Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mid August at the farm

The Canadian summer is so short! Last night I left the cafe at 7:45 while our last three tables were still eating. Josee and Tom will finish up so I could get back to the farm before dark to make sure my sheep are all still alive!

I did my usual speedy back roads trip home...down the highway, shortcut through the Stone Church road, up 512 for a couple of miles, turn left at Alexa's house and down the long straight hilly stretch, then turn right, make sure none of Paul Hartwig's livestock is on the road, turn left, wind along for awhile till you come into the hamlet of Cormac. Make the sign of the cross at the shrine of St.Ann...see if AnneMary's lights are on at Kitt's General Store, glance right up the highway to see where old Patsy Dunnigan used to live and look left to where he's now buried in the Cormac graveyard.

Head for Eganville on 512. New gardens growing daily at Seeds of looks like an ambitious project with a farmstand and a new house and row upon neat row of gorgeous vegetables. Drive, drive, drive past Heideman's Mill and past Donnie Howard's hayfields and past Mike Petrini's lovely new home and turn right onto the Donegal Road.

Now I can take off my seat belt and if this was the olden days,back in the eighties, one could safely crack open a beer at this point in the journey. But it is not the olden days so will wait to get home for a glass of low alcohol "girlie wine" mixed with club soda and ice.

A deer and fawn have been leaping across the road here almost every evening. They graze in our long lower hayfield and come down here for water. Past our neighbours laneways... Alvin's farm...the log house I still think of as Rick and Joan's home...the Wingle driveway...our little corner of the Ottawa Valley has seen its share of sadness and tragedy in the past twenty-five years and not one of these neighbours has been spared.

And then the sharp turn and the cattle gate and the long straight driveway up to the house and barns on the crest of the hill. On a warm humid evening such as this, the smell of cattle is the first thing that greets one's nose. A scattering of cowshit on the driveway and long ribbons of mist in the two long fields on either side of the driveway.

Up to the second gate and greeted by the lights on in the barns, the sound of pigs squealing for their supper, geese honking, chickens cackling, cats racing for the house, sheep bleating, cattle bawling. 8:45 pm. Home at last.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What I did on my day off....

This is how life unfolds these summer days.
Yesterday was Monday morning and supposedly our day off so we awoke in our own bed at the farm. We have started taking Sunday afternoons off after 13 years in retail and hospitality and usually make it back to Donegal by about four pm on Sunday afternoon.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning, with the late summer mist hanging over the big open back field at 6 a.m. I carry my coffee cup around with me while feeding chickens and checking on the sheep and by 7 am we were on the back roads heading for Wilno.

Our inn guests were literally waiting at the cafe door for their breakfast of French toast, organic sausage & local maple syrup. After their departure, I went down to gather the laundry and make up the two suites as a house inspector was slated to arrive at 11 am. At ten ayem, our server called to announce that she was "weak, tired and had a rash on her belly" and would not be in for her shift. All uncompleted tasks thus immediately became mine for the doing. Decided not to open for lunch as we had a meeting with a real estate agent scheduled for noonish and of course we had to get back to the farm to take Junior Piglet to the abbatoir before five pm.

One thing after another and finally raced out of the cafe at 2:30 bound for Donegal. Tom loaded the pig box and then both of us dragged a reluctant Piglet from his siblings, secured him in the crate and headed for Reiches. I had previously promised mother I would clean the apartment at Fairfields where she and Dad live so Tom dropped me off there and continued on his way.

I did laundry and dusted and swept and did it all very slowly and deliberately to illustrate to mother that I was doing it RIGHT. (The fact that I have been running an inn for 13 years doesn't hold much water with my mother...she still doesn't believe I know how to do the laundry correctly).

That aside it was a pleasant enough afternoon with lots of conversation and I stayed to have supper with them in the Fairfields dining room.

Tom in the meantime was back at the farm mowing the lawn and waiting for Henning to return from a long days work at the job site on the Siberia Road (a 1.5 hour drive from the farm). It takes two strong men to load the four horned ram lambs who were to be delivered to the abbatoir this evening. That task was accomplished by about 8 pm and Tom picked me up and we headed for Reiche's for the second time in less than six hours. The lambs went willingly into their pen which was next to Piglet and I was happy they were reunited in their final hours.

Pitch dark by the time we arrived back at the farm. Henning still doing chores but took a short break while we all had a glass of white wine and caught up on the days news. To bed at ten pm and managed to read about three pages of an Englishwoman's memoirs of life in a primitive village in the Algarve before falling asleep.

Only to be awakened at 3:30 am by a wild chorus of wolf howls which sounded close enough to be in the barnyard. Tom got up and turned on the porch light and that shut them up. Then at 4:30 the henhouse erupts with crowing and cackling as the hen's lights come on. At five thirty Scooter starts whining piteously at the door to be let out. At six thirty, the truck and trailer started up under the window as Tom and Henning prepared to load two pigs for the third trip to Reiche's. I had planned to go along but opted instead to spend some time studying my sheep in the stable....several of them are lame and can't figure out why...and no light was thrown on the subject after twenty minutes of observation....but I did see that Freckles is looking less than perfectly healthy...she's thin and swaybacked...but has nursed three big lambs all spring so that could account for her frazzled condition.

Next stop: the henhouse where I filled the nests with fresh hay and discovered a large clutch of eggs hidden UNDER the nest boxes and a very irate red hen sitting on them. There's part of the reason our egg production has dropped off!!! The would-be mommy is intent on brooding eggs. I ruthlessly removed them and chased her out of her hidey hole and pitched the whole lot of eggs into the compost pile. Who knows how long she's been hoarding them and its not the sort of thing you want your egg customers to discover!!

Henning found a dead hen yesterday so dispatched her to the manure pile, weeded some of the tomato plants fighting for air and light amongst the giant mutant pumpkin plant taking over the garden and swept up two full dustpans of dust, grass, hay, dog hair and the likes from the downstairs floors.

Tom back now from Reiche's and we had a rare treat...bacon and eggs for breakfast! Watered the orchard lambs, gathered more eggs,tied up the gates protecting the round bales in the back barn (sheep keep knocking them down and nibbling at the underside of the bales which results in eventual collapse and possible death of sheep who happen to be underneath as the bales weigh hundreds of pounds.)

Ten ayem on the road again...headed for Wilno and the cafe...another "Day Off" successfully spent.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The bear is dead!!!!!

The bylaw officer in our township says the nuisance bear has been shot near the McGrath Road. Thanks the goddess, now I can perhaps let the sheep out again during the daytime...with only the wolves to worry about. Can't wait to be at the farm full time so I guard the fencelines with my trusty firearm. (First I need a firearm and the skill to shoot it but that should be an easy obstacle to overcome in my hunting-mad family).

mid summer farm, shepherdess, my novel

Almost the middle of August and these last few nights of chilly temperatures remind us that blessed summer is coming to a close. Far too quickly, for my liking!!! We have been busy with our two farmers market booths this summer and my attention to the cafe has suffered as a result. And I made the mistake of starting into my Spanish research for my NIP (novel in progress) which leaves me totally spaced out in some imaginary whitewashed village in Andalucia instead of in present time in Wilno.
Last Wednesday I made a rare daytime trip home to the farm and immediately let my poor bear-oppressed sheep out of their barnyard confinement into the long grass beside the driveway. Because of the predator problem, I had decided that they would go out only when I have time to be a shepherdess...a task I have much youthful experience with. In my childhood years, we raised sheep at the home farm on the McGrath settlement and as soon as the hayfields were cut and baled, we used to send the flock out to eat up the new grass. We had stone fences and a dearth of gates in those field gaps and it was one of our tasks to spend the day sitting "in the gap" keeping the sheep from straying into the adjacent unharvested grain field. Needless to say, as an avid reader, it was my favorite farm job, and armed with a Nancy Drew novel and my writing paper and pen I would head out to the field. I liked sheep even then and had my favorites...grandly named Jacqueline and Josephine....and I was happy to read and work on my "novel" (a rather blatant plagiarism of the Swiss Family Robinson where the family was much more pleasant than my own annoying brothers.) Thus lost in reverie, I would lose all track of time, and even more importantly all track of sheep and then have to frantically round them up in the grain field and herd them back to their proper field. I confess this now, only because all these years my father lamented the trampled grain along the fences and blamed it on raccoons when in fact it was MOI.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just another bale on the load

We were fortunate to get these 300 bales of hay from Leslie and Carl...and are able to store it in their barn until needed this winter. Was a great haying day....we had a funeral luncheon at the cafe from noon till three and then I rushed out and started throwing bales in piles while Henning and Tom loaded the truck and drove to the barn...ten trips. We were home at the farm at 7 pm...tired but happy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

After two years of blessed peace with only the occassional wolf sighting, we've lost two sheep to predators in less than four days. First missing was a white dairy lamb, and two days later, Carmelita, my Navajo-Churro ewe with the beautiful horns, didn't show up in the evening. Initially suspected wolves, but no sign of the dead sheep in the big back field and I can't see any wolf being strong enough to drag them into the bush...and now, I hear there's a bear in the neighbourhood and that seems a more likely option. Knowing what happened might help in preventing future losses.
I looked in all the nooks and crannies in the barns, hoping against hope, that Carmelita would be lying there chewing her cud, but no luck.
I am going to keep her lamb as well as the other grey girl, Blossom, who looks so much like her....but there will never be another sheep like Carmelita!!

R.I.P Carmelita

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bears//wolves/losing our sheep

Carmelita has gone missing. My very first lamb; my little blue-grey princess with the beautiful curled horns is not in the barnyard; Her lamb is there but she is not. It's been an unnerving week with our white Garner lamb disappearing earlier and local reports of a huge black bear and my own sighting of "our" wolf in the hayfield on Saturday morning.