“Oh, honey.” I said. “I think they are way out in the field.” Kupa looked out across the prairies. It seemed to far.
Minty bleated from in the barn wondering aloud why the camo kittens would not play with her.
She put on her best smile but they didn’t notice.
“The Duke of Kupa is at it again,” says Daisy. One can only describe her voice as laconic. Even a trifle bored. Almost Owlish.
“I don’t think you are supposed to call a Duke pretty, miss c.” he said.
“Oh, sorry Duke of Kupa, your Esteemed Splendidness. You are very handsome in a colourful flamboyant kind of way.”
OK, says Kupa. Then pauses but he has nothing more to add. He folds his feathers in order and packs them neatly back into a tail and off he strolls. Attempting nonchalance. Lou Lou the ginger kitten wacks the longest trailing feathers with his tiny tiny paw, but Kupa does not notice. Or maybe he does and chooses not to let on. He has his dignity to maintain you know.
Good morning. We have children coming out today for a Farmy Field Trip so everyone is all aflutter with the excitement of it all. It is cold and was meant to snow but didn’t. Maybe it is too cold to snow. Ah well. Maybe next time.
I hope you all have a lovely Friday/Saturday.
My photos started out well yesterday. I had this big plan for colour and light.
Yes, I know these snow flurries are hard to see. But we have had so little snow this season, that a thick flurry made me all giddy with excitement.
Then I did one of those astounding quick changes from the blimp in many layers to svelte like lady about town out to get her blood drawn. (laugh) This process, not the quick change the blood letting, should only have taken an hour. Plenty of time for more artsy images later I thought.
Anyway I arrived at the duly appointed hour, the blood gathering was in the gym at the local high school and the blood letters were short staffed, every step took a terribly long time – much to my delight because I was reading Wolf Hall (still working my way down our reading list). I have big fat veins, excellent blood pressure and tons of iron. Good girl, the ladies in the white coats said. You make our job easy. I smiled gracefully and turned a page.
Later I was directed to a table with a whole bevy of high school student hand maidens whose job it was to make sure that I ate and drank something and did not faint where I sat or leave too early and faint in the car park (like I am the fainting type!) whereas in fact they seemed to be doing an awful lot of eating and drinking themselves and we got to talking about the Shush Sisters. As you would!
Well lo and behold I discovered a beautiful young high school senior who is perfectly capable of Artificially Inseminating (AI) Charlotte, she will assist with any birthing problems, do all the icky castrating and ear piercing and lives on the ridge 5 minutes from our house! She told me where I could get all the necessaries and will pop in later in the week to have a look at the pigs. Her mother is the Ag teacher! Plus, bless her, she can understand every word I say! I told her I need her to mentor me through the whole process and how do I know when the pig is in heat, how long does the semen last, do I need to buy straws? Papettes, she said, as she laid her hand across her mouth so as not to laugh too loud, leaning back and refolding her long legs. “I am serious”, I said. “I need to learn all this stuff. You are going to be my teacher. And I will pay you.”
Oh no, she shook her head. “It is better” I said. “You deserve to be paid for a job. And then I can ask you to do it again, if it doesn’t work the first time.”
“I would much prefer a virgin birth, just as long as I get my babies” I raised my voice as I looked up, nodding Hullo to the Principal as he stumbled past, shaggy eyebrows raised. Eye contact slurring to the right. “And I will pay you to do the castrating too, girls probably do a much better job of that I would say” I watched his back straighten. My own hand to my own mouth this time. We all silently giggled as he shot out of the gym and down the hall.
I turned back to the growing crowd of students.
‘Could you pass me another cupcake, please?’ I said. They passed me two, and loaded their plates with the rest, looking at each other with clear dancing eyes.
So there we are, we don’t have to separate Charlotte from Sheila and load her into the trailer and take her over to see a nasty bad tempered boar with no time for niceties and probably bad breath. We have a girl for that now!
Another word for ‘inexplicably demoted’ is Plutoed. Because that is what they did to Pluto. They demoted that poor unsuspecting planet. So I will have to call the swine herd and tell him he has been Plutoed. He won’t mind as long as I come to visit once in a while. I will take my girl.
Good morning darlings. I got home by 4 O’clock. Just in time to rip all my tidy clothes off, relayer my body in teenage boys hand me downs, the clown suit, thermal boots, wooly hat and two pairs of gloves and launch out into the afternoon to do the chores.
It was dead calm all day yesterday. Still below freezing but not even terribly cold. A good day. Today is going to be a wee bit warmer, the sunrise is a little earlier and the sunset a little later. Things are looking up. We are looking up. All of us. You too. We may hit the gutter sometimes but we never stop looking up to the stars. The stars are beautiful way out here.
Have a lovely day.
By the time we had finished milking yesterday morning and brought everything back inside it was minus 3F (-20C). I do not deal in windchills as I don’t understand the equation so I won’t tell you what the windchill was. There was hardly any wind anyway. But it was so cold that my face felt sunburnt and (quite disgustingly) my nose was clogged with ice. Was that too much information? I never know when to stop.
I have no idea how many chooks there are in the hen house. Probably around twenty or twenty five. I never know. They seem to multiply like Tribbles when I am not looking but without that annoying purry noise. But they have started to lay though only three or four a day so far so things are looking up! A few weeks ago I started putting Diatomaceous Earth in to their feed and their shell dish where they like to have dust baths and they are fluffier and brighter.
Diatomaceous Earth (though used predominantly as an anti clogger and bug repellent in feeds) is a natural pesticide, and general health improver and everyone on the farmy has a portion in their feed – most especially the pigs when they are stuck inside, and it is sprinkled in all the pens to help keep everyone worm free, bug free and shiny. They spend too much time in the barn in the winter.
The Big Dog lost his coat and wandered about for a while looking chilly. Later TonTon found it abandoned out by the trees. We knew Ton had found something because he was barking like a mad thing at it until we came to look. I think he thought the coat was an intruder of some kind. A strangely still blue animal skin that smelt like a dog but had no dog in it. You can see why Ton would call for help to sort this mystery out.
For the last two nights The Big And Very Old Dog has been cajoled down into the basement to sleep. He actively dislikes being inside and will usually growl and snarl at anyone trying to get him down the steps. He has always had a determined streak, a mind of his own. A half wild demeanor. He will not accept a collar or a bath. But just this once or maybe twice he has succumbed to gentle pressure. Usually he is wrapped up for the night on the verandah, sleeping on his big jute bags full of sheeps wool and covered in blankets and an enormous leather coat. He still had his blankies in the basement, he drags them around with him, but is out of the cold.
Good morning. They say that today will be warmer. That will be nice. I go down to the local school today to give blood. Because I don’t work for money I am unable to donate to any causes, so giving blood a couple of time a year is my charity. And it is an excellent excuse to lie down with a book, albeit in a cold hall full of pale bustling grimacing people and pretend smiley nurses with needles and other curiously terrifying paraphernalia, but it is kind of restful. Kind of.
Have a lovely day.
I like to know what is coming. Like all farmers I study the weather sites and stare up at the sky looking for action. I don’t like surprises. I need to be prepared. I am like TonTon who barked at the basement door yesterday because he could hear the water overflowing in the laundry. And there is a kind of companionship pattern forming in our weather – have you noticed that? It has become apparent to me lately that I can almost predict my weather from your comments on my blog. Here is how I have worked it out so far.
Linda in Colorado gets the cold and beats it up a bit. Then Audrey says watch out it is coming your way.
Then after us Marie in Rhode Island gets wacked. Maybe Jess? Where are you in my weather map? My geography is terrible. Ksenia, are you after us. Jaz, you are before us?
Then does the weather fly across to Kate and Mad in England or Viv and Roger. Or is that pushing it just a wee bit too far. I need to put pins in a map. Because the parallels are fascinating. The weather is our constant. Isn’t that interesting! Women and men have been discussing the weather for thousands of years, since language even began.
And here we are using the latest technology known to man and still discussing the weather with horror or glee. And next summer will we inherit the heat that Eha is experiencing, or the long hot summer from NZ?. A fascinating and rather terrifying thought.
It is ZERO degrees outside this morning. (That is -18C). When dawn appears it will drop even further. So far the milking pump has kept up, we will see what happens this morning.
Good morning. There are a few of us readers and writers in and around Chicago who are thinking of meeting next month in the windy city for a ‘Chilly Cheer Up’ cup of tea. ChgJohn has kindly accepted the role of Local Knowledge and Guide though we are not terribly sure where yet or exactly when. It rather depends on how big our little group gets. We are still in the planning stages.
So The Matriarch and I will come up to the big city about the middle of next month and do a bit of drift netting. Right about the time we cannot bear the winter one moment more. Nothing fancy or clever. I cannot bring Daisy on the train or pack Kupa into my handbag but if you are interested do let me know. Just a cup of tea or maybe a cocktail somewhere nice. It could be fun. No prizes or silly games, just a wee gathering of like minds. There will probably be talk about the weather!! (laughter!)
OK I have put it off long enough. Off outside I go.
My Mother used to say that. ‘I am feeling bloody.’ In other words do NOT Bother me with mundanity today – you might just lose your curly little head. Yesterday I wandered about the farmy in the cold, just feeling bloody. Everything just looked cold and grey.
The Old Codger and I worked out the other day that we could possibly, without too much imagination or fiddling with dates, trick ourselves into thinking that we might be half way through the winter. And I don’t mean that stupid calender winter that has nothing to do with the season at all, I mean half way through the cold period. Yesterday I threw down more straw for the animals to deepen their beds and fed them a little extra hay so their little compost bellies created more heat than usual. Feeling bloody helps you to work faster. And the thought of the cold to come just digs into the bloody.
Daisy had tracks of frozen tears down her face yesterday. I could not wipe them off. The chooks and the pea hens spent all day hunched, sitting on their frozen feet, waiting. Waiting, like Dr Seuss would have said, for the warmth to come. Waiting for the sun to sun. Waiting for the spring to sprung. Waiting for a thrown crumb. Waiting.
And every single time the kitchen door opened and I emerged feeling grim and bloody, dressed in layer upon layer, after fruitlessly searching once again for my favourite bloody gloves, clutching my ice bashing tool, stomping my double socked feet into boots, the little barn cats wooped with meowing delight, raced out from the barn to meet me and scampered and paraded and rolled like jesters ahead of me as they led me back out into their cold outside. Completely unencumbered by my bloody mood. Oblivious in their curly little heads.
It was hard to maintain feeling bloody with their little warm furry bodies pressing against my thermal ankles. But I persisted. A good seriously bloody mood does not come around every day you know.
But that was yesterday and now it is morning again. Another week has begun. The temperature is 13F (-10C) and it is blowing snow. But I have had my Bloody minded day so now I must switch to Stoic because at 6.02 am we have already reached our high for the day. The animals are beginning to call. Time to start putting on the layers. Then out I go.
Have a lovely day.
Everyone loves their buckets of fresh food except Bobby Blanc who does not like celery – fancy having a fussy calf. I store a few buckets full in the house, so they do not freeze solid overnight, these are Daisy’s milking treats for a couple of days. Until The Matriarch comes out with another delivery.
Later, after getting the idea from my father, I made labneh into little balls, carefully packed them in jars, covered them with olive oil, added rosemary and garlic and lids and popped the jars into the fridge for next Friday. These will not be shared with the looters.
Good morning everyone. We are cooling down today. It is 16F (-8C) right now but will drop to 7F (-14C) overnight. And then colder again the next day. The cold itself is manageable but whether Daisy’s milking pump will work in the cold always foremost in my mind. It is interesting how carrying the pump to and fro from the barn has become normal. Between milkings, it lives on the floor in the dining room along with the pulsator and the hoses, in the warm and out of the way of general traffic. No-one even bats an eyelid anymore.
Have a wonderful day. Find lots of loveliness and kindness.
Sadly the weather was not on our side and we were unable to have the Friday drink out on the dance floor of the coupe, instead we sat inside by the fire. The Matriarch said maybe next Friday. I told The Kiwi Builder to invite his whole family next time. His children are all home schooled so they will call it a field day.
The strong cold wind howled all day, and no-one would come out of the barn and into the sun for a photo. I found L’il Puss The Scrapper (one of the barn cats) guarding the milk bucket, and managed a low light shot but every one else had their heads down. They all hate the wind.
So both my photographic plans were thwarted.
Good morning. We will try for the last of the shots today and then new shots will happen and who knows what will come next. It is hilarious to even try to plan what images will appear on any given day.
So, in the barn are three kittens. Author who is a female tabby, LouLou who is the wee ginger male and L’il Puss The Scrapper who is older, was discovered hiding in the hairdresser’s back room in town and is now the boss of the barn. Cats are important for keeping the rodent population down in the barn. Where there is feed, there are mice. Hence the cats. The kittens literally sit under Daisy and wait for their milk in the morning. Before Daisy moves out of the milking parlour she puts her head down very low, hoovering from side to side and kind of scoops any strays out of the way with her nose.
I hope you all have a lovely day. It will be warmer here (in the low 40’s I think), so the hoses will come out and all the water containers will be cleaned and refilled in preparation for the next cold snap which they say will be very cold this time.
Not much changing with Daisy though. She stands exactly here for most of the day. Watching the kitchen door for movement. Daisy is an Ayrshire. A very old breed of dairy cow. She is almost four. She is being milked once a day now, until late next spring – hopefully. Then she will get pregnant again and the whole cycle will recommence. Her milk feeds the house, the pigs, the baby animals (calves and lambs in spring). The cats, the dogs and even the poultry drink her milk. I make cheese, yoghurt, butter and ice-cream with her tasty raw milk. Her manure is used to make compost for the gardens. I call her the mother ship.
On the left below – we have a portion of the barn flock. The Son of Neanderthol Man (Neanderthol Man is deceased) and the Son of the Son of Neanderthol Man and then his son Bob. There is a barn flock that have never been caged who do all the housekeeping in the barn keeping the straw turned over.
Kupa has two wives, Tui and Pania who even I cannot tell apart anymore. We are rather hoping that this colourful grouping will result in peachicks this coming summer. In anticipation of this I have begun to put old tires full of straw in dark corners of the barn loft, to encourage the girls to nest somewhere safe.
Here we have Mia and Mama lounging about with Hairy MacLairy the biggest sweetest Dorset ram on the face of the earth. I think that Mama and Mia are both expecting. We are aiming for lambs in early April.
And below – these two dancing naughties are Minty and Meadow. They are not allowed anywhere near a ram until next season. They are much too young and silly.
I know I have missed the cats, and the laying chickens in their own coop. I shall introduce them tomorrow but I have a feeling I am missing someone else as well.
As you know every collection of images is from the last 24 hours. So you are always very current on the goings on in the farmy.
Good morning. I know that may of you comment on the green of the above patch of grass. It is frozen solid. It breaks as I walk over it. I gave up mowing too early last autumn so when the freeze hit it just froze the grass green. Just think blanched and quick frozen spinach. If I mowed it off now there would be nothing but brown. So I keep it. But hush. It is our secret. Everyone else thinks my grass is still growing!!
Have a lovely lovely day.
If the weather is not too bitter this afternoon The Matriarch and I are going to drag our chairs and a bottle of champagne out into The roofless wallless Coupe to have a celebratory drink. We will be well dressed against the cold and may even take blankets!!
Yesterday was a very big day in the project to build a self contained cabin attached to the house. It is called the Coupe because I styled it on the old chicken coops that used to be in the farmyards of every farm around here. Using the sun to warm it and design to cool it. Though I added height. Light and space are a mantra in my designs.
The Coupe is for the Matriarch to retire to when she is ready to be old. She is certainly not ready to retire to the farm yet so until then it will be a guest house and writers retreat.
The Coupe is spelt this way because The Matriarchs son’s collect cars and jeeps and things with wheels (and some things without wheels or even motors) and she has always encouraged them in this deeply American endeavour. So the Coop got changed to the Coupe.
Things moved along fast yesterday.
Now look below at the South Wall. From the SouthWest. Where the builders are standing will be a corridor which will have huge windows. There will be a door that steps down to a patio into a grape covered pergola. I pushed this side out past the existing house so it will catch the light from the setting sun.
The South Wall is very plain, I shall grow espalier apples along here so The Matriarch or the guests will be able to reach out and pick an apple. I am considering a small scale farm stay or bed and breakfast idea. What do you think?
This is the front of the house, seen from the road, so it the most dramatic. Half of this wall is made up of three very tall thin windows, (floor to ceiling) falling in height with the roofline. I call these the Goldilocks Windows. These will catch the very first of the winter sunrise light.
Below is the North wall (seen from the lounge again) with the spaces made for the big french doors (screen left) which will open onto a lovely cool covered verandah. The verandah will be wrapped in screen to keep out insects and it will have shutters that can be closed in storms. So the french doors can stand open almost all summer. Remember in America the North side is the cool side so this verandah will be well used in the summers.
Right next to the builder (on his right) is the corridor opening, where he is standing will be the corridor to the main house. The ensuite will come off this corridor.
And now for a couple of updates on farmy animals. So as not to use up too much of your time today we will do more Walkabouts tomorrow.
Here (from left) are Sheila and Charlotte. My most darling piggies. They are Hereford pigs, a heritage breed with very small numbers worldwide. Charlotte will be bred sometime soon. I just need to toughen up and call the swine herd who understands nothing I say, me being a foreigner and all and i just hate the thought of ‘putting her to the Boar’.
It’s cold out.
Queenie Wineti is our Hereford Heifer (not to be confused with a Hereford Pig). She will be bred along with Daisy in the spring. No bull for these cows. They get a very well mannered vet with a long tube.
A snap of TonTon and LouLou. Yes, LouLou is a boy. So his name was changed from LuLu to LouLou.
Good morning. Today the Kiwi builder and his mate are working on putting up the rafters so when the winds start up this weekend our Coupe does not blow over.
I shall take Camera House for another walkabout today and see if we can’t get the rest of the animals in order for our update. We will visit the sheep and the chickens in their own coop and the cats and peacocks and guineas and Daisy the milking cow and anything else that crosses our path. That will be for tomorrow. What I should do is make a Cast of Characters Category. The list of things I should do is endless!!
Have a lovely day.
Between feeding the cats on the verandah in the early morning and my return from feeding the animals in the barn, White Cat had an episode that left him paralysed in his whole back half. Some kind of embolism in the spine the Vet said. I forget the word he used. White Cat was lying on the path and called to me quite cheerfully as I returned from the barn. He seemed to be more irritated by his legs not working than anything else. He laid by the fire the rest of the morning, while John groomed him, only crying when John paused. The vet was in surgery and we had to wait. But there was nothing the Vet could do.
White Cat’s name was Apollo. He was a Himalayan. He was famous for having fur on his paws, and consequently a very soft touch. John bought him as a gift for his daughter but as happens with children they leave and the pet stays. I always called him White Cat. Apollo seemed such a weighty name for a fluffy white cat that literally chased butterflies and once caught a cricket, never a mouse and would attempt to come inside trailing tall weeds caught in his too long fur. He and Big Dog were John’s only house mates for years and years before I came to live here. They were his team. At our best guess he would have been about eleven or twelve.
And when any animal dies on the farmy, or in any household, we must pause. It is as though all their tiny beating hearts become a part of our own hearts rhythm, intertwined somehow, like the bass beat in a loud band, or a repeating brush from a drum, so we need to pause for a while and readjust our own hearts to beating along without them. This what we do, we adjust.
Now, you remember the rule. A life is a life no matter how long or how short. No matter whether a large animal or a small one. All life deserves to be celebrated. So no crying. No weeping or gnashing of teeth. This is the cycle we take on when we take an animal in. It is hard but that is OK. And you, my darling reader, have also invested in the farmy when you read with me every day like you do, so you deserve to know the truth. I promised I would report the good and the bad. Yesterday was bad. The Vet concluded that Apollo had come to the end of his life as a cat.
I said to the vet, as he was busy with his preparations, stroking and settling the old cat until he began to sleep from his sedative, that this must be a very hard part of his job.
He looked at me gratefully. ” You know,” he said. He was quiet for a while as he swallowed heavy air. “When I was a very young vet I said to myself that this part of the job would get easier as I went along. But it didn’t.” He gently lifted White Cat’s paw to see if he was fully asleep before he began. Then nodding he settled it gently in perfect alignment with the other paw. “It got harder,” he said.
I did wonder at the time of this photograph whether there was some kind of celestial message when the skies opened and the first shaft of light for days and days chose White Cat. But I brushed it off as being fanciful.
Rest in Peace White Cat whose Name Was Apollo. I am fairly sure that is there is such a thing as reincarnation, then White Cat will not come back as a butterfly or a cricket.
Good morning. I am so sorry to bring you bad news. These are always the hardest of posts for you to read. Today I will try again for a Walkabout with the Camera House. So we can see everyone and name them and reassure ourselves. That will be good.