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?