March Farm Update
Surprise, surprise! - another 8" of snow and still snowing. It looks as if it will be May before we see any grass.
The snow has gone up another level in the cows' winter paddock, so the bull calves were happy to step over and go for an early morning stroll! They may have to be shut in the barn for a bit as it does disturb our Great Pyrenees Misty, who devotes a great deal of time to advising us very noisily that we should be out checking things.
March 5th was a big family day as Kristi and Alain's twin boys arrived safely at Royal Columbian Hospital! Visit to see them was just great - it's a long time since I changed newborn diapers! It brings back the memories of disturbed nights sleep and makes one appreciate uninterupted sleep with two chances for that to happen with the twins. It's quite a challenge to deal with two babies crying at the same time too!
It was a change to see snow at the coast in March. I expected to see flowers in bloom and blossom trees but even there things were a little behind at the beginning of the month.
March 8th, -10, still snowing and daylight saving! We always appreciate lighter nights as there is more time to get things done, but that left it pitch dark in the early morning hours when I was usually out feeding.
Embla's colt Leikur is turning out to be quite a proficient jumper at an early age and had no trouble clearing the fence to visit my mare
Vindstorna. As all gates are still frozen into the ground, we had to dismantle part of one to return him to his mother.
Our large ram is still enjoying himself with the ewes but every time he looks me in the eye, I have a feeling he's trying to decided whether or not to hop the fence, fairly easy due to the height of the snow, and take a run at me. There are some rams that are better not kept around as they can be really dangerous and having experienced this, I learned early on never to turn my back on one. I heard recently about someone who wasn't aware of this and was attacked from behind by her Icelandic ram, had numerous injuries and was knocked unconscious, came to to see the ram coming again and amazingly one of her ewes and her two dogs headed it off sufficiently for her to crawl away with a fractured pelvis and some fractured ribs.
March 24th - still snowing! Our grandson Gabriel was here during spring break and, as usual, was a huge help. This was his first morning feeding - snowing as usual. An extra pair of hands is so helpful and I was spoiled at the shavings pile as they were always ready for me when I cleaned out the cows. We also gave the chicken run its springclean, though the use of the word "spring" was optimistic since we're now in April and it's still snowing! We took Gabriel to the Quaaout Lodge for his birthday lunch and he was excited about choosing a Talking Rock hamburger! The lodge is situated at Talking Rock Resort, so it was appropriate.
March 29th - the sun is shining and it was warm enough to sit outside with a coffee and the latest Country Living magazine! What a treat but it was tempting providence as it was snowing again next morning! We have many red wing blackbirds, one robin and lots of grosbeaks, but even the squirrels are coming closer to the house now, so think they must have run out of their stores of nuts.
We're hearing stories about people running out of both hay and money for their horses. When winter lasts so long, which it has for the last two winters, it really is a concern to have enough hay put by for at least seven months.
Hopefully April will bring mild weather and, as usual, we're looking forward to seeing our snowdrops in June!
February Farm Update
Still clearing snow! Only the porch looks like spring because primulas have now arrived at the nurseries in Kamloops and Salmon Arm and the temperature in our porch seems to suit them really well and most will bloom there for months.
We go through bags and bags of black oil sunflower seeds in the winter and keep adding to our collection of bird feeders. We put peanut butter suet feeders out for the Downy Woodpeckers, but they have steadfastly ignored them in favour of the black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts, the latter being a great favourite of our dogs as well. The Downy Woodpeckers are amusing to watch as they come to the feeder, take one sunflower seed and then fly to a tree trunk and break it open on the trunk to eat it. The grey jays prefer dog crumbles to peanuts and usually take four at a time before coming back for a refill!
Cleaning out the cows every day is a fairly quick job, however, keeping abreast with the snow falling on the tarps covering the gigantic pile of shavings, plus keeping the cows' gate dug out so that we can get the cart load of shavings into their little barn, is a major challenge. The height of the snow has been slowly progressing up the cows' fence and it will soon be quite straight forward to them to step out! I'm only grateful the rather unfriendly ram isn't at that stage yet!
Alain and Kristi sent up a huge heated waterer for the dogs and cats and it has proven a huge success. The cord is well insulated but no-one has shown any interest in trying to nibble it it and it's great to have one area of water that remains unfrozen despite the dipping temperatures. Interesting that many birds feed close to it but I haven't seen any going for a drink. I've tried putting a small dish of water on the peanut rail for them, but again no interest in a drink shown.
Feburuary 13th - first bull calf escape! Surprisingly none of the others followed and as they had lots of food, this was just an exploratory trip! The cows are really keen on 16% Dairy, so it's never a problem to persuade them to return to the group.
My nephew Richard, his wife Nancy and their two sons visiting from England for their annual Sun Peaks skiing trip headed to us for the middle weekend. I gather one of the biggest treats for the boys is to be surrounded by so much space! Houses on residential streets in England, many built very many years ago, are frequently very close together and the roads are really narrow, so the change coming here where there isn't another house in sight and we're surrounded by mountains is a huge change. The boys tried riding, as did Nancy, who grew up riding in England but had never ridden an Icelandic horse before. Grooming is one of her favourite things, so she can be kept really busy. Richard always seems to arrive at hay hauling time and enjoyed riding the quad! He was also keen to see some ice fishing, which wasn't a problem as we're surrounded by lakes. The most intriguing was the couple who had a fire going at their fishing hole, ice 16" thick, and they were in T-shirts! Richard will never forget their visit when we unexpectedly needed the horse trailer, which was in 3 ft. of snow with the hookup end facing in instead of out!! A lot of shovelling was required to free that and we've never made that mistake again!
The ice formation off our metal roof is intriguing. Even though the pitch is steep, it doesn't just slide off but forms huge ice sheets which extend further and further down with icicles on the front edge. The noise when the various ice sheets finally hit the ground is huge and we've decided edge trimming has to start because if any of the cats or dogs were underneath, they would likely suffer severe damage, perhaps permanent. The dogs have been inside most of the time for some months now as even when let out for runs, they head back to the porch door pretty quickly. Our new deck, which is quite a bit above the ground, has earth underneath it, so tends to be the favourite spot.
The fields, particularly those where no animals go, are unbelievably beautiful when the sun shines on them as it looks as if the snow is peppered with diamonds, sheets of them.
Our local nursery had a two hour session on pruning, which was extremely interesting. The owner dealt with other things too, among which was that you plant blueberries solely in peat moss, shallow hole and mound peat moss on top, which would explain why our blueberry bushes, planted quite deep in mostly clay soil, didn't last very long! Sitting in a nursery surrounded by gorgeous orchids, other tropical plants, hanging baskets, bird feeders and stacks of seeds couldn't be a more inspiring place to learn. Just have to remember to start all the seeds I bought inside as our growing season is pretty short. We left inspired to get more fruit trees in the spring and in some cases those with more than one type of their fruit grafted onto the tree so that those that need a second tree for pollination have it right at hand!
No doubt there is no stirring of our snowdrops yet, buried a couple of feet below the snow, but it will be interesting to see what weather March brings, although I gather snow is forecast all weekend for March 7th and 8th!
January Farm Update
Happy New Year!
Snow, snow and more snow! When we thought distinct seasons would be an improvement on continuous rain, we hadn't realized just how much continuous snow we would have here! There is so much snow built up at the entrance to our drive that you have to inch forward to see if anyone is coming! The deep snow was useful when we had the odd "escape", however, while it slowed down the horses and the cows, since it was thigh deep, it slowed us down as well!
As well as lots of snow, the temperature kept plummeting which was reflected in the unwillingness of a number of our vehicles to start! The tractor was the first one, followed by the Arctic Cat. The car's battery didn't respond at all well to the cold and finally had to be replaced - only the truck continued faithfully through the cold.
Keeping water to the horses, cows, sheep and chickens was also a considerable challenge. By the time the hose, one length, was out and turned on, frequently the water in it was already frozen so had to be left running all the time until the transport tubs were filled and water delivered. The truck on the quad is invaluable for transporting so many things and takes the water round, carried in square dog treat tubs with their lids on. I did find that the sheep in particular responded very well to warm water!
The Icelandic horses look perfect in the snow so I'm including a picture of the horses of friends of ours in Celista, where we stopped en route to pick up hay. This was a step back in tradition with regard to their Christmas tree, which was decorated in the German tradition with small live candles I believe only available in Germany. Our friends with the hay had their tree decorated with angels and fairies around the bottom, with the tree standing quite high off the ground, and this was also very different. Their prize decoration (for me!) was a Waterford Crystal stallion, which of course looked quite magnificent.
As the temperature dropped, unless you were ready to catch an egg from the chicken as it arrived, it froze almost immediately and then cracked, and this has continued through January, so the chickens are definitely enjoying their heat lamp. I read another article about how suspending apples keeps them very busy and the apples are good for them, so that will be my next chicken project. The cabbages suspended in a hay net are very popular and disappear really quickly!
Had a call from Marjorie, who lives three quarters of the way up the mountain opposite, to alert us to the fact that her three horses were missing! They usually head for us, so was out looking with despatch and sure enough round the corner from Somi and Ljufur came a much taller horse's head, and there they were! The largest Percheron, 'Babe', is very good about being haltered and leading the others home, except when one of them is in heat!
Which was the case on their next visit a few days later! I was aware of quite a bit of neighing and barking from our Great Pyrenees and German Shepherd during the night and on checking at five, the first thing I saw was one of our stallions (Sleipnir) going under the yard light! This was not how you want to start your day and I was surprised that he could have got out as all the boards on his paddock are 2" x 6" on the inside of the the posts. Stella, who was with him, also went by under the yard light! This warranted investigation!
Of course it was pitch dark and Marjorie's horses followed with great despatch by Sleipnir, headed for our middle field, backed into the fence, broke it, and immediately sprung ten more horses free! We have quite a large area around our house fenced to keep dogs in and sheep out, but in one area the fence is low, so that posed no problem to the horses, so next we have 17 horses tearing round the house!! They were careful to duck under the arbor, but did take the satellite system with them! Also in the inside fenced area we have another paddock where our second stallion, Fleygur, and his companion mare Elska, spend the winter. Now we were really concerned because we didn't want Fleygur out too, but fortunately he wasn't interested in joining in!
Our donkeys were also sprung free and wandered into the garden to see what was going on, but will always respond to a carrot, so they followed me out quite quickly and stood by watching most of the time! The catching and restoring to order took about four hours, most of them in the dark and was a long story - can only say that coffee never tasted so good!!
Towards the end of January the weather warmed up a bit, which was very welcome, although the snow continued to fall. Nothing to do with the farm, but January always has the huge entertainment of the Australian Open Tennis Tournament coming from Melbourne! It's quite amusing that while "not enough time" is an answer to certain uncompleted tasks, there does seem to be enough time to fit in those really spectacular matches!
So on to February with the thought that it will be May before we see any grass.