Tuesday, March 29, 2011

shearing day 2011

I am a little behind on posts -- heck, I am a little behind on life and even more importantly, sleep -- so this is a barebones effort to start catching up. Here's a few shots of our shearing day, only ten days late. Photos compliments of Terzo, who was entrusted (probably too much trust) with the new camera.

First candidate on the shearing board...

... and all done. That's our ram, Iggy.

Our highly experienced farm chapter of the ISPSPP
(International Society of Professional Sheep Poop Pickers)

Our chapter knows how to have fun.

Who in the heck are ewe?

(The sheep often take a little time to recognize each other after the fleeces come off.
We have a harder time identifying them as well!)

Waiting for mom to come back

Thanks to a very experienced crew, who probably wish they were somewhat less experienced, the day went like clockwork. Given all that preceded shearing, we were beyond grateful for all the help, especially given Primo's absence that day at a science fair competition. Darn kids just get big enough to be really useful then they go and get their own lives!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

spring grass

"Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself." -- Laozi

The ewes are certainly glad of it.

The lambs know they should be, though they are not sure of why just yet.

Friday, March 25, 2011


The UPS man came today, and delivered salvation to my doorstep.

You don't believe that salvation can come in a box?

Oh, yes, it can.

And this is what it looks like in action.

Full night of sleep, here I come.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

seeing triple

This is the first chance I have had today to sit down and dash off a quick post about the events of the last 24 hours. I was responsible for the 12 am feeding shift this morning. I wandered out and found Farrah in labor, with a broken water bag already trailing behind her.

I really, really hated to wake up my poor exhausted husband, but there was no choice. With apologies for the up close and personal shot of Farrah's rear end, this post-shearing snapshot shows no doubt that three lambs were in there:

Clearly her udder knew what was about to hit it. (Literally: the lambs pummel the bag with their heads to get the milk to let down. Poor ewes!)

By 1 am, my LSH managed to extricate Lamb 1 (black ewe lamb), with some assistance. Farrah made it all the more difficult because she refused to lay down and push. Imagine me trying to wrestle a 150 lb sheep to the ground, all by myself because my LSH had to keep his hands sterile and the boys were sleeping. It would have made a very amusing video but luckily the actual observers cannot operate camera equipment with their hooves.

We did not wait as long to intervene as we had with Henrietta; we had learned our lesson. We had Lamb 2 (black ram lamb) out by 1:30 am, and Lamb 3 (white ram lamb) out by 2 am. Farrah demonstrated last year that she is an excellent mother to triplets, but they were a little dozy after their trip into the world and could not seem to latch on. Just so we could get some sleep already, we milked out some colostrum and fed it to them in a bottle.

By this morning, they were all hale and hearty. My LSH and I cannot say the same for ourselves.

I spent the morning making little fleecy lamb coats -- tutorial to come -- to help the new triplets and a few of the more fragile lambs (Holly's ram lamb, Henrietta's remaining two) retain their body heat more easily, especially given the approaching storm.

Here's Holly's ram lamb to model the latest word in lamb fashion:

He's a natural!

Henrietta's ram (back) and ewe (front), all curled up in their favorite spot by the hay bunker (because that is where their mom likes to hang out):

And Farrah's set, settling down for a nap after the latest competition for a chance at the milk bar (I think the ewe lamb is in the back):

Don't they all look cute in their matching primitive country ensembles?

I just got back in from the 10 pm feeding, and I left a scene of utter peace in the barn. Except for the triplets, all of the lambs are out of the jugs. The mothers have staked out individual little corners, and tucked their lambs in for the night while they stand or lay guard over them. Even Holly's little ram lamb is tucked behind his sister and mother (he has learned that Holly will not go after him if he hides behind his sister, whom she has accepted completely).

And now I am off to join them in dreamland -- until 3 am, when I get to join them in person.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

minus one

We lost one of the triplets today -- the big ram lamb, the last one out. We did our best, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Any shepherd who tells you that it should be is either lying, or lucky, or both.

We are foggy with exhaustion today. That probably didn't help matters. We had a great shearing day yesterday, though, and I hope to get pictures up in a day or so. Thank goodness for an amazing amount of skilled help from good friends and relations.

In the meantime, the count stands at 7 lambs: 5 ewes, 2 rams. Holly is letting her ewe lamb nurse without our assistance, so that is huge progress. We are still feeding her ram lamb and the two remaining triplets because we are not convinced they are getting enough from their mom. We have two ewes left to deliver: Farrah, who is as big or bigger than last year (when she had triplets) and Hope, who we didn't know was pregnant until she was on the shearing boards.

Shepherding surprises aren't always bad ones, though there are certainly days when it feels that way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

plus three

I have tried to sit down and write an update multiple times in the last few days, but the demands on my time have been too much. First the little ram lamb had indigestion issues yesterday, and I spent most of the day and night trying to convince him to eat and dosing him with Peptobismol (not his favorite flavor) in almost equal measure.

Keeping warm in their little fleece coats

Then the black ewe lamb decided she would help us out with Holly's mastitis issue, provided that we hold Holly still for her. So I have spent a fair amount of time doing just that.

The laundry left over from two lambings this week needed to be attended to... I'll have to address why that takes so long in a future post, but it is more pioneer than you might suspect.

We are shearing tomorrow, and I needed to cook for our most helpful shearing crew, so there was that.

And then in the middle of all this, Henrietta decided that she would follow the calendar, and go ahead and lamb today after all. She has spent quite a bit of the last few days gazing thoughtfully into the corner, so I wasn't sure if she would stay on schedule or not.

Secondo came out at 5:30 pm and found this little guy:

Yes, he's spotted -- never had one like this before!

Then we waited. And waited. And waited. We were 99% sure that he wasn't the only one in there, and pretty sure that we spotted a hoof just a little way back in the birth canal, but Henrietta refused to lay down and push, and she was not having any contractions that we could see. She just kept turning in circles, and taking care of her demanding little spotted ram lamb.

We were thoroughly confused, but finally decided we had to bit the bullet and go in. Primo and I forcibly laid her on her side, and my LSH went exploring -- and found two different lambs, all tangled up. She wasn't pushing because neither one had progressed far enough into the birth canal to trigger that reflex. With amazing quick thinking, he untangled them, got the first one out (a silver ewe lamb) and pulled the second one out (a huge ram lamb, that was breech).

All three on their feet: from left to right, #2 ewe, #3 ram and #1 ram

It was bedlam as we worked on both lambs to get them going. We were very lucky that the 4-H member from the last birth had come back with her mom. It was all hands on deck to deal with all those lambs and the ewe. The ewe lamb was unresponsive, probably due to all that time waiting to be born. My LSH to the rescue again with some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She is definitely still the weakest of the three and -- no surprise here -- we are having to supplement her at the moment. That's OK, we are in the barn every three hours anyway, what's another bottle to bring along?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

where to start?

It has been a pretty hectic 24 hours. I am waiting at the moment, so I have a bit of time before I have to head out to the barn again, so a blog post seems like as good a way to pass the time as any other.

Yesterday afternoon, while doing my usual ballet-around-town of drop off one kid here, pick up another kid there, I noticed some unusual behavior in the expectant ewe paddock.

Honey was in labor. I had been keeping a close eye on Holly all day, as she was due yesterday (Tuesday) while Honey was due today (Wednesday). They decided to switch things up though. We managed to get them all in the barn -- because Honey wasn't going alone -- gate the other curious ewes out of her way -- because Honey wanted a little space and privacy -- and call a 4-H member who had never seen a live birth.

She didn't have long to wait. Before we knew it, two ewes -- one white, and one black. Hurray!

Terzo was the photographer for the great event.

We got them settled into a jug, left them alone a bit to get acquainted, and headed in for a quick dinner. When we came back out, neither lamb had nursed yet. Unfortunately, our shearing date is delayed and they seemed to be getting lost in all that wool. I trimmed a bit and helped a bit, and before too long the white one got the hang of it. The black one... well, let's just say she hasn't figured it out just yet, at least not 100%. Bottle baby #1, hopefully a temporary situation.

Luckily, Honey agrees that they are pretty darn cute

I checked the rest of the ewes... all eating and/or chewing their cuds (good signs that labor is not around the corner) and went to bed. This morning, I was surprised to see a white lamb and a black lamb huddled together in a corner of the barn. How the heck did they get out of the jug? Then I realized it was a completely different set of lambs.

Yep. Holly.

Unfortunately, however, Holly was not as onboard with the plan. It took us a bit to confirm that she was, indeed, the mother, because she was paying them so little mind. Honey was actually the one answering their plaintive calls. We got them into a jug... and she decided they needed to die. Immediately, if not sooner.

We haltered her so she couldn't injure them, but she still refused to let them nurse, dancing away and kicking at them every time they tried. (For the record, her udder was fine at this point.)

{insert hugely annoyed sigh here}

Voila, bottle babies #2 and #3, probably for good.

Terzo again, who often forgets to hold the camera steady
for a long enough time; we managed to get some
colustrum out of her and into them, always a good start

So that was my day -- trying to get newborn lambs through their first 24 hours with little to no assistance from mom. I tried every trick I know, including wiping them down with the afterbirth, to get her interested, but she didn't bite. It became touch and go when she headbutted the little white ram lamb into her water bucket, and he became so chilled that it took me three hours and several heat sources (heat lamp, blow dryer, my body heat, my jacket, heating pad) to stabilize his temperature.

In the kitchen, wrapped in towels on the heating pad;
finally got him to stop shivering

Now I am waiting to go back out to the barn for the 11:30 pm feeding (not to be confused with the 2:30 am feeding). The lambs are currently in with Holly in a bigger pen, because she became upset and started to call to them when we removed her -- go figure. None of this makes any sense to any of us, but we're doing our best to stave off mastitis in her and starvation in them.

If only there were a better way! Wait, there is... but it seems Holly missed the memo.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

still the one

We still have only the one lamb because our other ewes are taking their sweet time.

Luckily, she is cute as the dickens and can handle all the adoration single-handedly. Secondo has named her Kalista (Greek name, meaning "very beautiful") -- Kali for short.

I took this video just after we let her out of the jug for the first time. The jug is a purposefully small space that we put the mom and lamb(s) into just after birth, so they can bond, keep the other ewes away, allow us to keep a close eye on the pair of them, etc. She was definitely ready to get out and explore the big wide world of the barn, though she got a little shy once I brought the camera back and started to play hide and seek with me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

no passport required

We went on a trip last night...

Your eyes are not deceiving you -- that's the bottom of the Eiffel Tower! We went to Paris, in springtime!

Or maybe the Philadelphia Flower Show, thanks to my generous parents. We didn't even have to leave the country, though we did leave the state... and I bet it had more flowers than Paris.

This was one of the wonderful carousel animals at the bottom of the tower. In the background you can see the ostrich (left) and lion (right). They were some of the best parts of the show.

I loved the gates on this display... and the way they used paintings instead of the more traditional pools of water.

I also loved this little duck sculpture.

Looking back at my post from last year, there wasn't anything quite as spectacular and the displays weren't quite as inspired but... it was a much needed breath of fresh spring air. It invoked lovely thoughts of the days of lettuce to come, and best of all:

We were able to tell Primo that we had taken him to Paris without having to spring for intercontinental airfare for five people.

Monday, March 7, 2011

message received

It appears that Hermione reads this blog, because she got the message loud and clear. Guess what my LSH found this morning when he went out to feed?

Up, dried off and nursing already.
The best kind of delivery!

He was so surprised (she is a couple of days early) and so busy trying to figure out what he was seeing, that he didn't look where he was going, tripped over the garden cart and ripped a giant hole in his work pants.

Hermione was Secondo's tenth birthday present, so he was well pleased to meet her cute little ewe lamb. (Last year she had twin ram lambs, not quite as exciting.)

Snug as two bugs in their clean lambing jug.

I have never seen Secondo move so fast in the morning. He was dressed and out the back door with clean towels and lambing supplies before I even had a chance to get into work clothes.

In other news...

At least she didn't ruin the coat this time,
just managed to shimmy out of the leg straps.

Yep, that's Farrah again. Apparently she is finding this battle highly amusing (click on the photo for a close-up of her facial expression).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

on your mark

Get ready...

Everything we might need, present and accounted for.

Get set...

Barn and lambing jugs raked out and disinfected with powdered lime;
clean straw will be put down before they are moved in.


It's all up to the girls now.
First due date is next week.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

early morning visitors

The first clue we had was the garbage truck, sitting on the road and honking at 6:30 am this morning. It wasn't our garbage company reminding us that we had forgotten to put our cans out (as if!). I couldn't figure out what he was going on about: Primo was on his bus, the dogs were in the house and the boys were in bed, so I went back to work. In my pajamas. (The benefits of working from home in the early morning!)

Five minutes later, our phone rang, and the mystery was solved: our next door neighbor (who lives a quarter mile down the road) had a break out. Her three miniature horses were on the loose in our front yard.

By the time I got dressed and out there, she had lured two of the three into our empty paddock. You could read the sheep's minds: for the love of pete, what are these things and why are they paying a call at such an uncivilized hour?

The rattle of the grain bins in the barn distracted them from their concentrated disapproval. You can tell where the barn is located: right where they are all looking. Doesn't the one in the middle look particularly tubby? Not surprisingly, she is the one that has her head down, eating, in the top photo.

Of course, Dusty had to check them out and took a bit of convincing not to chase them around.

Our neighbor's husband showed up with two leads a little later, and my LSH volunteered to help take one of them back home. Their farm is not visible in the photo; those minis were on quite a jaunt.

I am not sure if the sheep extended a return invitation or not. My suspicion is not.