Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Escapades, escapes, and scapes

Life on any farm has its ups and downs, and those of us that pursue this lifestyle know that sometimes the ups and downs come with laughs, sometimes you come close to committing a crime, and sometimes the lifestyle amazes you. Whichever it is, it's definitely harder than most people realize. (Hence, the blog...)

This week it has been all of the above.

Cats on the farm can be quite utilitarian, but we seem to have passed right by that function and moved on to "soft lumps of purring companionship". But even there, I beg to draw The Line. We have a house cat (so deemed because life on the outside is just too risky for my daughter's emotional stability) who wakes me up practically every morning by purring in my ear. Loudly. But she has pushed this companionship thing a little too far. She has taken over my bath.

And this morning, she just wasn't giving it up. For anything. Even when I started up the water. So I figured I could start by washing my hair (under the faucet and with the pseudo-shower attachment thingy - we have no shower, don't ask.) and she would get the hint. Apparently not. She stayed right there for the rinse, too. And when I shifted positions to continue, still no movement. (Now this is where it gets ridiculous, but it was before 6, and any caffeine.) I actually finished the whole thing, remaining in pseudo-shower mode, so as not to push the envelope, and she responded by simply beginning to wash her nether parts, remaining defiantly in the dry end of the tub. I could have had this photographically documented, but the blog is PG, so forget that.

Now, being that we are a farm, people think they can drop off unwanted pets, and somehow they will discover some idyllic life on the farm, and we farmers will magically have loads of extra pet food just lying about. So, there are a sizeable herd of feral cats in all stages of wildness wandering about. We worked hard to tame one, dubbed Max, and have taken her into our hearts. Once we had done all the hard work, de-ticking, cleaning, feeding, and getting the flea collar, our neighbors decided they needed another trailer cat, and promptly snatched Max up. For days, I worried some evil had befallen her, until the fateful day we drove by and saw Max plastered up against the bathroom window, mewing. Wheh! Not dead, just kidnapped. But I couldn't imagine how I was going to have THAT conversation with the less-than-friendly neighbors...

Knock, knock. "Do you have my stray?"

Well, apparently the first weekend the grand-brats were over, one of them left the door open, and Max escaped. Yay, we have our stray back.

Now it appears the word is out in the feline press. Our porch is the new place to be and be seen. This greeted me this morning.

This kitty yoga practitioner is another stray. Now named Henry, for the time being.

Two nights ago, as I sat picking away at the computer, I heard a familiar "bleh". But it took only a second to register - this "bleh" was WAY too close. I looked outside into the pitch blackness beyond the front porch, and all six sheep ran by. All there was to do at 11:00 p.m. was pack them in the upper barn, and wait for the morning.

They had broken out of their pasture, broken into the garden, and broke out the onion dip, baby. They didn't leave until they had eaten every brocolli, brussel sprout, cauliflower and onion top. I seriously considered a mutton barbeque. And I'm vegetarian.

For me, the worst damage was the wheat. Almost 2/3 the plot. (Sigh.)

Why couldn't they have taken the garlic scapes? We planted garlic for the first time this year, and almost 100 plants came up. So that's 100 scapes. (Garlic "flowers"/"buds") That's a lot of scapes for folks who don't have a clue what to do with them. But we're learning!

Monday, June 25, 2007


Yes, these are "ichi-go". (Japanese for strawberries.) It's that time of year, and my nephew is here from Japan, so off we went to pick some strawberries. Despite the brutal heat, it took less than an hour to pick 8 quarts.

Once back at the farm, the cousins wasted no time in getting cool-water gun fights!

We're starting a week of heat, perfect vegetable growing weather; our job is just to keep everything hydrated.

Oh, yeah. And making jam. That's tomorrow...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

1 Hour Marten-izing

I used to see that sign on practically every dry cleaner I saw when I was younger. I have no idea what it meant, but I can tell you we were marten-ized last night. We are one hen lighter, thanks to this little fellow:

No, I did not turn into a wildlife photographer overnight, this is someone else's picture of a marten, but we're pretty sure that's what got Ink. All we have for evidence is the feathers, blood drops, and headless body. But that's enough.

She wouldn't follow the flock and come in when I shook the Raisin Bag of Joy. No amount of RBJ manipulation could convince her. So, I left her out when I went to the doctor's office. It was still daylight. But she wouldn't come in several hours later when the DH and DD tried to put everyone away for the night. They had worked for over an hour with the RBJ and every other trick in the book, to no avail.

When we got home from karate, it was dark. This flock is not anywhere near as savvy as our first, who would roost in the trees or in the barn. DH took the house flashlight, and began the search. That left me with the penlight I have in the barn for emergencies. (Why is it the men get all the biggest toys?) So while DH is wandering farther and farther away from me in the pitch black darkness, I am left with my itty bitty consolation light. Suddenly, he yells, "I have blood!" and seconds later he yells, "I've found her. And she has no head!" I am immediately sad for Ink, and frozen in my darkness, wondering what killed her, and where was that thing now? (Does it like human toes? I wonder...)

Suddenly, I am frightened out of my wits by a husky "bleh" behind me. I whirl around and my penlight lands on a huge, brown blob. (I'm thinking bear...) Followed closely by two white blobs. Yeah, the sheep that were supposed to be safely grazing on the far other side of our 5+ acres, have snuck up on me and frightend the s--t out of me. Farming lesson #4: Buy a big, bright flashlight for the barn, and don't let anyone else take it from you.

Ink, we will miss you. Even though Nature doesn't allow for stupidity or stubbornness, I wish you had decided to come in. Thank you for the eggs and the company.

P.S. The battery had died on the electronet, and the sheep had decided to come up and tell me about it.

P.P.S. A friend had the outstanding idea to get a pool skimmer to catch the errant hen next time. Adding that to the farm shopping list...

Friday, June 15, 2007


Yes, the experiment in poultry motherhood has yielded results: Four eggs in, two live chicks out. (Honorable mention: the Ameracauna chick who didn't make it out of the egg without enormous help, and then died later, as something "wasn't right" with its back end, and it was too weak to fight it.)

The chicklet in front is an Ameracauna, which my daughter has named Alex. She claims this stab at androgeny was necessary in case we have a rooster. (Please, no!) And the wee one in back is the Buff Brahma Bantam named Jelly. ( I didn't ask.) And for those of you keeping score, the mother is a Dark Brahma. I could stay and wallow in the chicklet cuteness for hours, but the weeds are talking to me. And it's not nice words they're using, either.

Monday, June 11, 2007

So THAT'S the problem!

Curse you, global warming! It appears G.W. may be to blame for my ever-increasing battles with my arch nemesis - POISON IVY! I just finished my second bout, albeit a mild one. I mean only having three or four half-dollar-sized blotches on my legs and arms is mild - (look ma, no boobs!)

Just when I'm trying to get the ruminants to eat us clean, I find out it's coming back stronger, with more urethiol, and can even be airborn. yeah.


Once, an old gardener told me that the name for plants that re-seed themselves, or come up a following year unplanned is "volunteer". I kind of like that name. And we've gots lots of them this year. It started with the curly parsley that over-wintered. Then it was the discovery of the cilantro that seeded. And the potato that has sprung up. (See below)

The obvious explanation for this volunteer was that I failed to dig up all the taters last year. So one "got away". But then I found volunteer potato #2, #3, and #4. It's a whole tater corp!

We love the volunteers. Not only are they pleasant surprises, but they represent a fighting spirit I find inspiring. How about this little tomato? It survived the Pruning Attack of the 10-year-old gardener. (An attempt to pinch off the botom leaves turned ugly) and it's coming back! (Yeah, I know - so are the weeds...sigh) And then there's the tomato seedling that's making it's home amidst the basil. How appropriate. But you gotta love this one the most:

Yep, that's a cosmos hiding out amoungs the brussel sprouts. It's a deserter from the DH's flower garden. Normally, I don't do flowers at all, but I figure if it fought this hard to exist, we'll let it go.

CSA: Week One baskets this week featured mostly herbs and the early "spicy" veggies(radishes and jalepenos) Next week we'll take pictures...

Monday, June 04, 2007

For The Birds...

For some time now, I've had birds on the brain. They seem to be coming up again and again, so the only way to rid myself if them is to share...

It all began about a month ago, when we had baby mallards in the pool at work. Ten of them, plus momma.

Last year, we moved them by putting the babies in a net, and walking Mom behind as we took the 10-15 block walk to the Washington Park Pond. This year, there was no net, and after a whole day of fruitless ideas, Momma got 6 away safely, but 4 were left.

We found a wildlife rehabilitator who would take them. When we dropped them off at her house, we were treated to a wonderful tour of her recuperating and rescued animals, mostly birds. From kestrals with defective beaks, to an overfed tom turkey, to canada geese with angel wing, to a black-capped chickadee, and a turkey vulture (who threw up her breakfast as soon as we approached - gross, but a cool defensive mechanism).

Then several days later, my friend Melissa sent me an e-mail filled with all sorts of cartoons, and I enjoyed them all, but this one made me chuckle out loud. Can't explain why, it just did.

Next, it was the gray catbird that wound up on our office steps, clearly suffering from some sort of injury, likely neurological in nature, as she was disoriented and unable to fly away, sort of off-balance like.

Unfortunately, she had a seizure and died before we could get her to the rehabilitator...I was struck by how fragile and delicate she felt as I put her in the box, compared to the hulking chickens I have become so used to on the farm.

Speaking of chickens, broody-momma-#2 is now ensconced in the maternity ward in the coop...since #1 decided on the 18th day that she had just about enough and she abandoned the nest...

(It's day 18 today, just don't tell her - it's a secret) There's maybe four fertile eggs under there...we've not been successful at chicks so far this year, keep your fingers crossed.

Then there's the resident "odd bird", our little bantam rooster who has to go for a walk every morning and every evening with me and the goats.

He hops up there when the walk is too long, or the grass too dew-ey. He prefers I carry him, but I could never get THAT picture, so you'll have to imagine it. And it was on our walk this morning that I discovered, despite my belief that I fed the local birds more than half the seed, our winter wheat is here! (And looking SO wheaty...)