Friday, July 7, 2017

...with a Cherry on Top...

So, we live right on the border between zones 4 and 5.  If you don't know what that basically just means that it gets fairly cold in our area in the winter, and that we can have frost well into May some years.

That's fine for sour cherry trees, but sweet cherries...not so much.  A hard frost in the spring will kill off the blossoms, and you won't get any cherries.

I knew that when I planted two sweet cherry trees several years ago, and sure enough, we've never really had more than a light smattering of cherries make it to ripeness.  And then, usually the birds and the bugs eat the "crop" before we can get to it.

Until this year.

It was a weird spring, and it's been kind of a weird summer so far too - but, apparently, the weather has been ideal for fruit-bearing trees, because take a look at this:

Yep, these are homegrown, zone 4/5 sweet cherries!

Lol, we were so taken aback by how well they did that we didn't exactly optimize our picking schedule, so we really only got one good batch when we could have had a lot more...but that one batch was very yummy.  :)

(Special thanks to Rachel and Timothy [siblings #4 and 5] for helping me with the picking!!)

The apples are looking good so far too, and the poor beleaguered little Italian Prune Plum tree is also heavily loaded.  (The grapevine is another story, though...I pruned it heavily in the spring because I was going to give it away, and it might still be in shock.)

But, anyway, we were grateful that God gave us just the right weather this spring so that we were able to enjoy a little bit of fruit off our own trees.  :)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth!!

Fireworks are in a few minutes here, so I'll keep this brief...I just wanted to post the answer to what I did yesterday, involving these two photos:

The answer?  

I helped shear alpacas!!!

I found an ad on Craigslist last week...a farmer and her husband needed a third person to help with shearing because the husband had injured his hand.  I replied to the ad and expressed my interest in learning more about anything to do with farming...and Linda and Gordon were happy to have me come, even though I had zero experience.

It was quite an educational day...Linda and Gordon were gracious enough to slow way down and do lots of explaining as we worked.  We only got three alpacas (and one lamb) shorn, but they still claimed that it was helpful having me there.  :P

The process they use is very interesting - you tip the table on its side near a wall or tree, then lead the alpaca alongside the table.  The alpaca is secured by the head and by a belly band, then you roll the table back down to the horizontal and secure the legs with slipknots.  In this way, the animal is very securely fastened so that it can't injure itself or the people shearing it - and it's much less stressful than the normal method of forcing the alpaca to the ground and shearing it there.  See how relaxed this boy looks?

You still do have to make sure the head in particular is secure at all times, so the alpaca doesn't hurt himself or the shearers by thrashing around.  And it's good to have a third person for when the rear legs are being shorn - one of my jobs was to hang onto the rear leg with both hands to dampen the force should the alpaca kick, so that he wouldn't kick back into the blades of the clippers.  That also pulls the skin tight, reducing the chance of the clippers getting caught in a wrinkle in the skin.

I also moved the front leg into different positions to help "open up" the shoulder, etc., for the clippers.  Linda did all the actual shearing - alpaca fleece is too valuable to let a newbie risk damaging it!! - but she let me smooth out the alpacas after the fleece was removed so I could get a feel for using the clippers (they're heavy!).

In addition, I helped hold the head while Gordon clipped and ground the teeth (yep - their teeth need maintenance once or twice a year!!), and I even "drenched" one alpaca with a natural garlic dewormer, using a special syringe that gets the liquid into their cheek pouch or over the back of the tongue.  (I was grateful that the alpaca did not drool any garlic onto my person - what a smell!)

Here's what a freshly-shorn (and slightly tangled) alpaca looks like:

Linda and Gordon also have a couple sheep (which I didn't get photos of), two cows, four horses, and a couple livestock guardian dogs (so cool!!!).

A Jersey bull:

A Paint and a Classic Morgan:

An Arabian stallion!  Believe it or not, he's in his late thirties:

One of the livestock guardian dogs (he kept half an eye on me the whole time I was there):

All in all, it was a fun and VERY educational day, and I'd love to go back to help with more shearing (they have 30-40 alpacas!!).  I'm not sure if it'll happen, since it's a 2.5 hour drive, but at least I'd probably be a more efficient helper on the second round.  :P  

Anyway...Happy Fourth of July!!  Maybe your holiday be a joyous one, and may it be free from garlic-scented alpaca slobber!!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Monday Adventure

I went adventuring today.  It was a long day, and I'm wiped out, so I'll just give you a teaser.  My adventure involved this:

And this:

Based on these two photos, can you guess what I did today?  :)  

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Need a Hay Baler...

You know it's been too long since you've mowed when you wonder if you could get a couple bales of hay out of the grass.  :P

Order has been restored, and the lawn looks good now...but I am always sad to mow the flowers down.

Oh well.  Whenever I get my own place, I'll just have to leave one little pasture full of tall, waving grass and wildflowers.  :)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Languishing Tomatoes...

So, yeah.

I might need to work up quite a bit more gumption if I'm going to be a homesteader someday.

I finally got around to planting the rest of my tomatoes outside.  They've been languishing in little pots on the windowsills for quite a few weeks now.

Hmm.  I think I need to find some stakes...

Poor tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Eleven Months Old!

Thane turned eleven months old today!  It's so crazy how time flies!!

We celebrated by taking a walk in the woods this morning.  :) 

Surprisingly, at his monthly weigh-in (using the highly-scientific method of me stepping on the scale while holding him, then subtracting my weight, lol), I discovered that he's dropped five pounds since last month!  Thane is now a svelte 52.7 pounds.  I think he looks good - I can feel his ribs, but they're not prominent, and he's got a nice abdominal tuck that's indicative of a lean, healthy dog.  He might fill out a bit more, but I'll probably try to keep his figure about the way it is now - it's so much healthier for a dog to be on the slightly lean side than on the slightly tubby side.  :P 

Happy 11 months, Thane!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

More Milestones and Some Dampness

Yesterday, Thane and I went on a Grand Adventure.

Well...he probably viewed it as a Grand Adventure, anyway.  For me, it was at least a Moderate Adventure.  :P

We drove twenty minutes to Iona Lake - but wait!  Before that, we had another Milestone.

So I got Thane into his harness, gathered all the stuff I was bringing to the lake, walked with Thane to the truck, and opened the door - and Thane jumped up into the passenger seat all by himself!  That's right - with no prompting, no coaxing for ten minutes with bacon bits, and no dancing away to the end of the leash.

This is Big News, people!!

And, lol, it makes it sound like life with my dog is really hard.  I promise it's not - probably 90-95% of everyday life with Thane goes perfectly smoothly.  He's just got a few quirks that are probably mostly my fault (my to-do list to avoid similar problems with Puppy #2 is growing ever longer - handle her paws regularly, take her driving a lot, brush her often, etc.), and it's exciting to see him starting to get past some of those issues.


We drove to the lake and parked at a friend's camp.  It was a super hot, muggy day, but the breeze coming off the lake is always SO much cooler than the temperatures in town.

Thane followed me willingly down into the shallow water at the edge, but it quickly became clear that he wasn't eager to go deeper, so I went back to the truck for a long line to tie to his six-foot leash.  I went out a little ways - with some gasping as I adjusted to the cool water, lol - and called to Thane.  He played around for a while, coming closer, then dashing back toward shore.

Lol, he also spent a little while trying to catch dragonflies.  It's hard to see, but it's a bit in front of him, about level with his eyes:

Sniffing it...I wonder what a dragonfly smells like?

Snap!  And no, he did not catch it.  :P

But then, all of a sudden, he walked toward me - and he kept walking toward me, and then he was swimming!!  He did one little lap around me, huffing and puffing, with his nose sticking out of the water.

Lol, and then, of course, he dashed up into the brush on shore and got the zoomies, and I had to climb barefoot up onto the bank to untangle his leash and rope.  

I let him offleash after that, and he spent most of the rest of the time dashing through the trees and making occasional forays into the shallows.

So that was Milestone #2 - swimming.  Apparently Collies are generally not all that much into swimming, so I don't know if Thane will come to like it eventually or not...but it was fun to try.  And it tired him out pretty good, lol:

One last milestone for the day - we stopped by a groomer for a nail trim on the way back, and when we went out to the truck to go home, Thane once again jumped up into his seat without hesitation - good boy!!!

So...I was grateful that God gave us a fun morning at the lake yesterday, and that Thane is growing ever more mature!