Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spring is apparent in every corner of our farm. The light is more direct, and the air is warmer as the sun moves north. The woods are full of woodpeckers calling and drumming, fashioning new homes, and choosing mates. On our morning walks, the snow is crusted from daytime melting, and exposed patches of grass and soil grow larger every day. The days are longer, the buds are swelling, and one sunny afternoon I caught the scent of fresh earth on a soft breeze. The ewes are rounder now, in their last trimester, and Rose is not so quick to kick up her heels. Lambing should begin March 20th.

Sometimes the realities of farming can be difficult to negotiate. This month I had to buy more hay, which prompted a decision I'd been avoiding. After I paid for the hay, I called the livestock buyer and told him we had two lambs ready for market. I sheared them before he picked them up, and it broke my heart to watch my naked and shivering firstborns leave our farm. Even though it's another step toward  financial stability, I felt we did something that day that cannot now be undone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This afternoon it's snowing, windy, and cold (17 degrees). The ewes are quietly finishing their hay in the barn; Moritz and the yearlings are out in the east pasture sifting through the snow for the last crumbs of their lunch. With their long woolly coats, the sheep are impervious to the inclement weather.

They are eager see me and friendly at this time of year. Blackie jumps up on the feeder and loudly greets me at the door when I walk into the barn. Moritz, pushy at most other times of year, follows quietly when I take the grain out to fill the pans, and Rose, my favorite ewe, comes begging for sweet feed whenever I walk into the pasture. The ewes are nearing their third trimester and hungry all the time; the lambs they carry are beginning to make significant energy demands as they grow to term.

Most of the chickens are inside the chateau this afternoon. I cleared a path for them in the snow this morning so they would come out and scratch for their grain. They didn't stay out long--they went right back inside once they'd had their fill. The hens don't seem to like cold feet or walking around in the snow, although the rooster doesn't seem to care. Surprisingly, they're still laying fairly well. We average about 8 eggs per day, but it is far from consistent. Some days we get as few as 3 and others as many as 14.

The amorous hoo-hoos have subsided, and I'm hoping the owl hen is still setting on her eggs in the red-tailed hawk's nest at the edge of the bottomland. The dogs and I took a walk last week and spooked her off the nest before we realized she was there. We occasionally hear a hoot or two late at night, so I'm hopeful that she returned to her nest.

We've had a lot of snow this winter, and more than once walking with the dogs in the woods I've recalled Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

The snow is swirling and drifting in front of the wind. It's time to start supper, feed the stock, and welcome a quiet evening in front of the fire.