Monday, November 23, 2015

Good Morning!

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."

And we thank you all too!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Third Screwy Thing This Year

Number One was Kenya's uterine torsion during lambing.  Number Two was Alexandria getting stuck in a hole.  Number Three involves poor Peanut.

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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The "Un"-Breeding Season

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.



Daisy (chewing)

Ashes and Tuxedo












Yup, everyone has a name.  Maybe with more time next spring I'll be able to post everyone's baa-ography.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Back to the Woods

Sunny, dry and about 50 degrees.  A perfect day to cut more firewood.  Of course, if it were truly perfect we'd be cutting wood for next year and what we needed for this winter would already be stacked and waiting but that's pretty much crazy talk so we'll just be glad it was a nice day.  For a blog about sheep and wool I seem to talk a lot about cutting firewood but it makes the very short list of essential jobs we do to keep ourselves comfortable.  Wood heats our large house and two workshops.  Paying for fuel oil to do the job would bankrupt us.

The sky was really pretty with unusual clouds and a ton of jet trails that didn't seem to want to disappear.

This time Andy headed for the woods next to the now-empty corn field.  Trees are always trying to claim open ground and the edge of the forest really needs to be clear-cut back a good fifty feet but for now we'll just cherry pick the meaty trees that will add up fast.  Unfortunately a lot of them are dead or dying - partly wet ground, partly ash decline, partly crowded conditions - and so getting them to fall properly was dicey work.   After an initial walk around while he scouted out which trees to cut I hooked Holly's leash to the butt of a log already out in the field where she'd be out of harm's way no matter what went wrong.

 "I can't believe you tied me up here like I was a bad dog."

"I will lay here in the sun with my back to you and shun you and plot my revenge.....zzzzz."

The trees really fought him all morning.  Standing so close together they interfered with each other and often wouldn't fall, just lean into other trees and not fall which of course is dangerous to deal with.  Thankfully, we rely on the logging winch to pull these things down from a distance.

In the video below, the standing tree in the center is cut through, just teetering on the stump, not toppling.  So, Andy hitched a chain on the butt and ran the winch cable back to it and used the tractor's power to dislodge it.  Of course it jammed against another stump and stopped, so Andy repositioned the chain so it would spin the tree and roll it away from the stump and then it could fall.  The very next tree got stuck at about a 45 degree angle and the cable was employed again to pull it off the stump..... and then it jammed against the first tree's stump.  Andy went in and cut the butt log off and then he could get it out. A lot of trees came out in shorter pieces. The winch cable is 165 feet long and making multiple trips back to the same tree, and then to other trees, plus carting the chainsaw around cutting the trees.....   Andy's a pooped puppy after a day of cutting firewood.

Here's a better view of the winch in use.  The blade is dropped and bites into the ground so the tractor has something to brace itself against when pulling.  The cable is activated by a pull cord so you can stand safely aside while operating it.  We usually bring out full sized trees when the woods don't fight back.  Once the butt of the log is drawn up to the blade the short logging chain is unhooked from the cable and secured in a slot on top of the blade which is then lifted to raise the butt of the log and off you go, pulling the log where you want it.

While we were gathering fuel to keep our home warm I noticed the remains of a robin's nest in a tree at eye level.  She had a nice view all summer and didn't have to worry about how to maintain it during cold months. I hope she raised a nice family.

And then I spied something that looked out of place.  Something horizontal when all else is vertical.

Yup, an arrow!  We do allow hunting for deer, turkey, bear and raccoon, deer in particular as they do so much damage to young trees and field crops.  (We don't allow trapping or hunting of coyote, fox, crow or other such critters).  Anyway, this one clearly missed the mark and became so embedded in the small tree that we couldn't dislodge it and I imagine the archer was peeved as those arrows aren't cheap.

The arrow must have been fired from very nearby judging from the depth of penetration into solid wood and the fact that the trees are thick as hair on a dog right there.  Some lucky deer evaded his date with Fate.  

Maybe we ought to leave the tree standing, for luck.