Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Frozen Corn

We ate the last of the sweet corn that I froze last fall.

As I picked out some corn silk, I remembered the fall day that the farmer delivered the three dozen ears. They were the last corn ears of summer.

As I ate it last evening, I remembered the many 90 degree days of summer, the cracked earth, the days that lasted forever. I remembered the bugs, the sweat, the wondering if the earth would ever be soft again.

That corn, though frozen for months, tasted just as sweet last night as if I were eating it from the cob.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dirt Between the Toes

As I was sorting ewes for herding practice, I noticed the old ewe, "Good Mom," seemed to be a little off in the left hind leg.

"I'll have to keep an eye on that," I told myself.

As they were heading to pasture this morning, I noticed her head bobbing -- a sign of lameness.

"I'll have to move her around more tonight and take a closer look at that leg," I told myself.

When I came home from work this afternoon, I noticed a ewe lying in the pasture while the rest of the flock grazed nearby.

I grabbed the binoculars to see if I could identify the ewe. When I spotted the yellow ear tag, I knew it was Good Mom, as she's the only one of the original ewes that we still have. She wears the yellow ear tag from another farm.

I was going to have to sort her from the flock and inspect.

Running my hands up her legs, I felt for heat and swelling. There was none. Wedging her into a corner, I attempted to inspect the hoof.

Because I had no one holding her, I was inspecting by feel. What I felt between her toes was a rock hard clod of dirt between her toes. Rocking it back and forth, I dislodged it.

When I released her back to the paddock area, she was no longer limping.

And I was no longer carrying that lump of dread.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning

The horses have given up on winter's arrival. As I let them into the pasture to nibble bits of greening grass, I notice the clumps of winter hair shedding from their rumps.

The sheep, too, are letting go of winter coats.

Sighing, I too shed my winter coat and begin the month-long task of barn cleaning. I alternate between removing the heavy, packed and wet sheep manure and hay in the sheep paddock and the lighter, horse manure. Within hours the manure spreader is full.

My work, though, is not done.

I have to remove many more buckets of manure that piled up during the winter that never really was.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Signs of Spring: Chickens

The Rooster Condo returned to the pasture today.

During the winter months, the roosters stay with the hens. However, as the days lengthen and warm, the rooster's becomes quite randy.

This morning, I noticed a young hen had lost some back feathers.

I considered my options: I could leave the rooster in with the hens and let the hens go bald on their backside; I could buy them capes (I kid you not. Poultry catalogs sell capes to protect the hens' backs); I could move the rooster to the Rooster Condo until a week before I need fertilized eggs.

My decision will make many hens happy, and one rooster quite unhappy.... at least for now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Maple Syrup Making

We went to help out the local park district with maple syrup making.

But watching 90 gallons of sap boil down to three gallons is a tedious process.

So several people went in search of the Cold Spring -- a favorite gathering spot during the hot summer days in the early part of the 20th century.

The photo from those long-ago days showed people gathered around rocks and a spring, in front of a hill. With that photo in mind, we followed the river, looking for geography similar to the photo. We found the rocks first, then the spring.

Standing there in my winter coat, and feeling the breeze of an approaching cold front, I told myself to think of summer.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Getting the Stink Blown Off

When I was a child, my mother was always telling my siblings and me to go outside and "get the stink blown off."

It's been a harsh winter for the horses. Because the ground has been wet and soggy for most of winter, they've been confined to the sandy, paddock area. It gives them enough space to run and kick up their heels.

But it's not the same as a pasture.

Today, I took them to the front pasture where the turf is pretty solid, and they ran, and ran, and ran.

I'm sure they'll smell much better when I bring them in for the night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Animal Love

The animals on the farm come together by happenstance. They usually learn to tolerate each other; some become buddies; a few form deep friendships.

With Louie and Dewey, we hoped for tolerance.

They both came from the animal shelter two years ago. But that's where their similarities ended.

Dewey was an eight-week-old kitten, plucked from the city streets and plopped in the shelter with his littermates.

Louie was an adult cat, living with adult humans and no other animals. But, due to a change in family circumstances, he, too, was at the shelter.

When they arrived at the farmhouse, Dewey just wanted a warm, breathing body, a heartbeat.

Tag, the Border collie, was not excited about the prospect, and to this day, is not a fan of the intruder.

Louie, though, accepted the kitten who wanted to snuggle, and then wanted to pounce. Did Louie assess the situation (he was living in a house with three Border collies) and decide the cats needed to stick together?

Over the years, this odd couple formed a bond. During the days they snuggle together, they groom each other, they play chase games, and when Dewey gets trapped, in a closet, in a bathroom, in the laundry room, as he often does, Louie comes running and yowls so we notice that something is amiss with his little buddy.

I'd like to say that I saw a spark between them that day at the shelter, that I saw the seeds of a great friendship, but the only thing I saw that day were two cats needing a place to call home.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Rooster Moves to his New Home

Want to deflate the ego of a cocky, young rooster?

Move him to the old hen house.

Each year we save two young roosters for breeding. One stays with the young pullets. The other moves in with the older hens.

Until last week, the two young roosters were living with the young pullets. But as the weather warmed and the days grew longer, the hormones began flowing and the fighting increased. This weekend, one moved into the old henhouse.

Unlike the pullets, the old hens did not look at the young rooster with awe and admiration.

So, he spent the following morning trying to win their admiration. He clucked when he found scratch grain on the ground. But his real prize came later in the afternoon when he found one of the first worms of the season. Worm in mouth, he ran to the hens and strutted around them.

That move seemed to win some fans. For even a young rooster knows that women find men that cook charming.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Five Joys on the Fifth of February

Sunny skies.

Two good sheepdog training sessions.

Learning how to make maple syrup.

The first pullet egg of the year.

A growler of Yeti, awaiting the Super Bowl.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cleaning out the Critter Medicine Cabinet

I found three bottles of unopened iodine and a 10-year history of the critters on the farm.

I kept the dog collars, tags still attached, that belonged to Jack and Rambles, our two deceased Border collies.

But I threw out the half-full tube of Banamine that I'd used on Scuba, my mare, in a futile attempt to keep her alive.

Much of the cat history -- the ear mite medication for a stray barn cat, flea preventative from a flea infestation seven years ago, calming sprays from 2006, the year that Blotto died and the indoor/outdoor cats went on a marking binge -- was tossed.

Though, I saved the cat harness that I'd bought for Blotto when we moved to the area in 1997. I just might teach Dewey to walk on leash.

The history of dogs filled a trash can. Gone are the pain medications from Rambles's first, second and third knee surgery, and the anti-inflammatories that we gave after we gave up on surgeries. Also pitched were the expired ear washes, eye washes, liquid wound spray, dewormer, eye medication, probiotics, and dental washes.

I kept the e-collar from the numerous dog surgeries, the bellyband from Jack's final year, and the first aid bandages.

Mixed among them were the sheep ear tags -- three different types from the years we were deciding on the ones we liked best, the castrating bands, and boxes of syringes and needles.

I also organized the red, green, and yellow chicken leg bands -- and remembered that I still must band the young hens.

I kept the two sets of clippers, the scissors, the brushes. Grooming never goes out of style, nor do the tools reach an expiration date.

And I placed the bottles of iodine in the front part of the cabinet -- next to the latex gloves, bandages and other first aid tools.

Maybe I should be thankful to have so many bottles of unopened iodine.

An Open Letter to Mickey, the Border collie

(Who returned from her walk with raccoon poo under her collar and dangling from both sides of her neck)

Does poo, rather than rouge, better fit your personality? You are, afterall, a fearless athlete.

Or maybe you were going for the eco-friendly look. I'm sure no raccoons or other animals were harmed in the making of the poo.

Maybe you preferred the color, that, I must admit blends nicely with the whites, blacks, and browns in your coat.

Do you like the dangling look? If so, I'd be happy to attach cute baubles to your collar. Give me time and I'll gladly braid them into your ruff.

Or was it the fragrance you were seeking? Do you find raccoon poo a come-hither smell that will attract the boys?

Or are you hoping to repel the other dogs and humans?

When you come home smeared in raccoon poo, I will not be the understanding mother nor the questioning mother. I will be the one who says, "Not in my house."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog's Day

It is 50 degrees and sunny, and I'm sure I heard a fly buzzing yesterday when I was in the pasture, dressed in jeans and t-shirt, and working dogs.

The birds are singing, and the horses and sheep would rather pick the greening grass than eat hay.

I still have a few hundred bales of hay in the loft, wood in the shed, plenty of heating oil in the tank, and I have yet to get out the heated water buckets for the sheep.

If we haven't had winter yet, does it matter if the groundhog sees his shadow?