Thursday, October 1, 2015

Enjoy Each Day While You May

A walk with Holly on a nice September day is always a treat.  She's only business-like if she thinks we're walking next door for a play date with Angel and Brandy.  Otherwise she pokes along sniffing everything, listening for the occasion mousie in the grass and leaving messages for the rest of the world that reads that sort of thing.  The other day, late afternoon, we were down on the lower farm walking along the lane where the field meets the woods.  That section of field didn't get worked this year and grew up to goldenrod, asters, milkweed, various grasses, thistles.... in other words, lots of tall weeds.  Holly was busy nosing into a multiflora rose bush on the edge of the woods, probably looking for the chipmunk who had been swearing at us as we approached.  I was happy to stand with my face to the sun and soak up some heat as all too soon it will be over for another year. The light was coming at a low angle and shining through puffy seed heads and spent foliage and I noticed something bright and pretty.  See it?

Someone else was enjoying the afternoon sun's rays, basking while he/she could.

Apparently I looked pretty non-threatening because I got very close without alarming it.  I think it's a Checkerspot but I'm not sure - maybe a Pearl Crescent.  Either would be likely given the habitat.

Whatever the case, we shared a moment in the sun and I'm glad we met.  The days are filled with little blessings if you just slow down and look.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September in Pictures

And maybe a few words of explanation here and there.  The fact that I at least TOOK pictures throughout the month reaffirms that I intended to be blogging along, it just didn't happen.  :-/

The fall flowers bloomed, such as our purple coneflower.

Our vigorous honeybees swarmed for a third time - usually a bad move as the swarm can't hope to make enough honey to sustain themselves through the winter.  Luckily they went into a bush two feet off the ground and a beekeeper came and collected them so they'll be cared for and have a better chance of surviving.

Not sure what he's going to be, but this pretty caterpillar was hurrying over the hot concrete on our side porch one afternoon.

The sheep enjoyed about three weeks in the south pasture which had regrown nicely.  There were many days in the nineties and the flock would graze until mid morning and then come into the bunk and hang out under the big fans.

One day Peanut wasn't feeling well and was slow to go out with everyone else.  The heat likely gave her a touch of pneumonia.

Some of the oldest ewes kept calling to her to come along which was sweet and kind of remarkable since she's a bottle lamb with no real "family ties" but she must be everyone's friend.  A few days of antibiotics helped a lot and she's fine now.

We had enough dry weather that we could get our second cutting of hay.  Woot!  Now we have enough for winter.  Then we got some good rains which made these butterflies happy...

...and pushing along an awesome crop of apples off our old trees.  This is a Pound Sweet.  I've got applesauce in my future.

Stewart Little did some growing!

And got shorn along with all the other lambs.

Alexi....silly kitty. Sigh.

I had an order for six half fleeces going to Israel.  That's a first for me.  I managed to get them all in this box. (Cat not included).

I did a fair bit of dyeing for the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.

Then it was the festival weekend and our spot (in a brand new building!) went from this..... this.  I think it looked pretty good and nobody knows what we didn't get finished to put on the shelves except us.  ;-)

And now the month is almost over.  The woods are changing fast.

And tonight is both a super moon AND a lunar eclipse.  And we don't have clouds!  Whee!

The next big jobs will be cleaning out the barn before the sheep come off pasture (still several weeks away, I hope!) and of course firewood.  Oh, and picking corn.  And still skirting and dyeing wool. Yardwork, yeah. Someday I have to do dishes.........  well, a whole shiny new month is coming up and I have high hopes!

Monday, September 21, 2015


5/4/2002 - 9/17/2015

Farewell to a most excellent cat.  Congenial with the other barn kitties, a good mouser, appreciative of petting and scritches and friendly through the screen door to the indoor cats.  Sadly missed.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Busy Day and Night

Our honeybees have been working so hard this year!  They've put out two swarms who have gone off into the world and are hopefully doing well.  Now that the goldenrod is in full bloom they are really going nuts bringing home pollen to convert to honey.  They pack it into little baskets on their hind legs and tote it into the tree.

I didn't even realize I had caught a bumblebee taking a look at all the activity until I biggified the photo.

For some reason, watching each bee march into the crevice with their yellow legs makes me think of Yosemite Sam stumping along with his big flaring chaps and six-guns.  ;-)

And after the bees have worked all day bringing in pollen they are busy all night too, taking turns standing on the 'doorstep' of the hive fanning their wings to move air and evaporate excess moisture from the new honey (and just cool the hive from a day of high summer heat) and bring it to the right consistency for preservation.  The flashlight didn't bother them but the buzzing from the tree could give someone the heebie-jeebies if they were leery of bees in general.  Be sure to turn up the sound to get the full effect.
I'm seriously thinking of using the winter months to learn enough about keep bees that I'll be prepared next summer when a swarm decides to leave the tree.  This main group has survived the winter and is doing well now. If it survives this coming winter too it will certainly indicate they are a hardy line and if I could just put them into a "real" beehive.....
Just what we need - more livestock and associated work.  Heh. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Raising Royalty

Monarch butterflies are reported to be in decline and I agree that there seem to be fewer and fewer each fall. I'm not that old but when I was a kid the autumn afternoons seemed thick with them fluttering around.  Now when I see one it's cause for comment.  I'm sure there are several reasons for the decline including loss of habitat, the use of chemicals in the environment and changing climate.  Another culprit I'm guessing is the population surge the last few years (at least here in the northeast US) of stink bugs aka shield bugs.  While they are described as being an agricultural pest and cause lots of damage by piercing fruit and sucking the juice out, leaving an icky spot prone to rot, I've seen them doing the same thing to caterpillars - apparently they aren't all vegetarians.  :-(

Monarchs have very specific needs and the main thing they need are milkweed plants for the caterpillars to eat.  Every year I check the milkweed that grows in the ditches and hedgerows and headlands for them.  In the last few years I haven't seen any youngsters despite searching.  This year, they're here in force!

From a farmer's perspective this is a hay field infested with milkweed which needs to be eradicated before it takes over the field.  From a Monarch's point of view it's a super nursery.  All those standy-up plants out there are young milkweed.

I had found four caterpillars on milkweed plants in the overgrown weed patch out front which used to be a strawberry bed.  That was cause for celebration!  Then Andy and I wandered back and forth along one edge of the field right next to the ram pasture and counted about 60 caterpillars in ten minutes and those were just the ones we could see easily without crawling around looking under leaves.  I'm happy to say they were everywhere!

Big fat ones the size of my pinkie.

Teeny wee little ones.

One milkweed had two chewing on the top two tender young leaves.

They all looked hale and hearty with the exception of one which had come to grief at the business end of one of the aforementioned stink bugs.  I know it's "nature's way" but let's just say the stink bug will never see another sunrise.

Knowing the caterpillars are out there we will definatly wait until as late as possible into the fall to deal with the milkweeds.  We want to give the Monarchs every chance to grow up and get gone. 

"Thanks!  It's tough trying to grow into a butterfly!"

Glad to help, little fella.  Try to come back next year and bring your friends!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking

"Hi, Alexandria here.  I've heard that lots of nice people are inquiring about me, and how I've been getting on after falling in that hole.  I'm pretty good considering my age."

"I'm back out with the flock and getting around fine.  Nothing wrong with me.  Well, except being older than dirt.  That was a weird thing, though, being stuck in a hole all night.  Took me a while to get steady on my feet again.  Sure glad my people found me. Could have been a lot worse, I guess."

"But that was in the past and I don't worry too much about that.  See, we just got moved back into the south pasture and the grass is really good over here."

"Hey, are you paying attention out there?  OK.  So today's a real nice day - sunny with some wind - and the birds and crickets are chirping and we're making the most of it.  Us sheep don't worry too much about what's in the past. We pretty much concentrate on the present and with all this good grass it's hard to think about much besides eating.  My little pal, Stewart, is a good eater.  He's taken to following me around and we get on pretty good together."  

"Say hi to the nice people, Stewart.  Stewart!  Well, he's kinda busy right now."

"So thanks for asking about me.  You have a nice day now.  I'm just gonna stand here and think deep thoughts and chew my cud a little."

Next time, an update from the people!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sunday Stills - Going Buggy

It's time to get down and dirty with the insect world. If spiders and bees are not your forte try butterflies and lady bugs. :-)

Actually I do  like spiders and bees but I took these pictures a couple of years ago and am happy to finally have a good time to share.

A lovely big luna moth resting on the trunk of a black walnut tree about three feet off the ground.  What a treat!!

So. fuzzy.  Must resist urge to pet!

For more Sunday Stills.....