I haven’t been here in a while, and my last few posts were sporadic. But no posts doesn’t mean nothing going on – far from it. I’ve been busy, and distracted both consciously and unconsciously. A lot has been going on here at the farm, and a lot in life in general. Let’s start with the farm…
August turned out to be a nice month, with beautiful weather that included blistering heat (a local fund raising dog walk in town had me dripping sweat, literally) and a preview of fall at the same time. I had the excitement of a new visitor to the property, too. While I didn’t see or meet the visitor, it was obvious by the trail of destruction that I had a black bear come through one evening. There was enough damage to the fence, and raids on the chicken feed, bird feeder and a check of the garbage bin (empty – I don’t fill it until pickup day), then the “calling card” down by the driveway gate (at first I thought “when did Cutter come down here…and what has he been eating?”) before I put it all together. I’d heard the branches cracking as s/he tramped through the underbrush – for some reason I thought it was deer (which can be surprisingly noisy). The late night potty run had Farley out back barking furiously, but it was 18 hours before I realized he probably scared the beast off, mid-snack. Good boy.
So, no more bird feeder, which is a huge attractant for bears. I’m seriously bummed, as I’ve had a bird feeder up in every house I’ve lived since I was 10 years old. But I don’t want to habituate a bear by providing and irresistible snack, either. The birds will be fine – there’s plenty of food around for them; a feeder just brings them close so I can watch them. I was getting Black-headed Grosbeaks regularly, and plenty of chickadees and Steller’s Jays too.
In mid-August I added another canine to my pack. Maybe not the smartest move, and initially I tried to find him another home, but he’s here to stay. He’s another English Setter that I found on my regular Craigslist perusals. He was in a home that kept him outside on a tether 24/7 and they realized it wasn’t the best for him. I picked him up on a Saturday and had him neutered the following Friday. The Rottweilers pretty much ignored him. Farley didn’t like him. The cats hated him. But his effervescent personality fizzed through all of us and he’s here for good. He just turned one year old in October and he and Farley run the property like nobody’s business. I love watching them run, and love that they patrol things. His name was Pal on his papers, but the people who had him were calling him Rascal. I knew I wouldn’t be calling him Rascal as I’m a great believer in the meaning of names (the people who had him believed him a rascal, and he was…for them). While I contemplated several names (Hadley being one), the one that rose to the surface was Pal (part of his FDSB registered name). He’s Farley’s pal, and he’s a happy little sprite. He’s all puppy sometimes, but a very good boy considering I’m his third home in less than six months (four if you count the breeder’s home, too). We need to get into obedience training, but for now we’re just having fun.
So I added little Pal to the canine gang; and he’s a great little guy, but I already have three dogs. I’m moving rapidly into hoarder territory, it seems. You do NOT want to see the chaos inside my house, but I’m nowhere near the feces on the floor, newspapers stacked to the ceiling, decomposed dead cat in the closet stage yet. And no sign of that any time soon, either. I jest, of course, but living with four large dogs and three cats in a small home really does test your tolerance levels. The floors are almost never clean (especially when one geriatric dog has urinary incontinence, and the other sometimes forgets to finish pooping when he’s outside, and the two youngsters revel in dirt and mud, and running in the door with unadulterated joy fresh from a dip in the “pond” (swampy human-made version). The cats add their two cents with grass puke and the occasional litter box “miss.” Which all makes it sound as if things are worse than they are…or not. I could vacuum and mop every day, but that’s too Sisyphean for me to deal with. I keep up, but just barely. And what’s a little dirt and hair between friends, right?
September brought five new mouths to feed. Planned of course…sort of. And by eating, they’re working to keep things in check. I’m talking sheep, of course. I had the pasture fenced off, with two gates put in – a local fellow, Rob, did a great job on the fence – and the sheep moved in at the end of September. Three of the sheep were wethers from a gal just over the hill who just wanted to place them in a new home. The guy who mowed my pasture in June told me about them and put me in contact with her. They are Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and spent the summer at my friend Susan’s farm, mowing her steep pastures (too steep for the horses), and the pasture over her septic drain field (horses will compact and essentially wipe out a drain field). They did a great job, but it was time to move to my home. I knew I wanted Shetland sheep, and found a couple of ewes on Craigslist (Must. Stay. Off. Craigslist.). I picked them up the same day we moved the boys from Susan’s, so I went from zero to five overnight. And I love it!
I can’t believe how “right” it feels to have them here, munching the pasture and blackberry brambles 24/7 (they eat ALL the time). The three boys are fairly friendly, with Bo (yes, in my unimaginative naming I called him Rambo, because he’s most likely to butt the dogs) the leader. Conan, the hornless one (scurs only, probably because he was castrated as a lamb), was named by the previous owner’s child. I kept the name but I call him Coco – which fits him, as he’s the color of dark chocolate. And the third is Curley, as his horns kind of flare out. He’s the shyest of the three boys, but in that is tons friendlier than the older of the two Shetland ewes, Cinnamon (I’m telling you, no imagination – Cinnamon Latte, for her color, which is called moorit by the Shetland people). She’s super skittish and keeps a good, safe distance away from me at all times. The little one is Pebbles – named by the previous owners kids – and seems to be stunted. She’s almost 8 months old and still only about as big as a Springer Spaniel. She’s adorable, and makes more noise than the other four put together. She’s pretty friendly, but has become more wary of me since I grabbed her one day to pull some blackberry vines out of her wool. It was a bit of a wrestle and now she won’t let me pet her much. Oh well.
At any rate, they’re doing a great job on the pasture, and now I’m working on (well, I’ve hired Rob again) building a sacrifice or confinement area, to pull them off the pasture (in order to rest it and give the forage a chance to recover) and give them shelter from the weather, too. Updates soon – promise!