Monday, August 21, 2017

The Year of the Rooster

Blame it on the sheep minerals. This past winter, I was standing in line at the hardware store to pay for the minerals and saw the flyer for Chick Days.

There were photos of Buckeyes, Buff Orphingtons, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds and more. Usually we incubate our Buckeye chicken eggs. But here was a chance to get Buckeye chicks and maybe even try another chicken breed.

I left the hardware store with a mineral tub and an order receipt for 18 Buckeye and 6 Silver Laced Wyandotte chicks, straight run.

When ordering chicks, you can order all females, all males or straight run. With the heavier or rarer chicken breeds, buyers are only offered straight run, or as hatched. That's what we were offered, so we’d have a mix of roosters and hens.

The Silver Wyandotte rooster distinguished himself first. At  nine weeks old, his red comb was larger than the hens and he challenged the other chickens. A few weeks later, he attempted to crow.

“The Wyandottes must mature faster than the Buckeyes,” I mused as I scanned the flock, trying to pick out the young Buckeye roosters, who had yet to grow long tail feathers and to crow.

A few weeks ago, the Wyandotte rooster went to a friend's farm, and the noises from the chicken house ceased.

The chickens are four months old now—and none crow. They all look alike.

“I don’t think we got a straight run,” I tell my husband. 

In the Year of the Rooster, we have no roosters.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Problem Child

With dogs, sheep, horses, chickens, a llama and cats, finding a house sitter can be a challenge.

When  leaving for vacation, I write detailed instructions for the house sitter, noting which dogs are snarky with each other and which horse is the master escape artist.

I worry about Raven, the Border collie, not coming when called; and about Lily, the Haflinger, being pushy.

The care list for the sheep, llama, horses, chickens, dogs and cats goes on for two pages.

But when we left on vacation, I never anticipated Dewey Kitty being the problem child.

On the second day of vacation, we received a text about Dewey Kitty opening the bedroom door and pouncing on the house sitter in the night. She reported she was putting a chair by the door so that he couldn't come in. Instead, he threw himself against the closed door at  night.

The next message reported Dewey Kitty darting outside in the middle of the night and not coming when called.

And then of him ringing the bell by the back door, asking to be let out. When the house sitter opened the door, he looked outside and then walked to the dining room.

In just days, Dewey Kitty had gone from being a sweet, smart cat to a royal pain. When we returned home, the house sitter was giving Dewey Kitty the evil eye. Dewey was plotting how he'd steal her lunch.

With us home, Dewey settled into his routine.

And the house sitter sought revenge. I received this cat video from her.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Llambert Finally Gets a Haircut

A bent pair of hand shears meant I missed llama shearing last year--and that Llambert the Llama's coat was extra long and luxurious this spring.

In years past, llama shearing coincided with the vet's visit. The vet sedates the llama, vaccinates the horses and then trims Llambert's feet. While the llama is sedated, I give him a haircut.

But this year, I was early or the vet was late, and I found myself in the barn, shears in hand. Tying Llamber to a post, I turned up the radio and began trimming. Listening to the swish, swish of shears, Billy Joel and the falling rain, I thought how relaxing it was to trim the llama.

Ten minutes passed, and I assessed my progress. Llambert had an 18 x 18-inch bare spot.

This could take some time.

Trimming the llama while he is standing leads to a bit neater look--and I pondered if there was a standard hair cut for llamas. Or, should I give him a poodle cut? If I skipped his legs, would he look goofy? And, what about that neck hair? Does he need it?

Finishing one side, I moved to the other, and I no longer paid attention to the rain, or the swish, or my progress. Instead, I pondered llama-shearing elbow--and if I should research llama haircuts--and if he'd benefit from neck hair.

Certainly, he needs neck hair.

Besides, the bucket was full of llama fiber.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lamb TV

To create an attention-grabbing scene, start with lambs, green grass and sunshine.

When working outside this weekend, I let the two ewes and four lambs into the yard to graze.

All work stopped as I watched the one-week-old lambs zoom around the pasture and leap into the air.

But, I'm not the only one who whiles away the hours watching Lamb TV.

When I stepped into the barn this morning, I discovered the barn cats, too, indulge in this pleasure.

Trick the Cat opts for a balcony seat and observes the goings-on from his straw bale.

Leslie the Cat chooses a front row seat in the lamb pen where the lambs give her a good sniff before showing off their dance moves.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

State of Wonder

In her first day, the lamb learns how to nurse, tests her jump moves and watches her mom for signs of danger. She mouths hay and dunks her nose in the water. In the evening, she snuggles up to her sister for a nap.

This is our 11th lambing season, and I still find myself drawn to the barn and filled with a sense of wonder.

For the first time this year, we have a lamb with a distinguished sock.
Did it come from his paternal side? Or was there some gene on his maternal side, slumbering for generations and just now showing itself?

Or did he know that he'd enter this world on a Monday when mismatched socks sometimes happen?

I think I'll call him Monday.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When Ma Nature Gives You Snow...

Lambs are to be born into sunshine and the promise of green grass, not freezing winds and snow.

But this has not been a normal winter.

With lambing season days away and a weather forecast calling for high winds and below freezing temperatures, I find myself in the barn, figuring out how to find space for 10 pregnant ewes.

The sheep and horses spend most of their time in the pastures or under lean-tos that provide protection from rain and west winds. They seem happier having space to move around--and I am not spending hours mucking manure from stalls.

In normal springs, I don't worry about ewes delivering lambs outside. Only once have I had a lamb chill in the spring winds--and a hair dryer dried it and warmed it.

Freezing winds will chill a lamb quickly. So, I've tucked the ewes in groups of three and four in horse stalls for a few days, just in case lambs don't want to wait for sunshine.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Meet Apollo and Bon-Bon

After months of calling them "the Boys," we had a naming contest for the white ram lamb and his buddy, an almost 2-year-old Dorper/Katahdin wether.

It reaffirmed what I knew: I have lots of creative friends.

Suggestions included lots of pairs: Lenny and Squiggy, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry and Lloyd, Shaggy and Scooby, Gandoff and Frodo, Woodward and Bernstein, Bill and Ted.

And then there were descriptive suggestions: Ebony and Ivory, Salt and Pepper, Coffee and Cream, Mounds and Almond Joy.

One contestant tip-toed into the political with Bernie and Barack.

Several suggested variations on the beer theme: Pale Ale and Stout, IPA and Stout, Suds and Stout.

That led to a few discussions in the household where I'm an IPA fan and my husband is a stout fan.

IPA would be a good name for the ram lamb because, like IPAs, he won't be around for long. After breeding season in the fall, he will be sold and hopefully go to another farm. The black wether will be kept to be a companion for the next ram lamb. He is like many stouts, kept around longer and getting better with age.

The name Warlock, a favorite stout in our household, was floated around, until my husband pointed out that no wether could have a name like Warlock.

And, so this was the winning entry:

Phoebus Apollo - Usually just called Apollo. A son of Zeus and Leto and Artemis’s twin, he is the god of Light and Truth, the master of Poetry and Music, and the god of Archery. His Oracle at Delphi is revered for her powers of prophecy and truth. this is for the white one. the black one I name bonbon.

This made me laugh... and I'm sure if anyone hears me yelling, "Apollo! Bon-Bon! It's time for dinner," they, too, will laugh.