We experienced a warm and wet July at the farm. August looked to be more of the same. But after the first week, the temperature and humidity went up and the rainfall stopped. We truly began to feel that we were experiencing a serious change in the weather which we were accustomed to expect for mid summer. Eventually we began needing to irrigate my vegetable garden and Gretchen’s flower gardens. All of the gardens responded favorably.
Gretchen’s flowers seem to have reached their summer peak in terms of beauty. The flowers in front of the Gallery and our back door are annuals. Some of the varieties have passed their peak performance and have been supplanted by other slower developers. Here is a view of the Gallery garden. The garden in front of our back door tries hard not to be out done and it seems to succeed. The flowers next to the Bed & Breakfast entrance are also underneath the B&B kitchen window. They are all perennial flowers and only reach their flowering peak in mid-summer. It is a mix of Black-eyed Susan, Conef lowers and Phlox. The Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susan are favorite flowers of a host of our local varieties of butterflies. We are having an especially good year for monarch butterflies. One can almost always count on seeing a number of them on the flowers under the kitchen window. They are not alone however. This Painted Lady was very happy with the selection of blossoms. But it could not seem to choose a favorite flower (I think the Coneflower won!). It is wonderful to have the butterflies as pollinators for our gardens, but we truly miss the once staggering number and varieties of bees. Aside from a few Bumble Bees, we are seeing virtually no bees in our gardens this summer. I am sure that their low numbers has resulted in some very poor pollination of some of our vegetables.
Over the last week the temperatures have moderated here. It has made the task of moving pasture fence early in the morning much more enjoyable. The sheep have responded with more speed and enthusiasm heading out each day. Yesterday we received a staggering 3″ of rain throughout the day and into the night. The rain was not accompanied by damaging winds. As a result everything seems to have responded very positively today and hopefully conditions will remain so for a while.
A month ago I wrote that we were experiencing a super abundance of rain. At that time it was impossible to even consider cutting and baling hay, despite the fact that the hay was ready. The ground was too wet to be rolling heavy machinery across it. The frequency of the rainfalls was such that it would have been very difficult to cut and dry the hay sufficiently to get it properly baled. By the first of July the hay was becoming over-mature. It was also very deep. This view, on July 4th, is from the northeast corner of our large hay field, looking south along side the pasture we know as the “Orchard”. One would hardly know that the sheep had recently grazed the pasture to the left of the electric fence. The hay along the footpath straight ahead was from 3 to 4 feet deep. The next picture was taken at the opposite end of this path looking back toward the house and barns. This is an especially nice part of the field, with a nice mix of red and white clovers, plus lots of trefoil mixed in with numerous types of grasses. These views are all rather hazy, due to smoke which was drifting south from forest fires north in Canada. The images are significant in that we decided on that day, the 4th of July, to cut all of our standing hay. The weather forecast finally seemed to indicate a dry spell which would last long enough for us to cut, dry, rake and bale our hay. By the end of the day all 35 acres were cut. Needless to say, we were now committed!
Unfortunately the smoky haze did not permit as much sun in to rapidly dry the cut hay. In addition to which we also received an un-forecasted light rain on the 6th, which further slowed the curing process. By the 9th the hay was still struggling to dry and rain was forecast for the night of the 10th. We decided that we had to gamble and therefore we raked the hay on the 9th in hopes that it would be ready to bale the next day.
(I should point out that this is the third consecutive year that we opted to bale all the hay into large round bales, as compared to the small square bales that I had made for at least the previous 26 years. The changing weather of the last three years has made it next to impossible for me to cut and small bale the entire field. There is just not enough dry time any longer. The beauty of large bales is that the larger equipment used also permits faster cutting, raking and baling speeds. Hence, the entire 35 acres can be cut in less than a day, raked in even less time and baled in less than a day.)
Despite some initial mechanical problems, all of the hay was successfully baled before chore time on July 10th. And yes, we did receive a light rain that night. At least it was not significant enough to harm the baled hay. This is the view that greeted the flock as they headed out to graze in the “Orchard Pasture” the next day. It was interesting that the flock was not particularly bothered by a large tractor repeatedly rolling past them on each of the three days that cutting, raking and baling occurred. It was almost as though it was a bit of entertainment for them. I am also sure that they appreciated the fact that any breezes from the west or south were no longer slowed down by the tall grass next to their grazing area. Here is the view that the sheep now had to the west: large, beautiful round bales scattered off into the distance. Or, if you prefer the eagle eye view, here is part of, but not all of, our new collection of round bales for this year. There are probably equally as many bales out of view farther to the right and in a smaller field to the left. To the left are the strips that the sheep just finished grazing in the “Orchard” over the previous 6 or so days.Since the baling was completed, I have been slowly and hopefully steadily collecting the bales and transporting, them 6 at a time, down close to the barn, where I am getting them covered with tarps in order to protect them from the weather until such time as we begin feeding them to the flock, probably sometime in October. As I write I am about 60% finished. I got nothing moved yesterday. The weather caught up with us. Mother Nature dumped over 4″ of rain upon us yesterday morning in less than 3 hours! So now I wait for the uncovered bales to dry. Luckily they shed most of the rain. All I ask for now is just a couple more days without rain!
Like much of the Midwest we are experiencing large amounts of rain this spring. Coupled with the earlier heavy snow melt, our streams have been running high much longer than normal and much of our ground is saturated. In Door County we are at least lucky enough to not experience the tremendous amounts of flooding which have been occurring along the Mississippi and Missouri River drainage area. On the other hand, Lake Michigan is about to reach its all-time high level. At Whitefish Bay Farm we have not been able to yet get all of our vegetables planted for the year. Grazing for the sheep has been limited either by steady rains or saturated pastures.
The heavy snows and ice that we experienced last winter caused a lot of damage to the gutters on the barn, especially on the east side. We were not getting water to properly drain away from the barn foundation, which has resulted in excessive amounts of water seeping into the barn. We managed to schedule our gutter contractor to replace both gutters this month. The crew managed to get here in a momentary dry spell last week. In the space of one day the old gutters came down and new gutters were created and installed. The gutters on the west side of the barn were the first to go up. As can be seen in this first image, our flowering crab-apple trees were in full bloom. As with just about every other plant, the trees bloomed at least two weeks late this year. By noon the first gutter was just about installed. Installing the gutter on the east side of the barn is a much more daunting task. Since the barn is built into the hillside. the elevation to the roof drip line on this side is more than double that found on the west side. This is a job for folks who are not bothered by heights and climbing long ladders. The job was done before chore time and the sheep were able to return home from pasture that evening without experiencing any disruption. That night and the next day it rained again (.65 inches). After months of aggravation it was a joy to see the water flowing to where we wanted. Yesterday we received another .65 inches. Everything is working well on the gutter front!
The week prior to the gutter installation the two of us took time off on Tuesday. The gallery is closed that day and we had no B&B guests. We spent a leisurely day driving around parts of the county that we rarely get to see during our busy season, often on quiet back roads. East of Sister Bay we got quite close to this immature hawk. As best that I can tell it is an immature Cooper’s Hawk, but it may be a Sharp-shinned Hawk. It was quite cooperative, quietly posing for us in an Ash tree that was just leafing out. What does not appear in either images is an irate Blue Jay, hoping around in the tree branches above it, making enough racket that any other bird in the neighborhood would know something was up.
Closer to home we stopped along side one of our favorite open wetlands. Normally this area only has standing water for the few weeks immediately during and following the snow melt. This year there is still a lot of standing water here, it is merely concealed by the growth of grasses and reeds! We were treated to views of a family of Canada Geese with young goslings all in tow. More spectacular was a single Snowy Egret and a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the middle of the marsh. The cranes had made the “mistake” of wading too near a Red-wing Blackbird’s nest. The male Red-wing was not happy and repeatedly tried to drive the two cranes away. Eventually the two cranes ambled off to the ultimate satisfaction of the Red-wing. All in all it was a nice day away from home!
Hello sheep fans! This is Brie, your faithful scribe from Whitefish Bay Farm. The old bearded guy up at the B&B keeps talking about sharing the flock news, but it seems to have been a long time since he has followed through on his promises. Therefore, at the urging of the flock council, I have decided to fill you in on what is really going on here, instead of all this silliness of blooming flowers and bugs in trees.
The flock managed to make it through winter pretty well. It was colder than usual, but those shepherd folks kept us pretty comfortable. Sadly, we lost a few members of the flock this winter due to the complications of age. They are really missed by the rest of us. (I believe the shepherds also miss them too.) There are now 75 of us in the flock. We all got our hooves trimmed in December and January. At that time the old guy and the nice lady also got us changed into larger jackets. Some of us really needed a bit of breathing room. Of course that all changed in mid March, when we all got sheared. After that we all received clean, fresh jackets. Some of us have already put on some needed weight since shearing and produced enough wool to warrant a second jacket change. We were definitely ready for spring and grazing on fresh green grass, but somehow it just did not want to materialize like it usually does in May.
Finally it did start to look green looking out the barn doors and windows. We could tell that things were improving. The grumpy shepherd became grumpier because of all the repairs he had to make after the tough winter. But when we saw that he was taking the movable fence posts out of the barn we knew we were in luck.
On May 21st we finally made it out. It was a beautiful cool spring day with lots of sunshine. And here we were grazing for a first time in a long, long while!
We did remember to take Queso’s old camera with us, but we were too busy and happy eating that we did not get around to taking photos for a while. But eventual we decided it was time for pictures. Here is Ariel with a big mouth of grass and a smile on her face.Dorte took some time to just enjoy the sunshine and cool breezes. Astrid, was her usual serious self and just kept on eating.
I forgot to tell you, but there are guests showing up at the B&B again and they of course are visiting. As you can see, that first day we were too busy to pay them much mind. But now we are also in our entertainment mode. We have had some good visits already. Now all we need is a string of days without heavy rain to keep us indoors! It was good to visit with all of you; we hope to see you soon!
Respectfully submitted by Brie