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Monday, August 22, 2016

Not for the faint of heart, or, gardening woes

It hasn't been a good gardening year, but I did have a few tomato plants that were struggling along, and even bearing some fruit. Did have. Until this week. 
I had seen a little damage on one plant but thought it was slug related. Two days later, all my tomato plants had been stripped of folage and most of the fruit. On one plant, I plucked off 7--SEVEN--tomato hornworms yesterday. There is not a fruit or a leaf left on the plant, and all that within two days. Even on a denuded plant, I had to look hard to find them, and they were a good 2-3 inches long. They blend in wonderfully.  

Today I took a couple of pictures to add to my blog, and when I looked at the first at 100% magnification, with an eye to showing a detail of the damage, lo and behold, I found yet another!

Disguised as a rolled up leaf

Out I trotted to the greenhouse, paper towel in hand, and plucked not one but two hornworms off the plant, making a total of NINE on one plant.  I'm surprised there was anything left to eat.  I then examined the other plant and found yet another on that one.  All were quickly dispatched, and I hope a bird comes along and has a wonderful meal..  I left the plants hornworm free, cautiously hopeful that the plants would put out new leaves and maybe even more fruit.  Within the greenhouse, there's still a bit of a growing season.

Nibbling on a fruit
 Now, normally I love sphinx moths, aka hummingbird moths. They're beautiful. Alas for them, their offspring are not. If only they'd kept to the wild Solanaceae,  like bittersweet nightshade, they'd still be alive today to tell the tale.  Next year I may plant a couple just for the hornworms and keep a good eye out on the others.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The grass is always greener...variations on a theme.

I've said it before--may goats are a source of great amusement for me.  Even in the most seemingly mundane situations, they can find a way to make me smile, and even laugh.

Take feeding time, for example.  I measure out their grain and after they get grain, I give them Chaffhaye,  fermented alfalfa, like haylage in a bag.  Sometimes they want more grain, sometimes they want more Chaffhaye, but always, they want what's in the other doe's feeder because it has to be better.

I lock them in the headstalls for milking, but when I'm done and they seem to be finished eating, I release the headstalls and then watch.

On this particular day, Dandy started out on the smaller stanchion and D'Arcy was on the right, on the larger stanchion.  It's usually the other way around, but I guess they just wanted a change.  Pay close attention:  Dandy has the blue collar, D'Arcy has the yellow.

Dandy has finished her gain and now has some Chaffhaye.

D'Arcy is still working on hers.

"Hey!  What do you have over there that I don't have?"
Released. Now to see what's in the other feeder.
D'Arcy is looking around on the floor for anything interesting.  Dandy has immediately gone to D'Arcy's feeder, which contains exactly the same feed that she just left in her own.
D'Arcy, who left her Chaffhaye, has discovered Dandy's.
Yum!  This tastes sooo much better than what I had!
Dandy agrees.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sunset over Ducktrap

As I was driving home a few days ago, a brilliant glowing cloud appeared before me as I headed down Knights Pond Road.  I stopped the car, stood outside, and marveled at its beauty, then hurried home to grab my camera.  The short time that passed--about 3 minutes--was enough to diminish the brilliance, but was still lovely enough to remember and save.

The pictures are actually in reverse order from when I first turned onto the road.  When I grabbed my camera, I shot Ducktrap at the farm, then drove up to the original site, where the sunset now progressed to day's close.

Sunset over Ducktrap
The glow.
View from Knights Pond Road
Finale. Camden Hills with Ducktrap on the left.

Monday, June 27, 2016

New digs

The boys have been separated until the bucklings' new aprons come in. They are not happy about it, spending most of their day close to the fence where they can see the does.  Today there's a newly fenced portion.  It the buck area, and give them access to a lot of browse. 

I thought it was going to be difficult to get them to move, but I had forgotten about follow-the-leader. When I came through the paddock from the barn with the weed whacker in my hands, I became the Pied Piper. Once Fiore followed, so did the young ones. Within moments they had spied the thick browse, and happily settled in under the shady trees.

Meanwhile, I finished cleaning up under the SmartFence, attached it to the hotwire in the buck pasture, carried water to the side of the shelter, strung a wire across the entrance to the paddock area, and closed the gate.   

It was so simple, I ought to feel bad—but I don’t.  Now all I have to do is monitor the old welded-wire fence that edges the driveway.  With a little luck, it will take them a while to notice it since there’s so much good forage under the trees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Small discoveries

Spring comes, followed by the need to mow yards and pastures.  Such a day came last Saturday, when I mowed with the lawn tractor and Shawn, my son, mowed with the full size tractor.  While he was doing the orchard and near pasture, I was in what's the family has called "the junkyard".  Old equipment is parked there, new equipment finds its way there, the truck body where we house the lawn tractor and snowblower, a pile of useful-but-not-yet-used lumber and posts, all can be seen in that small area.

However,  I also enclose part of the area because its full of bushes and forbs on the edges, a good place for the goats to browse where they feel safe. I keep the grass mowed to encourage them to seek the browse instead, once it's fenced in for the summer. 

Some things just shouldn't be mowed  Last year I discovered these bluets (Houstonia caerulea) as I was mowing, and carefully avoided them.  They came back this year, and again I left them.  I love bluets, so tiny, delicate, and yet hardy.  In the whole area there is just this one patch.  I debate whether to move them to my flower garden, but hesitate in case transplant shock might do them in.

 In the meantime, Shawn had discovered something I'd found a couple of days before.  A den, dug into the sandy spot between the paddock and under the barn, in the spot where my does love to sun themselves.  I've filled in the hole with rocks and dirt, but the next morning, the den is there again, as if I'd never touched it.  Whatever is living there is not going to be easily dissuaded.  And what is it?  It could be a fox or a skunk, but after searching for burrow identification online, I'm guessing it's a groundhog (aka woodchuck).  I've been trying to find a live trap to verify the identity of the new inhabitant.  

 In my searches, I found this wonderful bit on Wikipedia.
A report in 1833 by the New Hampshire Legislative Woodchuck Committee illustrates the attitude of some people towards this animal. In part, the report states: "The woodchuck, despite its deformities both of mind and body, possess some of the amenities of a higher civilization. It cleans its face after the manner of the squirrels, and licks its fur after the manner of a cat. Your committee is too wise, however, to be deceived by this purely superficial observation of better habits. Contemporaneous with the ark, the woodchuck has not made any material progress in social science, and it is now too late to reform the wayward sinner. The average age of the woodchuck is too long to please your committee.... The woodchuck is not only a nuisance, but also a bore. It burrows beneath the soil, and then chuckles to see a mowing machine, man and all, slump into one of these holes and disappear.... Your committee is confident that a small bounty will prove of incalculable good; at all vents, even as an experiment, it is certainly worth trying; therefore your committee would respectfully recommend that the accompanying bill be passed."
Zoë would have a field day digging out the burrow, but I'm not sure how deep it is.  I'd rather have her tackle the critter above ground.  Though Fox Terriers were bred to got after varmints in holes, she is, after all, a (not-so) stately 9 year old.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....Shawn mowed the orchard while wide-eyed goats kept a close eye on him.  Here I will remark that, though they looked askance at the monster in the field, they were more than happy to graze there once the way was clear.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Goat tricks

I love goat tricks.  Not tricks that I teach them, but the little quirky things they do that make them so endearing.

Fedra decided early on that a large round feeder was perfect for sleeping in. She retires early so she gets first dibs; once she's bedded down, there's no argument about whose spot it is. 

I had thought to catch dropped hay under the hanging slowfeeders with another round feeder.  Silly me, I should have known that would not happen.  As soon as Fedra eyed it, that became her lounging area.

She wasn’t reckoning on Dandy, though, who watched for a day or two and then appropriated the “bed”. It doesn’t fit her nearly as well as it fits Fedra; she almost pours out of it.  Goats do like snug little spots and Dandy is no exception. so I shouldn’t have been surprised to come out one morning and find her all curled up.  


To her credit, Fedra took it in stride.

Dandelion is my most amusing goat, always up to something that makes me smile.  Take the milking stanchion, for example.  The barn is built on a hill, so in truth, the "ground" floor is two stories high on one side. The window in the milk room overlooks the downhill slope, and every day Dandy pauses to gaze out the window for several moments, observing the pasture and treeline, ascertaining dangers that might lurk for unsuspecting goats.  

Once she’s satisfied, she grabs another bite of Chaffhaye before heading out the door.  It's important not to leave any morsel untouched.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Grass is Always Greener

When I was a small child, 'way back in the '50's,  we used to watch a Boston-based TV show, "Big Brother Bob Emery".  He always opened the show by singing "The Grass is Always Greener" to the accompaniment of his ukelele.

     Oh, the grass is always greener
     in the other fellow's yard.
     The little row
     we have to hoe,
     Oh boy that's hard.
     But if we all could wear
     green glasses now,
     it wouldn't be so hard
     to see how green the grass is
     in our own back yard.

I think of that song often when I see my goats in the yard.  Mind you, they have about 30 acres of pasture, not including all the brush and trees which they can munch on anytime they wish. There's just something about a fence that a goat must challenge.

Yesterday I looked out to see them cropping grass on the lawn.  A bit later they'd jumped the fence for the dog's yard and were munching in there.  They made the rounds, wandering over to the Rosa rugosa bushes and wiping them clean of rosehips, exploring the remains of the garden plot (which I did not plant this year since they wiped it out last year), then discovering and eating, with gusto, the chrysanthemum in the planter by the house.

The paddock, the orchard, and the far pasture.  Beyond those trees is a multi-acre field with copses of trees and brush.

Another pasture, the front pasture, which extends beyond the photo, to the right.  Lots of trees and brush there, too.

Off to the left, there's a hill and another field that can't be seen.  They frequent that pasture in the summer when the upkeep on the fences is more stringent.  You can see that there's plenty of room to roam, graze, and browse.

And this is where they want to be, right outside the house. Okay, I admit it, the grass really is greener on the other side.

 Zoë is still a source of fascination. Enlarging the picture (click on it) will reveal Zoë on the step by the side door of the barn.  Some of the does are watching her, but she's oblivious, having interesting smells to explore.

Fedra and Dolly, especially, wanted to keep an eye on that dog.

After a while they wandered to the other side of the house...

Hannah just had to introduce herself.  Zoë seemed to be more leery than Hannah.

They really enjoyed those flowers.  I was not as thrilled.

Finally they wandered back toward the gate.  The source of interest for all of them?  
Zoë, of course.