“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

Everything Chester And More...

Yesterday was a perfectly lovely day on the farm
With temperatures finally soaring into the 20's I spent the afternoon outside,
catching up on extra chores that were skipped during the cold blast of the past week.

Chicken manure had built up in the chicken houses from chickens
that didn't want to venture outside, so I stripped their houses and filled them with new 
pine bedding.
Now everyone's house smells piney fresh!

The horses and donkeys spent a good part of the day out in the front pasture.

There is still a bit of snow on the ground,
but getting out and milling about is good for their mental health.

Animals get cabin fever just like we do!

A wintry mix south of us brought Amanda home from work a little early.
She still spends most Monday evenings here on the farm with us.
It was great to have some help with cleaning the front pasture,
and she enjoys the hands-on activity as much as we enjoy having her at home!

We've had no further duck emergencies since last week,
and their swimming hole has gotten smaller from the deep freeze.
It reminds me of a hot tub.

I am happy to report that Chester has become the consummate farm dog.

He has more energy than any dog I have ever known.

And although he is...

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Our Coldest Weekend Yet

While much of the East Coast was dealing with a powerful blizzard,
we were lucky here on the farm.

It was bitter cold and windy, but the skies were clear and without precipitation.

It was a perfectly lovely weekend.  

We burned through lots of hay, keeping the animals safe and warm...
and none of them complained!

A bit of the weekend was spent in front of the fireplace working on a new knitting project.

That is, whenever a chair was available!

I used the indoor time to be as productive as possible 
and worked on things like turning my blog into books.
I had done this through the years, but fell a little behind in the last couple years.

This company... Blog2Print does a great job of compiling blog posts 
into a full color, hard copy book.
It takes three volumes to capture a single farm year, because I post so many photos.
But right now they are 39% off...so it was a good time to finish this project.
It's nice to occasionally sit down with a hard-copy of the blog
and see where we've been through the years.
And, just in case the internet ever disappears, I still have these volumes as photo albums.

I signed up for MasterClass and began a class on cooking by Gordon Ramsay.

There are also classes on...

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This And That

Oh my gosh, it's Friday again!
I am happy to report that we've had no need for further rescues.
All is calm at the moment.

The extension cords from the barn to the chickens, turkeys and goats are doing their job.
Now, lets just hope that the electrical service to the farm remains un-affected
during this winter cyclone that is hitting the east coast.
We are lucky in that we are not getting the snow... just the wind 
and the frigid temperatures.

We are prepared for whatever happens.
We have generators for emergency power if need be.

Chores begin before dawn...making sure that everyone has what they need.

Asside from our routine checks on the animals...

replenishing food and water and assuring everyone's welfare,
we are spending our time indoors doing things on the winter "To Do" list.

I've cleaned and re-organized the pantry.

We've cleaned and re-organized our library.

I've blocked my most recent knitting project.

Now I'll have time to page through the many seed catalogs that find their way
to our mailbox this month...

dreaming of and planning for the warm months ahead (way ahead).

There were some questions in yesterday's comments that I thought I'd answer.

Questions about Ivy and Chester...

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A Daring Rescue

Yesterday's balmy afternoon temperatures (20 degrees) gave us 
the motivation to get out for a walk.
It was time to do some of the afternoon chores, so we headed out on foot with the dogs.

On the way to the barn we stopped to check on the ducks at the pond, 
and found our new little girl, Laverne, with her wing feathers frozen fast to the ice.
She was in obvious distress. 
(Witnessing this, I did not have the presence of mind to snap a photo, of course!)
Hubbs, without even thinking, headed out onto the pond...
crawling on his stomach to more evenly distribute his weight.

He quickly worked his way to the edge of the water
(kept from freezing by an aerator)
and freed Laverne's wing.

She happily jumped right into the water...
obviously relieved.

Hubbs is my hero.
While I was busy thinking of ways to get to the middle of the pond, 
he had already scurried out onto the ice.
What a guy!
He loves our animals as much as I do.

After the excitement, we continued our rounds...
checking on everyone.

The horses and donkeys were happily scratching through the snow for what
vegetation they could find... 

hey had already eaten the hay that we had put
in the front pasture for them.

The chickens were out enjoying the...

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Cold Is Relative

It's funny how "cold" is a relative thing.
In summer when the temperature falls to 60, we grab our sweatshirts,
exclaiming how "cold" it is.

Then when winter comes and the temperature hovers around freezing
and the snows fly, we sit in front of a roaring fire and talk of how "cold" it is outside.

Now we are beyond cold.
Now... frigid.
The high temperatures have not risen above the teens here on the farm for what seems like
a couple weeks or so.
And colder, sub-zero air is on the way.

It's cold enough that the only time the pigs venture out of their warm house...

is for their Ritz cracker treats as we pass by during chore times.

The sheep rarely use their shelter, but prefer to remain outside in the cold.
They are perfectly adapted for cold weather and are happiest at this time of year.
It's amazing how different these two animals are.

It's during weather such as this that we thank our lucky stars that we have
electricity to all of our out-buildings, 

so we are able to keep all of our animals
comfortable with heat lamps and heated water buckets.

You might imagine how despondent I felt yesterday morning as I made my rounds 
and found that the goat waters had frozen (solid!)
 and that the heat...

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I am one of those people who pays super-close attention to how my beds are made.
Just ask my family... they are completely intimidated by my bed-making skills.
It's the one thing (my family might say there's more) that I am completely 
obsessive/compulsive about.
Maybe it's the nurse in me... I did, after all, go to nursing school during the years
when it was requisite that a quarter bounce off of the bed you had just made.
No wrinkles allowed... wrinkles caused pressure on delicate skin.
Hospital corners?  No one makes a tighter hospital corner than me.
Bed-making might be my all-time-greatest achievement.
I should have run a Bed and Breakfast.
I'd have nailed that profession!
Really... it's sad.

And so, it seems only fitting that nowadays...any time I leave the house...
(with all of the beds neat as a pin, mind you)...
I return to find them all disheveled.
All of them.

The above illustration is a mild example of the "bedlam" I have found
upon returning home.

I did a little investigatory work, trying to find the perpetrator.
I intensely interviewed each suspect.

Each of them was tight lipped.

No one would fess-up.

Their stories... airtight.

A conspiracy, perhaps?


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Happy New Year!

Well friends...
this is it.
Today we set off on another adventure around the sun.
We have 365 days full of moments to appreciate and enjoy ahead of us.
Let's make it the very best new year yet!

For those of you who have walked hand in hand with us through the past year...
we hope to continue to bring many smiles to your face in the next one.
I can promise you that we will smile together and cry together...
as we venture through daily life on the farm.
Life is so much richer when we enjoy it together,
isn't it?

I don't thank you often enough for sharing your thoughts and stories through comments.
I cherish each and every one.
And if you never comment... no worries... I know that you are there...
silently sharing our life on this beautiful planet we call home.

Do not be fooled, though...
our lives are not perfect, but perfectly imperfect...
and perfectly real...
just as yours are.

We wish nothing more than for us to all enrich each others lives
by sharing the beauty that is all around us.
May we all accept that we are stewards of this beautiful earth...
and may we strive to leave it better than we found it!
May we walk through this year with kindness in our hearts and positivity on our lips.


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Staying Warm

The littlest bit of snow remains on the ground... with more coming this weekend.
Temperatures are frigid.

There's only one thing to do when it gets this cold:


The horses love their pasture time, and with this cold, cold weather,
their time out is extended.
It's hard to put on weight when you are burning calories just to stay warm!
Luckily, all of our equines are good at growing fluffy winter coats, too.

Luckily with the extended warm weather that we had this past autumn,
our pastures are in pretty good shape...plenty of grass left for hungry munchers.

We spent a quiet day indoors... the fireplace keeping us toasty.

I have a confession.
I took down the Christmas trees.
I know it's a little early... but the needles were falling like a summer rainstorm.
I was afraid I would awaken to a completely naked tree one of these mornings.

For some reason the trees we cut this year did not retain their needles.

And so... I bid the Christmas decorations a fond farewell and packed them away for next year.
It feels especially good to do a little deep cleaning and de-cluttering.
Now I feel like I am ready to face a new year with a clean slate!

Also... instead of having to stow decorations this weekend while...

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Another Who-Dunnit

This week brings yet another farm mystery!
Another "whodunit".
This time, however, the suspect list is quite short.

Is it darling Daphne, the daring desperado?

Or is it cool Chloe, the crafty con-artist?

Let's examine the crime scene for clues...

You see, months ago, when Hubbs and I installed this gate that leads from the pig yard
into the front pasture...

we removed only the lowest two boards of the fence.
This left a space that was just tall enough for two pigs and two sheep to
walk through.

We did this to prevent any wandering equine from ending up in the pigs' or sheep's yards.

There is a hay feeder in the sheep yard that would serve as a rather large smorgasbord
for an ever-hungry equine.

So, imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon as I was tending to the sheep,
when I saw this in front of their feeder!

It didn't take much investigating to know who was responsible
for leaving behind this piece of evidence.
(It's too large to be pig or sheep!)

The horses had been in the upper pastures on this particular day.
The donkeys had had full run of the front pasture.
The gate had been opened so that the pigs and sheep could join the donkeys there.

It looks like the donkeys had their own idea...

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Just A Touch Of Spring Fever

Is it too soon for Spring fever?
It is?
Thanks for that reality check!

Well, regardless... this week's much warmer temperatures have me dreaming of
burying my fingers in rich dark earth.
It has me dreaming of seedlings that grow...
producing fresh, juicy vegetables.

These thoughts make walking through the produce aisle very difficult.
Everything there was grown a continent away and shipped here.
Freshness doesn't exist this time of year.
Oh, what I'd give for vegetables right off the vine!

The garden is dormant... taking a long needed rest.
The compost, that I treated each box with, is slowly releasing 
all of its goodness... making the soil rich and healthy.

These warm afternoons have been a gift...
giving me extra time to work outside.

The animals have enjoyed their return to pastures... 

spending the mornings grazing

and the afternoons - sleeping!

Sweet, handsome Donnie Brasco...

the absolute greatest pony in the history of all ponies...
(sorry to all you other lovely ponies out there!)

He is as sure and steady and sound as a pony could possibly be...

and quite dashing, as well!

He grows a thick, wooly coat each winter, not to mention the longest tail.
I have to keep it trimmed or everyone...

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Everyone is smiling!
Warm weather has settled upon us for a few days.
Yesterday, with temperatures in the 40's, made me think that perhaps Spring 
was just around the corner.
And then I remembered... Winter just began a couple weeks ago.
It was so cold for the past two weeks that it felt like we lived through an entire winter.

There is more cold to come, so I am going to just enjoy this warm patch
as if it were a gift.
Grass was finally visible in the front pasture, so I took advantage of the warmth
and walked the acreage with my muck bucket cart and a fork.
In a half hour's time I had entirely filled a bucket...
and I had just cleaned the front pasture the day before!

Manure is a farm product that we produce in abundance.

After I finished the front pasture, I returned to the dry lot to clean up what 
was dropped in the half hour while I was out front.
Four more piles... which I dutifully picked up.

And just as I was about to exit the dry lot,
someone dropped another pile.

Don't laugh, Moonbeam... you are the guilty party!

It's a never-ending job...
and the completion of which you only get to enjoy for a brief moment!
Horses love to keep us humble.

I spent a couple hours yesterday morning off the...

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Thursday Busyness

Snow flurries and overcast skies greeted me at sunrise; pretty much a raw morning as the wind is whipping around, making it feel much, much colder. The high temperature today is supposed to be 24, so the daily pattern of “break ice, fill with warm water, repeat” will continue so the sheep and chickens will have something to drink. Meanwhile, Lily is tending the fire for me while I make a pot of tea, and by tending, I mean napping upright on her pillow.

On my agenda for today, along with a mountain of laundry: cleaning up the last of the decorations and messes from Christmas, like the one I made in my sewing room while wrapping presents a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been able to put off dealing with that by just staying out of that room, but yesterday I couldn’t find my scissors in the midst of all the clutter, so its time. I also want to finish binding a small lap quilt I made for myself. The fabric has a Christmas theme and colors, but I used some really nice warm batting between the layers so I’d still like to use it for a little while, at least until spring. 

I’d also like to warp up a couple of my rigid heddle looms today... I have some really pretty yarn I’ve been holding on to...

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One One Eighteen

10 degrees at 8:00 a.m., and everything was so quiet and still..... the new year is off to a cold start. No resolutions, no goals or expectations for the next twelve months; just to try to be a better version of me.
Oh, and start blogging again. Well, that and eat healthier. And a little more exercise wouldn’t hurt... *sigh*
Hello, 2018!!

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Friday Farm Fotos: Random Birds

Lily enjoys the autumn sunshine.

Well, the hummingbirds have finally moved on... *sniff*... the last time I saw one was on Tuesday, and I'm pretty sure the cool nights this week have alerted them to the fact that it is time to go south. I will leave the feeders up for a couple more weeks in case some more pass through and need a drink. I'll miss them and their chatty little squeaks, but I'll still have lots of company at the seed and suet feeders to make me smile. Here are some of the different birds that visit on regular basis and will continue to do so through the winter.

Next to the hummers, I have to say that the nuthatch is near the top of my list of favorite birds. 
Their acrobatic moves amaze me, and I love their quirky little raspy call.

And of course, bluebirds always make me smile.....

Blue Jays are noisy birds, but I like having them around. 
They are beneficial when you have chickens in that they will alert you when danger is around, such as a hawk or a cat.

We have an abundance of male and female red birds (cardinals) that feed every morning at the sunflower feeders.

Doves are also plentiful, and since they are too big to perch on the feeders I scatter a little bit of seed...

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Curb Appeal

The donkey girls were both on Santa's "Nice" list this year!

They are both such sweet souls...

and Santa rewarded them handsomely for their good behavior -

with some remodeling of their shelter.

Hubbs and Ryan
(who was home from North Carolina for a few days before Christmas)
insulated their shelter and added plywood walls.

Because donkeys are more sensitive to cold than horses,
we have tried to think of everything we can to help keep them comfortable this winter.

And believe me... cold weather has arrived here in Central Pa.
Temperatures will be staying below freezing for the next week or so...
and nighttime temperatures are quite low.

With a heat lamp (installed with every safety back-up possible),
insulation and solid walls, they should be snug as can be while the cold winds blow.

We are also extremely happy with these slow feeders that we ordered for the donkeys.

We ordered inserts with the smallest holes.

It now takes the donkeys a couple hours to eat just one flake of hay.
Every evening the feeders start out inside the shelter.

By morning, they have been moved all over the donkey's yard.
It seems that even when empty, the feeders provide some diversion!

Just a little secret between you and...

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Our Christmas

We shopped and wrapped, and crafted,
decorated, cooked and baked for what seems like months.
And in the blink of an eye... another Christmas is over.

For me, Christmas is a time for nostalgia... remembering Christmases long gone...
as well as a time of anticipation... for future Christmases.
One thing is sure... over the years, the face of Christmas changes...
each one different and special to itself.

One might be tempted to feel let down - that for all that preparation,
the day comes and goes so quickly.

For me... the preparation is as important as the day itself.
The preparation is an act of love... for family, for friends, for humanity, for self.
And so, Christmas is much more than a day.
When I think of it this way, there is no "let down" when it is over....
just weeks worth of memories.

Our family Christmas celebration was Saturday.
Four generations gathered to celebrate the love of family.
We feasted and gifted and played the day away.
And although I would love to show you highly stylized photos of a perfectly set table,
and magazine -worthy rooms filled with Christmas cheer...

I will instead share with you our perfectly imperfect table...
as it bursts at the seams with a family that...

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May Your Days Be Merry and Bright...

However you celebrate this holiday season...

we send you the warmest of wishes.
May your days be merry and bright!
Happy Holidays to you from all of us on the farm!

We will be celebrating our family Christmas tomorrow (Saturday).
It's sure to be a blast!
We'll be back next week with more tales from the farm.
Until then...

Much love from all of us!

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Wanna Play?

It's early morning in the front pasture
and the donkeys are out grazing...
with their grazing muzzles on, of course.

The sun rises behind Daphne,
and as I sit here watching her,
she sees that I have a camera.
Of course...

Very shortly, though, she goes back to eating....

I took a little video of her eating with her muzzle on...
so you could get an idea how efficient these girls are at eating with the muzzle.
(I am seriously thinking of designing one for myself!)

Each bite is small, because she can only bite off what sticks up through a 1 ½ inch hole.
But, as you can see, she pushes her nose into the grass to get as much as possible
to come up through that hole.

Meanwhile, Chloe can't be bothered with visiting...
she's much too busy getting as big a meal as time will allow!

Most mornings, as the donkeys graze,
MaryAnn will head out to the pasture to be with them.
She follows Chloe around grunting and grunting...
trying her hardest to communicate.
As you can see in this video... Chloe would rather be left alone!

I love all of my animals, I truly do.
I have to say, though, that the donkeys and the pigs are my soulmates.
Of all the farm animals, I feel a certain affection coming from
the donkeys and...

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Donkey Selfie

As I have lamented many times before...
it's almost impossible to get a good close-up photo of my donkey girls.

They are complete camera hogs...
thank goodness they don't have thumbs,

because if they did, their selfies would look something like this...

or this...

And believe me, they would be taking selfies constantly!!

Who can blame them...
after all, they are just about the most adorable two donkeys in the world!
(Especially when they dress up!)

And while we are on the subject of camera hogs...
our Oakley is the opposite...running and hiding whenever the camera is out.
The only way to get a good photo of him is to use an I-pad.
What a sweet boy he is.

We have weaned him down to the lowest dose of prednisone once daily
and he seems to be doing just fine on it.
He is laying on the floor beside me as I type this...
with the worst case of gas imaginable!
That's our Oakley!!!

Another day comes to a close....
a peaceful time at the barn.
The horses eat their supper as the sun sets.
I love this time of day... almost as much as I love mornings!

Speaking of handsome....he's showing off his best side!

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Catching Up

At least once or twice every day the dogs jump up from their slumber
and head to the front door barking.
They bark and bark as if someone is breaking into the house.
It truly is enough to startle anyone.
Usually within a minute, everyone has settled down...
assured that nothing is awry.

But every once in a while the barking continues.
I swear the dogs see ghosts...
or perhaps their hearing is just so keen that they hear things that I do not.

Once in a great while the barking escalates into a frenzy, 
with dogs jumping up and down in front of the door... unending.
It is times like this that I know that either a package has been delivered,
or that someone is standing at our front door.
The doorbell would be the clue... if only it were audible over the sound of barking dogs!

Saturday was one such day.
Barking.  Snarling. Jumping.... prolonged.
I rushed down the steps from my lofty ironing spot to find a young man at the front door.
They funny thing is... unexpected visitors are a rare occurrence around here.
We live well off the beaten path, with a rather lengthy front driveway.
Yearly surprise visitors = maybe 2... maybe none.

Yet, in the midst of this routine barking...
a stranger was indeed at our...

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The sun rose yesterday morning on a winter wonderland!

There is nothing more beautiful, to me, than the farm right after a fresh snowfall.

Everything is still and quiet... peacefully tucked under a soft, downy quilt of fluffy white.

Just as dawn touches the sky, the earth is bathed in dreamy blue light.

As the sun reaches the horizon, the pre-dawn blues are replace by golds and oranges.

It's magical!

We sent the horses and donkeys into the pasture for their breakfast of hay.
Eventually they will nose around in the snow in search of grass
(which, at this time of year, is sparse).

More importantly, though, a snowy pasture gives them the opportunity to stay out longer...
getting more exercise and more mental stimulation.

  Every morning, as the sun rises, we open up the guinea house and they come
bustling out...running and flying... ready to take on the world.
Yesterday morning....

The dogs have a blast in the snow...
playtime made even more fun with the appearance of Daisy and Buddy
(Dr. Becky's dogs).

Sam always takes playtime to a different level...growing and snarling.
He's all bark, though.  It's just his way of playing.
Although, I must admit - he sounds a bit like a junkyard dog!
You might...

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It's Winter Parka Time

Ole Man Winter blew in yesterday
with winds whistling and temperatures plummeting.
The pond is half frozen already!
And... by the time you read this, we may have had snow....1 to 3 inches predicted.

I pointed to the calendar and tried to remind him that we still have a week of autumn
to enjoy... but he was not to be intimidated!

Luckily, when Chester joined the pack last week,
I ordered him a winter parka in anticipation of just this.
As you can see, it has not slowed him down one bit!
His parka is just a little long... anticipating that he still has some growing to do.

Besides being snug and warm,
there is no misplacing this fellow.

He sticks out like a crossing guard on a busy city street!

I am not one for dressing my dogs, but with two senior hounds (Sam and Oakley),
a young lady that doesn't have a lick of fat on her anywhere (Annie),
and a puppy who is using all of his energy to grow (Chester)...
winter coats are a must!
They don't wear them for short visits outdoors - but when we are out for hours doing chores,
a little insulation keeps them from shivering.
It's important to remember that not all dogs are designed for winter weather.

My favorite dog parkas are made by WeatherBeeta.
They are...

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That Time of Year

Ole Man Winter has pointed his gnarly, icy finger at us...
sending us brutal cold weather to finish out our year.

It's the time of year often called the dead of winter...
when all of the color has drained from the land,
leaving behind an earthy palette of tans, and browns and grays...
the only color to liven up the landscapes is that of barns and out-buildings.

We spend no more time outside these days than we have to...

trips to feed the animals and clean up manure being the only reason for venturing out of doors.
It's just a little too cold for exposed skin.

It's that time of year when manure freezes to the rock-hard ground of the dry lot,
and we use a pick-axe to loosen it.
It's hard work and makes the time that we need to be outside even lengthier.
Rock-hard, frozen dirt is unforgiving...
refusing to loosen its grip on the manure without a fight.

The animals make it through the cold with plenty of hay to burn in their
on-board generators... their metabolic heat pumps.

The exception is the sheep, of course.

They breeze through winter in their heavy wool parkas...
chewing away the hours...
hay and cud, hay and cud...
barely even noticing the extreme dip in temperature.

We've had help with chores...

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Constipation....Nothing to Yawn About!

Everyone knows that yawning is contagious...
but did you know that it is also contagious across species.
If you have a dog, you may well be aware that dogs often yawn after
hearing or seeing their human yawn.
Armed with this knowledge, 
I thought I would give it a try the other morning with one of the horses.

Dr. Becky's horse Sid was out grazing in the pasture next to our horses.

Because Sid was next to the fence and my horses were busy eating, 
I thought I would give it a try with Sid.

"Hey there, Sid.  whatcha up to?"

"Just hanging out watching the other horses, with whisker-cicles on my chin!"

I mustered the biggest yawn I could, right next to Sid.
Low and behold...

Its worked!

A little later it was time for everyone to go back to the barn.
I hiked out and put halters on the ponies...

And Scarlet...

Red and Ollie...

And led everyone back to the barn in two shifts.

Ordinarily, Moonbeam tags along and walks himself back to the barn.

But on this particular morning he wasn't interested in following his herd.

Instead, he made a bee-line back up to the upper pasture to visit a little longer with Sid.
(that is a little, lone apartment building across the street from our upper pastures)

Back up...

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Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

We may not have any snow here on the farm,
but we have plenty of snowmen.

Luckily, these happy fellows won't melt!

After the snowman project was complete, 
the flour was flying in the farm kitchen this weekend!
It's cookie season!

Several of you have asked for my shortbread cookie recipe and some hints for 
decorating with Royal Icing.

Today's blog post is dedicated to the Art of the Cookie.
Believe me... these look much harder than they are.
If I could teach myself to do this... then you can do this too!

My lifelong philosophy has been:
"If it can be done... I can learn to do it, too!"
Seriously, this philosophy has helped to give me a life not constrained by the fear of failure.
Failure is how we learn.
Today's mistakes are the lessons that get us through tomorrow.
The only thing we have to fear is.... yada yada yada....

I guarantee if you make these cookies, everyone will think you are a rockstar!
They are an all butter shortbread cookie... very delicate, very delicious.
It is important to make them rather thick so that they hold together,
although a coating of Royal Icing will also make them sturdier.

Welcome to my kitchen....
I only wish I could serve you a cup of tea and a cookie while you...

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It seems a little surreal that we have entered into December already.
The holidays are right around the corner and I couldn't be more excited!

It's during this time of year that I am filled with nostalgia...
so many memories of holidays of the past...
and the anticipation of holidays of the future...
all woven together in the sweet, wonderful present.

I must admit...
there has never been a Christmas Eve that I haven't fallen asleep 
listening for the sound of sleigh bells!

Life on the farm has taught me to embrace each and every season for what it brings.
I have learned to love winter time...
its monochromatic backdrop perfect for the quiet meditation
of short days and long evenings.

I am grateful for all of winter's accompaniments...
cold cheeks,
warm socks,
hot chocolate,
naked trees that have been dipped in icy glaze,
the quiet of a grey day,
roaring fires and comfy sofas shared with canine and feline companions,
time enough to start and finish projects...
so much to quietly enjoy!

It might surprise you to know that I love to be outside in the winter.
I truly don't mind the cold...
in fact, I welcome it.
Knowing how to dress properly for the conditions makes all the difference in the world.
I love to...

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A Day of Contrasts

Yesterday was a day of contrasts.

The morning started out brisk...
the thermometer hovering just below freezing.
By afternoon we reached almost 60 degrees...
and the sheep were not enthused.

When you are wearing a sub-zero rated wool overcoat,
it's hard to tolerate 59 degree weather!
And so they spent the afternoon expending as little energy as possible.

The pigs were happy.

That's the thing about pigs... they are pretty much happy no matter what..
as long as plenty of food is involved.

With milder temperatures, abundant green grass remains available...
making the horses quite happy.

They don't seem to mind whether the temperature is 31 or 59...
food consumes their every thought!

As for these two loves... the warmer, the better.
Oh, how they have stolen my heart!

We took a gator ride over to the hundred acre wood to look for signs of hunters.

A good sign was the fact that all of our game cameras were still intact.
(We lost one last hunting season... a hunter had sliced through the strap with his hunting knife
and absconded with the [evidence] camera... the nerve.)

The woods were eerily silent.
No bird songs.
No wind in the trees.  No rustle of leaves.

Contrast that silence with this... 

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Heading Towards December...

Can you believe how quickly we are heading into December?
It seems like just yesterday I was planting seeds and weeding garden boxes.
Now the boxes are asleep beneath a layer of compost...
patiently awaiting a spring rebirth.
Days are getting shorter and shorter.

It's unseasonably warm here this week, with afternoon temps in the 50's.
If this continues there will be no hope for a white Christmas.
I will keep my fingers crossed, however!

Who would think after his cruciate ligament tear a few months back,
that Sammie would end up being the healthiest dog on the farm?

Sadly, Annie and Oakley are having health issues and are presently both on 
house arrest.

Annie has a painful growth on her front left elbow.
We are treating her with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics...
to no avail.
She has an appointment for an x-ray on Friday.

Oakley gave us a scare on Sunday.
He lost control in his back legs and was unable to walk.
After a few doses of prednisone he is once again walking.
Prednisone has its side effects and we are trying to decrease his dosage,
but I fear he will remain on this medication for the rest of his life.
Oakley has lymphoma (we've known this for months) that has
most likely metastasized to...

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Party Animals

Thank you so very much for your concern and suggestions regarding
dear Chloe and Daphne's fence chewing.

I must allay your fears...they are definitely not cribbing.

Chewing is sometimes confused with cribbing, however they are two different things.
When a horse cribs, they lock their teeth onto a fence or stall wall and draw air
into the back of their pharynx.
Rarely do they eat the wood, but rather use it as a means to hold fast 
while they arch their necks and suck air.
They have found through fluoroscopic studies,
 that the equine does not actually fill their belly with air, as was once thought...
but rather just fills the back of their pharynx and then exhales it again.
Apparently this causes an endorphin release.
So, in essence, it is a bad habit that is actually a way that horses self-soothe...
and one that is very hard to stop...as there is so much positive reinforcement from the endorphins.

What these girls are doing...
is just plain old eating my fence.

Donkeys eat wood to get more fiber into their diets.
It's important to remember that donkeys come from arid parts of the world with poor vegetation...
so, tough, woody growth is natural to them.

So, while I don't appreciate having to...

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Donkey Update

I am happy and relieved to report that Chloe is back to her old self...

Last week's treatment 
(tube through the nose into the stomach to give mineral oil)
put all systems back in check.
No blockages.
No belly ache.

So, once again we are tweaking the donkeys' diet.

They remain on grass (by way of a grazing muzzle)...
out to graze each morning...

and hay...
by way of these new slow feeders.

We simply put a flake of hay into the feeder and drop the insert on top of the hay...
leaving only what you can see through the holes exposed for nibbling.
This slows down their consumption and makes them work for their dinner.

I had to order two because chubby Daphne would chase Chloe away if there were only one.

So, if one of them becomes possessive of a feeder, there is always another one to visit.

By the time they have finished a portion, the feeders are moved across the dry lot.
These feeders are extremely sturdy.
I would bet they will last my lifetime.
I like them much better than a hay bag, because the donkeys get to eat 
in the same position they graze in... nose to the ground.

We are still left with the problem of them eating their fence, however.
If anyone has any suggestions... I would...

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