Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Almost Great Escape

It took a day for me to recover from my efforts in thwarting the Great Escape. Now that I've had a whirlpool bath and taken massive amounts of Ibuprofen for joint and muscle pain, I can look back on the event and laugh. (Sure.)

If you've followed this blog for any time at all, you know that we own a big bovine called Tinkerbell, who is the ringleader of our cow herd and has an adventurous spirit. She's the one who was found under a big round bale after breaking into the hay shed one year and the one who somehow got into the woods for a summer vacation another year.

On Monday morning, I heard loud mooing coming from the area near the lawn of our house. This is fairly unusual, as cows only moo when they really need to. This time, it was excitement which was responsible for the noise.  Tinkie was pushing down the pasture fence to munch on the uncut grass and was threatening to completely mash down the fencing to get onto the lawn. Other cows were cheering her on and starting to anticipate the security breach. It was a riot -- literally.

The pastures have been chomped down to the ground due to the lack of rain and we'd let the cows roam over three so that they'd have a chance to eat grass as it grew slowly. The lawn, however, has been neglected as far as mowing is concerned, and it was just too tempting.

I quickly got dressed and ran out to yell at the cows to stop. They did not stop entirely and when I went back inside to figure out what to do, they just kept on trying to get onto the lawn.

I picked up a stick and opened gates that would lead to the now harvested hayfield where there are sections of lush grass regrown. I tried to drive the cows out of the pasture near the lawn, hoping they'd see the open gates and circle round to the field. They were confused. Why was I upset with them? Weren't they using ingenuity and initiative to take care of their own needs?

So, realizing that they wouldn't leave off the attempt to free themselves of the pasture fence, I started walking from the pasture they were in through the other three, calling "Come on cowies!" over my shoulder. Eventually the brighter ones began to follow and, well since they are herd animals, the whole forty-five or so cows followed. Once they saw the final gate into the hayfield open they began to run through to the lovely green grass. Our little Hereford, Dinky, kicked up her heels in delight.

Okay. I shut the gate and began the uphill climb back through the pastures, closing gates behind me as I went. Then, I saw the five calves.

Cows "park" calves in safe places while they graze, periodically checking on them and nursing. These were the smallest herd members and became aware of the ruckus, grouped together, and timidly tried to figure out what the heck just happened and, just where were the mammas?

So began a second herding. Calves are instinctively shy of human contact and tend to run away, rather than follow or drive in front of you. It took patience and many arthritic trips up and down those hills before they finally caught sight (and hearing) of the herd. When they grouped near the gate hours later, with their mothers looking anxiously for them, I was able to reunite all herd members in the same pasture.

If you've ever thought you'd like to be a farmer and enjoy the quiet pastoral life, I think it is in the spirit of complete disclosure that you know that some days are like this.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing "Beat the Freeze"

Potted plants are being ferried down to the greenhouse each time I drive down the hill. I'm loading the Mule from the porches around the house.

Overnight temperatures are flirting with a freeze in the high thirties and low forties.

Yesterday, I spent some time cleaning up the sunny end greenhouse and the potting room. Today, I'll continue in the middle and shady end.

We pulled massive wisteria vines down last week off the middle and shady end greenhouses. There was so much material that it still hasn't been disposed of.

The idea -- and it works well -- is that the plant will naturally shade the greehouses in summer and then, when the leaves fall in the winter, sunlight can again warm those sections. Except that it has been growing for ten years and the branches have become so massive that less and less sunlight has been able to penetrate the sections. Wisteria began to grow INTO the greenhouse through whatever small openings it could find. Talk about a scary Halloween tale!

I doubt we killed the wisteria. It'll be back -- like Jason, or any other zombie. I'll just make it my business to cut it down drastically every autumn. Hey, it beats placing shadecloth over the large greenhouses!

It's noticeably brighter in the sections which were covered in vines. I'm hoping that I can motivate myself to continue upgrading and cleaning. The propane tanks were filled last month and small electric heaters are at the ready. There'll be no heating until the bitterest weather, and that will be just to keep the potted plants alive until Spring.

I'm cutting down big weed/trees and throwing them into the goat pastures, where they are found with great glee and eaten with gusto. We had a day and a half of rain only this week, and there isn't all that much weedy material in the pastures. So, I'm killing two birds when I attend to the "neatening up" around the farm.

Buckets of small yellow tomatoes and any distressed larger tomatoes go to the chickens along with excess chard. This provides them with extra, tasty nutrition which they seem happy to have. We are still eating Cherokee Purple, which finish ripening in the house.

The last of the hay was cut and baled last week. It was trucked over to the barn and placed under the overhang just before the rainstorm. Today, a helper will assist in placing it on the hay elevator and stacking it in the loft.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sailors Take Warning

This morning started out with fluffy pink clouds which quickly took on bright coral bottoms. Moving quickly from North to South, Light grey clouds followed, gaining charcoal accents.

Not a drop of rain all day or yesterday, but it was a bit chilly and windy.

Tonight, looking out the same window, black altostratus clouds sporting small brownish puffs, are strung across the grey sky over a lemon colored sunset.