Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 1-11

ice crystals on the hoophouse
It’s been a long, cold week here on the hill.

Long because it’s January and lambing season is upon us. Not that we’ve seen any lambs just yet…no, lambing season is far more checking than it is action. All those trips to the barn at all hours make the season seem to stretch out interminably sometimes.  But, by doing an actual physical check of the barn, I am aware of any impending catastrophes. (and video monitors are too expensive) I do end up feeling a whole lot like Fred the Baker of “vintage” commercial fame.  Watch this video...

 and imagine he’s saying “check for lambs”, and you have a pretty good idea what I become this time of year…although even the thought of going outdoors for any period of time requires a whole series of clothing layers, making a trip to the barn a fairly big ordeal. And, don’t even consider going to the barn without dressing for the weather!
it just LOOKS cold

And it's been a cold week, because…well, that pesky Arctic air mass has moved south once more.  I know, I know…it’s January. It’s supposed to be cold.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it. (and I don’t) And, honestly, the cold has been noteworthy. The wind has been a constant factor this week as well, so the “real-feel” temperature has been well below zero, even during daylight hours. But, like I said, it IS January, so we’ll just make the best of it. We just allow some extra time for dressing and un-dressing each time we head out. But, with all the putting on and off of layers, our productivity is greatly reduced.

Despite the cold, the lack of sleep and the constant putting on/ taking off of outdoor apparel, a few things happened around here in addition to the 87 barn checks and the hourly gathering of eggs. (okay, 87 barn checks might be an exaggeration…but, we did check eggs on the hour on the coldest day)

The week started with a bit of excitement as the Boss and I attempted to get into town, run errands, make a delivery, pick up feed and parts and groceries and get back before lunchtime. (that didn’t happen so we ate in town)

all the wind has Gus on constant alert
While we were getting ready, the dogs were getting all worked up about something out front.  Remember last week and their raccoon encounter? Read this.  I figured I better find out what was going on. After I put on forty-seven layers of clothes, I headed out.

Down toward the creek, in the thick underbrush, I spotted something black.  It wasn’t too large, and my first thought (considering the crazed dog barking and the location) was a bear.  Black bears have indeed been spotted in Mbrook with some regularity, so my guess wasn’t too far afield.  However, as it ambled up the hill, I realized it was a black Angus calf, a fairly good-sized Angus calf.  It wandered along, found the neighbor’s driveway and headed over for a visit.  Since the neighbor has big dogs and even bigger glass windows, and has had a few “bovine encounters” in the past, the Boss called to give them a heads-up.  No one answered.  A few minutes later, the neighbor called and said she didn’t get the message until AFTER she let the dogs outside…and yes, the calf was indeed there.  As we discussed the possible ownership of the calf, I saw a pick-up heading up the lane.  The “calf posse” was on the case and headed for the rescue.  Did you  read THIS great cow story? 
No bear...just a wayward calf

I excused myself and went out to alert the search party as to the whereabouts of the calf.  It took an extra minute to get my coat and boots and they were headed back down when I got outside. I waved. They all waved back.  I waved again…they waved again.  (It’s a friendly community, but really…) “Hey!” I hollered.  They all said “Hey!” back.  Come on, seriously, guys?  HEY!  This time I waved both arms.  SCREECH.  The driver hit the brakes and the cow chasers in the back lurched forward. “Y’all looking for a calf?”   OH,YES!  They declared in unison.  I pointed in the direction of the calf’s last known location.  They thanked me and headed down the lane.  They parked and fanned out through the woods. Any other time, we would have joined the search, but we had places to go and things to do…

I reckon they found the calf since they were gone when we got back from town and the calf hasn’t shown up again. While I thought it was an amusing start to the week, I’m pretty sure the sentiment was not shared by the cow-posse. But, they certainly can’t complain about being bored.

With the town run completed, the Boss turned his attention to the barn where he needed to create some jug pens for lambing season.  I’m sure I’ve explained “jug” pens before, but in case you missed it..JUG pens are just small, temporary pens we put the moms and newborns in after the lambs arrive.  By spending a couple days in close quarters, the new family has time to “bond” and we can keep a close eye out for any problems.  You can read more about that HERE. And, for the record, I have NO idea why they are called jugs.
jug pens in 2012

With one ewe already in the “hospital”, the arrangement was altered slightly.  For those of you wondering about “Charlene” from this post.…she’s still hanging in there.  She’s not falling over anymore, and we’ve gotten through one of the two weeks until her babies are actually due. We have developed a little routine, and she’s being very cooperative. However, my expectations are not very high at this point. But, keep thinking good thoughts…

The jug pen construction got the Boss thinking about how he could improve the electrical wiring in the barn.
 So, after another trip to town, he started re-wiring.  By this time the bitter cold had arrived, so I ended up helping a little, so his fingers didn’t actually freeze.

new wiring going in

checkin' out the new electrical work
obviously you do not recognize good help when you see it!
 And, of course, the ewes had to offer some “assistance” as well. Even though that job wasn’t really in the plan for the week, it will make things nicer in the barn.

Since it’s really too cold to work outdoors, I tried to focus on other stuff. I did manage to get all the starting dates planned for transplants and the big seed order arrived Saturday.  Now, it’s time to catalog the seeds…and count the days until seed starting can begin.  We do need to clean and organize one greenhouse, but it’s far too cold for that right now.

The bitter cold also precluded any thoughts of picking greens for this week’s delivery.  I think the plants only thawed out for about two hours during the week.  And, quite honestly, picking in frigid conditions wasn’t at all appealing! But, we had another great week of sales.  Our customers are great!  And our winter sales method works incredibly well for all involved.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to do something you love for a living and have so many people express their appreciation for your efforts. 

...and we have great views, too!

Now that the wiring is completed and the jug pens are arranged, all we can do is WAIT for the first lamb to pop.  I really thought we might be seeing some yesterday, but thankfully I was wrong.  I say thankfully because yesterday was really cold, and the temperatures are supposed to moderate some over the next few days.  We’re actually going to be above the freezing mark for a while. Perfect weather for lambing!

Snuggled down in the hay, Tess is waiting...

Ready to spring into action, Sissie is waiting, too
this gives you no idea how BIG "Girlfriend" is...
but, she's waiting, too!

Here’s hoping you’re well and warm and enjoying a 

                Happy Sunday!

…wherever you are.

Thanks for stopping by…be sure to come back and visit us again real soon!

sunset on 1-6-15


  1. I absolutely love your blogs. Have you ever thought about compiling them and putting them in book format one day?

  2. beautiful pictures of the ice crystals! Wow. Have never seen any except in pictures, lol. I can't wait to read all about the lambing process and to see how many babies "Charlene" will have too. :)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Bobbi! The amazing ice crystals are the one good thing about the cold weather. You must live somewhere lovely and warm.
      I'm looking forward to having lambs to write can't be too much longer!

  3. Poor Charlene!
    Supposed to have an ice storm here starting after midnight. Oh. Goody.

    1. Hi Maureen!
      I'll pass your concern on to Charlene. ;)
      We're supposed to have some weather, too. While we're not looking forward to that, the change of weather may aid in the onset of labor for the close ewes.
      Stay safe and warm!