Amphibians win!

In this summer-of-the-rains, I can only think that the happiest beings in our neighborhood are the frogs.  The bug population is thriving, so hopefully the frogs and toads are getting their fill.  Everywhere you step, something hops in front of you!  Usually they are small, patterned froglets, but two larger specimens have become our good friends.  (These two are American Bull Frogs, but my favorites are the spring peepers and the wood frogs, who don’t “ribbit,” they quack!)

One of our friendly paddock frogs
One of our friendly paddock bullfrogs

I don’t know if it’s the same frog, but there are two that seem to hang out together in our mushy areas near the fence.  They always have smiles on their froggy faces, and don’t seem to mind us moving around them.  They don’t pay any attention to the sheep and goats, either, they just do their own thing.

Yesterday during morning chores I saw this guy sitting on the edge of the goat trough (our troughs are pretty large… maybe 30 gallon).  Then, last evening I was doing chores and found what I presume to be the same frog treading water in the tub.  John pulled him out; even though I put a floating piece of wood into the trough, he looked like he was going to have trouble exiting the pool!  (Once he was out, we drained the trough, cleaned it and re-filled it).

Morning frog; must be thinking about his morning swim!
Morning frog; must be thinking about his a.m. dip!
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Summer vacation?

I wish I could make a really concrete list of things that I have accomplished this summer.  I did take a class at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham which was good, and I am partially re-organized in my studio, but I haven’t gotten much knitting done, and I haven’t gotten my loom warped yet!  I did quite a bit of spinning and am hoping to get some dying and felting done in the next two weeks.  Big sigh!

Two more weeks to go until the first day of school, and counting,

Summer visiting with good friends

We have had a busy week since the Fiber Tour weekend.  Our friends from NY, Barb and Phil, came up for their yearly visit and we actually had a pretty nice week weather-wise.  Yesterday we got over to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which is someplace I have been meaning to visit for a very long time.  It was mostly overcast, but the sun came out to surprise us every once in awhile,  and the main part of the gardens nearest the entrance kept us busy for over 2 hours.  Different sections of the gardens focus on clusters of different kinds of annuals and perennials and it’s always good for me to see how things look when they are set together.  Lily ponds, waterfalls and fairy houses made up some of the areas, and I particularly liked the last bit we reached where we saw some great examples of artichokes in flower!  Wow!  I want to try growing those next year :* )  There are also a few other things I saw there that I would like to put on the *someday* list for our house.  A really lovely way to enjoy the day.  Enchanting!  I can’t wait to go back.

Boothbay botanical gardens
Boothbay botanical gardens

After our garden ramblings we met John at home and got ready for the yearly ritual:  the big lobster dinner!

Waterlily pond
Waterlily pond
Part of the Fairy Houses area of the gardens
Part of the Fairy Houses area of the gardens

Maine Fiber Arts Tour Open House

Maine Fiber Arts tour weekend... studio in a tent!
Maine Fiber Arts tour weekend... studio in a tent!

This weekend we are participating in the Maine Fiber Arts Tour weekend open house.   We are part of the two-year tour map, so anyone is welcome to give us a call and come by at any time, but this weekend is set aside as a formal Open House.

We got really lucky with the weather, that’s for sure!  Since we were expecting more than one or two visitors at a time we set up a tent at the top of the driveway, closer to the animal paddocks, and it has worked out extremely well.  Folks can come in, see our product, maybe try a little spinning or felting, and then visit with the sheep and goats.  We also are able to keep our Bear dog a little calmer, without people getting her all excited as they enter the house.  If it weren’t for the mosquitoes, it would be totally perfect!

We had a lot of lovely visitors today and hope to meet and greet many more tomorrow.

Donkey Trek

Chloe and Jingle are all ready for the trek!
Chloe and Jingle are all ready for the trek!

We have been discombobulated here on the farm, what with the animal nursing and crazy weather.  It’s been an intention of ours to get our guard donkey, Jingle, down to the pasture to be with the rams for quite some time.  Since the rams had to come home because of Kyra’s Boy’s leg issues, we got stalled again.  After an incident in the pasture with the ewes (which I shall write about another day), John and I decided we just had to get her down there.  I know, kind of like closing the barn door after the horse is gone, but better now than never.

It takes some planning to get Jingle down to the pasture.  Our road is used as a cut-through from the east side of our peninsula to the route which runs down to the tip of the peninsula and the lighthouse.  Even though it’s a dirt road, cars tend to appear around the curves going a lot faster than the posted 25 mph… thus, making me nervous about Jingle’s reaction to the passing traffic.  So even though we walk her down (1/2 mile or so) on two leads, I always feel more comfortable if someone is following us in a car with the 4-way flashers on so that no one can get right up behind us before we move aside.  (I always picture myself with Jingle on the lead, flying along with my feet barely touching the ground… not a pretty picture!  She can run fast when she wants to, and packs a wallop when she kicks.  Ouch!).

So that’s what we did:  Chloe and I got Jingle fitted out in her new halter with two leads and headed down the road, John bringing up the rear in the Subaru.  It was a nearly perfect walk (parade), only one vehicle really spooked her.  A pickup roared up behind John, and when we moved to the side of the road to let him pass, he came really close and was already going way faster than he should have been when he came alongside us.  But disaster was averted, Jingle got into the pasture, and Chloe and I had a very brisk walk down!  Phew!  And our ewes now have their own personal guardian for the rest of the summer.

Alternate Reality, Redux!

Big sigh!  Just as we thought things were getting back to normal, Bear’s stitches began to lose their grip.  So many of them let loose that our poor old girl had to go in and be anesthetized again on Monday morning and have some different connectors hooked up.  So she is home again, with her conehead and her poor sore back leg.  No need for pictures of her boo-boo, it’s not so pretty!  Just a nice one of her pretty face!

Recuperating Bear
Recuperating Bear

Alternate Reality, Anyone?

I am looking for anyone who has some good karma to lend…  I feel like I have been cast in  an alternate reality:  the animal hospital planet!  I am so glad that it’s the summer and I am not rushing off to work every morning.  Not only does the ram Kyra’s Boy have a leg issue that requires a lot of attention, but our 11 year old Lab, Bear, had to have a large tumor removed from her back right leg today.  So now I have two patients with back leg issues.  Sheesh!  I hope everyone is on the mend soon :* )

Bear resting with her boo-boo leg
Bear resting with her boo-boo leg

Sheep Doctoring Update

It’s 6 days since we had Kyra’s Boy at the vet for his leg ailment. He seems to be coming along; the leg is less swollen and it’s draining a lot less. He’s on the heavy-duty meds, eating well, and is taking it easy, but calling for his meals from his sickbed! Can’t ask for much more than that! (Except maybe some treats from my husband!)

Kyra's Boy takes it easy
Kyra's Boy takes it easy
KB accepts some carrot tops from John
KB accepts some carrot tops from John

Lobster and Shrimp to the Rescue!

We have been scrimping on everything these days as, like everyone else, we are trying to make ends meet and make do with less. We try to think creatively, and recently we feel we really got onto something good!  When we take our chickens to the butcher we need to put them into crates of some sort, and a friend of ours usually has one or two to lend us, but nothing that will really get us all the way there. Used chicken crates are hard to come by as no one seems willing to part with them!  New, even in catalogs, they cost about $75 each. The way our birds grow, we can only fit 7 or 8 in one of those. So. Living on the coast of Maine, we have some supplies at hand that most folks wouldn’t ordinarily see in their neighborhoods: lobster traps! A neighbor of ours makes lobster traps for a living and we approached him about making some custom chicken-carriers. They are beauts! This is John standing behind two of them with the top open:

John with our nifty chicken carriers
John with our nifty chicken carriers

We didn’t break the bank, and the crates are nice and easy to handle as well as easy to get the birds into and out of. We love them! And the bonus is that they are roomier and can hold more chickens.

I have been running into a frustrating situation with my cheese-making as well. I have been using a lasagna pan, stainless steel cake rack and plastic cheese mats to drain the cheeses, first in the forms and then without the forms after salting, and it was cramped and small and not working really well. The salt was beginning to break down the finish on the cake rack as well (even though it’s stainless, I don’t think it’s solid stainless!). So our friend Pam (Hatchtown Farm) suggested that we get a piece of shrimp trap wire and use that (shrimp trap wire has smaller openings in the grid than the lobster trap wire). We kept mulling it over, and finally decided to go see our trap-making friend and find out if he could bend some wire so that it doesn’t just sit on top of our stainless container, but somehow fit into it or attach to it somehow. So he came up with another great product for Ruit Farm: the cheese drainer that slides onto our giant stainless chafer! cheese_forms_drain

Chevre draining in forms (left) and salted chevre draining (below); you can see the black trapwire under the cheese mats

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Sheep Doctoring. In the Rain (what a surprise).

I feel like Nurse Nina this week.  Our beloved ram, Kyra’s Boy, has been ailing.  Late last week he was down in the pasture with his alter-ego, Mr. Big, when we found that he had a swollen and lame back leg.  Usually we see a lame front leg if one of the sheep or goats has been booking across a hummocky field and hits something the wrong way.  This was definitely not in that category.  I thought that maybe the boys were slamming each other and he took a hard punch to the hip… we probably will never know.  He had been lying there immobile so long that his whole underside was bitten up with tiny little bites that actually drew blood.  What a mess.  So we brought the boys back to the paddock area (can’t keep one ram alone in the field) and I did what I could to get Kyra’s Boy cleaned up and on the mend, but even though the swelling went down some, he obviously was not progressing.  Not even using that leg much at all, so we began to think that he must have a break.  Time for the vet call.  And we got really lucky that our vet fit us in yesterday for the x-rays.  So I loaded him up into the trusty Subaru and took him down (I wouldn’t want to have a hidden video of myself doing that!).

View of Kyra's Boy in the back of my Forester!
View of Kyra's Boy in the back of my Forester

Most sheep would not be as accommodating as Kyra’s Boy.  He is such a beautiful, mild-mannered guy, he didn’t get stroppy or obnoxious at all during the poking and prodding and x-raying that went on.  As it turns out, he doesn’t have a break, but he does have a really bad infection in a major portion of that leg.  The vet ended up putting in a drain and getting him onto penicillin and banamine.  We are hoping for the best, but know that this is a difficult place for an infection to take up residence. We now have him in a smaller pen in a sheltered space next to our (half-built) garage.  The Taj Mahal of private ovine hospital rooms!

Kyra's Boy in his private accommodations
Kyra's Boy in his private digs

So we did our sheep doctoring, in the rain as usual.  It was pouring by the time I got home and I was soaked when I got into the house last night after chores and getting Kyra’s Boy settled, but at least he looked fairly comfortable.  The drugs must have kicked in, though, because this morning he looked quite a bit perkier.  I had trouble getting him to stand still for his shots, and he appears to be eating a little more normally.  Time for some serious finger-crossing and good thought-thinking!  Go Kyra’s Boy!

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