Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Magic moment...

Regular readers may remember that I am fascinated by crows and ravens.  I have a flock of crows that I feed, and they come to visit me each morning, then check in throughout the day to see if any new treats have appeared. They tolerate my staring at them out the window, and come very close. Sometimes they land not too far from me when I am outside. There are ravens here, but they are shy. If they see me behind the glass they flap off.  I am always delighted to catch a glimpse of them, huge and shaggy looking, with massive beaks.

This morning, when I was feeding the poultry, I saw Chanel, the horse, drop and roll in the tattered snow.  When she stood up I could see that she had left fist fulls of shedding hair behind. It was ruddy against the white.  After I finished taking care of the poultry I fed and watered the rabbits, and threw a ball for Bravo until he was tired. Then I went back to where the hoof stock were eating and handed out some treats that I had hiding in my pocket.  As I stood there, two ravens swooped in low.  One continued on and landed in a tree.

The larger of the two stopped not 20 feet from me, where the pony had just rolled.  My breath stopped in my lungs, and I froze.  The bird strutted along, scooping up the hair that was spread across the snow. He (or she) soon had a beak full.  It lifted off and landed in a tree, rearranging the hair until it was just right.  I am delighted to think they are making a fine nest to raise their young, and that those chicks will be cozily tucked in with pony fuzz.

It was magical to me to have this great bird land so close to me, and gather up the fine, warm hair from my horse to cup inside their nest.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sweet morning...

The world is hush and wrapped in fog this morning.  Old time New Englander's call this a "snow eating fog."  The stained and tattered drifts disappear bit by bit, revealing mud and muck below.

In the kitchen I slice apples, carrots, celery for rabbits.  I unwrap 4 peppermints and clutch them in my hand, surprise sweets for the horse and donkey. Red and white delights to start their day.  They call out when they see me.  Heel to toe, mindful of my gate, I navigate the ice. The stock are huddled around the hay rack, sifting through the remnants to see if there is anything left worth eating after they have rummaged it all night.

Chanel presses a warm, ticklish nicker into my palm, and lips the mint up gently. In a second she is crunching it between huge molars and leaning in to see if there is more.
The donkey is a bit more delicate.
I fill the rack with breakfast hay.
The goats dive in. It is their favorite type this morning,and they moan in delight as they bury their faces deep in the fragrant pile.

The old iron gate has its feet rooted in ice.

But there are puddles about and ducks are delighted. They waddle and mutter, rooting their flat, bellow bills through the thawing ground.
It's a sweet morning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bravo earns his keep...

We have rabbits running amok at FairWinds, and it is all because of Ella goat and her insatiable appetite.  The way things should be is this: two calf hutches, side by side and under the shelter of some old pine trees house two female California rabbits in one, and two pet boy rabbits in the other.
To create a door to keep the bunnies in and predators (and hungry goats) out, we stole an idea our clever friend Scott came up with.  A couple of grated, metal storage shelves fastened together with zip ties and braced with a thin fiberglass fence post wedge in nicely and can be held fast with a bungee cord.  This allows light and air in, is easy to move about when taking care of the rabbits and is (usually) quite secure.

This set up worked well for a very long time, until about a month ago when naughty Ella got a yen for some rabbit food.  Sometime in the night she wiggled her head and muscular neck between the doorway of the hutch and the wire grate.  Goats are very strong, and Ella is a large goat in her prime. She pushed the door aside and let herself in for a nice snack. The real problem occurred when she neglected to fasten the door behind her when she was done.  When I went out to do chores the next morning the door was gaping and the lady rabbits were gone.  Ella showed no remorse.

Once nice thing about rabbits is they don't tend to travel far when they get loose.  The ladies quickly figured out how to seek shelter under the front porch, or cozier still, under the overturned kayaks. They stayed in a place where it was simple for me to put food, water and treats out for them. I made a few half-hearted attempts to catch them with a net, and made a mental note to get my live trap out and bait it, but then I never did. Truth to tell, I got a kick out of seeing them hopping around the yard. Of course,they were at risk for getting eaten by an eagle or fox, but they just looked so darn happy.  I'd see them exploring about, nibbling on twigs, racing full tilt over the snow, leaping with the joy of freedom.

Then last weekend when I was doing chores I found that two boy bunnies from a third hutch had somehow gotten out.  Now I had four leaping lagomorphs on the loose.  Things were getting serious.  Last night I set the live trap.  I put some juicy apple slices and hay in, and put it in one of the spots where they were prone to hanging out.  This morning I saw one of the rabbits nibbling on the hay from the outside of the trap. That was a promising start.

A moment later, I saw Bravo alert.

And the chase was on...
"BRAVO!" I called, and he stopped, and came to me, head low, ears pinned, apologetic.  He didn't mean any harm, but it was impossible to not chase something so tempting.  Just then I heard a "SNAP!"  The bunny had run from Bravo, straight into the trap!  

Delighted, I transferred it to it's hutch. 

An hour later I glanced out the window, so pleased to know that one escapee was settled and safe. I saw a little face peering out of the hutch.  A face that DID NOT BELONG THERE. 

Bad Ella struck again!  How she managed to get in with FOUR elastic cords pulled tight, I do not know. But I do know that the door shut behind her, trapping her and the rabbit fast.  Just to be spiteful I left her there a while. She looked good behind bars.  

At least one of my animals was well behaved today. Well done, Bravo.  Three more bunnies to go. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Madder than...

You are most likely familiar with the term, "madder than a wet hen."  I am often surprised to see that my chickens go out and potter around in the rain, and never seem the slightest bit "mad," even when they are drenched and bedraggled.  This hen, however, looks quite peeved about being out in the deep snow.

She is there because Bravo pup was feeling boisterous and chased her a bit, out of the packed-down hen yard and into the deep stuff.  He is not malicious in his chasing, just young, reckless and playful. The hen, however, does not find his youthful ways charming in the least. If you click on the picture you will see the fury in her bright eye.

In contrast to my bird, Bravo finds the deep snow to be intoxicating.

Monday, February 13, 2017

After the snow...

It snowed all night.  The wind picked up a bit before I started chores, whipping the snow around me and stuffing it down my collar, under my eye glasses and into the space between my gloves and jacket.  I carried a heavy jug of water and gave the ducks and chickens a big drink.  Chanel and Abraham waded through the snow, calling to me. They wanted more food, and I obliged.  Carrying a few flakes of hay out to the shed. I had to laugh when I got there, they still had plenty from the night before.

The rabbits water bowls were full of ice. I smashed them over and over on a hard surface until the ice shattered.  I filled them back up with water from the horse bucket, and hoped the rabbits were smart enough to drink deeply while they can, because the ice will be back in no time.  I hand out carrots and celery and treats. The snow is up over my knees, stinging my eyes and skin with every gust.
The white is over Bravo's head in spots, but that does not keep him from leaping in, like a fox after a rodent. Spring, dive, face deep in the snow, tail up.  He is happy. He is also happy that there are paths from the snow blower. 

It snowed all day. The wind howling and whistling. 
It stuffed snow between the storm window and the interior window.  The Driftwind sign once hung at my grandparents house. It seemed like fate that where it sits is the one window so treated by the wind. 

We took turns with the snow blower. Rachel did most of the work, but I tried the beast for the first time. Chris got frosted during his stint... 

I shoveled two sets of stairs as the weak sun was going down. The drifts were 3 feet in spots.  As I worked some flakes still swirled around prettily. I felt a pang of regret, "I didn't enjoy it enough." I thought.  "I should have spent more time looking out the window instead of doing research. I should have taken a walk when it was still blowing hard, before it was over." And then I wondered, "Is that how it will be at the end of my life?  Will I think 'I didn't enjoy it enough?'" I hope not.
Life, like this storm, is flying past on swift wings. It needs to be savored.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ready for the storm...

The forecast is for a blizzard. They are tossing around words like "severe," and "crippling," and predicting 50  mph winds.

So today we put up water for the livestock in case we have a power outage and cannot use our well.
Chris helped me and together we cleaned out the goat and pony cozy and put a thick layer of fresh bedding in for them.  Later we will cram their feeders full of hay.

The bunnies all got clean houses, full food dishes, extra snacks and piles of hay to snuggle in.

The duck house got a layer of clean, dry shavings.

 A few chickens went in to visit and check things out.
 Of course, their coop got cleaned as well.  We tossed the soiled shavings out into the hen yard on top of the snow, and the birds got out for a few hours, scratching around and getting some fresh air.  When there is more than a few inches of snow on the ground they tend to prefer to stay in the coop, but they can be convinced to leave home if there is something to stand on that isn't white.  It was nice to see them out and about.
 I put fresh hay in the nest boxes, and they quickly added some eggs as if to reward us for our efforts.
 They are such pretty birds.
 Bravo stayed out with us the whole time, tossing toys in the snow and leaping to find them, pestering the birds and looking handsome.  The cold and snow don't bother him a bit.
The hoof stock seem bored. There is little for them to do but walk from their cozy to the hay rack to the water bucket and back. I feel bad for them, so took a pocket full of treats and a hair brush out and gave everyone a good brushing. They love that, and jockey for position close to me so I will run the brush over them. Here is Abraham, snugging in close so I'll pay attention to those epic ears of his. Notice Bravo in the background, sitting in the snow. There were wild turkeys on the other side of the fence. He is fascinated by them.

 Chanel's nimble lips worked up and down my jacket, trying to pry into my pockets and retrieve peppermints.  When I brushed her I noticed her thick coat shedding out by the handful.  A promise that winter will pass and the blizzards will be behind us.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


The forecast is for heavy snow.  If I hadn't heard about it on the news and from customers, I might have known that weather was coming. The birds told me.  Although the first flakes didn't fall until after 10:00 AM, the activity at the bird feeders was a record high.  I filled them several times before noon.

Although some customers cancelled, afraid to be out in the storm, a few intrepid souls came out.  They were all gone before any real accumulation began to pile up.  I bundled up, knit cap, insulated coat and overalls, boots with grippers, and wonderful gloves, with a bonus. For Christmas my sister Deb, and her talented husband, John, gave us the most thoughtful, useful, marvelous gift.  Warm gloves for everyone, and a years supply of glove warmers.  These magical things are called, "Little Hotties." They are all natural, biodegradable, and pet safe. On cold mornings I open a package and slip one into each glove.  All while I do my chores the little packets are heating up. Doing chores my gloves have to come off frequently so I can open latches, deal with hay strings, fill little water bowls and pat critters.  My hands get cold!  Then I jam them back into my gloves where they are met by blissful, comforting, warmth.  The little packets keep their warmth for hours, and when I do evening chores my gloves are pre-heated and cozy.
That galvanized tub on the left is decorated with super cute farm stickers and filled with hand warmers. A WEALTH of them.  And that wooden rack that is tucked up by the stove? Made by John. Wet gloves and hats go on the sturdy spindles and are dry in no time.  They even put our names on the rack, with whimsical lettering and words like "mittens," "gloves," "hats."  The whole thing is just so darn handy and helpful.
 Ready to face the Nor'easter, Bravo and I went out to check on the animals.  I gave the ducks fresh food and water, and checked to make sure the chickens had plenty of both. They returned the favor with 5 fresh eggs.

Chris helped me and we carried an entire bale of hay out to the horse, donkey and goats.
The snow is coming down at a rapid clip, and a bitter wind is gusting. The thermometer says it is 19 degrees, but the air felt much colder anywhere it was able to touch my skin. .

Inside the goat cozy the girls are working away at the overstuffed hay rack, happily.  When there is hay that they particularly like they make contented little "Mmm, Mmmmm," sounds when they eat. We have some second cut hay from Canada that evokes these happy noises.  Chris mutters, "Our animals are so spoiled they won't even eat local hay."  He is not quite right. They will eat it, but they much prefer the imported stuff.

We gave the rabbits fresh water, piles of hay to snuggle in and snack on, and full food dishes.  Everyone should be set to weather the storm.

Once the stock were checked and fed and tucked in, I took Bravo for a little walk.  There is not a lot of traffic here anyway, and on days like this passing cars are few and far between. So I let him loose and off he went.

He loves the snow.

Truth be told, I do, too. There is something so cozy about coming indoors after animal care and a walk. The fire snaps in the stove and the air inside is warm and still.  Cuddled up under a blanket I hear the wind whistle around the windows and settle with a contented sigh.  The dogs echo my deep breath and push against me in slumber.  Storm days are good days.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017


This morning while I was doing outside chores I had NPR chatting away to me from my pocket.
I was tickled to hear that today was Candlemas, something I was unfamiliar with.

So of course I came in and did a little research, because... that is how my  brain works. I found this:

  1. "A Christian festival held on February 2 to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary (after childbirth, according to Jewish law) and the presentation of Christ in the Temple. Candles were traditionally blessed at this festival." 

That was certainly interesting. The NPR reporter also explained that Candlemas is the halfway point of winter, falling between the shortest and longest days of the year.  And then he said something that really caught my attention.  Traditionally people would say, "You should still have half your wood and half your hay on Candlemas day."  All of this appealed to me, out in the 8 degree air wearing insulated everything and feeling as if winter would never end.  I still have a wall of hay, though the hoof stock are doing their best to polish it off.  And though I started the season without much wood, I do have a wonderful furnace to keep us warm for the second half of winter.  The days are getting longer and winter is half over. This put a smile on my face all day.  

Happy Candlemas day!  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Snowy day...

We had a pretty little snow storm this morning.  About 3 inches of nice, dry, powdery snow fell. Just enough to frost everything nicely.
The birds were very active at the feeder.  Amazingly, I have THREE bluebirds that come to visit.  They have been here all through January, which is odd, because normally they migrate to warmer climes.
I don't know what they find to eat to stay alive, but they look pretty perky out there. 
Bravo likes the snow. 
Abraham is less enthused. 
His thick, fuzzy coat keeps him toasty warm, but the icy footing outside is not popular with any of the livestock. 
Mostly they just hang out and eat. And eat. And eat some more. They are all overly plump.  

The storm seemed to leave behind a clean slate to start February with.  I hope the rest of the month is as lovely.