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Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!


Since the very vocal show dogs arrived at the house in the front of our property, Chelsea the sheepdog has turned barking into an endurance sport. Sometimes she barks until she is hoarse, in response to whatever is being shouted to her in canine language from across the barnyard. I don’t always hear her. Tuning things out is a skill that I have developed over the years—possibly as the young mother of three small daughters, operating a daycare centre out of my house, or maybe it was when I worked in a large publishing house in Asia, where every cubicle seemed to host its own loud telephone conversation, online video or audio. I once worked with someone who insisted on reading the subject lines of his emails aloud every morning. (You know who you are). Anyway, my response to distracting sound is to mentally turn the volume down. And so I don’t often hear Chelsea’s barking, unless it changes in tone to something more frantic and tell-tale.
Yesterday she was sounding the alarm so I peeked out the window and sure enough, the door to the hay storage was open and I could see several fluffy butts in the doorway, helping themselves to the banquet. I could also hear the clip-clop of Belgian hooves on the wood floor. I quickly pulled on boots and barn jacket to investigate.
Some of the older, more experienced sheep turned tail and ran out of the barn as soon as they heard the patio door slide open on the house. They knew the gig was up. Others responded to my yelling as I clumped across the muddy barnyard by tripping over each other to get out of the hay store. Chelsea wagged her tail and smiled at me as I passed. “Good girl. You’re a good watchdog, Chelsea.” I gave her a quick pat on the head—nothing too lingering or friendly—she snaps on a whim.
As I reached the open door, Donkey spotted me. He had the lid to the grain bin open and was helping himself to mouthfuls of molasses-laced sweetfeed. I cornered him and instead of going around the nearest round bale, he leapt straight up into the air and cleared it. “That was impressive, Donk.” (And the Farmer said he was getting old.)
Just then Misty stuck her head out of the lambing room to see what the commotion was about.
“How the heck did you get in there?” I asked her, and she demonstrated, ducking and squeeeezing herself back through the open door. Then the two ringleaders kicked up their heels and nibbled at passing sheep on their way back out to pasture.
I don’t know how some farmers do it, feeding their horses once a day. If we don’t keep a steady supply of fresh hay available, our animals get into all sorts of trouble.
By the look of some of these fat sheep, the Farmer says we’ll be having lambs any day now. That never gets old. There’s nothing like waking up New Year’s Day and going out to the barn to discover a newborn lying in the hay. It’s nice and mild this year too so they should be okay. By the time the bitter cold arrives in February, they will be old enough to eat grain and hay and will have enough fat on them to keep them warm. The next batch of lambs won’t be born until April.
Mocha, Betty, Julie and Ginger will be having their babies soon too. We got a salt lick with selenium in it so we shouldn’t have the same problem we had last year, when the calves were born without a sucking reflex. It’s always a bit scary, watching something so huge being born, but we’ve been lucky so far and haven’t had any complications. Fingers and toes crossed. Knock on wood.
The last of the spring lambs have been sent to market. They were huge this year. Those Suffolk rams make big babies. Speaking of Philip, he has been released to the general population again, to fend for himself against Rambo. As the ewes have all been bred by now, the men shouldn’t be feeling too competitive. Rambo can be a territorial old grandpa, but he’s pretty reasonable. I think Philip will be safe.
Happy New Year to all our loyal readers. May the coming Year of the Dragon be a good one for you.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All I Want For Christmas...is You.


“Santa baby...slip a sable under the tree...for me. Been an awfully good girl, Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.”


Last year I ordered some chickens and piglets to be sent to my Ugandan foster child’s family for Christmas. I found out later that the regularly sponsored families are already off the ‘needy’ list, so they aren’t eligible for livestock gifts. Besides, my family already has a cow. So their village got my chickens and piglets, and they were dispersed to the neediest families in the area. And that’s ok with me—I don’t mind that my foster child’s family didn’t get the animals. I feel bad that they didn’t get anything from me at Christmas, but I sent a few extra things for Valentine’s Day as soon as I found out.
The point is, I sent the gifts with the hope that they would go to someone who needed and appreciated them, and I believe that is exactly what happened.
That really is the best we can hope for at Christmas—that it be less about what we bought and more about kindnesses exchanged.
When my girls were little, I remember playing one VHS movie after another, from about Halloween onward, so that we wouldn’t be subjected to a barrage of Christmas toy commercials. It worked for a little while, until they started school. Then they would come home with a list for Santa, the product of recess-time collaboration.
I got away fairly easy though, I think. My girls never demanded name-brand items they knew I couldn’t afford, and they didn’t get into expensive technologies until they could help pay the bill themselves. I really think they like to plan, shop and give as much as they like to receive. And I think they have all learned how good it feels to take a name off an angel tree and buy a gift for someone less fortunate, or to put a handful of loonies into the Salvation Army kettle.
Now that they are older, Christmas is about getting caught up on things they need, padding their bank accounts and equipping them with gift certificates for Boxing Week sales. The gift giving has become very practical. In a way, the holiday is more about the gatherings than the gifts now.
We celebrate togetherness, with family and friends, and give thanks for the year as it comes to an end. Whether your 2011 was annus horribilis or annus mirabilis, it’s time to bid it adieu. 
Next year is our year of weddings. My daughter and my sister will both be brides in 2012. It promises to be a whirlwind of excitement as we pass through planning stages and celebrations.
Another daughter is heading off to university in the fall. Mapping out plans for her future, sending her hopes and dreams out into the universe to see what comes back.
The Farmer and I will raise another batch of cattle, another wave of lambs, and perhaps a few kittens too. The seasons will come and go; we will work hard for our money, and eat well every weekend at our porch table, set for 16 to 20.
I sit at my desk and look out the window upon a beautiful sight. Our Belgian horse, Misty, is crossing the snow-white field on a diagonal. Her mane is blowing in the wind. She stops for a moment, realizing she has left her best pal Donkey behind. He is still snacking at the hay feeder. She raises her head and whinnies at him. He obliges her and follows the path she has made, out to the snowy pasture. I recognize that this is a sight I am blessed to witness every day. I have all that I need, right here.
Merry Christmas, dear readers. Thank you to everyone who sent me a card or email this season. I wish you the very best of life in the coming year.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2 weeks to a cleaner, leaner you!


I’ve been battling a bit of happy-marriage weight gain these past few years, and a big year is coming up, with two family weddings. Besides that, I would rather lose the weight and fit into the clothes in my closet than go out and splurge for a whole new wardrobe in a bigger size.

I used to go to the gym or jog a few kilometers a day when I wanted to drop some excess weight. But a funny thing happened. My early-40s body does not wish to do punishing workouts anymore. It prefers yoga. So I bought a variety of yoga videos and a floor mat, lit some incense and candles and started working out. Within days I could see more definition in my muscles. But I still didn’t fit into my clothes.

I was procrastinating on Facebook one day when a friend in Ireland invited me to join her “14 days to a cleaner, leaner, you” group. I was intrigued. Having tried other ‘detox’ plans before, however (and failed miserably), I wasn’t interested in ingesting any more toxic herbs or supplements. After reviewing the shopping list and menu plan, I was pretty excited. It was all about eliminating sugar and starch and focusing on dark green vegetables and lean, organic meats. I could do that! The moral support and accountability factor of the online group was also very motivating.

I’ll admit I was worried the first couple of days when I seemed to be “high” on hunger and ready for bed by 6pm. But as soon as I took a closer look at the portions I was eating and realized they were out of balance, things started to level out and I felt much better. For example, this menu plan (I won’t call it a diet because it is so much more than that) advises that you eat the equivalent of 100gms of organic oatmeal, 2 whole eggs and 100gms of low fat cottage cheese, all for breakfast. Separately, that’s too much food for me. But if I followed the directions, blended everything together with a dash of cinnamon and fried it in a drop of olive oil like pancakes, I had a breakfast that would last in my belly for a good 5 hours. I didn’t get the usual blood sugar boost-and-crash either. Lunch and dinner called for a lean protein (chicken, turkey, or fish) with dark green leafy or cruciferous (don’t you just love that word? Means cauliflower or cabbage;) veggies. I ate a handful of unsalted nuts or seeds for a snack.

The only thing I really missed was my evening glass of wine. I realize, however, that my vino was a big reason for my weight gain, so I was happy to see it go for a couple of weeks: too much sugar.

I lost a pound a day for the first 6 days. My cravings for sweets, fruit and wine decreased to the point where my willpower overcame them. As I rounded the corner into the second week, something else started happening. My brain got sharper. As I worked on my writing assignments, words came to me more easily. I also found I didn’t forget things as often as I did before (when I would open the fridge and forget what I was looking for). That increased mental alertness can be attributed, I believe, to the detox from chemicals and artificial additives in my food.

I saw a program on TV where actress Jenny McCarthy explained how she reversed her son’s autism diagnosis, simply by eliminating chemicals from his food and environment. I’m telling you, folks, this is powerful stuff. This menu plan is also very similar to the cancer-fighting plan that most oncologists promote. Add some flax seed and cod liver oil to build the immune system (over-the-counter cold remedies are also full of chemicals) and you’ll feel fantastic.

When I hit the 10 pounds lost point, I celebrated with a small glass of the most delicious organic red wine known to man (Bonterra – a Cab Sav from California). To be honest, it was a bit rich for my new palate. That slowed me down, and I savoured every drop over about 2 hours.

By the time this article is in print, I should be down about 15 pounds. I plan to keep going on this plan, in moderation, until I feel like myself again. Of course, if these results continue, I won’t feel anything like the old me. I’ll have more energy and stamina than ever before. What a great way to head into 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our barn has a revolving door.


We have kept Dennis the drover (not driver but drover; a driver just drives while Dennis does much more—it’s a rodeo out there sometimes folks) busy this past week. First we had him come and pick up our three male bull calves. You could hear the truck and metal trailer clanging and banging around the corner of our dirt road well before you could see it coming up the hill. The cattle were anxious to get out of the pen that the Farmer had successfully lured and locked them into the night before.
I unhooked the electric fence wire (which I had already switched OFF), unlatched the front gate and swung it open for Dennis to drive through. His tires slipped a bit on the snow as he backed the huge trailer up to the mouth of the barn. With Dennis’ help, the Farmer let the female cows out. They were very happy to be free, and made a b-line to the feeder to see if the hay was any different from the stuff they had been eating on the inside.
I stood out of the way as Dennis ushered the bulls into the back of the truck. They obediently hopped aboard without any bait. When the metal doors swung shut, however, they began to bawl a little. This got their mothers’ attention. I went over and consoled my cows with kind words and a bucket of grain as the big white truck and trailer took their babies away.
This morning, the cows all stopped chewing and stood frozen as they heard the sound of the trailer rounding the corner again. Maybe they thought their bulls were returning, or maybe they thought they were the next to be loaded aboard.
“Young Angus is home, girls!” I said, cheerfully. Mocha turned her head quickly and looked at me, eyes wide. I opened the gate and the trailer backed into the opening. Dennis stepped down from the truck, walked around back and swung the doors open. “You’re home, buddy,” he said softly to the black bull, who was significantly bigger than the last time I saw him. I swear he grew another 25% in the short time he was gone.
We rented Angus out to one farmer in the spring, another in the summer and then he was home for just a day before he was rented out again for the fall. Some of his keepers fed him apples, while others fed him grain. His coat has a glossy sheen and he is far from the small calf that we first met a year and a half ago.
I stood between two large trees as the bull was released into the yard. Immediately he snorted, pawed the ground and then curled back his upper lip and sniffed the air. The girls came over to greet him, and he walked with them over to the pasture field, as if reacquainting himself with the property.
The cows are carrying his babies again and they will give birth in January and February. He will breed them one more time in March, and then we will probably sell him, possibly to one of the other farmers who have been renting him these past two years. He is a good bull, gentle natured, and he makes nice calves.
Next week we will start taking some of our bigger lambs to market. I know which one I want to say goodbye to first. He is a big Suffolk lamb, with a black face and white body. He used to jump in the feeders as soon as we filled them with hay. Not only will this soil the hay but the stupid lamb gets stuck in the feeder and it’s very difficult to get him out. We put him in with Rambo and his mate Gretel and he jumped out of that pen too. The Farmer put fences up over the feeders so he couldn’t jump into them anymore. The next day I found him on the highest stacked bale. I guess he decided to skip the feeder and go to the source.
Philip has been released to mate as many ewes as he can. He is wearing a red crayon block in a halter on his chest. I can see that he has marked more than half of the herd so far. His babies will be born in early April.
The population is ever-changing on the farm.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Farmwife Rant


I have been to at least ten countries in Europe, I’ve travelled Australia and I lived in Asia for three years. Sometimes I was mistaken for an American, because I was speaking English. Once I was told I wore my hair like a woman from France. On more than one occasion my roots were showing, because I was thought to be an Irishwoman. I was always proud to identify myself as Canadian. Everyone loves Canadians. And many people wish they were Canadian.
In my first posting in Asia, one of the other teachers actually posed as a Canadian because he felt he was accepted and treated better that way. He travelled with the Canadian flag emblazoned on his jacket and backpack. He was actually from New York. Part of the reason Canadians are loved so much, I think, is because we are so polite. It is in our nature to consider others, to follow the rules, and to put ourselves last. Sometimes our law-abiding nature makes us the brunt of jokes. I remember being teased in Melbourne because I didn’t want to cross the street until the electronic sign said it was safe to go—even though it was well past midnight and there wasn’t a vehicle in sight.
Well, if we are known the world over for being polite, we should live up to everyone’s expectations, shouldn’t we? Lately some of my fellow countrymen have been dropping the ball. Here are some examples of particularly impolite and rather non-Canadian behaviour I have noticed in the past week: 1. Rushing the traffic circle. Just because you are heading straight down County Road 43 does not mean you have the right of way through the traffic circle. That funny little upside-down triangle sign means yield; 2. If you are entering a gas station and you notice other vehicles waiting to enter the service bays, do not bolt ahead of them to take a spot. They were there before you. Just because you can steal the spot doesn’t mean you should. This rule also applies to parking spots at Bayshore; 3. If you have a cart full of groceries and someone approaches with just a handful of items, you should let them go ahead of you. It isn’t going to slow you down by much. And you weren’t in that much of a hurry anyway; you had a cart full; 4. If I am speaking to you, put your smart phone away. You are supposed to be listening to me, not reading your emails and text messages. 5. (This one really gets me) If there is even one person behind you in line for the cash, do not play your lottery tickets while everyone waits. More than once I have watched a line form while some petty gambler plays and wins, plays another and wins, plays another and wins, etc.
Okay, I think five rants are enough for today. I will save the rest up for another time. I don’t want to sound like a complainer. Because along with self-deprecating humour and ripe sarcasm, complaining is another thing Canadians are supposedly known for.
Honestly, it’s the little things that count. If you make a point to consider the people around you and to sacrifice a moment of your time for them, you will make the day better for at least two people and probably many more because that goodwill spreads quickly. And what are you in such a rush for anyway? More than once I have actually pulled over to let a tailgater pass, thinking to myself, I guess he’s late for his next car accident. Oops, I guess that was another complaint. Sometimes I just can’t help myself. Have a great week and remember: I’m watching you on the traffic circle.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

November thru the eyes of the hunting widow



November is not just a grey, chilly and blustery preamble to winter. To the wife of a hunter, November is about the absentee husband. Now, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s all in how you look at it.
Some hunting husbands look forward to their two weeks of deer hunting all year long. In the months leading up to November, they troll outdoors stores and websites looking for the latest in new gear for watching, photographing and otherwise capturing wild game. They watch hours of hunting shows on Wild TV, learning new tips and techniques for bagging the big one. Then they wait.
As the opening day of the hunt approaches, many hunters will kiss their wives and families goodbye as they head out for a weekend, a week or even two weeks in the bush with their comrades-in-camouflage (or, in the case of deer season, flame orange). They have packed bullets, beer, bacon and baked beans. It’s been proven—you can live on that for several days. There may or may not be a toothbrush in their travel bag. It isn’t always deemed necessary. And anyone who dares to shave at a hunt camp would not only risk ridicule from his cabin mates but he might also throw the luck of the hunt.
The wives of these hunters are known as ‘hunting widows’. Knowing that their husbands are gone for several days, they may take up redecorating the living room, or at least moving furniture around. Some hunting widows will go shopping, with their husband’s VISA card. This might be just something she was planning to do anyway, or it might be a bit of a dig at the husband who has left her alone with the kids while he goes off to play in the woods with his friends.
My hunter doesn’t go far from home to hunt. He may take a day trip to the St. Lawrence for geese, but mostly he stays on our own 200 acres, which he has mapped and laid out with trails cut through the woods and stands in the trees. He rises at 5am, kisses me goodbye, and slips downstairs to put the coffee on for his thermos. Then he goes out to the bush, climbs up onto his tree stand, and watches the sun rise. Now that the leaves are gone, I can often see his orange coat through the trees from my kitchen window, 50 acres away. When the girls were little, he would leave a walkie-talkie beside their beds so they could talk to him when they woke up. I’m glad my hunter doesn’t go too far from home. I kind of like having him around. We don’t get to see each other much during the season, however. He goes from the sunrise hunt to work to the sunset hunt...and then he falls asleep on the couch.
A friend of mine has a hubby who takes two weeks off work every year for deer season. He hunts in Quebec, as he owns property there. One year it was unseasonably warm and the deer were not moving. The forecast predicted more of the balmy weather for the next week. He called his wife after a few days to say that he would be calling off the hunt and coming home.
“Oh no you aren’t!” she told him. “You can stay at the cottage until the weekend!” Apparently she had been looking forward to the time on her own, and didn’t want him to come home to wait out his vacation loafing about the house. When he did arrive home, she handed him a list of chores to keep him busy until he returned to work.
It was another warm one this year, and I haven’t heard of many lucky hunters returning with buck or doe trophies for their wives. Oh well, at least it keeps them happy, busy and out of trouble.

Philip, Gretel and the twins


We have a new addition to the Fisher farm. The Farmer brought a Suffolk ram home in the back of his truck last week. As he put the tailgate down and the ram hopped out onto the grass, I asked my husband what we should call our new sheep. Funny how this is always my first thought but it doesn’t occur to the Farmer that the animal needs a name.
“Uh, let’s see. He has floppy ears,” the Farmer replied. Well we couldn’t call him Floppy. That would just give the poor ram a complex. So I named him Philip.
We put Philip in the horse stall for now, after installing additional barriers so he couldn’t hop out over the feeders to freedom. The first night all he did was bawl until he was hoarse. We should have thought ahead. Sheep hate to be alone. The next morning we found a nice little ewe to keep him company. There might be a lamb or two born ahead of season in February–March.
Philip is very tame. He likes to have his nose rubbed and he comes right over to the side of the stall to be petted. I brought him a handful of sweet feed this morning to reward him for his good behaviour. He will have to stay in his stall until December, when he will be released to breed the females. We can’t put him in the barn with Rambo, or they might start fighting in the aisles. Love is in the air this time of year. The animals can smell that strange perfume and it makes them a little crazy.
Speaking of the ewes, we found the ringleader who was encouraging the herd to go running down the road on a daily basis. Gretel was easy to spot, as she had burrs all over her head from crawling under fences. She’s also extremely loud, with a voice that sounds suspiciously like my old enemy, the lamb squasher. I should get the book out and compare ear tag numbers. Anyway, she is currently serving as a companion to Rambo, who doesn’t really mind being alone but certainly prefers to have the company of a female if possible. And just like that, he doesn’t seem to stink anymore. It’s as though he has stopped applying that awful ewe-attracting cologne, because it worked. He caught one. There might be another lamb or two born in February–March.
I know I said I wasn’t going to write about my cats anymore but I feel this is the end of an era. I have no more tiny kittens in my basement. Since April, I have adopted out no less than 43 kittens after stealing them from ten female barn cats. Sheila, our barn cat-turned-house cat, was a real trooper. Not only did she nurse her own four kittens but she also nursed kittens from two other litters that I had stolen and brought into the house to tame. As I adopted them out one-by-one and sometimes two-by-two, Sheila would sit at my feet and let out this litany of complaints. I think it went something like, “you bring these cats in here, force me to feed them when they don’t even smell like mine, then just as I start to get used to them you take them away.” I learned to let her smell each kitten just as it was being packed up and shipped out. That seemed to work, and she no longer spent the evening calling and checking under furniture for her missing charges. And now it’s just Sheila and Shamus, a 6-month-old male (has had all shots and is fixed if you want him let me know!) in the house. They have similar markings and are probably siblings from two separate seasons. I call them the twins. With all the babies gone now, the twins spend their days lying on the sheepskin covered window seat in the sunroom. I think Sheila misses the kittens though. She has carried three stuffed animals upstairs, and is currently lying next to them on the rug.

Coyotes at Cocktail Hour


The Farmer had been cooking for more than 2 hours. A farm-raised chicken and roast of beef sat side-by-side in the oven. My husband ran upstairs, took a shower and emerged well-dressed and refreshed as our first dinner guests arrived. He poured them each a glass of wine and we all retired to the porch to watch the sheep come in from the pasture on their diagonal, well-beaten path.
A few minutes later the Farmer pointed out the window and said to me (his eyes when his glasses aren’t handy), “what’s that in the middle of the field? What’s that? Is that a coyote?” My eyes searched the view for what he was pointing at. Suddenly it moved and came into focus. Camouflaged perfectly against the sandy grass and rocky ground, a young coyote ambled across the field.
Just two days earlier, a bold and brazen coyote came right into the barnyard and stole a fat lamb. The Farmer had been out hunting in the middle of the night but could not find the thief. Now here it was, at cocktail hour. And the Farmer couldn’t find his bullets.
The entire dinner party gathered at the porch window and yelled out the coyote’s movements as the Farmer ran upstairs and down, searching frantically for his bullets. I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t a recommended pre-dinner activity in any Martha Stewart or Good Housekeeping party guidebook. Finally, the Farmer found his bullets, loaded his gun, located the coyote (who had waited patiently at the corner of the field) and let ‘er rip. His shot was true. Moments later we had dinner guests pulling on boots to go and inspect the mangy mutt.
My husband the multi-tasker came in, washed his hands, served the veggies into the chafing dish on the buffet table and began carving the meat. And what was I doing all this time? Playing hostess with the mostest, of course.
Earlier in the week I had done my share of farming, I figure. I came home from a client meeting in Ottawa to a message on the phone from the neighbour: ‘your sheep are on the road again. They have been in and out of the pasture all day.’ Great. I took a shortcut through the field and opened the big swing-gate to the pasture before heading out through the bush to the road. There were my sheep, in two different groups. One was heading up the hill to the neighbour’s house. The other was heading toward county road 20. I emerged from the forest in the middle of them. I decided to get the ones headed for the highway first. I cut through the cornfield, headed them off on the road and managed to turn them back the way they came, waving my arms and making menacing growling sounds. I’m sure this activity is most confusing to Gracie and the other sheep who know me as the bearer of good things such as sweet corn and apples. But they willingly headed off into the bush. Next, I ran down the road to get the other bunch. Just as I reached them, the neighbour’s dogs came off the porch, barking. My sheep turned tail and ran towards me, bleating in fear. I jumped into the ditch and let them pass, hot on the trail of the first bunch of sheep. Now I had 100 sheep wandering through thorns and brambles in the forest. I could hear them complaining. I picked my way back through the bush into the field and lured them through the gate very slowly, with a bucket of sweet corn. The last sheep came through just as Mocha the cow noticed the sweet corn in my hand and came bounding over, tossing her head and hips like a bull in the ring.
The sheep broke out three days in a row last week. They can see meadows and corn fields through weak fences and leafless trees now. I guess this kind of bad behaviour is to be expected until snow covers the ground and sweet hay fills the feeders.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The gypsy life


Some think I’m a little bit of a gypsy...others think I’m more of a witch but that’s ok; I’ll embrace either description. When I saw the sign go up on Lindsay Road for Blue Gypsy Wines, I was intrigued. And when I saw that they were open for business last weekend, I dropped in.
The ‘terroir’ in North Grenville is not exactly conducive to growing grapes, I am told. But grapes are not the only fruit from which one might produce delicious alcoholic beverages. Louis at Blue Gypsy makes wine from strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apple, cherries and even cranberries. The latter, says Louis, is a perfectly appropriate substitution for your glass of wine with a turkey dinner. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?? Louis has found a couple of other lovely things from which to make wine. Ginger offers a fresh bite on the palate while chilled maple conjures up childhood memories of taffy on the snow.
The wines at Blue Gypsy won’t give you a headache, because they are free of sulfites. They also strive to use fruit grown free of pesticides whenever possible. The natural flavours have not been enhanced with any chemicals. Louis and his partner Claire would like to operate Blue Gypsy Wines off the grid. With a combination of solar power, wind generator, pellet stove and back-up generator, the goal is to make their carbon footprint as tiny as possible. If you too have a passion to support things grown off the land locally and as naturally as possible, check out: www.bluegypsywines.com. Now I’m getting thirsty.
Do you have plans for Halloween? I don’t normally enjoy the festivities from an adult perspective; I like to see kids dressing up, having parties and going door-to-door but as someone who has never watched a horror movie in its entirety, I’m not one for thrills and chills and celebrating all things murderous and maniacal. I do, however, like to dress up. So I think this year, since I have amassed a few items from my work with the Crees, I will be an Indian. The Farmer can be my Cowboy. We barely have to change our current outfits. I have often been told I look like Wonder Woman, but I can neither afford nor do her costume justice this year. Maybe in 2012.
We plan to head over to Lock 17 for some Scary-oke (get it?) on Friday, October 28. Please join us if you can.
The coloured leaves of Fall didn’t last very long. The last windstorm blew all the leaves off our trees. The Farmer and his hunting party are down at the creek at sundown, shooting at Daffy Duck. We will have roast duck with a fruit demi-glace for Sunday dinner. Perfect fare to fend off the autumn chill.
I am heading in (against my will) to the bridal show in Ottawa tomorrow. The last thing I want to do is shuffle through hundreds of Bridezillas to kiosks selling things I truly cannot afford and do not need. But I am both sister of the bride and mother of the bride in 2012 (two different weddings – sorry for the confusion) so I am going for moral support and to present my opinion. Final details of both weddings have not yet been worked out but they are both proud North Grenville women so the venues, food and entertainment will no doubt be local. Maybe they would like to serve some Blue Gypsy Wine to their wedding guests. Sounds like a good idea to me.
I went in to the barn to feed Rambo who is locked up until further notice. We don’t want him to breed this year. Instead we will get a new Suffolk ram. Anyway, Rambo was exuding a musk like I have never smelled before. The Farmer said he does that to attract the females. Sure enough, next time I went out I noticed two ewes standing under the window to the lambing room. They were bawling and crying as if they had lost someone special. We had better get them a new ram soon, or they will be breaking in for conjugal visits with Rambo. Have a great week, everyone, and visit www.theaccidentalfarmwife.blogspot.com for the stories you may have missed.


RadarLove


I looked out the window this morning and saw the sheep following single file behind Misty the Belgian horse as she went out to the pasture field. At first I thought they were just sticking close because they saw a coyote yesterday. Then I realized they had their noses to the ground. They were nibbling at the fresh green shoots that sprung from where Misty’s huge hooves had melted the frost. Opportunists.
Sheila the barncat-turned-housecat got fixed yesterday. Today I found her resting in the dollhouse, in the room with the felt carpeting. I think she was hiding on her kittens, who are still nursing at 8 weeks of age. Enough already.
Our turkeys turned out to be a lot heavier than we thought they would be. The females were 18 to 22 pounds, while the males were 28 to 35 pounds. There are going to be a lot of leftover turkey sandwiches eaten in North Grenville this week.
I did some research and discovered that the tryptophan in turkeys doesn’t really put us to sleep. That’s a myth. It’s the deadly combination of fats (gravy, stuffing, cheesy mashed potatoes, butter, PIE), alcohol and overeating that causes drowsiness. If we ate turkey on its own, without the trimmings and in moderate amounts, it wouldn’t have the same effect. Apparently a chunk of cheddar cheese has more tryptophan than a single serving of turkey. Interesting. But maybe only to me. I have learned that I am attracted to and a retainer of trivia. Many days I can’t remember my debit card PIN but I can remember the most obscure items of trivia. My dear old Dad used to say, “Diana, you’re smart in ways that’ll get you nowhere in the world.” Hmm. Well it does make me a valuable team member in a trivia contest, if nothing else.
We do tend to overeat at Thanksgiving but with our huge family dinners each Sunday, it’s like Thanksgiving every single week. This is why I have gained 25 pounds since my wedding day four years ago. And yes, I realize it’s more important to be healthy than thin, so you can stop writing me that email. But come on. That’s more than 5 pounds a year. At this rate I’ll be 200 pounds by my 50th birthday.
I am thankful to be big and healthy. I’m happy to be able to work at home, and blessed to be fed so well by my loving husband the Farmer and Head Cook, even when the contracts are not flowing in.
I am grateful for children who, after having moved out of the house, now consider me their friend. I’m the one they call on their day off, when they want to ‘just hang out’.
Did you take time to consider your blessings this Thanksgiving? There’s a new trend, I noticed, where some people are doing away with the annual Thanksgiving dinner and all of its overabundance. They argue that we should be thankful every day of the year, and not just the second Monday in October. Well, I agree with that concept, but I think that most of us need a reminder to give thanks for all our blessings. The stat holiday helps us to do that, and to get together with family and friends for the occasion.
The cornucopia of food doesn’t have to be wasteful either. Not much goes to waste in this house. We have college students, hungry yuppies, barn kitties and farm dogs who will gladly take any leftovers (and usually in that order too).
We also live in the best country in the world, and arguably the best province in that country. Those of us who have lived elsewhere can testify to that truth. And for those who insist on raining our Thanksgiving parade, they can just stick a drumstick in it. I’m not listening.

For this we give thanks


I looked out the window this morning and saw the sheep following single file behind Misty the Belgian horse as she went out to the pasture field. At first I thought they were just sticking close because they saw a coyote yesterday. Then I realized they had their noses to the ground. They were nibbling at the fresh green shoots that sprung from where Misty’s huge hooves had melted the frost. Opportunists.
Sheila the barncat-turned-housecat got fixed yesterday. Today I found her resting in the dollhouse, in the room with the felt carpeting. I think she was hiding on her kittens, who are still nursing at 8 weeks of age. Enough already.
Our turkeys turned out to be a lot heavier than we thought they would be. The females were 18 to 22 pounds, while the males were 28 to 35 pounds. There are going to be a lot of leftover turkey sandwiches eaten in North Grenville this week.
I did some research and discovered that the tryptophan in turkeys doesn’t really put us to sleep. That’s a myth. It’s the deadly combination of fats (gravy, stuffing, cheesy mashed potatoes, butter, PIE), alcohol and overeating that causes drowsiness. If we ate turkey on its own, without the trimmings and in moderate amounts, it wouldn’t have the same effect. Apparently a chunk of cheddar cheese has more tryptophan than a single serving of turkey. Interesting. But maybe only to me. I have learned that I am attracted to and a retainer of trivia. Many days I can’t remember my debit card PIN but I can remember the most obscure items of trivia. My dear old Dad used to say, “Diana, you’re smart in ways that’ll get you nowhere in the world.” Hmm. Well it does make me a valuable team member in a trivia contest, if nothing else.
We do tend to overeat at Thanksgiving but with our huge family dinners each Sunday, it’s like Thanksgiving every single week. This is why I have gained 25 pounds since my wedding day four years ago. And yes, I realize it’s more important to be healthy than thin, so you can stop writing me that email. But come on. That’s more than 5 pounds a year. At this rate I’ll be 200 pounds by my 50th birthday.
I am thankful to be big and healthy. I’m happy to be able to work at home, and blessed to be fed so well by my loving husband the Farmer and Head Cook, even when the contracts are not flowing in.
I am grateful for children who, after having moved out of the house, now consider me their friend. I’m the one they call on their day off, when they want to ‘just hang out’.
Did you take time to consider your blessings this Thanksgiving? There’s a new trend, I noticed, where some people are doing away with the annual Thanksgiving dinner and all of its overabundance. They argue that we should be thankful every day of the year, and not just the second Monday in October. Well, I agree with that concept, but I think that most of us need a reminder to give thanks for all our blessings. The stat holiday helps us to do that, and to get together with family and friends for the occasion.
The cornucopia of food doesn’t have to be wasteful either. Not much goes to waste in this house. We have college students, hungry yuppies, barn kitties and farm dogs who will gladly take any leftovers (and usually in that order too).
We also live in the best country in the world, and arguably the best province in that country. Those of us who have lived elsewhere can testify to that truth. And for those who insist on raining our Thanksgiving parade, they can just stick a drumstick in it. I’m not listening.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Last week for the Kemptville Kinsmen Farmers Market!


Sunday is a busy day for us. When my father was sick in 2007, we began a weekly family dinner ritual that we continue today. It is a great opportunity to reconnect with family after a busy week. Most weeks we have 15 to 20 guests at Sunday dinner. This is why I didn’t make it to the Kemptville Kinsmen Farmers’ Market until a couple of weeks ago. I was just too darned busy.
But let’s face it. The Farmer is the chef at our house. All I have to do is clean house, set the table, make a salad and some appetizers, and then clean up after the event. I don’t really have to be in the kitchen Sunday afternoon. In fact, he prefers that I am not there. An invisible line exists between the kitchen island and the stove. No one is allowed into the cook’s area on Sundays.
For some reason, we ended up with far too many chickens in our freezers this year. We were brainstorming, the Farmer and I, about marketing our meat. I suggested the Farmers’ Market. Finally, I got to go. As a vendor at the Farmers’ Market, I didn’t have much opportunity to shop. I did a quick run-through, however, and I can report that the KKFM is very impressive this year. Vendors offer fresh fruits and vegetables, farm-raised chicken, turkey, beef, pork and lamb, as well as maple syrup, fudge, fresh flowers, jewellery and handicrafts. Don’t eat lunch before you go to the market. You will want to save your appetite so you can sample the Thai spring rolls, samosas, jams and chutney, homemade pizzas, pies and cookies.
The first week I was in attendance, a great blues vibe was permeating the scene. I thought someone had a really good CD on the speaker. Then I saw the singer. He was sitting at the end of the lane in the sunshine, playing his guitar and singing into the microphone. Wonderful! The next week, Doug Hendry and friends were playing Irish music on the fiddle and mandolin. In 30 degrees of Indian summer. Bless them.
We have a really good thing going here, at the Farmers’ Market. Check it out. You have just one more week! After Thanksgiving, it’s all over until next year.
Many Farmwife readers have stepped up to introduce themselves over the past few weeks. Thanks for that! It’s great to meet the people who are reading the stories. We have sold out of our Thanksgiving turkeys, thank you. Next year we will raise more. Some farmers tell me that turkeys are dumb and difficult to raise. I find them lovely. Granted, if you let them go free, they will run amok into coyote territory. The wild turkeys aren’t much help. More than once I have caught them whispering to the domestic turkeys through the chicken wire, telling them of life in the forest. When the turkeys do manage to escape from their area of the barn, however, they tend to go straight for the neighbours’ house. There, they climb up onto the porch, peek into the kitchen window and terrorize the show dogs.
The other night our daughter Paulina, who works in an Asian restaurant in Ottawa, was sent to the supermarket to select and buy a live lobster. She called me on the long walk back to the restaurant, obviously upset. ‘I can feel it moving in the bag!’ she said. I told her to thank the lobster, and to try not to think about it. I assured her that its end would come quickly and without suffering. I will do the same with the turkeys. I love them, with their gentle ways and their melodic gobbling. On October 5th, I will gently tuck them in their cages, send them on holiday, and thank them for their contribution to our Thanksgiving Sunday dinner.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The great and noble steed, Donkey.



Donkey, your grey is showing


“I wonder how old Donkey is?” the Farmer mused one morning. He bought Donkey in 2007, just before we were married and I came to live at the farm. We don’t really have any idea of the animal’s true age. He is starting to look a little greyer, if that is possible. And he has some white whiskers around the nose.
The Farmer first got Donkey after a round of coyote attacks took a number of his sheep. After Donkey arrived and began creating strategically placed piles of manure around the property, the coyotes stayed away. For the next couple of years we had very few coyote kills. Then, in 2009, the Farmer bought me two Belgian horses for Valentines Day. Donkey thought it was The Arrival of the Supermodels. Tall and blonde, with attitude to spare, they led Donkey around the pasture by the nose. Suddenly distracted by and preoccupied with the horses, Donkey wasn’t hanging around the sheep any longer. The coyotes started attacking again. We decided to put the horses in with the sheep, so that Donkey could at least be in the appropriate location for doing his job. That resulted in Donkey teaching the horses a new game, called “chase and bite sheep until they make a funny noise”. This earned Donkey a weighted halter so that he couldn’t run after the sheep. The sheep-terrorizing ended.
In March 2009, we lost Ashley. It was a very traumatic experience for all of us. We let Misty sniff Ashley’s body so that she would know she was gone, but still for days afterward the big blonde horse would thunder up and down the pasture, tossing her mane and whinnying for her sister. Ashley had been the older sister, and the leader of the two horses. She went into the stable first, and answered her master’s call first. Misty was always the follower. And now she had lost her leader. About a week after Ashley’s death, Misty looked around and there he was: Donkey. Just like that, she made the little mischief-making ragamuffin her leader.
When Donkey went to the barn, Misty went to the barn. When Donkey went out to the pasture, Misty followed. When Donkey broke through the gate to eat my flowers and visit the neighbours in the front yard, Misty followed. She wouldn’t enter the stable without Donkey entering first. Donkey accepted his newfound celebrity with some bewilderment. The first few times I fed him hay in the stable, I had to convince him he was allowed to eat it. As the horse’s companion, he earned a heightened status on the farm. I could hear Donkey from Shrek: “she thinks I’m a noble steed...”
Together they have spent the past year and a half eating, sleeping, wandering the fields and rolling in the dirt, together. I watch them communicate telepathically. I don’t know what Misty would do without Donkey. There is nothing sadder than a lonely horse.
“I think Donkey is getting old. I don’t know if he could fight a coyote if he came across one,” the Farmer said. The other day Donkey was just lying in the middle of the field, asleep. That’s not like him. He usually stands to sleep.
I went out and called Donkey over to the fence. I waved a big red apple over my head and eagle eye saw it. But he didn’t come running, or trotting, and he definitely didn’t kick his feet up behind him as he would have a year ago. He wandered over, veeeerrry slowly. I fed him the apple and then surprised him with a plum. I gave him a good scratch between his huge velvet ears. I told him he was a good, good boy. Misty walked up to see what we were up to. She isn’t a fan of apples but took a bite anyway, just to share.
The next day, I heard thunder and whinnying. Misty was running up and down the field. When I called her, she stopped and stared down the pasture. I immediately thought of Donkey. Had he been bitten by a coyote? Was he just lying out there somewhere, all alone? I pulled on my pink rubber boots and started trotting down the field, huge horse on my tail. A couple of times she ran past me, too close for comfort. “Jeez Misty, watch it!” I yelled. Then I realized she was trying to herd me in. Suddenly she turned and kicked up her heels—twice—as she ran toward the barn. I guess she had heard something.
Upon entering the barn, I realized with relief that Donkey was not hurt. He was just being his mischievous self. He had broken the board that bars him from entering the sheep room. As Misty and I walked in, he snorted at us from his privileged position, chewing on hay that he had stolen from the storage.
I called him over, smacked him on the butt, and replaced the board with a hammer and two seriously bent nails. Misty whinnied and gave Donkey a little nip on the shoulder.
I’m glad the old boy is ok. And I think Misty is too.




The never-boring Farmwife life



I was never so bored as when I lived in Taipei City, Taiwan. I’m one of those annoyingly optimistic morning people but I would wake up on a Saturday and think, ‘now what’?? Sure, I could go shopping or to the gym or the movies or an art show or a museum...but it was just observing. It wasn’t doing. It wasn’t living, as far as I was concerned. Now I live on a farm, and I enjoy every minute of my day because there is always something going on. Something real. Something fulfilling and exciting.
Many cityfolk imagine life on the farm to be uneventful and boring. This is not the case. Let me tell you about my week. First, I had to catch two of my barn cats and fast them overnight for their spay operation. I baited the cages and caught one relatively tame cat and one that was quite wild. All night long I could hear the wild cat, captive in the powder room. It repeatedly threw its body against the door in an attempt to get out. At one point I peeked in and it was scaling the side of the mirror. We were both up for most of the night. In the morning, I opened the door and it ran up my body, jumped over my head and scooted down the hall. I decided it was too stressful to deal with that cat, and I let it go.
The next day, I had to take our gentle-yet-dumb Gordon Setter and our extremely high-strung Border Collie to the municipal rabies clinic. I hung a sheet in the Explorer between the back seat and the cargo area so the two dogs couldn’t see each other. They could smell and hear each other of course, so that just drove them nuts. The anxiety had the fur flying and my car was covered in an inch of dog hair by the time we drove the 15 minutes to town. Once at the clinic, Andy Parent (animal control officer) came out and helped me to muzzle Chelsea so that the vet could give her the shot. I am still amazed that I accomplished this entire feat with no one being bitten and I didn’t have to drive with a wild dog on my head.
On Thursday night, we were informed that our bull was on its way home from the farm where it had been doing its summer breeding. When Dennis the drover backed the cattle truck up to the fence, the cows all started running toward the gate, bawling and mooing. They knew someone was either comin’ or goin’. Young Angus hopped out of the truck onto the ground and cautiously entered the barnyard. It took him about 5 minutes to realize he was home. The last time I saw him, he was standing in the middle of the pasture, surrounded by his four wives and four children.
Saturday, our middle daughter announced her engagement to her longtime beau. This is exciting news for everyone in our family, though we aren’t really surprised. And we went to my high school reunion Saturday evening. On Sunday, we were brought back down to Earth when the Farmer discovered that a coyote had killed another of our lambs.
Sunday afternoon I met many readers of this column at the Kemptville Farmers’ Market. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and say hello. It has been a good week. Full, and eventful, and worth waking up for. Every single morning.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Mocha's sweet tooth brings trouble


If one of our cows breaks out of the fenced pasture, the rest of the group start bawling and mooing until the escapee returns. We sleep with a fan on at the other side of the house, so we don’t hear much barnyard activity at night. Our neighbours, however, have a front row seat to the excitement. At 2 in the morning, the runaway cow was in their back yard.
All of the noise had Julie thinking that one of the cows was being attacked. The mooing and moaning continued intermittently throughout the wee hours of the morning, probably eliciting a stream of nightmares for our neighbours. Finally, at 7am, Julie called to tell me that one of our bulls was in her yard. I assured her that we didn’t have a bull on the farm right now so not to worry—and the one we had was a big pussycat anyway—but I would be right over.
The Farmer and I jumped into our farm gear and he headed out the driveway while I went through the barnyard to shut off the electric fence. Julie and the Farmer cornered the cow who turned out to be Mocha, our tame three-year-old. I grabbed a bucket of sweet feed, opened the gate and shook the grain, calling the cow’s name. Her head popped up from the long grass and she came bounding over the meadow like a pup. Soon she was back in the barnyard, happily snarfing down her reward. The Farmer just shook his head.
On my way back through the stable barn that acts as a gateway to the barnyard, I found a huge fresh cowplop. Mocha had obviously been trying to return to the barnyard on her own during the night. I argued in her defense that she wasn’t such a bad cow after all.
The Farmer grumbled that he would have to walk the perimeter of the cow pasture before work, to find the spot where Mocha broke through the electric fence. He found it, at the very back corner of the three fields that we have sectioned off for the cows. In an attempt to reach a fragrant apple tree heavy with fruit on the other side of the barrier, Mocha had crushed the fence against the live wire, thus rendering it ineffective. Then she had gingerly stepped over it and feasted on the apples. After her snack, she probably wasn’t sure how to re-enter the field so she had followed a path through the forest, up along the side of the pasture toward the road. There she had entered the neighbours’ property, probably sending all of their various exotic showdogs into a barking frenzy.
The Farmer did a quick repair of the fence, with the plan to return and fix it properly on the weekend.
The next day we got another call. Mocha was in the front field again, next to the neighbours’ house. She appeared to be eating something on the ground beside the silage bales. Apples. The perfume had attracted her to her new favourite treat.
“If this cow cannot stay inside an electric fence, we will have to sell her,” the Farmer warned. We both felt bad that the cow kept disturbing the neighbours. It’s a good thing that Julie still finds the farm animals “enchanting”, because she often discovers a wandering bovine, Donkey or turkey in her yard.
Mocha is my favourite cow. I hate to think of her going to market so soon. I had planned to keep her for years, allowing her to contribute to the propagation of our growing herd. “Maybe we just need to re-do the wire to move it farther away from the fence,” I suggested. “And the apples will all be gone soon anyway.” If we put up a bale of whiskey-scented silage in the cow’s feeder I’m sure Mocha will stay home.

-30-

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer drifts out on the sunset



“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  ~Albert Camus

The flowerbeds that I was stressing over a month ago are now bursting at the edgings with hosta and sedums, chrysanthemums and lavatera. Even the weeds look good. But then, is there such a thing as a weed? I think they’re all just wildflowers gone astray. Unsolicited sowings.
Now that autumn is almost here, I am going to take a brave shovel to my cramped perennials and split them. I’m going to move them around to give them more space, and then I’m going to dump heaps of composted sheep manure around each planting to keep the weeds down. That’s my plan. I love nothing more in the fall than to move plants and rocks around. It gives me a true sense of satisfaction. And those heavy wheelbarrow loads do wonders for the arm muscles.
For those of you who are mourning the end of summer, consider this. In September, you can actually get into the garden without fear of being carried off by a swarm of mosquitoes. The soft, refracted rays of the sun carry plenty of vitamin D with far less danger of sunburn or heat stroke. The evening breezes are much more conducive to a good night’s sleep. I love the fall.
Everyone seems to have more energy in autumn. Business picks up again, and it’s a new year for students at every level. Families are shape-shifting as little ones go to kindergarten for the first time and high school graduates head off into the real world to find their own way. It’s a season of change and new beginnings. In many ways it is even more invigorating than spring time.
For the farm animals, fall must be their favourite season. There are less bugs and the midday sun doesn’t send them running to the cool mud of the barn. The sheep and cattle wallow in the breeze, sometimes lying down to eat, Roman-style.
My holiday-bearded, sun-bronzed Farmer has morphed into a clean-cut university professor again and I am left to do the morning chores on my own, for the most part. After feeding my cats and checking on Rambo in his lock-up I love to wrap a blanket around my shoulders and sit on the back porch as I sip my green tea, watching the sheep on their diagonal path to pasture before I start my day at the computer.
The freezers are full of free-run chickens (email me if you want some!), and the turkeys (named Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving) are almost ready to head off “on holiday” themselves. Tomatoes litter the ground of our garden and we have potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beets to dry and put away for Sunday dinners to come.  The Farmer (Head Farm Chef) and I will fight over the tomatoes, as he wants them for spaghetti sauce and I want them for fresh salsa.
We are so busy this time of year; it makes me wonder what we do all winter. We will experience a momentary lull between Thanksgiving and Easter, when no lambs are born (well, there might be a couple) and the only real farming activity will be keeping feeders full of hay and water troughs free of ice. I’m looking forward to that quiet too, as I have a book to finish. 
Dad would have been 70 years old this weekend. That’s really hard to believe. He always used to say he wasn’t going back to teaching until his birthday had past. That worked out for him most years; not all. I’m sure he will be present in spirit as we roam the halls of our alma mater one last time at the North Grenville District High School reunion on September 17th. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there.

Life is meant for living


The Farmer finished up his holidays by watering a stone. He was watering the stone to loosen it from the ground so that he could pick it out and move it from the front lawn. Problem is, the stone is like an iceberg. The part you can see is only a fraction of what lies beneath. That’s one of the things I love about my husband. He is curious, and he likes a challenge. At least he doesn’t get bored and start asking me to entertain him. Nope, he can entertain himself just fine.
I didn’t have such a great week. I decided to try one of those herbal detox pills that is supposed to help you lose a little bit of water weight, while cleansing your insides a bit at the same time. High school reunion coming up and all, you know. After just one dose, I began to question my judgment. Went to the computer and googled the thing. All the reviews were positive, but they did warn against side effects. After the second full day of suffering, feeling as though my insides were slowly being liquefied, I was feeling pretty sheepish for worrying about my weight enough to try something that was obviously unsafe. And then I spoke to someone else who said that my symptoms were very typical reactions to detoxification. So I wasn’t so dumb after all. But I decided the one dose was enough for me. I think I’ll stay toxic for now, until advised otherwise by a medical professional. Oh well. I shouldn’t be so hard on the old bod. At least she’s healthy.
Which is more than I can say for one of our old ewes. This girl is solid, but her girth can work against her. She toppled over on her back—and I don’t know which event happened first but at some point she was bitten on the face, probably by a coyote. The Farmer first noticed the turkey vultures circling overhead. That is never a good sign. He later found the ewe belly-up, spindly feet kicking the air, and had to slowly roll her back over and wait until her insides settled before he could lift her up onto the trailer and move her to a safe pen in the barn for recovery. I went to see her shortly afterwards. Her face and neck were swollen, her body was still slightly lopsided from the tumble, and she had a rather traumatized look in her eye. I can just imagine what was going through her head as she lay on her back, helpless, watching the vultures circling over her, waiting. Hopefully she couldn’t see or hear them. Now I go into the barn twice a day to feed her sweet grain while spraying her wounds with antiseptic. She will be ok.
Our little lamb is not ok. At three weeks of age, we have lost the little guy who went to cottage with us—the lamb who depended on me as his only source of food. I did the best I could to replace his mother and he appeared so strong—running over the field, scooting under the fence and up onto the back porch of the house, calling to me—but he didn’t make it. It’s been a rough week.
I only lost 3 pounds on that detox diet and I’m pretty sure the eating and drinking at our 4th Annual Fisher Farm Party will put that weight back on. But that’s okay. Life is meant for living.

Monday, August 22, 2011




Lamb-baby goes to the cottage


The Professor has been on vacation for a week but the Farmer has been working like a dog. I’m not sure why he uses that particular expression—he must be referring to the sheepdog and not our lazy watchdog. Anyway, in order to get the Farmer to relax while on vacation, I must spirit him away from the farm.
We were invited to my sister’s fiance’s cottage in Quebec for a few days. This is a great idea. We don’t have to spend a lot of time planning and packing camping equipment and food. We just throw some clothes in a bag and drive for a couple of hours.
Our only problem was we had a lamb born two weeks ago, and the mother won’t feed it. That lamb-baby is more mine than the ewe’s, because I am the one who mixes bottles of milk replacer, offers it words of encouragement and scratches its back while it feeds. I even know the sound of its call. I can pick it out of dozens of other lambs calling from the barn. It needs me. So we had to bring it to the cottage with us.
On the morning of our trip, I packed everything in the truck, then brought some old ripped sheets and blankets up from the basement. A lamb on a completely liquid diet makes quite a mess. When we were just about ready to hit the road, I scooped the lamb up from its pen in the barn, fed it the rest of its bottle and gently shoved it into a dog carrier that I had put in the back of the Explorer. The lamb baaaed as it skated around the plastic floor of the carrier on its high heeled hooves. I opened the crate door and pushed one of the towels in there with him. Finding traction, he settled down for a nap and off we went.
We chatted on our drive, my Farmer and I. I also sang along to the radio. I noticed that the lamb cried when I was quiet for more than a few minutes so I made a point of saying something every once in a while. I’m sure the Farmer is worried I am becoming too attached to this lamb.
At the cottage, my animal-loving sister had already set up a corral of doggy gates (she owns two large Basset Hounds) within a screened dining tent. I set the lamb crate down inside this corral and tied the bottle brace to the side. There. Quite a nice set up, at the top of the hill, overlooking the lake. There was even a lovely breeze just there, under the pine trees.
I went into the cottage and set up the blender to make my lamb some more milk. The blender dial must have been jostled on our ride, because it was turned to “on”. I didn’t notice this until about one second after I plugged the thing in—without first putting the lid on it. That corner of the cottage kitchen is now extremely clean.  
Everything went quite well during the day on our cottage visit; the hounds spent much of their time nose-to-nose with the lamb, keeping it company. A bottle of milk replacer was strapped to the side of the corral so the lamb could feed on demand. But when night fell, it was a different story.
Lambs hate to be alone. When the dogs retreated to their beds for the night and the loons began to call over the lake, the lamb started to cry for his mama. And his brother. And his aunt and uncle. The Farmer suggested we do what he did when he adopted a puppy that wouldn’t stop crying. Feed it, make it a nice bed, and lock it in the back of the truck. So that’s what I did. It seemed cruel and neglectful to me at first, but I could see the lamb settling down right away in its cozy space. In the morning, I brought it back out to the corral again.
All in all, it was a successful outing. The Farmer and I had a nice break, we have good tans and we both managed to finish our books. The only problem is I now have a lamb who calls for me from the barnyard, thinking I’m its mother.