Sunday, September 18, 2011

Farm Story for September 17, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

I really missed Saturday Market last week. I loved being at the Indie Craft Parade and the great sales will certainly help tremendously with winter hay money but I guess I’m just in a routine where I look forward to being on Main St. on Saturdays.

From about midday Thursday until late on Sunday I did not spend the usual time around the farm as I was busy either with preparations or actually downtown at the Indie event. Al kept up with my farm chores while doing his own and still having time to give me a hand with set up, break down and selling. It wasn’t until Monday that I was reminded of how much some of my creatures missed me.

I was exhausted so was still in bed at about 6 a.m. when Al came in from doing the first chores. He’d let Sadie, our youngest Anatolian Shepherd, come up to the house with him. I awoke to find her on the floor as close to my side of the bed as she could get. I didn’t realize she was there until I swung a foot out of bed and stepped on her. I let her spend the morning in the house with me. She followed me from room to room, laying down when I started a project like felting soap or working at the spinning wheel. Although it seemed she was napping, the moment I headed out of the room she would open one eye, watch carefully and then follow me to the next destination. She came outside with me but rather than run off as usual when she entered the barnyard, she continued at my side as I watered livestock, gathered eggs and fed chickens. By the end of the afternoon she was apparently convinced that I would not be disappearing again and has mostly resumed her normal routine.

The Lincoln lambs, Buddy and Inky Dink, have also spent a lot of time attached to my legs since I’ve been back to my regular schedule. Both boys have grown out their beautiful long curly locks to the point where their heads are big fuzz balls. Buddy seems to enjoy it when I hold his head in my hands, brush the long locks out of his eyes and kiss his forehead. Both boys are quite long legged so I hardly have to bend down to fuss over them. Inky follows Buddy closely so I’ve had to be careful when I am walking through the barnyard and am about to turn as one or the other has been underfoot. They usually ignore me when I am in the stable dyeing fiber but this week I’ve noticed them checking on me by “maaaaaa-ing” until I speak to them. That contents them or about fifteen minutes. If I haven’t come out of the dyeing stall by then they speak again. They have accidentally found themselves in the wrong pasture more than once this week as they’ve followed me in, gotten momentarily distracted and I’ve moved on without them. Fortunately all of the livestock guardian dogs are familiar with them so they are safe if I leave them behind.

We have been slowly transitioning the new pullets to the great outdoors. It is best to move them right at bedtime, deposit them in one of the buildings along with some other hens and hope for the best when everyone wakes up together the next morning. If a new chicken joins the established group in broad daylight the regulars will harass her. I did try to move a few during the middle of the day last week. I was hoping that if I moved several together that they would go about their business without any problems but I was mistaken and I knew better. The older hens immediately cornered one young gal and then just stood there daring her to move. Fortunately I’d stayed outside to watch what would happen. I hauled the poor pullets back to the stable until later in the day. I tried putting them outside as the hens were roosting for bedtime. The next morning I found the new pullets together outside simply scratching around. They are definitely staying together and the other hens don’t seem to care.

We did have one white pullet who went off on an adventure. We do have chickens almost everywhere in small groups around the farm. This little gal somehow ended up all the way at the bottom of one of the sheep pastures that runs along the neighboring woods. I caught a glimpse of a very bright white chicken as I was calling up one of the dogs to feed her. I walked all the way to the bottom of the pasture to find her wandering back and forth between the pasture and the neighbor’s trees. There were no other chickens in sight. I could not catch her. I am usually pretty good at cornering and catching a silly chicken but there were no real “corners” I could work with in the pasture that is fenced with high tensile wire that she could easily slip under. There is one more chicken-catching trick but even that wouldn’t work. If you step away for a moment and then quickly step back at the hen with arms extended wide it will often flatten out on the ground as if ducking from a hawk. When I tried that, this silly gal took off running across the open pasture, a move that would easily make her hawk dinner. I mentioned it to Al that evening and he promised to look for her. He came in to say that he couldn’t find her. I figured she had either come up the hill and rejoined the other birds or had disappeared altogether.

The next morning she was back out again. I tried one more time to track her down but every time I got close to her she slipped under the fence and into the nearby poison ivy and underbrush. On Al’s last round of checking everyone out before bedtime he found her roosting up a small tree. He grabbed her and returned her to the stable. We will move her out again with another batch of birds later. Perhaps next time she’ll decided to be sociable and hang around the other girls. It seems there is always something to keep an eye on here!

The rescued squirrel did move on to a safer rehab program. We’d gotten him to the point where he had added solid food to his numerous bottle feedings each day. We were worried that even if we rehabilitated him to the point that we could release him we would merely be turning a slightly tame squirrel over to our own cats and dogs. That just didn’t seem right. Katy was able to find a fellow who regularly does squirrel rehab so the little guy was delivered to him. I guess that is one less creature to fuss over in my day.

I have spent much of this week dyeing, spinning and felting to restock for Saturday Market. I’m also trying to figure out how I can teach a few knitting or felting classes once market is over for the season. I love being a farmer as there is no such thing as a boring day.

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