Friday, October 9, 2009

I can not believe that I have not written on this blog since April! Where has the time gone?
Lets see.. our lambs have grown up! Though you would not actually know that, because some of them are still nursing. We found wonderful homes for the "extra" sheep that we incurred from the surprise lambing.... Of course we picked and chose among these animals for the ones with the nicest fleeces. This was very difficult because they all had really gorgeous fleece. Of course, we would have kept them all, but, at the price of hay and the hectiness of our schedules, we really could not have done justice to that many animals. We are at a comfortable number, for us, at this point. We have 17 sheep, and 7 Angora goats. Just enough to produce a wonderful product and keep us on our toes and entertained.
With fewer mouths to feed, and a lot of rain, our pasture lasted longer than it has in other years. It has sustained the flock right up until now. Only now are we having to increase the amount of hay that we feed. We want to keep them on pasture as long as possible, because their fleeces stay cleaner than they do in the barnyard. For them to get to pasture they have to traipse across a bridge and up a low lying path... so if it rains a lot, or snows a lot, they are stuck on the barnyard side of the bridge. So, we are hoping for a long fall..... keep your fingers crossed.
There is definatley a nip in the air in upstate NY. Time for knitting! Somehow over the summer I got into a knitting slump somehow. But, after we participated in the first Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival in September, I became very inspired again. So, my needles are clicking away with a variety of projects started. If you did not attend the Fiber Festival, you should really mark your calendar for next year..
Well, I guess I had better get back to the farming...... stop by and visit us on the weekends...
Back to work...... toodles...

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Immaculate Conception???

I think not. However, for a brief moment, I wondered.

This is the story of the shepherdess that decided not have lambs this year. Now that I am working full time, off of the farm, it would not be a wise idea to actually breed sheep and have lambs coming into the world when I would not be there to catch them.

In anticipation of this, we did not keep an 'in tact' ram. All of our ram lambs were "whethered", or more clearly put, castrated. We did this last spring at shearing time. However, in the fall, we did notice that one of the rams (Yoda) seemed to be a bit more endowed than we expected of a castrated ram lamb. Huh? What to do? So, we called our trusty vet. After examination, she said that she thought that the castration did not fully "take" and one side seemed to have developed. Needless to say, poor Yoda, we had her "finish the job". She was quite certain that there was "little to NO" chance that he had been "busy". It was comforting to hear her say that the original procedure, "mostly likely" (those were the words that I should have listened too) did so much damage to the cords that he would not be viable.

Well, we had a long and relaxing winter secure with this knowledge.

Then, just about two months ago, I was feeding the sheep and I noticed that one of the ewe's had a swollen udder...... Mastitis? I made a mental note and on my way back to the house it dawned on me... maybe ....???? So, I turned around and went back to examine her more closely. No, there was nothing wrong with her udder... it was just FULL OF MILK!!!!!!!!!! Oh my!

Secretly I was thinking well, it will be nice to have a lamb... one pregnant sheep will not be too much worry...... and, also I was thinking ...."good for Yoda". He has amazing genetics and I can use one more luscious fleece.... so we began keeping an eye on Della... after a week or so, for whatever reason, I thought to take another, closer, look around the barnyard... Low and behold, I noticed another swollen udder, then another and another. It appeared that Yoda had been quietly, discreetly busier than we anticipated.

Long story short, we had 10 lambs born on our farm this spring. They are all gorgeous. Each birth, with one exception, was easy easy easy.... all of the lambs are beautiful.

We had some pretty long nights, well, the truth is that Nancy had some long nights, checking on the sheep two or three times. We had wonderful friends and family come and check on things while we were at work....

Having lambs is much like giving birth yourself. Once it is over with, you forget the angst and exhaustion ... There is nothing like a barnyard of leaping lambs.

Enjoy the spring!!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow, snow and more freaking snow....

I am hearing the rumblings of my friends, coworkers and neighbors grumping about the snow. It just seems to keep coming and coming. I actually, kind of enjoy it. Once, of course, we are home safe and sound.
The sheep seem oblivious to it. I think it cleanses the fleeces that are not covered by "sheep coats". It also provides clean ground for them to hang out, and lie down on. Not to mention that I get to feed them on the ground. Which, when the ground is not fresh and new, is not a good practice because we run the risk of spreading parasites. The snow takes care of that. Feeding sheep on the ground, as opposed to a feeder, mimics the motions that they would have on pasture. This helps keep hay and hay chaff out of the fleeces. So, a couple of inches of snow, every few days keeps things in order. No poopy/muddy messy looking barnyard . I prefer snow over when things begin to thaw. No matter how hard you try, the barnyard looks like a mud pit and you run the risk of feet problems(with the sheep and goats) and fleeces start to look a little grungy. This is when you pray that the shearer is coming as soon as possible! Get those fleeces off before the mud season. The really good news is, that after a snow storm you can reach right down under the fleece and the body of the sheep is warm and dry. An ode to the magic properties of wool! Not to mention, if you are a knitter, there is no better time to curl up with your needles and yarn.... you can't do anything else when it is snowing! A storm is like a mandatory "time out".
So, the moral of the story is.. if the snow is getting you down... think about the sheep... snow is not "all baaahd".
Have a safe journey!
Many blessings!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holidays on the Farm

Maybe the title of this should have been "managing multiple priorities". The holidays come and go, but the farm is a constant in our lives. Over the years, I have tried desperately to create a holiday environment that is much much calmer and much much more peaceful than those that I lived through in my younger days. However, they somehow still have that "tug" that makes me feel like I should be moving faster, along with that voice in the back of my head saying that I certainly have" forgotten something"... details and more details.
That is why this year was remarkable, well almost. I really did feel calmer. I really was perfectly okay at accepting my limitations in terms of gift giving.. and I set all kinds of limits on what activities (parties etc) that I would commit to. I was feeling very proud, "together" and quite peaceful until about 3 days before Christmas.

My shopping was done, the party for our knitting group was a huge success, even the gifts were wrapped. I was delighted that I was going to see my brother, for lunch, on Christmas eve day. He was going to be in Rutland Vermont on business. He would be traveling through Manchester on his way back to the Boston area ... I guess this was a highlight of the holiday for me. Given the distance, we have not been able to spend Christmases together very often.

Two days before Christmas, I was doing barn chores and noticed a goat kid standing with one side up against the barn. On the other side, his mom was standing directly along side of him, almost leaning into him. Something in the back of my head said "oh that's so cute!", and then, I had second thoughts and looked again. I nudged mom away and the kid started to sway in his hind end. I watched him walk and thought... perhaps he got banged around and injured his leg. I finished chores, all the while keeping an eye on him.... He was definitely compromised.. But, usually with injuries, they sort of heal on their own.. over time.. the conundrum I was having was trying to decide if I should "wait and see", or if he needed more immediate veterinary attention. I will not bore you with the myriad of possibilities of what could have been wrong. But, they were plentiful.
The next morning, Christmas eve, he was most definitely worse. We put him in a pen for his own safety. A place where he could be safe and warm, and we could get our hands on him if we needed to. We also put his mother in with him . This little guy was born in April, and his mother still bellows when he is out of sight. It was comforting for them to be together, and I know that some people think I am nuts, but she really seemed relieved that we were tending to him. She watched over him, and us. She looked at us as if to say "I have been holding him up for a couple of days now, it is your turn, please help".
So, now it is time to visit with my brother. I knew I had to get to the vets for some medication. Did they close early today given that it was December 24Th? Do I cancel lunch with my brother and tend to McGuire instead? I chose to have lunch with my brother, and dash to the vets afterwards. It is something that I have always struggled with, the people vs animals prioritization. I was lucky this time, McGuire was no worse for the wear when I got back, armed with medications... and I had a wonderful lunch with my one and only sibling. PHEW!
Then came December 25Th. I had tried my very best to not have a veterinary emergency on this day... however.... my miracle meds were not working and little McGuire was, as we say, "down". He could not stand when we checked on him in the morning ( I must mention though, he was still eating like a goat, or maybe more like a pig, of course). Christmas morning we called the vet... we felt pretty darn guilty about it. In the background we could hear her baby making joyous noises, and we felt awful intruding. However, being the true skilled professional that she is, she made a diagnosis on the phone, and it turned out she was "spot on". McGuire had meningeal worm....... a parasite originating in white tail deer that gets ingested when livestock are on pasture. It effects the spine. Over the phone, the vet described the treatment, and luckily, she did not have to come out. We did make one more call later in the day, mostly for clarification and reassurance...
All the while that this is going on, and we are making trips back and forth the to barn, calls to the vets... our family sort of managed to "do Christmas" around the farming tasks. We opened gifts, Nancy cooked a spectacular meal... we ate, laughed, visited and enjoyed the day. We have all just incorporated the farm into the pulse of our lives together. It was like watching a symphony, one beat at a time, we went with the flow of the day. Experiencing this, and knowing this, somehow made this day, this Christmas, more special than all of the rest.
I guess the lesson for me has been, it is not the absence of chaos that makes your life great, it is the manner in which you respond to it......
I sincerely hope your holidays were as wonderful as ours....
Peace and Blessings,
PS: If you raise livestock, and have not heard of this menigeal worm.... you might want to look into it... soon. It is pretty nasty, but caught early, it can be treated.
By the way, McGuire is on his way to recovery. He and Fiona, his mom, are back out with the flock.