Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mom Turned 78 And Other April Milestones

April has definitely lived up to its reputation, bringing us LOTS of "showers."  Here's hoping that May will now come through with her promise of flowers.  I think she will.  Everything here is lush and green and....... WET!  And despite the rain, we (mainly Joe, since I have been traveling a good part of the month) have managed to accomplish a few more things around the farm.
Driving home during downpour ... tree fell across I-64 in front of me
The rabbit facilities took WAY more time and work than either of us anticipated, but the rabbits seem VERY satisfied with their new digs.  Of course, they are not yet in their permanent location, but soon, soon.  For the time being, they are in their new hutches, under the carport next to the garage. There are eight of them.  Five does and three bucks.  (No breeding allowed until they are in their permanent home and then.... let the games begin!)

Moving the hutches into temporary location
Third unit going in
Rabbits in hutches
Somehow we (I) decided that 18 chickens were not enough.... Yeah, yeah, I know, those "FREE CHICK" offers are for suckers.  The feed store sells a bunch of feed and the suckers get their free.....roosters?  I hope at least a FEW of the 20 "straight run" chicks we got on April 20th turn out to be hens....  Meanwhile, we are learning about raising the tiny chicks. They currently live in the garage.  (On a side note, it does not escape me that nearly ALL of the beings that call this farm home started their stay here, temporarily in the garage...including the two humans...and we STILL haven't made our move to the rehabbed farmhouse!)

Baby chicks
The two puppies we adopted in March are growing like weeds.  Let me just say one thing about having TWO puppies at the same time.  Training to obey is, well, "interesting."  To start, it is rather hard to teach them their names.  I supposed THEY cannot see that they are each wearing a different color collar.  When I call, "Blue," Ruby comes running (Blue comes too, but she only comes because she thinks I have food.)  When I call, "Ruby," here comes Blue (still convinced I have food.)  Now, nearly two months since we named them, they are FINALLY appearing to understand who is who.  Of course, I still get the, "You talkin' to ME??" look a LOT.  Nevertheless, the training continues, and they have learned to sit, lie down, and stay.  They USED to fetch, but lately, they seem to prefer to just run up to the tossed toy, look at it, and then run back to me to see if I have food.  Ah, well.  Perhaps the most important command they have learned is, "INSIDE!"  This means, "get into your dog house and stay there so I can walk into the yard without being attacked by jumping, barking puppies...."
On the good side, they have not tried to hurt the chickens or the goats and they seem to genuinely enjoy wrestling with each other a good part of every day.  Livestock guardians is our hope for them.  We shall see if they can fulfill our dreams.

All is NOT well in goatville.  Well, it's not "bad," it's just not what we'd hoped when we got the new mama (Sally) and her two babies.  We'd hoped that Sally would be a nice companion to our original goat Whitey.  However, Sally is a pig.  No, not literally, but by character.   She will NOT let Whitey eat.  It doesn't matter that Sally and her babies have three times as much brush or pellets as Whitey, if Whitey tries to eat the brush we've cut, Sally butts her, repeatedly.  At first I thought this behavior was a protective thing since she had the babies, but I think reality is that Sally is just a bully.  We even had to quickly build a new goat shed so Whitey had a place to sleep at night, because Sally butted her out of the (her) original goat house.  We shall see how they do through the summer, with expanded grazing options.  I sure hope Sally starts being a companion rather than a competitor to Whitey.
Sally and her babies
Judy trying to convince Sally to share with Whitey
Meanwhile, amongst all of the ruckus of the other animals, our one remaining cat, Miah, meows her way around.  She is not a big fan of the puppies, but is fine with the goats, rabbits and chickens.  Perhaps when the puppies are not quite so rambunctious she'll decide they are OK.  As of today though, she meanders past their yard, happy that all they can do is look at her.....

Jay Lee going for a romp in the yard
Miah wanting to play with Jay Lee
Judy rescuing Jay Lee
As folks who have animals know, keeping up with them takes time... LOTS of time.  Feeding alone takes an hour in the morning and about half an hour at night.  Still, while I traveled to Northern VA, Charlottesville, VA and Los Angeles, CA, Joe held down the fort, taking care of the animals and moving forward on our construction plans.  After finishing the rabbits' quarters, he started work on preparing the areas we'd selected for our new carports.
Digging out roots
More digging
Erecting new carports required first clearing the space.  Dead and diseased trees, trees that we thought would pose a risk to the carports had to be felled, cut into 16" rounds and piled for later spitting (next winter's firewood).  The ground had to be prepared: filling, leveling and building up the parking pads.  42 tons of road dirt, delivered in two loads were ALL consumed in the process.  There were a couple of exciting moments during the carport preparation.  The first truck delivering the first 22 tons of road dirt managed to get stuck, up to its axle, and had to be towed out (at our expense, of course.)

Felled trees
Delivering road dirt..... and getting stuck
Spreading road dirt
In an attempt to avoid a repeat of the first delivery mishap, Joe decided to have the second truck dump the load in a different place, but to accomplish this, a giant branch on the ancient sycamore tree had to be removed.  Joe, working alone, recognized the danger in trying cut this particular branch.  It was long, heavy and twisted.  He predicted it would twist when it fell and would hit the tall extension ladder on which he'd be standing with the chain saw.  So he chained the ladder to the tree, and started his sawing.  Sure enough, the branch twisted in its fall and took out the ladder, leaving Joe, with chainsaw, attached to the tree by a chain....  The ladder was ruined, but Joe wasn't hurt.  I'm glad I was in CA, and did not have to witness that!
Oops.... another good ladder bites the dust
By the time I arrived home from CA last Friday, the carports were erected and Joe was putting the first layer of crush-n-run on the new roads and parking pads.  We have one more to go, but we are not yet prepared for that one, so, maybe later this summer we'll have our final carport in place.  For now, we have the additional parking for the farm vehicles, and we have the new and final home for the rabbits.  When all of this rain subsides and we can get out and move around with the tractor, Joe will lift the rabbit hutches with the tractor and transport them to their new location, into one of the newly erected carports.  He will then build additional chicken and goat facilities.  We have several new goat/chicken yards to erect and then, finally, we'll erect the dog runs that will completely surround  the other animal yards.
Carports installed.... roads with first layer of crush-n-run
We are enjoying spinach and asparagus from the garden daily, and we have some squash, tomatoes, peppers and kohlrabi planted... more will be planted soon, but there frankly has not been enough time.  The fruit trees are bearing fruit....pears, peaches, plums, figs and apricots so far.  Not sure whether the apples will produce for the first time this year...one tree looks promising.  The cherries on the bush cherry plants are producing, but the cherry trees are still not producing.  The many grape vines are covered with leaves and tiny grapes.  The strawberries are on the vine and the blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are blossoming.  I'm very excited about all of the fruit.  We're still eating all of the jelly, jam and preserves that I put up last year.
Blossoms on the fruit trees
Promise of fruit
There were other milestones worthy of note this April. My baby brother and his wife celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.  How time flies!  I remember, very clearly, singing the "Lord's Prayer" with my brother Tim at Ray and Denise's wedding... my poor sunburned and swollen feet stuffed into uncomfortable high heeled shoes......   Mom turned over another year on Sunday, reaching the ripe old age of 78.  She remains amazed she has lived this long, since all of her maternal female relatives lived only into their 50's.  I will be taking her out to celebrate later this week while I'm up in the area for work.

A farm-side milestone also occurred when one of our chickens started laying eggs again.  She had been badly wounded by a dog (the dog killed another of our chickens the same day) in February.  Two months later, after rehabbing in her own "special" yard, "Princess" as I call her (Joe calls her "Sickie,") started laying again..... she has been laying every day since.
I had a lovely visit with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter and had the opportunity to spend lots of quality time with the delightful miss Eloise!
Eloise and Papa
Eloise having a blast with Mama and Papa
Jenn and Ben's garden (and the back of their house)
Eloise visiting Gammi in her "guest house"
Mama and Eloise
Just one minute!
Hi Gammi!
I love my bath!

And while I am out of town at the end of the week this week..... who KNOWS what progress with occur back at the old farmhouse!

Spring, spring, spring!
Weed, weed, weed!
Ummmm..... do YOU live here TOO?
Joe with baby goat
Joe with rabbit
Judy with baby goat
Umm... move over!  I wanna sit on Mama's back!