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“A Post About Today: February 23rd, 2021”

The upper greenhouse just before the big melt and shed. Here Andy is movings some snow around below it whilst I standby listening for any indication that the snow may break loose and come down.

With daytime high’s in the upper 30’s and 40’s, brisk winds, and bright sunshine, it’s hard to deny spring is here.  Yesterday the upper greenhouse was 51ยบ!   Our 20 inches of fluffy white powder has melted into a semi-crusty “snowball-quality” snow.  I marvel that our language only has a few different words to describe snow, when it can take on so many different consistencies.  

In anticipation of the warming weather, and the potential for more snow on the horizon, it was high time to work on removing snow from roof tops.  While this is a constant job during the snowy season.  For the last 10 days or so, we’ve been accumulating 4 to 6 inches of snow almost every day- so all that hard work removing snow disappears overnight!

 

 

The upper greenhouse after it shed a massive layer of snow, throwing it all the way down to the road and nearly taking out some solar panels with it!

Removing snow from the massive upper greenhouse is the most dangerous affair.  The goal really isn’t to bring the snow down, because that would probably kill you, but to move the snow below it around to make more room for more snow.  Thankfully with heavy snow loads, once several tons of snow starts moving downhill it gains substantial speed, which launches the snow through the air and away from the building.  Unfortunately, one set of solar panels is just downhill from it!  We’ll have to move these panels this summer now that we know just how far that snow will fly!

But snow is old news, right?  When you’re hibernating, hovering on the cusp of spring though, there’s little else to talk about.  When will the road open?  How much more will it snow? What will the weather be like tomorrow?  These things consume a lot of conversation time.

 

The barnyard has been quiet, aside from a rash of dove murdering at the beak and talons of a crafty hawk.  That’s pigeon gore all over its face.  For awhile I couldn’t figure out how it was getting into my aviaries.  Thankfully it’s decided it’s tired of being picked up and moved by humans and has resigned to eating chickens in the open barnyard…  Hawks gotta eat, too!  What can you do?
We are also  now 2 weeks or so away from baby goats, which is always exciting! Ruma looks like she’s got triplets or quads in her, but last time this happened to one of my does, she just had two massive kids, so I don’t have my hopes up.  We’re mostly looking forward to the fresh milk for fresh cheese again!  
Impending goaters aside, the sows are pregnant but we’re still at least 1 month away from more piglets. Dotty’s piglets from October are proving to be true to their papa’s Julianna genetics, weighing in at only 30-40lbs each.  Her last litter from our Kune Kune boar weighed in at nearly 100lbs by this age!  Juliannas really are a fascinating little pig.  The barrows will make excellent spit-roasting sized butcher hogs.  And of course I am intensely curious about those tiny little pig skulls…  Considering she had 10 boys- 10 boys!– we’ll have plenty of barrows to butcher in the spring.  We’ll keep her daughter and play with these tiny-pig genetics a little bit.

 

Otherwise, as you may have noticed, I’ve closed shop for a bit.  Having to hike a mile out to the car 3 times a week through powder up to my knees was getting old.  I don’t like dreading shipping days.  So until we get a little more spring melt (or until the next stimulus check comes out- because sales always spike when things like that happen) I’ll be enjoying a spot of true hibernation; no where to go, nothing pressing to do, no need to even know what day of the week is!  Ahhh.

 

 – Jen

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“That Wasn’t a Squirrel”

One day Mili the Dog was out barking up a storm.  I assumed she was after a squirrel.  Then the barking changed tone- she had something cornered or trapped.  Curious, I look out the window.  She was running from end to end on a ten-foot length of six inch irrigation pipe, barking excitedly.

Ah ha!  She’s got a squirrel in the pipe!

Hunting rodents is her life passion, I’m not opposed to indulging her hunting instincts, especially when the squirrels eat all the fruit and nuts off my trees every year.  I’m also quite fond of deep-fried squirrel nuggets.
So I dash out there and peak into the pipe.  Indeed, a bushy tail twitches on the far end in the dim light.  Silly squirrel, it should’ve gone up a tree, not into a pipe!  I lift one end of the pipe and proceed to walk the pipe upright, Mili waiting eagerly on the other end, braced for the fluffy critter to plop out.

And it did.

A gigantic skunk came tumbling out of the pipe.

I was still processing what I was seeing when Mili pounced on it, not five feet from me, still hoisting the pipe aloft.  She did her signature rib-chomp-and-toss skunk move, but the skunk was too big to take out with a single chomp.  It sprayed her in the mouth, and by extension… me.
Still holding the pipe up and not realizing it, I watch the skunk amble toward me, stamping his feet.

Me:  “Mili!  GET IT! GET IT!  C’MON, GET IT!
Mili:  “I just got sprayed in the mouth, yo.  You get it while I eat dirt and drink the entire irrigation ditch.
The skunk stomps past me threateningly, now sporting a pronounced hobbling limp.  I finally put the pipe down.  I ran inside for the .22 but by the time I came back outside the skunk was long gone and Mili was still raking dirt through her teeth to remove the oils from her palate.
And so he got away.  And I stunk.  And my dog stunk.  And the de-skunking commenced.
But the next day I smell fresh skunk spray next to the house.  I dash outside with the .22, but I see no skunk.  And again this happened several days in a row.  Finally one day I bump into my neighbor.  She complained about this darn skunk that’s holed up under her shed for some reason.  Apparently every time it heard a dog bark it sprayed, right there in the hole under the shed.  Everything in her shed wreaked.
She had attempted to starve it by blocking the exit hole.  It retaliated by tunneling out the other side, but there was asphalt pavement on the front side of the shed, and now the asphalt was crumbling inward into the skunk’s filed escape tunnel.  At her wit’s end, she stuffed moth balls and anything that might be poisonous into the hole and re-sealed it.

The skunk smell slowly faded.  We assumed her success and rejoiced an end to the daily respiratory assaults.
A few weeks later I visit a neighboring goat farm for some idle banter.  We discussed chickens for a bit and she said, “Yeah the egg farm next door has been having a rough go of it.  Apparently they have a big skunk stealing all of their eggs.”
I paused.  “A big skunk?  When did it show up?
Her: “Oh, a couple weeks ago.  I saw it out here just the other day in broad daylight!
Me: “Does walk like this with a funny limp?”  I proceeded to mimic the rhythmic, rolling limp of my giant pipe skunk.
Her: “Yeah.  Why?
Me: “That’s our skunk.  We thought it was dead…”  I proceeded to fill her in on the skunk drama of the previous weeks and wished her the best of luck with the new, stinky neighbor.
A note on skunks:
I have no ill will towards skunks.  Frankly I hate having to kill them and I rarely utilize their carcasses due to their smell, which makes killing them even worse.  Skunks make terrible neighbors.  We can coexist with coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and all manner of predators.  But skunks are impossible.  There will be no end to the skunk spray on the dogs, on the cats, on the cars, in the barn, under the porch, in the chicken coop, in your home, and on your clothes.  It’s miserable.
Skunks have also been the biggest predator of my birds, hands-down.  I have lost hundreds of young birds (who still roost on the ground) to skunks, amounting to thousands of dollars in losses.  It’s awful waking up to find a pile of 10-20 dead birds, each one headless.  They are also chronic egg thieves if they can reach your eggs.
So of all the predators I’ve shared my space with, skunks are the one animal that cause me to instantly reach for the .22.  They are relatively fearless; they will not move along if you try to scare them.  They will come to your front porch or your barnyard and move right in, even if they have to spray you and the dogs every single day to try and claim their new home.  They will confidently browse your barnyard in a way other predators won’t, because other predators have healthy fears of you and your dogs.  A skunk will just walk past you in broad daylight, “Hey, don’t mind me, just gonna go eat some more birds.  Come any closer and I’ll shoot.”
It’s just not worth living with!