Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Speechless.

(Hahahahaha, right.)  I have had the Versatile Blogger Award passed to me by my bud, Mama Pea.  She is, as always, WAY too generous and kind with both words and deeds.  But I will admit, this is my first such award and it gave me a little thrill!

As part of accepting this kind label (I am nothing, if not flexible...) I must do three things:

*  Link back to the person who gave me the award (I am sure I do not have to introduce Mama Pea to most of you - but, if there are some poor souls who have NOT found her blog - please, please, please let me set you to rights.  Go to her blog right this second!  She is the bees' knees, the cat's meow.  Now there is a versatile and talented blogger!)

*  Share seven things you all might not know about me - which gives me a pretty free range, since most of you don't know me from bupkus. (Quiet there, Melanie and Kay).

*  Name another blogger on whom this award would fit like a glove.

Let's get the prickly one out of the way first.  Seven things you might not know about me:

1.  I am terrified of high bridges over bodies of water.  And I must drive over one twice a day, five days a week.  While I don't close my eyes (duh!) I do go all rigid and stare straight ahead.  Heaven help me if there is a traffic jam and I am stuck on it.

2.  I have been burlarized three times in my life, and held up at knife point once.  It makes you feel very violated.

3.  I have a sticker on my dashboard reading "BREATHE".

4.  In my teens, I tutored under a sculptor who had done a bust of Leon Trotsky from life, before he (Trotsky) was assasinated.  He kept it on his porch.  And it was amazing.
5.   I agonize over any lapse in my recycling efforts.

6.  I prefer almost any food to be cold or room temperature rather hot.  I have been known to order a pizza, bring it home and stick it in the refrigerator so I can eat it cold the next day.

7.  I still think of Cleveland as my home, although I was born in Virginia and have moved all over the place.

Now, for the most difficult part of this whole exercise - having to choose one versatile blogger out of all the many wonderful, versatile bloggers!  For purely selfish reasons (I want to know seven more things about her) I am passing this onto Carolyn Renee over at Krazo Acres.  I love the humor and wisdom that permeates every post.  She's a wealth of information and an excellent writer!

Lamb Update.

It's not often that I have a) my camera with me; b) sun; c) all while I'm with the sheep!  I managed to get a few photographs of the lambs with the ewes during yesterday's breakfast.  It's amazing how fast they grow.  The older lambs, Linden, Hazel and Acacia, are all eating hay.  As a matter of fact, when I first put the hay out, Linden (Freyda's beautiful ram lamb), backs up and races towards it, flinging himself in a bellyflop in the middle of the hay holder!  This is not, unsurprisingly, very popular with the ewes, who bunt him out.  Enjoy my view!
Banyan, Cocoa's moorit mouflon ram lamb.

Hickory, Cocoa's moorit ewe lamb, enjoying the sun.

Two sets of twins - Flora's Hazel and Acacia, Cocoa's Hickory and Banyan.


Friday, April 29, 2011

The More-Than-Fair Trade.

I recently made a real coup.  You could call it "Fair Trade", but it would definitely be skewed in my favor.  For one dozen extra large, farm fresh eggs, I got....

A half-gallon of maple syrup lovingly made right down the road from me!  Wholly Cow!  As I've noted before, some of my neighbors and I use the mailbox delivery system.  I get a call or email requesting eggs.  I place the eggs in the orderer's mailbox and they place the money for the eggs, along with extra egg boxes (always needed and appreciated) in my mailbox.  So far, we have not interferred with the delivery of the U.S. Post and everyone is happy with how smoothly it works.  I ran into my neighbor at the last Zoning Board of Appeals meeting and he asked if I would like some maple syrup.  Of course I would!  May I trade for eggs, I asked?  Of course I could!  He would like a dozen.  So I sorted through my larger eggs and packed up a lovely dozen and put them in his mailbox.  When I came home from work that night, a half-gallon jug was sitting on my junk mail!  Woot!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tough Decisions: A Long-Winded Post.

There are times when I think, had I known the decisions I'd have to make doing this homesteady business, I would have stuck with cats and an apartment.  Hahahahaha - kidding.  They do say that ignorance is bliss, and I believe that is true in my case.  Of course, the more one learns, the less ignorance there is to shield you from the hard decisions.  And the bliss fades a bit.

This year I have to make some decisions that are difficult for me.  I have about four acres, but a lot of it is not suited for farming, grazing or anything useful.  I have a full time job.  I am a single homesteader.  Sustainability or not, it is an expensive undertaking.  I am having to focus on making this place and the animals on it pay for itself/themselves - at least in part.  Right now, I have, in the sheep department:  4 ewes; 5 lambs (with one or two more to come); 1 ram; 1 llama.  I have been waffling back and forth, to and fro about the purpose of my sheep.  Would I raise them for meat?  Would I raise them for milk?  Would I raise them for their fiber?  All three?  Excuse me while I think out loud:  being a long-time follower of Lewis Carroll, I find it difficult to eat anything I've been formally introduced to.  I am too attached to my lambs.  Milking four ewes?  Just when would I squeeze that twice-a-day activity into my schedule?  That leaves me with fiber.  I am good with that.  I happen to have ewes with great fiber, so I am all set there.  Of course, there's the shearing, skirting, processing, dyeing; but let's leave that for a later discussion.  So, we're firm on one llama and four ewes.  The lambs.  There's a dilemma.  I cannot make a firm decision on them until after the ram lamb trade negotiations are over.  I had decided to keep one of Cocoa's lambs this time, so Banyan will stay.  This is Flora's last lambing, so Hazel will stay.  Then, there is Hickory, Acacia and Linden.  And Juno, who is my secret favorite, hasn't even had her lamb(s).  You can see the problem. 

All this rambling to get to this:  I do not need a ram.  I do not need to neuter him because I do not need a PET sheep.  If he had an outstanding fleece, I might consider it - but he doesn't.  And he tends to be prone to respiratory problems.  One sheep with respiratory problems (hello, Flora??) is more than enough.  So I have made the decision to send him to freezer camp.  I have been wrestling with this for weeks, but all indicators point to it being the right decision.  He is getting more aggressive with me and has been shoving the lambs around.  Temperament is a key factor on this homestead.  Not mine, of course.  I'm cranky, but I'm in charge.

Another decision is to cull out a lot of my existing flock of chickens.  I am rather attached to many of them, so this is also a tough decision.  Right now, I probably have 28 birds, including two roosters.  Of those 26 hens, 17-tops- are laying.  I refuse to cull Lucy, even though she probably hasn't laid an egg for three years.  She came with me to this homestead, and she's staying 'til the end.  Then, there is Marie-Claire, super-auntie.  She stays, too.  Junior, rooster #1, will have to go to make room for Kees, rooster #2, my Barnevelder rooster.  Home Girl is going to go be cause she's a mean-tempered thing.  Of my two remaining Ameracauna mixes, one is an egg-eater.  She will have to go for practical reasons.  I will miss her green egg, though.  I am working through the flock to bring it down to 20, total.  I have five Barnevelder hens that stay and four more chicks that I am raising.  I have my work cut out for me, if you pardon the expression.

I am also going to sell my two rescued red angora rabbits.  I had no intention of keeping them and, once I've spruced them up a bit, they are on the market.  All this angst is the result of not having a plan.  With a plan, you have a clear vision of what will work best and make the most sense.  In order to make a small farm pay for itself -- or, at least, pick up some of the slack -- it has to be pretty flexible.  But flexible in an orderly way.  Clear as mud?  I'd be very interested in hearing other views - pro and con.  Like a lot of new adventurers, I  have so much to learn.

A Walk in the Woods with Euell.

Risking a major jinx, I believe the Dreaded Winter is behind us.  I am not kidding myself that I have spring to look forward to -- we will just get deluge after deluge, then it will be hot and humid.  Apparently, that is now spring.  But things are starting to pop up.  GREEN things (gasp).  And this is the time I pull out my old faithful, new-to-me copy of Stalking the Wild Asparagus.  My original copy - purchased when I was a freshman in college (no, not the original edition, thank you, but darn close) - had been held together with tape, then packing tape, then duct tape.  It finally bit the dust when a cat knocked it off the bookshelf and the pages went their own individual ways.  I love this book.  For me, it makes every spring and summer a great adventure - trying to identify wild food. 

Thanks to Carolyn Renee at Krazo Acres, a blogger that I follow, I am now on the lookout for Henbit.  I also have my secret morel patch that I am hoping is still there next month.  And there are so many other wonderful groceries on Mother Nature's shelves that I haven't yet tried.

What is your favorite go-to book on foraging for wild foods?  What treasures have you come across?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Wishing all of you who celebrate this day a very Happy Easter - spent with family and friends and delicious local food!  For the rest, have a wonderful last day of the weekend. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Special Delivery.

Busy morning here.  Cocoa delivered twins - both moorit coloring, one of each.  The ram lamb has his father's markings in reverse - he's brown with light tan circles around his eyes, on his ears and down his face.  Of course, it was 37 degrees and sleeting - at least she had them in the hoop house - but I've just finished disinfecting their umbilical cords and slipped them into the two remaining clean sweaters.

Ewe lamb in blue and ram lamb in brown.

Linden at 18 days on the left.

In between trips from house to sheep, the phone rang.  It was the post office - our layer chicks had arrived!  I decided to let Cocoa clean up her lambs and recover her poise (she is very skittish still) while I drove up to get the chicks.  Here they are - Welsummers, Rhode Island Reds and two Speckled Sussex.

 Marianne will be coming over to get hers and I am raising a few for my sister, who is joining the chicken-owners family!  I am now going to have my second cup of coffee.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Traditions Gone Bad.

Now that I've solved my disappearing comments problem (thank you, Mama Pea), I thought I would have some fun at the expense of Easter traditions.  I will share the short but heart-breaking story of a little girl's Easter tradition that went very, very wrong.

This adorable tot, at the tender age of 8ish (you see, now that she's a middle-aged woman, her memory is spongy, along with her thighs) looked forward to her family's Easter traditions.  There was the new Easter dress - that year, a yellow and white Swiss dot confection, with little white gloves, lace-trimmed white anklets, black patent leather Mary Janes, and a fetching little hat.  She got to go to church with her family - two sisters, clad in equally splendid attire, beautiful mother who also wore gloves and a Jackie Kennedy hat, handsome father who closely resembled David Niven, in his Sunday suit and bright striped tie.  The church was filled with flowers and everyone was in their very best clothes.  It was wonderful!

Piling out of the Dodge (with tail fins), she and her sisters raced into the house, flinging finery in every direction.  For, you see, this little girl's favorite attire had NOTHING to do with dresses, gloves, shiny shoes or socks.  She went right into her cowgirl pearl snapped shirt, with matching jeans!  Now, there was glamor!!!  She was ready for the big event.  The presentation of the Easter basket and the big Easter Egg Hunt!  Her mother, who had spent considerable time, money and effort in making this a special Easter basket, held it out for the little girl.  Her mother's eyes were glowing with love and pride.

Then the little girl saw the duck.  It was a real duckling.  A real dead duckling, carefully preserved with wired legs, wings and feet.  The little girl burst into tears, dropped her basket, and could not be consoled for the rest of the day.

The end.

So, what was your most memorable Easter holiday - good or bad?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Traditions

My family is fairly small.  Besides my parents (now in their late 80s), I have two younger sisters.  My next youngest sister has two children - a son and a daughter.  Her son is in Florida and her daughter lives near her in New Hampshire and has a son.  My youngest sister has one son, who is about to graduate from college and will be living near/with her in NYC.  I have dogs.  It is a rare holiday that we ALL get together and this Easter isn't one of them.  Due to the many complicated maneuverings that seem to plague today's families, there are many changes before everything is firmed up.  Right now, there will be my parents, me, and my NH sister.  That may change to include her daughter and grandson.  Or not.  What we can bet on is that there will be an Easter egg hunt.  No matter how old we are, there is ALWAYS an egg hunt.  And these are not your ordinary egg hunts.  My parents have diabolical minds which have only slightly lessened in intensity.  Bwwwaahaha.

We, the adult children, are given two small pieces of paper, on which are written (neatly, by hand) clues.  The clues, over the years, have dealt with the Ottoman Empire, historical figures, wacky British humor, math (ack), great literary works - the subjects are limitless.  These days, while the clues are less complicated, they are still devilish hard.  My parents work as a tag team - my mother chooses the hiding places and my father develops the clues.  He missed his calling -- the CIA could have used him. 

This method of torture was not limited to Easter.  I vividly remember, on my 21st birthday, many moons ago, having to work my way through no less than 8 clues, one more complicated than the other, to find my birthday present.  Being the patient young person that I was (ahem), by the time I reached the end, I had a crowbar in hand, intent on ripping off the trunk of their car.  You see, my birthday is in January and my coveted present -- a brand new Singer sewing machine!!!! -- was in the trunk of their car.  The trunk lock was, not surprisingly, frozen.  Cooler heads prevailed, the trunk was opened, and I was united with my sewing machine.

At least the egg hunt will be held indoors.  And while my father's clues are a little shakier on the makes-sense scale, our powers of deduction are a little more blunted as well.  I only wish that they'd bring back our Easter baskets -- I need lots of chocolate after all that brainwork!

Rolling with the punch.

There are some weeks where you question whether or not you have ticked off the universe.  I am sure my rascally youth is coming back to bite me. 

I am dealing with Diaper Boy again.  Yes, Scrappy is up to his old antics.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and did a urine analysis.  Think:  woman+dog+soup ladle.  It came back negative.  Since nothing is every un-complicated, I either have to diaper him up or put him in his crate.  Diaper: he squirms out of it within minutes of me leaving the house.  Crate: causes great angst in Bernie, who then chews up things that are bad for her.  So now I am crating them both.

Sneezing Cat.  All of a sudden, Slimmie is sneezing.  A lot.  I've checked for runny eyes and nose, and so far, just sneezing.  I have to make an early morning appointment for him.  I don't like respiratory ailments left unchecked.

Sick Lamb.  This morning, Linden was uncharacteristically low-key.  He was curled in a ball under the tree, shivering.  Everyone else was eating and romping.  So, a call to the other vet and a wrestling match to take his temperature and splurt some maple syrup down his gullet to stimulate his appetite.  Temperature was normal and he seemed to like the maple syrup.  So did Bartlett and Juno, who mobbed me when I had Linden in a half-nelson.  Apparently, the 'stimulus' of having a cold thermometer put where the sun don't shine, followed by a dose of maple syrup was enough, at least, to get him on his feet.  But he was still rather lethargic.  I am sure that this weather doesn't help.  It's been almost non-stop cold, damp windy weather.  An hour later, Linden was standing on Hoosier, chewing on his ears.  Not exactly bouncing, but looking better.  Since I have a limited amount of time I can take off from work, I decided to go in and asked Melanie to meet the vet when she came.  But, I tell you, it can just tear at you when you have to leave an animal under your care that is not up to par.

I am hoping that the old adage of bad things coming in threes holds true!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Talking about bees from up on my soapbox.

On Saturday morning, my neighbor, Linda, and I went to meet with an old-time beekeeper south of us.  It was easy to spot his place - a rambling and rather ramshackle property, dotted with bee hives.  This property is on a country road that once was peopled by farmers.  It is now part-time peopled by folks from the Apple, with large, immaculate lawns, perfect paint, and perfect landscaping.  This has pretty much infuriated the beekeeper.  He has been in beekeeping since the early 60s.  During a long and informative visit (he talked to us for an hour and a half), we learned more than in our 5 weeks of beekeeping class. 

Back in the earlier days of beekeeping, it was NOT common for beekeepers to lose entire hives.  Then, thanks to the introduction of the Varroa destructor mite, transmitted unknowingly by a major pollinator from Florida, the bees of the northeast were decimated.  The Beekeeper lost 98 of his original 100 hives.  Slowly, over the course of the years, beekeepers have been working on breeding bees that are more resistant to the Varroa mite.  But there are even more obstacles that our little bees must overcome in order to thrive.  Meadows are disappearing.  Lawns are chemically treated, mowed and weeded to within an inch of their lives (as in his neighbors).  Large chemical corporations, like Monsanto, develop and sell GMOs and fertilizers and other unnatural treatments that affect our bees.  Even a bee that is resilient to the plague of mites, is left weak and ailing by other factors, which lower its resistance.  No wonder so many hives don't make it through the winter.

Linda and I won't be getting bees from him this year.  He lost 21 of his 50 hives over the winter.  He will have to concentrate all year on building back his foundation stock.  I won't be setting up the two hives I wanted this year. I'm going to have to restock my one hive. But I've learned tons this year and that knowledge will hopefully make me a better keeper of my bees.

You would think that we would be totally frustrated by all this bad news -- be ready to throw in the towel.  We're not.  Everyone who raises bees has to stick with it.  Using local bees and being diligent about what they eat and where you place them; letting your lawns go to dandelions and clover; re-queening every other year - all these things will help bring back our bees.  We need to make sure local, state and federal government does not take away our right to raise bees.  Look into your local zoning.  Know what local farmers are spraying on their crops.  Read labels.  Write letters.  Get involved.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How odd.

I was thinking today (ouch) how amazing and odd it is that so many of us have developed rather close friendships and ties with people we have never seen.  I have my list of bloggers whose blogs I read every day (or whenever they post) without fail.  I laugh with them, cry with them, and send them virtual hugs.  When I first worked for a real business - I count that as when I could no longer wear jeans to work - I would have to answer the phone and direct callers to the different departments.  It was a mind-numbing, thankless, boring job.  But I got through it by trying to picture each caller by the sound of their voice.  Now, with the Internet, I try to picture each blogger by the sound of her/his writing. 

I am loathe to have my picture taken.  I have not been photogenic since I was in my 20s, and even then it was sketchy.  So, I am usually the one on the business side of the camera.  However, since I have never been one to turn down a dare, here is a picture of me.  Granted, it's not great -- and rather fuzzy.  It was taken last year by ... me (notice the floating camera).  You cannot see the grey in my hair, but it's there, all right.  And I have earned every strand.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Apple vis a vis the Apple Tree.


Freyda at the same age as Linden, her ram lamb.
They say that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree - it sure is true in the case of Freyda and her ram lamb.  I was watching the sheep this morning -- in between sheets of rain and gale force winds -- and noticed that, just like his mother, Linden curls up next to Hoosier whenever possible.  It is too cute for words, but I haven't been able to catch them with my camera yet.  As soon as I appear, the dinner bell goes off in all those sheepie brains, and everyone rushes the fence.  Freyda was also the first to try hay.  Ditto Linden.  Freyda was the 'leader' of the lamb pack.  Ditto Linden.  It's fun to watch.  They both shared the platinum white curls.  I am very interested to see what Cocoa(nut) comes up with, lamb-wise.  And Juno.  I hope that Juno's sweet, sweet nature is passed along to her lamb(s).

And, speaking of sheets of rain and gale force winds, all that was mentioned last night AND this morning - while it was occuring - was that we would be getting brief periods of moderate rain, with a light breeze.  Am I on the same planet as these guys?  Not only was it more than a 'light breeze', it ripped the lids off all of my poultry feed cans (which was followed by the aforementioned sheets of rain), knocked a dirt-filled window box to the ground, toppled my giant wheelbarrow/cart, and threw Hoosier's feed trough through the air and accross the paddock.  Holy-moly.  After the initial fear that ALL the poultry feed (plus the very expensive kelp meal) was ruined, I found that only the top three inches of the cans had gotten wet, so everyone got an extra large helping of breakfast.  No on complained.  And - hurray - I had decided to keep the kelp meal in it's original bag, instead of dumping it loose into the can.  I quickly emptied it out of the soggy bag and saved it.  That stuff costs at least $50/bag.  I then went and bungeed the cans to within an inch of their lives.

I got the news from Melanie that three of the six Barnevelder eggs hatched!  That's a pretty good ratio, given we weren't sure that Kees was up to the task yet.  So Kees stays and, alas, Junior must go.  I need to put the flocks together and the two roosters spend most of their time trying to kill each other through the fencing.  I am having to do some culling of the flock anyway.  That is not something I relish, but a lot of the hens are getting up there (cover your ears, Lucy) and with the cost of feed, I cannot afford non-egg producers.  I've started a list - Junior (check); ill-tempered Home Girl (check); egg-eating Ameracauna (check); slightly-crossbilled, loudmouth Prissy (maybe).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Convoluted Post.

It happens, sometimes.  I read a great blog post that starts me down Memory Lane, which then oddly coincides with the next thing I read online.  My friend, Sylvie, would say it's the sixth sense kicking in (in a very mild way).  I would say it's co-inky-dinks.

This post, by one of my favorite bloggers, dealt with your first real job, what you did and what you were paid to do it.  That got me thinking about all of the 'odd' jobs I have had over the years, leading, eventually, of me thinking about my short-lived stint as a camp cook.  I actually loved that job - it was cooking (good) for kids (good) on great, big, wonderful industrial strength machines (good) for a tasteless, megalomaniac (bad) who was the wife of the guy that ran the camp.  I would zip into the kitchen in the wee hours to whip up a giant batch of Tollhouse cookies or breakfast muffins.  I can humbly say that the kids loved me.  I think that was the beginning of the end.  Mrs. Crabcakes (let's just call her that, shall we?) did not exude warmth and was NOT a favorite of the campers.  The inevitable happened - she invaded my space (the kitchen), tasted my macaroni and cheese (NOT from a box) and told me it was bland.  She then -- in front of my very eyes -- dumped a half cup of garlic powder into it.  She was lucky I was not holding or standing near a sharp object.  I refused to serve the campers the mac 'n garlic, took off my apron and walked out.  I heard there was an uprising once the kids (and their parents, who were there for parents' day) got a whiff of dinner.

All this long rambling to lead to the article I read right after this remembrance.  It was about a Chicago area school that banned homemade, home-packed lunches.  The principal of the school said she was doing it for the kids' sake - and the sake of their good nutrition.  Then the article proceeded to list what the school considered as good nutrition.  Those poor kids -- faced with mystery meat or nothing?  Lots will eat nothing.  And, as was noted in the article and several sidebar articles, that will not help them with their ability to learn.  In some ways, I can see what the principal is trying to do.  Lots of the kids were bringing sodas and chips for lunch.  Not a vegetable in view, unless you want to count the unknown make-up of the chips.  I know that it's not easy to prepare everything from scratch and keep your costs in line, but it ain't impossible!  There seems to be no knowledge of food, health, or creativity involved in school lunches, for the most part.  In California, there are programs (as, I'm sure, there are in other parts of the country) and collaborations where school lunches are good tasting and good for you and the kids even like them!  And then, what about these kids' parents?  What, you can't put together a PBJ on grained bread with some fruit and yogurt?  And not that squirtable yogurt stick thingy.  Grump.  Of course, I could go off on my crotchety old-lady rant about how kids are allowed to choose their foods and tend to only want chicken nuggets and ketchup.  But I won't.  Heehee -- did!  What's your take on all this?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just a typical weekend on the homestead.

I will have to say, in this weekend's defense, that the weather was glorious -- a perfect spring day with warm sun and light breezes.  It started off with Scrappy showing signs of a urinary infection.  This, after a week of me ranting and raving at what I perceived to be his 'bad' behavior.  Bad me.  Of course, the jury's still out on this.  I managed to get the vet to agree to me driving him up (45 mins each way) for a urine collection that would be sent out to their lab.  I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, to be told that the lab truck had been a half hour early.  So, Scrappy and I went to get cheap gas, a coffee for me and three Munchkins for him.  There is a scarcity of vets near me, and I do like this group except for the fact that they are so far away.  Incidents like this, however, make me rethink sticking with them.

Besides all the extra driving, I did manage to plant onion sets and mulch them; rake off some of the mulch from my garlic, which is coming up nicely; go grocery shopping, where I lost my mind and spent close to $75 on fruit, vegetables and ingredients for my Sunday dinner.  I am weak.  I did some laundry and hung it out on my laundry tree, cleaned up the front yard and took stock of all the damage caused by this winter - three new blueberry bushes snapped in half, branches broken, bent and bruised.  I still have a huge mound of snow in the shady spot in front of the house, and at one end of the other side of the front.  I also found, much to my delight, that Manuel started up almost immediately!  This, after not being run or moved since last fall.  Ole, Manuel!

I planted peas, too, and discovered that the spinach I had planted under cover last fall was still perking along, albeit pretty flattened.  So I uncovered it and it's popped right up.  I buried Ginger, the rabbit, who had langquished frozen until I could dig a proper hole.  I cleaned out the rabbit cages and trimmed some horrendous mats off Little Brother.  I took a huge load of trash and recycleables to the transfer station and, when I returned, I was thinking about taking a nice, long shower, sweeping off my deck, and then starting up dinner preparations, when I heard the unmistakable poultry alarm.  I raced into the poultry yard and found all the chickens gathered in a semi-circle outside of the coop, staring at it.  Yep.  Mink #2.  So I quickly closed it in and called my neighbor.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, another neighbor backed into the drive with my new-to-me, double spinning composter.  They were not using it and would not take anything in trade or cash for it.  Good golly.  Once I figure out where it's going and get it set up, I will post a picture so you can all be totally jealous.  Then another neighbor pulled in to pick up my tiller and shovel up llama beans.  And other neighbor pulled in to say hi.  And Kay pulled up to give me pansies (thank you again, Kay - they are beeutiful).  Then I raced in to take a shower, while Kay sat guard, and Marianne showed up with wine and Hummingbird Cake.  Then the armed neighbor showed up and he dispatched the mink.  Another healthy male specimen.  My new motto may be, "If It's Sunday, It's Mink".  I sure hope not...

While Marianne was here, we autopsied my bee hive.  They were, indeed, all dead.  It appears there was too much moisture trapped in the hive.  The only upside of this is that it happened early and the hive was filled with honey.  It will be interesting to see just how much there is, but we figure there will be over 4 gallons.  An expensive lesson learned, both in bee deaths and $$.  But it is a lesson -- be sure that there is enough ventilation to allow moisture to escape.  The bees had sealed the vent in the inner cover with propolis, and the entrance and screened bottom board had been too often covered with snow.  There was no place for the moisture to go.  I hadn't known the ventilation was sealed off at the top, as I was told not to open it AT ALL during the winter.  You better believe I will be checking it when weather allows on the next hives.

Sylvia showed up, also bearing wine, to see the lambs and have dinner, then we went inside an enjoyed a nice bottle of wine, with rabbit braised in white wine with olives and lemon, and lots of great conversation.  We topped it off with Marianne's Hummingbird Cake - my new favorite cake!  It was a non-stop and eventful weekend, some good, some bad. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sheep Things.

We are at three lambs and holding.  It's hard to tell who will go next -- Cocoa or Juno.  But it will be a little while, in any event.  Yesterday, the sweaters came off as we are supposed to have some more appropriate weather for the season.  Here are some shots taken yesterday morning.

Sweet face and lovely fleece.

Nice place for a nap.
Is that a cookie in your pocket?

Enjoying the sun - one last shot with a sweater!

On Monday, to celebrate the arrival of lambs, I wore these to work:

I apologize - they're a little out of focus.  They are the cutest earrings ever!  Melanie's mother makes them from beads.  The detail is wonderful - they have dear little faces.  They were quite a hit at the office.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Cuteness Continues...

Peggy Sue at 5 days old.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sheep Hierarchy.

It's fascinating to watch the ongoing soap opera that is my sheep's daily life.  Since the arrival of the lambs, subtle but interesting shifts in the flock hierarchy have occurred.  I had taken the first step - I lowered the entryway space to the main hoop house so that Hoosier couldn't get his wide butt in there and take up all the room.

During better weather (all three hours of it that we've had since Sunday), Flora, Freyda and their lambs nestle down in the primo real estate under the big pine tree.  Everyone else is catch-as-catch-can.  Once the rain really starts coming down, the Grand Dames and offspring sashay into the main hoop house and oust anyone already in residence.  That leaves Bartie, Juno and Coco(nut) to shuttle to the not-as-nice hoop house.  Which then puts Hoosier back outside under the tree.  And so it goes.

The little black-faced ewe lamb (who's name seems to be developing into Sally) is very vocal and has figured out that the hoop house = warm + dry.  She spent some time this morning going into the hoop house and bleating for her mother to follow.  Flora, however, was hock-deep into her breakfast hay.  Sally gave up and went back under the tree.  She tried, ever more loudly, to convince her mother to move three more times.  Flora finally gave up and followed her in, to find that I'd hung hay in hay bags.  She never looked back.

It is waaay too much fun watching those lambs.  I almost forgot to go to work today!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The babes.

Thank goodness Kay and Melanie have come and taken pictures.  A photographer I am not.  But here are some pix thanks to Kay.  All seem to be eating and warm, even if there is quite a wind blowing.  Hopefully, Melanie will post her pictures on her blog -- Kay has more pix on Facebook.

Flora's little white ewe lamb

Flora's little black-faced ewe lamb.

Freyda's BIG ram lamb on right.
The sweaters were a downloadable pattern from Kristin Nicholas you can find here.


As I gazed out of the sliding glass doors this morning, I didn't focus immediately on what I was seeing.  Lambs!  Apparently, Flora and Freyda decided to have them very early this morning when I wasn't looking.  Flora had twin ewe lambs and Freyda presented us with a single ram lamb.  Pictures to come!  Time for more coffee!!!!