Early Summer Blooms

So far it’s been a lush summer. Lots of rain, but it’s not been the sort of cold drenches that kills off tender plants.Instead, we’ve had gentle rain and then sunny heat.

The peonies bloomed, and without driving rain or high winds, they’ve stayed upright and full-petaled.

The daisies are in bloom under the one peach tree. The goats look longingly at these plants. That’s the electric goat fence, which is effective in keeping them out.

The lily in the pond bloomed. The Beast lurks under it, in the lily pad’s shade.

This old-fashioned climbing hydrangea shares the trellis on the side of the chicken coop with a yellow rose. I’ve just planted a David Austen peachy-yellow rose to add to the tableau. Hopefully, it will be camera-worthy later in the summer.

I’ve got pots of herbs by the kitchen door that I’ve already been able to pick and use in recipes and salads.

Here’s cilantro and dill. The vegetable garden is looking good, too. I’ll share photos of the vegetables when there’s something more than leafy greens to show you.

My only disappointment is that my blueberry bushes in the back bed have no fruits on them! The ones in the front are full of green, plumping berries. Soon they’ll begin to turn grayish-blue. It will take weeks until they’re purply-blue and ready. I need patience! I don’t know who’s eating the ones out back. Usually, the birds and chipmunks wait until the fruits are riper. I don’t see any insects. Maybe something happened to the blossoms. Last year we had such a bumper crop, that I froze the extra and we snacked on berries all the way into late winter. But the wild Concord grape vines across the road are looking especially healthy. Perhaps I’ll have to make grape jelly in order to have my summer blues in the winter.

And The Winner Is…

Bill Norton!

I’ll be sending Bill a signed copy of Tillie Lays an Egg.

Like the vast majority of you, Bill voted for Marge’s ringtone. Here is a favorite photo of Marge and I gardening.

We’re heading into a long holiday weekend. I’ll be back out there, pulling weeds with the goats and the chickens. I’m sure Lily Dog will have the zoomies and cool off in the pond. Scooter will sprawl out on a hot brick and sunbathe until I have to carry him inside. We’ll have friends over for dinner. They’re bringing fish. I’m supplying the salad – my greens are up and delicious.

Candy’s ears are looking so much better. I’m letting her hop around in the cool of the evening. Caper is still limping, but that hasn’t stopped him from squeezing out of the stall door and jumping around on the feed bins (and getting into the sticky fly paper – don’t ask!!!)

Looks like we’re all in for a fine holiday. I hope you are, too.

Goat Training

Last Autumn, the goats ignored the fallen acorns. But, now that they’ve sprouted, the acorns are goat candy.

I’ve been training my goats to walk nicely on a leash, and also to do silly pet tricks, like play soccer (I promise a YouTube video by the end of the summer!) They’ll do anything for a bit of goat sweet feed. However, I have a new goat training rule: never attempt to train your goat when there are sprouted acorns underfoot. Goats can be quite single-minded when it comes to food. Sprouted acorns turn off all other pathways other than the “munch on these until you’re bloated” one. Trying to get a goat’s attention when there is candy underfoot simply teaches him to ignore you. I had to pick Pip and Caper up and remove them from under the oak trees before they stopped having that glazed look in their eyes. (Acorns turn them into zombie goats!!!) Now that they each weigh upwards of 45 pounds, that wasn’t particularly easy!

On the other hand, they’ve been quite helpful tidying up the patio next to the water feature. I’ve got tendinitis in my lower back, so haven’t been able to weed. It turns out that the unwanted plants between the rocks are exactly what the goats love to eat – that it, if I can drag them away from the acorns.

Treating Candy’s Ears

Dr. Meade used the process of elimination to come up with a diagnosis of a fungal infection on Candy’s ears. He took a skin scraping, looked under the microscope, and didn’t see mites or lice. But, the white, dry, lumpy skin on her ears sure looked like an external issue. There wasn’t a test for fungus, but that was the logical conclusion and to go ahead and treat for it. If it didn’t clear it up, then there were some serious systemic issues, perhaps an auto-immune disease.

Fortunately, the daily ear washings (with a special disinfectant) and applications of fungicide are working! Candy’s ears are becoming more pliant and the skin is turning a healthier pink. The medicine stings where the skin is raw, and Candy hates the smell of it (which also masks the aroma of the banana chips, so she doesn’t get a treat immediately). In a few days, I think she’ll be ready to go outside.

Domestic animals have been bred for centuries (and some for millennium) to  suit our needs. Dairy animals produce more milk than necessary for their own offspring, so that we can use it, too. Sheep have fine wool, beef cattle put on muscle, border collies herd. Horses fly over five-foot fences. King Cavalier Spaniels are gentle dogs. But, we also breed animals solely for the looks of them – chickens with tail plumes, guinea pigs with long fur, and dogs with spots. Sometimes those looks come with problems.Those cute domino markings on Dalmatians are linked to deafness. I have a friend with a delightful Boston Terrier, but because of its smushed-in nose, it snorts and has almost no sense of smell.

Lop-eared bunnies are prone to ear infections.

We, the breeders and buyers of these animals are responsible for the bad along with the good. Knowing what I do now, I don’t think I’d purchase another lop. Candy is a sweetheart, but so are rabbits with upright ears – ones that can regulate body temperature and stay out of the muck.

There’s no black and white answer. I firmly believe in keeping domestic farm animals and pets. I especially support the efforts to maintain rare breeds. But, in the last century, stud books have closed, the genetic pool has shrunk, and consumer’s tastes have become more extreme. Take a look at illustrations of pugs from the 1800’s. Their snouts were more prominent, their eyes less bulgy (and therefore less prone to injury and disease,) and yet they were wonderful, family dogs. Breeders and pet-owners need to think through what the costs to the animals are to breeding for looks alone.

My Birch Tree

Remember this tree, bent over in last winter’s snow storm?

Here it is today:

This is the bark:

Isn’t that stunning?

Unfortunately, saw fly larvae also love this tree. Every year I wage a battle against these:

Disgusting. Even the chickens won’t eat them! I’ve tried spraying on garden soap, which works, somewhat. This year, I’m trying to kill them with a fine oil spray. Any other suggestions?

Meanwhile, the mowing service didn’t come by last week. (They’re nice guys, but sometimes they forget about me.) So, instead of a lawn, I have a field of clover. The goats couldn’t be more pleased with the situation.