Sunday, March 17, 2019

random weekend snaps

We've been having more strong winds.
These are not small branches.

I thought you might like to see what an
8-foot-wide hay bale looks like.
I probably should have put something on it for scale.
Piper, maybe.

A peaceful moment for Iris and Rocket.

Today Iris was combed for the first time.
Not so peaceful, but we took our time, got through it,
and were still friends at the end.

By the way, you can see why I've started calling her "Tiny Iris."
Literally from the moment of their births, she's been on the petite side,
and her brother has been on the solid side.
When you see them together like this,
the difference in the two extremes is really emphasized.

Daily markmaking continues!
This was Friday, #439: a dried zinnia head from last year's gardens.

This photograph of a hairy woodpecker could be clearer, but it was taken from 12 feet away and through two layers of glass. I'm glad I put this suet feeder close to the porch, because I've discovered the sound these birds make - a sort of whistly cheep, repeated, with a silent beat in between.

Every morning a woodpecker politely approaches the feeder,
and sounds so delighted and surprised to find the suet:
cheep?! pause cheep?! pause cheep?! pause cheep?!
It makes me smile.

I hope you had a lovely weekend!
Isn't it amazing how much daylight we're seeing now?
It's 7 PM and I can almost see the barn.
Even with the clocks moved ahead one hour, that's a nice change.

Friday, March 15, 2019


Tsuga looks pretty pleased with her branch.

We've had some strong winds recently,
which have brought down many small - and some not-small - branches.

Fern was perfectly happy with her branch.
Until she saw Tsuga's branch.

At this time of year, I only move branches and fallen trees if I'm going to trip over them. I can't afford the extra leaning.

Fern says, "Mama, why don't we share?"

The goats spend hours nibbling on branches and downed trees.
I believe they find nutrients in the bark, buds, lichen and moss, and even the wood.

Iris has found a little stick All For Her Own Self!

Or so she thought.
Brother Rocket decided he would like that stick

Tansy found a nice branch, but then reconsidered.

"I'll have my timber 'straight up' today!"

In other goat nutrition news, I had 1400 pounds of hay delivered yesterday.
This made me deliriously happy.

It's in two massive bales.
Each one is 8 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.
They were delivered in about 10 minutes with a skid-steer:
up my ice-covered driveway and straight into the roundtop.
It was beautiful to watch.

Unlike standard bales, which are carried one by one from the roundtop to the barns and then opened up and distributed to the paddocks,
these bales will have to be opened in the roundtop and then large amounts of loose hay will be transported over ice and snow and - soon - mud.
I hate wasting hay, and loose hay is...loose. I don't want to leave a long trail of hay everywhere I carry it, twice every day.
So I'm going to try to come up with one all-season transport method that will be effective, efficient, and which I hope will not require buying anything.

Fortunately, I don't mind a challenge. And there's a weekend ahead.

What new fun are you planning this weekend?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

brief bird bulletin

I've been scattering sunflower seed on the ground,
hoping for a return of the mourning doves.

I haven't seen them yet.

Happily, I love cardinals, too.


Monday, March 4, 2019

back to normal

Again with the snow.

I don't know why the snowplow goes back and forth in front of my driveway,
over and over again.
It's a small road.
Even though there is a little intersection with another small road,
it seems like once or twice in each direction would do the job.

But the driver drops the plow with a sound like cannonfire
then scrapes loudly forward
- I can't think of an adequately loud grinding sound to compare this to -
for 15 seconds or so,
then lifts the plow and reverses a bit,
then drops the plow (BOOM!) and scrapes loudly forward again.
Over and over and over.
This morning I stopped counting at 16, but it continued on.

And this morning, as usual, it began at about 330AM.
This has been "normal" lately, including several times in the past week.

I am happy that the road is being plowed, but I wish I understood the method.
In general, I believe that when people understand what is being done and why,
there is a much better chance that everyone involved will be happy.
That's why I consider environmental education and forest management outreach programs two of the most useful jobs I've done so far.

So, if any of my readers drives a snowplow on back roads in a tiny rural town,
please talk to me in the comments.
I'd really love to be able to embrace these 330AM wake-up calls.

imagine big yawn inserted here

Sunday, March 3, 2019

sunny sunday

In recent weeks, there have been woodpeckers visiting my suet feeder every day,
even while snow is falling.
Downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers.
Unlike some birds, they never seem to squabble, but nicely take turns.
Males and females of both varieties visit.
I wonder if there will be nests nearby, and perhaps baby birds this year?

This morning, there was also a rare visit from four mourning doves.
They searched the snow under the seed feeder, but I don't know if they found much before flying high into a tree.

I would have liked to toss sunflower seed onto the ground for them, but opening a window would have scared them away, possibly for a long time.

Even from forty feet away and high in a tree, this one seems to be keeping a close eye on me as I take pictures from inside the porch. 

I'll toss some seed on the snow after evening chores tonight, and hope it isn't all eaten up by mice before morning. Maybe the doves will be back tomorrow.

It is a gorgeous day. Not snowing - really, not snowing - and the sky is blue with fluffy clouds. Unlike recent days, the the temperature has slowly climbed above freezing and it's not windy. It's quite pleasant and a bit melty out there.

So why am I indoors in the middle of the day? you might ask.
It has a lot to do with the two cats currently anchoring my legs,
but it probably has even more to do with me feeling lazy and slow.
Of course I have a long list of things to do apart from daily chores, including many little things that weren't done because of all the recent snowy days. But instead of trying to get a lot done, I just feeling like staying put. At least for a little while.

I hope you are having a pleasant day wherever you are,
 whether you are full of energy and embracing the day with gusto,
or whether you are having a cozy recharge like me.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

nearly wordless thursday

 the daily snow

 tiny Iris in the wild

Piper going down to check the mail

somewhat surreal


Monday, February 18, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

wednesday with ice

Please enjoy the sight of Azalea, back up on her bench today and looking relaxed and happy. Hard to believe that exactly one week ago I could have lost her. Life, as they say, comes at you fast.

Beginning yesterday, we've had several fresh inches of heavy wet snow, followed by hours of sleet that added a hard crust. The smallest goats can almost walk atop the crust, but not quite - every few steps a hoof goes through and sinks. It makes for very lopsided and off-balance walking, which, for sure-footed goats, may be annoying. Or at least unsettling. I think several of them eased their feelings by redecorating the barn this morning:

Mineral Tub: pushed out the door and emptied.

New divider: one board shattered.

My chair: hooked from it's corner in the back of the barn, and tossed out the door.

I felt like a landlord, visiting my rowdy tenants the morning after a party.

Everything is coated in ice again, and while I was doing evening chores tonight, more snow began to fall. I'm not even going to check the forecast - I'm already doing everything I need to do, whether there's a blizzard or a thaw. I'll let it be a Big Surprise this time.

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods,
whether it's winter or summer!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Friday, February 8, 2019

azalea update

Friday morning update: 

Azalea ate an entire carrot's-worth of carrot pennies this morning, and after I had returned to the house, she ventured out of the barn - with her mama Lily of the Valley by her side and her son Mallow trotting along behind - and into the roundtop to the self-serve hay dispenser. I still don't know what caused her to become ill, and I'll continue to watch her closely to be sure she is eating well and is fully recovered. But for the moment, I'm feeling much relieved!

Thank you very much for your concern and kind words - it meant a lot to me when I was sitting out in the barn for most of yesterday, trying to watch Azalea without making her feel that she was being watched :)


Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Azalea isn't feeling well. She was off her feed last night, and today I've spoken with the vet and spent the day doing everything that can be done to help her feel better, with no apparent improvement by evening.

Now there's a cold rain falling, everyone is settled for the night, and all I can do is hope Azalea has a comfortable night and will feel more herself in the morning.
Not eating is a very serious matter with goats.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 4, 2019


The black goats - especially the solid black goats - are always difficult to photograph.
So I was very pleased to get this portrait of Sambucus today.

Did you notice her lovely little smile?

I think Bui deserves to have an entire blog post, all to herself.

Saturday, February 2, 2019


This morning when I stepped outside to pick up an armful of stovewood, I was delighted to find the air warmer than expected. Maybe as high as 20F, I thought. Almost balmy.

I can generally estimate the temperature within a few degrees, so on the way back inside I checked the thermometer by the door: 11F.



After a series of very cold days and nights, I apparently need to recalibrate my internal thermometer!

There is ice everywhere, and most of it is now under six or more inches of powder. This is not a great situation, and I've been very careful going from house to barn to workshop to stilt barn and into the paddocks to fill water buckets and distribute hay.

There are de-icers in both big water buckets - huzzah! - but I still use smaller buckets at times, and they freeze quickly. If they freeze overnight I can't just break the layer of ice on top - I must thaw the ice enough to get it out of the bucket. Here's how, in case you've never done it and ever need to: turn the frozen bucket upside-down and slowly pour a little warm water over the bottom and sides. Listen for the sound of cracking, and then one quiet thud. Lift the bucket off with a boot - to keep dry gloves off the wet bucket - and find a wide-based crystalline vase of ice, with a core of water that trickles out and leaves an huge ice goblet.

Last week I took photographs from inside these hollow cores, looking out through the curved walls of ice. There's one at the top of this post, and here's another:

Winter can be hard. Why miss an opportunity to have fun?

Today I actually had to leave the place for the first time in a week: get in the truck, deliver the recycling, pick up a book from interlibrary loan, and do some grocery shopping. When I got home in the afternoon it was still very cold but not too windy and off-and-on sunny, so I decided to take time to visit with all the goats and then do evening chores early.

Tsuga says, "Yes, do come visit!
And do you have something good in your pocket?"

While I was sitting in the barn waiting for the last goats to finish their grub,
Rocket discovered bootlaces.

He'd never seen them before, because I usually wear pull-on rubber barn boots. But today, since I had just gotten home after being out In Public, I was wearing my "nice boots" which I bought last month. They are like calf-height, waterproof, insulated slippers with rubber soles. And very long laces. Rocket took one look and knew what had to be done.

Here are Azalea and her little boy Mallow - not so little anymore! - hanging out on a bench after having their buckets of oats. Everyone gets a little something extra to help stay cheerful in this ongoing cold, snowy, icy snap; extra oats, with a little sweet feed on top, and carrot pennies for afters. Even my careful rationing of hay - I feed multiple times in smaller amounts each day instead of the total amount all at once, to reduce waste - has gone by the boards for the time being. In weather like this, I believe it's more important to have hay available to everybody, all the time, than to avoid waste.

The sky looked like this for just a few minutes,
as I was coming back to the house after chores.
I'm so glad I didn't miss it!

The forecast says the weather is going to change tomorrow.
And then warmer.
I'll definitely be wearing the pull-on rubber barn boots.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


Iris, Vinca, Rocket

My Very Occasional Helper was here for 3 hours yesterday,
so together we made a little progress on the barn.

Iris was also a Big Help.

Although I couldn't help feeling that she had questions about the whole idea of turning the airy, spacious barn into four narrow cubicles.
Not exactly cubicles; more like slip stalls.

"Why? WHYYYY?"

Lately I've been noticing that tiny Iris has grown.
There have even been a couple of times when she was standing apart from the other goats - so, no frame of reference - I wasn't sure if I was looking at Iris or her brother, the chunky Rocket.

"Now I am a BIG goat!"

But then I see her next to an average-size human,
and she immediately becomes tiny again.

Big on personality, though!

That's one thing that hasn't changed since the day she was born.