Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 8-7

on our trip to Edinburg, VA

The week got off to an “interesting” start…

I had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched as I did chores…and I could have sworn I heard heavy breathing. While that’s not quite as creepy as it sounds, it was unsettling. A quick glance around revealed nothing.

But, the feeling wouldn’t go away. And, I was certain I heard something. So, I looked again.

Good morning, steer!

munching on the fenceline
Up at the top of the drive, Neighbor’s five steer calves poking their heads through the gate.  At first I thought they wanted to see if anyone was home, but then they started munching away at the stuff along the fenceline. Apparently someone left a gate open and they were off in search of greener pastures.

Ellie meets the neighbors

I called to the Boss, “We have visitors!” and he headed up the drive, fully expecting to deal with humans selling something or trying to save his soul, but definitely not calves looking for a snack. He placed a quick call to Neighbor and went to see if he could aid in the roundup. Of course the dogs had to get into the act and the startled calves headed down the lane.

The next thing I knew, the Boss was running down the hill, jumping fences and doing his best to keep the bewildered bovines from heading into town. The Boss and Neighbor got them back where they belonged with relative ease.  
Boss herding calves

All’s well that ends well.
headin' home

…and the Boss could definitely say he got his cardio workout!

With that excitement under our belts, it was time to get on with the real work of the week.

Blondie stopped by to clip out the two ewe lambs that we want to keep and add to the breeding flock this year. (we probably should have clipped them earlier…but…)

clipping a ewe lamb

well, that was easy!

That went smoothly. And, they are beautiful.
Meet "Gwendolyn" and "Hazel"
By clipping their wool, their body condition and confirmation are revealed. It’s just a guess when they are woolly. The theory is that since they are cooler, they will grow better. Some shepherds clip out all their lambs for this reason.

Since they are still young, we won’t turn them in with the rest of the ewe flock until later in the year, hoping to get some more size on them before they breed.  (more on that one later)
our most popular items

After the shearing and a quick lunch in town, we headed off to Edinburg to pick up the latest batch of lambchops. For the past three weeks, we have had customers chomping at the bit for steaks and stew meat, so we were anxious to re-fill the freezer. We won’t be making another trip until September, so here’s hoping we made the right guess on what cuts will be popular!

Our trip was uneventful. (thankfully) But, I like to keep track of the odd and random things I see on the interstate...

  this semi reminded me of the chariot race in the movie Ben Hur
Look at those spikes!

When we turn that calendar page to August, it’s time to start working on lambchops for the following year.

So, Tuesday was another day of sheep.

lambs to the barn

Since the ewe flock now outnumbered the lamb flock, it was also time to “flip” the farm, taking the lambs from the front paddocks and putting them in the back. The ewes (and soon, Angus) would have more room and forage in the larger paddocks. This is an annual “event”…you can read about it HERE.

ewes going out front
And, while we were working the sheep, we might as well take the old, cull ewes to the stockyard. The sale barn is only opened on Tuesdays and Fridays, so our options are limited and time was of the essence.

In some ways it was kind of sad to take the old girls to the stockyard. Two of them were the last of Blondie’s show lambs (that had joined the flock as breeders years ago). They had been good, productive ewes for a long time. But, last season neither of them could care for their babies without some help from us. And, while “Beebi” made a great story (did you read THIS?  ), that’s not an efficient or effective way to manage a flock.

So, we loaded them into the trailer and headed to town for what may have been the quickest trip to the stockyard ever. I think we were done in less than 10 minutes. We were both a little surprised that there was 490# of sheep between the three of them!

With that done, we could get back home and finish re-arranging the farm. 

Can you tell which is the ewe flock and which is the lamb flock?

…and harvesting.

The HOT, dry weather has given way to hot, humid weather with afternoon showers and I am fairly certain you could watch the vegetables growing if you sat there for a while. And, everyone knows what happens if you don’t pay strict attention to the zucchini…

missed that one
now it is 4.7# of chicken food

All the harvesting meant that “HAPPY ram day” was postponed until Wednesday. Did you read THIS one?

Angus and the ewe flock

For the next month or so, we will keep a close eye on the ewe flock, waiting to see how the lambchop crop of 2017 progresses.   
Angus had a slight "wardrobe malfunction"
 the whole flock had to come back to the barn so we could correct it

Since someone asked just how this system works…

Angus will be wearing a yellow marker on the underside of his harness for the next two weeks (or so). Any time he mounts one of the ewes, she will be marked. Since he is an experienced ram, he will not mount them unless they are in heat (ready to be bred). The ewes cycle about every 17 days. If the mating is successful, she will not cycle again, so he will not mark her again. The mark gives us a date for gestational calculations. (estimated lamb birthdates). By changing the colors, we can tell if there are any fertility issues. Breeding should only take one (or possibly two) times. A technicolor flock is indicative of real problems. (learned that one the hard way).

…and that’s the abbreviated version of Sheep Breeding 101. 

(and, for the record, as of right now, there is one marked ewe...)

 it gave me a chance to take a photo to show
  how Angus has grown since last season!

Since that project is now in Angus’ capable hooves, we could turn our attention to Market prep. (again)

Seriously, time seems to be flying by and it seems that we were just at the Market and it’s time to go again.

To our customers’ great delight, we had tomatoes for the first time this season. I don’t know why it seems like they took so long this year, it’s not much later than it has been in the past. Tomatoes and sweet corn are probably the two most sought after items at the Market. Interestingly, both are in somewhat limited supply this year.

a few leftover tomatoes will make a nice pizza!

The Market was incredibly hot and incredibly busy.

set up and ready to sell

Downtown Staunton hosts a lot of activities to promote tourism and this weekend was no exception. A music festival was scheduled to take place in the same spot as the Market, so there was some hurried choreography as the Market vendors exited and the festival vendors set up.

From what I hear, the event was a success, despite a torrential thunderstorm that rolled through later in the day.

Thankfully, we were home AND done with chores by that point. We got nearly an inch of rain in less than an hour. I guess I didn’t have to worry about irrigating when I got home after all.

potato sprout on 8-3
The fall potato crop definitely benefited from the rain. The little sprouts were just beginning to force their way through the hard soil. And, unfortunately, I am also certain that the weeds will benefit from the rain. I think we may have some record-setting weeds this season.
potato sprout after rain

As a wrap-up to our week of sheep, we got our check from the stockyard for the old ewes. I must say, it was a most pleasant surprise. Considering that they were old, culled ewes that don’t have much worth…considering the stockyard isn’t the place to get top dollar anyway…and considering that we once got $9 for a sheep (no lie), expectations were not high. But, we were thrilled to get over three hundred dollars!


And, that was the week on the hill.

Happy Sunday! 

Isn't the shearing supervisor cute?

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


  1. Your shorn sheep look so elegant!! -Jenn

  2. Greetings to Gwendolene and Hazel - handsome pair.

  3. As a spinner and weaver, I can't help but ask, what do you do with your fleeces?

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      I'm sorry to say that the fleeces from our sheep are fairly worthless since we raise commercial Suffolks. (my daughters used to spin and weave, and we did try) The wool tends to be very short and crimpy. (it can be felted, but little else)
      We had Romneys and Cotswolds and Leister Longwools in the past. Now, those were nice fleeces! But, the lamb chops were so tiny.