Monday, August 29, 2011

And then there were two....

Barney the Beagle was adopted this weekend.

For the first time in eight months, we have no puppy -- neither Border collie nor beagle -- in the house.

I notice the quiet.

Then I kick off my shoes and leave them in the middle of the floor. There is no puppy to chew or move them.

I leave the baby gate leading to the upstairs open.

Then, I take Tag and Caeli, ages 5 and 6, on a trek across the road, around the pond, through the fields. They romp and sniff and chase each other.

In a few weeks, we'll tire of the quiet. For now, I enjoy the romps and sharing popcorn with only two dogs and Dewey Kitty.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Harvest Time

Before beginning my garden work, I let Jet out to graze in the yard. The dry weather made the pasture grass go dormant. There's still some green grass near downspouts in the yard.

Lily the Pony and the ram provide music while I pull up bean plants and pick the beans. Lily is calling to her pasture buddy. The ram just wants some of the harvest.

I oblige and give him the bean plants.

He burps his appreciation.

My tomato crop is just getting started. I've harvested twice and made two small batches of sauce. As I harvest, I marvel at the plants' ability to suck moisture from cracked and parched ground and then to produce tomatoes -- lots of them.

The chickens are great fans of harvest. I toss the rotten and damaged tomatoes to them.

They cluck and call their friends.

Wet weather delayed the start of garden season, and now, dry weather is hastening its end.

But, a typical gardener, I remain hopeful. I have fall lettuce that's about an inch high. Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are still in the ground. And then there's tomatoes... lots of tomatoes that will keep me making sauce well into sweatshirt weather.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Hunter's Morning

A cold front moved in overnight.

So did the cats' desire to hunt.

Dewey the Indoor Cat quickly stalked and killed a moth in the hallway.

Not to be outdone, Trick the Outdoor Cat crept into the chicken house where he snatched a sparrow.

I found myself hoping for many cool mornings for my hunters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Visiting the County Fair

We go to the beef barn first, and I marvel at the steers' size, which we discover is small compared to the Holstein cows in the dairy barn. I prefer the smaller Jerseys.

The spouse wants to visit the swine barn where the market hogs snooze two by two on sawdust in pens.

"It'd be nice to see some variety in breeds," he says as we leave.

We find some variety in the sheep barn where the size varies from the waist-high Corriedales to the just-above-the-knee Shetlands.

In the goat barn, I was happy to see more dairy goat breeds this year. When I saw one goat leaning over the pen and chewing an unattended lawn chair, I was glad we no longer had goats.

When walking through the rabbit barn, I comment, "Maybe we should bring Barney the Beagle here and teach him to track rabbits, not cats."

In the horse barns, I wondered why kids no longer ride ponies. Instead, they're opting for the 15 and 16-hand horses. And I cringed when I saw the kids imitating their elders and jerking on the reins.

We lingered in the poultry barn where breed variety is alive and well. I admired the Old English Game rooster's black and white plumage and imagined him walking around the farm... until I saw his spurs.

"Those could really rip the jeans," the husband says.

I studied the colors and heft of the Cochins, Jersey Giants, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orphingtons, and more. I noticed that the ducks I'd always called Indian Runners were now Black Runners, Tan Runners, White Runners. Their upright posture still makes me laugh. We checked out the heritage turkeys with their red, black and bronze feathers.

We skipped most of the youth projects -- the white, commercial market chickens and turkeys whose out-of-proportion bodies make it difficult to walk.

And we watched the people...

The woman crowing at a rooster.

The father and tween daughter in matching Batman t-shirts.

The five-year-old girl in a pink pageant dress.

People pushing strollers, pulling wagons, pushing wheelchairs, riding scooters. Tattoos, piercings, jeans, boots.

The fair still attracts varieties in people.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Barn Swallows Depart

Does it take barn swallows departure to make me notice the bats?

For months now, the swallows' swooping flights were part of the landscape. When they fly south in August, the yard seems empty and lonely.

That's when I also notice the bats in the twilight.

Had they been there all summer? When the swallows were here, had they waited until hard dark to come out? Or, with shortening days, am I spending more time outside in the darkness?

As I walk in the darkness, admiring the bats and feeling a little uneasy, I wonder if this is how the cats feel when the swallows are here and swooping near them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Straggler-Part II

I no longer expect to find him missing or dead in the mornings.

When we first let the young chickens outside, I expected the cat to deem the little runt chicken an easy target.

The photo above shows him around six weeks old. The photo below shows him at 12 weeks (he's the little guy in the center).

Yet, he's finding ways to survive.

When I throw corn cobs, squash and tomatoes into the chicken yard, he's battling with the other chickens to get his share. In the morning, he participates in the chest bump games.

I call him "he" and "Napoleon," but he may be a she.

I sit and watch and wait for the story to develop.

Remembering the Mud

Staring at the gravel pile near the barn, I try to remember the mud.

The grass is dormant, the earth, cracked and hard. The boot-sucking mud of spring is gone.

I remember where the mud was deepest and direct the tractor and its bucket load of gravel to those areas.

Each gate area receives a bucket load of gravel. It is clean and white and loose.

But with rainfall and the tamping of thousands of sheep hooves, it will work into the earth and make for easier going next spring.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It Felt Like Ireland

Dog at my side, I stood atop the hill pasture and watched the early morning fog envelop the sheep. The chilly air raised goosebumps on my arm.

Wasn't it mornings like this that inspired people to buy Border collies and sheep?

But foggy mornings aren't the best for training dogs.

I gave Caeli a come-bye command and watched her disappear into the fog. Then, I looked for a moving white patch that might indicate a dog or sheep. I found none. Both sheep and dog were lost in the fog.

Standing on the hill, I waited and hoped for the best.

In a minute, six sheep trotted toward me. Behind them was a happy Border collie.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Food Preservation -- Beagle Style

It's harvest time. I dig up potatoes, pull onions and trim their tops, harvest squash, pluck tomatoes, pick green beans.

Seeing the ram nearby, I pull weeds and toss him some.

I survey the harvest and am pleased considering the delayed planting due to a wet spring and the dry summer. I'll have plenty to store into fall and winter.

Barney the Beagle is thinking of storage, too.
Onion in mouth, he trots to the other side of the garden, digs a hole, and places the onion in the ground. Satisfied with his project, he uses his nose to push the dirt over the onion, covering it.

I leave it there. Maybe this fall we'll test storage methods -- and determine whose is better, mine or the dog's.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Learning to Whistle

The plastic whistle stymied me.

No matter how I blew into it, it wouldn't make a sound.

I went to the Internet. Surely, it would unlock the secrets of the sheepdog whistle. It gave some suggestions.

Still no sound.

Learning to use the sheepdog whistle is like learning to whistle. You just have to experiment.

Whistle in mouth, I walked around the house, trying different things - blowing light puffs of air, repositioning the whistle.

A squeak came out. I tried to duplicate it.


The morning wore on. I got more squeaks. Then tones.

You can go back to your childhood. All that you need is a sheepdog whistle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chicks Against Drugs

Raising chickens gave me a quick education in the use of antibiotics in livestock feed.

If I didn't specifically request "non-medicated feed, please," there was a good chance I'd get feed pre-loaded with antibiotics.

I'm not opposed to using antibiotics -- if I have a sick animal or human that needs them. I'm opposed to feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

You should be too. Feeding antibiotics to healthy animals and humans leads to antibiotic resistance.

But the good news is that we can make changes and reduce antibiotic resistance. I found this article on NPR about antibiotic resistance in chicken flocks particularly hopeful.

Sheep Camping

The sheep were not in the barn this morning.

Scouting the pastures, I found them snoozing on a rise in the early morning light.

Temperatures dipped into the 50s overnight and there were no mosquitoes.

Who could blame the sheep for wanting to sleep under the stars and moon?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Humor Returns

Cool air returned to the farm last night, and the animals played.

The horses bucked and galloped in the pasture.

The dogs ran laps in the yard.

Trick the Cat walked among the lambs enticing them to play Follow the Leader.

The human planted the fall garden and worked the dog on sheep.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Chicken's Essential Nature

Chickens don't need to be taught to scratch, to look skyward and flap their wings, to love the outdoors.

The annual "release of the birds" reminds me of this.

The chicks spend the first 10-12 weeks of their lives confined indoors, safe from cats and hawks.

When I deem them big enough to fend for themselves, I open the door.

For a few minutes, they stand in the doorway looking. Then, one hops outside, pecks at some grain, and hops back inside.

She tries again a few minutes later. This time, a few others follow then rush back inside.

Within a few hours, they are all outside, scanning the ground for grain and bugs, flapping their wings, running, and gulping in the summer sun.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Tomato

In April and through most of May, I watched the ground and wondered if it would ever dry.

When it finally did, I tilled it and dug holes.

I bought tomato plants and transplanted them.

In June, I weeded around the plants, staked them, weeded some more, and waited.

In July, I plucked tomato worms from the plants and weeded.

This week, I plucked a red fruit from the plant.

I toasted bread, spread a little mayonaise over it, and sliced a tomato.

Eating the sandwich, with a tomato still warm from the sun, I deemed the tomato worth the effort.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Animal Boxes

At dinnertime, Dewey Kitty must go to his box and sit.

At 60+ pounds, the ewe lamb is too big for her box, the hay feeder. Yet, sometimes I catch her napping inside of it on hot afternoons. She jumps out as I approach.

I filled the water tank so that Caeli the Border Collie could cool off after working sheep. Barney the Beagle hops in for a quick swim several times a day.

I'm hesitant to reach into the hen box. Some hens, like this one, do not like to be disturbed while in the nesting box.