Spring is coming…I think?
Here it is, the first of March already; I don’t know where the past four weeks went. It seems every day is busy, yet precious little forward progress is made. I’m coming up on shearing time and need to get my beehives prepped and ready, garden seeds and plants ordered, and all the mini projects in the house are still clamoring for attention. I’m keeping up with housework, but the clutter is a never-ending issue, with the various piles – magazines, books, incoming mail – seemingly always in a state of expansion, no matter how much I get rid of through sorting and tossing. Is it just me?
I cleaned out the chicken coop a couple of weekends ago and put in a fresh bale of straw for bedding so it smells wonderfully fresh out there. I deposited a half dozen wheel barrows full of chicken manure and used bedding on my garden plot. The girls have finally started to lay in earnest, too, which is welcome. Not one single egg for an entire month after the day Cutter died, and suddenly I’m getting six, seven, and today, eight a day. Weee! Finally! The days really ARE getting longer (it’s even light out until 6:30 p.m.!).
I regularly muck out the sheep shed, and have been spreading it in the future garden as well. When I do this, I’ve been letting the sheep out to run the property and enjoy some fresh food, though there’s not much browse for them yet. It’s nice to let them out of their pen and get used to being loose. The exercise is good for them, and once they settle down they roam the property fearlessly. They want to get into their pasture, and look at it longingly, but I’m keeping them off of it until April or May. They come back into the confinement pen readily with a shake of the grain bucket, and will go into the garage to raid the pantry (poach hay) even when the hay is barely tolerated otherwise. They waste as much hay as they eat – at least a third of every bale ends up as bedding. At $15 – $20+ per bale, and a bale a week, it does get frustrating, not to mention expensive (though I’m working on a solution for this…stay tuned). Shearing is scheduled for Saturday, so it will be a fresh start for fleeces and I’m determined to keep them as VM (vegetable matter) free as possible this year.
We just came off another spate of winter weather, with about four inches of last week and freezing temps for several days. But it was clear and beautiful – blue skies and sunshine with 20 degree weather is a nice change from 40s and rain. And I had fun sledding down the pasture hill with an old piece of cardboard; it’s been many moons since I slid down a snowy hillside. I’ve actually been surprised at how little the cold has bothered me, thermally. Sure, it adds work for keeping the critters fed and warm (thawing water buckets and chicken waterer), but the cold itself hasn’t been an issue. It really makes me rethink and reconsider my Okanogan dreams. If 20 degrees feels fine (really, I was heading up to the chicken coop one night thinking it couldn’t be as cold as the weatherman said), I can do cold, snow, and sunshine. Now to figure out the steady income part of the equation and I’ll be living on my 40 acres in no time. We’ll see what the next couple of years brings; I’m committed to staying here at least three years, and probably five. After that, we’ll see what dreams may come.
With the cold weather the coyotes have been singing a lot. A couple of nights ago it sounded like they were in the front yard, though I know they were across the street. The sheep are safe in their confinement area, and the chickens in their coop and pen, but it does give one pause to hear the pack out there yapping and singing to one another. The other night they joined in as a chorus to an ambulance siren that was passing by, with Farley even giving a bark and howl with them. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard him howl; though his vocabulary is quite varied and rich he’s never howled before, even when I had howl-ins with Cutter. Cutter was so freakin’ adorable when he howled, in his deep bass voice, that I often liked to start howling just to get him to howl back. Dinah would join us frequently, though she always looked embarrassed or like she didn’t want to but couldn’t help herself. Farley would just look at us and didn’t get it, even seemed a little irritated? with it.
I actually worry more for Farley and Pal with the coyotes than I do the sheep (in their confinement pen), running off into the dark like they do. Pal especially won’t come in if something is more interesting than me (which pretty much everything is), and Farley won’t respond if there’s a high value distraction around. Coyotes would make mincemeat out of Pal, who, even with his lightening speed, wouldn’t get that he was on the menu until it was too late. Far might be a little more wary, but still an easy mark for a couple of coyotes. I’ve seen the coyotes trotting in the woods next to the fence line that borders the road, but hope they’re not so desperate as to come over or under.
We’ve also been visited regularly by some ringneck pheasant roosters. With the valley flooding they’ve been up on the hillside, which means the pasture, the driveway and in the greenbelt along the western fence line. I have to say it’s been fun to see them – up to five at once, but usually just two or three – and especially to see Pal and Farley do what comes naturally: point! Pal is still very natural with this behavior and holds a point beautifully. Farley is less patient and tends to flush the birds sooner. His points are the old fashioned kind, like you see in the old time hunting paintings, with his stance classic and tail not so high in the air. Pal is the field style, new point, with the tail straight in the air like a Pointer. It’s a lovely sight either way. Once the pheasants flush, with a loud “KRAAKE” and drumming wing beats, deeper into the woods, or to the field across the street, the two of them of them run and run and run (especially Pal) up and down the fence line, hoping for another glimpse. They have run a muddy path along the perimeter fence line as well as inside and outside the interior pasture fencing. I, of course, have been tossing grain over the fence for the pheasant, to hopefully keep them around. I saw three or four pheasant hens in the small field on the other side of the creek greenbelt, but over here it’s just been the roosters. The bird dogs are ever hopeful and always on the lookout.
Dinah just ignores their antics. She’s been roaming the property a little more recently, and in general seems a little more interactive (less fearful?) than she was when Cutter was alive, though I know her leg is hurting her more these days (bone cancer). I think she’s on the hunt for the little berries the sheep leave for the dogs. And without Cutter following her every move, perhaps she feels less “oppressed.” Of course she gets more attention from me now, too, without his condition and well being taking up so much of my emotional bandwidth, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. As much as I miss him, I’m glad I have this time to spend with her (and am trying not to feel guilty about the fact that everyone else was short shrifted while he was alive). With her time being limited now, I am appreciative that I can lavish her with attention without the competition of his big head pushing in for loves too, every time she solicited petting. I loved that, but there’s no question she got pushed aside because of it.