Sunday, February 24, 2019

Meeting His Match

It is hard to imagine, but Connor may have finally met his match.  He has been the fastest, toughest, intensist, never-give-in, never-quit Border Collie on the hill.  Then....along comes a puppy.  A cute, sweet, little puppy who follows him around and worships at his feet. 

But puppies grow.  Fast.

The cute, sweet, little puppy is now an 8 month old ultra-fit, ultra-fast, ultra-competitive bundle of greased-lightning speed, wild exuberance and slightly psychotic Border Collie drive.  Just like his best buddy Connor.

Connor may be feeling the dragon breathing down his neck, but at the end of the day, when the puppy loses interest, he still comes home with the prize because he still knows one thing that Ian doesn't - that the frisbee is not a toy, it is the meaning of life.

Monday, February 11, 2019

State of a Farm Address - winter edition

Okay, here is your guest blogger, Farm Buddy, here to fill you in on the goings on at the farm. I must first mention that some amazingly kind person sent me a very generous gift, right out of the blue! I couldn’t have been more shocked. They did not identify themselves, just saying that they wanted me to know how much I am valued for taking good care of my livestock. 


Believe me, I am still shocked every day when I think about it, and I keep their note, which I use as a bookmark and intend to use as a bookmark forever, so I never forget their thoughtfulness. So anyway, I thought I would explain just how I am taking care of everyone this winter, in hopes that the person is a blog reader. I want them to know how much I appreciate their gift, and I want them to know how I will pass their kindness on to others as much as I am able.

So, this is my official blog posting for the winter. And so far, compared to what I hear about people in the midwest, we have been pretty lucky. We did have some nasty 25 degrees below zero weather for a few days, and it did cause some trouble for me in my barn pump room. I thought I had enough heat in there, but one night, it got too cold, and it burst the pressure tank valve. Lucky for me, we have a plumbing person in our town, and he came right over and fixed it for me.

Okay, let’s start with the most important ones….the dogs!!! 

 Well puppy Ian is growing up! 

He is now just one week shy of being eight months old. He weighs 47 pounds and eats five meals a day plus his milk meal. This is the schedule: One cup of dry food when he wakes up, one cup of dry food mixed with bone broth and beef for breakfast (same as the other dogs eat), a bowl of milk mixed with an egg yolk when I am done milking Jane, another cup of dry food for lunch, a cup of dry food mixed with bone broth and beef for supper (same as the other dogs), and one plain cup of dry food when he goes to bed. All this and he is still skinny but very, very muscular! 

He is so much fun for everyone! Bess loves to wrestle with him, and she looks like an enraged polar bear as she charges after him, but she is still gentle with him when she finally pins him down to the ground. She is having a harder and harder time trying to catch the speeding bullet pup though. 

Connor is also having his troubles. You will remember that young Ian is not allowed to catch a Frisbee, but he is allowed to play keep away with it, and Kelsey and Connor love playing this game with him out in the field. At first, Connor didn’t even have to half try to win this game, but the young boy is now very fast and cunning, and he knows how to pivot around and keep the Frisbee for himself. Plus he is FAST!! 

We go on three long hikes a day, and we go in the woods and fields. The deep snow cramped our hiking style, but for the past few days, we can walk on TOP of the snow, and we love it!!! The dogs and I chase each other through the trees and just generally have a ball. Kelsey enjoys all the extra hiking that we do because of young Ian, as does Bess. 

Since all the livestock are safe in the barn at night, super livestock-guardian-dog Bess spends the night on the couch, lying on her back with her feet sticking in the air. She insists on sleeping in the mudroom on her Orvis bed until I go to bed, but then I persuade her to come into the house, and she makes her way to the couch and claims it for her own. 
(Bess' outdoor you think this Princess feels any peas?)

Now, I will move onto the cattle, which are the most challenging livestock in the wintertime. My cattle can go in and out of their half of the barn at will. There are fifteen of them, and they have a seventy foot by thirty foot section of the barn. They have high-quality dry hay in their hay manger at all times in the barn, and they have baleage outside. They need a new baleage every two days. That is my hardest job.

I put a round-bale feeder around the baleage, and with the crazy weather, it often gets frozen in the ground. Just picture it…the cows pull the baleage out through the feeder, stomp it in the ground, then it freezes, which cements the feeder to the ground. Baleage is wet anyway, so it loves to freeze down, making my life difficult. I work to clear away frozen baleage until I can get my hands under the feeder bottom rim. Then I try to heave it into the air, which is quite a workout! When I finally get that done, I roll it over to the next baleage, which is fenced off, so that the evil calves don’t rip the plastic off and eat it!

Of course the cows have absolutely no patience, even though they are not that hungry (remember the hay in the barn, plus the old bale of baleage is never completely finished), so while I frantically try to cut the baleage-wrap off the bale, remove the netting, and get the feeder over the bale, they keep threatening to stomp through the electric wire, which of course is not turned on, as I have to move it. Now next year, I will have my revenge, as young Ian will be there to help me keep the cattle back. He so wants to do this job RIGHT NOW, but he is too young and inexperienced to tackle this kind of work at this point. Just wait until next year, cows!

The cows have a nice deep-bedding area in the barn to sleep on, and I keep a big stock tank in there, so they always have water.

Now Jane, my super milk cow, made it clear to me that she is very exceptional and required special quarters, so I partitioned off a portion of the sheep section of the barn for her. It is probably about 25 feet by 30 feet. It is immaculately clean, as I pick up all manure multiple times a day, and she is fed special second-cutting baleage and hay, just like the sheep. She LOVES this arrangement! We are also practicing once-a-day milking, as she is close to the end of her lactation, but there is still plenty of milk for me, Ian, and the pigs.

Speaking of the pigs, I got two new piglets in December. 

The piglets were quite small, so instead of my usual three-times-a-day pig feeding schedule, I went to feeding them four or sometimes five times a day (five times in frigid weather). 

They get warm milk mixed with pig mash for these meals. They are too small to go outside in the deep snow, but they have a cozy pen in the barn, which is filled with deep hay for their bedding. They are growing fast!! 

The sheep are easy to make happy in the winter. They have their canoe filled with second-cutting dry hay, and they have their own baleage, which is also second cutting. The ram came to stay from just after Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s, so hopefully there will be lots of lambs in May. I have two ewes that are now eleven and also a ten-year-old. The rest are younger, and there are a total of nine ewes. One older ewe, Teasel, must have pulled a muscle in her leg, and she kept having trouble getting up. I was very, very worried about her, and I went out to check her many, many times in the day and before going to bed at night to make sure she wasn’t stuck, but she now seems to be totally fine, much to my great relief.

Llama Caterina is very happy that the ram is gone, as she hates him. She likes to spit at him and chase him away from the feeder canoe. She also does not like Bess, and to tell the truth, she is not that crazy about me either!! However, she does love the sheep, and she and I respect each other.  

The chickens are really doing quite well, considering the season. My chickens really have the life. They are locked up in their coop at night, but they can roam the 140 foot barn during the cold weather. They can go outside too, but most don’t want anything to do with snow. They enjoy picking through the cow hay, sheep hay, and baleage. I feed them organic layer mash, and I also give them scoops of black-oil sunflower seed multiple times in the day. They really, really love those sunflower seeds! That totally lifts them out of the winter blues!

I have all kinds of chickens now; Speckled Sussex, Buff and white Orpingtons, a Delaware, Red Stars, Black Stars, a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, and some mixed breeds. They are a colorful and interesting lot. I have gotten at least one egg daily throughout the entire winter!! This is important because young Ian needs his egg!!

I don’t want to forget to mention the cats. 

They just eat their free-choice, expensive, dry food, complain that they are not getting fed enough expensive canned food, which they get twice a day, and lay around the woodstove. Young Ian is totally obsessed with the cats, and they enjoy teasing him, as they are bored in the winter. My favorite cat, Skippy, is of course still a perfect cat, and she and I enjoy our winter naps, where I recuperate from fighting with the round-bale feeder.

So that is pretty much all I have to say. I think I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to live on such a beautiful farm and spend my days with my canine family, taking care of all the assorted livestock. I will be back with a spring update, which will hopefully include lamb and calf pictures, plus exciting pictures of young Ian learning his trade of being a super stock dog!!!

Keep warm and safe, and before we know it, it will be time to plant tomatoes!!!

Monday, February 4, 2019

More Stoning

There has been an awful lot of hiding in the barn...

...or freezing all my asses off...

...and way too much of this.... I have been playing with rocks again.

This is maybe part of a bigger project. Or not.  I'm not sure yet.

Seeing as how all the rocks are now frozen solid, I'm branching out into other mediums as well.

Which may, or may not be part of that other project.

And, of course, no project around here would ever be complete without a crazy Border Collie keeping track of everything and nagging me incessantly to do something fun.

He does look a bit incomplete though, I might have to make him a little stone frisbee.