First up - Julie and I trekked to Kentucky to visit thecrazysheeplady at Equinox Farm. It's a vacation for us although our 'men folk' back home have extra work with our various creatures. Maybe the resultant peace and quiet is a good trade off for them. ;-)
This was the maiden voyage for my new truck! The big Dodge was retired and traded in on this new Toyota Tacoma. This seems to be the only brand and model on the face of the Earth with a manual transmission, four wheel drive and a six foot bed. We've never had a Toyota but was willing to try. As I write this five months after the purchase I can say that we're hugely impressed and very happy with this vehicle. And Andy was NOT happy with this picture - the angle makes him look like a bent old man and that ain't the case. ;-)
Kentucky was plenty hot which suited me just fine. One of the fun (for me) things we did was put on bee suits and check on the health of neighbor Stella's beehive.
Miss Stella, surveying the situation
Someone else was keeping a close eye on the goings-on, too. You never can tell when something might need to be herded on a moment's notice.
Julie took pictures with my camera so there aren't any close-ups, but basically the hive was OK except for an infestation of tiny, tiny ants under the lid of the beehive and the bees were really angry about it.
After Sara took the lid off we could see the ants and brushed off as many as we could find on the underside of the lid and the top edge of the frame. They seemed to only be under the lid, not down inside the hive. The bees calmed down a good bit after that.
We took the upper box off and set it aside as not much was going on there. The next level down had some frames with honey.
The bees seemed busy and present in good quantity. Sara felt things were going well in the hive and we put everything back together. I found it very interesting and something that would be fun to do.....someday when I don't have fifty other fun things pending. ;-)
We spent some time refining Sara's monarch butterfly nursery set up, collecting more caterpillars from the wild, releasing butterflies that had hatched (The proper term for that is 'eclosed'. There, that's a thing you know now.) and trying to take pictures of the stages along the way. She put up several really good pictures on her blog.
Poor Kate found it dreadfully boring.
It did rain off and on most days so setting the adult butterflies free was dependent on when the sun came out. The sheep didn't care for the rain either and most of the flock spent a lot of time in the barn under the big fans but Rocky and Jared, two retired (and neutered) breeding rams originally from our farm, didn't care if they got wet and were often the only two sheep out grazing.
When we did get an opportunity to let butterflies go, they usually went up into a tree to rest and adjust to their new reality. One has to wonder whether they remember being a caterpillar and have to wrap their mind around now being different than they were. Or maybe they don't remember what happened to them two seconds ago and suffer no existential crisis over their changed condition. They do remember how to get back to where they hatched after wintering in Mexico..... Hmm, so many mysteries.
We had the good fortune to visit when Sara and Stella were celebrating their birthdays (momentous numbers for both) and so naturally there had to be a party. And because the forecast was for rain it was planned for the barn.
"A party?? Gladys, that usually means cookies!"
"Did somebody say 'cookies' ?
"Cookies? Meh. I do not care for cookies."
"But Cheerios........if there were to be Cheerios.......... "
"Um, I like cookies AND Cheerios. Just so you know."
"I'm not really sure if I want you to throw me a party."
"Wait - what do you mean the party's NOT for me? It should be."
The party was grand, with lots of food and friends and cake. It did rain so being in the barn was smart although Gladys went to bed before it ended.
By the time Sara gave everyone a last scritch before bed the clouds had rolled back to show a full moon.
"I'm in bed and I'm not getting up, even for scritches."
"Did somebody say 'scritches'?"
Everybody who wanted petting got some quality time.
Woody came from our farm and spent some time with me getting reacquainted.
Talk about leaving an impression on someone. He was damp, leaned against me and left this pattern on my jeans.
Jared has revealed himself as a lover at heart and seeks attention when ever possible. The photo is unfortunately blurry but it shows his sweet nature. I'm so glad he and so many others have landed with Sara.
The next day was sunny. And hot. And humid. These butterflies were 'mud-puddling' at the foot of Stella's driveway. There's a monarch - maybe one that Sara raised.
And this pretty one was by itself.
We took Stella on a little tour in The Unit to check the cattle behind her property, look at some barn renovations and just see what the neighbors were up to. ;-)
The neighbor's horse enjoyed some watermelon rind from Julie as a treat.
The cattle were about as comfortable as anyone could be. All they lacked were beach chairs and a cooler of adult beverages.
On the way back Sara stopped to snap the farm from the perspective of Stella's yard. We'll call this 'Girl with camera looking home'.
All too soon it was time to head back to New York. One last breakfast on the porch with everyone. (Dreadful picture through the screen door, but that's Tilly, Comby and Gladys companionably sharing kibble).
The flock was out grazing.......
..... and Betsy waited to say goodbye.
"So long, hoomans!"
So long, Betsy. See you next year!