Friday, June 29, 2012

When the Clover Dries: The Bees

Most years, morning walks in June leave my feet wet and my jeans soaked.

This year, I've walked the hay fields wearing tennis shoes, and returned with dry feet. I no longer worry about wet jeans.

I don't know if we've officially entered a drought. I only know that we haven't had rain for weeks. The grass crunches. The sheep and horses leave clouds of dust when they walk. The bees are visiting.

The bees paid their first visit a week ago. A dozen or so gathered around the spare chicken waterer that I'd left sitting next to the barn's water hydrant. Had they gone mad? I was used to seeing bees on the clover in the pastures and yard, but not swarming around the water hydrant.

The number of bees increased with each hot, dry day.

Yesterday, when temperatures reached 100 degrees, they swarmed the dogs' water pan on the back porch.

These bees are used to getting their water from dew-covered blooms. I'd love to give them that. But for now, I go into the barn, retrieve a shallow feed pan, fill it with water and offer it to the bees.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Higher Friendship Level

In the past few days, the sheep are taking more interest in me.

When I step outside, they baa greetings. Their eyes follow me as I walk across the yard.

Although only June, the grass is dry and brittle. To save the pastures, so that they may grow back if we ever get rain, I've pulled the sheep and horses from them.

That means the sheep are spending time in their paddocks, eating hay.

That means they're relying on me, instead of their four feet, for food.

That means that I'm once again their best friend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Little Dirt in the Diet

Read this article in the New York Times and thought of one my earliest gardening memories:

In late spring, when it's warm enough to walk barefoot, but the earth is still damp and cool, I was standing in the garden with my father.

He reached down and pulled a green onion from the earth. Twisting off the green tops, he demonstrated how to peel off the outermost layer.

"You bite off the end with the roots and spit it out," he said before demonstrating.

Then, standing among the young garden plants and rows of lettuce, peas and onions, he ate the onion.

I, being 5, and a student of my father, gave it a try.

I ate a lot of onions while standing in the garden that spring. As the season progressed, I picked and immediately ate peas and tomatoes and even a few green beans.

For in that simple act, my father taught me the joy of gardening, the joy of harvest and the joy of fresh vegetables.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hens Don't Have Calendars

When a hen nestled onto her nest of eggs last month, I marked the date on the calendar.

In approximately 21 days, I expected her to emerge from her nest with chicks.

That was if the eggs were fertilized.

I didn't know if the eggs were fertilized. Neither did she.

The hen can't count. Her mother never told her the incubation period for chicks is 21 days.

It's been 26 days now.

She still sits on her two eggs under the tree, waiting for cheeping sounds that will not come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Little Buckeyes

I'd hope for a few.

I received a baker's dozen.

Last fall, I selected a patch in the yard, turned the soil, and planted 13 Buckeye seeds. After watering them, I covered the area with straw, waited and wondered.

I've planted grass seeds, lettuce seeds, bean seeds, but never tree seeds.

I never expected a hundred percent germination rate.

This fall, I'll transplant a few to other parts of the yard, and look for others who might want a lucky Buckeye tree.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Making friends is tough to do

The new ram lamb arrived yesterday -- and I imagine he feels like a sixth-grader enrolling in a new school in April.

All of the friendships and pecking orders have been established, and he is the outsider.

But he knows enough to stick with the flock and to enjoy the grass. In time, he'll make some friends and become part of the flock.

PHOTO: The new ram, Rico Suave, lies down while the rest of the flock looks on.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hoof Trimming (Or, I don't see myself going pro)

Yesterday was hoof trimming for the 14 ewes.

If you're counting, which I was during the 90-minute project, that's 56 feet or 112 toes.

The tools of the trade are simple: one pair of leather gloves, a set of handheld sheep trimmers and two humans: one to hold the ewe, the other to trim.

Years ago, the spouse volunteered to be the holder. I give the shots, administer the deworming and trim hooves.

For hoof trimming, some sit sheep on their butts; others put them on a tilt table; some -- like us -- trim with the ewes standing.

For the hind feet, I use the farrier technique. Standing with my back to the ewe, I grasp the ewe's foot between my legs and trim. For the front feet, I kneel or squat next to the ewe.

During trimming, I notice we have four types of ewes:

The Agreeable Girl: These are the rare ones who stand quietly while I trim hooves.

The Acrobatic Girl: These are usually the young ones who hop around on three legs, kick, buck, rear, twist and try other manners of escape.

The Passive Protester: These are usually the older ewes who accept their fate, but refuse to make my life easy. When I lift up a front foot, they fall to their knees and grunt. I ignore their antics and trim.

The Butt Pushers: These ewes are the reason I have screaming hamstrings today. When working on their hind feet, they lean their weight into me. These ewes are supposed to weigh 130-160 pounds. So, unless my bathroom scale is wrong, I should be able to outpush some of them. I can't. They back, I brace and slide toward the wall. At this point, the spouse steps in, moves the ewe forward and hangs onto her neck. I trim and trim and trim, and wonder how we can get more Agreeable Girls in the flock.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Not Even the Cupcakes are Safe

I haven't had a Bad Dewey Kitty story for weeks.

This spring, the orange kitty insisted on going outside. He spends hours each day chasing butterflies and galloping after birds. Even with his goofy gait, he's managed to catch a few. In the past months, he's mastered tree-climbing and continues to work on getting those outdoor cats to play.

When he comes inside in the evening, he's tired and ready to sleep.

But when the temperatures dipped into the 50s and the rains came, he didn't want to go outside. He snuggled and slept, until he was no longer tired. Then, his hunting instinct kicked in.

When I came downstairs to pack my lunch, I found the box with the cupcakes turned upside down. Upon righting it, I noticed the chewed and torn hole in the corner.

"Dewey," I muttered.

He sauntered to me and rubbed against my legs... Just like old times.