Saturday, October 31, 2020

Diversity and Inclusiveness

 Terms I've learned from my Business Management course.  I've always called it 'different'.  As a neighbor commented on the staff that's come through the farm, 'an assortment of folks', he called it. What can I say, I like there to be variety in everything, it makes life richer. I love different!

That not only translates to staff, but the little biome here at the farm.  A tenacious patch of passionflower vines has established itself in one of the pastures.  

The previous manager once told me the only thing to get rid of it is 2-4D.  As soon as he left, I properly disposed of all his 2-4D and the host of chemicals he doused this place with. 

As long as it's not taking over or toxic to the horses, the passionflower vine was invited to stay.  Why? This is why:

Zebra Butterflies.

The caterpillar of the zebra butterfly only eats one thing:  passionflower vines.  The butterflies can get nectar from flowers, but they can never morph into a butterfly without passionflower vines.  

I'd read that their range was now limited mostly to Florida, but I waited for 5 years to see if maybe,  just maybe, my little patch of passionflower vine could sustain a new colony.

Jackpot.  We've been practicing diversity and inclusiveness for 6 years here on the farm.  Didn't need a textbook to instruct me on how it makes everything better.

Thursday, October 22, 2020


 The neighbors and I joke that Murphy and his Laws live on our road.  Seems he's been on steroids lately.  The culmination of the most arduous, dreadful two weeks:  we had to say goodbye to sweet 22 year old Roscoe.

The bloody nose from the week before had been the harbinger of ill fate.  The colic was only a response to the fluid building in his lungs, not the primary condition.

I had worried he would decline after, Henry, his best friend in the whole wide world passed.  

Now they're reunited.

Friday, October 16, 2020


 Actual term.  Lumberjill is the feminine of lumberjack.  I've never been accused of being feminine, but let's just go for it for the sake of semantics.

I hate cutting trees, not only because I'm a 1980's Greenpeace activist tree hugger, no... mostly because I don't know what the hell I'm doing.  I've read my Stihl chainsaw manual front to back and I've watched countless video tutorials, but felling remains a dangerous job that puckers my butt cheeks.

Rewind to last Friday when Roscoe came back from grazing with a bloody nose that lasted almost 6 hours. He, nor his pasturemate is talking, so Dr. Brown rounded up the usual suspects: trauma, pulmonary hemorrhage or poisoning.  Feed or plant toxicity usually affects the entire herd, but my suspicions rested on this:

A huge red maple down by the lake.  Red maple leaves, after they fall, become extremely toxic.  The tree isn't in a pasture, but the horses walk past it on their way to their daytime pasture.  In the fall, I exclude them from it to prevent accidental ingestion.  We've never had a problem with it, but Roscoe is a knucklehead.  

To add to our poisoning suspicions, Roscoe was in full blown colic mode by Tuesday morning. 

Revenge occurred immediately.

I've cut less than 100 trees down in my life and this was the biggest, plus multi-trunked, with a lean in the opposite direction of the crown weight.  Thanks to two hurricanes, our tree service was tied up for the next month and they wanted $5000 to take to bring it down and haul it all off.  We can do that, I said.  Problem is, the employee I was counting on with the skills to help me was in Ohio on another job.

I knew I was in trouble when the chainsaw felt like it was going through butter.  I now had the challenge of a hollow core.

Just me and my new 18 year old hire, Luke.  Who doesn't drive a tractor.  I put some tension on one of the trunks rising from the 3' diameter base and theorized it would split into the lake.

Correctamundo. I went home to change my Depends and returned to take down the back half.

I wasn't loving life this week.  

Yup, burned up one of my nine lives on that one.

Then the fun begins of cleanup.

Adjanie came to help us.

At first, we thought of leaving the limbs in the lake as fish habitat, but the image of one of the horses (who like to swim) getting their feet tangled up in a sunken tree made us reconsider.

Meanwhile, Roscoe wasn't improving.

Nothing to do but monitor his vitals around the clock, administering pain medications, force feeding mineral oil and fluids.  By Thursday night, I couldn't think anymore.  Cumulative totals of maybe 3 hours sleep per night.  So behind on homework it will take a miracle to submit all my assignments by Sunday...  I'm a seriously pissed off zombie.

Nothing works frustration off like a chainsaw.  

Three days later, we're still cutting and cleaning.  Mostly because we found 3 other red maples that had spawned off the mother tree and were growing all tangled up in groves of oaks.

The results of bloodwork on Roscoe reveal he wasn't poisoned by the maple.  So, we're still stumped as to why his colic lingers and he runs a temperature of 102F unless given Banamine every 12 hours.  To boost his spirits, he was allowed to graze with his BFF last night. At 3 AM Friday morning he looked depressed and puny.  Then by 9, his temp was down and he had some appetite back.  Cheerios help.

Life isn't grand sometimes, it's only by gritting your teeth and not giving up that you can get by.

Oh, did I mention Pippins eye surgery wasn't a total success? No, I haven't had time to introduce you to the new dog I've had for months now.  Yeah, not a good week, actually two weeks.  Ranking right up there in crappiest of the year (and we all know this year has been extra 'special').

Friday, October 2, 2020

Entomology 101

 You already know of my love of Hercules beetles and how I maintain a rotational 2 year grub nursery in the back of the manure pile.  I look forward to August when, attracted by my open doors and lights, they fly into the house.  Most nights, I pair up one male and female to do the wild thing in my carport.  I'm quite the match maker.

I'm not fond of all bugs:  fire ants, cow killers, yellow jackets, scorpions, black widows... all hated, but I save special hatred for chiggers.  Unseen to the naked eye, these fiends plague me from Spring till frost.  They hide on grasses and drop onto you, pursuing tight clothing where they can burrow into your skin and cause the most insane itching.  From 6 years of trial and error, I've concluded that wearing pants makes it worse.  I've spent months looking like a leper with feet, ankles, backs of my knees and underoo area blanketed with bites. Loose shorts is the only way to go. 

Back to more pleasant creatures. Butterflies trip over each, they're so plentiful in the gardens.

But, my heart belongs to the moths. Scorned as boring and killed by the billions by those infernal bug zappers, their subtle beauty attract me.  The last batch of luna moths flittered around last week.

Regal moths, like this one below, often stop by the barn at night.  

With a 6" wingspan, they are truly regal.  

I never saw them 6 years ago, now thanks to much, much reduced chemical usage on the farm, their numbers are increasing.  I'm crossing paths with their caterpillars more often.

You can't miss them:

In order to become a Regal Moth, first you must spend a year being a Hickory Horned Devil.  They only come down from trees to look for burrows to overwinter.  This one was crawling across the gravel drive.

Promptly relocated to deep leafy woods:

They look ferocious, but they're not.

David Attenborough, eat your heart out.  

A praying mantis flew into my house 2 evenings in a row.  The first night, I struggled to catch her to put her back outside and she eluded me.  Only when I was brushing my teeth before going to bed did I see her looking back at me in the mirror, from her perch on my mop of hair.

We sorta bonded after that.


Life in all it's complex diversity, isn't it grand?