Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 1-4

not a glorious morning by any standards
it's cold and rainy...and the fog is unbelievable
Well…here we are.  It’s time for the first walkabout of 2015.

…not much…

Now, wait a minute.  I just can’t bear to start another walkabout with “not much happened around here…” ! (that’s part of the reason I skipped last week…sorry ‘bout that)

In the past week or so, we actually have accomplished a number of necessary tasks, even though if it doesn’t really look like much happened.

each ewe runs through the chute
and gets a single shot

We worked the sheep without incident. That is always noteworthy! Working the sheep involves running all the ewes in the barn and then systematically pushing them through the chute, vaccinating them and turning them back into the barnyard. There are no side-effects to this treatment, and it prevents horrible lamb losses later.

Since I know there is a lot of controversy about vaccinations (and there are those who think animals should never get any sort of medication) I want to take this opportunity to tell you why we feel this is necessary.

The one shot that we give the ewes during the last weeks of their pregnancy grants protection to the lambs in the early days of their lives (they will get a booster later that will cover them until next year). Despite the “natural” environment where we raise our animals, our world is filled with pathogens.  By providing protection from these pathogens, we assure the lambs a healthy life.   The alternative being…well, death.  We have learned this one the hard way.  We have indeed lost lambs due to our negligence.  It is a horrible way for them to die, and totally unnecessary.

For the record, this is NOT hormone therapy, and they do not get antibiotics on a regular basis. I’m sure the whole subject of medication usage of the barn could be a blog post (or series) on its own.  But, quite honestly, I don’t know if I want to delve into that controversy. (but, then again…) I will say this one thing.  We (and every other farmer we know) have the best interest of the animals in mind with everything we do.  And, we are totally committed to consumer safety.
the Boss guide the sheep through the handling system

But, back to working the sheep without incident. 

There was a time when working the sheep turned into an all-out rodeo, complete with injuries and some creative cuss words. (but, no big belt buckle or cash prize at the end) Today, the hardest part is generally getting them into the barn! Then, we have a series of gates that works as a temporary holding pen and allows us to manage the sheep far better. By limiting the amount of space for the animals, they don’t have room to run and jump and they are forced to walk through the chute (which is actually our farm scale), get their shot and then pass through the gate to freedom. We can even check the weight on the growing lambs if need be. The whole process takes very little time and I don’t know WHY we didn’t think of this system years ago, it certainly would have saved us a LOT of frustration. Work smarter, not harder...that is our motto.

With the sheep-working behind us, it was time to move on to other things. 

Since we got all the crops of ’15 planned out, it was time to order stuff.  In the course of one afternoon, I got the majority of our supplies ordered.  First, I ordered all the chicks for the upcoming year. (and I scheduled them right this year!  ( Did you read this one? )  The first batch arrives next month, with a monthly delivery of chicks until the beginning of October. The thousands and thousands (and thousands) of onion plants were ordered and should arrive the first of April.  And, I ordered some replacement strawberry plants that should arrive about the same time. 

Amazingly, the tomato seed order has already arrived! My mouth is already watering. But, we won't even be starting seeds for quite some time. We sure spend a lot of time thinking about a crop that is available for such a limited time.
the stuff dreams are made of...
just about 6 months 'til tomatoes!

Then, I sorted through our seed inventory and started on the big seed order.  I hope to get that placed by the end of the day.  Since we planned all the planting dates, I need to make some notes as to when I need to start all the seedlings to have the transplants ready to go in the garden. (that means I need to get the greenhouses ready, too)  And, at some point, the Boss will call the supplier and reserve our seed potatoes and we should be ready to go once more.

So much for “down-time”…

There are just 90 days until the Market opens again!               


We did have a bit of excitement last week. (and you know how I feel about “excitement”)

The dogs were doing their frantic “EMERGENCY” bark. They really do have different barks for different things, although they have been known to bark at absolutely nothing.  Well, I take that back. There have been times when we humans have never been able to ascertain what warranted the bark-fest.  But, this time was different.  When I finally decided to find out what was going on, I looked out the door to see them tussling with what I thought was one of the barn kitties.  I opened the door to fuss at them, only to discover that it was a raccoon.  A very angry raccoon!  It was hissing and growling/screaming and things were pretty tense as it charged the dogs.  It was also the middle of the day when normal raccoons are not out and about fighting with dogs (or anything else).  The Boss was summoned.
if you look REAL close you can see the 'coon
at the right corner of the gate

The raccoon seemed ready to battle the Boss and two big dogs.  That was one angry 'coon! Bang!  That was one dead 'coon.

I know 'coons are cute and cool because they are wild.  And, I know that there are folks who think that our policy of “no varmints” seems harsh.  But, coons will destroy a henhouse (and that includes all the chickens) in a short period of time.  They will tear up and eat garden crops. They do harbor disease and honestly, they’ve got sharp teeth and claws. (the cats and dogs could be injured, not to mention the humans---Ellie actually had blood on her from this incident, although it was blood from the 'coon) …and the fact that this one was so aggressive and out in the daytime was more than a little worrisome.  Further investigation revealed that it had a serious injury that would have eventually resulted in death anyway. So, we definitely did the right thing.

Excitement over, we went back to our day.  The dogs continued to patrol for hours afterward…only to pass out in the backyard later. They are either totally “on” or totally “off”.
OFF duty guardian dogs

Generally speaking, the rest of our time was filled with the everyday stuff of farm life.  The Boss gathered and washed and sold dozens and dozens (and dozens) of eggs. This is the first “off-season” (in a long time…maybe ever) where we’ve actually been able to keep up with the demand for eggs. …and that’s a good thing!

pretty winter kale
Thankfully, there have actually been some greens to harvest.  I must admit, this year’s production hasn’t been stellar. I know we’ve had years when we have had more to harvest in the hoophouse, but the weather continues to provide us a new challenge each season.  This year it was a cold (and I mean COLD) snap in November.  The transplants put in prior to that are still just sitting there.  They are indeed alive, but growth is minimal at best. So frustrating. I’m working on an essay about winter gardening, but I think I could sum it up quite simply by saying…it’s a challenge!

it's gorgeous
but, it's been two inches high for two months!

But, growing challenges and angry raccoons aside, it’s been a good start to the New Year.  This time of year the possibilities seem endless and success seems certain.  Meeting the challenges successfully remains up to us. Right now, confidence is high as to our success. (but, only time will tell…)

a new day dawns

With the first lamb due later this week, we have our work cut out for us…arranging jugs and getting lambing supplies in place.  This year, lambing starts a little later than in the past, and ends earlier than last year.  That means that the next three weeks will get pretty intense. (most of the activity should take place over the course of just six days!) By the first of February, the barn will be a lively place.  I’m still wondering just how many lambs there will be.  Some of those old sheep girls are huge!  I’ve said it before (and you know I’ll say it again)…I love lambing season!
I'm hoping for a 200% (or better) birthing rate
any guesses as to how many lambs?

…and that, my friends, concludes our little tour.

Thanks for stopping by!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!

Please do come back for a visit again real soon!


  1. I have found myself looking for ways to work smarter, not harder much more often the older I get! lol I used to think those raccoons were cute too, but they are just awful critters! I know when one is on the place because our ranch dog Moe has an "emergency" bark too!
    You all take care and have a great week!

  2. And an interesting tour it was too Barbara.
    Your tomato sliceslook lovely. Here in the UK tomatoes in the winter taste disgusting - in fact have no taste at all - but those just wet my appetite. Have a good week.

    1. Have a great week, Pat!
      I suppose the tomatoes in the US are not unlike those in the UK. Those in the grocery are fairly awful...all the time.

  3. Lovely post. I was wondering, do you do any sort of farm open house or tours? Just curious. I love reading about your sheep. :)

    1. Hi Bobbi!
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      At present, we do not offer farm tours or an open house.
      If you would like to see more pictures, you can find the farm on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. With lambing season upon us, the sheep will figure prominently in any posts.