Tuesday, June 28, 2011

blueberry run

In what is shaping up to become an annual event, the boys and I headed south today for our annual blueberry purchasing event. We passed fields upon fields of blueberry bushes so loaded with berries that they looked like they were covered with beautiful purple blooms. You will have to picture this using the wonderful gift of imagination because I forgot to bring my camera. Next year!

Eighteen flats of blueberries (plus some sheep feed) in a pickup bed looks like this:

Not all ours! Most are for friends and relations.

The inevitable question arises: why go all the way to South Jersey for blueberries? In a nutshell: the price of buying them direct from the farmer can't be beat, even with the cost of gas -- and lucky us, it really isn't that far. The way we go through berries around here, we will have them used up well before next season.

I am already worried that I didn't buy quite enough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

a hiking sort of weekend

These two spent the weekend on an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail with my brothers -- they have a new appreciation for what it means to pack light:

It was their Christmas gift. Rather than buy them "some thing" my brother S. tries to give them a special time alone with him. My other brother D. was able to join them and it appears a fun and somewhat smelly time was had by all. My brother S. has two small boys of his own, and called me to marvel that about the level of intelligent conversation that was possible with teenagers that were developing into actual people. Of course, it helps that he isn't one of their parents.

That left us with one boy. You might think that would mean an easier weekend. You would think wrong. He dictated our weekend activities to us like a cruise director on steroids.

We also hiked, because why should they get all the hiking?

We fished.

We actually caught a fish (but dad had to help get it off the hook).

We played board games, watched movies on DVD, went out for dinner, watched a movie at the movie theater, and topped it all off with root beer floats.

So much for getting my brothers to give us a break by taking two boys off our hands!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

first harvest

Exactly one month ago, our garden looked like this:

Lots of weeds, with dead tomato plants from last summer -- still in their wire cages -- to add vertical interest.

Life was off-the-charts crazy, I was behind on everything, and I couldn't possibly imagine how we were going to get a garden in. 

I briefly considered not having a garden at all this year.

I quickly came to my senses after the obligatory wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I buckled down to getting the beds cleared, one at a time. It was eventually planted over the course of the last month, with the first things going in just before Memorial Day and the eggplant getting in the ground just two days ago.

One month later, the garden looks like a proper garden. The list in the sidebar has been updated to show all that's growing.

Last night we enjoyed the first fruits of our labors: three lovely yellow squash, sauteed in olive oil with onions.

Pretty amazing to go from the jaws of defeat to a tasty side dish in thirty days. That, in a nutshell, is why I couldn't imagine not having a garden.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

a new project

For once: not me. Well, sort of me, but just in a peripheral support role.

A few months back, someone suggested in passing to Primo that fixing up a tractor would be a great 4-H project. It kind of marinated for a while... I mentioned it in passing to the mother of a friend of his... and before I knew it, a new 4-H club was born.

A suitable broken-down tractor was found and donated.

Several great kids expressed an interest.

Knowledgeable leaders volunteered.

A mechanic's shop was provided.

Luckily, they were all in the same place, with the exception of some of the kids. The club was in business.

The tractor looked like this when they started:

There is a tractor under there, hidden by a front loader which has since been removed. The kids figured out it is a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee, made to commemorate the fiftieth year of Ford Motors.

They have been steadily dismantling it ever since, having a ball (and hopefully learning something) in the process. Their biggest obstacle is the cost of parts but they are chipping away at that as well. I spent today with them and their animals at the local Tractor Supply, selling hot dogs and lemonade and general goodwill.

If you want to follow their progress, they have started a blog: rustybolts.blogspot.com. The blog is the work of one member; pretty impressive, I think, especially for his first time doing this sort of thing. Become a follower and make his day!

Before you chastise me for adding another thing to my plate, let me explain: it's all part of my Grand Plan, to keep them as constructively busy as possible throughout their teenage years and hope for the best. I'll let you know in ten years how it works out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

rain turkey

We had a whopper of a thunderstorm last night, which lasted well over three hours. Dogs were barking, kids were sleepwalking, I was mentally inventorying the location of all the animals to make sure they had shelter. (They did, but this blog's title is quite literal.)

The morning brought an unusual visitor to our back porch; not sure if it had anything to do with the storm, because we haven't seen a wild turkey around here in years. By the time I grabbed my camera she had already retreated to the willow tree.

Before we knew it, she was on top of the center paddock fence.

I have years of memories of my dad trying to take close-up shots of wild turkeys -- to the point that his attempts to sneak up on them became a family joke. Now I finally appreciate the difficulties. Sorry Dad!

In case you are wondering if this blog should be renamed "losing sleep counting birds," I'll include a gratuitious kid shot. Which has nothing to do with sheep, but at least it's not birds.

His older brother had just trudged to the end of the drive in the pouring rain to get him off the bus, only to have his little brother yell "I'm going out in the rain. It's fun to run in the rain!" and take off. The look on the elder's face pretty much sums it up -- but does not at all reflect his excitement at finishing his first year in high school today. Gee, that went quickly!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

the worms crawl in

Let me start by saying this post will not have any illustrative photos, and you can thank me right now.

One of the things that people don't warn you about when you are a dewy-eyed farmer-wanna-be is the extent to which you will have to think about worms. And not those cute little brown worms in your garden, either. Those are the good worms. I am always happy to see them in the spring when I start hoeing the raised beds.

No, I am talking about the bad worms. The ones that try to eat your son's rabbit alive and have you spending three weeks shoving antibiotics down the poor rabbit's throat in an attempt to stave off infection. The ones that have you scanning sheep droppings for evidence of their numbers and strength (another thing you don't get warned about, the time you will spend analyzing fecal matter).

The lambs are in the barn with a hefty dose of wormer on board, with the hope that they will shed their nasty passengers in an area that will not reinfect others in the flock. The rabbit is in the basement, still trying to recover from a horrid case of flystrike (read: maggots), with the distinct possibility that he will never be able to live outside again.

Me? I am trying not to dream about white creepy-crawlies...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

there's gold in that there tree

A flash of gold outside the window caught my eye as I came into our bedroom around noon today.

Closer investigation revealed a little bit of magic in the birch tree next to the house. It was loaded with goldfinches busily eating the seed pods.

Secondo tried to capture how many were hopping around up there, but it was almost impossible through the window—and you couldn't see them from the ground.

How many can you find? I can pick out seven in this shot...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

with apologies to our neighbors

Of all the events in the shepherding calendar, this is the one I dislike the most.

It's weaning time.

I know it has to be done. The lambs need to get ready to go to new homes by themselves. Their dams' bodies need a break from the demands of producing milk, so they can rebuild to start the whole task over in the fall. The dams' udders, especially, need to escape the pummeling they receive on a daily basis, before permanent damage is done.

I know all the reasons. But I still hate it.

We tried a new system this year. Starting Saturday, we separated the ewes and lambs for a few hours. The lambs and their mothers only had a fenceline in between, so they could see and talk to each other, but no nursing for eight hours. We let them back together for the night.

On Sunday, the time increased to ten hours; on Monday, twelve.

Yesterday was the break. As the dams bellowed in desperation from their pasture, we ran twelve fat woolly little lamb butts up into a completely separated paddock. They spent the day calling to each other, back and forth, moms and babies, question and answer.

Did I mention how much I hate weaning time? 

Unfortunately, they also spent most of the night calling to each other. This is where the apologies to the neighbors comes in. I feel as if I need to send them fruit baskets or something.

We checked on the ewes' udders this morning. Despite the decibel level, this system seems to have worked well in terms of getting the message to the milk production system that its services are no longer needed. Very few ewes seem to be having an issue, and hopefully we will get them dried up soon.

The lambs also seem to be doing OK, as you can see from my super-stealth spy picture taken from behind the shed, to make sure they didn't spot me and start up again.

The heat today (almost 100 degrees F in this neck of the woods) seemed to sap their energy to protest today. They are finally quiet, for the moment at least.