Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Raining, Dogs

When I open up the back door, I hear, before I see the shirt-soaking rain.

Caeli, the Border collie, doesn't pause. She circles the house, the garage, the manure spreader, looking for any intruder that visited in the night. A lot of rain isn't going to stop her.

Mickey, the Border collie, stands on the back porch and looks up at me. When I step into the rain, she follows. We are a team, after all.

Tag, the Border collie, sits on the back porch and wags his tail. My neat boy doesn't want to get wet or muddy. But, he is obedient. When I call, he comes on the morning walk in the rain.

Pearl Squirrel, the visiting little dog, sits on the back porch and refuses to budge no matter how I call her. She is not walking in the rain.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Observations after Hoof Trimming, De-worming, Ear-Tagging

1. A sheepdog is invaluable. In less than a minute, Caeli had the sheep rounded up and in the stall.

2. Our sheep are fat. I ponder how this happens when our pastures look sparse after a drought year.

3. Twenty-two sheep = 176 nails to trim. Remember sheep are animals with cloven hooves.

4. Hoof growth varies. Some hooves were so long they bent over the pad. Others barely needed a snip.

5. My hamstrings are sore. Sheep are not ergonomically designed for hoof trimming.

6. I wish a Border collie could be trained to trim sheep hooves.

7. A mother's behavior often predicts the behavior of the offspring. We have a family line of stompers and another of high-headed, runners.

8. A mother's build often predicts that of the offspring. We have quite the contingent of Choco-Butt Linebackers. They're our Solid Girls.

9. Throwbacks happen. Where did the Bob Marley ewe get her size and build? She stands three inches taller than any other sheep on the farm.

10. I'd rather give shots than punch ear tags. Yes, hard to believe for a needle-phobe.

11. Lambs change. A set of ewe lambs I didn't give much of a look at when born (their mom's the high-headed runner) are two of my best-looking lambs at age six months.

12. An afternoon spent in the sheep barn gives me lots of time to ponder farm life.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pullets and kids

At dusk, I open the door to the chicken yard.

Before I reach the chicken house door, the pullets come running outside. Maybe I'm bringing tomato scraps, or melon rinds, or scratch grain. They don't want to miss a treat.

I return to the house and wait for the birds to go back to roost in the chicken house.

Five minutes later, I return to the chicken yard.

It's darker now, but the hens still insist on running outside.

They don't want to miss a thing.

And I am reminded of the recent overnight visit by my niece and nephew.

At 6:15 a.m., I hear the boy's alarm go off. At 6:17 a.m., both niece and nephew are in the kitchen, awaiting the activities for the day.

Transitioning to Fall

The thermometer reads 45 degrees.

I have to search for a jacket that I haven't worn in months.

I don't have to search for the cat.

For the first time in months, the cat crawls into my lap instead of asking to go outside.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Perfect September Evening

Mowing the grass,
Shoveling manure,
Administering vaccinations,
Walking dogs,
Weeding the garden,
Grooming dogs and horses,
Canning tomatoes,
Leading horses to pastures,
Monitoring pastures,
Catching roosters,
Disinfecting water buckets.

The chore list doesn't seem that bad,
as I sit on the back porch,
wearing jeans, sweatshirt and wool socks,
reading a book,
drinking a beer,
surrounded by three dogs and three cats,
watching sheep and horses graze,
and listening to the chickens murmur as they catch the last moths of evening.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The School Lunch Menu -- circa 1970s

In my grandmother's Ball Home Canning book, I found a folded piece of paper.

On one side was a handwritten recipe for grape jelly. On the other, was a mimeographed school lunch menu.

Was it a menu from St. Pat's in Troy where I went to elementary school or was it a menu from St. Mary's in Springfield, where my grandmother was a school cook?

I consulted my sister.

It must be St. Mary's; there are no no-bake cookies on the menu, she responded.

There are some similarities at both schools. Both served fish on Friday. Both charged 15 cent for an extra pizza. Both served chocolate milk one day a week.

But, I think my sister's right. At St. Pat's, we always had peas with tuna noodle casserole; and we NEVER had prunes; and St. Pat's also served Heavenly Hash.

At both places, I'm willing to bet that the students ate what they were served.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Canning Tomatoes

After freezing 10 quarts of tomato sauce, I returned to the garden to pick more tomatoes. In less than 20 minutes, I had two five-gallon buckets full of tomatoes.

Canning time!

For the past few years, I avoided canning and just froze tomato sauce. However, with a bumper crop of tomatoes (and the recent chicken massacre), I am running out of freezer space.

So I dug through the cookbooks until I found the "canning Bible."

This is the Ball Blue Book -- circa 1944, that belonged to my grandmother.

I studied the picture, then I looked at myself, decked out in tattered jeans and t-shirt, and hair pulled into a pony tail. I don't own anything with ruffles.

When I'm finished canning, I'm pretty sure I won't be smiling so serenely. I'm sure I'll be a little sweaty and a lot covered in tomato juice.

But, I'm also sure I'll have found memories of canning tomatoes with my mother and grandmother.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Diminishing Evening Sounds

Only the cicada song fills the evening air now.

No longer do I hear the roosters' crows, the squawks as a rooster protects the roost, the cries of a young, smaller rooster being chased by a larger one, the flapping wings of roosters flying over the fence to escape the more dominant birds.

The ratio in the young chicken house was all wrong: five young females to six young males. When puberty hit, the cock fighting began. For the past two weeks, it had gotten worse, and I'd found a few roosters with bloody combs.

So, I made the phone call and scheduled an appointment to send six roosters - four young and two old -- to the butcher.

We now have 17 hens, two cockerels and two chicks (one whom I suspect may be a male).

The crowing is seldom now.

So, I sit on the back porch reading in the quickly fading light, listening to the cicadas' song, knowing that that too will soon be gone.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Digging Potatoes

I removed the layers of straw and discovered that periodic rains during the last several weeks does not make up for a hot, dry summer.

The potatoes were the size of marbles and golf balls. A few, not many, reached tennis ball size. While the ground held moisture and worms, it was not easy digging.

But, my efforts produced potatoes.

Apparently, I'm not the only one enjoying the produce from the garden.

This toad has been eating well in this summer of drought and insects.

I, though, passed on the insects.

When lunchtime approached, I looked around the garden and found fall lettuce and tomatoes, lots of tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spiderwebs... A sure sign of fall

Most times, I feel, rather than see, the spiderwebs.

This morning, the fog rolled in and I saw how busy the spiders have been.


One web covered the garden gate.

This one looked like it was floating free in the yard. Upon closer inspection, I found the support threads attached to nearby pine trees and to tree limbs above.

Caeli, the Border collie, was only momentarily caught in the web. Then, she was on to watch chickens and find her red ball.

The spiders love making nest in the little pine trees. Maybe the pines are good trees for the beginning web builder.

I found this girl in the garden. I love how she makes a zigzag stitch. I'm not sure what kind of spider she is, but as a kid, I was convinced this was a black widow because I'd never seen a spider so big.