Monday, April 27, 2009

The Grannie

Just a little barn scene today. The black ewe lying there with lambs climbing all over her and chewing on her ears is Carmen. Carmen is the last of a line going back to a favorite Romney ewe from early in my shepherding life. She is quite old and arthritic, but seems to enjoy (or at least tolerates gracefully) having the lambs use her as part of their exercise routine. She hasn't had babies for a while, but serves as a sort of grannie while the lambs are still nursing their mothers and then acts as a comforting adult presence when they are separated from their mothers at weaning time. It's not uncommon to find three or four lambs snuggled up beside her napping. She's such a sweet old girl, not at all crabby like old ladies are supposed to be.

My husband likes to point out that this is a clear sign we aren't raising sheep to make money. You don't make money when you keep old sheep around strictly for sentimental reasons. Is there a problem with that? (Not for me!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

From a tiny seed

A few years back (maybe 4 or 5), my oldest grandson, Coleman (he's now 13), brought a seedling to the farm and asked if we could plant it. Turns out, the seedling had grown from an apple seed, from an apple that came from the grocery store. Honestly, I didn't think it had much chance of surviving, but I planted it out by my garden shed, where I could keep an eye on it and water it, if need be. Last week I was adding some bedding from the chicken house to the compost pile and happened to glance at Coleman's tree. It is now about 9-10 feet tall and, for the first time, it has blooms on it! I'm so excited about this little tree producing fruit. It never would have occurred to me to start an apple tree from a grocery store apple seed. Coleman can't remember what kind of apple the seed came from, so it will be fun to see what the little tree produces.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


That's what my girls (with a little help from Buddy, way back 5 months ago) have done in the last two weeks. A 250% lamb crop is pretty outstanding in any one's book. The last ewe lambed around noon on Sunday and produced a set of triplets. The final count is 9 ram lambs and 6 ewe lambs.

Last year I had 20 ewes lambing and it seemed to go on forever. This year, with only 6 ewes, was a walk in the park, comparatively speaking. I'm very happy with the quality and health of the lambs and I believe I've gotten the type of fleece I've been breeding towards the last few years. Now I have the fun of watching the lambs run and jump and play. I always try to keep a straw bale in the middle of the pen for the lambs to use for their games of "King on the Mountain" and for jumping practice. It draws them like a magnet and gives them something to climb on besides their poor, long-suffering mother's back. (Sorry about the poor lighting. It's hard to get much light in the barn at that time of day.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Early morning farm scenes

I'm not much of a morning person, but for various reasons I have been up before 6:00 am most mornings this past week. Evening is my favorite time of day. I love the quietness of animals settling down for the night and the feeling of being able to stop the day's labors and relax. In warm weather, I love to sit out by the fish pond, with a glass of wine, and watch the koi swimming gracefully around in their little world. It's the best relaxation technique I've ever tried. All that being said, this week the mornings have had their charms. The scene above was just before the sun came over the horizon yesterday morning, as I was walking back from the barn. The white you see is the mist rising off the river and the top of the hill (look closely--you can see a big barn with a red roof)is actually on the other side of the river from us. And, if you really look closely, you can see a big white dog running up the hill, on duty protecting her flock.

This morning's farm scene was happening in the barn. There was a lot of noise and commotion coming from the intercom early on. One ewe had given birth to a lamb and another ewe was sure it was supposed to belong to her. Everyone was confused! After separating the two ewes, the one in active labor produced one under-developed lamb (not alive), and then another big, healthy lamb. This group went into a lambing pen, out of sight from the other ewe. The remaining ewe finally decided she was going to have to birth her own lambs and proceeded to produce two very large, healthy ram lambs. Did I mention that all of the first set of lambs (including the under-developed one) were also ram lambs? So, the last three births have all been ram lambs! What's with that? (The count is now 7 ram lambs and 4 ewe lambs.)

The pressure is on the last ewe standing. She needs to produce some ewe lambs to help even the score. I believe she will lamb this weekend (though I have been known to be wrong with these predictions), so we don't have long to wait until we are finished with the 2009 lambing season.

Added later--Change the count please. There are now 7 ram lambs and 5 ewe lambs. The last ewe lamb joined her two brothers while I was away from the barn (announcing the birth of twin boys)! So instead of twin boys, we have more triplets! Mom is doing a good job with all of them, so far.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Two more

Last night around midnight I heard those familiar noises coming from the intercom connected to the barn. I quickly dressed and went out to see what was going on. Crazy Eyes had been having trouble for several days getting herself up and down and walking. It appeared that the lambs were pressing on nerves going to her back legs and she was pretty shaky on her feet, so I'd been hoping for and at the same time dreading her delivery. She was the one making all the noise. I prepared a lambing pen while I was observing her behavior, trying to gauge how far along in the process she was. After a while, I decided to palpate her to check on the lambs, and, when I did, what I found was one leg. That's all. Then, much further back was the other leg and then, finally the head, turned the other way. In the proper presentation, lambs enter the world as if they are diving out----both front legs extended and the head tucked between them. I spent a long time trying to re-position the lamb, which was very much alive and fighting me the whole time! (And Crazy Eyes wasn't too happy with how things were going either.) I ended up waking Mike and between the two of us, we were able to get the two huge ram lambs out. Both lambs were pretty stressed and needed quite a bit of stimulation to get their breathing stabilized. We milked the ewe and used a stomach tube to get some nourishment into the lambs and gave the ewe a shot to alleviate some of the soreness. I stayed at the barn with them until around 4 am, mainly to make sure Crazy Eyes didn't fall on the lambs and be unable to get up. When I checked on them this morning around 8:30, I was thrilled to see that the lambs and the ewe were up and doing great. The firstborn ram lamb is solid black and the second one has some black and a beautiful silver saddle across his middle. They are Bluefaced Leicester/Romney crossbreds and should have gorgeous fleeces. And, these boys are already bigger than the lambs born last week!

So that makes the count 1 set of triplets, 2 sets of twins, (4 ewe lambs and 3 ram lambs) and more to come soon.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Taking the air

The triplets got to come outside today and take a little fresh air. (Doesn't mom look a little beleaguered?) So timid in the beginning, it didn't take them long to start jumping and running around (always keeping mom close by). The two girls seem to be the most daring, while the other played the mama's boy today.

They all seemed fascinated by the little strip of shade made by a tree trunk. One by one, they tried to place themselves just so to take advantage of it. This little girl got it just right the first time, but then only managed to get her head in the right place the next time she visited the tree.

All this fresh air will make for three tired little lambs. I'm betting they will all sleep soundly tonight!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Look who's back

Saturday afternoon, Mike put up the Purple Martin house and we were all set to keep an eye out for the scouts. Usually, several days before the main group flies in, there are two scouts who show up, I suppose to be sure their home is still where they left it last fall. When the house goes up in the spring, the openings into each little compartment are sealed over with duct tape to prevent other species of birds from moving in. Once we see the scouts, we remove the tape and wait for the pairs to show up and claim their nesting compartment.

The shearer was here on Sunday afternoon to do the yearlings and we were very busy in the barn for most of the afternoon. Imagine our surprise, when we were walking to the house afterwards, to see 3 pair of Martins circling the birdhouse. We don't know if we missed the scouts this year because the house wasn't up yet, or if they all just came together. Last year they didn't arrive until April 18th. Anyway, down came the house and the tape was removed. Within moments of the house going back up, the birds had moved in. This morning the take-offs and landings were non-stop and it's obvious there is some serious nest building going on. Though the weather has been erratic (77 degrees on Sunday, 29 on Tuesday), I'm hoping the Martins are a sure sign that spring is really here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


At long last, we have begun. Here's the first of the 2009 lamb crop! They arrived this morning, starting around 9:00am (so thoughtful, these ewes of mine, to wait until I was awake!). The ewe also had triplets last year, but since I had announced to the whole flock that I'd rather everyone just have healthy twins this year, I was sure they would all respect my wishes! Everyone seems strong and healthy (took this picture about an hour after they were all born--sorry about the poor lighting), one black ewe lamb, one white ewe lamb, and one black ram lamb. They are basking in the glow of the heat lamp. Now let's hope mom is up to the job of feeding them all, without my help.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not yet....

That's right. No lambs yet. I sure wish these ewes would just get on with it already! But,looking at them, I know they wish it even more.

This has been a busy week, so far and it doesn't look as though it will ease up. Monday was shearing day at Lindy's (Seldom Scene Farm) and she graciously allowed me to bring my little gang of alpaca boys and Strawberry and Pippi. Lindy had about 90 alpacas to do and she had a long, long day of it. She uses a team of specialists and they are so efficient and fast, I had to scramble to get the "blanket" of fleece I wanted from each of my animals picked up and bagged before the shearers were on to the next animal. (The blanket is the fleece from around the middle of their bodies--generally the leg wool is not kept.) And, even better, they trimmed toenails and even Strawberry's teeth, while they were at it! I'm sure Lindy will have a great post on all this when she gets a chance. The above picture is of the boys waiting their turn and then here's the after. Such a difference. (And those impossibly skinny necks!)

And look at Strawberry and Pippi. Can you believe the markings on Pippi and how big she looks now? I hadn't intended to shear Pippi this time, but she has a habit of reclining under the hay feeder while her mother eats and so her coat was already trashed. Oh well, maybe next year.

Shearing for the yearlings should happen this weekend and then we will be finished with that for a while. It always feels so good to get shearing behind me. Then I can re-focus. Next on the list---the garden.