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.

 

 

June Days

It’s nearly the Summer Solstice and we are finally settling into our slower summer rhythm.  With lambing done, the flock moved out to summer pasture, and the garden more or less planted, I’ve had a chance to breathe a bit and enjoy taking in the sights and sounds of June.  I’m getting excited for a wild raspberry harvest, and thrilled to have discovered wild rose bushes growing in a few spots.

The chickens are laying well (including our new blue egg layers – thanks, Lisa! I owe you dinner!), the beans and peas are flowering.  My bee balm has finally blossomed and I made a few recipes from Marisa McLellan’s Food In Jars. (Vanilla-Rhubarb Jam and White Wine Mustard).

We have one more quiet week before theater camp starts the 23rd and life gets a bit crazy temporarily. For now I am going to enjoy my slow summer evenings with the sheep and in the garden.

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Spring Slam

It’s that time of spring where it’s really crunchtime.  SO much work to be accomplished before the true heat of summer hits.

It also happens to be lambing season!

Even though I am completely exhausted (We check on our ewes and lambs every two to three hours around the clock), I’ve been managing to still get a fair amount of work done.

We took delivery of hay yesterday:

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It’s gorgeous.  This picture does not even do justice to how soft and green it is.  It smells heavenly, and I imagine it tastes it as well.

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The goslings and ducks have graduated out of the brooder and into the poultry tractor so they can roam around on fresh grass.  Pretty soon they will have a big pen out back with a giant water tub to swim in.

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Wild irises are growing up around the edges of the stream (I am crazy happy for these lovely volunteers!).

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My blueberry bush is fruiting!  If I can manage it soon I will be putting in a peach tree or two as well, to compliment the three apple trees we planted last year (yes, we have many years to wait before they fruit, but it will be worth it when they do!).  I also managed to put in two basil plants, and if all goes well later this week I will add two more plus some lavender and rosemary bushes.

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Neve and I put down straw in the front garden along all of the pathways to discourage weeds, and I managed to get all of my bean poles staked and roped for the beans and peas that have sprouted.

I leveled out a spot next to the beehive for our second hive, which is going in on Tuesday (eventually I have to level out the first one as well!).  The first hive is crazy productive and I  had to add a third hive box on top since they’ve already used up the first two!

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I cannot wait for our first honey harvest!  Speaking of which, one of my new favorite things is to watch the bees returning to the hive laden with pollen:

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They are very docile bees.  I have their hive situated in my garden, and I have been spending a lot of time quite close by them weeding and working with spring plants, and they haven’t bothered with me one bit.

I haven’t gotten to the back garden yet, but that will be squash and tomatoes, and the growing season for them is longer than for the spring crops out front, so I still have a little bit of wiggle room.  When I am not quite so cranky and tired I will get out there and get that started (hopefully within in the next 4 or 5 days).

In the meantime, the best part of our days (and nights) is cooing over (and snuggling) all the little cuties we’ve been blessed with so far.

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I can’t think of a cuter reason to be so tired!  Six lambs, roughly 9 pregnant ewes left.  Let’s get this done!

 

 

SnowPatrick’s Day

For our 18th wedding anniversary, Paul and I got a snow day.

We had all been thinking we might be done with winter (especially with the first day of spring in just a few days!), but nope!

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The nice part was that Paul’s office closed, and even though he was still working, he got to be home for the day.

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And it WAS a very pretty day.  It was my favorite kind of snow; the kind that sticks onto every part of the trees and weighs them down (I know, this is bad for the trees and power lines, etc).  This is the kind of snow we wish for in December but never seem to get.

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Left to right: duck, goose, chicken.   The snow didn’t slow down any of them.

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Nor did it slow down Lucy or stop her stream-loving adventures.    This is how you know these dogs are built to withstand extreme weather.  She enjoys the stream no matter the weather (or the snakes, to my extreme concern).  In the summer, her favorite thing to do is lie in one of the shallower spots all day and stay wet, occasionally splashing at the minnows and tadpoles.

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The kids had a day of crafting and coloring pictures for school – mostly things they came up with themselves.  I tried putting on a documentary about the history of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day, but it very nearly put ALL of us to sleep.

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This leprechaun beard idea came from Pinterest (it’s just scraps of paper, rolled and glued onto a beard-shaped piece of paper).

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Dinner was perfect for the snowy, blustery weather – our traditional Steak, Guinness and Cheddar Pie.  Comfort food at its best!  Everyone loves this – even Oona!

And for dessert:

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A Guinness-Chocolate Cheesecake. I have to say, this was my first real attempt at cheesecake and I’m thrilled with how it came out. It makes me want to try a plain one.  The thing is, plain cheesecake (with a smidge of fresh fruit on top) is one of my favorite things on this planet, and I’m afraid if I make it I will EAT IT ALL.  And really, who needs that many calories? Not me!

We topped off the evening, as always, with Darby O’Gill and the Little People, and I worked on my Shepherd sweater by the fire.  All of that cabling being worked into a natural-colored wool just seemed so right to accompany the day’s theme.

I’d say it was the prefect way to close out winter, just in time to welcome spring.  I hope Mother Nature agrees.

 

Another Glorious Snow Day

We got several inches of snow yesterday and Paul’s office was closed, so I declared an actual snow day for the kids.  Normally we have school no matter what the weather, but it looked so blizzardy, and inside was so cozy with the fireplace (and having Paul home throws off our routine anyway), so I let everyone curl up under their blankets and just relax all day.

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It worked out well for me; I got the front right half of my Shepherd sweater done!

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It worked out well for Gulliver, as well – he had Paul’s lap all day.

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No one, though, seemed to enjoy the snow more than Gnocchi.

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He  had his goofy self a grand time while the snow fell.

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While Cosmo and the smallest lambs enjoyed the dryness of the shelter with a few chicken friends and the pigs.

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But, the day that had begun so snowy and stormy finished out sunny, and they all came out to enjoy some hay.

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It’s hard to believe that two days ago it was 73 degrees, and that a few weeks from now is the first day of spring.  It’s still rather frigid outside and the snow has not begun to melt yet.  Soon enough it will, though, and we will be installing a heat lamp into the big chicken coop for the arrival next week of our ducklings!  Winter may have some life left in it, but spring is nearly upon us!

 

 

Getting Too Ambitious

It’s almost March.  March means St. Patrick’s Day.  It means my wedding anniversary.  It means it’s almost spring.

We’ve already started digging out our books about Irish folklore for school, and searching out just the right shade of green polish for our toenails.  My iTunes playlist has been updated with plenty of Irish artists (John Cunningham is a favorite).

We’re starting to think about watching Darby O’Gill And The Little People.

We’re craving the look of green grass and the sound of new lambs bleating and sproinging around in the fields.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

March is a month of contradiction.  It heralds the vernal equinox but it also usually is the month of our biggest snows. Actual spring is still a ways off.  Even though my spring seed list is complete it is too early to start them just yet.

For now we must content ourselves with mostly indoor projects and finish those things we can before we move on to the outdoor ones.  And in doing so, it’s been difficult not to be overly ambitious.  After all, I have had some wonderful things lined up for quite awhile awaiting my time.

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These two fabrics just scream “early spring” for me.  They’ve been sitting on a shelf for several years now, patiently waiting to become a quilt.  I’m hoping I can start some cutting on it today.

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And then there’s this incredible llama-themed fabric Susan bought me last year for my birthday.  I am just as smitten with it today as I was when I first saw it (look at the llamas!  And the knitting needles with balls of yarn!!!), and I can’t wait for the perfect quilt project for it.

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Let’s not forget this adorable British-themed fabric I have been collecting in small bits here and there over the last year.  Just looking at it makes me want to go pour myself a cup of tea and look through one of my British Country Living magazines.

See?  Fairly overwhelmed with sewing possibilities!

But what about knitting?  I have about a million and one projects lined up to go on the needles, but for now I am thrilled to be moving along nicely with my Shepherd Sweater:

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I’ve reached that magical point in knitting it where I can begin to split out for the sleeves and the front.

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The most miraculous part? I am not even remotely bored with this yet.  I don’t know if it’s the yarn, the pattern or the combination of both, but this is still thoroughly enjoyable knitting.  I can see myself casting on another one as soon as this one is complete.  No, I am not even kidding. Maybe I can use some of my cream-colored Aran weight yarn?  Or the teal blue one?

Either way I need more hours in my day.  And more months before spring, apparently.