Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 12-13

fiery sunrise December 9, 2015

This week’s hot topic has been the weather...

...mostly because the weather is HOT. (well, for December)

sheep grazing in December
look at the green!

Now, the Boss and I talk about the weather ALL the time, so that’s no real news. But, it seems everyone is talking about the weather this week.

foggy, frosty Monday morning
While the beginning of the week started out with fairly normal temperatures…by Saturday some localities had record-setting temperatures in the 70s!  Attendees of the local Christmas parades were wearing t-shirts and I must admit, the giant snowflakes that adorn the streetlamps downtown looked just a little out of place on what felt like a mid-Spring day.
ewe lambs grazing

I did find a few Brussels sprouts for supper
It’s all too easy to get excited about warm weather and wish that we had lots of stuff still growing. Unfortunately, we did have a few very cold days a couple of weeks ago (that everyone seems to have forgotten) and the last of the outdoor crops didn't fare too well. So, there is no amazing harvest just because it's warm. 

And, don’t get too used to the unusually warm spring-like temperatures. A big change in the weather is predicted for later this week and then temperatures are expected to be BELOW normal after that, reminding us that it is indeed December in the Valley.

Saturday morning 12-12 rushing to the Farmers' Market in the dark!

Other than the warm weather, nothing particularly noteworthy happened this week here on the hill. Maybe that’s not quite true…

I did get my most un-favorite job, one that I dread for weeks, maybe months, completed without any dire consequences.

I took Gus to the vet for his annual check-up. I would rather do anything...ANY thing on the farm than take the dog to the vet.

Now, before you roll your eyes and think I’m silly…let me tell you about taking guardian dogs to the vet. I’m pretty sure that no dog looks forward to a trip to the vet. But, at least some of them enjoy riding in the car. At least some of them are used to entering buildings and meeting new people. Farm dogs…particularly guardian dogs…not so much. Make that NOT AT ALL.

Our Great Pyrenees are used to living outdoors, in the elements, roaming the farm. While they do go in the barn, it’s generally not to seek shelter, it’s to check out the sheep, hunt rats, harass the cats and eat their food. I don’t think either one of them have ever been in the house. This isn’t because we’re mean…their thick fur makes them hot and uncomfortable indoors and they prefer the wide, open spaces.
Gus and Ellie
Ellie marked her 6th anniversary on the farm this week

So, a trip in the car isn’t fun (for any of us). Just getting one of them IN the vehicle can become a feat requiring superpowers…first, you have to capture them…then, you have to load 100+ pounds of uncooperative, anxiety-laden fur and drool into the car without escape, knowing that there will be a repeat performance at the vet clinic. It’s not fun. And, it's gross. The amount of dog drool on the vet's floor always makes me feel like I should bring a mop.  The vet clinic is right on a busy road, making that part of the journey even more stressful. 
Gus was fine as long as we were in full body contact
and he was drooling all over my jeans

Years ago, (when we had Jed...who also hated the vet) the Boss figured we would save time and effort by taking both dogs to the vet at one time. We loaded them in the little lamb hauler for the back of the truck that one of our more colorful friends always referred to as the “lion cage”. All was well going to the vet, since they were in the back of the truck, we couldn’t hear the howling as we drove through town. However, the vet tech took one look at these enormous animals in this cage in the back of the truck and was convinced they were some sort of rabid, man-eaters. Can’t say that I blamed her, they did growl. And, a Pyr growl is scary. That was the only time we attempted that particular feat.
Jed and Ellie in the "lion cage" - 2012

Anyway…Gus got to the vet. He then proceeded to become 115.3 pounds of dead weight. It took two of us to get him on the scale. But, he’s healthy and vaccinated and got his heartworm meds for another year so we’re good to go.

 …and this week, it’s Ellie Mae’s turn. Oh, yes, I do have fun...

weeding with fire

The Boss’ priority jobs for the week included fire and power tools. Which, by the way, sound way more fun than hauling giant dogs to the vet…but…

the heat kills the plants and the seeds

after a couple of days, all plant matter will be gone

Hoophouse #2 is in constant danger of being overtaken by chickweed. Chickweed is one of those superweeds that seems to grow despite any and all adverse conditions. And, for some reason, that hoophouse has the perfect growing conditions for a bumper crop of chickweed. The battle for a “weed-free” hoophouse becomes an all-out war sometimes.
weeding by hand

Our options are somewhat limited. We can pull the weeds (giving the mess to the chickens)….time and time again as the weeds reseed very quickly. Or we can flame them. I think the Boss likes this best…”playing” with fire is appealing. By burning the plants at an early stage, we don’t run the risk of setting seeds, and actually kill any seeds that are lying on the ground. After a few days, we can plant in a “weed-free” environment. However, neither method is fool-proof, some plants and seeds always manage to survive. So, we end up spending a lot of time weeding.

You might wonder why we don’t use herbicides. Wouldn’t it be easier to just spray the weeds and have them disappear? Yes, it would. However, it isn’t that simple. Herbicides kill plants. They kill plants without discrimination. That means that unless the crop is bred to be resistant to the herbicide, the crop will die along with the weeds. (and this gets into the whole subject of genetic modification that makes so many people crazy…so, we won’t go there today…)  
In addition to that, the most popular and effective herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate) is also the single-most feared/hated/misunderstood product used on any farm operation. Personally, it’s just easier to pull weeds than try to justify using something that frightens our customers. Plus, the hens benefit from the green matter.

After flaming the weeds in the hoophouse, the Boss was able to turn his attention to his other pending project. He is turning the old cattle racks into a little ram hut for the ram paddock. This will provide some shelter for Angus-the ram in case of bad weather.

next project begins

working on the ram hut
(it will NOT be equipped with coolers)

Hopefully, this project will get completed this week and we can get the sheep re-organized and settled for winter. We should be about six weeks from the first lambs…I hope. I need to detail the long, drawn-out saga of shepherding 2015 at some point…

sheep at sunset on the hill

We had another great week for our off-season sales and I need to take a moment to thank all our customers for their interest and participation…and their patience. Our delivery time gets a little frantic and there is no time to visit, but we truly appreciate every single one of these folks. We work hard to eliminate mistakes, but they do occasionally happen. So, I appreciate everyone’s graciousness and understanding in making this work for everybody involved. Thanks! Y’all are the best!

The warm weather has me itching to start something…and the seed catalogs sitting on my desk are a real temptation. It won’t be long before we will be starting crops for ’16. But, first I need to clean and organize the greenhouses. And, we should really take the shadecloth off them before the snow flies. (don’t know how that job got overlooked) So...I guess I know how I am starting my week.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

I just can't help myself...
this reminds me of Peter Pan
"think a happy little thought, any happy little thought..."
...and ewe can fly, ewe can fly, ewe can fly!
(sorry, puns are indeed my weakness)

Thanks for stopping by! Come back and visit again real soon.


  1. I remember reading once that Prince Charles who is very opposed to herbicides, has all the weeds invading walkways, driveways, etc. blowtorched.
    No Roundup permitted on the royal premises. Makes a lot of sense. Hope all the
    ewes are pregnant. Has the one in the last photo just visited with Angus?

    1. I, too, hope all the ewes are pregnant. We don't invest in ultrasounding, so...we will have to live in anticipation. ;)'t that have been funny...if the ewe lamb in the photo had indeed been "visiting"? This is the one year that I/we really should have exposed the ewe lambs to the ram. In the past, we have had our share of difficulties with that...did you read this?
      But, alas, we did not. So...she was just feeling happy about a new paddock, I guess. I MUST write about the sheep SOON.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Nope, sorry. That ewe had a clandestine roll in the hay with Augus. Hilarious!
    xo, m & jb

    1. Love that sheep photograph. Would it be easier to get the vet to visit or would that be much more expensive. Here in the UK I don't think the cost would be all that much more, but then we only live a couple of miles from the vets, so there is that to take into consideration.
      Wish you could send some of that weather over here = it is cold, a thin film of snow lying abd fog tonight.

    2. Vet calls are REALLY expensive. Since the dogs have to have a yearly blood-draw to check for heartworms that requires the vet lab, it really is more efficient to haul the dog to the vet. If I could just convince Gus that he "enjoys" it!
      You can have the weather...this is just weird. The flowering bushes are starting to bud. And, I saw a report that the cherry blossoms on the National Mall in Washington, DC are starting to flower. That certainly can't be good.
      Be careful in the snow and fog!