Friday’s Farm: Barn Cats

 

 

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Cloe hiding a mouse from me… “Nothing to see. Move along.”

 

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I love my cats. I’ve had a pet cat or two continually since I was a baby. However, I’ve learned that keeping pet cats and keeping barn cats are two different things.

Barn cats have one job – organic pest control. These felines work hard and nap harder. But what is it really like keeping a healthy working cat? Glad you asked!

My old house cat Sophianne is a good mouser. She’s also convinced her job in life is to be my cuddle bug. While she does enjoy catching mice and playing with them, she’s not a great barn cat. She does kill and eat some, but she also brings some to the house still alive before letting them go. That’s not exactly helpful even though it’s adorable.

 

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Sophianne proving that not all cats are born to be wild

 

Cloe and Clive on the other hand, both kill and eat several rodents a day each. They are a brother and sister duo and the offspring of a long line of Mennonite barn cats. They sleep in the barn in cages. I know some people let their cats roam at night. However, we have owls and coyotes. Cats are the perfect meal on the run for those predators.

I know many people who do not feed their barn cats. I know a few who wonder why their cats are skinny and die off every winter, too. Other folks will put down a pile of food every three or four days. They wonder why they have so many mice and possums and raccoons in their barns. Well, because there’s a buffet. We feed out cats on a table on the porch in the afternoons. They have fresh water there all day. The food is taken up at night. Feeding them enough calories daily to survive doesn’t hinder their hunting. Often, if they kill and eat enough rodents they don’t eat as much food. Last night Clive caught a squirrel. He skipped dinner and was waiting to go in his cage at sunset. Feeding them keeps them in top hunting condition. Taking up the food keeps the mice from having a free meal.

 

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Clive enjoys hanging with the sheep

 

Cloe and Clive were both from an unwanted litter of kittens. To keep from contributing to the over population of none native introduced animals we spay and neuter our animals. We use a local Spay and Neuter program that assists rural areas with pet sterilization. The vets are top notched and care about their charges.

I do my own vaccines with the cats. I pick the kits up at TSC in the summer. It takes about 5 minutes to do both Cloe and Clive. Sophianne doesn’t get vaccines. She’s a wild hybrid someone tossed out and she nearly died from her first and only vaccine. She’s under vet orders to NOT be vaccinated.

Ticks are a major issue in our area. I’ve had STAR twice and we occasionally have a young animal contract Tick Paralysis (scary, scary, scary times!). I choose to use breakaway flea and tick collars. In addition to the collars I do a physical tick check every evening. They think they’re just being loved on. Even with the collars Cloe will pick up ticks when she goes into the woods. Clive and Sophianne rarely have ticks or fleas. I don’t know why, they just don’t. Fortunately, fleas are only an issue in August and early September. The collars seem to work for fleas on the cats. Having ducks and chickens also helps.

All three are wormed in the fall. If I see any signs of worms earlier I’ll worm then, too. However, tape worms in the summer and early fall are the typical parasites we deal with here in the Cove.

I’ve been blessed to not have injuries or major illnesses with my cats. I’m also blessed with an awesome team of vets who work with both large and small animals should my crew ever need professional care.

Cats are like most other working animals on the farm. If you give them a solid foundation they will happily work for an entire lifetime as your partner in pest control. And if they’re happy, you’ll even get some head bumps and purrs.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

 

Winding up Wednesday: Why I Shear My Sheep

I do love natural fibers. Nothing beats wool for warm winter clothing, garden mulch, or to sleep on. I enjoy spinning my flock’s fleeces in the grease, cleaned, carded, combed, or cloud. But that’s not why I shear our sheep.

Shearing season is finally behind us here in Serenity. I personally hand sheared all my sheep. It’s grungy, back breaking work. Some people think I shear just to have the wool, to make money, or because I’m greedy. I can tell you – sheep ranchers that don’t breed and sell lambs aren’t doing it for the big money.

I do love natural fibers. Nothing beats wool for warm winter clothing, garden mulch, or to sleep on. I enjoy spinning my flock’s fleeces in the grease, cleaned, carded, combed, or cloud. But that’s not why I shear our sheep.

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These amazing animal’s unaltered cousins grow far less wool than modern domesticated wool sheep. My hair sheep naturally shed their wool when the weather warms up (and yes I collect and spin that, too). But most domesticated sheep have lost that trait. There are still a few breeds that roo (shed) their fleeces yearly. However, most breeds simply need a helping hand.

I shear my sheep for their health. Sure, they wouldn’t need shearing if man never got involved. But then again, we’d have an entirely different civilization, culture, and history as a species if it wasn’t for sheep and their wool. Somehow, along the way we became interdependent on each other. We needed the sheep for wool, milk, and meat, they needed us for protection from wild predators and eventually to clip the wool. I think overall humans ended up with the better hand.

People have asked why I don’t just leave my rescued sheep unshorn. Imagine walking around with an eighty pound, matted, felted, foot thick wool coat pulling at your skin in the dead heat of summer. Imagine lice and bugs nesting in your coat near your skin. Imagine seeds sprouting. Imagine itching and having no way to scratch. Not fun. Now imagine being relieved of a yearly coat as soon as it begins to warm. You just might leap for joy like a lamb.

Why do I shear my sheep? Because I am their caretaker and I love them. The wool is just a by product of that love.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

 

Monday’s Musings: The Ethics of the Ripple Effect

A small action can cause chaos over time without the intention of anything malicious.

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One of my favorite summertime activities is to sit down at the creek in the evenings and skip stones across the water. Sometimes when I can’t find a good skipping stone I’ll just toss in pebbles. What can I say? I’m easily amused. Oh who am I kidding? I’m a philosopher by nature and I do some pretty good thinking about life and the nature of the universe down by the creek.

Every time I toss a stone in the water ripples. The creek is changed in a minute way. Over time those minute changes can have a dramatic impact on the creek bank and the flow of the water. I can make a hole on the bank, make the creek wider, make the creek more shallow in a spot, encourage erosion along the bank, and even bring down a mighty tall tree that will lead to flooding in my pasture. A small action can cause chaos over time without the intention of anything malicious.

That’s the way every action and inaction we take in life operates. Every sip of liquid, every bite of food, every needless trip into town in our petrol powered automobiles as entertainment, every unkind word, every polymer encapsulated item, every touch, every missed moment for appreciating your spouse, every tiny selfish act over time leads to chaos.

Intention is not enough. True, if you start with good intentions then the possibility of a good future increases. But thinking through the ramifications of those actions from a moral and ethical perspective is ultimately what improves or decimates a family, a county, a state, a country, a nation, or our planet.

You have two powerful allies in creating a good future for yourself and others: rational thought and good intention. Use them with a kind heart and the world just might become a better place.

Until next time,

Craft no Harm,

Moriah

 

 

Monday’s Musings: When My Ship Comes In

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I’ve heard the phrase “when my ship comes in” my whole life. In fact, I’ve used that phrase more than one when talking about my future. It basically means to hit the big score, to cash in all your chips, a life changing event filled with nothing but good things.

So often we wait for our ships to come in. However, we don’t often think about where that phrase comes from. In the old days merchant investors sent out ships to trade in far flung places. It was risky business. However, when the ship came in there was wealth to be made. Sometimes an investor might wait years for his ship to come in.

And that brings me to today’s thought. Unless you send a ship out, you’ll never have a ship come in. Actions beget consequences both good and bad. You are the master of your risks. If you want your ship to come in, invest, wait, and watch.

Until next time,

Craft No Harm,

Moriah

Friday’s Farm: Making Bamboo Trellises

Enter the humble River Cane or Arundinaria. In the native Ani-Yunwiya (Cherokee) language it’s known as “i-hi”. In my personal language it’s known as “blessing cane”. Not only is it a viable material for weaving baskets, feed for the cattle and sheep in lean times, bedding for the chickens, erosion control on the creek bank, and fishing poles, it’s also a wonderful building material for small portable structures.

It’s no secret that Southerners love their peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It’s also no secret to anyone who gardens or farms that keeping these veggies off the ground is important to a good harvest and your back. Another local gardener whose garden I’ve had the privilege of seeing uses hog panels set on long upright poles to hold up his plants. On a good year the plants reach ten feet into the air. His method is bountiful. However, when you’re strapped for cash and growing a year’s worth of food his mighty steel frame is just out of reach.

Enter the humble River Cane or Arundinaria. In the native Ani-Yunwiya (Cherokee) language it’s known as “i-hi”. In my personal language it’s known as “blessing cane”. Not only is it a viable material for weaving baskets, feed for the cattle and sheep in lean times, bedding for the chickens, erosion control on the creek bank, and fishing poles, it’s also a wonderful building material for small portable structures.

One afternoon earlier this month Momma and I walked down to the creek and cut fifty canes. We could have cut one hundred and only made a small dent in our patch. Some of the canes are nearly ten feet long, and all still had last year’s leaves on them. We then hauled it up to the garden, stripped off the leaves (which the sheep loved), and I began to weave.

Making trellises is not an easy task. It’s a life-sized puzzle that will fall over on you if you’re not careful. It took about two hours to make my pea trellis. First, I made a three poled teepee for the end, lashed those together so they would stand, and then made another and set it next to the first. Once I had enough three legged sets I joined them at the top with a “cap” piece. Then I began the actual weaving. Fortunately canes are pliable when green. If you soak them for a few days they are even easier to work with. I began at the bottom and did a simple over and under. If my weaving pole wasn’t long enough to span the entire length I’d add another pole.

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One important note is to have your thick ends at both ends of the structure. In other words, you don’t want all your skinny tops on one side. That makes a weak side.

My structure got a bit wonky and wobbly. Two old metal garden steaks pounded into the ground fixed this problem. After all, no one like their peas in the mud after a wind storm. Speaking of wind storms, my little creations are still standing after two big storms.

When harvesting cane it’s important to be a good steward and only harvest a quarter to third of a stand. If the stand is small or sparse it needs to be left alone. While cane does grow quickly it’s not as abundant as it use to be. Also, be mindful if you decide to forage the local country side. If someone knocks on my door and asks to collect a natural resource I’m apt to say yes. If I find someone just out taking without asking… I’m not so free with my yes. That’s a pretty typical country attitude.

I’ve made other trellises from willow, young tree limbs, and other found material, including old fencing propped up on broken tobacco sticks. Use what you have. The point is to grow good food. Your food doesn’t care if you have the prettiest trellis in the world. It only cares to reach forth to the sky and His blessings while reaching into the Earth for her blessings.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah

Winding up Wednesday: My Scrappy Blanket Vest (Stash Busting!)

I’ve managed to whittle down my stash to just a few yarn I really love and have project appropriate amounts of in stock.

I love to snuggle up in a blanket on cool mornings while I sip my coffee and write or on summer evenings while sipping tea on the porch listening to the crickets. I have a small purple blanket I often use for this purpose. However, I’ve been wanting something heavier, sheepier, something I can wear while pouring that second cup of coffee or the walk back to my house from Mom’s.

I also have a tote of scrap yarns from spinning tests, left over projects, and that ever present “what was I thinking” yarn. Since I’m in need of a serious stash busting and I want a specific item I decided to put the two together with my own variation of the sweater vest I knitted up a few months ago.

I’ve managed to whittle down my stash to just a few yarn I really love and have project appropriate amounts of in stock.

To keep my yarn thickness consistent I held multiple strands together. At first every time I changed yarn I was dropping the yarn, picking up the next strand, and weaving in as I went. That got to be too much work. Enter the magic knot. It’s not something I would use on my shawls or socks, but for this project it’s perfect.

I still have a ways to go on my shawl blanket. But it should be done in the next week or two. I’m so looking forward to snuggling up in it.

Until next time,

Get creative, bust those stashes, and

Craft No Harm,

Moriah

PS. I’d love to see some other stash busting, so feel free to post in the comments!

Monday’s Musings: The Cult of Positivity

Wait, are emotions negative or positive? Doesn’t that denote a “right” and a “wrong” with emotions?

hand.jpgBeing positive is good. We need to look on the brighter side in a gloomy situation. It’s something that can be a valuable survival skill in stressful times. However, I’ve noticed something dark and sinister lurking in the cult of positivity. It looks like an angel, like hope, like a way out of negative emotions.

Wait, are emotions negative or positive? Doesn’t that denote a “right” and a “wrong” with emotions? Hum…. No. The answer is no. The great poet Gibran said,

“your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self same well from which your laughter rises was often time filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”

There are no right or wrong emotions. So often when we have a difficult or unpleasant emotion arise we fight it. We send it away. We tell ourselves certain feelings are invalid. That’s invalidating your core self, you soul, your emotional well being, and ultimately the human experience.

The challenge in today’s society is to sit with our negative emotions, to recognize them, and to accept those feelings without being consumed by those feelings or passing judgment. If you are feeling grief, then feel your grief so that when you remerge into life the joy of living fills your cup fuller. When you are feeling anger, accept that part of you that feels violated and indignant so that when peace comes you recognize her sweetness. When you are worried or concerned explore the reasons and rationality so that you may prepare in balance for the future.

When we allow our emotions to simply be we experience the breathe and depth of living. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling or “positive” than that.

Until next time,

Craft no harm

Moriah