Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Twin becomes an Only

Lambing season is a time of miracles and disappointments.

When I went to the barn at five o'clock Sunday morning, I saw that Esther, the overly large ewe, had lambed. A brown lamb stood near Esther who was licking and calling to a spotted lamb lying in the stall. The lamb was not moving.

What happened, we do not know.

My husband checked the ewes before going to bed at 1 a.m. and she was showing no signs of lambing. Sometime in that four-hour span, she'd delivered two lambs, chewed their umbilical cords, and dried both off.

Judging by the dead lamb's size -- she was several pounds heavier than other newborns, I suspect it was a difficult birth.

My job was to remind Esther that life was for the living.

I removed the dead lamb, and within minutes, Esther focused on her standing brown lamb.

For the past few days, we've kept Esther and her lamb in the holding pen. Because she was in full-milk when the lambs were born -- and she now only had one lamb -- we fought to keep mastitis at bay. After several shots of antibiotics, milking her out, and cutting back on her rations, she and her lamb are thriving.

In a few days, they'll join the other ewes and lambs for romps in the field.

Photo: Esther with her ewe lamb. Esther and Price (twin ewes born in 2007) have produced some exceptionally nice lambs this year.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Spring Morning on the Farm

The overnight rains welcomed a red ewe lamb into the world.

The ewe gave birth under the overhang.

I like to bring the new moms and newborns into the barn for a few days of observation.

The red ewe isn't keen on that idea and stomps her foot. She is not coming into the barn, even if her baby is in there. Placing the newborn in a stall in the barn, I consider my options.

Dewey Kitty comes into the barn to watch, and deciding this might be a good show, he climbs into the rafters.

When moving sheep, I've learned to look for opportunities.

I slowly walk around the paddock. If, I can get the new mom and a pregnant ewe separated from the group, I might be able to get them to go into the barn.

Two pregnant ewes, the new mom and a wayward lamb move into another paddock. I shut the gate, grab the wayward lamb and return him to his mother. I move the moms and lambs into pasture.

While the new mom won't go into the barn by herself, she'll gladly follow the pregnant ewes into the barn. Now, I must wait for the new mom to go the stall where her lamb is.

Dewey Kitty's euphoria over climbing into the rafters passes as he realizes he does not know how to get down. He cries.

I wait.

The newborn lamb cries.

Dewey cries.

I notice that the newborn lamb and Dewey sport similar coat colors.

Dewey cries again.

Finally, the new mom goes into the stall with her lamb.

I shut the door, then turn to my two pregnant ewes.

Surely they'll lamb soon.

Now that they're separated, I decide to keep them separate and in the barn.

Dewey cries louder.

I give the ewes hay and water, then turn to my distressed kitty.

"Someday you'll have to figure this out," I tell him, climbing onto the stall door so that I can reach him.

Unlike many cats, Dewey is a trusting soul, and doesn't panic when I snag him from the rafters.

My usually pristine indoor kitty is wet and dirty from his morning adventure.

I don't look much better. My sweatshirt and jeans are stained with manure, sweat, iodine and Nutri-Drench.

Carrying Dewey, we go inside to clean up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Chocolate Line

Price, like her mother, ChocoButt, lambs in the daylight.

Again this year, Price's newborn lambs welcomed me when I arrived home. Again, they were big and hearty and looked like they were several days, not a few hours, old.

But instead of delivering white or spotted lambs that would carry on the ChocoButt line, Price delivered a reddish-tan ram lamb and a ewe lamb that almost looks like ChocoButt, the late farm matriarch.

That ewe lamb is the color of rich, dark chocolate, and knowing her parentage, I'm betting she will be strong-willed, determined, and a lover of food.

In the photos, the lambs are just a few hours old. The other ewes are shown in the background.

What I Don't Expect to See in March

Daytime temperatures have been in the 70s for several days now -- atypical for Ohio, and I'm seeing things I usually don't at this time of year, including:

Panting ewes.

Chickens holding their wings away from their bodies.


Growing grass.

Farmers planting fields.

Lettuce and peas emerging from the soil.

Water buckets that constantly need to be refilled.

Stacks of wood, a hundred or more bales of hay, leftover from a mild winter.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Sound in the Night

Had the wind been blowing, the chickens clucking, the birds singing, the horses chewing hay, I wouldn't have heard the gutteral murmur in the sheep paddock.

But the night was still, the chickens and birds roosting, the horses snoozing, and I heard the soft, throaty murmur, and the higher-pitched response.

That sound guided me to the sheep paddock. Though the darkness kept me from seeing, I knew a ewe had lambed.

So, I greet this St. Patrick's Day with green grass, a gentle breeze, bird song, clucks of chickens, and the miracle of lambing season.

Ewe 1014, aka The Virgin No More, aka Stomper, gave birth to a set of ewe lambs on March 16. They are about eight hours old in this photo.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When Tilling the Garden....

When tilling the garden today, I unearthed:

Grass that's already turned spring green.

A red beet from last year.

A piece of glass.

More rocks than I'd like to count.

A piece of pottery.

A plastic label, its plant name faded long ago.

Bits of sheep fleece.

A hoof pick.

I can't explain the hoof pick.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Need for Space

While Louie Kitty is quite content to live a life indoors, to sleep on the bed, to watch the birds, to race up and down the stairs, Dewey Kitty wants more.

To entertain him, I tried clicker training, and he learned a slew of tricks like fall over, ring a bell, sit, and pick up a toy. I tried playing fetch with him for 15 minutes every morning. I even began placing his dry cat food inside a shoe so that he had to work to get it.

But he still whined and cried and wanted to go outside. He kept me up at night, he tried to steal my food.

So, I began letting him outside in the mornings and afternoons while I was doing chores.

And, he began settling down in the house and sleeping through the night.

I guess some cats, like some humans, just need more sunshine and open space and time outside.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring Planting

The soil felt like it had been waiting for me.

It was cool, damp and crumbly.

I made three rows and dropped in seeds of peas, beets and spinach, covered them and watered the soil.

Once finished, I went to the incubator that I'd turned on the previous evening.

I placed 42 chicken eggs into the warm, damp box and closed the lid.

By the end of March, I hope to have little green shoots and yellow peeping chicks celebrating the arrival of Spring.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Christmas Wreath

It appears the Christmas Wreath may become the "Christmas in July Wreath."

When I was taking down Christmas decorations in January, I forgot to remove the wreath from the front door. There it stayed, forgotten, until this week.

Dewey Kitty has taken an intense interest in the wreath, and I don't think it's because he's hoping for gifts from Santa.

A pair of wrens is building a nest in the wreath.

So now the wreath will stay hanging for a few more months, and hopefully will deliver songbirds in spring.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Preparing for Lambing Season: Sorting and Vaccinations

Prep Time: 90 minutes
Vaccination Time: 20 minutes
Follow-up: 20 minutes

Step 1: Remove the manure that has built up around the barn door, leaving it in a permanent state of open.

Step 2: Remove all water buckets from stall.

Step 3: Isolate llama from the ewes.

Step 4: Send Mickey, the Border Collie, to bring the ewes in from pasture and into a stall in the barn.

Step 5: Change into clothes that you don't mind being covered in sweat, manure and greasy sheep fiber.

Step 6: Prepare 14 syringes with vaccine... and discover that you're one dose short. Decide the virgin brown ewe lamb will be the one who is not vaccinated today (and later wish you had decided to hold off on the wild spotted ewe lamb).

Step 7: Find a grease pencil to mark the ewes that have been vaccinated.

Step 8: Call the spouse to help hold the sheep.

Step 9: Move seven of the ewes into a 6 x 8-foot stall.

Step 10: Vaccinate the ewes. Comment on their heft (who says grass isn't fattening?). Tell the spouse the story of each ewe he holds. "That's the one that head-butted me in the chest. That's the Bob Marley ewe. That's the one that challenged Mickey. That one's a stomper, just like her mom. Watch out for that one, she's an unpredictable leaper."

Step 11: Sort the six pregnant ewes into the horse stall.

Step 12: Check watch, plan 20 minutes of chores to do, and watch the ewes for any type of vaccine reactions.

Step 13: Reunite the llama with the pregnant ewes.

Step 14: Move the barren ewes to another pasture.

Step 15: Breathe a sigh of relief that the task is done with no needles flying, no blood, no bruises, and no curses.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Preparing for Lambing Season: Day 1

Lambing season is scheduled to arrive in 21 days. But it may be 12 days, or 28.

This weekend, I prepared the barn. While the ewes lamb in the pasture, I usually bring the ewe and her lambs into the barn for 48 hours after their birth. There, I dip the lambs umbilical cords in iodine, and monitor mom and babies. This means that I have to have stalls, or jugs, available for them.

So, the extra horse stall that I'd been using for storage all winter was cleaned.

I also moved higher octane hay -- second cutting grass and alfalfa -- into the barn.

I went through the medicine cabinet, and took an inventory of items I may need.

Tomorrow, all the ewes will receive their vaccinations and I'll sort the pregnant ewes from the others. For the next few weeks, the pregnant ewes and llama will go to the "good" pasture -- that's the one that hasn't had sheep on it for months (and should have a lower parasite load) and the one that has the highest quality of grass.

I'll anxiously await the day when I look into the pasture, see spots of white, and say, "Oh lambs!"