March 7 Wednesday Major excitement this morning. Sally went down early to hay the sheep and found Agnes, one of the older ewes, with twin lambs. Animals like to choose a warm day with low barometric pressure and that was today. It was 24 F in the morning and got above 30 F by noon. The lambs are a boy and a girl and both are lively. They were still wet when Sal found them and we kept a close eye on them all day to be sure they found the teats. But by evening they were both stuffed. Sal spent a lot of time putting up a barrier to stop cows coming over the drink with the sheep because while there they eat all the hay leaving nothing for the sheep. Also a lamb could easily drown in the large tub. Now the cows must be watered in the barn which means carrying water out there. Sal pulled the 5 gal. buckets right along on the sled. But we will need a better system once I have to take over. Sal will be leaving in early April. Helen gave a bit over 3 gals and I got 15 eggs. Helen and the others had to be shut in today while Sal blocked the gate to the sheep paddock. Helen was very mad about this. She knew she was missing warm sunshine.
March 8 Thursday A fine day. It got above 30 F with full sun. We even opened a kitchen window for awhile but Lemur, the blind cat, followed the fresh draught and appeared in danger of jumping out so Sally soon closed it. The barn roof dripped and filled the stock tank two thirds full. The lambs are adorable. Sally brought them upstairs for Cousin Marcia and me to cuddle. Their mother, Agnes, stood down below bleating so we did not keep them long. We took the opportunity to introduce them to Bagel so he will understand they are part of the family. He very diffidently licked their heads. We certainly hope he continues to respect them. Helen gave 3 gals. I got 11 eggs.
March 9 Friday Another fine day in the 20s and 30s with sun. Once again the barn roof dripped sufficiently to water the cattle. Part of the lawn where Stewart has scraped the snow quite thin melted clear and exposed some brown grass. Some of the layers came out and tried scratching. Bagel wandered around them and made no move to chase them. This was very encouraging. It looks as though he can be trusted around the chickens now. I'm not sure I would trust him in case one runs. The lambs started hopping a little bit today. By this time next week we wont be able to catch them without teamwork. Baby lambs are almost unbearably cute and cuddly and just the weight of a real baby. Three gals. of milk. 11 eggs.
March 10 Saturday Sons Martin and Max arrived at midnight, having driven from the airport in a driving snowstorm all the way. The snow continued until this morning but there is not a lot of accumulation. Most of it blew away. There was some melting which has settled the snowbank outside the kitchen window by at least a foot. I still can not see over it though. I imagine the sap is running. I sent away for some research reprints about the use of seaweed meal as a feed or feed supplement. I have been using it for years as a supplement to dairy feed and we are also giving it to the sheep. I fed at a higher level than formerly during Helen's last pregnancy and when she calved last June with Leah she had no hint of milk fever which did surprise me. According to my purveyor, North American Kelp, several users report less milk fever. This was not a condition addressed in the studies I got. Their results (Norwegian) gave a clear advantage to the kelp fed cohort for less mastitis and greater milk production. Sheep fed seaweed meal had an increase of 20% in wool production. I got 15 eggs today.
March 11 Sunday Another mild day but no melting to speak of. When I fed the sheep their hay Agnes came to the manger and the lambs did a little bouncing and trotted off by themselves. Such independence. Son Max spent most of yesterday and today cleaning the cellar. I am sure the old farmhouse feels happier. Three gallons again today and 21 eggs.
March 12 Monday A very fine day which started out cold, 10 F, then warmed up over 30 F. One of the ewes, a young one names Topknot, looks nearly ready to lamb. She has been getting tamer but today is very tame and willing to be handled.
March 13 Tuesday Another yearling ewe, Delta, had a singleton ewe lamb. It is vigorous and has a lot of white on it which pleases Sally. She needs more white wool.
March 14 Wednesday We all went to Farmington. One thing on my list was a new collar for Wilbur, the steer. I got a handsome leather one at the Farmer's Union.
March 15 Thursday The vet came today and docked the lambs and gave them tetanus shots. They are all frisky. The older ram lamb is especially bouncy. He flies off the ground with all four legs at once and comes down as though on springs. Sally named the youngest lamb Valentine.
March 16 Friday Son Max and Cousin Bill worked together today and made great progress on shoring up the ceiling in the attic over the kitchen. Masonite (particle board, really) paneling had been applied to the rafters to contain blown in insulation. It was getting warped and some had water damage. They applied 16' 2"x6" boards horizontally with 2' spacing to hold up and stabilize the Masonite. This evening at milking time Sally put Wilbur's new collar on him. It has a big antique cowbell on it too. Sally stuffs the clapper with paper towels while putting on collars with bells so as not to spook the animals. This really helps. Once released, Wilbur cavorted around ringing his bell. Helen heard the bell as she returned from being milked and got pretty excited. She chased Wilbur around the hay feeder and jumped him. That bell really set her off. Sally is getting 3 or more gallons of milk every day and I am getting over a dozen eggs. Today I got 20. The bantams are laying and of course hiding their nests. But I am finding some.
March 17 & 18 Saturday and Sunday Son Bret has sent me a new Dell PC. Sons Mark and Max are here and spent a lot of time setting up. I was unable to write on Saturday so am writing this on Sunday. We lack some conversion software so I still cannot write on the PC. Every day recently the temperature has gotten into the high 20's or 30's and there is a lot of melting off the roof. Also there is ice backup under the shingles. Max has been faithfully tending his sap buckets. The Aga is convenient for boiling down sap. He has now filled a pint jar. All I have is river maples. I find the flavor excellent. Sally went walking and saw birds I have not seen here before. We looked them up. They were White Winged Crossbills. Yesterday she saw a group of Cedar Waxwings. Son Bret talked me through a transport of files so now I am doing this on my PC. Helen gave a bit over 3 gals today. I got 19 eggs.
March 19 Monday It got really warm today. I turned the furnace way down and opened the kitchen window. Son Max and Grandson Rafe worked long and hard on the attic playroom renovations. They put new insulation on the west end. Max also brought several more gallons of sap up and we have been boiling that on the Aga. Helen gave 3 gallons plus a pint and I got 19 eggs.
March 21 Wednesday Helen's production continues to be good. Three gallons and a pint yesterday and today. Also 19 eggs. This morning I found a new bantam nest with three blue eggs in it. The old fellow in Rumford who always took a half gallon of milk and a dozen of eggs every week has passed away. He was a frisky old type in between his alcoholic phases. Two years ago before he started on fresh milk and eggs he had high cholesterol and had been told by his doctor not to have any milk or eggs. But when he discovered my farm milk he ignored this advice. He grew up on a farm in Rumford and during his working life was a cook. Shortly after becoming my customer his cholesterol levels began dropping. He liked to brag about this but of course it was no surprise to me, only what I would have expected. But he consistently went on a week long toot about one week out of five and finally this week did not emerge alive. He was a smoker too. I don't know his age. He might have been 75. I missed the obit. Sally, Rafe and Max joined forces and caught and sheared Stanley, the ram. They used the power clippers. The whole operation took them less than a half hour. This is a big improvement on our past efforts. I was just finishing up some dishes and going out to watch when they trooped back in with a trash bag full of wool. It is mostly black.
March 22 Thursday It has been another stormy day and not letting up yet. Wet snow which is almost rain is driving in from the northeast. It is not actually cold, just about 30 F. Milk production was down today, only about 2.75 gals. This is puzzling unless perhaps she is in silent heat. Following roaring heat a couple of months ago we have not seen a further heat. The chickens are doing well. I have been making oatmeal out of skim milk and a weavily bag of rolled oats. They are crazy about this. I think I got 20 eggs today. I lost track.
Sunday March 25 Our power was out for two days, then the telephone. The latter came back on briefly yesterday but is out again now. We had a Nor'easter which brought at least a foot of wet snow. There were trees down and car accidents all over the state (none fatal I think) so it took the crews a while to restore power. We melted snow on the Aga for a water supply. The Aga runs on propane so does not fail in a power outage. It was not seriously cold, in fact there was enough dripping from the barn roof to supply the cows. Helen's production has dropped to about 2.5 gals. I suspect this is due to moldy hay. I am running into quite a few moldy bales and because I am getting low on hay I tend to throw it down anyway and hope for the best, always a bad idea. The news this morning is that Topknot, a ewe barely one year old was in labor at 6 AM. Finally around 8 AM Daughter Sally assisted her and pulled a large ram lamb which was seriously stuck. So far Topknot has not accepted him. Fortunately he is vigorous. She is probably going to deliver another so we are leaving them alone for a while before trying to help the lamb to suck. Son Max returned yesterday to California. He and grandson Rafe did major carpentry improvements in the attic playroom above the kitchen. Max also made a couple of quarts of maple syrup from the red maples by the river. It is slightly different in flavor from sugar maple, but excellent. Good news about the barn water! The guys plugged the heat tape back in and together with all the dripping, the line has melted free. I was much relieved to again have water in the barn because soon all my company will be gone and I would then be the one having to carry water.
Later: TopKnot definitely does not stand voluntarily. We just hope she decides to at some point. But as it happens, lambs are very good at snatching their dinner once they get their wheels under them. He is vigorous and suckles efficiently. There are many anecdotal accounts of orphaned lambs running from ewe to ewe stealing milk while the mom stands for her own lamb. I will be calling the vet early tomorrow because we need to have him put a pessary into TopKnot's uterus in case infection was introduced when Sal reached in. There is even a chance there is a dead twin. However she was delivering the afterbirth and it was dragging on the ground when Sally was rounding her up to put her in the little enclosure and she stepped on it and broke it off. Delivery of the afterbirth seems to indicate that TK was through delivering. The afterbirth should never be cut off because once that weight behind her is absent there is a tendency for the remaining bit to retract thus introducing infection. Loss of the afterbirth also meant Topknot could not eat it, thus did not get the benefit of the prolactin in it which not only drives milk production but jump starts maternal behavior.
March 26 Monday Top Knot has little or no milk and butts Herbert away from sucking. She is quite friendly though and does not struggle if we restrain her when assisting him. I called the vet and he gave her shots of penicillin oxytocin. The penicillin is in case she has infection as a result of Sally's assistance with lambing. The oxytocin is to cause uterine contractions in case she has any retained placenta. She acts healthy so far as we can tell. At the vet's suggestion, Sally is giving Herbert a bottle of Helen's milk after he suckles Top Knot for a while. Grandson Rafe is still collecting sap. Also he sawed up some more firewood for me today. Today started out at 14 F but got over 32 F for awhile. Helen gave 2.75 gals today and I got 20 eggs.
March 27 Tuesday Sally and Rafe sheared Agnes today. That leaves only Topknot and Sal wants to postpone her as long as possible as she is still recovering from lambing. She butts Herbert as much as ever but he is lively and does his best to suck. Sally goes in and ties up Topknot frequently so he can suck successfully. He gets some milk. Sally then follows up with a bottle. So far both are healthy. I am finding lots of eggs and new nests. I sold two dozen eggs today and three gallons of milk which is gratifying. It is getting colder again and did not feel at all like spring today.
March 28 Wednesday We had some melting today but it still looks like winter around here. The only place not covered by two feet of snow is my poor driveway and lawn which Stewart kept well plowed. It is a muddy mess with deep ruts. Sally continues to feed her baby lamb, Herbert, about every three hours. She and Rafe and his friend Shane sheared Topknot, mother of the lamb, today. She was the last one in need of shearing. We were hoping that with all the tags off her Herbert would have a better chance to suck but no luck so far on that. He is drinking a lot of bottles. One of the wild barn cats has decided to be a friendly guy. It is a large shorthaired black tom cat. He would almost rather be petted than eat I have taken to picking him up and he now allows this and seems to enjoy it. I got 20 eggs again today and Helen gave 2.75 gals.
March 29 Thursday I had to take my car in today for an oil change and diagnosis of an awful vibration which turned out to be tread separating off the front left tire. When it came time to leave for my appointment I could not find Bagel. He did not answer my call. Later when I got home he showed up right away. But I know he had been in the barn harassing the chickens. I did not find any dead chickens but they were extremely agitated and I got only 11 eggs today. The sheep are getting adventuresome. They walked across the crust and stepped over their fence which is nearly covered with snow and showed up in the front yard. Helen gave 2.75 gals. The lamb, Herbert, seems to be getting about half of his milk requirement from his mother.
March 30 Friday As Daughter Sally sat drinking her morning tea in the Music Room at 6 AM she was treated to the sight of the sheep making their way around the southeast corner of the house. So she had to start the day by herding sheep in her nightie. About 9 AM Grandson Rafe and his friend Shane left for school in Bar Harbor, Spring Break being over. Not long after that it started to snow and has continued all day. It is difficult to appreciated the undoubted beauty of this snow storm. This time at least we won't be caught with dirty dishes, clothes and floors nor empty stock tanks in case the power goes out. It is very heavy wet snow. Before they left, the boys took the taps out of the trees and plugged the holes. I believe Rafe made about two quarts of syrup but after that the last pan burned black. At noon when I was coming in with pockets full of eggs after feeding out hay, Muffin and Bagel were hurtling around me as usual barking at each other and jealously pushing each other away from me and together they slammed into my knees and knocked me right down in the snow. I was unhurt, possibly because my fall was cushioned my smashing eggs. I screamed at them and called them both into the house assisting them through the door with my foot. They both slunk under the table very chastened and stayed there for two hours.
Saturday March 31 We got over a foot of new snow yesterday and last night. It is very heavy and sticky. I guess the sheep found this daunting. Leastwise they did not try to get out today. There were a great many birds at the feeder. Perhaps the snow made it hard for them to find other places to feed. One we had not seen before this year may have just migrated in. It was the male yellow winged blackbird. Perhaps the female was there too and I did not recognize her. I went out and brushed the snow off of the seeds so the birds could get at them. Herbert continues to have a bottle in addition to suckling while Sally holds his mother still. Between feedings they both get a lot of exercise as he chases around trying to suck and she whirls around avoiding him, poor little guy. I got 22 eggs today. Two from two different nests had egg yolk on them. I guess I will have to pick them up more often. We still have too many roosters. Grandson Rafe did not have time to kill any over spring break. He was busy every minute doing other important things around here plus tending the tap line. Helen gave slightly over 2.5 gallons.
April 1 Sunday There was some melting today but the snow is still about two feet thick everywhere. The snow plowing has severely damaged the fence where it runs along the road past my north field. Sally is rightly worried about the cattle getting out once the snow melts. Today she carried a long ladder out and tied it across the gate from the barnyard in case they venture into that field before its proper gate emerges from the snow. Herbert continues to get some of his mother's milk and several bottles. Topknot is pretty quiet for him so long as somebody holds her by the collar. Helen gave 2.75 gals today. I got 15 eggs.
April 2 Monday We were away all day shopping in Auburn so the animals had to miss their midday feeds. I am cutting back about one third on the hay I am feeding the cattle because I am in great danger of running out. The snow cover is so heavy and the weather still very unsettled. Even if we get sunny days and a fast melt the pasture will be so squishy that it will be very destructive to let them on it. We are not cutting back on the hay for the sheep as three are feeding lambs. Helen gave 2.75 gals today and I got 15 eggs. But there had been broken eggs. No way to know if this is deliberate egg eating or if they are broken accidentally by crowding. The result is the same, sticky eggs, fewer eggs, and birds acquiring a taste for egg.
April 3 Tuesday Helen only gave 2.25 gals today. I am pretty sure she is in heat. I have cut back on their hay but do not anticipate such a drastic effect, certainly not so rapidly. Sally has been working several times a day allowing Herbert to suckle Topknot. Part of the time I help too. All that is now necessary is to stand with a hand in front of Topknot's nose and she allows him to nurse. Twice today we caught him in a act of feeding without our help. Sally also gives him a bottle part of the time. Tonight he was very hungry meaning that Topknot is not producing well. We are still keeping them closely confined. I got 21 eggs today.
April 4 Wednesday Sally and I feel we have something highly unusual to report. On March 25 I wrote that a young ewe, Topknot, scarcely a year old, had her first lamb. It was a large ram lamb and it was a very difficult birth. Sally eventually had to pull the lamb which was vigorous but Topknot was exhausted and dull and totally rejected the lamb due to all the handling of it and the general trauma. We propped Topknot up so the lamb got colostrum but after that she had no milk. We had the vet who gave her penicillin (because Sal had to reach inside for the lamb) and oxytocin to make her let down her milk. That had no effect because she had no milk. Several times a day Sally continued to put the lamb (Herbert) on Topknot but she had to be held by the collar. Sally also gave Herbert milk in a bottle at least four times a day. The pair is in a small confined area. As Topknot's strength returned she became hostile towards Herbert although not homicidally vicious as a goat would be. As the days passed a frequent sight was Herbert chasing Topknot in a circle and Topknot rapidly circling away from him. Any time he seemed about to connect she would butt him. Sally continued to go down about six times a day to hold Topknot's collar so Herbert could suckle. He rapidly became very efficient at this and also nuzzled Sally's knees for his bottle which he had to have because Topknot was giving so little. But predicably with the frequent suckling Topknot began to produce. It became unnecessary to hold her collar. Just standing next to her was enough to make her hold still for Herbert. On Day Nine Sally reported that Topknot had so much milk in the morning that Herbert did not want his bottle. The next day in the morning he was full and Topknot was empty. She had allowed him to suck. Yesterday he had only one bottle and today none. But the truly unprecedented thing is that all of a sudden Topknot loves Herbert. She lets him suckle anytime. He can get out of their enclosure and does frequently. He wants to meet the other lambs. Then Topknot calls constantly for him. When he returns and starts to feed and wag his tail she kisses his little butt like a proper mama. No one has ever heard or written, to our knowledge, of a ewe subsequently accepting a lamb she has rejected. But how often has anybody taken the trouble to put the lamb on the ewe six or seven times a day for nearly two weeks while also keeping the lamb's vigor up with fresh warm Jersey milk? Herbert had no bottles today. This triumph is a great relief to me because I must part with Sally tomorrow and then I will have all the chores to do alone. She returns to Alaska. Helen gave a bit over 2.5 gals today. I found a new bantam nest and got a total of 29 eggs.
April 5 Thursday I was away much of the day taking daughter Sally to the airport. She is going home to Haines Alaska. Now I am alone again. I milked Helen for the first time in three months and was gratified to find I had not lost my skill. She gave 2.5 gals today. I have been too busy to count the eggs into boxes but it looks like about 20.
April 6 Friday Sally called to report a happy arrival in Haines, but a fatiguing trip with a 12 hour layover in Seattle. She took the Cessna from Juneau to Haines and it was such a fine day that the pilot took the "scenic" route (it's all scenic) over the Mendenhall Glacier and across many superb peaks and valleys. Topknot was not entirely cooperative with feeding Herbert today and all the ewes looked hungry so I gave them all an extra grain feeding. They have hay all the time. However two of the lambs that are a week older than Herbert spend a lot of time napping in the manger and mashing down the hay. Sheep are terribly fussy and I doubt they like this much. Both Herbert and the other ram lamb are going to have the classic four Jacob horns. Grandson Rafe was planning to come tomorrow with friends and butcher the ram but he is having car trouble and can't make it. I got a skimpy 2.5 gals today and 19 eggs.
April 7 Saturday Lovely sun most of the day. It got up to 48F and more snow melted. I can now walk on dead grass on the way to fill the bird feeder. The berms left at the edges of my driveway and lawn by the snowplow are still shoulder height. Topknot was less cooperative today with feeding Herbert. I think maybe she needs more food. I have increased the grain for all of them. Helen gave 2.5 gals. I got 2 dozen beautiful eggs. They are so beautiful, all shades of brown, white, and pastel blue and green. I will have to take some somewhere to sell on Monday. I made a ten egg chiffon cake today to use up some. I will try freezing it.
April 8 Palm Sunday I awoke this morning to find a nasty substance resembling sleet falling out of the sky. It was above freezing all day despite heavy overcast so I suppose it won't last long. Helen gave only one gallon of milk this morning. It might have been because a bunch of the hay I threw down yesterday was mouldy. I did not notice immediately what I was doing and they ate it. They are eating everything down to the bottom of the feeder because I am shorting them on hay. She made it up this evening bringing her total for the day up to 2.5 gals. Son Martin stopped in with a friend on his way down from skiing at Sugarloaf (having been rained out) and I gave him a gallon. I got 18 eggs. Topknot started out the day being uncooperative toward feeding Herbert. She had not drunk any of her water since yesterday, a bad sign that she was not lactating much. I carried on today with extra grain feeding and plenty of hay and this seemed to make a difference. By the end of the day Is observed her feeding him several times. So perhaps she just was hungry. Also she drank three quarts of water. But I gave Herbert 6 oz of milk in a bottle anyway. Herbert eats hay and tries to get Topknot's grain, something the older lambs do not do.
Tuesday April 10 Yesterday Helen gave 2.75 gallons and I got 19 eggs. Today, 2.5 gallons and two dozen eggs. I set out on a few errands today with my cousin Marcia and took along five dozen eggs and managed to sell four. I don't like the supply to build up too much. I can always take some to the food pantry. Topknot continues to feed Herbert but I think not as much as he would prefer. He gets right in there with his mom and eats grain and hay. I nailed up a board to prevent the other lambs from climbing into the manger to take naps. I can't afford to lose any hay and they do mash it down and for all I know may wet the bed. It got up well above 40 F today and was sunny. The cows seems to be accommodating to less hay. The fact that the weather is warm helps. This afternoon I did some flower bed cleanup which was a lot of fun. One of my Buff Orpington layers has a serious torn skin wound on her back. It had to have been done by Bagel. I put him back on his chain. I put the hen in a cat carrier with hay and food and water. She is alert and eating and drinking well. I made a mixture of olive oil, vitamin E and a couple of drops of tea tree oil and poured it on her wound but am not optimistic. At least now she will not be harassed by the other birds.
April 11 Wednesday My hospitalized hen was dead this morning. I had a discussion with Bagel about it. In addition he is staying on his chain until after the chickens go to bed. Yesterday for the first time I saw the older lambs eating wisps of hay. Then today I saw the dear little things lying in the sun chewing their cuds. I have not actually seen Herbert chew his cud but he eats a significant amount of hay so he must do it. He also dives right into the grain. I took down some boards today so that Topknot could leave her cubicle but she would not. I even put her grain outside so she had to reach through for it. Maybe tomorrow she will get brave. Herbert goes out frequently. All the sheep are drinking a lot of water. I fill the bucket at least three times a day for the other ewes and about once a day for Topknot. I got some more garden cleanup done on the southwest side of the house where the snow has melted. I could not remove the trash because the snow remains too deep around the east and north sides of the house to drag the cart around. Helen gave almost 2.75 gals. Of milk today and I got 22 eggs.
April 12 Thursday Topknot had not left her cubicle this morning so I shoved her out. Herbert trotted right along and stayed close by her. She nosed around exploring things and went outside for a bit. But Agnes was mean to her. Next time I went down to see the sheep she had come back in. We had cold rain all day. Helen gave only 2 gals plus 1 qt. I got 20 eggs.
April 13 Friday A warm damp wind blew most of the day and melted more snow but the fields are still white.. There is now a lake six inches deep which I wade through on the way to the barn. Topknot is learning to go in an out of her cubicle so she can eat in peace. Herbert follows right along and gets his share. Two gallons plus one quart of milk today and 17 eggs plus seven more I found in a bantam nest in the grain room
April 14 Saturday Son Martin came today and kindly repaired the sheep trapdoor which was falling apart. He also sawed some more firewood. After our duck dinner we went out in the dark and caught some bantams that were roosting within reach. He has friends who would like some and I have far too many. We caught five hens and a rooster and have them in two cat cages. I think they will like their new home. They will be living with horses. Martin also brought 12 bales of hay from a neighbor of his. This will take me another week. Helen gave 2.5 gals and I got 18 eggs.
April 15 Easter Sunday Today was fine and sunny and a lot more snow melted. But behind the garage/buttery barn beneath which the sheep have their run-in the snow is still above my boots. I know, because Martin and I carried a ladder through there to put over the entrance to the run-in. The cows have beaten down a trail out of their barnyard and today came back over to "visit" the sheep and make their lives miserable by eating all their hay and their protein block. The young stock, Leah and Wilbur, found that around the trees there are patches of dead grass bare of snow and they consoled themselves for a couple of hours by eating this old stuff. Martin made several other improvements including repairing the sheep's trap door and both sliding doors to the garage part of this barn. He also did more chain sawing of the woodpile. Slightly over 2.5 gals of milk today. I think 19 eggs.
April 16 Monday It got up to about 50 F today but did not feel warm, possibly because of the breeze flowing across unmelted fields of snow. But there was some melting. I can now see several patches of brown field. My vet stopped by and docked Herbert's tail. Although he and Topknot, his mother, run free now, they are always together. I waited for the vet before serving out the grain and they both ran back into their cubicle as usual to get their grain. I then carried Herbert upstairs and held him while Dr. Cooper docked his tail. He struggled of course, and I was nearly unable to hold him. But in no time he was back trotting around as though nothing had happened. All the lambs are lively and cute. They leap up onto the granite ledges of the cellar foundation of their run-in and prance around. All of them now eat hay and contend for the grain. On March 12 I marked on my calender that Fraidy Cat had had her kittens. And I marked April 15 to remind me to start looking for them. When they are a month old they begin playing around and exploring and yet are still too small to efficiently flee. They are really too young to be weaned but it is my only window of opportunity to catch them when born to a wild mother. Today I was lucky enough to find the little bundle of kittens sleeping in a box and grabbed them quickly before they knew what was happening. There were three and they were big enough to give me bloody scratches but I held tight and got them into the kitchen. I put them down next to the Aga and they went right behind the cabinet next to it. Bagel dog is lying on the rug in front of the Aga hoping they will come out and play with him. He is good to the cats. A bit less than 2.5 gals today. !8 eggs.
April 17 Tuesday The lambs are so cute the way they jump through the ladder barrier. Herbert especially. I saw him playing by jumping through holes between the rungs for sport. When they dance up onto the ledge it shows how they stand on the tips of their tiny hooves. They spring like goats. Herbert has forgotten about his tail docking. There were bare patches far down the field which the cows could see. They made a path in the snow and went down and stood in them. There is also a vernal pond which reflected the sunset. Helen gave a bit over 2.5 gals. I got two dozen eggs but I know there are nests I am not finding. I will have to dedicate some time to a search.
April 18 Wednesday It was blowy and bleak all day but at least we did not get the snow we were yesterday told to expect. There is enough brown grass exposed on the pasture to encourage Helen to wander over quite a large area looking for nibbles. I spent and hour and a half today with two of our Selectmen. They hoped to persuade me to sign a right of way agreement which will permit road widening in front of my house which will require the removal of a large and noble maple tree. I did not sign. We parted with very stiff smiles. She gave 2.5 gals today and I got 17 eggs.
April 20 Friday This was the warmest day so far this spring. The entire state reached 60 F although here I think it was just barely. I was able to walk down to the veg garden without stepping on snow but I still had to skirt around big patches of it. The berm outside the kitchen on the north is still a good 3' thick. I was looking in the garden for things coming up. I found French sorrel up about 1" and a ruffle of parsnip. In the pond one bleached goldfish corpse was floating. Most years they make it. The cows have been venturing far down the field for three days now and today the sheep followed them. The steer and heifer were apparently satisfied with their meal of dead grass and preferred chewing their cuds in the sun to coming in for their lunch. So Helen got most of the hay. I put the wash out on the line. 23 eggs yesterday and 2.5 gals of milk. A bit less today and only 19 eggs.
April 21 Saturday At last a truly spring day weatherwise. There are still many large patches of snow, as much snow covered as bare I think, and all is brown. But it was lovely and warm. The lawn desperately needs raking. Everything the dogs did all winter is now emerged. Both the cattle and sheep spent most of the day either lying in the sun or attempting to graze. I did not actually count the hay. There might be ten bales. So I hope the grass makes up for lost time during the next week. Milk production is dropping, probably because Helen is spending so much time working to get very little. They spent all last night in the bit of pasture to the south of the house. I could hear their bells very near which makes me nervous because I fear they have broken out. Helen gave 2 gal 1 qt. There were 2 dozen eggs.
April 23 Monday Yesterday went by in a rush because of a visit from grandson Rafe and three college friends. Besides doing a lot of eating and hiking around, they did several joblets around here that I had lined up. They put chicken wire over a gap in the back wall of the barn where chickens were getting in behind the siding and laying unreachable eggs. Helen's production is dropping. She gave about 2 gal. + 1 quart. This morning I took the dogs and walked around the field and along the river. It was the warmest day yet, well over 60F. The river is right up to the bank. First the cows and then the sheep decided to accompany us. Bagel got very excited and raced circling around the outer edges of this pack while Muffin stayed next to me barking and snapping at the cattle. I'm not sure what Bagel thought he was doing but Muffin clearly did not like those large animals to be crowding me. And crowding they were. I was glad I had brought along a cane to fend them off. They are not aggressive but Wilbur is somewhat pushy and Leah is just silly and bouncy. I was beginning to wonder how cold the river would be if I toppled in. Then Bagel began chasing the sheep. I yelled at him and he stopped in front of the group. Stanley, the ram, stamped his foot in a warning gesture which Bagel clearly understood. When he turned his attention my way Stanley and all the sheep except Agnes and her lamb ran for the barn. Stanley runs with a pogo stick gait like a mountain goat, all four feet seeming to hit the ground at once. Agnes, I suppose because of her lamb, turned around and tried to butt Bagel. I am glad to say that Bagel obeyed voice commands reasonably well. He stayed with me for the remainder of our walk as did Helen and friends. All the animals stayed out on pasture all day grazing whatever they could find. I guess it satisfied them because the cows did not even get up when I went into the barn at midday to feed them. They were lying there chewing their cuds. But Helen's production was down even further today, not much over 2 gals. Two dozen eggs though. The sheep kept grazing until evening. As the sun went down I could see a haze of green on their paddock.
April 24 Tuesday Even warmer today. But there is still a 50' wide band of snow along the river. I walked down there again today, this time with Bagel on his leash. I took some hat string along and secured a small raft which the river had left on the edge of the field. I regret to have to report, Bagel killed another chicken, a little bantam hen, and pulled feathers out of a rooster. Now he is permanently on his chain or leash. WE are both depressed, he because he is tied, me because of my disappointment with him. His is such a good dog in other ways. Helen gave 2 gal + I qt. There were 17 eggs.
April 25, Wednesday: The hens outdid themselves today. 28 eggs, and not because of finding a new nest. I've been asked for a dozen for the school children to hatch. There was a dead Black Australorp in one of the laying nests this morning, not the work of Bagel. I could not see anything wrong with her. The Webb River exceeded its banks today and has flooded part of the field. I took a walk around the north field this morning with the dogs (Bagel on a leash). The fence is in bad shape along the road where the plow has knocked it down and along the woods where lots of limbs have fallen on it. I have the gate shut against the cattle. An hours work would probably suffice for temporary repairs which would hold the cattle but not the sheep. Last year we had the ram with four long prong horns which would not easily fit through a fence. This impediment held back the entire flock as they would not leave him behind. Stanley, the current ram, has recurved horns which are not going to slow him down very much. Helen gave 2 gals + 1 qt again today. As soon as the grass gets long enough for a proper mouthful I expect her production to pick up.
April 26, Thursday: Thirty one eggs today! Tomorrow I will have to figure out something to do with them. Lovely weather today. The Daphne is in bloom and the Scilla. Much of the ground is thawed. I can tell because standing water from ice melt is soaking away. But many patches of ice remain in shaded areas. I did some fence propping on the north field and have arranged gates so that the cows can get in there but not the sheep. Helen gave 2 gals. + 1 qt again today.
April 27, Friday: This morning my first daffodils burst open crying "Free at last!" They smell lovely. Helen's production crept up a bit to nearly 2.5 gallons. Two dozen eggs.
April 28, Saturday: A fine sunny day but cooler. Over the last three days I have been working on digging out my asparagus bed. It is 30' long and about a yard wide and is situated on a slope so is dry enough to dig. I now have a little over half dug. It was badly clogged with witch grass and dandelions. The asparagus is still far underground so is not damaged by my digging. I found another bantam nest just as she was starting to hatch her clutch. I am glad I did not find it yesterday. I would not have realized her eggs were full of mature chicks although I always keep such eggs separate from those I sell. So far only three have hatched. I moved the whole lot into a coop. An old couple stopped in today wanting some bantams and I am going to give them this little family. Later tonight after dark I will get a ladder and try to catch some mature birds. Helen gave 2.5 gals today.
April 29 Sunday Helen was in roaring heat today for the first time in a couple of months. At morning milking I was a bit suspicious as she danced around a lot whereas usually she stands like a rock. Be mid afternoon it was a free for all with all three circling and jumping. The old fellow came for his bantams. He said he had spent all day working on their pen. Last night I was able to catch a rooster and two hens. I scooped up the mother hen and her chicks folded under her wings and don't know how many she had. He wants more if I can catch them so I expect he will tell me. Helen's production was way down this evening because of being in heat. She gave 1.5 gals this morning but only about 3 quarts tonight. I changed them over into the river field because the north fence is so flimsy.
April 30 Monday This morning the band of snow down by the river was gone. Cousin Marcia visited this around noon. She and I went out back of the barn to bag up some rotted manure for her rhubarb and I found a nest full of eggs in a part of the barn wall where I have not checked recently. There were eight intact eggs and several broken ones. These are large eggs laid by one of the heavy layers. We reached in and got some but I had to come back with a long handled spoon for the last few. I dug some more of my asparagus bed. There are only about 4' remaining. 22 eggs, not counting the new nest. I keep such eggs separate because I don't know how old they are. Helen gave slightly over 2.5 gals.
May 1 Tuesday Cousin Marcia showed me a robin's nest in the cedar hedge at her farm. They are such an astonishing blue, it is hard to remember from year to year. Helen is now getting enough grazing to enable her to turn up her nose in case I throw down any of the last of the Grade B hay. Because of yesterday's find I checked another known gap in the barn wall and found another nest. It had only two eggs. I took them both and left a plastic one. It was truly warm today, well above 70F, actually a lot warmer outdoors than in so I opened lots of doors and windows. And this evening at last I hear the spring peepers!
May 3 Thursday It has been another hot day more like July. I made a quick trip in to town to mail Keeping A Family Cow to some one who needed it in a hurry. When I got home cows and sheep were all over the place and no gate in place out front. A huge wind lifted it off its hinges last fall and twisted them awry so it cannot be hung properly. I dragged it into position and propped it up, then found a ski pole to assist me with herding. The critters were all down in the veg garden area molesting the baby fruit trees. I drove the cows back up across the lawn to put them back into the pasture. After they were all the way up there Leah, the heifer threw her feet in the air and led them all back down to the garden again at the run. So it was all to do over again but the second time I succeeded. I only wished the ski pole had a sharper point so I could jab her in the butt. The sheep were easier because only half of them were in the garden and they hate being separated so they were bunched up with wire between the two groups. I was able to open a field gate and herd the naughty ones back into the pasture. But it all took 40 minutes, I was in a sweat and the vet was stopping by for lunch. Somehow I got lunch on the table thanks to some frozen standbys. Bagel wantonly killed another little hen yesterday and it was especially gruesome. I guess I will have to find him another home with somebody who does not have poultry. It is his only fault. The vet suggested an electronic training collar. I have never used one and don't know how well they work. The barn swallows are back.
May 4 Friday A fine beautiful day not quite so hot as yesterday. I was outside a lot. First thing this morning as I was letting out the chickens and making light conversation with Helen I heard a great deal of honking out on the road. There were Leah and Wilbur standing in the middle of the road. I later realized Helen had been trying to tell me something which I was too dumb to understand. Of course I went cantering out there grabbing up a fallen branch as I crossed the fence. Wilbur hopped back into the field without much trouble and I headed him back towards Helen. Leah was not so easy. I had to hold up traffic for about ten minutes including the school bus but everyone was pleasant. Leah went all the way down to the bridge before I could outflank and turn her. Needless to say I spent all morning fencing. I hope I did a good job because I have turned them back out there for the night. I saw my first goldfinch today. Must buy more thistle seed. The feeder is surrounded by a thicket of vicious looping rose canes which are covered with small double pink blooms for only about one week in June but they are a great staging area for the birds being totally cat proof. I finished getting the grass out of the asparagus bed and spread about two bushels of chicken house litter. Helen's production is creeping higher. She gave a bit over 2.5 gals. I got 2 dozen eggs.
May 5 Saturday No animals got over the fence today. There is a lot of green to be seen on the pasture but the grass is still barely 2" long. The cows still appreciate hay at milking time. I am serving out some bales which I had stacked in the main hall against the chicken room as insulation. Bantams perch in the rafters above so there are droppings on it. Cows don't mind this. In fact they like it I am sorry to say. In a lot of places chicken manure is a feed additive for cattle which seems disgusting but somebody most have noticed that this esthetic objection is absent in cows. Rain was forecast for today but we did not get it. It was cloudy and overcast most of the day with considerable wind and brief periods of sun. I made three pounds of butter today and sold two right away, also three dozen eggs. I get $4 lb for the butter and $1.25 for the eggs. Eggs not as good as mine are sold in a self aggrandizing box in the health food store for three times my price. I have a bantam rooster with a golden brown body and a great explosion of pure white tail. He was a chick that I nurtured in a coop with his mother and one sister last June. He is now very full of himself and chases off other roosters and has collected up six hens. It was one of his hens that Bagel killed. Helen gave a bit over 2.5 gals. today and I got 23 eggs.
May 6 Sunday Such a perfect day. Just the right temperature for digging in the garden and no bugs yet. I dug a small flower bed. After a cold slow beginning blanketed with snow, spring is bursting forth all at once. Suddenly the sheep paddock is a carpet of green velvet and of course the lawn is too. I suppose by another week I will have to mow. I heard an essay on NPR today about sheep shearing out west. The wool industry in the US has been devastated by NAFTA and by synthetics. It is only 10% of what it was only ten years ago. The synthetics are good and many are cheaper but they are not better than wool. I read an account by a man who had gone on a simulated Viking voyage across the north Atlantic to Nova Scotia. He and his crew went in an authentic Viking boat with Viking food, everything the same except the crew wore modern state of the art cold weather gear. The leader wore authentic Viking garments of wool and leather. He was the only one not constantly shivering. Sally turns her sheep's fleeces into warm wool garments! I filled an orange vase with branches of chartreuse blossoms and baby leaves from my Norway maple and sprays of forsythia. This is the first year I have had a real show from the forsythia, I suppose because of the heavy snow. Maine had over 99" The first dandelions opened today. I made three pounds of butter. Helen gave 2.75 gals today.
May 7 Monday Another perfect day and still no mosquitoes. There are a few flies on the cows. Helen gave over 3 gallons today and her cream is becoming a brighter gold
May 9 Wednesday We have had two more perfect days in a row although now we are beginning to wish for rain. Each of my two rhubarb patches are up about 6" and I have begun to carry water to them to keep them growing fast. Yesterday I walked down to where the brook and river meet to inspect for a break in the spring line which was reported to me. I did indeed find a fountain of spray coming from an exposed bit of pipe. It was at the bottom of a very steep bank further undercut by the spray. I could imagine getting down there but not getting back up. Fortunately a kindly neighbor offered to reach it in his canoe. While down in the area I filled my pockets with fiddleheads (they are about finished) and had enough to stir fry Tuesday night and put in a salad today. The asparagus always comes up just as the fiddleheads are done and right on schedule today some popped out of the ground. Yesterday and today Helen gave 2.75 gals. All the sheep and cattle look contented now on the velvet green pasture. It is their favorite time of year. I have set up the stock tank outside now for the cows to water. I am nearly finished digging over my large vegetable garden area. I am not sure what to plant there this year. I had such a disaster last year with virus in the tomatoes so can't plant anything subject to virus. 2 doz eggs
May 10 Thursday Another sunny day, but windy. I have one Buff Orpington rooster who is much picked on the roosters above him in he hierarchy, a huge Black Australorp and another Buff Orp. He has been losing courage and lingers outside in the evening until he is sure the others are on the perch. Today when I was collecting eggs I saw his head sticking out of a crevice down at floor level. He was wedged in so that he never could have gotten out by himself so I am glad I noticed him. It took me five minutes of digging around him and prying to dislodge him. I removed him from among the others so now he is free range along with the bantams. While freeing him I discovered that some of the hens had been laying down there in the corner out of sight. There were eight eggs. I always keep such finds separate and do not sell them because they are of unknown age. Helen gave 3 gals plus 3 cups today. This increase may be due not only to green grass but in part to access to their big stock tank always full and sparkling. 20 eggs.
May 11 Friday Yet another fine day. Rain is predicted for the weekend which is Mother's Day but the gardening mothers will be glad for it. I shall have to connect up hoses if we don't get at least a half inch. I must have been wrong as to which day the barn swallows arrived. This morning I saw a row of little heads peering over the side of the nests. I leave the barn doors open so the parents can fly in and out easily and not have to look for cracks where cats might be lying in wait. The other day one swallow was in the buttery dodging about frantically. I managed to grab it when it hid behind a geranium. They don't weigh more than 2 oz When I put it out the window it was so happy to be free that it flew higher and higher and farther and farther across the river until lost from sight. Ordinarily they fly around in circles and not above barn roof height. I picked a few spears of asparagus for supper. Helen gave 3 gals + about 2 cups. She was enjoying herself so much grazing far down in the pocket field that she paid no attention when I called her for milking. I had to walk all the way down. I of course did not mind because it is so beautiful. I sold 4 doz eggs today. I think I picked up 20. They are very beautiful eggs all different colors.
May 13 Sunday Motherís Day: Son Martin came yesterday and stayed over until today and did lots of useful things. He brought home the tractor which I bought last fall from a neighbor but left stored at his place. It is an old John Deere. I bought a bushhog (slasher to readers Down Under). He also tilled my garden. I managed to haul down enough chicken litter before he got here to fertilize half of it. The remainder I will have to dig in by hand. He is going to look for a trailer for the tractor. Then we could haul lots more. I used hen house litter rather than cow manure because cow manure is so heavy and I am using a very old Gardenway cart with flat tires. First thing this morning I found the sheep had squeezed through the fence into the North Field. So I have opened the gates to allow them to roam where they will and hope for the best with the poor North Field fences. It will be some time until I can get at them. The crabapple trees are in full bloom and all the air is scented with apple blossoms. Last year we had no apples because there was so much rain during bloom that the bees could not work I am sure they worked yesterday. Helen gave 3 gals plus a quart. I got two dozen eggs.
May 14 Monday: It was cool, sunny and windy all day. The animals look idyllically beautiful in the velvet green pastures at this time of year. I got about 15' of the perennial border dug but it was much too windy and dry to transplant anything. Helen gave about a quart over 3 gals. I got 23 eggs.
May 15: Tuesday Something about the lush green grass and Helenís enhanced production has resulted in one of her quarters feeling hard this morning. I rubbed it well with some ointment I have called Phoenix Thuja and Zinc Oxide. It may have done some good. The quarter was somewhat softer this evening. It was dark and overcast all day and it looked like we might get some much needed rain but all we have so far is a Scotch mist that leaves surfaces wet. Helen again gave well over three gallons and I got 2 dozen eggs. I also found a bantamís nest with 11 eggs which I canít sell because I donít know their age. I replaced them with two fake eggs. Leaving just one will not fool a bantam when the nest had nearly a full clutch. Maybe two wonít either. I will know tomorrow.
May 16: Wednesday Answer to the above question: she was fooled. There is a new egg in the nest. She wonít lay very many more before she goes broody. I got a lot done today and am tired. Besides the regular chores, I transplanted several clumps of lilies and put in seeds for peas, spinach, turnips, dill and some other things I have already forgotten. Now I really will have to start watering. I notice the asparagus has slowed way down. I also started a cheese which is now in the press. Leah the heifer and Wilbur the steer are becoming more mannerly. I give them a small amount of grain at milking time twice a day and to do this I have to wade through them carrying their food to the other side of their run-in which I call the beefer pen. They are bouncy and pushy. I carry a broken off tool handle and say rather quietly, ďBack. BackĒ while prodding them if they donít mind. Prodding works a lot better than striking them which only frightens them. Cattle respond instinctively to prodding I think. It is what they do to each other if they have horns which mine donít. I tried selling eggs on a stand by the road but nobody bought. I will try again tomorrow.
May 17: Thursday Today somebody bought two dozen eggs which gives me hope. This evening as I was (fortunately) out admiring the evening light, I was in time to see Leah and Wilbur, the heifer and steer, grazing on my lawn. I had a long struggle getting them back where they belong. All they wanted to do was race around through flower beds and kick up their heels, snapping at plants along the way. Helen did not jump the fence and was racing around in the wrong field wondering what to do. I hate this. Now they are all in the north field with the gate closed. I will have to spend the morning fencing. I have six bantam hens and a rooster shut in a stall in the barn. After it gets dark I have to go out and put them in cat cages. The same man who took the others is coming in the morning for them. Helen gave 3 gals. + 1 quart. I made 3 Ĺ lbs of butter.
May 18: Friday It barely hit 60F today and there was almost no sun. I think my seedlings are going into a sulk. I sold 1 doz eggs on my roadside stand which is in fact a kitchen chair. No animals got out today. I repaired the fence by bracing it from my side with a fencepost. It is solid for the moment. When Leah and Wilbur were out yesterday they charged right through the bed where I transplanted the lilies. Miraculously they did not tread on any. The old fellow came this morning for five bantam hens which I succeeded in catching with a landing net. I could not get a rooster. Those birds are as fast as any trout and just as wiley.
May 19, Saturday: It rained all last night and we got a good inch. All the plants look happy. Son Martin came up this evening and before dinner we went down to where my spring line is exposed and leaking at the river bank This is about a 10 minute walk. I had purchased a new union and hose clamps but the pvc line retracted when Martin resected the bit with the leak and there was no way the two ends would reach. A couple of years ago I had stowed a length of pvc in the woods and it had hose clamps on it but still we lacked the union. Fortunatly, I had brought along the propane torch and Martin was able to heat and soften the end of the splice so that it would slip over the free end of pipe and he reinforced it with the extra clamp. Now the line is running properly again. The leak had been spraying the river bank and undercut it quite badly. Perhaps it would help if we piled in some brush. My roadside stand was a success today. I sold all my eggs and one gentleman who saw the Jerseys as he was driving away came back to see if I had any butter to sell. I sold him 2 lb. I get $4 lb. Helen gave 3 gals + 1 quart again today. I lost count of the eggs but now that I have given away so many bantams there are fewer eggs. About 20 I think.
Monday 21, Sunday: Today I spent every possible moment mowing the lawn. It is lush and overgrown and wants to choke the mower. The entire lawn takes about 4 hours with my walk behind Snapper. Later in the summer it does not take as long. Sunday was the day Helen should have been in heat. I saw some faint signs but no mounting Sunday or today. I suppose this is due to her increased production or perhaps hormones in the clover. She is giving well over three gallons now. I plan to make another cheese tomorrow. Nobody bought any eggs today on my stand by the road. but I sold out on Sunday. The weather today was flawless. There are not even as many bugs as usual. By this time I usually have bloody ankles.
May 22, Tuesday: Another very fine day but the weatherman is beginning to hint of drought. I started another cheese this morning. I made some more progress on lawn mowing but quit when the mower ran out of gas. At evening milking I noticed my hands were achy, a result of hanging onto the mower so I guess I quit at the right time. About midday Helen came in heat and spent several hours circling around with Wilbur. At milking time she had a mucous show and was fidgety and peed halfway through milking and made a big plop on her way out. But the main thing was, she would not let down. I gave up after about one and a half quarts were in the bucket. At times like this rather than have to wash my whole straining set up, I dip a milk filter in boiling water and make a cone out of it which I hold over the jar. With that small amount in the bucket I can hold it up and pour it slowly with one hand..
May 23, Wednesday: Somewhat to my surprise my cheese made it through the night undisturbed. To weight it in the mold I stacked up a marble trivet, the Horticultural Encyclopedia A to Z, a bucket of agricultural lime and four bricks. It looked distinctly unstable but apparently no cats got curious enough to touch it. This morning dawned very misty and I could neither see nor hear the cows anywhere. I figured they could hear me, so, shook a pan of grain along with my calling out the back door of the barn. After about five minutes I began to see dim moving shapes and Helen marched straight on up ... and right past the barn. She saw workmen out by the road and had to investigate. One of the men walked over to chat with me about moving some small trees out of the right of way. Helen is not sure she likes strangers and it took me another ten minutes of pushing and coaxing to get her inside the barn. Then she made up for last night by giving almost 2.5 gals of milk. I really need a pig to swill up all the skim. Or else I need more milk customers. This evening Helen gave over two gallons of milk again making a grand total for today of at least 4.5 gals but some of it was left over from yesterday. The road crew worked hard all day and moved five fairly good sized trees, two of them at least 15' tall. They transplanted them inside the right of way. Immediately the cows molested them and tore all the leaves off the lower branches. There are two birches, two oaks and an apple. After milking I stretched a hose as far as I could. It reached the first tree, the largest oak. At that point I filled buckets and carried water to the other trees. I hope it rains soon. I can't do this forever. I think tomorrow I will go to Agway and but some electric fence wire before they eat them right up. I managed about an hour and a half of lawn mowing and can now see the end of the job.
May 24, Thursday: The road crew worked devotedly all morning carrying water to the trees. I stayed in the house and made three pounds of butter. The cows have been making a salad bar out of the new trees. I shut them out of the north field to save the trees. I decided I had better put up some electric fencing to defend them. I went to Agway and bought minimal electric fencing supplies. Their prices are outrageous. I am going to try not to shop there any more. I did not get the fence set up today. Instead did watering. My spinach and turnips are up and would not endure another dry day. I got some more lawn mowed. There is only about a half hour of mowing remaining. Helen gave 3.5 gallons today. I sold two dozen eggs to a man who lives in the neighborhood. He told me there is a thief in town stealing guns and electronic equipment. I looked behind the door and my .20 gauge is still there. But I don't see grandson Rafe's .22. Let's hope he put it somewhere else.
May 25, Friday: Rafe affirms that he has his .22 with him in his tipi. He and another boy are living in a genuine tipi as a way to avoid paying rent during the school year. A kindly farmer has allowed them to set it up in a field. Mostly they eat in the college cafeteria. I got the electric fence almost all set up today. But, I still have to connect up the wires to the electric unit. I also roused up another length of hose so I can water all but the last tree in the line. I carried it one bucket. Also today I got two more flower beds dug over. They are not very big but were difficult. So, I gave myself a vacation from lawn mowing. Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gals.
May 26, Saturday: Cousin Marcia and I both woke up today with colds. We must have gotten them at one of the places we shopped together last week. Bummer. I can't remember just when my last cold was but it was before last October. I know because my house guests replaced my bottle of Nyquil and I have not opened it. Tonight's the night. I finished up installing the electric fence and opened the gate to the north field around noon. I wanted to be sure the cattle had plenty of daylight in which to become acquainted with it. I just happened to be looking out the kitchen window a couple of hours later when I saw Helen grazing up close to it. I snuck out to watch more closely. She noticed it and deliberately touched it with her nose, then jumped back in annoyance. Then she paced up and down in front of it for a few minutes, considering. Then she touched it again and was convinced. So, it works. Along towards evening I saw Leah leap away from it with a lot more drama. At milking time Helen was curiously reluctant to enter the barn. I wonder if the clicking of the wall unit worried her. I had my first meal of pig weed tonight (lamb's quarters, goosefoot and chenopodium). It was delicious. I sauteed it with a little onion and garlic.
May 27, Sunday: Contrary to the weather report it has rained hard all day. I did little but lie on the couch because I am sick. Helen has been getting more stubborn every day bout coming in to be milked. The grass is so good that grain is little temptation. I had to push and pull for a long time this morning. This evening I gave up. It is muddy underfoot and I feel rotten. It knocks down milk production and I would not skip a morning milking because she would get over distended. I am getting more milk that I know what to do with anyway. Despite the rain I put out my egg selling chair and sold two dozen.
May 28, Monday: About 5 AM I got up and took a shower and began pulling myself together to go milking, which I did about 7 AM. I didn't feel much better than yesterday and did not look forward to the job which is nonetheless inevitable. So far I have never been so sick I could not milk the cow. The remarkable thing is, I always feel a lot better afterward. However, she did not make it easy. I had to walk out in the field and bring her in. She was reluctant to enter the barn, and once there and I had to employ subterfuges to get her far enough in to close a door behind her. I took an extra bucket to the barn to accommodate the milk left over from last night. Yesterday while in the barn I heard peeping but could not trace it to its source. This morning there was more peeping and I found a bantam and six chicks badly scattered in what I call the Pit Stall, which has no windows and is very dark. There was a tiny confused kitten crouching in their midst. I grabbed it and as usual got bloody scratches. I put him in a handy cat carrier. No doubt he has siblings somewhere. I left the stall door out so the hen can move her family out if she wants to. Soon I will take them some clabber. Outdoors everything is soaking wet today, but in the pit stall it is bone dry so the chicks will not have had a drink. Later: When I went out with clabber the hen had already moved her family out onto the wet grass so they all had a sip of dew. But, she was very glad to see the clabber and introduced the chicks to it immediately. I added a handful of layer pellets to it. She seems very competent. I believe she is a hen who already had chicks last year. There are seven chicks. Evening: It began raining again around noon and is still raining hard now at 9 PM. The hen and chicks moved under a big woody forsythia bush. She was soon wet and bedraggled and could not move for fear of chilling her chicks. I found one chick chilled and dead. I tried catching her but could soon see that it would be nearly impossible because their instinct is to explode off the chicks like a partridge while the chicks scatter. Then, the chicks would be soaked before she could gather them. I decided to wait until after dark which is about 9 PM now. At this time it was still raining steadily and I realized that she was right below the motion sensitive flood lights so it would never be dark there. All I could do was dive into that wet bush and grab her by a wing. I stuffed her into a cat carrier and began finding the chicks. I only hope I got them all. It was impossible to count them. Once inside the dark barn she settled down in the cat carrier. Helen was again hard to get in this evening and even though I am beginning to feel better I was in no mood for games in the pouring rain. I found a stick to jab her in the back end, and in she walked. Got 4 gals today.
May 29, Tuesday: Fine weather today and my health is much improved. The dogs and I had a walk to the river and found a lovely wild garden in the riparian strip protected by barbed wire from the greedy grazers. Many garden escapes have joined the wild flowers. There was a cloud of Forget Me Nots, a Spirea bush, a flowering Quince (Japonica) and lots of Autumn Sedum. There were also beds of Foam Flower and Sweet Woodruff. The mother hen soon had her family out in the barnyard this morning, and this evening I did not see them at all. If they make it through the first day they are usually fine except for the continued danger of drowning in water dishes. They quickly learn to attend closely to their mother's little clucks. She finds lots of bugs and pecks them to bits for her chicks. I did start them off this morning with some clabber. The cats do not mess with a bantam hen. There was a knock on the door about 4 PM and a nice young couple told me I had a cow on the road. Sure enough, Leah, the yearling heifer, was holding up traffic. I think she had bolted ahead after touching the electric fence and gone through where a rotten pole in the outer fence had toppled in the rain. I was able to talk her back through a part with no electric fence. When she rejoined the others it was evident she was in roaring heat. Only 3 gals of milk today. Either production was knocked down by skipping a milking or because Helen could not graze well in the rain. Or, maybe she spent too much time racing after Leah.
May 30, Wednesday: Helen continues to resist coming in at milking time. This morning I brought her all the way up to the gate of the barnyard and she took a look at the mud hole and turned away towards Pocket Field. In my efforts to get her through the gate I lost my shoe in the mud and had to milk with a squishy muddy foot. I don't blame her for not liking to go through there. There is a picture of this very gate now to be seen here on the Diary. (see bottom of page) My hen with six chicks is definitely the same one who raised seven chicks last year. I could tell this morning by the way she ran towards me when I stepped out the back door of the barn and called her. She came running just as she used to last year leaving her cluster of chicks peeping away by themselves in the 8 inch tall grass. I put out some corn and she clucked for them until one by one they all found their way to her side. I could see them popping up along the way like fluffy popcorn. I learned today that one of my neighbor's four year old castrated billy goats disemboweled one of his pigs. I don't know how old the pig was. But it was not as big as the goat. I have never heard before of this happening. It was much colder today and may freeze tonight. I loaded all my seedlings onto the Gardenway cart and wheeled them into the garage.
May 31, Thursday: It remained cold today with periods of bright sun and breeze. First thing this morning Mama hen was in the barnyard with her family but only five chicks. I found the missing one lying dead not far away and still warm. The cows were far away so it could not have been sideswiped by a hoof. I decided to see if Bagel might learn to be a helpful farm dog fetching the cows and took him along down the field. He showed some promise and obeyed commands. At least he was not a nuisance. Back in her stanchion, I noticed Helen had a swollen patch on her neck about 4" across. It was raised and hard like an extremely large insect reaction. I don't remember ever seeing anything quite like this before. I slathered it with salve and this evening it was mostly gone. I made my third cheese of this season. So far it looks promising. I am evolving better methods and hope soon to make the operation seem easier. Also, today I transplanted some things into larger pots. It is too cold to risk putting most things into their permanent positions. At chore time this evening I again took Bagel with me to bring up the cows. I walked him through the barn and out through the barnyard where he encountered Mama Hen and her chicks pecking up corn. I think he wanted to make friends but she stood up all her feathers and flew at his face and I yelled at him, and the accompanying patrol of roosters set up a huge alarm. The hen and chicks vanished and I could not tell if she lost any chicks in the melee. Bagel, then remembering our main errand, set of at a run toward the Pocket Field where the cows were. Who knows what his breeding is. When he noticed the hen and chicks his first response was to point like a setter with one foot up. When he raced for the cows he looked like a greyhound. He did not stop for my whistle until he was upon the cows. Then over the brow of the hill appeared all the sheep. They avoid him but always run to me which makes me nervous because I never know when the ram. Stanley Hornet may turn ugly. Now Bagel was between themselves and me. Bagel immediately had the sheep bunched up and didn't know what to do next, my commands being well over his head. The old lead ewe, Agnes knew what to do. She left the flock and faced him off and when he advanced she butted him in the face. He began to snarl and bark and it was with difficulty I mediated this situation, trying not to yell and make them all think I was not in control.. Helen moved in on the situation at a racing trot followed by the others. Like any good cow, she felt obliged to run off a dog. Bagel decided it was best to make an even faster return to the barn. I later found him among the bushes out by the road. The rest of us walked back to the barn in sedate fashion. Helen gave 3.5 gals today.
June 1, Friday: Such a perfect June day. I walked down to bring in Helen this morning with no dog and all was orderly. The hen and chicks were in the barnyard waiting for their handful of corn. Helen gave a little over 3.5 gals today. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so, after spending the day in Farmington doing errands I mowed the lawn until the mower stopped and would not start again.
June 2, Saturday: Rain began in the night and did not let up all day. Those five new trees the road crew moved into the north field are surely being well watered. I just hope they donít tip over. I left Bagel on the front lawn this morning, figuring to fetch Helen by myself but he noticed and got through the fence and joined me. He hates to miss anything. He tried to mind my commands and I tried to remember to use the same words, but we both keep forgetting. The sheep wisely stayed back in the trees. I donít know where they were. They had been around not long before and showed up later. This evening Helen came up to the barn when I called her. No doubt she was fed up with cold rain. She gave a bit less than 3.5 gals today.
June 3, Sunday: Rain continued until after dark this evening. Helen came when called for both milkings. I guess the idea of a dry barn with grain had its appeal. She gave a bit less than 3.5 gals. The bantam hen and her five chicks now come as fast as their tiny feet can run whenever they hear me in the barn. She goes in the lean-to which has an open window to the grain room, just like she used to last year. They jump up and down waiting for me to throw down cracked corn. I have worked out a method of giving grain to the sheep which is not such a free for all. It is mostly putting little handfuls here and there. The two lambs which always hop up on a granite ledge are getting almost too big to manage it. One usually hops over into my space where I try to be sheep-free. But, then he makes a great bound over the barrier and races back around to his ledge where I put a bit of grain for him. They only get a little bit so as to keep them friendly.
June 5, Tuesday: Helenís production is dropping off a bit either due to the rain we have had for the last several days, or, because the bugs are getting worse. During showers the flies are not active, but the underside of a cow provides plenty of shelter for mosquitoes and midges, both of which are hard on cows. For the last two days the cows have been either in the lean-to or beefer pen waiting for me at milking time, which shows an attitude change. Yesterday and today Helen gave 3 gals plus a pint. I am now getting only about 16 eggs per day. Giving away most of the bantam hens cut down on the eggs, and now several layers have gone broody which stops laying. Eggs sales are nearly keeping up with production. Whenever they seem to be getting ahead I make something that calls for six or ten eggs. No rain today and only a little sun.
June 6, Wednesday: (D Day) Helenís production was back up today to 3.75 gals. The only thing different was that I dumped, cleaned, and refilled the stock tank. This is the sort of thing I am always telling other people to do so I will be rather embarrassed if this proves to be the whole answer to her dropping production. The water did not look too bad but it did have fronds of algae in it. She probably hates algae if she gets it in her mouth, who wouldnít. I noticed that after milking she went and took a 40 second drink
June 7, Thursday: Helenís production was back down to slightly over 3 gals today, so I donít know what this proves. Fourteen eggs today. I put out the Free Kittens sign. No takers so far. I made 4 Ĺ pounds of butter but did not get much gardening done because of company, two dear little healthy, butter eating baby girls. The weather today was beautiful.
June 8, Friday: Last night seemed pretty short. At 10 PM a neighbor called to say I had a cow on the road. It was Leah, the yearling heifer. By the time I got dressed and went out on my mission she had come down the road and through the front gate, which I had not closed, and was over consulting with her mother through the fence by the barn. Even the quietest cow spooks readily at night especially when confused by a flashlight, so I crept past her and turned on the light in the barn. She then saw a familiar haven and was willing to enter. Through a series of maneuvers I got them all into the barnyard and shut off the north field, leaving them with access to the south fields toward the river. Then, after I had been in bed about an hour I became suspicious that I was hearing cow bells much too close to the house. This left me with a difficult decision because not only is it very difficult to herd cattle around my complicated garden but I had nowhere else to herd them to except back onto the same field. I could not expect to even find the breach in the dark let alone repair it, so I decided to heck with them and went to sleep. I got up at 5:30 and discovered it was the two young ones in the garden. Helen was grazing sedately where she belonged. I spent the morning fencing. Helen gave 3.5 gals today and I got 14 eggs.
June 9, Saturday: Very fine June
weather. Bagel disgraced himself by
digging a giant hole in the middle of a bed in which lots of morning glory
plants were about 2" high. This came close to ruining my day.
Helen gave almost 3.5 gals today and I got 14 eggs. After milking chores,
son Mark and granddaughter Hailey, age 7, and I went up to camp and grilled
hamburgers by the lake. This was a beautiful experience except for the bugs
which were fierce. We saw many flotillas of ducks with ducklings and heard
a loon cry several times.
I got a few cosmos set out today but no other gardening.
June 11, Monday: After two barren years, this year once again God made little
green apples. During apple blossom time last year and the year before we
had stormy weather below 60F so the honey bees could not work and my
crabapple tree produced nothing. I am so glad to see these hundreds of tiny
apples. I use crabapples as the basis for all my jellies instead of using
I still have plants I have not put in the ground. There have been no nights
that stayed above 60 F.
Grandson Rafe repaired the ramp behind the barn today. It was getting
dangerous for the cows to use. Cows easily can catch half of a hoof in a
crevice and tear it.
Yesterday and today Helen gave 3.5 gals.
June 12, Tuesday: I was away much of the day taking grandson Rafe to the
airport so was not a keen observer of cows, but I caught Helen trying to
mount Leah. She was due to be in heat today. I hope I see the signs better than that next month because that is probably when I will get her bred.
A Black Australorp has been persistently broody for two weeks and I can't
get her over it. Today I gave her five eggs. I wonder if she can stick it
out. She is in good condition and jumps off the nest in the morning when I
sprinkle corn, but is always back on in a few minutes.
Before Rafe left he parked his old '78 Chevy Impala behind the barn. The
cows have never had a car in their space before. When I got home all three
were ranged around it licking it.
June 13, Wednesday: The setting hen got off her nest this evening at
milking time when I threw down cracked corn. I put out a dish of water for
her convenience. After milking when I was gathering things up I noticed her
milling around waiting for me to leave. They don't like to return to the
nest when anybody is watching. I realized she is a Black Cochin, not an
I saw no further evidence of heat in Helen. She gave 3.5 gals today.
I set out twelve tomato plants. I had to do a lot of soil prep and wheel
down a cartload of cow manure, so it felt like a big job. It was 80 F.
The road crew encountered a huge rock when they dug down to make a new road bed. I did not see them move it and can't imagine how they did it. But
there is was perched by the side of the road. They asked me if I wanted it.
Their alternative was to break it up and haul it away. So they used their
huge yellow digger to nudge it over onto my small paddock next to the road.
I doubt it will ever move again. It is about the size of two Volkswagens.
A cecropia moth has spent all day attached to the kitchen screen.
June 14, Thursday: Helen was in standing heat this morning at 6 AM.. By this
evening she was quiet, but production was down a bit from either estrus or
hot weather. It was over 80 F today. The cows do a lot of hanging out
in the lean-to or in the beefer pen when it is hot and it gets messy. It
took me a long time to clean her up this evening. I spread around a bag of
shavings which should help for a day or two.
This morning I put in another dozen tomato plants.
This afternoon I made 3.5 lbs of butter.
My Black Cochin is sitting tight.
The dogs and I walked to the river so I could get a bucket of rotted wood
for repotting my African violet. I also wanted to see if there was any sign
of the sheep drinking at the river. As before, I found none. The vernal
ponds are dry now. I took them water in a bucket. They don't drink from the
stock tank, maybe because they don't like to step in mud.
It was so hot today that the road crew quit around noon.
Helen gave 3.25 gals today.
June 15, Friday: It is so hot today that it is hard to speak of anything
else. It was over 90 F. Maine people rarely complain of the cold but in
the heat we tend to fold. I did manage about an hour of digging and soil
preparation this morning. I still have lots of things to plant. This
morning I got some morning glories into the ground which I had started in
After lunch I took the dogs with me and we went up to camp and took a swim.
I tend to swim about once a year and this was the day for it.
Helen has been coming in very dirty because of hanging around in the shed.
I spread around another dustbin full of sawdust in there and this evening
she was cleaner. But the poor thing was so hot she was panting hard all
through milking. I turned up the hose to make a continuous dribble so the
water in the stock tank will be cooler.
After supper I planted a 15 foot row of green beans. This time I used the
microbial inoculant. I did not use it on the peas and they germinated poorly.
Despite the heat Helen gave 3.5 gals of milk and I got 19 eggs. Some relief
from the heat is forecast for Sunday.
June 16, Saturday: Very hot again today. It got over 90 F with high humidity. This morning Helen came in very dirty because of hanging out in the lean-to. So, I pitched down a whole lot of floor sweepings from the loft so they would have clean standing. But, what did they do? They ate all that hay to save themselves going out in the heat. Helen was dirtier than ever this evening. It took half a roll of paper towels to clean her up. She gave a bit less today, about 3 gallons plus a quart. She was panting the whole time I was milking. Their water was getting algae, so I dumped it and scrubbed the tank. I don't want their drinking inhibited by unappealing water.
June 17, Sunday: What started as another sweltering day was relieved by a cloudburst about noon. I was digging in the garden when everything went dark and I looked up to see a big black cloud right over my head. About three minutes later there was a clap of thunder followed by drenching rain. We got 3/4" in less than 15 minutes. Then it stopped, but there were light sprinkles the rest of the day. My many peonies had just opened and they turned to heavy mops and put their heads down. The Siberian iris was shredded. But, the cool air is wonderful and all the trees look happy. Helen came in dirty again this morning but this evening was much cleaner. They spent less time in the lean-to and the tall wet grass did a good job of washing her off. She gave the same as yesterday, 3 gals + 1 qt. I have been noticing Helen limping and it is getting worse. I think it is her left front leg or foot that has something wrong with it. Nothing is visible.
June 18, Monday: Weatherwise, a perfect day. I only worked in the garden about one hour, but did get my five raspberry plants into the ground I dug up yesterday. Also, I planted my okra and cosmos seedlings. I made four pounds of butter. Helen was not limping as much today. She was very friendly. She gave 3.75 gals of milk. I put out my egg sales set up but did not sell any eggs. I thought the fact that the road work slows passing traffic would help sales, but it does not seem to work that way. During controlled traffic nobody is going to stop. Neither will they stop when a giant digger is bearing down.
June 19, Tuesday: The cows were nowhere to be found this morning at milking time. I could not even hear a bell. I called repeatedly while going about other tasks, such as filling the chicken feed hopper. Finally they showed up, Helen in the lead, and she marched right in without apology. She was perfectly clean. No doubt mostly due to traipsing around in a wet meadow, perhaps also in part due to the cream I applied to her teats last night. I had today marked on the calendar for Leah to be in heat and I have an idea they all spent a lot of last night circling each other. I never saw any mounting, but Leah bellowed all day and had the intent look in her eyes I always see when cows in heat. Helen gave 3 gals and 1 qt today. It was another hot day, about 90 F, but the humidity was not as bad as last week. All my roses are in great bloom. John Franklin is making an especially fine show. Only Fantin Latour has nary a bud.
June 20, Wednesday: I hacked a dense growth of invading wild raspberry canes away from Fantin Latour and discovered that he has got plenty of buds. Glad I did not miss them. Things in the garden are getting away from me. Dear cousins Marcia and Steve came up today with their big riding mower on a trailer and mowed most of the lawn. What a treat! I fixed lunch today for my vet who stopped by, but even so I got in a little more digging. Tomorrow I will be able to plant the three blueberry bushes I ordered. They are very tiny, but still have to be set 5' apart. I saw Helen, Leah and Wilbur walking single file down their cowpath to Pocket Field as the sun was getting low. They were swinging their tales and talking to each other (I think). They looked blissfully in charge of their lives and I thought of what a happy life they have nearly every day. The sheep also look contented. Helen gave 3 gals + 1 qt today. I got only 1 dozen eggs. One had a hole pecked in it, always an unsettling discovery.
June 21, Thursday: My setting hen, the Black Cochin, has continued to do a good job, but two of her eggs are missing. I gave her five and now there are three. I have no theory on what is taking them. I got my blueberry bushes planted, but they are very puny plants. The raspberry plants were of better quality. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. There were 20 eggs.
June 22, Friday: This morning I had the alarm set for 5 AM to be sure not to oversleep because I needed to go the airport for sister Barby from California. I looked out my bedroom window to see where the cows were and they were where they belonged in their pasture. A half hour later Helen had gotten into the garden, just Helen. The others stayed where they belong, which is unusual. After milking I tried to find where she came over, but could not figure it out so I simply shut them out of that pasture for the day. Barby's flight was many hours delayed so I could not do any repairs today. Everything is put off until tomorrow. Helen gave a bit under 3.5 gallons. There were only 11 eggs. When I don't collect during the day there are always broken and eaten eggs.
June 16, Saturday: Very hot again today. It got over 90 F with high humidity. This morning Helen came in very dirty because of hanging out in the lean-to. So I pitched down a whole lot of floor sweepings from the loft so they would have clean standing. What did they do but eat all that hay to save themselves going out in the heat. Helen was dirtier than ever this evening. It took half a roll of paper towels to clean her up. She gave a bit less today, about 3 gallons plus a quart. She was panting the whole time I was milking. Their water was getting algae so I dumped it and scrubbed the tank. I don't want their drinking inhibited by unappealing water.
June 17, Sunday: What started as another sweltering day was relieved by a cloudburst about noon. I was digging in the garden when everything went dark and I looked up to see a big black cloud right over my head. About three minutes later there was a clap of thunder followed by drenching rain. We got 3/4" in less than 15 minutes. Then it stopped but there were light sprinkles the rest of the day. My many peonies had just opened and they turned to heavy mops and put their heads down. The Siberian iris was shredded. But the cool air is wonderful and all the trees look happy. Helen came in dirty again this morning but this evening was much cleaner. They spent less time in the lean-to and the tall wet grass did a good job of washing her off. She gave the same as yesterday, 3 gals + 1 qt. I have been noticing Helen limping and it is getting worse. I think it is her left front leg or foot that has something wrong with it. Nothing is visible.
June 18, Monday: Weatherwise, a perfect day. I only worked in the garden about one hour but did get my five raspberry plants into the ground I dug yesterday. Also planted my okra and cosmos seedlings. I made four pounds of butter. Helen was not limping as much today. She was very friendly. She gave 3.75 gals of milk. I put out my egg sales set up but did not sell any eggs. I thought the fact that the road work slows traffic would help sales but it does not seem to work that way. During controlled traffic nobody is going to stop. Neither will they stop when a giant digger is bearing down.
June 19, Tuesday: The cows were nowhere to be found this morning at milking time. I could not even hear a bell. I called repeatedly while going about other tasks such as filling the chicken feed hopper. Finally they showed up, Helen in the lead, and she marched right in without apology. She was perfectly clean no doubt mostly due to traipsing around in a wet meadow, perhaps also in part due to the cream I applied to her teats last night. I had today marked on the calender for Leah to be in heat and I have an idea they all spent a lot of last night circling each other. I never saw any mounting but Leah bellowed all day and had the intent look in her eyes I always see in cows in heat. Helen gave 3 gals and 1 qt today. It was another hot day, about 90 F, but the humidity was not as bad as last week. All my roses are in great bloom. John Franklin is making an especially fine show. Only Fantin Latour has nary a bud.
June 20, Wednesday: I hacked a dense growth of invading wild raspberry canes away from Fantin Latour and discovered that he has got plenty of buds. Glad I did not miss them. Things in the garden are getting away from me. Dear cousins Marcia and Steve came up today with their big riding mower on a trailer and mowed most of the lawn. What a treat! I fixed lunch today for my vet who stopped by, but even so I got in a little more digging. Tomorrow I will be able to plant the three blueberry bushes I ordered. They are very tiny but still have to be set 5' apart. I saw Helen, Leah and Wilbur walking single file down their cowpath to Pocket Field as the sun was getting low. They were swinging their tales and talking to each other (I think). They looked blissfully in charge of their lives and I thought what a happy life they have nearly every day. The sheep also look contented. Helen gave 3 gals + 1 qt today. I got only 1 dozen eggs. One had a hole pecked in it, always an unsettling discovery.
June 21, Thursday: My setting hen, the Black Cochin, has continued to do a good job but two of her eggs are missing. I gave her five and now there are three. I have no theory on what is taking them. I got my blueberry bushes planted but they are very puny plants. The raspberry plants were better quality. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. Thee were 20 eggs.
June 22, Friday: This morning I had the alarm set for 5 AM to be sure not to oversleep because I needed to go the airport for sister Barby from California. I looked out my bedroom window to see where the cows were and they were where they belonged in their pasture. A half hour later Helen had gotten into the garden, just Helen. The others stayed where they belong which is unusual. After milking I tried to find where she came over but could not figure it out so I simply shut them out of that pasture for the day. Barby's flight was many hours delayed so I could not do any repairs today. Everything is put off until tomorrow. Helen gave a bit under 3.5 gallons. There were only 11 eggs. When I don't collect during the day there are always broken and eaten eggs.
June 23, Saturday: We all spent a quiet day catching up. There was intermittent rain, which kept me out of the garden. Something is continuing to get my black hen's eggs. This morning she had only two left of the original five.
June 24, Sunday: It was hot and sticky all day with some sun, mostly low cloud cover. I finally got my pepper plants in. I had to do more digging to clear a space out of the comfrey and witch grass. Don't ever plant Comfrey, and if you do, don't ever let anybody till over it. Every fragment makes a new plant. The lead ewe, Agnes, is unwell. She mostly just lies around, although she did go out to pasture with the others for a while. When she stays inside her lambs stay with her, even though they are quite large. My black hen still had two eggs this morning. Helen gave 3.5 gals today.
June 25, Monday: Another hot day. The sheep stayed in during the middle of the day. Agnes must be feeling better. She was out grazing with the others this morning. I was supposed to attend a marketing seminar this evening. When it came time to leave I could not find my notes on how to find the place. So, I changed my clothes and milked Helen, which I had been planning to skip tonight. I guess I need an organizational seminar.
June 26, Tuesday: Brutally hot again today. Helen gave 3.25 gals. I have been finding pecked eggs and evidence of eaten ones. Today I caught two birds in the act of eating one. They are a pair of aged bantam Auracanas. I removed them from the pen. Time will tell if they are the only culprits. I gave more water to the sheep. They drank some of the last bucket. Agnes was out grazing again today, so perhaps has recovered from whatever was slowing her down. Her twins are very friendly and eat from my hand.
June 27, Wednesday: Hot hot hot! In the 90's again but lower humidity and occasional light breeze, so we all suffered less. Helen's productions dropped to 3 gallons today, a cumulative effect from heat and flies no doubt. I have closed the cattle out of both the lean-to and the beefer pen, their loafing shed, because the manure build-up is out of control and I don't have a front end loader. Nor can I find anyone in the neighborhood who has one. There are many nice tree clumps to rest in the shade of instead. 19 eggs today. Egg production has been hovering around 20 per day now for several weeks and they are excellent eggs. I found time to set out a few more seedlings today.
June 28, Thursday: Lovely weather today, a perfect Maine day. I brought Helen in across the lawn for milking because the old access is closed off. She was very good about adapting to the new plan. This way there is no ramp for her to ascend, but I am putting her out the back door afterwards where she has to go down a rather steep ramp. She was very good about this too. Not being able to come inside to escape, the cows had to find other shady spots. They spent a lot of time in the sheep paddock. There are a lot of trees there. She gave only 3 gals.
June 29, Friday: Today is Leah's birthday, one year old. She is a beautiful heifer. The bantams are doing a good job keeping down flies around the barn. There are usually no flies when I am milking. I have more flies in the house than in the barn. The bantams don't come around the house like they used to because of Bagel, so I have some flies hanging around. But, I also have less damage to the flowerbeds. Helen's production dropped below 3 gals today.
June 30, Saturday: Oops. Got that wrong. Today is Leah's birthday, and a finer looking Jersey heifer would be hard to find. Helen is coming in for milking much cleaner now that they can't get inside the barn. Helen has to be persuaded every time to follow her new routine, but has not given me as much trouble as I expected. She gave 3 gals plus 1 qt today.