I’m a bit tired of this prolonged winter. The snow was almost gone when we got this recent coldsnap and accompanying snow. The puppy loves it, of course, and I should be used to it, but we have so much to do that needs good weather that I’m getting frustrated. My to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer, and since I’m stuck inside most of the time, I keep thinking of more stuff to add to the list.
The greenhouse that we ordered from FarmTek arrived yesterday. It is, of course, in a million pieces and has to get put together. My theory in buying it is that I have wanted and needed one forever, and though we don’t have a cleared piece of land to actually place it on, I could use it for lambing jugs and shelter this lambing season. Then, we will spend the summer and fall clearing land like the mad fools that we are, and I’ll have the greenhouse to use for actual growing of plants next season.
The theory, she is sound. In practice? I haven’t a clue where to put it, and the temptation to just use my crappy winter pens for lambing and clear the land where I actually want the greenhouse seems like it might make more sense. Mostly, because we are going to have to clear land to build the run-in shed for the new horses, which will be here at the end of the month, so we might as well clear enough land there for the greenhouse too.
It all becomes a chicken and egg thing — where to start, when it all has to be done Right Now. Or really, yesterday would even be better. But since the ground is still frozen and snow covered and the weather miserable, I just stay inside and fret, wishing for a magic wand.
The problem with using the winter pens for lambing is something that having a puppy made me realize. The pens were all made with cattle panels, the ones that have the small openings on the bottom, so that the lambs will actually stay inside. Well, those small openings are buried in a winter’s worth of deep bedding and hay. Bjarki demonstrates every morning how easy it is to get in and out of every single pen. I don’t really see a way to stop that, either, nor to clear the deep bedding out when it is layered with hay and snow. I think that’s all got to melt first. Hay is a really good insulator, and the snow has been pretty deep once it finally showed up this winter.
So, next thing that I’ve been fretting about is, of course, the run-in shed for the horses. We are looking at what neighbors have, looking through all the books we have, trying to decide what we can build where. I sort of decided that the spot we’d cleared for the garden, where we built the foundation that promptly turned into a swimming pool, is probably the best place for a permanent run-in shed and paddock for the draft horses. It is accessible, it will be pretty, and it is really the only flat land we have. It is fairly close to the sawmill too, which will be handy for using up all those trees that are standing there in my way, that we can use for the shelters and fence. Frank is sort of regretting sending me the links to the beautiful horses we bought, because we have so much on our plates already, but they are bought, they are coming, and they will help us clear this land. As soon as we clear the land to keep them on … there’s that pesky chicken and egg thing again. Oh well.
Speaking of chickens and eggs, the hatching has gone really well, and I am very much enjoying the little chicks. They grow so fast! I feel like they just hatched, and already they are starting to get feathers. I think we have 33 chicks at this point, and the majority of them are colored like little chipmunks. I haven’t a clue what they will look like as grown-up chickens. I am hoping for some variety in coloring, but who knows.
We had a little pasty bum stuff for a couple of days. That stuff was rock hard solid, stuck to the backs of three little guys. I’d heard that pulling it off forcefully could pull out their innards, so I gave them very undignified baths in a little cap, which worked. Someone on Homesteading Today told me to mix their feed with some cayenne pepper and buttermilk to clear it up, and just one dose did the trick. Perfect.
The difference between the two incubators was just amazing. The Brinsea, which was farily expensive, just performed so much better than the cheap stirofoam one we got at Agway when Lyle gave us extra eggs. The Brinsea ones started hatching on day 19, and was all finished within 48 hours, and all but two hatched. The other one started hatching on day 21, and we still had peeping eggs 4 days later. We only got 10 live birds out of it, even though we tried to help 3 little guys who’d been peeping for two days. None of them ended up making it. I think they just weren’t developed enough. But that made it sad and frustrating for us, and miserable for the little peepers too, I’m sure. Not worth it. The lesson learned from this one is to just spend the extra money.
By the way, something else I learned from the folks at Homesteading Today that was really useful is a quick and fairly painless way to put a little one out of its misery. We needed to do it three times, or four actually. There was one egg that was peeping for 2 days, and when I decided to help it along, I cracked the egg and it was a malformed bloody cheeping mess. Ugh. Anyway, if you can’t bring yourself to wring a neck, as I couldn’t, you can put the poor thing in a ziplock bag, zip it up and stick it in the freezer. Within a minute, it’ll be done. So, Brinsea incubator good — I didn’t need to use any plastic bags with any of the eggs or chicks in that one.
The sheep are all doing well. I’ve been supplementing them a bit with some alfalfa pellets and soaked beet pulp, because the hay we have is so bad and stemmy. They are getting wide enough to land an airplane on, even though we shouldn’t have any lambs for three more weeks or so. Although, I think the new ones from Mike might be due a little sooner. Frank said he thought Vinnie was bagging up, but I haven’t noticed that really. I’m hoping that no one chooses this new snow storm coming tomorrow to have any lambs, please and thank you.
Speaking of upcoming snow storms, we were supposed to have the sheep shorn on Friday, but I’m not sure that can happen now. The storm tomorrow is supposed to be sleety and heavy wet snow, probably ending in a couple of hours of heavy rain. I don’t have anywhere to keep the sheep dry, and I don’t think Bruce wants to shear wet sheep. I guess we are going to have to reschedule, which sucks because the boys are really rooing a lot already.
I’ve been taking the puppy out on really long walks everyday. When the breed description says “energetic”, I think it means “walk four miles at least every day!” My jeans are starting to fall off of me, though, which is nice. It is one of the reasons I got a dog, after all. (I got the specific breed of Icelandic Sheepdog to help me with the sheep.) He could care less if it is snowing, and is just so much fun out there. I am meeting all the neighbors with dogs now, and he plays well with everyone. The first time he met the neighbors horses, he was scared to death, shaking and growling. We went on to the next neighbors, who just got an adorable painted pony who was so friendly with the puppy that he was licking her face in about a minute. When we came back home past these horses again, Bjarki went right up to them and licked them too. So cute! I’m thinking that he’ll be able to keep up with our new horses just running along side as I use them to work. So much energy, he has.
I’ve got all of the window boxes that were brought inside planted up, finally. There are still 20 or so on the upstairs balcony waiting to come down to the basement, buried in the snow from the last storm. Oh well! I’ve been taking the trimmings and bits from the plants to feed to the new chicks, who just love the greens already. We haven’t got the irrigation going in the basement this year, so I have to water them by hand every day, which is a bit of a chore. I’m finding it more fun to hang out there again, though, since the weather outside is so cold. When it was starting to warm up and get springlike, I wasn’t working on the window boxes much, as I wanted to stay outside. So I guess this is Mother Nature’s way of telling me to get them all planted up so they can grow grow grow.
I was looking through some old pictures of them out on the deck in the summer, and they sure do look pretty. I’m also currently torn about where to store pictures for this journal. We’ve used Gallery for a long time, and I’ve got years and years of photos there. But Flickr has such an integrated site, filled with lots of groups that I am enjoying the community aspects of. Like there are groups for Icelandic Sheep, filled with members from Iceland, as well as Icelandic Sheepdogs. I laugh at some of the groups, too, like Obsessive Sheep Photographers (who me?) and Nobody Here But Us Chickens!. I’ve even started a couple myself, mostly to have other people join me in my Gardenporn addiction. The one that made me shake my head and laugh was when I got an invite to Cats Called Yoda, with 25 members! But I feel no obligation to sort through my images when I use Gallery — I just throw them all up there and figure they might be useful to me later. With Flickr, I feel obligated to not post crap, and I’m not sure I have the energy or time to sort and filter. Maybe I’ll just keep them two places for a while, and see how it goes.