Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Confident Chickens

Although the Buckeye chickens are the smallest stock to roam the barnyard, they hold their own.

The 17 hens and three roosters stroll around the paddocks and pastures, looking for bugs and worms, and finding places for dirt baths. Somehow, they avoid the dozens of sheep legs and horse hooves.

But one hen, intent on making a nest in the corner of the sheep stall, couldn't avoid the curious lamb.

The lamb stuck his nose in the hen's face. She didn't make a sound. Instead, she reached out and pecked the lamb on the nose.

The lamb didn't move.

Peck, peck, peck.

No lamb movement.

Peck, peck, peck, peck, peck, peck.

Finally, the lamb shook his head and stepped away from the hen.

I stepped outside and saw a rooster taking a dirt bath in the afternoon sun.

In front of him was Trick the Cat.

The cat rolled and rolled.

The rooster refused to move.

The cat extended a paw toward the rooster.

The rooster refused to give up his space in the sun.

After rolling a few times, Trick stood and walked off, looking for some other critter to harass.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Teen Weeks

We are entering the teen-age phase of lambdom. The lambs on pasture are 4-6 weeks old. It's that age when they like to travel in packs with other lambs -- except when they're hungry, cold or scared.

Then they go crying for mom.

The lambs are grazing now, and if need be, could live without their mothers' milk. However, most will continue nursing until four to five months of age.

Already they're showing their personalities. This bold guy so wanted to check out the camera, but he couldn't find anyone to go with him.

The ewes are shedding their winter coats. The sides go first, and the top goes last. Most lambs are still able to nurse standing up. In a few weeks, they'll have to crouch on their knees for their dinner. They don't mind.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lambing Season - The End

This is Good Mom, with two of her three lambs. The third is tucked behind her, sleeping.

This is the image I want to see during lambing season, as it makes me forget about the nights of worry, of the ewe who died, of the twin orphans who refused to eat, of the stillborn lamb, and the two-day-old lamb that died. It fades the memories of the first and second spring snowfall, the winds that made the newborn lambs shiver, of the mud, mud, mud.

There were nights when I wondered why we raise sheep. It would be easier to have someone plant the fields with corn and soybeans. But then we'd miss the fields of green, the lambs racing and bouncing in the mornings and snoozing in the afternoon sun. We'd miss the occasional bottle lambs who wail when they see us and follow us everywhere. We'd miss watching lambs grow and fatten and chew their cuds. And, I'd miss the challenge and sense of discovery and accomplishment.

The ewes have all lambed now. Eleven ewes delivered 23 strong lambs.

Good Mom and a yearling ewe delivered the "oops" babies last week, thus bringing an eventful end to lambing season.

Good Mom struggled after delivering triplets. Her metabolism was off and she didn't want to eat and drink. For three days, the husband and I gave her shots, hoping to restore that balance. For three days, we watched as she cared for her lambs, and started drinking and eating. She and her three lambs are going to be all right. As is the young, first-time mom in the adjacent stall. That mom, after being stalled next to the calm Good Mom, has calmed down, as have her lambs.

While the sheep husbandry books are informative, they can't cover every scenario and offer every suggestion. I just had to figure out that putting seasoned pros with the young moms seems to calm everyone now... and hopefully in the years to come.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Power of Sugar and Salt

When a ewe died, I was left with 16-day-old twin ewe lambs.

Those lambs didn't want to be caught. They didn't want a bottle. They just wanted their mother.

Instead they got me.

Several times a day, I'd catch them, place them on my lap, pry their mouths open, and stick a baby bottle nipple into their mouths.

They'd take a few swallows, deem it nasty, and set their jaws.

After three days of this, I worried about them not getting enough calories and liquids.

So, I mixed an electrolyte solution for them, and again, only convinced them to drink a few ounces. But when I tried again a few hours later, they were more enthusiastic. After each drinking six ounces, they demanded more.

That evening, I offered them the lamb replacer formula. They sucked that down and begged for more.

So, now this is my view, times two, three times a day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Bluebird Man

I appreciate people who contribute beauty to the world, whether it's through:
a perfectly cooked meal,
a warm, ripe tomato,
a lily bursting with color,
a perfectly, cured, green bale of hay,
a well-trained dog,
an athletic horse,
a poem,
a photo,
a bluebird.

Last night I called the man whose name was inside the bluebird box.

He's built hundreds of bluebird boxes over the past decade. Using wood donated from a local cabinet shop and then from shipping crates, he's designed a box meant to discourage sparrows and raccoons.

His boxes are mounted on utility poles and posts in a 60-square mile area of his home in town. Riding a moped, he tours the countryside checking on the bluebird boxes throughout the spring and summer.

Our farm was selected because it has pastures and fence rows -- both places where the bluebirds can find food.

While I was delighted to have a bluebird box, not everyone treasures them. He said people have smashed them, shot them and stolen them over the years.

But others have appreciated them, and the bluebirds have made their homes in them. So, he keeps building and installing boxes around the countryside.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Blue Truck and Bluebird Box Mystery

I've grown used to people stopping on the road in front of our farm.

Some people who used to live here stopped to take photos.

Several stop and try to determine if it is sheep or goats or some rare mountain breed grazing in the pastures to the south.

A couple stopped to search for a cell phone thrown out the car window during a fight the previous evening. I'm pretty sure they never found it.

So, when I saw a blue truck stopped on Saturday morning, I took notice, but went back to my attempts to video lambs romping in the pasture.

Later that day, I noticed the bluebird box on the utility pole near the road.

New bluebird boxes were mounted on utility poles on farms east and west of us.

"Who do you know that drives a blue truck?" I asked the nearby farmer.

He didn't know. (Yes, this surprised me, too).

Being that this is a blog, and a blog must have photos, I stopped to take photos on my afternoon walk with the Border collies.

Inside the box, I found a return address sticker.

The mystery man lives in a town about four miles from us.

I think I'll have to call him.