Weekend away

A real NJ antipasto salad!
A real NJ antipasto salad!

Although we traveled down to North Jersey on Friday in order to attend a memorial service for a very close friend’s husband, we were able to visit with some relatives of our own as well. My sister in law very graciously hosted us, so we had a chance to visit with her as well as with my in-laws, who both turned 90 years old this year. It was even better that we had our grandson along, and he got to spend some time with his great grandparents as well. And my older son had dinner with us on Saturday night too.

Tesser was not happy to share a new space with Lucy the Jack Russell!
Tesser was not happy to share a new space with Lucy the Jack Russell!

It was an exhausting weekend with two 7 hour drives in 3 days, but it was very worth the miles. The memorial service on Saturday was not only beautiful in itself, but we were in one of the most gorgeous areas of New Jersey, in the Hope/Belvidere area out near the Delaware Water Gap in northwest Jersey. And, the weather was fully cooperative as well. 80s and sunny.

Tappan Zee bridge
Tappan Zee bridge

We crossed the Tappan Zee bridge twice, and saw the work going on in the Hudson River to begin building a new bridge. Crazy! But it’s definitely part of our crazy, NJ/NY past lives. Thank goodness, in the past. Too much traffic and noise for us there.

Fair going and Happy New Year

Oxen at Common Ground
Oxen at Common Ground

It’s been a really busy week. On Saturday we made our way up to Common Ground, the Maine Organic Farmer’s and Gardener’s Association big festival in Unity, Maine. We try to get there most years, and it doesn’t always happen, but it’s a great fair. I love the working horse and mule teams, and the oxen and donkeys as well. There are always heritage breed pigs and pig breeders there doing talks and demonstrations as well. Saturday was an incredibly blustery and grey day, which made the going a little bit more challenging, but we enjoyed it tremendously (and I scored the seed garlic that I wanted, so it was an extra successful trip!).

Another Common Ground visitor
Another Common Ground visitor

It feels as though I have been scrabbling to get through the work week. The mornings are getting darker, and unfortunately, I had a meeting of the minds with Zelda, the largest goat on the farm, end of last week. It resulted in a spectacular black and blue on my forehead. (She was lying by the feeder, and in the dark I came up to clean out the trough. I bent over and she hopped to her feet at the same time. Neither of us knew what hit, and boy is her head hard! I am very sore, and my husband thinks someone will think he is beating me. Farm-related injuries always look bad!).

View of our elderly birch tree in the afternoon
View of our elderly birch tree in the afternoon

It’s really looking a lot like autumn out there right now, the trees are beginning to put on their party colors. The drive to work has been spectacular this last few days, with mist hanging in the hollows and gorgeous orange and pink sunrises. I don’t mind the cooler weather, either!

And for all of you who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, have a Happy and Healthy New Year 5775!

Friday fun?

It all looks innocent...
It all looks so innocent…

Not. It was barely even Friday when my husband and I sat up straight in bed (3 a.m.), listening to something outside screaming bloody murder. Blood-curdling screams. I had been having an extremely strange dream that involved a pigeon morphed out of a hedgehog/centipede, so when John wondered what that was, I told him it must be a pigeon with blue spikes. I still do not have any idea what it might have been, but it was screaming again about a half hour later. John went up to check things out, and all was calm. False security.

Temporary barrier in the milking greenhouse.
Temporary barrier in the milking greenhouse.

When I got out to chores about 5:15, the sky was cold, clear and sparkling with stars, but I also realized that all was not right. Bagels, that bad boy, had jumped the partition in the milking greenhouse and was wreaking havoc, trying to get in with the girls. Pippi is in heat and she was making the poor boy absolutely insane! His collar was missing, and I had absolutely no way to muckle onto the big guy. He had ransacked the milking greenhouse, knocking over the milking stand and leaving poops everywhere. Yay, Bagels, way to go! (And man, does he stink!)

I penned him near the gate that he was trying so hard to breach, and ran back to the house to get John. I knew I wouldn’t be able to muscle him around. John hustled up, and just as he was climbing over the panel I heard him say, “Um, he just jumped in with the girls.” I said some things that weren’t very nice, and he hurried into the paddock and tackled Bagels. Poor dears! I found an old dog collar and got him set up, then we got a halter on that bad boy and encouraged him to come with us. Not an easy task, that’s all I can say. And poor John was rolling around in the paddock with a buck who was very focused on just one thing, and as stinky as they come. We got him settled in the end, but the girls were so upset that I never could get SnowPea to get onto the milkstand, even after I put things to rights. Bucolic and low-key the morning was not!

This afternoon was much better. Calm ruled the end of the day, and I took some time to set up a little bit of a barrier in the milking greenhouse. It’s always something, and there is never enough time to get it done the way I want it to be. Not as young as I used to be might be the reason! Here’s hoping for a quieter night.

(John thinks the screaming in the night was a fisher cat making a kill. I still have no idea, but it did sound more like a cat than anything else. Brrr. Very. Scary.)

Sliding into autumn

Wednesday afternoon light
Wednesday afternoon light

The week bumps on. Past hump day and into the home stretch. The weather continues to be amazingly gorgeous, we can’t complain about that! Cool in the mornings, fairly warm during the day, in the upper 50s and lower 60s. We don’t have any really nice color on the trees yet, but they do seem to be fading,losing their brilliant summer green.

Little India's pelt
Little India’s pelt

Yesterday I was surprised by the UPS van zooming down the driveway. The last 3 sheep pelts that I had processed came back from Bucks County Fur. It’s certainly nice to have them since we don’t have the sheep anymore. All of them are lovely, and will definitely be useful around here.

HoneyBea's pelt
HoneyBea’s pelt

Pigeon racing continues. We had 4 birds in the top 20 this past weekend, which isn’t bad for beginners. I can’t remember where they are being released this weekend, but the races are getting progressively longer. We don’t have enough flyers to be death-defyingly competitive, but they are definitely holding their own.

Settling gently into autumn is just about my favorite time of the year. It’s here, and it’s time.

 

Cheese train is back on the tracks

Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.
Dorm fridge standing in the corner, helping out.

Finally. It’s been about a month of one thing or another not working around here, and the refrigerator has been the biggest challenge, by far, much worse than no hot water for two days and the washing machine on the fritz. Two weeks. The freezer part of it worked, thank goodness, although we have 4 other freezers, but the fridge is such a huge part of everyday functioning, it’s easy to forget it.

Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom.  Essentials are all that are left!
Half gallon milk all alone on its shelf on the bottom. Essentials are all that are left!

Today the repairman was able to come, and it wasn’t even a huge amount of money. The fan motor, or something like that. Which meant that tonight I was able to keep SnowPea’s milk for cheese making!  What a day. So her half gallon evening milking is all alone on its shelf. Not for long, however, so I am ready to go. Phew!

And so it goes with the stuff that we absolutely couldn’t divest ourselves of in the refrigerator. Most of it gone now, and a clean start with our old standbys: Tonic, pickled jalapenos, eggs, jam and milk! It’s all good!!!

And it’s here

The bucks in one of their favorite spots, the empty hay feeder
The bucks in one of their favorite spots, the empty hay feeder

At last the weekend! All I could think of this morning was how much my feet ached and hurt, even after an extremely good night’s rest. Pounding the concrete floors in school takes some getting used to after the summer.

Sleeping in until almost 6 was heavenly this morning. As soon as I got up I hurried out to do chores, and the morning didn’t let me down, it was a glorious one. Crisp and perfect. After I fed and watered my crew we had some packing up of racing birds to do, and this weekend we are racing 10 of our 15 remaining flyers. Because of the eastward moving wall of rain we are having right now, instead of going south to be released in Massachusetts, we believe they are being taken to Montpelier, Vermont for the morning’s rally. Should be another interesting race, navigating the White Mountains. It’s amazing that each weekend and really, each training session, I find it incredibly amazing when the birds come soaring over the trees to home.

Marigold and Iris, happy in their gluttony!
Marigold and Iris, happy in their gluttony!

Today I went up to one of our hay suppliers and got some Canadian compressed hay for the girls. I am anxiously awaiting the Canadian second cut, but it’s not arrived yet. In the past few months my husband’s friend has been helping build our pigeon loft and many of his tools had been stored in the greenhouse that we use for hay storage. The other day he took most of his tools home, and there was 3/4 of a bale of compressed Canadian second cut hay from last winter standing there, magically exposed! I put some in with the girls’ hay tonight and it created a total feeding frenzy. Marigold and Iris always tuck their heads in at one end of the feeder, and I wish I had thought to take a video. Their grins were enormous, and their sweet grunts of happiness were funny as anything. It started a little tussle at the other end of the feed bunker, but after a moment or two all the girls and Zorro the Llama had their places staked out and were happily munching away. The hay that most of us can grow and harvest on the coast of Maine is not usually as nutritious as the hay that can be grown in less foggy and moist summer climates. It’s funny that we have better access to Canadian hay than we have to hay that’s been grown in the Midwest of the United States.

I am glad they got their dinner in before the rains came. Now I am hunkered down with a glass of wine and the end of one of my favorite mysteries on my iPad at hand. (Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, The Long Road Home). I am loathe to finish it, because that means that I have to wait another year or so for the next one! Quelle horreur!

Almost there

SnowPea just after milking in our little circle of light in the morning
SnowPea just after milking in our little circle of light in the morning

Yes, teachers do long for the end of the first full week of school! It’s wonderful to catch up with the returning students, realize how much more mature most of them are, but it’s always chaos with the schedules that need to be tweaked, and all the other little things that are not in place yet. E-textbooks that need to be downloaded, etc. It’s exciting, but also exhausting. One more day to the weekend :*)

Add to that the fact that every day it seems as though a different goatie girl is in heat. There is a lot of stinky boy action up there, and a lot of girl-calling to the boys. Such little hussies, taunting the boys over the fence! Ah well, this is all part of the onset of autumn. I am seeing a lot of trees beginning to get patches of color on them, so the time is coming. I am not ready for the deep cold, but I am ready for the crisp temperatures of fall.

John got me set up with a light in both the milking greenhouse and the hay/grain greenhouse this week. It has made such a huge difference! It’s my cozy little oasis of light in the dark mornings. Very peaceful, although we are sharing our last minutes of summer with the frantic grasshoppers and crickets. They (along with the peepers and frogs) are the ones that I really miss during the long winter. There really is nothing like listening to the cricket’s song along with the hissing of the milk into the milk pail.

The wind is rising tonight and we are waiting for a bit of a cold snap. And it’s almost the weekend, thank goodness. Definitely looking forward to that!

Super moons

Super moon over one of our greenhouses
Super moon over one of our greenhouses

This is the week of the last ‘super moon’ for the next while. Super sized, early in the evening I can’t see it as it is below the ring of trees around our property. During the night if I open my eyes it looks like all of our outdoor lights are on, which can be a bit disorienting.

And then there is the early morning. When I go out to do chores, I know that I can usually catch a glimpse of the setting moon. It’s always a thrill, and being the optimist that I am, I always think that I can get a great photo of it with my little iPhone. Not so much, but it’s fun trying.

Grainy, but interesting, super moon
Grainy, but interesting, super moon

And this morning was no different, but I got a bunch of different photos that were all equally interesting. Now that I have a light in my milking greenhouse and a light in the hay greenhouse, I am settling into my winter-ish chore routine. A little sadly, perhaps, as that means the daylight is waning, but a satisfying part of the year nonetheless. And I can’t say it or think it enough: I love this cool weather! Bring on the blankets.

(Just a note on our weekend pigeon race: the birds were driven to Derby, Vermont, right up near the Canadian border. One of our birds came in 8th, which is pretty remarkable, considering they crossed the 4,000 foot White Mountains! 4 hours.)

 

 

Such a week

One of our flyers
One of our flyers

Getting back into the swing of the work year is always a bit of a rude awakening (especially when that awakening happens at 4:15 a.m.!). But it seems like we have also had a serious pile of crazy added to it.

Last week during a training run our best bird, #828, failed to come home. It wasn’t a particularly hot or windy day, but he just never showed up. He did, however, come limping home about 4 days later, and we had a tough time grabbing him because he was hiding under the loft building. Not a good sign. Awhile later we found him inside the loft, back with his buddies, but in pretty bad condition. Most likely savaged by a hawk. He was missing all kinds of feathers, and pretty cut up. We took him to one of our pigeon friends who thought that he might make it if we were to separate him and clean him up, give him electrolytes and special easy-to-digest food. So we did. He seemed to be getting better, was eating and pooping, and a friend recommended we treat him with Ledum, as it had seriously helped with a chicken that was attacked, and another friend had used it on a ram with a badly infected head. Unfortunately, I think he was away for too many critical days, and was too far gone. He died yesterday, so our thoughts of keeping him just as a breeder were done. Poor little guy. He was a tough one, and you do read about homing pigeons who endure a lot and get home okay and survive. But I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for him.

Waiting for a peanut treat
Waiting for a peanut treat

Added to that, the litany of aggravating craziness just keeps on coming. Last week the washing machine was out of order; end of the week we lost our hot water for 36 hours; this week our refrigerator crapped out (but the freezer part is still working); I got another denial on my NJ pension; and the real topper: a wonderful woman who ran our middle school cafeteria for many years and had beat cancer, just didn’t wake up the other morning. 54 years old and the sweetest, most positive and upbeat person I have never met. She will be sorely missed by so many. I can’t even really process it.

So in the scheme of things, the washer and the refrigerator, and the pension hoo-ha doesn’t really amount to much. Frustrating, but nothing compared to the loss of a dear, sweet soul. Maybe she and our pigeon boy are out there somewhere smiling on us. I hope so.

 

SnowPea and the boys

SnowPea making eyes at the boys through the fence
SnowPea making eyes at the boys through the fence

Things around here have been pretty quiet this past week, with the exception of the boys and their pre-breeding behaviors. They continue their beauty regimes by making sure their faces and beards are totally saturated with urine, and they stand near the fence making what they think are “come hither” noises. For the most part the girls ignore the bucks, but when one of them comes into heat we are aware of it from the house with all the calling and tussling amongst the boys.

SnowPea not coming in for milking
SnowPea not coming in for milking

Yesterday I went out to milk, and usually SnowPea is waiting at the gate to get right out onto the milk stand. She was nowhere to be found, but I heard her from around the greenhouse. She was plastered up near the fence, making eyes at Beige Boy, whose stinkiness was evident even 30 or 40 feet away. I had a terrible time getting her to leave the fence, and once on the milk stand all she did was bellow and look around, and she did quite a bit of foot stamping as well. It was not our best milking experience, to be sure. What a hussy!

Today things seem to have returned to normal. With the exception of the muggy weather, it should be a great last official day of summer.

 

Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!

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