Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winter and Waiting

Winter came precisely on cue this year.  On Solstice, the 21st of December, the air turned bitterly cold.  The wind blew all remaining leaves off the trees and there were snow flurries all day long.  Thankfully, no snow stayed on the ground.  The wind continued through the night.  I heard a loud bang at about 3 a.m. and will look around to figure out what got blown around at morning’s light.

The clouds hang low and ominous.  They look heavy and thick.  We are pressed upon by the charcoal sky.

So, now I will check the goats to see if my theory about kidding holds.  They seem to wait for uncomfortably cold weather to start dropping kids.  There may be a practical reason.  Maybe bad germs aren’t as likely to cause problems.  Who knows?  Maybe it is just to force the goatkeeper to suffer from painfully frozen fingers – but I doubt it.

At any rate, it won’t be long now. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012


It is unseasonably warm.  Daytime temps go from 50 to 70.  We've had no rain in over a month.  Well, unless you count 1/100th of an inch in some places in our region.

I always get edgy when we are in a drought.

Each morning, I stand outside the big barn as the goats go up the hill in single file.  I'm rudely oggling udders, watching for signs of impending kidding.  Our guard llama, Zorio, apes me.  He also stands and inspects the troops.  Then, he follows up the hill, going around to an open gate, as he can't get under the fence opening the herd uses.  He meets up with them and stays with them all day, watching for danger.

Last week, I handled a newborn heifer calf, marveling at nature's perfection.  How is it that complicated biological systems come in cute little packages?  She is tiny, but nursing vigorously, and will likely be a little hulk in a month.

Gracie is in the neighboring pasture, obviously wanting to join the rest of the cows.  She's doing great, but I want her to enjoy the priviledge of grain and hay just for her.  Once she is again in her herd, she'll have to fend for herself. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Amazing Gracie

I found her accidentally when I went down into the valley to treat a bull calf.  She was in the brush on a hillside near the treeline, curled up in a little black ball.

This was the valley where cows parked calves during the day and that was definitely the case with the bull calf.  His mother visited him several times a day to nurse him then left him to his own devices the rest of the time.  I wanted to give him a shot and band him and we managed to catch him and take care of those tasks.  Afterwards, I noticed the other calf.

It seems that Gracie had been abandoned.  She could not stand or walk and was totally blind.  She rolled down the hill, startled when I approached.  She appeared to be about six months old, but starved and dehydrated, as she couldn’t get to water on her own.

We got her to a flat area near a fenced off sinkhole and realized that she was too heavy to pick up and drive up to the corral at the top of the hill.  Even a group of men were unable to figure out a way to move her with the tractor, so we made her a little pen with a tarp covering to protect her from the sun and rain.  I became her “Meals on Wheels,” driving down twice a day to deliver water, hay, and a small portion of sweet feed. 

Calves have the instinct to run away from humans and other animals when they are young.  It is a good instinct.  But Gracie must have just panicked without the ability to flee.  She was tentative about the feed at first, never having had it.  Soon, she seemed to look forward to the sound of my motor in the morning and evening.  It was a good month before I saw her try to move around the pen.  She was managing to crawl to a dry area under the tarp.  Soon, I’d see her out in the sun beyond the tarp.  However, I wondered what I’d do when rain or snow impeded my driving on the fairly steep hillside.  Although I realized that this was an uneconomical hobby, I really couldn’t bring myself to re-abandon her and let her die.

The bull calf had finally followed his mother up the hill and Gracie was all alone except for my visits.  She let me pet her and rub her curly head.  Her eyes were very damaged, but she seemed to be very good at sensing where I and the food and water were.  She was responding quite nicely.

Last week, Gracie actually was trying to get up on her legs for a few seconds.  The blood circulation must have been cut off after months of lying down.  That was a happy sight, but when she was able to stand up to drink from the water bucket, I was certainly amazed.  I had no thought that she’d ever stand up.

When she began to walk around the pen, staggering in a stiff legged forward movement, I was still more surprised.  After a couple of days, I left the pen gate open so that she could graze on the grass.  She ventured out and began a multi-day climb to the top of the hill.  I’d drive down to wherever she was on a given day and deliver her food and water.  She was visibly exhausted each evening and she just lay on the hill to rest. 

Yesterday, she made it to the top.  There is an automatic waterer there, which she evidently has mastered as she rejected the water bucket.  She’s got hay and feed and will, I hope, continue to improve in condition.  The herd will cycle back to that field in a couple of months and with luck she’ll be reintegrated.

Gracie once was lost, but now she’s found; was blind, but now she (almost) sees.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

On Sunday morning, with the help of friends, we got about 500 square bales into the barn lofts.  By then, two old farmers had been turning bales in the field and lifting them onto hay wagons for two days and we had just about used up all of our aging muscle.

Last week was perfect for cutting, raking, and baling.  The temperature was down in the low eighties and the humidity low.  We got some good looking green hay.

We knew that rain was predicted for late Sunday, so it was imperative to keep going to get it all under cover.  There were the 22 round bales which could be moved by tractor into a shed, but the square bales, necessary for feeding the goats during the winter maternity season, required a more hands-on approach.  This is also a much more labor intensive procedure.

So, just as the last bale ascended up the hay elevator into the loft, it started sprinkling.  By the next morning, it was raining lightly but steadily.  Last night, I could hear the rain beating on the roof all night long.  This morning, it is still raining on the newly shorn fields and filling up the pond to the great delight of the geese.

It is 70 degrees this morning and we're expecting temperatures in the seventies during the days this coming week.  It is a relief to have lofts and sheds full of hay for the cows and goats.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Last Gasp?

Yesterday afternoon, a storm of short duration blew away the heat and humidity.  Is this Summer's last gasp?

I hope so.

This morning, I was able to do four tasks before I started to sweat and needed a rest.  That is quite an improvement!

My eggplant on the porch has developed a nice shiny dark purple fruit.  There are peppers on one of the larger potted plants.  In the garden, interesting heritage tomatoes are abundant, as are large red peppers.

I roasted some peppers and put them in the refrigerator in a little brine to use in salads and sauces.

Friday, August 17, 2012


The sun was a red disk when I woke up this morning.  The kitchen is on the Eastern side of the house and I always look out at the sunrise as I grapple about for coffee.  What this bodes, I don't know, but it is unusual.

A slight tilt of the planet has given us the first tugs and pulls of weather change for late summer.  There are occasional days of lower humidity.  We are promised slightly cooler temperatures for the weekend. 

Plants respond immediately to the less roasting temps.  They begin to flower again.  The eggplant on the porch has six lavender blossoms promising fruit.  The pepper plants are also blossoming.  Four-O-Clocks in pots bloom in a variety of colors.  Rose of Sharon and Hydrangeas are also displaying some nice flowers.  The intense heat, however, seems to have negatively affected some plants which would normally be in bloom.  Butterfly bushes, for instance, bloomed early this year but not as spectacularly as in some years.

Meanwhile, in the veg garden, tomatoes are ripening and we've already consumed a good amount.  Peppers are large but still green.  I've processed all the peaches.  Now, apples and figs are ready to pick.  This is keeping me busy in between other tasks.

Our cows have dropped three calves in the last month.  The goat herd, which had a year off from producing young, are cavorting with a borrowed buck who has the status of rock star.  He is always followed by a small cabal of groupies, which changes as they settle.  We've agreed to keep him until October, so there will surely be births during the coldest months of winter.  It will be interesting to see if there are any November births from the last buck.  There didn't seem to be much activity when he was here, but you never know.  Sometimes they can fool you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I'm hanging on through the heat and humidity.  I really hate July and August.

We've had a little rain now and then.  It came down for a reasonable time yesterday afternoon.  That is most welcome.  It's been in the nineties steadily.  Tomatoes and peppers are developing nicely in the garden.  I've got a healthy looking eggplant growing in a pot up on the porch. 

Since I've taken the time to plant lettuce successively, there is plenty for salads.  Squash is out of control.  There are more spaghetti squashes than I can bake, scrape out and freeze, as I'm just about out of freezer space.  We have enjoyed one of several nice red meated watermelons and there are numerous cucumbers in the cooler from the first planting.  A new crop of long oriental cukes are going to be ready later this week.  The chickens are getting squash deliveries daily.

On Sunday, I planted lettuce and Brussels sprouts because I know this is the time to do so for a Fall crop.  If I can manage to breathe, I'll plant cabbage and broccoli this week.

The crows are picking off the pears in all day thieving sessions.  They are not even ripe, so I don't know what the fascination is with them.  Maybe they just love pears.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to protect the nearly ripe peaches and day lilies from deer and a menagerie of other would-be thieves by playing a radio all night along with blinking Christmas lights.  It is truly Christmas in July on our farm.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Stalking the Wild Raspberry

Black raspberries are available for only a short time in the late Spring/early Summer.  They grow wild in shady spots which are usually on fence lines.  I know where they grow and that they are accessible after the first hay mowing in our pastures.

Yesterday, the morning was cool and refreshing before the beady eye of the sun burned off the fog.  I drove my little utility vehicle up to the hay field, as I do every other day.  A deer ran off, startled.  She was likely browsing on the tasty little berries.  They have delicate leaves and are not as thorny as blackberries.  I managed to pick a small container, then went down into my fenced garden where a couple of bushes have planted themselves next to upright supports.  There, probably because they get watered once in awhile, the berries are bigger and more abundant.

I added whatever blueberries were ripe to the container.

A young red cardinal was trapped within the bird netting cage that protects the blueberries (supposedly) from birds.  He kept flying into the netting in his panic at my presence.  I was able easily to pick him up and take a good look.  Nature is an artist.

I let him go outside of the netted cage and he flew off into the big arbor vitae, singing his mating song.  I’d like to think he was singing it to me in gratitude for letting him go free without harm.

One day soon, the black raspberries will shrivel and dry out, as will their leaves.  By then, the blackberries, which are hanging large and red, will have ripened and will want picking.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

June on the Farm

Click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Bathed in Light

It's June and we're having a few days of nice cool/warm weather.  Despite a couple of good rain showers, the hay making is proceeding on schedule.

Although we're weeks from the Summer Solstice, it is daylight for a very long stretch each day.  The sun is up around 4:30 a.m. and doesn't go down until around 9 p.m.  I've noticed that the moon is shining or something is affecting the night sky, making it lighter than usual.

The daylilies are bursting out in bloom with their always surprising colors and configurations.  Lettuces are harvestable.  I've planted some more for continuous salad material.  Cucumbers and squashes are beginning to flower and produce.  I've been picking blueberries and black raspberries.  A neighbor brought over a bucket of beautiful sour red cherries and the apricots are almost ready to pick.  This morning's breakfast was cottage cheese with mixed berries and cherries.

If the low humidity holds today, I'll do some serious barn cleaning.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Hay Day

It is hot, hot, hot and humid today.  Up 'till now, for the most part, it's been pretty reasonably seasonable.  We are cutting hay today. 

Lettuces are up in the garden and ready to begin to harvest for salads.  I've picked a few blueberries and lots of asparagus.

Honeysuckle is the new scent in the air and the brambles are going nuts.  Berries are forming.  Squash and cucumber vines are doing nicely in the garden.

Our new hens are starting to lay their small pullet eggs regularly.  The eggs will increase in size as time goes by.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mother, May I?

So, we're into the merry month of May.  The first pale pink peony has opened up.  (I seem to be in an alliterative mood.)  Sweet William is prominent in the gardens and the air is full of the scent of wild rose.  The irises bloom -- each color seems to have its particular schedule. 

The goats are in their annual Spring mania, doing crazy, dangerous things and driving me to my own mania as a result.

In the kow kindergarten, we have six little ones and I have a feeling that there are more to come.  The grass is high in the  low pasture, so they'll be moved there soon.

It's hot and humid at present, although less than a week ago it was near freezing overnight.  Yep, it's Spring.  I've already frozen some asparagus and we had chard for dinner last night.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gone With the Wind

I thought I'd capture some of the pastel Spring we are experiencing here today.  The apricot trees were first to bloom and their blossoms have already blown away in the wind.  Pollinators were busy on the peach and pear trees and the weeping cherry is at the height of beauty.  Lilacs are about to flower.  Redbuds soften the treeline near the hay shed.
You can click on images to enlarge.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Marching Forward

All of the fruit trees are blooming in a profusion of pinks and whites. 

Yeah, I know there's probably still some cold weather in store, but we might as well enjoy it as there is no stopping nature.

Redbuds are beginning to soften the edge of the treelines.

I saw the first asparagus spear emerging from the ground.

Today, it is raining a little, so I'm taking advantage by dividing up peonies and daylilies and transplanting them to new locations.  I also planted some blueberry bushes.  I've been weeding vegetable beds and transporting the beautiful black compost from last year's pile.  We are going to make a new compost center and move our electric compost sifter to the same location.  Once we do it, I'll be shredding junk mail and cardboard and adding it in.  There is no shortage of manure from the goat barn and it's good to have a use for it all.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


The last two days have been dry and sunny -- perfect for doing some of the physical labor that needed to be done near the rebuilt old goose house.  So, I cut down junk trees and hauled them into a big pile.  I also helped my husband with the repairs by climbing up on a ladder and lifting the long boards up to the top of the outside wall.

We can see our progress.  In fact, I'm thinking that this is getting to be too grand for a goose house.  It may just turn out to be the second goat maternity barn.  Building a new barn would have been an expensive proposition, but re-using an existing structure makes sense.

There is a small shed nearby and with pond access that I've been eyeing.  It wouldn't take much to convert it into a spiffy goose house for the second flock.  We'd need to put hardware cloth over any open areas at the roofline and make a small door with a ramp.  That's not really all that complicated.  The chickens would sure be relieved to have those water loving pals out of their nice, dry chicken house.  The geese would sure love to once again have access to the second pond!

Now, the wind is howling and dark clouds fill the sky.  It'll rain soon, so we'll switch gears and do some inside work for awhile.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Okay, NOW it's February!

Rain, snow, sleet, Arctic temperatures in store.  Hardship, adversity, challenge -- I'd say "Bring it on!", but that phrase has been tainted.  Anyway, the weather's a little more normal this week.

Happily, I'll report that some stored away knowledge or instinct, or something led me to correctly recognize a uterine prolapse in the ewe of another farmer acquaintance.  I even knew somehow what to do -- Internet research after the fact confirmed that.

Last Sunday, he called and asked me to come over as he thought his ewe was "trying to give birth" and having a hard time.  He knew I'd assisted at hundreds of goat birthings.  He had also witnessed a good number of births in both sheep and goats.

When I got there, it was immediately clear to me that this was not a lamb presenting.  Observing the situation, I realized that the ewe had pushed out her entire uterus.  I was then told that she'd been trapped outside in the mud by baling twine around a big round bale.  She was likely there for several hours before being found and freed.  I'm guessing she panicked and that's what caused the prolapse.

I asked the farmer if he had a vet he could call.  He responded that a vet visit would cost more than the maximum value of the ewe.  If we couldn't figure out what to do, the ewe would die shortly, because he couldn't afford a veterinarian.

I asked for a bucket of hot soapy water and a towel, washed off the muddy parts, and had him push from the lower part of the protrusion while I held the head of the ewe and try to reassure her.  I'm certain the pushing was painful for her.

Luckily, he managed to push it back in place and she looked more normal.  He had penicillin, so we gave her a good dose and I reminded him to repeat the dose for several days.  We got her a bucket of clean water and she had a good, long drink.  She seemed to be coming out of shock.  I left her in a dry, covered shed to recover, went home, and looked up "uterine prolapse" on the Web.

'New lesson learned in the School of Hard Knocks.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


It's February 2nd and today will still be mild and drippy, with temperatures in the 60s.  Yesterday, it got up to 70 in the afternoon.  You can work outside in a t-shirt.  It's definitely freaky for February.

I saw a daffodil bud ready to bloom.

From the Washington Post, I learned that Alaska and parts of Europe are having an exceptionally cold winter this year, so I accept that this weather is not a global phenom.

So, I guess I'll just continue to take advantage of the temps and get some good physical outdoor work done today. 

In the greenhouse, the lettuce is growing and the spinach and mixed broccoli is up.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Yep, that describes the current weather pattern.  It is mild for January and we are in a rain cluster for the next few days.

I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong.  I just have a nagging worry about global climate change.  Still, I know that weather patterns are not climate patterns, and I hope for the best.

I'm creating a cold room in the greenhouse for growing the more cold tolerant crops which could not be put outside until early Spring.  Usually, I miss the deadlines.  So, in big wooden shipping crates, I've placed tons of soil and compost in the section of the greenhouse which is not being heated, except by passive solar means.  I've planted four containers and so far the mixed lettuce which I planted first on January 10th is up.