Friday, June 14, 2019

Do The Right Thing!

After lying awake for the past hour pondering a disturbing event that occurred in the field adjacent to our yard (and partly from a nagging pain from a surgical procedure that I had Thursday. Not to worry, nothing serious.) I decided that my blog was the appropriate place to write about something upsetting that ended up making me very proud of Rich.

I had donned my jammies and robe shortly after dinner because of the minor discomfort I was feeling so soon after surgery when I heard a gunshot nearby, followed by a squealing so loud and continuous that I had to get up and check the source. I looked out of the north and east windows in the living room and saw nothing. Our alpacas were screeching their warnings and all facing toward the west as they do when there is something going on that they don't like. This prompted me to step out on the front porch where I witnessed a group of three young men standing around the edge of the field chatting.

I followed their gaze about 10 feet or so into the field where I saw a large hog on its side writhing and squealing in pain. One of the young men stood in the group holding his rifle at rest by his side. It was clear that a hog had escaped from the local pig farm about a quarter of a mile down the road and across the corner  and their solution had been to kill it. Only it wasn't dead. It was suffering while these young men looked on and a young lady sat in the truck waiting.

As I stood there on the front porch, my husband, Rich, strode across the lawn with the meanest scowl on his face. If you know Rich, you know that he is a kind and gentle man who rarely gets angry, but he was Angry. He marched up to the group of boys and said, steadily, "Aren't you going to finish it off and put it out of its misery?"

To which the youth with the rifle replied, callously, "It will eventually bleed out."

Standing his ground, Rich asked, "Don't you have another bullet in that thing?"

"Yeah," the kid replied dully.

"Well use it!" Rich stood there glaring into the young man's face. The kid glared back for a fraction of a second until realizing that Rich meant what he said before he plodded back out to the hog muttering obscenities under his breath, and put a second bullet through his head, finally killing it.

The young men got into their noisy truck and sped off back down the road to the hog farm. A short while later they drove the noisy truck back, gunning the engine as they passed our house. This is the same truck that often passes by way too fast in an attempt to break some sort of speed record from the stop sign on the corner on their way to the hog farm. Rich came into the house to calm down.

A short while later the young girl who lives at the hog farm came down in a front-end-loading tractor to collect the dead hog and take it to (I assume) the lime pit that every hog farm is required to have in order to dispose of hogs that die in their care. Those  young men didn't even have the guts to stay and clean up.

Now we have grandchildren about the same age as those young men so I know better than to paint "all" young people with the same brush. And I know that those piglets that are shipped in to the farm down the road on a regular basis and shipped out as full grown hogs, are not pets but are destined to become the bacon that I occasionally enjoy on my breakfast table. But I also know that these animals deserve to be treated and killed humanely when it is necessary to do so, and what I witnessed out in that field was anything but humane. It was very disturbing to watch three young men standing around watching that hog suffer needlessly when they had the power to end that suffering.

Maybe some of my readers will have a different take on this incident. I don't know and don't much care. But I do know that I was never more proud of my husband when he, steely eyed, stared down that rifle toting young man and told him in no uncertain terms to do the right thing.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Signs of the Season Ahead

Is it because you live in the country that you become so attuned to the subtle changes in the weather? I've never been a "real" farmer like so many friends around us, but after eighteen years living deep in northern Ohio farmland, I've begun to notice the subtle changes in the air long before each new season is officially upon us. For example, one day in late February the temperature reached a high of 35 degrees from 21 in early morning. Still a bit chilly for one to call it Spring. But the daylight, expanding in length at that time, was different, somehow.

Soon after that, around the first week of March, I saw my first buzzard, a sure sign of spring, and the birds actually began to sing loudly in the morning as the still chilly sunlight appeared over the fields and woods. Over a week ago I spotted my favorite red winged black bird on our way over to Tiffin. For me, that means spring is here. Last week Rich found the beginnings of a nest in the wisteria vine over the deck. He gets rid of those quickly because to let it be completed means a constant battle with bird poo on the deck all summer long.

Large farm machinery has occasionally been cruising down the road past our country cottage, some on their way to be serviced and a few shiny new ones headed to their new homes. This is a busy time for Deere, Case and other machinery dealers as farmers need to get their equipment ready for planting. Down the road the farmer was shelling a field of last year's corn harvest while the ground was still frozen and dry.

Two weeks ago we spent some time with our friends, Dan and Karen, in Washington D.C. where they have a winter home near their grandkids. The daffodils were blooming in Arlington National Cemetery and hardy pansies were already planted around many of the public buildings. Although we were a week or two two soon for  the cherry blossoms it was lovely to see other blooming things. Out in front near the picket fence our daffodils are still only sprouted a couple of inches. They seem a bit late this year. I've been stuck inside with a nasty case of bronchitis for the past  couple of weeks so Rich brought home some lovely pink tulips to cheer me up. I'm much better now thanks to modern medicine.

My eyes are always closed in pics!

I have no  new pictures of the "kids" since I've been stuck inside so I'll leave you with this January picture of Asteri. She's one of our 2018 crias and of the two is the most curious and people friendly, always approaching the gate or window with her curious little hum. Come on out to the farm and see for yourself how much is going on this spring.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Thermal Whiplash And Other Related Weather Terms

I read in the paper the other day that the Polar Vortex is separating. Apparently the Moroccan heat has come between and separated the parts of the Vortex somehow. According to the article this forced the Moroccan heat north over the Arctic. Although I don't completely understand this colorful explanation I do understand that excessive heat in the Arctic means icebergs begin melting and this is what global warming really means. So although we have had subzero temperatures and fierce wind (more on that later), somewhere very far to the north of us there is ice melting and contributing to the rise of sea levels and displacement of polar bears and other creatures. It's bad for us and really bad for them.

One thing that I quickly learned when I moved to lived in the country eighteen years ago is that out here, chatting about the weather is not merely "small talk." As a city girl, I knew that when the conversation lagged one could always turn to talk about the weather to keep things going. In Ohio, after all, the weather is constantly surprising us. But out here in the country one can see the immediate and direct effect weather has on our economy and our life every day. So when farmers get together the weather is always a topic of conversation. The amounts of precipitation in the winter, snow, rain or whatever form it takes, has a direct effect on the crops that will be planted in the spring.

Closer to home, our alpacas, indigenous to the high planes of the Peruvian Andes, are able to withstand and even enjoy most winter weather. We provide shelter, whether it be our small barn or three sided "condos" (sheds). The animals always have the option to go inside or stay outside and under normal winter circumstances males and females stay outside within sight of each other. Because of their extremely long and dense fleece we have found them kushing in the barnyard with a couple of inches of snow on their backs after sleeping out all night. No problem.

On Saturday night, January 19th we had overnight temperatures sinking to near zero and high winds out of the north, making the wind chill factor well below zero. Our three geldings stayed snug and warm huddled in their condo and all the mamas and babies stayed in the back of the barn, snuggled down in the straw that Rich had spread for all of the animals. Our beautiful black herd sire, Mocha, because he is an intact male, has a pasture and shelter of his own up against the barn. He stayed huddled inside but unfortunately, instead of placing his well fleeced backside to the wind, he faced outward, toward the nearby barn door, where he knew the girls were huddled. It's purely instinct for the herd sire to protect his harem. When Rich came out early Sunday he found Mocha, still kushed and facing the barn door, head encrusted with icy snow, shivering, still guarding his girls.

We had worried about him being alone but felt that his survival instinct would make him sleep facing the barn, rear to the storm. Unfortunately his protective instinct was stronger and he had been looking out for his girls. Of course, Rich, immediately moved the poor guy into a makeshift stall in the barn and hung a heat lamp to help him warm up. His stall was adjacent to the girls' area where he could see them and yet couldn't get in to "pester" them, if you get my drift. Everyone was happy.

Today the weather channel reports that the temperatures are warming and that we are in for a "thermal whiplash" whatever that is. Mocha has been returned to his own area of the barnyard. The girls have been set free from the barn and the geldings are happily watching them from their adjoining pasture. Everyone is enjoying the great outdoors and the lovely new covering of snow that fell last night.

You may notice that our Leezza has fully recovered from her pre-Christmas bout with anemia and is gaining weight and growing fleece. She has been wearing her red coat to help her retain warmth throughout this cold snap and within the next few days we will be removing it when the temperature rises high enough. He fleece is shorter than usual this year and very brittle as a result of her illness. That means that it will only be useful for felted insoles and not knitting yarn. But we are so glad that she and her little Artemis are thriving after such a close brush with death.

I certainly hope the parts of the Polar Vortex can resolve their differences and get back together, letting the Moroccan heat travel southward to warm us up a bit. I don't know about you all but I am hoping for a cloudy day tomorrow so that old Buckeye Chuck  stays outside to play in the snow and maybe spring will arrive a bit sooner than usual!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Snow Day Dreaming

The snow began as a light flurry around eight o'clock this morning and has continued to build in density and wind velocity for the past hour and a half. It is slowly adding a new coat of white to Thursday's snow and accumulating on the pavement. The weather experts have been telling us for several days now that this storm, that was originally tracked in the Pacific Ocean, is going to be a doozy for us. They have stopped short of using the "B" word. No. Not that one. The other one, blizzard. I don't know about you but when I hear 6-8" of snow with 30 mile an hour gusts of wind that sounds like a blizzard to me. The falling snow is already obscuring the view of the woods across the road and is supposed to continue like this until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Rich bungee-ed the porch glider to the railing a few weeks back and put straw into the barns and animal "condos" the other day in preparation for more severe weather than the mild winter we've had so far. Wednesday we stocked up on the few fresh food items we needed. So the pantry and fridge are fully stocked; we have coffee and alcohol; and I have a few good books and sufficient yarn to see me through the storm. We're all set here!

Early this morning I baked oatmeal scones with cranberries and walnuts and a maple glaze for breakfast and right now I have an Italian wedding soup with those tiny sausage meatballs in it, simmering on the stove for lunch. Doesn't this weather just makes you feel like cooking and baking comfort foods?

 So much has happened since my last post in September. We fulfilled one of Rich's travel wishes when we went to Springfield, Illinois for a long weekend. Springfield is a charming small city known for being the place where President Lincoln lived. His house feels like a home where kids were allowed  to play alongside important statesmen who visited and were entertained there. A visit to Lincoln's tomb made me pause to think about his life and was most inspiring.

We fulfilled one of my longstanding travel wishes by going on a Viking River Cruise down the Danube River with our good friends, Dan and Karen. My favorite stops were Regensburg and Passau, Germany. These medieval towns are well preserved and mostly escaped the WWII bombing. I found it amazing to stroll up and down cobblestone streets amongst buildings that had been in existence for hundreds of years.

We dined on excellent foods, saw scenery that was simply amazing and, of course, drank German beer! Another highlight of our trip was a carriage ride with Dan and Karen through the streets of Vienna, Austria. My head swiveling from side to side in awe and wonder, I kept pinching myself in disbelief!

It goes without saying that Rich and I both took so many pictures that it will take a valiant effort on my part to sort and categorize them all. We so enjoyed traveling with Karen and Dan and have made so many happy memories. The Viking crew from the captain, cruise director and chef, down the ranks to the waitstaff and janitorial staff and dock hands, all contributed to making each passenger feel so pampered. It was such a wonderful experience that the four of us have booked  trip down the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands for June of 2020!

It took Karen, Dan and I months to persuade Rich to go on this trip. I think he had reservations about overseas travel. But with a few minor glitches we navigated the airports and transfers very well on our own and left to the rest to the Viking staff's capable hands. We did so well, in fact, that we decided to visit southern Ireland on our own in September, 2019 and Rich has done all of the itinerary planning and bookings on his own! 

With that to look forward to on this snowy, Ohio, winter day, I'm planning on settling in, surfing the net and doing some itinerary planning of my own. Did you know that most every town in Ireland where Rich has booked a B&B, there's a local yarn shop or woolen mill located nearby?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

And Then There Were Two

If you read last month's blog then you were introduced to Asteria, Mango's little girl who was born while we were working at the Farmer's Market. Surprise! She has grown so much in the past month and has been very entertaining for us as we've been watching her discover and develop her talents for running and pronking, which is an action closely resembling the bouncing gait of the cartoon creature, Pepe LePew, a skunk! Rich likes to go out into the pasture after evening feeding and sit in an old rickety chair watching her play. She has become very friendly with him, sniffing his hands and legs up close while she makes her little curious humming sound.

During this past month while we've been observing the antics of Asteria we have also been on baby watch with our lovely brown Leezza. She had been bred to Arte, the herdsire of our neighbors, the Wurm family, at Windfall Farm. Since Artie was a newbie at this breeding thing we weren't sure if it actually "took" the first time so we had to rebreed Leezza to him a few weeks later. So we had two separate due dates a couple of weeks apart. Leezza seemed to be getting bigger and more miserable each week since Mango delivered Asteria. On several different days I was sure that it was going to be "The Day" only to be disappointed. Then on August 28th when I went into the barn shortly after 7 a.m. I didn't see Leezza waiting with the others for her morning grain supplement. A quick peek into the barnyard revealed Leezza laying down humming and clicking. At first I didn't see the new cria hidden behind her heaving body. Then I stepped out to see a perfect little baby struggling to sit up with the membrane still clinging to her.

This tiny little thing was struggling to her feet within a few minutes of my towel drying her and very shortly was zeroing in on her breakfast. None of the usual fumbling around under mommy looking for the tap. She was ravenous and knew exactly what she was after and where to find it. A patient Leezza stood there until the little one was through even though I suspect she was hungry for her own breakfast that was waiting in the barn.

Rich is now outnumbered by all of the females on the farm. We have our dog, DeeDee, five female alpacas and me. Rich only has four male alpacas on his team, but he seems to be a happy man!

In keeping with our Greek mythology theme, we have named the new little one Artemis. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and wild creatures, and nocturnal beings. That's fitting since Asteria, her month older cousin, was named for the goddess of shooting stars and celestial beings. 

It's only been a little over a week since Artemis entered the world and the two girls are fast becoming besties. They both love to speed around the pasture in a merry chase and quite often it is the little one who is in the lead! She seems to enjoy starting the chase and Asteria always takes the bait and takes off after her smaller cousin. On these balmy evenings we love to sit on the deck sipping wine and watching their joyful antics. These are some of my favorite times on the farm; pure serenity and happiness.

That should be the end of my blog but I couldn't resist this bonus picture of the doggie female in the family. DeeDee is almost two years old now and you would think she would have left her puppy habits behind. We thought so, too. The other evening when we went to the store we left Dee inside because it was so hot outside. One of the pillows that we use when laying on the floor was left out  instead of being propped up against the wall out of the way, like we usually do. When we returned from the grocery store an hour and a half later this is what we found:

DeeDee wasn't the least bit ashamed of what she had done. In fact she just continued to lay there in the fluff gazing innocently at us as if to say, "I didn't do it!"

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Blue Ribbon Week

I was reading an article the other day by a psychologist who posited the theory that social media may be responsible for the rise in depression and suicide. This psychologist wasn't talking about bullying, which we already know to have been ruled responsible in courts for several teen suicides. I'm talking about the myth of the perfect life that many of us are perceived to have based upon our posts on Instagram, Facebook and other sites. Let me first say that my own life is no more perfect than anyone else's. The reason that it may look that way on social media is that I was raised in an era when parents taught us that we should not "air our dirty laundry in public." That is, if one is having problems at home, personal, financial, or otherwise, one doesn't go around telling everybody one knows about it and one certainly doesn't publish it in the news media for strangers to read about or watch! In fact, I was told about the Victorian social norm that  a "lady" should only have her name in the paper for three events: her birth, her marriage and her death. Anything more than that is a scandal. Imagine applying those standards to today's social media outlets.

That early training possibly explains why I have mostly posted short, positive bits on Instagram and Facebook for the past few months. Not that anything serious was wrong or that I was depressed or anything like that. Between the demise and death of my father-in-law, Ed, in January and minor health mysteries of my own, I just haven't felt inspired to write on my blog. So, sorry to those who actually enjoy reading my musings on farm life and occasionally life in general. Mysteries solved, I'm fine and the past week has left me with so many sunny events to write about since, lucky me, my life has a lot to be thankful for.

We have been so lucky to have been discovered by a lovely young woman, Cate, who had a strong desire to show alpacas at the Seneca County Fair for one of her many 4-H projects this year. She called sometime last winter and asked to talk with us. We got together with Cate and her mom, Joni, and discussed everything that would be involved in the project so she would fully understand the commitment. Then in April, Cate began coming out to the farm to learn about and work with the alpacas. It's been a long process that I will talk about in future blog posts but this week it came to it's final end and she was the alpaca show at the fair.

Last Sunday Rich and I loaded up Aristotle, who would actually be shown in the ring, and Dionysus, who was to be his companion.  Dio was a necessity since they have such strong herd instincts and they would be the only alpacas at the fair. That's right, when I said that Cate was "the alpaca show" at the fair it wasn't a typo. She was the only one showing alpacas so I guess you know the outcome of the judging. She walked away with all the prizes!

Cate and Aristotle doing the obstacle course

Seriously though, she earned every trophy and ribbon she won. Cate came out at least 4 times a week during the first three months to work with the animals. That meant a drive of 1/2 hour over and 1/2 hour home and a workout of at least an hour. In addition to this she was showing sheep and rabbits and babysitting. She came out on April 21 and spent the entire day helping us shear the animals. She was also a graduating senior with plans to attend the pre-veterinary course at Findlay University this fall. In addition to all of this she was last year's Seneca County Fair Queen and had many duties to carry out that were connected to that honor. We have so enjoyed working with Cate this season and are hopeful that this will result in having a few more 4-H kids come out to work with the animals next year, too.

In my next blog I'll talk more about Aristotle's and Dio's experiences at the fair but I want to end this blog with an even bigger event for the week. I know, it's hard to believe that there can be anything bigger than this for the alpacas, right? But yesterday early afternoon, after selling our products at the farmers' market in Tiffin in the morning, we came home to this lovely sight:

Mango had not only delivered her cria a week early (like she has her other two boys) but she gave us a girl this time! If that's not deserving of a blue ribbon I don't know what else is. After having six males in succession born on the farm we finally got lucky on the seventh one and got a lovely little fawn colored female. She was already up and nursing when we got home and was mostly dry. From this we estimated that she was born somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Mango, that wonderful mama, was standing patiently while horseflies swarmed all over her and let the little one nurse contentedly. Rich and I discussed names and decided to keep with the Greek mythology theme. Her name is Asteria which means star a name that features in several Greek legends. We didn't go back to the fair last night like we had originally planned. We just sat on the deck watching Asteria get her land legs as she explored the her new pasture world.


Rich's new little girl.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Right Around the Corner!

With Christmas fast approaching and Hanukkah already underway, I have been struggling to balance making new creations and meeting mailing deadlines. Just yesterday I spent several hours either traveling into town to our local post office or on the phone to a USPS branch in Orlando trying to track down an order that had been lost between here and there. I finally gave up and sent out another four skeins of our black baby alpaca fingering weight yarn. You know the one that I had blended with pearl infused rose fiber. It's a lovely yarn and the order was to be a Hanukkah gift. My customer was understandably miffed with the postal service (not with me, thank heavens) and I felt obligated to make it right and deal with the claims department of the USPS later. Sometimes running a small business here on the farm can be a bit stressful.

Speaking of stress, I only have about 2/3 of my shopping done. Since we are splitting our time between here and Florida this year I think that the last 1/3 of my shopping will be gift cards. There was no time to make any of my own gifts this year because much of my knitting was being sold in the shop. These fingerless mitts have been a popular gift.

One day in early October, as I was idly surfing through Etsy, I discovered these cute little felted pumpkins. Thinking that they would make a great tablescape for my girls luncheon I decided to teach myself how to needle felt. One thing led to another and I found and became enamored of felted Swedish Tomten or Christmas gnomes. I have made them in sizes ranging from 3" to 10." I have table decoration size and  tree ornaments and all of them seem to sell out quickly. I'll be creating some more smaller ones this afternoon after I finish the chunky eternity scarf that I started yesterday. Me thinks that I have too many irons in the fire at one time and maybe that is contributing to my stress levels;-)

There's one other item on my plate right now, too. A really big one. One cold, cold day last January when Rich went out in the pre-dawn to feed the alpacas, he noticed that one of the girls was missing. Puzzled, he went out closer to the fence dividing the boy pastures from the girls where he saw a splotch of white in the field where our very black Mocha resided. Somehow, old Took, technically Mocha's grandmother, had gotten into his pasture overnight. She was ready to return to the girl side of the fence and he was contentedly grazing with a very smug look on his face. We had her tested a few months later and the pregnancy test was positive. So now 11 1/2 months later we are on the lookout for the arrival of a new cria. 

For the past week, Tookie has been showing all of the signs of imminent delivery. She spends an awful lot of her time laying around the barn and the pasture. Our biggest worry is that she will deliver when there is no one around to dry off the baby. In this cold weather it could cause the little one to suffer from hypothermia and die. Rich has hung partitions in the barn to eliminate drafts and we have heat lamps in position to switch on when it arrives. He also dug out cria coats in three different sizes.

I am checking the pasture every hour or so and each time I need to leave to go to the store or for an appointment I worry until I am home again. But with alpacas being pregnant for so long it is not unusual for them to deliver two weeks early or two weeks late. Took has a history of being on time and delivering a bit late in the day. They almost always deliver during daylight hours. This is an adaptation to the fact that they are indigenous to the high mountain planes of Peru. If they delivered after dark the cria would almost certainly die because they don't lick their babies dry. The baby is up and walking around and nursing within minutes of birth. 

So out here on the farm more than just Christmas is right around the corner and we are more than excited about all of it!