Monday, February 28, 2011

End-of-Winter with the Livestock!

When I was at university, I did my history thesis on Virginia Weddell, wife of the American Ambassador to Spain during the Spanish Civil War era. She was a prolific letter writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed venturing through the boxes of papers she bequeathed to the Virginia Historical Society. In one of her letters (her secretary would retain copies), she used a phrase that has always stuck with me to describe the seasonal transition of this time of year: "The hounds of spring are upon winter's traces." That seemed to me a very apt description for this time of year!

As winter begins to conclude its reign on Harrison Farm, I am grateful to see the first signs of spring's approach! Each year it is an exciting moment for me when I notice the daffodils peeking their green tips up through the muddy winter ground. There are patches of daffodils along my walk to the chicken house, and those tiny vestiges of green are a welcome sight! In hope for better weather, I have even opened up the back vent of the chicken house for more fresh air (and have promised the chickens they will soon have a spring cleaning of their house!) The chickens are back to egg production after a lengthy sabbatical during the darkest days of winter. I do not have electric in the hen house, so I must be patient as the short days disrupt their laying cycle. It is such a pleasure to be cooking with my own eggs again!

The pups are doing fantastic and develop more personality all the time! Augustus is the "people dog". He is interested in everyone and everything around him . . . especially the compost pile. Last week I found Augustus and the Captain happily fighting over a goat hide that they had "liberated" from the compost! While Augustus likes everyone, Captain Call continues to be more reserved with visitors. I admit, however, that his level of devotion to me warms my old Goatherd heart! As I do the chores, it is a delight to have him follow me around the farm. While I adore my guard dog Jolie, I have often wished that I had a barn dog that would be my companion while working. The Captain is definitely filling this niche. I do not hesitate to indicate my partiality to him, as Augustus is -- without a doubt -- the favourite of my friend Christopher!

Augustus & the Captain have joined me for a few walks to the north pasture. With pleasant weather, I have opened it up twice this week for the mother goats and their kids. The does (and Baby V the Cow) have been very pleased to return to graze on the remnants of last season's pasture. It must be a nice break for the animals from their steady hay consumption through the winter! Even the baby goats seem to enjoy the walk out to the north pasture. They are learning to stay close to their mothers and graze alongside them. I expect another round of kidding to start at the end of March and last through the end of May. Approximately twenty does will be due to have babies.

It will be a delight to enjoy spring again on the farm! I am ready to look out and see green trees & grass again!

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