Archive for June, 2012

The Non-Event

I have an awful lot to learn about animals and farming.

As you know, I have been taking the sheep and Olivia out into the big field to graze.  Out into the big field where the horses spend their days.  I always watch closely and make sure the horses are far away and if they start to wander towards us I move the little critters away somewhere else.

This has worked well but it is time-consuming for me to be out there standing guard.  I keep looking back at the garden and think “I could be weeding instead of just standing here…but what if the horses come!”

I don’t know why I thought it would be hard to get them used to each other.  I had visions of the horses charging up with tails and manes flying, sheep scattering to all corners of the field, Olivia running frantically and falling and breaking a leg.  We do that you know…envision the very worst and expect it to happen.  And you know what comes next…most of what you worry about never happens.

Yesterday I opened the front gate, called the critters and sent them out into the field on their own.  I stayed in the yard on the deck and waited and watched to see what would happen without me standing guard.

It didn’t take long for the horses to notice there was something new out in their field and they began their approach.  The critters hadn’t noticed yet…too busy eating.

Onyx was the most curious and took the lead.  Up the fence alongside the garden and heading for the sheep.

I still don’t think the sheep noticed.  Or if they did, they didn’t care.  It was just a horse after all not some demon out to end their days. Around the corner of the garden and there was Olivia too.

Olivia raised her head and looked as if to say “Oh, it’s you”  Within minutes Style had caught up and joined the party.  There they were all grazing peacefully together.

I sat on the deck shaking my head and smiling. They were just fine together.  Every now and then Onyx would stroll over to Olivia and make it clear that He was the boss out there.

Olivia would just move away and start grazing somewhere else. I watched for a little while and then, realizing I was no longer needed as a minute by minute guard, I went to the garden and started weeding.




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Today on our daily walk I really noticed how green everything is.  It’s not surprising since the month of June has been blessed with an abundance of rain.  Blessed for us that is, where the rain is welcomed.  Other areas of the province do not see it as a blessing, with all the flooding.

Here though the rain has turned the fields and trees a glorious green.

I never knew there so many different shades of green.  The bright, rich green of the grass and the silvery green of the poplar trees.

Emma and Odin enjoy running through the high grass and I can just imagine the fresh smells they pick up with their noses immersed in the greenery.

The hay fields are getting lush and tall and I know the sheep and Olivia will enjoy the tasty hay they will be eating this winter.

Today after walking around the fields we took a short cut through the woods to get back to the driveway.  Odin and Emma were ahead of me trotting through the knee-high grass.

Imagine my shock and surprise when I looked down to my right and there not two feet from me was a tiny fawn curled up in the grass.

I couldn’t believe that Odin and Emma had run right past it.  I couldn’t believe it hadn’t woken and run away.  I was afraid it must be dead.  I stopped walking and watched…I saw an ear twitch, I saw its little body rising and falling with each breath as it slept.  I wanted  a picture but I could  hear the huff of Odin’s breath getting closer and closer.  Of course, once I stopped the dogs had to come back and find out why.  I was able to snap one quick photo and then I turned and continued along the path.  The dogs met me about five feet from the fawn and turned  to head off down the path.

I looked back as I walked away, and the little fawn was still sleeping peacefully. (either that or it was  faking it really well!).  I didn’t see Mother anywhere and I hope she was close by.  I will go back later this afternoon and make sure that it is gone and isn’t lying there ill.

Once again I received an unexpected gift on my daily walk…a little splendour in the grass.

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I try to get the animals out into the big field at least once a day now.  Twice is even better!  They learned quite quickly what it means when I walk to the gate and call them.  They all come running and line up behind me waiting to be released into the big world. Olivia is thrilled with all the new shrubs she can strip. She settles in and munches away.

The sheep just put their heads down and slowly make their way across the field.  They are very good at checking in though and if they are too far away they come trotting back to me.  Then they put their heads down again and off they go, munch, munch, munch.

This is the first time in many years I do not have a garden full of flowers.  I have planted one hanging basket with lobelia and petunias, and I still have hopes  for my nasturtiums and sweet peas.  That doesn’t mean I am not surrounded by flowers though.  The wild flowers are really coming into their own.  Color is popping up everywhere.

Lupins and Indian Paintbrush

Wild roses

Columbine? I’ll have to double-check this with my wild flower guide-book.

I have no idea what these are but they were such a bright yellow against the green grass.  Another one to follow-up with in my book.

At the entrance to Tom’s driveway, up on a knoll in the hay-field sits an old tractor.  I can’t count the number of times I have seen people stopped at the side of the road taking pictures.  I can’t blame them as it is one of my favorite views as well.  I particularly like it at this time of year when the grass is growing tall around it.  There are quite a few “old things” scattered around the fields and woods here.

Speaking of old things, yesterday was my birthday and I began my 54th journey around the sun.  I first heard that phrase from another blogger (beccaseventhorizon.wordpress.com). I had never thought of a year as a journey around the sun.  I like it.

I hope when my journeys are done there will be a sunny knoll or green meadow for me too.

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Growing Up

Olivia and the sheep have been here now for almost two months.  They are growing up.  Seeing them everyday I don’t notice the growth but it has became apparent in the things they are doing.

I never used to worry about anything on the deck stairs or the deck itself.  They never went near it and if they did they couldn’t reach anything important.

Callie discovered the chive plant and found it quite tasty.

Fortunately I have several more in the fenced in garden.  She won’t be eating those, although she does put her head through the fence to see if she can reach them.

The wild shrubs in the yard have been losing their leaves from the bottom up as Olivia grows.

She has almost reached the top now.

Sad looking sticks aren’t they.  It is clear to me now that I will not be planting any trees or shrubs where they can be reached by her.

The sheep used to run and graze under the deck but now that they are tall enough it has become their favorite back scratcher.

The other day they were loose in the yard and I was coming back with a trailer full of green grass I had picked for them.   I stopped at the cattleguard to open the small gate for Emma and before I could drive through myself the three sheep were facing me across the cattleguard.

Callie paced back and forth a couple of times and then decided to cross.  She leaped and landed on her belly about half way across, then leaped again and before I knew it she was standing beside me.  Cotton and Garcon watched this and then quickly followed her.  All the while I was shouting “No!  Don’t do that!  Stay there! Get back!  Don’t jump! No!”.  So…the cattleguard still keeps Emma,Olivia and the horses where they belong, but I will be closing the gate when the sheep are out in the yard.

They were very cooperative when I called them back though, they followed me through the small gate with no problem. This gave me the idea that maybe I could take them out of the yard and into the big wide world.  As long as they came when I called them it would give them a lot more grazing room.

So the next day away we went…out the small gate and down the driveway.

As soon as they were out the gate they settled in right away grazing the different grasses and shrubs.  We stayed out for half an hour and they didn’t wander too far.  Olivia was the most adventurous but even she came back when I called her.  The grain bucket is a great incentive, and they all followed me back into the yard when the time was up.

The horses were far away on the other side of the field so they didn’t meet them this time.  I’m hoping that I will be able to take them out to graze for longer periods and have them come back when I want them to.

Tom has visions of the coyotes texting each other “The sheep have left the yard! The sheep have left the yard!”

I won’t leave them out alone though, only when Emma and I are close by.  I think it will work…time will tell.


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Change and Progress

Nothing ever stays the same.  Every day I see changes and progress in so many different ways.

Onyx is afraid of cows. He was not used to them and when Olivia first arrived he would keep his distance and if she moved too quickly he would spook and run away.  This morning I looked out the window and saw the two of them nose to nose across the fence.  That is progress!

They spent the next little while grazing side by side with only the fence separating them.

A couple of weeks ago I had some gravel delivered.  The plan is to spread it around in the low and muddy areas of my yard.  Odin must have got tired of seeing that pile sitting there and decided to start spreading it himself.

He was doing a pretty good job too.  Olivia and the sheep were resting in their pen and watching.  The sheep seemed to be saying “What is that dog doing?”

One of the big projects planned is the building of a pole shed.  This sixteen by thirty-two foot shed will serve as a garage for my truck and quad, and also as a wood shed.  The project has begun.  John Deere’s co-worker International was by the other day with the back hoe attached.

The bucket dropped and the earth began to move.

It didn’t take too long and the hole was ready for the first pole.

There was digging, and measuring, and levelling and at times International looked like some alien transformer as the bucket swung around and the tractor lifted and settled.  It really is amazing what those machines and their operators can do.

One by one the holes were dug and the poles planted.

I now have six poles in my back yard and I can see the pole shed already.  I am parking in the first bay and will fill the second with wood for the winter.

I never know when I arise  in the morning what I will see and have done by the end of the day. What changes will have taken place?  What progress will be made?  What challenges will arise?  It’s one of the things I love about this life!

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The Crib

I went shopping with my niece Erica on the weekend.  She has three-month old Jace, and my niece Val will be having twin boys soon.  Needless to say, one of the stores we went to was Toys R Us and we headed straight to the Babies R Us section. It really is amazing all the things that are available to parents now to care for and entertain their wee ones, and there is all sorts of rules and regulations around high chairs, car seats, and cribs.

It wasn’t always that way.  Sixty some years ago when Mom and Dad were expecting their first child there was no Babies R Us.  It was up to them to figure out and provide the things that would be needed.  Dad took it upon himself to hand build a crib for his first-born.  I don’t know how long it took him, or if he had a pattern, or just figured it out himself, but build it he did.

That crib provided a safe (at the time…sure wouldn’t be called safe now) and comfortable place for his precious daughter Mary to sleep.  It wasn’t long before Mary was joined by Bill, then Dan, Tom and finally me.  All five of us took our turns in the hand-made crib.  Over the years Mom repainted and decorated it.  It always looked fresh and inviting.

Eventually we all outgrew the crib and it became a storage unit.  Where ever Mom and Dad lived you could be sure to find the crib set up in one of the rooms, usually filled with extra bedding. When Mom was in her late seventies she moved in with me, and the crib came with her.  I stored my extra bedding in it.

Over the years my houses tended to become smaller and I didn’t have room to have the crib set up.  I dismantled it and stored it in my shed or garage.  Many times during spring clean ups I looked at that crib and thought “I really should get rid of that”.  I always changed my mind though, and the crib stayed.

I thought about using it as a planter but never did.  I talked about having a wood worker take it apart and make picture frames out of it, but never did.  I just carried it around, year after year, hoping the day would come when I would know out what to do with it.

That day was yesterday.

I have been using a big planter as a feeder for hay for the sheep and Olivia.  It doesn’t work very well…they just knock it over and dump out the hay and walk all over it.  A couple of weeks ago I started building a wooden hay feeder.  You know…something square, raised off the ground, with slats or rails to keep the hay in.  I had barely started when I forgot to move my finger before applying the hammer and the hay feeder project ended with blood and a few choice words.

And then it came to me…I didn’t need to build a hay feeder, I had a perfect one already.  All I had to do was put it together, remove a couple of slats so the animals could reach the hay and put it in the pen.

That is just what I did.

The sheep knew what this was all about right away…Olivia wasn’t quite sure.

It didn’t take her long though and she joined the sheep and enjoyed a feed from the new hay crib.

I doubt Dad had any idea when he built it that it would still be in service this many years later. I feel good knowing that the crib is being used again …and I think Mom and Dad would be smiling too.

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A New Project

What a difference a day makes!  Yesterday morning the rain was gone and the brilliant sunshine was back.  I usually let the animals out into the yard in the afternoon for a bit of grazing but it was so sunny and warm I opened their gate and out they ran into the sunshine.

The horses were frisky and Onyx kept running back and forth in front of the fence…he even convinced a couple of the sheep to join in the fun.

The break in the rain was a good opportunity for John Deere to deliver a couple of bales of hay.  Odin is always out in front giving directions.

The rain returned in the afternoon and so did John Deere.  This time there was a bigger job than delivering hay.  Ever since the animals arrived there are two gates to go through to get from the road into my yard.  One out by the road and one into the yard.  The gates are great and serve the purpose of keeping animals out and in but they can be a bit of a pain.

Imagine if you will, getting into your truck and driving 100 ft to the gate, stopping, getting out, opening the gate, getting back in, driving through the gate, stopping, getting out, closing the gate, getting back in,  driving down the driveway until you reach the next gate, stopping, getting out, opening the gate, getting back in, driving through the gate, stopping, getting out, closing the gate, getting back in and ta da! you are finally on your way.

So yesterday afternoon John Deere’s job was to dig up the driveway by the gate into the yeard and put in a cattleguard.  This will keep animals in and out and yet allow vehicles to drive right through without all that fuss.  It began by digging the hole.

Not big enough yet…keep digging John Deere!

The digging was still going on when I left to have dinner with my niece.  Hours later I drove home with a belly full of homemade pizza, salad and double chocolate chip cookies.  I didn’t know what I would find…a big hole in the ground? a cattleguard?  The gate was closed when I pulled up to the yard but it now covered a beautiful cattleguard.  I drove over cautiously,  it didn’t collapse or move.  I closed the gate for the night and drove into the yard with a smile on my face.

This morning the world is wrapped in mist. The birds were waiting for the cafeteria to open.

I walked out into the yard and headed for the gate and the new cattleguard.  It looks amazing!

I opened the gate and Emma walked down to the start of the cattleguard.  She gazed up the driveway and seemed to be saying “What is this? How am I supposed to get down the driveway now?  Don’t tell me I have to wait for June to open the walking gate?”

Yes Em, that is exactly what is going to happen.

Today will be a test day.  I will leave the gate open and see what happens.  Will Odin venture across or wait until he is invited through the walking gate?  Will the horses respect the cattleguard or try to cross it?  What about the sheep and Olivia?

I will keep a close eye on all the critters and watch as they explore this new addition to Morrisbrook Farm.


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