Saturday, March 12, 2011

Muddy Snow Cone Season

And then there is the scene in our livestock barn...

Now, every year when the ice is thick and the snow is in that ebb and flow place, brown and crusty and hanging on like a sore cuticle you just want to go away, things are a little disheveled. But, this year, the barn has reached a new level. This is the point in today's story where we take a turn to the confessional, feeling a little shy, but wanting to share some of the truth of winter at our farm.

All of the ewes have had their lambs so there are 7 little lambs popping around the place. The lambs have taken a liking to the chicken feed and are well skilled at squeezing through the gate to collect themselves a snack. The lambs are growing quickly and seem to be everywhere, all at once.

The poultry, 12 hens, 2 roosters (the little chick, named Peep, born in the summer, is a rooster),

 3 very loud geese, and 4 ducks

already jockey for a place at the grain bar, and now they are checking the lambs to get to the feeder each morning. This never constructed crib end found its way to a cheap fix for our freewheeling lambs.

When we stopped raising poultry commercially we figured we would just let them be free range and roost in the barn. The birds appear happy with the plan but the effect is a solid litter of poultry droppings on every horizontal surface and some vertical surfaces as well. It didn't really start to get bad until the snow covered the ground and the birds self-relegated to the barn in December. Back in November, I talked John out of Christmas Goose, thinking the geese were so handsome, they would perk up the dooryard through the winter.

 Muck up would be a better description of their treatment of the dooryard. The geese don't greet people, they hiss and squawk at them, the geese are downright mean. This week, John watched as Emma got off the school bus and was accosted by the geese. He caught Emma throwing her vintage metal Cracker Jack lunch box at the geese as they attacked her. Lucky for her 15 year old self esteem, the bus full of high school and middle school students had already pulled away.  The geese also joined the other poultry in the barn once the snow arrived. On occasion, the geese venture out to scare guests in the dooryard and sun themselves on our front step when the weather is fair. I must admit this week I feel a sick sense of joy when I see the geese struggle on the ice rink that is our driveway to hiss and squawk at someone who drives in (sorry vegans, sorry PETA). The poultry residue has reached an unprecedented level, initiating a quick agreement that we will return to our former mobile coop model once the snow melt is substantial enough to uncover the frame of the coop, keeping that fertilizer where we most want it, on the pasture.

That covers lambs and poultry....but I haven't gotten to the rabbit. Our luck with rabbits is traditionally poor. This rabbit arrived as part of set, an independent project of one of our interns from last season. He escaped in the middle of the summer and has eluded us ever since. This guy was seen for weeks earlier this winter mingling with the cats in the long barn, snuggling and socializing. We thought this curious. Then, about 4 weeks ago, we noticed that he had relocated to the livestock barn and had taken to sleeping on the backs of the sheep.

That's right, there is a bunny bedding down on top of the sheep along side the feisty lambs, 2 big cows and poultry menagerie. On occasion, we have spotted him mounting the lambs and wonder what has become of our farm.

The cows are content to share space with this menagerie. Lucy still gives us delicious, creamy milk 2 times a day and Blackberry gave birth to an adorable little bull calf on Thursday afternoon. The bull calf, named T-bone by the girls who love beef, will stay at the farm with us. Blackberry will be leaving shortly, all freshened, to live at another neighboring farm and feed another farm family her goodness. Our family has more milk than we know what to do with milking one cow. We have appreciated Blackberry's milk and her manure for our garden and her gentle company but are happy to know she will be loved.

We have started onions, leeks, lavender, rosemary, coleus, and brugmansia. The trays are piling up next to the woodstove in our house, capturing the warmth necessary to trick them into germinating. There is still a pile of seeds with the label March 1st to be started, but there is always another morning. John says he feels like a maple tree, his sap is running. The season is under way, the project list is growing, including a poultry coop for all those free rangers in the barn and the new laying hens that just arrived via US Postal Service.

 If you don't mind a little brown, crusty snow, an ice rink in the driveway and a real throw-down in the barn, come on by and meet the lambs. Maybe you'll time it right to catch us feeding the calf or maybe just the bunny defiling a sweet lamb and you can laugh a moment with us about the wonder of it all.

Blessings on the meal,

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