How Our Farm Critters Beat the Heat

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When you work outside, there’s no escaping summer heat… but we all have our favorite coping strategies. (“Rearranging the cooler” becomes the most coveted task of all!) For our resident animals, surviving the summer heat can be a real challenge, and part of our job is to make them as comfortable as possible. It turns out that animals use many of the same strategies humans do to stay cool!

Here are the top five ways critters beat the heat:

  • CHILL OUT! Perhaps most obvious is that many of our animals shift from spring frolicking to summer lounging. Sure, they still run and play some, but they spend a LOT of time lying around. And, like your pooch, they pant to cool off.
  • SHADE! We provide lots of options for shade. Generally, the preferred spots are those that, like the tarps, the wagon and the “bus,” allow the cross breeze while blocking the rays.IMG_0319
  • WATER! Our critters drink a LOT of water to stay cool. Sometimes, you’ll even see the alpacas dipping their front legs in to cool off.
  • ICE! We don’t let our animals into the walk-in coolers, but we bring the cool to them! Every afternoon, you’ll find our rabbit snuggled up with a frozen water bottle. Lucas Cox has been known to ice the animals’ water bowls, although rumors about him blending up smoothies for the alpacas have not been confirmed.
  • HAIRCUTS! Some of our especially furry friends get special hairdos to keep them cool. Chewie, our resident llama, gets a particularly striking new look. The alpacas, sheep and angora goats all are sheared, and their fiber is spun into yarn.

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We hope all critters, great and small, find a way to stay cool in this week’s heatwave!  Don’t forget to provide your own pets with water and shade!

 

An Interview With a Lamb Dad

IMG_6280Father’s Day is just a day away and I think it’s important to acknowledge and honor all types of dads.  Surrogate dads, father figures, etc., one may even qualify for the moniker of…”Lamb Dad”!  Such is the case of Lucas Cox, Co-Farmer-in-Chief here at Cox Farms.   Unlike his sister, Aaron (the other Co-Farmer-in-Chief), who definitely is a goat person, Lucas leans toward the more exotic, wooly animals.  Chewie, the llama, Ivan and Hamlet, the angora goats and Equinox and Quincy, the alpacas, are all Lucas’s “kids”.  The newest members to Cox Farms are two precious lambs that were born in mid-May.  They’re the offspring of two of Lucas’s Bluefaced Leicester sheep, pronounced blue-faced Less-ter, just to keep you in-the-know.  Yesterday, I spent some time with Lucas and the sheep and lambs and let me just say, they are easy to love!

Q:  Let’s be honest, it’s no secret that we all thought these were odd looking sheep!  Why this breed of sheep?

A:  Come on, they’re cute now, right?  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.  Some people may not think I’m cute, either.  Their wool is great.  That’s what this breed is known for, their long wool and blue/purple pigmented skin underneath the wool.

Q:  I’ll give you this – those babies are adorable.  What’s up with the wool thing?  You don’t strike me as a knitter.

A:  My wife is the knitter in the family.  You know, Chewie has won awards for his fiber.  It’s amazing stuff.

Q:  Back to those lambs-they’re a month old, but last time I checked, you hadn’t chosen names for them.  Any decision?

A:  Yeah,  I wanted to stick with the theme that was started with the three adult sheep,  named Pilsner, Smuttynose and Porter.  Staying on that path, The little female lamb’s name will be India and the boy is Stout.

Q:  So, who’s the favorite?

A:  Come on, I can’t pick a favorite!  You love ’em all the same, right?

Spoken like a true dad, even if the babies are all four legged.IMG_6272

To learn and see more about the animals at Cox Farms, visit our website: http://www.coxfarms.com/about/animals.aspx

 

“Help! I’m In The Weeds!”

IMG_6141If April showers bring May flowers, what do June showers bring? If you ask me, June showers bring WEEDS!  We have had several inches of rain in the DC area just this week, and my yard and garden beds look like a rainforest.  Weeds of every shape and size.  It is out of control and although I enjoy planting and even spreading mulch, weeding is torturous.  With that in mind, here are a few ideas to make it slightly more manageable…

  • The time is now!  Right after it rains, the ground is softer and the weeds can be pulled out with ease. When it comes to weeding, you need to get to “the root of the problem”.  
  • If it seems overwhelming, give yourself a time limit.  For instance, I have vowed to spend 45 minutes today pulling our weeds.  That’s it.  Any more than that and I will lose my mind and something else will go by the wayside (laundry, the dishes, visiting with cute lambs, etc.).  The weeds will still be there tomorrow.  
  • If you want to avoid the manual labor and the dirt, but you don’t want to douse your yard with chemicals, there are many home remedies out there.  White vinegar is one of them. It does work, but the acidity level of pickling vinegar is higher and I’ve seen this recipe work.  Let us know if it works for you.
  • Every late spring between the ajuga, the pachysandra, and the phlox, there are other plants that appear and I wishfully think, “Hmmm?  Did I plant this?  It looks like it could be ________?”  It’s called weed denial!  Here is a link to a guide of the most common weeds. After you look at the pictures, you will swear that you have bought them before and you have! We sometimes carry ornamental Oxalis, and grocery stores sell it for St. Patrick’s Day!oxalis

If you’re still stuck in the weeds, remember this: George Washington Carver once said, “A weed is a flower growing in the wrong place.” Instead of raging against the weed machine in your yard, sometimes it is okay to just let your misplaced wildflowers have their day. After all, they’ll still be there waiting for you tomorrow.

What’s your weeding secret?

Critter Detective

As frustrating as those garden robbers may be, I think we can all agree that staying up all night, with a miner’s helmet on, trying to see who is nibbling on your lettuce is a little over the top.  Instead, put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and keep reading!  The evidence (almost always) leads to the culprit!  Play detective by looking at what’s left behind at the scene of the crime and then you will know who is the usual suspect!

EXHIBIT A:  Lettuce and other greens, eaten from the top down, but only the plants around the outer edge of the garden.

SUSPECT:  Rabbits. Easily scared,they like to stay around the outside of the garden for a faster getaway. Hint – plant lavender or mix garlic or chili pepper flakes with water & spray!Rabbit

EXHIBIT B:  Trails of silver or slime on the stems, snacked on snap peas and lettuce but no teeth marks, leaves with holes.

SUSPECT:  Slugs or snails.  Snails leave the silver streak, slugs leave a trail of slime.  Hint – They love it cool, wet and dark so let your soil dry out a bit before you water.  You can pick them off by hand and do the old salt trick to kill them (yuck), or buy a deterrent that you just sprinkle around the base of the plants.slug

EXHIBIT C:  Hostas gone.  Rosebushes gone.  Hoof prints, oval shaped droppings, and plant stems are all that are left.

SUSPECT:  Deer, oh deer.  So beautiful to gaze upon, until…NOOOO!  Hint-Other than the 8-10 foot fence, plant lavender, salvia or rosemary.  They don’t like anything with a strong scent.  Extra hint – String wire from tree to tree and tie orange plastic strips to it. The strips will flap when the wind blows and the deer don’t like it.FemaleDeer

EXHIBIT D:  Trash in your yard, chewed up corn and other veggies.

SUSPECT:  Listen for the proof…Crowing in the morning?  Crows love corn and they are loud about it.  Ironically, they don’t like loud noises, so make a racket!  Hint – horns, bells, pots and pans – let ’em have it!  Another deterrent that works for all birds – hang shiny things near your garden, aluminum foil, old CDs, mirrors, etc.crow

Do you have any aces up your sleeve when it comes to garden robbers?  Please, by all means, do share!