Thursday, May 28, 2009


Not just one, but three bears showed up by the edge of our field. There is a mother and two yearling cubs. They got into my brother-in-law’s trash. He leaves for work very early and put out his trash in the morning for pick up. The pick up was either late or didn’t happen so by around 11 AM the bears were in it. This is just a few feet from where a bear killed one of our sheep last fall.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Solar Minimum

Two nights ago we had a “killing frost.” I covered the potatoes and strawberries, but there is no way to cover the native chestnut oak trees that were hard hit by the frost.
The photo shows the chestnut oak by the house. The dark curled leaves are the youngest leaves. I don’t know if the frost can be directly attributed to the deep solar minimum we are in.

The last deep solar minimum happened in1911-13 and brought some chilly weather with it. The least number of sunspots counted in the last century happened in 1913. The next smallest number was 2008. The third smallest number was 1912. The seventh smallest number was 1911 and 2007 was the ninth smallest number. Check out the graph here

By chance I was just given a diary to read from that period from the same family as the diary of the two boys I transcribed in my book. The writers home was less than a mile from where I sit now in Northeast PA, about 75 miles as the crow flies from NYC.

The entry for January 13, 1912:
Clear and cold. 18 degrees below zero in the morning….

January 14, 1912 Partly cloudy and cold. 36 degrees below zero in the morning and did not get above eleven all day….

January 16, 1912 Clear and very cold. I drew logs all day. The thermometer stood 4 degrees above zero at noon.

The following month:
Feb 9, 1912 Clear and very cold. 20 degrees below zero when I started in the morning.

Feb 10, 1912 Clear and very cold. The thermometer stood at 4 degrees below zero at noon.

Another deep solar minimum happened in 1816 - The Year Without A Summer
While the 1816 chill is attributed to volcanic activity, it was also at the mid-point of the Dalton Solar Minimum

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The sign is finished. The gold leaf in the lettering looks bad in the photo - - better in real life.

The tomato plants are longing to be outside, but tonight the forecast is for temperatures in the 20's. I hope they are wrong, but we are still in the deepest solar minimum since the early 1900's. This site tracks the daily sunspot number as well as other fascinating other-worldly stuff.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Wednesday, May 06, 2009


This tiny lamb was born in a set of quads yesterday. She weighs under two and a half pounds. There is a six inch ruler beside her for scale. She is tiny, but is going great guns.
She couldn’t stand up at first, but today she can. She was too small to leave with her mother and big boisterous brothers and bigger sister.

The brownish coloring on the back of her neck and eartips are phaeomelanin. It is similar to the Tunis lambs that are born with red wool that gradually fades to white.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Lambing season makes me hyper.
It’s so wonderful to see the little new lives, the perfect little critters coming in to the world, knowing so much about what it takes to be a lamb.
That is the good part. The other part where I always wind up loosing sleep isn’t so good.

We got off to an uneasy start when a yearling had the tiniest little black ram lamb. He weighed just over two pounds and couldn’t stand up to nurse. He wound up in a box in the entry way off the kitchen for about a week. We bonded. When I finally had to put him out in the barn with the other sheep I worried about how he would manage. He got in some trouble at first because he wanted to follow all the other ewes around sniffing their hind legs - - which probably felt like having an annoying little fly bugging them. While he had been in the house the quads were born - - all way bigger than he. He bonded with the quad I was bottle feeding so both would come out together to get fed.

This morning another yearling had her twin ewe lambs, covered with shiny ringlets.
I think there is only one ewe left to lamb. I will be glad when I can unplug the intercom and put it away and sleep peacefully through the night again.