Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Odometer Rolls Over

Time goes so fast.  Everybody says that, but sometimes you experience a little event that really brings it home.  Check out this little cutie-patootie that got an ear tag today.


Now check out the number on the ear tag.........number 1000.  I"m pretty sure I started with 001.  Wow.  I know I had to replace some lost tags each year so this number isn't exact, but this means I"m pushing 1000 lambs born here.  I know some people have that many born in a year, but for me this is a big number.  I've ordered more tags and started over with 001 instead of launching into the 4 digit numbers.  I wonder when, or if, I'll hit 1000 again.

Something else that's turning a corner......the calendar.  Today is the last day of March.  Spring should be here, right?   We got this.

The view down the valley that the sheep enjoy.

Crappity-crap crap, if I must say so.  We are getting so weary of winter weather.  Still, east of us they are supposed to get 12+ inches tonight.  April Fool's - har de har har.

But, as long as it's cold and snowy it still feels right to spend time spinning.  Just in time for it to NOT be spring, I got back two rovings I had done at Zeilinger's Wool Mill.  

Brown Sugar and Pewter

I've been out of both for some time.  The Brown Sugar is a blend of dark red alpaca and white Cotswold lamb, and the Pewter is straight natural colored Cotswold.  The Brown Sugar has an amazing soft hand, and the Pewter is a light, clear gray with no overtones of brown.  And it's light enough to dye if you want.  I've spun both and really like them, now it's time for someone else to have some fun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Midnight Sadness

No matter how many safeguards you put in place, when you deal with animals you sometimes have bad things happen.  Last night at barn bedcheck we found a 3 day old lamb with a broken leg.  She and her mom were the most recently added into the mixing pen, and was fine at 8 PM.  When we came in at 10 we saw her struggling and realized her left hind leg was grotesquely broken, although not through the skin.  A fast call to the vet's office and a 40 minute drive later we had a sedated lamb and an xray showing a reasonably clean break, but the vet couldn't pull the bone ends into opposition by hand because the tendons had contracted so much already.  Choices.  Do the best she could manually, splint it and hope the bone knits at all and is straight enough that the leg would be moderately usable.  Good chance it wouldn't work well.  Other option is surgically pinning and plating the bone.  Couldn't be done until late the next afternoon after the scheduled surgeries.  That was a long time for a little lamb to sit alone in a stainless steel cage, and the cost wouldn't be insignificant either.  Either option also included the complication that there may be nerve damage that would cause the foot to knuckle over and not plant properly.  Maybe circulation issues that would cause necrosis in the tissue. And there were the more  immediate thoughts of post op care - bottle feed the lamb, keep it somewhere safe and restrained enough that the leg would heal, but then integrate her back into the flock and hope the leg could stand up to the steady activity a grazing animal in a field would give it.  Suppose she always had a limp that made her lag behind the flock or get pushed around by aggressive members?  Could she carry a heavy load of lambs?

 Midnight is a lousy time to make life and death decisions for your animals, but if euthanasia was the right thing to do, doing it while she was still under sedation was the kinder way to go.  We struggled with this while the minutes ticked by and the lamb slept, free of pain for the first time in 2 hours. In the end, we chose to let her go.  The outcome was too uncertain, her chance of ending up still crippled too great.

Sometimes the best decision you can make for your animals is one that's painful for you but that's a price you pay when you're a shepherd..

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Lambing season started Monday the 21st, which was day 147 from turning in the rams.  Right on schedule.  Since then we have been pretty darn busy, just having had ewe #26 give us a great big single.  Not quite half way though the crowd, and I really don't think the pace will stay this fast, but one year I was done in 18 days (ewes cycle every 17 days during breeding season), so....... it's possible we'll just keep at it hammer and tongs till they are done.

In the meantime, the first lambs born are already being turned into larger mixing pens with their moms and lambs of the same age.

Why yes, I am a handsome fellow, now that you mention it.

Here's one of the many new additions today.

Not looking so suave, akshully.....

Rapidly followed by his sibling.

I know breakfast is here somewhere.........

The second lamb is also white, but birth fluids can range from nearly clear to bright mustard yellow to dark burnt orange.  I've heard that darker fluid relates to stress the lamb had before being born, but really I haven't see a correlation between color and perkiness or the lack thereof.

More than half the ewes are still waiting, passing the time eating, sleeping and thinking deep thoughts.

Wide load.  Har.  You hoomans are sooo droll.

Them Hollywood starlets don't KNOW from "baby bulge".
Try carrying this load, honey.

So what's the procedure when somebody gets born?  After the lambs can get up and totter around without falling over easily, they and mom get moved into their own little pen (lambing jug) to bond and have some quiet resting time for about 2 days.  It's a perfect way for us to monitor both mom and lambs for a couple of days to make sure no one has a post-partum health issue of some kind.  We've streamlined the system to work for us, and keep almost everything we need in the lambing kit, which is actually a tote with a slot in the bottom which is perfect for setting down over the edge of a board..

This includes lamb cradle and scale for weighing, and wide mouth pill bottle with iodine for dipping the umbilical stump, which is done as soon as the family is jugged.  A bottle of BoSe for giving a supplemental selenium (a trace mineral) injection to the lambs within a few hours of birth because we are so deficient in this area.  Clipboard with chart to record all info and make notes for every mom and lamb.  There's always something notable to say about ANYbody.  Elastic bands and bander for docking tails and plastic rototag eartags for giving each lamb an ID number before the family is turned into a larger group.  Miscellaneous needles and syringes, curved forceps, eye ointment, surgical staple gun, antibiotics and other miscellaneous meds "just in case", and usually....... my giant travel mug full of coffee :-)


Sunday, March 20, 2011


We've been pretty busy, and yet we're also waiting.

Are you sure it isn't feeding time yet?

Hazel and some of the other very large ladies are enjoying the sun and waiting for their Big Day. 

This dish?  He is empty.

White Cat is waiting for chow.  Notice he does not look thin or needy, yet he feels he should be eating.  :-/  He is the most recent arrival at the barn, appearing last summer.  We tend to accumulate cats.  We sure don't seek to acquire them, but they come every year.  Sometimes kittens, sometimes adult cats.  Being a farm on a country road is a lightening rod for people (and I use the term loosely) to drop off their unwanted cats.  Usually very nice cats who are probably dumped through no fault of theirs other than wanting, gee, I don't know... some food and care?  Anybody friendly enough to catch is taken to the vet for FIV/FeLV testing, and if they get a passing grade they are vaccinated and neutered and dewormed and treated for ear mites and brought back to lead a very lucky life.  As long as you get along with the other cats, you can have a chance to stay.  Catching a mouse now and then really looks good on the old resume, too.

Sk-i-i-i-i-r-r-t    u-u-u-s-s-ssss....

And here are all 102 ewe fleeces waiting for attention.  Many are the reserved, covered handspinning fleeces.  The rest are Cotswold fleeces, many of which will also go to spinners, but they aren't yet spoken for.  Some are bound for fleece show/sales events.  Some will go for yarn and I *plan* to have Cotswold blankets made this year, too. 

First, though, I have to feed some animals.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shearing, Round Two

Today was another round of shearing.  We had the sheep separated last night and rolled the barn doors closed which was good, since it blew rain a good part of the night.  Once we set up some alleyways, we separated out the ewes to be done today.  While we were working, Holly supervised.

Mom, this is boring.  Can't we do something fun?

Ivan also wondered why we were back in the barn so soon after morning feeding.

You are not scheduled to be here right now.  Explain yourself.

At fifteen, Ivan is senior barn cat and considers it his duty to weigh in on all comings and goings.  We are pretty predictable, so activity that interrupted his post-breakfast, pre-lunch nap needed explanation.  A few bribery kibbles helped smooth his disapproval.

Brian was delayed in getting here and had to leave at a certain time so we were only able to get another 32 done.  It must have been enough - we were tired at the end.

Ginny getting undressed

Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, a butt-load full.  (Sheep can be so rude).

Then for a change of pace, high luster gray Cotswold!

Hattie being shorn.  Super shiny Cotswold.

He'll be back next week to do the unbred geriatric ewes and almost-yearlings who aren't bred, and then back a fourth time to do the rams and wethers and also a neighbor's small flock of Cheviots.  In the meantime, I have 2 web orders to fill and all my lamb supplies to assemble.  This is just the warm-up for "busy"!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shearing Day, Round One

Shearing time!  A whole year of good care rolls off each sheep with every pass of the shearing head. 

Puffy, heavy, coated, hot sheep.


Sleek, cool, comfy, naked sheep.  Zombie eyes are my fault - still learning camera.


Here Andy carries on a conversation while Mr. Magee shears.  The sheep are critiqueing his work, or giving the ewe (Luna, in this case) encouragement.

Everybody's a critic

And there are always surprises when the fleeces come off. 

Kahlua has faded from brick red moorit to an amazing soft sand color.

And Sprinkles has gone from being a black lamb to this gorgeous, shiny silver. 

We did 34 ewes on Friday and will do as many more on Wednesday, maybe a few extra. 

Eat your Wheaties, Mr. Magee!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cleaning House

Or actually, the barn.  Cleaning the house happens...... let's say 'infrequently'.  Cleaning the barn happens on a much more regular schedule.  Cleaning out the winter bedding pack with the skidsteer before lambing is a big job, but one that needs doing and today Andy finished the bigger section of the ewe barn.

Hey, did the floor just get lower?

I also had to get the fleece shelves ready for the new clip. 

Are these not the most magnificent storage shelves ever?  They have a tar paper roof to keep off dust and cobwebs and weird crap that occasionally falls from the gap between the ceiling and the wall.  Andy just added doors and wire mesh to keep out the barn cats.  I learned that time plus the weight of a sleeping cat will felt a bag of raw fleece.  :-/  We will not speak of the identical shelves on the other side of the barn which are full of fleece stash.  I DO have plans for that wool.  Really.

Ready and waiting.

 First round of shearing starts on Friday.  My shearer can handle about  40 ewes in a session and we've just sorted through and pulled out those which have the biggest udders to do first.  By this time tomorrow a lot of the space will be occupied with fresh fleece just waiting to go to the folks who reserved them.

Bug says, "Please, can you do me next?  I'm ready."

Don't worry, she can see.  The curls over her forehead obstruct her eyes from this angle, but her eyes aren't really covered with wool.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In The Beginning.........

Actually, it's pretty hard to decide where the begining is.  Certainly it's the beginning of this blog.  Very First Post.  So you can expect to see this area change a lot as I learn what can be done format-wise, but you can be sure it will almost always be related to the flock, farm, pets, and work associated with all of the above.  But it's not the beginning of our sheep flock, nor is it even the beginning of the calendar year, or the beginning of a cycle since cycles are, well, cyclical and there's no real beginning or end so you'll just have to try to run alongside the merry-go-round and jump on.

The next big task in our year is shearing.  Most of the sheep are shorn once yearly (more later on why some are done more than once) and the shearing needs to happen before lambing.  First potential due date is March 20, so we're waiting for a break in the weather.  We have upwards of 70 ewes that have been bred, so they will be done first and the others (rams, young stock, geriatrics) will be done later, probably in April.

While waiting for the weather to smile on us, I've been working in the Wool Room, skirting, washing and dyeing gray Cotswold to replace the sold-out Blue Jeans roving.  I just love the way different shades of gray become fifty different shades of what you've dyed it.

Skirting and accumulating raw white Cotswold to be sent to Stonehedge Farm and Fiber Mill to be spun into yarn.  I have 93 lbs ready to ship and that will be turned into yarn of a few different weights.   UPS will be operating in the black this week!

It doesn't wind up all the not-gotten-to jobs and plans, but it does make a dent..........