Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 1-28

Yip, yip….yowwww! Woooo…bark, bark…yip, yip…..yowwwwwowooooowwwww!

Okay, my attempts at coyote cries are a dismal failure. Watch this  or this.

All the little hairs on the back of my neck were suddenly standing at attention. The calls were so close I could sense the fur and spit flying as a skirmish broke out amongst the band. Making it all the more eerie, Gus was sitting stock still and silent, his nose quivering slightly as he peered intently into the darkness. With the next coyote call, the old pregnant ewes hoisted themselves up from their sleeping spots and headed for the barn. That made me more than a little nervous.

I realize there are those who feel that the nocturnal cries of the coyotes are some type of amazing natural music. That explains why they are called “the song dog”. And, I guess it’s cool that they have different calls to communicate.

But, personally, the very thought of coyotes freaks me out. Thinking that they’re out there…somewhere…is one thing. Being absolutely certain is another. This time they sounded closer than ever before. And, then there is knowing there is nothing I can do…

nice lambs

This is the most intense part of the shepherding year. Day-time, night-time…it seems I’m always headed toward the barn. And, there is a definite downside to spending a lot of time in the barn. Not only do all my trips center around the barn, the welfare of the sheep and the potential sales hold my every thought captive. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I trudge out to make sure everyone is all right. Coyote cries just magnify my concerns. There are countless things that could put the entire operation in jeopardy.
checking lambs at night
I LOVE my headlamp!

So, maybe it was starting the day before sun-up with the haunting sounds of the “song-dog” wailing and yipping in the neighbor’s field…maybe it was just a side-effect of the bronchitis meds, or a serious lack of sleep. Maybe it was a combination. But, when I found what appeared to be yet another single, tiny lamb, I kinda lost it. (okay, truthfully, I REALLY lost it) All the worries and uncertainties came crashing down…the sheep, the Market, our income stream (or lack thereof), the Boss’ health, the weather, garden plans, healthcare, insurance, the mess in government, future goals, past hurts and missed opportunities. How could any of this work? Did I even want to try? Some days this life that others think is such a dream is just so uncertain and seems incredibly hard.

more nice lambs

Just like the coyotes, the worries are always there.  It’s just occasionally they seem to howl away, overwhelming and distressing. Since they certainly aren’t going away, we must learn to deal with them.

The Boss’ advice is always…ask yourself what can you do about it? Find one thing and do it…and then, do the next thing…and just keep going. 

Therein lies the rub. It’s the times when I can’t think of a plan that I get so out of sorts. All those things over which I have no control send me into a tailspin.


In this particular case, I could at least take care of the lamb. Then I could run some necessary errands and “do the next thing”.

When I returned to the barn, the tiny, single lamb had been joined by two little sisters. TRIPLETS! That explained the size. (and got our lamb count back on track to some degree) Later in the day, more babies arrived. My ovine obstetric skills have yet to be needed this season. Hurray!

these big rams lambs are my
"birthday twins"

With a plan in place to protect the sheep from the coyotes, it was time to head out for the Farmers’ Market annual meeting. This is when those who are interested in being Market vendors get together, go over the rules, reserve their places and pay their fees. Since the Boss is Market Manager, he heads up the meeting. I generally get pressed into service, although it must be pointed out that I have absolutely nothing to do with the running of the Market. We had a full house this year, even though a number of folks were absent. There were 15 new vendor applications!

This will be the Market’s 25th anniversary. I wonder if those folks who founded the Staunton Farmers' Market ever thought that would be possible…? Things have certainly changed since the early days.

And, more changes are scheduled. The City of Staunton is re-furbishing the parking garage across the street from the parking lot where the Market is held, so it will be closed for 6 months. That means that all the police vehicles will need to be parked elsewhere… (probably in the Market space) And, the job must be done during warm weather, so it will happen during the height of Market season. All of this will seriously impact the Market, in addition to the loss of customer parking.  It remains to be seen how the customers will react to the disruption. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

And, then there is the issue of the trees…

trees at the Market

Those trees that make the Market so scenic, the ones that add to the ambience and grant much-needed shade on summer days, are slowly dying. Such sadness! There is no way to save them, as the variety is just not suited to the particular application. The Boss attended a meeting where the City Arborist presented several plans to correct the issue. They might simply replace the trees as they die. Or they might re-vamp the area, using something called the  Silva Cell, which is really pretty.  Or they might do something entirely different…changing the area dramatically. Since the decision is up to the City, and whatever they decide will require funding (which has yet to be allocated) so nothing has been decided. Whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) will greatly affect the Market. It feels like we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop…

I would really miss the trees
especially in the fall

Uncertainty seems to be the watchword this year.

That’s not to say there is nothing positive happening on the hill. Not at all.

Broiler chicks have been ordered, lamb processing dates confirmed, and the Ag Census completed.

while I worked on paperwork
Remy sat IN the trashcan and shredded everything
(I suppose that was helpful)

 We even had a 4H group come by for a farm visit the other evening!

when this little girl's dad asked if she was going to stay the night
she looked up at me and said
"Okay, can I?"
Lambs arrived all week with little or no fanfare. And, we spent Saturday evening with all the kids, celebrating my birthday. Thanks y' was great!

Nothing like snuggles with all the grandsons.

maybe I shouldn't tell my girls...
but, these are the best presents

When we got back, I headed to the barn to check on everyone. That’s when I heard an ewe screaming in pain. She was outside. It was beginning to rain. It was next to impossible to get her into the barn. And, all the other sheep were not being cooperative. However, she soon delivered without assistance and there are now 21 healthy lambs cavorting around the barn.

afternoon at the "lamb beach"
all the babies take a place in the sun

the four stages of sleep
dozing, napping, dreaming and flat-out exhausted

Ah, the sun feels SO good!

I wish there were more, but…it is what it is.  There are two ewes that didn’t breed at the same time as the rest of the flock, so it is possible that there will be a few more next month. Although, even if that happens, we just won’t have the numbers we have in the past. We’re still feeling the effects of last year’s “challenges” to some degree. That’s frustrating in a number of ways. But, again…it is what it is.

sleeping with lambs

this little lamb has the most comfortable bed!

Demand for lambchops (and all other cuts) has increased dramatically and it is tempting to consider expanding the operation. However, that’s much easier said than done. Housing, grazing and feeding throughout the winter would require some major adjustments as well as considerable financial investment.

On the positive side, the lambs are all big and healthy. And, while I am supplementing a set of twins, (mama-sheep didn’t have enough milk) at least I don’t have SEVEN bottle babies like I did one year. Did you read  this?  or this? 
bottle babies chew on EVERYTHING

I guess that brings us to the end of the “news” from the hill. The upcoming week will find us watching the weather closely (we need precipitation!) and figuring out a time to haul a load of hay.

Although,'s a little something to be THANKFUL for

the stocktank heater shorted out and burned up the plug
it did NOT cause a fire!


we had a spare!

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you have a Happy Sunday! 

Come back and “visit” again soon.

moon during a middle of the night barn check

Jan. 31 will be a big lunar event
full moon, blue moon, lunar eclipse
first time in 150 years

Here’s a postscript for those of you who might be wondering…

I haven’t heard the coyotes again.
                    …and…it’s RAINING!

                                          (how’s that for good news?)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 1-21

It’s been a while since I posted.

Actually, this is the first post of 2018. (which I might add, was not my plan at all)

At the end of 2017, we were on a roll. Plans had been made, things were getting done.

But, you know what they say about good intentions…

2018 began with some incredibly cold, windy conditions. 

cold mockingbird

frosty sunrise

cold start to the day

frigid sunset

the creek keeps running even in cold weather

red-headed woodpecker
eating chestnuts in the neighbor's lawn

the heated stock-tank froze!

Gus loves to steal ice chunks
they keep him entertained for hours

We spent some time attempting to batten down the hatches on the hen-house, hoping to cut the bitterly frigid winds swirling on the inside of the trailer.

putting up skirting as a windbreak

finished job

hens eat a lot during cold weather

Then, I assisted the Boss in getting the jug pens ready for lambing season.
building jug pens

"hey, are you done yet?"
ewes wait to come back in the barn

Maybe it was working in the cold wind. Maybe it was just my turn.

But, something hit me and hit me hard.

A sore throat gave way to a hacking cough, changing my voice to that of an angry German Shepherd frightening the cats and startling the sheep. The coughing spasms left me tired and breathless.

It would be an understatement to say January has not been a whole lot of fun.

Here are the "highlights":

3 bottles of cold medicine,
one package of cold tablets,
countless echinacea/goldenseal/elderberry and zinc capsules
a bottle of tylenol and almost a half a bottle of aspirin
an entire bag of cough drops
numerous cups of ginger/lemon tea, with honey/vinegar (believe me, I've tried everything)
gallons and gallons of water,
2 ¾ boxes of Kleenex,
3 doctor visits,
one entire television series, a couple of random seasons,
2+ weeks of sleeping in the recliner in an attempt to breathe
4 prescriptions,
Diagnosed bronchitis,
a sinus infection
and a potential peritonsillar abscess (false alarm)

thankfully, the Boss drove me on this snowy trip to the doc

In other words, I’ve been sick. Really, really sick. It has been hard to do anything, even think. The Boss says he doesn't remember me ever being quite so sick. With a 34-year history, that’s saying something. And, I’ve never had anything last this long.

But, finally, I think I might be on the road to recovery. I want to be optimistic, but I feel like I am digging out of a deep, dark hole. And, I am still so very tired.

The Boss has had a milder version of “the crud” so life on the hill has been a challenge this month. 

Our routine has been fairly limited to chores, egg washing and resting. I never imagined one could get so tired of being tired…or spending time doing nothing…

we woke to a rather unexpected snow day

I recently read that rather than say “why did this happen to me?” you should ask “what are the gifts of this situation?” It’s an interesting twist, and food for thought, something I would like to re-visit in the future. Although, I must admit, I am struggling with applying that thinking to this particular experience.

But, I did come up with a couple of things.

If I had to get sick, now was probably the best time, as things are slow…so slow in January.

Despite the struggles, we’ve had two fairly stellar Winter Sales deliveries that surpassed our projected monthly goal. To have positive cash-flow during January is an amazing thing.

And, there are NINE new lambs at the barn.

first lambs of 2018

It is important to note that ALL of the lambs were born without human assistance…AND…during the relatively warm days of the month.

So, we will focus on the positive, work at regaining our health and get back to “normal”.

first lamb "play-date"

heap of sleeping sheep

Because, there’s no time for slacking…

we expect the rest of the lambs this week,
the Ag Census needs to be completed,
there are a couple of bottle lambs requiring regular feeding,
the Farmers’ Market meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night,
the end-of-the-year filing must be finished before the taxes are due,
a group of 4-H kids is supposed to stop by to visit the lambs,
processing dates need to be scheduled,
broiler chicks and garden seeds should have already been ordered,
…and I’ve got to get some seeds started for early crops.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m feeling better and the weather has moderated.

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

another pretty sunrise

Come back and “visit” again real soon.