Thursday, March 29, 2007

16 Bags Full

Spring has sprung! Almost overnight, everything is either bright green or covered in yellow or purple blooms. Good friends in the flower beds and around the native plant pond are sending up tender shoots and the greenhouse is full of vegetable, herb and flower seedlings.

Yesterday the sheep shearer was here. There is nothing better than watching someone else shear your sheep! Shearing is hard work even if you are not the one operating the shears. Just getting 'ahold' of each one and directing them to the shearing area five feet away will wear you out. Not to mention gathering each fleece to tag and bag. Thank you Stella and Deb!

After everything quiets down and the sheep are relaxing outside, I go back and skirt (pull off the undesirable wool from the edges) each fleece. This might be my favorite part. It’s not every day you can sink your hands into Crazy Esther’s wool :-). Other than Henri, those Jacob sheep are a wild bunch. The Cheviots are just as bad – and PP lived in my kitchen and slept on my lap as a baby!

Ewenice is a welcome addition to the family. Punkin might have been the BEST sheep ever, but Ewenice is the SWEETEST sheep ever. She’s a four year old Border Leicester ewe and was the last sheep left in a spinner’s flock in Frankfort, Kentucky. She was lonely by herself and they wanted her to have a sheepy home with sheepy friends. It’s a little hard to make sheepy friends, however, when you’d rather be drinking coffee on the porch with people. One sentence I thought would never come out of my mouth is, “Go around to the back door, Ewenice”.

Ewenice seems to enjoy spending part of her day doing sheepy things (eating and napping near, but not with those spotted things), part of her day doing Ewenice things (exploring and pushing Miss Tilly around the yard) and the rest of the time helping me. She’s good help and it's so nice to have a curly friend by my side again.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The War At Home

Before you start to read this, set down any beverages you might be consuming.

Okay. Ready?


The bird chasing cats have been kicked out of the greenhouse. They are now homeless and living in cardboard boxes. If they don’t straighten up, I’m going to give their Alaskan Salmon Cat Treats to the dogs. Even the crumbs.

In a combat maneuver tonight, each and every chicken will have her wing feathers clipped. There will be no more digging in my gardens, hiding eggs in the hay stalls, sleeping in the loft, teasing Iris in the driveway, trying to figure out how to start the tractor... No more. You have five acres, a creek and three horse stalls to play in all day. It’s a chicken paradise.

Elizabeth and Peabody! If you don’t quit screaming at me when I’m working on the porch, there’s a fair chance you might be our first non-vegetarian cooking experiment. I’m not kidding. You have plenty of green grass to eat. You do not need “cookies”. I realize it’s hotter than normal this time of year. The shearer is coming on Wednesday. I think you can make it.

T-Bone, Handy and Aria. You will all be wearing (grazing limiting) muzzles until midsummer. You eat way too much grass and it makes you sick. T-Bone! WHEN you figure out how to take it off, do not throw it over the fence onto the driveway to taunt me. Likewise, do not throw it over on Stella’s driveway to try to hide it from me. She’s on MY side. We are not amused. A little impressed maybe, but not amused. You will not prevail. Stop laughing! I mean it!

Iris. We are putting landscaping and a wrought iron fence across the middle of the side yard. You will no longer use that as the raceway in your attempt to chase cars. The 4” trough you have worn down over the last few years is being filled in and there WILL be grass there (or maybe a nice stone patio :-). Right now it looks terrible and we are tired of falling in it when we try to make a run for it to get away from you all.

The dirt digging, furniture chewing, extension cord eating (!) Corgi…well, we haven’t quite figured out what to do with her. There’s only so much you can hope for with a Corgi. It’s a good thing they are cute.

It’s a good thing they are ALL cute.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Running Amok

Three years ago this was a beautiful wicker planter brimming with bright colored Pansies. Two years ago the cats claimed it as a day bed. Last year I thought I’d fix ‘em by planting a million sharp pointy toothpicks all throughout the flowers. They were barely fazed. This year Claire-Bear appears to have made an early move. I think the tipped over bird house is an extra nice touch and we won’t even discuss Miss Tilly’s contribution to the Corgi level decorating :-/.

Last night I had to spend 20 minutes scouring the barn looking for one of the Adventure Chickens. There were only 11 on the roost when I went out to shut their door and I knew the one missing, the golden hen, was probably (hopefully) just lost. She’s a bird after my own heart, “Wow, this is a really pretty, how do I get back home?” She had climbed through, ducked under or flown over the fence and found herself in the sheep field. As night fell, her friends were able to retrace their steps back to their coop. I found her huddled on the mineral feeder in the corner of the sheep stall.

It would seem, after a long day of abuse by my animals, that they could at least let me get a good night sleep to help me prepare for a new day of continued attacks. WiWi had other ideas last night. And she wonders why she's never made a Christmas card.

Night y'all.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Finally Finished Farm Painting...well maybe

I'm trying to do a larger, more detailed version of the recent Christmas cards. Everybody got in on this project, even WiWi, the house cat. Those of you who know WiWi, know why she hasn't made a Christmas card - ha ha. Those of you that don't know her, can imagine that she's a wonderful, sweet, non-demanding, quiet little kitty who has been much maligned by her neglect.

Anyway, I'm not super "sold" on the end result, but I'm not really sure what it needs. The best sounding suggestion was that there was too much empty space and to add more horses, trees,... Since this is supposed to be a pretty fair representation of our farm, I don't really want to add any more horses - trust me, three is PLENTY. More trees in the horse field would be desirable except that T-bone eats trees, so I'd have to add dead ones.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Good Help

They say it's hard to find. I must be lucky. I have lots of good help. Miss Stella and I planted 40 tree seedlings this morning. She's always good help. Tim helped me wrangle sheep for spring shots and feet trimming over the weekend. When he's not making me laugh so hard coffee comes out my nose, he's good help. (Tim and Cheviot sheep - not a good combination. Cheviot sheep and anyone - probably not a good combination, but that's another story.)

My parents help me with garden projects, my friend Heather helps with our native plants, John and Reg and Susan help with our bees. Nancy will answer the phone day or night to help with a lambing or spinning/weaving problem, Deb is up for anything (and can still take Tim "out" at the end of the day) and Charlie is coming by tonight to get Gus Truck started. Charlotte called this morning to tell me about a spinning wheel listed in the classifieds of her paper (so this makes her maybe not such a good friend ;-). Our vets take good care of all our creatures great and small and Pat will drop everything to come all the way out here to look for a foot problem when one of the horses goes lame.

I also have countless other folks that help in ways they probably don't even know - people that let me watch and learn from them, answer my questions, forward me funny emails, give me encouragement or send me ideas, listen to me vent and then bring me back to reality. Sometimes their help comes in the form of teaching me how NOT to do something. My best help, however, tends to have four legs and fur.

Now, while this doesn't look like much help (unless I guess he laid there long enough to kill the weeds underneath), Brushy is my number one employee. He'll garden, check bees, feed sheep, horses and chickens, oversee sheep shots and even pose for pictures. He initially stretched out in the sun there while I was pulling some weeds. I thought, hmm, that would be a cute photo and went in to retrieve the camera. It was dead. I charged the battery for just a few minutes, but when I came back out, Brushy was gone. I called him, he came running, I asked him to go back and pose in the flowers and he was happy to oblige. How many cats can you ask them to do something and actually have them do it. Good help indeed.

For those of you wondering why the siding has been eaten off the garage and assuming that was perpetrated by one of the dogs, I'll have you know that was the work of Popcorn PP Pants. There is a reason real farmers don't want bottle lambs.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Still Out Standing In Their Field

Those of you following the great computer fiasco will be happy to know that this blog entry is coming to you from the new, new laptop and all is well in Gateway Country.

The first Punkin’s Patch computer was a Gateway desktop. It’s still going strong. However, at over seven years old, it was time to think about a new computer and a laptop seemed the natural choice. The computer I chose - the brand to remain nameless (but the initials are HP, said in the Homer Simpson whisper) - was anticipated with high excitement, but immediately became a source of incredible frustration. Even though they have finally agreed there is something wrong that can’t be fixed over the phone by anyone in India and have already picked it up to make it “good as new”, the damage is done. Life is too short.

After my short venture into the “city” I am happy to say that my return to the “country” was a wise decision and within just a few days, my spotted sheep and I were opening a spotted box and we are all happily back in business with smiles on our faces.

“Good things come in spotted boxes (and fleeces)!”

p.s. If you've sent us an email and haven't gotten a response, it's safe to try again. If you've noticed formatting issues with the website, I'm going to start fixing those tomorrow. If you know anyone looking for a great deal on a practically brand new HP laptop, let me know!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hanging out with Buddha

As much as I truly love snowy winter weather, I would be lying if I didn’t own up to really enjoying springtime as well. Today was one of those really nice, warm, not too muddy, not too breezy March days. I went nuts. Now, sitting here, my back is sore, my shoulders hurt and my face is pink and wind burned. The vegetable gardens look great though.

Tim built all of our gardens on the principle of raised beds. They are fairly small and easy to manage – more for fun than serious production. We filled them with layers of sand, soil and store-bought compost. I added a thick layer of leaves this past fall. My mother taught me to add leaves. As kids, we learned this the hard way – scrunched down as low as we could get in the back seat of the car while she stuffed it to the roof with bags of leaves she picked up from curbs in front of stranger’s houses.

Over the winter, I bought Patricia Lanza’s Lasagna Gardening book. I was already fairly familiar with the idea (my mother is a “lasagna gardener” from way back), but I’m a sucker for marketing, the pictures were pretty and I got a free bug book as a special prize for ordering. It was wintertime and completely irresistible. I didn’t find any real surprises in the methods described, but I had fun with all the planting suggestions and even learned about a few new plants. Green thumbs up!

And so, tanked up on gardening books and seed catalogs and a bad case of spring fever, I went looking for trouble. The raised beds had settled quite a bit since last year, but this time, rather than buying expensive fill, I let my co-workers help me out. I added a thick layer of composted sawdust bedding from the horses and topped that with a thick layer of straw from the sheep stall.

Buddha seemed to approve.

I’m headed for the hot tub.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Sleeping It Off

My cats follow me everywhere I go. The other night they even crossed a flooded creek to follow me out to the barn to check on everyone before I went to bed. They particularly like to walk out to The Frog Pond in the evenings. We all make our rounds – I check the bees and look at the plants, they look for frogs. Then, I’ll go sit on a bench or the pond bank and Brushy will come over and sit with me. Claire Bear usually keeps exploring and Eli likes to move a “respectable” distance away to sit and survey his kingdom. We can spend hours out there enjoying each other’s company and listening to the farm put itself to bed.

Yesterday I walked out into the middle of the side pasture to throw some hay for the sheep. I wasn’t being mobbed as usual and realized I must be missing something quite exciting, as very little distracts our sheep from food. My loyal little hiking buddy had tried to follow me and found himself in a tight situation. He carefully picked his way through far too many nosy sheep faces and then bolted at his first chance, the young sheep in hot pursuit.

There’s really only one thing to do after a trauma like that, but how can this be comfortable?


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