January 23, 2011

Wild Horses

One of the oldest and purest breeds, Norwegian Fjords were first domesticated in Europe around 4,000 years ago.  They are still very similar to the last true wild horse, Przewalski's Horse, with small yet strong confirmations, and primitive markings with faint stripes.  But as far as farm animals are concerned, horses were brought under human husbandry rather late in the history of agriculture, with sheep, goats, pigs and cattle all being domesticated more than 6,000 years earlier.
Of course, given the general temperament of  horses, it is easy to understand why it took so long for humans to tame them.  The animals have inherited a strong fight-or-flight instinct, with natural selection clearly favoring the latter. As Ryan likes to note, even our big Suffolk draft horses still see themselves as being only three feet tall in a world full of saber-toothed tigers.  But despite their close ties to the past (or, perhaps, because of them), the Norwegian Fjords are some the the most gentle and helpful workhorses to be found anywhere, even if they share a certain willfulness with their ancient ancestors.  
On the left are three horses drawn by a Paleolithic artist on a rock wall in the Chauvet cave in France.  On the right are Sven, Josie and Ole getting ready to do some harrowing.  In between are almost 30,000 years.  Apparently, when it comes to horse breeding, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

January 18, 2011

Clear Blue Skies, Eight(teen) Inches of Rain

According to the folks at the National Weather Service, we've had eight inches of rain in the last two weeks, but it sure feels like a lot more than that.  We've been wading through standing water and mud since the last of the snow melted, and there's been some form of precipitation every day (and usually more at night).  The Stillaguamish has been under a daily Flood Watch or Flood Warning, but it hasn't spilled it's banks and run into the pastures (yet).  Which doesn't make much of a difference since the pastures all have full-fledged streams of their own simply from the rain water making its' way down to the river.

Stangely enough, the forecast calls for clear skies tomorrow...for one day...followed by more rain.  

January 12, 2011

Master of the Barn

Depending on the season, we may keep horses, cows, pigs and a goat in the barn, but the the only year-round nightly resident is the orange tom cat who (as far as I know) doesn't really have a name other than the "Barn Kitty." We got him as a kitten from a garage sale a couple of years ago along with an identical brother. Unfortunately, the brother disappeared after about six months...probably something to do with curiosity, cats and coyotes...but the Barn Kitty has become the nimble and ferocious master of his domain.
Before his arrival, we had quite a few rats in the barn, especially burrowed under the pen where we usually keep pigs. Now the barn is pretty much rodent-free, and Barn Kitty has to make due with chasing the stray bird that wanders in.  He eats and sleeps in the loft, and is waiting at the top of the stairs every morning knowing that he will get a scratch behind the ears as we come by to toss down the hay.

January 2, 2011

Breaking the Ice

With more icy cold weather hitting just after Christmas, water, which is usually more than abundant around the farm, has become a scarce commodity.  While most of the faucets at the barn are frost-proof, the automatic watering for the pigs and the chickens does freeze when temperatures stay cold for more than a day or two.  Fortunately, the outdoor water sources for the horses and cows had only a thin layer of ice that they were easily able to break through to get a drink.  Here are the horses in the loafing yard, just after being let out of the barn in the morning, heading for the small stream and pool that supplies their water during the winter months.