...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."