Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Hedge

The privet hedge is in full bloom.

Honey bees, bumble bees, flies that look like bees, butterflies.... the hedge is alive with happy busy insects. 

I wish I could share the perfume with you.  This must be what Heaven smells like.  :-)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

They're Ba-a-a-a-ck

Honey bees have again taken up residence in the old locust tree right outside our front door.   After swarming last summer - and the swarm was picked up and lives with our friends Nick and Deb - there was some activity around the tree but it seemed like a very small population and then by September we didn't see bees anymore at all.  I guess whoever stayed behind couldn't make a go of it and so they lived out their little bee lives and died.

It was sad in a way, but both Andy and I had been stung and we were concerned a visitor would get nailed and since we didn't DO anything to the bees to hurt them we just put it down to "nature's way".  Well, yesterday it was nature's way to repopulate the tree :-/

We didn't see what direction they came from, but in the time it took to walk past the tree, get something from the upper barn and walk back, they had arrived and begun moving in.
They came at a good time.  Of course everything is blooming, but they have roses.....
....a mock orange bush......
...and soon the out. of. control. Amur River privet hedge will be in full bloom.  Fun how nature has that all worked out, eh?
We moved the sheep back over into the south pasture.  They had made the most of the middle north pasture and the south had regrown nicely.  In a perfect world we'd have let that pasture stay unoccupied longer to avoid potential parasite issues, but we only just cut one pasture for hay and the other which was cut a couple of weeks ago hasn't regrown sufficiently.
Flopsy and Nugget came outside last so I 'helped' them work their way down below the Baby Pasture to graze.  Then I could step over the fence and make a getaway. 
The grass is yummy and tender and with Nugget as a role model Flopsy is doing a bit better with her grazing.

So this is what we do?  Eat the grass?
Yes!  That's why you're up to your eyeballs in it.  Sheesh..... little kids.... <chomp, chomp, chomp> 
Well, OK, but it seems like there ought to be more to it.
Sometimes it's the little stuff that throws you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer's Here!

The calendar says so, and so does the workload.  We are now into hay season and will continue as long and as fast as the weather (and our stamina) allow.

This field, closest to the house, has an alfalfa and grass mixture.  The grass is a teensy bit older than we'd like but the alfalfa portion is perfect.

Raking it into windrows
Three full wagons - about 375 bales of the 960 that came off this field
Ready to unload into the hay mow
One unexpected wrinkle is that the 1066 tractor needs to go to the dealer's for repairs.  A while ago they installed a new fuel injector pump and ever since it's been lacking power when under a load.  Turns out those pumps should really be replaced at a dealership so they can put the tractor on a dynamometer to make sure the timing is correct.  It would have been nice to know that before they put it in.
Anyway, the trailer came this morning to fetch it.
Andy drives it on.....
Chains are secured front, back and sideways, then the driver asks about a possible shortcut to another place he has to go.

Off it goes, and hopefully it will come back soon and working properly.  We're not looking forward to the bill, but machinery has to work.
Back to work for us.  We're burning daylight and there's still twelve hours to put to good use.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Stress is Just Too Much

The weight of all the decisions has finally taken its toll on Dexter.

Which of ten windows should I look out of?  Upstairs or down?  Or I could take a nap.  Couch? Chair? Top of the grandfather clock?  Bed?  Other couch?  Maybe I should go eat some kibble.  I could dump the water dish, but I did that yesterday.  Kick litter out of the box?  Already done.  Dashed out the front door when it opened, too.  I don't know..... I just can't decide..... I'm so confused.  Nothing really speaks to me.

I shall stay here until a thought comes to me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Big Lots

As Monday's go, today was a pretty good one.  We're both starting to feel like we're Getting Things Done.  Some days all you do is tread water, then there are those few days where you actually make progress.

For me, it was getting the Cotswold wool ready to go to the mill.  There it is - one hundred pounds of skirted, sorted, reasonably uniform wool from about ten fleeces.  It's going to be turned into four different weights of yarn by Stonehedge Fiber Mill

Isn't it purty?

As I sort through each fleece I separate the very nicest for the yarn and put the rest (a bit shorter, maybe a bit discolored) into the bag to be washed and dyed for roving.  I've already accumulated enough to have this roving done....

...a nice big batch of twenty-two pounds.  It was supposed to be Beneath the Waves but I put in way more green than was called for so now I need to give this colorway its own name.

Under the Sea?  I'm still spinning a sample skein so the colors may speak more loudly to me after the fiber is yarn.  I've got almost enough accumulated of another colorway to have more roving made.  I'll keep Diane at Acorn Works busy.

Andy was able to knock down a whole field of hay today.

The orchard grass component of it is older than we'd like but the alfalfa is just right.  Last Saturday he baled the two pastures that he cut almost two weeks ago.  They will only make bedding, but thanks to his diligence in keeping it fluffed up the forage didn't mold or rot so it wasn't a total loss.  You can only do what the weather allows.

The yearlings have had the last of their backyard pasture today.  Tomorrow I'll swing the fence off to the north side of the woodworking shop and let them work on the grass over there.  The netting is working out very well, really, although I still don't go out of sight or earshot of them for very long.

They aren't quite in the house, but almost!

Monday set the bar pretty high.  Let's see what Tuesday can do.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Nice Day

We seem to be in a pattern of one nice day followed by three wet ones. 

The sheep made the most of it yesterday, which was beautiful.

And the rams couldn't be bothered to lift their heads for a picture.

Andy dutifully tedded the hay in the 2 fields he cut, knowing full well it would get soaked again today (which it did) but you have to keep fluffing it up to keep it from rotting if you hope to even bale it for bedding.  Then he attacked the lawn while I kept working in the wool shop. 

I got some Cotswold dyed and laid out to dry.  This is two of the three colors that make up Autumn Spice, which I'm out of.

Holly collapsed in the sun which is what I wanted to do, but didn't.  She gets depressed and bored in the house in wet weather but doesn't want to go out, either. 
"Because I'll get. wet.  Duh."

Flopsy kept a keen lookout from the knoll behind the barn in case I came to the back door to call her.  She's a clingy little lamb and believes she's Not A Sheep and isn't real happy about having to live with them (or more to the point, without me there).

One nice part about all the rain is that the sheep are really clean.  This time of year they sometimes look grimy just from barn dust and dirt.  It's been nice every night at chore time to wander through the lambs while they're eating their grain treat and look at the fleeces.  The Cotswold lambs are showing their curls and luster quite well now.  This is a nice broad-backed ram lamb from Lucky.

Another really nice Cotswold next to a crossbred lamb.

"Am I a crossbred?"

Yes, you are and you'll be going to a nice new home soon.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Foggy Friday

Pushing two inches of rain.  The sheep are mighty clean, but the feed bunk where they rest at night was so wet that Andy did a complete clean out today and we put down fresh bedding.

The hay he cut is lying wet out in the field.  The pastures, corn, oats and new seeding are happy. 

I'm saying the glass is half full.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We Don't Really Plan to Collect Antiques on Purpose......'s just that with our size of farm and bank account the older equipment is usually what we can afford.

Among other things, we raise oats.  Andy started doing that shortly after the dairy cattle were sold in 2000.  We feed some of the grain to the sheep, sell some and use the straw as bedding in the barn.  We generally plant somewhere between 12 and 18 acres, depending on what field is being rotated into or out of something.  Since we did not have a combine we always had to find someone to come and harvest the grain for us.  Those folks that had such machinery were either farming on a large scale themselves or had old (read:  really, really worn) equipment.  Each year we'd hold our breath as the oats got close to being ready.  Would the big guy be able to get away from his 500 acres to do our 15 before that hurricane comes up here to die?  Is the other guy's old equipment still running or did it break this week and we have to wait while he tries to fix it?  Will it drop half the oats in the field like last year or dump huge amounts of ragweed seed into the bin like the year before?  Every year has been an adventure in acid reflux while waiting to see how things would shake out.

 Last year was the kicker - the oats were ready, the fellow with old equipment had been notified the week prior that they would be ready to harvest, and by mid-week (with hurricane remnants predicted for the weekend) when he hadn't gotten in touch, we called him only to be told that he couldn't to it today because he really wanted to go to Empire Farm Days. (Picture facepalm and cursing)  It all worked out - the oats got combined and the straw baled literally hours before the start of a week-long rain event - but we decided we weren't going to go another year having to depend on someone else's schedule.

Enter our newest acquisition.......

A John Deere 4400 self-propelled combine, circa 1972.  It's 40 years old, but runs well and should last us as long as we want to use it.  There are some cosmetic issues, but what 40 year old doesn't have those?  A few things really do need attention - lack of brakes is kind of a biggie (they had been using the hand brake but we'd like something better), and one tire needs replacing but we have one the right size sitting on a shelf.

It was an Oversize Load going up the expressway.  You can kind of see that the big tires are only hanging on by half the width.  It's still small by today's standards. 

But it's plenty big enough for us when measured against our big pile of logs.  Getting it maneuvered into a building for the winter will be a treat.

Used combine, trucking expense, pending repairs..... a not-insignificant chunk of change.
Not being dependant on someone else to harvest your crop.....priceless.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Good Help is Hard to Find

Despite our best intentions the back lawn got out of control.  Riding the mower for a couple of hours was just not a priority (for a lot of days).  Happily, the group of yearlings we've been housing in the upper barn agreed to help us out.  I resurrected the electric net fencing, got a new battery at Tractor Supply and set them to work.

There was a pretty steep learning curve until they came to understand that the fence bites...every time.... everywhere.   I kept an eagle eye on them for the first four or five days.  I'm nervous about the fencing because I know of people who have lost lambs to being tangled and shocked to death.  All it takes is somebody behind you to shove you into the fence and get your legs tangled.... eesh.  Don't even want to think about it. Even now we keep them under supervision,  but they are doing fine.

Of course the low hanging apple tree branches got totally stripped.  The Cotswolds were especially efficient at that :-/

I'm telling myself it's OK because those whippy branches don't really produce apples and they are terrible eye pokers during those times I actually do ride the mower under and around them.

Brother and sister bottle lambs from last year, Mickey and Minnie.  They were more well behaved and stuck to eating the grass underfoot.

We Cotswolds are independent thinkers, you know.
Hmm, yes, but the electric netting will curb that a bit.  You just worry about that lawn you're supposed to be mowing for me.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday Stills - Sky

This week's challenge was to capture the sky - something interesting, a mood or a look....

The weather obliged by putting a rainbow over the barn.  It was too wide for my camera to catch the ends, but you get the idea.  I think it's neat how the sky under the rainbow looks so much more pale than the sky above - like the rainbow is a dome holding the heavier clouds up and away.

I don't know about being "somewhere over the rainbow" but I'm happy enough being under it.