Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Harbingers Have Arrived!

They are here!! They just arrived this evening!  Redwinged  blackbirds singing their okalee song and our first robin sighting, all in one tree!

Cannot describe how happy this makes me!

Undeniable Signs of Spring!!!

My office has been looking like spring for several weeks now, but outside winter has been hanging on way too long. These seedlings want to get out in the garden - and so do I!
Finally this morning there were a bunch of indications spring is truly coming at last.
First of all, there was a dry path across the patio from the steps to the driveway today.  The patio edges still have a  2-foot deep  mound of snow, but the 4-inch deep puddle we have been wading through the past few days (or skating across when it freezes at night) is dried up.  On the down side, I did sort of appreciate that the puddle served to wash off the dogs' muddy feet before they entered the house. It is definitely starting to be mud season (a less favorite aspect of spring on the farm.)
The driveway has my favorite kind of puddles, with a crispy  layer of ice on top that make a satisfying crackle when you step on them, I may be a old lady now  but I still get a childlike thrill from breaking the ice on all the puddles.
The snow has thawed and frozen and condensed so much that it is now hard, crunchy, glazed and strong enough to support your weight without sinking in. You can see  by the footprints how just yesterday I sank in a few inches. So much nicer to haul bales of hay across the pasture when you are walking on top of the snow, not wading through it!
Yesterday we got the first dribble of sap from the silver maple trees. This afternoon we should get a strong trickle!
The snow in the pasture and garden has a lacey, delicate flaky texture.  Very dramatic.
Along the south side of the little garden shed, the snow is totally gone and the ground is cracking where tulip bulbs will be bursting through any minute. A rabbit  has eaten part of a tulip bulb already. Those darn rabbits!
Inside the greenhouse is ready for planting this weekend.  We uncovered the beds and watered last  Sunday. Our winter growing was a total failure  this year.  We got a late start planting last fall because we couldn't bear to pull the late-bearing tomatoes and peppers out. Then, it was a very cold winter and  everything was devoured by rabbits.  Absolutely everything, right down to the ground.

This is our first year with rabbit problems. I have a few theories why. Two years ago we had problems with a family of great-horned owls eating our poultry - but they were probably also keeping the rabbit population in check. When we did a better job cooping all of our birds at night the owls moved on. The next winter was so balmy, the rabbit population must have exploded with no predators.  Plus, last fall Rog built a temporary "deck" out of concrete blocks and lumber on the south side of our barn, inadvertently creating the perfect rabbit habitat just a few feet from our cozy, abundant high tunnel. Not only are we facing rabbit  pests this spring,  we have had a herd of 7 whitetail deer passing through every evening the past couple weeks and I dread to think of the damage they could do to our gardens.
Here is a photo I didn't think I would be able to take this spring-  hundreds of  fish in our  silo pond!  Sometime during the winter, our our pond heaters (which keep an opening in the ice for air exchange) got unplugged and the pond was totally covered with thick ice. I was afraid it was frozen all the way to the bottom.  Rog has been heating inside the  fish gazebo with  a propane heater the past week and the ice is finally melted - and amazingly, the fish  have survived!
Two of the three goldfish we a started with last  summer - they were only a couple inches long then, and are at least 7 inches now.
I was delighted to see one of the leopard frogs that took up residence last summer on the bottom of the pond this morning.  Maybe we will have frog eggs!
I am woefully behind in updates about our aquaponics system (I never even posted photos of  enclosing the  pond gazebo last  winter) and we have very exciting developments happening with our aquaponics venture this spring, so  I promise to write a detailed aquaponics catch-up post very soon!
Heading in after chores and  photos  to do my work, I noticed Nutmeg has caught  another rabbit.   This is the  5th big rabbit the dogs have caught in about a week (that I know about at least), which gives you a hint about the rabbit population.  Nutmeg  may be an old geezer dog, but she is obsessively persistent when she is on the trail of a rabbit.  With Cocoa and Zinnie helping to flush them out and chase them her direction, she is a pretty fierce, successful rabbit hunter. It makes me a little sad, but just a little, now that I have experienced such rabbit devastation in the garden. The rabbits do not go to waste - the dogs  enjoy feasting on their fresh kills. Maybe what we are spending on having to purchase greens because the rabbit ate our greenhouse crop, we are saving on dogfood bills.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Embarrassing Chicken Attire

A couple days ago I found one of my two Jersey Giant hens pretty badly hurt.  Perhaps it began because she was molting and had lost feathers, or maybe Zinny had nabbed a mouthful of feathers off her back, I don't know, but the other chickens had been pecking at her back and she was in pretty bad shape.

I brought her inside, covered her injury with Neosporin and have kept her inside in a large dog crate since.  It was getting old for both of us - she was bored and I was not thrilled that the front entry was beginning to smell a bit like a chicken coop. So, today I sewed her a little protective apron (or sometimes it is called a saddle) out of some scraps of upholstery fabric. This is the side that goes next to her body - it is quite soft. The elastic criss-crosses over her chest and the edges of the apron tuck under her wings.  Before putting it on her, I sprayed her back with Blue-kote, a veterinary wound dressing that I always manage to get all over myself, so now I have inky blue hands.
She was not too  pleased with the  apron at first, trying to back out of it.  Her best girlfriend, the other black Jersey Giant hen came over to inspect her new attire.
Then she strutted away. I thought she was fairly happy, but I began to get worried when I could not find her all afternoon.  Finally, after chores tonight I found her hiding in the barn. I hope she is ok and not too embarrassed by her apron.  I gave her some food in the barn because she doesn't seem to want to return to the coop tonight. Maybe she doesn't realize that her apron is protective armor in case those mean chickens try to peck her, poor girl.

Monday, March 18, 2013

So Happy for Yet Another Snowstorm...Not!


Even though I really do like snow, I was dismayed to wake up to another snowstorm today.  We are so ready for spring!
In another another month or so, if we are lucky, the ground under these trees should be carpeted with blue violets and scilla, and soon after, Virginia bluebells.  So hard to imagine on a day like this.
Yesterday, Cadence, Rog and  trudged through the garden, wistfully noting where things will be planted, if the snow ever melts.
This morning I spent two hours snowblowing out the driveway, and in the afternoon, did it again because the wind had filled it back in.

Hairstyle after snow blowing (Not to mention the snow that blew in my face or went down my neck.) This is one reason I prefer the wovel!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Freeze/Thaw

March is such an entertaining month for weather.
This morning we woke up to lovely hoarfrost. The animals had to wait for breakfast a bit while I took a few photos.
Sun rising over the frosty farm - what better way  to start the day?
It was that spiky kind of hoarfrost that looks soft and fuzzy from a distance.

It was a brisk morning, though, 4 degrees.
Ugly chain link fences are so much more appealing with hoarfrost.
The Norway spruce windbreak looked like a winter fairytale forest.
By the afternoon it had warmed up considerably and icicles were dripping.  Ice weaving through the gate.
Icicles on the  loafing shed.
Ice and snow sliding off the roofs tickles me, so please humor me while I share a few more crazy ice photos...

In a few weeks the maple sap will be running, buds will be swelling, dogs will be tracking in muddy footprints and icicle season will be a vague memory. Gotta enjoy it before it melts!