Saturday, October 31, 2009

(Yes, O'Malley is really wearing that hat.... it's not Photo-shopped. She actually ate her breakfast with that hat on! Such a sweet goat.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crazy Roosters

This story is unedited and told in the words of a very little horse-boy named Ollie. If you've ever had little boys, you will remember that they have their own unique sense of humor.

Hello everybody! My name is Oliver Twist....but everybody calls me Ollie. I am Red's little brother and I am just 4 months old. Last weekend, when Red got to tell you a story, I asked my Mom, "Hey Mom, how comes I don't get to tell stories to the nice people like Red and Sissy do?" And Mom said that next time there was a very special tale to tell, I could tell it. So, here I am today and I am going to tell you a story. ("Pssst, Mom, [whispering] what story am I going to tell???") Oh, yea, I am going to tell you about our crazy roosters. Mom wanted to call this story "Pecking (Dis)Order" but I wanted to call it "Crazy Roosters". Well, since it is my story, I get to name it!Ok, here goes....[deep breath]

It was another rainy morning ("Psssst, Mom, what morning was it?") Oh, yea, it was Thursday. The morning chores were going much like all mornings. We Littles helped Mom clean up the Big's poop (heeheee, I said "poop")...we like to help.
When we were finished, we ate our breakfast and Mom went to the fancy chicken's house to do some clean-up. She keeps all the chicken houses very clean so that the cute little eggs that they lay land in clean bedding and not poopy bedding (heehee, I said "poopy"). ("Sorry, Mom") Anyways, all of a sudden out came Mom and she was carrying Phillip; we call him Rod Stewart. It seems that lately, Rod Stewart has been hiding in the corner of the henhouse trying to avoid that mean old Hank. Rod Stewart is scared of Hank, cause Hank is a bully.
Well, Mom decided that the only way to give Rod Stewart a good life, free from Hank, was to let him run free outside of the fancy's yard. She says that eventually they will all run free during the day....but not quite yet (they just started laying eggs, and she wants them to get used to laying them in their nesting boxes).
At first Rod Stewart seemed a little freaked out. But he soon relaxed and set off to explore the farm. He headed up to the grape arbor....followed by a very curious Tom Tom.
Rod Stewart ran into the dry lot where Red was running and playing and Red chased him. It was so funny, and Mom tried to get a picture but it didn't turn out. Well, Rod Stewart flew out of the dry lot in a hurry. Red didn't mean to scare him, he just wanted to play with his new friend.

He spent the rest of the morning exploring the farm....with Tom Tom close behind....his own personal body guard!
Ok, that's my story. And now Mom says I have to go take a nap. So I will say goodbye. Maybe I can tell you another story again some time ("Can I Mom, can I?")

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winter Gardening

Every year, by the end of winter, you will hear me say how I long to get my fingers back into the soil again. We have a 6 month gardening season here in PA....definitely not long enough to suit me. But this is the trade off when you live in an area with dramatic season changes. And I love the changing seasons...so PA is where I will stay.

All summer long we enjoy the fruits of our labor with large quantities of home grown fruits and vegetables. What we don't grow, we buy from local farmers. But in the winter, well, that is a different story. Nothing is grown locally in the winter, so we are left with buying what is offered in the supermarket and eating what we have "put up" over the summer. Usually I have lots of frozen carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

The problem is: Hubbs and I are big salad eaters. In the summer we grow our own lettuce and spinach. In the winter we have nothing available but those big plastic vats of organic baby lettuces. They are shipped in from California and southern states....which means a big carbon expense to the environment....not to mention un-recyclable plastic containers.

This winter I have decided to try my hand at indoor gardening.

Hubbs set up old storage shelves equipped with grow lights in our basement. Here is where I will attempt to grow our fresh leafy greens for the coming winter.

I sorted through my seed packs and pulled out those that I thought would be good for indoor gardening.

I bought a few heat mats....to speed up germination.
Then I filled a few open flats (with drainage holes) with organic potting soil and set each inside of a flat with no drainage holes. These flats were seeded with a variety of lettuces and spinach.
A few clay pots were seeded with herbs.
Everything was placed on heating mats and set beneath a grow light.
Each container is labelled...
Now I will mist each container with a generous amount of water daily (maybe twice daily)...and wait. I will post pictures when the begin to germinate.

This was such a satisfying project for a cold, rainy, day!

In case you are interested in starting your own indoor garden. Here are a few tips:

You can purchase "Grow Lights" that are sold for that purpose, but they are a bit pricey. Or....you can just purchase 48 inch shop lights that plug in. You will want to make sure that they take the same gauge fluorescent tube as your fluorescent grow bulbs. These are all readily found at your local hardware or lighting store.

You will need to water more often than you do for outside gardening....as the dry winter heat of your house will dry out your containers quite quickly. Draping clear plastic sheeting over your shelving will help to keep the humidity in...much like a greenhouse.

Use potting soil, not soil from outside.

Provide warmth to encourage germination....especially if you are doing this project in your basement or other cooler area of the house.

You can plant seeds that have shallow root systems such as lettuces, spinach, herbs and such. I am also trying a few clay pots with cucumbers. If your pots are deep enough you can grow peppers and small tomato plants. I plan to experiment throughout the coming months.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nighttime Tuck-In

It is seven o'clock and the sun has long since set beyond the horizon. No remnants of its light are left in this part of the world. Tonight the moon is hidden behind a solid wall of rain clouds. I pull on my muck boots as I do every night at this time. Tonight, however, a rain slicker and hat are part of the uniform. I grab my lantern and call out for the dogs. "Hey girls, anyone want to go tuck in the birds with me?" Maddie's reply is best illustrated by this picture.....

Sadie follows me into the garage, but seeing the rain, remains within the shelter of the house.

So, off into the night I go alone.

When I get to the barn the kitties are all nestled in for the night. Ella Bella and TomTom are quite toasty under their heat lamps. TomTom looks at me and yawns...
And Bobby in his thick winter coat is curled up in the feed room.
It seems that tonight's activity is sleep. Even the Littles are stretched out in the thick pine shaving that lines the floor of their stall....peacefully slumbering. Oh how I wish I were snuggled up in a warm bed instead of out in this damp, dark, dreary night!

I head out to close up each of the henhouses...each glowing red from their prospective heat lamps. The chickens and guineas are all quietly roosting for the night. The goats have sought shelter from the rain within their houses....quietly munching on hay.

Night time is such a peaceful time on the farm....and sleep is a universal need. Besides, what else is there to do on such a drizzly night. And so I head back to the house...the finish of another day...with the promise of a warm bed awaiting me also.

A New Tale

Congratulations are in order!

Our Doctor Becky has published another book.

This time her book is a work of fiction....for adolescent and teen girls who love horses.

From the back cover.....

"Amanda Wilkes has her summer completely planned - work at the veterinary hospital, ride at Rough and Ready Stable, and hang out with her best friend Samantha. But when she loses her job to the boss's nephew and Samantha takes a position as a working student in another state, Amanda realizes that this summer is going to be anything but predictable.

Before leaving town, Samantha asks Amanda to promise her two things. The first request is that Amanda takes care of Samantha's new upper level event horse prospect, Indefensible. While a talented and fearless jumper, "Indy" has the reputation of being unpredictable and a danger to his rider. amanda is thrilled to have the chance to work with the horse as she has been in love with him since the first time she saw him. However, she soon learns that her love is not enough to prevent Indy's bad behavior from surfacing.

Samantha's second request is that Amanda be kind to Justin, the pre-vet student who took her position at the veterinary hospital. Having sworn to hate the person who took her job, Amanda is dismayed to find herself drawn to the handsome and charming Justin, and with the encouragement of her friends and family, she begins to develop a relationship with him that goes beyond simple friendship.

As she struggles with her feelings of loneliness in Samantha's absence and the mixed emotions of her first real love interest, Amanda struggles to unravel the source of and cure for Indy's dangerous behavior. She knows that his future as an event horse can only be secured if he becomes a safe, relable mount and she will soon discover that his very life depends upon it."

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of this book, please email me.

The price is $12.00 plus shipping.

If you are interested in having it autographed, let me know.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Quiet Weekend

Good morning, everybody! Big Red here to tell you about our weekend. It was a pretty typical weekend without any unusual excitement. Ollie and I spent a few hours each day in the pasture. Saturday it poured on us and gave us quite a shower. We didn't mind though, as our winter coats have grown in and are quite thick and insulating. Sunday the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. We had some company on Sunday. Our friend Kimbra brought her doggie nephew Koby to visit us. He wouldn't look me in the eye....maybe he thought that if he couldn't see me, I wasn't there!
He wouldn't look at Ollie, either.....

Seems he only had eyes for Babs.....silly puppy!


Friday, October 23, 2009

A Few Tails

Finally, the day has arrived.
The fancy chickens have begun laying.....the teeniest, tiniest, little eggs.
7 eggs were laid this first day.
Hooray!!! Good work girls.
Did I mention that I accompanied Doctor Becky on a Vet call....to check and vaccinate a littler of Welsh Corgi pups? Oh, did I mention that I was thinking I might like a Welsh Corgi pup? No? Well....here is a little girl that almost stole my heart.....and no, I did not bring her home. I practiced great restraint, because I still am not sure what breed I want. Perhaps just a mutt....I would feel great about a rescue dog. But still.....isn't she adorable? How about a closer look... I thought I would give you a glimpse of exercise time at the Fat Farm. As I mentioned before, the Bigs are on a bit of a diet...trying to shed a few pounds that they put on eating that rich grass all summer. Because we are in the midst of a wonderful Indian Summer this week, I have been walking them up to our arena almost daily for a little exercise. The great thing about the arena is the lack of vegetation. So, they can run and kick up their heels with no grass to tempt them. And boy do they kick up their heels. I love the sound of thundering hooves!That is Doctor Becky's roof that you see in this picture. She has a log home, also....a nice walk through the woods from our home.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weeding the Strawberry Patch.....With Help

It is time to get the strawberries ready to tuck in for the Winter. By the time the temperatures dip into the 20's I will need to have the strawberry patch weeded and all of the plants covered with a blanket of straw.

Seeing my presence in the garden.....my help comes running....down the lane....
....and in through the garden gate.
....a little stop to rub against the Trug Tub (gardening essential!!)...
.....stopping for a little scratch.....oooooo, yea, right there, that's it!.....
Now down to business....nothing like the shade of a shovel for a little nap.
Ok, TomTom...let go of my camera strap.
Believe it or not, we actually did get a little weeding done!

Bob is My Co-Pilot

You've all seen them.....those tractor trailers on the road that boast "God is my co-pilot". While I don't refute that claim....I have to admit that my co-pilot is much less grandiose. On those trips into the pasture to clean up horse manure, my co-pilot is none other than Bobby the Fearless.
We will remove "fear of riding in gators" from the Bobby's list of Potential Cat Fears. I have discovered that Bobby has a "need for speed".

Actually, now that I think about it....he must consider me his co-pilot.....seeing how he gravitates toward the driver's seat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Under Seige (Again?)

Gosh, I am sure that at some point in the past several months I had another post by the same title. Well, such is life on a farm at the edge of the woods.

The latest intruder is Coccinella septempunctata, or the common Ladybug.
Each Autumn, around the time of the first hard frost we have a day where thousands (maybe millions) of these insects leave the surrounding woods and converge on our homes and barns.
For a few days they are a total nuisance...landing on every available surface (including hair, face, clothes, etc). They even drive the animals a little crazy. Our entire barn was literally polka-dot this afternoon....little red crawling polka-dots!

"Ladybug, ladybug fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children are gone....." (what a horrid nursery rhyme)
Northern European folklore says that if a ladybug lands on you your wish will be granted. In other areas of Europe, folklore says that you will be married within the year. Ok....."I wish that the ladybugs would go back to the woods!" There! We shall see if that wish is granted.

Oh, and by the way.....the amount of spots that a lady bug has has nothing to do with its age....just in case you were wondering.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Looking Ahead

Yesterday we woke up to the first hard frost (yes, we've had snow, but not a frost like this). All of the critters' water buckets were frozen. I guess it is time to plug in all the heated buckets. The leaves have finally turned, so the countryside has the look of Autumn, but the weather has moved on to winter....at least at night.
Frost on our young blueberry bushes....
By afternoon, though the high reached into the 50's and I was able to do a little work in the garden.

So here is the big reveal.....next year's vegetable garden will be in elevated beds. Hubbs built me cedar boxes. Each is 2 foot high. There is a row of 6 boxes that are 4' by 4', a row of 6 boxes that are 4' by 8', and a row of 3 boxes that are 4' by 12'. This should give me enough space to plant all of the vegetables except corn. We reserved an area at the top of the garden for rows of corn, sunflowers, and pumpkins.
Having raised beds will make weeding much easier. Between the beds are layers of landscaping fabric and tarps. This area will be covered with untreated oak bark mulch.

Hubbs did his research. Cedar lasts for many years and is not harmful to the environment. Our older boxes were constructed from pressure treated pine and can only be used for non-edibles. Pressure treated lumber can leach small amounts of arsenic into the soil within them. These cedar boxes, however, are perfectly safe.

I am looking forward to a much more manageable garden next summer...not another "Garden of Weedin". Of course I will have to make a new scarecrow for this garden....Minerva Mae Honeycut has seen better days!

PS: A little "Little" lovin at the end of a long day.....

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'll Follow You Anywhere

The Littles and the barn kitties have all become the best of friends. TomTom has taken to napping in a corner of the Littles' stall. Bobby has decided that it is his job to lead the Littles back to the barn. Quite often Red tries to take Bobby's tail in his mouth in this cat and horse game of follow the leader. Hard to believe that Bobby is the newest member of the barn gang. He acts like he has been here all his life....he also acts like he owns the place. Queen Ella Bella is still angry at us for taking Bobby in. TomTom on the other hand now has a BFFF (best feline friend forever!)
We are in the middle of a major garden renovation. We have found a way to thwart the hostile takeover by weeds....next Summer's garden should be spectacular (what do you mean I said that last year!) Tomorrow is the big reveal!!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tales From the Dark Side

This post is rated: PG (poor guineas)....(some violence is implied)

Sadly, today's tale is not as light hearted as usual. We have had a few days of trying times. It's bad enough that Thursday and Friday morning's snow turned into rain that has continued non-stop for the past 3 days. But, also, during that time we lost several of our young guinea fowl. I had noticed lately that the old guineas were spending most of their day hanging out by the new guineas' house and yard. Then, on Thursday morning there seemed to be some aggression towards the new guineas. One of the older guineas was perched on top of the enclosed yard and trying his darnedest to get inside.
At that time it seemed he was only able to get himself tangled in the netting that we keep across the top of the pen. After freeing him, I didn't think too much more about it.

Later that night, when Hubbs went out to close everyone in for the night, he found the guineas terribly excited, flapping and flying all around their enclosure....causing quite a ruckus. He witnessed one of the older guineas escaping thru the roof of the pen followed by several of the younger ones. The rest were quite upset. A quick count revealed that 8 were missing. He returned home quite saddened.

The next morning, I was happy to find 4 of the missing guineas trying to get back into their pen. With a bit of herding, Becky and I were able to reclaim these 4 birds....the other four were never seen again.

After the guineas were back in their pen and fed and watered, I headed to the chickens.....only to find that one of my layers had been pulled head first thru the fence and was de-capitated. What a horrible sight. Well, I removed what was left of the carcass (before her cannibalistic sisters had their way with her...yes that is one of the traits of chickens that I detest).

Not the best morning......but the saying always applies...."Tomorrow will be better." Geez, I hope so!

Post Script: Hubbs and I have decided that perhaps a weasel was in part responsible for the melee in the guinea pen (not to mention the older guinea's presence).....and also for the chicken tragedy. We have started to lock the chickens up tight at night....not just their yard, as we had always done in the past.....but their henhouses are now secured at sundown.

Out-smarting nature.....a constant challenge on the farm.

Post Script: Tomorrow the Littles start swimming lessons, as the front pasture will soon be under water if this rain does not soon stop.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday's Addendum

Yesterday's snow was mostly mixed with rain and so we had no accumulation....just slop. This morning, though, it has started to snow again.....and here is what it looks like from our upstairs loft library...
I think I will stay in the loft (that is also where my sewing room is located) today and watch the snow fall. It is the warmest area of the house. Because the living room has a cathedral ceiling, much of the heat from the fireplace rises to the loft.....mmmmm, toasty warm!

"Big" Tales

You might remember that I had mentioned putting the Bigs on a diet a few months ago. They still remain a little chubby, but certainly not like they had gotten on that rich summer pasture. Each morning, when I arrive at the barn, I open the gate from the dry lot to the front pasture (this pasture has the least nutritious grass) and let the Bigs out to graze for a few hours while I do the chores.

We are in the middle of a little Pavlovian training this Fall. I hung an iron bell outside of the back door of the barn. I ring this bell before feeding time. Also, during the day I ring the bell
when it is time for hay, and even at times when I am going to give them a little peppermint
treat. Hoping that they come to associate that bell with something good and come running when I ring it...this should help save steps (like having to walk out into the pasture, harness each animal, and lead them back to the barn).

If you had asked me how it was going last week, I would have said "not so well".

Today seemed to be the turning point.

I rang the bell.
Moonbeam looked up, and immediately started back to the barn.
Donnie, however took a few more minutes...but eventually came back on his own.
"Mmmmmm, I love breakfast."

"Me, too!"
Moonbeam always tries to finish Donnie's breakfast. Don't worry, I shoo him away every morning.
Moonbeam has taken this training one step further. When I am in the barn taking care of the other animals, he stands outside and rings the bell.....as if to say, "Hey, what about me?" Dieting is hard, but it's for your own good, Moonbeam.

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