Saturday, February 28, 2015

Signs of Spring

I spent the last day of February cross country skiing and moving more hay into the livestock barn.

Though the ground is snow-covered and more snow is on its way, it felt like spring.

The birds are singing, and I saw a Great Blue Heron flying overhead. The house wrens are scouting out the Christmas wreath hanging on the front door.

And, in the hen house, the chickens are back to laying eggs, not lots yet, but more than an occasional one.

You'll have to trust me on the eggs. This determined hen did not want to get up and show off the eggs.

Loose hairs cover the shedding horses.

They need haircuts and a good grooming, but with below-normal temperatures forecast this week, I leave the hair be.

The sheep, too, are showing the tell-tale sign of spring on our farm -- fibers on the fence.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Different Agendas, Same Result

When we depart, I on skis, the dogs naked except for the collars around their necks, we're enthusiastic. Five inches of powdery snow, calm winds and temperatures in the teens make for excellent trekking weather.

But, when I stop to admire the frost, I realize we have different agendas.

I admire how the frost clings to the fences, and turns the pines Christmas-card perfect.

I study the weeds, looking for seeds that the birds may scavenge now that winter is nearing its end.

The dogs see no point in looking up, for their joy is under the snow. It's on the ground where they may disturb a rabbit or mouse.

And, so we move along, each taking our own walk, each enjoying the winter morning as we travel around the fields.

And though our agendas are different, we're in the same state when we reach the 1,000-foot marker, We are tired and happy and thankful for a winter walk together.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Critter Thermometer

I expect cold snaps in winter, but when they come early and late in the season, they seem especially cruel.

When cold hit in November, it seemed to catch us by surprise. We didn't have the water heaters in place, the gloves dug out from storage, the body used to the cold. And when it hit this past week, I was already photographing dandelions and looking for shades of green in the grass.

I don't keep an outdoor thermometer. The critters tell me when temperatures have dropped below zero.

That happened yesterday when:

Dewey Kitty went outside and was crying to come back in after four minutes.

The horses, usually hanging out in the pastures at night, were standing in their stalls in the morning.

Llambert the Llama had icicles hanging from his eyelashes.

The Border collies dashed outside for their morning walk, but 300 yards into it, three of the four were lifting their paws in that ouchy way.

The sheep ate their first-cutting hay without complaint. (The girls get first cutting to nibble on throughout the day and get the third-cutting alfalfa in the evenings).

And, it's even colder this morning. How do I know?

Dewey Kitty didn't even ask to go outside. He's lounging on his polar fleece blanket, content in watching me.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Power of Cheese

My Tag is a sensitive guy.

Heartworm tests, mat removal and some girls make him cry. So, too, does nail trimming.

And so nail trimming became one of those dreaded tasks where the spouse held him while he howled and cried and carried on as I trimmed.

Things changed last summer when a friend introduced me to the power of canned cheese.

She put Tag on the picnic table, offered him cheese and told him he was a good dog as he licked it off her finger. His tail wagged in delight.

She held his paw and offered him cheese. He was in love--with her, with cheese, with the entire game.

A few minutes later, she handed the can of cheese to me and told me to squirt some on my finger. He licked cheese and wagged his tail as she trimmed his nails.

And so now the husband's job is to squirt cheese on his finger; Tag licks; and I trim. The task is completed in a few minutes and everyone is happy.

The wiggly puppy is on the cheese routine for now too. I'm hoping that she'll learn to eventually hold still while I trim, but in the meantime she's learning that nail trimming is a good thing.

Color in February

The snow on the ground and sheets on the clothesline create swaths of white on a winter afternoon.

But it is sunny and in the mid-40s and the smell of sun-dried sheets freshens the house.

February in Ohio can seem the dreariest of months, but on a sunny day, as the sun melts, I find color.

When walking the dogs down a farm lane, I look beneath the cedar tree and find blue.

And, when working Raven in the sheep pasture, I find what the sheep and horses know is there.

Blades of green are between the brown blades, beneath the melting snow.

The brightest color, though, is found in the yard.