Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA

Springing Ahead

Did you remember to set your clocks ahead this weekend?  Another welcome sign that spring's coming, but I hate it.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having more daylight in the evenings, but I hate the out of sync feeling you have for a few days.  It also makes the evening chores weird- this time of year we start about 4:30 PM, which gives us enough time to feed everything as well as take care of any unexpected tasks- think fixing the French drain that iced over and caused water to leak into the barn again or fixing the electric fence because Wilbur the boar hog is trying to get loose.  So the critters are used to eating about 4:30-5:00.  They have their own routines, and instinctively know it's time to eat.  The horses will whinny from inside the barn when they hear footsteps (somehow they can tell human from cow, goat, etc!)  The cows return from the far reaches of the pasture to wait by the barn for their hay.  So for them, we bump chores "back" by an hour after the change, which means that in reality they are eating just when they expect, but it always throws me off for a few days. 

Tomorrow I'm going to DuBois, PA for a grazing conference.  One of the nice things about not working, besides all the wonderful stuff I get to do here, is that I can now go to some of the seminars and workshops to see how other folks farm and how I might improve what we do here.  This grazing workshop is really the first one I'll be going to, and I'm excited.  While grazing may not be the most engaging topic ever, it's so important to what we do.  That being said, I'll admit that my main reason for going is the keynote speaker, Temple Grandin.   For those who've never heard of her, Temple is an autistic woman who also has a doctorate in Animal Science.  She's renown for her ability to understand animals and has been instrumental in reshaping slaughterhouses across the country to make the handling of the animals there more humane and less stressful.  In my "previous life" before farming, I earned a Master's in Social Work and did work with autistic kids.  I also loved animals and one day came across Ms. Grandin's book called Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.  It was fascinating and a wonderful read, even for those with little knowledge of livestock or autism.  It gives a lot of insight into animal intelligence, and even why dogs do what they do.  In the meantime, I've heard hers is such a remarkable story that there's even a movie about her out now!  So I'm really excited to go and listen and learn tomorrow.

These is so much going on here at the farm as well!  We're seeing signs of new growth all over the place.  The rhubarb is pushing tiny crimson buds through the soil, and there are deep purple, fern-like shoots in the horseradish patch.  The herb garden perennials are coming back to life as well- an inspection this weekend revealed new leaves on the sage, oregano, and lemon balm, as well as new shoots of chives, already 2" tall!  Inside, I've got cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and herbs sprouting in the flats I planted, and so I now watch the outdoor temperatures to see when it's safe to set them out in the greenhouse for some good spring sunshine.  The pullets have begun to lay in earnest and we're beginning to save their eggs for hatching.  In fact, this time next week I hope to have chicks hatch!  

But possibly the most exciting news for me is that we have another lamb.  Now, once lambing season kicks off, it's not quite as exciting since you've been watching the woolly bundles of joy leap and play for some time now.  But this one is kind of special.  After the whole Sheepie tragedy I watched my other ewes for signs of anything amiss.  Unfortunately, another one of my young ewes seemed a little off within a week after Sheepie's death.  So we brought her in, caught it early, and seemed to get everything straight.  (At least that's what I thought. Dan wasn't entirely convinced that she was ill, but agreed that we should treat her anyway, as the medicine that treats is also used as a preventative.  Better safe than sorry and all that.)  I didn't blog about it, as it was just too hard emotionally to get so many notes of support, then lose the fight anyway the first time around.  However, this has a happy ending, as this ewe, Lisa, has been fine for a month now, but you never know about the baby.  This morning, before Dan left for work, he let me know that she'd lambed unassisted.  Just a single, but alive and healthy and both mom and baby were doing fine in a lambing jug in the barn.  I'm still out of whack, sleep-wise, and forgot to ask if it was a ewe or ram or if it was any color but white.  I went down to the barn to check on them later and found her to be pretty wary of me, although she did take a treat from me.  So I didn't bother to inspect the little one, as it seemed to be doing just fine, resting in the back corner of the lambing jug, and I hate to interfere with the bonding, especially with the younger ewes. Lisa is Rosa's daughter, and Rosa always seems to throw uniquely colored lambs.  Rosa is black, and has had lambs that were all black, black with white markings (esp. on the face & head), and last year the one I called "Speckles" because he was brown and white speckled all over (I so wanted him to be a ewe, so I could keep it instead of processing it in the fall!).  Lisa herself is black with a touch of white on the face, but Rosa's ewe lambs this year are both pure white. (Still adorable, but I do love the fun colored ones!)  So I was about in shock to see this little one...not white, or black, or even brown, but what seems to be a charcoal gray with white all over, which Dan totally failed to mention.  I'll be interested to see what it looks like when it's been dry for a few days, but really an eye-catching sheep.  And I hope it's a girl, since males don't stay nearly as long on the farm, but we'll just see...   

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