Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 2-25

You know if I didn’t know better I would say that Spring has arrived.

The grass is amazingly green. The birds are singing. The Boss plowed the middle garden. The onion sets, seeds and planting supplies were all piled high at the feedstore. The first batch of broiler chicks arrived. It’s been well over a week since we had freezing temperatures. There are crocus in the backyard. And, we’ve had a lot of rain…not unlike April showers.

plowing the middle garden

look at the garlic!
(try to ignore the weeds) 

crocus in the backyard

But, people…


Look at the calendar.

It’s February.


It certainly doesn’t feel like it! It looks and feels more like late March.
                                 Like SPRING!
it sure felt Spring-like for the first mud run of the season
Congrats to Blondie...she finished #4 in the women's division!

Believe me, it wouldn’t really hurt my feelings if winter was over. But, I’m pretty sure it is NOT. 
Historically we have had some of our biggest snows in March. So, I’m not ready to pack away the winter clothes. …and let’s face it, I am just not at all ready for Spring!

Not to get redundant here, but the past week has been oddly warm and wet. And, I am not exaggerating when I say the grass is growing overnight. The sheep can sense this change and raise constant complaint for fresh greens. But, like it or not, they’re stuck in the barnlot for a while longer. All those hooves across the tender grass will stunt the growth. The care we grant the pasture now will directly affect summer grazing. But, there’s no explaining that to the ravenous ewes. So, we just keep feeding them hay in hopes of somehow satisfying them. (and turning a deaf ear to all the complaints)
even the lambs are looking for green grass

The warm, wet weather causes concern as the trees are starting to bud and like I said, the grass is beginning to grow. When the cold weather returns, and it is almost definite that it will, the new growth stands a good chance of being damaged. …and that will have far-reaching effects. But, for now, let’s not borrow trouble and just enjoy a respite from Winter.
GREEN in February

While the week didn’t even remotely go according to my plans, we did make some positive steps toward Spring production.

On my trip to town, I noticed that onion sets had arrived at the Farm Bureau. It took until Saturday, but I did get some planted in the hoophouse. Here’s hoping they grow quickly and are ready for Opening Day of the Market!
they say a little dirt is good for you
I should be doing GREAT!

On a different trip to town, my phone rang while I was searching for puppy food. It was the Post Office calling to say that our broiler chicks were awaiting pick-up. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, saving us yet another trip to town. The chicks were tucked safely in the brooder and we have just eight weeks until fresh broilers for the Farmers’ Market.
chicks under the hover

It might not be Spring, but we’re certainly moving in that direction!

the first seed-starting marathon

Not much happening in the way of farm news…

A few of the pullets finally got brave enough to venture out of the henhouse. There has been a fair amount of pecking and squawking as everyone settles in to the new arrangement. We should start getting pullet eggs any day now.

one "brave" pullet

"well, are you coming?"

Karma continues to learn about the farm. 

This week’s lessons included meeting chicks (do NOT eat them!)
Karma and a broiler chick
learning about the electric fence (do NOT touch)

watching the chickens
(NOT touching the fence)
and some cat-stalking. (do NOT bother Tess)  This one is going to take multiple lessons.

the cats' hiding place has been discovered


She moved from the shop to the barn. The Boss modified the old ram hauler/"lion-cage" to be a doggie play-pen for a while. Karma seems to think it's "puppy-jail".

Although she’s weighing in at a little over 17#, she still fits through the fence, so her interactions with the sheep must be well supervised.
Gus is patiently teaching Karma the ways of the farm

even when it means that his tail is pulled on
She's been "helping" with tractor maintenance

Karma is the only one who is somewhat unhappy when she ends up in "puppy jail"

Speaking of the sheep, we have one more lamb. One of the “out of sync ewes” went into labor on Saturday afternoon. Her distressed screams indicated that human intervention was of the essence. I gave her a little assistance in delivering her enormous ram lamb. He is nearly as big as the much older triplet lambs. He is super long and weighed 17# at birth!
"Girlfriend" and her big baby

Not bad for a week when I was gone at least a portion of every single day. And, nothing, absolutely nothing went according to plan. All in all, I guess it was a pretty successful week here on the old homestead.

Cute Karma pics...just because...

Sometimes it doesn’t seem quite right that I’m just caught up in Karma’s puppy antics, watching the sheep or lost in thought planning next seasons crops when there’s so much bad stuff going on in the world. Sometimes I think that maybe I should be more involved in current affairs. (although just HOW generally eludes me) Maybe I should protest more, resist more, do something to make a difference.

My realm of impact and influence is very small, infinitesimal really. We know that our farm will never even make a dent in “feeding the world”. And, sometimes I do wonder if anything I do matters at all.  Again, it doesn't seem like our efforts could ever make any kind of difference.

But, then I am reminded of the story of the starfish. I’ve probably shared this one before… but….

Maybe that is enough…to make some sort of somehow make “a difference for that one…”   
So, we'll just keep plugging away.

Thanks for stopping by.

Have a Happy Sunday! 

We just received the coolest hand-made gift.
THANK YOU Cousin Karen
we LOVE it!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 2-18

Looking forward.

If this week had a theme, it would be have to be looking forward.

That stands in stark contrast to last week when I got all bogged down in the pain and frustration of looking backward, rendering it impossible to write a post with any sort of positive outlook. Personally, I find February to be a dismal, depressing month fraught with anniversaries of hurt and heartache. Our experiences and memories clash with the exuberant celebration of LOVE that threaten to overwhelm at every turn and I find myself giving serious consideration to “hermitizing” until Spring.

Last week's snow was pretty...

But, since time is marching ever onward, there is no time for the endless loop of sad and painful thoughts that February churns up within me. It’s time to get with it, get over it and start working…
It seems everyone I talk to feels it necessary to remind me that we are in the serious countdown to Market season, whether I’m ready or not. So, onward…

another gloomy day

the creek is pretty high after all the snow and rain

After some serious delays, I did some much-needed cleaning/organizing in the greenhouses. I even got the early spring brassicas seeded! Seeding must be the focus of the upcoming week if we hope to have anything for the Market.
cleaning the greenhouses requires a lot of "elbow-grease"
some tunes and lots of caffeine

But, the hoophouses stand empty and in need of some serious attention. For the first time in 10 years, we don’t have any winter crops growing (even the weeds look sparse). I must admit, it’s a bit unsettling/depressing to walk in the hoophouse right now. But, last year’s challenges left little time or energy for hoophouse growing, or much else for that matter.

Last year’s challenges also caused us to re-evaluate a lot of things and take into consideration the fact that we do indeed have limitations. In looking forward, we know that in order to stay sustainable, in order to continue on, we will have to make some serious changes. We’re still working through some of those changes, but year-round hoophouse production may be a thing of the past.

MUD Season has arrived!
rainy, snowy days keep the lambs inside
as the muck and mud behind the barn grows and grows

The crazy, changeable weather led to another job for the Boss. Every Spring we find ourselves dealing with the muck behind the barn. And, every year we deal with it in a slightly different way. 
This year, he scraped it into a big pile in the back corner. Now, when the rains of Spring come, I won’t run the risk of sinking to my armpits when I head out to feed the sheep. And, the lambs can add “king of the hill” to their daily routine.(action shots to follow)

barnyard cleaning day
Speaking of lambs, we ran them through the barn for their first round of vaccinations. And, they look GOOD! They’re all gaining well, even the tiny triplets. One big, single ram lamb (known as FAT BOY) weighs 55# at 34 days. That’s a fairly impressive growth rate. Generally, you look for a pound a day for the first couple of months.  That’s definitely got us looking forward to lambchops!
working lambs
the aftermath

Thoughts of lamb chops are almost always followed by concerns about keeping the lambs safe and healthy. I haven’t heard the "song-dogs"  lately…but, I know they’re still out there…somewhere. I don’t know if Gus could hold off a pack of coyotes by himself. Recently, his nighttime skirmishes have primarily involved skunks. And, he has not come out on the winning end of that. Or maybe he did. Either way, he is incredibly odoriferous (in other words, stinky…really stinky)

When Ellie Mae passed away in July (read about Ellie) the Boss said we shouldn’t rush into getting another dog. I had to agree. Last year was so hard in so many ways that it seemed senseless to add any more challenges. So, we left the subject for another time.

But, I must admit, I truly missed her furry presence on my nocturnal barn trips. She was a most empathetic companion. Even Gus seemed a little “off”. To my mind, we NEEDED another dog, but I was trying to be patient. More than one person had sent us info on possibilities, but our needs were specific, and nothing seemed quite right. I had about given up on the whole proposition.

On one of the Boss’ daily perusals of Craigslist, he found some Great Pyrenees puppies for sale. A phonecall, a quick paypal transaction (this all took place while I was grocery shopping) and then next thing I know we’re headed out for points unknown on the great puppy quest of 2018.
mama dog had 8 pups

By lunchtime, we were headed back to the hill with “Karma” who is just a fluffy, white ball of fur at this point. 
Karma headed for home

She’s only seven weeks old and not real sure what a sheep even is. But, she’s got potential.

"I'm here to guard you, Mr. Ram!"
Angus is having NO part of this thing
he stomps his foot every time she approaches

Gus has recovered from his shock and dismay over being mistaken for someone’s mother and I think they will get along just fine. So, prepare yourself for stories of puppy antics and lots of pictures.

Gus and Karma

So, yeah…we’re looking forward to the day in the seemingly distant future when Karma is actually an asset and can protect the farm. In the meantime, isn’t she CUTE?

she is SO tiny 

something about a boy and a dog
But, puppy cuteness aside, there is still work to be done.

It’s time to start the acclimation process for the pullets. With 50 half-grown birds in the brooder, things in the brooder were getting a little cramped and a whole lot gross. We discovered that the building was literally bursting at the seams…the wall connection had come loose and needed to be repaired.

The Boss decided that we need to get the little girls moved into the henhouse…PRONTO!
pretty pullet

Moving the pullets is an annual chore that happens in late winter since the brooder needs to be emptied and cleaned before the first batch of broilers arrives. (and that is scheduled for NEXT week!) You can read about that in some detail here.

Since the move coincided with a visit from #1grandson, he got pressed into service. (never too soon to look forward to the future and teach the little ones about farmlife)

While “Mom-O” caught the pullets, “PaPa” and #1 put them in crates for transport. The pullets were then placed into their portion of the henhouse. #1 greeted each one and assured them all was well. Never has a pullet move gone so smoothly!
getting ready to move the pullets

bringing the chicken crates to the henhouse

here she comes!

"it's okay chickens!"

After about a week, we will open the door between the two areas of the henhouse and allow the pullets to mingle with the mature hens. This time of acclimation tends to minimize the struggle for dominance that determines  "pecking order"

By the time the Market opens on April 7th, the adjustment period will be long over and the egg-laying should be in full swing. Again, looking forward

we had a dinner guest Friday night that we always

And that wraps up another week here on the hill.

Thanks for stopping by.

                                      Have a Happy Sunday! 
...and we have GERMINATION!
this is a sight that will never grow old
...and it is why I LOOK FORWARD to the growing season

Come back and “visit” again real soon.