Sunday, May 30, 2010

Who likes fresh peas?

In Chatham we marked the beginning of summer with the arrival of fresh peas in the garden. It is the same here. The difference is that in Chatham we were eating our first peas on the 4th of July and here it is Memorial Day.

I was shelling peas for dinner tonight and decided to see who in the barnyard might enjoy this SPECIAL treat.

Beau studied them carefully but didn't try any. Hildegard hoped they would be a special treat but turned away also and then couldn't believe Sarah and Annie gobbled them down (the peas and the pods).

The chickens are no fools but they preferred the inside.

We prefer the insides too either raw or thrown into boiling water for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. YUM!!!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Enough Rain Already

Yesterday started out to be a promising day. I was able to get some mulch I badly needed from my usual source-- a truck load. Yay!!! Then the day got warm so I rested with the mulch in the back of the truck. The plan was to plant all remaining plants in the vegetable garden when the day got cooler again and move the mulch this morning when Adam came.

A couple of hours later it looked like it might rain but I thought it would probably miss us. Well it didn't. We had a thunderstorm, a delouge of rain, driving hail, wind and then HEAVY rain again. When the lightening part had passed I went to see how the animals and the barn had faired. The chickens were under their coop enjoying the rain and staying dry. From a distance, I could see that the temporary water diverter that Adam and I rigged to take water from the barn roof away from the barn was still in place so I was hopeful as I approached the barn BUT I knew it was still going to be wet.

And wet it was!!! The barn was like a marsh with tidal pools, that I wished smelled salty. The sheep were out so I began digging small trenches to carry the water out. The new bedding of a few days previous was completely saturated and the layer under that was now squishy and ready to be removed as well. The rain had stopped enough to bring the little tractor with the trailer over to haul it all away. I spent the next hour forking the mess into the trailer.

The sheep were enjoying the distant side of the pasture and Beau went to join them after checking out what I was up to, but the chickens (who have now discovered the barn) hung out and kept me amused while I worked. Since I had the wheel barrow up at the barn, I decided to load it with stuff from one area instead of raking it all the way out to the trailer. As I was wheeling it out of the barn the tire suddenly went completely flat. I think that is when it started to rain again or maybe that was just enough and it rained shortly after that. Anyway I left it all for another day. At least it was out of the barn.

I went to put some tools away in the shed and found it curious that there was somewhere that was still dry. I had previously put towels down in the house to soak up rain that had been driven through windows up just a bit. The mulch in back of the truck that was so fluffy did not get covered and... lets just say it is no longer fluffy. It will take a few days to dry if it stops raining.

Wish I had pictures to show but John had the camera at work. Just as well to put it all behind. Today Adam and I hauled everything to the compost pile and fixed the tire. If it doesn't rain today, I will put down new bedding. Two days without rain would be WONDERFUL.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Help has arrived

What a difference it makes having help with farm projects especially someone good at figuring things out and interesting to talk to. A friend's son, home for the summer, has come to help me get caught up with stuff or at least make a dent. I feel SO good about what we have accomplished in the last two days and now look forward to the extra things this will make time for.

Today I washed some more fleece but am not sure yet if I will be happy with the results. The issue is the greece in wool. The wash water has to be Hot and you have to use enough of the right kind of cleaning agent. Amelia's fleece still has greece I think so I did more reading. Several people say Dawn dish detergent is what they use and the blue original is apparently the best. Also the fleece must move freely in the wash water but not to much movement or you can run into felting issues. There is a difference of opinion on several of the steps so experimentation is highly recommended. Tomorrow I will buy some Dawn, use alot, and check the temperature of the water.

On Thursdays I go up to Valley Slot Car to help with the races and I leave around 4:00. With the chickens coming out more and staying out later, I was afraid I would have a hard time getting them to go in early. I decided to use the sheep trick--give them grain in the coop. It worked!!! I was feeling like "I have this all figured out" and then turned around to see that I had left the gate to the barnyard open ( I have never done this before) and Beau and Mira had walked out. Fortunately, I got to the gate before the other five sheep and closed it quickly. I have a backup plan if the chickens won't go in early-- I can call a neighbor who will come by later and close the chickens in but Beau and the sheep is another story. But alas, Beau decided to give me a break and come back in for grain with Mira following. I told him thank you several times.

Some days things go according to plan--now if it just doesn't rain until morning.....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Something New to Worry About

Six sheep and a llama grazing in the early evening.
All of the chickens are finally out and exploring.
A visitor to the barnyard trying to pass through but he/she won't fit so how did it get in?
The chickens are very curious about the new critter in the barnyard.

Finally the skies are mostly blue and the barn is beginning to dry out a bit. Dry enough to put down some new straw for bedding. I am sure Beau and the girls will be appreciative.

The chickens spent most of the day out exploring and are beginning to chase flying insects and a tiny blue butterfly. So funny to watch. I guess they are like some of my clients-- no good role model so they have to figure everything out for themselves. I didn't wait to see what the snapping turtle would do to naive chickens. It took me an hour to get the turtle out of the barnyard (so heavy, a big mouth, and quite perturbed) but I did.

And the other good news-- we have seen the bluebirds going in and out of the bluebird house in its new location.

As this day comes to an end all seems good on the farm.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I hope I have learned from my mistake

I am devastated! I am SO ______. I blog about taking the time to watch and then ....... I am so upset. I usually take a long time to do something but today I was in a hurry to set the bluebird box up for the bluebirds and was totally careless.

I opened the birdhouse to clean it and found some, what I thought were, old eggs. I thought they were old unhatched abandoned eggs because we are on our front porch several times a day and we had not seen any bird activity. So I took the nest with eggs in it out and put it on the shelf where the bird house was (a couple of feet from the front door) and put the bluebird house on the post as planned. A couple of hours later a storm passed through and blew the nest over spilling the eggs which cracked. I couldn't believe it- they were viable eggs (bluebird eggs)! THEN I googled bluebirds after I fully realized what I had done.

I had no idea that bluebirds would nest in a birdhouse a couple of feet from a front door in a house on a shelf. I thought they were elusive and particular about where they nested. I didn't know what their eggs looked like. I had no idea that they can leave eggs for a long time when it is warm. I thought if there were eggs the mom was on them. Was I born yesterday?

All I can do now is forgive myself and hope that the bluebirds will build a new nest. I told them I was sorry. From what I read they can build nests quickly and have several broods a year. At least now I know a bit about bluebirds. Now I pledge to watch MORE closely and pay more attention to the life around me.

When you take the time to watch

We still have one chicken, chicken. The other five will go out the chicken door to explore.

It has been three weeks now that the chickens have been in their coop. They really like their coop and they know it is home that is a good thing. But I think it is time for them to explore the barnyard. I go down and open the chicken door first thing in the morning and usually four will come out right away. Then I wait and eventually give up and let the last one or two out the big door. Most of the time white 2 will go out the chicken door but one of the Rhode Island Reds is VERY nervous. Today I observed something very interesting. Five chickens were out and number 6 was fretting about being the only one left inside when one of the other RIRs brought the one inside a gift (can't tell some of them apart yet). It was like a momma bird bringing its baby a bug or worm. She dropped it right on the threshold of the chicken door. What a sweet gesture. Looks like the chickens are beginning to worry about #6 too. #6 went immediately to investigate and stuck her head out the door and looked all around but did not venture out. WHY?

I have been watching bluebirds this week. Many sightings but then after watching carefully I realized they had a favorite spot on the last fence post in the front yard. I think the are eyeing the hole in the post for a nest so today I put a bluebird house on the closest post to offer an alternative if they haven't decided yet. I did not want to get too close if they have already started a nest.

Beau really wants to come out lately BUT he won't let me put his halter on. The last time, he got sheared and got his hooves trimmed. I don't have the temporary fence up outside their pasture right now so I can't let anyone out and besides I want Beau to get used to his halter again so I can take him for walks for a treat and to naturally trim his hooves on the driveway gravel. Also, I would like to comb his mane (which did not get sheared and is starting to get dredlocks). He used to let me and then we didn't keep it up --or I didn't.

Now I need to take the time to watch him and get to understand him better and get him to trust me again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie-now or later?

I was going to go to a free movie tonight but I decided to clean the barn instead. You are probably thinking I have totally lost it now. Actually, I am only half crazy. I came home and had two hours before I needed to go to the movie and I just lost track of time cleaning the barn. When I came in it was two and a half hours later and too late to catch the movie.

I really enjoy cleaning the barn. It doesn't usually take me two and a half hours but we have had a lot of rain and there is a corner where a rain barrel catches rain off the roof but it is full and can't be pumped because the solar panel doesn't work to operate the DC pump so the rain seeped into that corner and the bedding was really wet. Also the slope on the south side of the barn is not pitched quite right and when it rains alot it comes in there as well.

I really need to find out why the solar panel is not working and have the south side of the barn reexcavated but for today I decided to rake out all the straw and hay, haul it to the compost pile, get some wood shavings from John's shop, and put them down to absorb the wetness. Of course every time I put wood shavings down Beau has to roll in them so I had to work around him as well. All the raking and spreading and rolling yuks up the water in and around the barn so clean water was called for. And that is why it took me two and a half hours to clean the barn.

Just remembered, I spent the first twenty minutes mowing the barnyard and a small area of the pasture where the sheep and Beau have been selectively eating leaving less desirable species to get quite tall. Time to set up rotational grazing. So much to do so little time.

I heard the movie was good. Oh well- I had a good time this evening and I can rent the movie some rainy day six months from now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I witnessed the epitome of patience yesterday in a young man named Jonathan who came to shear Beau. Jonathan is the son of the woman Beau used to live with. Jonathan sheared Beau last year and probably the year before.

Beau has watched all 6 sheep go through multiple trims for the last few weeks and finally his turn came. Jonathan uses the same kind of blade shears that I do but he is much better and faster than I. And with all of this I didn't think the shearing would be a big deal but it WAS. Boy am I glad I did not attempt shearing Beau. I was, however, the one that got spit at. I knew he was mad but I thought I could talk to him. No way-- he wasn't listening to anything we had to say.

Beau got down and up and turned and tried to spit at Jonathan and tried everything in the book to get out of the haircut while Jonathan moved slowly, stopped when he needed to, held the right places (gently but firmly) and continued on until he was finished. Incredible patience!

I asked Jonathan if it would help if the sheep would come and keep Beau company like they did when they got sheared. He said it might but the sheep all hid in the barn and wouldn't even come out for grain.

To get a sense of what it was like, think about having a 3 year old have all the shots you would have to have to go to South America and have them all one after another. Meanwhile, Jonathan's wife and 2 month old daughter sat in the grass nearby and seemed totally uneffected.

After shearing Beau, Jonathan also trimmed Beau's hooves (another not so favorite thing but quick). And then it was all over. I am so glad shearing is only a once a year necessity. I just couldn't get over Jonathan's Patience and calm demeanor. All together Jonathan spent about an hour on Beau and drove about 30 minutes out of his way (he was on his way to West Virginia). And after all of that he only charged me $40 ( I wouldn't have done it for less than $100.) But then again I live with Beau and had to go through all the mental anguish. I guess for Jonathan it was like the "someone else's kid thing".

Anyway, it is all over for this year, Beau doesn't hold it against me and maybe I will even forget how bad it was by next year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rainy Day Energy

Unlike goats, sheep like being out in the rain. Llamas do too. I like being out in the rain for awhile. The last two days have been on and off rain. The sheep look nice in the rain, Beau looks bedraggled, and I am not sure how I look but I get a feeling of energy and excitement.

Yesterday, I woke up to a very dreary looking day but by the time I got to Boxerwood to look for frogs and turtles with 3rd graders it had started to rain and the mood of the day changed dramatically. Not too many kids have moms or dads that tell them to go out and play in the rain but that is what we do at Boxerwood (we have rain ponchos for all). I have to admit it wasn't all fun and exciting though. The temperature was a few degrees too cool and after a couple of hours we were definitely ready to go in for lunch. Then after lunch we were back out again and it began to rain harder and we started to realize we were WET. After the kids left, Hannah made popcorn and that helped lift our spirits again. Meanwhile, back at the farm, the sheep and Beau were probably out most of the day and loving it.

Today it is raining on and off again but today I have been content to stay inside. The critters were out but as a thunderstorm came through half hour ago and the first clap sounded like a gun shot, I looked out to see Beau, followed by the girls, running fast to the barn. Good to know Beau knows what to do in a thunder storm.

It has been a great day for cleaning my creative space and reorganizing. Big and Little House Mountains are missing from my north window and Short Hills just disappeared from the west window as a sudden squall came up. The wind is howling and the front door just flew open. As I went to close it, my new wool drying hoop (I finished today) was flying but sustaining from a hook on the front porch ceiling. Yes, I got a bit done today.

Good rain for my vegetable garden too. I love the different shades of green. Tomorrow will be a good day to weed and maybe plant the next set of vegetables.

So most things living on this property vote YES for rain-- the chickens votes are still out until this front passes and I can go down to collect their votes. I will take them some dry wood chips or straw to sway their votes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Days of Laughter

Now that I have been making the chickens come out the chicken door instead of the big door, only one of the chickens has been coming out (except yesterday one more joined her). I have seen all 6 roosting on the roost right next to the chicken door and sometimes they will roost in the doorway but they won't come out. All along this one chicken, the one who joined her yesterday, and the rooster have been the first to do everything.

Yesterday White Number 1 (as John named her) was practicing her flying on the side of the coop where the rest could see her. They were all watching and then practicing but in the coop flying into things and still, they wouldn't come out (Red Number 1 finally did).

I was actually glad that only White Number 1 was out last Thursday because I had to leave to go to the slot car races before she wanted to go in and I was coming home late so I had to catch her. That wasn't easy until the sheep came to help. She kept ducking under the coop and coming out the other side. Finally, the sheep saw my frustration and came to help herd her to the chicken ladder and she went up.

Having animals adds a whole new dimension to life around here. Every morning I wake up and wonder what the day will bring knowing that, no matter what else happens, there will be some laughs for certain.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Different Way

There are many ways to do EACH thing that we do. Think about it. Take, for example, eating. We can eat with our hands, chop sticks, a fork or spoon etc. We can gobble our food or reflect on each morsel. You get the idea. Today, I was thinking about why we do things the way we do-- Is it about time? Is it about learning and understanding? Is it about getting the most out of an experience? Or is it just about doing something the way we were taught or the way that best fits our style. And THEN why do we choose to do something differently than we have been doing for as long as we can remember?

I have been carding and spinning wool for more than two years. My learning style is by being shown; which in some cases can by limiting. When I first learned to card and spin I learned from one person showing me how. I have been shown different ways since then but I have not ever been around many people demonstrating technical ways and why one way is better than another. Some would say, "so what, you can spin can't you?"

Last weekend I bought a small paperback book demonstrating many aspects of working with wool. I began to read about how to wash wool, card wool, and spin. I realized right away that the author's methods were "better" than mine or at least could give me results that were preferable to me. Unfortunately, I don't learn visually and had to read and reread the part about carding wool with hand carders MANY times. I would read - look at the picture- and then practice each of six steps and then redo the process over and over. It made sense to me why the author did it this way and I was excited BUT I could not lock it into my memory.

I will try again soon because I have gotten to the place in fiber work where I want to achieve a more ______ (what is the word) result. Just being able to turn fibers from 6 sheep and a llama into a hat, mittens, and more is no longer good enough for me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chickens' First Day Out

The big day finally arrived--Out of the coop then under the coop

Checking out the chicken ladder.

The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.

Why not just walk out the gate-- I saw the sheep do it.

Didn't have the camera when the sheep and chickens were checking each other out but by the end of the day all seemed O.K. with the arrangements. After the chickens checked in for the night Beau looked like he missed them. I think he will enjoy them because he seems to get bored when the sheep go in to the barn for their mid-day rest.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Do We Know?

Someone recently asked me how I learned to take care of the animals that live with us. I said, the animals tell me--it is true.

Today, and the last few days, a couple of the chickens told me it is time for them to go out into the big world. For the past five days they have been watching the sheep wander and graze from their coop and now they want a piece of the action. So tomorrow John is going to cut a small chicken door for them to go in and out. The sheep and Beau stop several times a day and look in on the chickens-- I wonder what they will think when the chickens are out and about.

The little neighbor boys came over to play this morning and when we went down to check out the chickens Beau had an interesting reaction. The boys haven't been over lately and they were running toward the chicken coop where Beau was hanging out. We were outside the barnyard fence but still Beau was clearly perturbed. At one point he looked like he was going to spit. Is he already protecting the chickens?? The sheep were not close. Beau told me to make the boys sit in the chairs and look at the chickens from a distance.

When the sheep are lounging mid-day in the barn Beau doe not like me to disturb them. He will escort me to the barn and keep me on the out skirts when I go to give them fresh water but he would much prefer that I do barn work when they are grazing-- not resting. They all let me know when they are hungry for a treat or want to be noticed.

They tell me SO much and yet I worry about them. Karen says when I run out of things that I am worrying about she will give me some more ideas I have not thought of. What are friends for? She said that since our kids are out of the house we have to worry about our animals-- being mothers and all. I guess she is right it is built in. We don't stop worrying about our kids but since we don't know all the things they are doing now they are out on their own and we see our animals every day, it is only natural to worry about them instead. Is worrying natural?

The song "Don't Worry- Be Happy" just popped into my head. I wonder what that means.