Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I do love a nice bit of fat for breakfast!

Well not me personally of course, but the woodpecker does!  He was telling me this very morning as he sat outside on the bag of suet with seeds. 

"Good morning Claire"

"Good morning Mr. Woodpecker!"

"I do love a nice bit of fat for breakfast."

"Well that's why I put it out for you.  I love to watch you eating your breakfast - it gives me a lovely view while I eat mine.  Admittedly mine is yogurt, and not fat."

"Well, you get to sit at your desk all day.  I have to flutter about and use all that energy."

"I know!  And it's cold out there!"

"Yes, ooooh, and sometimes the wind blows under my feathers!  Brrrr!"

"I see your friend the chickadee is out there with you."

"I tolerate him.  He doesn't eat too much of my fat."

"How generous of you."

"I manage to catch fat crumbs with my tail you know, so I lay it out like a napkin, and then I can clean up after myself"

"You are clever!"

"I know."

"Well, I must go to work.  I'll leave you to your breakfast."

"Right, see you tomorrow then.  I'll let you know when I need more fat put out."

"Indeed.  Stay warm!"

(demanding little birds, aren't they!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

The good and the not so good

It's Christmas.  Not one of the more memorable ones for me.  Pardon me if I go on a bit of a self pity party here, but it's really hard when your family is really far away.  It's three days drive for me to visit my parents in Canada, which we did last year, but the usual 33 hour drive turned into 48 on account of the weather.  The only other family I have are my 3 first cousins in England, which I can't drive to in any event.  So I stayed here, because we had things to get done. 

It snowed all night and all day too.  We couldn't have driven anywhere even if we wanted to.  This morning we went out to find two chickens had died in the night, likely due to the cold.  Then, the tractor got stuck.  It was high centered on some ice and snow.  Unfortunately, Kelly hadn't found time to take off the mowing deck in the fall, so it got stuck on that, which shouldn't even have been an issue at this time of year.  It took him about 3 hours to get it unstuck.  After which, he promptly got it stuck again.  Sigh.

I cleaned out the office closet, which had been terribly messy and disorganized. I also began some sorting in the basement.  I am pleased with what I accomplished.  It still needs work though.  I made cheese and herb biscuits for lunch, and opened some wax-covered cheese that I had been saving for a special day, but it was moldy, so I had to throw it away.  For supper, I am having leftover macaroni and cheese and a half a pork chop.  Not very festive, is it.  Maybe we'll go out for supper tomorrow.

We have been taking care of a friend's two greyhounds (one of whom is a litter mate to ours) for the last 9 days.  One of them has peed on the floor every single day since we've had her, and sometimes she has done more than that, the record being 2 poops and 4 pees in one day.  She has not been like this before and it's making us a little crazy.  However, she likes to lay down next to my spinning wheel.  Poor girl, maybe she is stressed like me.

The high point of the day was this morning when we opened the gifts my parents sent.  Last year, I was just learning about needle felting when I went home for Christmas, and I brought some wool and felting needles to my Mom.  She has outdone herself with her skills - she has such an artistic talent.  She made me a beautiful needle felted sculpture of a ewe and her lamb!  Look at that!!  It's gorgeous!

They also sent a beautiful matted photograph from a sheep farm in Nova Scotia.  I can't wait to get it framed and hang it in a special place.  Those cute sheep ornaments in the front include a knitted one my mother sent me, and two from our friend Corinne at Crosswind Farm.  We love our sheep!

My mother also sent me a beautiful beaded evening purse which will see a lot of use when we go to wine tastings and the gourmet dinner series offered by our local culinary school.   It's so elegant!

My parents and I are long-time fans of Lee Valley Tools, and they sent Kelly and I an assortment of wonderful things, including the nylon nail brushes (they are the best nail brushes ever!), some small tools for Kelly, a woodworking calendar for Kelly, and a mini microscope with 20x and 40x magnification for us to use to do fecal worm egg counts on our sheep.  I know, it doesn't sound glamorous, but I tell you, it's worth more than its weight in gold for us!

I managed to find a tie with sheep on it for Kelly (along with a wolf in sheep's clothing).  I thought it was pretty funny and he doesn't have a tie in this colour scheme, so he was really pleased with it.  

Kelly's mom gave me a really neat set of glass coasters that you can insert your own pictures into, and she also gave us both gift cards earlier this month, which are wonderful and which we shall both use soon on much needed purchases.  We also had some great cookies from their family celebration. 

Oh, and to end on a humorous note, Kelly found me a very appropriate Christmas card.  Love it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 flowing like a....(raging white water) river....

At this time of year, I am abruptly and rather unpleasantly reminded that most of the time, I try to do too much and I am entirely too busy.  Being in school part-time is always a challenge.  I have four semesters left (which translates into one year and 4 months) and I really can't wait for that to be finished.  Working full time in a very busy and sometimes stressful job is another challenge.  Doing both at the same time, while also having a small farm is probably a sign of pending insanity.  Let's add in a few other things for fun, shall we?  Like...trying to keep spinning yarns for my Etsy store, taking care of a friend's 2 dogs for 3 weeks while he is in France (one of whom has decided my basement is her toilet), taking an exercise class once a week, trying to feed myself in a healthy way, sleeping, a bit of laundry, and the extremely occasional bit of housework, and it's like having a load of bricks dumped on your head.

All of this is why, unfortunately, I have done essentially nothing about the impending holiday.  It's not because I didn't want to, or because I didn't care, or because I didn't have the necessary items at hand.  No, it's just that I didn't have time.  So I didn't send any Christmas cards, and I still haven't sent any gifts.  I do have some gifts to send, some of which I have made, and which were thus late being completed because, yes....I didn't have time to get them done on schedule.  And suddenly it's here, and I just don't know where the time goes, and I end up feeling bad and grumpy about it, which does not assist in the holiday spirit.

I always make these grand plans to decorate the house properly and get all my cards done and get all my gifts sent well before the "deadline" and you know, it just doesn't happen.  Maybe, just maybe, it will happen the Christmas after next, when I will finally have my fourth degree completed, have the bar exam written and hopefully passed, have the barns and pastures set up the way I want them, have a more organized office, a more efficient feeding and watering schedule, and more TIME!  (and if anybody ever suggests my going back to school again, I shall promptly flatten them.)

So, apologies to everybody for not fulfilling my holiday obligations. 

I did somehow find time for some pictures, so here's the latest on the critters...

Pennyroyal, the Jacob ewe lamb, loves her new shelter. does Miss Marshmallow.

Cindey Lou has made friends with a frizzle grey rooster - they always hang around together now.  It surprised me that he would choose such a tiny companion, but maybe he doesn't feel threatened that way.  Anyway, I am happy to see him out and about each day with his buddy.

Slim the brown leghorn hen prefers to stay inside the barn, but she is also doing very well.

And finally, the goats have all grown in their furry winter coats and are looking very fluffy right now.  Opal is particularly good at posing for the camera and showing off her goatie style. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Playing Dress-Up

And today, hens and roosters, we bring you the latest in little chick fashions from that unmistakable team, Dolce and Eggbana.  This season we introduce a bold, Southwestern style for your little ones.  Not for the meek and mild ones in your brood, these coats are a stand-out in any crowd. 
The careful cut accentuates the best of your little ones' attributes, showing their pretty wing feathers and fluffy feet and legs, while providing them with a layer of extra warmth for those chilly winter days.  The warm reds, greens and golds in the fabric really work well with any feather colours, allowing this style to adapt to the wide range of feathers we see so often in the young these days.

Observe how the neckline allows for....oh...what's that?  You're worried about the dog?  No, no, no, don't be at all worried.  That's just a large couch potato dog.  He likes to do a "cushion" impersonation act.  See, he's not even moving.  Really, he's just part of the furniture.  Don't be alarmed...he's a racing greyhound, rescued from the track, but entirely uninterested in chickens.  He prefers to sleep the day away.

Back to the coats, observe how the collar allows your little one complete free movement of the head and neck, with no restrictive ties or uncomfortable straps.  These little coats stay on because of the way they gently fit around the wings of your young ones. 

See, the dog is sleeping now, because he is entirely bored with fashion.  And just look at how happy these little ones are running around in their winter apparel.  They'll be warm and toasty all season long.  Buy now, these won't last long! 

p.s.  For anyone who is wondering why I have frizzle chicks in the house, it's because I lost 2 of 4 due to cold temperatures last week.  All the other chicks have been fine.  I think the frizzles get cold because their feathers don't stick to their bodies like non frizzled chicks.  In any event, these live in the house for now.  They are about 4 weeks old.  The light coloured one is named Omelet because she's golden brown, and the grey and white one is named Pepper, for obvious reasons.  Omelet was nearly gone when I found her, shivering and lethargic.  I quickly brought her in and warmed her in the incubator.  She perked up after about an hour and has been fine since.  Please be mindful if you have frizzles - they are not cold hardy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Murphy Needs a Kick in the ....

That beastly Murphy and his dreadful "law" need to be taught a lesson.  I have had it up to --here-- with Murphy's Law today.  It just feels like I never should have arisen from my bed, because things just kept on going wrong.  Every time there was a "clue" from Murphy, I should have just quit while I was ahead. 

Monday Dec. 14, 2009.  Date of Last Final Exam for the Fall 2009 semester.  Yay.

- Arise at 6:10 am, believing it to be a normal sort of a day
- first clue (of Murphy), little pinging sounds on bathroom window.  Bad sign.
- prepare myself for departing the house in time to arrive at school for 8 am exam.
- aiming to leave at 6:50, just to have a buffer of time
- second clue, forgot to click button on coffee pot to turn it on.  No time left for coffee.
- third clue, can't find correct shoes.  Have to wear alternate pair.  Disturbs the Earth's balance, clearly.
- pull out of garage, easily turn car in driveway as usual, start to head up hill to road
- fourth clue, heading up hill not very easy
- turn onto main (gravel) road, go down hill as usual, go up hill on the other side, as usual.
- stop at stop sign.  Completely.  Really!
- begin to inch forward on slippery, frozen-rain and snow surface of road
- fifth clue (big one), car not responding to steering or brakes.  Very bad sign.
- gracefully slide across road, and end up in ditch.  Back end of car stuck out in middle of road.  Ugh.
- someone nearly crashes into the back end of my car as I sit there considering my options.
- realizing that there is entirely too much of the car positioned in (more or less) the middle of the road, I manage to skid it around to make it more or less parallel with the road.  However, this does not particularly improve my mood. 
- call Kelly to relay the bad news, which he can see from our office window
- Kelly gets in truck (4WD Ford) with a tow line to head to my location.
- Kelly starts to head up driveway hill to road
- Big clue for Kelly - heading up hill not very easy for him either!
- he turns onto main (gravel) road, goes down hill as usual, and becomes stuck because he cannot make it up the other side of the hill.
- sixth clue - Kelly establishes that something is wrong with the 4WD mechanism on the truck
- seventh clue - Kelly is stuck in the valley between the hills and cannot go anywhere
- I'm still stuck in the car and 2 passers-by have offered to help, gotten out of their vehicles, nearly fallen on the road because it's so icy, and then pronounced it too slippery to do anything
- I walk (slide) to Kelly in the truck, we try some more to get the truck up the hill.  No dice.
- I then walk home while Kelly keeps trying to get the truck up the hill.
- I call the University to say she won't be coming in for the exam, and fortunately they will let me write it tomorrow
- I call my secretary to say I won't be in for work.  She reminds me my year-end review is scheduled for tomorrow, when I will now be taking the exam.  Hmmm...very bad sign.
- I call AAA to get car help.  I'm told it will be an hour.  (at this point, imagine Murphy laughing himself silly, slapping his leg and curling up with mirth)
- Kelly comes through the door muttering bad words, carrying my purse, which I had left in the truck.  It doesn't really suit him.
- Kelly gets the tractor out of the barn and we venture out on it to the truck.  Fortunately, the tractor has chains on the tires.  Unfortunately, one of the tire chain clamps snapped in the storm earlier this week, so we're operating with chains on 3 of 4 tires.
- Kelly drives the tractor, I steer the truck, we manage, slowly, painfully, and with much difficulty, to get the truck home.  Everywhere is incredibly slippery and the chains of the tractor don't even dig in very well.
- Eighth clue - we prepare to go into the house to warm up and can't close the garage door behind us for some reason.
- Ninth clue - we enter the house and all the lights are out and the clock on the stove is blank.  Yup, power's gone.
- Tenth clue - I still can't make any bleeping coffee!  ARGGGGHHH!!!
- We go back out to try to extricate my car from the ditch with the tractor.  Our lack of success is stunning.
- Neighbour "A" comes by and tries to help also, having a better truck than ours.  He nearly goes in the ditch too.  He also has an exam today and needs to get to school.  At least he makes it out of the area.  I hope he did well on his exam.
- Kelly and I trundle home on the tractor again, he tries to start our woodstove, while I begin worrying about the eggs in the incubator, the temperature of which is dropping rapidly. 
- After considerable delay, the woodstove finally gets lit, and of course, moments after, the power comes back on.
- I realize that the post office has called to leave a message on the answering machine (which was not working before due to no power) to say that there is a box of hatching eggs for me waiting at the post office.  Fat chance.
- I seriously consider going back to bed and trying to start all over.  Instead, I do some knitting for a while.

At this point, things slowly begin to improve.

- Neighbour "B"s daughter has put her car into the ditch sometime during the morning while we have been messing around with Murphy and his stupid law.
- Neighbour "B" comes to help his daughter by putting large chains on his pickup and he extricates her car.
- He then extricates my car.  What a hero!
- I call triple A, who "cancel" my request (at about 2 pm)
- Around 6 pm, a local towing operation calls to let me know that they are on their way.  Sigh.  I explain about the cancellation, much to their confusion.  Thanks Triple A.

Let's hope tomorrow is a little better, shall we?!  And let's hope it really is the day of my last exam until May.  Whew!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The News in Brief

I'm studying for final exams.  That means I'm sort of in a constant state of hyperstress, because if I don't make at least a B grade on my exams, then my company won't pay for my courses, and right now, I don't have $4000 to spare per course!  It also makes me tend to forget things that I'm supposed to do, or make me do things late, or even make me a bit cranky.  I have two exams - one on the 8th and one on the 14th.  Then I'm finished until January 17.  Let me tell you, I NEED the break!

In the meantime, here's the other news from my world:

Cindey-Lou and Slim
This past week I was able to provide a home for 2 chickens.  I was put in touch with a lovely family who are quite local to me, who had a problem with a rooster who had begun to crow.  They live in the city and can't have chickens, but nobody seemed to mind because they were quiet.  These chickens had been unwanted and therefore rescued by Anne and her family, who had provided them with a wonderful coop and a lovely yard to roam in. Until last week, all was well, but then "Cindey-Lou" began to crow.  Cindey-Lou (yes, that is how you spell it!) is a broiler rooster and he's very, very large and heavy.  At present, he's at least 25 lbs, perhaps closer to 30.  

Slim is a very pretty brown leghorn hen. 

I offered to give a home to the pair of birds on my farm and Anne was more than happy to find someone who would care for them.  I went to Anne's home to pick them up and we had a great chat about chickens and their antics.  We put Cindey-Lou and Slim in carriers and I brought them home.  They have both settled in very well.

Now, it's not often that I get on a soapbox, but I'm going to go on a bit of a rant here.  I am thoroughly disgusted with the poultry industry for the horrors inflicted upon chickens.  They are kept in tiny little cages, they don't have room to flap their wings, they are fed minimal amounts required for egg or meat production, and they are bored out of their minds so they pick out their own (or their neighbor's) feathers.  Cindey-Lou is a product of that industry.  Broilers have been bred for years to emphasize ridiculously fast growth and heavy muscling in order to feed the giant machine that is the corporate poultry industry.  Cindey-Lou wheezes constantly, because the pressure on his lungs from his tremendous weight is too much.  He has trouble walking due to his ridiculous size.  He would be completely unable to mate with a hen.  He gets tired quickly and rests a lot.  This is NOT a normal chicken.  This poor bird is a testament to the greedy hands of industry.  Their aims of efficient production in minimal time created this chicken that is hardly recognizable next to his "ancestors."  Their complete lack of concern for the health or wellbeing of the animals raised for the food industry is evident in this monstrosity.  In my opinion, it's wrong, and it's time to put a stop to it.  Don't get me wrong - I eat chicken!  I enjoy chicken!  But I want my chickens to be normally sized birds who lived a normal life where they could roam about, scratch at the earth, eat some worms, stretch their wings, lay down in the sun, and chase bugs in the grass.  Next time you buy chicken, consider buying from a local farm who free ranges their birds.  It will cost more, but if you ask me, birds like Cindey-Lou tell the story on why we should be willing to pay more for our food.

(getting down off soapbox now)

Orange Bottomed Girls
The mighty Cragganmore, our beautiful blue-faced Leicester (BFL) (pronounced Less-ter, not Lye-chester or Lye-sess-ter or Lee-sess-ter, please) has been fitted with his breeding harness.  His marking crayon is orange.  So far, he's been whispering sweet sheep nothings in the ears of Poppy, Oreo and Paisley. 

Poppy is a Suffolk-Dorset-Rambouillet cross sheep with a lovely crimpy fleece.  She had a single white lamb last year with our Icelandic ram, Blizzard.  This year, she'll hopefully have a coloured lamb with Cragganmore. 

Oreo is a full registered Icelandic, but this year we decided to breed her to Cragganmore to produce what are called "mule sheep" (BFL sire, other breed for the ewe).  They will be Icelandic mule sheep. 

Paisley is a full registered BFL ewe who should carry coloured genetics, so we may see a coloured lamb from her.

The BFL sheep that we acquired have all been doing well and they are happily enjoying the company of our sheep, our donkeys, our llamas, and Pebbles the pygmy goat. 

Shelter from the Storm
Kelly had help yesterday from the very kind husband of a friend of mine from school.  While she and I were studying, Kelly and Mike built a sheep shelter and some new feeders.  It was a tremendous help and we are so appreciative of his time and effort!  Check out the new shelter for the lambs!  The girls in the pasture with this shelter are our lambs who are too young for breeding - Marshmallow, her sister Lollipop, Cirrus the angora goat, and Penguin and Pennyroyal, the Jacob ewe lambs.

They also made some hay-cornstalk feeders against the fence, to prevent waste of hay.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to bury my "nose" in the books....