Saturday, March 10, 2018

Winter Surprises

    As far as farming goes, we are still newbies.  Every year some challenge pops up that we did not anticipate, and this year is no different. We suffered a couple of heart breaking losses - our ewe, Maxine,  disappeared in early winter (that's a whole other story, you've probably heard)  and earlier in the fall, we had to put down our beautiful  Arwen. 
    After a plethora of lambs last year, we decided not to breed all our ewes this year, just a select few.  Well, Nature, and a randy ram lamb had other ideas.  We do not wean our lambs by separating them at the time we think they should leave their dams, but let the dams tell the babies when time is up.  It is less stressful for them both, we think.   Anyway, apparently one little guy became sexually active a touch early, and lo and behold, we had a ewe we had not bred, now pregnant. 
    This past Tuesday, Rosie gave birth to quadruplets. A brown ram, a white ewe, then a pair of black lambs, one ewe, one ram. Our son decided to name them Romeo,


Juliet,


 Rosalind,


 and Tybalt.


  This does not bode well.  Juliet was a breech birth, needing my husband's help to enter the world. She was lovely, and large, but started failing after several hours.  



    We took her into the house, as she had cold mouth, and was not sucking, and her body temp was way too low.  We got some fluids into her with a stomach tube, flushed out the other end, and spent a day and a half, trying to help her regulate her temp and live.  Alas, this was not to be.  Sometimes, Nature just does it's own thing.
    It is part of farming, and the boys understand, but it is so much better when they make it!

Rosie cuddling her little ones. 


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Visiting Old Friends

     Now you might think, with a title like that, that this is about  meeting up with people I have not seen in a while.  You are right, to a degree.  This past year has been filled with visits and talks with old friends; students who graduated years ago, teachers from my own school days, people I grew up with.  However, I am referring to friends I have made through books. This is the time of year I pull out some of my well-loved books and revisit the friends there.
       I just finished Daddy-Long_Legs, written in 1912 by Jean Webster, and Judy Abbott is just as lovely and sweet today as she was when I first read it at age 12.  I love revisiting books I have known since childhood because we often read just "the story" as a child and then as an adult, we appreciate the witticisms, the social commentary, and the allegory that was over our heads when we first turned their pages.  The Chronicles of Narnia is my perfect example.
       I hope you, too,  have some time to visit some old friends in between the caroling and the snow ball fights!
      

Monday, December 11, 2017

To breed or not to breed, that is the question

   This year we may be light on lambs, or swimming in them.  We usually put breeding groups together at the end of November, beginning of December.  This year as we were plotting who should go with whom to  try for which genetic traits, which possible fleece colour outcomes, we stopped and too a good hard look at a couple of our girls - they seemed a big too large for this time of year.  My son described one of our older ewes as looking a bit like an eggplant, and indeed, she does.  We now suspect (and it is just that as we cannot afford ultrasounds for sheep) that possibly four or five of our girls might be pregnant. 
    How does this happen when we keep the rams and the ewes in separate enclosures, you ask?  Well...we may have left the ram lambs in with the ewe lambs a bit too long...maybe.  Rather than forcing weaning, we have always let the ewes wean the lambs.  They do a pretty good job of letting the babies know when enough is enough.  However, we may not have gotten the message.  Finn rams are sexually mature at 4 - 8 months.  It is very possible we had an early bloomer or two, and now may have lambs in February!  These  will be wonderful as a spinner's flock, to increase the prolificacy of a flock, but we will not be able to register them as we have no idea who the sire is. 
    sigh.  It has been that kind of a sheep year, so why not have one more lesson learned before the year's end?  Soooo,  yesterday we put the one white ewe with the best fleece together with our older white ram, and we are hoping for a May lambing from her.  We may put our light brown ewe together with a young light brown piebald ram to try to continue that colour in the flock.  Beyond that - we may be done.   Keep ya posted about the others!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

some weeks are not good weeks

   As many of you know,  one of our ewes went missing. Maxine is big, and brown, and sweet. She has not been found, so we are not hopeful.  I have followed several leads which found me trolling the streets of a village some 15 - 20  miles from our farm on the tip that a brown sheep was roaming the streets there.  No luck.  After more photographic evidence appeared, I could see that the markings were wrong and it was not our sheep. 
Maxine
    This weekend we started coordinating the lists for breeding groups.  This is when we really took notice of some inconsistencies in the udders on one of our other first group of sheep, a ewe named Arwen.  She is a big, beautiful white ewe who has given us three generations of lovely white lambs.  She was skittish to start with, and had a tough time settling into motherhood on her first lambing, but has been very attentive and giving us strong lambs, ever since.  Last season she gave us our first quadruplets - all white, and all did well.  It appears, however, that she developed a form of sub-clinical mastitis - an infection in the udders.  It can return, spread to others in the flock, so we will have to cull her. 
Arwen, just before giving birth to quads. 
 














  I am not very good at this part of farming.  The selling, the culling; nope, not good at all.  However, we cannot have infection in the flock, so if a chronic condition develops, this is the answer.  So breeding lists will have to be re-worked, and we will have to say goodbye to another friend.  Next year will mean selling at least one of our original rams, as we need to introduce new genetics to the flock, and I am steeling myself for that by talking about it early.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Halloween - no pithy title, really, just Halloween!

      Halloween has never been my favorite  holiday.  I loved it as a kid, of course, but had no real attachment as an adult.  Until I had children.  While a bit of a busman's holiday, making costumes for my children for Halloween has always been a joy. I spend far too much to create costumes they will wear for a few hours, but they love it and so do I. 
     This year, my son wanted to be Captain Jack Sparrow.  Okay, but I was determined NOT to spend a bunch of money on this one.  He had pants that would work, and I had a poet shirt from my grad school days (don't ask me why - I have no idea!),  a vest was easy from the remnant of some random upholstery fabric, as was the  sash and the head wrap.  Bought new rain boots in brown, as he had outgrown his old ones, and just made felt cuffs for them.  Easy Peasy.   The tricky parts?  Wig, mustache and tricorn hat.  I had a hat from my college days that looks like something Zorro might wear (again - no idea why),
and I have not even had the thing on my head in 20 years, so a few quick pinches and I bent the brim into a tricorn.  Problem 1 solved. 
   I started to ventilate a beard - far too late, as this takes a bit of time an patience and I am out of practice.  I stared at so many photos of Johnny Depp my eyes were crossing before I thought of the obvious solution - chunky yarn.  Captain Jack has awful hair - dirty, dreadlocks, tangles and braids.  Yarn would do quite well.  So a quick machine stitching of two tones of brown yarn, and some beads and braids and we had a wig, and a mustache. Problems solved. Trick or treating would happen before the Halloween parade, and before I got off of work, so it was up to my darling husband to  apply the facial hair and makeup.  Final results were good, and the child won Best Character costume in the band's costume competition.   Another year, another costume.  Next year?  Who knows?

Friday, September 22, 2017

The faster I run...

This is one of those busy days when I have to slow down for a minute. I went to the farm to water/feed animals and got four eggs from four chickens! Yeah! Found one ram lamb completely tangled in the electro-netting - which had snapped a wire so he was not getting zapped, but his leg was so wrapped up that it took 15 minutes to get him free. I sent my son to car to grab my knife - he returned 15 minutes later - he had sat on two of the eggs in the van, then tried to clean it up by hosing the inside of the vehicle (the carpeted floor, the fabric seats- you get the picture?) and still came back with no knife. But, the ram was freed, the netting set up as a physical if not electric barrier, so, no harm no foul. We had no rags, nor paper towels in the barn, so I cleaned the remaining egg goo from the seat with disinfecting hand wipes - several of them!
Now I am home and instead of racing off to get things for the show I am working on, perhaps I should stop and eat lunch and sit for a minute, because sometimes the faster I run, the slower I go.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Teaching myself to tan

     My third show of the summer is completed. My syllabi are done.  I know have about 6 hours that are not appointed to something else, so I am going to try to tan my first sheepskin.  The lamb was injured, so we sent him to the abattoir rather than have him become supper for the coyotes. We asked for his hide back, and salted it well, folded it and put it in a plastic bag to hold it until Spring.  And of course now that it is the end of August, I finally have the time to start the process.
     I unfolded the hide, and it was a bit stiff and pretty dry, so I ran the hose over it to rinse off the salt and soften things up before trying to remove some of the fat.  Although last year I purchased a fleshing knife - I put it somewhere safe - I cannot find it, so I grabbed one of the Cutco knives from the kitchen and used that to help remove the effluvium.
    Next I mixed two pounds of salt and a cup of oxalic acid in a large plastic storage bin, mixed it up and submerged the hide.  For the next three days, it will soak with the occasional stir, and then be washed and softened.  More about that as it happens