This time of year, predators are more of a concern here on the farm. Spring is when they are bolder in the hunt for food to feed their babies. I had always thought our pony Caddy deterred predators from coming too close to the chickens. But now I have found out, not always. Our dog, Cora had been barking all morning. That is not at all unusual, she is a little bit like the boy who cried wolf, except she doesn’t do it for fun. She sees something that wasn’t there before, and she feels compelled to alert us to the issue. Sometimes it’s a vehicle that is parked in a different spot, or maybe the wind blew something like a bucket into the yard. I did get up and check but didn’t see anything that she might have seen.
A little later when I looked up from my office window, I noticed Caddy and Midnight looking down at the bottom of the hill. I got up to see what they were looking at and saw all the guinea hens down at the bottom very upset about something. I saw something orange and at first, I thought it was our big orange barn cat George. On closer look I realized it was a red fox! I immediately started down to chase it away before he got any chickens. The fox was distracted by the angry guineas, until it saw me. Then it picked up the dead chicken, that I had not noticed before and ran up the hill and disappeared into the woods. I tried to follow it up the hill, but it was gone without a trace of it or the chicken it stole.
I made my way back to the barn and called the birds into their pen. I took a head count and was missing two chickens! Now I have a dilemma, do I keep them safely locked up or continue to let them free range. Obviously, the problem with letting them free range is we take the chance of providing chicken meals for baby foxes. On the other hand, if I keep them cooped up (pun intended) not only will the chickens be unhappy, but the guinea fowl will be angry and they tend to take out their frustrations on the chickens, which they need very little reason to do anyway. For now I will try to let them out later in the morning and pay more attention when Cora is barking.
On December 16th we got our first significant snowfall of the winter. It was over 24″ in a short period of time.
I enjoy the beauty and renewal of a fresh snowfall, even though I have to shovel a bit, mostly because I choose to have animals out in the barn to feed. Dean’s job however, he doesn’t actually enjoy. He takes on snow blowing our 800′ long driveway, on our 20+ year old tractor. It doesn’t sound too bad except he usually gets all the snow blown back on him. It can take him hours depending on how much it has snowed. He ends up looking like a tall thin frosty the snowman and he probably feels that cold too.
Our son has a snow removal business. The big snowstorms, like our first significant snow means, very long days, but he is grateful for the work.
My sister and husband usually winter in the Florida Keys, but this year decided to stay in their summer home in Upstate NY because of Covid. She greets every snowfall with happy anticipation of shoveling snow, hmm; well, not so much. She hates it and can’t wait to get back to the tropical weather. Oh did I mention she is always cold and has little bitty dogs and chickens so has to go out in the morning to shovel and she is not exactly a morning person. She vows that next winter to stay in their travel trailer safely parked in the warm breezy sunshine.
Now the grandkids come from a whole different perspective. What is not to love about snow when you’re a kid? Do you remember? Both families are homeschooling so they don’t actually get a snow day from schoolwork. But they still manage to get up here to relish the newly fallen snow. They know when the snow it great for sledding or making snowmen or snow forts. This year they have graduated to our longer north facing hill. Now we get to watch them from our window. It is so fun to watch them and it is also a good thing because at their ages, they don’t recognize danger when they see ( do ) it. Like the time we saw the twins sledding down the hill and under the gate at the bottom the hill and Miss Number Four bumped her head on it. I made them stop and I told of the the dangers. The next day my daughter said, she had asked her what paralyzed means. Yes, I went there. The next time they were sledding into the ditch at the bottom of the hill. They had been told not to go into the ditch which has lots of big pointy rocks. Anyway, if there is no snow for a while the hill gets icy and fast. The kids were not happy when we told them it was too dangerous to sled today. Then we got another 8 inches of snow. Oh happy day, let the fun begin!
Can you see a Dad in this picture? He is the little speck in the middle of the picture, to the left of the tractor. The reason he doesn’t even look like a person is because he is up to his chest in a drainage ditch he has been working on. Our son and his partner’s landscape business (Terra Mira) have been using our front field for their landscape business and compost operation, but that field is eventually going to be the site of our daughter’s family house so Terra needed to move. Terra was hoping to buy a piece of land this year for their compost operation, but that deal fell through. Now they needed a place fast, to put the leaves they will be collecting soon from all their fall clean ups. So this Dad suggested using our back field, but it needed some leveling and a drainage ditch.
Terra planned to do all the work, but they are growing so fast they just ran out of time so dad suffered through bulldozing ( just kidding, Dean jumps at a chance to learn to drive a piece of heavy equipment) and then followed up (without heavy equipment) getting the ditch ready for landscape fabric, adding stone and the drain pipe. They didn’t ask him to do it, but this Dad knew they were going to need the field before they would be able to get to it and it needed to be done before it rained again. It was cold wet work, but he didn’t want the boys ( both in their 30’s but we still call them boys :o) to work into the wee hours of the night to get it done or worse yet not get it done and not be able to use it for their fall clean up. So he worked all day getting the work done, because he is a good dad.
This is not an isolated incident. He gets up early and before he leaves for work at 5am he does a little book keeping for the boys landscape company. He also meets with them sometimes before he leaves to see how things are going. He is always there for our family and all the grandkids, even the youngest think he is just the best. I think I have to agree.
Dean would like to take a vacation to see new places, but I am sort of a homebody and we usually don’t go any where. I am usually happy to stay here taking care of our little farm.
Until 5th grade, I grew up not too far from Sandy Hook, NJ and our family spent a lot of time there in the summers. So even though I love our little farm, I sometimes get a yearning to watch the sunrise over the ocean and walk barefoot on the beach for miles. I love smelling the salt air and hearing the shore birds calling.
The last few years, we have tried to get away for a little vacation to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Last year I waited too long to make reservations to go to one of my favorite places, Long Beach Island, NJ. This year despite covid and Dean figuring out he could even take a few days off, it all worked out to take a few days off to go to the beach.
For some reason trip logistics are always my job. The first order of business is always to see if one of our kids and their family would like to stay here and take care of the farm. Fortunately all the grand kids love it here and our daughter was happy to stay. Somehow our daughter managed to take on the added burden of caring for all the critters living here. She kept up with the garden, barn chores, our annoying dog and her 5 kids and their homeschooling.
Even though the weather was cloudy and chilly, we saw sunrises, walked for miles, collected seashells and saw pelicans and dolphins. So we had a nice little vacation, mission accomplished. I know Dean would like to go and see new places but he still likes me enough to humor me and accompany me to the Island.
We have often referred to Miss Number One’s therapy pony as Saint Caddy, because he is so kind and patient with the little kids who love him and the goat who looks to him for protection.Caddy ( his full name is Cadillac Man) came to us through a program called “Personal Ponies“. This group started by lending these calm, quiet ponies to families with a child who has disabilities, for as long as they want them and take good care of them.
Caddy is a U.K. Shetland pony, which are descendants of ponies used in the U.K. to haul wagons of coal out of mines. These ponies were used for their small size and good temperament. We got Caddy when he was 17, the girl who had him was going to college and said it was time for him to go work his magic for another family. We have had Caddy for 9 years, since Miss Number One was two years old. All the grand kids love him but Miss Number One has always had a special bond with him.
We have always thought Caddy was a sort of guardian for all the other critters in our care. But the other day when a neighbor’s German Shepard snuck into the barnyard we got to witness him fending off the intruder first hand. I had forgotten to plug in our electric fence the night before after Dean had herded the guineas into the coop. So the dog just barged right through the 5 strand fence that keeps Caddy and Midnight in and other animals out. My son happened to see the dog go through the fence and called me to come out. When the dog started to chase Midnight, Caddy jumped into action, literally! Caddy looked so mean, charging, kicking and bitting at the dog. I feared our sweet pony was going to hurt the dog. I quickly got Caddy into the barn, with Midnight close behind. My son grabbed the dog and got him out. I put a lead on him and checked him for injuries, fortunately Caddy didn’t make much contact with the dog and he seemed ok. The neighbor came soon after to apologize and take the dog home. I had always thought the pony and the goat were bonded especially since, Midnight’s mom died a few years ago. Midnight is never too far from Caddy. That day Caddy was courageous, and proved his care for his goat buddy.