Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 8-30

The past week had it all...the good, the bad and the ugly.
In all honesty, it ended up with more things in the good column, but I must say, I really hope we don’t have another one like it!

After the catching up marathon of last Sunday, the week began in normal fashion. While I was in town, the Boss started cleaning up the upper garden in anticipation of the late season crops.


Preparations must be made for the garlic seedstock that will arrive shortly to be planted for overwintering in the gardens. Yes, it is indeed time to begin work for 2016!

Tuesday, I accompanied Blondie and GB#2 to the pediatrician to check the baby’s weight gain. Since he had lost a fair amount in his early days, his mom was slightly worried. She needn’t have been. All her experience with getting market lambs to grow must have paid off.  He had gained over 2 ½ ounces per day, much to the doctor’s delight.
He looks pretty pleased with himself

After that success, things started to go downhill.

I know I have said before that your ram is half of your flock. And, this is in no way an exaggeration. 

Since the ram mates with all the ewes, his genetics affect all the lambs.  This is why you need a good ram.  And, since the ram mates with all the ewes, he needs to be sound and healthy and able to perform his one job on the hill.

And, that wasn’t happening.

This year, before we turned Waylon in with the ewes, we checked him out (like we do every year). His hooves looked good, his color looked good and everything else seemed to be in order. He was outfitted with his harness and introduced to the ladies.

All went as expected.

Well, until it didn’t.

He mated with the first ewe. Then the second ewe. Hey, we’re on a roll here.  Just like in the past, it looked like everything was working just fine.

Then he started limping.

He kept pulling his back left leg up like the hoof hurt.

this can't be good

Not good.

A health check-up was in order. A health check-up for a large animal intent on breeding can be dangerous and really isn’t something anyone would look forward to.  But…this was serious.

A check of his hoof revealed nothing.  I trimmed it up (hoping that would help) checked his other feet. Nothing looked amiss.

He seemed a little better. I tried to relax.  But, I had this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that this wasn’t going to end well.

And, I was right.

The next day, two ewes showed signs of heat. He showed some signs of interest. The Boss was hopeful. 

ram checking ewes
this is called "Flehmens' response"
Maybe my fears were unwarranted.

Nope. Nothing.

He wasn’t even trying to “do his job”. This was most worrisome.

He was not putting any weight on his back foot.  It curled under as he stood, as he rather listlessly watched the other sheep. Since a ram has to jump up onto the ewe’s back to mate, his back feet are of the utmost importance.

Another ewe was showing signs…instinct would have to win out over injury…surely in the morning…

When I walked in the barn and the Boss said “well, now this is frustrating…” I knew that things were not getting any better and I lost it.

I have to admit here that I have been struggling of late. All the focus on the positive instead of the negative and attempts at upbeat thinking just haven’t really been getting it for me no matter how hard I try.  And, that comment sent me over the edge. The frustrations and aggravations of late all welled up and I just lost it.  I threw a bucket (repeatedly) and said (okay, yelled) more than one cuss word. In that moment, I really didn’t want to do any of this anymore. It really seemed like everything was crashing down around me and I had no, absolutely no, way to fix anything.

Without the ram there are no lambs, without the lambs there would be no lamb chops, without the lamb chops (and other cuts) there would be no income…and well, no lamb chops…and we’d have to figure out some other source of protein…and all that hay expense…

There have been a number of other things worrying at my mind and this was the final straw.
I just wanted to sit down and cry. (or throw things)

But, I couldn’t. We had promised to check on the kids’ critters while the kids were out of town.  We also needed to go to a neighboring town and pick up a mineral supplement.

So, off we went. Conversation was strained at best.  I’m pretty sure the Boss doesn’t like me much when  I get all bothered and depressed and frustrated.  (heck, I don't even like me when I get like that) But, it is what it is…and I have no way to change, except to struggle through the darkness and find a solution to the problem at hand.

When we got home, he made a couple of unproductive phonecalls. The gloom thickened.

The problem with having ram problems during breeding season is that all the good rams are busy. 

That’s why you go into breeding season prepared.  It’s not a matter of going down to the local ram store, pick out a ram and head back home and getting on with things.  

There was a ram sale coming up at VATech. But, it was scheduled for a Saturday and there was no way we could be at the Market AND the ram sale (and NO, we can’t miss the Market…that is the one day we make our income) Plus, the prices at the sale are generally incredibly high… It was bad enough to be facing an unexpected expense, we couldn’t break the bank as well.

And, for the record, not just any old sheep would do.

To keep our quality and taste consistent, our breeders have to be consistent.  The Suffolk breed works for us, and mixing things up at this point just to get lambs on the ground seemed risky to me. So, while there were a couple of ram lambs on Craigslist that would probably be able the breed the ewes, we weren’t going to consider them. Besides, they were at the far end of the Valley…

Another call to another breeder and things were looking up.  After lunch we found ourselves talking sheep and farming while looking at a couple of ram lambs with a nice young farmer (and his cute baby) on a beautiful farm not too far from here.
a beautiful view

By afternoon chore time, the calamity of the morning had been resolved. (we hope)

joins the farm team

The new ram is young (and fairly small) but he has good genetics, and should be able to breed the ewes for several years to come. He’s got a lot of muscling, which will translate into lots of meat on his offspring.

outfitted and ready to go

After allowing him to spend the night in the barn to acclimate, we turned him out with the ewes. And, he went right to “work”!  By afternoon, he had covered four ewes and was keeping an eye on the rest.  We will have to wait a couple of weeks to see if this indeed “took”, but all indications seem to be positive at this point.

Our beautiful Valley is formed by
the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east
While we were embroiled in the great ram crisis of 2015…the rest of the area was focused on a horrible story that started in Roanoke and ended on the interstate north of here.  Our problems seem so trivial in comparison to the on-air murder that then involved a manhunt through the Valley (where schools were on lock-down) and car chase on the Interstate. The story has been told and re-told and is being used to re-ignited the issue of gun control once more, so I won’t get into it here.  While I will agree that the whole thing is beyond awful, it’s sad and horrifying…quite honestly nothing could have kept it from happening.  There are wicked people whose hearts are filled with hatred and all the regulations in the world will never change that. There is no preventative action we can take to protect our families from all the evil in the world. 

Just hug them a little tighter and pray a little harder…

the Allegheny Mountains in the west

Sorry, I digress.

By the time the ram dilemma was resolved, it was time to start working on Market prep once more. 

the apples are ugly
but, they are tasty!

At first it didn’t seem like there would be anything to harvest.  The weather has shifted and the garden is at that “in-between” stage… But, the tomatoes are prolific despite the chilly nights we had last week. The last planting of squash is starting to produce and there is a LOT of okra even though the plants are a little bit wilty since the rains have suddenly vanished.

getting ready for Market

In short, the Market was great…again! Thanks to our wonderful customers!

During the upcoming week, we will have to decide what to do with the old ram, work through the leftover tomatoes (again),

tomatoes ready for processing

do something with the pears and apples that are falling off the trees, start the winter squash harvest and work on getting the hoophouses ready for winter…and keep an eye on our new guy to see how he’s handling his assignment.

out checking the flock in the early morning light

It looks like we will have plenty to keep us occupied.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!

sheep at sunrise

Thanks for stopping by.  Please come back and “visit” again real soon!


  1. Barbara,

    What I love about your blog is the honesty you have in describing the very real challenges that you face every day on your farm. So sorry about the ram troubles, hope the new guy on the block works out for you and that Waylon can heal. And it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who "loses it" with my dearly beloved! Keep sending those adorable grandson pics, and let's hope for some rain soon.

    1. Thanks, you don't know how I appreciate your kind words!

  2. Hope the young lad performs well. Can't help hoping also that Waylon makes a miraculous recovery, I have grown rather fond of him at a distance.

    1. Thanks, Pat! I am far too fond of Waylon...and I truly hate unexpected changes. Still, life goes on.

  3. God is good all the time, even when we forget. 80)