Monday, September 17, 2007

Shifting Seasons

Summer's heat has relinquished its grip on Kansas. Glory hallelujah! Everything at the farm looks, feels, smells, sounds autumnal, even though it's a week until Equinox. Goldenrod. Crickets. A certain slightly lessened savor to the tomatoes, though the plants are lush and tall and covered with fruit in all stages.

A morning with the thermometer reading 49 degrees reminds us that after autumn, there will be winter.

I'm charged anew with energy again, after a couple months of summer-induced sluggishness. There is so much to be done! Not all of it needs done now--I'm setting a sustainable pace--but I am canstantly AWARE of the things that lie ahead. The breaking down and storing of automatic water valves; the reinstitution of regular hose-draining and hydrant shutting-off; the setting out of tank heaters, the more regular doing of chores to ensure thawed water.

The checking of the garage and shed for things that shouldn't freeze, the moving of things to the basement where they'll be safe. A concommitant evaluation of things being moved: is this the time to paint that wall or apply that caulk, rather than shift it for another season?

Emily, who has taken over the egg business at Pinwheel Farm, got a summer's worth of returned egg cartons organized the other day. The basement seemed a reasonable place to store them, so down she took them. Inquiry showed they were in the empty spot under the bathroom. Oops, lack of communication--that area is empty because older bathrooms being what they are, every now and then something drips or sweats or showers dust, or someone needs to get at the pipes. Maybe here, maybe there? Every spot she suggests seems to have pressing reasons for not being THE place for egg cartons. She just wants to put them SOMEWHERE where they can stay.

Alas, I have to explain that no such place exists at the farm. Things are constantly shifting in response to seasonal needs, changing residents, infrastructure improvements and repairs. The egg cartons find a temporary home next to the totes of processed wool. Everything will have to be moved again when we paint this room and do the floor, then moved back and re-ordered.

With so much help around the farm these days, a lot of big things are getting done, and a lot of little ones as well. Today Ezra and David began in earnest the huge task of repairing the derelict barn. Soon the sheep will have a snug winter home, a lambing area, an improved handling system. Part of the barn (actually a greenhouse-like hoop structure) will be used to experiment with winter gardening (can we figure out how to do that without actively irrigating?), and part will give space for skirting fleeces on sunny afternoons, and similar projects that are too messy for the basement and require excellent lighting.

Washing windows sounds small, but as many as there are, and as dirty (I don't think they'd been touched since I left the farm more than 3 years ago) as they were, Ann Marie's undertaking was significant. "Little" things include checking the space where the siding of the house meets the concrete block foundation for mouse highways: happily, none were found.

Often mice invade the house in droves this time of year; so far, we've caught one, and seen few signs. We did find, hanging from the basement wall near the washing machine, a huge snakeskin. Most likely our 6' black rat snake. No idea how it got in or where it is now, but after lengthy discussion it seemed like a no-brainer to welcome the unseen guest in preference of destructive mice. The snake can seek out mice in the ceilings and walls where we can't.

Speaking of skirting fleeces, we did a quick fall sheep shearing with little fanfare yesterday, removing the fleeces from a number of market lambs as well as from some of the ewes with exceptionally long fleeces. Always an exciting, interesting day with the shearer, Danny, and his wife Marilyn sharing fiber animal news from other farms they've worked at recently. Entertaining, educational, inspiring.

I got the main fence up around the east front paddock today, except for something across the south end to protect the new volunteer raspberry patch from hungry sheep. When that's done, and I get some more hay delivered, it will be time to shift sheep: separating lambs for weaning/preparation for butchering; preparing the ewes for breeding; separating the ewes from the rams by greater distance as the fall weather makes them more frisky, too.

Soon, hopefully, I'll shift some fresh batteries into my digital camera and get some more pictures posted.

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