Thursday, May 26, 2016

...And There Goes the Weekend

I walked into the hen house tonight, and two fluffy yellow heads and one watchful hen greeted me.

When I returned with a camera, one chick had buried itself under its mama. The other one was cautious, but curious.She kept peeking out from under her mama's wing.

Mama Hen will stay on her nest for another day or so, until she's sure there are no more chicks to hatch. After hatching, chicks can survive 72 hours without food and water. This allows Mama Hen to stay on her nest and complete the hatch.

Inside the house, I have another distraction--11 hot chicks in the bathroom.

I had placed eggs in the incubator, and the chicks began hatching on Tuesday morning. In a few days, I'll repace the newspaper with cedar shavings and soon, they'll go to the chick house.

But for this weekend, I will be taking a break from planting the garden, from cleaning the horse barn, from weeding the flowerbed, from mowing the pastures, to watch the chicks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Killer Frost

Weeks ago, I succumbed to temptation of warm days in early spring and planted eggplants, peppers and herbs that I usually plant in late May.

Last night I was in the garden, assessing the damage from a hard, late spring frost.

The buckwheat that I'd planted as a cover crop died. As did the pepper plants that were covered with just a light layer of straw. The potato plants that were peeking through the straw are questionable.

The eggplant and basil that I'd covered with a heavy layer of straw survived. And, of course, the peas are thriving.

And so I did what gardeners have been doing for generations.

I spent the evening in the garden. Mornings that produce frosts often turn into bright, sunshiny days and calm evenings that linger into sunset. It was a perfect evening to be outdoors.

I pulled weeds that survived the frost quite well, and I dug in the dirt and marveled at the earthworms, and watched the lambs romp in the pasture, and listened to the birds. I planted tomatoes in the dead buckwheat patch and made plans for more plants.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How to Stop a Flock

With rain in the forecast, I did what I'd done dozens of times.

I sent Raven, the Border collie, out into the pasture to round up the small flock of dry ewes (those without lambs at their side) and bring them through a six-foot gate, through the yard and into the paddock with an overhang.

As I opened the gate, the calico barn cat rubbed against my legs and rolled in front of the gate.

I snatched her up and put her on my shoulder where I could pet her and keep her safe from the sheep who were trotting toward the gate.

That cat brought the flock to a stop. The lead ewe eyed the cat that spent its days rubbing against the sheep and llama in the barnyard.

What was it doing on my shoulder? Was this some kind of trick? Would that cat attack the flock?

The lead ewe would happily walk by me; she would walk by the cat; but she would not walk by me with a cat on my shoulder. And, until the lead ewe walked forward, none of the other ewes would either.

Cat on shoulder, I took a few steps away from the sheep and flanked the dog back and forth, until finally the ewe was convinced it was safe to move forward.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Wailing Lamb

I take great joy in looking out my office window and seeing ewes and lambs grazing in the pasture.

As the morning moves on, the lambs tire of grazing and nap. The ewes though, still nursing lambs and needing calories, keep walking and gobbling up grass.

I write and watch as the ewes move down the hill. Most lambs follow.

But one, snoozing in the morning sun, does not.

When he awakes, he sees no ewes or lambs. They've all moved about 50 yards down the hill.

He does what lambs do, what we adults would like to do when things are not going our way.

He stands up and wails and wails.

As lambs grow older, the ewes respond less and less quickly to lamb wails. A 30-day-old lamb calling for his mother only elicits a couple "over here" baas from mom before she returns to grazing.

The lamb wails again, hoping she'll come.

She doesn't.

Giving in, he lopes toward his mother and other sheep. The lambs and sheep return to munching grass.

And, I return to my work, happy to be diverted by lambs.