I think the last day of spring is a good time to write a farm and garden report.
Two days after the big snow, we saw the beginning and ending of life here at Windy Poplars. We were discussing the cutting of the branch which broke off the garden lilac. We looked out and walking along it was an Indigo Bunting; the first we've ever seen here. It was a male, and as it flew off, we saw another bird fly into the nearby honeysuckle bush. Fingers crossed that it was a female, and that she will raise little Indigo Buntings. [haven't seen them again] Then just a few hours later, Tom came back from the barn and said a sheep was down in the same stall where Daisy the donkey died. He shut the door so he wouldn't be disturbed. This ram was born thirteen years ago, and had been very, very skinny for months now, but still was eating hay and wandering the pasture. When Nebby the donkey came, they kind of hung close together. That may seem like anthropomorphizing but we've seen quite a bit of this behavior since our wonderful new Nebby girl arrived. Anyhow, he hung onto life for a couple days, without suffering, just quietly dying until we called the vet to come and put him down. He said some animals will just linger like this. He also said thirteen was a great age for a sheep. That's what happens when an animal lives here with the vegetarians.
Now, I'll go back to Mother's Day and tell you of Nebby's first adventure. We did as we always do when we get a new animal - we put her in a stall for a few days so the animals could gradually get acquainted. Well, that was the plan, and Nebby was fine with it for two nights. But just before we were to leave for Michael and his girlfriend Esteé's house, Tom checked in at the barn. Nebby was OUT. She had jumped over the stall gate.
It still gives us horrors to think of what might have happened. But she was fine, she is fine. She just thought it was time to be out with her new charges. We decided that one of us needed to stay home to keep an eye on her, and since it was Mother's Day, I was the one who got to go. When the farrier came recently, he told us that if a donkey can reach her neck over, then she can jump.
Since that day, Nebby has amazed us with her caring for the sheep and goat. She does what our late horse Bandit did, and what Daisy and Juno the late donkeys did after his death, she'll bray to round everyone up. It's as if she's saying, where are you? Time to come be together. Again, I'm not making this up. I'm not putting human actions onto an animal. If you saw it, you would know right off that this is what she's doing. She doesn't bray very often - not like Daisy who would welcome us home with her voice. Nebby is a quieter girl. She does a lot of looking.
You've heard time and time again about how no fence can hold Esther the goat. Well, it looks like Nebby followed in her footsteps, literally. We had this bright gaudy orange fencing between the electric fence and the barn so Tom could easily get into the pasture with the tractor.
Esther has long known that she could just push it a bit and get under it and out. I guess Nebs was paying close attention because she followed Esther out a few times. But the concern was that she couldn't get back in the same way.
The first time Tom was home and he got her in. But the second time I was home alone. I was a little nervous because I know how donkeys make up their own minds about things, and I didn't know if I could get her in myself. I went outdoors and said, 'Well Nebby girl, can you and I do this?' I started walking toward the barn and she followed right behind me. I opened the door and she walked right in. Then I opened the upper and lower gates that go into the stall area, and she walked right in there as well. Nanny and Nebby - the A team! She is so docile. So gentle. A wonderful girl. So, Tom's first retirement project was a new wooden fence.
It can be removed if he needs to get through, but Nebby cannot get out, though of course Esther can and does. Also a few chickens have been scooting under the fence and strolling around as well.
The animals now go into the north pasture once or twice a day. Nebby's first time crossing was smooth, and now she is so at ease that she doesn't rush through the gate, but dawdles to munch a little grass. You can see she is shedding her winter coat now.
The bluebirds are back! As I wrote a couple years ago, we'd always had swallows in the birdhouse on the telephone pole. And then we didn't. Then bluebirds showed up to use what is, after all, a bluebird house. This year we saw a couple swallows drop by and leave. Just for fun, Tom went out and checked the house. He cleaned out the box, and brought in the nest which was so interesting - made of feathers and hay and moss. And within a few days, voila, the bluebird couple appeared. There is a phoebe nest in the barn as always, and there are at least two robin nests nearby. But the BIG news from Windy Poplars is the return of the whippoorwills! When we first moved here, in 1981, we heard that wonderful sound every night. And then after a couple years, nothing. There are studies going on in the state, and maybe even nationally about why the whippoorwill seems to be declining. We actually went out on an Audubon mission one night listening for them in a town north of us, but we heard nothing. But now, one is singing between three and four each morning. We've been in touch with Audubon via email to report the happy event. You may hear what it sounds like here.
We were very late transplanting the vegetable and flower plants this year with all the snow (!), then heat, then rain, and then an early June frost possibility. We did get the lettuce in and it is growing by leaps and bounds. We have salads nearly every day now. You always hear people talk about how the best tomatoes are right out of the garden. Well, I would say that's true about lettuce. I've stopped buying it in the stores. It is never, ever that good. We're going to try growing it under the lights next winter.
Instead of Tom building four new garden boxes and putting them in the field, we decided instead to build just two and put them on the lawn next to the other 8 boxes. Pole beans on the left, corn on the right. The original pole bean garden now has sweet peas along the poles, and a cucumber cage inside.
The ticks are terrible, terrible, terrible. I hate them. They almost spoil the spring. Years ago we didn't have any, and now I can't walk outdoors without picking up one. And poor Sadie is black so we can't see them on her. I find myself staying inside more, and isn't that just awful. And they're even inside, occasionally caught on a piece of clothing. I found one climbing out of the clothes hamper, and another climbing up the door of the dryer. I've read the washing machine won't kill them but the heat of the dryer will. When I find one, I put it in a kleenex and burn it in the wood stove. Tom's mother has had two tick bites for the first time in her 85 years. The doctor put her on antibiotics just in case they were carrying Lyme disease. Happily, they begin to slow down as summer approaches.
This is the season of blue/purple. Lilacs first, then an explosion of lupines, iris, mountain bluets, spiderwort, Korean lilacs, Baptisia australis, and aquilegia. And each plant's color differs just a bit from another's.
Just as I was about to publish this, there was another little Nebby adventure. It was time to cross the animals from the north pasture back into their home pasture. Esther and the sheep crossed just fine, but Nebby thought, 'I wonder what is down the road.' Well, that is worrisome because it leads to the main road, and before that is Matt and Margaret's house with two dogs. She got as far as their house when she spotted the solitary red deer which has been hanging around lately. Then Lexi, the dog came charging after her. Nebby thought 'maybe this isn't such a good idea' and she ran back up the road to the barn. The deer ran away, and Lexi turned around and went home. Always an adventure at Windy Poplars Farm.