Thursday, June 6, 2013

What's Happening in the Heat?

Sunflower in the Garden
The end of the school year is always a big adjustment around here. With the kids sleeping in and me being able to stay up late, the timing gets all out of whack. Not to mention the blistering hot heat of summer in Tucson.

I've found some ways to get around the heat, if I be good and stay on a schedule. First off, the farm chores still need to be done. A lot of people see pictures of the farm critters and think how nice it must be to have them. Milk goats need to be milked twice a day without fail. The critters need to be fed and watered twice a day. There are not-so-fun maintenance tasks like hoof trims, castration, pen cleaning, egg collecting and composting, but my point is, you still have to do all those things even when it's 100 degrees outside.

At first we all stayed up to ungodly hours and then slept in to go do chores around 11am. If you live in Tucson, you know that's insane. It's just too hot. By the time chores were done we were heading out at high noon, covered with sweat and melting in the heat.

So I now get up at the old school time of 7am and often head out to the ranch alone. While it's easier to get all the chores done with everyone, the truth is, I don't handle the heat well. I turn red and get dizzy. Plus, I like to hang around and do extra chores that don't get done when the whole family comes and wants to get in and out fast.

Pumpkin, our wooly ram. He's not very orange anymore.
Check out the nice metal feeder!

Chores like sweeping the pens and moving the poo to planting areas. There's something satisfying about a nicely swept sheep pen. Plus, after learning to spin wool, I now understand why alpaca is better than sheep fiber. Sheep lay down to rest anywhere--even in their own poo! Ew!

That means wool is skanky nasty stinky messy poopy stuff out here in Tucson where pasture just won't happen without some good monsoon rains. (Please rain.) So I hurry through the morning chores and then try to squeeze in the extra stuff.

To help with keeping pens cleaned and also to cut down on hay waste (my sheep never waste hay--they will eat it even if it falls in poop--gag) I purchased two metal feeders with drop pans. Goats are not as frugal as the sheep and will not eat stuff once it falls on the ground and gets nasty, so they got one too.

Freshly swept sheep pen.
There is always something that needs to be done. On the list is fence repair and lots of it. The goats are hard on fences and much of theirs needs to be reattached to the t-posts and more t-posts need to be pounded in for reinforcement.

I'd like to do some minor rearranging in the goat pen for ease of cleaning and to have additional areas for seperating animals when need be.

I still need to build two more rooster pens. This requires the aid of the child who begged for their lives when it was rooster eating time. He's not as motivated to build them each houses as he was to save them from being dinner. Plus, keeping a rooster in with the hens is nice and all, but he's a very efficient rooster and his constant attentions are making the hens go bald. He needs to be moved out.

Darius playing dead.
The alpacas, who are fattening up nicely and like to play dead to scare the heck out of me, probably need a better shelter in case mosoon rains really do come. (Please rain?) And they probably will move further back into the property. They get stared at a lot. I don't mind so much, but it's kind of weird when strangers pull up, stop their car, get out and come to the fence and start snapping pictures.

As I have gotten older, I am valuing my private time more than before. I don't necessarily want strangers to stop and hang out at my farm--the one place I go to find some peace of mind and get back in touch with nature. Plus, maybe the alpacas don't want people staring at them when they have to go potty. Poor guys.

The other trick is to come out after the sun goes down to do the evening chores. This works very well as long as everyone has a flashlight to navigate with. Some extra chores can get done at night too, but unless there's a full moon, it's not as easy to see what's getting done.

My husband and I think maybe we should be vampire farmers. Sleeping all day, staying up all night? Yeah. I could make that work.