It is apparent that winter is officially over. We have entered construction season. Do you have to be Canadian to get that joke?
There's just enough grass poking up to have all the critters out causing trouble. Tori decided she wanted in to the south corner that we had fenced off. She jumped the gate. The boys are claiming they haven't been trying to teach her to jump, but I have my doubts. Once she got through there was no holding back the cows. They knocked part of the gate down, leading to the first repairs of the season. Dorie and Mindy finished munching in there and left Casper and Nelly behind. Casper panicked a bit when he realized mom was gone. He ran around in a circle, found the escape route and took off running and kicking to catch up. Nelly panicked in turn, bursting through the gate and racing as fast as her legs could carry her. It was funny when she came to a dead stop beside Dorie, and looked around as if to say, "What are we running from?"
We've been milking Dorie for a few weeks now, for a total of about 3 cups of milk. Casper is just not willing to share. Plans are in place to build him a pen as soon as the manure is cleaned out of the milk room. Then he'll be sleeping beside his mommy, but with no access to the udders, and we'll finally get some milk. Provided of course that Dorie agrees to this plan and doesn't decide to rip the stall apart the first night to set him free.
Nelly is now wearing a halter full time, which was very nice the day that she and Mindy decided to wander off on their own. We have the yard fenced off with two strands of barbed wire for the horses. We were short on hay, so we let everybody out to pick through the remains of the hay pile. The two of them ducked under the barbed wire and headed into the woods across the road. Thankfully I noticed before they got too far. I petted Nelly and grabbed her halter. She walked back to the yard with me no problem. Actually, she was easier to lead than some of the horses we've owned. Mindy didn't want to be left out there all alone, so she followed us back. I'd like to get a halter on her too. Despite her size, I think she's friendly enough that we could still train her to lead.
If only the goats were that easy to retrieve. They wander down the edges of the road and eat the bits of grass and brush that start growing early in the season. Almost daily one of the neighbours will stop or honk to let us know that they're out again. Not for much longer though, with any luck. I bought a gas powered post hole digger. Insanely expensive, but I can say this already, it was worth every penny. We should have fences up all over the place this summer with no problem. The ground is still frozen in some spots, but it won't be long now, and we will have an official goat yard, including private quarters for Oscar. Then we'll need to buy him a friend. We considered keeping Bullwinkle as a whether (castrated) to be Oscar's room mate, but decided we'd rather have a second billy to service the girls as required.
Bullwinkle gets cuter and cuter all the time. He seems to think he's much larger than he really is. No fear. He'll face off with Nanner (who hasn't found a new home yet), his daddy, the rooster, even Nelly (who still likes to pretend that she is a goat).
Cindy spent the winter just outside the main entrance of the house, leaving the north side unguarded. The day after we moved her back I saw a skunk in the trees behind the garage. Cindy was at the end of her chain snapping and growling. The next day Ebony was out when the skunk appeared. She did the typical dog routine. "Hey, who are you, don't you want to play with me?". She came back to the house with that goofy dog grin, tongue hanging out, stinking beyond belief. Ebony spent the night outside for the first time in 6 years. The next day was Waldo's turn, although he didn't get it nearly as bad as Eb. #1 saw it happen, and the skunk crawled in a hole UNDER MY HOUSE! I watched and waited and kept the .22 handy for the next few days. Kept the dogs all tied up, even Wonder, who never got sprayed. But they say an ounce of cure is worth a pound of pure prevention.
Well, wouldn't you know it, that skunk got Ebony again! While managing to avoid me and the gun, of course.
Well, Cindy was just not happy that that old skunk was marching across her territory like that. The night before last she snapped her chain. Yesterday morning we had a very dead skunk, and a very proud pooch. And she even managed to kill it without getting sprayed. She's awesome.
As for curing the stench, there's a lot of advice available online, but as is typical for me, I didn't quite follow it. I let Ebony go ahead and stink that first day. There are advantages to living in the woods with neighbours too far away to hear the dogs bark all night. The next day we dusted both her and Waldo with plain baking soda. The day after that I bought a big bottle of peroxide and a spray bottle. We've been spritzing them 2-3 times a day. Waldo, Wonder and Cindy are all fine. Ebony still has a bit of a stink to her. She's also bleaching more than the others. She usually gets a touch of chocolate lab looking through the summer, but this year she's got a head start.
The chicks have been enjoying the spring weather, and the arrival of the first bugs. They've been out scratching in the dirt, having sand baths, and escaping their chicken run daily. Egg production is in full swing now, with 15-20 eggs a day. The boys are in their glory. They could eat eggs everyday all year long. The gray hen who went broody didn't hatch a single chick, but moved on to a new nest. She pecks at us when we try to steal her eggs. I don't think that she's aware that she needs to spend some quality time with the rooster if she wants to raise babies. I've been thinking of trapping her and a few others in the rabbitry with the rooster and seeing if that will improve the odds.
The greenhouse is amazing. I would highly recommend one to anyone who experiences real winter, even if they do have a longer growing season than us. I've been monitoring the temperatures daily, and tracking them on facebook-cause I can facebook from my phone now- and then I'll be able to chart them and compare next year. I've been moving my plant stands in ,d starting my seedlings out there. Sometimes it's still dropping below freezing over night, but I have sunflowers that have sprouted in jiffy trays with the plastic lids (double greenhoused), and broccoli, in a tub without a lid, started poking up yesterday.
I also rototilled the greenhouse yesterday, raked it and leveled it. #2 offered to help with the rototilling, but couldn't (or wouldn't) get the tines in deep enough to please me. We have issues with crab grass (I think- the kind with long intertwining roots) coming back in the garden year after year. So I did it myself, buried the tiller a few times, fought with it to keep moving forward, picked out a million rocks (or at least it felt like a million), and pulled out as much of the grass roots as I could. Husband had offered to plow the rest of the garden earlier in the day, and I had refused. I was worried about my asparagus, comfrey, and strawberries getting demolished. Husband has not exhibited much care or concern for those kinds of things in the past. After three hours of hard labour in the greenhouse, I relented. Go ahead. Kill everything. Just don't make me do it myself.
Husband was awesome. He did exercise caution, and did an amazing job with the plow and discs, and it barely took an hour. He did knock off half the root of the huge blue flowers. They were planted by the previous owners at the edge of their garden. My greenhouse is just a couple of feet past that. The bees love them. So I pulled the broken chunk of root off and replanted it in the same row on the other side of the greenhouse. With any luck, I'll have twice as many huge blue flowers this summer. Maybe sil will chirp up and let ya all know what the huge blue flowers are in the comments. Cause she's smart, and flowery, and she knows stuff like that. She told me once. But I couldn't eat it, so I don't remember. Although for some reason I think it had something to do with dolphins. How weird is that?
#2 has been doing a bit more tilling today, on the sides of the greenhouse, and at the back, where the tractor couldn't fit. Those will be the first spots to plant outside, probably on Sunday. The peas will go in behind the greenhouse this year. They were nearly irresistible to the goats last year. Since I'll be working mainly at that end of the garden in the early days of spring. Hopefully I'll be able to keep them safe until the fence is up and secure.
I am attempting to post this by email from my phone. First time for me, so hopefully it will all work out and not appear as a scrambled mess. If it is I'll attempt to fix it (and add pictures) when I get home.
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