The weather this fall was unusually warm. However, the cold weather has moved in with a vengeance this past week. The other morning it was in the teens when I got up and was still below freezing shortly after 9 am. I think the high was only 43 degrees. I had scheduled a propane delivery for next week, mainly just to take advantage of the propane pricing I had locked in last year that will expire shortly; however, if this weather continues I may actually have need of the delivery.
The borrowed ram has returned home and I’m hoping that he bred at least one ewe while he was here. The hogs are now gone – it was apparent that they weren’t going to pay for themselves and I didn’t want to spend another winter having to carry water out to the pasture every day.
The weather has not been predictable for the past few years and this year has been no exception. It has been warmer than usual and the fall colors are just now peaking. I have only seen and heard a couple of groups of migratory birds over head – a far cry from the November ten years ago when I moved here.
The beginning of July a tree crashed into the horse corral. See post here.
While a friend came over early the next morning to remove the crown so I could get the horse out of the corral, because there was a bee hive in the tree, he couldn’t cut up the big pieces of trunk until I dealt with the bee hive. At the time he left the plan was for me to take care of the hive and he would return the next week to finish the tree removal. I was unsuccessful in finding anyone willing to remove the hive and so had to resort to killing the bees. Not my first choice but I needed to get the horse back into her corral. As it turned out, my friend’s schedule prevented him from returning. After the horse tried to jump out of the (former) sheep pen – now rebuilt – into the goat pen, mangling the cattle panel and injuring herself in the process, I went ahead and put her back in her corral where she has been co-existing with a large tree.
Yesterday in the late afternoon, the friends who had assisted with the bees returned with a chainsaw and removed the trunk up to the fence. At that point, the chainsaw quit and we decided it was good enough for the time being. It has certainly made a difference in the appearance of the corral – I had forgotten how large the corral really is.
Taming the wild tree
The heartwood of the cottonwood had rotted out, as is common in the species. This allowed access for the bees and while we found the center of the trunk full of dark, rich “compost” when we got to the section where the bees had resided, that was mixed with honey comb and honey. I had been toying with the idea of trashing my shoes — traipsing through the sticky mess left by the tree removal cemented that idea. I figured it wasn’t worth even trying to clean the shoes.
Hopefully sometime in the next couple of months the rest of the tree will be removed and I can find someone to repair the fence.
Remnants of honey comb and honey
I didn’t think we had received more than a usual amount of rain this year but the weeds are proving me wrong. I generally start pulling weeds by hand in early spring and can more or less keep the weeds on the drive and around the house under control but this year – perhaps because I took a vacation and was gone for two weeks – I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeds and it was getting hard to get down the drive or even walk anywhere on the property. I usually pay a friend to come over with his tractor and brush hog 3 or 4 times a year to keep the grasses down. He has been in high demand this summer and so he hasn’t been able to come over after work until last night. He mowed down some of the high weeds along the drive as he came down the drive and then proceeded to do his usual brush hogging, plus whatever weeds he could deal with. I still have areas where the weeds will have to be dealt with by hand but things are looking much, much improved this morning.
Standing in the barn facing south (these grasses aren’t quite as high as elsewhere)
View from same spot in barn after brush hogging
This weekend was spent taking down the working pen, cleaning out the lambing jugs where the bucklings currently reside, building a second compost pile with the old bedding, left over hay, and of course goat manure, and re-configuring the former quarantine pen for the sheep to give them more room. (The sheep got moved out of their pen to accommodate the horse when a tree fell into her corral.) I still don’t know if the two new does are bred, but one is starting to look as though she may be bagging up. If I have kids this fall I will need to have the lambing jugs available so my goal is to build three new goat pens plus two new shelters by the end of this month.
As usual Tuck and Fix were with me while I worked. It really is too bad Tuck doesn’t have opposable thumbs, but since he isn’t able to help with removing T-posts he elected to find a shady spot to lie down. Fix has decided that he needs to emulate his great-uncle and when I looked around to see what mischief Fix was into, I discovered he was quietly laying next to Tuck, just observing. When the temperatures started to climb I decided to quit until evening. However, later in the afternoon it started to lightly rain and I figured it was a good time to finish putting up the new, temporary sheep pen. I headed back out, accompanied by the dogs. Again, Tuck and Fix found a good spot to observe while being out of the way. Shortly thereafter the rain stopped – and the humidity soared – but I wanted to finish up so I kept working. It then started to rain heavier than before but still something I could work in. I looked over to see both Tuck and Fix hightailing it back to the house. I told them they were both wimps and kept pounding a T-post in. As soon as the T-post was set, the heavens opened and the rain started coming down in buckets. I ran towards the house – and nearly killed myself tripping over Fix who had come back to find out why I was still out in the rain. Fix is starting to act more like an adult dog and less like a puppy. . . I’m going to miss my puppy but am ready for the next stage in starting Fix as a stockdog.
In the last post I mentioned that a dog with a herding title may not be able to actually work. There is a huge difference between taking direction in an arena where the handler is standing close by, and being able to work without direction to accomplish a task. In my experience, very few dogs which trial are capable of the latter. (And yes, I used to trial dogs many, many years ago.)
As an example of the difference, here is one of the many instances where Tuck has proven himself as a working dog.
Back in September of 2013 heavy rains caused flooding in my area (see post). The sheep had been in the east pasture when it started to rain and while Tuck and I had gone out after the rain let up, the depth of water and degree of mud made me decide to leave the sheep out for the night.
Tuck trying to get to the East Pasture
I received a phone call early the next morning from the post office saying that my order of chicks had arrived. I knew I was not going to be able to get off my property so I called a friend and asked her to pick up the chicks for me and once the frontage road had been cleared, I would meet her at the gate to pick up the chicks. So later that afternoon, after the county road crews had worked on both the frontage road and the county road I live on, she drove over to deliver the chicks. Tuck and I navigated around the cottonwood that had fallen in my drive and waded down the drive (which was still under water) to meet her at my gate.
Drive under water
Unbeknownst to me, the road crew had knocked down the corner post (a railroad tie) and the fence in the east pasture along the road was down. As my friend drove up she spooked the sheep that had made their way onto the road and the sheep took off south, around the bend and out of sight. My friend was upset and wanted to know what to do to get the sheep back. I simply told Tuck to bring me the sheep and he trotted off while I stood talking to my friend through the window of her vehicle. In relatively short order, the sheep appeared around the bend with Tuck behind them. He pushed them through the gate and down the drive where I knew the downed cottonwood would block them until I could wade back down the drive with the chicks.
A good working dog does not need to be micromanaged and given constant directions to get a job done. The dog simply needs to understand what the job is and then left to decide the best way to accomplish it.
Photo of bee taken to confirm it was a honey bee hive
Sadly, though I spent time this past week trying to find someone willing to relocate the bees, I was only able to locate one person who agreed to do so but his fee was too stiff for my pocketbook. While some beekeepers are interested in collecting swarms, evidently retrieving bees in a colony is something totally different.
So a week after the cottonwood came down, two friends came over to help kill the bees.
So last night just before dark, when the bees had all returned, one friend suited up and removed the “shelf” and then sprayed a foaming hornet and wasp killer into and around the entrance. He was concerned that starting to spray might result in angry bees flying out, but we saw no signs of activity. This morning when I checked the entrance I saw one solitary bee. This afternoon there were half a dozen bees but this evening I again only saw one. I had planned on re-spraying again tonight, but will wait and check tomorrow.
Entrance to hive is under bark “shelf” (just below shadow of pipe rail)
I regret having to kill the bees but I couldn’t get the rest of the tree cut up and the pipe fence repaired until the bees were gone.
Good view of entrance hole with “shelf” removed
Sometime this weekend, after I’m sure there are no more bees, I’ll clear as much debris out of the corral as I can and then arrange for the rest of the tree to be removed. The horse will be happy to be moved back to her corral.
Last night’s thunderstorm dropped about 2 inches of rain in less than an hour. It was also accompanied by high winds. While the dogs and I took shelter in the house, I heard the familiar crack of what I thought was a branch coming down. It was raining hard enough that I couldn’t see more than 6 inches in front of me. After the rain let up and I could see, it was an unpleasant shock to see that the cottonwood that had been off the side of the horse corral had snapped at the base and fallen onto the pipe fence and into the corral. The canopy completely covered the corral and it wasn’t possible to see the horse. I dashed out to see if the horse had been hit by the tree and found her in a small 4×4 spot in the corner of the corral furthest from the tree, luckily unharmed.
A friend came by at 6:30 this morning with a chain saw and in an hour and a half we had cleared most of the corral. Unfortunately, this cottonwood hosted a beehive so as soon as the bees became active we had to stop work.
Once I deal with the bees, we will finish clearing the tree out of the corral and off the pipe fence and then I will have to find someone to repair the fence. In the meantime, the horse is now in what used to be the sheep pen on the other side of the goats.
Today was cold and bleak. The snow from last night soon melted with the rain of this morning. It rained off and on all day and the mud was deeper every time I went out. When I fed this morning the smallest triplet seemed to have a full stomach so I didn’t offer a bottle. I checked sheep throughout the day, expecting more ewes to lamb, and each time I checked on the ewes and lambs in the lambing jug. [The lambing jugs are set up so that I can create small pens to segregate new moms and their lamb(s) but since the two ewes I put in the jugs were both experienced and taking care of their lambs, I went ahead and opened up the jugs so that the entire space was available to the two ewes (and their combined five lambs)]. Each time I checked, the littlest triplet didn’t appear to be hungry. The bottle I took out a short while ago was the first bottle I gave her today. When I first went out she didn’t come running as usual and as I watched she went to the ewe that was not her dam and started nursing. She actually nursed for a short while before the ewe realized it wasn’t one of her lambs and walked away. At that point the lamb came over for her bottle. I had figured she was nursing off her dam and getting some milk at night, but I guess the little one has found a new way to supplement her own feeding without requiring a bottle.
The rain is supposed to continue through tomorrow so I’m hoping the ewes who haven’t lambed will hold off until things dry out a bit and I can turn the ewes/lambs in the jugs out to make room.