Friday, June 20, 2014

Wild Kingdom

Here are some of the things about Summer that I hate:

We are in the period of heat and stinking high humidity.  You can hardly breathe at midday.  This morning, I was out using the trimmer before seven a.m.  I worked up a good sweat.

A giant black snake is helping himself to eggs in the chicken house.  Okay, okay... he does a service by keeping the mice and rats down to a minimum.  I suppose he is entitled to a share of the eggs in return.  However, I am sometimes startled by his unexpected presence and I have to look in each nest box before placing my hand inside!

Something has killed and eaten three ducks this week.  I'm thinking a little family of possums or raccoons.  They do us no service that I can recall.

The first kill was through hardware cloth which had been pried loose.  I repaired it and thought all was now safe.  Wrong.  The second kill was through a corner of exterior plywood which was pried loose.  I charged up the drill and drilled holes for the new long stainless steel screws.  I screwed them down with the drill into solid wood supports.  "This is a good repair," I thought.  They cannot pull this apart.

It was not pried loose.  The predator CHEWED A HOLE through the plywood in order to slither through and get the third duck.

These are some clever, determined creatures.  I'll have to place a new piece of plywood over the existing one and screw it down in short sections.  But first:

The remaining ducks will not go into the duck house tonight.  I will set a Havaheart trap with dog food inside with the door of the duck house closed and locked.  They can use their entrance hole to get in.

Will this work?  Who knows.  They'll probably manage to eat the dog food and get away.  Why do I feel like a frustrated old fool trying to outsmart a woodland creature -- or like Sylvester trying to catch Tweety Bird?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Vignette


The old fellow goes out to the garage and hops on the riding mower. His wife hasn't hidden the key and it starts up. He mows odd meandering paths around the property. They reflect the meandering of his mind.

“I don't see no more grass to mow,” he tells his wife when he goes back inside.

“It looks fine,” she says kindly. She is now on her second round of child raising.

She cannot relax or take a break for more than fifteen minutes. He has tipped the three-wheeler over during a rain storm and lain in the mud for over an hour. He used to regularly run down the tractor battery when he tried to use it, or fix it, and left the key in the “on” position. Male relatives managed to convert most of the accessible farm machinery so that keys could be removed. The riding mower is the only toy he is allowed to use.

He is bored and restless, having led an active life prior to this. Now, there are regular doctor visits and short day trips his wife devises to keep him out of trouble. He is not allowed to drive the pickup anymore. The last time he did, he quickly became disoriented and luckily a relative stopped him before he left the private rural lane.

He sleeps deeply in the lounger in front of the television. The Andy Griffith Show blares on, but he doesn't seem to hear it.

I've brought over a bucket of duck eggs, which the wife likes for baking. She invites me in and we take a tour of the small home to look at her vast collection of pig figurines, knickknacks, baskets, and key chains. She's been collecting them for many years and they fill the tops of her kitchen cabinets and the spare bedroom. I express admiration and we walk back to the kitchen through the living room.

I sneak a look at the pale man in the chair. He is breathing so shallowly that I briefly wonder if he's died.

He is okay and the next day his wife stops by as she picks up her newspaper and I weed the garden in the early morning. We stand by the fence and have one of our more frequent conversations on nothing in particular and lots of small unimportant topics. We both need the diversion.

The husband has expressed concern over our llama, which he hasn't seen in several days. I explain that Zorio has been staying inside the barn during the hot, humid days. He needs a Summer haircut, but won't stand for me to shear him. The goats are going out llama-less in the meantime. However, the llama is healthy and is getting hay and feed inside during the day and can graze during the cooler nights.

She will tell her husband to assure him that there is nothing to worry about.

I muse on the mystery of declining minds and aging bodies. I think about the bond of kindness and patience in long term marriages.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

June

We are beginning the transition into summer as the humidity slowly cranks up. 

There are more lightning bugs at night than I can remember from years past.  My colored lights are working to keep the deer away from the daylilies and the first blooms are appearing.  I didn't realize how much I missed their lovely blossoms.

Speaking of deer, they've dropped their fawns in protected fenced pastures and cool woodsy spots.  They give it away by running in front of my UTV as I zip along.  I guess the instinct is to divert potential danger away from the hiding places.  They evidently have no idea how little incentive I have to chase them.

The cows are also doing the reproductive thing as well.  We have three brand new calves that I know about.

I love the way that my cows smell -- milky and sweet.  The other smells of early summer include chamomile, honeysuckle, and fresh mown hay.

The hay sheds are filling up as the "hay conglomerate" gathers big round bales from area fields.

Meanwhile, all my mowers and trimmers are in working condition, allowing me to keep the lawns and grassy areas under control (for now.)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

Rabbits abound this Spring on the farm. I see so many each day that it is beginning to worry me. Small bands scatter before my UTV as I drive through the pastures. Will they devastate gardens this year? Will we rival Australia in rabbit overpopulation? Stay tuned.

Something is out of balance in nature. Perhaps it is the destruction of the coyotes in the area.

So, what else is happening? Well, we thankfully did not have a tornado go through our region during the last bout of storms. It rained a lot and is still cool. I tried to do some gardening tasks in the past two days and just got muddy and wet. I've been digging out big clumps of grass and trying to get the flower gardens back to some semblance of "acceptableness."

Actually, I'd like to enjoy the gardens and see the daylilies bloom for the first time in years. The deer and rabbits eat them down to the ground, especially any flower buds that develop. I've found some solar powered lights that change colors and staked them all around the garden. I am closely monitoring leaf growth and looking for buds. I even found an old spray bottle of deer deterrent -- which, ironically is probably coyote urine based!

I've noted that iris of any type and peony is not touched by the wildlife, so I'm transplanting a lot if it around daylily plantings to see if it helps.

The deer population is also pretty healthy on this farm. There are more than a dozen that graze in my hayfield, despite the fact that hunters harvested twenty two deer last Fall.

This year, the lungwort, which the locals call Virginia Bluebells was quite lovely. It's beginning to decline now. We have the variety which is tinged with pink on the blue petals. The neighbor says they originally got it in the woods, like a lot of the plants on the farm. This is also called pulmonaria. When I looked it up in my large volume Botanica, I found that it is a Eurasian plant. So, if it was located in the woods on the farm it must have come from very early European settlers.

It is interesting to me that in the same gardens where the lungwort is planted, there is also spiderwort and soapwort -- all lovely plants which also thrive in woodland areas.  I've been meaning to go on a Spring wildflower tour of the woods to see what else is blooming this year.  Maybe I will.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

April

Despite false starts and stops, it appears that Spring has made progress since my last post.


There was snow and cold less than a week ago, but today's temperatures will be in the 70s,  The red tips of peony plants have emerged.  Bunches of daffodils bloom in long lines around the farm.  The apricot tree has pink blossoms and fine green leaves are beginning to appear on trees and bushes.


It seems it was all alive under the snow just waiting for the trigger of the light to come back to life.  I get the concept of resurrection in the Spring.  I also get the concept of eggs as a symbol.  The chickens and ducks are laying prolifically.  Old Honky gander is once again cranky and mean as he protects old Wifey and her eggs.


I peel an inch layer of hard manure off the barn hallway using a sod cutter and my Kawasaki Mule to haul it to the compost piles.  It is good, hard physical work, and if I'm at least half sane I credit it with keeping me that way.


I started cleaning up the vegetable garden.  It is a huge task.  I'll plant mainly perennials and things I can reasonably consume this year, like lettuce and other greens.  This area has become a butterfly bush garden on its own and I'll think on how to transition it.  'Nothing wrong with a butterfly bush garden, I guess.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring

So, underneath all that snow daffodils were budding out.  Yesterday right on cue, there were lines of blooming daffs!  The Water Magnolia, very first to bud out of all the trees in my yard, has pale pink blossoms.  No leaves, just blossoms.


I hear today the temperatures will get into the low 70s.  That should get things going -- but tomorrow the weather see-saw will swing the other way and we'll probably be seeing a bit more snow this coming week.


'Think I'll pick a big bunch of daffodils and bring them inside to keep me company.


My pruning has been cumulative.  There are large piles of brush and branches.  I load up a couple of loads each warmish day and drive them up in the hayfield to dump.  There, they will compost and eventually disappear.  I am very lucky to have enough land that it absorbs the waste.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Frozen

It's been quite a winter with plenty of cold, cold days and nights.  Today was a doozy, and that was after two days in the low 70s.  A shocker, for sure, but winter will come to an end soon and it will be Spring again.


This is a poem which seems appropriate as a memorial for my old friend of 44 years.




Who Knows Where the Time Goes?


Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it's time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
I do not fear the time

For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?



--Sandy Denny

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

There Arose Such a Clatter

I rose from my bed to see what was the matter.  It turned out to be the pitter patter of hundreds of little birdie feets on the roof!  They rose en masse to fly away to the big oak trees in the pasture behind our house.

Large flocks have been coming through on their way to somewhere or other ahead of the winter storms.  I am grateful that we have places for them to rest, eat and shelter.  During the recent rain, robins splashed in the freezing puddles on the gravel driveway.  They seemed happy about it all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bitter Cold

Today's weather had me searching for a pair of electric gloves online.  My fingers actually hurt, even long after I came back in after doing the morning chores.  Tonight it will snow/rain/freeze, making for a lively time tomorrow morning.

To be sure, I hadn't worn the usual two pairs of gloves with the hand warmer tucked in-between.  That will change while I'm waiting for my electric gloves to materialize.

We've moved the cows back to a field which still had some grass growing.  I get a thrill when I open the gate, call "Hey, cowie cowie!" and thirty cows come running. 

I finished putting plastic on the chicken house windows to make it a little more cozy.  Chickens seem able to withstand very cold temperatures.  I also plugged in the electric water bowls so that they have something to drink.

We have lists of indoor jobs to do during bad weather, but we've still got to take care of the basic needs of our flocks.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November

This morning, I changed the beds to flannel sheets in anticipation of a couple of nights in the 20s.  We'll get a few snow flurries this afternoon and evening, but no accumulation.  I'm happy about the no accumulation part.

The fig tree looks sad since its crispy brown leaves were blown away.  Ornamental Bradford Pear and Japanese Maples still hold leaves and color.  I now realize why Bradford Pear is used so much in landscape.  It is the first to flower in the Spring and among the last to lose leaves in Autumn.

I've located the electric stapler and am planning on starting the process of putting the plastic over the chicken house windows a little at a time.  Time to check goat supplies and meds and begin stocking pine shavings and square bales in the Maternity barn.