Every morning as Greg leaves for work, the dogs and I have a morning ramble. It's good exercise for us all, and gives the dogs some play time. Our big dog, Beauregard, is a Pyrenees and German shepherd mix who would patrol the fence line of the entire 40 acres all day long if left on his own, so this is his favorite time of the day – freedom from the yard. My special buddy is the terrier and basset hound mix, Huckleberry. He is much more a stay-at-home companion, but he loves to trail and would willingly follow his larger companion if the smells were enticing enough. So this ramble of ours is a bit like taking the children to the park to play.
Old Home Farm is comprised of 40 acres, divided pretty evenly into pasture and woods. With the livestock in two side pastures at the moment, we elected not to Bush Hog the front field because we've seen coveys of quail, and lots of rabbits there. Our farm is not just livestock and pets. We have lots of wildlife sharing our home, and we try to accommodate them as well with grassy areas and brush piles in the woods.
Our ramble starts by walking up past my son's house to the barn, with the dogs checking out the fence line along the way. This morning they found a nest one of my guineas had made and had a nice breakfast of eggs before I could stop them. I say good morning to Polly the calf and move on around to check on the sheep. I notice that my oldest ewe, Honey, is looking rather heavy, as is Lacey, which could mean lambs are on the way. I make a mental note to buy grain to start feeding them in the near future as I take my morning walk.
We turn past my son's house and head down the "country path" into the field. This was actually an old wagon road that my dad and now Greg keeps in shape. We use it for a driveway as well. At the end of the drive is the persimmon tree, which I see is loaded with fruit. I pick one, and find it sweet and wonderful. I am a bit surprised to find them ripe this early in the year.
Greg cut me a path tractor wide through the field so as I walk, the dogs plow through the tall grass nosing about for all sorts of interesting things. They bounce about like cats as they chase mice, and occasionally a bunny dashes away toward the woods. Earlier this spring, I would see quail take flight, and more often, doves. I walk along, enjoying the crisp morning with a cup of tea and keeping my eye on the tips of the dogs' waving tails just above the grass. For me its a time of peace, reflection, and prayer, and my favorite part of the day.
When we finally make the circuit back to the house, its time for a homemade dog cookie and a long drink of water. We are greeted at the gate by the grumbling Siamese, who is too cowardly to make the journey, and my flock of chickens waiting to be fed. I have a nice bunch of mixed layers free-ranging in the yard. They also slip through the fence to forage in the edge of the woods at the back of the house, as well and into the field by the garden. But they are wise old birds and never travel far from the house and the protection of the dogs. Fred is my rooster and he takes good care of his girls. When he finds some choice tidbit, he crows, then does a little dance. The girls all come running to him, and gentleman that he is, he steps back and allows the hens to have the treasure. He watches the sky and ground, and if a hawk or large shadow catches his eye, he crows and gathers the girls under cover of the trees. A lot of human husbands could take lessons from Fred.
We have a nice chicken coop that Greg built in the lower corner of the yard, and a chicken run beside the garden. Every two years, I release the hens in the run out into the yard, and replace them with new chicks that I have raised. This insures I have plenty of layers.
One of my favorite things about my hens is that they have chosen to nest on my back porch. I have two steps coming down from the back door and they lay their eggs there. All I have to do is step out in the morning and Greg has really fresh eggs for breakfast!
Today, after taking care of the flock, I took the seeds from my persimmon and opened them to find out what the weather will be for the winter. My Granny used to swear by this old wives tale, so my father and I did it every fall so Granny could know what to expect. A knife means a mild winter, a fork is pretty evenly split between snow and sun, but a spoon means snow and LOTS of it. When I opened the seeds I found a spoon. So we shall see what the winter holds for us this year. Granny would already be pulling out the heavy quilts!