Lots of Water

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. Installing new barn guttersAs 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 new barn guttersInstalling 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. Installing new guuters on the east side of the barnThe 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. Immature Coopers 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. Immature Cooper's HwakWhat 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. Snowy Egret and Sandhill CranesThe 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. Snowy Egret and Sandhill CranesAll in all it was a nice day away from home!

At Last, Green Grass

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!

First day of grazing in 2019 at Whitefish Bay Farm

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.Ariel with a mouthful of grassDorte took some time to just enjoy the sunshine and cool breezes. DorteAstrid, was her usual serious self and just kept on eating. Astrid

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. The folk entaining humans 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


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.

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Upcoming Events

* We are open year round for the sale of yarn. Before May 15th 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 15th – the Bed and Breakfast opens for 2020

* Whitefish Bay Farm Gallery opens for its regular exhibition season Friday, May 15th. 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 25, 2020

* The Bed and Breakfast closes for the year October 25, 2020

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