Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hoar of Winter

Winter has come. Almost as soon as we changed our clocks we were visited by Arctic air. Our days are now getting shorter and shorter: dawn comes around 730 and it is dusk by 430.  Last night the dogs and I went for a walk at dusk to see how the boy llamas were doing in the northeast field, and we walked home by the light of the moon.  The temperature hovers around minus 17.

The girl llamas are all up in the front pastures and corrals with access to the barn. 

We had a baby born last week, when it was still 10 degrees in the day.  She's the cria of Haley and Dash, and is tiny but very lively.

She stays by her mom and cuddles into her mom's coat at night.  The girls spent a few days out in the woods as a herd, but when it got cold I worried about them and walked out and brought them back to the yard.  You can't round up llamas like cattle, they do not herd like cattle do, and they do not respond to chasing like cows do.  So you have to lead them, entice them and they will all follow you.  I used a pail of molasses and oats to convince them to come back.  It must have been a funny sight -- a woman with a black pail being followed by a line of 15 llamas, snaking through the hills and valleys.

Today it was sunny and minus 16 and the dogs and I walked the quarter mile out to see the boys.  They are all doing well out in the hay. They followed us back toward the barn too, but decided not to come all the way back.  I'm not worried about them, there is plenty of grass for them to eat below the snow and they have heavy coats and don't seem bothered by the chilly weather.  The temperatures are supposed to rise again next week -- if it were to get colder I would bring them up to the yard next to the girls.

We saw deer tracks just behind the house, and of course coyote tracks too.  We've had heavy ice fog for two days and the hoar frost is draped over the fences and branches.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beauties of the Fall

 November has been kind this year.  Sunny, warm, calm, snowless.
We've taken opportunities almost every day to go out walking whenever we have moments to spare.
We have been getting ready for winter, putting a new ceiling in the henhouse, adding some roosts, installing a new infrared lamp on a timer for heat overnight. 
We took a drive and saw this iron mailbox.

 The chickens have been enjoying every day out in the sunshine.  The girls seem to appreciate their jean jackets -- you can see one of them on the right near the grass.

Cricket watches a coyote from under a twisted tree. You can see the deadfall that the last seven years' drought has caused.

The pastures are now gold and brown. The gophers are hibernating. Sometimes we see weasels and badgers running on the hills.

I converted one of the birdhouses I made to a feeder.  The pink tudor style is based on a building I saw in England.

Speaking of England, here's the English mastiff on English chintz.  Looks like they were made for each other.  I'm sure that's what Kylie is thinking.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Her helicopter snore. She'd puff out her cheeks as she was exhaling.
Most of the time she didn't snore, especially when she got older.
She had a nose infection once.
The way she drank milk out of the jug as I was pouring it.
The way she followed me so close on the right side when we went for walks.
Her operatic yodel when she howled at coyotes.
The way she used to sing and howl in the car when she was having fun.
Her sneer when she was ticked off.
The way she kept her own nails trim.
The time she brought me my slippers when I was feeling blue.  She did that again when I told her how nice that was six months later.
The words she knew: kiss, paw, sit, down, off, sofa, high 5, come, stay, walk, car, spaghetti, cheese, sausages, bed time, time for bed, beautiful Miranda, Miranda smells like chocolates, bones, cookies, doggy, coyote, gopher, fox, foooood, wriggle, ballet toes, milk, water, Cricket, Molly, Molly & Marko, good, bad, no, bye-bye
I hypnotized her before she died by chanting heal the  bones energy bone bone heal the bones.
I didn't want to euthanize her at the end.
Her mane
Her soft soft fur
The white spots on her toes
Her soft long ears
Her smell, she smelled clean always
She had an underbite
The way she dragged her toes a little when she walked
She loved to crackle water bottles
She loved to play with milk jugs
She would put her head on the console of the car when we drove or sometimes on my shoulder
She loved to swim
She loved to fetch frisbees in the water
She pulled a sled for me
She wore a harness for a long time so I could help hold her up when her legs were bad.
Marko called her Chubbikins
The way she'd sit by the tub when I had a bath
At first she slept on the bed with me every night, facing the door.  She didn't like to get too close  on the bed because it made her too warm.
She loved to rip towels.
The time she growled and walked in front of me to protect me from a guy who appeared out of the bush ahead of me in the Don Valley.
The time she pulled the pants off a bratty kid.
Her voice.
The way she put her hand out to my arm when she was laying down.
She used to pull the light off and on in her room when she was a puppy.
The time she barked in the car and poop popped out of her bum like a little cannonball.
The first time she farted when she was a puppy, she jumped up, spun around and looked so surprised.
She could eat from a spoon or fork.
Mindy, Mindus, Mindus blinndus, Beautiful Miranda, Mindy blinndy
Her back would go up when she was warning me.
She had longer hair on her shoulders.
Tippy toe, tippy toe
I called her a ferenghi and a mangalore
Her face upside down, how baggy it was and how soft
She didn't have much white hair on her face when she died
She helped me herd chickens, once she caught on to how it was done.
She loved to hear "good job".
She liked when I did a high laugh and clapped my hands and said "good job" and Yay Mindy, or Yay Miranda.
She loved to fetch a ball especially when she was young.
She had many friends at the dog park.
Otis was an Italian greyhound who humped her leg.
Her bff was Stella the little Duck tolling retriever.
Molly the great dane was her all time best friend.  She remembered her name until the day she died.
The time she fell down an embankment and Marko had to pull her up by her harness -- the little yelp she made.
The first time she saw a horse, she chased it away -- I was dragged about 25 feet on my belly as I held onto the leash.  She was always wary of horses.  She didn't trust them.
The little wriggle she'd make when I tickled her back.
For a while, she would shake when she got out of the lake, I'd say "shake" and she would.
Her beautiful feet.
She chewed my furniture when she was teething.
She came to Lake Miskawbi when she was tiny and rode in Susanne and Andy's paddle boat.
She chewed Sundog by Jim Harrison and How to Communicate with your Dog, and April Frost's book about Dog Obedience.  Those were the only books she chewed.  I still have them.
Her soft face, snuggling her cheek.
She was named from Miranda in The Tempest when we saw Shakespeare in Toronto.
A film guy once told us she should be in movies.
She got honked at on Queen Street and people shouted "great dog".
The way her head would swivel around when she heard something.
When she would furrow her brow and look concerned.
Her "fake out", she'd start barking and barking to get Cricket off the sofa, then steal her spot.
I slept with her on the floor the night before she died.
She loved playing with a big piece of 4" abs pipe, which she would roll around the yard.
She loved clattering crushed milk jugs.
She learned things very quickly, it only took a few examples.
She loved to be told she was smart.
I would whisper in her ear a list of things about her, she loved that. I'd say Miranda, you are so smart, and so brave, you smell like chocolates,  I love you.
I had a ritual saying when I said goodbye for work.  I'd say, I love you, Be good, Don't let anyone in, I'll see you later.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chicken Tractor and Sunset

This picture was taken last month -- it's the chicken tractor I built.  I didn't need to use it this year because we had so much rain that there was plenty of pasture and grass for the chickens in their regular enclosure. The thing about this tractor is that it is collapsible -- the roof comes off, and the walls are held together with piano hinge.  I built it this way because I needed an emergency shelter last winter (or so I thought) because two flocks of chickens were not getting along.  When we got blisteringly cold weather last winter, I was forced to move the chickens into the same coop -- and since they suddenly were getting along, I didn't need to house them in this.  The reason it was collapsible was that I needed to put it in my heated shop which has a doorway of only 36 inches.
It rests on a 4x4 platform with 8" wheels so I can tow it around the yard or pasture.

This summer I made this little guy. 

Here's the sky last week near sunset.

Tonight as I walked around the yard after dark (it gets dark here by 730 or so) I could hear big flocks of birds flying overhead. Whenever they fly by I wish them a safe journey out of range of hunters and other dangers.  For a beautiful experience that you will not forget, see the film Winged Migration.  It's a monument of nature documentary film-making.  You will wonder how it was made, it is so incredible.