Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the tag “lambs”

Highs and lows…

 

20170602_165417It’s a fine July morning as I write this, in the glory of another Pacific Northwest summer. The house is cool from the overnight chill (temps drop 20 degrees or more at night) and I’m sitting in the morning sun, anticipating a hot day (maybe as high as 80s) but trying to warm up in the sun’s rays.  Glorious seems like an over the top word, but it really, really is.

20170602_165600

The Swainson’s thrushes are winding down for the season, sadly.  I’ve heard a few this morning, but nothing like the intensity of just a few weeks ago. I’ve written of my Swainson’s serenades before, and the two months of their song is never enough.  Though I knew they were around for a couple weeks at least, I didn’t hear my first song until May 27 or 28.  It reached a crescendo in early July, with the morning and evening punctuated by seeming near-constant competition between birds and their territories, and reaching a fervor that brings wonder and even worry.  These birds are small – about half the size of a robin, and fit in your hand easily (one flew into my window in May – I picked it up and moved it to a safe, quiet spot while it recovered from the momentary stun).  I am glad I have lots of berries and cherries here for them to feed on as they sing, and hopefully don’t lose any to what has to be exhaustion by the end of the season.  I hope to hear them for a few more evenings yet – they are magical at sunset – but I know it’s almost over.  As I write this I see a young robin, breast still baby-speckled with immature feathering but obviously on her own, dining on the red huckleberries on my old growth stump.  It’s so nice to see.

20170620_194716

Native red elderberry; a favorite of the Swainson’s, but also Robins, Western Tanagers, Cedar Waxwing and more.

I took a few days off around the July 4th holiday this year and it was wonderful.  It seemed to last longer than normal (total time away from work was 5 days) and I got a lot done in that time.  Shearing is almost done, I got the ram lambs banded (except one who turned out to be cryptorchid – the vet will be doing surgery to retrieve the undescended testicle in 3 weeks) and all of them vaccinated except Ginger, Cinnamon’s lamb who is just as skittish as her mama and learning well. Sigh.  I haven’t been able to catch her OR her mama, who is the holdout for shearing.  I’ve sheared all of them myself this year, with a blade (i.e., hand scissors versus electric clippers).  I started off pretty rough and am getting better, and even faster, but I’m not sure I’ll do this again next year.  For one, even though I’m getting better, I can’t do more than two sheep a day, and the mini-rodeo to catch the each one is creating some wiley sheep.  Thus, it’s gotten late in the year, and doing them in June or July is WAY too late – part of the reason the more recent ones look better is because of the “rise” – the old fleece has basically lifted away and I’m just snipping it away from the new wool’s growth.  For another it’s back-breaking, hot work.  And yet another reason, even though I’m going slow, I’ve made way too many slices (cuts) to their skin.  It was harder in the beginning with the wool tight to the skin, you think you’re scissoring a thick patch of wool when you’ve actually got a snippet of skin in there.  Nothing too dramatic (if I had electric shearers I’m sure I would have had some ‘call the vet’ moments – it happens so fast!), but makes me jumpy for the process.  Practice, I guess, but it’s still a lot of work.  We’ll see.

20170708_134536

Meg, after I finally caught her and sheared her.  She obviously felt better without all that wool. 

Now it’s time to start deciding who stays and who goes after lambing.  I’ve gotten about halfway through the list and still have some tough decisions to make, as I need to get the flock back to about 10 sheep before the winter months.  They’ve pretty much devoured most of the greenery in the pasture, and much of the property as well, and are going through hay at a good clip too – the lambs may only be 40 pounds each, but they are growing youngsters and they eat!

20170625_164815

TJ in the pasture. He is huge!

I have one less to place this week, because unfortunately I lost a lamb recently to an accident with my feeding set up.  It was a freak accident, but also preventable, as most accidents are.  I feed with slow-feeder hay nets inside my big hay feeder.  The lambs have been jumping inside the hay feeder to get at the hay nets and I’m just waiting until they are too big to get in (we’re getting close now!).  The mesh on the nets is 1 ½ – 2 inches, but one of the nets had a hole where a couple of the strands had broken or worn through.  And one of the ram lambs (the polled one) stuck his head in the hole… You can guess the rest.  He struggled to get out and it twisted the net and made it worse.  When I found him he was still warm.  The hardest part of the loss is the knowing if I gone out there to check on them a half hour—or even 15 minutes—earlier I could have saved him.  I’ve been using that net for almost 7 years and I think the hole has been there for at least 3 or 4 years.  Obviously I will fix it now, but it was a tough day, and though I’m getting over the guilt I will always feel responsible.  I shared the incident with folks on one of my sheep forums on Facebook and it helped immensely to do so.  Not only are people kind and sympathetic, but so many shared similar stories – even nearly identical stories – of freak losses, which was enormously helpful to hear.  Stories about something that had been in the farm environment for years and the one intrepid or inquisitive sheep (or other critter) found the danger in a seemingly benign object or setup – it happens.  I buried the 20170713_181911little guy out back, and covered him with his mother’s fleece (she’s the scurf queen on a good year and especially with the late shearing this year; the fleece was basically destined for the compost so I was very glad to have it for this use) before covering him with soil.  It helped a lot, and brought some closure to the incident.  The other, farmer-practical part of me realizes I really need to learn to butcher.  He was small, but I could have salvaged something for the dogs at least.  Farm life.

P.S.  I haven’t heard a Swainson’s thrush song since Saturday night.  I guess we’re done for the season. Sigh.

IMG_20170625_114404_927

Pebbles’ ewe lamb.  I am smitten with her.  A keeper, for sure.

 

 

Advertisements

Lamb season!

I didn’t get as much accomplished as I should have this weekend, but that’s par for the course.  I could easily sit and watch the critters all day long, instead of just a few hours as I do now.  As mentioned in my previous post, there are new additions in the way of lambs on the farm.  They’re already a month old now, and watching my little flock – now nine! – roam the property gives me a deep satisfaction that I’m unable to describe fully.  It reminds me of when I first got chickens, a lifetime ago it seems, when watching them was soul satisfying (it still is, but it’s not the wonderment it was for those first dozen years).  Now I have the sheep, and my bees, and the chickens too, and the soul-deep rightness of it all feeds something within me. 

I came home one rainy Wednesday afternoon in late April to the sight of two chocolate brown lambs in the pen.  They were Cinnamon’s babies, and she stood there, head low and attentive to them, looking pleased.  They were still damp from birth, but it had obviously been a few hours.  I could see I had nothing to worry about – she is an excellent mother, and looked well physically.  I had been expecting something for days; she had all the classic signs that it was getting close, so it wasn’t a complete surprise, but still completely exciting.  I stepped into the pen to look at them and Cinnamon, still charged up on whatever hormones had been making her hair-trigger skittish for the previous week (just filling the hay feeder had her panicking), trampled the little things in her freak-out response to my presence.  You’d think I went in there with a hood and scythe every time, for her reaction was always that of an animal being stalked and hunted for food.  Thankfully the babies weren’t hurt.  I caught each and checked them – both ewes! – and sprayed their umbilicals with iodine.  I checked several times that evening, taking many bad pictures and glad for my little shed – there was a torrential downpour at one point, a real gully washer, and the new family stayed safe and dry.

The next morning as I left for work Pebbles had a funny look.  Not her bright self, though I thought maybe she was subdued the night before because of the babies, and witnessing the birth.  She didn’t seem interested in them, nor distressed, just distant somehow.  Hmm.  I didn’t see anything imminent, and since she’s as round as a barrel you couldn’t see the same changes in her as you could with Cinnamon.  I left for work reluctantly and decided to come home early.  I got home at about 3:30 and sure enough, Pebbles was licking a brand new baby.  Another ewe!  She was fresh out, probably born no more than 10 minutes earlier, and still quite wet.  She was all black with some white on her head and down her cheeks like chin straps.  Pebbles seemed fine, and when I looked at her rear I could see that she would be having twins too.  Within 10 more minutes the next lamb slipped out of her with what looked like mild straining as she stood there licking the first one.  She turned around and began licking the newest…a ram lamb!  He was absolutely tiny, no bigger than a bunny, and mottled black and white.  Pebbles licked and licked, and soon the two newest arrivals were up and searching for their first meal.  It was amazing, as it always is with all new babies. 

So my little flock has almost doubled, going from five to nine.  The boys seemed nonplussed by the new arrivals, showing no interest whatsoever.  Still, the girls and the babies were penned up safely.  After a week or so, I allowed everyone out to graze on the new grass.  The pasture still wasn’t quite ready for full time grazing, but with just the three boys I pushed it early.  The shed and pen area is not set up for keeping two groups separated, and it was easier than trying to get them all back in the pen and separated with the panels up. 

In the month since their birth the babies have grown tremendously.  The little boy is still the smallest, (and he’s no longer a ram lamb, but a wether) but all are hale and hearty.  They had their first vaccinations this weekend.  Cinnamon continues to be a model parent, and though her girls are as skittish as their mama, they’re strong and healthy.  She’s only just relaxed on her vigilance in making sure they are always within sight.  The grass is just too good.  Pebbles is a little more lackadaisical, and while a good mama, isn’t as attentive as Cinnamon, and figures the lambs will find her when they need her.  Their cries of distress when they become “lost” barely trigger an answering baa, usually muted from her mouthful of grass as she stuffs herself.  Fortunately they’re both a lot like her, and while cautious, take things in stride. 

This weekend was fairly mild and I let them stay out on the pasture overnight Saturday and Sunday night.  The lamb races are adorable, as the four of them race around their mamas, and watching them roam the property, chasing a hen or two, or sniffing noses with the cat (who’s as big as they are) and nibbling the new grass and green shoots as they grow, is entrancing.

Post Navigation

The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Because a guy has to keep his chops sharp

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

valbjerke's Blog

Real Life Random Ramblings

psychologistmimi

Food, Road Trips & Notes from the Non-Profit Underground

Citizens for Duvall

A grass roots group that gives a voice to its citizens outside of city council meetings.

Pet Zoo Kibbutz Shiller

Adventures of a pet zoo keeper

camino times two

walking together from Le Puy to Finisterre

Trish the Dish

Keeping Our Family's Bellies FULL.... One Dish at a Time

KURT★BRINDLEY

writing ★ producing ★ editing

Hen Corner

A little bit of country life in West London...

morrisbrookfarm

Going back...a return to rural life

Relaena's Travels

Eternal Journeys of a Curious Mind

The Global Warmers

8 dogs, 2 elderly adults and an aging RV

Fiber Trek ™

A TV show Connecting Community, Craft, Fiber and Farms

Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey Blog

musings on bees, life, & nature near Mt. Baker Washington

An American Editor

Commentary on Books, eBooks, and Editorial Matters

The Task at Hand

A Writer's On-Going Search for Just the Right Words

ella gordon

textile maker

Jenny Bruso

An Unlikely Hiker Blog

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

Squash Practice

A Growing Concern

Food, Farming and Faith in Snohomish County

Icelandic Fiber Farming in Cascadia

Carol Lea Benjamin on Dogs

Understanding dogs and the many roles they play in our lives

Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Living Your Sacred Livelihood

Weaving the Wisdom in Nature with Possibility Practices

Chris Morgan's Wildnotes

A BLOG of pictures and thoughts from the field

Denise Fenzi

a professional dog trainer specializing in relationship-building in competitive dog sport teams

Black Sheep Creamery

Artisan Sheep Cheese, Wool and Lambs

Woolyadventures's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

flippity felts

Curious and Quirky needle felts from deepest darkest Devon

Single Life, With Puppy

Suddenly single at 55; what to do but get a puppy?

Eat, Play, Love

making memories through food, wine and travel

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

Karen Maezen Miller's Cheerio Road

A little o' this, a little o' that

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

She turns coffee into books so she can afford to buy more coffee. And more books.

Lorelle on WordPress

utorials about WordPress, blogging, social media, and having your say on the web.

Adventures in Natural Beekeeping

Bees, Hives, Swarms, and Everything under the Sun

CARROT QUINN

dispatches from the wild

The KiltLander's Blog

JP's Outlander Recaps and other perspectives from the Dirk Side

Great Scot!

Cultural Musings of An Outlandish Nature