Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Great Spring Shed

My arms and shoulders are sore this morning.

Yesterday, temperatures reached into the 60s, and I went to the barn and groomed the horses.

I usually trim bridle paths, legs and tails in late February.

But snow was on the ground and temperatures were still dipping into the single digits. They needed that hair.

Last evening, as the birds sang and the sky was pink in the east and orange in the west, I curried and curried, loosening and removing winter coat.

I cut fistfuls of hair from their manes, tufts from their ears, long cheek hairs, and the five-inch feathers from Lily's legs. And, I picked at their chestnuts and ergots.

 When Lily nuzzled my pockets, looking for her peppermint treats, I laughed.

I'm not riding much these days, as I spend more time with work and Border collies.

"Why do you do all the work of caring for the horses without getting the pleasure of riding?" some ask.

They do not understand that riding is just a bit of the joy of horses.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Coyote and the Border Collie

As I looked over the farm fields, patchy with melting snow, and took in the sky, tinted pink in the sunrise, I saw the coyote hunting in the corn field to my left. To my right, I saw the border collie, hunting in the  alfalfa field.

The coyote's gray-brown coat blended in with the patchy ground and decaying corn stalks. The Border collie's black and white coat allowed me to easily track her movements.

Both dog and coyote hunted with their noses to the ground. They zigged and zagged and paid me no mind as they searched for field mice scurrying beneath the snow. Occasionally, they'd pause and pounce.

The coyote had to hunt for her breakfast. With a full tummy after her morning kibble, the Border collie hunted because some instinct, some drive, told her to hunt.

When I called, "Hey, Coyote," the coyote, never looking up, continued her hunt.

When I called, "Caeli, that'll do," the Border collie looked up and loped toward me.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Ways of Sheep

The easiest way to move the sheep from the barn to the side pasture is through the yard.

When I started doing this last fall, I relied on a dog to push them and show them the way. Now, they know that hay will be awaiting them in the pasture and I can do the task without a dog.

Except for yesterday.

It was in the 40s and Dewey Kitty, the fluffy orange cat, thought it was finally warm enough to go outside and hunt. His focus was the rabbits camped out underneath the chicken shed--the chicken shed that sheep walk past on their way to pasture.

The fluffy orange cat stopped them in their tracks.

For though they are used to seeing Trick, the tabby barn cat, lounging in the sheep shed and walking through the pastures, they aren't used to seeing a fluffy orange cat.

When I reached the scene, Dewey Kitty was wide-eyed and feeling trapped by six snorting ewes, and the ewes were wide-eyed, unsure about moving past the 13-pound orange fluffy thing.

The ewes decided I was scarier and moved to the pasture. Dewey Kitty jumped into the chicken yard where the sheep could not reach him while he hunted.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My Wardrobe Malfunction

After living and doing chores on the farm for 17+ years, I've learned to tolerate the weather.

With the right clothing, I can get through the routine of hauling water and hay and more hay to the sheep and horses, grain to the chickens and wood to the stove.

But this morning, in the midst of the Great Thaw, I had a wardrobe malfunction.

When I stepped into a four-inch puddle, cold water seeped into my boot, chilling my foot.

After six years of keeping my feet warm and dry, my Muck Boots failed me.

And, though it was a balmy 35 degrees and the wind was not blowing, the morning chores became a chore as I walked around the puddles in the yard, in the pastures, in the driveway.

And, I changed my agenda for the day.

I HAD to go shopping.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Chickens in the Sheep Shed

My Buckeye chickens are happiest when they're roaming the pastures searching for bugs, grass and seeds.

When it snows and temperatures drop, their range shrinks.

Lately they've spent their days with the sheep, who opt to hang out by the barn rather than browse snow-covered pastures.

The chickens search around the hay feeders for seeds and choice alfalfa leaves that might have fallen to the ground.

The sheep while away the afternoons, ruminating and napping in the sun.

The ewes don't seem to mind the resourceful hen who inspects their backs for stray alfalfa leaves.