Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 1-31

This week has been all about waiting…

…and waiting.

snow on Mbrk Road
Allegheny Mountains

We are waiting for the snow to melt.

…waiting for my back to recover from the snow removal.

…waiting for the days to pass until it’s time to plant some seeds.

Gus relaxes with "snow-dog-yoga"

But, mostly, we’ve been waiting for “Reba” to drop her lambs. (we’ll get back to that one in just a bit)

And, in keeping with our WAITING theme…it has taken me forever to get this posted. Sorry that you were kept waiting this week as well.

snowy farm 1-24

snow cover 1-29

While the snowpack is a far cry from what it was last week---and, compared to some places that ended up with FOUR feet, this is nothing---we’ve reached that point where the snow is crusty and hard and ice from the melt has made for some treacherous walking conditions. No matter how much sunshine we see, the ground is still white in many places.

snowy garden

icicles everywhere

Today the temperature is supposed to reach the mid-fifties, so I’m hoping the snow will probably be a memory before too long. And, I’m trying not to think about those predictions for February…

With all the snow on the ground, it is next to impossible to get anything done outdoors, so we remain in a “holding pattern” for a while longer. But, this gives us an opportunity to get some inside work done. (well, in theory anyway)

It really seems like we were just doing time…waiting…

"Reba" waiting for lambs
“Reba” the sheep was due to drop her first lambs this week. Monday, to be exact. Now, you may remember “Reba” the sheep from her barn dancing days…If you didn’t read that one, you really should. It has a video of sheep "dancing".  I get to watch this same performance most afternoons   as I prepare supper since the kitchen window faces the barn. The players may change, but there is some sort of exuberant dancing/running/playing every afternoon as the lambs get ready for Lamb Racing  later in the season. (again, a video worthy of your time)


First-time ewes are notoriously worrisome. It seems that if a sheep is going to have birthing issues, it is generally that first lambing. So, given that fact (and Reba’s propensity for the dramatic) I was keeping a close eye on her. Monday, nothing. Tuesday, nothing. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, nothing. *sigh*

Now, in order for me to assure you (and myself) that nothing is indeed going on, I must go to the barn and physically check on Reba. (or whichever ewe is due) The cold weather demands that I don hat, coveralls, coat, boots and gloves. Every. Single. Time.  If the trip is in the middle of the night, which is also part of the job description, I have to have my headlamp as well. More often than not, I have a couple of lamb bottles tucked into my pockets. So, a trip to the barn is more like an expedition. And, lambing season is a marathon… (yes, I have heard of “barn cam”…but, it seems an awfully expensive option for a three week need)

And, if I wasn't going to the barn ALL the time, I'd miss out on seeing things like this...

He sleeps like this every night!

update on "lil Bitty"
she's up over 12 pounds!
today's warm temps means she won't need her sweater anymore
snowy lamb

one of the bottle babies
they are well over 20# now!

Finally, in the wee hours of Saturday morning, it appeared that THE TIME was finally here. Waited another hour…nothing. Two. Three. I was getting worried.

Not only was the labor NOT progressing, the Boss and I HAD to go to town for our sales delivery. I was torn. He needed me. The sheep needed me. (well, at least I thought they did)

Blondie and Tbone to the rescue!

Blondie went downtown with the Boss to do deliveries, while Tbone stayed here to give me some assistance if necessary.

While we didn’t need to do any of this special planning, here’s a special shout-out of thanks to Tbone for hanging out with me just in case. And, while it would have been kind of cool to have our “15 minutes of fame” and become Youtube sensations if we had been able to film Mamaw, Daddy and Baby Blake delivering a lamb…it’s probably for the best that we were still waiting when the Boss returned to the hill.

By this point, things didn’t look so imminent. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined the whole thing. And, I was supposed to join the kids for a “painting party” over and Toughchick and the Man’s new house. The Boss assured me that he had it under control and I took off. (the new house is only 15 minutes away…so…)
yes, my daughter IS painting the ceiling
with her son on her back!
Don't call her Toughchick for nothin'

As I painted, I could hear the rest of the painting party talking and laughing as they worked in other parts of the house. I got to thinking how blessed my girls are. There were siblings and in-laws and extended family members all pitching in and getting the work done. Everyone was getting along. It doesn’t matter how hard things get…when you’ve got family like this, that’s there for you every time you need it…you are blessed. Not everyone is so blessed, I know this for a sad fact. But, I found yesterday’s work party most encouraging and somewhat inspiring. These people rock!


Blake and Mamaw takin' a break

While I was having these deep and profound thoughts, my phone rang.

It was the Boss.

Yep…the waiting was done!

I hadn’t been gone an hour and “Reba” finally lambed. There was another one coming…so, I did a little ovine mid-wifery by phone…but, it was really all about the Boss and Reba. And, they did a great job!

By the time I got home a couple hours later, the new family was comfortably settled in their little jug pen and adjusting to life in the barn. Another ewe/ram combo brings the present lamb count to 10.

new babies

More nice lambs, although I have some concerns about the little ewe. She has a case of entropion (in both eyes). This is when the lower eyelid turns in and allows the eyelashes to scrape along the eyeball. If this isn’t corrected, it will not only cause the sheep a great deal of discomfort, but it can lead to blindness. There are a number of simple remedies (that I will try first), but this seems to be a severe case. I am not really looking forward to treating this, as I have never attempted to use a needle anywhere near an eyeball. Yeah, ewwww. (an update may be necessary) This is hereditary, (generally from the ram) so, now we have yet another concern. We will be on the lookout for it as the rest of the lambs arrive.
see how weepy her eye looks?
This is from the irritation of the lashes on the cornea

My trips to the barn remain the focus of my life since the rest of the ewes are due by next Saturday. But, I’m going to change up with the coming week, because the first of February means it’s time to start seeds for the early broccoli crop! 

love the view through the greenhouse window

That should mean that the upcoming week will be one of ACTION! 

(seriously, all this waiting around has gotten incredibly OLD)

Apparently, Gus can't take the "excitement"...

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by.  Come back and “visit” real soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 1-24

What a week!

But, we got through it and it’s time for our little Sunday “farm tour”. Wait, it is Sunday, right? I lost track somewhere this week.

Okay, I checked. It IS Sunday. and, off we go...

If you read the last two posts, then you know that our whole week focused on the sheep and the impending storm. If you didn’t read the last two posts, then shame on you. You should have read those first. that. Then, be sure to come back!

not a good sight
particularly when there's snow in the forecast!

Somewhere at the beginning of the week, the Boss discovered that the tractor had a flat. No big deal...put some air in, right? Wrong. He had solved the problem like that many times in the past. This time, he would need a new tire. A new tire meant a roadtrip of sorts. But, there were a number of other things to do... But, there was a big snowstorm threatening, he decided not to wait.

That was a good decision. The repair shop guys were full of stories about how crazy it would be the day before the storm as everyone decided to get “prepared” at the last minute. And, we had far more jobs that required the tractor than we originally thought.

Despite the bitter cold, the Farmers’ Market meeting went off without a hitch. It was encouraging to see that there are some new faces for this season. Now the countdown to Market has begun (if only in my mind). Opening Day April 2 is right around the corner!

After the meeting, I headed to the barn to check on the bottle babies (fine) and the ewe due to lamb. She was looking like delivery was imminent. By midnight, we had two nice lambs. These were the first of the “Angus” lambs, so it was rather exciting.

The next couple of days were filled with storm preparations as the predicted totals got higher and higher. Blizzard warnings went up and it looked like things were shaping up for an historic event.
Wednesday, we went ahead and cancelled sales for the week. At that point, we hadn’t seen a snowflake and I’m pretty sure that our decision looked rash. By cancelling sales, we effectively cancelled any earnings for the week. That’s a hard choice to make. What if the forecast was totally wrong? We would just have to live with our decision.

Storm preparations continued.

Blondie brought MrB to see the sheep
this is her final show lamb
meeting her new "lamb"

The snow began in earnest around 8am on Friday.

With the first snowflake came evidence that more lambs were arriving. They say “when the barometer drops, the babies pop.” (or something like that) By the time I got back from the house with my lambing supplies, another set of twins had been born. Mama was cleaning them up and they were looking for a meal. Yay! That’s the way to do it!  Thankfully, those were the only possible additions until after the impending storm.

Once they were situated in a jug, I headed back to the house for bottles for the other babies. The day was going to be spent going back and forth, through the snowflakes, checking on my small, woolly charges...
can you see the difference in size?

Of the new set of twins, one was enormous...possibly over 12 pounds and the other one was teeny, tiny...maybe 7 pounds (probably less). That occasionally happens with twins. While they’re inside, I guess one gets more of the mother’s nutrients. It is a situation to be aware of, as the bigger, stronger twin will dominate the food supply.

It was really hard to get the new twins dry and warm (the snow and wind were picking up in intensity and while we were in the’s not the tightest, warmest spot on the farm) I put little sweaters on the newborns and gave them a nutrient drench and a shot of selenium, hoping to give them a good start on life. I was certain they knew how to nurse their mother and saw that they had had at least a sip of her life-saving colostrum.

But, on my next trip to feed the bottle babies and I could hear lamb cries outside the barn. The tiny lamb was protesting loudly and wandering all around the jug. When I offered her a bottle, she drained it dry. Well, that was a good news (she’s getting nourishment) bad news (another bottle baby?) Now, honestly, I didn’t want to co-parent the first lambs, I certainly don’t need another one. But, she was so tiny and big brother was doing his best to drain momma-sheep dry. So, I added bottle #3 to my coveralls. Momma-sheep didn’t seem to mind the help. She was still taking care of the baby, then she licked my hair and bit the bottle. (I think she even drank some of the milk...although I have no idea why)

The snow was coming down fast and furious. Each trip to the barn I swept the back porch clean...and on the return trip, I needed to do it again. I thought (erroneously) that I could keep a path clear to the barn by simply clearing it on each trip. This only worked for about two trips and then I had to admit defeat and just slog through the snow each trip. By afternoon chores, the snow was almost up to my knees.

blowin' snow
The Boss made a path with the snowblower before he headed out to push snow for the neighbor who has a VDOT contract to keep Augusta County roads clear. They spent all night going up and down Mbrk Road to the Rockbridge County line, working hard to keep that 25 miles of roadway passable.

That made for a very odd night. I was all alone here on the hill, trudging back and forth to the barn in the dark and swirling snow. He was out on the road, driving through the dark and swirling snow. Honestly, I was quite relieved when I heard the dogs barking at some “stranger” slogging through the waist-deep snow in the driveway. The Boss was back!

While he tried to get some sleep, I headed out to do morning chores. The snowfall had lessened, but the wind had kicked up. Any and all paths had been obliterated by the swirling, blowing snow. Even the dogs seemed a little overwhelmed.

Chores seemed to take forever. Between the extra encumbrance of coveralls, boots and coat and the deep snow, I certainly got a work-out before breakfast.

There was snow INSIDE the brooder house (it blew in the crack around the door). There were starlings INSIDE the henhouse (I guess they were looking for food and shelter). But, the wind had scoured the area around the henhouse clean, so the hens could come outside (once it stopped snowing)  Angus was looking quite comfortable, tucked in his little ram shed eating all the straw we put in for bedding. The ewes seemed quite disgusted that they were confined to the barn and limited to hay. But, a quick glance out the back of the barn revealed drifts over two feet high in places and no way to get to the feed corral. Their breakfast would have to wait. But, all the babies were looking good!
starlings in the henhouse

drift around henhouse

Since the Boss found it impossible to sleep, he used the snowblower to make paths to all the necessary spots. This was going to make feeding the animals MUCH easier.
MORE snow blowin'

I cleared the sheep feeders and finally let the sheep out of the barn. They all galloped headlong into the deep snow and one lamb was completely covered. Once the excitement died down, they went back to eating hay in the barn. 

Although, I did manage to leave the gate opened and the Boss had to herd sheep back in the barn later in the day.
despite her feigned innocence,
"Gladys' " green head gives her away
She helped herself to alfalfa hay!

The snow ended before suppertime and some forecasters lamented the fact that the totals weren’t all they had predicted. There were complaints about a “busted” forecast. Seriously?

digging out the feeders

We ended up with somewhere over 16 inches. There are drifts in excess of 36 inches.  I think the official tally for Staunton was 20 inches. Nothing like the 3 feet or more that had made the news earlier in the week! Personally, I’m glad. There will be enough clean-up involved in this. More would have been completely catastrophic.  The folks further North got a lot more and had the wind to contend with as well. There was serious flooding and reports of all sorts of hardships, even deaths.
deep snow in driveway

snowy Sugarloaf Mountain

the garden is under there somewhere

With Winter Storm Jonas behind us... it’s now a matter of the clean-up. There are trucks and plows and tractors working non-stop in the area to get the roads clear once more. I’m glad we made an extra trip for feed, because I don’t know when we will get back to town. (the Boss says we can go any time...I’m not so sure...) Today the Boss is using the tractor to clear paths for the vehicles. I will be spending some quality time with a snow shovel, working my way to the greenhouses.

The upcoming week will be all about clean-up. I think the Boss is going to join the road-cleaning crew again...#1daughter/SiL and the Kman are moving to a new house...and there are more lambs coming... It should be anything but DULL around here!

Thanks for stopping by!

Have a  Happy Sunday!
update on lil bitty lamb...
she has recovered and is using her big brother
for a trampoline!
(and she doesn't need a bottle...YAY)

Do come “visit” again real soon!

Sunday morning snow

Friday, January 22, 2016

Prepared for the Worst

we're under that 48 there in the middle

Winter Storm Jonas was dictating our actions long before it ever even had a name.

Any sort of winter weather requires some sort of advanced planning and when the phrase “historic proportion” starts occurring regularly in the weather forecast, the planning takes on a whole new sense of urgency.
the purple covers our county
...and yep! right in the middle of all that RED

In just one more example as to how farm life is WAY different than life in town…our preparedness planning did NOT include a special trip out for milk, bread and toilet paper.  No, our trip was for feed and 2x4s! But only after the Boss made a special trip to get a new tractor tire.

Since we do indeed raise food, that need requires no last-minute trips to the store. My children laugh at me, saying that we could survive a zombie apocalypse with all the food we have around here. (and they’re probably right) So, human needs are covered with very little additional effort.

As we watched the area farmers run up and down Mbrk road delivering hay to the cattle in hopes of getting enough to the fields before the roads are covered up, I gave thanks that our small operation is all in one location. I can think of nothing worse than knowing that it may be impossible to get to the livestock that depend on you for their survival.

As the predicted snowfall totals increased, so did our list of things to do.

First up, Angus needed to be near the other animals. The new shelter the Boss built for the back paddock is great, but if the snowfall total really does reach FEET, we will have a whole new set of issues. Namely, getting out to the ram paddock. During the blizzard of ’09, it took me nearly an hour to haul a bale of hay and some grain out to the ram. And, then he couldn’t even walk through the snow. For days he was stuck in the same spot under the trees. A looooong way from the house through the snow. Not something I care to repeat!

With a little re-furbishing, the tractor shed made a great temporary ram pen. And, while Angus doesn’t seem too impressed, I think he will appreciate being dry as the snow piles up.

If you were wondering about the 2x4s…

All that snow might just squash hoophouse #1 flat. Its rounded shape doesn’t allow the snow to slide freely like the gothic roofline of #2. In the past we have made the effort to beat the snow off at regular intervals. While this works to some degree, the ribs could still use some added support. This will also prevent any banging brooms from puncturing the plastic skin. (not that I had any personal experience with that sort of thing…)

There were a lot of little outside jobs to do.  All the electric net would have to be pulled up and put away. That stuff is far too valuable to let the snow mash it flat!
I pulled it down

He stored it away

The henhouse needed some protection from the swirling snow. By putting plywood skirting all around it, we cut down on the wind and the snowdrifts.

The sheep were going to be stuck in the barn. And, the hens would be captive in the henhouse. Feeders and waterers would have to be installed.

Shovels and brooms stacked in the utility room. Generator and snowblower gassed up and ready to go. The tractor parked in the shop where it would stay warm enough to start when time comes for the big dig-out.

Think there's enough wood in the woodbox?

The wood box is filled. There is even more in the shed. We’ve got batteries, flashlights and candles. Water jugs are full.

With the completion of every little task, two more appeared on the list. I really began to think we would never get finished.

But, we did.

finishing up the ram pen

The last job got completed as the first snowflakes fell.

We are prepared for the worst…

Now, let’s hope for the BEST!