So this past Sunday night, the hubby and I were up late on account of napping earlier in the day. Around 1 am, I heard the neighborhood dogs go off so I sent Moose outside to add to the chorus and to let the dragon know our farm is protected by a fierce livestock guardian. (I suspect, dragons, like groundhogs, don’t read signs.) Moose went eagerly and quickly determined there was definitely something out there.
She and I walked the pastures with the flashlight. (I really need to start carrying a weapon when I am out on point. A few days ago, my neighbor told me of a farmer up in Louisa whose horses got mauled by a pack of coyotes recently. That’s about 50 miles away.) Other than a deer up by the cemetery, I didn’t see anything. Moose told me to go to bed and she’d take care of it. She rounded up the cat and told him it was time to quit playing with the bugs. It was time for him to man up and protect the farm from the dragons lurking on the perimeter. The cat responded, “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.” I finally crawled into bed around 3 am, leaving Moose and Mushu on patrol.
The next morning, I was sitting on the porch having my morning caffeine and it slowly dawned on me that neither the cat nor the dog had come to say good morning. Very unusual. The cat doesn’t like to be out during the day, (“The sun, it burns us.”) and begs to be let inside. The dog, being a dog, is just so darn happy to see me. But not on this morning. I whistled and called and got no response. I started to worry, but went about my chores. I opened up the barn and stepped on a mouse. Since both my cat and dog were AWOL, the mouse got away.
I fed the horses, all the while calling and whistling. No dog. No cat. I loaded up the wagon and headed down to the chicken pasture to service the chicken tractors. On my way past the coop, I found the dog. She was inside the electric fence, chilling with the chickens. Since there’s a substantial charge on that particular fence, I have to assume she jumped the fence sometime in the night and then forgot she could jump it to get back out. Really weird. The fence is black. It is very hard to see at night. Heck, even during the day, the dog has walked right into it. How she managed to clear it in the dark . . . really weird! Still no sign of the cat, but all the chickens are accounted for, as are the neighbor’s goats and chickens. The livestock guardians labored long and hard and won a great victory during the night.
As for the cat, well he stayed hidden for a good long time and kept me worrying for most of the day. After two and a half years, he and I are just now establishing a relationship of sorts. (I’ve never been much of a cat person and he’s not much of a people cat.) I was very upset by the prospect of starting over with a new cat, so I was very relieved when he slithered onto the porch late in the afternoon.
Onward now, to the chickens. Last Wednesday, the boys and I split up the chicken flock. We brought all the feather damaged chickens up to the coop and gave them access to the pasture with the aforementioned electric fence. The undamaged and least damaged chickens stayed down in the pasture. And my latest list of cannibal suspects went into a detention tractor with Sussex #83. The suspects were all the off color Sussex. (Base color is brown and not mahogany.) Both the coop group and the pasture flock got a box of wood ashes. The morning after the move, none of the coop group had bright red backs indicating they’d been recently mauled. After a only a few days, the feathers started growing back. I’d like to say the daily egg count is improving and the eggs are getting bigger, but some days are better than others.
The only flaw in this set up is the 25 hens down in the pasture have to keep four roosters entertained. The girls in the coop have only Mr. Magnificent to humor. Once again, it’s time to cull the extra roos.
But not now. I finally got all the garden rows under wraps yesterday. In essence, I now have twelve 45 foot mirrors lying in my back yard. (I expect the mother ship any day.) I have a day or two to plant what few plants I’ve got ready to go in and to hoe out the Bermuda grass that has crept into the aisles. The mulch is doing a great job at keeping the weeds out of the beds, but I need to find something to smother the walkways. Mulching those with hay just makes the weeds worse. Maybe a permanent installation of landscape fabric.
Then the rumor is the hay guy will be here to cut my pastures. I don’t have much cleaning left to do in the hay barn, but I do have some. I would have liked to build up a new platform to store the hay on. That’s not going to happen. I will just have to live with the old pallets, maybe adding some planking to make it less dangerous. Since hay making is weather dependent, I may or may not have hay this weekend. We had a huge thunderstorm last night and got 1.3 inches of rain. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next several days. We need 4 relatively dry days in a row to make hay.
All around me, the farmers have corn a foot high standing in their fields. Seems like they are all growing corn in this year. There are a couple of fields of really short wheat, already golden. No tobacco. In the immediate area at any rate.
As for the cauliflower, we have had it raw in a salad, and mashed with garlic, cream cheese and parmesan. (Roasting the garlic is the key. Hard to tell mashed cauliflower from mashed potatoes.) I’ve given some to egg customers for their assessment and reports have thus far been good. We’ll be having another head tonight, baked with cheese. I did pickle some, but it will be a while before we know how that experiment turned out.
The bees. Well, in the two new hives, the queens have moved up into the second supers and the populations are really beginning to expand. Brood pattern is lovely and they’ve got quite a bit of capped honey. It’s mostly sugar water honey, but it’ll do to keep going through the summer. In the old hive, the queen has moved up into the top brood super and the colony is making the good stuff in the honey super. When I checked them on Sunday, they had two frames of capped honey and a couple more nearing completion. It’s not a lot of honey, yet. But they are out working the clover every day. They’re also working the digitalis and the Echinacea. I really do need to plant some more stuff for them, but like most things around here, all I can say is it’s on the list of things to do.
Out in the pastures, the buttercups have nearly all vanished and the milkweed is just getting going. And in the flower bed just off the front porch, I have this plant for which I have no name. It’s got foliage like a day lily, but finer. It blooms during the day and closes up for the night. And for the life of me I can’t remember planting it. It’s pretty though, but somewhat short in the bloom performance category.
The days are definitely getting warmer, and thankfully wetter. But with the wet, comes the humidity. I don’t relish the days where I constantly have sweat rolling down my face, but they are here. Summer is coming quickly now. Maybe like our winter just past, it will be a mild one. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
Unknown flower update: Got this pic this morning.