Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bye Bye Dreads

Karen got new bunnies so in order to try and keep up with her we got a giraffe. Yesterday, Beau got a hair cut and we decided it was time to say goodbye to the dreadlocks too.

It was in the 90's yesterday, the warmest day this year, and I didn't realize how hot it was and how intense the sun was and I got over heated. I went in to cool off, rest, chew on a lime, and recover. John offered to greet Jonathan when he came to shear Beau and help him set up. I slept. The boys did a fine job without me. When they were done, John told me Beau looked like a giraffe-- he kind of does but he looks very cool.

I am glad all the hair came off before the heat. Now Beau can stay cool and I won't have to have him chew on a lime though he might not mind-- he likes pickles and peas.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Rhythm of the Rain

A year ago (almost to the day), I was blogging "Enough Rain Already". This year we have had plenty of rain for sure, but it has had a different rhythm. We had 2 weeks with maybe one day that it did not rain, then a couple of dry days, and now rain again but there aren't rivers in the barn and I don't sink 3 inches in muck in the barnyard.

Each day it seems to rain at a different time. Some nights we are awakened by the sound of rain and wind and then it dries in the morning. Some days it is overcast all day and then we have a late afternoon rain. Some mornings it rains out of the blue and when I start replaning the day the rain stops and the skies clear.

We haven't had to think about watering the gardens. It seems to dry out a bit when I need to work in the soil. Yes, it seems there is a rhythm to the rain. I think I shall suggest to James that he write an ode to the rhythm of this spring's rain. It would be a nice compliment to the piece he wrote about the Hawk.

I do have to mention that another reason all the rain has not bothered me so much is that the new improvements to the barnyard have helped greatly; the drainage system Adam and I put in and the wood chips I put down in front of the barn where there used to be animal bedding raked from the barn that turned to muck. I think I should get some more Boxerwood wood chips. That reminds me that yet another reason that the rain is fine with me is that every day this spring when I have worked at Boxerwood or done a river trip the rain has held off until the last 15 minutes of the session or rained very briefly or rained in the early morning and then stopped.

The local farmers finally got a 2 day window to get the hay up even if they had to work at night (yes, tractors have headlights).

I know this rhythm has not been shared by many other areas of the country. I don't remember ever having so many areas of flooding in one year-- the Midwest, the Mississippi delta, and I heard today that Lake Champlain is 2 and a half feet above flood level and Montpelier and Barre VT have rivers running through them.

Hopefully, other areas will soon start to get a rhythm to their rain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It Was Suppose to be Easy

Today was the day to finish up hooves and do the second round on tetanus shots for the lambs. I called Karen because we just haven't seen each other in awhile and I thought it would be easy.

It seemed like everything went wrong, though. We had all but a couple in the barn just as planned but then when we went to close the door several escaped. I think we ended up with a bunch of ewes that did not need anything done, no Annie, and one lamb. We gave that one a shot and then had to round up some more. We got a few more lambs in but when I went to pinch the skin to put the needle under it but it went out the other side into me baby finger which started gushing blood. I went out and found a plantain leaf to wrap it and proceeded on. After that all the lambs got wound up and we were chasing and wrestling. The lambs were so squirmy and I volunteered to hold one and let Karen trim hooves. She cut her hand with the hoof trimmer and went to find a plantain leaf. She went back to holding and one of the lambs scraped her leg good trying to get away. Kids and shots. Seemed like it was much easier the first time around before they knew what was coming. Trimming Annie's hooves seemed simple compared to catching and treating the lambs.

In the end we were tired, bloody, filthy and gouged. It was suppose to be easy.

It was very warm today but this evening wasn't so bad so John and I let the animals go down to the lower pasture when we came home from dinner at the fire house. We sat by the gate and watched them graze. It was so peaceful and everyone returned on cue when it was time to go back.

Last evening they returned but Beau was taking his time so I had the sheep in the little pasture and had the gate between closed. I forgot to put the bungee on the big red gate and they got together and pushed it open and went up by the house and ate leaves off the fruit trees.

That took a while to sort out. Many a gate had to be opened and closed.

Some things are easy but others just seem to unravel. I hope Karen will come back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

To Eat or Not to Eat

Last night we laid in bed watching lighting flashes and listening to thunder, first from afar and then it rumbled in. Strong wind blew rain sideways at the wall behind our heads.

We were watching the Red Sox and Cubs with Boston leading in the 8th inning when we lost satellite connection. We never heard any especially close cracks but thought the animals had probably headed to the barn to seek protection. They love the rain, as I have said before, but don't like thunder storms.

I was surprised, when I went down to the barn this morning, to see a sizable piece of the big wild cherry tree had fallen on Beau's stanchion just outside the barn. It came off from the top of the tree but I don't know if it was a lightning strike or a weak spot in heavy wind. None of the animals were hurt from the limb falling but I knew I needed to remove it quickly as wild cherry is poisonous to sheep in its wilted stage and I could see some of the leaves had already been eaten by someone/s. John took a chain saw to it and we removed it promptly.

What if we had not been here. Make a note: when we leave for more than a day and someone is watching the sheep they need to know that if a storm falls any tree limbs- wilted cherry is poisonous to sheep. I don't know about Beau.

Generally, animals know what they should eat or not eat regarding herbaceous plants but I don't know about woody plants because they eat the leaves of poisonous trees when they are fresh and I don't know if they know about the wilt factor. I do know many a sheep have died from eating wilted cherry. (hydrocyanic acid)

Wild cherry are everywhere so it is difficult to get rid of them all. When sheep have their choice of abundant plant material they only eat the good stuff but they love to browse on tender leaves and most in the main pasture within reach have been consumed so if a big limb suddenly becomes available it is tempting.

I took Beau and the girls down to the lower pasture this morning where there are plenty of safe leaves. I haven't seen any ill effects today.

Red Sox 5 Cubs 1 , sun came out, -- all seems good.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shepherd or Sheep Farmer

This morning, as I was in the lower pasture with my sheep, I was leaning on the shepherd staff one of my brothers made me, contemplating a recent conversation with a niece and several nephews.

We were at a family gathering and one of my nephews asked me if I was a shepherd or a sheep farmer. Others, who were gathered around, asked him the difference. He said a shepherd leads his/her sheep and a sheep farmer has a dog that runs behind the sheep and nips at their heels. I told him I was a shepherd but one of his uncles kept trying to turn me into a sheep farmer. What's ironic is that my brother who has a sheep herding dog and keeps telling me I need one is the one who made me the staff.

It was Christmas or my last birthday before I left MA, and I remember how excited I was to receive a beautiful shepherd staff my brother had painstakingly made from a cherry tree that had fallen. I held it in my hands feeling how smooth it was and admiring the grain but the emotion that swelled up inside was that my brother believed in and was promoting my dream.

This morning, as I held the staff, I was thinking about what makes me crazy as a shepherd or sheep farmer. The answer---- sheep or a llama on the wrong side of the fence. The "grass is greener" thing drives me nuts. This morning Jumping Jack was outside the fence with his head inside and just across the fence nose to nose was Greta or Zora (I can't remember which) with her head outside the fence. "the grass is greener"

The truly bizarre thing is that all the lambs that go outside are the ones I plan on keeping plus the one I would keep if I could keep one more. The ones I plan to sell are mellow and graze inside the fence.

I think all of this leads to the answer I have been seeking.....;.;@#%$^!!! Take down the temporary fence and be a shepherd and lead my sheep or get a dog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sheep Sitter

This morning, at the Wednesday Farmer Market, I was talking to my neighbor who was selling her beef. She was saying how she loved going by and seeing the sheep and lambs and said they looked so happy. I asked her if they needed any sheep that I had too many. A woman, who looked familiar, was listening to us and asked me if I needed a sheep sitter.

I have been thinking about trying to find someone who could come over and keep an eye on the sheep occasionally if we want to go away for a week or so. I thought, here is yet another example of just thinking about something you need and it shows up. As we got to talking it turned out that she wanted the sheep to come to her house. She wanted them to graze so she didn't have to mow. She said she would keep them all summer and give them back to me when the grass stopped growing. Humm, I thought, this could be the answer to a different problem. I told her that I was trying to sell a few but if that didn't work out in a timely fashion I might take her up on it or I could have the ones that I was planning on selling go over there and let prospective buyers see them over there.

She was anxious to get some sheep soon as we have been having alot of rain and everything is so lush. We have lots of grass everywhere except the main pasture where the sheep have over grazed. She gave me her card and that is when I realized who she was. I met her at Karen's last winter when we were making maple syrup. She has chickens and good fencing and organic grass-- she was really trying to sell me on the idea. I told her that real lush grass isn't good for sheep and then she explained she has panels she could use to control grazing. I gave her a card and we agreed to talk soon.

I ran into 3 other friends at the farmers' market and the library before meeting another friend for lunch. I was also introduced to the town arborer, another woman who has animals, and invited to two events this weekend. Wow, alot happens when you go into town.

It was a fun day but when I got home I had to take a short nap and then it rained again so the animals did not get to go out to the lower pasture. I may need to move some sheep to the sheep sitter or do some better fencing soon.

Aside-- With John's help holding, I trimmed 40 hooves yesterday. All that is left is Annie and her two little ones. It just worked out that way and I am glad because- though Annie is over her scours, she and her lambs could use a little extra cleanup.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It doesn't get any Greener than This

lush, lush, lush, - hope it lasts awhile

they love me - or at least want to see if I brought them anything

Jumping Jack and Norma Jean are interested in the bread I brought
who is going to get it

It was a good day at Cabin Spring Farm except that each day I let the animals out into the temporary fencing it is a shorter time before one of them walks through the fence. Guess I have to make a better fence. Fencing has to be the biggest issue of every farm.

Tomorrow I will consider fence options and see how many of the 56 hooves I can get trimmed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Must Be Manure Week

I woke up this morning and reminded myself that it was Friday so I could take it easy today. Then I remembered that it is suppose to rain for the next 10 days so I better move some of the MANURE PILE BEFORE THE RAIN STARTED> YOU REALLY CAN"T call it a manure pile anymore-- thanks to the chickens, it is a lovely compost pile.

Loads of worms the size of a small snake, not like the 5 foot black snake I almost stepped on in the barnyard a couple of days ago, but big enough to excite a 4th grade boy/girl. Make a note* Good job for a fiber camper-- moving compost to the garden.

Most people starting up a fiber camp wouldn't hope for campers that can't afford the cost of camp, but I can't wait. I have decided that a good way to get a few things done around here (farm work and fiber prep) is to offer a trade of time working for time adventuring at camp. Hope I will get some takers.

Back to moving the pile, it was going pretty slowly until I remembered you can't pitch with a spade fork you have to use a pitch fork. Make another note*

Three trailer loads of compost moved and a wheel barrel load of weeds out of the dyeing garden. I had to wait for Beau and a few sheep to move over to the big pasture so I could leave some gates open, so I had to do something useful while I waited. Then I did some fiber prep and spun some wool.

Maybe tomorrow I will take it easy.

Sometimes It's Better not to have a Picture

At least not a physical one; it is a clear photo in the mind. A few days ago Rosa, one of Annie's lambs, had greenish poop on her side. Oooh, I thought, now we need a good rain. The next day, when I saw Rosa, she had it all over her face, top of her head, shoulder... you get the picture. Time to check on Annie to see what was going on. Ooooh, there was the answer.

In the spring, when everything gets wet and lush all of a sudden, the sheep get greenish poop. That is O.K. but it usually doesn't get so runny. And to add to the problem, Rosa is a twin, who for some reason never took to nursing from the front like her brother, but rather took the rear approach. That is O.K. too if your mom doesn't have green scours (diarrhea). Is this too graphic?

Unfortunately, Annie is the most skiddish of all the ewes so I thought I was in for a big ordeal. The problem was, this discovery was made about 45 minutes before Karen was due to arrive to help me dock Mary Terra's tail so I had to work fast.

I got a bucket of water, a towel, some shears, a sheep halter, and of course some sheep feed and got Annie's attention. I decided to set up in the shelter behind the garage/barn. As with all operations, I got about 5 extra sheep in the enclosure but I got the 2 I wanted and slowly released the rest. Rosa wasn't bad- she squirmed a bit but was probably really glad to get her face washed. Then I went after Annie, who got all excited and pooped in the, by now empty, food bowl. All in all it worked out O.K. and I got the bowl, bucket, towel, and my clothes in the utility basin before Karen and her friend arrived in clean clothes.

I kind of amazed myself how organized and efficient I was and how quickly I got everything done. I am learning!! When I went in the house with poop all down the front of me, John was at his computer with his back to me and I asked him if he was having as much fun as I was and he said yes and then turned around and said, "oh maybe not".

I know all parents and anyone working with small children go through this kind of stuff-- somehow, it just seemed a bit harder with sheep but I am glad we have sheep here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


My new farm maintenance plan was adopted today. I figure if I go out and let the chickens out and then plan to work two hours doing farm maintenance before I take a shower, maybe, I will be able to check a few things off the list soon.

Thistles are really prickly and they have one or a couple tap roots so they are not my favorite weed to pull but if you learn the technique they come up fairly easily most of the time. The trick is to get a spade fork just the right distance out from the root, put it down, and lift slightly. If the thistle stays high, you reach under the prickly leaves to the top of the root and pull it out. Then you press the raised area of sod down gently with your foot.

It is probably good sense to keep just the right distance from anything prickly. Not too close but not too far away. You have to get a sense of what you are dealing with but give it respect.

Thistles, like most invasive plants, are beautiful but the problem in the pasture is-- the sheep don't eat them, they get quite large, and they colonize. Now is the perfect time to pull them because we have had alot of spring rain and they won't bloom for awhile which is how they reseed.

Good thing I blog to journal and keep track of when things happen cause no one else would find this interesting reading. If anyone is reading this here are some pictures from this mornings rounds.

Norma Jean is fascinated with chickens

Gretta is the 2nd youngest but the 2nd biggest.

Monday, May 2, 2011

How Many Campers Does It Take To ........

How many campers does it take to have a successful fiber camp? ONE

The week before Easter, FARRR AWAY Fiber Camp was in full swing with one very enthusiastic camper. We met the animals, learned to card fleece, and spin on a drop spindle. We dyed some rovings, knit, and wove. The last day of camp, we celebrated the birth of the 9th and final lamb of the spring 2011 lambing season.

The timing and flow of fiber camp worked well and great fun was had by all ..... 2 of us.

Hopefully, contacts made last Saturday, will lead to more fiber campers this summer.

This week will be devoted to getting copy ready for the website and spinning some yarn that may travel to El Salvador. The end of the week I look forward to going to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and camping two nights.

Some days I feel like a farmer but most days I feel like I am on an extended vacation.