Winter is Coming

0702 logs.jpgJasper started cutting and splitting logs for us to use this winter.

The trees were ones that had fallen last summer at the westernmost edge of the property.  The owner of the neighboring tract of land clear cut the forest bordering ours.  Without the protection and buffer of those trees, the fierce winter winds felled a good swath of our trees, too.

I was mad about it to begin with.  The owner of the land is something of a lumber and land baron around here, doesn’t live on the property but bought it just for the timber, and of course he didn’t think for a second about what would happen to our trees when he cut his down.  But being mad about something you can do absolutely nothing about is no way to live.

Instead, we decided that when life knocks down your trees, it’s time to cut firewood.

0721 woodpile.jpgWinter.  It seems like such a very long way away, being in the middle of July as we are.  It’s hard to believe that the days could be cold and dark and that the nights could be long.  I’ve gotten used to sunshine and balmy weather (average of 70 degrees my friends!) and going to sleep at night while the robins are still singing and with only the thinnest of quilts.

But I know it won’t last, the Earth just keeps swinging around that sun, and so, forearms browning in the summer sun as I weed in the garden, I listen to buzz of the chainsaw and the metallic thunk of the ax in the lower field as Jasper chops firewood for the cold months ahead.  And when I go help to move it and stack it, I think about how happy I’ll feel to throw one of these logs in the fireplace and listen to it crackling away come January.

0721 cat

There’s something nice about preparing for winter in the heat of summer.  Something that’s deeply soul-satisfying about knowing that this hard work will have such tangible results.  It’s not the same as working in an office and earning a paycheck.  It’s not the same as throwing the switch on the thermostat and later paying the heating bill.

It’s harder, to be sure.  But it is hugely rewarding, in a way I never knew before, and on an almost primal level.  We worked hard, and this winter we’ll be warm.

And I feel rich beyond measure.

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On a (Warmish) Tin Roof

0512 roof 0512 roof 2Is there any nicer way to spend an inclement spring day than crouched on an old metal roof equipped with a crow bar and a hammer, tearing off old cedar shakes and listening to the local station on the wind-up radio?

No?

I didn’t think so, either.

The New Hatchlings

Well, it turns out that I didn’t have to wait very terribly long for baby birds, after all.

I spent yesterday morning hunting out and knocking over any and all nests I could find inside the farmhouse, and getting quite a few adult barn swallows furious at me.  I know it isn’t likely, but I didn’t want to give them a chance to lay any eggs in the next 24 hours, lest their unborn babes go up in flames.  I have an especially soft spot when it comes to barn swallows, you know.

So it was nice, and needed, to find that the three blue eggs down in the nest box are now three baby birds, hatched and healthy and greedily chuffing with hunger.  I still don’t know if they’re robins or starlings, although now I’m starting to learn toward starling.  Iris claims she saw the mother bird leaving the nest and that it was all brown.  If she’s right, that’s some pretty strong evidence for it.

I won’t lie; I’ve always wanted a pet starling.  I know lots of people hate them, but I’ve always found them beautiful, and their flight murmurations are breathtaking.  But if that’s what these little guys are, I promise I won’t take one to raise.  This year.  My life is crazy enough right now as it is.

***

Today is burn day.  I’m excited and apprehensive, both, but I am also absolutely 100% ready.

To new beginnings!

Nest Update

0422 tree and nest box0422 eggsAnother egg has appeared in the nest!  Is the clutch done now?

And as for what kind of eggs these are, my vote is also for baby robins.  I don’t have any real reason why, that’s just my first inclination.  I suppose I’ll know for certain in another two weeks!

April Showers and Showers

0411 gardenI checked my notes.

“April 20th, 2016: The days are mostly sunny and we’ve had a nice spate of summer weather recently.  I’ve quite often found myself sitting in the backyard in the afternoon, luxuriating in the heat and almost literally watching the garden grow.”

Well, this April has not been quite the same.  The opposite, really.  The rain never did stop for more than a day or two, and the ground remains soggy.  The onions keep getting washed out, and I’m not replanting them anymore.  The peas we planted back in February are no more than an inch high, but the weeds surrounding them are prolific and taking over.  I’m just letting them.

So, in summary, we’ve all but given up on the outside garden for now.

0418 greenhouse.jpgInstead, we’re working in the greenhouse.  It’s a nice place to be when the rain is relentlessly falling. It stays about 60-70 degrees during the day, which is downright balmy compared to what it’s like outside.

We got the tomatoes planted last week, and basil, eggplants, peppers, lettuce and carrots too.  I’d have more in there, but one side of the greenhouse is taken up by milled lumber. Hopefully we’ll be able to use it in the new house or future barn, and then next year I’ll have even more room to play with if the ever-fickle weather keeps me inside again.

0418 tomatoes.jpgWe upgraded from the soaker hose we had last year, and Jasper spent an afternoon installing a drip system.  It uses the same timer, and waters twice a day for about 7 minutes at a time.  If it ever gets warmer we’ll increase the watering, but for now the tomatoes seem quite happy.

So, all told, it’s not what I wanted my April check-in to look like, but it is what it is.  Sigh.  I’ve been moping about the weather for far too long.  I’m done, I promise.  There’s nothing to be done about it, anyway.  Except sit in my greenhouse while the rain patters softly (or loudly) on the roof and watch my tomatoes grow.

Nest Watch 2017

0412 avery at pondThere’s an old wood duck house down by our pond.  It’s been there as long as I’ve been coming to the farm; Jasper thought maybe one of his brothers or his sister made it and put it up back when they were children.

I don’t know if any wood ducks have ever used it, but certainly not in recent years.  We check it compulsively almost every time we wander by, always with the hope of finding wood duck eggs inside, but it’s always empty.

0412 duck boxThe other day the girls and I visited the pond while Jasper was burning stuff elsewhere on the farm.  We found four amphibious egg clusters clinging to the weeds, but we’ll have to wait awhile to find out whether they’re frog eggs or newt eggs.  We sent sticks and old boat floats down through the culvert pipe and watched them shoot out the waterfall on the otherside (like Poohsticks, sort of).

Almost as an afterthought I opened up the duck house:
0412 eggsEggs!

Nestled in a bed of dry grasses were two perfect blue and brown speckled eggs.  Not wood duck eggs, to be sure, but eggs nonetheless!  A perfect discovery just in time for Easter.

Now, if only I could know for certain what type of birds these eggs belong to.  Robin?  Starling?  Stellar Jay?  I guess time will tell.  Nest Watch 2017 is on!

Barnyard Happenings

0324 tillyI visit the barn at least twice a day, but most days three or four times.  To let the chickens out in the morning, and to lock them in again at night.  To check food and water.  To check for eggs.

Invariably a cat or two will follow me, since they never like to be left out of whatever’s going on.  Lulu is content to merely be with me, a cat with her person, but Matilda always gets a wild hair when she’s outside and usually ends up climbing something.  So far she’s been able to get down from whatever she’s ascended, and hasn’t fallen from anything, but I have seen her lose her footing and dangle awkwardly from the top branches of our flowering cherry tree.  She prefers that I did not see that, and will climb down with an overabundance of dignity and poise.

I love my dogs.  I love all dogs.  But I do find cats to be so much more amusing.

0328 rooster.jpgIn chicken news, Wilhelm Von Cocklespurs is all settled in and the proud head of his flock.  He’s first out of the coop in the morning, and he leads his ladies back in every evening.  They all crowd around him on the roost, and he looks as happy as can be.

I watched him find worms in the dirt the other day, but he didn’t eat them himself.  Instead, he brought them over to the hens, did a little bobbing dance and then gave the worms to the hens with much magnanimity.  I think in this way he managed to win them over, because now I see him doing that other thing roosters do, and they seem happy to let him.

And not that we need more chickens, but if Flower goes broody again this summer I might let her sit a couple of eggs.  She might just hatch them, and I would like to see that, as well.

0328 chicks 2.jpgThe young pullets are still a flock unto themselves.  They never go far from each other, and they also never go far from the door of the barn.  The wide world seems very scary when you’re a 4-month-old pullet.  Jasper threw some leftover grain from his beer brewing into the yard the other day, and it was tempting enough that they did very tentatively venture the 15 feet from the barn to eat it.  They were jumpy and nervous the entire time though.  I hope they calm down soon.

One day last week I didn’t see them outside at all, not even in the doorway.  I kept looking out the window throughout the day, but never saw them.  Finally I went out to check, and found them all huddled in the corner of the barn opposite their coop.  They were terrified, because in the window was a trapped hummingbird, making quite the racket.

Tilly, of course, was with me, and immediately climbed up onto the window, so I quickly grabbed the hummingbird in my hand.  This wasn’t the first time I held a hummingbird, but I’m always struck by how delicate and weightless they are.  It’s like holding a single piece of fluff in your palm.  The poor thing was frightened (probably as much as the pullets) but unhurt.  I held it long enough to take a picture and marvel at it’s iridescent feathers, then let it go.  It flew up to a safe height, then turned around and looked at me before darting away.

Threatening hummingbird gone, the chicks immediately rushed to the grass outside the doorway and started scratching around.

0324 hummingbirdI’m looking forward to the day when I have a bigger barn out on the farm, and more animals in it.  Goats, ducks, cows and pigs.  Maybe a couple of horses one day for the girls.

More work, to be sure; more early morning and late evening chores, but also more lives to watch play out; more personalities to get to know; and, most importantly, more stories for my day.