A Day Outdoors

After two rainy days, the sun came out today and shone brilliantly all the day long. A perfect day for working outside! With everything that’s been going on around here the last few months, we’re horribly behind on our farm work. So, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping us cool, the children and I spent the day getting things caught up.

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Lynden helped me prepare the onion bed for planting. Who would have thought rolling spikes along the ground could be so fun and exciting? Little clumps of grass became “monsters” that needed to be eliminated, with Lynden the Brave coming to the rescue.

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Robin carefully dropped each little onion-in-waiting into its hole in the ground. He took this task very seriously indeed, hollering at anyone who came near the bed.  Our little green thumb was totally delighted when I raked the soil over and tucked the onions in to grow.

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Later, when it was time to put the trowel and rake away, we discovered a broody hen in the garage! Well, well, well – a torn old bag for a nest! And in the corner of a damp, dark garage, to boot. What a silly lady! It looked like she was sitting on eight eggs or so. Now we wait. How many will she hatch?

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For a while I tried to get some pasture seed sown in the goat/sheep yard, but quickly realised it was an exercise in futility. The chickens gobbled up every seed they could find. Pasture seed is not inexpensive! The seeding of the goat/sheep yard is going to have to wait until the rest of the chickens are confined in the almost-finished chicken tractor (the finishing of which will have to take priority this weekend!).  I did get lots of peas in the ground, as well as a large bed of beans (this year we planted Cherokee Trail of Tears, Aunt Emma’s, and Cranberry). The chickens don’t dig up the legumes like they do with smaller seeds, thank goodness.

ImageThe goats and sheep got a new salt lick today. This wouldn’t be an event worth mentioning, if not for Day Lily’s reaction. Apparently this was something to be excited over – Day Lily pranced around like it was Christmas morning, and kept returning to the salt lick to have a little nibble. You’d think the silly gal had never had a salt lick before.

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While I worked in the garden, Robin followed me around with the leftover onion starters. He refused to believe that I didn’t need to plant another onion bed, and was pretty mad at me when I said “No, thank you,” as he attempted to put onions in the bean bed. He brought this bag of leftover onion starters into the house with him, and sat down to dinner with the bag still clutched in one hand. When he realised that it would be difficult to eat with only one hand free, Robin sat on the onion bag. Oddler got quite a surprise when he sniffed at the bag and received a whack on the nose!

ImageRaina quite adamantly did not want to help in the garden today, which is quite unusual for her. Instead, she took her shirt off and ran through the fields, then spent much of her afternoon swinging and climbing. She scaled a tree, then cried for me to help her get down. She spun herself silly on the tire swing. She found a muddy place and squished her feet in, getting nice and dirty. I think it’s safe to say that Raina enjoyed her day.

So, while we’re still behind in the garden department, I did get onions, peas and beans into the ground. I got several beds weeded and ready for planting. And while it’s not as much as I would have liked, I have to remind myself that I did all of this with a month-old baby slung on the front of me and had to accommodate for several nursing breaks throughout the day. I’ll count this day as a success, however small my accomplishments.

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The Swing of Things

My recent pregnancy and birth took a lot more out of me than I anticipated it would, and Jae has shouldered the vast majority of the farm work for many months now.  Today I woke feeling much more like my normal old self than I have in a long time. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, and I really wanted to get back into the swing of taking care of this little farm.  After getting appointments (for mama and baby), speech therapy (for Raina) and grocery shopping out of the way, the kidlets and I spent our evening out in the yard, getting things back in order.

ImageLynden and Raina had picked out some bird houses from the dollar store a little while back, and today we finally found some places for them. (This one is sitting on a slab of concrete that protrudes from the tree – the tree actually grew around the concrete over the years and engulfed almost half of it!) It puts a smile on my face to see these cute little bird houses nestled in our trees. Whether the birds make use of them or not, they sure look sweet, and the kids were so excited to put them out there.

ImageGaia spent some time swinging in the shade of an old maple tree, which was just fine by her. She gazed around the yard, watched shadows dance on the blanket next to her face, and stared for a good long while at her brothers & sister playing nearby. Indoors, Gaia doesn’t usually want to spend time in her swing, but out in the yard it was another story altogether. I enjoyed having my body to myself for a little while!

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Dinosaur and the sheep were tethered in the front yard for a while to graze down the grass that is already becoming pretty darned long! They seemed to enjoy the fresh greenery and the shade of the maple. Dinosaur’s winter coat is shedding out, and she’s pretty patchy looking these days. I really ought to shave her, but the memory of Daisy’s recent shaving and all of the tiny bits of goat hair that stuck to me for days is a bit of a deterrent.

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Because the gardens were put to sleep for the winter and it wasn’t necessary to keep chickens out, our chicken tractor was out of use. Now that we’re almost ready to start putting some things in the ground, it’s time to confine the chickens. They can tear up a garden pretty fast! Jae and I filled the top of the tractor with fresh straw and moved it to a shady, thickly grassed area. The tractor doesn’t have wheels yet, so moving it is quite the labour-intensive task. That thing is heavy! We put six birds in for the time being. A second tractor is in the works, almost finished and soon to be filled.

I got a lot of debris raked up around the yard – twigs, branches, stray bits of straw, chicken poop – and we had a roaring fire going. The kids sat around on their little chairs, making plans for camping this Summer and having sleepovers. I managed to nearly fill the compster with chicken waste, which I’m sure the gardens will love in a few months’ time.

It was an unremarkable evening, much like other Spring evenings past, but it felt superb to be outside & working again. I haven’t moved my body this much in many months, and my limbs & back were rejoicing to be bending and lifting and working again. Physical activity sure does feel good.

Spring on the Farm

The weather has been incredible around here for the last several weeks and life is springing forth on the farm.

ImageThe chickens have been going crazy with the laying and we have more eggs than we know what to do with. Pickled eggs, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, eggs over easy, omelets, casseroles, fritatas, eggs florentine, eggs for baking with… after eating eggs every day, there are still six dozen in the fridge!

 

ImageJeremy and Platypus are pretty thrilled with the sunshine and warm weather, and have been happily quacking about. Platypus has generously donated a few dozen duck eggs for our breakfasts over the last several weeks.

 

ImageDay Lily and Sunflower are pretty darned shaggy. Next month I will try my hand at shearing them (aside from my one attempt at shearing with fabric scissors, I am totally inexperienced in this department). Perhaps soon I will get to washing, carding and spinning the several bags of fleece that are hiding out in my mudroom. I need to find a good project for Sunflower’s lovely fleece.

 

ImageDaisy and Dinosaur are becoming quite large in the middle. We are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their kids, and the return of goat’s milk! (Since several of you have asked, Daisy – on the left – is an Alpine doe. Dinosaur – on the right – is a Toggenburg/Saanen cross.)

 

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Oddler is growing whiter with age, losing his hearing, and developing cataracts, but he is still filled with youthful energy and can outrun our sprightly Beagle puppy, Echo. Last week, Oddler taught Echo how to tree a raccoon and chased a coyote out of the yard in the dark of the night. Not bad for an old boy!

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Lynden has caught all manner of small creatures: frogs, toads, snakes. Last Spring and Summer, we had a hard time with Lynden wanting to keep all the creatures he had captured. He just didn’t understand that we have to leave Mother Nature’s children in peace where they belong. Now, he’s come a long way – he keeps each captured creature for one night only, and the next morning releases them where he found them. Progress!

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There’s been lots and lots of bike riding around here lately. Our very long driveway is perfect for this beloved activity, and the kids have been out there every chance they get.

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ImageGaia is wonderful and beautiful, and charming us all. Her older siblings grow deeper in love with her with every passing day. I am amazed by her – so calm, so peaceful, so content. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard her cry since her birth. Gaia is the brightest blessing and I am filled with gratitude at being her mother. How did I get so lucky FOUR TIMES!?

Yessir, Spring has definitely arrived. It’s my favourite time of year, when everything is bursting with the freshness and newness of life, renewed.

A Sheep is Shorn

Thursday, July 21, 2011: a record-breaking hot day with temperatures of about 37 degrees Celcius.  Ridiculously hot.  Oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-breathe hot.  Dangerously hot.

While most of our animals found breezy, shady places in which to lay half-comatose, and drank plenty of water from the various pools and tubs we filled up, I worried about Lily the sheep under her incredibly thick coat of wool.  The poor girl was panting and bothered (though the smaller and less-wooly Sunflower seemed to fare better), and it was decided that we’d have to go ahead and shear her.  I had read about unshorn sheep dying of heat stroke in this kind of weather and felt a little panicked at the thought of anything bad happening to Lily, and I just really wanted the sweet lady to be a bit more comfortable.

Here begins the hilarity.  Catching Lily was a sport in itself.  Imagine, if you will, this farm mama and her husband in a hot barn, trying to corner a panicked sheep who is still getting used to the place.  The sheep runs nose-first into the corner in an attempt to escape, giving herself a nosebleed.  Finally she is caught, and we place a collar on her in order to bring her out into the yard.  (Have you ever tried leading a sheep on a collar?  Goodness me, what a farce! A head halter is the way to go with these lovely beasts.) Once in the yard, this farm mama and her husband wrangle with the sheep until she is sitting on her rump with all four feet in the air, looking perplexed.  Time to begin!

Do you think we have sheep shearing equipment?  Heck no, we do not!  We have pet clippers that we use to shave down the goats in the Spring.  It quickly became apparent that the pet clippers would not do the trick, and so we resorted to the next thing we could think of – fabric scissors.  Yes, that’s right, my brand new, very sharp fabric scissors.  The ones I have not even had a chance to use for cutting fabric, yet.

Now let me just say that going into this, I had never sheared a sheep before.  Ever.  I went up to Thistlecroft Farm for their shearing day (where I sat aside and watched in fascination), but beyond that my only experience has been watching YouTube how-to’s.  Even with proper equipment, the job would have been tough.  With fabric scissors, it was a joke.

Lily escaped twice and had to be caught and wrangled back into position, causing mayhem in the barnyard.  Miss Molly the Border Collie went crazy with herding lust (she’s not yet trained), while the goats and Sunflower the sheep came running to see what was going on.  The kids all woke up from their naps around this time, coming out into the yard to cry about the heat.  Jae and I were sweaty and covered in tufts of wool.  It was the stuff of movies, I tell ya.

In the end, after over an hour of clip, clip, clipping with my fabric scissors, I had most of Lily’s wool off.  It was not in one piece, it was not even, and it will not be usable for spinning.  It is headed for the manure pile.  I’m ok with this! Lily is much more comfortable now, and that was the goal.  I didn’t go in with the scissors today hoping for a fleece to spin.  I went in with the intention of saving my sheep from the heat.  I think I succeeded!

Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh – I still haven’t stopped, myself.  She has a mane, it’s true!  Jae was holding her head & neck and so we decided to just get the job done and forget about her head for now.  The rest of her is shorn and Lily is much cooler now, and that’s what really matters at this point. (See the ridiculous collar?  Oh, my!)

Sunflower was so happy to have her dear Lily return to graze beside her, though paused to sniff at her again and again, as though slightly confused about her lack of wool coat. I was happy to get the thick and sticky lanolin washed off my hands, the sweaty shirt off my back, and enjoy a cool shower.

I think I’ll need more practice before I really get serious about shearing my own sheep…(Though I must say that I’m pretty impressed with how even I was able to cut with those fabric scissors!)

In Sheep’s Clothing

This weekend I had the joy of attending a friend’s sheep shearing party with my mom and my daughter.  Their farm is gorgeous and we were surrounded by such lovely people.

My mama and my daughter made some new friends.

 

We were surprised by how calm and patient the sheep were while being sheared.

Raina was totally captivated by the shearing and watched very intently for a long time.

 

Sheep are such beautiful animals. We bought one!

At the end of it all, my sweet girl was tuckered right out.

 

Shearing day was pretty fantastic!  I wish I had more days like this in my life, with great people gathered together, enjoying life with each other, smiling and laughing and just having a grand old time.  We’re alone too much on our little farm!

 

And an aside – I’ve been spinning up some new yarns the past few days.  I can’t get enough of my spinning wheel!  Soon I’ll have a large new selection of yarns in my Etsy shop!

Bamboo/Alpaca blend... it is so soft and luxurious, I want all of my clothing to feel like this! Totally dreamy!

Happy weekend to you all!