Thursday, April 10, 2014

Springtime on the farm

You know it's spring around here when the resident peacock has attained his full compliment of feathers.  Jim Dandy is really strutting his stuff these days - he's loud and proud!  I should think it would be hard work to drag all of that around, especially on windy days, but he doesn't seem to mind.  This time of year, he spends lots of time on top of the big gates outside the barn where he can display his beauty with a little less work than spreading it.

At long last, it truly feels like spring on the farm, but the weirdness of this past winter is still following me around.  I've spent most of this week with my leg propped up or else in a doctor's office.  Monday night we spent the whole evening in the emergency room because my right leg, from the knee down was so swollen, I could hardly walk.  The doctor diagnosed a blood clot, and I am just now understanding how scary that diagnosis was.  I was given a shot of blood thinner and sent home with instructions to report first thing the next morning for an ultra-sound.  Knowing what I know now, I'm so grateful that the ER doctor was wrong.  Ultra-sound showed one large blood filled cyst behind my knee and another down my calf.  These were likely caused by being knocked down by a ewe who had just lambed, that I was moving to a lambing jug.  (In her hormonal state, I'm sure she thought she was protecting her baby.)  I'm being told that is the best of the bad things it could have been. (How's that for putting things in perspective?)  After much consultation,  it's been decided that surgery is too risky and so we are waiting to see if it will go down on it's own.  This morning the swelling is significantly diminished, so I'm keeping fingers crossed that I'm nearly through this.  Poor Mike has been doing all his veterinary work, then coming home to take care of me and the sheep!  All night after our emergency room visit, I kept waking up, thinking about how I just couldn't possibly die right now because I needed to clean out the pantry and some closets.  I didn't want anyone to see what a mess they were - even after I'm gone!  How's that for logic?

Anyway, today is gorgeous outside and we're supposed to hit the 70's, so all in all, life is good.  We've been lucky to have no lambs born during all the drama with me.  I'm hoping they all wait until the weekend, when Mike will be here all day and I will be upright for longer periods of time.  There are five ewes who look as though they could deliver at any moment and they surely will go in the next few days.

Sunday afternoon, Sara and Saint Tim came over for a visit and Sara took some really sweet pictures of the lambs.  You can look at all of them here.  Sara is having Lamb Camp days on her blog right now, featuring pictures of lambs from lots of farms around central Kentucky.  Sara's a terrific photographer and has a fun blog showcasing the personalities of all her animals.  She will be teaching a workshop at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival - Intro to Blogging with a Side of Photography that will be a great class to take for any of you interested in blogging and/or photography.  Since I've mentioned the festival, please go check out all the workshops.  We have wonderful choices this year and it's a beautiful time to visit the Bluegrass.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

We're making progress

Teeny with one of her triplets
So far, it's been a busy week on the farm.  Those of you watching the lamb-cam may be wondering where the activity is taking place.  There are now ten ewes in the maternity ward because three of the girls lambed over the weekend.  Saturday, around 9 am, Gabby delivered twin ram lambs.  Those boys have had their tails banded, been ear-tagged and have now gone back in with the still pregnant ewes.  Gabby is a good mother and has plenty of milk, so her lambs are already growing.  Freckles was not so kind in the timing department.  She delivered her twin ram lambs around 5 am Sunday morning.  Thankfully, I woke up and checked on everyone around 4 am and could see she was in labor.  The second lamb tried coming out with just one back leg presented, so it's a good thing I was on hand to do some internal reorganizing and get him out.  When I first started raising sheep, I remember carrying my dog-eared and tattered copy of Paula Simmons book, "Raising Sheep the Modern Way", looking at those sketches of all the ways of lamb malpresentations and praying I would never have to face such scary events.  Ha!  Little did I know that eventually a shepherd faces all of those and more.  I don't even think much about it anymore.  Teeny had her triplet girls Sunday evening, causing us to miss the end of an incredibly exciting Kentucky NCAA basketball game.  I know several people got to witness that one on the lamb-cam. Luckily we had the game set to record, so we finally got to watch the second half around 9 pm.  Triplet ewe lambs and a winning team, both worth waiting for! So, at this point there are 4 ram lambs and 3 ewe lambs, 4 white and 3 black.  I'm already seeing some Wensleydale fleece characteristics in the lambs and I'm already excited about those fleeces!

UPDATE:  The count is now 5 ram lambs and 5 ewe lambs, 5 white and 5 black.  It's a little after 10:30 on Wednesday night and I've just come in from the barn again.  We came to the house several hours ago to have supper and when I turned on the computer, there was Lady Edith with a tiny little black lamb!  I grabbed my phone and we headed back to the barn.  I noticed I had calls from Maryland, Wisconsin and Florida on my phone and upon checking the voice mails, found messages from all those places about the new lamb, plus text messages from my friend Lindy, whose ram sired all these babies and my friend, Teresa (a dedicated lamb-cam watcher).  I checked the lamb, it was a girl and, though tiny, quite strong.  She'd already nursed, which is so great when they manage that first time on their own.  Edith didn't look empty and my hunch was there was another lamb in there.  She couldn't seem to settle down to the business of pushing, so we put her in a lambing jug and palpated her to be sure.  Imagine my surprise when I found an odd combination of legs that didn't seem to go with the head I was feeling!  We switched places and Mike sorted it out and pulled out two more healthy lambs!  At this point, they've all nursed and seem to be doing just fine.  Lady Edith is one of the half-Wensleydale ewes born in 2012, all given Downton Abbey names.  She may not be the prettiest of the bunch, but she's definitely an over-achiever!

UPDATE #2:  No sooner than I'd gotten into bed and checked the iPad for one more look at the maternity ward, there it was ..... another newborn lamb tottering around it's mother.  Back to the barn for me.  Another half Wensleydale , first timer.  She had a nice big single ram lamb and is quite ferocious in care of him.  She stomps her feet every time I go by the mothering-up pen.  So, finally to bed at 2 am for me.  The count stands at 6 ram lambs and 5 ewe lambs this morning.

The remaining eight ewes really and truly look like beached whales now.  They just barely shuffle along to the outside to graze for a while and then shuffle back inside to rest, groaning with every breath.  If they deliver on the 145 day schedule, five more of them will lamb between now and next Wednesday.  The last three should come between April 10 and April 19.

Today is overcast, but warm, so I've let the two sets of twins go outside with their mothers.  There's just the merest hint of grass coming on and they're doing their best to nibble at it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We are not amused

There was snow covering the ground when I woke this morning.  I quickly checked the lamb-cam monitor (today is technically the first day we could have lambs being born) and all I saw were my poor "beached whale" ladies, resting and waiting.

It's mid-afternoon now and the scenario is basically the same.  The girls go out and graze (on what, I do not know) for a few minutes and then waddle back it and assume their beached whale positions.  We are having strange, schizophrenic weather.  One minute the sun is out, next the clouds roll over, the wind starts blowing and snow comes down sideways in near white-out conditions.

I have a fire in the studio woodstove and a new magazine in hand.  I've been listening to another of the Outlander books (downloaded from Audibile onto my iPhone and iPad) and checking the monitor every little bit.  This limbo period is hard for me, even after all these years .  I know the lambs are coming, but until the first ones hit the ground, it seems a bit unreal.  I've prepared the lambing pens, my birthing supplies are gathered up and now we wait.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All is revealed

(assembly line shearing!)

I wanted to have a clever post title that included the words naked girls, but was afraid I would end up with some unwanted visitors here ... so I refrained.  In a manner of speaking, that is just what my girls look like right now.  The shearers arrived here early yesterday morning and got right to work getting that years worth of fleece off.  It was quite cold in the morning and we even had a dusting of snow on the ground, but the sheep didn't seem to mind at all.  That was a big relief to me because I'd been awake since before daylight worrying that the sheep might be all shivery and pitiful after being sheared.  Instead they  seemed completely comfortable and they even chose to go outside and graze a little on our nonexistent grass.

So, there were some important questions answered yesterday morning.  I know I mentioned before that Brynn (the Wensleydale ram) was not wearing a marking harness, so my only hope to know whether he was working was to see him actually breeding a ewe.  I only saw that one time in the two and a half weeks he was here.  While I was sorting through the ewe flock and getting ready to put them in with him, I put Gabby in to keep him company and he bred her several times, right then and there.  After that, I saw no activity from him.  Nothing.  Well, apparently he prefers the privacy that night time offers because it appears that all the ewes I gave him got bred.  (There's even a possibility that he bred a few I didn't give him.  The last night he was here, he managed to get himself into the pen where the other ewes were, so time will tell if we have some bonus babies.)  I used Rowdy as the backup ram and he marked three ewes, who all appear to be pregnant.

(the official maternity ward)

It appears that we have at least 12 ewes who are bred.  Gabby will start it off, sometime next week and there are several who appear to be not far behind her.  Now that the lamb-cam is up and running, you all can check on them too!  There's a bonus with the lamb-cam this year that I absolutely love.  If you look at the top right of the blog sidebar, you'll see the link for viewing on your computer and under that, a link for using an iPad or iPhone!  I'm really excited about this because it means I can check on them from anywhere.  Sometimes technology really does seem magical!  If the weather is decent, you may not see much going on in the daytime, except possibly a few chickens and a peacock scratching around in the straw.  Evening feeding, night-time and rainy days will bring everyone in (though at this stage of their pregnancies, the ewes mainly assume their beached whale positions when they're inside the barn).

(another sign of spring)

 Mike brought these in with the mail yesterday.  Lambs are coming soon and the daffodils are blooming, two signs that we have survived this long, long winter!