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Archive for May, 2010

Literally! We are now starting our hot weather for the summer. That and thunderstorms are rolling through making it hard to predict when we can cut, rake and bale hay! Today I was finally able to rake a small batch of hay we cut. Until now it hadn’t been able to dry much. We are not too worried about the rain tonight because it *shouldn’t* soak through and the top will dry easily. Knock on wood.

With the heat we also step up our watering routine. It is very important that the animals have access to fresh, clean water. The horses get electrolytes on the super hot days, which is like drinking Gatorade. Algae grows faster in the water tanks so we also need to clean the tanks more often. If the water gets too dirty the sheep will not drink.

The worst pat of the day is right after lunch. Full bellies and hot air can take a toll on everyone’s motivation. But we get used to it. Besides, the animals depend on us. Even today, Memorial Day, when most people have the day off we took shifts taking care of the animals.

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Special thanks to Dick for taking photos and allowing me to share them here!

The daily chores never seem to get attention so I thought I would talk about one thing we do at the farm nearly every day. We strive to keep our animals healthy and part of that is caring for their coats and feet. Each day the horses, Michael and Jessie, are brought in to the barn. In the summer months they stay in the cool barn during the hot days and in the winter we bring them in to protect them from the cold nights.

When M and J are brought in there are a few things to be done. We groom their coats and while we are grooming we check for any swellings, cuts or bumps. For grooming there are different brushes to use including a shedding blade, curry comb and stiff brush. The shedding blade is used to help get rid of the long winter-coat hairs. It is only used during the springtime. The curry comb is a rubber brush with nodules that help to bring the dirt up from the base of the coat to the surface. The stiff brush is then used to flick the dirt off the top of the horse’s coat (which usually ends up on the person grooming!).

The next task is picking out their feet (see me doing this in the photo above) to keep them from getting stone bruises or bacterial/fungal infections. I consider this as one of the most important tasks. An airplane cannot take off or land without wheels and horses cannot work without healthy feet. Michael and Jessie are retired but we still want to make sure they stay as comfortable as possible. I also use this time to check their legs for any heat or swelling. Either of these are indicators for various health problems – injuries, infections or nutritional problems.

Finally during the hot months the horses are sprayed with fly spray to keep them comfortable. I also scratch Jessie’s belly which he absolutely loves. Michael is not a huge fan of affection but I will still scratch his chin and jaw because he deserves a little love.

Overall grooming the horses gives us a day-to-day impression of their overall health. We can monitor them, take preventative measures to make sure these two boys stay comfortable and healthy throughout their retirement years.

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Well, the Wonderful Boyfriend and I were suppose to head to Spain last week to visit my dad. Unfortunately Mother Nature decided that would not happen. With the volcanic eruptions in Iceland any sort of travel, by airplane, through Europe has been spotty. So much that our flight needed to be canceled. Of course we were very disappointed but decided to make the best out of the vacation days we already planned.

Neither of us have ever traveled with the dog and so we took the chance to head over to Chincoteague and Assateague. It was far enough away to be a nice vacation and close enough to return if the dog was not going to cooperate. Thankfully Atlas (the dog) was a great sport and on his best behavior for the long weekend.

First off, if you are going to be traveling with a dog then I highly recommend the Garden and Sea Inn. I recommend them even if you do not have a dog! Beautiful rooms and they served some of the best food I have ever eaten! (While I will eat almost anything I am very picky about what I consider good food!)

We made sure to take Atlas out each day to get him tired for when we needed to go places that would not accept a dog. That included the VA side of Assateague Island which is where we first started our “pony search” in honor of the great Misty of Chincoteague! It is also where my photos begin.

We saw lots of wildlife…

and great scenery…

And a few twitterpated animals, including this pair of turtles (hoping they wouldn’t think we were too weird for photographing them!)

But in the end, after each of us losing about 2 pints of blood to mosquitoes and possibly coming down with malaria we could only find traces of the ponies…

(yes, I took a picture of famous Chincoteague Pony poop!)

hoofprints…

Though we know them to be more than myth when I spotted one waaaaaaaaaaaaay in the distance… (unless this is a wild prank of the Park Rangers)

Outside of our pony hunt we also spent some time on Chincoteague Island where we found an overpopulation of ducks, with many restaurants including duck on the menu (I stuck with the crab and other seafood items, all the diners were pretty good). Oh, and roses seem to bloom everywhere!

And of course the obligatory neat ship…

Atlas seemed to enjoy Chicoteague Island…

However, we think he had the best time on the Northern end of Assateague island, accessible through MD and allows dogs. Because of this, Atlas was able to have his first ocean adventure.

Not so sure about the water coming up around him…

hoping the wave wouldn’t take his precious stick that he had found moments earlier!

And upon further review of this place called “the beach”…

Atlas decided it was a really fun place to be!

When all was said and done, everyone tuckered out from playing in the surf, we decided to drive around the little bit of the Northern Island that we could… Low and behold… WILD PONIES!

Okay, so they really aren’t that wild. But it was a nice way to end the trip. It turns out the MD ponies are much less snobby than the VA ponies and therefore much easier to find. I have to say the northern side of the island also had a lot fewer bugs and, while there was less beautiful marshy habitat, the beach was a blast. Now we are home and we may have broken the dog… Within minutes of getting home, and thinking we had somehow lost Atlas, this is where we found him…

Poor pup. I hope he is dreaming of the surf!

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Well, this week we have had a little bit of a cold snap in the weather. Monday morning there was frost on the ground! This is following a few 80+ degree days. Fortunately the frost did not cause too much damage in the garden. Mainly a few zucchini and basil plants ended up with some black areas because of the frost. I am hoping they will bounce back.

Saturday was sheep shearing day. Our ewes have been panting in the recent heat wave so I know they are very relieved. Even with the cool weather. Our shearer did a good job and only one ewe had any noticeable marks from the clippers (she was VERY squirmy during the shearing process).  The ewes do look funny now that their wool is mostly gone and I laugh a little each time I see them.

The wool will be stored or sold to people who want to make their own yarn. I just learned that not too long ago wool was being sold for $1.30/pound and now it is only worth about .40 cents/pound! I wonder how much longer there will be wool produced in the USA if the prices do not go back up. Already a lot of farmers are switching their wool sheep to “hair sheep” which shed out naturally and are raised more for their meat. Hopefully the “made in the USA” movement will continue to grow and people will want to make sure they are supporting North American products including components of those products also coming from the US or Canada (not just products that are actually made in other countries but assembled in the US).

Anyway, enough politics. The Wonderful Boyfriend (yes, same as “The Boyfriend,” I felt he deserved an upgraded nickname!) and I are taking a vacation for the next few days! We originally planned to visit my dad in Spain but the volcano in Iceland caused our flights to be canceled and so we are going to visit Chincoteague and a few other places on the coast. I’m looking forward to eating lots of seafood and relaxing!

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Sprouts

With all the baby talk around here I have neglected to update on the garden. All of us have put in a lot of effort to get things planted and mulched. We are putting newspaper under the mulch to better prevent weeds from sprouting up. The corn that was planted is popping out of the ground and today we saw the first bits of green from our cucumbers and snow peas. Very exciting!

While everything is beginning to grow the main farm staff has been working hard at creating trails through the garden where the public will be able to tour. The garden will not be open all the time… just guided tours. Otherwise I am sure little plants would be stepped on by kids who do not know any better.

Hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate and we get a bountiful crop to sell.

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These ducklings are rivaling the cuteness of Olivia’s spot piglets! The smallest duckling in the photo (left/front of the group) was the one we hatched on the farm. He hatched seven days later than what was expected! Most people have said they would have turned the incubator off by then and I am so happy we didn’t. The other two (larger) ducklings are from a second batch of eggs we collected from our Runner ducks. They were part of a group that hatched nine out of nine eggs which was a great success. The rest of the nine ducklings will be coming back to the farm next week. For now we brought back the two to keep our little guy company.

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