In Which I Have No Stamina

It is 74 degrees right now. In January.  Following a week of being in the 20’s. Crazy weather, y’all.

When I walked out the door this morning to bring hay down to the flock and felt how warm it was I decided that today was the day to check hooves and administer some delouser (a liquid pesticide to kill lice).  Did you know that sheep can get lice?  Just like people can get lice, livestock get their own brand.

No, they can’t be transmitted to humans.

Also, I am not positive my sheep even actually have lice, but one or two of them have been rubbing against a tree stump regularly, and Amelia’s actually pulling her wool a bit with the effort.  They’ve been checked for all other manner of parasite and are quite healthy, so I have made a best guess that there may be some teeny, tiny, impossible to spot lice on them.

Since I am thoroughly paranoid and overprotective of the animals in my care (and terrified I will do something wrong / not do something I should do)  I bought a big bottle of delouser, read the instructions, got a giant plunger to measure the amounts, and got to work.

I’ve done hooves and delousing over at Susan’s many a time and figured that 5 sheep and 2 goats wouldn’t be too bad.

I. Was. Wrong.

Neve came along to capture images for me, but quite honestly, those animals kicked my butt.   I ended up having her help hold them for me, but she wasn’t strong enough.  While I was struggling to get Piper’s hooves done, someone knocked over the bucket with the jar of delouser and it spilled everywhere.  In the end, I trimmed Piper’s hooves and got everyone deloused.  I was thoroughly winded and Alabama nearly did me in with his size.

Moral of the story: even with only a few animals to work, you need a second set of strong arms to help hold them.

At least Neve got some decent pictures.

01.29.13a

Even on just hay and tiniest bit of grain, Alabama is HUGE.  Must be those Southdown genes at work!

01.29.13b

Adelaide.

01.29.13c

01.29.13d

01.29.13e

Fairfax looks displeased.

01.29.13f

01.29.13g

01.29.13i

It seemed at first like overkill to mark their noses when I have finished with them, but in the end I am glad I did, because I couldn’t remember having taken care of Fairfax.  But, there she was, bright pink stripe down her nose.

I suppose that means you can add “feeble – minded” to “easily winded” on my resume.

 

(Not Very) Snowy Day

Yesterday we drove way down to Farmville, Va to pick up two new female geese to be companions for our poor lonely Uncle Waldo.

01.25.13g

He’s been on his own for a few days after he lost his two lovely ladies to a tragic dog – related accident. (In other news, George the dog has gone on to his forever home where he is  learning that “Geese are friends, not food!”).

No, I don’t want to talk about it.  I am just glad it all worked out for everyone and Georgio has older, bigger dogs to mentor him and keep him in his place now.

01.25.13f

Luckily sweet Orzo never understood the fun involved in full – scale poultry slaughter, and has been happy to just keep a wary eye on those big, noisy, bossy birds.

So we brought home two lovely new ladies – these ones Toulouse geese.  They look mighty similar to the Pilgrim geese we lost, and so far have rather sweet, if stand -offish personalities.

01.25.13a

01.25.13d

We’re calling them Agnes and Tilly.  Waldo seems to have taken to them rather well.  They’ve started going off on those little goose expeditions around the pasture that I am always so fond of watching. They don’t appear to have any real destination in mind, but they certainly waddle with purpose, wherever it is they are going.

01.25.13b

Neve has been helping out with chores since we have to bring down big wheel – barrows full of hay a few times a day.  Now that the temperature hasn’t been above freezing for awhile we are also carting down buckets of water, since our lines out to the pasture are frozen.  If this keeps us I will have abs and thighs of steel.

I don’t want to talk about that, either.

01.25.13c

Neve doesn’t mind, since Piper and Wren like to come up for grain snuggles.

01.25.13e

Jerry doesn’t mind having a much smaller, easier target to bully for the bucket of grain.

Cross your fingers the ice thaws soon and we can get a field delivery of hay before long.  I’m sick of feeling the muscle burn.

Sunny Days

We have been so busy these last few days enjoying the sun!  Everyone was rejoicing when it finally returned; the animals were kicking up their heels to play and stretching out in the hay to dry off and soak up the warm.

Though today it has gotten much, much colder and more windy, we are still thankful for it to be dry.  Even the indoor animals are spending their days moving from sun spot to sun spot.

01.21.13e

01.21.13d

01.22.13a

01.22.13b

01.22.13c

01.22.13d

It’s forecast to be even colder the rest of the week.  The hoses are already frozen solid so there will be plenty of water – bucket carrying going on.  The fireplace will be on more or less all the time, and there will be plenty of bread and soup making to get us through.

Stay warm, wherever you are.

 

Winter Makes Its Debut

I know I am very unpopular when I say how I love snow, but I’ll tell you this: it would be a darn site nicer to have had snow the last few days rather than the rain.  Our field became a mud pit, our bridge is nearly inundated with rushing water.  My boots were sinking in the mud each time I went out to feed (which is a lot, because we’ve been taking wheel – barrow – fulls down at various points during the day).

Then around 3 this afternoon it changed.  First a slushy, icy snow, which only added to the misery.  At this point Emily and I constructed a temporary (and not great) shelter out of the dog kennel and a tarp.  Only the goats are using it.  Sheep actually do just fine in the cold and wet, but I wanted to be able to keep their hay dry and give them an option to get our of the driving rain.  Since then it’s been a rather lovely snow to look at, and I’d have enjoyed being out in it more if not for already being soaked through from the rain.

We had an abbreviated school day today, knowing I would need to spend more time tending to the livestock, and afterwards I made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (our standard winter day fare).

01.17.13a

I am fond of the Tomato and Cheddar Soup recipe from this book.  It’s basically onions simmered in butter, half and half tossed in once they are soft and clear and foamy.  Shredded cheddar is added with a little bit of flour and then a can of Fire – Roasted Crushed tomatoes.  Salt, pepper, and alspice to taste.  It’s only slightly more complicated than heating up condensed soup and it goes smashingly with grilled cheese!

01.17.13b

01.17.13c

Emily was my right hand (or arm, more like) today.  When it comes to the farm, Emily earns her keep.

01.17.13d

Amelia, like all the rest of the animals, looks a little worse for the wear.  They’ve been getting extra grain the last few days to make up for the lack of a large quantity of free – choice hay.  Plus the combustive process of their digestion provides them with body heat.

01.17.13e

See the outer wool dripping?  We’ll ALL be glad to see the sun again.

01.17.13f

The ground looks great, doesn’t it?  This is what it looks like at the gate; why a truck wouldn’t make it through.

01.17.13g

The geese, on the other hand, think this wet weather is the most amazing thing that has ever happened.  They’ve been flapping about, splashing in puddles and having far too much fun.

On tap for tonight is chili for dinner followed by board games and popcorn by the fire.

Bring it, winter.  It’s about time.

 

 

 

Staying In

We are on what feels like day 100 of cold rain and fog.  I think in reality it is more like day 3, but we have at least another day or two to get through, and we’ve all pretty much had our fill of it.

The ground was so saturated this morning when the hay delivery came that there was no way to get the heavy bale out to the field where the animals are.  It sits in my driveway, waiting for some miracle or genius idea to strike.  We peeled off an armload to take out this morning with breakfast in order to tide the sheep  over for a bit.

01.16.13b

Normally I’d like to imagine myself out in the British countryside on a day like today; wrapped in wool, wellies on my feet.  But I am too worried about how to manage this hay!

01.16.13c

01.16.13d

The chickens are muddy and forlorn.  The sheep are muddy and forlorn.  After approaching the gate where the dogs tried to greet me, I am muddy and forlorn.

01.16.13a

School will be done in front of the fire today.  These two like to fight over who gets the most exposure to the heat.

01.16.13e

Even the cats see the wisdom in curling up with a thick wool blanket.

01.16.13f

Since I can’t spend the day curled up with them in bed I will content myself with some espresso by the fire and work on my sweater.

01.16.13g

Stay warm and dry, wherever you are.

And if you have any genius ideas for how to get a massively heavy bale of hay down a slope, across a swampy bridge and up again into a muddy field, do let me know.

Partings

Sunday night was the last book club for our dear friend Theresa.  Tomorrow she and her family are moving to New Jersey, where her husband will be taking on a new role as a professor.  While we wish them well in their new home and exciting new adventures to come, Theresa’s departure leaves a void not easily filled (and I doubt we’ll even try).

01.15.13a

Gabi made a lovely stack of  books cake with three of Theresa’s favorite books we’ve read (The Thirteenth Tale, The Shadow of the Wind, See You in A Hundred Years).

It was a bittersweet night; trying to get as much Theresa as we could before having to say goodbye, while remembering our favorite – and funniest – moments from our collective past.  We tried to find meaningful ways for her to “take us with her” in a sense – a margarita glass signed by all of us, a framed print of our group photos from the beach, and a book charm bracelet with some of our books.

It will be sad, moving forward, but we still have email and skype, and she will continue to join us at the beach every summer.

01.15.13b

01.15.13c

01.13.15d

I can tell you I am particularly proud to have known Theresa, as she joyously and fearlessly embraced my journey to become a shepherd and farmer, lending a hand wherever and whenever possible.  She came through and saved our backsides when it came time to process our meat chickens – without her help it would have been a lot worse, I assure you.  Not for nothing do we refer to each other as “soul sister”.  Her daughter Zoe and my Oona have been fast friends – making this bittersweet for Oona as well (or just bitter, if you ask her).

01.15.13e

Good luck, Theresa. You really are the sweetest of us.  We’ll miss  you dearly.

Stopping By

What do you blog about when you’ve spent most of the week trying to hibernate?

Yeah, I don’t know either.

It’s been quiet.  Most of the holiday decorations have been put away.  We are back to the normal routine of school and work.

The weather is terribly, disappointingly warm.  I fear we will pay for it this summer.

We did trek out into town yesterday to make a Trader Joe’s run and to visit my friend Jessie in the hospital – she’s just had her appendix out.

I bound off the body portion of my Wicked sweater; now I have only to do the sleeves.  I want to fly through them so I can get to a new project because I have seen – and felt – the new Juniper Moon Farm yarn. It is swoon – worthy, just you wait and see.

I have a decent stash of Sabine I’d like to put to use, and I may have mentioned that I have been hoarding a stash of Chadwick since it’s been discontinued.  So much knitting to do, so little time.

The good news is that I’ve seen a lot of Susan this week.  It’s lovely to have her back around after her extended stay in Texas.

The animals are doing splendidly and our heads are full of plans to improve the land come spring.

It’s a good time to hibernate.

01.11.13a