Something Wicked This Way Comes

a row of comfrey plants
My comfrey patch

Before I jump into the wicked ways of the world around here, I want to offer multiple updates. First, several years ago I began growing comfrey. I am now a true comfrey farmer. It’s hard not to be a comfrey farmer. Actually, it’s almost impossible not to become a comfrey farmer as comfrey, much like sourdough bread mother, will take over the world given a chance. It proliferates best by root, so spreading it is as easy as digging up a plant, taking its root, breaking said root into pieces, then replanting the pieces.

sheep eating comfrey
The sheep eating my comfrey

Why, you might ask, did I want to be a comfrey farmer? Because comfrey is high in protein and I’d heard it could be used as fodder for all sorts of critters. And indeed you can, although my rabbits, who are supposed to love it best, don’t seem to like it much. That’s okay since the sheep, chickens, and turkeys will eat it daily. The sheep polished off two armloads and begged for more.

As for my new turkeys, the merger of last week is beginning to feel comfortable for everyone involved. It’s been fits and starts, mostly because the poults are still learning how to perch on roost. But today, the young turkeys spent most of their day plundering the compost heap in the back barn, which is also my chicken coop. This compost, which the chickens turn daily for me, has become so active that it’s eaten up a dead raccoon and the innards from a few sheep and done it in a week or so. Or maybe the chickens (and now young turkeys) are doing the eating. Either way, it works for me.

Things dead and composting brings me to the sad tale of last week. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a hunting mountain lion in the area. I’m not certain that this year’s lion is the same lion that Moosie and Bear put into the willow tree, but after this week I’m thinking it’s possible. At around seven last Tuesday, the dogs and my partner and I were startled by a huge commotion down at the creek. There was a brief scream then water splashed as if a battle was going on. Brush broke. A blue heron flew up to the top of the barn, offering a hoarse and irritable “grok, grok, grok!” At the same time, the dogs tore off the porch. They raced down to the creekside fence. Bear looked upstream and barked like crazy. Rupert looked downstream and barked like crazy. Radha doesn’t bark much, but she was standing next to Bear looking upstream, which means Rupert once again missed the point.

I hadn’t bothered going down with the dogs. The minute I saw the heron, I was sure the noise had been nothing but another skirmish in that poor bird’s never-ending war with the black hawks. I drifted back to breakfast and the dogs eventually returned to the porch, where they settled into the first of their three or four daily naps. A couple of hours later I went over to talk to my neighbor who was out watering her middle pasture. She was asking me about the lambs and if they were old enough to come graze on her property when I caught a movement in the creek from the corner of my eye. I turned to look. It was a White-tailed Deer, a doe.

“Oh no!” I said to Elena. Together, we watched the doe as she walked slowly through what is thigh-deep water. There were bloody gashes in her head and on her throat. A long cut ran from her shoulder to her belly. Although she was still mobile, albeit with the water to buoy her, I could tell from her injuries that she wasn’t going to survive.

That’s when I knew what Bear had known when he’d heard that scream. That lion is back, and it’s hungry.

The only thing I’ve got going for me is that, if this is the same lion Bear treed, she’s still afraid enough of him that his bark was enough to drive her away from her kill.

So, no, the lambs aren’t going next door to graze. They’re staying right here, surrounded by fences where my dogs can keep them safe. Well, at least one of my dogs. Wrong-direction Rupert can’t be counted on, and the night before last something odd happened to Radha. When I went at dawn, she greeted me with her tail between her legs. She couldn’t wait to get inside the house. Once inside, she hid beneath my partner’s desk. When he sent her away, she found another spot to cower. She hid all day.

I’m thinking she got a look at her first predator and didn’t much like what she saw. Maybe because she didn’t like feeling afraid, she decided to take on another critter last night to bolster her ego. Unfortunately for us all, the skunk won. Radha–and everyone else– will be living with that wonderful fragrance for a few days.

Turkey Merger

Before I talk turkey I want to offer a garden update. Between the high temperatures and me remembering to water, the first of my all-volunteer sunflowers are now over eight feet tall. I’m in the picture to give you perspective. Because most of my sunflowers are volunteers I doubt any of them will have the… Continue Reading

Too Many Tomatoes?

Is it possible to have too many tomatoes growing in your garden? I’d like to think not, but this year I may well discover the answer to that question. Like every other gardener in the world (except my youngest sister), I love a fresh, home-grown tomato. This is saying a lot considering that early in… Continue Reading

Birthing

Any remaining doubts I had about Tiny, my oldest ewe, being pregnant (not just fat) were answered last week. Not that I had many doubts remaining, not after her udder swelled to the size of a volleyball. That’s the big giveaway when it comes to pregnant sheep. Just days before delivering, a ewe’s udder gets… Continue Reading

Rabbit Coop Failure

Firstly, I apologize for missing last week. Technology on the Farm got squirrely prior to the big weekend, and then got worse. By Sunday we had radio, tv, telephone, and internet silence. There we stayed until Wednesday. I thought I’d be able to write one after we were up again, but that was wishful thinking.… Continue Reading

Switchel

I was going to write about Rupert, who has become a swimming dog now that the temperatures have climbed into the 90s. He slides into the ditch and lets the current float him downstream for a bit, then paddles like heck, gets out and rolls in the grass…and, of course, then runs in joyful, cool,… Continue Reading

Teen Rabbits

Let me say, if you haven’t experienced life with a teenager of some sort, you just haven’t lived. I, unfortunately, have enjoyed that experience with human children (ugh), puppies (lordy, lordy), ram lambs (someone save me), and calves (OMG, I cannot believe you used your tongue to open that gate!). I am now officially adding… Continue Reading

Locked in ’til Lunch

That’s my egg laying chickens I’m talking about. As you, my plucky readers, will recall, my laying hens have endured predator pressure for the past two years, including golden eagles, ravens, puppies, and egg-eating skunks. That’s why I’ve been periodically locking my girls into their coop over the last few months. The Farm’s version of… Continue Reading

Rupert the Garden Dog

When I first moved up to Northern Arizona I left behind the (tiny) garden of my dreams that I’d created in the backyard of my (equally as tiny) Scottsdale home.  However small that garden, when I turned my back on it, it had been in constant production for almost twelve years and supplied most of… Continue Reading