Archive for January, 2014

Ward Off Winter Doldrums

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Get Up & Get Out!

With much of the country locked in a polar vortex colder than the inside of a freezer it may seem strange to exalt the virtues of outdoor activities. Even in my area though, where we don’t really deal with the frozen underbelly of winter weather many are bound to struggle with the inactivity of the season. So, in an effort to lift spirits and ward off the winter blahs, I’ve listed a few good reasons to love this season and time outdoors.

1. Enjoy the Morning Light Show:  Unlike the summer months when sunrise occurs long before we raise our heads from our pillows, the winter sunrise waits until the more civilized time of about 7:00 am to make its appearance. With the lack of foliage on the trees and the crisp brilliance of the sky, or snow and ice sparkling in the sunlight it is also the perfect reason to break out the camera for some beautiful shots.

2. Keep Colds and Flues at Arms Length: It’s no coincidence that colds and flues increase during the winter months. After all they love to congregate and flourish in warm places, and, what better place to multiply than indoors with other humans and their germs. Spending a bit of time outdoors each day helps to separate you from the bugs.

3. Banishing the Blahs: Winter’s diminished light and our lower activity levels are the perfect combination to bring on winter blahs. But, you can banish your blue mood with a brisk walk outdoors or leisurely stroll, weather permitting. Staying active in the winter can also increase your vitality and raise your self-esteem, while decreasing tension and depression.

4. Get a Dose of Vitamin D: Our body’s production of vitamin D plummets during sunless winter months when the days are shorter. One Norwegian study found that a fair-skinned person only needs five minutes of sun exposure in July to attain a healthy daily dose of vitamin D, but in January it can take well over an hour of sun worshipping to get he same result.

5.  Burn Calories: Winter activities area great way to burn calories while attending to your mental and physical health. Find an activity you like and make the commitment to doing it a few times a week. Even if it just talking a walk you body and mind will thank you for it.

6.  Stay Hydrated: Snow may be piled to the windowsill, but fierce cold winds can be drying, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Your body and your skin will thank you.

No matter what your weather is like in winter you can find a reason and an activity to help chase away the winter blahs, lift your spirits and make your outlook on life a whole lot better. But, remember always dress for the weather to prevent frost bite, hypothermia or a dangerous fall. Wear layers and sturdy boots whenever you venture outdoors. This is a special season full of amazing natural beauty. Take time to enjoy it.


The Mystery of the Missing Goose

Friday, January 17, 2014


When I pulled into the driveway this evening there was a thin line of steel grey streaked across the horizon; that time of day that is well past dusk, but not quite pitch dark. I hurried inside dropped my laptop and quickly slipped into my work clothes. With a few minutes of pseudo daylight left I had just enough time to feed and water before night time set in fully.

I moved around the barn like I was on auto pilot, moving from feeder to waterer to throwing down another layer of bedding. It’s a routine that I’ve done a thousand times over my life; a routine that may have included more animals, or fewer, but a routine that is always the same. Screaming animals get feed first, followed by filling water troughs, then checked over for any signs of discomfort, disease or injury, and this night was no different.

With no lambs in the barn and it too cold to be brooding meat chickens the barn is fairly empty, save for the laying hens and Sophie. In less than 15 minutes everyone was bedded down for the night, or so I thought.

As I walked across the barnyard, breathing in deeply the cool crisp air and admiring a tea stained moon and stars that sparkled like diamonds on velvet I stopped—stopped dead in my tracks. The kind of stop that your body brings about, but your brain can’t figure out why. I stood like a stone, slowing looking around at what might have caused my reaction. I stared at the barn. Nothing came. I looked at the greenhouse, dark and silent, still nothing. Then, as I panned around the garden it hit me. WHERE WAS SOPHIE?

Now, Sophie is a large Sebastopol goose mind you, and unlike a small bantam hen that can easily get missed she is large. Her body is the size of a basketball and she is so white she fairly sparkles in the moonlight. But, on this night she was nowhere. I looked in the barn again. Nothing. I checked under the sweet pea bush (a favorite place). Nothing. I walked and called and peeked and poked, but still no sign of her. In a last ditch effort I stood very still, hands on my hips and called her name, which usually elicits a honk or two, but still not a peep was heard.

As night continued to darken the inevitable began to penetrate my consciousness…she had meet with a predator. There was no more to be done, sadly, so I slowly walked into the house and continued on with inside chores.

My mind kept going over every little detail. I had seen and heard her in the morning when I fed. When I come home from work she is either nibbling grass or sitting by the back door. She’s loud when she hears noise in the driveway or the house. And, when it’s lying season, which it is now, she is too nasty of a bitch to succumb to any small predator. What happened?

As I laid in bed that night I couldn’t help but feel sad. No farmer wants to or likes to lose an animal, but I have to admit that I was grateful for the fact that I would not have any orphaned goslings.  We had bought her as a pair with a little gander five years ago, but he died shortly after we got him, so her eggs are not fertile.

The next day the early morning sun blazed through my bedroom window, bringing me out of a dead sleep. There in my drowsiness, that half awake half asleep state I heard that familiar honking. As I bolted out of bed there she was standing in the middle of the yard, bossy as ever. I quickly threw on some work clothes and ran out the back door, but by the time I arrived on the scene she was gone. I looked around, but saw nothing. She didn’t honk when I called her. I didn’t see her anywhere, so I began an inch-by-inch search of the whole place. I knew she was out there somewhere and by God I was going to find her.

After searching all the logical places I crept around the back of the greenhouse, almost on hand and knees. The greenhouse sits at the back of the property almost surrounded by an overgrown bougainvillea on the east side and a pepper tree, in dire need of a trim, on the south side. I worked my way through the tangle of vines and branches and THERE! nestled beneath the low hanging branches and tucked under the tangle of vines she sat on her nest. I was so relieved, at least for a split second.

It had been more than a week since I picked up the egg she laid near the raised vegetable beds. My thoughts immediate went to the number of eggs she could have in her clutch. If she laid one a day, which geese normally do, that meant she could have…1…2…3…4…5…6…SHIT, almost a dozen, if I calculate from the day I found that egg near the garden beds.

Relief is never without its own predicaments. Now I have to “unthrone” her, gather up all the eggs she’s laid and dispose of them because I can’t eat them, they’ve been outside too long, they won’t hatch because they aren’t fertile, but they will attract other animals, and if left too long they will spoil and stink up the place. Yep, there is nothing else to be done, but pull all the eggs out from underneath her. She’s gonna hate that. And, if history repeats itself I will be enjoying the attack of a hopping mad goose every time I walk outside for the next few weeks. Such is life with animals.

I am glad she’s not hurt though.

Female Run Farms Push 1 Million

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Women have always been an integral part of farm life, but in the past 25 to 30 years they have been taking a more active role in farm management, taking the bull by the horns as it were.

In a recent USDA study, the number of women run farms more than doubled in the years 1982 to 2007, that’s about 1/3 of all farm owners, and the number will continue to rise as women take a more active role in producing healthier, chemical-free food. One can only imagine how these women, and the daughters under their tutelage, will shape the future of Ag in American. Should be fun to watch!

To learn more about female farmers in your state or to become involved with other female farmers, check listings in your state for Women in Agriculture (state name), National Women in Agriculture or the Association of Women in Agriculture.