Saturday, July 28, 2012

Need More Room at the Inn

For at least a year we have been contemplating making more housing for the ram lambs up in the Bachelor Barn.  When they are first weaned and moved up there the accomodations are more than adequate but as they put on rapid growth things start to get tight.  During a dry spell last year (not as long in duration as this year) we convinced ourselves that we ought to plan an enlargement *soon* since it was conceivable that we would have to house them inside and feed hay during a drought and there was simply not enough floor space for them to be comfortable especially if we had a 'ram year' and had more bodies.  Because Fate works as it does, this spring we had 35% more lambs than expected AND a drought that began in June and continued right though weaning and beyond.  Nothing like dire necessity to move a task to the top of the priority pile.

Adjacent to the area already built for sheep lies an equally large floor space that was being used for storage, primarily lumber that was stickered there before we were married (22+ years, but who's counting?) and other items that weren't really being used but "might come in handy later".  Farm people never throw anything away which is why the American Pickers are so often digging like honey badgers in old dairy barns, hay barns, tractor sheds and chicken coops.  Seeing the writing on the wall, way back in May Andy started moving the lumber to another building, doing a ruthless triage while handling it and getting an early start on the winter's firewood in the process if you get my drift.  Heifers had been housed in the area once and started trampling the dirt out from under the walls of the building, which is just a pole structure, various woodchucks had also dug burrows under the lumber piles over the years and kicked out more dirt and time had worn some away too so that was going to requre attention.

Once emptied (for the most part), Andy brought in a lot of rock and gravel to fill the sizable gap between floor and wall.

Next he decided how to space out the posts that would form the walls of the pen.  We didn't want the actual building's walls involved with it for a couple of reasons.  One nice feature is that a gap between the buildings wall and the pen will provide a walkway for us to use when feeding there without having to carry hay over the sheep.

Next came the post hole auger on the back of the tractor.  It was a tight and awkward fit (it's a big tractor) so he still had to dig three holes by hand, but it was still a huge savings in time and effort as each hole was two feet deep.

Holly checked each and every hole - a couple of times - because it just seemed like there HAD to be a woodie at the bottom of one of them.  I don't think it crossed her mind that she would not want to meet a woodie capable of making a hole of that magnitude.  Dogs have no sense of proportion.

The next order of business - today's task - was to set the posts.  Each one was anchored by two bags' worth of concrete, mixed in the wheelbarrow and shoveled in to really secure the posts.

We waffled over whether or not to pour a concrete floor.  On one hand, a dirt floor does offer some drainage so the area should stay pretty dry with a decent amount of bedding.  On the other hand, a smooth hard surface is easier to clean with the skidder and will stay level and flat over time.  Andy also didn't want bare dirt under the feeders he's going to build because that's just going to invite rats to tunnel under and set up house.  So, we decided to go for it and we'll be calling the concrete folks on Monday.

Tomorrow we're scheduled to run all the adult ewes over the scale to check eye scores and body condition, deworm anyone that needs it and replace any coats that are getting snug.  I know I've seen a few.  We did the rams a few days ago and they are growing well.  The ewe lambs will be checked in a couple of days when time allows.

Yesterday and today we got a very welcome 1.6 inches of rain without the tornadoes that touched down in Corning and Elmira (less than 50 miles away).  This is super good for the corn which is just starting to tassel, the alfalfa which needs to grow so we can make second cutting, and the pastures which have been a scary pale tan color for several weeks.

Red sky at night....means at least we won't be working tomorrow in the rain.  ;-)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Of Heat, Hay and Hermaphrodites

I can hear you going, "Whaaa.....??"  Yep, you read it right, but more on that later.

We are closing in on the end of first cutting hay.  We have half of a field left to bale which should be about 800 more bales which would push us to 7200.  The oats are maturing fast in the heat so we'll be baling straw soon, possibly before second cutting alfalfa.

The heat has been wicked here for the animals, plants and DH.  I was so comfortable I actually wore shorts to town the other day.  So besides hay, what do we do in mid-summer?  Andy sent three truckloads of ear corn to a fellow in Penn Yan with beef cattle.  It flows pretty well at first but you eventually have to climb into the crib and shovel it.

The fellow doing the trucking climbed on top of the load to make sure the trailer was filling evenly and to pull the travel tarp over it.

We kept back enough corn to keep us safe if the corn we planted totally fails this year.  It sure wouldn't make sense to sell our home grown corn just to buy someone else's later at a higher price.

Holly and I participated in the Bath Humane Society's fundraising dogwalk. It was a circular route through town starting from the site of the new facility.

We walked through some downtown and some residential areas.

And then ended up back at the starting point where they had some pools waiting for the dogs.

Angel was thrilled to take advantage of one and Holly even stood in one for a while to cool her feet.  She's not a water dog.

We recently went though the flock and checked eye scores and weights, separated out the ram lambs and moved them to the Bachelor Barn with the big rams.  This week we have also put the ewes and ewe lambs into drylot, which means they have no access to pasture at all and are instead eating hay.  We've never had to do that before, but the drought has pushed the pasture into dormancy.  Rather than have the sheep wander in the heat looking for grass that isn't there (and damaging the plants in the process) they are eating close to 20 bales a day of that stuff we just baled. Additionally, we put the ewe lambs into the creep area so they could get a grain ration and what a commotion that caused.  For 36 hours all the moms and lambs did was yell at each other.  I know it would be worse than weaning the boys because there was no way to get the little girls out of sight and sound, but it was really awful.  Andy had to go downstairs that night and sleep on the couch because our bedroom windows face the lower barn and the noise was insufferable.  (I pulled a pillow over my head and managed OK, but I can sleep through anything).

And while we were working the flock to separate everyone we came across another 'first' - a hermaphrodite.  We weighed what I had on the charts as a ewe lamb and noted a wet butt so I grabbed the hand shears to trim the wool.  A few lambs had scoured from tapeworms so the dirty behind wasn't overly alarming, but needed cleaning up. Well the butt was wet, but turns out to be just urine. Hmmm... There's a funny bit of tissue sticking out of her vulva so maybe it's a little growth that's deflecting the pee? Well, whatever...we'll trim the wool up so she's not wet. Snip, snip, JUMP.....what did I hit? I'm no where near a teat, let's flip her over. OMG, here's 2 small but obvious testicles!! No sheath on the belly, but those. are. testicles. (one weeping blood a little. sorry. grab the BlueKote). So we stand her up and continue with the other lambs and later catch her peeing, but no squatting or lifting the tail. No wonder her tail dock was wet.  Clearly, the lamb thinks it's male. Maybe the growthy thing is an extension of the urethra like a pizzle on a ram?  (I'll spare you any sheep porno pictures, just take my word for it.)  So that's another 'new' thing this year that we've not seen before. Don't know how common that is in sheep - maybe she's worth a million dollars! 

Dexter says,
I'd give you a million dollars to turn the heat down.  Until then don't bother me.  I'm in my happy place.

Hang in there, Dexter.  It's got to cool off soon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Momcat and Kittens

Kitten season started early this year and pleas from the local humane societies center around the need for funds to care for kittens who have ended up there through one avenue or another.  We have had kittens dropped off here previous years by cowardly or stupid people who figure any property with a barn is a fine place to dispose of their irresponsibility.  We have adopted our share of waifs over the years, but we can't afford any. more. cats. and hold our breath when we hear cars slow down and then speed up in the middle of the night. 

This time some piece of dirt dropped a young momcat and 3 little kittens just past my neighbor's house in the brush past the hedgerow.  Holly actually found the first little furball cowering in the weeds six inches off the pavement while we were walking (this dog has a nose like you wouldn't believe) and long story short my neighbor (and my cousin!) Diane is now caring for a momcat and 3 kittens.

Here's their story -

On June 19 a brown tabby cat and her 3 5-week old female kittens were dropped off on the side of the road.  They were tame, starving and two had infected wounds.  As of 7/11 they have been to the vet twice and are healed and doing fine.  The kittens are now 8 weeks old - healthy, friendly and playful.  THEY NEED HOMES.  If you have room in your heart and can give any of them a forever home please call Diane Galletta at 607-522-5694 (home) or 516-732-3700 (cell).

As everyone knows, there are already too many homeless pets for the shelters to house and so none around here will admit them.  Lollypop Farm is a fine facility doing a fantastic job, but the reality is that if animals come in the front door and the cages are already full, someone else has to be put down to make room so she really, really doesn't want to take them there.   Diane fears that she's already teetering on the edge of being the local Crazy Cat Lady and just cannot keep these kitties (we won't divulge the number of 4-footed residents at her house). 

Please consider adopting any of these sweeties.  Any of them, including the mom who is very loving and gentle with people, would brighten any household.  Let's get these little guys into new homes and help balance out the actions of the piece of crap that dumped them on the side of the road.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

Seriously?  You're making me wear this?  There had BETTER be treats involved later........

Fly the flag, eat potato salad and have a great day!