Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 1-29

 herdin' sheep
-TLWomack photo
Just another week here on the hill…

There’s nothing like late January to challenge one’s creativity. For without some serious thought and creativity, I can assure you that the sentence alone would be the entire post for this week. Really.
No, it hasn’t been real exciting around here this week. Which, quite honestly, is a good thing. 

Excitement generally brings with it the potential for disaster and I could certainly do without any further disasters. And, while it doesn’t make good copy, it does count as progress and/or success. So, that’s good.
Blake came over to meet the lambs

and Karl checked out the tractor

sea of mud

The week started off in the soggiest of ways.  Monday was nothing short of a deluge. All. Day. Long. It really felt like we should think about building an ark. The barnyard became a soupy, gloppy, smelly mess. The lambs barely ventured outdoors at all. When they did, one actually got stuck in the mud and had to be rescued.  Actually pull her up out of the muck. Don’t worry...she’s fine. But, I can honestly say THAT never happened before!
poor muddy baby

The mud presented another challenge in the hen yard. It has been the Boss’ intention to move the hens to a different location for quite some time. However, between weather, other obligations and illness, the house was still sitting where it had been for...well, far too long.
doing electrical work for the big hen move

time to move the hens
In order to move the henhouse, it is preferable to have all the hens inside the house. That means waiting for night to fall. Working in the dark creates a set of challenges that you never encounter in the light of day and makes everything just a little more complicated. Headlamps and headlights are great, but there’s nothing like daylight when it comes to actually seeing what you’re doing.
dogs and cats on standby

He figured he would use the farm truck to pull the horse-trailer-turned-henhouse out of the muck and into the upper garden. It was just a matter of hooking it up (in the dark) and moving it about 75 feet. Not a big deal, right?
lining up

We lined it up, hooked it up and he began to pull...

hookin' up

Wheels spun. Mud flew. The henhouse barely budged.

He tried again. Same thing.

Oh, bother.
not a happy expression

The farm truck sits fairly high and the backend of the trailer was tipped down into the mud and he was plowing into the muck, with every pull the pile got higher. We were going nowhere fast.

bogged down

Time for a change up.

Unhook the dodge, change up the implements on the tractor (a little shoveling on my part) and try again.
tractor to the rescue

Get it hooked up, do a little maneuvering, give a good pull…and…

in place, finally
(man, it's dark!)

Now, there are those who have laughed at our “cute, little tractor” and made disparaging remarks but, it does get the job done. Gotta love John Deere.
early morning hens

Now that the hens are moved, we hope that egg production will be on the increase. Because, it certainly couldn’t get much worse than it has been this winter. Every couple of years we go through a period of awful egg production and we have yet to figure out the exact cause. We’ve tried everything---short of ranting in a threatening manner while wielding a hatchet. (if past experiences are any indicator that has little to no effect) But, with the days getting longer and fresh “green” matter to forage, the hens have no further excuses.
You're on notice, hens!

And, speaking of greens...

There were actually greens to pick for Winter Sales this week! I was surprised just how much there was to harvest.
picking spinach in the hoophouse in January

I must admit, the hoophouses aren’t looking as amazing as they have in years past. My lack of enthusiasm is partly to blame. Winter production is great, in theory, but quite honestly, it’s not always as appealing as say...hibernation. After working and harvesting all summer, I’m not real sure I want to think about working and harvesting all winter.
mixed kale

arugula flowers

And, Winter production has a whole different set of weather-related issues. Each year is something different. This year’s warm-ish temperatures have been an issue. Growth has been somewhat sporadic and the constantly shifting temperatures have caused a lot of stress-related loss. Except for the chickweed. Oh, the chickweed...If I could just figure out how to market it, we have a never-ending supply. We have tried just about everything to eradicate it. And, nothing seems to work long-term. So, maybe I should research the nutritive values and begin to promote it as a “superfood”.  Chickweed smoothies, anyone?

chickweed is pretty,
but, what a pain!

Chickweed aside, our customers are awesome and the sales total was pretty impressive. To get everything delivered in a short period of time is always a challenge. And, while we did make one mistake (So very sorry, Carolyn!) it was a successful morning. And, successes keep us going…contributing to our psychological well-being as well as the bank balance.

We ended the week with a birthday supper celebration with all the kids at Blondie and Tbone’s new house. It was great! My daughters treated me to homemade cake and caramel icecream AND presents. 

I don't really need presents...
oh the cuteness!

 this birthday sheep mug just makes me laugh
(look inside...and say it like Joey Tribiani...)

Thanks girls, fellas and my sweet grandsons. Love ya!

...and that was the week on the hill.

Sunday morning sunrise

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 1-22-17

You got milk?
(Scooter-the bottle baby)
It’s been a crazy time here on the hill. Lots of trips to the barn, lots of babies and very little sleep. It’s been one of those weeks where I seriously considered googling “how to main-line caffeine” at more than one point. But, that sounds slightly illegal and more than a little dangerous. And, I can only imagine my cardiologist’s reaction. So…I tried to take a couple of naps and drag myself through to the end.
the weather looked like this almost all week

I’m happy to say…I made it! The big push is done and the continual barn checks are over. (for now)

 In stark comparison to last week, we’re putting this week solidly in the WIN category. (not that it was not without its disappointments and trials, but all in all…we can claim success)

Monday started with the biggest twins I think I've ever seen
15# each
and NO human intervention

We finished out the week with 21 live lambs. There are still a half dozen ewes that will lamb out sometime in February, so it’s still a little early to tally up our statistics. But, I’ll be optimistic and say we did all right. There were three sets of triplets! Although just one set remains intact. At some point I really need to tell you about the troubles of triplets. Sadly, we did incur some  other losses and that’s always frustrating. However, all the current flock looks hale and hearty. And, we only have one bottle baby!
"Charlie Brown" is one of triplets
born in the rain
he got chilled and had some breathing issues
He's doing great and will shed his sweater soon

The week was made a little more challenging when the Boss did indeed succumb to “the crud”. He was one sick puppy. But, he got through the Annual Farmers’ Market meeting. (that was his major concern) And, everyone is ready to go for the 2017 season. Hopefully, he did not infect anybody.  (if so, consider this his apology) If you had any doubt as to how sick he was...he let ME take him to Urgent Care where they told him “the crud” had turned to a sinus infection and they prescribed some super-duper antibiotics. Fortunately, he is feeling better. But, wow, does this thing sap your energy. One job and it’s back to the chair to rest for a while. So, needless to say...not a whole lot happened around here this week.

misty sunrise
on one of my countless trips to the barn

My attention was focused on the barn.  I lost count of how many trips I made, how many shots I gave, and how many bottles I filled. At one point, I was doing good to remember my name…as sleep deprivation got the better of me. A four hour stretch of sleep sound adequate until you realize what is entailed during the interim. The bottle baby was on a four-hour schedule most of the week, so a bottle had to be mixed and heated (and fed), there were head-counts and the whole off-and-on with the barn clothes routine. ...and then there was always the unexpected...

On one of my middle of the night checks, I found a newborn lamb…with two ewes fighting over his care. Both of them had claimed him and it took my sleep-deprived mind a minute or two to be able to make the King Solomon-like decision as to which one was the true mama. And, then, it took a good five minutes to get the ewe-lamb pair to a jug where the mama could continue to labor in relative peace. (yes, indeed-y there was another baby coming) Every time I would make some progress, the not-mama would jostle me and my headlamp would slide into an awkward position and I couldn’t see anything in the dark barn. When it slid precariously over my nose, or my ear, the light would bounce oddly off the barn ceiling and walls, causing the young ewes to panic and everyone would flip out and gallop around in fear. Pandemonium was not what I needed.  So, then we would have to start the backward trip to the stall all over again, being sure that mama-sheep could see her baby (that I was carrying) at all times. Shortly after getting to the jug, she dropped another lamb. Everyone looked good. A little attention for the lambs and a bucket of water for the ewe...and, it was a great relief to shut the jug gate and head back to the house. If her mothering-on was any indication, it wouldn’t be long until the second ewe lambed as well. But, nothing was imminent, so I headed to the house for a quick nap and some supplies before the “blessed event”.

However, when I got back and hour or so later...nothing was happening. I fed “Scooter” the bottle baby and still…nothing.

Even after chores nothing was happening.

No, wait. I take that back. Another ewe was lambing. But, it looked like it might be problematic.

And, there was definitely a problem with “Girlfriend” (the second ewe from the night drama) She was making little moaning noises, and it looked like her back legs were giving out…

Time to get the Boss.

Now, remember, he felt like death warmed over. (this is before his trip to the doc) …and I was still not one hundred percent. So, when I did my internal exam I was more than a little distraught to find, instead of two little feet…a ribcage. No, wait, was that a neck? I wasn’t real sure what I was feeling, but there was no doubt the lamb was mis-presented and it was going to require a good deal of human intervention. I really didn’t think we had it in us to do anything major. But, we had to do something.

Doing an internal exam on a sheep is a weird experience. It would probably disgust many people and gross out even more. The thought of putting one’s hand inside a sheep’s behind isn’t really the most appealing thing, I must say. But, I know that if I don’t do something, it is a sure thing that the animal(s) will die.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. CJ for taking the time years ago to explain to me what I am “looking” for and how to identify it by feel alone. ‘Cause you can’t take an actual look up in there. Nope. Not even a little bit. You can only use one hand, so you need to learn what it all feels like. Because, this animal is depending on you and vet calls are expensive and time is often of the utmost essence.

Anyway, I’m feeling around in the dark, warm, gooey sheep…trying to figure out how the lamb is lying and how to position it correctly to get it out. Out alive is definitely the preference (although sometimes that just doesn’t happen) All the while, mama sheep is contracting on my hand/arm. And, moaning. (fun times…not exactly)  All I can feel is something other than feet. It was obviously woolly and muscular…did it even have feet? Where was its face? (I talk to myself when I do this job and I think it kind of freaks the Boss out a little. Particularly when I cuss…and pray…sometimes at the same time…yeah, I can see how that would be disturbing…) I moved my hand around a little and found some feet. But not from the lamb I first encountered. Well, maybe by getting #2 out I could reposition #1…wiggle, pull, wiggle, pull.  Wooosh…out comes the baby! He flopped around a little and coughed, so we knew he was okay. Go back for the other one. I finally figured out that the lamb’s head was tucked around behind and under his leg (imagine he was trying to scratch his tummy with his teeth) Labor was heating up now, so my arm was getting mangled. Mama-sheep was getting really tired and laid down. Not great. I had to get down on the floor. The Boss was in a fairly awkward position as well and it was obvious he was getting tired.  Finally, after some intense work, I re-positioned the lamb and he slid out. Two nice ram lambs! And, they were both vigorous. YAY Mama-sheep seems to be laboring still. And, the rule is…if you have to go inside, make sure you get them ALL out. Lo and behold, there was a third baby. He was breech. Completely breech. (meaning he was coming butt first…in a ball) And, like it or not, mama-sheep was pushing again. It cost me a big bruise on the back of my hand, but I got him turned around and straightened out and with another WOOSH…we were done! THREE ram lambs! However, mama-sheep could not stand. Not even a little bit. But, she was cleaning her babies and talking lamb-talk to them, so we hoped for the best and moved on to the next laboring ewe.

Another exam and yep…another problem. This one was not as difficult. #2 lamb’s leg was turned back. By popping it up over the mom’s pelvic bone, his way was clear and he slid right out. A quick check revealed that yes, there was another little lamb…and he was ALIVE! Honestly, I went into the situation expecting the worst. I figured we would lose at least one, if not all, of the tangled up triplets. But, we got them all out alive...and the mama-sheep were okay...

…and it wasn’t even 9am.
"Girlfriend" and the newly arrived triplets

Talk about an adrenaline rush. I felt like Super-Shepherd. A very sweaty, bloody, soggy, but triumphant Super-Shepherd. The feeling didn’t last long as exhaustion set in...delivering mis-presented lambs is perhaps the most intense job on the requires a great deal of strength, both physical and mental. My goodness, I was tired. But, the success was sweet, particularly after last week’s disastrous experiences.

But, before we could celebrate we really had to consider what to do with a sheep that couldn’t stand up with triplet lambs dependent upon her. If she couldn’t stand, she couldn’t feed the babies. If she didn’t feed the babies, they would die…or I would have to become a surrogate again. Ugh.  And, if she couldn’t stand, she would eventually die…and what do you do with a 200 pound dying sheep in the middle of the barn?

As I dealt with the other sheep, she continued to clean her babies from a downed position. When I returned to check on her, guess who was standing up, feeding ALL her babies (somehow they already learned to take turns) and munching out on hay like nothing ever happened? You guessed it. "Girlfriend"!

A couple of years ago, she very nearly earned herself a trip out of here, but I relented for reasons I just don’t recall. Now, I’m kinda glad I did. She’s managing to raise her triplets without any human intervention. And, they are some really nice ram lambs.

With most of the lambs delivered safely, the bottle baby on a 6-hour schedule, and the Boss on the road to recovery, maybe we can get back to “normal” around here.

hoophouse on a January day
inspires me
It’s time to clean out the greenhouses so we can get busy starting seeds for the 2017 season, the pullets need to move to the henhouse and then there’s all the paperwork for tax time that needs some sort of attention. And, I’m certain I’ve overlooked a fair number of other tasks that will need our attention. So, there will be no cause to say we're bored or there's nothing to do.
pretty pullets

Now, it’s time to head out to check on our charges and get started with another day on the hill.

Hope you’re having a  Happy Sunday! 

Ellie at sunrise

Thanks for stopping by! And, a big THANK YOU to all those who offered prayers and kind words this past week. You made a big difference in our outlook and we truly appreciate you.

I hope you'll come “visit” us again real soon.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 1-15

sunset over the barn

Lows and highs, ups and downs...that’s been the story of the week. While this is always true, the past week seemed to change course without direction and then the pendulum would swing wildly in some sort of over-correction to the other extreme. 
Well, then...
we know we are not dead
And, that's a GOOD thing!

The week started off with the coldest weather of the season. Coming on the heels of the snow last Saturday, every trip outdoors was like a trip to the Arctic. Maybe 5* doesn't sound cold to you, but it is unusual for us.

snowy Mbrk


melting icicles

...and just like was over. By Thursday, we were out of our coats and coveralls as it suddenly felt like March. Complete with howling winds.
Gus was so hot he "melted"

But, not so Friday evening we were under a winter weather advisory and it looked like Saturday morning would start off with at best the dreaded “wintry mix” or the worst...ICE. There was a tremendous icestorm tracking across the country, its exact track unknown early in the week.

The weather, combined with the fact that I fell victim to “the crud” (the miserable head cold that’s been going around) on Sunday, made it far less difficult to cancel our anticipated sales run for the week. But, that’s always a hard call to make. This time of year cash-flow is all one way...OUT. No sales means no income. And, well, NO income needs no further explanation. But, we can’t recklessly endanger our customer-friends!

In the end, the weather wasn’t as bad as predicted and while there were a few icy droplets in the trees and on the fences, the roadways were perfectly fine. I know, we ended up going to town for lamb milk replacer first thing Saturday morning.
frozen raindrops

But, I’m getting ahead of myself...

Like I said, it was a week up ups and downs.

“The crud” laid me low. Knocked me down...way down. I was out of commission for three days before I finally started feeling better. I managed to get my barn checks done, but little else. I even skipped grocery shopping and the Boss did the feed run.

Thankfully, I was feeling better in time to make my healthcare appointment. After feeling “off” for what seemed like FOREVER, it was amazing to see that all the lab work finally connected the dots and I was given a protocol that has the potential to completely change the way I feel. There’s no real way to express the relief  I feel that this is not just “in my head”. So, a big THANK YOU to Lisa and her team at  Femme Care. I’m looking forward to a whole new me and the opportunity to learn about health from a little different angle.

But, in keeping with our theme...”the crud” made some sort of comeback and presently I’m left wondering if it’s finally time to head to the doctor or just continue to ride it out with home remedies. The most worrisome part of this is that the Boss is beginning to show symptoms...

...and we simply cannot be sick this week!

He’s got the Farmers’ Market Annual meeting to run.  I have a “pet lamb” who needs me ‘round the clock. And, the big week of lambing season is upon us. So, hoping for the best, we will muddle through somehow.

And, speaking of lambing season...

...and still we wait...

After last week’s great start, you guessed it...this week has been one of our worst. Ever. We’ve lost two ewes and at least three lambs. *sigh*
checking out the ewes at breakfast time
I think  they are plotting

barnyard antics have begun

The prolapsed ewe apparently had other internal issues. Our only guess was that metritis set in after the prolapse and didn’t respond to the antibiotics. She got sicker and sicker and despite my best efforts and a last moment rally, she ended up dying along with any lambs that were inside. This was a disgustingly smelly mess that had to be cleaned up at the beginning of the day.

I figured that if the day started with a job that had me literally retching that things would simply have to get better. 

I was wrong...
the full moon is said to bring on labor...

As the next two ewes started laboring, all seemed well.  The first ewe dropped twin ram lambs and at first they seemed healthy enough, although one never seemed very lively. Since I was not there for the actual moment of his birth, I cannot be sure of this, but, it appeared that he had been stepped on and may have had some sort of internal damage. ...and you guessed it, he succumbed the next day.

The second ewe dropped a little ram lamb and acted as if she was laboring with another. We waited. And waited. When I did an internal check, I discovered an enormous twin. An enormous, mispresented twin. This lamb was mispresented in the worst possible way, with its head turned all the way back over its shoulder. Often, this calls for a cesarean for the ewe or dismemberment of the lamb. Either way, the possibility for any sort of good outcome was slim at best.

To make a long, tragic story somewhat manageable...the outcome was not good. Not good at all. Actually, the worst. (the details may seem gruesome, so feel free to skip down a couple of paragraphs)

Despite my best efforts and the Boss’ help, I got the lamb out, but, it died in the birthing process. Like I said, it was enormous, well in excess of 15 pounds. That was not good for mama-sheep, not in any way. But, she was taking care of her other lamb and we dosed her with antibiotics (a precaution whenever we go “inside”) and pain meds (I had to have my entire arm inside her trying to get the lamb re-positioned). All of that was too much for the ewe’s reproductive organs to take. And, in the morning, her insides were on the outside. Very much on the outside. And, once again, I was more than a little grossed out. (I must be getting weak in my old age)

This time, the Boss had to put her down since there was absolutely no way she would recover. Then he had to dispose of her remains. And, all of this happened before breakfast.

Now, I had an orphan to deal with. We had hoped that the first ewe (that lost the lamb) would “adopt” this little guy. Fostering on lambs (or any other livestock) is an iffy proposition at best. I rubbed him with a rag I had used on the ewe and her lamb. I gave both the lambs the same oral nutritional supplement. Then I stuck him in with mama-sheep. He went right for the teat. (yay) He sucked. (yay) ---maybe this will work---Then, Mama sheep figured out he wasn’t hers. (boo) Mama sheep butted him across the stall---blam! Okay, let’s try this again...

After several attempts it became evident that this whole fostering thing was simply NOT going to work. (whole lot of boo’s here) and, now I have a “pet-lamb”. For the record, I really didn't want a pet and the term doesn't mean quite what you might think. Read THIS one.

All of which explains why we were out heading to town for lamb milk on a Saturday morning while there was a winter weather advisory in place. Honestly, this was never my intention. Really.

Last week, I stopped by the Farm Bureau for a bag of milk replacer. (just in case) The lady in front of me also wanted the same thing and they just told her they didn’t have what she wanted. She simply got something else and went her way. Since we’ve been dealing with this store for years, and I know the cashier, (and personally, I wanted what I consider to be the superior product) I asked if perhaps they had it at one of the other stores in the county. They checked, they did. I asked them to get me a bag. They said they would. It should be in the store Friday. I hate to say I didn’t put much stock in that, but I figured worst case scenario, we would drive to Fairfield (a town about 20 miles away) and pick it up ourselves at the first of the week.

Friday, with all its sheep crises, came and went without a call about my milk replacer. I had a little bit in the freezer from last season (“always be prepared”) so, we were ready for any emergency. But, just barely. When it became obvious that the orphan couldn’t be fostered, the Boss decided we would head to Fairfield after breakfast.

However, when we came inside from chores, there was a message from the Farm Bureau that our replacer was in the store waiting for us! And, we’re up again. Yay for the Farm Bureau! I guess I should apologize for ever doubting.

bottle baby 2017

With the bottle lamb eating well and thinking I’m his “mother”, I reckon the week ended on an up note.
another positive...
I think I've figured out how to recreate Whole Foods yummy sourdough bread
(more on my winter food focus another time)

Here’s to a week of successful lambing, a complete recovery for me and some sort of miraculous healing for the Boss! (who insists he’s not sick…he just doesn’t feel good)

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 
even the old, dead queen anne's lace is pretty in the sunrise
Thanks for stopping by. Come “visit” us again real soon.