Thursday, March 29, 2012

Four Lane Highway to Crazytown

You'd think that lambing season would be the most bloggable time of the year, and indeed it IS - but I'm just not getting that done.  Since the 18th we have 102 lambs from 51 ewes.  Nine sets of triplets including a set this morning.  Vast majority twins with maybe 8 singles.  Had to do a few corrections on lambs coming butt-first, broadside or with various legs in the wrong position.  A few ewes needed post-partum meds for feeling crummy, and I'm supplementing about 10 lambs who are from triplets (somebody always gets shoved aside and goes hungry) and a couple whose mom isn't milking on one side so she can't support twins.

For every lambing the procedure is to get mom and lambs into a small pen of their own (we had 18 going at one time), strip milk from both teats on mom to be sure she has some, weigh each lamb and dip the navel with iodine, and make sure they nurse. Lambs receive an injection of BoSe (supplemental selenium) within 24 hours because we are so deficient here.  After 2 days of doing well the lambs are ear tagged and tail banded and mom has her feet trimmed before being released into a mixing pen.  Mixing pens hold 9 to 10 ewes and lambs. 

Chore time is controlled chaos as ever individual pen needs a ration of grain, clean water and hay, the mixing pens need the same, the ewes who haven't lambed yet also get theirs, and the group of yearlings and geriatrics who weren't bred also need feeding.  Throw in the occasional ewe who wants to lamb during feeding time, or the new mom feeling crummy who needs meds, the new lambs who just don't look perky and need to be checked over.........and we are practically living in the barn.

But... we know we're gaining since we only have 20-something ewes left to go.  One year everyone lambed in the space of 18 days, so it *could* happen. 

Back to the barn to see what's happening!

Monday, March 19, 2012

It Bee Spring!

Even though it's still a few hours until the spring equinox (1:14 AM March 20 to be exact), that season seems to have already arrived here.  One clue is the mind-bending 72 degrees on the shady north side of the house. A few days of these temperatures have woken up.....our "tree bees". Yay!  The roving honeybees who set up shop here last fall have survived the winter.

Working so hard the camera can't catch them :-/

 They were out in full force yesterday and coming back with their pollen baskets stuffed full thanks to the pussywillows and choke cherries in bloom, plus all the spring flowers suddenly bursting open.

Glory of the Snow (I think)

First daffodil of the year!
 (bug sold separately, not available on all models, see your dealer for details)

A seriously lost crocus in the middle of the lawn.  ( ?!? )

The boys ventured out to look for any new grass that might be trying to grow.

Ike, Isaac, Ian and Isador

Jared, Tux, Mr. Bill and Rocky

But of course the best signal that spring has come is the arrival of lambs!  I started doing 2 AM barn checks a few nights ago just to be safe and Sunday's 2 AM trip revealed a pair of twins from Gem, already up and tottering around, and triplets from Ilsa.  They were born on day 146 of gestation, so technically 2 days early, but of course these things can vary a bit and still be within normal.

"This is me on the first day of school with my really cool lunch box!"

"That's my sister.  She thinks she's so cool just because she has a white mark."

"My dopey brother thinks he's sooo big, but I have a bucket so I win."

Ilsa's triplets getting up for a snack 

Nah, I just faked them out so I could sit back down in the warm spot

Bacardi is a first time mom and very abley had a nice set of twins just before evening chore time. 

Yeah, they're mine.  <smile>

The mom is a moorit but her fleece has faded tremendously to this fun sand color - changed naturally from the inside out that is, not faded from sun or environment.  One of her genes apparently controls fading, and just as some black sheep will fade to gray so too do some moorits fade to a taupe color. However, the hair on her face and legs has not changed, only the wool.  Ain't genetics fun?  Speaking of genetics, here's an interesting factoid.  Look at the ewe's eye in the picture below.

Red "white-bunny-eye" reflection

We've all seen animals' eyes reflect greenish yellow at night.  That's due to the tapetum lucidum  reflecting light.  Sheep eyes reflect that greenish color unless they are moorit or carrying the moorit gene, then they will reflect pink when viewed at a certain angle.  This is not only a fascinating story for the many cocktail parties we all doubtless attend, but even more importantly useful when deciding whether to keep a black lamb who may or may not be carrying the moorit gene.  Pink eye shine - yes; green eye shine - no.  (The upper picture of her shows green eyes, but it's more a function of the camera flash than a contradiction of what I just said.  Trust me.)

"Oh, for crying out loud - is she going on again about the eye thing?"

"Hey, for some of us who are going to have black babies, it matters!"

Judging from the wide loads walking around there will be lots of babies to test it on.

"Watch it with the 'wide' comments!"

Stay tuned for a daily dose of lambie cuteness.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Boys

Tuesday we finished shearing the flock.  The last group to be done were some older unbred ewes,  a few ewe lambs we retained from last year and The Boys - rams and wethers. 

The girls took it with good graces for the most part.  Daffodil is 10 this year and quickly resigned herself to the inevitable.  Although getting older she still puts out a nice fleece.

Ugh.  Just hurry up.

The boys were a different story.   The Cotswolds especially were bad, bad, bad, bad boys.  (Apologies to Miami Sound Machine).  There are no pictures of the guys getting shorn.   Rams never want to feel like they are vulnerable so they fight like crazy to get their feet back under themselves.  Fiddling around with a camera was out of the question as all hands were needed to pin them down.  They are just so large that it's impossible to hold them between your knees and bend over them to reach toward their butts on the floor.  As soon as they sensed that your grip was less than 100% they were squirming and flopping like fish on dry land.    Brian was able to get their bellies shorn clean, do heads and open up the neck and then we had to lay them down to shear one side then roll them totally over on their backs to the other side and shear that side.  Meanwhile one of us held their heads down and the other one kept hind legs from flailing and doing the shearer any damage.  We finally got everyone done with no blood letting or major bruises but we didn't break any speed records doing it.  Later we gave the rams their vaccinations too, so spring flock maintenance is done....except for hoof trimming.  And replacing a couple of lost ear tags.  And washing coats of course, and putting them back on the sheep not going to have lambs. 

But I'm going to say I'm done, for at least 24 hours.  Wow, that feels good!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Then and Now

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was snowy, windy and a high in the mid-20s.  It was so pleasant to work in the wool shop skirting fleece for an order.  The scent of paperwhites certainly conflicted with the view.

One of the barn kitties left perfect little footprints in the snow outside the door.

I often wonder how it is that their bare pads don't freeze when they are out in this weather - and worse! 

Today dawned clear and we enjoyed sun without one cloud all day long.  Temps also got up into the upper 50s which was wonderful from my perspective.  Coincidentally, last night we 'sprang ahead' to effect Daylight Savings Time, so the "extra hour of sun" must have warmed us up.  Ha Ha.  That inane quote is courtesy of our doltish weatherman on TV who earnestly told us  "Now we have an extra hour of sunlight!"  Uhh, nooo...... we have as many hours as we did yesterday, we're just getting up an hour earlier to use more of it.  Twit.

Angel came over for a play date with Holly, which was a good excuse to come outside and sit in the sun. 

By the time they got done horsing around they were pretty warm, so they scaled back the action to 'I'll bite your leg and you bite mine'.

It's always fun to watch them play, but it was especially cheering after this morning.  Unfortunately, Wabbit aborted a set of triplets early today.  One lamb appeared to have died and nature told her to dump it, which sadly took the other two out also.  They were not developed enough to be viable, but far enough along to have it be a sad event.  She seems fine and should be able to carry lambs in the future.  Also, her udder wasn't very full and should regress with no issues.  Maybe that will be our bit of bad luck for this season and the rest of lambing will go fine.

Tomorrow it's back to the skirting table..... but with a little time out to enjoy the sun.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In Which There is Rampant Nudity!

Sheep nudity, that is.  Today we had another session of sheep shearing. 

Gooseberry, looking rather startled at recent developments...

...and being separated from her fleece.

Wabbit says, "He calls himself a professional, but look at this dorky hair!"

Peaches has faded to a wonderful shiny silver.

Copper has faded in an interesting mottled fashion.

The difference in fleece types is pretty wide here.  We have the finer wools, like Sunny.  Under her coat her fleece naturally separates into blocky, upright sections of wool.  There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason as to how the wool separates.  Some blocks are big, some are little.  But if you look closely you'll see that the bigger sections have creases where they could easily separate into smaller blocks. The smaller pieces - maybe the thickness of your finger - would be considered a lock.  Imagine how chaff and crap would creep down in between the locks and make the wool trashy without the benefit of a coat.

Sunny, coat off.

Sunny, also with some interesting mottling, having that fleece peeled off.

Compare that to Alexandria the Cotswold.  Cotswolds have coarse wool.   I hate that term which makes it sound like the fiber feels scratchy and nasty but it really just means that each fiber is fatter in diameter than most other breeds.  Cotswold wool fibers usually measure 30 to 40 microns in diameter.  Fine Merino is about 18 to 20 microns.  A red blood cell measures 8 microns.  So saying Cotswold is 'coarse' is all relative.  Anyway, her wool divides itself into very distinct locks.  While a little chaff sticks in it, the lock structure is such that a good shake makes most stuff fly off.  (Having good hay feeders helps too!) 

Alexandria's locks - an "open" fleece, and naturally curly.

Here's a good list of sheep breeds and their micron counts, and here's a discussion of why you should care.

More naked sheep Thursday!  Stay tuned!

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Winter Out There

But inside it's a tropical resort.

Um, you're not going to try to come out here, are you?  I don't think there's room for your........mass.

Nope, Monday morning if for working.  Only the PETS get to relax in the sun.  Sigh.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Noteworthy Day

Besides being my Aunt Edith's 91st birthday, today is also momentous in two other ways.  First, it's the One Year Blogiversary of KDIS.  I haven't been as diligent as I had planned to be, but we have chronicled quite a bit of life here on the farm and now that I have a year of practice under my belt I'm hoping the frequency (and maybe content) will improve.

So, to start off well in that intent......... I bring you some of the participants in the first round of shearing, 2012!

Ooh, I hate this undignified

Seriously?!  You're taking pictures of me like this??

Gem and her nice gray fleece

Ashes and her amazingly faded silver fleece - was black last year

Whiskey, and her faded (and sunbleached on the tips) moorit fleece

Due to a delay this morning, we were only able to get through 31 ewes this time.  Yesterday we had gone through all the ewes and "felt them up" to see who had the most advanced udders.  We pulled out 50 who will probably lamb in the first 2 weeks of the lambing season.  He'll be back on Tuesday and we'll hope to get through the rest of today's lot plus as many of the less developed ewes as he can manage.  That will leave a third round of late bred ewes, unbred geriatrics and ewe lambs (now yearlings getting their first shearing), rams and wethers.  It would be great to have eveyone done before lambing starts (March 20!) but last year we - and he - couldn't make it work for the rams until into May.

Holly waited patiently in the barn all afternoon, checking in occasionally to see if we were ready to do something more fun.

Mommmm?  When are you going to be done? I'm boooored.

Good dog, Holly.  We'll do something more to your liking tomorrow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How to Keep Your Mouse Hooks Sharp

OAK moulding around a door in the barn.
Left side of door

Right side of door

Moulding around a door frame can be replaced easily enough.   But.....

Corner post of hay feeder

Notice the depth to which the post has been clawed away.  Apparently only knots and nails slow these cats up.  Do NOT be messin' with our cats!