Soooo it's 11:30pm & I was just working on a nice recap about 2018, being that I haven't had time to sit and type anything for over a year apparently. As I typed the very last word, the power flashed off... What the #$%&!! Gone, it's all gone. So I'm tired, it's time for bed and I got nothing. So here you go, long story short, 2018 was wet, muddy, wet again, still muddy, sopping wet, muddier and a bunch of stuff happened on the wet, muddy farm. Ok now that that we are all caught up, here's the scoop on the here and now:
Two out of the three market ewes we brought home from the fair last year had lambs, two big healthy ram lambs that will make fine market lambs for 4-H this year. The first one lost his mom. The vet & I did everything we could to get him out but in the end he was just too big (over 13lbs) for her. It was a hard learned lesson that I will not give the gory details of but also one that I will not forget either. I learned more about lambing & sheep anatomy in that couple hours than I had known in all my years of raising and learning about these creatures. I can check "elbow deep in a sheep's v-jay" off my farming bucket list I guess....
The second was dropped and cleaned by the time I arrived home from work one morning, praise the Lord! So now we are just waiting on the third & final market ewe to lamb and then I think we get a break for a bit. I say I think, because the Finnsheep (who, if the power hadn't whisked away my 2018 blurb, you would know we "adopted" last Feb to help out a family who couldn't care for them anymore) got forgotten on the calendar and I can't remember when they were in with the Finn ram and the are getting a bit hefty so I might be wrong on the "break". That's what happens when your a "go with the flow" type of farmer (aka super forgetful & unorganized). Then in March & April we get ready for my Shetlands to start. Anyway, it's going to be a long lambing season this year. I just pray that the stupid rain stops, I'm soooo tired of mud.
If we raised pigs, those animals would be in heaven in our fields. However, as much as wet sloppy ground makes happy hogs, it also makes for icky, nasty, sore hooves, gross wool, and muddy eggs, not to mention the occasional mud & manure soaked sock-covered foot, when the suction from the muck is too much for the boot to handle and the foot slides right out and down into the brown abyss before the "Oh S**t" even passes over the voice box of the farmer.
Anyway. We've been busy. So that's that. It's not exciting it's not super detailed, but it's something to post, which is more than I can say for last year. Thanks for your patience and have a goodnight.
Today I’m thankful for the natural male instinct to pursue the ladies rather than escape.
During a particularly successful baking marathon, I happen to glance out the kitchen window and to my incredible dismay saw the rams in the field. “Why is this a problem?” You ask. Well 1. they are not the rams we are using for breeding this year, 2. they were in the wrong field & 3. I happened to have left that field’s gate wide open this morning.
So I turned off the oven, tossed on my running shoes, grab a bucket and a white fence post and dashed my quickest dash up through the back yard to the open gate. Grateful for the singleminded, testosterone ridden gentlemen who instead of seeing their chance for freedom & choosing to roam the neighborhood today, followed their noses and lower brains to the fence adjacent to the ladies.
Of course this wasn’t going over well with the flock ram, so after securing the gate, I hastily & cautiously headed towards the group of spellbound boys one of which had tangled himself in the gate during a particularly rough show down of male domination.
I waved my handy white fence pole at the group of brutes and freed the stuck boy. Then I quickly procured a plan to guide the rambunctious, girl crazy gentlemen back to their proper field. A bucket of feed, some quick feet, and a white fence post are amazing tools to a shepherdess leading a flock of aggressive rams reluctantly away from their yummy lady friends. I'd like to say I've perfected the art of avoiding the blow of an aggressive ram, but I dare not get cocky about my successes. Theres always the chance my whit & my speed becomes no match for his brute strength and determination to plow me over. One trip to the ER with a whack to the shins was enough for me to always respect the power of a ram's natural instincts. The task also becomes a hair trickier when the sides are 4 to 1, so today I was especially aware.
I could see as they stared me and my bucket of feed down, the torment of the choice was clear in their eyes. To follow their stomach or their manhood? The irritation I was causing them finally wore on the lead and largest ram who charged me and was met with a small but effective poke from the blunt end of my handy post, however the post did succumb to his frustration at one point, but no worries, neither ram nor shepherdess were harmed. Ultimately the lower brain won out but this shephardess used this to her advantage and cleverly led the ladies on the other side of the fence with the bucket of feed over to where i wanted the rams and the boys thus followed their male instincts & the ladies along the perimeter of the fences right back to where they belong and a breeding disaster was averted at the demise of only one poor broken fence post.
And would you believe, not a cookie was burned in this whole ordeal? I'm going to call that a successful day and take a well deserved break.
Well... Looks like it's been a whole stinking year since I've been on here to do any updates. Wow, how does time do that? So a quick recap: we took the family and sheep to NJ Sheep & Wool Last year. Kids did a great job and it was a wonderful family experience. We came home, bred the ewes, made it through the winter, had lambs in the spring, sheared, hubby got a new job, we lost a few chickens in an on-going war with a mangy fox, sold some lambs & ewes, sent some to the freezer, raised a whole new set of 4-H critters, kids showed & sold them at county fair, school started, went to Disney on a family vaca, I started work again and, BAM, here we are in October 2017.
Great now that we are all caught up. This year's garden crop was a bust. The weeds just don't let up and with older kids, comes more social engagements, which means mom adds another hat to her repertoire, full time taxi driver. So the garden took a back seat this year. However, hubby has been working hard to get the fruit trees back into shape and we saw a bunch of cherries on the cherry tree this year, (birds got to em' first, but they were there). The peach trees got a good trimming last year so the crop on most of them was small or non existent, but our old back yard tree that hubby keeps talking about cutting down, had big beautiful juicy peaches all over this year. The best peaches we've had since moving in! I was a on a peach pie roll for a few weeks.
This warm fall we are having is not doing us any favors. The gnats are ferocious, the poor sheep are hot in their fall sweaters. It's breeding season, but the rams can even think about getting their moves on, it's just too hot for them. The apples dropped early & fast. I was able to get a couple bucketful's for some applesauce and some dumplings but the majority end up on the ground, boo hoo. The only ones enjoying this hot Autumn weather is probably the honey bees, but I sure hope they aren't tricked into not getting ready for winter...
Speaking of honey bees, hubby got a nice honey crop this year. We were able to extract a couple pounds mid summer and then a fall harvest gave us a bit more. Hubby has taken over the bulk of the honey bee maintenance as my back was just not cut out for the heavy lifting and my time was being taken up with the home, sheep, & children. I still assist when I can and I love to see the bees around the yard working hard, but I have to give credit for their survival and productiveness to Hubby. Not only is he an A+ hubs & dad, he's a pretty darn good beekeeper to boot.
Of course life isn't always full of peaches & honey, we've got our fair share of broken well pumps, broke down cars/farm vehicles, old furnaces that need replacing, kids needing expensive braces or new instruments (those puppies are not cheap), you know, the usual dream busting crap that comes with life's set-backs. Poor hubby has had his sights set on a big new building to house his machines and a bigger tractor to do the bigger jobs around the farm, but due these needed expenses popping up, that dream might just have to stay a dream for a bit longer. But with God's help and his reassurance that we are not alone in our trials, we will continue to trudge on and trust that with a lot of hard work, endurance, & in my case a lot of tears and tantrums, we'll get through the downs and come out on the other side with lessons learned and the memories of getting through said trials, to give us a much needed bump of confidence for the future, when the crap hits the fan once more.
Adios till next time. Blessings!
Summer is over. We are officially back to school. Summers here are crazy. With 4 kids who are growing up and all becoming "real" people with social lives, this mom is basically everyone's personal taxi driver/secretary/cook/maid etc... So forgive me teachers (who i greatly appreciate, always) and parents who adore being a slave to their precious children, when I say, "Thank you God for back to school!" Sigh.
I do have to mention, a few weeks ago my kids participated in our county 4-H round-up at the county fair and they all did great! The kid who said he wouldn't be doing 4-H again, came to me two days into the fair and asked if he could raise dairy beef, sheep, and goats next year! I'd say it was successful. Of course the stress of getting them to fill out their project books and actually do the "taking care of the animal" part wasn't always pleasant, but as my mother says, "Of course it sucks when your the parent, but your doing it for the kids, because it's making them better people". I sure hope so.
I'm excited! Next week our family is going to be attending the Garden State Sheep & Wool Festival and participating in the Classic & Shetland Shows! This will be our first adventure into the world of Shetland Sheep shows. As a kid I raised market lambs every year for 4-H and so I'm familiar with the market shows and how to prepare the animals for show, but a wool show is a totally different thing. With a market lamb, the exhibitor must "slick shear" their animal a week or so before the show so that the wool is very short & close to the skin, because the judge needs to be able to feel the "meat" on the animal and assess the condition and strength of the animal based on what it will look like hanging in a butcher shop cooler. (Sorry but its the circle of life & Isn't it better to know where your food came from and what it ate?)
A wool show is very different because obviously they are assessing the outside of the sheep rather than the inside. The judge is looking to see how long, crimpy, and shiny the wool on your sheep is and if it's a "breed" show, they are looking to see how well your animal compares to the 'breed standard". They will also feel for confirmation and look to make sure the animal looks and acts like a healthy well taken care of animal.
This said, my first mission in getting our sheep ready was to chose who we would be taking to represent our flock. Being that young learners are generally faster learns (but not in all cases), I decided we'd take a few of our lambs from this past Spring. So I chose four of the "favorites" and also the ones who I thought would do well in their catagories. We will be taking 2 Ram Lambs, Butthead (yes his name is Butthead) & Todd and 2 Ewe Lambs Waters & P.J.
The second step in getting prepared for showing is to halter train the animals. This is the hard part really. The idea is to put a halter around it's head in order to control the animal and walk it around (like a collar for you dog people or a bridle for you horse lovers). Of course if a sheep has never had a halter on they may fuss a bit before they get used to it. By fuss I mean jump around like a nut (or like someone's pinching them), drop down onto their knees and refuse to move, pull back like crazy trying to get away, or like ours did, they might flop on the ground, roll their eyes up in their head and "play dead". The halter doesn't hurt them, they just haven't figured out that if they don't pull and just follow by the leaders side they won't even notice the halter is on. Its just a way to guide them and keep them near by and safe.
We've been halter training for a few weeks now and I think we are almost ready. The rams actually are doing much better than the ewes. When we (me really & hubby just says "yes dear") decided we were going to try showing this year, the kids chimed in and asked if they could be a part of it and help show, so not only will this be our first show, it will be our first show as a family. That said, one of the boys has decided he would like to try his hand at the showmanship contest (even though he has ever shown sheep before) and he has been pretty diligently working with the animal he chose to use for that show. While he goes out to work with his sheep the other kids have been spending time with the others, so the ram's should do pretty well on a lead. The girls are another story. They still do the "dead man flops", as I call it. It will be interesting to see how much saw dust ends up in their coats during the show. They will be "in full coat", for the show, meaning that we won't be shearing them before the show. This way the judge can see the wool on the animal and be able to judge how it compares to the other sheep in the class.
Over all, so far, it's been fun and exciting. The vet came yesterday to do health inspections for health papers. He said everyone looks great. I'm really starting to get excited. Even if we don't place well, the experience will be totally worth it! I'm also getting some of my shorn fleece ready to take to enter into the Fleece Show/Contest & maybe try to sell a few, along with preparing a few skeins of hand spun yarn that I've made this year to see how well I do against other hand spinners. Last year I entered and it was very apparent that I was a beginner, but with a whole year of experience under my belt and new knowledge in my head, I really see a difference in my yarn from last year to this year.
So I'll have lots to update everyone on in a week or so, but for now, wish us luck!
So as most of you know we had a crazy fun-packed, successfully lambing season, producing over 30 lambs this spring. That put my flock at 50 something sheep. That is a lot of sheep for a small-time hobby farm. I love each an every one, but the late spring frost froze the buds off the Money Tree, so no big money crop this year. That of course means, the fields we had hoped to get fenced will have to wait, which means this shepherdess had to make some tough decisions and reduce her flock.
Hubby was generous and said that we could keep 10 lambs from this year's crop, putting our number at around 30. So who to sell and how became my mission. The first sale was an easy one. Had a childhood friend who was interested in raising 'bottle babies' with her four young girls. So they came up and pick four early on before they got too attach to mom. Those are probably the most loved and affection given lambs ever born. Those four little girls were just loving on the those lambs. I wouldn't be surprised if they've been dressed up in a bonnet or two since going to their new home.
Then it got hard. Who to keep, who to send and who will go to the freezer? Yes the freezer, now listen, where do you think your beef comes from? Not my sheep of course, but at some point that burger was a living cow who's life was provided by the Good Lord to provide energy and nourishment to yourself & hungry kids. It's the same here, we raise these animals 1. because I love sheep 2. because hubby bought a farm and what else do you do with a farm? and 3. to provide meat & wool. So you'll have to get over your aversion to hearing that some of these lambs will be in the freezer in a few months, I had to and I'm the one feeding and loving them. Anyway...
Then hubby went on a work trip for three weeks and I got ridiculously overwhelmed by the monster weeds in the garden, the grass that grows like it's on steroids & needs to be cut every day, the prospect of cutting and baling hay, the lambs that got the runs, the ewe that had a limp, the horrendous gnats that attacked like an army of super tiny suicide bombers each time you left the protection of the house, the 4-H pigs who in their excitement to see someone with a bucket of slop flung poo in my face, and just the general everyday feeding, cleaning up after, taxing of the four children who reside here and decided that it was indeed time to greatly reduce the flock because I just couldn't do it all. So craigslist and facebook it was. With in two weeks I had sold 1/2 my flock. I got to provide a couple new Shetland owners with some starter flocks and I provided some others with lambs that will provide their families with some tasty meat for next year.
After finding new homes for most of the lambs and a few ewes, the anxiety I felt about spring chores has been reduced greatly (probably helped that hubby finally came home and the garden got mulched and the grass got mowed). I also feel better about the reduced number of sheep that will have to be shorn in the fall.
We also recently had to say goodbye to one of our two flock rams. His horn were continuing to grow in towards his face/neck even after trimming them. So we had to make the hard decision to have him butchered. So soon we should have our freezer all stocked up with meat. I've already caught hubby staring hungrily at a cookbook reciting the ingredients of roasted leg of lamb, lamb stew, lamb chops, lamb meatballs...
I'm happy with who I chose to keep and am excited to see how they change as they grow. I"m looking forward to breeding again in the fall & lambing in the spring. I love raising our Shetland sheep, but it's not all fun and games, sometimes it can be pretty stressful and hard, but it's definitely worth it. My next big decision is who will we take to the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival in the fall?
It's been a busy two weeks here at the farm. Although March did not go out with any lambs, April sure came in with a bunch of them. The first to go was Margaret with another set of triplets and this year all survived (last year two were still born). Margaret is a fantastic mother and is having no problems raising all three, two ram lambs and a ewe. One of the rams has officially been dubbed "VanBuren" due to his resemblance of the late president and the random knowledge that my brain tends to recall at odd moments, like what Martin VanBuren looked like while clipping a lamb's umbilical cord. So far he's the only one to get an official name because as much as i try not to do favorites, he is mine. Actually all three triplets are my buddy's. They run to me when I come up to visit (which is pretty often) happily expecting chest rubs and back massages. He is also the only one I'm certain that we will be keeping. We will be selling many of the others , along with some of their mothers, but we won't decide who goes & who stays until we figure out how many we get all together. So far 6 are already spoken for from interested buyers and (I know gasp...) a few are destine for the freezer, but we'll wait to see who gets honored with that untimely fate a little later.
The day after Margaret's triplets arrived, Lamby's twins showed up, one ram & one ewe, both strapping and beautiful. Of course it was 19 degrees that morning so I was up quite often to make sure no one had hypothermia, but it's pretty amazing how a newborn lamb can tolerate extreme cold after they've had a few swigs of mama's colostrum (the first milk, full of all the antibodies and other goodies that a newborn needs for a great start to life.). Day three brought another 4 lambs from three more ewes. Venus gave a single ewe lamb that morning, Cups had twin ewes in the afternoon, & Serena finished out the day with a single ewe.
At the end of day three I was pretty much exhausted, but thrilled. Nine lambs in three days, not a bad haul. All were alive and healthy and all mom's were doing a great job of tending to their babes. Only had a few minor issues, like Margaret's third and tiniest lamb took a little coaxing and some warm up time in the house before he was able to finally get up and get a little milk in him and Cups' second ewe was born back legs first so it took her a little more ompf to get the poor thing out and when it did, the sack was still covering it's face, so I quickly wiped it away and cleared it's airways so it didn't take it's first breath and get a lung full of amniotic fluid, then let mom take over from there. Other than that, everyone has had pretty easy and unassisted deliveries, thank the Good Lord for that.
I was able to get a break over the weekend before starting again the following Monday with Lamby II dropping twin ewe lambs out in the mud on a chilly rainy morning. She was a first-time mom & the poor thing seemed to be thoroughly confused by these small creatures that so rudely exited her nether regions, but her maternal instincts kicked in and she had them somewhat cleaned up by the time i noticed the poor things stumbling around in the icky weather and got them all snug in a clean, dry lambing pen. Then Wednesday night (yesterday) a young ewe (who I didn't think was pregnant) surprised me with a single ewe lamb.
So needless to say it's been a busy start to the month and I don't expect it to end anytime soon. We've had 12 lambs from 7 ewes, which means we've got 9 more to go. Due to his travel's for work, Hubby has missed every one so far, but I think he'll get to have his turn this weekend, because this good shepherdess needs a little time away and has decided to head south to visit some good friends for the weekend, leaving hubby to tend to any births that may happen, while I get some much needed R & R.
So much for coming in like a lion and out like a lamb, March has been pretty mild so far. Actually this whole winter has been pretty mild here in Northeast Pennsylvania. No way, I'm not complaining! I'm loving it. I enjoy the seasonal changes, but I'm most definitely not a huge fan of the cold dreary drudge that winter usually brings every year. The lion may have decided to give it a rest this year, but here at the farm we're still anticipating going out of this month with lambs!
This past week we had a few nice days that we were able to round up the expecting mamas and start to get them ready for lambing. We try to vaccinate them a few weeks before they give birth so that the vaccine antibodies are in their milk and the lambs are protected in the early weeks and then they get a booster after a few weeks of life. We vaccinate for common, but preventable diseases that can kill sheep quickly if not treated for, such as 'over-eating' disease and tetanus.
We also like to try to clean up the wool around the sheep's back ends and we do this for a couple reasons. One is that it just makes for a cleaner birth. I would assume I don't have to explain the details of a birth, but it's messy, so we shear the long wool off ewe's butt, back legs and also off her udder and belly, if needed, so that the mess doesn't get tangled and stuck in the wool back there. This is calling crutching. Why don't we just shear the entire fleece you, might ask. Well, perhaps a more experienced shearer might feel comfortable handling a pregnant ewe and flipping it around in the different positions that one maneuvers a sheep while shearing it, but I'm just not quite confident in my skills yet and we try to give our sheep the most stress free experiences we can, especially while preggo. Who wants to stress out a pregnant animal and risk losing a lamb, not I. The other reason we chose not to shear them completely, is that lambing usually starts the end of March and in a typical year, March can still give us some pretty hardcore cold, and we want to make sure our girl's (& the boys too) don't have to tough out those super cold last few days of winter, with no wool sweaters on their backs, so we typically wait to shear our flock until after lambing & after the last of the deep cold, sometime in April or May.
The second reason we want to crutch is to give the lambs better access to their mother's udder & teats. Little lambs understand that they need to suck to get nourishment, however they don't always figure out what or where that nourishment might be when they first emerge so they just nuzzle around until they find something to suck on and go to town. Unfortunately if there is a lot of long wool hanging around the udder of a mother, the lamb might find that instead of a teat and end up getting no nourishment and quit possibly and mouth full of feces and other icky stuff that could cause sickness and definitely not give them a good start to life. So to help them find where they need to go, we clean up the ewe's bellies so that there is no confusion for the lambs when looking for food. Not only does it help the lambs to find their source of milk, but cleaning up the back area and udder also help the shepherd get a better view of the ewe's backside, which is how one might see that a ewe is ready to go soon. Some signs that a ewe is getting ready to give birth are a "bagged up" udder. Her udder will drop and swell with milk anywhere from a few weeks to a few days before the lamb is born. So having a clear view of the back & underside of the sheep is desirable in the last few weeks/days of gestation.
Thankfully we've got some pretty cool parental units and a good friend who were able to come on up and help out this week. We were also able to trim the girl's hooves too. Sheep maintenance is much more efficient when you've got a system and good helpers. So crutching and vaccinating went smoothly and now we wait patiently for lambs to arrive, or if your me, you make three or four trips to the barn everyday to stand and watch them for signs of impending labor, staring at their butts to see signs of a swollen lady parts, feeling udders to see if they are filling up with milk, watching closely to see if anyone looks uncomfortable or restless. Of course I'm sure that one day I'll wake up and look out the kitchen window and see little lambs bouncing around the field and I'll have missed the whole stinking thing, but until then I'll keep up my, not so patient, vigilance.
...As a tree.
After three or more weeks of some major sickness in our home (flu, walking pneumonia, ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea...) it was bad and every single family member fell victim to at least one or more symptoms, this past weekend we were finally feeling relatively "normal" again and were able to muster up enough energy to do a little much needed work around the farm. Saturday hubby decided it was tree pruning time. Of course it was crazy windy and 35 degrees (where it was calm & 50 the day before) but with the help of my father-in-law and occasionally some of the kids (not sure how much "help" they actually were, but it got them out of the house) and myself he was able to get the blueberry patch, the lower fruit orchard and the entire apple orchard done in one day. Way to go Hubby! Then he came in, ate dinner, and was in bed by 6:30.... I think he may have over done it, but it needed to be done and nature doesn't wait for any man.
Another tree job that needs to happen is the removal of some dead trees that have been hanging out in one of the sheep paddocks. Unfortunately these two trees fell to some of our first learning experiences with sheep and trees. We didn't realize when we put the girls in with these apple trees that they loved tree bark and that they would proceed to strip the trees of their bark. This of course will result in the imminent demise of a tree. If a tree is completely strip of it's bark it has no protection from disease or the elements and so it's death warrant has been signed. So we lost these to trees and then fenced around the rest before we let the girls on those other fields. Lesson learned the hard way.
Anyway, so the trees needed to be removed as some point but it was put off. Last week God decided he was tired of the eyesores in the field and blustered up a big old wind and promptly knocked 'em over. So now it's time to get them cut up and removed, however that will have to wait for another day as we just didn't have enough time before the work week began again. So it remains on the to-do list for another week.
Another chore we worked on this weekend was the maintenance of the honey bee hives. And by maintenance I mean the sad sad sad realization and clean up of six dead hives. Every stinking one was dead or gone (we think they might have run out of room after we winterized them & swarmed early winter during the warm days). Hives full of uneaten honey that we left for them, hives full of dead clusters of beautiful little creatures. I was devastated. In fact I have tears in my eyes as I type this. I know, I know they are bees... who cries over dead bees. Well I do. They aren't just pesty bugs, they are an amazing awe-inspiring proof of God and his magnificence. Sure you can explain what they do and how they do it with all your scientific jargon. I don't discount science one bit, but explaining the world of a honey bee strictly with science and practical human knowledge would be like saying that the human soul can be explained with molecules and matter.
So after letting the sadness sink in we picked up our hive tools and cleaned the honey bee's homes out. We will used two of these empty hives to home our new bees that will arrive in April and we will keep a few empty for splitting hives and maybe if we are lucky we might catch a spring swarm to fill some of the others. It makes my heart sad to look out my kitchen window and know that when I was watching and waiting the cold days of winter, praying to God to please keep my bees warm and well, that they were dead or dying and I was clueless. This will be the fifth year we have lost our hives. As much as I love bee keeping and think that it is important to make sure that the honey bee thrives for the good of the planet, being reminded each Spring that no matter what we do to try to help them make it through the cold winters, the list of things that can go wrong greatly out weighs the list of things a keeper can do to prevent the wrongs and even then when all is said and done and you've done everything "right" they might still die, is super duper disheartening. Guess it's a lot like us humans. I could watch what I eat, never smoke a day in my life, never drink, exercise daily, etc... do everything I'm "supposed" to do, then jump in the car and get hit by another driver who decided to have a few drinks before getting in theirs... It's not for us to decide. Maybe the problem isn't what we as humans aren't doing right, maybe it's that we as humans are relying too much on We as Humans and not enough on He as Lord, God above all, who is all knowing and creator of everything, even us humans.
Ok stepping down from my pulpit. Anyway, it was refreshing to have a pretty productive few days. Even with the upsetting news of the lost hives. I think it reinvigorated hubby and maybe the icky sickness that's been holding on to him for the first part of the new year is finally letting go of it's grip and he can get his energy back so that he can continue to work on his ever growing "Hubby-do" list. :)
Meanwhile... the pregnant ewes are getting bigger by the week. It's March now, let the pre-lambing chores begin. Next up on the sheep to-do list is vaccinating and crutching (shearing the wool off their rear-ends and bellies for a cleaner delivery and better access to udders for lambs). We should start to see lambs in about 3-4 weeks! Call me crazy, but I've got the baby sheep jitters I"m like a nervous daddy and am super excited for the first lamb of the year to bless our farm with it's arrival!
The trials and tribulations of a sheep farmer...Sigh.
This is the first year we have had rams on the farm over winter, it may also be the last.
So when people use the statement "sheep are dumb" my boys are the animals they are talking about. Basically these two goofs care only about two things, being with the ladies and eating (typical males). So right now they are separated from the ladies for the duration of the winter and so they are bored. Well these two dummies have found that if they ram the door of the feed storage shed (that is attached to the chicken coop) hard enough and enough times, they can eventually break the lock or bend it enough that it's rendered useless and they are able to climb right up in and raid the feed (because food is the second most important thing of course) and then push their way inside the coup and proceed to destroy the chicken feeder, the nesting boxes, the roosts, etc... I"m guessing because it's fun and they've got nothing better to do.
Now I know, you're thinking, "well gee I wouldn't call them dumb, they must be pretty smart to know to do that", but really they are just thinking "Me want yum yum, me break door, me get yum yum". I know because I'm a sheep whisperer. No, not really, I can just see the look on their faces and know that there wasn't much thought behind the action.
Now the other thing your probably saying is "Well maybe you need to feed them more, I bet they are hungry." Well no, they have an unlimited supply of good cut hay, loose minerals, and plenty of water available to them at all times and they really don't need anything else. Of course we keep a supply of the "good stuff", which is a sweet feed mix of corn & grains for an occasional treat or when we need to catch them for health maintenance routines, but they don't get this everyday because it would have negative results. Think about feeding your kids Mcdonalds Happy meal everyday because they don't want to eat your meatloaf and veggies, of course it's what they want, but you know that it's not good for them. Anyway, this is what they are after, that and the chicken feed, which is even worse, because chicken feed contains a small amount of copper, and copper can kill sheep. So here's the thing about sheep, (this could be the "dumbness" that is associated with the species) sheep will eat themselves to death. Yep, they will just eat, and eat, and eat until they become bloated. I know, "well that's no biggie", you say, "I get bloated all the time for different reason's can't they just walk it off or take an malax?". No they can't, for sheep, bloat can be deadly. Their stomach isn't like mine and yours. Here's a little excerpt from an article I found online to help explain this:
"The stomach of ruminant animals produces gas as a natural by product of digestive fermentation. The animals continually belch, about once every minute, to get rid of the gas. Whenever anything interferes with this release of gas or if fermentation is too rapid, gas becomes trapped in the rumen causing a condition known as bloat. Bloat can be a life threatening condition if left untreated"
-Found in the ESGPIP's Techinal Bulliton #31 (A study of bloat in sheep and goats)
So basically if they get in there and eat too much chicken feed (too much copper) or too much sweet feed (rapid fermentation/extreme diet change) and we don't' catch them in time, they could possible die and as much trouble as they cause, we most definitely don't' want that, we love our silly boys.
Anyway, so it's just a bad situation and we are on lock #3 and today they destroyed that one. I was able to bang it back in place with a mallet and get the door latched, but I'm not holding my breath.
So here is the dumbest part of this maneuver, once they are in the chicken coop they are stuck. Yep it's all fun and games until your sleeping in the coop with a chicken pooping on your back because the door only goes one way. They have managed to destroy the coop door once (but with no success at escape) so hubby had to put it all back together and reinforce it. Which they managed to mangle again today.
It's just stinking annoying. All because these two have a one track mind, woman, food, & butting things with head (they don't call them RAMs for nothing)... The girls have never done this much damage. Just goes to show who the superior sex is... :)
To their credit, when they aren't stupidly ramming things with their heads, they are super sweet and loving. They love to be scratched behind the ears and always come running with wagging tails when I go out to refill the hay and collect the eggs. They like to "play" and run and jump around and they never seem to mind when a chicken decides to hitch an occasional ride on their backs. They are good boys, who just do silly things sometimes. They kind of remind me of my children...lol.
Here they are. See that look, the one that says "Man we are sooo busted, sorry Mom."