Thursday, July 30, 2015

That's One for the Books..... (or, Holly to the Rescue!)

Any time you have animals and start to think you've seen about everything, the good Lord steps in and reminds you that you're wrong.

We've been able to do hay!  Finally, we're getting on top of our needs for the winter.  We have half of two different fields yet to cut to finish our first cutting which is ridiculously late but with all the heavy rain this spring it's the best we could do.  We're at about 3500 bales so a few hundred more and we're good.  Since we have old equipment and we're not exactly young ourselves we only cut what we can handle in a given day.  Yesterday was really tough and left us two pooped puppies.  It was great going for making hay - over 90 and mostly sunny - so after letting the sheep out to pasture Andy tedded the field we planned to bale and then we unloaded 2 loads from the day before.  Then Andy raked the hay into windrows so it could finish drying.

Instead of letting the sheep stay out under the locust trees in the shade I let them into the barn after lunch and latched them in.  Then Andy brought the brush hog into the pasture and opened up some paths through the tall standing grass in the middle pasture.  Other years we've baled the lowest pasture and so had the sheep in the middle one first and then moved them down into the post-baling regrowth.  This year we couldn't get down there because of the wetness so the sheep grazed there first, all through July. Now it was time to move them into a new field.  Because the grass is so tall he wanted to make paths so the lambs could find their way out and also mow down some thistles that had gotten mature.

After lunch we let the flock out and they quickly dispersed to the far reaches, happy to be in fresh grass again.  From a distance you could just see their backs like a school of dolphins in ocean waves.

We unloaded two more wagons of hay before we could bale.  Then I worked in the wool shop while Andy did the field work.  We finally finished around 7:30, really hot and really tired.  The sheep were stuffed so we let them in and left the barn fans on all night.

In morning, when the rest of the flock goes out, we have five sheep that stay in for a quick feeding of grain. Four thin and elderly ewes - Alexandria, Bug, Dollar and Daffodil - and little Stewart figured out that if they hang back and let the others go out that they get a treat.  The four old ewes lost a lot of condition over winter due to age and lack of teeth and aren't really putting it back on even on nice grass (and Stewart's just special) so we've been supplementing their diet this way.  This morning Alexandria wasn't there.  That seemed pretty odd given how our sheep are about grain but the flock had gone out in a rush because they knew the new pasture was open and we thought maybe she had just gotten carried out the door and hadn't wanted to swim upstream to come back in.  We did make a cursory check of the lower pasture and the new one in case she had keeled over from age and heat stress but saw no sign of her so we figured she must be somewhere in the flock.  At lunch time I looked at the flock gathered in the shade under the locust trees but didn't see her.  Worry ticked up a notch but then the sheep were really standing close in the shade there - I couldn't see everyone.  We walked the pasture again after lunch but the grass was pretty tall and if she had dropped in mid-stride she'd be hard to see.....

Evening chore time came and we put a ration of grain in the feeders so we could really see everyone.  Three trips through the barn convinced us she wasn't there.


Back to the pasture again, Holly in tow, thinking we're having a grand walk.  Andy takes the upper west side, I go down the east fence line all the way to the far end where I can climb up on a sturdy corner post for a better view.  Nothing.  Work my way back kind of in the middle of the pasture.  Andy is doing the same. We zigzag along, eyes shaded from the setting sun, taking a few steps then pausing to search the grass in all directions, then moving on a few more steps.  This is maddening - how do we lose a whole sheep in a fenced pasture?  The grass is tall, but she's an adult, not a dinky lamb.  I'm watching Holly quite a bit, thinking that if Alexandria has expired out here Holly ought to catch a smell of her - morbid thinking but realistic.

Suddenly I hear a baaa right where Holly is!  The ewe must be flat out - I'm twenty feet away and don't see her.  Closer, closer.... and there's her head on the ground.......IN the ground......just her head is sticking up from a hole in the ground.  HOW THE HELL IS SHE IN A HOLE?????

This poor ewe had dropped butt first into a sinkhole where the tile line had broken underground and all the heavy rains had eroded the surrounding dirt until her weight punched through the grass roots and she fell in. Imagine a hole the size of two stacked bushel baskets and she was in it, legs all down in there underneath her so that she couldn't even struggle out.  There she was all night long.  We walked past her at least twice during the day and would have searched a long time tonight to find her (because we wouldn't have stopped looking) except that Holly found her!

We hauled her out and she tried to stand but couldn't.  Andy went and fetched the tractor with bucket and brought dirt and rocks to fill the hole and then we maneuvered her into the bucket and brought her into the barn.  She was able to hobble with great assistance from us into the pens and then more or less collapsed. We used some gates to make a very roomy pen for her and offered water - no.  Fresh alfalfa from the field - no.  Ground soybean - yes!  We gave her a decent ration of that and a big shot of banamine (like liquid aspirin) and have water, hay and fresh grass within reach.

Honestly, my optimism is low.  While she does have a good attitude and will eat grain (bless her Cotswold heart) it's too early to tell if she'll be able to walk again.  There's no way to tell exactly how her legs were folded up underneath her for roughly 24 hours.  She may have damage to nerves and tendons and her back such that won't heal plus she's almost 12 and thin as a rail.  It's amazing that's she's still alive.  We have to think that she was as "lucky" as could be - the hole she dropped into was cool and damp so that helped her not die of heat stroke.  The tall standing grass shaded her head after about 1 PM.  She went in the hole butt first so she didn't suffocate or bloat from a full rumen.....  and nothing with teeth happened by to molest her.  <shudder>

So, we'll help her as much as we can and see what time can do.  And we'll remember that nothing is too weird or unlikely to be possible when you're working with animals.

And we thank our lucky stars that we have such a smart and helpful dog.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Summer 1997 - July 16, 2015

There will be a lingering melancholy with Ivan's passing.  He lived a long happy kitty life and his end was peaceful but other events attached themselves to him because of the passage of so much time.  Except for the trees and me and Andy he was the oldest living thing on the farm.  He was here when both of us lost our last remaining parent - Andy's dad and my mom - and saw the dairy cows walk out the north barn door onto trucks to new farms.  Friends and neighbors moved away or passed on, some elderly and some sadly not.  Some of our big machinery has been sold, two silos have been removed.  To be sure, good things have happened too - new forever friends have been made, relatives have grown up and had children of their own, happy parties and visits,  the sheep flock has expanded and is flourishing.....   But he was a tangible link to much that was cherished and now can't be reached in this world.

Rest in peace, Ivan.  I'm sure there are lots of hands reaching out to pet you right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bits and Pieces

A brief recitation of events since the last post........

Way too much of this.....

Followed by this......

Means we have done blessed little of this (two sessions - about 800 bales so far).......

On one of the far-too-infrequent hottish days I treated myself to lying on the patio concrete for a little while and found I had company.  Like minds. Heh.

I did some dyeing to finish up a colorway I'm out of - Twilight Time.  This is the spruce component.

My friend Julie and I went to visit Thecrazysheeplady of Punkin's Patch in Kentucky and had a marvelous time.  We came through torrential rain as we neared the farm and so an escort met us at a corner.  Yes, that's a lamb.  She loves to ride in the car.  Being an escort was likely her idea.  ;-)

"C'mon, follow us!  You're almost there!"

Saturday night we went to a friend's house for dinner on the deck and Liddy the lamb went too, sitting politely next to me on the back seat.

The property is located just above a quarry - a rock quarry, that is - so there are lots of building materials lying about.

Liddy was interested in the heavy machinery.  Headed to a trade school when she grows up, I bet.

"Yes, much more efficient than shovels and wheelbarrows!"

"Aw, mom, I could totally have driven that.  The boys at home told me how."

Sunday we went to church, which is about the best church I've been in since they allow dogs (and lambs on occasion).  Miss Tilly and Kate went along, sharing the back seat with me.  Kate was eventually IN my lap being hugged which was fine by both of us.  :-)

All the rest of Sunday we dyed wool which was a first for Thecrazysheeplady but she handled it very well and got some great results.  It was huge fun and I was sad when the weekend ended too soon, as wonderful weekends tend to do.

On the way home we transported a young English Setter named Jed back to our area where the new owner picked him up.  It was a serendipitous series of associations and timing and worked well for everyone in the end.

"Crated in the back seat with AC, a blanket and cookies after every rest stop - a dog could get used to this."

And I managed to get a whole lot done on a scarf I've been knitting.

The little kitten I rescued in June, now named Popeye, is doing much better and has a new bed thanks to Thecrazysheeplady's cat Betsy not wanting it.  Thanks, Betsy!

And after an evening of playing a lap is good too.

Oh, to be a happy little kitten!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The High Points

Another week has galloped past.  I swear there's a Doppler effect for time - I see the week right ahead, feel like I'm all ready to pack every day with productivity, then - bam - it's gone by, trailing a lingering list of  "oh yeah, I was going to get those finished up, and I thought for sure that would get done, I did do part of this....".  Here's some of what went on.

Dyeing wool.  This is Salmon which goes into a colorway of ours that is depleted - Twilight Time.  I know - not very 'twilight/dim/end of day' feeling, is it?  The other colors will mute it, honest.

The annual fabric sale at the Gunlocke outlet store was a good opportunity for me (and lots of other people, apparently!) to take advantage of truly garage sale caliber prices on bolts of high-end upholstery fabric, real leather, faux leather and other odds and ends.

The shorter rolls were on the shelves, the longer rolls - some over my head - were standing against the walls.

The office furniture was all on sale too.  New but humdrum items like metal file cabinets, but also tables, chairs, sofas, lecterns, cabinets, bookcases, etc.

The fabric was selling for $1 a yard but you had to take the whole bolt as it was, some large, some only a few yards still rolled on.  On the other hand, they didn't actually measure the yardage, just low balled the likely figure.  I bought one bolt for the quoted $30 when the roll clearly said fifty-six yards!  For less than $50 I bought three coordinating fabrics that are destined to be the new backdrop and table coverings for my vendor booth at fiber festivals.  After all these years my 'look' will be cohesive!  (Some assembly required.  Heh.)

If I'd had a brain in my head I would have looked for fabric to reupholster our aging living room couch.  Oh well, next time.

Early in the week the honey bees swarmed again!  Or, it may have been the first swarm taking another try at actually leaving.  I've heard that sometimes a swarm changes its collective mind and goes back to the home hive to try again in the near future.  Maybe the queen has to go back and check that the stove's off or something.  But this hive seems big enough that it could really have put out two broods.  Either way, it was a good day to swarm.

They pretty quickly clustered on a lower branch.
Just a couple of hours later they had gone.  And two days later I looked out the window just in time to see another swarm from who-knows-where roll through the yard headed south.  Amazing.
We've been trimming hooves in the yearling and geriatric group.  We can't do it all in one go - doing the math we have 47 animals in that bunch which means 188 cloven hooves or 376 actual toes to clip.  We're about one-third done.
And today while running errands I rescued a kitten.  Reader's Digest condensed version:  Pouring rain, miraculously unhurt in the center turning lane of a busy town road, male, 5-6 weeks old, tests negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV, has one eye ruptured from infection and which will be blind so have ointment for that, very scared but ensconced in Holly's puppy crate pending acceptance at the Finger Lakes SPCA for eventual adoption.   Do not. need. another. cat.   Sigh.  (The eye should resolve on its own the vet says, and scar into safe uselessness but hopefully not need to be surgically removed.)
Guess who's taken over guardianship?
"Good grief, something else for me to be in charge of!"

What a good girl.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

More Wet

Another inch of rain.

That's not fog, just straight down hard rain.  I know there are folks in other parts of the country who would give their eye teeth for it but it's a problem for us.  We're getting seriously twitchy about not having made any dry hay yet.  Not one bale.  Not only is the grass getting way overripe, but it's starting to go down under the rains and will be hard to cut.  

The next morning was chilly and foggy.  The sheep made 'the morning commute' at a speed reasonable for the road conditions.  ;-)

You can hear Stewart and George still close by - they were standing at my feet while everyone trooped away into the fog so of course I had to go walk them out to pasture.  They finally went ahead of me and are the last ones going down the trail in the next clip and catch up to George's brother on the trail.

The weather worked itself into rain again, and then did eventually clear off later in the day.  The tree swallows were very busy around their nest box in the rose bush.  I'm sure they are feeding youngsters.  Mom (or Dad) was peeking out at me.

The sun finally shone and the woods breathed out a thin fog that hung over the ram's pasture.

We could see the thunderhead moving away from us that had given us the day's rain.

For the first time this summer we had a really outstanding sunset.

Red sky at night.....  we'll see.  I think at this point just a plain day that doesn't rain will be delightful.

Monday, June 15, 2015

So Soggy

We have avoided the worst of the rain so far.  About ten miles from us they had five inches fall yesterday.  We felt fortunate to only receive 1.75, although we did get another half inch just the day before so the lawn and pastures are a sodden mess.  We are getting mighty twitchy about not yet making any hay but until this weather pattern changes there is no point even thinking about it.

The only pleasant aspect was that there was no lightening nor hard wind, just a straight down warm rain. The sheep would troop in, wet, wait until it let up and then head back out.  By the time they reached the far reaches of the pasture it started to rain again.  They really wouldn't have been wetter if they had just stayed out in it but only a latched gate would have convinced them.  ;-)

The wisps of fog coming out of the woods melted into the low cloud ceiling and made for a moody sort of view.

The lambs weren't thrilled with being out, but if mom stayed out then they did too.

Snubby was one of the intrepid ones who stayed out most of the day.  She was so waterlogged her curls hung straight.

The yearlings and geriatrics are still separated from the main flock and go to a different pasture which is working out pretty well.  There's no way we could bale a pasture for hay as we have done before so they might as well be working on two pastures at once.  The other two will end up being clipped back and mulching itself.  By the time it works to get them out there the grass would be older and tougher than they will want so we'll brush hog it back and by the time they need to go there it will be regrown.  Every year is different.

Here they are coming back in for the night.  The diversion ditch was still running a good amount of water and most of them jumped it rather than wade although it wasn't deep, just wide.  They weren't thrilled with me standing there holding the camera which is why they acted so spooky.  Anything unusual is likely Not Good if you're a sheep.

Stewart Little and his 'brothers' were happy to see me though.

"I'd be happier if I were dry."

"Us too.  My wool is wet.  Is your wool wet?"

"Yes.  Top side, bottom side, and everything in between.  Hmpf."

Wet is temporary, but of course you can't tell them that.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time To Go

Yesterday our 'tree bees' sent a young swarm out into the world.  Andy just happened to see them getting organized in the crab apple a few feet from the old locust.

They were very self-absorbed and really didn't pose any danger to us but I didn't want to disturb them. They fill up on honey before they leave their old hive and that's what sustains them while they are looking for a new home and getting it set up.  They didn't need to waste energy because of me being overly nosey.  It seemed to be a healthy sized colony although there were so many bees still going in and out of the home tree that you could hardly see a difference.

We called someone who keeps bees to see if he wanted to come and collect the swarm but he couldn't come until after work.  We checked on them periodically through the afternoon and after about three hours discovered that they had abruptly left for parts unknown.  I wish I had seen what direction they headed away in. I would guess that the scouts had found a suitable place not too awfully far away and that would be great. Less time exposed and homeless means they should go into the new situation as strong as can be.

Good luck, young bees!