friday, July 29, 2011

Beyond the Comfort Zone

When temperatures dip below 20 degrees, I give the livestock extra hay. When temperatures climb toward 90, I give them extra water.

The sheep and horses are on pasture now and getting some water from the grass.

But they need so much more water when temperatures climb.

On an average summer day, when temperatures are in the 80s, the Haflingers drink about eight gallons of water each. Add 10 degrees, and their water consumption jumps to about 12 gallons each.

Because they are close to the ground, which is cooler than the air these days, the sheep do better in the summer heat than the horses. When eating grass and when temperatures are 70 degrees or below, they seldom drink water. When temperatures climb into the 80s, they sip water. During the heat wave, they've been drinking it.

I, too, am out of my comfort zone.

Even during morning chores these days, I feel the sweat running down my face and back and long for a return to days in the 70s or low 80s.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Conversations between the Beagle and the Border Collies

Barney the Beagle: "Surely you knew that was a skunk. I could smell him from the house."
Caeli the Border Collie: "I saw movement. I reacted. I don't think I smell that bad, do I?"
Barney: "Maybe you should rent a motel room tonight."

Tag the Border Collie: "Just look at that silly beagle. He's trying to get outside to bury a bone."
Caeli gives an eyeroll. "Aren't you so glad we Border collies have evolved beyond that?"

Things all three agree on:
Going for a walk.
Checking out the smells.
Zoomies and wrestling in the yard.
The couch. It's not just for humans.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Outside the Office Window

My office has three windows.

To the west, I see tree leaves and pine needles. To the north is our front pasture that no animals are grazing now. To the east are the sheep pastures.

I paused this morning when my peripheral vision caught a Haflinger trotting outside the east window. The horses were supposed to be in the south pasture. Last night, when I fed them, they were in the south pasture.

So much for my relaxing reading and coffee in the early dawn hours of a Sunday morning.

I venture outside to assess the mayhem.

The sheep and llama, who usually stay in the barn until 6:30 a.m., are grazing on the pasture. The two Haflingers are standing in the sheep paddock.

Had a gate been left open? I check one, two, three, four gates, and they are all closed and latched. So are all stall doors.

The caffeine is working slowly this morning.

I stand in the horse pasture trying to figure out how the horses escaped.

Then I see it.

A six-foot hog panel that separates the horse pasture from the sheep pasture is no longer in place. Had the bugs and heat driven the horses to scratching on the panel and, eventually, pushing it over?

Sighing, I grab a halter, put it on Lily and walk her back to the barn. Jet follows.

Then, I grab the muck bucket and pick up horse piles from the sheep paddock. Horses are not stealth animals. They leave horse prints and poo where ever they go.

Tossed Along Our Road This Summer

Beer cans too numerous to count.

A Christmas tree stand.

Plastic bags of household trash that broke open when they fell.

An eight-month-old beagle.

Styrofoam coffee cups.

Soda cans and plastic bottles.

Glass beer bottles.

Paper bags full of fast food wrappers and remains.

A cell phone thrown from a moving car window during an argument and that is still waiting to be found.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morning in a Small Midwestern Town

It is 8:20 a.m. when I pedal into a small village in western Ohio.

It is 80 degrees and sunny.

I have passed three joggers heading into the countryside and away from the buzz of activity in the village on a Saturday morning.

As I pedal through town, I see:

Three people washing cars.

One mowing the grass.

One picking up bottles from a Friday night porch party.

Another person sitting on the porch.

Two people on bicycles.

Five walking.

One tending to a garden.

A few attending to flowerbeds.

What brings the people out at this hour? Is it forecast of another 90+ degree day? Or, are so many of these folks just generations removed from the farm where it's common to rise when the rooster crows?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bugs of July

When I return from my morning bike ride, I find a praying mantis on the back porch.

"You and the toads have work to do," I say.

The porch is populated with gnats that like to dive bomb my beer, flies that bite, horse flies that buzz and menace, and the occasional mosquito who doesn't seem as pesky as in years past.

The heat makes them meaner, makes them bite harder.

The mantis, though, must realize that his green body stands out against the tan siding. By the time I go inside for breakfast and return, he is gone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The July Heat Wave

I awake sweaty and grumpy. The thermometer reads 82 degrees. The humidity is 69 percent.

I wish I didn't know that 90-plus degree days are forecast for at least the next six days. I can embrace a day of heat when I know cooler weather is coming.

But I don't look forward to enduring sweaty days and the biting insects that come with it.

I'm like the sheep and horses and chickens -- who prefer the cold, when it only takes a windbreak and extra food to endure the weather.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Perfect July Day

Sometimes Mother Nature gives a moment of relief from the summer heat and humidity.

She turns down the temperature and humidity dials, throws in a breeze and partly cloudy skies.

Usually, I'm able to take a break from work to enjoy a few hours of it.

Yesterday, I captured the entire day.

Caeli, the Border collie, and I spent it at a herding clinic. In the early morning, many participants wore sweatshirts in the morning chill. In the afternoon, we worked dogs and sheep without breaking sweating -- much.

Back on our farm in the evening, I admired the pink swirls in the darkening sky.

Mother Nature topped the perfect day with a full moon that highlighted white horse manes and illuminated the horses as they galloped in from pasture.

I stood in the paddock, listening to crickets, admiring the moon, savoring the last bits of a perfect July day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Then the Rains Stopped

For months it was rain and rain and rain.

It was the topic of conversation as farmers waited to plant fields, as I planted potatoes in May, as the hay fields awaited cutting.

Sometime all of the rain stopped.

The garden plants wilt in the afternoon heat. The grass stops growing.

I wonder at what point we switched from fretting about rain to worrying about dryness.