Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Winter on the farm...

          There is a line in one of the James Harriot novels (my favorite) that says... The Yorkshire Dales look their coldest not when they are covered with snow but when there is just a patch here and there... How true that is and I think of it often. When we are covered with snow, it's always so much warmer. However, when it is zero degrees and that light fluffy snow is blowing around just barely covering a rock hard earth, that's when you know the true meaning of cold. Yesterday morning the wind chill was well below zero, the thermometer was hovering between one degree and zero. The alarm was set for 4:30 but Megg had me awake before then. The sound of donkeys braying comes through the window beside the bed. It's all I can do to keep her calm until the alarm goes off. She knows we need to get to the barn, she has so much to do. When I swing my feet out from underneath the down comforter and set them on the bare wood floors of this old farmhouse, I might as well have been walking on the frozen pond. The room is warm but the floors....brr. I shiver into my clothes, gather up the milk bucket, bottles, rabbit water bottles and fill the slop bucket with steaming hot water for the pig. I step out on the back porch with the steam rising from the pig bucket and my hand instantly sticks to the metal bail on the bucket. Whew, it's way past cold!  Heading to the barn, the sky is filled with twinkling stars. The stars somehow are so much brighter when it's zero. I open the barn door and am greeted by the sheep and the donkeys. The pig stirs from underneath layers of straw and begins to grunt. I take one of the thawed rabbit bottles and put it in the pen with our lop bunny who has 4 babies she is trying to keep warm. The babies are snuggled down in inches of straw and fur from the mama. She starts to drink the warm water before I can even finish hanging it. Megg and I go in and feed the sheep and water the chickens. The whole time we are being serenaded by donkeys braying and a pig squealing. It makes for quite a chorus. I slop the pig and grain the donkeys and things quiet down. Then we head to the other side of the barn where the goats are. It's much warmer over there. The thermometer in the milk room read 22. It feels good compared to zero. I  hang two more rabbit bottles, one in the pen of another doe who has 7 babies with her and then one in our calico bucks pen. Alright, rabbits done now I grain the goats. I make sure that the Angora does have fresh water and hay and check to make sure their babies are ok. Next I get the does on the stanchion and begin to milk. The steam rises from the milk bucket. When the milking is done, one by one each baby is brought out and fed their bottle. Right now I am bottlefeeding seven but I have one more doe to freshen so that number will go up. After their bellies are full of milk, they run around the barn like crazy. Down the isle way and then up the stanchion ramp, then back down the ramp and back up the isle way. It keeps Megg and I well entertained. After everyone is fed and watered, I gather up empty buckets and empty bottles and head back to the warm house to thaw out. If I hurry, I can make it back in by 6am to wake Tim up for work.  And so our day begins and it all has to be repeated in 12 hours. Would I trade it for anything? Nope.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Two New Heartbeats

             Here I am again, talking about the same thing that has occured over and over again on our farm. Two new little lives, two new little heartbeats, two new little first breaths being taken in my hands....does it ever get old? Does it ever feel routine?  Not yet. I still feel my heart start to pound as the doe is pushing, praying that the presentation will be right...two little front hooves and a nose. Praying for the doe and the babies, that all will be healthy and strong. Same place as a year ago. I still have the masssive white head of our Great Pyrenees, Teton, in my lap. "Yes, buddy, here we go again..." We lost Shasta this year so now it's just Teton to carry on. He and I wait patiently as the labor progresses. We both know the routine, it's always the same. I go to the milk room and get out the towels, hang them on the pen of the doe in labor. Get the iodine cup for the navels. Then we sit and wait. Teton and I. Last night it was Lilly, one of our Angoras. She was bred to a beautiful Angora buck named Romeo. It wasn't any time at all and we had a tiny white doe born and her sister followed right behind. She is a light silver color. Instantly I started to picture the yarn I would spin with that beautiful fleece. Both babies are healthy and strong. I made sure that they were both nursing and I gathered up the wet towels and headed out into the cold. Here I go again, back to the house, sometime after midnight, with wet towels under my arm and a bucket in my hand for the warm molasses water every doe gets after she has her babies. I've made this walk time and time again. I always check the sky, last night it was cloudy. Sometimes I am greeted with a billion stars. Does it ever get old?? I'll let you know in twenty years or so....maybe then it will be....Somehow I doubt it though.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Life with a Border Collie

           I know, I know. I have not been very faithful on postings but I feel like I say the same thing over and over again and I know you all must get tired of it. Life here on the farm doesn't change much and for me that's a good thing. Every thing revolves around the seasons and pretty much the same things occure, with a few diversions along the way.
             Since the first day of winter, we have had snow on the ground. I love winter and I love snow, so I am one happy camper. Winter gives me some time to be inside. I have been washing wool and mohair like crazy. Carding and spinning every chance I get and knitting when I have some spare time....yeah right. The does are fat and saasy and due to start freshening in a couple of weeks. I also have some Angora babies on the way, which is very exciting. Our ewes from are hopefully all bred for sometime in March. The ram that we got from them is so beautiful also. We are raising a pig this winter so we have a great use for all the table scraps. The chickens, ducks, geese and guineas are all fine too. We have added a pair of miniature donkeys, a jack and a jenny. The jenny is due to have a baby soon so we are excited about that.
             Like I said, everything is about the same as it was last year at this time....with the exception of a BORDER COLLIE. You all read about Megg last summer when we got her. What you don't know, is how a border collie changes your life. (unless you have one) She is so intelligent, so serious, so obsessive, (she suffers from OCD), so goofy, so intense. All rolled up into one little fireball. Tim says she is the perfect dog for me because I suffer from many of the same things she does, therefore I am able to completely understand where she is coming from. I am a morning person (Tim is not). When my feet hit the floor, I am ready to go. I set an alarm but rarely does it ever go off. I am  awake way before that. However, now that I have Megg, it NEVER goes off. She has a nice, soft dog bed that we got at Tractor Supply for her. It is on the floor on my side of the bed. She starts the night out there, but sometime around three o'clock she slips her front feet up on the bed and nudges me with her nose. I pull her up into bed and she snuggles right up to me. I know what she is thinking and I understand. She knows that we have slept long enough and there are things to tend to in the barn. We usually lie there for another hour or so, sometimes dozing, sometimes not. By 4:00 or 4:30, she has just about had all she can take and she starts to squirm. Now see, some people would hate this, Tim for one. He says that's just about the time he starts sleeping good. But I understand where she is coming from. I start to squirm too. So we get up, get dressed and head to the barn. She knows the routine, who gets fed first, who gets let out first. Don't try to change it because she knows how it is to be done. She keeps the sheep back while I put their grain in the troughs, then she runs to the chicken pen to open their door. Then it's over to the side of the barn where the goats are, to feed them, then back to the donkey pen to give them their grain. Then we feed the pig. Then to the milk room to check the rabbits and their babies. All of this is done at the speed of light. I can see her thinking that I move so slowly and she tries to be patient as I finish each and every chore under her watchful eye. She can't understand why I don't run from pen to pen like she does. On days that I work, Tim will do some of the chores before I get home. I know this must drive Megg crazy because he does them out of order and not the way I do them. But see, I understand that thinking (it drives me crazy too) The bottom line here is if you suffer from OCD like I do, get a border collie. But if you are one of those kind of people who are laid back and calm, you better get a Golden Retriever. Have a great day...I've got wool to wash.