Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jean-Claude Van Ramme

There is always something new going on at Long Shadow Farm. We are still working on the greenhouse - slowly but surely, sometimes. Here are a couple pictures. We got all the posts pounded into the ground. Doing it by myself, on a Sunday full of distractions (egg customers, dogs acting crazy, sheep getting food bags stuck on their heads) I managed to pound in 7 by myself. With Larry and his dad, and everyone getting along, we managed to pound in the rest in an hour or so. Bam. Done. NEXT! That's not too surprising. Larry is much better at using a sledge hammer than I am. Not that I don't know how to use one properly, I just don't have the swing to put in behind it. What would take me 20 minutes, took him 5. (Well, next step is the bows, purlins, hip boards and baseboards, which I insist MUST be done in one day - due to wind exposure ripping up the bows if they are not properly supported...)

Of course, the subsequent project here is the hydrant for the green house. This required the use of rental equipment. I spent most of Sunday in this thing, and we almost got all the trenching done - until we hit the water table and water mixed with clay = glue. We had to change the location of our hydrant. But either way, while Larry was toiling in the sun, gluing PVC pipe together to lay in the hole, I was in the shade, and consequently a mini wind tunnel inside the cab of this thing, freezing my tail off, and not taking my eyes off the hole I was digging for a second.

Before the trencher arrived on Sunday, Nancy came with her trailer and brought us our ram. He was NOT what I expected, but I love him. I named him Jean-Claude Van Ramme. Not the muscles from brussels, but we hope he does the trick. When Laverne and Shirley arrived, they came flying out of that trailer bucking and kicking. When I went in to see Jean-Claude - he was napping! He got up and slowly sauntered out. This was a pleasant surprise, actually. I was so afraid of having an overly aggressive ram that could hurt the babies, or even ME. This guy is gentle as, well, a lamb. He's got 11 new girlfriends, and I think he's going to be a busy guy!

This is the one girlfriend who is hands off for Mr. Van Ramme. This is Shirley and her boys, Charlie Brown and Linus. She won't be feeling amorous, she's got babies to watch over.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I just had to share this

I just had to post this. My good friend, and former roommate, Amy, took this video of the three dogs that I had when she lived with me. We discovered once I adopted Ally (who is part Husky) that sometimes, if I played the piano, or squeaked the right toy, she would start to sing, in that special Husky way. If we were really careful not to look, OR laugh... Hobbes would join in. That high pitched howl? That's no Ally, that's Hobbes! And Ditka joins in with his own beagle version of a howl. This was great fun. To the point I'd be laughing so hard that I could barely play piano at all. In this video, all I'm doing is banging on some chords to get them to keep singing. Ally would sing at the drop of a hat sometimes, but getting Hobbes to start and continue was really tricky. Ditka, howling... not such a rarity. Ring the doorbell and he'd get going, play chase with him in the yard, or stand on his favorite poop spot! Anyhow - enjoy the chorus that I used to have in the house.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Mouse Problem

Our mouse issue is getting worse. Much worse.

We started with caerfully placed traps. Places where we could close a door behind them and not worry about a doggie or kitty paw getting caught in it instead. We caught some mice. Great.

We got MORE traps and baited them with cheese. We continued to occasionally catch mice.

I first started hearing them in the walls. When i got laid off in June, and was home during the day, I saw one scurry across the floor and up and onto the mantle above our wood stove. Cheeky bastard. I got the cat and showed it to him. The cat said "eh" and left. I showed it to Hobbes, who began to chase, but did not catch it. Then I started seeing trails of poop in the laundry room. I still see trails, I vacuum the laundry room every other day and am amazed at the amount of poop. We still have traps, but the mice poop around them.

The mice have been eating the plastic inside my washing machine. I have now seen them inside my dish washer. They have been all over the house, except upstairs in the bedrooms (thank god) Our cat does nothing.

We bought ultrasonic noise maker thingies - that just drove them into different rooms. I plugged up holes in the laundry room walls with steel wool. They just push it out. We shouldn't get more house cats, because I am allergic and the one we have already sleeps on my head and has given me asthma.

I am seriously considering poison. The drawback is that if a poisoned mouse dies i the walls, the house gets stinky. But it's already stinky from mouse droppings and urine. If a poisoned mouse dies in the house and a dog or cat eats it - those pets die an horrible death. Horrible. I doubt the cat will eat an already dead mouse. But Hobbes and Grish (and Atlas and Goliath) all think that mousies from traps are a great treat. I don't want to lose my pets. Not like this.

I researched mouse control options. They talk about traps (snap, sticky, live) ultrasonic noise thingies, poison. They talk about putting all your food in sealed glass containers (we have lots, but not all in sealed containers - dog food and cat food are in plastic containers) they talk about cleaning and keeping things off the floor so they don't have places to nest and hide. OK, larry, I need some help with the house cleaning activities here! They talk about poison. They talk about exterminators - one charging hourly, PLUS $125 per mouse caught. Man, I bet we have HUNDREDs, that would be expensive.

I want to blow up my house and go live in the barn. They are INSIDE MY DISHWASHER. Come on!! I want to scream. I really really want to use poison. But I don't want to lose my dogs. But these mice have got to go. DAMN my allergies, but it's not good for me to be asthmatic, either. I hate taking allergy meds every day because of Schroed, but I don't know what to do. We brought Marie into the house, but she hissed and spit at Schroed. That wasn't going to be fun. Maybe I have to suck it up with my allergies and get more cats? But Larry doesn't want more pets to feed. I don't want a trail of mouse poop in my house anymore, either!! HELP!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Greenhouse, Part I

I'll let the pictures do the talking. The greenhouse consists of 2 major projects... building the actual greenhouse, and getting water to the greenhouse. Both aspects have been started, and I have NO idea when they will be finished... The saga begins.

This is the pile of parts in the driveway. The truck driver was surprised when no one was there with a fork lift to take the parts of the truck. So we did it by hand. One piece at a time.

These are the parts in the field, after Larry's dad and I worked on the corner posts, and I started working on the rest of the side posts...

This is a hole by the side of the barn. WE had a hydrant here that was leaking, so we were going to fix that AND tie off a water line to run to the greenhouse from here. Not quite done yet.

Here's the mini-excavator Larry rented to dig a big hole. And stuff.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lost Data

SO, I got a new computer this week. It'll take me a month until it's working the way I want.

I also have a 750GB back up storage drive. I've already used it and plan on running weekly backups to it.

I lost a lot of data. 4 years worth. I, thankfully, backed up our financial info on Larry's computer and pieced that back together with no holes in it. I also found a pile of back up discs from over the years. Unfortunately the most recent was almost a year ago. As I started digging through those - I managed to save our wedding/honeymoon/Ireland pictures. Fyew. I also have lots of other images that could never have been recreated.

Then I found the disc, the one, that mattered as much as the wedding disc. The one that has farm and dog pictures on it. The disc is scratched. I've tried 7 times to get it to read. All the "A" pictures were retrievable. That means I have all my pictures from my Ally-cat. I miss my silly girl, and am glad I have pictures to remember her.

The images freeze at one titled "Baby D"

I can't get Ditka's pictures off this disc. It was all I wanted to find. And they are hiding there, trapped under a scratch. And trapped in my own mind. I really wanted to be able to see them. It's just a reminder of what I can't get back.

This song, however, makes me think of him. From Sarah McLachlan's "Answer"

"If it takes my whole life
I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it
Worth it in the end
'Cause I can only tell you what I know
That I need you in my life
When the stars have all burned out
You'll still be burning so bright

Cast me gently
Into morning
For the night has been unkind"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Video Sunday

OK, everyone starts to take a back seat when baby lambs are born, but I want to introduce you to my silly chickens. Larry buys production chickens - our first year were all Production Reds. Each year, we'll get a new breed of production chickens that are a different color, so that when they stop laying, we know which ones are how old. Next years are Black Sex Link (you'll see them in a second) I get funny chickens - I pick ones that lay eggs well, but then I just pick them because they are pretty. First, I got Americaunas - they lay green eggs. Then I got Buff Cochins, but the hatchery sent us BANTAMS, which are mini chickens. Silly. I still want my Silver Lakenvelders, but they are rare and hard to find. So this time, I got the birds below.

This is an Ancona. They are going to be mostly black with white spots when they grow up. This one has a pronounced comb, I think it's a rooster!

This is a Buff Minorca. She's going to be tall and skinny and golden colored, as opposed to my Buff Cochins who are short and fat and super fluffy.

Whenever you order stranger breeds, like the birds I like, they ask if you are willing to take substitutions, that's fine with me. And it looks like they couldn't complete my order - so I got an extra Americauna!!

These are our Thanksgiving turkeys! The turkeys are super mobile and tend to stay together. They are great foragers - but for now, because of their size, they have to stay in a pen. This keeps predators away from them. They are almost too tall to be in here, so soon, they will be let loose. In with them, are the Black Sex Link egg layers. They have to be penned, too, to protect from predators. They could easily be taken by a hawk or an owl at this small size. They are also eating different feed than our production reds, because they are so young. Once they are big enough, and are on the same feed, we will put them in with the rest of the egg layers.

These are our kitties. Natasha sometimes lets me be her friend. Today she did not. She might not have liked the camera flash and decided to hide today. But I did catch the two of them snuggled up on a doggie bed, taking an afternoon nap together. Natasha in the front, Marie in the back.

I thought I'd let you meet our Double Breasted Bronze turkeys. This is the BIG Tom. He likes to strut his stuff. There are 2 things they didn't do in the video. They didn't gobble. These guys gobble ALL THE TIME, but of course not when I am filming. They also didn't do any mating, which is fine. Those poor girls get attacked all the time, poor things! We have 8 left, of the 15 that made it to adult-hood (some illness and injury) We don't have enough room in our freezer, so these guys are spared, for now. Won't someone buy a turkey?

Here are Charlie Brown and Linus getting a little lunch from momma Shirley. I think you can see Velma and Laverne in the background. Anyhow, these guys sure have cute tails, but we actually have to dock them. It doesn't seem to hurt them - it didn't bother Lenny and Squiggy. We put an elastic band around it, and eventually it falls off. If we don't - they can have feces caught up in their tails and end up with maggots in their bum. I'd rather dock their tails!!

These are the Thanksgiving turkeys. They are noisy. And boy are they growing fast! They have a long way to go and a short time to get there. Thanksgiving is coming soon! Lots of folks have already signed up to buy these guys!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's going to be a busy fall

We have one last farmer's market to attend this weekend.

We have about 20 chickens to process this weekend, and 10 turkeys to process, once the freezer has room for them.

We have 20 or so more turkeys to process for Thanksgiving.

We have a greenhouse - in pieces in the front yard. We need to install it.

Once built, we need to ring it with straw bales, and move all the chickens in. It's getting frosty at night (which killed my PUMPKINS! NOOOOOOOOOO) which is also tough for the chickens. We also need to bring an underground water line out to it, and install a frost free hydrant, so the birdies can have water.

It's getting crowded in the barn. All the 3 month old egg layers got moved outside, to make room for Shirley and Charlie Brown and Linus. They are sharing a stall with the 3 week old baby chicks, and the broilers - who just can't handle the cold nights. So Charlie Brown and Linus have some birds their own size to sniff and hobble after. The other girls get their regular stall.

The full grown turkeys are brought into the barn at night. For 2 reasons - 1) to get them out of range of coyotes. 2) because that's the only time we can feed them. The sheep will steal their food, so we have to lock the sheep up in the barn, so the turkeys can eat. The kittens stay in the barn, unless someone scares Natasha on the roof. (BTW - we got her down from the roof last night, and managed to stick a needle in her butt - she now has her kitty shots)

The puppies now usually sleep in the house. Why? Because they "guard" the turkey food. That means they often snap at the turkeys for trying to eat their own food. So that the turkeys become people food and not puppy food, the dogs are sleeping in the house.

We have a lot of work to do. But it will all be worth it. All egg layers, regardless of age, will have one house to live in for the winter. One that won't require opening and closing, or monthly moving. The rest of the birds will be in our bellies or our freezer - or preferably - someone else's belly and someone else's freezer. There will be no weeds to pull, no irrigation to run - just letting sheep in and out, feeding and watering everyone, and waiting until spring.

But until spring - we have a greenhouse that needs to be built, and several weekends of poultry processing. Wish us luck, and buy a chicken.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


We have BABIES!!!

OK Let me back up a minute. I went out to the field today to collect eggs. All the sheep ran up to me, and I started to pet Laverne, who always lets me pet her. There are 4 who let me pet them (for now) and I always look to give each one a scratch on the head. So I found Lucy and Velma, too. Then I realized I didn't see Shirley. I scanned the field and didn't see her. Just then, Larry was coming home and I yelled at him to check the barn for her. I was really scared something was wrong.

Not a thing was wrong. She was in the barn licking clean her two brand new baby ram lambs. WHAT? We got her over a YEAR ago, sheep gestate for 5 months. There was no way this was a miracle birth - so where did she have access to a ram? Then it hit us... LENNY AND SQUIGGY! No way! Those little rascals had their way with their Aunt Shirley before they left. And now we have 2 more little baby ram lambs! Good going Lenny or Squiggy. We'll never know which one, but WOW! What a GREAT surprise! I guess not all surprises on the farm are bad ones! (and we just thought Shirley was fat!)

Introducing Charlie Brown and Linus!

Momma Shirley With her baby boys

Little Linus - born TODAY!

Little Charlie Brown - BORN TODAY

A momma and her babies!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I didn't think it would be that quick! When I went to the barn tonight, Marie and Natasha were hanging out on their little perch. I approached them slowly, and Natasha looked tentative, but not poised to run. So I reached my hand out and started to pet Marie - who purrs instantly. Natasha didn't move, and I was inches from her. So I reached out my other hand and stroked her back. She looked at me like I was nuts - then laid down and started to purr herself. HOORAH!

To praise her for giving me a chance - I went to the tack room and brought out 2 cans of kitty food, one for each. They dove right in, and Natasha STILL let me pet her even while she was eating. I stayed there with them while they both wolfed down half a can. I noticed that Natasha needed it. I think she spends enough time hiding, that she doesn't eat as much as Marie does.

And she's not a mean kitty - she's scared. You can see it in her eyes. A mean kitty still would have bit me, or hissed at me. This cat looked like she was starved for attention, and she finally got some. I'm hoping tonight wasn't just a fluke. Remember, we still have to get her to the vet to get spayed. I didn't push my luck and pick her up. Even thought I wanted to give her a big snuggle, I didn't. I kept it on her terms, and gave her the option of running off at any time she had enough. She didn't. She rolled over so I could rub her belly. She came over and sniffed my nose, and rubbed her head on my forehead. She licked my fingers. I think I may have won her over. We'll try again tomorrow and see if she lets me pick her up. I'm going to give it another week before I betray her trust and stick a needle in her butt (she needs shots, too). The most important thing to me is making sure she gets spayed. I like her, but I don't want a half dozen more of her!

Working on Natasha

Natasha, hiding in the rafters

SO, Natasha is our mean kitty. She was born under a porch and not handled (as no one knew she was there) much as a little kitten. She is very skiddish. It took her owners 3 days to catch her and be able to bring her to us. Her "sister" Marie is a very different kitty.

When we first brought her home, Natasha wouldn't come out of the kitty carrier. So Larry kind of dumped her out of it. Then he thought it was crazy - Marie liked us, Tasha should, too. So he cornered her, picked her up and was going to pet her and she was going to like it. She didn't. She bit him. He gave up on her. She decided to stay far far away from us.

They are about 12 weeks old now, somewhere around there. They need to get spayed soon. Marie isn't going to be a problem, but since we can't catch Natasha, she is.

Some evenings, when I take the dogs to the barn, I sit on their beds and I pet them. I close everyone in for the night and say my goodnights to the chickens, turkeys, sheep... and then I give the dogs some love. Usually, Marie will come over and climb on my lap during this (this leaves me in the tricky position of 3 pets, 2 hands... doesn't always bode well) But she will start to purr. If I sit very still... Natasha usually comes out of hiding. She will sit about 4 feet away from me, looking rather glum. I talk in a sweet voice to her, telling her I'm really nice and I can pet her too, and it isn't so bad, she might actually like it. I'm trying not to push my luck, she needs to come to me on her terms. She is pointy on 5 ends, I won't force anything.

But last night she came right over and sniffed my shoe. OH, I couldn't help it, I held still for a second, then I reached down and pet her. She ran off, of course, but only back to her spot 4 feet away. So I sat very still, and she came back - this time she sat right behind me. I couldn't even look at her, but I knew she was there. I was going to see what she might do next - which of course MAY have been attacking my hair (this is a favorite game of Marie's) - but then Larry came home, came down to the barn and scared her back away. I think this is going to take time and patience - and though we don't NEED her to like us, we do NEED to get her spayed, so I need to continue working on this...