Archive for March, 2007

Life and death on the farm!

March 30, 2007

It’s been a day! Tomasina, who was acting real weird yesterday, in labor, maybe but not really…still weird this morning, but not eating, nesting, seeming in labor, but saw no contractions…so I put her in a pen, and went in for breakfast. Came out 40 minutes later to find two lambs in with her: one, a boy, clearly first born, cleaned off; the second, a little ewe lamb, with her face cleared off, but still all gooky on the rest of her body. Mom was over cleaning up boy more. (This was a big pen; lesson learned, keep them in small pens, so they can’t lose one lamb…or maybe she was trying to tell me something, I don’t know. The girl’s tongue was cold, and she was weak, so in she came after chores, into a nice warm bath in the sink (what you do with cold lambs: once cooled, they can’t get their body heat back themselves: you have to do it. Quickest way to do that is a nice warm bath. After bathing, and establishing that she could suck, though weakly, I went out and milked out mama a bit, and gave her some colostrum. As she dried off and got warmer and warmer, her suck got strong, and finally, she was able to walk aroung the living room(with diaper on, of course, hole cut for tail). Meanwhile, as I was putting her into the sink, neighbor showed up with Anna, the baby I babysit for on Fridays, and her two brothers, both of whom were interested in this lamb…they finally left, thank God(I was a little busy to be answering questions about how lambs are born, etc.) and I finished the baby’s bath. John was home so he watched Anna while I took the baby back out to mama, made her nurse, made sure mama wasn’t put off by her new sink smell, came in, fed Anna lunch, put her down for a nap, went out to finish chores, came back in and thought maybe I should grab 15 minutes of nap myself. Of course, the moment my head hit the pillow, Anna woke up (no long nap today!) So, instead I took her for a walk in the stroller I found free at a yard sale years ago and thought I needed. Turns out I did! They all came back to pick up Anna in the afternoon, and stayed to see the lambs, climb trees, talk about sharing a milk cow, and finally, I had to ask them to leave, so I could go do the grocery shopping and bring eggs to Lisa, who was all out, with customers expected! Now, I’m home, need to do afternoon chores, make dinner, and collapse in front of a Netflix!

Here’s little Miryam in the sink: She weighed in at 4=3/4 lb.  (By the way, while helping dry off these two lambs, a third set of legs appeared at the back of mom:  I pulled a  dead lamb, maybe three pounds.    I think it died in utero, and that is why mom’s been miserable for the last two days.  I think these lambs are a LITTLE bit early, maybe a week?  Not sure, since  she normally has  five pound lambs.   Anyway, what a day!dsc00122-medium-web-view.jpg


I lied! Never trust just your eyes!

March 28, 2007

I just went out to get a better look at the twins, and picked them up one at a time to check them out.  The boy, despite the coloration fooling me, is really four horned!  Often you can tell from the way the area around the horns is colored, but sometimes it fools you.  Now if there were actually big ol’ horns there, that would be different, but he is definitely four horned.  No one else looks ready to pop, and according to my records (of those I SAW bred) no one is due to pop, but there are five or six that I didn’t see bred, so I have no idea, other than visual evidence, which, as above, is not always reliable.  So, we’ll just wait and see!

Mix up

March 28, 2007

Well, that didn’t work too well: guess I still have skills to learn.  The first photo is really supposed to be below the text and other photo.  The first one is the second lamb coming out.  The photo after the text is the first little lamb.  I guess I’ll now try for the third: a photo of Delilah with her two lambs, the ewe lamb standing, about 10 minutes old, and the ram lamb being cleaned off, out maybe 2 minutes.dsc00116-medium-web-view.jpg

Delilah and her twins

March 28, 2007

dsc00115-medium-web-view.jpgThis morning, Delilah finally went into labor for sure. She doesn’t much like people, so I shut her in the shed and went inside, respecting her wish for me to be gone, which she made very clear! I checked on her twice, and settled out there at ll:30 or so, when she was beyond the point of no return: she couldn’t shut it off now: stuff hanging out the back and very frequent contractions, up and down, up and down, nesting, the whole nine yards. I sat well away from her at the other side of the shed, and watched. First she had a ewe lamb; then 10 minutes later, as the ewe lamb was standing and going for the goods (full udder), she lay down again and pushed out a little ram lamb. Both six pounds. Ram lamb is two horned, it appears. Ewe a little young to tell. Both have great looking faces and appropriate knee and sock spots; not sure about the fleeces. The ewe has tight curls with wavey stuff over it, like perhaps angel hair? HAve to wait til it dries to know for sure. Same with ram lamb: wet, it’s difficult to say…This is the ewe lamb, about 1 minute after popping out. Next, if I do this correctly, will be the ram lamb coming out. And then the ram lamb being cleaned off. Let’s see if I can pull this off.dsc00113-medium-web-view.jpg

So much for control and counting days!

March 27, 2007

So, last night at 10 p.m. we went out to the barn to say goodnight, and across the shed, I see Delilah, with this large gooky string, thick, mind you, hanging out her derriere, so I think, “Wow, that’s too big to be a mucus plug! She must be in labor.” For sure, she’d been hanging out in that particular place most of the day.  So, I built a pen around her.  Put her in.  And sat next to her.  She dug around like crazy.  Looked crosseyed.  Shivered (in pain?) and I thought maybe I saw some contractions.  Checked twice in the night: nothing.  I did notice she ate and ate when I put the hay in for her…hmm…where have I seen THAT before?  With Maddie, three years ago, who chose a spot to have her lambs, was contracting, I put her in a pen, gave her hay, and she ate and ate, and put off labor. Next morning, still eating, no action, no lambs.  Let her out.  She looked at me, went over to “her” spot, and popped out a baby!  Stubborn, these jacobs.  If they can’t have it their way…This morning, I went straight to Delilah, who looked impatient, and who was crying…calling…and then, I heard something, a nicker, a little squeak, and I turned around to find that Lydia Coopworth had plopped out a little lamb!  And I think Delilah was confused.  I penned Lydia and Pliny (later found out that was his name), and went back to frantic Delilah…let her out…she took off for the outside and has been eating since.  Guess it WAS just a mucus plug, OR she pulled the eat yourself out of labor trick (something primitives seem to be able to do…I guess you need that skill in the wild: if a predator is near, you need to turn off labor and get out of there, fast!) OR, who knows…I fully expect her to have the baby sometime soon.  Meanwhile, I dunked Pliny’s cord, checked mama’s milk, and Margaret and I took a short, 2 mile walk.  When we returned, Pliny was just about getting the sucking on teat thing down.  These coopworths, or at least THIS coopworth, are slower to get up and get to the milk than the jacobs and shetlands, who are there in ten minutes generally, often on elbows, because they haven’t gotten up on their feet yet.  Took Pliny at least an hour, assuming he was born around six…possibly hour and a half…but he’s strong, sucking now, 8-1/2 pounds, a nice size. Lydia looks very proud of herself…in between bouts of pigging out on hay.  Hard work, having babies, you know!dsc00112-medium-web-view.jpg

And here are mostly shetland fleeces!

March 26, 2007

These little shetland sheep come in about 11 different main colors with variations, all of them neutral colors, of course: there are no pink or blue sheep!  And just to be a little eccentric, they, of course, have names that are hard to pronounce: shaela, moorit, mioget, mooskit, emsket, and greys, black, white, and fawn.  Then, there are a lot more terms for patterns, but I mostly don’t pay much attention to that, because my goal is to raise solid colored, unpatterned shetland sheep, the solid contrast to my spotted jacobs.  dsc00108-medium-web-view.jpg

Fleece, fleece, and more fleece!

March 26, 2007

What do you do when you’re sitting around waiting for sheep to go into labor?  Well, you work on your blog, you answer mail, you read novels, …and you spend time with your fleeces.  (Of course, you SHOULD be doing Spring cleaning, but some nun told me once that after 50, there are no more SHOULDS and MUSTibations! Works for me: might as well do what I want, huh?)

So, down into the basement.  The fleeces look quite lovely. I need to pick out the two or three I want to keep, and start to process them. What that means is wash them, one pound or so at a time, spin the washed fleeces in the washing machine (you can’t wash them in there: they’ll felt.  They get washed in a canning pot filled with hot, hot water and organic dish soap, then dumped into a colander with another pot under it, water spilled outside in the woods), then dried on window screens supported by kitchen chairs, then picked (each lock pulled open), then carded, then spun, then plied, then ready to knit, after washing yet again to set the twist.  And if you want to dye it, you can do it after washing, after carding, after spinning, after knitting, depending…

So, here are two photos which encompass maybe half, maybe a third of the 27 fleeces.  By the end of May, most of them will have been sold.  Since I don’t quite get how to put two photos on one post, one will appear here, the other on the next post, on its own.  This one is mostly jacob fleeces.dsc00107-medium-web-view.jpg

First lamb born!

March 25, 2007

Well, my first lamb is born, but it isn’t on the farm!  I bought a pregnant ewe from Carl Fosbrink, out in Indiana, and she was too close to due date to move, so he just emailed and said she had a ram lamb.  I won’t see him or the ewe for a week, at least, til they are ready to travel, and then a friend, when it works for them, is going out to visit his sister, and pick up my sheep and ones he bought from Carl, as well.  Perhaps Carl will send a photo to me…

Meanwhile, it snowed last night but only a light covering: mostly it was rain.  I had shut the sheep in the shed, given the weather, in case one of them went into labor and thought she’d have more privacy out in the weather.  It would have been her choice, but I didn’t want lambs out in that mess.   When it gets light in a little while, I’ll go check, but I don’t think anything was really ready to pop, so I don’t expect to find lambs til tomorrow or Tuesday.

Due dates!

March 24, 2007

Predicting due dates for the sheep is something I take great pains to do each year, and each year my husband laughs and adds days on, and still, we seldom get them right.  There are signs: the vulvas of the ewes get puffy and pink (unless,of course, they have black vulvas, which jacobs often do).  The added weight which if twinning, looks like they’ve swallowed a garbage pail lid, and if singling (ordinarily) looks like they’ve swallowed a watermelon, “drops”, leaving a hollow triangle in front of the hipbone a couple of days before lambing.  Their tail bone becomes prominent, and if they’ll let you, and you put your thumb on one side and your finger on the other, you can just about meet them under the tail bone, as the bones and muscles soften and shift to expand to accommodate the lamb’s passage.  In addition, they often become sweet and loving the last few days, even those who ordinarily would curse you as look at you.  Then, they start acting weird, off to themselves.  Sometimes, they just look strange, preoccupied. Sometimes they dig around with their hooves, nesting.  Sometimes they get up and lie down, get up and lie down.  Then, they sometimes have very discernible contractions.  However, as the shearer says, the only way for sure to tell if a lamb is immanent, is two hooves and a nose sticking out the back end.  Different sheep, different breeds, have slightly different gestation periods. Mine tend to be 146 days…but can go longer or (less frequently) come earlier.  This is all to say that today is day day 144 from breeding for at least one, and day 143 for two others, assuming, of course, that that breeding took, and they didn’t recycle a half cycle later after not “settling” the first time.  I’d say one or two of them look close, not of them immanent.  But I’ve been wrong before, lots of times.  Occasionally, one looks at me and smiles, I go inside, come out an hour later, and there are lambs on the ground: she was just waiting for me to leave, since she wanted privacy. More often, I think one is in labor, and it turns out, it was my imagination.  I’m getting more laid back about it, the older I get, the longer I live with these sheep.  I sort of had been hoping one of them would accommodate my needs, and have babies this morning since there is a small group of jr. high kids on the farm for a retreat, and it would be way cool for them to see a lamb born.  However, this morning the portents didn’t look too promising, and they leave in a couple of hours.  I will check again in a few minutes…but I think probably Monday or Tuesday at the earliest.    Today, I have to take a small table out and set up my little nursing station with the lambing supplies.  Then, I’m ready.  “Green gates” (fence panels) are ready to make lambing jugs (5 x 5 pens to hold mama and babies for three days, to give them time to acclimate, and mostly, to give me time to “friendly up” the babies, if mama will allow it.  I sit in the pen and hold them and pet them and talk to them, so they learn to know me, too, and not just mama.  It makes the friendling up of lambs easier, which makes  sales easier: people like buying friendly lambs.

It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood, though still a little chilly out.  Supposed to hit 50.  Have a great weekend, one and all!

Sweet Cream!

March 23, 2007

I can’t believe it’s 7:48 in themorning, and I’m sitting here, between sentences, eating Walpole Dairy’s Sweet Cream ice cream…it is SO good.  (I’m only eating a little: the pint has to last me all week!)

A local dairy in Walpole, N.H., just across the river (Connecticut) and down a bit, decided to turn it’s Holstein milk into ice cream. (Imagine if it were JERSEY milk!) They make sweet cream ice cream, something I haven’t had since Thomas Sweet in N.J. days.  It tastes just like cream, and not too sweet, either.  Gets my vote over all those fancy dancy weirdo combo Ben and Jerry’s flavors.  I always say you can tell the real value of an ice cream brand by its vanilla.  But Sweet Cream doesn’t even have vanilla in it…Anyway, the Walpole Dairy sells during the summer at its own ice cream store along route 12, or is it 12A, who knows, between Claremont and Keene.  In winter, we ice cream freaks have to get it at the Co-op in Hanover or Lebanon, or now, Lisa is selling it at her Jersey Girls farm in the farm store, along with local beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and artisanal cheeses, the newest of which is made from her milk.  She is so excited!  So am I!