Friday, March 29, 2013

Honeybees in Spring

I don’t think about our honey bees during the winter months when their hives sit covered in snow.  But, by March, I start wondering if they will fly again to gather their nectar and make honey.  March and April can be deadly months for the honeybee.   I secretly pray for them, and hope warmer days are not followed by frigid nights.

Their food supplies are low and if it’s a cold spring, like this year, they could succumb to the harsh spring weather.   To assist them thru this period, my husband feeds a sugar water solution which bolsters their food source.

The honeybees are an important part of our farm.  They’re just as significant as the sheep, horses, and chickens.  I have long passed the stage where I thought of them as a menacing bunch of insects out to sting me, but now see a magical collective with a unique and fascinating behavior.  They provide us with a prized food, and make sure our gardens are bountiful.  I have a reverence for them, and a loss would be upsetting.

I look forward to sitting on our porch watching them work, bringing pollen back to the hive.  It lets us know their feeding brood and building strength.    It also tells me they’ve made it thru the winter and for the moment all is right with the world.


Saturday, March 23, 2013


Every morning, after feeding the horses, sheep, and chickens, I walk inside from the cold winter air happy to be embraced by the warmth of our wood stove.  Louise is lying so close to the fire I wonder how she can stand the heat.  She wakes from her slumber feeling the cold air I bring in and sniffs the air smelling the scent of the barn.  She yawns, smoothes her fur and settles back into her nap.  She’s been my constant companion this winter rarely venturing outside.

Her children on the other hand, find the house too confining.  They need to go outside every morning even on the coldest winter days, while Louise is content watching me clean, organize, talk on the phone, and cook.   I wonder if she remembers those days scrounging for food and shelter.   

It was springtime when my son informed me there was a cat living in our barn.   I’m pretty sure I would see a cat hanging around the barn I tell him.   “I see her almost every day,” he insists.  Sure enough, the next morning going into the barn was a sort of tabby speckled cat.

As we climbed the stairs into the loft, curled on a bale of hay, was a small skinny cat, her coat a mottled patchwork of orange, tan, and black.  She didn’t run like a feral, but was eager to greet us.   We spent most of the morning pouring our affection onto her, and she stayed drinking the love like a bowl of milk.  We both agreed she was only a year old, and definitely pregnant.   

“Can we keep her,” my son asked?  She had already won my heart and a cat taking refuge in our barn must be special in some way.  It might be a good to have a barn cat around, I thought.    “We’ll call her Louise,” my son said. 

When we called the vet, she told us this happens all the time.    People don’t get them fixed, and then drop them off along the road when they become pregnant.  “You better bring her in the house before she delivers.  If the Tom is around he may kill the babies to get her in heat again.” She said.   Louise ended up having the four babies the next day in the barn. 

Once mom and kittens were all safe in the house, I made it clear; homes will have to be found for the kittens.   Well, it’s almost two years later, and my daughter’s is still in love with the two grey kittens.  They only tolerate being held by her and are happiest outside hunting in the woods; I call them the grey beasts.  Louise never went back to the barn to live and the yellow tabby and black tabby were adopted by friends.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Weasel Doesn't Pop

One day, my brother-in-law, George, who knows I’m attracted to all things to do with spinning, called.   He found something at an estate sale. 
What is it?

“It looks sort of like a spinning wheel,” he said.   “Is it a niddy noddy?” I asked.  “What’s a niddy noddy?” was his reply.  “A tool you wind yarn onto.”   “I don’t know, but it definitely has something to do with spinning,” he said.  I tried hard to come up with some yarn tool matching his description.  For all I knew, he was looking at a wine press, so, in the end, I told him not to buy it. 
This is a Niddy Noddy

George not only bought it, but gave it to me as a birthday gift.  When I first saw it, I was a little confused.  It was big, old, and I didn't know what to do with it.  It sat in my room until my son figured out it clicked at one rotation.  That's when it clicked for me (sorry for the pun). I jumped for joy. George found a spinner's weasel. 
Winding yarn on weasel

It turns out a spinner’s weasel, is a mechanical yarn measuring device.   Spun yarn is wound off the bobbin onto a reel or weasel, which makes a popping sound when a given yardage is reached, hence the saying; Pop goes the weasel.
Now, when I sell a skein of yarn or use it for a knitting project, I  have the yardage-Yeah!
 weasel with full skein of yarn

Thank you, George, for following your instincts and giving me my Weasel.

yarn ready to be washed


Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Beat the Winter Doldrums

This is about the time I start noticing a few extra pounds right around the hips.  I start aching for the snow to melt on my arena,  and for the ground to be soft enough to plant.  Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait a little longer, but there is one bright spot in full swing right now - lambing.  Lambs are the best way to beat the winter doldrums.   There will be no lambs for us this year, so I have to be content listening to my friends tell me about their new lambs.  I'll will go visit, but it’s not the same as having lambs in your own backyard.

The anticipation starts growing in February.  I would watch the moms every day waiting to see if their milk was coming in.  By March I’m running out every morning hoping to find baby lambs waiting for me.  I try putting pregnant ewe's in lambing jugs when they start to showing signs of labor, but that always doesn’t happen. One cold, rainy morning, while looking out the window, I saw a mom standing next to her new lamb.  She delivered outside in the early morning.  I quickly ran out and grabbed the shivering lamb, and slowly coached Mom into a stall, where I then tried to warm baby up.
Once the lambs are delivered and all are healthy, the fun begins.  Lambs running, jumping, skipping, and hopping, then nurse and fall asleep next to mom.  This cycle keeps going for weeks as we watch them grow.  Lambs are the best wayto beat the winter blues.

- Trisha