Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 5-28

view from the office window

“You’re not the boss of me!”
                          ---imagined memo from the weather

Being self-employed is often seen as the penultimate work situation. You are in charge, making your own schedule and working your own plan.

Unless, of course, the weather is involved.

Then, the weather rules. No matter how many plans you make or how focused you may be on your schedule. You really are at the mercy of a force you cannot control and any sort of prediction is an iffy proposition at best.

The Boss had great plans for the week, we were going into a planting frenzy. Then there was tilling and mowing and bush-hogging and...we were gonna get back on track for sure...

Not so fast!

misty M'brook

The clouds hung low over the valley, bringing not only the damp mistiness that clings to every surface, but more than one torrential rain storm. We didn’t set any rainfall records, but the total for the week nudged the four-inch mark.
low hanging clouds

another wet day

soggy garden

SUPER soggy garden

So, every plan for the week was pretty much a total wash-out.

We have developed a new approach to scheduling work. I'm going to call it…triage-farming.

With a limited weather window for working, we know only the highest priority job will get done. and, sometimes even accomplishing that is going to be a challenge. We pick the one we think is the most urgent, try to get it done and attempt to overlook the great number of uncompleted tasks that are piling up. (they’re not going to go away, we’ll get to them eventually)

the tomato plants are still waiting to be transplanted

Look! tiny, well-watered tomatoes!

Even after it stops raining, there is mud to contend with. Any sort of traffic on the sodden ground can have far-reaching consequences, again limiting the possibility of progress.
wet grass means no spark on the electric fence
and stuck lambs

wet garden means no traction
and stuck lawnmower

the lamb feeders look more like water troughs

Although, I must admit, the mud provided us with the one bit of interest for the week.

In the mud out in the lamb corral, we found some tracks. Fox tracks. And, then, the Boss saw a fox in the back garden. Fox sightings are not unusual. There has been an active den down front for years. But, ordinarily they are not so close.
one of the baby foxes that live out front

My concern with the many foxes in the neighborhood is not that they will eat the chickens...although they will and that is just one reason the chickens are locked in their house at night time...but, in the past rabid foxes have been an issue in the neighborhood. Years ago, a small child was attacked by a rabid fox just across the road. Story had it that the fox tried to drag the child away as well. Yikes!There have been other incidents and animal control supports their disposal. However, the foxes do keep down the rodent population, so we don’t want to eradicate them completely.

But, short of vaccinating the lambs against rabies (which can be done, but it is expensive and generally not suggested by the vet) we need to protect them from exposure. So, I really don’t want foxes in with “my babies”.

After a short discussion with the Boss, I got the big trap out of the barn and baited it with a leftover grilled chicken leg. Surely that would interest the fox.
baited trap

Imagine our surprise when we found I had trapped a squirrel. A squirrel! And, he ate some of the chicken.  That seemed a little weird. Since when do squirrels eat meat? (I guess I need to do some research…and do squirrels get rabies?)  I released him and he scampered off toward the pines.
NOT a fox

Until very recently, we didn’t see squirrels here on the hill. Now, they seem to be everywhere. There is one that comes to eat the spilled sheep feed in the corral behind the barn. I spotted a nest in on of the pines out back.
protecting his/her nest

 There is another one I see up in the mulberry tree by the lane. And, there are a few that torment the dogs by staying just out of reach...  Despite the fact that I’ve heard squirrels described as rats in fancy coats, they don’t seem to do any noticeable damage...and they are kind of, we’ll just try to co-exist. (for now)

the barn squirrel

watching for a "nature" moment
see the cat? the cardinal? the squirrel?

WATCH OUT, squirrel!

Well, dang!
He got away!

By afternoon chores, I had captured another squirrel. This one scampered off in a different direction.

In the morning, we found a large, angry 'possum in the trap. Maybe this trap thing wasn’t such a good idea after all. The 'possum had eaten every little bit of the chicken leg...even the bone! (ugh...I don’t like 'possums one little bit)
he does NOT look friendly

Before the Boss could dispose of the 'possum, one of the little squirrels came back. I don’t know if he wanted the remaining morsel of meat or he was just really friendly. (again, I wondered…do squirrels get rabies?)  He sat on the big post by the lambs for the longest time, chattering and “cutting” at me. He let me get so close that I actually touched him with my camera case. (I wasn’t about to risk my fingers) Eventually, he ran back to the pines again.

well, hello!

he is pretty cute

I decided not to take any chances with angry 'possums or lost squirrel-babies and left the trap closed and un-baited in anticipation of Saturday’s Market. I will set it up again later and see what happens next.

With a short gap in the rain, we hoped to get the summer squash planted and mulched. That included the start of the daunting task of cleaning the barn.  All the hay left behind after the sheep winter in the barn is great for mulching. The waste hay is piled up at an all-time level, causing us both to wonder if the sheep actually eat anything during the winter or if we are just spending lots of money on mulch.
We got the job completed without a single raindrop...and while we were out there...and it wasn’t raining...we decided to get on that garlic scape harvest.
baby squash plants

Wow! That's a lot of mulch!
Do you think they ate any of the hay?

Hardneck garlic sends up a seedstalk from the center of the bulb. By cutting this off, the plant’s energy is forced back into bulb growth. Rather than throw away the scape, we bunch them for sale. They add a delicious, mild garlicky taste and a bit of color to soups, salads and stir-fry. You can also cook them like you would asparagus or green beans. You can read more about them HERE.
garlic scapes growing

garlic scapes at the Market

No sooner had we finished than it began raining. Again.

another storm

Since the rain precluded working outside, I did get some inside work done. Since, I’ve given up on waiting for the “house-cleaning elves”, I started in on the cleaning and filing and did even some rearranging in the cooler. Ordinarily, we take everything out of the cooler (even the shelving) and do a thorough cleaning prior to Market season. This year March did not go according to anyone’s plans, and the cleaning never happened. So, look what I discovered.  I would like to say that I meant to do this. You know, in the name of science or something. But, truth is, apparently this was a purple cabbage and it got forgotten for…six months? Gross. But, maybe I’m on to something new. Maybe there’s a market for “alien veggies”…?  Probably not, but it did make good chicken feed.
I couldn't decide if this was really cool or truly disgusting...
the hens thought it was delicious!

The Boss found one more gap in the weather and got his new bamboo planted in front of the reefer. The reefer is the box from a refrigerated truck that is used for long-term cold storage. Did you read that story? (the saga continues for several posts) It has been an eyesore for years because we have never come up with a good solution for camouflaging it. A paint job would just dry and peel in the hot afternoon sun. A mural? Nah, we’re not terribly artistic. A vine? No, that could compromise the structure.  A gigantic ghillie suit?  Cool idea, but completely impractical (and expensive).  But, when a market conversation turned to bamboo, a new idea was born.   The Boss has wanted a bamboo grove for ages. If he planted some by the reefer, it would screen the ugliness AND fulfill a dream. A big THANK-YOU shout-out to Oakley and Margaret! Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for it to grow.

Yes, the reefer really is ugly
But, those little sticks should grow into a great bamboo screen

there were a few little root shoots
that became my latest growing experiment.

All too soon it was time to prep for the Market again.
checking the garden before Market

 Thankfully, the weather cooperated and the market was incredibly busy. But, before suppertime, we had another tremendous thunderstorm that put down over a half an inch of rain in less than a half-hour!

Unfortunately, the ewes had no place to get out of the weather. While I felt really bad about the fact that they were getting drenched, I didn’t feel bad enough to brave the downpour to open the barn gate. When the rain ended, they were a sodden, soggy, somewhat grumpy mess.

torrential rain made the sky look white as the ewes headed to the barn

...and that will definitely affect the upcoming week.

Tomorrow is our annual ewe-shearing day...and I can only hope that they dry out some in the meantime. Otherwise, Blondie (#1 shearer) is going to be sodden, soggy and somewhat grumpy, too. Hmm, there may be a story brewing for next week!

soggy sheep

But, I'm afraid that’s all there was to our very wet and sadly uneventful week here on the hill.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 
heading to Market

Thanks for stopping by! Come “visit” us again real soon.

Here's a link so you can take a "virtual tour" of this week's Market.


  1. I love your updates! What do you do with the wool from the sheep?

    1. Thanks SO much for reading!
      While I'm sure it sounds like a waste, the wool isn't used for anything. Suffolk wool isn't conducive to the fiber arts. Years ago, we had long wool sheep and our girls were into spinning, weaving and the like. This should probably be a post for the future. :)

  2. I'm wondering about the bamboo. Did market customers ask for it? Or is it just something your husband is interested in growing? I do hope you get a break in the weather. What will you do about the wet sheep? Can you sheer them when the wool is wet? -Jenn

    1. Hi Jenn!
      Our customer-friends were talking about trimming up the bamboo patch they have in their yard and the Boss asked if they had any extra plants. So, they brought him a few. We'll see what happens.
      We put the sheep in the barn and hoped they would dry out. Wet wool is also sticky (the lanolin sort of coagulates) so the clippers hang up and make it far harder to complete the job. Fortunately, they did dry out and the shearing is done! yay!

  3. Oh my gosh Barb - you are so right about the weather. Being in the country is not at all conducive to inclement weather. All outside jobs are put on hold for who knows how long! And my sheep had lots of left-over hay as well. I missed my horses this year as they usually eat what the sheep do not. Maybe once my health issues have gotten better - I will bring my horses back home. I do miss them!