Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's in the Vet Box?

1st lamb of the  2014 season

Lambing Season is here 
        once more!

this old girl has a couple of weeks until her due date

For the next several weeks, I will be on Ovine Obstetrical duty 24/7.

I really like this time of year…it’s exciting to walk into the barn and see the miracle of life happening right before your eyes.

But, there are times when the miracle needs a little human intervention.  That’s when it’s time for me to get my well-stocked vet box and leap into action. (ok, leap is a little strong…but, it sounds good)  In order to better understand shepherding, you should know what’s in the vet box. And you should read this, too.

I guess I should start by explaining that it isn’t a box at all…it’s more of a tote. I think I found it in the cleaning section of the store, but I’ve had it so long I don’t remember.  The shape is perfect for fitting securely over the gates in the barn. Yes, I tried a bucket---the sheep think it has food in it, look inside and dump everything on the barn floor. (definitely NOT helpful)

various ways lambs can be presented for birth
all but the first one  need some sort of assistance

It’s also important to note that I don’t have to assist with every birth, but when intervention is called for, it should be prompt. I have tried to anticipate all the needs of the barn so I don’t have to run back and forth countless times.  The running is particularly annoying during those middle-of-the-night calls when it’s snowing/sleeting/raining. 

 So, what's in that vet box?

The long orange glove is an OB glove.  They are very long and designed to wear when doing an internal exam of the animal. (yes, in THERE) Since they are made for giants, I put a little latex glove over top. I learned this tip from the vet techs and it makes it so much easier. (no more floppy fingers)  Then I put a blob of SUPERLUBE (really the name and it's the blue stuff) in the palm.  This is an antiseptic/lubricant that makes it easier to get my hand where it really does not belong and has the added benefit of controlling germs. (remember we are talking about the barn) 

Scissors are used to clip the umbilicus. A little vial of iodine is used on the trimmed umbilical cords to disinfect them and dry them out.  Again, we’re worried about germs entering the animal’s body. I keep the iodine in a recycled syringe tube since that is the perfect size to fit the newborn lamb’s navel (and it fits in one of the holes in the tote) and the tube has a tight-fitting lid.  The lid helps to avoid leaks.  Nothing like having EVERYTHING stained with iodine---there is a reason it is called the “shepherd’s badge”.
this is not really my idea of a fashion statement

The little bulb aspirator is made for baby humans.  It is used for clearing mucus and fluid from the newborn lamb’s nose and throat.  Some farmers use a bit of straw to make the baby cough and rid itself of the fluid, I have found that the “sucker” works better for me.

There are a couple of syringes---used for administering any necessary medications.  Our area is very selenium deficient and supplementation is necessary.  Occasionally a chilled lamb will be given penicillin in an attempt to avoid pneumonia.  Any ewe that has had any type of interventive treatment is also given penicillin to protect against metritis. (an infection of the uterus which is possible after invasive assistance)

That bottle of “survive” and the blackstrap molasses are used when it’s been a tough delivery. Survive is a vitamin/mineral drench for lambs and the molasses is a little treat for the mama. I also keep some tubes of probiotics in the refrigerator and add them to my box as I head out to the barn.  These provide “good bugs” for the newborns sterile gut and promote healthy appetite and stimulate their immune systems.  …and the ewes think the stuff tastes good.
yes, I do have sheep meds in my fridge

There is a bolus gun.  Not a gun in any true sense…more a pill doser.  It is incredibly difficult to give solid oral medication to a sheep (or any other farm animal) By sticking the pill in the bolus gun and putting it in the animal’s mouth, the chances of actually getting it IN the animal are greatly increased.  (I don’t use this very often, injections are quicker and easier) It is also possible to give liquid medications with the drencher. (that's the little tube with the yellow plunger)

There is an intubation tube  (actually, I have a different one---the on in the photo was eaten by Milly-the-goat) Did you read Adventures with Milly-the-Goat? And don't miss Part 2 of Adventures with Milly-the-Goat.

If the lamb is too weak to suckle, it is possible to put the tube down its gullet into its stomach and slowly pour colostrum/milk replacer down the tube, nourishing the lamb.  Results can be astoundingly good…but, there are times when nothing helps. We have a bag of milk replacer in the spare room to use for any bottle babies. 

There’s a scale and a weighing sling…sometimes I really want to know how much that lamb weighs and the livestock scale is a little unwieldy.  There is a notebook and pencil for …well…notes. (I tend to be a little old-school) The thermometer is handy in diagnosing infection or hypothermia.

That yellow thing is called a “ewe spoon”.  (and I hope to NEVER use it again) Sometimes, the lambs are large, the ewe is small and all that “extra baggage” has a difficult time staying where it is supposed to.  The spoon goes up inside the ewe and it attached to a harness on the outside and keeps everything  in place. (well, sort of)  In all our years shepherding, we’ve only had to use this once (and that involved a vet call), but it’s better to be prepared.

Those little orange donut-like rings are used for docking tails and castration. While we don’t do this immediately after birth, it’s handy to know where they are. (they can be used as a tourniquet if need be) One last thing in the vet box is a stitch kit.  I’ve never had to stitch up an animal, but again…better safe than sorry.

In addition to the vet box, I have a big pile of “barn towels” that we keep just for lambing season.  These are used to massage and dry the newborns.  The massaging has the added benefit of stimulating the young animal’s internals and getting everything working properly.

There you have it…the vet box…standing at the ready for my regular barn rounds for the next couple of weeks.  

You know…just in case I have to LEAP into action.
this little guy needed no birth assistance
just a little check-up afterwards

**Thanks to the Boss for taking most of today's photos!**

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 12-29

the willow down front looks like it's on an island

Here we are…the final Sunday of 2013.  …and it is raining…again. 

We have had SO many dark and rainy days this year that it’s fitting that the final “walkabout” of the year should be impacted by inclement weather.  

This week wasn’t one of gorgeous views or amazing sights, but rather the mundane and routine things of farm life. We had a few computer issues that caused more than a few meltdowns complete with a lot of sighing and bad words.  A prolonged period of “internet-less-ness” didn’t help anything, but after a few new installations and more than one re-start…it looks like we’re good to go.

The ewes got a few days closer to their due dates, there was growth in the hoophouses (although nearly imperceptible to the untrained eye) and the rains came and went and came again. Gus continued to keep us amused (or frustrated) with his goofy puppy antics.

ewes enjoying a little "al fresco" dining
with a mountain view

We’ve planned the gardens for 2014, ordered tomato seeds, bunches (and bunches) of onion plants and 7 batches of broiler chicks to start arriving in April. (we’ll buy the first batch at the local farm store in late February or early March) I even ordered layer chicks for fall shipment in anticipation of 2015! (that’s farming…always thinking ahead) The processing dates are secured with the butcher (seems a little overly optimistic since the first lamb hasn’t been born…but, just another example of living by faith) I need to do a seed inventory and the BIG seed order soon.  Maybe I’ll get that finished tomorrow.

Gus finally made it to the top of the hay pile
(before Thursday's hay hauling)

We took a little walk through Staunton after we finished our sales deliveries yesterday.

Every time I walk around downtown, I understand why Staunton wins all sorts of travel awards.  You should visit…really…even if it’s only virtually. http://www.visitstaunton.com/  

We’ve reviewed last year’s successes and failures, made notes as to how to repeat the first and avoid the second. New projects have been discussed and planned…and we await the New Year with anticipation.

But, since it is a rainy, gloomy Sunday…I think Tess has the right idea.

Here’s hoping you have some place warm and comfy for a little cat nap…

and that you can enjoy a very

Happy Sunday!

 ...until next time...

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Day Late...and A Dollar Short

I had hoped to write a really good THANKFUL THURSDAY post for the last Thursday of 2013.  Maybe a year in review…like my daughter did over at Cheap Farm Chick. Read Cheap Farm Chick--Year in Review  (She’s just getting started with her blogging adventure…please show her a little “blog-o-sphere love” and check it out!)

But, back to my post.  Maybe I should re-post the top blog entries for the year…but how to decide?  Most popular? Read this one. The ones I liked best? Read this onethis one, or this one. The sheep success stories? This one has video.The most controversial? This one even garnered some hate mail.

While I was deciding (and doing a bunch of other stuff), there was a phonecall…that hay that we left waiting in the hay guy’s barn?...yeah, it needed attention…RIGHT NOW!  The story of the hay is a story for another time, but suffice it to say---my blog post became low priority in a hurry.  After re-arranging the barn and my day and then the actual hay hauling (and the time we spent visiting with the hay guy and "the missus"), there was the rushing to catch up with my interrupted agenda, then chores and supper---and some tired muscles. And that was that.

So, there you have it…the story of my life…"a day late...and a dollar short."

The dollar short part may be a mis-statement though…we have found that the Good Lord provides for our needs…right down to the penny most times!

…and that probably sums up my Thankful Thursday, too. And while I should be out picking greens for tomorrow's delivery, this seemed important enough to delay that as well.

We have faced some troubles this year.  The weather was most definitely NOT cooperative.  The Boss and I both faced some unforeseen health issues (all I can say about that---Getting OLD ain’t for sissies!) We had a number of losses that were both unexpected and costly.  For a while we thought the Market was in jeopardy and then it looked like very heavy-handed government regulations concerning small farms were a given. All these troubles (and many more) caused a lot of extra work on our part and more than a little worry.

Gus is just one of the things God provided this year

But, in every single case, our needs were met. Every.single.time. And in more than one case, in an overwhelming way.
 …and that seems a fitting end for the final THANKFUL THURSDAY post of the year.

I (WE) give thanks to the Good Lord for meeting each and every one of our needs here on the hill this year! 
(and every year for that matter)

Thank you, Lord!

I will never get tired of the sight of newly germinated plants
...the hope of things to come!

...even if I am a day late.

**And a special THANK-YOU to all of you who read my ramblings on a regular basis. It’s nice to know that folks actually do read the words I dispatch to the cyber sphere on a regular basis.  I hope you’ll leave me some comments and feedback. If you like what you read (or even if you don’t) I hope you’ll share it with your friends.  I look forward to hearing from you in the upcoming year!**

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Walkabout 12-22

Talk about a change in the weather!

Last week we were faced with very cold temperatures.  It was really cold when the Boss and I took our Sunday walk out Mish Barn Road. 

Daytime highs were in the 30’s. …and today…63* at 6am…and it is the first full day of Winter! It’s not going to last long, the wind is whipping and thunderstorms are predicted for later in the day. …and by Tuesday, we should be back to 30’s as our predicted high temperatures.

 However, the warm (albeit WINDY) weather on Saturday gave us a much-needed weather window to complete one more step in the garden clean-up project.
from this angle the upper garden looks enormous

The Boss hard at work

The Boss pulled out all the tomato trellises.
Told ya it was windy...
His hat blew off!
I got the job of removing the irrigation t-tapes. 

after the tapes are dis-connected
the holes are plugged

the irrigation tapes must be removed

hauling the tapes from the garden

irrigation tapes stored for next season

Then, he bush-hogged the whole thing.
While I am glad that all the mess is gone, the garden in winter is rather dismal. 

Nothing is left growing except the garlic crop for 2014. But, it’s only 87 days ‘til Spring!

some of the ewes chillin' behind the barn
The countdown to lambing season has also begun.  The first lambs should arrive by the first of the year.  (it kinda snuck up on me this year)  It looks like most of them should be born by mid-January (give or take). Woohoo!  Unfortunately, we have one ewe who, for unknown reasons, won’t lamb until March (if she lambs at all).  Definitely not MY plan, but that’s a story for another day. In anticipation of the new arrivals, we took a little time to give all the ewes a booster shot of CDT.

This will give the babies immunity to the dreaded Clostridial diseases that can so quickly kill them. Here’s a little more about workin' the sheep.

In what seems to be totally NON-farm related news, we took a little fieldtrip and bought some new furniture this week.  Combined with the new laptop the Boss got me recently (and his own Chromebook), the new chairs mean we can do office work (and the occasional internet surfing) by the woodstove instead of the somewhat frigid office at the other end of the house.  Hooray!  Just in time for our big garden planning/seed ordering day, too. We also happened to see some of our favorite Market customers at the furniture store.  I do hope that they found the recliner they were looking for. Did you read the story of “Mrs. Squash"?
it looks so cozy

In anticipation of all the seed ordering/starting/2014 growing season, I got one greenhouse cleaned out and organized this week.  There are a number of transplants to get planted in the hoophouse in the upcoming week.  The Boss got the beds in the hoophouse #2  tilled up and the weeds under control and I seeded the next round of lettuce.  We’ll work on the other one in the upcoming week.  All our work is paying off; the demand for “off-season” greens has been astounding.
neat and tidy
ready to go again

That’s about it for “new and exciting” here on the hill…
Although, here’s one more little story for you.

I walked in the barn, looking for a tool to finish a job.  I got distracted by Gus and Tess playing together…

oh!  They look so cute! And I started taking pictures.
 It wasn’t too long before I realized they weren’t alone.
see the snake in the hay?

Apparently, Tess found a little snake somewhere in the barn and they were playing with it.  Well, torturing it is probably more accurate. (I’m sure Gus wanted to EAT it!) Of course, that meant I needed to rescue the snake, show it to the Boss and he took it to a safer place where it could recover (hopefully) and go on to feast on mice in the barn. 

Then, and only then, could I go back to the job at hand…whatever that was.  I get distracted so often that it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

Here are a couple of other distractions from the past week.
a beautiful trip to work

hunting cat 

rat-eating dog
admiring the Chinese cabbage

another sunrise

Thanks for stopping by!

What’s up in your neck of the woods?

Hope you’re having a

Happy Sunday!

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Wanna Be Like Kris!

“there’s a lot of bad –isms in this world…the worst is commercialism. 

                                    Make a buck, make a buck!”  
                                                                                                                         Alfred-   Miracle on 34th Street. (1947)

It seems that  a lot of us could learn a thing or two from “the jolly, old elf”…Kris Kringle. (particularly those of us involved with food production AND marketing/sales.)

Here are a couple of things I take from what is quite possibly my all-time favorite movie.
You MUST watch the 1947 version
(definitely black and white)

Kris didn’t say mean and untrue things about others.

Yeah, I am looking at YOU, Panera Bread.
Don't insult farmers. (particularly since you profit from selling FOOD) That was wrong! Dairy Carrie said it better.You should read this.

Kris used his imagination for good, wholesome entertainment and not to evoke horrible, untrue images.
“To me the imagination is a place all by itself... a separate country.
You've heard of the French or the British nation.
Well, this is the lmagine nation.”
                         –Kris Kringle – Miracle on 34th Street 1947

 Sorry, Chipotle…but, that scarecrow idea of yours was most definitely a bad use of imagination!

“Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination, take a look and you’ll see in to your imagination. We’ll begin with a spin traveling in a world of my creation.” chipotle

Unlike the television and music stars, some comedians, popular authors, certain magazines (Rolling Stone's horrific anti-farm article comes to mind) and outspoken activists of today, ol’ Kris Kringle didn’t force anything on those little children or their parents just to make a another sale and garner a little publicity for himself.  As a matter of fact, it didn’t seem like he ever thought about himself.

It is very easy to get caught up in beating the competition, to go along with the name-calling and perpetuation of falsehoods and fear-mongering that are so prevalent in today’s marketing…in order to “make a  buck” and make a big name for ourselves.  I’m pretty sure I’d get a lot more fans if I spouted off about the evils of Monsanto and biotechnology or if I blasted “factory farms” and anything different than the way we do things here on the hill.  But, I’m not willing to spread falsehoods and give up my integrity just to have a couple more people “like” me. (although I admit to more than my fair share of frustration when it feels like no one is paying attention)

Since we direct-market everything produced here on the hill, we talk to folks about food on a daily basis and depend on our weekly sales for our livelihood. To this end, we stay abreast of the current trends and issues in the world of food. (this is becoming a daunting task)

Many people are scared to death about food choices because of things (lies) they have heard perpetuated in the media.  In order to better serve them, we’ve made every effort to get educated on the buzzwords. I’m here to tell you…a whole lot of the stuff you’ve heard about Agriculture is completely untrue!

When somebody comes with a concern, we address it…without calling names or questioning practices.

Truth is the most effective weapon against fear.

If someone is looking for a product we don’t have, we’ll tell them who does. (Just like Kris did)
It doesn’t matter if the “competition” gets a sale… it isn’t all about the money in the long run.

Because…here are a few things I learned from Kris.

 LISTEN---he knew what that child wanted…and he knew how to meet that need. When the little boy wanted the fire engine, he didn’t hesitate to tell the mother where to get it (even if it wasn't his employer) ---while she was grateful for the help, she was even more touched by the selflessness of the act. It changed her attitude and her behavior.
Kris' sincerity changed this customer's mind

SPEAK- their language ---a little Dutch girl came to visit “Sinter Claes”…not only did he listen, but he answered her in words she could understand. That act alone was priceless.

TAKE TIME---he spent a lot of time with little Suzie and the other characters. That’s precisely how he knew what they needed and how to supply that need.
when asked what HE wanted
Kris asked for a gift for a friend

BACK IT UP---be willing to prove your claim.
yes, that beard IS real!

DON’T BE SHY---Kris didn’t hesitate to “tell it like it is”.  While this is often uncomfortable, if done in a kind and gracious manner, the results can be amazing.
bringing the competition together

KEEP IT CIVIL---good manners go a long way!  Kris didn’t yell or scream, he just kept spreading his message in a gentle way.  And when it finally became obvious that he was dealing with pure meanness and wasn’t going to make an impression without some sort of force, he stopped at one good thump on the head.
"I have great respect for psychiatry
—and great contempt for meddling amateurs who go around practicing it!"

STAND TRUE---even when it looked like things would end badly…that no one believed him, Kris never wavered in his convictions.  Part of the miracle was that others came to see the light and he was indeed proven to be who he said he was.
Kris got discouraged
but, he didn't give up

FOLLOW THROUGH---I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to find a way to fulfill Suzie’s one wish.  That went a long way to proving his credibility.

In the long run, while it worked wonders in the retail world, it wasn’t a brilliant marketing scheme or a ploy of any type… it was simply the outworking of a kind heart and a caring spirit.  Kris' good cheer, sincerity and generosity spread like ripples in a pond encouraging others, mingling and multiplying with that of others until the combination created “miracle on 34th Street”.

So…is it any wonder?

                                   I want to be like Kris!