Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Married a Genius!

Okay, before someone takes issue with this…

…or at the very least the Boss gets an overly inflated sense of worth…

Let me say, we both realize that this “invention” wasn’t an original thought. But, I am not exaggerating when I say it is life-changing!

Lambs and lamb bottles had seriously taken over my life. If I wasn’t mixing and feeding, I was cleaning up the mess.  Surely you read this.

once in the barn
the lambs became hungry SHEEP

After a week in the shop, my little charges moved to the barn. With their increased size, the formula amounts went up and the number of feedings went down.  What a grand and glorious day!

However, attempting to feed five hungry lambs at one time was getting more and more difficult.  I began to liken it to a shark tank. Not that I’ve ever been in a shark tank…and lambs only have teeth on the bottom…and there’s no water…  Okay, bad analogy.  But, the hunger-crazed young-uns were becoming an issue.  You'll have to click on this link to watch lamb feeding.

This is not my first time as a "sheep mom" to multiple lambs. Did you read this?

But, how does one feed multiple lambs at once? Two or three is do-able…but, FIVE? (it remains to be seen if I will end up with more...let's hope NOT!) 

lamb bucket feeder
web image

The standard solution is a feeder bucket.  A specialized bucket is fitted with nipples all around, the milk is poured in, and the lambs all drink to their satisfaction. 

But, lamb buckets are expensive.

And, there are more than a few other considerations.

The lambs were already used to their bottles.  That expensive bucket looked like a bear to clean. (and a great place for all sorts of gnarly germs to grow) How would I assure that all the lambs got the proper amount?  And, could I use it for just a couple lambs? What happened if it broke?  Parts are not readily available. The concerns were beginning to outweigh the benefits.

The Boss got busy and went searching the internet for other solutions.  Youtube to the rescue! (seriously, how did we figure out how to do things before Youtube?)

He assured me he had it all figured out.  He would have something ready for me to use by choretime.

He measured and figured...

he cut and he hammered...

…and he fashioned a brand-new lamb bar out of stuff we had lying around. (proving once again…don’t throw that out! …you might need it someday)

By placing the bottles in the lamb bar, they are held at the proper angle (so the lambs don’t suck air and give themselves a tummyache), the lambs can all eat at once, and I don’t have to worry about being eaten alive. (some small exaggeration there)

As with everything, there is a learning curve (for both sheep and shepherd).  This video was shot during their second or third feeding with the new system.  By the fourth or fifth time, they were ready, looking for the nipples to come through the little holes.  They line right up, drink their milk and then go back to doing their little lamb thing.

What a great solution! All the lambs eat at once, it’s easy to clean and readily expandable…and best of all…it was CHEAP!

Thanks, Boss! 

                     I really do think you're a genius. (well, most of the time)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Gift for You, Sports Fans

you see a giant ice cube
I see the foundation for a whole new sport
Despite the fact that we are not at all sports oriented here on the hill, we do have our fair share of entertaining and interesting feats of physical prowess. (the animals…definitely NOT not the humans)  Did you read/see “El Lambo Cross"?

This year, we have something new and amazing.  It’s pretty funny and I offer it as a gift to all of you who may be suffering some sort of sports withdrawal or the need for something new.

A name completely escapes me.  It’s a hybrid sport, some odd combination of field hockey, ice hockey and curling…invented by none other than Gus (our uniquely talented guardian dog). Somewhere in Gus’ “job description” it must say something about keeping the humans amused or at the very least utterly bewildered. Did you read this one?

The frigid weather meant that the water buckets in the jug pens froze.  Froze solid. In order to get the ice out and re-use the buckets, we placed them upside down in the sunshine, where we waited for the sun to warm them slightly and release the ice.  This method always works, but it takes a while and we are left with giant ice cubes sitting around the farm. (Each bucket is two gallons, so the ice cubes are sizeable)

Giant ice cubes and giant cold-weather loving dog are a perfect combination.

                                              Because the Pyrs LOVE winter!

The other afternoon, I heard a great deal of commotion outside the barn.  Sounds of scratching and growling were interspersed with some sort of thumping. Puzzled, I looked out to see Gus attacking one of the giant ice cubes.

He jumped.

He growled.

He pushed it with his nose.

He clawed it and rolled it over.

 Then, he would start the whole thing over again.

This went on for quite some time.  He made an effort to involve the cats (no way, dog…leave us alone) Ellie was equally unimpressed.  So, he played by himself.

Eventually, he picked up the giant icecube…(yes, in his mouth) and carried it off.

He took it to the orchard where he proceeded to “guard” it. (and lick it from time to time…like a giant snowcone)

Apparently, the goal of the game was to get all the icecubes to the orchard.  There were at least three scattered among the trees at one point.  I guess I should be glad, this will provide more moisture for the trees.

Sadly for Gus, the frigid weather passed (unfortunately, it is near certain to return) so his precious ice cubes will become just a memory like “woodhenge” before them. You can read about another of Gus'  projects HERE.

Field-ice-curling-hockey season may be short and unpredictable, but it does provide some much-needed amusement on a cold and gloomy winter’s day.

Yay, Gus!  

                  Go, Farm Dogs!

Watch here...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 1-25

Somehow, it’s time for Sunday’s little virtual farm tour.

I honestly have no idea what happened to the week.  I feel like I must have missed a lot in my sleep-deprived haze of endless lamb bottles. 

But, good news!  The lambs are now able to go for six hours between feedings! (at least at nighttime) I cannot tell you how wonderful this is.  That means I can actually get at least five hours of sleep in one stretch! That will make a world of difference in my outlook AND my productivity.

But…I’m getting ahead of myself.

At last week’s walkabout, there were only sixteen lambs…

We’ve made a little progress…

Here are a just a few of the new barn inhabitants.

While we’re still not finished…two ewes aren’t due to lamb until the end of the week (they just didn’t cooperate with the program, I guess)…the current tally is 28 live lambs. The ratio is slightly skewed this year with 18 rams to 10 ewes, so far. (usually it’s a little more evenly divided) All the lambs are doing incredibly well.

Thankfully, there was only one assisted birth this week.  The lambs were all tangled up and trying to come out at the same time.  Surprisingly, the seemingly difficult issue was easily corrected and everyone is fine.  (and I only got a little bruise on my wrist)

With that successful birth, there were only a couple of older ewes left to go, and they didn’t look remotely close, the Boss and I felt fairly confident that all would be well while we both left to go to the annual meeting for the Farmers’ Market. (We’d only be gone for a couple of hours)

Since the Boss is the Saturday Market Manager, and a seriously take-charge kind of guy, he runs the meeting. Of course, that means that I generally get pressed into service in some capacity. This year, it was my job to make sure everyone got a copy of the rules and their vendor application. (I like this job, it gives me a chance to visit a little) The Market rules are the direct result of careful consideration (and sometimes much discussion) by the Market Committee members. I think a lot of folks would be amazed at the amount of time and effort that go into the running of the Market. But, it does pay off.  Customers are always saying what a nice Market we have!
perfect attendance for another year
we've missed ONE Market in 18 years

The meeting went without a hitch.  That’s always good.  There were a few new folks interested in doing the Market this season.  That’s always good, too.  Although, it would seem with all the emphasis on LOCAL food and SMALL producers and KNOW your farmer and the like…that there would be more people interested in getting involved in production.  But there just aren’t.  And, I really don’t know why.  Being Market vendors is a unique way to make a living that has served our family well for going on 18 years now.  I won’t go ramble on about the Market right here… you can read why we do the Market here or simply search the blog for "farmers' market" (there are plenty of entries!)

The meeting wasn’t very long and we headed back to the hill. I fed the babies (again) and went to the barn. When I walked in, it looked as if there had been a lamb explosion. Wait…let me re-phrase that…because, ewww…what a gross mental picture. I meant a population explosion. There seemed to be sheep and lambs everywhere. It had only been three hours since I was last there, really. There weren’t really that many new animals, but they were all milling about and complaining.

Out in the middle of the barn was a newborn lamb (he was still wet and gooey) wandering around, calling for his mother. Who was nowhere to be seen. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t even figure out which one she might be.  There was a ewe with two brand-new lambs standing off to one side. The babies were nursing and mama was mothering.  For a moment I thought he was a triplet, but no.  Further investigation revealed his mother (and smaller brother) at the other end of the barn. I had no idea how or why they became separated.  With the family re-united, I set about getting everyone jugged for the night. Before I could leave, it became evident that the little lost lamb was not being accepted by his mother.  After she butted him two or three times and he ended up IN the water bucket, I decided that my little flock of bottle babies would just increase its number.  I mean, once you’ve got one bottle baby…what’s another one or two…or four.  Yes, there are FIVE bottle babies!

#5 joins the bottle flock

The next evening, the last of the lambs (in this bunch) arrived. One of the older, bigger ewes delivered twins by herself.  While this doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary…one of the lambs weighed in at 20 pounds!  You read that right. 20 POUNDS.  That’s one big boy.  His brother is more average sized (about 12 to 14 pounds…I didn’t weigh him) Poor mama sheep.  But, everyone is doing fine.

With the lambs delivered, it was time to see if I could get to the doc to address the sinus issues that I’ve been struggling with for a while now.  A trip to the doc has always been just a matter of going down the hill to Mbrk.  It’s always been very reassuring to know that there is medical help right here in town.  However, times have changed and the doc has another office and doesn’t come to Mbrk every day anymore.  That meant the Boss and I set off on a fieldtrip to another town south of here (and a number of other places, because if you’re off the farm and running errands….you might as well make the most of it). 

The doc gave me a new prescription and suggested a couple of injections to get me on the road to recovery a little more quickly.  While I realize that “a shot in the arm” is supposed to be a good thing (and I honestly do feel some better), I have to say “OUCH!” I must be getting wimpy in my old age…my arm hurt for two (three/four) days!  But, the ongoing brain-fog lifted, so I guess it was worth it.

While feeding the lambs on Friday night, I thought I smelled the distinct “eau de polecat”, or in other words, a skunk.  Figuring someone had hit a skunk out on the road and the smell was just drifting this direction, I headed to the barn.  The dogs were accompanying me and suddenly went crazy.  They ran in and out of the barn as I completed my nocturnal check-up.  Suddenly, the barn filled with the most awful smell.  The dogs ran out of the barn and Gus started rolling in the icy grass.  I figured he had “located” the skunk.  Squeekie was staring at something intently, so I looked, too.  There behind some barrels was the source of the stench.  A small black and white SKUNK. In the barn.  Right in front of ME. I admit it, I ran!  I have a very real fear of being sprayed by a skunk. (fortunately it didn’t happen this time) When I woke the Boss, he informed me that while I did smell like a skunk, but that the best thing to do was simply wait until the skunk left the barn. Gus and Ellie barked for another hour and then all was quiet, so I suppose that the skunk was finally gone. The whole episode made me glad that we skipped our usual Saturday town delivery this week as we figured lambing would be keeping us occupied. That was a little too much excitement for the middle of the night for me! (I will keep a close eye out on my subsequent barn trips, though)
Gus and Ellie after the skunk incident
I'm pretty sure Ellie's telling Gus
"You STINK!"

feeding all these guys at once is a wild time
The bottle babies moved to the barn on Saturday morning and are happily adjusting to having space to play.  However, without the rhythm and routine that accompany a “normal” week, we spent the entire time wondering what day it was!  We’ll get back to our regular schedule this week.

when I'm not fast enough
they help themselves!


The weather forecast is full of little snowy icons.  I know I promised one of our customer-friends that I wouldn’t complain (just once…so she can enjoy the snow) I must say, I don’t look forward to all the issues that a snowstorm entails. But, it will be fun to watch the lambs play in it. In preparation for the upcoming weather, the Boss moved the henhouse and cleaned behind the barn. Did you read this one?

moving the henhouse

icicles in the hen yard

Gus enjoys eating icicles after the ice storm
We finished off our week with a family supper that included good food and good times. REALLY good food. And presents.  THANK YOU, kids!  I love y'all. This is the last family celebration that will be just grown-ups. The newest member will be joining us before the next celebration.   Now, that's really gonna be a present!

Hope y’all are having a  Happy Sunday!

…off to feed the babies!

Thanks for stopping by.  Please come and visit us again real soon!

Saturday's ice storm was quite pretty

A few random ice pictures...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Saturday Silly from the Barnyard

“In anticipation of the return of wintry weather, the Boss took advantage of a relatively nice day and did some renovation/clean-up work behind the barn.”

That was all I was going to write.  It was just going to be a part of my Sunday Walkabout post. Nothing really exciting, but definitely noteworthy.

…and then things got weird.

Or funny.

Or weird and funny.  And, I knew I had to share.

So…here’s the story.

We have a drainage issue behind the barn.

Whenever we get a big rain (snow) the water ponds in front of the stock tank, threatening to become a lake.  As conditions dry, it becomes a swamp.  It’s gross, to say the least.  Did you read this? or this?

But, since drainage issues are only issues when it rains or snows, the job didn’t make it to the HIGH PRIORITY list. Until Thursday.  With several potential storms in the forecast, and a little cooperative afternoon weather (above freezing) time was of the essence.

The back of the barn was duly cleaned, a quick construction project completed and installed and the Boss could check one more thing off his seemingly endless to-do list.

The new bridge is higher and wider which should eliminate ponding and water back-up. The bridge is the quickest, easiest and most economical (read, CHEAP) solution to the problem. Looks like this new construction should work just fine!

But, any new construction is terrifying to sheep. Actually anything new is terrifying.  Sometimes even the everyday is terrifying to them.


In humans, this level of anxiety would require medication. But, that’s sheep for you. Every day can be a new adventure in terror.

For a while, they all walked way out around the new, frightening bridge, looking over their shoulders while they passed as if they feared a stealth attack from the bridge itself.

Then, one of the little ones jumped up on it. 

This is Violet. (yes, she has a name.  yes, that means she’s staying…but, you already guessed that, didn’t you?)
 She walked the length.

She sniffed.

 I think she was checking for trolls underneath. (surely you remember The Three Billy Goats Gruff ?)

Then, one of the yearlings got brave. This is Reba, she's one of the "teen-age" sheep who is not bred for this season, but will be for next year. To keep this in perspective, you must understand she weighs well over 100 pounds. 

She danced.

She pronked. Or stotted. (it's that odd bouncing on all fours that quadrapeds do at times)

She kicked her legs out sideways.

She and Violet began to “dance” together.

Then it became a free-for-all.

Check this out. (I apologize in advance for the poor quality and the sunflares)

...and don’t worry…Violet was fine after getting rolled in the mud. She just learned if you’re gonna dance with the big girls---pay attention---things can get wild!

The celebratory dancing lasted a long time.  I got bored and returned to other more pressing concerns. (you supper prep…and MORE baby bottles)

They were still dancing when I went for my late night barn check.

Who would have known a little change at the barn could bring such entertainment for man and beast?
(and keeps us out of the mud!)

My name is "Reba"
and I was not consulted about this video