Thursday 28 August 2014

Work Station

In my previous life I had my own work station which in some establishments is referred to as a pod or a cubicle.  The walls are temporary and may be short or tall.  There is no door.  Sometimes the lighting can be challenging.  I found that the fluorescent lights tended to induce headaches so I had them turned off.

These days my work station is quite different.  There is no pod or cubicle, no walls or door either.  The lighting varies daily and I have no control over the intensity.  I must dress for the outdoor temperature whereas I used to dress for the indoor temperature which always seemed to be cold in summer and hot in winter.  You'd think the government would figure out how to control the temperature in its office buildings....

Here is my work station. This is my own patch of the Canadian Shield!  My chair is not ergonomic but then I don't sit it in for very long in a day.  My chair is very portable and can go anywhere on our acreage.  My tools, as depicted here, include my cute little rifle and my current knitting project.

Here is one of the many expansive views I enjoy regularly.  Serene and pastoral, happily grazing sheep.  The sheep in the foreground are the lambs; they are almost as big as their mothers now.  From various perches where I move my chair I can enjoy the view of the sheep.  My presence is as important a deterrent to coyotes as my seeing the sheep.

I need some dish cloths so I have knit up this one while sitting at my work station on my piece of the Canadian Shield. I have begun a second one now.  Actually this is my third one.  I didn't care for the first one so I ripped it out and started again.

On several mornings recently it has been foggy with heavy moisture in the air.  In my work bag I usually carry a camera.  I spent some time the other morning finding photogenic spider webs and this is one of the better shots.

This is all part of the view from my work station.

Monday 25 August 2014

Fibre, Fun and Fellowship

This blog has been percolating in my brain for over one week.  The Fibre Fun Day was planned for Tuesday August 19th.  There were a number of regrets; it is a busy time of year for holidaying.  At any rate I selfishly invited fibre friends and family for a day of fellowship in order to get me out of the barn and playing with fibre.  It worked!

There were six of us in total.  Our potluck lunch was quite enjoyable - as these things so often are!  Two of us were fibre folk, three were family and one was a neighbour.  The fellowship was just lovely.  After lunch we went for a walk and then we enjoyed the veranda again until it was time for departures.

It was not until the evening, well after everyone had left, that I carded up some of Dot's fleece and added some sari scraps to it.  I sat down and spun.  It was divine!  I was spinning my sheep's wool!

I put the fleece through the carder twice.  The second time I added the sari scraps.  I will add more the next time.  They are predominantly red but there are many colours mixed in.  Sari scraps are just that; the scraps of silk swept up off the floor in a sari making shop.

Things with Millie continue to progress.  As desired she marks the field, claiming it as her territory.  She patrols the perimeter, especially in the morning.  She is learning to slow down when she approaches and walks through the flock as they are not yet fully supportive of her being there.

Following our twice daily pasturing of the sheep for one to two hours at a time, Millie usually returns to the house area and sleeps under the veranda.  Sometimes she will stay with the sheep in the Front Field.  Once she ditched me after an hour, heading back to the veranda for a nap.  A few times she has refused to follow me into the field.  This afternoon I was armed with a Ziploc of leftover turkey meat which got her FULL attention.

This remains a time consuming task, absorbing about four hours of my day, minimum.  However, the sheep are well fed, we have had no more attacks or losses, and Millie is with the sheep.  It is time well spent right now.

The kids are here for the weekend and it has been very nice.  This is daughter's second visit and son's first.  They have met all of the animals.  Son was thoroughly spit upon by Henrietta - twice - for no other crime than feeding her corn husks.  We have enjoyed the fruits of the vegetable garden each night at dinner and cooked up eggs too.  Cranky the hen has recovered from her broody spell and is now laying again so we get five eggs most days.  There have been walks and talks and a few chores.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Veg & LGD at work

Oh to have time to veg out!  No, that's not what this blog is about.  Vegging out doesn't really happen here too much.  I must say though we had visitors for lunch and enjoyed their visit a great deal.

The vegetable garden is in full bloom.  Daughter's Christmas gift was a book on vegetable gardening and I heeded the sage advice of going small.  There is still a lot happening in the small veggie garden.

On a whim I bought seed potatoes and onion sets at the local supermarket.  I planted all of the potatoes, about five pounds.  They are red potatoes which we find yummy.  I planted three hills at one end of the garden and then followed another suggestion and at the other end of the garden, dug two trenches and planted them in rows.  All are doing well and we ate our first potatoes last week.  Some potatoes are the usual large size while some are baby sized.  I'm happy to leave them be to get bigger and dig them up later.

We ate our first tomato the other day.  I was too excited to get a photo first; we ate it!  There are six plants.  Although they are supported with tomato cages a few were blown over in a recent windy rain storm.  I managed to right them, adding an extra support to one.
We are inundated with zucchini.  I made zucchini relish this evening, finally.  I purchased a canning starter kit this past week for bottling things such as relish.  I've never canned before.  I carefully planted only three hills of zucchini.  Visitors  are usually sent home with some zucchini.

We have had one meal of bush beans and more are ready for picking.  I only planted half rows of these and would have preferred more as they are easy to freeze.  Onions are kind of everywhere.  I had never planted onion sets but usually seed green onions.  I thought I planted the latter too but don't see them so I guess not.

Lettuce we have been eating for some time.  I mixed the seed packets of arugula, spinach and red romaine.  The bugs like the arugula and when we eat it there is a strong peppery taste.  The bugs do not care for the red romaine and we continue to cut that and eat it young.  There is no sign of spinach.

The broccoli is developing heads while the cauliflower is not.  The half row of mixed beets and carrots is looking very yummy but I'm just leaving it.

The weeds got quite out of control.  Sister helped me to get on top of it recently.  In cleaning out a stall which is mostly hay and bedding I put this down for more mulch.  I'm now down to the hotter layer of manure and this is getting dumped on the outer edges of the garden away from the current plantings.

Today visitors offered us a free rototiller.  "Yes, please", we said.  It needs a servicing but should work out just fine.  They have a trailer and will bring it down to us in the next few weeks.

What was really exciting for me today, was Millie.  Actually we need to back track a few days...  On Thursday the Vet came to see Millie.  A four year old farm dog she had never seen a Vet, never had a vaccination or a check up.  Getting near her can be challenging so getting her into the car and to the Vet clinic was not going to happen.  We paid the extra charges to have the Vet make a farm visit, like you do for large farm animals.

When I fed Millie her breakfast I quickly and quietly closed the door behind her and locked her into the Small Barn.  I put a net over the top of the door into the lean-to to ensure she didn't jump out there, even though I had secured the outer door.  She actually took this well.  She curled up in the mucky manure I was in the process of cleaning out of the one box stall and slept there for the morning.

The female Vet at the clinic arrived around lunchtime.  I was pleased it was her as Millie can be more timid with men.  Millie was as good as gold.  The Vet said she forgot to pack a muzzle but I assured her she didn't need it.  Millie was a little nervous but all went well.  The Vet checked her out thoroughly.  She has no concerns about the lump on her abdomen and will remove it when she spays her.  All shots were given without any reaction from Millie.  Blood was taken to test for heartworm and Lyme disease.  Anal glands were blocked and Millie was excellent for this procedure.

The Vet commented that Millie has a fine demeanour, that we had done well to find her.  Booster shots are needed in a month and the Vet suggested we bring her in for spaying and do the boosters then.  I said I would know in two weeks if I can get Millie into the car and could call and book the surgery then.  That lead time will work at the clinic.

There was a call later in the day from the Vet that Millie was negative for heartworm but positive for Lyme Disease.  I had suspected the Lyme Disease.  This area is known for many deer ticks and an outdoor dog it is not surprising she is positive for the disease.  I picked up a month's worth of antibiotics the next day.  The whole thing was costly but necessary.  Millie needs to be well cared for if we are to have her a decent length of time and to do the high stress work we expect of her.

So, Millie works all night, barking and scaring off intruders.  A few nights ago Beau woke us up with his barking which was a response to Millie's barking.  In short she had killed a muskrat on the front lawn.  She took care of this intruder that crossed the boundary.

What we want Millie to do is stay with the sheep.  She has not been with the sheep since she was zapped by the electric fence.  I have invited her into the field a few times.  The other night she followed me and my pocket full of treats into the Front Field.  She walked the fence line with me.  I was thrilled.  I left the field and she remained totally checking out the field, looking here and there, and marking her territory.

This morning, after eating her breakfast, I invited Millie with a pocket full of treats in to the Front Field, up behind the barn and out into the Middle Field at back with the sheep.  She came.  She did the Livestock Guardian Dog thing we want her to do.  Now, she wants to be with the sheep but they are easily spooked by her.  We are working on it.  Millie has quickly learned that when I say "easy" she slows down and the sheep do too.

I was more thrilled when Millie came out from under the veranda this afternoon and followed me and my bag of treats out to the Middle Field again with the sheep.  At one point she and I were on the deck at the cabin when the sheep scurried up the field and headed around the curve to the other end of the field.  "We gotta go" I said to Millie and she was right there.  I quickly walked up the field.  Millie ran past me.  "Easy" I said.  She loped ahead.

When I got around the corner she was sitting in the middle of the field and the sheep were not too far beyond her.  She had listened to the "easy" and then parked herself safely near the sheep.

It's all coming together.  It's only day one and I am thrilled.  Millie gets lots of pets.  Yet, she walks the field edges with me and inspects and marks and sniffs the air, as she is supposed to do.  I am working with her to accept that the sheep are not yet ready to allow her to be one of them.  I am working with the sheep to allow Millie to get closer.

So, suddenly we are making lots of progress with Millie and I am a happy shepherdess because of it.  There was the potential to take a few steps backward after the Vet visit day  but that didn't happen.  It was almost like Millie could see that this was for her, that we care and want her to be well and happy.  And a Livestock Guardian Dog out with her sheep wears a huge smile like you wouldn't believe!

Saturday 9 August 2014

Sightings and Sales

This past week has been marked by several sightings of Reginald's kind.  You recall, Reginald, the biggest F------ snake I have ever seen.  He has relations in the area.  I have seen parts of his friends among the wood piled behind the barn.

As I go through the fields and see garter snakes I assure myself all is well.  And I remind myself that these creatures do not do damage the way a coyote does.  I move away, go around, find a different route, change tasks, and don't look.  Sometimes out of sight really does take it out of your mind and it is beneficial and not negative avoidance behaviour but positive.  It's working for me!

Back to Reginald's kind.  Recall, that Reginald is the endangered Rat Snake.   So, I had a pile of brush in the wheelbarrow to dump in the bush.  And there was a bag of dried burrs I had gathered up in the spring.  These seeds needed to be buried somewhere.  And there were two bags of skirtings from shearing day.  These chunks of wool fleece contained burrs and were generally sections of the fleece that were not usable.  I decided all should be dumped in the bush.

So, I grabbed two of the bags and headed to the nearby bush.  I have a place where I have been dumping various clippings and that was my target spot.  I dumped the burrs out of their bag first.  Then I dumped the first bag of skirtings atop the burrs.  This would hold the burrs from blowing away and getting distributed in the area.  I had another load to bring over.  What is that straight black stick over there?  What is that head attached to it?  It was time to leave.  It was time to change tasks.  I would dump the remaining brush another day.

The next day or so, Sister and I headed out for a walk.  I wanted to show her the mowed Middle Field.  We headed out the back door to cross the bridge into the forest.  As I went to step over the electric fence - which was off - careful with the rifle I carried,  I stopped and backed up into Sister.  That large black stick has never been there before!  Let's go a different way.  She agreed with me that it was likely a Rat Snake.

When we returned some time later we saw a Rat Snake going under the garbage storage box behind the garage.  It may have been the same snake; or not.

In preparation for my time away I wanted to tidy up the barn and make the old hay pile more accessible for the neighbour girl who would be doing chores.  I got in behind the barrier and stacked some of the hay higher.  There wasn't much left, just over a dozen bales.  I planned to put out 2 bales in the morning.  The hay's nutritional value is now diminished.  Part of my plan was that feeding more hay than the sheep would eat would also provide some bedding in the barn.  I payed less for the hay than I did for the straw I have on hand.

I removed a bale from against the wall, a bale on the second row so there was still one more bale on the floor.  What is that?  The light wasn't good, but still I could see the shape of a rat.  And what is that large black formation near it?  Nothing is moving.  And there are a bunch of eggs against the wall, further back than I could reach when I found some hidden eggs there against the wall a few months ago.  I stepped WAY back.  I observed.  Nothing moved.  It was time to change tasks.  I ensured various items were secure and left the barn.

Later when the neighbour girl came over to review tasks for the next day, the scene was the same.  Nothing had changed and nothing was moving.  Later still, in the early evening, Sister and I headed up to the barn to finish the task.  Thankfully the Rat Snake and the rat were gone.  I didn't worry about cleaning up the eggs.  We finished the task and things were in order for the next day.

I just received my first cheque for lamb sales.  At the first of last week four ram lambs went to the auction.  These were selected because they were uncastrated and had reached the magical four months of age.  Their behaviour also reflected their preoccupations due to a greater volume of hormones than their castrated cousins.

Uncastrated lambs grow faster and that was evident as well.  They went uncastrated because the technique I am using now is new to me.  I was not sure that I could be successful with these four, so I left them.  It turned out just fine as my neighbour does not castrate any because she sends them all to auction at this age.  So I was able to send my four with her fifty-six. 

I was not sad to see them go.  This is what happens.  This is why you don't name them, although, one of these four was Tiger.  And Tiger was the largest of them all.  He really was a very big guy, from day one.  The four mothers I felt for.  They stopped looking for their lambs when there were no longer responses from the Small Barn.  I had separated them the day before.  I was concerned that their udders dry up without difficulty.  One in particular had the potential to be problematic.  Of the four lambs that left, three were singles and the mothers' udders had to dry up.  The fourth mother had a twin remaining who would continue to nurse.

That first cheque is a milestone and will go toward the purchase of some hay, or the new ram.  It is spent already, for sure.  On the cheque stub are some statistics.  They weigh the lambs but had sold these four in two lots of two, and weighed the two rather than each individually.  The average of the four was sixty-nine pounds, which was excellent.  This result was from grass feeding only.

Another busy weekend.  With hubby away and a family event to attend, I needed a helper to look after things for a day.  So, I engaged the help of a teenage girl in the neighbourhood.  Her family have sheep and dogs and chickens so I am confident she knows about these critters.  I checked in with her a few days later and all went well.

Sister and I left early and I left the sheep in the barn with hay.  The sheep did not complain.  The helper girl worked our very well.  She came mid-afternoon and fed and watered the sheep and Beau-dog.  Hubby arrived not long after and so the sheep had some pasture time that day.

Our trip was a good one as Sister and I travelled to attend two family events.  The celebrations were good, the food amazing but the drive long, as usual.  On the first day the drive was great.  The birthday celebration was quite nice.  On the second day the family celebration centred on the kids' recent university accomplishments, the addition of letters after their names.  On the drive home there was a horrendous thunder and rain storm across Toronto.  We still made great time however.  All in all, it was nice to visit with everyone.  As usual, it was great to get home.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

No more "Take Out"

I'm older now.  My last post was on my birthday.  It wasn't planned, it just happened that way.  And, yes, I began playing with farming when I was thirteen; now I am fifty-three.  Some things you don't forget.

Things feel calmer and a bit more mellow.  I may be finding routine - well, no, not really....

We had visitors two weekends ago, lots, and had a great time.  The teen boys were put to work and many items got moved.  I think they were glad to help.  I know their father was glad they helped.  We walked a bit, especially the Middle Field that had just been mowed and is the way to the cabin.  We heard coyotes.  Millie the Maremma dog was busy.  We ate lots of great food.  We visited a few scenic spots in the area.  We stayed up late and slept in late.  We had a lovely time.

Our weekend guests were very generous with various food contributions, from scrumptious first corn on the cob; yummy jams from the farmer's market; and ice cream and cookies.  And then there were the beautiful trees for the property.  I have decided where to put the Japanese Maple and may put the Catsura Tree in the front yard near the Willow.  I have yet to decide where to plant the Japanese Lilac Tree.

This week was the final installation inspection of the new furnace.  This is the beginning of the basement flood recovery.  We still have an ugly sea container adorning the front yard where our basement belongings are currently stored.  Some more work is planned for August and then further work for September.  We have the storage unit until October.  It really is messing up the view from the front veranda.

Part of why if feels calmer is that there have been no coyote attacks.  On the one hand we must be due.  But then, I am warming up to the notion that what we have in place is working.  Millie the Livestock Guardian Dog is working.  She may not be with the sheep as we would like, having moved under the front veranda.  But she works all night long and despite getting zapped by the electric fence we have seen her at night in these fenced areas barking away at the sounds of intruders.

Other interventions include the daily radio broadcasts.  A CBC talk show plays all day, directed to the back of the farm.  We do not hear it at the house at all.  We plan on putting up outdoor speakers.  Sometimes the location is changed up so that the human voices sound different as they vary throughout the day.

And there is Bob and Betsy.  Basically these are scarecrows.  When Lucky was attacked I returned from the Vet's to find that my sister had dressed sticks of wood with my smelly barn clothes.  This lasted a few weeks.  Then hubby suggested I use Bob after the coyote was so close to the house.  Bob's a muscular guy and we don't have many clothes that fit his large torso but we are managing.  This past weekend our visitors helped me to dress Cousin's recent contribution.  We put a skirt and blouse on the mannequin, stapling the skirt as she is a bit larger than I.  A headless mannequin, we wrapped her neck with a t-shirt that flows down her back, put sunglasses on that which we tied down with hot pink survey tape and, Voila!  A face is born.  Eyes are an important deterrent to predators so the glasses were important.

When we made up Betsy we moved Bob down to the Front Field and placed Betsy in the House Field.  At least, the visiting teen boys completed the placements.  More recently I moved Bob further out to the other side of the creek and I used a branch to form a waving arm.  After all, my neighbour says he keeps waving.

I moved Betsy too.  The sheep and llamas have not attempted lately to go out to the House Field, although they have been out there since the coyote attack.  They began to go out there the other day but then they saw Betsy and they turned around and went back.  So, I went out with them.  I called them - You can hear me now, calling "Baa, baa, baa, baa".  They followed.  I went out and gave Betsy a hug.  I turned her around so she faced the road.  Disappointed there was not grain (that is, "candy") the sheep turned around and headed back up the trail.  Poor lonely Betsy.

I spend a lot of time with the sheep.  Although I am no longer spending two to four hours per day grazing the sheep out back in the Middle Field, I do spend a good portion of each morning with them.  I no longer put the sheep out at seven.  I enjoy my breakfast and coffee before heading out.  I take the rifle with me.  I let the sheep out and follow them out into the field.  I walk the perimeter several times, putting my fresh scent everywhere.  One morning I took my coffee and sat in a lawn chair atop the barn hill and observed from there.  My rifle was next to my coffee cup.  Since carrying the rifle I don't knit much.  There's only so much multi-tasking one can do with a rifle and knitting needles.

I have hung up a tin pie plate on the fence.  These make noise and they are reflective, features coyotes do not like.  I have more which I will soon hang along the fence line.  Mowing along the fences has had a large impact too.  The hiding spots are very limited.

The other night I was working away in the Small Barn, tidying up, cleaning and organising.  The sheep were nearby, just on the other side of the fence in the Front Field.  Suddenly, they herded up close together in a quick manner.  They looked down into the valley behind the hill.  Something was there.  I picked up my rifle.  I went through the gate, which is not tightly secured but left so as to easily navigate with a rifle in hand.  The sheep were cautiously looking downhill.  I got closer.  I too peered downhill.  And then I saw it.  The large brown ears twitched as it saw me.  And then it scampered away.  It was a large brown cotton tailed rabbit.  We all let out our breath.  Even the sheep are at times on edge.

So, we are attentive, for sure.  But rather than worry incessantly, I am trying to see that our interventions are working.  In addition the lambs are larger and cannot be carried off quickly.  This new restaurant is no longer a drive-thru with takeout.  You have to dine-in.  That takes more time and planning and with the increased human presence the coyotes have chosen not to take the risk.  The 'take-out' opportunity no longer exists and we continue to minimise other opportunities for these clever predators.

Hubby has acquired most of what he needs to set up a coyote ambush.  And now that the field is clear of brush  the coyotes can be seen in that field.  It is all a matter of time.  Yet, the problem is huge.  The fellow who mowed for us was explaining that one winter he killed 58 coyotes in a certain area.  So, the population is huge, but our interventions can have an impact.