Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Farm Update 2/19

My friends, what a wonderful and exhausting week it has been here on the farm.

We have had the full range of Vineyard weather on the Island in the past seven or eight days- fleeting snow, torrential down pours, winds so fierce and powerful that the ferries couldn't run, and beautiful blue-sky-days with bone-chilling tempurtures. Today was sunny and warmish, but I don't trust it to last. I am counting the minutes till spring when I don't have to fight the elements and the entire flock is on pasture.

The new kids are absolutely thriving- there is just no other word for it. Little Basil's eye problem has completely cleared up, whether from the antibiotic cream I put in it or not I don't know. He is a tiny little peewee though, so I am leaving him in the kidding pen with his mom a little longer than usual just to be sure he is bonded and strong. He has been eating from his mom without my help since Sunday and he is a very hungry little guy!

I am so happy that we are able to keep the kids in the warmth of the hoop house for awhile after they are born. We are supposed to be moving out of the hoop house at the beginning of March, so I really want the remaining six nannies to have their kids so they can also benefit from the warm surroundings. Andrew Woodruff, the owner of the veggie CSA that is lending us the barn, is a wonderful man, very generous and kind. I know he would probably let us extend our stay a bit, but I really don't want to take advantage of the situation. We would like to be good guest so that we get invited back next year.

Not having a proper farm is wearing on me this week. In New York we were positively spoiled. We had more than 35 acres that we were reclaiming as pasture land, cutting down the trees a few at a time so the flock could strip the leaves off, then cutting them for firewood. It isn't a perfect set-up- the land is adjacent to the Taconic Parkway (a busy highway that connects NYC to the rest of the state)- but it is ours. Being guest on the land of others is hard, because we could be asked to leave at any time and that is always in the back of my mind.

Unfortunately, it is the reality of life on Martha's Vineyard. Real estate prices have sky rocketed here since 2000 when the first house sold for $1 million. I read an ad in the paper last week with the headline "Price Drastically Reduced" that was for a two bedroom mobile home on 1/4 of an acre and was "drastically reduced" to $249,000!

Patrick and I are lucky to own a home here. We bought it as a summer rental before we moved up full-time, and without it we probably wouldn't have taken jobs here. It's on the market now while we look for a place that might someday accommodate a fiber mill and Bed and Breakfast.

The animals at Felix Neck seem to be adapting to their new home. They have already made a dent in the invasive bittersweet and they will be in heaven there when green things start to come out. Last fall, I pointed to a rolling green pasture and told Patrick that, in a few months, that kind of green would seem impossible, and it does.

Our Shearing Day Fiber Festival plans are well under way. The fun will begin on Saturday, April 19th at 10 a.m. I hope you can come because it's really a party thrown in your honor. I am so grateful to all of you and it will be nice to get to thank some of you in person.

I had two Shareholder visitors this weekend and it was so nice to get to show off the flock. Beth was here on Sunday with her beautiful baby Aubrey and they spent an hour oohing and awing over the kids. Beth started a great thread over at the ravelry group about he visit if you want to check it out.

Christine and her husband Brian spent the weekend on the Vineyard and visited both the babies and the rest of the flock on Sunday. Our insane rooster Dan Rather really didn't like Brian much and relentlessly attacked him in the kidding barn. It was terribly embarrassing and a tiny but funny, but only because Brian was such a great sport about it. It did reenforce my decision to do something about that rooster.

Our flock will be expanding by one this weekend when Mark and Melinda bring their sheep Daisy over to Felix Neck to join the others. Daisy is an Icelandic/Navajo Churro cross that Mark rescued from being sent to auction this fall. She is a sweetheart of a sheep and has a nice fleece as well. It will be interesting to see what kind of lambs she and our Cormo lamb Lincoln produce.

Adding one sheep to an existing flock is a tricky thing. The other sheep (not so much the goats) will often bully and butt a new sheep, so I am planning to put Daisy in an adjacent pen for a couple of days with Jack and Roquefort (last year's bottle babies and all around good guy goats) until everyone else gets used to her being around.

We actually already have a Daisy in our flock so the new Daisy will be known as Daisy2 from now on. The original Daisy was one of my original four sheep and, while she doesn't exactly come when you call her, she deserves a little respect. She is a Babydoll Southdown, a sheep not exactly known for their fine wool, but I had no idea what I was doing when I bought four of them. I am looking into having their wool turned into quilting batts, so if there are any quilters among you let me know.

The article in the Vineyard Gazette is definitely bringing visitors to Felix Neck to check out the sheep and goats. In fact, two couple s came by to see them while I was showing Christine and Brian around, but their attention very quickly turned to the dogs. Our dogs are just such amazing creatures. They are beautiful, fun and funny, and absolutely loyal. Cini has more than once protected me from our mean, charging ram, Lincoln.

These two pictures of Cini are my absolute favorites. He is such a gentle giant. In the first pic, Cini is licking Buster's ear. In the second he is checking out the hours-old FDR.

The picture below is one of the nannies who hasn't kidded yet. She has the very best horns I've ever seen (remind you of Marlo Thomas in That Girl?) but she also has a really cool personality. We will be needing a really good name for her.


Quirkles said...

All of the animals are so gorgeous. I'm thinking about maybe staying over at my parent's house in Edgartown Friday night and coming at 10 to the festival. I think if I leave by 2pm I might be able to get home in time for the seder. What time were you planning on having the festival go until?

SeDress said...

How about Agatha Harkness? Aggie for short, perhaps.
from a list on Wikipedia of fictional nannies.
"Agatha Harkness is a fictional character, a powerful witch in the Marvel Comics universe. Supposedly, she was one of the original witches from the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. She somehow survived and later became a significant figure in Marvel continuity, protecting Franklin Richards as his nanny and notably becoming the Scarlet Witch's mentor in real magic. "
[I had no idea that there had been so many nannies, or at least ones that had actually been named, weren't just called 'Nanny' or 'nursie'.
I empathize with you on the house pricing. My brother told me some doofus just paid $80,000 for the last empty lot on his street: not to build on it, but just so no one else would build there and obstruct the doofus' view of Sandusky Bay. People keep saying "But just think how much more your house is worth!" Yea, to the tax man it is. To the poor schmuck who just wants a home, not an investment, this world seems crazy.
Glad to hear that Basil is doing better. Are Sage's feet still holding up?

mira said...

So happy to see pictures again and so glad to get this update. What you are doing is really wonderful and I am amazed to be priviledged to share it with you even if just via the internet.

Susan said...

Yea! I love comments. Quirkles, it would be great if you could come up even for part of the day. I don't know when the event will end just yet (still trying to fill it up) but I am hoping that everyone who comes down the night before can meet for dinner somewhere (my house?). I meant to tell you before that I feel perfectly awful about not knowing that it was the first night of Passover. I was at the mercy of the shearer and the Ag Society when it came to picking a date but I do apologize for being insensitive.

Sedress, Agatha is a great name! And Sage's legs are great! He was doing a lot of frolicking and gamboling today. I keep trying to capture his joyful jumps with my camera but the light wasn't right this evening. May switch to the video camera.

Thanks Mira! It's amazing how much more I appreciate the little things involved in caring for these animals since I started writing them down for all of you.

Anonymous said...

I can read in your writing how much you love these animals, they are so lucky to have you looking after them, Susan. Thanks for being their "Grand MOM".

JennyJennette said...

What a great update! Thanks for all the pictures, too.

I think Agatha is a great name suggestion, by the way.