Gardening for wildlife

Sept. 5, 2010    Today the sheep are grazing up in the yard. It’s only in the low 80’s today, for a lovely change. It rained 10″ over a period of 2 weeks recently, so the grass and clover have sprung up, an there’s again good eating out there, for the first time in about 3 mo. of drought. I also trimmed the rose bush on the deck back pretty severely, and brought those canes of fresh green leaves down to the barn, holding the bundle in my leather gloves, and let them gracefully pick one leaf at a time off the thorny stems. Yes, it took a while, but also I could take the empty thorny branches right back out of the barn and toss them in the woods, so the sheep didn’t get tangled in them, which is pretty likely if they’re left around. And the sheep always enjoy a picnic!

Dirk & I went down to trim hooves this morning, and had 1 1/2 hr. of strenuous exercise, and we now have sheep with tidy hooves again. Our ground is just clay–no rock at all–something to do with the ice age’s melt water filling in this huge crack in the globe with silt… so anything hard the sheep need to walk on the file off their own hooves we have to bring in with trailer and wheelbarrow. We recently had some brick taken off the front wall of the house to put in a bow window, and the carpenter carefully knocked off all the morter, which now fills a wheelbarrow. When we move the black loam made from years of rotted straw and manure to the garden, we’ll move that old mortor down and fill the (no longer working) French drain. To make it work, I’d need to again dig down 2 feet and run new drainage pipe to the ditches in the pasture beyond. Think on this when you decide to put hooved animals in a place with water sitting all year, even during summer drought!! We had no idea how very difficult it would be to make a healthy environment for sheep here!

Now it’s getting cooler, after this excruciating summer with record-breaking heat, I have no idea how many days over 100 degrees, and humidity so high my glasses fogged up as soon as I left the house… finally the weather is again bearable out there, and the sheep are getting catch-up” hoof care. Jan came and helped me a couple times to hold sheep, and today Dirk held them for me, and we took turns holding and clipping extremely tough hooves–which is good, because the ground is dry, and so are their feet; but bad in that my hands are no longer strong enough to make them cut those tough, dry hooves until I move the second hand from holding the foot to the handle of the trimmer and squeeze with both hands!! Yup, I’m about to order a couple new pairs of hoof-trimmers, and send off the old ones to get them sharpened and tightened up.

I had another brief visit with a NYC person who had relocated here for family (grandchildren close) who “loves the hot weather!”  I said I can only be outside for about 5″ and I’m soaked with perspiration and I do not like it–and does she Really Like that? I invited her to come and visit me and help me in the garden! She immediately swung her eyes away from the conversation, and said, “Well, I don’t have a garden, and the maintenance people do the yard work, so I’m really not outside very much…” Right… I believe that’s the case for most of the folks from the North who come here for the lovely warm weather–they can afford not to be outside in it! Well, we don’t need to pay for gym membership, since we have our workout right in the back yard. We also can enjoy seeing hummingbirds, butterflies and honey bees, plus a large number of cardinals, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, and other unusual birds, including several sorts of woodpeckers, right on the deck, from the shelter of the windows and A/C! I plant bushes and flowers the critters enjoy, and weed and water them, trim the spent blooms off so they keep blooming, and I smell the flowers, too! Can you conjure up the fragrance of sunflowers, marigolds, petunias, and lantana? And then there’s  seasonal lilac, both northern and southern versions… and then the enormous fig tree that provides figs for us and our neighbors and our church–now tapering back toward fall, and I’m getting only about 6 lb. a day, twice a week. During July and August, I get 24 lb. from half the tree, and I pick every day, half the tree at a time. I make lots of jam which I can use later for coffeecake and fig squares when I need a treat to take to a potluck meal. That is a very amazing tree. I pick amongst the cardinals, titmouses, chickadees,  and other birds, plus the hummingbirds, who also seem to like the sweet juice after another bird has punched a hole in the surface of the ripe, soft fruit. I do need to dodge hornets and wasps, so I always watch where I put my fingers, looking before I pick. As long as I keep up with the tree, there aren’t many hornets to deal with–and there’s a trunk of the tree that’s grown up 10 ft. higher than the rest, which I leave alone for the birds and bees, literally!

Now I’ve had time to sit and tell you about my back yard, and my pulse rate has dropped back to something reasonable, and the aches from the arthritis have had time to settle down, I need to get back to my knitting, and plan to finish the lace valence for our new window within a couple days. I’ll have the women from church here for dessert next week, and I want to have that 5-foot expanse finished by then. I’ll be working on the lace trim, which will be mohair from Cindy, our dear Angora goat who died at 13 last summer. I’ve saved her mohair from her young years, so I have plenty to make “Grandmother’s Lace,” which I’ve used before, for that trim. The lace panel is “Dayflower” from the same book: Barbara Walker’s Book 2. I’ll attach a picture to my album when it’s “together!”

Enjoy Labor Day weekend, everyone! I’m feeling so very thankful we finally got the hooves done. It’s just not a kindness to stress them when the temperatures are in the 90’s and above, which it has been all summer.

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