Saturday, May 20, 2017


It was an exhausting semester, but we did finally got done, and a few days of relatively little to do, I find myself ready to write a farm blog post for the first time since lambs were born.

In the end I taught just shy of twenty-four credits, ran a committee to make a new degree, and served as Faculty Moderator. That all took more of my life, especially as the end-of-year deadlines loomed, than would leave time for very much farming, let alone blogging about farming. However, we also kept this place free of snow, of which there was quite a lot, a record year. We lambed seven fine lambs, butchered six roosters, and raised our own starts from seed.

Now I'm suffering from a surfeit of put-off chores and farm projects. When you're that busy, the tendency is to say, "OK, then, we'll do that bit after the end of the semester." But when the end of the semester comes, there can be a lot to do. I need a list just to keep track of my to-do lists.

But we are slowly forcing a system of reason upon all this unreasonableness.

There remains the small problem of getting the garden planted. The weather hasn't helped there, first too wet, the too hot. This weekend, forecast cool but dry, seems like it will be our best shot. The sheep got sheared. The piglets are to be collected today, and the first lambs delivered to their buyers.

But for every step forward, there's a slip back. The tractor is leaking coolant again. A farm truck is in advanced stages of dismemberment while we rebuild its front end after an accident earlier in the year. A dog fox seems to have taken the last hen from the clutch we hatched last year and may have taken others. We saw the culprit skulking around earlier, so we have some certainty who it was. The remainder are at risk. And a bad smell from the crawl space since the weather finally warmed may indicate what happened to Shenzhi cat, who went MIA during the height of the battle this spring. Or it may be some of the missing chickies. I'll have to find out, because the smell is coming up into the kitchen.

So, life is still a little crazy.

That may be all I can write for now. Photographs are a bit beyond my capabilities too. We'll recover, no doubt, after a week or too of working down those lists, and provide more details later in the summer.

In the meantime, it is late spring in Maine, the apple blossoms are out, and our kid can play on green grass. We can be happy, and that is what matters.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lamb count

Lambing season started March 7th, a Tuesday. Tia gave birth to two healthy lambs around dinner time in the lambing pen. Next up was Ursa, a couple days later, followed quickly by Silvia on Saturday. Still to go is Vera, a newby. Since she will likely have only one, possibly two, we expect seven or eight lambs total, more than doubling our sheep population.

All mommies and lambs are doing well so far.

Edana was present in the barn for Tia's second lamb, which came out very quickly. She just kind of pooped her out, which set Edana to screaming. She thought the sheep had suffered an "owee."

One sheep indeed had suffered an owee, however. While all the fuss was happening over lambs, Garfunkel the ram, who's never been a good eater, decided to go off his feed. On inspection he was found to be anemic, and wormed. He didn't respond well and eventually went into a coma. I put him down yesterday. I was pretty upset to have to do this, since he was a very pleasant fellow, for a ram. More than likely his replacement will be less so. Rams are typically pretty knuckle-headed.

All's well that ends well, though. Here is Edana the day after she was scared of Tia's new lamb, happy again to see the babies.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Paints and stories

Mommy bought home watercolor paints!

What fun!

And we also have some Thomas the Tank Engine books. "Wanna read Thomas Train!"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

And now for something completely different: Mud season

After all that snow, it warmed up pretty much as forecast, a general thaw, and we may be seeing the first beginnings of mud season. Even so, there's still a lot of snow.

Here's our deck, completely full of avalanche debris from the roof that fell today while we were out playing in the yard with Edana. This is very heavy windslab and can't be shoveled very easily, so we'll just let it melt and hope for the best.

Here's a fresh delivery of firewood. I took advantage of the nice clear dooryard and the warm weather. I had the dump truck that delivered it drop it off right in front of the barn doors, and later threw it all into the barn. This was because the regular firewood cribs are five feet deep in snow.

The view through the barn doors, Flame on guard.

Tucking into Amish hay. A very pregnant ewe, one of four we kept last year. We now have twenty-two chickens, thanks to the clutch that hatched later last year.

The beginnings of mud: A general thaw in the dooryard. Edana has been jumping in muddy puddles.

Using the little tractor to bring down the loads of firewood from the barn.

Two inches of meltwater in the back of the workshop. This will eventually flow away, but in the meantime, it's a bit of a pain.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mopping up, après le déluge

Edana "fixes" the generator with a screwdriver.

It was a very big snowfall in the end, around 25 inches while still light and fluffy, but the strong winds soon knocked it down to a heavy wind slab that was much harder to move.

It was hard to keep equipment going. I got my own Land Rover-powered plow stuck around six or seven times, but was able to winch it out each time after twenty or so minutes work. Luckily we have plenty of handy trees and fence posts around here, for winch anchors.

I got my neighbor's much larger plow truck stuck only once, but once was enough. It took a total of about five hours to free it. We were forced to abandon it in a snowbank Monday night. The Land Rover winch, plus a lot of digging and some great help from my other neighbor, eventually did the job Tuesday morning. I was pretty pleased to see it with four wheels on the road.

If you read the previous posts for this storm (named "Orson"), you'll see that I pretty well knew this would happen, but borrowed the vehicle anyway. The Rover was capable enough to do the job, although some more winching might have been needed, but I wanted to do it faster.

I won't make that mistake again.

By the time everything had all blown over Tuesday, with another storm forecast for Wednesday, I was pretty pleased to be able to hire the services of this machine and driver for some serious snow removal. This is an articulated five-ton loader, a piece of construction equipment. In about thirty minutes work, it moved all our snowbanks back around twenty feet and scraped the driveway down to the roadbed. We will need the space if we get another nor'easter. You need to have somewhere to put all the snow.

A little light plowing later in the week, and then one last clean-up today, including excavating the Camry from its snowy grave, and we are done with snow moving for the time being. The jet stream has lifted north, and we're in some easier weather, and very thankful for it.

Here's the two heroes of the hour. These two machines, plus my neighbor's snowblower, kept moving snow despite the severity of the storm, while other much stronger equipment was defeated. Both are over forty years old.

Here's the Rover tugging the Camry free.

And here's the damage to the Rover's plow, made worse by this storm. The hitch tongue is well bent. It will require a serious repair this summer. My best bet is going to be to dismantle the tongue and cross bar from the rest of the assembly, using the eight nuts and bolts at both ends, and order a new one from the Canadian company that makes the plow. I should probably get a new winch strap while I'm at it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Easily 24 and not done

We have a couple feet already and about three more hours of snowfall to go until the main part of the storm passes. The power started flickering, so I pulled the genny onto the porch to warm up. It runs on propane and is hard to start when cold.

Silly bugger me, should have done that twenty hours ago, I realize now.

It can stay there until spring!

Here's what look like "varves" of snowfall on the porch window:

While our daughter is happy enough to stay home and play. Mommy found her a new toy at Goodwill, a play castle for just four dollars!

12 so far


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Eighteen to twenty-four

 (click to enlarge)

That would be the expected inches of snowfall in the next thirty hours in this particular neck of the Maine woods. On top of the eight we got yesterday, the eight we got Thursday, and the ice we had already, things are starting to get a little silly.

The Land Rover plow truck is holding up as well as could be expected, considering that various injuries and illnesses make it the last available plow-truck and driver combo in the Great Farm hamlet. It now plows nearly a mile of road each snowfall, never mind that each stretch has to be done at least twice and often four or six times to make it safe. This truck and the plow it carries were never meant to plow snow for as many miles as it has been doing. It has shed a heavy lateral spring, and the spring pin that sets the plow angle looks ready to pop out, the base that holds it having sheared off. I expect the lateral spring will show up in a snowbank eventually. The spring pin can be replaced with a heavy bolt. I never change the angle anyway.

I've been told I can borrow my neighbor's much heavier truck while he's in the hospital. This is a one-ton, and much better suited for this kind of mileage, but it's also an automatic flatbed and as a result somewhat loose in four wheel mode and light in the rear to boot. The combination of the two characteristics mean that it is easier to get stuck that the Rover is, and if I get my neighbor's truck stuck while he's in the sick bay, there's no-one to help me get it unstuck. The Land Rover at least carries a winch for such things, as well as that awesome Land Rover low range and fully locked wheel hubs all round.

I have had to refuel the Rover, something that has never been necessary before. In past winters, one tank has always been enough. This year I may go through three or four.

In other news, work has of course been back underway for four weeks now, but the number of snow days has made it seem like less. It feels more like the second than fourth week, given how little we've been able to cover in some classes. No doubt we'll catch up eventually.

Our kid has been with us at work a lot because the day care center has had more and longer snow days than the college. Aimee and I trade her off between classes, and she runs around our various offices and other work spaces. She loves to come to work, and is always happy when we tell her she's not going to daycare.

Sooner or later the jet stream will lift north, taking with it the storm track, which currently is right on top of us. Spring won't take long to come after that, although we can expect a heck of a lot of mud when it does come, given all the snow.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Engineering and other girl hobbies

 A woman's place is playing with the Erector Set...

 ...or learning photography.

It's the middle of winter and a slow news day on the farm, thankfully. Elsewhere in the country, millions of women are out to protest the advent of a presidential administration seemingly hostile to them, as well as immigrants and people of color, all told more than two thirds of the people, so we know how this is going to end. You can't alienate that many in a democracy.

We applaud the marcher's actions, and are very happy to see them out there, far more of them in fact than attended the miserably divisive inauguration of said administration.

But we decided to concern ourselves with domestic events instead today.

Not that we had a choice. We have a toddler, and life with a toddler is not conducive to travel and protest, unless it's the kind of protest you get from a toddler.

So we swept the house and did the dishes, did the shopping and went to gymnastics class, bought in the firewood and changed the sheeps' water. While the speakers were speaking, we listened to the feed, but when the marchers were marching, we took a nap.

It's the end of the first week of the semester, and we were so tired from teaching other people's grown offspring on Friday night that it was hard to handle our own child. This may be the disadvantage of the college life, especially at a small friendly college like ours. We put our hearts and souls into our work, and sometimes, if we're not careful, there's not enough left. But we all got a good night's sleep, and today's nap helped.

Monday we'll be back at it.

Freedom depends on teachers. People have to think for themselves if they're to be truly free, and you don't learn to do that without books and ideas and teachers to help you understand them.