Getting Caught Up

When last anything was posted to the Ewe Turn we still had lots of snow on the ground. A long time has passed since then. In the interim we have experienced more snow, lots of rain and occasional warm sunny days. Spring is at least 10 to 14 days behind schedule here at the farm. Despite all the unusual occurrences, the sheep were successfully sheared in March and their fleeces all prepared for sale. We held our annual fleece sale in mid-April and all of the fleeces were sold in a record short time of 1 hour and 5 minutes! A big “Thank You” to all of our loyal customers for their support and patience!

Beginning in March, due of the persistence of snow on the ground I began taking my walks along side Clark Lake Road (rather than slogging through snow drifts in the pastures). My usual walk has taken me west from the Bed & Breakfast, past the northwest corner of our farm and onward to where Whitefish Creek runs beneath the road. Sometimes, depending upon the weather, the walk is extended farther west or east. It is usually a distance of just over a mile in length, and has proven to be a good opportunity for me to watch the gradual changes as spring struggles to make an appearance. Three quarters of the way west is next to our large hay field. The remaining distance is adjacent to our ash/cedar woodland swamp land (an area of about 20 acres). The woodlands is a great place to look for birds, not only the spring arrivals  but some of the hardier year-round natives, a couple of whom are already well into nesting. There is thus all sorts of good reasons for the walk besides the exercise. Two weeks ago things got warm enough that some of the early spring woodland flowers began to bloom. One of my favorites is the Bloodroot. The clump that is pictured is just on the edge of the woods. Bloodroot in bloom next to the woods Just as the Bloodroot were in full bloom, the Marsh Marigolds were just starting to open. In my humble opinion we have one of the nicest large stands of these beauties. About the same time as I spotted the Bloodroots I happened to notice a single Sandhill Crane in the wetland surrounded by the Marsh Marigolds. He was quite still and surprising difficult to see. Sandhill Crane amongst the Marsh Marigolds

A little farther west, Whitefish Creek passes under the road. At this point it runs west of our land, but gradually enters into to the southwest corner of our wetland. This spring it ran vigorously due to all the snow melt and rains. By this week it had become a much gentler flow. There are a few Marsh Marigolds along the creek side and at this point a large “forest” of ferns always appears. They are just showing the tips of their fronds now. Whitefish Creek

Heading back toward home gives the best views of the Marsh Marigolds. This view was from just a day or two ago. They benefit from the extra bit of sunlight that filters into the wetland at this point, an area where we have had a large number of ash trees removed after their death. Marsh Msrigolds in bloomSadly, this woodland is showing severe signs of the Emerald Ash Bore beetle invasion. Over winter the most severely effected trees have shown that our local woodpecker population have been busy feeding on the bugs just under the bark. It is difficult to see in this image, but many (if not most) of the trunks are showing a tan color where the bark has been removed by the woodpeckers. Below is a close-up view of the base of one large ash tree trunk. It is easier here to see the shredded bark on the ground next to the trunk. Ash tree attached by Emeral ASh BeetlesAshes make up the majority of the trees in our wetland. Sadly, in the very near future, they will almost all be dead. How the wetland evolves after that will be hard to imagine.

After major repairs to fences and waterlines, the pastures are finally ready for the sheep. They began grazing May 21st, which is much later than usual. I promise that our next post will be devoted to the flock.

Snow…with a Vengence

In January I wrote that we had experienced very little snow this winter. Those of you who live in Wisconsin, especially the northern half, know that that description is no longer the case. I guess I may have asked for it! In February in Door County we have been hit by a regular progression of moderate to very heavy snow storms. Some have been accompanied by strong winds and dramatically drifting snow. Some have included nasty doses of ice and freezing rain. A few of the snow falls, while heavy, have been very gentle, with no wind to speak of. My collection of pictures of snow patterns on the barn roof has not grown much. Either the snow was so deep that there was no roof surface to be seen, or the winds were so strong that the snow on the roof was completely blown clear.

This is the view out our back door after one of the heavier snows in mid February. It took a while to shovel a path from the house to the barn before we could do chores in the morning. Snow cover path out the back doorSnow covered path to the barnPerhaps the most dramatic storm occurred on the last weekend of February. It was a true blizzard with wind gusts of 60 mph, lots of snow mixed in with freezing rain and ice. The State Highway 57, less than a couple of miles west of us, was closed overnight due to accidents, white-out conditions and snow building up too quickly for the plows to keep up. This is what the back door looked like the next morning after I got far enough out to shovel the porch step. The backdoor after the blizzardA couple of days after I finally cleared the paths and driveway we got a lovely, quiet and peaceful snow fall of around 6 inches. That too has now been cleared off the driveway. Luckily, after its first temperamental performance of the year, the snow blower has be all cooperation for me. To date this winter our lowest temperature was -19.5 °F (-28.6°C). I do not have any official numbers for us, but this has set records in many places in northern Wisconsin for the snowiest February since record keeping began. Over 60 inches were recorded in Rhinelander. Sturgeon Bay received over 39 inches. Since much of our snow was “lake effect” snow from the east, I am guessing that we were well over 46″. Most of the storms have been predicted well in advance, so we have managed to stock-up on supplies when the roads were clear and hunker down until the next storm was clean up.

Here is my one and only interesting snow pattern on the barn roof. This view was after the last snowfall of the month: messy big globs of snow, ready to slide of the roof on unsuspecting shepherds. Snow patterns on the barn roof on February 28thThe next couple of weeks may prove challenging for us. We have about 12 days worth of round bales under cover in the barn addition. We also have over 30 bales under tarps behind the equipment shed (more than enough to make it thru spring). The only problem is the significant snow drifts that are covering those 30 bales. Sometime soon I will need to go exploring with the 4 wheel drive tractor and its large bucket to see if we can liberate some more hay for the sheep.

Life has also had its humorous moments of late. As I wrote last time we have had a large flock of Turkeys appearing off and on to clean up under the bird feeders. This group has included a number of adult females along with lots of this last year’s crop of chicks who are fast approaching full size. During the winder and colder weather they have disappeared. However over the last week, two very large tom Turkeys have paid us many daily visits. These two guys are very impressive in terms of size and coloring. They have also discovered that the snow is so deep around the bird feeder next to the kitchen window that they can help themselves while looking down into the feeder. Two tom Turkeys at the bird feeder.This image was taken the day after our blizzard. And then, here they are, during the next 6 inches of snow fall. Two tom turkeys at the feederThat afternoon things had quieted down and the snow was a bit more passable. These two dudes decided that they better check out the male turkeys who live in the gallery. The spent quite a long time viewing the birds in the glass. Finally when no one responded, they got bored and left. At least we enjoyed the show! Two Tom Turkeys admising their reflectionsWe have now left February and entered March, with another 4″ of snow overnight. This is the view that greeted me on the way to morning chores in the barn. Our snow “account” is overflowing. The barn addition will soon disappear if this keeps up. Time to clear the driveway…again….View of the barn after March 1st snow.

Snow Patterns

Over the last few years I have often made a promise to take pictures of the snow patterns which occur on the steel panels of our barn roof. It is a view we see whenever we look out the B&B kitchen window, so it is easy to notice the variety of designs which appear throughout the winter. Once winter is over I then realize that I failed to keep my promise. This year, however, I am trying to keep the promise. So far I have succeeded. Sadly there has been a problem in this regard, i.e. a lack of significant snow falls.

A few days after Thanksgiving we experienced a minor snow fall. It hardly needed shoveling and within a few days it was gone. One of our local flocks of Turkeys made sure they arrived after Thanksgiving. This crowd usually numbers around 20 birds. Most of the bunch was busy under one of our bird feeders while the rest were just down the way under a second feeder. As is evident in the picture they had no snow to scratch through to get to the seeds on the ground.

Thanksgiving Turkeys

It was not until Christmas Eve that we saw any further snow and this occurrence was even lighter than the first one a month earlier. Finally, on New Year’s day, we experienced a good heavy snow. Ironically, the next day, when I went to work blowing the snow off the driveway, after half of the job was done, my “trusty” snowblower literally stopped, quite suddenly! It took another day to get the blower fixed and to remove the last of the snow. In the mean time the County got the road cleared in front of the B&B.

Door County plow clearing snow on January 1st

At least this snow stayed around for a few days, including the layer on the barn roof, which after a few days warmth began to slide off the roof in separate avalanches. Since that time we have experienced a few light dustings of snow, often mixed with freezing drizzle and rain. None of those occurrences have left any patterns of interest on the barn roof. So, without further delay, here is my still rather meager collection of snow patterns on the barn roof. The first images dates from the first and only snow fall in November. To my mind it is reminiscent of feathers.

Snow on the barn roof: 11/29/18

On December 24th we have another “feather collection”, but not nearly as whimsical.

Snow on barn roof 12/24/18

Finally, on January 1, 2019 a good, heavy, wet snow, which even before the day was over began sliding off the roof in sections. It was not nearly as fanciful and a bit more sinister.

Snow on barn roof 1/1/19

Within four days the snow on the lower, steeper level had slide off completely and was replaced by smaller rectangular chunks coming from the upper level.

Snow on barn roof, 1/5/19

While we wait for more snow, we find ourselves regularly in the barn. The entire flock is getting their hooves trimmed. In addition those who need it are getting their faces trimmed for better vision, along with being fitted with larger jackets, which will hopefully get them through the next couple of months before shearing. We are taking things slowly, five sheep per day. An update will follow once everyone is prim and proper.

Grousing about Barn Clean-up

It has been a month since I last wrote anything for the Ewe Turn. So many things have been going on here in that time that I will not be able to comment on many items. Therefore, what follows are merely a few highlights. Over the last thirty days we moved from early fall all the way into winter. As I write, we are experiencing our first significant snow fall of the year. It looks like before it is over we may have from 4 to 6 inches on the ground.

In early October we were blessed with some beautiful fall colors in the trees. There was a steady but gradual change in the shades, hues and their intensities. By the 22nd, most of the ashes were bare, along with many of the birches. The sugar maples and aspen held on to their leaves and their color. I managed to launch my drone at that time. Here is a view to the east, including the house, farm buildings, Clark Lake close by and Lake Michigan in the distance. Whitefish Bay Farm B&B and surronding neighborhoodBy this time our maple grove had lost its intense red/orange and yellow to a more subtle orange/yellows. Nevertheless it was still lovely.dry weatherWithin another week’s time we experienced heavy rains and strong winds. And with that weather the deciduous trees were bare! Interestingly, if I could again take to the air now there would still be some bright yellows showing up in the distance of this last image, despite the snows. The tamaracks decided to coordinate their late fall bright yellow show with great success.

During this time we still managed to keep the sheep on pasture, at least in the dry weather. Two heavy, hard frosts were enough to cause all sorts of trouble with the water lines to the pasture. It was therefore time to call it quits with the grazing season. I had yet to clean the old bedding out of the barn. It was a crazy three days, but my trusty skidloader, Gehl and I got every thing cleaned up and re-bedded. Once the sheep moved into the barn for the winter I just managed to roll up all the removable fences and haul all the fencing, removable posts, and portable water buckets in for winter storage. With that done, all that remained was to drain the outdoor pipes when it was warm enough to completely thaw all of them.

Actually, I did have additional help with the barn clean-up. On the morning of the last day of that project, I had gotten the sheep out to pasture, had breakfast and was back in the barn moving some of the in-barn feeders in preparation for scraping the area with the skidloader. I was just about to hop into the skidloader when I realized that I had company.  Not more than thirty feet away I noticed a Ruffed Grouse calmly sitting on one of the old dairy stanchion pipes. I walked back to the house to get my camera and returned to find that my friend had not moved. Grouse I managed to get within 10 feet of the bird before he got nervous. Nervous Ruffed GrouseSo my erstwhile helper/spectator decided to beat a hasty retreated, but not through the door to the outside, but up the stairs into the hay mow. It was the last I saw of him. It is interesting how secretive the Grouse are. I know they are here, at least in small numbers, because very rarely, over the years, I will spook them in our woods. But to find one in the barn is very unusual. However, the corner in which he was sitting, is also the corner where our grain bin unloads. I wonder if he was there to pick up the random corn and oats on the floor. Which then makes me wonder if he has been a regular visitor without my knowledge. I guess I will just have to ask the next time we meet.

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Upcoming Events

* We are open year round for the sale of yarn. Before May 17th we are open by happenstance or by appointment

* Sheep shearing, early March

* Online Fleece Sale, mid-April. Contact us to be on the mailing list for immediate updates

* May 17th – the Bed and Breakfast opens for 2019

* Whitefish Bay Farm Gallery opens for its regular exhibition season Friday, May 17th. Open every day except Tuesdays, from Noon to 5 PM

* Special Gallery exhibits. Check here throughout the season for special events and shows. The fiber dyeing will occur (weather permitting) into early October

The current dyeing projects are yet to be scheduled

* Gallery closes for the season after Sunday, October 20, 2019

* The Bed and Breakfast closes for the year October 20, 2019

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