Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Outside of a Horse

Today started innocently enough. Chirpy, the resident psycho Cardinal, woke me up by attacking my window. Some people have quaint chirping bird alarm clocks - I have Chirpy. I got up, fed the dogs, fed the cats, fed the birds, fed myself, fed the sheep, fed the horses, opened the coop door and watched the Adventure Chickens race down to the creek. Everyone was excited to start the day.

I came in, fired up my new computer, had trouble with the touch pad. Again. I decided to call technical support. Again. I spent 1 hour 29 minutes on the phone with them. They decided that at this point they needed to do a “system recovery” and promised that other than taking some time, it was no big deal and would completely fix all my computer problems. Don’t ever fall for this. I am still trying to recover from the “recovery”, the end is still nowhere in sight and some things are gone for good.

After getting off the phone with them for a second time, of which 27 minutes was spent on hold before I even got to talk to a person, I realized that I had allowed them to waste my entire day. It was almost time to start the evening chores. Still, there was a little late afternoon sun left, so I decided to see if there were any horses underneath all that mud and go for a ride. I do have a little good news to report. Sorry about the creepy camera angle.

Handy and I wandered back to the ponds to see if we could find any other signs of spring. It’s still too cold for any bee activity and there’s not much greening up yet, but we were happy to see a pair of Canadian geese hanging out at the big pond. We kept our distance and they didn’t seem too alarmed. Maybe they’ll stay awhile.

Heading back towards the barn, seated on the best horse in the whole world, with finally a smile on my face, I thought of Winston Churchill’s famous quote and wondered if there were any tech support people in India who could redeem a crappy day so well.

“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.”

A Mug Only A Mother Could Love

Annabelle was the first baby born on our farm. She was the cutest teeny tiny lamb. For the first two days. Emily, her mother, took very good care of her. Maybe too good. Annabelle quickly became quite round and we changed her name to Annabelly. She got even rounder and we started calling her Anna Big Belly. Even Annabelle’s face got fat. Her spots got fat. Everything got big except her horns.

Jacob sheep must have at least two horns and can have up to six. Emily has four beautiful horns. Annabelly’s father had four really big beautiful horns. Annabelly has four tiny horns that refuse to grow. This sometimes happens when both parents are four horned and we would never try that cross again.

Jacob sheep use their horns for many things. We had a two horned ram that used his massive horns to break through gates, barn doors and even make some new barn doors. The four horned sheep use their upper horns to hammer down on each other, scoop up smaller sheep and send them sailing and, my favorite, open almost any type of door latch.

Annabelly doesn’t have usable horns - nothing to threaten others or even protect herself. So what is a pretty girl to do? She throws her weight around. The big, two horned ram (now a wether)? If Annabelly wants his hay pile? It’s hers. Several sheep eating from the same pile? Bowling pins. I’m not wanting to suggest that Jacob sheep are mean or violent. Far from it. But Annabelly? Let's just say nothing gets between her and a good meal.

But, even with all her flaws, we love her dearly. There's one in every bunch.

Top photo by Julie Siegel. Bottom photo - self portrait by Annabelly. Don't set anything down in a pen of Jacob sheep!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Friends and Family

My two black hens sleep side by side every night. Call me crazy, but at this point I can only guess (we didn’t raise them) that they grew up together and are either related or maybe best friends. A year ago you would not have been able to convince me that chickens formed any sort of relationship ties, but no longer. I watch them every night. It makes me happy.

It’s really not that strange I suppose. I don’t question Handy and T-Bone, our two carriage horses, standing at the gate, side by side every morning, staring at the house, willing me to walk out with a cup of coffee to throw them some hay and grain. They spend the rest of their day together - grazing, sleeping, playing and back up to wait at the gate for their evening meal. Brushy, the peach colored cat, brought us Claire-Bear. “She followed me home. Can I keep her? Pleeease?” They are inseparable. Jester, one of our first Jacob sheep, partnered up with Emily soon after we brought her home. Now, several years later he’s become Uncle Jester, permanently adopting each of Emily’s, and only Emily’s, lambs.

But what about everyone else? Is Aria lonely or is she just glad Handy and T-Bone (a.k.a. The Ass Brothers) mostly leave her alone? Do the other chickens care that they don’t have an assigned seat on the roost at night? What about Eli? On very rare occasions we catch him sleeping with Brushy and Claire-Bear, but for the most part he’s an army of one. What happens if one of the solitary sheep notices a strange dog trying to break into their field?

Buddies or not, they all gather together in a circle with their butts to the middle and try to stand their ground.

Good night my friends and family. Take care of each other.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Guardian

The tracks we saw the other day did belong to a fox. I know this because Iris alerted us all to an intruder this afternoon - a big fat red fox with a bright white chest. How she spotted him all the way out in our back field is a wonder. I had to use binoculars to get a good look at him. The horses were not at all concerned with him hunting mice in their field and I doubt he’d ever be much of a threat to our sheep, but the Adventure Chickens in the nearby field might be another story.

When I was researching chickens last summer, I read that free range chickens won’t venture more than 200 yards from their coop. The Adventure Chickens never read that book. They climb hills, ford creeks, duck under fences, fly over fences, get stuck in fences, lay eggs in the barn loft, on the work bench in the tack room, in the horse stalls, and have even been caught trying to hitch rides into town. The nearest hitchhiking road is at least 300 yards from their coop. Thankfully they have a guardian angel watching them…and everything else on the farm.

Iris is the police. She is the police of everyone. She is the police of everything. She is the fun police. No one gets to do anything unless Iris grants her approval. No one. She not only watches our farm, but also the neighboring farms. She knows which cars and trucks are family and friends, and if a strange vehicle heads up Miss Stella’s driveway, Iris is up there by the time they shut off their engine. If dogs get into another neighbor’s cow field, Iris will let me know. Iris saw the fox, did not approve and her high pitched “red alert” yelp reached me all the way in the house.

Thank you, Iris. You are a good dog.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Fun Stuff

I started weaving last year. I believe I like weaving because it is so orderly. Neat and tidy. Row after row of nothing but straight lines. Oh, there are beautiful pieces out there that are free form and "disorderly", but if I never want to go there, I. Don't. Have. To. I can stay busy and happy weaving straight lines as long as I want and no one, including me, will ever be bored. Weaving also requires very cool toys :-).

The sample in this picture is being done on my 8 harness Baby Mac loom. This is an overshot pattern called "Fish on the Pond". There are two more variations besides the two I have finished so far, but I'm still learning this blog thing and needed to make a test post and wanted to show my friend Debbie what I was working on. This sample is to test patterns and colors for a table runner I'm designing for our "fish" room. I'll post the final product at some point in the (hopefully) near future.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Boo and the Barn Skunk

We start with a little bad news. Boo chased the black and white "kitty" yesterday morning. Here's a picture of Boo during a better day. He and Miss Tilly were cooling off in the Frog Pond during a hot spell last summer. Boo is the really big long haired dog.

Now I know the number one question is why on earth do you keep a barn skunk?!? Let me ask you this: if you had a barn skunk, how exactly would you get it to leave? I thought so. My skunk has been around for over two years, and up until now we've all gotten along just fine. I've even walked to within six feet of him/her and asked it what on earth it's doing - skunks can be very busy - and all I get is some vague mumbling and more digging around its front porch, also known as my hay shed.

Apparently with all the snow we've had, my skunk has been having trouble finding enough to eat and that's why I've been seeing it out under the bird feeder. This is also where Boo apparently found it. Long story short - get the Skunk Off stuff from your vet. It works.

Here's where it starts getting good. Tim, who most agree is a reasonably intelligent sort, has decided he's going to trap the skunk, throw a tarp over it, put it in the back of the truck and take it "out to the country" and set it free.

Tickets go on sale this weekend.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Three Days

Hold those neighborhood bets - I've made it three days without locking myself in the chicken coop! It's been really cold and the wooden door has shrunk. That's all I'm saying and Tim doesn't have access to post anything different. It's not such a bad place to spend some time and believe it or not, the company's not bad either. For more information on the Adventure Chickens, you can visit them at Even in this cold they've given us 5-7 eggs per day, so they're doing alright!

I guess I'm slowly introducing the cast of characters here at the farm. This is Iris, our Border Collie. She was a rescue that we got talked into "fostering". You know what happened. These are amazing dogs. They are truly born to herd. Even with no training she knew instinctively that she was supposed to do something with those silly sheep and she has figured how to watch the gates and doors while I'm feeding and she does the best job of any of us trying to get the chickens in line. Don't let them fool you - neither sheep nor chickens are stupid. They've got us all trained quite well.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Some Neighbor Kids

I saw the barn skunk out here sneaking some sunflower seeds early this morning. Luckily the dogs were still tucked safely in their beds ;-).

After the morning chores were done, Iris, Tilly and Clair-Bear went for a snow walk with me. We followed these tracks all over the farm. I'm guessing it was a fox by the way the dogs were so interested, how much distance was covered and all the places he or she had gone.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

As Bugs In Rugs

It's snowing again! There are few things that make me happier. I'm not sure how all the animals here feel about it, but we do what we can to keep them warm and dry. The cats have heated beds in the greenhouse, the horses wear waterproof blankets in their "run-in" shed, the chickens have heated water and a warming lamp in their coop and the sheep wear their own wool jackets, of course. The wild birds have feeders full of food, the dogs are cashed out in the kitchen and the barn skunk is burrowed in under the feed room. We are all most fortunate and grateful.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Frosted Mini Wheats

I'm supposed to be painting a farm picture and coming up with a design for tiny needle felted lambs. We got snow this morning though and all the sheeps look like Frosted Mini Wheats. We don't usually get much snow in Kentucky so any day it snows is a snow day!


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