The current thinking is that we're going to pay later in an ugly way for the unseasonably warm weather this month, but nobody can take back the two months of non-winter that we (at least ME) have been enjoying in this area. Tough on snow plow businesses and ski resorts but there's no snow or ice underfoot and the water lines in the barn don't freeze and we have the bedroom windows cracked open and coats are pretty much optional during chores so I'm not looking at this gift horse too closely.
Christmas presents have mostly been sent (still working a bit on one) including one Finished Object from the knitting needles: a scarf of natural colored angora from handspun yarn that was some of my first, so it's been marinating in the stash for literally 20+ years. It's for my 91 years young godmother and while she hasn't had need of it yet this year I'm sure it will get cold enough to be useful.
It's based pretty much on the Seafoam Scarf which was the popular knit a couple of years ago. Typical of me to ride the backside of any knitting trend. I'm pretty sure I have a thorough knowledge of yarn overs now. ;-)
The sheep seem to be enjoying the weather too. They aren't too warm even in a heavy fleece and standing in the yard while we fill hay feeders inside must be pleasant or they'd migrate into the feed bunk in the shade.
Minnie in front, Macaroon behind and Salsa to the right looking this way.
Minnie and Fuzz - "Take your time...it's nice out here."
And the nicest Christmas present is Peanut's progress. We can't say 'Christmas Miracle' because it took a solid six weeks of medical attention and bandages but the deeper wound on her leg has finally closed. Nice pink skin and no discernible lameness.
We're leaving the bandage off but will keep her penned for a while yet until the skin toughens up and reaches a sturdy, normal thickness that can withstand the inevitable bumps and scuffs from other sheep at the hay feeders.
"I is healed!"
"And I wants to go over THERE!"
Hang on Peanut, the new year is coming and I think your sentence will be up!
These short days really kick my butt. All I want to do is eat and sleep. My energy is at a low ebb just when I need to be doing Christmas things - decorating, cooking, making/buying/sending presents.... normally I'm a night person but as soon as it starts to get dark (that would be freakin' 4:30 in the afternoon) I start hoping it's close enough to bed time to go there. Uh, no. I know once the days start getting longer I'll feel more motivated. So I will blame my recent lack of blog attention on the tilt of the earth and an attitude that makes a sloth look like a Type A personality by comparison.
Even so, we have been doing things, so let's get caught up.
We went to the woods several more times and Andy brought home enough wood to last both boilers through the winter. He still needs to run the giant pile of pole wood over the buzz saw and the big blocks through the splitter but at least it's all right here handy. This big ash is in the process of dying but we'll leave it alone because it's got lots of character and because it would be super dangerous to mess with!
The sheep have had a pleasant time without breeding groups and rams disrupting their routine and surroundings. Even though we have good, quiet rams the whole flock is generally more restless when they are in the barn. Just more motion and low-key disruption in the vibes.
There's a lot of sitting around......
Which gives way to outright sleeping in the middle of the floor.
Most of the sheep are wearing coats now since we're feeding all hay. I intend to try coating some of the Cotswolds this winter. Their curls are just so pretty and awesome and while our feeders are a very good design they still get a little bit of fine trash down the back. I'll keep an eagle eye out for any felting under the jackets. We are utilizing the feeder out in the bunk which was built for a breeding group one year. It's working very well to alleviate crowding at the indoor feeders. We're calling it The Picnic Table.
I finally joined the rest of the world and got the farm on Facebook. Oh. my. gosh. Sooo many icons, buttons, settings, notifications..... still fumbling my way around. I'd love it if you'd Like our page. I need to get a snappy link to it on the blog sidebar here.... add that to the list.....mumble, mumble. I do like the immediacy of it and that you can just post a quick little thought or news item.
The Christmas On The Farm craft/fiber show I attend in Phelps in early December was a good day's outing with a nice crowd. I got a little Christmas shopping done too!
The following weekend was our spinning guild's December meeting in which we do an anonymous gift exchange (if you want to - it's not mandatory) of nice, ready-to-spin fiber. One selects a gift from the pile based on which wrapping appeals to you. Wouldn't you know, I was the first name picked! And pulled this from the pile.
I was loving that needle felted chickadee on top but alas I didn't get to keep it. 'Stealing' is an option instead of picking from the pile on the table and this box had about 10 owners before we were done. It was all good though - this pretty package came home with me and......
.....held this: Into The Whirled blueface leicester roving in a colorway called Vegetable Medley. Can't wait to spin it! I already have someone's Christmas gift for next year in my mind.
Also at guild I showed off Andy's newest product - blending boards. Here's a good video on how to use them. These are fiber processing tools intermediate in size and capacity between hand cards and drum carders. They are great for combining smallish lots of fiber which you can then spin or felt and are particularly useful for seeing how different fibers or colors will work together.
Here's a sample I did in a few minutes using two different colors of Cotswold wool, some dyed silk and a little firestar fiber for extra shine.
When done, I pulled the fiber into thin roving and chained it lightly so it would hold its shape until I could spin it. Soon as I get a couple of minutes.....
The boards were well received and both sold there that day. He's ordered more of the blending cloth and will be making more in time for Roc Day in Ithaca on January 9 where I'll have a booth. Once he's made more I'll take 'real' pictures and get them listed on the website.
We've started the 'big barn clean out' in the lower barn. Andy got the east side done in a (long) day. The sheep were a little crowded being all in the west side but it was only for a day.
I'm sorry to note that we lost Lucky last week. He had been losing weight for some time despite all the extra measures one does for an older animal and we couldn't find a reason. We knew we'd probably have to have him put down "at some point" before we got into deep cold winter but he sustained an injury that was going to be too hard to overcome so we had the vet out and he went gently from this world. He was a well-behaved boy who came when called and we miss him.
In better news, Peanut continues to improve! I finally dare speak positively about progress. She's still penned and wears a light bandage but the wound on the outer surface of her leg has healed over and the bigger, deeper one on the inner surface is coming along very well. There's still a raw wound but it's closing at a good pace and she has no lameness at all. Whew!
Dexter and Popeye say
"You humans work too hard. You should learn the value of a properly performed nap."
The two weeks are over and Peanut is out of her splint.
She's so happy to be able to lay down by herself. It was a rather miserable time for her in that contrary to popular opinion she did NOT learn how to lay down with the splint on. Long story short, every night at bedcheck Andy would pick her up and we'd settle her down with three legs folded normally and the splinted leg straight out forward. By the end of the two weeks she was getting pretty footsore from standing so much. Some mornings she was up on her feet, most mornings Andy helped her stand.
The injury seems to be behaving itself. The bare skin is dry and leathery (dead on top) but nothing beneath it is showing any sign of infection. There is some swelling in the joint, which is stiff but at least in the right position for walking, and I have a light bandage on it to keep it clean and give a little support. Seeing some swelling and heat there isn't too surprising since I expect the tissues underneath are trying to come to terms with how to make repairs and reroute circulation. The hoof does not feel excessively hot and she can flex her toes and bear weight pretty well on it after she's been up and moving around for a few minutes.
We are far from out of the woods on this but so far it does not seem to be deteriorating. That's as optimistic as I'm going to be out loud.
Everything looks better when you can at least sit down and take a load off.
The day started out with reds and oranges that were too brief. I could have enjoyed that show of color all day. It also started out cold - only 20 degrees when Andy went out with Holly for morning walkies. This ice is from the ram's outdoor water tub. Yikes!
Saturday started shotgun season around here for deer so the sheep are now officially off pasture and in for the winter. Alexandria, being toothless except for some molars, gets grain and alfalfa pellets and while everyone else was getting after the morning hay she came and stood in the sunny doorway. It was as pleasant a place as one could be considering the temperature.
After we cleaned up the concrete yard as we do every day, she and a few other sheep came out to watch Andy roll the wheelbarrow back to the barn. Big doings, if you're a sheep.
Alexandria, George and Stuart Little
"I wish he'd leave that out here. It looks fun to play with."
Actually, they were mostly hovering around the yard hoping we'd open the big gate to the pasture. They don't know yet that those days are over for the year.
Peanut is hanging in there.
Her appetite is good, attitude is bright, and pain is manageable. Her mobility is adequate for getting around her little pen - hay corner, water corner, sleeping corner, the corner with the best view of the other sheep.
"I'm doing pretty good. Counting the days till I get out. I wish mom would stop jabbing me in the butt every day. But I get special hay so I guess it's OK. Thank you, bloggy people, for all your good thoughts. I think they are helping."
We try to think of hazards in the pastures and barn and make changes to remove them, we really do. No nails sticking out, no gaps that heads or legs can get stuck in, no splintered boards, no baler twine left hanging, buckets tied in place, nightlight on to avoid spooking, feeders permanently secured to the walls..... we've done everything we can think of short of bubblewrapping the posts. The routine 11 PM bedcheck on Monday showed everyone quiet and happy, munching hay in the feeders. When Andy did the AM check before 6:00 on Tuesday he found Peanut down on her side with both front legs caught under a latched door. Between the sill and door, her legs were being pinned as if in the jaws of giant scissors. We *think* another bigger sheep had tried to push in where she was at the hay manger and when she turned to move out her weight (plus the other sheep's) pushed the bottom of the door out just enough for her feet to slip down, over the sill and into the crack. Caught in a vise with two unyielding edges and unrelenting pressure from the hinges and latch trying to pull the door back where it belonged.
I don't know how long she was trapped there (which makes me sick thinking about) and we won't know the full extent of the damage for several more days. We started her on penicillin and banamine (essentially liquid aspirin) right away and she acted surprisingly sound Tuesday and Wednesday. There was a cut above her fetlock which hadn't really bled much and we could see bruising under the skin but she was walking and had a good attitude. We hoped she had only been caught for a short while and wasn't hurt too seriously beyond surface bruising and scuffs.
This AM she was very lame with some swelling and obvious pain in the left front leg which bore the brunt of the most pressure from the door. Geez. Time to call the vet to see what was going on or what had changed.
Long story made a little shorter, our treatment thus far had been appropriate, there didn't seem to be a break in the bone and increased pain at this point after a crush injury was to be expected. The one alarming thing is a spot about the size of a quarter just above her fetlock that may become necrotic from circulation having been cut off. If it stays shallow and she loses a few layers of skin we can manage. If the damage goes deeper and exposes bone or joint..... we won't think too hard about that right now.
We tipped her up into our sheep chair (so useful - if you have small ruminants you should try to acquire one)....
....and our excellent vet from Eastview Veterinary Clinic first cleaned and dressed the injuries and then put a bandage and splint on her leg. We'll continue with meds and keep the splint on for two weeks. The extra support does seem to give her a measure of relief but she's going to have to learn how to get up and down with the leg held out straight since the splint keeps her knee from bending.
Poor Peanut. We're hopeful but also mindful that we don't really know what tissue damage might lie beneath. As long as her appetite stays good and she doesn't spike a fever we'll just go day by day and chalk each one into the win column till the splint comes off.
If you happen to have any stray healing thoughts lying around I think Peanut would really appreciate a donation.
For the first time since.... let's see.... about 1987 we aren't going to breed any ewes this year. We certainly aren't giving up sheep (we have coughcoughmorethanevercough) but we decided to declare a moratorium on creating any more, at least for a year. There are several reasons, none dire, but we both need a break to catch up on things. I need to make a dent in this mountain of accumulated wool. Andy needs to put a new roof on a chunk of the house, make repairs (or just finish started projects) in house and barn, we still have 2 standing silos that we'd like taken down (they have to be cleaned out first) and breeding season, lambing season and growing the youngsters eats up a lot of time and mental energy. Further, I always seem to keep back several more lambs than I intend because they're friendly or just what I want fiber-wise or bottle babies or been nursed back to health or good quality for breeding stock or whatever. Add to that the fact that it's getting harder emotionally each year to send loads of lambs to slaughter. Andy pointed out that if lambs from this spring stay in the flock and live their usual double-digit lifespans he'll be into his 70s by the time they go to greener pastures and I think he'd like to not be putting up hay and handling big animals by that time. We aren't selling any of the rams so we can always rethink things by next year when we've hopefully gotten caught up on at least the big jobs.
The rams are acting rammy with each other but not making a big fuss. There's a little more pushing and shoving and growling at each other but very little head butting. They already have a pecking order and there are no ewes anywhere near them to get thoughts stirred up. This morning they were all standing in the sun (sun! yay!) waiting for us to let them into the larger pasture.
Nigel is one of our home bred Cotswolds. He carries color and can throw colored lambs when mated to colored ewes.
I still haven't replaced that dratted ear tag but he's not going anywhere.......
Neville is our other home bred Cotswold but he has all white genetics in his background. His fleece also has smaller curls. He's super sweet tempered, politely standing next to you until you rub his back and tell him he's a good sheep.
One of my half-British boys from our AI venture several years ago. I like his square back and rump. His fleece is very lustrous but lacking in curl, having loose waves instead. I've been working to get both that shine plus improved curls. That's one of the most intriguing things about having your own flock (or herd of anything) - trying each year to get the right blend of his traits plus her traits to produce offspring better than either parent.
Here is Titan, left, and BB (aka Mr. B) on the right. Titan is a colored Cotswold from Break Loose Farm. He's not as friendly as my homegrown boys but he's certainly not aggressive. (Middle guy is another half-Brit of ours. Small locks and quite white but not so much luster.)
Wee Little Guy, who was a very sad orphaned lamb who is now a big love bug.
Castillo, also sweet and with really cool hair. ;-)
The ewes seem rather put out that there are no manly men around. Mickey, a wether about 3 years old, will talk dirty to them but there isn't much action involved. The good part of our 'un'-breeding season is that the whole flock can still go out to pasture. Granted, there isn't much grass left but at least they can get out of the barn and sit in the fields and get some fresh air. We fill the hay feeders every night and by morning most of it is gone so they're getting plenty either way.
It was so warm (to them) that they all came in off pasture at midday to have a drink and stand in the shade. They saw me in the barn and came storming in, probably thinking I was going to open a side gate and let them into another pasture. Three days in a tired pasture creates boredom apparently.
"Hey, what's everybody looking at??"
Soon we'll have to really bring them off pasture for good. Coats will go on and hay will be the only item on the menu. I love seeing them right now before they get hay trash on their faces and covered up by the coats.
Lots of Cotswold curls.
And not Cotswold.
And lots of sheep with character.
Ashes and Tuxedo
Yup, everyone has a name. Maybe with more time next spring I'll be able to post everyone's baa-ography.