Memorial Weekend Snow

May 27, 2013

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Whiteface Mountain had received almost three feet of snow by yesterday afternoon. They fought to keep the highway plowed for the holiday weekend. However, before they plowed again yesterday morning, DH got there and skied up the mountain and then down.

“Fantastic!” was his caption for his iPhone snapshot below.

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I can think of other adjectives.

By 5 PM last evening the sleet in the lower elevations had stopped and the sun was struggling to come out. It is 25° F this morning but due to be over 80° in a few days.

So much for spring in the Adirondacks.

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I drive to Boston this morning to help my son pack up and move back to New York tomorrow. Though I will be happy to have him closer, I’m older and creakier these days and the prospect of driving eleven hours round-trip and spending the night in a sleeping bag on a hardwood floor is not as enticing as it once was.


Orphan of the Storm

May 26, 2013

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It snowed and rained by turns yesterday. All the mountains on our horizon were shrouded in clouds but from reports they are deep in snow. Whiteface 25 minutes away had eighteen inches by afternoon, and DH is driving over this morning to hike up and ski down.

The cold, wet, and wind combined to be perfect hypothermia conditions. I was walking into the school barn in my foul weather gear to borrow a couple of bales of hay when I spied a small morsel apparently dead in the ice-crusted grass. I took off my wet winter gloves to pick it up.

It was a female ruby-throated hummingbird.

Sliding my glasses down my nose to squint, I caught the tiniest flash of green iridescence as the wet feathers shifted minutely. She was breathing!

With the bird cupped in my warm palm, I drove home one-handed, showed her to DH, and grabbed my hummingbird feeder and some sugar. At the farm I put her in a box in my tiny work room and cranked up the heat to 70°.

The little bird seemed entirely comatose. Her eyes were closed. When I put her down she toppled over on her side. When I picked her up to set her on her feet, her wings opened, but there was no other sign of life. I turned out the lights and left.

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When I peeked in an hour later the room was toasty and there was a tiny green bird buzzing and zeep!-ing near the ceiling. I opened the window and the hummingbird flew back out into the storm.

I hung the feeder outside, just in case, but there is a half-inch of fresh snow on the ground this morning and I wonder and worry.

Reading online today I learn that hummingbirds, like frogs and flies, survive cold snaps by slowing down their metabolisms to a state of torpor. Perhaps I did more harm than good by warming this little bird. On the other hand, lying on the ground it was unlikely to survive the school barn cat, even if it survived the icy rain and snow.

I try to do the right thing but it’s often hard to know.


Rain… and Snow Again!

May 25, 2013

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It has rained on and off for the last four days, and this morning it was snowing when I moved the sheep at Betty’s field (above).

Many people here are upset by snow on Memorial Day Weekend but I am so grateful for the moisture from the sky I give thanks for it all.

Last night it was 37°F and freezing rain and wind, so I brought Lucy’s horse Birch and the cattle into the barn at evening chores, the first night they have spent indoors in several weeks. Birch is an old man and sighed with contentment to be out of the weather, listening to the rain drum on the roof.

It is due to be even colder and windier tonight.


New Shoats

May 24, 2013

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Ten days ago I bought five shoats (newly-weaned piglets). Baby pigs are one of the cutest things on God’s earth. They also grow very quickly.

For this reason, in 1994 when the producers of the movie Babe were faced with a six-month film shoot and wanted their star to remain adorable, they bought successive 10-week-old Yorkshire piglets. Forty-eight of them. If you figure that they always had two piglets on deck for the cameras, that means each pair starred for an average of a week before outgrowing the role.

(Despite all this, the filmmakers apparently felt that piglets needed a little help in the cuteness department. Makeup artists glued a toupé of dark hair on each one — what?! — plus false eyelashes. A real piglet has its own eyelashes, but they are short and white. In the publicity shot at left, a smile has also been drawn in.)

In real life, an adolescent pig — such as Babe purports to be — weighs about 300 pounds at six months old.

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Cuteness is not the first word that comes to mind.

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I saw the parents of my piglets. The sow weighed about 450 pounds and the boar maybe 650. When he reared up against the battered wooden fence to grunt at me, he was taller than I. With tusks. You can understand why small children were occasionally mauled, or even killed and eaten, by loose pigs when hogs roamed city streets rooting through garbage up until the middle of the 19th century.

I knew an affable 600-lb Large Black sow once, named Charlotte. I remember sitting leaning against her as she snored on her side in the pasture.

But there is no doubt that pigs are most emotionally appealing when they are tiny. Even without false eyelashes and a toupé.


Bobby is Missing

May 17, 2013

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My sweet young barn cat, Bobby Seal, is missing. I have not seen him in four days. I fear the worst. I feel sick.

The photo above was taken a week ago, on the first day I ever saw him venture outside the barn for more than a quick glance. I was so pleased for him. He had gained confidence and trust (and much needed weight) all winter. Though still easily startled and shy, he was such a love, always eager for petting. All I had to do was climb up into the hayloft and there he’d be, pacing the floor, wanting me to sit down to snuggle with him.

He had won over my cranky older female, Flossie — who went from grumbling and hissing and slapping at him with raking claws to pushing her head into his flank and purring.

I am going to check at the trailer park across the highway, but I’m afraid.


Sheep on Grass

May 15, 2013

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Yesterday was a long day, but a satisfying one.

At 7 AM, my friendly lumberyard delivered a bottle of CDT vaccine during the school carpool. At morning chores, I brought my sheep in, trimmed all their hooves, and vaccinated the entire flock. (At one point I was wrestling a ewe with a loaded hypodermic clenched in my teeth.) Next I gathered my portable fencing and charger and drove the mile down the highway to Betty’s field, where I set up a temporary paddock. Then I hitched up the school’s stock trailer, drove to the farm, backed the trailer tight to the barn door, loaded the sheep, and trucked them to the grass.

For the next few hours I drove back and forth between the farm and the field, ferrying shelters and my lawn tractor. My two oldest shelters had rotted and needed new braces. I cut fresh 2x4s and made the repairs before carrying them down. The shelters barely fit in the stock trailer, and were right at the limit of my ability to lift and load without help. I sweated considerably. Taking them off was easier, however, and as I had trucked the lawn mower down in my first trip,  towing them into the field was a snap.

Through the day I was happily aware that my skills in all areas (vaccinating, flock handling, backing a trailer, carpentry) had improved in the last few years. I decided to concentrate on that positive thought, rather than the undeniable fact that my muscles are weaker with age.

These photos were taken at dusk, after I’d washed out and put away the trailer, and returned to re-fill the water trough.

The sheep are so happy. And watching them, I was happy, too. They are newly wormed, vaccinated, clean-footed, and out on new grass. After this very discouraging winter and spring, I felt like Super-Shepherd.

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Snowing….?

May 13, 2013

Yesterday it was snowing as I built a new dog pen, and even wearing a jacket and wool hat I had to stop often to warm my hands. This morning the lawn is dusted white and the wind is blowing scattered flakes in a sullen fog. Ugh. However these days I am trying hard to remember to count my blessings. Yesterday as I worked I told myself firmly,”I have to thank you, God, for no black flies!”

When I bought the welded wire for the dog pen last fall, the salesman suggested I try a green-coated version. I thought this might look nice, and agreed. I didn’t realize I was buying wire so light-gauge that any self-respecting labrador retriever could push through it just by leaning against it. Our lab, Tess, is almost 11 years old, slow, and arthritic. Within five minutes of my finishing the pen, she was sitting outside it. This is just one more example of why I must never take helpful, last-minute suggestions for substitutions in material when I’m building anything. I am too ignorant of the hidden variables. Today I’ll call to see how much long tent stakes would cost, to pin the bottom edge to the ground so she can’t bend it up.

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day in 25 years that I had no children at home. Lucy is on a four-day hike, and Jon is in Boston. However he emailed and telephoned and I was happy.

Unfortunately on Friday my old computer collapsed and breathed its last, so it may be a few days before I’m up and running again.