Thursday, November 20, 2014

Friday

It's not until tomorrow but since Thursday is almost over I can start celebrating Friday.  Would Friday be so dear to me if Monday was not so painful?  I don't think so.  There is a quiet euphoria in school when Friday rolls around just knowing we can stay home the next day.  For me it's a chance to be with my animals and play with all my toys.  I am challenging myself to go through the mountain of clothes in my bedroom that I saved from the possums in the tractor shed.  Yes, I know, that was a long time ago that I went into the giant pole barn to find clothes I hauled up here from New Jersey and discovered possums living in them.  I salvaged what I could and brought them into the house.  I have a hard time giving up clothing.    If I wait long enough it always come back into style.  Most of my stuff is classic country and that never goes out of style.   I don't have to dress up for my job and farm living does not require a stylish wardrobe.  I do like to have something nice to wear to the Fur Ball in February and occasionally to church.  It's snowing outside, just a soft little snow, but more will come tonight.  The barn water was frozen this morning and I'm in full tote water mode.  Twice a day, morning and night, I carry water out of the milk house and pour it into the hanging buckets for the sheep and goats (keeps the ducks out), chickens in the chicken room, bunny bowls (five cages, soon to be more), and two dog bowls.   I put out all they can drink, twice a day, and that seems to be enough.  This way they are always drinking clean water and nothing has a chance to drown in a tank. It requires about six trips in and out of the milk room.  I have one container filling up while I carry two out to empty.  I use old large kitty litter containers with handles.  I've used the same containers for several years, a testament to how long they would last in the land fill.  Like forever.  The door on the milk house room doesn't always shut correctly while I'm toting water out and the goats pry it open.  I come back for more water to find six or eight goats with noses in the feed sacks and chicken flying everywhere.  I have to chase the goats out, then shoo the chickens with a broom or they will roost over my dye stove and poop all over it.  Life on the farm.  Never a dull moment in the Land of Poo.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Warmer Next Week



Won't it be lovely to have a warming trend next week.  The barn was frozen up this morning when I went out to do morning chores.  The water I gave them this morning was frozen when I got home.  I have to carry around warm water and pour it over the ice in the bunny bowls, dog bowls, chicken and sheep buckets.  Cold air makes animals very thirsty.  Eating hay makes them thirsty.  Sheep will eat snow, in fact, they love to eat snow.  Goats will not eat snow.   Speaking of snow, the folks out in Buffalo have six feet of snow and it's still coming down.  No snow here today.  The Tug Hill Plateau, two hours north of here, is getting pounded, too.  We'll get it at some point in time, but not yet, please.  Mia is coming for Thanksgiving and I want her to have a safe trip.  We will make hand creme together and help me clip the last remaining angora goats.  We'll light the big pile of scrap wood and debris outside for a bonfire.  I'll make sure we have a good supply of whiskey and egg nog so we can bundle up, sit under a blanket by the fire at night, and have a drinky-poo.  I just poured a batch of lavender soap and the pot is making the kitchen smell so good.  The wood stove smells divine and wafts into the barnyard when I'm out there.  As I was walking the dogs up the hill after work I saw a big late model tractor coming down the road pulling a trailer with five round bales.  Sure enough, it slowed down and pulled into my lane.  It was Julia's son, Paul, delivering the second cut bales I wanted for my ewes when they lamb.  I asked him to drop a bale over at Chris' barn, my neighbor next door, for his calf.  Merry Christmas.   This is the first winter I'm confident I will be able to make it all the way through without scrambling around for hay in April.  I have 40 more round bales than last year.   Hay is life and life is good.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not a Fit Night Out for Man Nor Beast






The wood stove is eating up the firewood, one log after another.   The wind is buffeting the barn and it's creaking all around me.  If I don't keep a roaring fire going I get down drafts blowing smoke into the house.  I need one more section of pipe on the chimney.  On really cold nights, like when it's minus twenty,  I will push the sofa in front of the stove and throw logs in every couple of hours.   Driving home today wasn't as bad as I feared.  The temps were just night enough that the rain stayed wet not icy.  With more intense cold coming who knows what the week will bring.  Even the ducks came into the barn again tonight.  They are the last ones to seek cover.  I love those ducks.  They are tough birds.  I've even seen them sneaking food from Knut's bowl in his igloo outside when he wasn't looking.  That's risking life and wing.  They love to dirty his water bucket.  I've seen them on the hillside in the worst weather, pulling worms out of the ground, happily quacking away.  When the ground freezes and the snow covers all their food, they move inside.  It's sad to see their lovely white feathers get dirty for lack of water to preen themselves.  I put buckets out but it's not the same as puddles, streams and ponds in the summer.  It will be a long six months for them.  The sheep seem to be going into winter mode already.  They are inside early instead of grazing late into the night.  We're all going to have to make adjustments.  We got another goat clipped tonight.  I say clipped instead of sheared because I leave an inch of hair on them.  I still get most of the curly mohair.  The goats have to be wormed and feet manicured too.  It's amazing how fast the mohair is growing back on the goats  I've done so far.  No coats necessary.   I cut up Tea Tree soap tonight.  127 bars out of this batch.  It cut so nicely, like soft cheese.  I've been making soap for twenty years and it still amazes me when it comes out right.  I've had enough batches go wrong to truly appreciate when it goes right.   Many variables seem to effect the outcome, including the alignment of the planets, sunspots, and the kind of music I have playing at the time of creation.  I've become very good at "re-batching" soap gone wrong and making it something that people love.  Won't have to with this Tea Tree.  Very strong essential oil that smells a bit like gasoline.  You just know it will kill germs and make your skin lovely and soft.  That's what I like.  I'll stoke the stove one more time then go horizontal.   Here I come.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Surprise!

I try not to let this happen.  I check all the places where a mother hen might hide her eggs and pull them regularly.  This mom found a good hiding place, probably up high, and hatched seven little chicks.  I heard the familiar peeps when I opened the door yesterday and there they were.  Mom did a great job of keeping them warm, but how to feed and water newborn chicks in a barn with sheep and goats are running hither and yon?  I decided to let nature take it's course and she got them through the night okay.  Today when we were chasing Spikey around after yet another escape I noticed the mom had brought the brood out into the middle of the barn where the chaos was happening.  What was she thinking?   I found a suitable cage but newborn chicks can wiggle through the smallest wire.  I was able to find a box to fit snugly inside the cage.  Matt helped me catch the family, not an easy task with a panicky mother hen alternately trying to escape and attack us.   Now they are warm and protected with food and water until I can find a better cage.  There is always something.   The world would be a better place if all mothers were as determined and protective as mother hens.  Motherhood prevails.

Farm Aid



Matt did a great job rebuilding the East End barn door.  He scraped the mud/manure off the concrete slab making it a lot easier for the sheep and goats to get in and out of the barn.  Instead of a giant sliding door to open and close, he built a smaller door within the door.  Very clever.  This magnificent old barn needs more work than we could ever do in our life times.  It would take an Amish community to restore it to it's former glory.  I love this old, classy barn, and still say ahhhhhh when I drive over the hill and see it looming in the distance.   I think it's the prettiest barn in Brookfield Township.  More importantly, it provides shelter from the storm to many, many lives inside it.   We're fairly well buttoned up for winter now.  No drafts on the bunnies.  The milk house drain hasn't frozen yet.  Life is good.

Wintery



I know it's winter when the stove has been going all weekend, the White Boys spend the night in the barn, and I've had on my fleece ski underwear all weekend.  As my body acclimatizes I'll get used to it.  We've been working on the barn, covering up broken windows, re-installing windows we took out to let summer ventilation, and general mucking out.  I ordered a 220 volt milk house heater for the room where I wash and dye wool and where I store grain and cat/dog food.  I've been heating that room with my dye stove, which costs a fortune in electricity when it's really cold.   The milk house heater will hang from the ceiling which is much safer, and much more efficient power wise.  The cats will miss sitting on the stove.  They love when I dye wool and lean against the warm pots to keep warm.  The White Boys don't have any problem keeping warm.  I give them beds of old wool that's stayed too long on the animal and is partially felted together.  I just might stuff the wool into canvas dog beds someday.  There is always some use for wool, even bad wool, if there is such a thing.  More snow and "wintery mix" is coming tomorrow night, with cold temps forecast for next week.  This sudden onset of winter has caught us by surprise, but that's okay since we have more firewood stored than previous years and a BARN FULL of HAY.  Julia is sending me five more second cut round bales today.  They will fill the tiny bit of space I have left in the hay mow.  I want some second cut for the population explosion I'm expecting in the spring. The lambs will come when there are still no flies, and green grass is just a few weeks away.   Perfect.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Farm Day




A day when I can stay home and work on the farm is a true gift.  I did leave to get to the Post Office in the village of Brookfield.  The hours have been cut by the Feds and I can only see Sharon, the postmaster, married to a former teacher at my school (don't you love country living?) between 8 and 10:30 in the morning.  I picked up my mail and sent off two packages, which always gives me enormous satisfaction.  Casting my bread upon the waters, only it's soap.  Got back to the farm and straight away set about securing the Nubian Goat Area.  Matt was very helpful with tying up fence panels and covering windows so the winter wind doesn't chill them.  The goat pen was the pig pen, but there are no pigs here now.  It runs along the barn so the Nubian goats can see the other goats and sheep but can't mingle with them until Spikey has done his job.  We caught Janey, Fancy's daughter from two years ago, and Matilda, big FAT Nubian girl who has never been pregnant.  She is gigantic from gorging on forage and Matt says the runty Spikey will not be able to mount her and do the job.  I'm hoping Matilda comes into cycle and decides to cooperate by lowering her back side to accomodate Spikey.  One can only hope.  The angora goats earn their keep by producing mohair.  The Nubians are supposed to produce goat milk.  So far it's not working out as well as I hoped.  Fancy, who is still on the loose, was a BITCH to nurse and required Matt sitting on a chair with his arms around her neck, holding her still.  She did whatever she could to kick the bucket over every time I milked her.  Good thing she's so beautiful, and that Miss Tammy at the abbatoir behind the Chobani factory does not do goats.   I'm going to give it one more try.  After working on the goats I started scraping and sweeping the milk house where the cats will winter over.  They are being moved from the "work room," a utility room next to the apartment, so Matt can build my cabinets.  Yes, it's happening.   The wood and tools I purchased was delivered on Thursday and is piled in the room.   I don't want to talk too much about it as I  might jinx it.  The milk house room is where my dye stove and wool washing machine is.  It's not a bad place for kitties as they can go in and out via the bulk tank hose trap door.  I bleached and washed all the bucket and feed pans I have in the barn.  Can't remember when I did it last and it took some time.  Gentle snow was falling outside and the sun was showing a bit.  It feels weird to work in the barn while suited up in my fleece pants, rubber boots and a hat on my head, but it's that cold now.  Came on real fast this year, in the Great North Land.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Early Snow



I rushed off to work thinking OH, how beautiful!  The sun shining through the icy branches and the hills covered with a lovely dusting of snow.  My joy was short-lived when I had been traveling on route 8 going south toward New Berlin and I noticed the cars coming the other way were creeping along with emergency flashers on.  I drove on a little way and had almost reached the Chobani factory when I saw traffic stopped and several rescue vehicles.  Two cars had apparently collided and were smashed to half their size.  I tapped my brakes to stop and guess what.  No stopping.  I kept sliding and sliding and was fast approaching the back of the vehicle in front of me when I had no choice but to steer off the road to avoid it.  Luckily there was no culvert to dive into at that spot and a lovely mile marker pole stopped me.  I put it in reverse and backed out onto the road which was a solid sheet of invisible ice.  Not a bit of silt or salt or grit had been spread on it.  We were eventually allowed to pass and I had to make a quick decision to either go miles down route 8 and cut over on 23 to Norwich, far out of my way, or risk going over the hills and dales to school the way I usually go.  I took a chance only to find a big truck stuck on Columbus Hill, not able to go forward or backward.  It took ten minutes for him to inch upward off the hill and pull over to let me and the one car behind me pass by.  I found out later that was my co-worker, Fawn, behind me, equally shook up over finding herself on impassable roads.  Low and behold when I creeped down the mountain into Sherburne the temps were high enough to melt the ice and route 12 was fine.  I pulled into the school parking lot and jumped out to check the front of my new-old Honda van.  The metal pole had not done much damage and I recalled the two totaled cars on route 8 with the policeman picking up a back pack out of one of them.  I wondered if it was a student and a fatality since I didn't see the ambulance speeding away.  Still don't know.  I asked Fawn how she made out on those awful roads and she said I was right behind you!  We got through our day and now it's Friday night.  I'm still chasing Spikey around the barn.  Got him in a dog pen now until I can fashion a secure space for him.  He's so cute but such a runt.  Maybe I can trade him with somebody for a full sized buck my girls might want.  The angora does, smaller than my Nubians, think Spikey is adorable, but that's a line I don't want to cross.   I'm in from chores at nine and pretty well knackered.  There is a mountain of dishes in the sink I should get up and wash before nighty-night.  Thing is I want nighty-night even more than a clean sink.  Wouldn't it be nice if the Irish faeries would come in the wee hours to surprise me?  Not a chance.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snowy and Spikey


Went to the market to do shopping for the classroom - and me - with a stop at TS for goat minerals and various things.  I love to shop in Norwich because I frequently see my peeps from school supporting the local economy along with me.  By the time I got on the road heading home it was snowing.  Really snowing.  I was reminded how uncomfortable it is to negotiate winding country roads in the dark.  Pulling in the farm lane I was greeted by Reba, who was jumping with joy to see me.  Matt was home working on the barn door today but the dogs were still frantic about their mama.  Got the groceries in and a bit of dinner together before chores.  We brought Knut in the barn to hang out with Thor and the sheep.  Finn, the spoiled baby of  the three White Boys, is sleeping by the wood stove in the house.  The ducks are inside the barn and so are the sheep and goats.  Everyone is acting like this first snow is a blizzard.  I had some excitement tonight when I noticed that little Spikey, the adorable but runty Nubian buck, had escaped from his run and was cavorting with one of my lovely black angora does - a nightmare scenario as a mating with her would result in goats that would be good for neither mohair nor milk.  It took me a half hour in a semi-bent position (the barn floor is rather high due to the manure pack) chasing the entire flock around in an effort to capture Spikey and put him back in his pen.  His little ankle slipped right through my leg crook several times.  I decided to try a pan of corn and that did the trick, but I had him by the tiny horns and couldn't let go or I would lose him and he would be back mounting my gorgeous black angora girl.  I called for Matt who held him while I slipped a halter on him.  I asked Matt to kill him for me so I could feed him to the dogs, but he said no.  The Nubian girls don't want him as he is half their size and they hate him.  The smaller angoras think he is adorable and would give it up to him any time.  My plan for producing goat milk to feed to bottle lambs instead of expensive milk replacer is slipping away.  I'll have lambs in March but I can't even get the Nubians bred.  Maybe I can trade Spikey, who is adorable, for a big, bad ass Nubian buck who will make Fancy and Matilda melt.  Easier said than done.