Early Fall Farm Report

Early fall is upon us (at least in terms of farming and shepherding!).  It’s time to start making lists of all the work that has to be done before the weather turns cold (and dare we say – snowy?).

First on the list was getting the Angora goats sheared.  Their fleeces grow so very fast that they get sheared twice a year, as opposed to the sheep who are sheared only in the spring. Since the summer was so mild there was some concern that the fall would turn cold quickly, so we wanted to get the goats done early enough to grow back just a bit of fleece before we get any chilly temperatures.

Emily came down a few days ago and unfortunately once she set up the skies turned dark and the thunder began.  We whipped through getting them sheared and the fleeces bagged and got no pictures. But I took some this evening after feeding time, though not all the newly-naked ones were cooperative (I’m looking at YOU, Martin and McPhee!).

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Wembley and Margaret (or Sad Margaret, as we call her, since her ears tend to droop down and her fleece covers her eyes in a way that makes her look perpetually morose)

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Miss Hannah. Doesn’t she look velvety with her new ‘do?

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Roquefort, the Silver Fox

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Keswick

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Cassie

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Lucy

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The goats have worked a hole in the fence by the hay.  Not because they don’t already have a fresh hay bale sitting conveniently out in the field or anything.

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Wimbledon

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Monticello

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Fettuccine the Wonderdog

Soon we’ll be cleaning manure out of the field to till into the gardens for next year, scrubbing out the water troughs, winterizing the chicken coops, and setting up a winter pen for the flock.

Right now we are enjoying spending time outside with the flock in these glorious early fall temperatures.  Stay with us awhile, fall!

First Apple Picking Adventure 2014

This weekend we did our best to welcome fall by meeting with friends for apple picking and cider pressing.

The weather didn’t feel so very fall-like, with temps in the lower 90’s, but it was at least sunny and bright.

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Tanya’s son Alex cracks me up!

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Only the Golden Delicious were ready for picking, which was sad, but it also means we get to go back again when the Winesaps are ready (and hopefully there’s more color in the trees!).

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Oona and Alston played hard all day.

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Look! A rare Emily sighting! I don’t know how she can manage to be so covered up on such a hot day.

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The orchard still has plenty of peaches available.  That, along with the super hot weather made this seem mightily out of place:

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Trina provided us with hayride tickets, and though we baked a bit, the kids had a blast.

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Maddie made her feelings about the temperature plain.

After our apples were picked and paid for (along with many cider donuts, of course!), and we’d had our hayride and spent time catching up, some of us drove back to Lisa’s house to press some apples into cider.

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This. Little. Cutie.  I cannot resist her.

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We got four of these out of roughly one bushel of “B” apples. In retrospect, it’s probably good we didn’t get a whole lot more apples to press, since the kids lost interest and were ready to climb Lisa’s trees and chase dogs and chickens.  And run they did; they had a lot of fun running off all of their energy outside.

Lisa made a fabulous Texas-style chili and Tanya brought cornbread to go with.  Along with the fresh cider and fabulous company and the kids wearing each other out, I didn’t think the day could get any better.

But I was wrong!

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Lisa made me a pumpkin cheesecake for my birthday! And it. was. DIVINE!

When Tanya presented me a bottle of a hard-to-find wine, Lisa decided to open up a lovely Burgundy from her (rather extensive and enviable) wine cellar.  It put an already magical day over the top.

September, you are off to a fantastic start!

Losing Time

How…and I mean how did it get to be mid August already?  Yesterday the local public schools had their first day of school.

Seriously.

Honestly I could never understand this area’s fixation on being in school in August of all months.  Isn’t that vacation month for most people?

Not that it matters for us; my kids won’t be back to school until September.  Still, that isn’t all that far away, and that is where today’s hang ups are coming from. That and the fact that it is rainy 76 degrees.  Fall weather.  Fall weather in a month that is traditionally oppressive and over the one hundred degree mark.

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The morning glories are blooming, which makes me crazy happy, and it means my birthday is just around the corner. Yet it’s still weird because I am just now getting my first ripe tomatoes off the vines (having planted them late didn’t help).

I am in no way ready for back to school, though. I am enjoying mornings of lazing about and reading whatever I please. I am not ready for the stress of worrying about making sure everyone is learning what they need to be.

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There does feel like a lot of pressure to enjoy summer as much as we can for the next few weeks, and I’m not sure how to accommodate that other than to just let us all enjoy doing as much nothing as possible.

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There’s been plenty of staying up late watching far too much crap tv, and I am loathe to give it up.

Fortunately I have one last get away between now and then.  I’ll be headed up to a wedding in the Hudson Valley in a few weeks, and I am excited to see family that I haven’t spoken to in far too long.

I guess my point is, I need to slow down a bit and enjoy the slower pace while I can and not let all the back-to-school/fall-is-coming messages all around me sink in too deep.

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Fall and school will get here soon enough, and I don’t want it said we didn’t enjoy summer as much as we could first.

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The Best Kind of Weekends

This weekend has been the perfect storm of excellent mild weather and time for both relaxing and productivity.

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The temperatures have made being outside during the day an absolute joy.

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The garden is starting to finally show some signs of the bounty to come.  The bees are all over it lately, and I am so excited to see the results!

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I brought home a fig tree from Whole Foods yesterday and planted it today.  There’s already little figs growing on it.  I hope in a few years it produces enough to make fig jam!

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We’ve also been seeing more of our neighbors lately.  The little boy across the street loves to visit the flock, and we always love to show them off!  It’s also super important to us that the people living around us are happy with our little homestead. The hollow that our property sits in protects most of the neighbors from animal sounds, but you never know.

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Another turtle found wandering around down by the stream!  Lucy was taking an interest in this little guy so Neve relocated him to the garden.

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Friendly little Thomas.

I love it when the kids spend full days out of the house; it’s not often that it happens in the summer (unless they are in the pool, but that doesn’t really count as being outside and exploring!).  I’ve spent more time outside exploring as well, and I’ve found countless wild blackberry bushes, wild rosebushes, and even wild blueberry bushes.  It’s important to me that we start trying to make a deeper connection to this land that we own. We will be here for awhile, and taking care of what is here in addition to putting in a mini orchard and improving the soil will be worth it for years and years to come.  Hopefully this will help my kids to grow up with an appreciation for the earth that sustains us and a mindfulness towards its care.

In the meantime, slow down summer.  These beautiful moments are far too fleeting.

The Farm Report

We’ve had some spectacularly mild weather here this week!  I could get used to low humidity and temps in the mid 80’s.  If this was always what summer was like I’d be MUCH more inclined to have it stick around longer.

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July has been pretty dry, and I’m not one to complain about it.  Not after last year’s sogginess!  I think it may be helping keep  much of the bug populations rather low.  The one exception seems to be the flies.  They are HORRENDOUS right now.  Speaking to our vet this week, she agreed that this has been a terrible year for flies.  I’ve been having to spray down the sheeps’ back ends with fly spray every few days, and the vet assured me it was the smart thing to do.

Right now my main objective has been to keep the flock comfortable and well-fed.  They have plenty of shade throughout the day, and I have put an extra water tank out as well.  They are getting a dose of electrolytes in their water and so far it hasn’t been hot or awful enough out to warrant a heat tonic.  (We still have August, though, so…..)

I want them well-fed to give them the best chance against any parasite that may pop up.  We did copper them this spring, and they get Levamisole every so often to be safe.  We are taking NO chances.

Aside from that, I have had a few opportunities to get to know our new vets.  Most recently we had a farm call to take care of a ewe I’d found with a prolapse.

***WARNING –  NO PICS, BUT STILL NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH ***

Sunday evening when Oona and I went out to take care of feeding, I noticed one of the colored sheep has quite a lot of red going on under the tail area. My first thought was flystrike (it’s terrible.  Don’t click on that link if you don’t really, really want to know).  There were a lot of flies buzzing about and her tail was wagging a lot as though she were itchy.

I dropped everything and ran for my permethrin spray and gloves, prepared to do battle with maggots. But as it turned out, there was no fly infestation.  Her vagina had prolapsed and pushed out of her body, and that was what was attracting the flies. As bad as fly strike is, this felt much, much worse.

Thankfully, our vet arrived with confident reassurances, and after an epidural was administered to the bewildered ewe, the whole area was washed well, pushed back up inside where it belonged, and a large stitch was put in place to make sure it stayed put. The bad news is that this ewe cannot be bred again. Ever. Once the vagina or uterus collapses outside of the body like that it has a tendency to want to continue to do so.  That stitch that the vet put in her is permanent.

Today I did a thorough check on everyone and she is healing well, and there are no more flies buzzing about her ladybits.

Also doing well is Mr. Paddington.  When he and his twin, Piccadilly, were about a week old, we noticed he had a limp.  It got progressively worse over the next two or three days and then we discovered a large lump above his front hoof. When we picked him up, it burst.  Susan and I were stumped; when a second spot appeared on his back leg and a third on his chest, he went straight to the vet.

She found that his hoof was broken.  Most likely his mama stepped on him, or one of the other mamas.  When they are that little and trying to nurse, they tend to get underfoot a lot. The broken bones were surrounded by a pocket of infection, which was spreading to other parts of his body.

After lancing and draining his abscesses, she scrubbed him down well, splinted his leg and bandaged him up.  I was sent home with instructions to re-bandage every two to three days, administer antibiotics and a painkiller.  The kicker, for me, was that the bandage changing and scrubbing of the wounds required him to be asleep, so I was given a vial of sedative to knock him out every few days for a good cleaning.

If you’ve never had to knock out a small animal, it’s rather disconcerting at first!

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Despite his handicaps, Paddington continued to thrive and nurse and hop along after the other lambs.  We have been calling him “Hop-A-Long Paddington” ever since.

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He’s a bit crooked, since his other joints and muscles grew disproportionately in response to how he was using them.

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He will win no prizes for conformation.  But this lamb by all rights shouldn’t even be alive.  It’s a miracle the infection didn’t settle into his bones.  It’s amazing that he never stopped nursing from his mama, despite the fact that she was not the most attentive parent.  He is the friendliest lamb in the field, owing to the time he spent being handled by us, and even though he’s crooked, he is growing just as well as the other lambs.

And if we are all very, very lucky, there will be no more vet calls this year!

 

Weekend Away

I was lucky enough to get away to the mountains this weekend with some friends.  My friend Diana is moving to Germany for work later this summer, and we are trying to spend as much time with her as we can before she leaves.

The house we stayed in was just outside the small town of Nellysford, and came with a wicked surprise:

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A driveway we couldn’t drive up, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.  It was steep and slippery with loose gravel, and it became a character in our getaway, but it also made for some fun memories.  The fact that wild blackberries were in bloom all alongside it were also a bonus! The only way to walk up (and worse, down) the hill was by doing switchbacks. It was like skiing on foot. The picture does zero justice to the angle of steepness.

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It also forced us to earn those toasted marshmallows!

Nellysford is a beautiful town nestled below the mountains and full of lovely hiking trails.

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I loved this trail we took; I may have to head back there with the kids and spend some time splashing in the stream.

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The trail followed the stream and the edges of both a lovely farm and Bold Rock Cidery. If it wasn’t so far out I would love a farm here.  Of course, the lack of cell service and reliable internet would make me crazy!

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It was amazing how clear the water was; of course I am used to the stream on our property which is lazy and meandering.  It doesn’t have enough volume or speed to keep itself free of algae and mud.

After our hike we toured Bold Rock Cidery.

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They are building up their bottling facility, and their new tasting room is gorgeous.  I hadn’t realized just how local this brand is, having seen it in most of our grocery stores. All of their apples are grown close to home at several local orchards.

To round off our day we had dinner at another local gem:

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This weekend I had several moments of absolute gratefulness to live where we do.  This is a real breakthrough for me; I’ve spent the better part of our time here missing New England. But taking the time to explore what is right here in our own backyard (figuratively) has helped me see just how lucky I am to not only have the friends I have here but to be in such an eclectic and interesting place. We’ve been here a long time, and it really is finally feeling good to be home.

It’s amazing what a great weekend away with some of your best friends can do.

Flowers and Berries, Oh My!

First, Happy Solstice weekend, everyone!  It’s been rather off-again, on-again rainy this weekend, which put a damper on our bonfire celebration, so we’ve put that off until next weekend.

We did celebrate with fresh basil pesto and basil-lime-gin cocktails, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Oona and I spent time wandering around the farm and looking at all of the plants growing in that we never knew were there before (it’s been easier to take inventory of things growing back slowly after having scraped it bare).

We found a wild rosebush (which I hope to transplant to a better spot), and lots of Brown-Eyed Susans popping up.

There’s plenty of Queen Ann’s Lace and little Daisies.  Near where we keep the hay there’s also plenty of this:

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Butterfly Weed.  It’s quite lovely, actually, and it’s a nice compliment to the Butterfly Bushes I have that have spread and volunteered in places far from were the originals were planted.  Whatever I can do to attract more pollinators is a good thing!

Then we found the berries.  Now, I knew we had a decent amount of wild blackberry bushes scattered everywhere, but I didn’t realize the full volume of what we are dealing with.  SCORES of bushes. EVERYWHERE.  We picked a good bowl-full of berries, and left many, many unripe berries on the plants to go back for later.

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Most of the plants are just starting to grow back in from where the land was cleared a few years ago and aren’t in berry yet.  This means that in a year or two we will have more berries than we can handle.  I am so looking forward to making jam and vinegar with them!  For today we simple ate the berries out of hand.

Not only that, but…

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My blueberry plant is finally producing!  Sadly, it is but one crummy little plant.  However – I bought several more blueberry plants  plants from The Arbor Day Foundation that we will plant this fall (along with 3 more apple trees, 5 cherry trees, 2 peach trees, a Damson plum, and 2 chestnut trees!).  There are also plans in the works to put in a terraced strawberry bed along the lower edge of my vegetable garden (thanks to my friend Lisa at Red Row Farm for the idea!).

I’m grateful I took the time to slow down and really take a look around at what we have to work with here.  This little homestead has served us better than we thought it would, and I’m glad we’ve decided to put more into it rather than dreaming of somewhere better.