Friday, April 16, 2010

It's been unseasonably warm and dry this April. My early garden sowing is up and growing enthusiastically, and so are the weeds. Yesterday the wind was quite strong, but today it's less so and occasionally a large, fluffy cloud blocks the sun. The thermometer has been flirting with 80 degrees all week.

Something caught my eye while I was working at the computer this afternoon. I looked up in time to see a female pileated woodpecker on the trunk of the tulip tree just outside the window. Her crest was an incredibly brilliant crimson in the early afternoon sun. She was clinging to the side of the tree, and she slowly turned her head all the way around backwards, looked directly at me, and then flew away. I thought I'd heard pileated woodpeckers in the last few days. I hope she has a successful nest this year.

Seeing the woodpecker motivated me to call Sadie and Seamus and head down the hill for a walk along the Salt Fork.Things are changing daily! The bluebells and spring beauties are still rampant in the woods, but the toothwort is gone and the blue phlox is ever more apparent.
 I noticed a tree in flower that I didn't immediately recognize. Beautiful maroon flowers, very similar in conformation to those of a tulip poplar, although hanging pendent from the branches rather than upright. The bark was very smooth, the growth habit spreading, and the trees seemed to be in a colony. It suddenly dawned on me that this is where the paw paws grow! I tasted their sweet, custardy fruit for the first time last year. These blossoms will, with the help of pollinators, beget the fall's fruit!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring is a miracle! Just a few weeks ago we had snow on the ground, and I was writing winter haiku!

The ewes were grazing peacefully this morning while their lambs ran and jumped and whirled in the air all around them like little white dervishes. The gentle wind got them going, dashing first one way, then another, then all of them racing completely around the pasture. They've grown so quickly!

We took a walk at noon today, the dogs and I. It's sunny and dry; the wind is blowing gently, and the air is soft and warm. We could have flown a kite in the field today (I dream of flying one later), but once we reach the bottomland, the trees block the wind and it feels almost hot.

The early woodland flowers are in full bloom! Bluebells are a gently moving sea of blue under the trees along the river. In the open areas, spring beauties are so thick we seem to be walking through snowdrifts of pinkish white flowers. Buttercups stand above their dense green foliage, and delicate toothwort nod gently  here and there among the spring beauties and buttercups.

We gradually walk up a gentle, south-facing slope covered with a turf of trout lily about to bloom, thick leaves mottled green and brown, . Here and there, at the base of certain hardwoods, are large colonies of mayapple with trillium scattered throughout. Red trillium (trillium recurvatum) are tall and elegant with flowers the color of a rich Bordeaux.The leaves of bloodroot, blossoms two or three days gone, are at the base of many of the trees, and a first for me--several jack-in-the-pulpits have unfurled and risen among the mayapples.

As we walk through the upland forest, spring beauties carpet the ground, smooth Solomon's seal is scattered generously throughout, and we even spot a few rue anemones. Lots of gooseberry, black raspberry, and blackberry canes promise sweet fruit for those who would dare their thorns, and we see tall blue phlox as we leave the woods for home.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Shepherd's Diary for March

Sunday, March 7, 2010
With Ken and Neil helping wrangle, I sheared 7 of my 10 sheep. Took all day and wore me out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Still really sore . . .

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Sheared two large, flighty ewes with help of friends (Ken and Neil knew better). Still averaging 50 minutes per sheep Maybe next year I will start sooner and do a reasonable number each day. (Probably not)

Sunday, March 14, 2010
Ryan Craig sheared the very large, struggling ram in 10 minutes.I have a long way to go . . .

Saturday, March 20, 2010
Ken discovered three little lambs (Edina) in the barn while I was teaching class in Decatur. Two rams and one ewe. He got them settled in a pen before I got home.

Monday, March 22
Doris lambed overnight. One very pretty ewe-lamb.
Sindy lambed outside at noon while I was watching from the house. Two nice rams. She rejected them, so I'm bottle-feeding them. They are the best two-ram-lamb welcoming committee I could imagine!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Bernice had twins in the barn at 10:30 am. Two rams. They have good bloodlines, and I'm hoping they  grow up to be breeding rams. Blackie had a ewe and a ram at the entrance to the barn just before 5 pm. With the other sheep coming in for dinner, it was a rodeo getting her and the lambs into a pen. She's a great first-time mom.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Two more to lamb, Ursula will be soon and Rose might be late April or even later if she lambs at all.