Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 2-15

The temperature has finally rebounded to a whopping 4 degrees.  Yes, I did say 4, it was 3* when I woke up.  The winds have subsided somewhat, (they are currently gusting up to 50mph) although the windchill is predicted to be somewhere around -20* most of the day. Winter is here in full force.

While the warmth of the woodstove beckoned and a cup of coffee sounded most inviting, I headed out to feed the lambs in the shop at 5am.  A snow squall had blown through in the early evening hours and the icy crystals were flying through the air.  The lambs were expressing their displeasure…loudly.  Not that they were even remotely affected by the weather…they were just HUNGRY! They drained their bottles quickly and I blew back into the house.

Rather than head off to the barn directly, we did indulge in a cup of coffee and a quick scan of the news.  Then, we headed out.

It was still somewhat dark as I walked down the path to the barn, trying hard not to let the wind rip the box of lamb bottles out of my hands.  I gave a cursory glance around the backyard as the dogs came to greet me.

Wait a minute!  What is THAT?

THAT was a shingle.
well, at least Gus will help pick up the shingles!

 and another shingle…and then…a whole bunch of shingles.  Uh oh…the Boss’ worst nightmare when we have any type of wind storm. I didn’t stop and assess damage (I knew he would do that) but, I did heave a big sigh of relief when I saw they did NOT come off the house.

Chores went smoothly, despite the cold.  But, you KNOW it’s cold when the heated stock tank freezes over! …and there is snow INSIDE the barn despite the fact the doors were closed (it blew in through a crack in the roof)---we are talking serious wind, folks!

But, the animals were all fine, even if they were incredibly hungry (the cold weather means they burn far more calories in an attempt to stay warm) and somewhat grumpy. I reckon they thought I should have been there earlier, and they really didn’t like being locked in the barn for the night. Although, once they went outside, they weren’t real happy with that, either.

Chores done, we headed in for a warm breakfast.

The damage to the shop roof will just have to wait. It’s far too cold and windy to attempt any type of repair work. A fairly good-sized section of shingle did indeed blow off during the night.  Shingles are scattered all over the place.  I found a couple in the property-line fence!  We will just give thanks that it isn’t any worse.

In a little while, we will suit up and head back out again.  Today’s incredibly cold temperatures mean that we will be making many trips out to gather eggs and deliver water in our attempt to keep both from freezing.  All the while wishing we could just hibernate by the woodstove, somehow blocking out the howling of the wind.

Ah, yes…

Winter on the farm…

…gotta love it.

But, you didn’t stop by just to hear me gripe about the cold winds and the snow predicted for tomorrow. And, I really meant to tell you about the week on the hill.

So…here we go…

Last Sunday afternoon, we had a baby shower for Toughchick.  It went quite well and I was assured there were no “pinterest fails”.  And, for anyone who wondered…that green junk from last week’s post turned out very nicely as edible moss on little woodland cupcakes.  We also had everyone design a onesie for the new baby.  I was amazed at the creativity of the crowd.  I truly appreciated everyone who helped and everyone who was able to come make it a special day.  I guess that means that the “countdown” to baby day has begun.
cousin Stillman is not so sure about the guest of honor


the onesie gallery

great-grandma, mama-to-be and paternal grandma

…and speaking of babies…

I can finally tell the other exciting news!

with my girls

I’ve known about this for some time and it was REALLY hard to keep a secret! (okay, I confess…I did tell a couple people)  But…

T-bone and Blondie are adding to the family this year, too! 

TWO babies in one year!  

This is majorly exciting to this grandma. Here’s hoping they will learn to love pulling weeds and helping the grandparents work in the gardens. (just kidding…well,sort of)

But, there is no time to lose my head over the prospect of human babies, because my lamb babies are still quite demanding of my time.  The shop babies (Dot and Dash) are growing quite well.  Although, Dot is still the tiniest lamb we have.  After two weeks, she finally weighs over 8 pounds!  (her brother is nearly 14#) The bottle babies at the barn, most often referred to as “the Piranhas”, are getting enormous.  Two of them are over 25 pounds! Feeding time is quite the adventure.
the piranhas

Dot and Dash are SO cute!

Since the lambs are all getting so big, it was time to allow everyone to head back out to the winter paddock (they stay closer to the barn prior to lambing). There is really nothing to eat in the winter paddock, but they all seemed happy with a little more space to roam. This gives me the chance to assess the lambs, too.  Watching them romp and play is really entertaining, but it is also how we determine health and vigor.

now, THAT is a nice lamb!

fun and games the first day out

"you look like you need some HELP..."

I got the creep feeder set up and operational for the first time this season.  The creep feeder allows the lambs constant access to grain, without having to contend with the hungry ewes.  This is one way we make sure they are getting proper nutrition and all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow strong and healthy.  Since lambs are not the brightest of creatures, it took a couple of days before they figured out the new system.
won't be too long and they'll get this figured out

The lambs also caused the Boss a little extra work this week.

Sometime ago, we replaced the gate behind the barn because it was broken.  All the weight and pressure of the hungry ewes pushing against it at feeding time caused the welds to break. Repairing it was pointless, so we just replaced it.  The sturdy gate we put in its place should withstand anything. However, the spacing of the bars mean that lambs could squirt through and get in the feed corral.  While this really doesn’t seem like it would be a problem…they couldn’t figure out how to get OUT again. (again…lambs=not so bright) The Boss zip-tied some fence on the bottom of the gate and we’re good to go. 
lamb-proof gate

Of course, he did have some help with this project…
yes, it IS the same "helper" sheep!

Since the season is marching on, I did get around to starting some greens for Market.  I think, I hope, I saw some germination out there.  The dreadful cold is predicted to stick around this week, so any further seed starting will have to wait.  While the greenhouses can be heated, there’s just no competing with temperatures of -1 or less.
that teeny, tiny little green thing is a kale plant

And, the cold means the sheep eat more…which means the hay supply is running low.  But, before we can head over to the hay guy’s and pick up the load that is just waiting for us in his shed, some serious work had to be done in the barn.

We have a real problem with rats. Ewwww, RATS.  Sometime, I’ll tell you all about the rats, but for now, suffice it to say that the rats are a problem. 

It is quite damp on one side of the barn, and the rats tunneled through the soft earth, into the hay and made all sorts of tunnels and nests.  Nearly every string on nearly every bale was eaten through.  We lost a fair amount of hay, and I was not very happy about the waste…and the mess. (particularly when I picked up a bale and a rat jumped out!)

So the Boss had a plan…and a project.

All the hay was removed.  The Boss cleaned and scraped and put down plastic.  Then we got some pallets, (Thanks, Susan and Valley Feed!) and put down some plywood.  We hope that this will keep the bottom bales from getting damp and inviting to rats (and mold and other nasties). We know we will never truly eradicate the rats, but I do hope we can keep them out of the hay!

On the next warm-ish, non-windy day we will head out to the hay guys. Here’s hoping that won’t be too long! Because, the cold weather means the sheep are eating a LOT of hay.

In advance of the bitterly cold weather that is predicted to stick around for the next week (with snow forecasted for tomorrow) we put a wind-break up around the henhouse. By limiting the wind, and having a heatlamp inside the house, the hens will be afforded some level of comfort. This kind of weather makes you understand why many farmers insist that climate-controlled, indoor housing is the only way to raise poultry!

Since we have ascertained that the hoophouses are still indeed standing, despite last night’s awful winds, I’m not even going to bother looking inside them today. No reason to expose the poor plants to any more cold than necessary…and it’s more than a little depressing down there anyway. 

But, we were able to pick and sell some lovely spinach and chickweed this past week. (among other things)

All in all it was a great sales week!  

It’s amazing just what we can earn in the middle of the winter thanks to our awesome customers. (and a little advance planning on our part)

…well, it’s up to 6 degrees…

…and it’s time to head out once more.

Thanks for stopping and by and listening to me ramble on about the weather and the farm and…all that stuff.

Hope you’re warm and well and having a  Happy Sunday!

Please do come back again real soon!

Squeekie's commentary on the weather
(actually, this is Squeekie's commentary on everything
...except cat cookies!)


  1. I just love the stance of those piranhas!
    We often have a rat problem, particularly if the winter is a hard one. The farmer feels he just about keeps on top of it and the farm cats help to discourage them I think.

  2. I love your Sunday "Walkabout!"

    Your husband is so clever and smart, wish I could find me one like that, lolol. That gate fix was genius! The lambs and babies are so cute too. :)

    Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS on the new wee one! :) How exciting and what a cute picture with the tractors!

    The spinach looks lovely and do you not have kitties to take care of the rats? I guess there are just too many. :( Boo on them, but hopefully your husband can fix the space up for you and get them deterred.

    Have a great week!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Bobbi!
      You're right, my husband is clever and smart. He's pretty nice to have around. lol
      Our kitties kill rats, our dogs kill rats, we even trap rats. ...and still they come. I don't want to know how many there are. Maybe we should get the pied piper to come and help us. We are truly hopeful that by cleaning the barn and eliminating access to food, we will correct the problem. Fingers crossed.
      I hope you have a great week as well!

  3. Hard to imagine a lamb weighing just 8 pounds. We have a small
    dog, and she weighs over 20 pounds, so I'm envisioning your baby
    being less than half of her. Wow! Ewwww is right when it comes
    to the rats. One associates them with dirty cities not with your (or
    Pat's) beautiful countryside. Hope the lambs are not an attraction
    for them. Have never eaten chickweed, looks nutritious

    1. Hi Sheila!
      You're right, our little lamb is a teeny, tiny little thing. Hopefully, she will grow quickly. She's very petite and cute right now. But, she has a great will to live and eats well. We'll have to wait and see what happens.
      I agree about rats and the countryside. But, they do create a common management problem on most farms. I don't think the lambs attract them, however the feedbins for the lambs DO attract them. We've corrected all that and again we will have to wait and see if they are gone. (or at least under control)
      Chickweed tastes a lot like spinach. It is taking over the hoophouses, so we were really glad to sell some!
      Have a lovely week.