But surely spring is showing itself to us. The end of this past week was very warm, unnaturally so, but this weekend has been mostly sunny and breezy, with more normal temperatures in the 60s (F).
As the leaves are finally popping out, we have been moving toward making the new greenhouse more amenable in the warmer weather. We already removed all the sectioning panels that we had up during the kidding months, and Sam cleaned out all the old straw, hay and debris. The last of the ice that was lingering under all those layers of straw is finally gone! It’s a big, wide open space now so the girls can find a spot with their babies without getting nudged by someone else.
The only thing left to do, however, was to figure out when it would be advisable to take the plywood off the driveway gable end of the greenhouse. That end was totally closed off, which is the north side, so it was a huge help during the winter. But now it is becoming important to get some air moving through there, so Sam took it down on Friday. It has made a big difference, and I am glad, it was time! I am not a fan of really hot, humid weather, but when it does come, at least we will have about as much air circulation as possible. The goats seem to appreciate it, and our Peanut has another vantage point from which to watch for our approach! She is using it well :*)
I was able to sneak up on her this morning and get a photo after she had her bottle and was lounging next to another baby pile. They were all happy and dozing in the sun.
It’s still snowing, and at least 12 hours into the storm. It’s cold and quite windy as well, but the snow is dry and light. For now. The temperature is supposed to keep going up overnight, and the end of this ‘event’ early tomorrow is predicted to be rain. Blech. That is one thing I can do without!
Windy conditions make me nuts around kidding time; it is the super bad guy in our little world. If I can get to babies immediately after birth, or be there while they are being born, we can make sure they are in a draft-free zone, and help the mamas by doing some of the drying off. Once the kids are relatively dry and are stocking up on colostrum, they are usually ok.
We got our back wall windbreak up today. Two pieces of exterior plywood, tied tightly to the galvanized panels that are the gable end barrier (where there is supposed to be a real wall and a door…). We got the plywood under the tarp overhang, drilled holes in the board, and tied the tarp down to the grid panel on the inside of the wood. I thought it was going to work ok, but it’s actually tighter and nicer than I envisioned. The tarp on this greenhouse drags on the ground a bit, and now there is a lot of snow holding it down. The open end of the structure faces due south, and I have a windbreak green panel with a tarp at that opening. Our prevailing winds come most usually out of the north and the north west, so it should be a good setup. Nice and snug. Here’s to hoping it stays that way!
I have two pens set up in this greenhouse, one is a catch pen I use from time to time, and initially that will be our labor pen (it’s about 9′ X 8′). Once I know a doe is in labor, I like to give her some privacy, and I don’t want her looking for a corner of the paddock out in the snow to get away from all the Nosey Aunties. After the baby or babies are born, I can put them into the jug right next to that.
And so The Watch is on. Delta is a go for launch, I do believe!
It really is. The practical end of the summer came too fast, and back to work we went. I am grateful in these crazy times to have a job. It will be a new challenge and different for me this year, but I am looking forward to it.
Hurricane Irene hit us much more gently than we all thought. My son in NJ got hammered much harder than we did. He actually got evacuated from his apartment in Lodi. Probably a good thing! We lost power for part of a day, and lost a greenhouse cover, but some of the towns around us lost it for 2 or 3 days. I really can’t complain. I am trying to get into the school schedule which is always a tough thing to do. Getting up at 4:30 and milking at 5:15 is a pretty big change from my summer schedule!
The chill is in the air at night, however, no matter how warm it gets during the day. The girls down in the field are getting some extra feed and we are getting ready for breeding. John is working hard on getting at least one of our greenhouses cleaned out. We would like to get the whole thing moved before the winter if we can. We shall see! At least the compost piles are growing nicely.
This morning our 50 roasting chickens arrived at the post office. We have been madly trying to get their little spot ready for the big day, in the back of one of our greenhouses. (Hot working in those greenhouses at this time of year is an understatement!). At 7:30 exactly, our post mistress gave us the call and we ran over to receive those beautiful little chicks. I know that very soon they are going to be very tasty dishes, but there is nothing as cute as a baby farm animal, any and all of them. They provide endless entertainment with their antics and their enthusiasm for the business of life. And so begins another cycle of animal husbandry!
Our friend Jolly claims that our roasters taste better because I read them the New York Times. I don’t, really, but we chat about world affairs and literature many times every day. The discussion is always pretty one-sided, but it’s the one place I can go where no one talks back!
For one of my favorite books in the world: A Wrinkle in Time. And I know it’s far-fetched, but our three guinea hens are named after the 3 wise women or witches in the book. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. They are all that are left of our brood of 16. Mrs. Which, the last one in line, is sporting a broken right leg, thanks to the last dog attack that these hens survived. To have lasted this long, hopefully they are the smart ones (!) and they seem to know where to go to get shelter and to get the food that I leave for them, as well as scrounging for the leftover grain that the sheep and goats leave. They are very funny and when they aren’t around I miss them and their calling.
When we got the keets as day-old chicks they were quite the challenge. They were able to get out of almost any enclosure, and right at the start Josie the Jack Russell ate one that had escaped. She went on to have a field day with the guineas, and whittled their numbers down to just 5. They weathered another attack by a local dog, and Mrs. Which ended up with a mangled leg. And so we have the 3. I leave feed for them in one of the greenhouses and they do take advantage of it. They roost in by the sheep in one of the other greenhouses and are on the move during the day through the weeds and the undergrowth. I hope that we can keep these guys healthy through the winter. If one of them turns out to be a male, maybe we can get some eggs and hatch them out. They are really beautiful birds and hopefully they are helping us rid the area of ticks and other troublesome bugs. And it’s amazing how tolerant the sheep and goats are of them!
Winter has hit us with a windy vengeance. By the middle of last week we were having arctic wind gusts at approximately 30 mph, and it sounded as though a freight train was traveling through the neighborhood. With the ice on the ground, it was a challenge to even reach the animal paddocks in one piece. Last Thursday I was running up the driveway at dusk, head down to make sure I didn’t fall, threw open the gate to my work area that connects all three paddocks, and instead of a nicely covered temporary milking greenhouse, this is what I saw:
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!