Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 1-1-17

Here's lookin' at ewe!

So…here we are.

It’s the first day of the NEW year.

Time for the first “farm tour” of 2017.

…and, um…it looks pretty much like yesterday, last week…last year. You must say one thing about life on the farm, if nothing else, it is dependable. Pretty much the same pattern all the time, year after year after year. 

         ...except we have lambs! (But, I’ll get back to that in a minute)

I think (I know) I’ve said this before, but that can be good in that it’s comforting and re-assuring. On the other hand, I worry that reading about it may get more than a little monotonous.

December sunrises are always pretty

flying geese

a foggy, frosty walk to the mailbox

winter afternoon

the first snow of the season

snow flurries in the valley

However, with the holidays behind us, it’s time to start thinking about the 2017 season. Forget just thinking, it’s time for action! Seriously. Planning and ordering are second only to maintenance and repair on the to-do list right now.

Since it’s been two weeks since I posted a “farm tour”, you might think that there would be something incredible to report. I hope you’re not disappointed.  But, then again, you may remember that it is indeed the “off-season” and your expectations may be a little low. I think that we’re smack-dab in the middle here, so here’s to making everybody happy.

vaccination time
In keeping with our focus on farm healthcare in December, we ran all the ewes through the barn for vaccinations. This shot keeps all the “girls” safe from a number of nasty clostridial diseases for another year. And, by giving them their shot at this point in their pregnancy, we grant the unborn lambs some immunity as well. (they will get their own set of vaccinations when they are about one month old) 

Thankfully, the entire vaccination deal went off with no major incidents. For the record, one bent needle (because one ewe freaked and jumped) qualifies as “no major incidents”. Although, the Boss’ knee took a pretty good hit from a big, fat ewe who thought she could push him out of the way. (he’s okay)
getting the ewes ready

Gus on guard
Then, it was time for the dogs’ annual check-up and vaccines. The absolute worst farm job is taking Gus to the vet. He becomes a quivering mass of long white fur and gallons of drool. He won’t cooperate and I’m just a little fearful that one day his anxiety will cause him to bite me. He totally freaks out and tries desperately to get back home. He actually escaped the vet techs once and since the clinic is right next to a busy road, the possibility of a squished farm dog does nothing for my own anxiety levels. Definitely not a fun time. While Ellie is far more cooperative (she will even jump in the vehicle)                                                                                                                                                there is still the issue of fur and drool...everywhere.

So, imagine my delight when I found that our vet had recently introduced a mobile vet truck to their services. Now, we know all about farm visits from the vet...more than one vet has met us at the barn in the middle of the night to doctor a cow with milk fever. They’ve been out for other things as well...the pony, lambs, calves, and pregnancy checks for the cows.  But, the cows are long gone and we generally vet the sheep ourselves, so it’s been years since a veterinarian came out to the farm. Because, guardian or not, dogs are considered pets and farm visits don’t apply. But, the new mobile vet clinic is specifically designed for pets that don’t travel...and believe me, guardian farm dogs don’t travel well.
waiting for the vet

I didn’t even think to ask how much it would cost for this new service. Honestly, all I could think was how fabulous it was I didn’t have to attempt to pick up 100# of quivering, drooling Gus. I don’t think you could put a price on saving my back and my sanity. However, it was less than 50 bucks. So, needless to say, I’m thrilled. And, the dogs are vaccinated and heart-guarded for another year. A big thank-you to Dr. Jenna and her assistant Ashley. And, I plan on being a loyal customer forever.

Then, the Boss and I took a little day trip to Natural Bridge. We had taken the girls nearly 15 years ago and he had been talking about a return trip for a long time. It’s a nice woodland hike and the weather was fine for late December. It granted real change of pace for us, and he was glad to have something different to photograph.

Learn more at the Natural Bridge website

sunlight through the bridge

the trail

the size is amazing!
look closely there are people underneath
and Route 11 runs over top

Lace Falls at the end of the trail

The next day saw us making a trip over the mountain to C’ville. I am not a fan of travelling I-64 over the mountain, especially on a foggy day. But, the view of the Rockfish Valley was pretty amazing. (and the fog burned off and the return trip was beautiful) 
Rockfish Valley shrouded in fog

We stopped by Whole Foods for what we call a “reconnaissance mission” (oh, okay, and we bought some salad stuff because the lettuce in the hoophouse isn’t growing as quickly as I would like). I like to see what else is out there in the way of food products from time to time. The high-end groceries tend to have pretty displays and unusual offerings. This sparks our own creativity and helps to get us enthused for another season. It also encourages us when we see that our quality is above the standards of the store...and our prices are nowhere near as high. (we saw eggs for $7.79!)

love the colors!

Wow...just WOW
$7.79 for a dozen eggs

wonder what LOCAL means in this case?

look at the variety!

It is time to look ahead to next season and we spent the better part of one day planning out the gardens for 2017. The Boss maps everything out and it’s my job to calculate seed starting dates and get the orders placed after taking stock of the seed inventory we already have. One more order, and I think we’ll be ready. It will be time to start those seeds before you know it! (early season broccoli gets started in February)
plotting out the 2017 season

Ordering seeds with Remy's supervision

When we returned from our little trip over the mountain, I went to check the sheep since lambing season was fast approaching (first predicted due date 1/1/17) and found we had a slight problem. One of the ewes had what looked like a pink baseball bobbing under her tail. Oh, bother! (confession...I actually said something far less “family-friendly”) The pink thing was a vaginal prolapse. And, I can assure you that’s not something you want to see. Ever.

**I will spare you photos (only because I didn’t get an opportunity to take one) But, you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs if the thought of such things bothers you.***

that's her in the middle with her red harness

Oddly, I had just been thinking about the time years ago when Blondie and I met the vet in the middle of the night at the barn to address an ewe with a similar, recurring problem. Definitely not an experience I wanted to repeat. Thankfully, this particular prolapse was nowhere near as severe. (and I now know what to no midnight vet calls)

Essentially, part of her “insides” were now on the outside. (blech) This generally happens to older, fatter ewes whose sphincter muscles have been compromised or weakened. It can also happen if the ewe is tiny and the lamb, or lambs are extremely large. Since none of these situations seem to apply, we’re at a loss as to the reason. Although, her mother did have a tendency to triplet, so maybe that’s it. (we’ll have to wait and see) In any case, the problem resolves itself once the lambs are delivered.

Regardless of the cause, or any future resolution, some sort of action was necessary. One of the reasons we call them “insides” is because internal organs do not belong flapping around in the breeze. The risk of infection is great when mucous membranes are exposed to the barn environment, and the delicate tissues can be easily damaged by the other animals. Besides looking gross and disgusting, it can be a life-threatening condition (to the ewe and the lambs). She has at least two weeks until her due-date, so we couldn’t just let this slide.

If caught early enough, it can be corrected with relative ease. By putting a special harness on the sheep, pressure is applied across her back-end and the internals stay in place. This harness is removed as lambing begins and she should be able to deliver the babies without difficulty.

There is always the chance that this procedure won’t work, and there is a more invasive (read, really gross) correction technique. That explains the middle of the night vet visit years ago. However, I am hoping we won’t have to go that route.

The prolapse slipped back in without human intervention. (that is a good sign) Then it was simply a matter of catching her and applying the harness. We will keep a close eye on her for the duration of her pregnancy (making sure the harness stays in the proper position and that she is able to void without problems) She seems to have adjusted to her new “outfit” and it seems to be holding everything in place. Yay, success!

However, once an ewe has developed this particular issue, it will more than likely occur in subsequent pregnancies. She will also pass the tendency to her offspring. So, she will be heading on out of here after her lambs are born and weaned. That may sound harsh, but such decisions are necessary to keep the farm operational and somewhat profitable. To my mind, keeping her as a breeder knowing the issue is a far more cruel fate as it could potentially lead to a long, lingering illness and death.

With that issue corrected, it was just a matter of a waiting game for the ewes. According to my calculations, the first lamb(s) were set to arrive sometime after New Year’s Day. But, those ewes were first-timers, so I was keeping a pretty close eye on them. Nothing was happening at chore time...

So, I reckon you can imagine my surprise when I walked in the barn for the last check of the evening and the beam of my headlamp caught a lamb taking its very first steps!

Not only was there one newborn lamb in the upper part of the barn, but there were twins in the lower corner. They were all cleaned up and getting their first meal. Wow! I certainly didn’t expect that one.

building jugs

It was a good thing that the Boss had decided to get the jugs built after we made our delivery to town! (I wanted to wait until the wind stopped blowing...) Since the new mamas had done such a good job delivering their lambs, all I had to do was put the new families in jugs, give the moms some alfalfa hay and water and dip the babies’ umbilicals in iodine.

A middle of the night barn-check revealed two well-adjusted ewes chewing their cud and three healthy little lambs dozing under the heat-lamps.

A good start to the new year, I must say!

one of the new babies

And, so lambing season begins...there are a couple of ewes due in the upcoming days and most the rest of the flock due the following week. It will be a round of late-night checks and feed trough exams for the next couple of weeks. For a short while I will be the “on-call ovine obstetrician”. Here’s to many easy, uncomplicated births!

Now, I’ve rambled on for a good, long while and need to bring this post to a close. A fair number of other things happened around here, but we’ll just have to save those for another day.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

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

                                    Best wishes for a great 2017!


  1. Such an interesting read Barbara. Happy New Year to you both and good luck with the lambing season.