Thursday, January 31, 2013


My boss took me out for coffee last week because my hands were frozen and I needed something hot to hold onto.
We went to a local mall and as I walked through the doors I saw a wonderful art display that was calling my name.

On the wall was a huge brown cow.

I can actually smell this cows breath.....  Such wonderful detail!

 Can you feel her watching you ?

Would love to have this on my wall watching over me.

She has a calming affect.

To place a lion with a cow was a bit unusual. Its not March (comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb)

Beautiful detail on the lion as well!

I hated to leave her behind.
 This is the incredible artist who makes fabulous kites.

Just incase you are unable to read his handwriting;

The artist is Jim Thompson
"Helen the cow kite"
Acrylic on paper.  $100
Phone  802-223-1069

Take a glance at his website and let me know which kite you would like to go home with.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I succumbed to the -20 and -25 below weather last week and wired up the coop with a big light bulb to help give the flock a little bit of warmth.

I have a nice hole above the coop door to run the electric cord into and I strategically positioned a gallon of Vermont maple syrup on top of the cord so I would not trip on it at night.

I am soo nervous about using electricity, but am calming myself by saying that its a temporary thing.

I will have to rig something up so the snowplow man doesn't rip it all out by accident.

The only change I have noticed since I hung the light is that my 2 hens that were laying eggs have suddenly stopped.    Has this happened to any of you?

I am using a 75 watt bulb.   What size are you using ?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ford Tough

Its only 9 degrees here in Northern Vermont and the snow started at 10 am and is coming down cold and steady.

The herd was chewing cud and some were still eating breakfast when I came to replenish their water supply.

 The cows like the snow and the cold.

I haven't told them that there is a strong possibility of freezing rain early tomorrow morning.

It will be double nasty because I have a long ride to the Vermont Farm Show tomorrow.

It's 3 long days of work amongst 50,000 attendees and some fabulous agricultural equipment, workshops, free loot and networking.

I am hoping there are some tractor or cow raffles. I want my own tractor and I always want moore cows.

There will be lots of poultry and livestock magazines, key chains, pens and garden equipment up for grabs there as well.
You really should drop what you are doing and head on over to the Essex Jct Fairgrounds.

 I will be commuting so I can water the herd in the evenings and kiss my ducks good night.

 Mavis will be in charge of all the farm chores while I am gone.

She has learned to unplug the tractor heater before starting the tractor and driving off to get hay.
( what a mess it is if you forget!!)

Today she learned how to flip the water pumps on to fill the water tanks.

 I feel confident she can handle the chore challenges as long as the herd does not make eye contact with her.

The herd has been instructed not to distract Mavis while she is working and to make sure the calves do not harass her.

Of course Mavis expects presents upon my return every evening and has asked especially for a smaller, more appropriate blue tractor, with heated steering wheel and seats, to do chores with.

I hope the raffle tickets aren't too expensive.

I love my little farm dog.

Who is in charge of your place when you leave for the day or weekend ?
Does your farm dog wear a jacket that matches your tractor?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vermont's Latest Bacon Craze

On the way back from the dump, I stopped at the village country store and saw this.

It was just a matter of time before the Maple State conquered bacon.

Apparently they are selling like hotcakes.

Have you had one yet ?

Got weird foods in your town?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Herd Cocktails

On my way home at night I stop and water the herd again.

The past few evenings it has been -10 degrees as I am putting the hose into the tanks.

And the past few evenings the herd has been waiting for my arrival.
It always seems like a quiet get together for group cocktails, along with a little gossip and some bar snacks (cinnamon covered graham crackers).

This particular evening they lined up and took turns as the tank filled and then went back to the roll of 2nd cut hay in their hay rack.

 The herd seems to do everything by color.

First the all black cows drink and then the red cows drink and then the red calves drink and lastly the black and white heifers drink.

Every night the lineup is the same.

 I love standing there in the freezing stillness, looking at the moon and hearing the cows slurp their water.

Then I hear the crunching of the snow as they head back to their hay.

It is a wonderful routine until my toes turn numb.

Just before I leave I sometimes hear a coyote howling off in the other fields.

It reminds me how rural we are and how this area is very conducive to healthy wildlife.

Not a day goes by that I do not see a fox, eagle, porcupine, deer, hawk, turkey or...did you read about the surprise encounter of an ermine Mavis had last week ?  Go read it.  Its 2 posts below this one.  I got a real good education on that one.  Every animal I meet becomes my personal teacher.

I am still waiting for the neighborhood moose to show up here with the herd some morning.

What is the most unexpected wildlife you have found on your property or with your livestock ?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fences

At rest for the winter, farm equipment is parked out of the harsh elements for a few months.

Although it looks like the hay equipment isn't doing anything, it serves many purposes as it sleeps in the shed.

Mice have built nests in the interiors of the haybines and rakes. Snakes are hibernating in the hay still left in the equipment. Birds will use the "left overs" to nest in when spring gets closer.

 Every farm has outbuildings that are used for storage or making different products, like maple syrup.

Soon there will be sweet smoke billowing out of the stack as the tastiest liquid in the world is made in Vermont.

What do you have in your outbuildings?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sunrise Chores

It is -25 degrees this morning.
I was just finishing chores as the sun was coming up.  The moon was in no rush to go home, so I snapped these photos as I enjoyed the first rays of light.

Hope your day goes well.

How cold is it where you are ?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The White Winter Varmit

Yesterday morning at breakfast, cowdog Mavis suddenly went ballistic: Barking like a screaming habanchi and running from window to window.  It was snowing lightly, with 10 inches of fluffy snow already on the ground from the past several days and there were no dogs or deer infringing on her property rights and no joggers going up the rural road either.   I saw nothing, except the tracks of the flock as they headed back to the coop to get a snack.

I got up and opened the door and out bombed Mavis. She zoomed to the far side of my truck and I saw a flash of something run from the truck to under the porch steps.  I thought it was a mouse because I saw 2 inches of a dark colored something.  And 3 weeks ago I had to have a burning mouse removed from my manifold, plus The Gauntlet mouse trap my practical brother gave me for Christmas is catching mice at an olympic rate, so I naturally assumed it was a mouse.

I called Mavis back into the house and she reluctantly came.   She sat by the window and growled while I continued with breakfast.  All of a sudden I saw the something come out from under the stairs. Mavis almost jumped through the window.

Here is what I it ran back to the other side of my truck.

I felt a shiver run down my spine and leaped for the door to let that new weasel dog of mine back out to protect the flock as I ran to the chicken coop to put the birds in Lock down!

Mavis ran the varmint back under the stairs and I could hear it hissing and chirping from way over by the coop as I counted the flock and locked them in.

 When I went back to the porch stairs the weasel was involved in a rapid game of trying to bite Mavis from the little opening at the side of the stairs.

It would stick its head out and try to nip at Mavis and then chirp and hiss.  "Our weasel" had bright pink beady eyes and a pink nose.

Very healthy looking.
 I was glad to see that.

I could not believe how tiny it was and how bold it was.

I was so focused on what was now under the steps I didn't even think about my camera, so I am using the photos of others who have also experienced a close encounter with an unexpected winter guest.

How Mavis ever saw this tiny white creature in the snow is beyond me, but she alerted the household and just about the entire neighborhood to its presence. 

This past summer I had seen a tiny brown one cross the road  about 100 yards from the house.

These short tailed weasel family critters are called ermine.
Though the centuries their fur has been used to decorate royal families clothing.

Browse "ermine" and ancient portraits of royal families covered in white ermine furs through the centuries will pop up, some with ermine sitting on their laps!

These ermine are very beneficial to places that have many voles, moles, mice, squirrels and chipmunks.
I got the full menu here. I should change my farm name to the Ermine Diner!

I am sure this boy was here to eat the abundnace of mice that stampeded in to this old farmhouse once it started to get cold last fall.

As I read more about them, I became convinced this was so.

Read this info and see what I mean:

I am not going to trap him as long as he leaves my flock alone.

His judgement may have been fuzzy from hunger when he chose this farm instead of the others on this road, but I am sure now that he has been confronted by a real Vermont weasel dog he may now rethink his decision to dine here.
Although he is free to return to reduce the ever growing population of chipmunks, squirrels and mice.

Once the flock was locked in, I brought Mavis into the house and we watched from the windws to see if our new visitor was ready to leave.

Neither of us saw him scurry away, but this morning Mavis showed me that there was no sign of him so I let the flock out and supervised them in this 25 mph gusty windy day.

Here is a little more info about these tiny, efficient hunters in Vermont 
Have you ever seen an ermine ?
Has one ever gotten your chickens ?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vermont Winter Carnival

After 9 long days of being sick and having a bad case of Cabin Fever,  I attended a fantastic event in Ryegate Vermont today. A real winter carnival with lots of different activities.

I had never been to one before today, and I sure hope this is an annual event here!

The location of this event was out in the middle of nowhere, on a pond surrounded by big fields.
I went early so I could get a good parking spot.
Us early birds get to see all the action, such as this woman bringing fresh cut sticks to use for cooking hotdogs and giant marshmallows over the bonfires.

 Its hard to identify neighbors and friends since we are all bundled up tight against the 8 degree temperatures, but within a few moments I recognized the local town clerk and her dairy farmer husband.
( I was later told that this is not the town clerk and her husband.... so I guess it is hard to identify neighbors!!)

 Several trucks unloaded wood for the fires, big tubs of hot chocolate (free) sports equipment for skating, skiing and snowshoeing (free), and of course a big generator had to be brought in for electricity to keep certain special foods really hot for a few hours.

Us early birds gathered around the nice warm fire and planned which events we would partake in.

 I headed to the tent where the chili cook-off and tasting was going to be held.
Volunteers were signing in contestants and plugging their crockpots into the electrical strips that connected to the big generator.

There were 17 different chili's entered.
Tasting and judging would be in about an hour.

 I looked at the ingredients for a few of the entries and liked this one;

 I took a quick photo of it and headed back to the fire to warm up.

 Back at the fire hotdogs were being cooked.  The smell was just wonderful between the burning hard wood and the food.

 I headed out to the 2 freshly shoveled skating rinks on the pond and was amazed to see the amount of free equipment that was available to borrow.

Skates, all sizes and colors.

Hockey sticks, all heights and brands.

Fishing equipment, buckets and buckets of it to learn to use.

I bought my fishing license early this morning on my way to the recycle station, so I was ready to fish!

 I had 3 wonderful instructors who showed me some winning techniques and answered all my questions.

 I named the tiny, smart minnows who would help me catch a big "Lunker" as they call giant fish here in the North country.

 We didn't fish in the shanties, we stayed right outside and did it the way the natives have been doing it for hundreds of years.

 Its was fun to look up every so often and see lots of men bent over setting their rigs or cleaning out the holes in the ice.

 There were a few odd fish shanty's on the ice.

 A giant auger is used to make the initial hole in the ice, but it quickly refreezes so you have to use a big metal ladle to continually clean out the new ice as it forms.

 Ice fishermen are the very definition of patience.

This sport is a continual waiting game, in the coldest weather.

 It's easy to get your knees frozen to the ice too.

Don't ask me how I know.

At the edge of the pond was yet another fire to get warm by.

It had a nice wind block.  The view was incredible from here.

Woods, fields, pond and sky.

This pond is quiet, remote and fun to kayak, fish and talk to turtles at.

One of the biggest snapping turtles I have ever seen is presently hibernating in this pond.

Soon, crowds of people and familes started arriving to partake of the festivities.

Everyone was eager to roast weenies on the fire and were appropriately dressed for the bitter cold.

Including this weenie, who was not roasted on the fire.....

 When the chili taste test judging was officially opened, I stampeded into the tent and started visiting the 17 crackpots.
Each crock pot had the ingredients listed in front of it and a # . 
And each tasting cup had the number of the crockpot chili you were eating marked on it.  Genius.

I received ONE red ticket when I entered the tent and this ticket was to be put in a can in front of the chili that I thought was the best.

As I visited each and every crockpot,  I recognized one of the chili volunteers as my church friend, Linda, (she also has a nice flock of hens) who served me up some # 16 and # 17.

I asked her if her mean old rooster was in either of these crock pots.....

She swears he isn't....

I had to triple stack the little containers so 17 of them would all fit onto my plate.
Linda held my treasures while I snapped the photo.

There were lots of chairs to sit in while you figured out which chili was the best.

I ate them all.  And they were all very very very good.  The fact that all of them were nice and hot was wonderful.   The generator and the miles of extension cords and power strips paid off.

With 17 chili cups, hot chocolate and a big plate to juggle I had to figure out a system of separating good chili from the great chili.

The chili that I didn't care for I turned the cups upside down and the ones I liked I stacked right side up.

I widdled it down to 2 contenders and went back to refill those particular cups so I could make the final decision.

Several of my garden club members came and were also working very hard to find a winner.

 Several hundred people taste tested every morsel.
There were also a full table of breads and butter to go with the chili.
This was a very thought out event!

As I painfully cast my vote (I was torn between # 5 and # 17) I looked up and saw a man with a coyote on his head.

Its not every day that you see a man with a coyote on his head, so I asked him if I could take a photo and he graciously obliged.

There are hundreds of coyotes in this area.  I listen to a dozen of them howl directly behind my house every night.  I see their tracks go across the front yard and I have seen them in the cow fields in the summer.

I didn't ask Mr Coyote-on-my-head the story that went with his unique hat.

I could just imagine.

He was another person coming to ice fish and had a nice sled tote for all his gear. He was dressed warm and prepared to spend a few hours on the pond trying to catch a Lunker.

By now there were crowds at each of the dozen activities that were going on all over the pond, the 2 fields and pond side.
Here is the short list;
Skating, Sledding on Murphy Hill, Snowshoeing, XCounty Skiing, Ice harvesting, Ice fishing contest, Broomstick Hockey, Dog Sled rides, Horse Sleigh rides and Bonfire sing-a-long.

I was drawn to the voices singing at the fire so I joined them.
We sang lots of fun folk songs and I could tell there were many well tuned voices in that crowd. The harmonies were beautiful. 

One of the women sang the songs and did sign language too.

Families were still showing their young children how to roast a tasty hotdog and melt a good marshmallow during the group singing.

These moments will stay with me forever.

Farmers, musicians, lawyers, teachers and an assistant to a Senator stood side by side and belted out some fun songs.

The local fire department was there with their ice rescue equipment in case it was needed.

People were shuttled in style, back and forth from the fields they parked in, by this tractor and wagon.

An old Farmall, of course.

On the side of the fields were lots of snowshoes and cross county skis for anyone to borrow and use. The fields were perfect for a peaceful stroll .

 In the other field dog sled rides were being offered.

A wonderful opportunity, especially for young kids.

In between the rides many families were introduced to the dogs and taught about the hazards and fun of dog sledding.

My friend Dimitra trained these 4 dogs. 

I see her jogging early every morning for miles and miles with her dogs.

The other trucks were full of anxious huskies who wanted to get their turn pulling the sled.

Every time the main team ran by, this team-in-waiting would go a little crazy.

Being with the dogs was the perfect way to end the day for me.

I was so thrilled with the activities, the location and being in the presence of the happiest crowd I have ever been in. They literally had smiles frozen on their faces all day!!!!

It was a fabulous day. 
I give it a BIG "10" 
Many thanks to all the organizers, patrons and volunteers.

To see more photos of this wonderful event, please Click here and scroll to the bottom of the village's webpage.  There are photos of the kids fishing contest and the BIG fish they caught!!

If you have a chance, go to a winter carnival in your area.

Dress Warm!