Warm, cold, wind and loss

Almost naked compost pile
Almost naked compost pile

More bad weather today, just not cold.  53 degrees this morning and the wind was not just gusting but steadily blowing a gale force, with rain of course. Lots of power outages and trees down on wires.  The ice is gone from most of the driveway, and I hope that some of the wet dries up before the cold sets in again tonight so that we can prevent the driveway from becoming a skating rink.  Our power has been out all day and we are still waiting.  Luckily the Honda generator is going and we have water, a few lights, and heat.

Things are otherwise fairly quiet, except that we lost our little Turtle the bucky boy over the weekend.  The day before the very last day of the extreme cold, I went out for chores and found him cast (on his back, stuck) in his little corner behind where the llama and two of the ewe lambs sleep with him.  He must have been tucked in there and gotten turned over trying to get up.  I can second-guess myself on everything I did (particularly putting a deep bed of straw down), but certainly there is nothing I can do to change it, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.  He was a sweet little creature, and we will miss him, even though he wasn’t here for more than a few months.  Farming definitely carries its ups and downs, and unfortunately he will not be a part of our little farm future.  :*(

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Snowy Tuesday morning

Went to bed last night watching the fluffy snow falling through the lights outside the window.  We were only supposed to get a dusting to an inch, but when we got up this morning it was at least 3 inches.  Fluffy and light is good, and I love having new, clean snow so that I can feed hay out onto clean spots, keeping the groups out of the same-old, same-old spots around the feeder.

The Culprit
The White-Legged Culprit

My big heart-stopping moment this morning, however, was in the dark, of course…  I was opening the gate to let the first goat back into the pen and make room for SnowPea to come out and get onto the milk stand.  Their greenhouse shelter is on a little rise about 20 feet into the paddock.  I pointed my headlamp up into the shelter just for a quick check to see if everyone was getting up, stretching, and doing all the usual things healthy animals do as they wake up.  And what did I see as I looked (with a headlamp that needs new batteries, I suspect), were 4 little white legs standing in the darkness.  As SnowPea was jumping onto the stand, I made a bee line into that greenhouse, to find that the 4 legs belonged to our black goat, Melanzane!  I couldn’t see the rest of her body at all in the blackness of the shelter.  Wow.  All the thoughts that ran through my head in that moment were things like, who could have gotten bred that early?  Oh no, it must have been one of the ram lambs that went to the butcher and now we have a wee lambie with no mother beside it claiming it as her own.  Sheesh.  If I wasn’t awake before then, I certainly was after that.  SnowPea took it all in stride, waiting patiently for me on the milk stand to get over my early morning insanity.

I am thinking that we probably need to get a light hooked up in there soon!

Pippi is seriously peeved

Pippi is seriously not happy with me!
Pippi is seriously not happy with me!

It’s that time of year again… time to begin drying off the milking does.  I have put it off a little bit because I felt bad cutting out their evening meal of grain on the milkstand when the temperatures and the wind have been this cold.  Colder than cold.  But we are due for a bit of a warm-up this week and everyone is getting some whole oats and a little coarse 14% feed in the evening when I think it will do them the most good (all of those carbs working for them overnight when the wind and the cold are at their worst).

Tonight was the first milking that I am skipping.  I will only milk in the mornings for the next week and then I will go to every other day for a few, then every 3rd day for a few and then if their udders are behaving appropriately, we will try to finish up in the next few weeks.  I will be cutting their grain ration during their a.m. milkings a little at a time as well.  This is always difficult for me as milking is a very special endeavor that also gives us an amazing product.  I guess I can call milking almost a “zen” experience, and while I don’t meditate, it is a very restful and thoughtful time during an otherwise hectic day.  And now that will be over until the kids are on the ground, which *should* be at the beginning of June.

Hopefully we have enough chevre socked away in the freezer to get us through until then.  And let’s hope that Pippi and SnowPea get used to the change.  They were seriously peeved with me tonight!

Frigid days

The Canadian arctic winds are bearing down upon us this week.  Last night it went down to a little below zero which is bad enough, but the wind gusts had to have been around 15-30 mph.  I woke up so many times during the night it wasn’t funny, and it was always to the sound of the wind.  Not friendly weather for animals or humans.  The sheep do ok if they have a windbreak, but the goats suffer a little more.  Our little Turtle the bucky boy doesn’t have much meat on his bones.  I got a coat on him awhile ago and am hoping that it helps.  A few of the sheep were shorn in the fall because of either a fleece issue, or to get them ready for the butcher, but they have coats on so they have at least a little extra wind-break layer.

Luckily we got a load of straw a few weeks ago so I have made sure there is a deep bed of the stuff in strategically placed areas that are out of the wind.  If they dig in, hopefully they will weather this night.  I am hopeful that the little buck will cozy up to Zorro the llama as usual and keep it safe.

Doing chores today was a clothing adventure as well.  I resorted to two pairs of merino wool long johns, an undershirt, t-shirt, waffle-weave long sleeve, turtle neck, sweater, lined Wolverine shirt, vest, thick mohair socks, gloves and wool cap.  My fingers and toes still felt it by the end of the 45 minutes to an hour out there!  Too bad I have to take my gloves off to milk!  Here’s hoping the next few frigid days go past without too much drama.

Jingle’s morning surprise

Jingle waits
Jingle waits

We hustled a little bit this morning with chores (it is a day off for me and I like to take it easy) because Jingle had an appointment today.  A visit from our farrier, which was nicely scheduled for a day when I would have a chance to be here.  It was about 13 F and the wind was pretty brutal out there.  I got Jingle ready and out of the paddock with a little snack, and while we waited I put a little time into giving her a good brushing. The sun was shining, and in spite of the wind, it felt good to be out there.

We did get a bit of a surprise when the farrier came.  The poor guy came down our icy driveway, got out onto the ice and put on his leather working apron, and when he got out his nips and rasp to get started, he said, “Oh, her feet don’t need a darn thing.  I’ll see you next month!”  That is the first time we have ever heard that, and I really appreciate it.  So he skated over the ice back to his truck and gave it his all getting out of the driveway.  In any case, Jingle was happy enough to have a little extra attention!  We have had our problems with farriers, and not to jinx ourselves, but we love having this one come so regularly, and are also grateful for his honesty and integrity :*)

Another wintery Saturday

Very wintery sky today
Very wintery sky today

A little bit of a warm-up after a very blustery, cold day yesterday.  It looks like we are going to have a mild day tomorrow again before getting into some arctic freezing cold on Monday and into the week.  Aside from erranding today, we took the opportunity to really clean and scrub down one of the giant water troughs in by the sheep.  We will do the other one tomorrow.  An opportunity also presented itself to get a little more of the iciness and hard snow buildup away from some of the gates.  It’s always something when we have ice and snow.  Although I should go on record to say that I much prefer this to the mud!  I love the cold weather in general!

Elf and Zelda are anxious for dinner
Elf and Zelda are anxious for dinner

It’s funny that one of the farm blogs that I read (the Kitchen’s Garden) also was talking about taking the opportunity with the mild weather today to scrub water tubs.  And they are out in Illinois!  It’s one of those things that is universal, I guess, when taking care of large animals.  Lots of watching the weather and taking advantage.  I am also currently putzing around with feed tubs to feed out some of the hay we are getting.  It’s beautiful and has lots of broad leaves and timothy heads in it, but it’s shattered up, so when we take a flake off, a lot of it just drops to the greenhouse floor in little pieces.  I have been shoveling that into tubs to feed out to the sheep and goats.  It looks good and they seem to eat it whether it’s in the feeder or in a tub.  Just one more way to deal with getting them what they need.

Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to get into the loft upstairs that is supposed to be something of a fiber studio.  If I say it’s in disarray, it would be an understatement.  It needs a huge amount of organizing, but I really need to get going on that.  I have to fight my way over to the loom and think about getting that warped.  That would be a real accomplishment!  And it’s a great thing to get going during the winter.

Toss up in the winter paddocks

The offending gate!
The offending gate!

Had another surprise the other day when I went out to do afternoon chores.  I walked up the driveway and the first paddock that I pass is Jingle the Donkey’s group, with 4 bred ewes, and Elf and Zelda the mother/daughter goat duo.  We have all the others in the adjoining paddock which connects to this one via a blue metal gate.  During the warmer weather last week I took the opportunity to unstick the connecting gate while I had the chance.  I am going to have to mix up the makeup of the two groups, but not quite yet  (this involves who will be getting grain running up to lambing and kidding).

That afternoon as I was passing the first group, I noticed Fuzzy Lumpkin and Beezus the ewes standing next to Jingle the Donkey.  Hmmm.  Something is definitely afoot!  And when I looked more closely, I couldn’t see Elf and Zelda in that group.  And then I saw it:  the interconnecting gate had been pushed in (the baling twine that I used to hold the sides of the gate to the cattle panels had rotted and broken).  So the girls had a mixup.

I did chores and watched what was going on the whole time.  I was worried about Elf and Zelda because when they came back from Bridge Farm we couldn’t integrate them with the other goatie girls as they had a territorial dispute and I didn’t want a repeat performance.  I watched them and went back out later… Pippi the herd queen was going after the other two at the feeder, trying to make Elf and Zelda move away and find another spot to eat.  They settled down after awhile and I thought I would see how it had shaped up by the next morning.  If everyone was resting in the greenhouse when I went out for chores, I would presume that they had worked out their issues.

5 a.m. the next morning I got up there and it was pretty obvious that Elf and Zelda were not being welcomed or even tolerated.  They were cuddled up by one of the feeders, outside.  Luckily they were very sleepy and not inclined to argue as I popped them back onto the other side of the fence.  They seem much happier.  Now I don’t have to lose sleep worrying that there is going to be fighting in the paddock.  And I knew that icy rain and snow was on its way during the day so I did not want to think about the two does standing outside in the ice because the other two wouldn’t let them into the shelter.  Goat society can really be brutal!

Tuesday temperature changes

Basket of dryer balls
Basket of dryer balls

I have been home for the last few days with the flu.  Yeah, didn’t dodge that bullet, but didn’t get it as badly as most folks have.  I opted to stay home today because yesterday I made myself stay up all day and it was exhausting.  Went to bed last night with a head that felt like it weighed 50 lbs.  So I got up at near usual time this a.m. and decided that it wasn’t going to be a green light for work.   The temperatures outside have fallen today, and it was lovely to do chores in slightly more winter-like weather.

What I did get done today was to finish some of my custom orders for dryer balls.  A very nice project for putting one’s feet up and playing with roving and yarn.  I just love these things, and some of my co-workers are very excited about them as well.  I love the fact that I can cut out another source of chemicals from our lives, so it’s a total win for me (we use these instead of dryer sheets or fabric softener).  I wish I could just keep the basket on the table for a decoration… they are all so different and so lovely!

Newly blooming African violet on the coffee table next to a stand of Peace Fleece knitting needles!
Newly blooming African violet on the coffee table next to a jar of Peace Fleece knitting needles!

I also have been admiring one of our violets which is beginning to bloom again after I repotted it last summer.  Small joys for the day!

Foggy day

Foggy afternoon
Foggy afternoon

In more ways than one!  My hopes on skating past the flu have been dashed, and I am home with the chills, fever, aches and head stuff.  If it doesn’t get worse than this I will consider myself lucky.  Hanging out on the sofa with Tesser the Chihuahua drinking tea.  Not good times, but not as bad as it could be.

The day has matched my foggy head.  The snow is still on the ground and the air temps are still up there in the 40s, so the fog has lurked over the snow all day.  No sun anywhere that I can see.  I think I heard that those temperatures are going to be dropping quite a bit overnight.  January thaw, it’s time to exit!

It’s getting closer to chore time, so I guess I will take some more ibuprofen and get ready.

Friday night is finally here

Snowy landscape
Snowy landscape

It’s here!  Very exciting stuff.  The week has been quite the eventful one because the flu has hit our local high school pretty hard.  As the week has progressed, more students have dropped every day along with a good chunk of the faculty (up to about 43% of the student body).  I rotate between the high school and the middle school, so hopefully I have not come as face-to-face with the offending virus as closely as I might have.  My sinuses are stuffy and a scratchy throat has plagued me this week, along with a little wheezing, but over all, I am REALLY glad to be home and am ready for a very relaxing weekend!

Daytime temps have been above freezing all week, so I have re-acclimatized to not piling on quite as many layers, and chores have been a relaxing pleasure.  Having one less goat to milk has made a huge difference in the quality of chore time, and I am enjoying a few extra minutes with my girls at each milking.  Chevre-making is going ahead at two batches a week, so I am able to sock away a really nice stock for the dry months.  I had been considering going down to one milking a day in preparation for drying off the does, but I think that I will put that off for another few weeks.  I love the routine and the contact with the does.  And I can’t imagine life without them.