Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reality show?

We should be getting our own reality show right about now, since we have several of the attributes seemingly most useful to getting on any all-American basic cable reality-type show.

For starters, we have some serious fat butts. Those seem to be very popular on shows like "The Biggest Loser." Ours belong, of course, mostly to sheep, who should have lambed by now but haven't.

Here, for example, is Quetzal.

(Don't ask why we have a sheep named Quetzal. I don't pick the sheep names. As a man, and a husband, I'm officially not creative enough to do that. I would have gone with Daisy or Blossom.)

But you do get my main point. That's a serious derrière thère. If you'll pardon my français.

And she's not the only one. Here's her cousin Quinny, just as massif. The two round basketball-sized protrusions on either side are, of course, lambs, who seem to like it in there where it's nice and warm and food comes through a tube reliably.

(By the way, why do we use French for talking about overlarge body parts and expensive clothing and other things about which we want to be coy or are shy about? Is it because of French fashion, or because the French aren't supposed to get fat. It's like the words mutton, beef, and pork, all French, when what we mean in plain English is sheep, cow, and pig. But we don't say, I had a nice pig chop for dinner the other night, even if I did, even if I know it was a pig because I grew it myself. It's very silly, if you ask moi. Another sad consequence of the bloody old Norman Conquest, right up there in historical importance with the Harrying of the North, or the English feudal system.)

We also have large piles of trash, which seems to be another prerequisite for getting a reality show, as, for instance, on Hoarders. Ours, of course, were meant to be thrifty -- saving up stuff that could be useful later. But of course, it wasn't, so all we got was a farmyard cluttered up with piles of lumber and fencing and equipment and wotnot.

I could have, should have, would have burned all this waste lumber, the sorry and penultimate end of a bunch of gates, fence rails, chicken coops, sheep shacks, and so on, had I the time and inclination and energy that I thought I would have. That would have saved me the several trips to the Pine Tree Landfill that it will take to get rid of all this. But each time I began, I'd end up wearing out a chainsaw blade on a nail -- which only takes a second, by the way -- or running out of places to put the resultant kindling.

Or, least anticipated, but most true, not actually needing that much kindling in the first place. Turns out, you see, that kindling is, well, kindling, and burns up too fast and hot and so you only need a little. What is more useful for staying warm is logs, Mick.

Real tree logs.

Duh. Go figure.

So, looking on the bright side, we also have lots of stupid decisions that should help write the show.

What else do we have that should get us on reality TV? Drama? Only if you like things like Animal Planet. There's definitely a lot of inter-animal drama around here, dog vs. cat, cat vs. mouse and vole, sheep vs. dog, man vs. rat, skunk, and porcupine, and on and on. Law-breaking? Aimee did get a speeding ticket last year, a personal failure she probably still hasn't forgiven herself for. Right, of course, that's another reality TV stand-by, obsessive compulsivity, such as Aimee's inability to forgive herself for the slightest mistakes. Sub-plots? Endless, but all of the personal, overly quirky kind, that no-one else would get without a major investment in explanatory voice-overs and sub-titles. Aimee for instance has an ongoing sub-plot in genetics. You just have to read her Facebook page to she that she's obsessed with the subject, to the point where she keeps notes on our sheep's various bloodlines. I have a biology degree and most of it is Greek to me. As for me, well, there's the Churchill subplot, which is just really part of the Anglo-American history subplot, which I believe explains an enormous part of why things are the way they are, which ....

I think you get the idea.

Thankfully, no-one in their right mind is going to give us a reality show. For which we should actually be thankful. The other weekend we had three sets of visitors in one Saturday and the excitement almost killed us. We both took extra naps Sunday.

Now, what I would like to see visit is not a TV crew, or indeed any other kind of human being.

I'd like to see those lambs, please. I have to go back to work Monday.

If lambs don't come on time around there, it tends to come out of my sleep. And I'm obviously not getting enough of that, since it's 3.36 am and here I am prattling around on this blog.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hill farmers and green growing things

We have five days, including today, left of our Spring Break "staycation."

At least for me it's been a staycation. Aimee went to a marine science conference in Savannah, GA, where she presented a poster with a write-up of her rockweed study so far. She has photos posted on her Facebook page. She had a nice time, and was in good spirits when she came back, despite the fact that we still have snow on the ground here in Maine, while Savannah is of course several weeks into the spring growing season already. I think we'll make it to Finals Week and Graduation, although it's going to be insanely busy.

I was a little jealous of the flowers she saw, and the warm weather, but of course I get to go to conferences too, so there's not much point being jealous. I used to live in Georgia, and didn't like it much, so I was happy enough to stay home and watch for lambs.

We rarely go anywhere together (except to see Aimee's family in VA once a year), since someone always has to stay home to look after the animals.

So, I was "it" this time, and stayed home and looked after the animals, and vehicles, and house, and even did some college work, a large important report that will need to be polished up some today.

The Ford passed its safety inspection yesterday, rust and all, sailed through in fact, as did the Nissan pick-em up truck. Another year of legal driving for both. I'm not sure if I'll get another year out of the Ford after this one -- those Maine rust mites will eventually spread to a major undercarriage mounting point and that will be all she wrote. The Nissan has some rust on the body, but nothing terminal, while the frame and undercarriage are still solid. I'll wash the salt off it as well as I can, drive it only sparingly this summer, spray it with Fluid Film underseal in the fall, and she should be good for another sticker next year.

The Ford will have to be replaced with another daily driver when it rusts out. Something that gets good gas mileage, is what we'll need. I'd like to get an electric car or a hybrid, but we probably couldn't afford one as they remain still too expensive (except possibly a secondhand Prius or Insight -- we'll see). More than likely, we'll get another newer car for Aimee and I'll take her Camry into its second hundred thousand miles.

The Nissan is not scheduled to be replaced, except by a large agricultural trailer that the Land Rover can pull, to carry hay and transport heavy equipment and building supplies. I imagine I can get a few more years out of the truck before I actually need the trailer, but if I see a nice one going cheap enough, I may get it early just to make my haying a little easier.

Spring is coming more slowly this year in Maine than in past years. We're scheduled for another snowstorm today, albeit just a dusting. Our lambs are staying firmly inside their mothers, and I don't blame them. The gestation period for a sheep is five calendar months, give or take a couple days either side. I checked the sheep book to see if we had ever had an early lamb, and there was one year where twins were born at something like 142 days, but never any earlier. The online lambing calendars (yes, even shepherds have online calculators these days) all point to March 29th as the due date for the ewes that were bred first.

There are some pretty horrific stories in today's paper about hill farmers in Britain losing thousands of lambs to the cold weather they're having. An old service buddy, Geoff A., is a freelance press photographer in North Wales and he has some pictures of snowbanks on his Facebook page that are more like Maine than Wales.

The farmers that are losing lambs are the ones that don't lamb indoors and don't lamb in the in-bye pastures, usually because they don't have lambing sheds or enough in-bye. These are the hill farmers that still lamb on the fell, and still use the traditional and hefted breeds that can handle that kind of treatment.

Here in the hill farms of Maine there's no such thing as a hefted flock, the weather sucks for lambing early, and all we have is in-bye and woodlot, no fells, so we lamb indoors. The Womerlippis are extremely careful about this, with night checks and constant vigilance this time of year. The minute a sheep shows signs, she's pulled into a pen by herself and kept there until she lambs, or proves to be a false alarm. So far we've had one false alarm, and as a result poor Molly spent a night in isolation with nothing to show for it. 

The hill farmers in the UK would ordinarily be able to handle a spring snowstorm, but they've also recently had an outbreak of Schmallenberg virus over there, a midge-borne illness that causes abortions and birth defects in the first few years, until flocks become immune. This bad weather comes as a second major blow, and unless the government does something, many hill farmers will have to sell out and go on the dole. Ordinarily a UK government could be relied upon to help farmers out in any situation like this with some kind of compensation or insurance scheme, but this current government of the "feral elite" is a nightmare. Despite most of them living in rural Oxfordshire, at least on weekends, they make the stupidest decisions about rural affairs.

The RAF is dropping feed from helicopters to try to save some lambs, but the government just made the decision to privatize my beloved SARForce in 2016, a stupid, stupid decision, considering that the current Sea King squadrons are the pride of the country, especially since Prince William joined SARForce. The RAF Mountain Rescue community is bemoaning the decision today, all over Facebook and the blogosphere.

Happy seventieth anniversary, RAF SAR! 

Seventy and out. Brought to you by your friendly coalition government. I've half a mind to write to my MP, but since the MP for Sheffield Hallam, my home ward, is bloody Nick Clegg, the Deputy PM, I don't think I'd get very far.

I'd like to see them get Bristow, the US firm that won the contract, to drop feed to sheep in winter.

Here in Maine we still have snow, but it's melting rapidly and should be gone by the end of next week.

The Womerlippis do have some green growing things despite the cold, albeit under glass, with heaters and heat lamps.

Here's our spring plant start set-up in my den, where there's a south-facing window.

The picture is blurry, I know, but you get the idea. We invested in new lamps this year, not cheap at $14 apiece, plus between $10 and $15 per bulb. We used to get by with small bulb-holders, not strip lights, but the plants would often be spindly as a result, and hard to transplant later. I had to go to four different hardware storees to find all eight bulbs (two per unit), since these are not common items. I expect we'll get a visit from the Maine DEA, since this is the kind of operation the local nasties use to grow pot. We're of course only growing tomato starts, plus a few brassicas and squash. We don't plan any new nefarious business enterprises, just a slight improvement to our veggie operation.

Once the plants get going, they can go out to the glass greenhouse, which has been refurbished with new plastic sheeting inside, as well as some floating row cover, to trap the air and cut the light intensity. One thing that happens this time of year in Maine, with all our snow and sun, is that there's often actually too much light for plants that have been begun inside, and when the full March sun is at the zenith, an unprotected glass greenhouse will actually get too hot for most plants.

I think I may have spent all of $80 building this greenhouse years ago (pictures here, here, and here). It was cheap because I used all the leftover storm window glass we had, after putting all new double-glazed windows in the house. After a while though, the storm windows cracked and had to be replaced, and lots of air leaks opened up as the cheap wooden frame shifted around. The plastic sheeting solved the air leak problem, and this year it seems to be working well. 

I should think that one day we'll want to demolish this old thing and buy a nice new metal framed greenhouse, but for right now this is doing just fine.

The tomatoes and squash will stay in here until they're quite large, then get planted out and in the new hoophouse, built only last year. We'll grow early and late toms in the hoophouse, and the main crop out in the garden.

The brassicas can be put out in the hoophouse anytime now. I have a soil thermometer out there and the soil temps about 40 degrees F in the early morning, even after a hard frost.

And so begins another year's round of modern small-scale agriculture on the Great Farm of Jackson, Maine. 

1806-2013, not out.

Wassail and Amen to that.

Keep watching. Lambs will come soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rusty old Ford

That old Ford car of mine will "never get to heaven," as our old boy scout song went.

I'll be lucky if it will get me to work for another winter.

I shouldn't complain. This car had 124,000 miles on it when we bought it for only $1,200. It now has nearly 160,000.

I was searching the Great Farm Diary trying to find out when we actually bought it. I think it was in the spring of 2009, after our old Mazda finally and very similarly rusted away and had to be junked.

So, if I've driven it for four years for only $1,200, plus a pair of rear strut mounts and some paint, underseal, plugs and plug wires. That's only a little more than $300 a year.

Other people pay as much per month.

Even so, I do hate that I can't keep it decent. The salt we spread on our roads in winter in this part of the world just eats cars away, no matter how careful you are with washing and underseal.

In the Ford's case, the damage had been done before I ever set hands on it. The rust had already reached the flakey stage in quite few places. I tried to slow the rot with red oxide paint, body filler, and underseal, but the chassis is now full of holes where previously it was just flakey.

You can slow the inevitable, but you can't stop it.

These cars don't have a proper frame that could be welded like the Land Rover or the Nissan, both of which have well-patched frames by now. All there is, is a pressed steel sheet that makes up the underside of the car. This is called monocoque or unibody construction, and it's a death knell for cars in New England. The steel panel that makes up both the floor of the car and the chassis is too thin, and now too rotten, to weld, so there's very little that can be done.

In fact, I tend to think that at this point if I were to pay too much attention to the underside of this car with the wire wheel on the angle grinder, the normal preparation for any welding attempt, I'd simply find myself abrading off much of the chassis along with the rust. It would need dozens of small fiddly patches for which no repair panels are available. It would take days, and even then the rust would just continue to eat away at every spot that hadn't been repaired.

The New England rust mites don't just affect the chassis of your car or truck. Suspension parts and brake parts also suffer. These can't be ignored. As long as you check it every once in a while, a chassis can be left to its own devices, until it becomes actually dangerous, but brakes and struts have to be repaired.

I heartily dislike working on cars when it's cold outside. Metal tools are too cold to touch and your fingers lose their feeling. So when the brake lines sprung a leak, a few weeks ago, in the coldest part of winter, I pulled the car in the shop for a diagnosis, but as soon as I saw how rotten the pipes were, I just backed the car out of the shop and right into a parking place and left it for several weeks, trying to forget about it, allowing it to get covered in snow until the weather decided to cooperate.

I knew I'd have to replace all the rear brake lines, which would take at least a half a day. If I was going to spend that long underneath a car in the middle of winter, I at least wanted the outside temperature to be above freezing.

Yesterday, off work for Spring Break, and with the daytime temperatures now in the upper 30s and low 40s, there was no excuse. I cleared the tractor and some other gubbins out of the shop, pulled the Ford in, and took a set of tin snips to the brake lines to see how much needed to be cut away.

This is the result:

Each of these pieces is a stretch of brake line that was almost completely rusted through. Although there was only one actual leak, there would have been others later. All the corner bends were particularly rotten. 

The pipe bending process at the factory is the cause. It affects the paint on the raw pipe, causing it to weaken wherever there's a tight bend. The rust does the rest.

Both rear brake lines would have to be replaced as far forward as the back seats. I set to.

Life wasn't made much easier by the fact that the car was dripping water as well as brake fluid. At one point a drop of cold water hit my trouble light and exploded the bulb, sending glass flying around underneath the car. 


I used a double flaring tool to prepare new pieces of line, and to flare the cut-off ends of the old line to accept the necessary brake line nuts and unions.

Here's the rear driver side union, joining the good section of the old brake line to the brand new section.

Aimee is away for a few days at one of her science conferences, so I was missing my brake bleeding partner. This is a two-person job, and she's fully trained up by now. I tried the one-person improvised method, whereby you run the bleed line into an air-lock made of a couple inches of brake fluid in a can, but as usual the results remained a bit spongy. 

Still, we now have brakes, so the car can be driven, and they can be bled to perfection when Aimee returns. Indeed, in older cars where master cylinder seals are a little weak, sometimes the brakes bleed themselves after a little time driving. 

The total cost of the repair was about $98, most of which went to pay for the flaring and cutting tools, which I didn't have already, and some extra line, nuts, unions, and brake fluid. I have enough to do several more such jobs in the future.

Although I'm tired and a little sore from scrauming* around on the floor all day yesterday, I was pleased with my day's work, since I can now begin to wear out this old Ford again, instead of our more expensive four-wheel drive vehicles which I had been using to get around. 

I don't worry about wearing a thousand dollar Ford out too much. It's hardly an irreplaceable item. I can find another one in a few days if I need to, on Craig's List or in Uncle Henry's. It would take weeks, and big bucks, to find another Land Rover, or an affordable four-wheel drive pick up truck in good nick.

Not only does this save money, it conserves the remaining working life of the pick-em up truck and the Land Rover. 

Now I have to run this old Ford down to Brooks town and get a State Inspection, since the old one expires this month. 

Next week I'll repeat the process, more or less, fixing the emergency brake on the Nissan and then getting a State Inspection for that vehicle too.

Luckily, there's no inspection item for rusty chassis panels. As long as nothing vital is rusted away, no strut mounts or other main mounting points, and as long as there are no jagged edges of metal visible, you can get the sticker.

In other news, we had another big snowstorm Tuesday and Wednesday. About a foot of fine powder fell, blanketing the yard and forcing the freshly sheared sheep back under their heat lamp. 

I took the dogs for a walk, but Flamey balled up with snow, poor pup!

Ernie, for his part, was sleek and snow free.

I guess Australian Shepherd fur is designed for barbies on Bondi Beach, not for New England spring snowstorms!

Maybe Ernie is actually a New English Shepherd, not just an English Shepherd.

*"Scrauming" is a Sheffield and West Yorkshire dialect word for crawling around. Just one of a whole bunch of words I grew up with that are not known to Google Blogger spell-checker. See this old dialect book here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shearing day

Shearing happened early at the Womerlippi Farm this year, in part to avoid a case of fly strike which we had last year and the year before, but also because of last year's early warm spell, which had us almost to 80 degrees F in March.

Of course, this decision ensured that the night after we sheared, the temperature would be forecast to drop to 6 degrees F, and so we had to put a heat lamp in the barn and give everyone extra hay and oats to compensate.

Here's our top-flight shearer, Edi, hard at work.

Here are the poor scared wee sheepies all captured neatly and waiting for their turn. One benefit of shearing before lambing is that the extraneous noise level in the barn is much reduced if you don't have to separate mothers and babies.

Edi has all the good sheep control moves down, and is very careful.

I think this is Tillie, but it's hard to tell!

Here's Aimee with a shot of tetanus vaccine ready to go. All the sheep have now had their annual booster shots.


And here they are after a good half-day's work for the farmers and a couple hours for the shearer. 

We're confident we will avoid fly strike and have an easier time lambing thanks to the early shearing decision, but our older Head Ewe Tillie was still a little cold last night. We put a heat lamp in the barn for them and the extra feed, but she was still shivering. As Head Shepherd, and the Womerlippi farmer responsible for the decision, this was clearly my problem and so I decided to put a sweater on her. Aimee thought this was rather foolish, but was pleased enough with the effect that she posted it to her Facebook page for everyone to see.

The sweater we decided to use was one of my rejects from my various attempts to learn to use a knitting machine.  

It just happened to be green for St. Patrick's day.

I think she looks quite stylish, don't you?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Domestic bliss

There is an animal missing from this picture. Flamie has her own couch.

Here she is, on her private couch, with a goofy look on her face.


If I'm one-quarter Welsh and three-quarters English on England vs. Wales game day, can I be forgiven for being happy at just about any outcome except, say, the collapse of the Millennium Stadium during Bread of Heaven? 
Or do the Welsh have to beat the English, say, 21 to 5, to satisfy my correct genetic proportions? Or did I just have too many maths and biology classes at Uni? You decide. But watch before jumping to conclusions. 
American football may indeed be for sissies. The real thing, the ancestral Game of the Year, is live 1pm Eastern on BBC America.

Friday, March 15, 2013


I don't normally feel sorry for myself, but...

The weather has taken a turn away from the Long March towards spring that is February, March, April, and even May and June in Maine. We were getting rain and rotten snow and that grubby, shattered, almost post-apocalyptic Maine landscape of Break-Up. The yard was full of mud, and so were the sheep. The rotten snow was dripping wet and the rivers were bank-full with thin mud and broken ice. The river water looked like iced coffee with chocolate dribbles and (for effect) occasional floating trees.

Starbucks could come up with a commercial version. The Break-up-achino.

But then it all froze. In time.

And, according to the orders of the National Weather Service, Spring will be Postponed for at least a week.

Trouble is, that's the first week of my vacation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the hemisphere, in my ineffable homeland, the Guardian is having a signs of spring photo contest.

Do they know they have readers in Maine?

Obviously not, or they would be more considerate.

Still, this can't last. Unless the Milankovitch Cycles have gone all awry overnight, Maine will get a proper spring, and then a proper summer, and then a stunning fall, and then the nice white fluffy, relaxing part of winter.

Britain will get rain.

I just need to buck up and wait it out.

Besides, Molly was lying down yesterday when any normal sheep would be standing. And I noticed, as if for the first time, that she is roughly the size of a double-decker bus.

So, there will be lambs.

Lambs are The Best.

For the sake of lambs, I can live with mud.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A week to go

We're five working days shy of our spring break. I'm very glad of it, because I'm quite tired. This time of year is hard on us, mostly because the poor snow/slush/ice/ mud conditions make it hard to get around, and especially to get exercise, while the academic calendar is in the official silly season, where meetings and committees run into one another and overlap to the point where there's no prep time and no grading time and, well, just no time. Not only that, but the stress cuts into your sleep, and so I find myself plonking away on the computer at 3 am doing my correspondence, or catching up on my grading.

The weekend was a case in point. I got home Friday after just such a week, but Saturday was the college's Open House for new students and their parents, which also requires our attendance, so Friday wasn't a real Friday after all. Open House took up all my Saturday, and by the time I made it home around 3 pm, I was so tired from losing an hour or two's sleep each night the whole work week, I just collapsed and took a huge nap.

Sunday was a day off, thank heavens.

(I made sure of it by leaving a stack of papers to grade on my desk at work! That was my best decision of the week.)

Even so, there was still work to do. The pregnant ewes needed their tetanus vaccine boosters. They get this a few weeks before they give birth, so that if there's any bloody trauma during birth, they're protected. The dogs, idle most of the week, needed a good walk before the heat of the day made the snow melt. I also needed to change the sheep's water and scrub out the tubs. Aimee wanted me to set up the shelves for the plant starts. There was firewood to sort, a Land Rover turn signal indicator to repair, trucks and cars that needed oil checks, a house to sweep, the dog's porch to clean out, and somewhere in there I made a huge pot of lamb stew with carrots, tomatoes, and onions, enough for most of the work week.

After I got the first two thirds of my "honey-do" list done, I took a nap. I then did one or two other things and then took another nap.

By the time I came out from under the second nap, it was four pm, and there would be no possibility of watching the rugby game that I had recorded on the DVR, but at least I felt better. I got outside and piddled around unsuccessfully trying to make the Land Rover turn signal indicator work again, giving up around 5.20, and coming back inside for my first helping of lamb stew. I was in my bed by 8.45.

Aimee, for her part, had an easier time of it last week. She had a miserable stack of grading to do, but took a day off Friday, and was able to skip out on Open House. She did the shopping and laundry in one day Sunday, made herself some strange strawberry vinegar (!) ice cream concoction on her ice-cream maker, which she got for Christmas and loves, by the way, and was fairly early to her bed last night.

We'll have another bear of the week, but Friday will be a real Friday, and the following Monday will be a boon.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Early mud season?

I drove to Bangor for a haircut -- there's a very good barber there that is open on Sunday. I left in snotty snow and sleet, but came back in rain. The temperature warmed up to 42 degrees F -- positively tropical, and enough to make a sloppy mess of our dooryard.


Here's the snowbank behind the mailbox, full of road salt and gravel. This will all have to be raked out of the lawn later.

No need for snow boots today. They'd be too warm. I'm glad I don't have to fix a car or a tractor outdoors in this mess, though.


Nellie doesn't care about the mud. Mud and snow are all the same to her, you can't eat them. Green grass is what she likes. She's modeling the latest style for sheep, a scarf made of hay! 

Very fashionable, is our Nell.

We'll see if it freezes up or snows some more this week. The high is forecast for 39 F all through Friday. That's a slow thaw, but a thaw nontheless. 

Maybe we'll see that green grass sooner rather than later.

Grades and snow, snow and grades

It's the weekend before midterm grades are due, and we've been grading away.

Grading is of course "marking" in British, although it's probably not what it used to be. After many years of allowing exams and papers to be submitted electronically, but doing most of the grading on paper, I now have experimental online exams and grading for one of my classes. The college expects us to switch to largely online grading throughout the curriculum.

This innovation certainly seems like it saves work. My midterm exam grading took only about two or thre hours per section, instead of the normal five to ten, and required no paper whatsoever.

It will be interesting to see if the students learn as much. One purpose of grading, indeed, probably the best purpose, is to teach. Students learn as much if not more from their own mistakes and from instructor comments on exams and papers than from the classroom discussions.

I use a green pen for grading, and I explain to the students that all that green scrawl on their papers is part of what they're paying for at college: the corrections that will help them learn how to produce workplace-ready professional product.

We'll have to wait and see if computer corrections are as personalized and as effective as green scrawl.

As a partial consequence of the online revolution, Aimee and I both got done with our grading by Saturday afternoon. This, even though I walked the dogs twice and cleaned up the snotty snow and ice in the dooryard in the morning. I have to say, I really didn't feel the loss of the weekend the way I normally would before grades are due, and I got my chores done too.

I even made a large crock pot meal of spicy pulled pork, from last year's pig. This, with our own mashed potatoes and some of the corn Aimee put up, will be today's Sunday supper, and last into the work week.


The weather has been snotty lately, snow and rain, rain and sleet, cloud and snow and fog and rain. Eventually the jet stream will meander north of us and we'll be off the snow track and break into spring. The maple sap is running, one of the first signs of spring around here, as witnessed by the level in the farmer's white plastic collecting tub at the bottom of Ward Hill road. The thermometer is hovering around 33-35 degrees F, barely enough to keep the snow from melting. Next week it will be 35-37, the week after that 38-40 and so on, and by the time March is done, so will be winter, more or less.

I'm looking forward to it.

There's always the chance of an April snowstorm, but that kind of snow doesn't last long.

Lambs will come soon. This year's lamb letter is "T".

Should be an easy year for names.

One, of course, will have to be "Tango," after the RAF Leeming Mountain Rescue Team VHF radio call sign.

Submit all suggestions to the wife of the house. She's in charge of naming lambs.