Tag Archives: Farm animals

Farm Dogs, Fresh Flowers & Ferdinand The Bull

DSC_0331 51gQ1zSyL-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Picking flowers last night, I looked over at Farmer lounging in the grass and was reminded of my favorite children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand (The Bull). Just like Ferdinand, Farmer likes nothing better than to lie around outside peacefully, watching the world go by and literally, smelling the roses. Poor Ferdinand got hauled off to the bullfights when he accidentally sat on a bee and jumped so high that folks thought he was a lively sort. But it all ended well when Ferdinand refused to fight and simply sat and sniffed the flowers in the hats of the ladies in the arena. It’s a story of contentment and peacefulness, two things that are a bit hard to come by on a busy farm during the high season.

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But now the flowers are coming in. The zinnias and cosmos and sunflowers are blooming, the dill is 6 feet high, the calendulas are everywhere.

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Which means that now, after an exhausting day on the farm, I can look forward to my favorite zen farm chore–collecting flowers in the cool of the evening with my very Ferdinand-esque dog at my side (or rolling in the grass nearby). A most excellent antidote to the day’s stresses!

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Flowers and dogs are really two of life’s greatest joys, so listen, get yourself one if you don’t have the other.

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So What’s It Really Like To Be a Chicken Farmer in a Blizzard (Or Any Day)?

DSC_0020The answer to that question—“So what’s it really like to be a chicken farmer in a blizzard?”—is, “Not as bad as being a chicken farmer the day after a blizzard.”

At first, I thought to answer the question this way: “Not as bad as being a cow farmer,” because cows have to be milked twice a day, no matter what, whereas chickens can be supplied with food and water, locked in their coops, and left for the duration of the storm (sort of). But then I realized that the cow barn is usually closer to the house than a whole bunch of chicken coops (seven coops, housing now only about 450 birds but will be 700 come March).

Unlike backyard chicken coops that tend to be located close to the house, our coops are way out in our back field because each one is integrated with a large fenced portion of the field so that all the chickens can have lots of room to roam around. (Photo below taken Monday, pre-storm.)

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Every morning, Roy goes down and unlocks the small door on the front of each coop, allowing the chickens to go out. He then refills all of their feeders with heavy bags of grain he carries to the feeders from a central feed storage shed he built near the coops. Then he refills the large vessels of water out in the yard. This time of year, though, the hoses and the water vessels are mostly frozen, so we use axes and hammers to break holes in the ice for the chickens to access the water. (In bad storms, we’ve experimented with bringing water buckets inside the coop, but the hens tend to either knock them over or mess them up pretty quickly. So you can see that getting water to the chickens—who, like all livestock, must have regular water—is probably winter’s biggest challenge.)

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During the morning and early afternoon, the hens (in normal weather) go in and out of the coop at their leisure to lay their eggs in nest boxes inside the coops. When evening comes, most of them also naturally gravitate back into the coop and get up on their roost bars. When Roy goes down to close and lock the doors (thus protecting the chickens from raccoons, feral cats, and other critters that might get in during the night), most of the chickens are inside, though during warmer weather and longer dusks it can take some encouraging. Inevitably, a few will jump into some of the trees in their yards and sleep there overnight.

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People ask if the hens are warm inside the coop this time of year. Generally, yes. Their body heat, combined with the layer of poop and shavings that we leave on the coop floors during the winter to help insulate the coop (we layer on fresh shavings), raises the temperature. They tend to cluster together on their roosting bars, too. (Outside during a normal cold winter day, you’ll see hens happily hanging out in the yard because they have the ability to puff up their feathers, which traps air pockets and keeps them warmer.) However, since coops have to be ventilated, there are plenty of places where wind and stray snow can blow through in a blizzard. Wind will make the coops colder.

But obviously, your first decision in a blizzard is to forgo letting the chickens out of their coops in the morning. Keeping them inside roosting together is the only way to go.

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The other daily task, of course, is egg collecting. Roy and I go down with buckets between 2:30 and 3 (when we’re sure they’re all finished laying) and collect the eggs out of the nest boxes. We enter the coops from a back door—a people door; the hens use the front door. You have to be sure to pull or hook the door shut once inside so that hens don’t push it open and go out the back. All of the big coops with outside latches have a wire you can pull from the inside to release the latch—without that, you’d risk the possibility of locking yourself inside the coop. (Which I did once in fact, do, in a smaller coop. But that’s another story.)

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The hens tend to gather around your feet, peck at your pants and shoes and make a lot of clucking noises. It’s certainly not the worst task (cleaning the coops ranks at the top of that list by a mile), as long as you’ve got on your “chicken clothes” –thick boots, crummy jeans, thin work gloves, and a jacket you don’t care about since it’s going to get poop on it. (All of these clothes live on the mudroom floor.) And once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take too long. But the buckets are heavy.

Carrying the buckets through thigh-high snowdrifts is a good deal more cumbersome.

And that has been the worst part of the blizzard. That, and an interminable amount of shoveling (interminable, as in not done yet) to get a path to the coops and to remove drifts. I, in fact, haven’t been all the way down to the coops since Monday. I’ve been halfway down, but Roy (and our nextdoor neighbor who’s been watching) tells me some of the drifts down there are six feet high. So you can imagine what it has been like getting the feed around, breaking the ice, and collecting the eggs for the last two days.

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We lost one chicken (frozen, but it’s hard to tell if that was the cause of death—chickens sometimes just keel over), which all things considered, is not bad. And we lost probably about $100 in eggs because we were not able to collect eggs Tuesday afternoon during the worst of the storm, and by Wednesday morning, many were frozen and the hens in one coop had managed to knock over one row of nest boxes. We collected again yesterday afternoon.

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We’ve now washed and packaged all the eggs from the last two days, and shoveled a path to the farm stand, which was completely snow-covered. Eggs are in the farm stand fridge, and we’re open for business.

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It’s hard to say how much snow we got (maybe 18 to 20 inches?) because it blew constantly (occasional gusts over 60mph, but mostly in the 30 to 35 range I guess) and everything is essentially a drift. There are bare spots and sculpted towers. The inside of the farm stand—where we process everything in warmer weather—was covered in an inch of snow. And of course, the driveway was completely obliterated.

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We don’t have a regular plow person, but Roy thought to call Keene’s Excavation right down the road from us, and a truck came right over—Hallelujah! We had been shoveling our way down the (very long) driveway in the meantime, and neither one of us was looking forward to doing the whole thing.

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We’ll be shoveling more, and collecting eggs again later this afternoon. I guess the one thing all farmers buy into is the “daily” in daily chores.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a chicken farmer or a cow farmer or a sheep farmer—or even a strictly vegetable farmer—a blizzard is going to make your daily chores a lot more difficult, and/or it will likely cause some damage to your infrastructure. (Our hoop house is still standing, but we know of others who’ve had damage to barns and greenhouses. And only this morning I saw that the plastic cover over our arugula and spinach bed had lifted off, despite my doubled-up effort to weight it down.)

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It sure looked beautiful out there (still does), but we aren’t too thrilled that another storm is on its way—tomorrow!

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P.S. I did get down to the coops this afternoon to help Roy collect. Shoot-dang, it is DEEP out there! But I took the iPhone with me, and coming back, the light was beautiful on the snow, coming through the hoop house.

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Garden and Fence Hopping on a Clear Blue January Day

photo-367One of the mildly annoying things about writing for magazines and books is that I can’t really reveal what I’m working on while I’m working on it, as that would, you know, spoil things. And I’ve never really been the spoiling type. My sister was the one who would find all the hidden Christmas presents ahead of time.

But I wanted to talk a little about a piece I’m working on, because today it made me think that sometimes my “job” is hardly work at all. More like fun. Of course my “job” changes constantly, depending on what hat I’m wearing. But during the winter, if I’m lucky I get some writing assignments I can complete before the busy farm season returns. Better still is a writing assignment that requires me to go outside and poke around in our beautiful winter landscape—and to visit with some of my friends and neighbors.

So today I had Martha’s Vineyard Magazine to thank for a lovely morning spent in lovely company. The company was the talented Fae Kontje-Gibbs (below), and the mission was to visit a few Island gardens that Fae will be illustrating for the feature I’m writing on kitchen gardens.

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The idea behind the article is that everyone (who wants one) should have a vegetable garden, no matter how small. No big plot needed. In fact, small is good, tiny is wonderful, and medium is dandy if you can swing it.

greens on steroids To that end, my editor and art director decided to use real-life Island gardens as inspiration for three sample garden designs.

Today was Fae’s birthday, so maybe the karma was just good to begin with. And Fae is certainly one of the most positive-seeking persons I know. Also, it didn’t hurt that we began our morning with a visit to my neighbor and friend cook-gardener-quilter-hen whisperer Katherine Long, who is simply one of my favorite people on the Island.

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When we arrived, she was outside letting her hens graze a bit on fresh grass, and we were immediately drawn into a beautiful circle of chickens, and then into a conversation that spanned everything from the merits of roosters to the study of cell biology. Fae got out her notebook and did some rough sketches of Katherine’s colorful chickens and of her garden—a place where practicality and efficiency combine with charm and whimsy in the most delightful way.

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While we were there, Katherine took us into one of the chicken coops to see two baby chicks, recently hatched out by Silkie hens, who are wonderful mamas and don’t seem concerned that January may not be the best time to hatch chicks.

After leaving Katherine’s, we went on to a larger garden where we gently trespassed into a family’s personal sanctuary (with permission) and then drifted over to the neighbor’s fenceline (without permission) to take a peek at some large animals grazing on the other side. They turned out to be alpacas, and one large chocolate brown fellow (or gal?) came to greet us. While Fae gently spoke to him, I tried to photograph his amazing face. Then suddenly he decided to drop to the ground a do a roly-poly, like Farmer does several times a day. I gasped—I’d never seen an animal that large just decide to lie down, roll over, and scratch his back for fun. (Although I do remember being on a horse in a shallow river when the horse decided to roll over.)

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While Fae finished up some rough sketches of a bird bath, a watering can, a pathway and a hand trowel, I simply stared up at the tree limbs etching the blue sky. Stared and stared. As much as my mind likes to travel to unnecessary worry and forethought, I just couldn’t think of anything wrong with our morning, anything to make me fraught. I just thought about how blue the sky was.

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And that I really should spend more time toddling around. Serious work, you know.

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The Year in Photos: Green Island Farm, 2014

January

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2014’s best moment: Little Barney comes in from the cold

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February

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Paulie’s last stand.

March

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photo-12Egg production picks up big-time in spring.

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Turning over the new veg field in the “back four.”

April

10171130_10203818806489450_6846942003228336987_n DSC_4091Onion and potato planting in the damp new days of spring.

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May

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11 may photo-291 photo-293 photo-294And we’re off! Baby kale, Baby bok choy, radishes–and lots of seedlings.

June

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It’s all happening fast now–berries, basil, carrots, and…plenty of daylight

July

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Blueberries, black raspberries,  yellow pattypans, purple eggplants, sunny sung olds, cheery calendulas–June is color at last.

August

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Tomatoes, of course. And new chickens. And lots of ribbons at the Fair, oh yeah!

September

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Serious harvest time.

October

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October is the best.

November

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December

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photo-308 photo-305photo-307And to all a good night. Cheers to 2015!

Making Memories at the Fair

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Every August you nice people put up with me writing about the Fair—my excitement, and my ensuing exhaustion. This year, well, you’re in luck. It was such a busy week with so many late nights and really early mornings getting everything harvested and the farm stand set up, that I missed posting entirely last week and now can hardly put a sentence together.

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I will say just this one thing, and then leave it to all the pictures of the ridiculous food we ate, the ribbons we won, and the animals we admired. That thing is this: The theme of the Fair this year was Making Memories at the Fair, and I realized today that this is exactly what Roy, Libby, (Farmer) and I have been doing since we moved into the farm house in 2010 and started crossing the street every day, several times a day, for four days in a row, the third week in August.

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The Fair has become our only break from the farm in the high season—a mini vacation just across the street, and one in which we relish doing nearly the same exact thing (with slight variations) every year. I have the photos to prove it, of course, and I hope they will be fun for Libby to look at some day. For me, looking at the last few years of them now, the most startling thing is watching this little girl grow up so fast.

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So I’ll start with our healthy food choices:

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Famous Fair fries. Famous Fair Veggie Tempura.

Next, the animals.

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Libby still wants to be a Vet.

Okay, there were rides and games and stuffed animals, too.

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And not necessarily best of all, but certainly wonderful: Eleven ribbons for us this year! (That’s a record, I think.) Six blue, four red, and one white. First place for yellow onions, plum tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, large brown eggs and pullet eggs. Second place for red cherry tomatoes, zinnias, cosmos, and Junior brown eggs. Third place for yellow cherry tomatoes.

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Roy hung up the ribbons back at the farm stand. They’ll stay there for a while, then head off to the place where the rest of the memories live. But this year, Libby took home a Fair poster to hang in her newly redecorated room. Next Tuesday she starts an exciting adventure at a brand new school. Things change and grow, I know. But memories (maybe lightly polished or gently rearranged) remain.

 

Strange but True — Chickens Chasing Fireflies and Pumpkins in the Piggery

DSC_6695Funny, strange, unexpected things seem to be happening a lot on the farm these days. Never a dull moment, as my father likes to say.

We found a birds’ nest in a tomato plant yesterday. (Four beautiful eggs; Mommy is a fox sparrow.) Farmer found (another) nest of baby bunnies (six of them) in between two rows of onions last week. Then yesterday, he unearthed a pack of snails under a cosmo plant. That’s in addition to the robin’s nest he found a month ago with newly hatched baby birds in it.

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There is a frog living in the pea patch.

At night, two owls talk to each other at opposite ends of the farm. The sound is loud and disconcerting and space-alienish, especially with a full moon on a misty night (like the one we had tonight, above).

There is a group of hens who won’t go into their coops at night, because—get this—they’re having too much fun chasing fire flies. Roy did an imitation of them the other night after trying to corral them, and I was in stitches. Apparently the hens get really confused and practically fall over each other dancing around after the flickering lights.

The ducks—and the Aracaunas—are taking turns sitting on a nest of duck eggs. (We have one male duck, so ducklings are, theoretically, a possibility. A couple of the Aracaunas like to brood on their blue eggs constantly, but little do they know, with no rooster, there will never be any baby chicks.)

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All over the farm, plants are growing where they weren’t planted. We have two  really healthy pumpkin vines in the old piggery. Poppies and tomatoes in practically every garden bed. (We moved a volunteer tomato into Libby’s garden, and it has the first ripening Sweet 100). An entire row of sunflowers and calendula we didn’t plant. There is dill in the chard bed. And cilantro absolutely everywhere.

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There are even blueberry bushes in a chicken pen. That’s right, our new group of 125 pullets (18-week-old chickens) are the lucky owners of a huge wooded parcel of land (fenced off by Roy) that includes wild blueberries and black raspberries that we can’t even get at through the thick growth (and ticks).

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And weeds? We have more weeds this year then we’ve had total in all previous years. I am completely confounded by this.

And that’s just the critters and the plants. People at the farm do funny things, too. A nice couple stopped by the other day just to give Farmer a present. They were leaving the Island after three weeks and apparently (unbeknownst to me) had bonded with Farmer. Farmer, in fact, is a Rock Star. He has all kinds of fans who ask for him to come outside if he’s not around. Who knew?

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Because of the crap-shoot nature of farming, the surprises are often not pleasant. But it seems, often as not, the unexpected is lovely, even joyous. Bionic summer squash! A towering volunteer sunflower! Peas, peas and more peas. A gift of freshly baked bread from a farm stand customer…chocolates from another…dog bones for Farmer.

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A customer told me the other morning, “It makes me so happy to come here.” That’s the kind of unexpected surprise that makes my day.

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Lovely Afternoon Light for Pea Planting with the Farm Dog

DSC_3963And so it all begins. The outdoor work, I mean. There is daylight enough for me to sneak in some garden time before a late supper, after I release myself from the office and the computer and the deadlines imposed by more travel coming.

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Farmer and I spent a lovely hour or two in the leaf-strewn garden (the leaves were our winter mulch for the beds) planting peas and moving a few odd winter greens around.

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We dawdled in the hoop house, too, finally warm and dreamy after days of cloud cover and chilling winds. Farmer is an excellent garden companion.

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Naturally I brought my camera along, mostly because I find it so interesting to look back at the stark reality of early April when August comes around. And vice-versa—I’ve been deep into my photo archives this week putting together three different Power Point presentations. Looking at all those pints of cherry tomatoes and bunches of zinnias not only reminds me that we do actually manage to grow a lot of food, but that warm (truly warm) days will come again.

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On an early April day, objects that will later fade into the summer collage now pop out in relief.

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DSC_3939DSC_3990 Even not-so-pretty objects look better in early spring.

I could do without the constant fiddling with Remay (the fabric row cover that keeps pests and a little bit of chill off early greens) this time of year, but getting my boots tangled up in it and stabbing myself occasionally with the fabric staples (in the very top photo) is surely a whole lot better than being inside staring at frozen, snow-speckled ground. If early April is what I’ve got, I’ll take it!

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Susie On the Road: A Visit to DC, My Hometown, March 1 & 2

DSC_3123I’m saddling up the horses and heading off to America this week. Actually, driving down to spend a night with my parents in Delaware, then a weekend with my sister Eleanor in Virginia. Leaving Roy alone at the farm with 500 chickens, a farm dog, a frisky kitten, and a lot of eggs to wash. Not to mention about 600 farm chores to start on now that the weather is (sort of) breaking. Lucky Roy.

Hopefully I will manage to pick up some farm supplies while I am off-Island.

Though I hate to be away, I’m looking forward to seeing my family, and of course, my official business for this trip is book promotion, and I can already tell that a visit to DC, my hometown, is going to be swell.

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On Saturday from 2 pm to 5 pm, I’m going to be at the very fabulous La Cuisine cookware store in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. (The Old Town Boutique District is serious shopping, folks, in case you need an excuse to get out!). I’ve admired Nancy Purves Pollard and her store (mostly from afar in my years away from Washington) for her one-of-a-kind collection of high-quality cookware and cooking ingredients. I’m just afraid of what I might buy while I’m there. I hear she has amazing coffee, too.

lacuisportraitsmNancy and I have cooked up a scheme to serve a selection of yummy recipes from Fresh From the Farm. Nancy’s going to make the Curry-Coconut Butternut Squash Soup and the Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Farmstand Veggies. And I am going to make the Rustic Roasted Tomato Tarts and the Christmas Slaw with Slivered Pears, Cranberries, & Pecans. I’ve even enlisted my Mom to make Libby’s Lemon Blueberry Buckle! (That’s Nancy on the left in the photo at right, with co-workers Val and Larissa and rescue dog Carina.)

While we’re serving tasting samples (I’ll be at the store from 2 to 5 pm), I’ll be signing books, of course, and offering some tips about how to keep a simple, well-stocked pantry for making delicious veggie dishes. I’ll share advice on some favorite tools, as well. (Nancy will have a stash of Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh & Green Table available in addition to Fresh From the Farm–at 20% off!–so if you’ve got gifts to buy, this is a good opportunity.)

On Sunday, I’m off to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market from 10:30 to 12:30.  I’m excited that my cousin, Dr. Kari Evans, is going to hang out with me at the market, while I do a recipe demo, offer tastings, and sign books. The Fresh Farm Market folks have a program called “Chef at Market,” and I tried to get down to participate in it 3 years ago. Now I am finally making it, though admittedly March is a tricky season. (I will be there, polar vortex or not.) So we decided to pick a fresh, simple, colorful recipe to anticipate the first radishes of spring—it really won’t be too long, now.

9781600859045I have to say, the May Day Radish and Parsley Salad with Lemon and Ginger has the most delicious dressing and really is versatile enough to serve all year-round.  I know because I made a batch yesterday to judge how many portions I will need for the market. I remembered loving this salad when I developed it, and fortunately, my memory wasn’t warped! Of course, I got into a little thing with crystallized ginger while I was developing recipes for Fresh from the Farm, so I actually had to rein myself in and quit using it after a few recipes. It’s an amazing ingredient in vinaigrettes, because the sugar dissolves and the ginger remains spicy, so there is both a nuanced flavor and interesting texture to the dressing.

Yesterday I ate a good deal of this salad right out of the bowl, and then I threw some blood orange segments into the rest (I had half of a blood orange leftover from another test) and wow—loved that color and flavor. Ate the leftovers with roast pork last night.

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While I was photographing the salad, I got photo-bombed again by Barney the kitty. He moves like lightening and goes from floor-to-food-dish in a matter of seconds. He is fascinated with recipe testing.

1621945_10152217617255801_1847068504_nIf you would like to make the radish salad, I urge you to click on over to the Fine Cooking website, where the recipe is now posted as part of a collection from Fresh from the Farm. (Feel free to add blood orange segments!) I am feeling particularly grateful this morning to my beloved magazine for the lovely review they’ve published in the April/May issue, and online. Check it out online, but be sure to pick up that new issue of Fine Cooking on the news stand—it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Grilled cheese, twice-baked potatoes, tagines, meringues, quick ideas for baby spinach, ham, barbequed shrimp—Oh my!

Hope I can catch up with some of you in DC, but bear in mind I’ll be in Chicago mid-March and Montana and North Carolina in April. (Click here for schedule.) Then it’s home for the spring and summer. Roy will be glad, to say the least.

 

 

And Now, For the Not-So-Cute Barnyard Animal

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Actually, I wanted to title this blog post, “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” But you know, I didn’t really want to scare any one.

A few days ago, I posted this warm-and-fuzzy blog about our new kitten Barney and other cute baby animals that we’ve encountered on the farm. (Barney is doing great, by the way. He has discovered curtains, my keyboard, the laundry basket, Libby’s stuffed animals, and even his first mouse. He especially likes to sit in Roy’s lap while he’s reading the newspaper, helping him to turn the pages with frequent pawing.)

But we have this other creature on the farm of whom I am not so fond. In fact, most days, I do battle with him, and currently I have a scrape on my leg that he managed to give me through my blue jeans. It’s Paulie, the Silver-Laced Polish Crested rooster. I’ve mentioned (and pictured) him before, but I bring him up again now, because he has found a new mission in life: He protects the ducks.

And attacks me when I go in the duck pen. Roy, not so much.

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Paulie was a lonely rooster. He never got along with the other baby chicks when he arrived as our speciality “surprise” chick with the batch of Aracaunas last spring. Roy didn’t want to get rid of him, though he also didn’t want him in with our large groups of laying hens, so Roy built Paulie his own little coop and pen. Paulie regularly got out of his pen and free-ranged around, trying to cozy up to our original six Ladies, who are very independent and wanted nothing to do with him.

But when we got the ducks in early January, we set them up in a pen near Paulie’s, and Paulie immediately hopped over and joined them. Little by little, he’s made himself the Boss of the Ducks. He is so happy to finally have something to protect that he is taking his job very seriously.

Every day he seems to get a little bolder, and lately he’s taken to charging at me like a bull running through the streets of Pamplona.

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The only good news about this is that now I am prepared (or at least forewarned). The other day, when I went into the pen to grab the water bucket, I didn’t realize that Paulie was stalking me until he latched on to my leg and started hammering away at me.

When I told Roy this later, he said, “Why didn’t you just swing the bucket at him?”

Oh, right. You know it’s funny what boys automatically think of doing that doesn’t necessarily occur to a girl. Although, I think that probably would have just made Paulie angrier. Paulie doesn’t attack Roy, because Roy has been handling him on a regular basis since he was a chick.

Thinking about this, I went back this morning to read a piece I remembered really liking in Edible Vineyard magazine by Kate Tvelia Athearn, who lives not too many miles down the road from us on another small farm, and writes lovely pieces about small farm life. Her story about Chickenzilla made me feel like I could keep working to improve my relationship with Paulie.

We’ll see.

DSC_2320I could just let Roy feed the ducks, which he does often anyway. But he’s got the 500 hens to deal with, and my route between the six Ladies and the 20 Aracaunas takes me right past the duck pen, so it makes sense. Later this spring, we’ll probably let the ducks free-range a bit, so that might change the dynamics.

But it would be okay with me if Paulie disappeared. I know, that’s terrible, isn’t it? Roy wants to show him in the Fair this year. Fine. Maybe he will get kidnapped. Or, since he can’t see very well due to the mop on top of his head, maybe he could fall off the back of the truck on the way home from the Fair, and he wouldn’t be able to find his way home. I wouldn’t do that though, either, because then my friend Joannie Jenkinson, the town animal control officer, would get one of those calls to come rescue a rooster. And, unfortunately, she already gets too many of those.

So I guess I’m going to have to learn to put up with Paulie. Or not.

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Too Cute: A Little Girl + Baby Farm Animals

DSC_2073DSC_2052Libby and I were watching a show on Animal Planet this weekend called Too Cute. It’s a good name for a program about puppies and kittens and other baby critters that happen to wander into people’s lives. Because honestly, who doesn’t find baby animals cute?

Around here, I’m embarrassed to say, we’re rather obsessed with baby critters. In fact, we weren’t just watching them on TV this weekend. We had one (have one) right here in our living room.

We have a new kitten.

He is 9 weeks old.

He is black and white and cute all over.

DSC_2119His name is Barney, because he’s been living in the barn. That is, after he got separated from his mom, a feral cat, and Roy began to feed him and talk to him. Eventually, Roy scooped him up and put him in a crate. It was just a matter of time before crate and kitten moved indoors.

After his first night in the house late last week, Barney came with us for a visit to our fabulous vet, Animal Health Care. There we learned that Barney was in fact Barney, not Barn-ie or Barnadette. He was a he. And healthy. And apparently, on the far side of too cute. Everyone at the vet held him, passed him around, snuggled him, hoarded him.

“Wait, that’s our kitten!” I said.

“Sorry, we’re kidnapping him,” they said.

IMG_1243DSC_2068Finally, we did make it out of there with Barney, and we spent the rest of the weekend watching Farmer and Barney become friends. Farmer was beside himself with excitement. He always wanted a playmate.

As for Libby, well, nothing’s better than a baby animal.

Who knew this crazy farm life would offer up so many great opportunities for a girl who loves animals to interact with such an interesting menagerie of critters, from snakes and turtles and butterflies to calves and lambs and kids and fawns? You can’t predict this stuff or make it up. It just happens.

Proof is in the pictures. Shameful, yes. Too cute? Definitely. But it’s cold and dreary today; we’ll take a little warm-up, however we get it.

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