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Spotted Dog Farm Blog

It's A Wild One

This winter has been a wild one so far.  For the last few years we had these mild, easy winters - usually punctuated with one or two snows, but for the most part no big deal.  It was equal parts delicious and anticlimactic.  This winter, on the other hand, has been a different beast.  January has been cold.  Like COLD. 

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Weekly Roundup

Lots of things rolling along as we get closer to spring.  Not water in our pond - nope, that's still empty, but we have hope for the repairs to happen in the next week or two, and then we'll be back in action.  That's the thing about good dirt guys - ("dirt guys" being my nickname for guys who move dirt.  For obvious reasons.) - anyway, the thing about good dirt guys is that they're in high demand and completely at the mercy of the weather.  Which means you can never tell exactly when they're going to get to you.  Like many things with a farm, having earth moving work done is a real test of your equanimity.  Mine's still hanging in there for the time being.

Other things that require equanimity - farm trucks.  The brakes on ours completely went out this week (which sounds like a problem you'd have in 1965 rather than 2017), and so Clifford had to take a ride to the mechanic.  Bummer.

I did make some good progress on my knitted dress this week - kitting and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

Steve's first birthday party was a hit.  Sam made him a combination of his favorite foods - an apple stuffed with peanut butter and bacon, served with a side of dog biscuits.  Steve knows how to party.

Afterwards Steve had to sleep it off.  And just like lots of little kids, he was full of energy right until he fell asleep for his nap.  In this case, while chewing on his bone.

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Save the Carp!

The day that Clark finally got the drain open on the pond was pretty exciting.  After days of hammering holes in a rusty galvanized pipe to encourage it to keep draining, we finally had an actual plan.  Unfortunately it was also a day of grisly fish death, since there are a ton of fish in the pond, and without water there are no fish.  But just as the water was getting low we had a brainstorm about the giant carp we put in last year to clear the grass from the bottom of the pond.  Namely, we remembered that our neighbor also has a pond, and might like some carp, and it would be awfully nice to save a few of them.  Of course we could have remembered this days in advance, but instead we figured it out about 45 minutes before the water was completely gone.  And so the phone call went something like this:  "Hey this is Sumner our pond is draining like right now and I just realized that you might like some of these grass-eating carp since they would keep your pond clean and also that would save their lives but you need to decide in the next 45 minutes or so or really more like right now because we need to go catch them and put them in giant tubs to drive over to you and doesn't that sound awesome?"  Fortunately my neighbor is rather chill, and also did like the idea of saving the carp, and so a rescue mission was launched.  A very, very muddy rescue mission, and one in which I laughed until I almost wet myself, because carrying giant fish up out of a mud bog is ripe for some slapstick comedy.

 

 

In the end, though, we did save several of them. And Sam's friend from school who was visiting got dirtier than I think the kid had probably ever been in his whole life.  And in the world of boys, that's a win.

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Back to the Picnic Deck

You guys!  It is February 12 and it is 70 degrees in Asheville.  And that means I am back to basking on my picnic deck for journaling and reading random New York Times stories and getting some work done (unfortunately in that order).  If there is a better way to work than outside listening to the birds chirp I definitely don't know what it is.

You'll notice that my "overlooking the pond" vista is currently an "overlooking world's largest mud puddle" vista.  Which, strangely enough, indicates progress.  That's right, we got the pond drained (finally!) and are now awaiting the arrival of the big equipment.  I'm fully aware that the problem of "my pond needs repair work" is about the most first world problem imaginable, and thus it won't exactly be a catastrophe if takes a while.  But still... fingers crossed this thing has water back in it by summer.

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This Lake Won't Go

So the lake started leaking (who knew lakes could leak?) and we were sad.  On the bright side, it gives us the kick in the pants we need to update the overflow and drainage systems.  On the not-so-bright side we weren't exactly planning on doing that right now.   Plus we liked our lake with water in it.  But still, we were kind of ready to do it, and looking forward to having it done, and just waiting for the lake to drain all the way so we could get to the bottom of the drain pipes and see exactly what was going on and our contractor could finalize the plan and start work. 

Except the weirdest thing has happened - the lake won't go.  It was starting to get pretty low - low enough that we were thinking it was close to time to call all of our friends who like fish, because we are going to have a *lot* of fish ready for freezers as soon as this water drops all the way.  But instead we had a big storm two nights ago, and when I woke up the lake was back up several feet.  Which I guess makes me feel good about what's going to happen when it's time to fill it back up, but kind of stinks for the idea of getting the water out of there so that we can fix the drainage and get it started refilling in time for summer.  We're definitely more than half full again at this point, and it's been sort of leaking since mid December.  Soooo, not as efficient as one might hope.

Which means this weekend we're going to take matters into our own hands. I'm not quite sure what that means, in that we can't just pull the drain pipe over because we need to still be able to tie into or cap the pipe at the bottom.  But the stand pipe is so old and rusty that I'm pretty sure it isn't going to put up too much of a fight, so we'll start with making some bigger holes in it.  Sounds like the type of engineering plan an artist would make, right?  Still, that's what we're going with.

This whole thing is kind of funny.  A farm will teach you all sorts of things you didn't even know you didn't know.  Like who knew this winter was going to be filled with questions around "how do we get this leaky pond to leak faster?  And then what the hell do we do once it's gone??"  But I guess that's what keeps life interesting.  And I'll report back once we have answers to the second part - what we're going to do to actually fix it.  So far we have about 3 viable ideas from different people.  My paramount concern is not messing with the structural integrity of the dam, and I think we've got a plan that's going to accomplish that, so fingers are crossed. Now if we could just get rid of all of this water.

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Is it Frozen?

We had a lovely snow storm this weekend, which results in amazing sledding and the feeling of living in a snow globe.  All of which I'll chronicle in a day or two.  But along with that came very cold temperatures, which means the lake freezes (or what's left of it), which means a total cluster for dog care.  

I'm always afraid the dogs are going to walk out on the ice and then fall through in the center. We've been keeping a very close eye on them, but today it's warming up so Sam and I figured we'd check to see if the lake was still frozen.  As you can tell, we're a well oiled machine.  (And the reason these are in three separate clips is because they started as an Instagram story.  For more behind the scenes looks, head over to my instagram.)

 

 

 

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The Pond Has Decided to Go

This farm - which I love dearly - never gets tired of making sure I've learned the lesson of patience.  

 

Remember when the culvert collapsed and we got to figure out how one deals with 100 feet of culvert that needs to be replaced along with a sinkhole/geyser in the yard?  Turns out that was sort of a prelude in the farm repair department.  Because now the pond is draining.  Yep, all of the water is leaking out, and not because we asked it to.

There's an overflow pipe that keeps the water level constant (because our pond is spring and creek fed, which is super lucky because the water level never drops), and at the bottom of that overflow pipe is a drain (kind of like a trap door) with a long handle that comes all the way to the surface so that theoretically one could open the drain and drop the water level if wanted.  But that system was put in about 30 years ago, and the drain handle has never been used.  Until now - when suddenly it seems to have opened and the water is slowwwwwly leaving.  

I'm guessing it finally rusted through - we took the row boat out and stared at the top of the handle - since none of us scuba dive that was basically the full extent of our diagnostics.  Turns out it was still useful, though, because the handle is now attached to nothing and just propped up on the big pipe - apparently having rusted through and somehow opened the drain at the bottom.

So, after staring at it at great length (our favorite method of pretending like we might know something useful in unfamiliar situations), and talking to some people who actually might have some insight, we've decided to just let the whole thing drain so we can properly repair/replace the overflow and drain pipe.  On the one hand this kind of stinks - we're going to have a giant mud bog in our yard for months, because even once it's repaired it'll take forever to fill back up.  But on the other hand it's kind of great - because we'll have an actual functioning drain system, and the current lack thereof has sort of been in the back of my mind for a while now. 

In the meantime, though, the lesson is patience - because we can't do anything until the pond totally drains, and it's currently draining at a rate of about 6-12" per day.  This thing is about 10'-12' deep, so it's going to take a while. Kind of like if you decided to drain your swimming pool, and poked a hole in it with an ice pick and just sat there waiting for allll of the water to come out.  

And this, I think is where the farm really excels - making sure I'm completely comfortable with the idea that it's really in charge, not us. Thankfully yoga also really excels in the equanimity department, so that's helping.  Although, I'm not going to lie, my very first reaction when I realized what was happening was to yell "FUCK!!!!" at the top of my lungs.  So I'm a work in progress.

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Pizza Slices and Pond Management

It's been hot here lately.  Not Phoenix hot, but hot for us.  Which usually means the farm work is a bit of a misery.  But since we haven't had rain in eons, there actually isn't as much work to do as usual.  Following my "there's always a silver lining" theory, the lack of rain means a lack of growing grass, which means a lack of sweat-running-down-my-whole-body-while-I-handle-a-weed-eater.  I'll take that.

So instead farm work has turned to the pond - remember those weird carp we put in it a few months ago?  Well several of them croaked pretty quickly - and we were kind of wondering if all of them had croaked, since the turtle no doubt ate a bunch of the dead ones before we saw them. (Side note - nature, man. It's a jungle out there.)  But after we moved the turtle, and stopped seeing dead carp, we were wondering if The Fish Wagon had delivered us a batch of bad fish.  Until, like weird submarines, the now bigger carp starting arriving.  Yay!  They feed up close to the surface, and they like to cruise along the bank in a big pack of 10 or 12 - which is a little creepy for swimming, since they're already probably 18" long and getting bigger - but I think they're also doing their job, since so far the weird grass tentacles aren't brushing my legs while we swim.  Success!

And another facet of pond management - lily pads.  They're kind of pretty, and a little like a fairy tale which makes me want to keep them, but according to the Ag Extension pond management guy they aren't great for the pond.  So, farm work turned to pulling the lily pads.  According to the Ag Guy this is the best way to deal with them.  I don't know if it's the best, but it's definitely the most fun.  Float around on a slice of pizza, pull some lily pads, have some fun.  Done.

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It Has a Tail

See this idyllic looking spot?  

Lies!  All lies!  Because while it looks like something fairytale-ish ... wait it actually might still be out of a fairytale, because fairytales all have creepy things in them.  As does this spot.  

Sam was fishing over there last night, and when he comes back over to the house he's all "Mom, there's something kind of big living under the holly bush, and when I get close to it, it jumps in the pond, and it has a tail."  And then I was all:  ????  Furthermore, he explains,  he can't figure out what it is, it looks more reptilian than furry, and it's big enough to have made a dusty nest under the tree.  WTF. We have a giant swimming lizard now?  I'll be sure to report back once we have an identification.

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Swamp Monster

Remember when I was all "we *used* to have snapping turtles, but not any longer"?  All smug like that?  Well no more.  Because not too long thereafter, a giant effing snapping turtle showed up.   That's him.

And I didn't want to like him, but he was so peaceable looking floating around out there. Even though I know that's a giant lie, and they aren't very peaceful at all.  But he kind of floated and sunbathed and had fun.  But *I* wanted to float and sunbathe and have fun, and not with him.

So we got a trap, so we could relocate him down to the creek.  Sam was delighted - lots of disgusting baiting it with sardines, and burying it in the muck, and highly anticipated checking of the trap... and eventually we caught him.  That's him again - staring at us with his beady eyes and giant claws.

Not going to lie, I was kind of surprised it worked. But I'm very happy we're no longer sunbathing together.

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