Monday, April 21, 2014

All done!

Maybelline has a nest of lambs!
Lambing season 2014 finished up in a really good way on Saturday evening, Easter eve.  My sweet Maybelline gifted us with a beautiful set of triplets, two white ewe lambs and a black and silver ram lamb.  Often times with triplets, it's a bit challenging for them to be born in the proper presentation (as if they are diving - head down between two front feet).  You can only imagine with 3 heads and 12 feet trying to make their way into the world, things might get somewhat confusing!  Maybelline's triplets were all perfectly positioned and the birthing process went very smoothly.  Out of the 13 ewes we bred this year, 5 of them had triplets and some of those births were much more complicated. Because of my own health issues, it has been trying at times, but all in all, I would consider it a successful lambing season.

My health issues have brought about lots of soul searching.  I haven't been sick, exactly, but nevertheless compromised in how I was able to go about my daily life here on the farm.  The muscle spasms in my neck and pain in my right hand made life, as I normally live it, completely out of the question.  When the blood clot scare happened, I was seriously thinking the time had come to give up my animals and retire (though how one does that, I'm not exactly sure). Luckily, Mike and I made a decision to be much more aggressive about getting medical answers and treatment for my maladies.  I've changed my primary care doctor and now I can say that it only took 3 months, but I finally managed to find the proper doctors!  Last week mainly consisted of a round of appointments with different specialists.  As a result of treatments I received,  I am cautiously optimistic that I'm on the right path now.  So - enough about all that.  Onward ....

Not quite the garden of my dreams - it will look better in a month or so!
It's finally warming up here.  The grass is green (and in need of mowing already), the trees are leafing out and I'm entertaining thoughts of gardening.  The garden is rather forlorn looking right now, but give me a little time and it will be lush.  Right now I'm waiting for the first spears of asparagus to appear and soon after that, strawberries.  Traditionally in Kentucky, planting out isn't safe until after Derby day, but given the weather we've had so far this year, it may be better to wait a week or two longer.  I've decided to expand my dye plants this year and maybe (radical thought) not put out quite so many tomatoes.  What I love most about the garden is being able to stroll through before dinner and pick my salad ingredients or maybe just a pluck a few tomatoes and call bacon and tomato sandwiches the meal!  What I'm slowly coming to admit is that I don't always enjoy having mounds of produce on the counter waiting for me to freeze, can, pickle or make it into jam.  Sometimes it's good and sometimes it just feels like too much pressure.  I still have enough bread and butter pickles to supply us for quite a while, thank you very much! 

These warm sunny days find me not sure where to start.  There is so much to do.  It's the time of year when I'm typically feeling quite overwhelmed by the sheer size of what we try to maintain.  I've been through it many times before and I'll calm down soon!

I hope everyone has checked out all the sweet pictures of my lambs that Sara has taken recently.  Sara is a gifted photographer and I'm so pleased that my lambs get to be part of her yearly Lamb Camp.

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.