Sunday, March 6, 2016

lambs in snow

Lambs are getting bigger and stronger here by the day. Friday was their first experience of snow.

It was gone by later that day. Hopefully this will be the last of it; it hasn't been a particularly hard winter, but we are all ready for spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

and now we're done

Luckily the ewes gave us a nice long break after Jasmine had her quads, to give us time to get them all on the right road.

They are big rowdies by now, sturdy little things and absolute terrors to all. Many of our ewes have little hoofprints on their backs, compliments of the gang of four, who seize any opportunity to play king of the mountain on objects at rest.

Almost three weeks to the day after they were born, the rest of the lambs arrived in what can only be described as a tidal wave. Several nights and early mornings were spent on a hay bale bed/chair, with the faithful dog for warmth, listening to a ewe's rythymic grunting and knowing when it was time to lend a hand.

It wasn't just the humans who were watching the show, however. We could have sold popcorn to the bystanders.

It was an exceptionally rough season, however, merciful only in the fact that we have a relatively small number of ewes. We have never had lambings and related issues as difficult and complicated as this, and we hope to never again. We are short on sleep and long on exhaustion and heartache, and quite honestly, it will be a while before I can even think of trying this again. If you ask me today, my answer would be a resounding no.

The only bright spot was the chance for our youngest son to shine. With the older two out of the way, more or less (they helped when they could, but they aren't around that much anymore), he stepped up to the plate in a big way. He was asked to deal with a lot of difficult things that all farm kids must deal with—the messiness of life beginning and life ending and being sometimes painful in between—but he never hesitated, and he never faltered. I could not be prouder of him, and I am holding on to that as the reason that we had to go through all this.

Because there has to be a reason.

Now we, and even more so the sheep and the lambs, can start to dream of fresh grass growing, and lambs growing along with it, and the chance for the cycle to spin its way through again.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

a roll of the dice

When we bred the ewes last fall, it wasn't the most thought-out decision. The rams were leaving; we weren't getting another ram anytime soon. It was then or not at all. So we went with then.

Shortly thereafter, I switched jobs.

Let me make it clear: I love my new job, but I am now officially back to being an attorney with all the time demands that sometimes entails. The office I work in is very flexible and very understanding, but I am away from home more, and more randomly, than I have been for a very long time. We are all adjusting.

And now, earlier than our usual custom based upon when the rams left the farm, lambing season is upon us. The first births were yesterday, and it came up snake eyes.

Secondo made the discovery when he went to the back to feed. Jasmine with one lamb in the ground, and more surely on the way given the first one's size. When she was all done, the final count was four. Quadruplets, the first ever set on our farm.

My husband and I immediately realized the enormity of it. Jasmine has frequently raised triplets by herself, with just a little assistance at the start. But four! There is no way she can do this by herself, though if any of our ewes were capable of it, it would be her. 

Thank goodness that Primo had cleared out the barn earlier that week, and Secondo and Terzo were home yesterday morning. Bottles were washed, clean old towels were pulled up from the basement, the heat lamp was plugged in and the babies and mama were settled into the jug, a smaller fenced area in the barn that keeps the new family together and warm for a few days while they get used to each other.

Now the intensive lamb management starts, and here's where the time starts to matter. Every lamb detail is noted in our barn book. Time of feeding—which for the time being, is every 3 hours—amount eaten, weight of each lamb every 24 hours, and any other relevant information.

Luckily we have help. So far at least, it's been very willing and enthusiastic help.

The reasons are pretty obvious!

I didn't get any pictures of Secondo except his hand, but he has been a right hand indeed! He even volunteered to take the 3 am shift, but the lambs are still so tiny and fragile that we didn't want him to make an unwelcome discovery. The runt, born at 4 lb, the smallest lamb ever on our farm, is particularly touch and go.

We are all a little touch and go as we try to work out these demands in light of new schedules, Jasmine included.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

winter whallop

We have been coasting along here in the Northeast, kind of even forgetting what the season was, because it has been so warm and temperate. I am not saying I am a fan of these elevated temperatures, as a matter of fact they scare me silly, though I seem to be in the minority as everyone else waxes on about how happy they are to wear flip-flops in December.

But then: Jonas came to town.

My wonderful husband volunteered to go out in the blizzard on Saturday morning to feed the sheep. We had left them in the back, rather than bringing them up to the barn, because they vastly prefer their three-sided sheds to the barn. Also, the barn hasn't been cleaned out yet. 

Do not miss his trusty canine companion's expression in this picture. It was an accurate representation of how we all felt in the face of the relentless blowing.

Fast forward to this morning: a pristine winter wonderland. Say what you want about snow, but it sure has a way of beautifying the place, at least until we start messing it up with plows and shovels.

My turn on the snowshoes to do the chores. This time the trusty canine is sneaking some sheep feed, one of his favorite snacks.

Chicken made it through the storm just fine, though she was super happy to see me with the feed bucket. She wouldn't come out of her hutch yesterday but today she was on the ground and ready for her breakfast. I guess she had nothing better to do during the storm because we got an egg in the bargain.

Then further back,  out to the sheep... the snowshoes were not much good, I am not sure why.

Lazy girls spent the day in their sheds! (The second shedis out of shot to the left, where you can see their tracks leading.) Their heated water tank is next to where I am standing to take the picture. Clearly no one ventured out to it. 

Secondo took pity on them later and went out to break a path. I didn't have time this morning, plus I had to take off my snowshoes to get over the gate—no opening it with all that snow.

We—and by we, I mean mostly my husband and boys—made quite a dent in the plowing and shoveling yesterday, so today's clean-up was not so bad. Nothing left to do for the rest of the day but play on fort mountains of snow.

With all that energy and enthusiasm, he'll be the one tapped for chores tomorrow. School has already been called off so he'll have plenty of time to fight his way back there. Character building, right?