Saturday, February 25, 2012

Signs of spring 2012 style: episode 1

One of the things that I truly love about living in a northern climate are the stark contrasts of the seasons.  And although spring may slowly bloom into summer and summer slowly fade into fall, the changes from fall to winter and from winter to spring are full of contrast.  That is especially true of the living things that seemingly are out and about one day and gone the next and then reappear with the same suddenness.  Oh sure there have been signs that spring is approaching for several weeks.  I now am greeted by the faint light of approaching dawn when I head out to take care of the chickens in the morning.  The chickens are responding to the increasing light by laying more eggs.  The Canada geese are gathering in bigger and bigger flocks and their honking is becoming more and more boisterous.  The resident house sparrows and starlings and cardinals have been dutifully singing in the morning light as they start to stake out territories.   The cardinal's song is the most striking of all the winter residents that live around the farm house and it makes me smile to hear the distinctive song once again. 

And while these signs are all well and good, it is the appearances that I look forward to the most.  Last Monday, I took the dogs on our usual stomp through the brush in search of rabbits and exercise for the dogs.  As I crossed the culvert over the creek, I spied a splash of color that did not belong to winter.  Most often I find that it is a piece of plastic or other man made object, but there at my feet was a dandelion starting to bloom.  The continuation of our mild winter surely has confused a dandelion into blooming in February.  And then midweek, I stepped outside in the early morning light and coming from across the road was the distinct "peeeeent" sound of a woodcock.  I hope those woodcocks that decided to bravely come north in February have found a place to hide out because today the cold and wind and snow have returned.  The woodcock's arrival is only a couple weeks earlier than normal, but once again it is a testament to the mild winter we have been having.

While the change takes place outside, us farmers who are tucked safe and warm in our houses wait for our time to head outside.  I've been going through the hatchery web site trying to decide what kind of chicks I will be ordering this year.  Mike has been going through his seed catalogs trying to decide what else he is going to plant this year.  Plans for this project and that project are being discussed.  Before we know it, we too will make our appearance outside.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snow and birthday parties and walks in the woods

Happy Valentine's Day!  As you can see from the picture, there is not much farming going on in the fields right now.  We had just a spritz of winter weather this past weekend.  It actually started Friday night and the wind howled and the snow blew around.  Saturday morning I got to drag the water bucket through knee high drifts on the way to the barns.  Mike asked me how much it snowed and I could honestly answer "I don't know" even though I had been working outside for a bit.  Some spots the wind had scoured the lawn almost clean of snow and in other spots there were those knee high drifts.  When I left to go to work at the clinic, only 1/2 of the road was plowed.  OK, is this some kind of Murphy's Law corollary or something?  It seems like 80% of the time, the half that isn't plowed is the half that I have to drive on.  Fortunately my new miniSUV seems to be handling the snow just fine although it really hasn't been tested all that much this winter. 

The wind died down just a titch by Sunday morning.  Enough so that I could snowblow the driveway without it drifting all back in although I did look pretty near to a snowman by the time I was done with all the snow blowing back on top of me.  Then I took the dogs for a quick trip around the "yard" but there were no bunnies out and about for them to sniff out.  The snow was just too fluffy and deep yet.

After that it was off to a birthday party for my niece's 3 year old daughter.  If any of my family reads this PLEASE don't take this the wrong way, but there is seriously a reason why Mike and I have no kids.  The best was when one of the other kids (who I did not know her or her parents at all) walked up to where I set my plate of pizza down on the coffee table (I was sitting RIGHT next to it) and just started picking the pepperoni off MY pizza on MY plate.  Hello???? Parents???? Your kid has walked over and is eating off MY plate!!!  My insides were wanting to scream "get your f'ing hands off my plate" but since I don't use the "f" word, I just sat there to see what would happen.  I looked over at my niece who was watching all this and the two of us just busted out laughing.  FINALLY the parents woke out of whatever coma they were in and retrieved their kid and escorted her away from my food.  Fortunately I am about the least germophobic person when it comes to my food and the little fingers that had been playing with my food didn't seem to affect the taste at all.  mmmmmm!  And so it was fun seeing everyone, but I really don't want to make child birthday parties a regular event.

Monday is my regular day off from the clinic, but this Monday was my monthly date at the local animal shelter.  I worked about 4 hours in the morning doing spays and neuters on dogs and cats.  I think we got about 13 animals done in those 4 hours so that wasn't too bad a morning's work.  Then it was home for lunch and to get the beagles out of the house for a long run.  Having ANOTHER blue sky day to play outside was an unbelievable treat.  There are two more weeks of rabbit season left and so I did take the gun along, but didn't load it right away.  The dogs made their obligatory stop at the burn pile that never seems to get burned.  This thing is a fortress for rabbits and groundhogs to live in.  Someday we will actually burn this pile and those critter will have to find a new home.  For now, there is no way for any predator to get in there so the bunnies have a nice safe haven.  The beagles do love to climb around on it and sniff though.  The dogs and I finally made it to the back of the field.  Right on the edge of our property and our neighbor's property are a bunch of tree tops that are laying down from when our neighbor's logged out their woods a couple years ago.  GREAT rabbit habitat.  The dogs ran over in the tree tops and I set my gun against a tree and decided to go get them.  I spent a good 30 minutes or more crawling around in those downed branches.  It was great exercise, but I had the feeling it might be just a tad too much exercise.  I must be psychic or something because every muscle in my body is sore today.   Well, after a bit, the dogs did find a rabbit.  It took awhile to get the rabbit moving out of the tree tops, but finally it ran into our "swampy area".   I had extracted my body from the tree tops, found my gun, loaded it and found a nice place to stand.  I played a couple word games on my phone.  At last the rabbit came by.  No shot the first time.  I was more ready the second time, but just because I was more ready doesn't really mean anything.   I took one shot and of course missed.  The chase continued a little while longer, but eventually we had to head home as the sun was setting.  We were probably out and about for close to 3 hours. They were REALLY sleepy last night, but are back to normal today.  I on the other hand am moving quite slowly.

As you can see there is way more playing than farming these winter days.  Mike did spend a good bit of time this weekend sitting at the dining room table staring at seed catalogs and punching the keys on the calculator.  Every so often he would sigh.  It is a challenge figuring out just how much seed to order.   He needs to order enough to cover demand, but yet too much would be a waste.  *sigh*  He does this every year.  *grin*

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Tick tick tick, the winter keeps rolling along and so far there has been very little winter-like weather.  I am waiting for that slap in the face from Mother Nature (and it will come), but in the meantime I have thoroughly been enjoy my time outdoors.  This past weekend was the first weekend of February and I have to say that it was one of the most fun filled weekends I have ever had.  I'm not quite sure why I love taking those beagles out to run rabbits and listen to their baying sounds, but I do.  I was able to get them out Saturday, Sunday and Monday and all three days they had awesome runs behind a rabbit.  Sunday was a trip to a public hunting area and I did bring home one rabbit for the table.  Saturday and Monday were on the farm and neither day did I carry a gun.  It was all about letting the dogs do their thing.  On Monday, the two dogs and I headed back to a spot known as the "swampy area".  This is some really good rabbitat (rabbit + habitat).  Thick, brushy, lots of cover and easy access to food.  It's actually very difficult to shoot a rabbit here because of how thick the brush is, but it's a very good spot to run the dogs.

And so the dogs found a rabbit to chase very quickly.  Now before all of you start worrying about the rabbit, beagles don't so much "chase" a rabbit, as they just follow along behind it.  Oh there are some beagles that are fast, but most, mine included, are of the pokey variety.  They sniff and bay and follow.  And if the rabbit does a few fancy turns, which they almost all do, it will take some time for the beagles to find their direction again.  One time last winter, I was out with the beagles and they were on a rabbit and lost the scent trail.  I was standing very still and the rabbit came hopping by and sat down on a log about 10 feet away from me.  I thought I would just stand there quiet and see if the dogs could find the trail again.  The rabbit sat on the log and started grooming itself.  First it licked its front legs, then started working its face with its front paws like a cat grooms itself.  Then the rabbit groomed itself along its sides a bit.  I could hear the beagles' collars jingling some distance away, but they were still trying to find the trail.  After about 15 minutes, the rabbit continued to sit on the log and it closed its eyes and went to sleep.  Ha!  At 25 minutes the beagles found the trail and in a few minutes they came close enough to the rabbit that it hopped off the log and on its merry way through the woods and brush.  Now the dogs did not lose the trail like that on Monday, but they were still not quick.  I saw the rabbit 3 times during the chase and not once was the rabbit actually "running".  More like a relaxed hopping along just enough to keep ahead of the dogs.

We had been out in the woods for over 2 hours.  As the sun started to set, I took advantage of a break in the action as the dogs were trying to figure out one of the rabbit's turns and gathered them up to head home.  I walked home along the picked soybean and vegetable fields.  I had a spectacular view of the nearly full moon rising in the east.  It is moments like this that bring me such joy.  Summer brings its own joyful moments, but winter is such a special time.  There is a minimum of work to do on the farm.  It is just too much fun to soak in those mild weather days that are offered.