Sunday, March 30, 2014

One Week In

Lambing started last Sunday evening and here it is Saturday night already.  Wow, that week was a blur.  Lamb count currently stands at 35 from 18 ewes.  Two pairs of twins this morning, a single and a set of triplets in the afternoon and another pair of twins at chore time.

Brand spanking new twins from Ginny
"Mom, what are they doing out there?"

Chloe was keeping us all company
Fiesta's triplets love to sleep in a pile.
Bacardi had a pair of twins
Good old Gem had a great big 17 lb single ram lamb.   She loooooves her baby.
This lamb has a bit of a problem which I hope I can correct - contracted tendons in the ankles of his front legs.  I've seen this before although very infrequently and it's been in big ram lambs.  Maybe it's due to not having enough room in there to stretch out more.  Anyway, he can't plant his feet sole-down as he should.  This is as extended as his hooves will go - not even a straight line down from his cannon bone. 

The result is that he walks on the front of his ankles, not his hoof.  It would certainly spell doom before long if this were a National Geographic special.

It doesn't seem painful at this point and hasn't stopped him from nursing but he wouldn't be able to function like that for long.  He's a lovely big lamb with black and white marbling in his fleece so I hope to be able to fix him.

So, we'll attempt to splint his ankles with support behind his fetlocks so that his ankles can't fold.  His weight on the joints as he gets around should stretch those tendons gently with every step.  I'll change the apparatus every day as (hopefully) progress is made and the soles start to impact the ground.  The good part about being this young and flexible is that there's hope the condition can be corrected.

Each brace is a thin piece of wood about the thickness and width of a ruler.  These are 5 inches long - cut to fit the back of his front legs so that he can bend his knees without interference but the ankle is kept from folding.  It's well padded with a heavy duty paper towel folded around it and a roll of paper to fit the notch behind his ankle.  Super low cost, but functional.

With the brace taped in place his toes will just touch the ground when he stands, thereby putting a bit of weight on the joint to stretch it in the direction it's supposed to go.

They look clunky but they are light weight and easily replaced if they get wet and dirty.  Not too likely as he'll be penned with mom till improvement happens, but they'll need adjustment every day anyway.  I would have preferred to use vet wrap to secure them but I didn't have any close at hand. 

He has to hold his front legs forward which is awkward, but the ankles are staying un-flexed.  He's penned where nobody can hurt or harass him the next few days while gravity helps him do his PT.

The oldest lambs have started going into mixing pens.  They start playing and hopping around instantly when given more room.  These little ones were trying to climb on this ewe but kept sliding off.

I sure wish I could harness that energy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Just Like Clockwork

Mother Nature doesn't deviate from the norm too often.  Lambing season began Sunday night at chore time with a pair of twins from Merry, a first time Cotswold mom.  She was a few hours shy of 148 days.  The lambs were perky and she was very engaged with them so we were off to a good start.

As it stands right now we've had 7 ewes lamb giving us 1 single, 4 pairs of twins and 2 sets of triplets. The triplets and 1 set of twins came this morning between 12:30 AM and 3 AM.  That part wasn't too much fun and just to make it more trying the temperature in the barn hovered around 20 degrees.  Better than the STUPID 10 DEGREES outside.  Hard to get born and face a drop of 80 degrees from what you're used to.  Lots of towels and a brief trip to the house for 1 lamb to get warmed up and we're pretty much on track at the moment.

One of Luellen's boys.

His brother, from between mom's front legs.

One of Kelsey's girls.

Sweetie's triplets.

Some family R and R.

Honestly, he's cute.  This makes him look like a demon lamb from the Exorcist or something :-(

One of Fiesta's triplets, resting up.

Having a turn at the buffet table.

"Mmm, that was good!"

Lambey cuteness.

Luellen's second boy, learning that he can make lots of noise!

"Didja hear me?  I was yelling!!"

Tahiti and her boys.

Some of the girls waiting their turn.

Let's hope they like daylight instead of the wee hours.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Get Ready, Get Set..........

Today is day 145 since the rams were put with the ewes.  Sheep gestation is normally considered to be 148 days so we're getting close.  I start going to the barn at 2 AM about now just to check.  I had a baby monitor/intercom type pair of units that worked great for years...until they suddenly didn't work any more.  The new set I got promised great things but failed to give me clear audio of the barn.  Probably too much interference on the wires and so I've resorted to middle-of-the-night forays. 

We've done the usual pre-lambing activities:

- Clean out the barn and bed with fresh bedding.  All those uneaten haystems we scooped out of feeders for weeks during the winter are pressed back into service as bedding.

- Start adding Deccox to the mineral mix to reduce the quantity of coccidia the ewes are putting into the environment.  The lambs will also be eating that directly as soon as they start tasting the minerals.

- Order baby lamb ear tags.  This year we're going with little brass ones that clip into the ear and leave no open edges.  This also necessitated a new tag applicator.  These things are never interchangeable.  The plastic roto-tags we've been using are getting pulled out too often when the open end gets caught on fence or feeder wire.  Besides having to use process of elimination to figure out what that lamb's number used to be I hate seeing mutilated ears.  The downside is that these tags are really little and you have to be holding the lamb to read them.  We'll see how that goes.

- Order more rubber teats for the bucket feeder.  Bottle lambs are inevitable.

- Order milk replacer.  That's arrived at the Mennonite business that can get it for us but we have yet to go pick it up.

- Clean out all the lambing jugs.  These little pens where mom and babies bond for a few days tend to be a catchall for things that have no regular place.  A big junk drawer in a way.  Shovels, pitchforks, pickaxe, wheelbarrow, sheep chair, a couple of odd boards, empty feed bags, feed bags full of used baler twine...... all get moved to another location and the pens cleaned of bits of hay, cobwebs, the stray burdock or curly dock that got pulled out of a hay bale and tossed in there....

- Locate the extension cords for the flourescent lights over the pens and check to make sure all are working.

- Check the supply of BoSe, needles and syringes, iodine, tail docking bands and print new pages for recording ewe/lamb info. 

- Put the baby bumpers on the big water tubs.  In the event that somebody sneaks a lamb out while I'm not looking I won't have to face the tragedy of a baby staggering around and falling into a water tub with hideous results.

The girls are doing their part - eating and resting and eating some more. 

Getting wider.

Talk about your "baby bump."
And Clem is helping them hone those mommy nuzzling skills.
We should have a betting pool on who will go first.  Way more fun than basketball brackets.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Goin' to the Store

It's taken a while to get myself coordinated but I've finally been able to put a lot of our wares into my cousin Carolyn's new shop - The Fiber and Art Emporium.  She just opened around Valentine's day and is still working on a website.  Actually getting the store stocked with local artists' wares and setting up the day to day operation of the business had to take precedence.  Having a brick and mortar storefront for our goods to be seen was really helpful when she and I shared a nook in the former Lake Country Patchwork quilt store and I'm glad to still be able to have things for sale in Hammondsport

Andy built new shop counters for her.

I have a great space between two tall windows.  The high ceilings and track lighting sure work to everyone's advantage.

I've put in roving, yarn, sheets of felt, silk sliver and hankies, shawl sticks and some other small things.  I still need to put in the drop spindle kits I make (I was out of baskets and Andy needs to make me some more drop spindles) and of course more roving and spinning batts - as soon as I get those made. Andy has a standing order with Carolyn for rug hooking frames and he'd really like to get a skein winder in there too.  I need to fill those shelves!

 The store currently features the creations of over 30 local artists and also includes a lot of rug hooking goods that Carolyn and I created together, particularly dyed fabric.  Other sellers have made great displays of finished knitted, woven and felted goods, knitting notion bags, excellent quality large totes/purses, painted furniture and wall art, and a large selection of Old Friend Footwear.  She has a roster of classes lined up and is always seeking more teachers of all things "arty".

With Carolyn's awesome people skills and the range of goods available I'm expecting the shop to become a real "destination" for fiber folk and anyone seeking a fun shopping experience.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The View From Inside

The winter storm they predicted arrived pretty early today, starting with the power going out at about 2:15 AM.  That Andy crawled out of bed and got the generator going.  With the house having a wood fired boiler in the basement, leaving the power off isn't an option - we need electricity to run the circulating pumps to keep the hot water moving and avoid a cold house and a too-hot boiler! 

After daybreak the weather deteriorated from rain to snow pretty quickly.

It was a wet snow that clung to vertical surfaces, even windows.  My stained glass suncatcher lamb looked like she was lost in a blizzard.

The sheep in the barn are all happy as can be.  They are eating nice alfalfa, not huffing and puffing from full fleece and have nice clean bedding.  We finished cleaning the last section of pens yesterday.  Spreading the dirty bedding will have to happen later (a "soon" later) as there wasn't time to take load after load out and still get the area cleaned in a day.  The litter from the barn is stashed in the feed bunk for now.  We cleaned the ram barn a couple of weeks ago and had no place but the great outdoors to put it.  We've jokingly named the pile Mt. Crap-sta.  Anyway, the ewes are happy and just waiting for the lambs to start arriving.  First due date is the 23rd.
Kelsey, left, and I think Ginny on the right.
Moorits Ginger, Copper and Tiffany
Gem.  This will be her last year as a mom.  Then she can retire!
A group shot of expectant moms.  They aren't really this crowded.  It's an odd illusion and the perspective of distance is whacked.
How many lambs are YOU carrying??
"I'll be a mom for the first time.  Just one would be fine with me."
We're so happy we've provided a secure barn for the sheep.  Tonight, viewed from just inside the back door, it looks like this:
It's a little hard to see just how thick the air is with blowing snow until the end when you can make out the fenceline. Crappy weather but not lambing yet.  I'll take it.  Good news all depends on your view.  Maybe it would look even better upside down!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shearing - Round Two

We had scheduled last Tuesday for shearing the rest of the bred ewes but with it predicted to be -5 that morning we opted to wait.  Today was better - above 20 in the barn with the doors closed - and we got the remaining 33 ewes done in about four and a half hours.  The rest of the flock - unbred ewes, rams and wethers, 2013 lambs I am keeping - will hopefully get done in early to mid April when it should be warmer.

I have been...handled.... ugh.

We brought the girls into the shearing area in two batches so they wouldn't be crushed too tightly.  They manage to pack themselves in tighter than they need to be anyway.  The ones in the back are always the more flighty ones - they put plenty of other bodies between themselves and The Bad Stuff.

I'm not flighty - I'm a Cotswold!
Star, with her white splotches........
One of the moorits - faded on the outside from the sun but light brown underneath...........
Everyone was happy to be done and released to go back to their groups.  A couple of ewes who had been shorn in the first group had been cold in the days following so we put coats on them (like Mercy in the foreground) and they were much happier.  Just a single layer of canvas material holds enough heat near their skin that it made all the difference.

All the fleeces fit on the shelves and that's saying something considering what a backlog abundance of wool I still have there.  I have plans for it.....just need the time  :-/   The rest of the flock will be scheduled in early April.  Let's see how many of these fleeces I'll have moved out by then.
So shearing went well but it's still winter.  Andy didn't get as much firewood accumulated last fall in the basement or near the outside boiler as he wanted because of the building project he had to complete.  The last few weeks he's been cutting firewood on an 'as needed' basis from the buzz pile or grabbing a few small trees from the edge of the woods.  Those are trees that were damaged or growing poorly and were destined for firewood anyway but he'd have preferred to let them season as firewood chunks before burning them.  Oh well.  Today he didn't have much time after the shearer left so he pulled a log from the pile out front.  Those are going to be milled to surveyor grade stakes or other utilitarian purposes but some of them are a bit knotty or curved for even that use.  Firewood it is.
Hook a chain to one end.......
Pull it from the pile with the tractor......
And then carry it up to the boiler to be tonight's heat.
Slogging through winter, one day at a time.