Friday, February 29, 2008

Ten Below Zero

Sounds like a movie, but no, it's here, on my farm. I knew it would be cold, but this is cold. Lambs seem to be fine. The flock is hungrier than ever. Half of my salary is going for hay now. The clerk at the feed store says there's a hay scare on now, with local people running out. Most local hay was shipped south to those people who were victims of the drought last summer. I got my new ram and two beautiful BFL ewes from Kathy Davidson in Pa. Her 80 acres dried up and she had to downsize. No shortage of water here in Brookfield. The guy I'm buying from has another month's worth of hay for me, then I can have his last year's first cut. The sheep won't be happy with that. March and April, then maybe some green grass on the ground in May. They have had snow in May here. What a week - is it really Friday? Seems like I say that a lot. The one class I taught for the teacher who was out was more like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. When I left school I stopped at the repair shop to tell them my truck still does not have any heat, and did they know what it was like to get in a truck that's been sitting cold all night in ten below zero, and drive 25 miles? They "fixed" it on Wednesday, and it had heat the rest of that day, but that was it. I am not amused, and neither are my fingers and toes. The spicket in the barn froze, and Matt accidentally broke it while trying to thaw it with a blow torch. Now we have to carry water from the milk room in jerry cans. It takes quite a few trips. Warmer weather coming next week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I took the dogs up the hill after work and didn't get very far. I'm usually pretty good about the cold, but I sometimes my blood just isn't getting to the right places I think. It wasn't the walk the doggies are used to, but they appreciated the chance to play with their Woman. Finn and Knut take turns standing next to me and growling viciously (they are always playing macho games)at the other one who is kept at a distance. They are amazingly immune to the cold. That doggie undercoat is one of the warmest fibers on earth. The only time they get freaky and want to come inside is when the wind is blowing hard and a storm is raging. I bring them in the work room when that happens. Thor might not like his brothers in HIS area - where the sheep are. I turned to look back at the barn. I love when the snow is on the roof. When it warms slightly it's very dangerous to stand next to the barn - you could be hit by an avalanche of ice sliding off. The dogs and cats know the sound well and get out of the way quickly. It's about 6 F. outside right now and getting colder. The stars are lovely tonight. Sorry - you got two each of my pictures...I guess I am more tired than I realized. Better do a barn check and get myself to bed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Single Digits

It's still snowing, although now it's that pretty little Lake Effect snow we get here in upstate New York. Temps are dipping into single digits tonight, maybe negative digits. Glad I don't have newborns coming into the world. Now I just have to worry about keeping the babies I have alive. I have another bottle baby - a little wether who probably was not getting enough milk from his mother. He was curled up and stiff in the barn last night. Brought him into the apt. and laid him out on a doggie rug. He was too weak to raise his head but could swallow when I gave him a warm bottle and sheep Nutri-Drench. I was afraid he was too dehydrated to bring back, but when I got up to check on him at 2:30 his head was up. He's standing now, looking dazed, but he did nibble on the hay I keep out for the bottle babies living in the work room. My Premier hanging milk bucket arrived with six Pritchard teats. It's quite a piece of equipment. I have to make sure that it holds milk without leaking, and that I hang it at the right height. I wonder if the lambies will be smart enough to suck on the teats without their human (me) holding a bottle. It might take some practice to help them get the idea. I am hoping I can go through a day of work without obsessing about my lambs at home with empty tummies, calling for their Person to come out with the baboos.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Guy

This big guy is a Merino wether. He came with the homeless Rambos, along with another just like him who is intact (still has his equipment). Isn't he handsome? His wool is very dense and soft and a lovely deep brown color. He has four white socks which you can't see very well in this picture as he just came in from the snow. Still snowing, colder temps coming tomorrow, going down to single digits tomorrow night. Spring comes late here in the Great North Land and we can get snow until May. The colder it stays, the later the flies will hatch - but we want the grass to green up. The sheep will be so happy to stretch their legs over the hills and munch on some fresh green grass.

Eggs in the Nest Box

I find eggs in the nest boxes almost every day. Chickens don't usually lay eggs this time of year, but there is a light outside of their room in the barn. I think that helps. Egg laying is directly related to the amount of light the chickens get. These Olde English Bantams lay tiny little eggs that are almost all yolk. I put them on the dog kibble to give the White Boys some extra protein, or give them to the kitties for a treat. When they hear the shell crack, the cats come running. I do save some for an omelet once in a while.

Hay Mow Kitties

The Hay Mow kitties get so excited when I climb the ladder with food. No rats or mice around this barn, and the pidgeons that used to roost in the mow hide inside the silos.

Snowed In

The roads around Brookfield are covered. A heavy wet snow has been falling ALL day and is supposed to continue all night. Sheep are dry and cozy in the barn. I wanted to let little Rambolina and her mother out of the jug but I know Mom will run right out to the round bales and I don't want her baby out in this weather. Some of the lambs venture out, but most just stand in the barn door and scream bloody murder for their mothers to come back. The scenery is so beautiful around the farm. I just stand in awe at Mother Nature. Last night I was out in the back checking out the stars and planets. A storm rolls in and we have a Winter Wonderland.

"Snow Event"

It's been snowing steadily for hours here in Brookfield. I took a sick/snow day today - hated to do it but I'm terrified of skidding off the road. I rarely pass anyone and cell phones don't work until I hit Norwich. Matt is in Syracuse and I have no one to come and pull me out. If I managed to get to work I don't know if I could get home to the lambs. I've had some horrific accidents in the past and they always linger in my mind. This "snow event," which is what the news likes to call it, is supposed to last two days. Oh, joy. It would be fine if I didn't have to work. I hate being out. Something always happens that makes me regret not being there. The last time I was out (when Breeze died) they had a meeting about the logistics of my position with regard to working with the teachers and students - and I wasn't THERE!! So I got the info after the fact, but I still would rather be there. No one showed up at Matt's office in Syracuse, but he is new and felt he should go in. He's leaving early - hope he makes it home, but he has the big F150 and should be okay. In the meantime, I can take care of my bottle babies and wash three days worth of dishes...I know, I know, I need a dishwasher. Good thing I make hand creme, my hands have really taken a turn for the nasty, not having a diswasher for ten years.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hungry Little Monkeys

I flew out of the school and jumped in the truck, getting home in half an hour. I heard the screams of the babies when I pulled up alongside the barn. They had not drank the milk out of the pot I put down for them and were starving. I noticed my hanging teat bucket had not arrived from Premier yet, and sighed thinking tomorrow will be the same situation. When they saw me open the door the chorus of baaaaa!! baaaaa!! baaaaa!! got louder. I let them in the apt. with me, after letting the pile of dogs out, and they rooted on the back of my legs while I got their bottles ready. First Lincoln, then Tinky Winky, then Binky, then Pinky, then a little more for Lincoln. He can't nurse as long as the lambs, and has to drink in spurts. I'm exhausted. Six fifteen is not early enough to do all the bottle mixing, feedings and make Matt's lunch and only THEN get myself ready for work. Have to get up earlier. When I finished feeding the monkeys I let them play around the apt. to make up for leaving them all day. They love the feel of the pine floors under their hooves, and did their funny boing, boing, boing up and down the length of the floor. They went from table to chair to hearth, nibbling on newspapers and magazines. Now they are collapsed on the doggie beds, sleeping off their full bellies. They are SOOO much work but I am enjoying them a lot. Lovely sunny day today, but snow/sleet is coming tomorrow. I think I am going to collapse for a few minutes myself.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sundown on my Vacation

Back to work tomorrow...please, somebody save me. Things were just so weird the week before I left. I hope it's better when we go back. I find the whole business so tedious. Education is so fraught with tension and drama - the human element, you know. I wanted to groom bunnies and play with lambs/kids all day, but I didn't time my milk replacer correctly and had to go into Norwich to buy it. I was off by one day! I hit Tractor Supply, Wal-Mart and La Maison Blanc, my favorite French bakery which I had not been to in months. I got a lot of stuff I needed, but it was a gorgeous day and I would like to have spent more time outside. I did take the dogs up to the pond to watch the sunset, and that was lovely. I hate, hate, hate to leave my babies tomorrow. My milk bucket is not here from Premier yet. I will put a pot of milk on the floor for the bottle babies. Still, they will scream for me much of the day. Reality bites hard around here. Miss Rambolina is doing fine, to my relief. Mom's udder did not look full to me, and I was worried about her getting enough to eat. I picked her up to offer her a bottle, and marvelled over the size of her. Her domed head is just sooo soft and white. Mom is protective (one poor kitty went into the pen and was butted horribly) and loves her baby. It's a tough time of year. The flock has been in the barn for the most part for several months, and they are on top of bacteria all the time. In the spring, summer and fall they are outside in fresh air most of the time. Chris Kupris said this time of year was horrible for his dairy herd. The cows would drop like flies. I can't imagine moving a dead 1,200 pound cow. We have a hard enough time with sheep and goats. Oh, not a happy subject! Better make dinner and do chores. I am hoping to watch The Tudors tonight. Just starting watching it and like it, even though it is oh, so Hollywood. Great dresses and sets.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Surprise Rambouillet Lamb

We finished chores around 10 PM and were just about to return to the apt. when I noticed an odd looking lamb in the crowd around the hay bales. This lamb had droopy ears - then I noticed a cord hanging from it's navel and the Rambouillet ewe standing behind her. I realized one of my rescued girls had a lamb! She's absolutely beautiful, with a Madonna-like face. I call her Rambolina. Mom let us put her in the jug and take care of her baby. Don't know when she was born, sometime in the afternoon or evening I think. Fortunately, Auntie Jan just sent me a new big, long sweater in a lovely champagne color. It's perfect for little Miss Rambolina. I knew the Rambo girls had been with rams, but with all their shuffling around to their foster home then to me I didn't know if anything "took." I guess it did!

Helping Hands and Hooves

Chris is helping Matt roll out the first cut round bales I buy for the flock to munch on between feedings of lovely second cut in the morning and evening. As you can see, it's standing room only around the bale.

Sunny Winter Day on the Farm

I love the lines of my barn. My farm was founded in 1803 by Puritans from Rhode Island. There is water everywhere including a cistern in the field behind the barn that never goes dry. The original barn burned down. The oldest part of this barn dates from 1826, I believe, and then added on to in the 1930's when the Kupris family, Lithuanian emigrants from the Bronx, bought it. Sister Grace and Sister Bernadette, along with their brother, built the addition I am living in. The girls got up on the roof to nail the sheet metal on - three nails in every sheet they tell me. It never leaks. I love the silos and the big barn door. I can imagine the Kupris parents backing the hay wagon and team of horses up the ramp to unload the bales with the giant hook that's still hanging in the mow. So much work. It should have stayed in their family forever. The valley is loaded with Kupris relatives, but none of them could save this farm for the family. Hard times, I guess. Now I am here, but most of the land was sold off to a wealthy investor from New Jersey before I got here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sweaters to the Rescue

I received sweaters from Kim and Jan yesterday...just in time. Bad weather hit again and it's awfully cold and snowy out there. This little black guy followed his mother out to what's left of the round bale and looked frozen when I picked him up and brought him back in...but when I put my hand under the sweater it was toasty warm!

Something About Socks

I love knitting socks. There's just something about them - so portable, so functional, and all those little needles hanging on just waiting for their turn. My socks are nowhere near the ultimate Sockladyspins socks knitted by the consummate sock artist, Lynne, from the wilds of British Columbia. My socks are warm, cushy boot socks. Lord knows, I need them to slush throught the snow and ice here on the farm.

My Stash

My stash is baskets on tables, in bags hanging from every knob or nail. When my "work room," which is the room between the apartment and the sheep, is finished I will bring some big breakfronts from the tractor shed to put it in. If I was organzied I would have a much easier life. My stash reflects my inner chaos, things scattered everywhere. When I started knitting Mia's mittens I knew I had several pairs of double pointed needles, but they were all on projects, mostly socks, in different bags, baskets and totes, all over the farm. Moving three times in eight years has not helped with getting organized. Living in a little trailer for a year when we first moved here hasn't either. Little by the meantime I am enjoying my last day of vacation. It's snowing, I have a fire burning in the wood stove and the apartment has not filled up with black smoke. I confess I am disappointed with the whole wood stove situation. I have always had a fireplace, and miss it so much. I hate having to open a door all the time to put wood in, then closing the fire up inside. When I build a house on the hill I will definitely have a stone fireplace instead, no matter how inefficient it is. I have packages to mail, bunnies to groom, cages to scrape out, on and on. Matt wants the bottle babies out in the barn, but it's soooo cold, and the work room seems just right for them now. He's right, they need to be with their own kind. I'm going back to work on Monday (ouch) and they will be alone all day. I ordered a hanging bucket for their milk which will take some getting used to. I hate to be the last to leave and the first to get home and find any disasters or tragedies that took place while I'm gone. Matt says his work will take him away a lot and I won't see him much. I said, okay, just send money.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mia's Birthday on the Farm

Mia was able to stay for the morning, helping me with chores and picking up hay. Matt's gone to Syracuse with the big truck so I could only get 15 bales with the little one. We had a brief scare when Mia, who was up top stacking bales fell backwards off the tailgate but was stopped by the wall of the barn. She was left with her behind dangling and her pride hurt but that was all. Otherwise, we had a delightful time playing with the babies. The round bale victims are coming along. The little brown doe twin has bent front legs but she's able to hobble around enough to get under her mother and nurse. I am trying to gently pull them straight. Mia had to get back to NJ to do birthday things tonight and get ready to see shut-in patients in Patterson tomorrow. As always, I miss her something awful but have all my coping mechanisms in place, out there in the barn and my crafty doings inside.

Mia's Birthday Mittens

Mia requested Bunny Mittens for her birthday a while back and I didn't want to disappoint her. It's been so long since I've knitted bunny mittens, but I had the yarn spun and decided to just get 'er done. I had to look up my pattern, and had a time of it with the thumbs, which came out a bit thick (warmer?). With wear they will become fuzzy and fluffy with that characteristic angora halo. She was thrilled, and that made me happy, and she wore them under the Lunar Eclipse. Now they are very special birthday mittens indeed.

Mia's Birthday Visit

Mia arrived late afternoon and helped me with chores - bless her heart. She fed the babies, threw down bales for me, and fed the babies again. She LOVES her Dansko clogs and bunny mittens. We went to Frank's for dinner where we celebrated with shots of his famous Limonello home-made liquer (for favorite customers only). The best part was yet to come. Mia and I bundled up and sat under the stars to watch a FULL LUNAR ECLIPSE!! It was stunning, absolutely beautiful, with wispy black clouds slipping over the big soft orange disk. The north silo and barn roof framed the moon perfectly. The stars were never so bright, and we were never so cold, but that made it more fun. We snuggled under blankets while Bodie kept bringing us his ball to throw and kitties jumped on our laps for warmth. We waited for totality, watched a while longer, then went in to watch movies on the sofa. It was just perfect. Matt rushed off to work this morning and we're watching the Today show from Vermont, where Mia went to college. I'm cooking Cream of Wheat (aka porridge) for her breakfast. We keep talking about how nice it would be to have twin B, AJ, here but he is in Carson City, Nevada, at an Army Chaplain convention. We'll do chores together then she departs in her little black Hyundai for Morristown and a birthday dinner date. Mommie will have pleasant memories dancing in her head for days to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Freaky Farm Accident

I went out to the barnyard to check on things, and to see if anybody was caught on the round bale strings. I paused to take in the beautiful sheep, goats and sunshine. The aroma of sun on warming hay was wonderful in the crisp, cold air. I said something to one of the sheep and suddenly heard a faint cry. Heard it again...but it sounded like it was coming from inside the round bale! How could this be? Was there a baby caught inside the round bale? Had it climbed on top then fallen inside? I pulled handfuls of hay away from the bale, but it was wound tightly as they usually are. How could something be inside? All the sheep gathered around, pushing on me, as if I was getting ready to feed them something. I kept pulling, walking around and around the bale to find the spot the baby had crawled/fallen into. But there was nothing! Then, to my horror, I realized there must be a baby UNDER the bale. Now, these bales weight 500 pounds, but this one had been partially eaten. I noticed it was not standing upright anymore. The big sheep must have pushed it over from the uphill side. I tried to lift it, not a budge. I've heard of round bales killing people, but not animals! My mind was racing as I heard more feeble cries. Mia is on her way, should I run in and call her and ask her to put the pedal to the metal? She's the strongest woman I know and maybe the two of us could do it. Sister Grace and Sister Bernadette are home, but Sister Grace is on dialysis and Sister Bernadette is a skinny little thing. I decided to do it myself. I got on the uphill side and put my back to it. I pushed with all my might...and pushed and pushed. It started to move. Funny, I could never do this when Matt and I are unloading round bales. But this was life or death. I kept pushing and flipped it back. I turned around to see a little pink sweater buried in the hay on the ground, then a purple sweater! There were TWO goat kids under the round bale! Mom came running up (she had been watching all this) and they started to wail. I put them down and they rushed under her to nurse. One little doe's legs are folded and stiff, and the other one is fine. I staggered in the house looking for my bottle of sherry, then grabbed my cold coffee cup instead. Can you imagine finding two little bodies when the bale was eaten down? I might never have missed them. This is the life of a shepherd, always watching and waiting for some disaster to happen and jump in to help. I really have to rethink this round bale business...