I am sorry to have been so long without posting. Cardiac rehab is still dominating my schedule, but I feel like I have a little more breathing room now. And the summer weather has continued to shine on us even into October! We are very dry here, but we have hopes of some rain coming in early this week. This evening is a misty one, and it’s looking good for some precipitation.
There is a lot to take care of on the farm at this time of year. I am looking forward to breeding season, which will happen here after I get back from the New York Sheep and Wool show around the third week of October. (I can’t wait!) But, in the meantime we are making sure that the does are on a steady and slowly rising plane of nutrition. Have to get them in shape for their amorous interlude with our stud, Reddog!
It’s a difficult thing for me to balance, this nutrition rise. At this point I have cut back to a once a day milking routine, which means that the milking mamas are getting less grain, so they don’t make as much milk. And since they are still in milk, they need their calories for that as well as for the energy to get into their breeding cycles. Sometimes I dry them off before breeding, but this year it’s been so mild I think I will milk them well into November, or even into December, depending on the weather. We decided to put a second cut round bale in with the breeding girls today, so they have that extra nutrition without the extra grain. I am hoping that this will be a good plan.
And so it goes. I will get their Selenium shots to them before I leave for Rhinebeck (as well as their annual Rabies vaccines), and then we shall see what happens. We have chosen 5 girls to breed this year. Another full house can be expected in the spring!
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.
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!
I wish that I had the energy and strength I had even three or four years ago. The hay man did come yesterday, and sweet man that he is, did most of the unloading and stacking in the greenhouse. I maybe carted and stacked one for every four that he did. Pathetic!
Of course, I did do a lot of greenhouse clean-out before he even came, so I was already on my way to heat stroke when he arrived (I had to run back to the house and dunk my head in the sink, it’s amazing how well that works!). While we were unloading, the ocean breeze finally kicked in, and that definitely helped. But inside the greenhouse, even though it is an opaque cover, it is many degrees hotter as you can imagine! Us folk up in the northern tier of states are such weenies when it comes to heat, and add in the humidity and we are really toast. I took it easy the rest of the day and we made sure to turn on the bedroom AC around dinnertime :*)
We are a little late, as usual. The hay down in the field was ready two weeks ago, but last week John finally got the equipment working and got cutting. Of course, we had gotten 2.5″ of rain two or three days before that, and I don’t think John knew how wet things were going to be. And then the equipment went down, which we could have predicted! The vintage of our haying equipment averages from the mid 1960s if we are lucky. But it’s solid stuff, and with a parts machine or two, John can usually get things moving again.
Yesterday he worked almost all day on the tedder. And then today he finished up mooching parts from another one, and off he went to tedder, winrow and bale. I went down this afternoon with the pickup truck to start going up and down the rows so that he could throw the bales in. I can take them off the truck, but have trouble throwing them up into it. I guess I am too short for the F-350! Luckily, he called some folks from work and they came down to help us load it up and haul it off to storage. It’s mulch hay, so it’s not coming to our animals. Hopefully in the future we will be making it for ourselves.
So another weekend has come and gone, and tomorrow is my real first day of not working, and since John is going to work, it will feel like it’s really summer.
And it’s almost over! Aagh! No, seriously, it was such a beautiful day I couldn’t believe it. In the 40s, at least for one day. Every little bit helps. I knew that there was a little rain forecast for early in the day, and the weather folk were correct for once. But it was a gentle rain, and it helped remove a little bit of the icy buildup in the driveway, as well as snow up in the paddocks. Of course, when the snow is removed from the surface of the paddocks, all we can see is poop and random hay bits on top of the layers of ice that are underneath. But that’s ok, eventually it will have to all go away. We can only hope!
So we waited out most of the rain and then went for a small load of hay. The roads around here are so frost-heaved that one of the bales bounced off and we had to make a U turn and go back and pick it up. Eesh! But the sun had come out and it was warm and the sun felt good. Not nearly for long enough, because just as I was getting ready to go out for chores this afternoon another cloudburst came through. But with a little help from my favorite iPhone app, Dark Sky, I could see that it would probably only be 20 minutes to a half hour and then it would be through. So I used that time to get Pippi on the milkstand and trim her hooves. I am very behind on the goat feet and I need to catch up. I would like to get them trimmed up nicely before the kids drop.
And it’s time to get things ready for next week’s shearing. I have to figure out how to keep the ewes dry with a wonky greenhouse cover. And unfortunately, right now, it sounds like it might be rainy next Saturday. One more thing to worry about. Ah well, this too shall work out in the end :*)
Luckily the weather has changed for what I believe is the better. Cooler, lovely breezes, in the 60s. Can’t get any better than that! Of course, back to school means not being out and enjoying the day, but when our hay man called yesterday and said that he could deliver a load, it was a good excuse to leave right at the end of the working day today and come home and get some time outside.
It was a pretty big load, and even though my husband wasn’t here to do his usual stacking thing, we got it taken care of in a relatively short time. It’s good to have hay in the greenhouse (or snake house as a friend calls it). Actually we didn’t come across any snakes this afternoon, which is unusual. Maybe last night was so cold that they went into hiding elsewhere (it was in the high 30s or low 40s). So I am tired but pleased that we at least have one load in. We don’t have enough room to put up our whole season’s hay at once, we do have to keep buying it through the year. But anything is a help.
After that I took a half hour to put my feet up and have a little glass of wine before regular evening milking and chores. Then I went out and got everyone taken care of, and now we are having a lovely evening in. Love a nice Friday evening in!
And our long weekend has been a humid, muggy one so far. It has been wonderful getting back to work and seeing all of my colleagues, but after we turned one of the buildings upside down looking for the paper cutter that was in the back room of the library, I guess it felt like we were really back!
Getting into an earlier morning routine leads to other issues as well. We had not intended to get home so late last Tuesday night from Augusta, but at 9 PM I found myself out there trying to milk in the dark, with only a large, hand-held flashlight. SnowPea wasn’t too thrilled with this o’dark thirty milking, but I eventually enticed her onto the stand. I do not like using a headlamp at this time of year due to the fact that it draws clouds of moths right to my face, and after last summer’s experience with the moth in my ear, I am not anxious for that!
When I got home on Wednesday afternoon, I found that John had kindly fixed up a lamp in the milking greenhouse, far enough past the milkstand that it will give us light, but hopefully far enough away that we will be out of the ‘moth circle.’ With the way the daylight is rapidly vanishing, I am glad of this for sure.
Last Tuesday when we were out so late in Augusta, we were actually looking at new cars. I have had a Subaru Forester for 11 years now, and it’s been well-loved and well-used, maybe a little too well-used! After we had it a few years, it ended up being impressed into farm service and when John was working long days and we needed hay, I always picked up a few bales… we know where that is going! Our mechanic called my little Subaru The Hay Buggy, and has been begging us to get a new vehicle for a number of years now. The truth is that things were beginning to fail on it, and going into the winter and needing to get to work every day before 7 AM, well, it was time. I did not, however, expect to go and look at cars and come home with one the same day! But we did, so we now have a new, dependable Subaru Forester. Wow. Let’s just hope that this one will last for at least 10 years! And that the hay issue can always be taken care of by my husband with the truck :*)
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!
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.
Yesterday we were busy. Not just another Saturday, but a really crazy day. We went to get some hay and came home. Thank goodness our son came over and helped unload it, as it is Canadian compressed and the bales weigh about 65 lbs, at least. I was also shifting a lot of equipment in readiness for the storm, and then it was time for our
shearer Emily to shear a few lambs and a ewe to prepare for a trip to the butcher. After that it was time to pen the 4 ewes who are going to be bred, and get the sheep coats on them.
I was ready to do some worming, but all the girls seem to be in very good condition with pink mucous membranes, so we coated them and called it good! Hopefully they are ready for the ram. Arriving today!
OK, I know that I was raised in the suburbs and have had a few things to get used to in the course of raising sheep and goats. You know, difficult lambings, mud up to your knees when we have springs like this one (!), dealing with maggoty fly-strike in a favorite ram, heavy hay bales, driving rain and sleet, knowing when to say goodbye to your favorite ewe, milking goats at 4:30 on schooldays, etc. Sometimes my husband (who grew up in a community that was farming at the time) says, “I didn’t think you’d be able to do that!” and I just think that you never know what you are capable of until you try.
There is one thing that I don’t think I will ever get used to, no matter how long we live here and farm. I think it’s a primal sort of a reaction that I just can’t seem to get past. The “S” word. I know that they are not a dangerous population around here, but I can’t help being startled and getting a total shiver when one pops out at me. Yup. Snakes! AARGH! Baby rat snakes and garter snakes are beautiful in their own way (when I think about them intellectually)… but when they pop out of a hay bale that I have just picked up I tend to react more viscerally (you know, yelling, dropping the bale, and hopping around) until it’s gone someplace else… anyplace else, as long as it’s away from me. Shiver, shiver!
I really appreciate the fact that the snakes are living there in the greenhouse, as I presume they are well-fed on the mouse population and are keeping them at bay, but I use my trusty rake before I grab a bale these days! When it’s time to grab a new bale, I use the rake to pull it off the pile and then I smack it a few times with the back of the rake head to wake any sleepy serpents, while loudly saying things like: Get up you lazy guys and get cracking! You aren’t catching any mice just lying around in that cushy bale! It *almost* never fails.
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!