Alternate Reality, Anyone?

I am looking for anyone who has some good karma to lend…  I feel like I have been cast in  an alternate reality:  the animal hospital planet!  I am so glad that it’s the summer and I am not rushing off to work every morning.  Not only does the ram Kyra’s Boy have a leg issue that requires a lot of attention, but our 11 year old Lab, Bear, had to have a large tumor removed from her back right leg today.  So now I have two patients with back leg issues.  Sheesh!  I hope everyone is on the mend soon :* )

Bear resting with her boo-boo leg
Bear resting with her boo-boo leg
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Sheep Doctoring Update

It’s 6 days since we had Kyra’s Boy at the vet for his leg ailment. He seems to be coming along; the leg is less swollen and it’s draining a lot less. He’s on the heavy-duty meds, eating well, and is taking it easy, but calling for his meals from his sickbed! Can’t ask for much more than that! (Except maybe some treats from my husband!)

Kyra's Boy takes it easy
Kyra's Boy takes it easy
KB accepts some carrot tops from John
KB accepts some carrot tops from John

Lobster and Shrimp to the Rescue!

We have been scrimping on everything these days as, like everyone else, we are trying to make ends meet and make do with less. We try to think creatively, and recently we feel we really got onto something good!  When we take our chickens to the butcher we need to put them into crates of some sort, and a friend of ours usually has one or two to lend us, but nothing that will really get us all the way there. Used chicken crates are hard to come by as no one seems willing to part with them!  New, even in catalogs, they cost about $75 each. The way our birds grow, we can only fit 7 or 8 in one of those. So. Living on the coast of Maine, we have some supplies at hand that most folks wouldn’t ordinarily see in their neighborhoods: lobster traps! A neighbor of ours makes lobster traps for a living and we approached him about making some custom chicken-carriers. They are beauts! This is John standing behind two of them with the top open:

John with our nifty chicken carriers
John with our nifty chicken carriers

We didn’t break the bank, and the crates are nice and easy to handle as well as easy to get the birds into and out of. We love them! And the bonus is that they are roomier and can hold more chickens.

I have been running into a frustrating situation with my cheese-making as well. I have been using a lasagna pan, stainless steel cake rack and plastic cheese mats to drain the cheeses, first in the forms and then without the forms after salting, and it was cramped and small and not working really well. The salt was beginning to break down the finish on the cake rack as well (even though it’s stainless, I don’t think it’s solid stainless!). So our friend Pam (Hatchtown Farm) suggested that we get a piece of shrimp trap wire and use that (shrimp trap wire has smaller openings in the grid than the lobster trap wire). We kept mulling it over, and finally decided to go see our trap-making friend and find out if he could bend some wire so that it doesn’t just sit on top of our stainless container, but somehow fit into it or attach to it somehow. So he came up with another great product for Ruit Farm: the cheese drainer that slides onto our giant stainless chafer! cheese_forms_drain

Chevre draining in forms (left) and salted chevre draining (below); you can see the black trapwire under the cheese mats

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Sheep Doctoring. In the Rain (what a surprise).

I feel like Nurse Nina this week.  Our beloved ram, Kyra’s Boy, has been ailing.  Late last week he was down in the pasture with his alter-ego, Mr. Big, when we found that he had a swollen and lame back leg.  Usually we see a lame front leg if one of the sheep or goats has been booking across a hummocky field and hits something the wrong way.  This was definitely not in that category.  I thought that maybe the boys were slamming each other and he took a hard punch to the hip… we probably will never know.  He had been lying there immobile so long that his whole underside was bitten up with tiny little bites that actually drew blood.  What a mess.  So we brought the boys back to the paddock area (can’t keep one ram alone in the field) and I did what I could to get Kyra’s Boy cleaned up and on the mend, but even though the swelling went down some, he obviously was not progressing.  Not even using that leg much at all, so we began to think that he must have a break.  Time for the vet call.  And we got really lucky that our vet fit us in yesterday for the x-rays.  So I loaded him up into the trusty Subaru and took him down (I wouldn’t want to have a hidden video of myself doing that!).

View of Kyra's Boy in the back of my Forester!
View of Kyra's Boy in the back of my Forester

Most sheep would not be as accommodating as Kyra’s Boy.  He is such a beautiful, mild-mannered guy, he didn’t get stroppy or obnoxious at all during the poking and prodding and x-raying that went on.  As it turns out, he doesn’t have a break, but he does have a really bad infection in a major portion of that leg.  The vet ended up putting in a drain and getting him onto penicillin and banamine.  We are hoping for the best, but know that this is a difficult place for an infection to take up residence. We now have him in a smaller pen in a sheltered space next to our (half-built) garage.  The Taj Mahal of private ovine hospital rooms!

Kyra's Boy in his private accommodations
Kyra's Boy in his private digs

So we did our sheep doctoring, in the rain as usual.  It was pouring by the time I got home and I was soaked when I got into the house last night after chores and getting Kyra’s Boy settled, but at least he looked fairly comfortable.  The drugs must have kicked in, though, because this morning he looked quite a bit perkier.  I had trouble getting him to stand still for his shots, and he appears to be eating a little more normally.  Time for some serious finger-crossing and good thought-thinking!  Go Kyra’s Boy!

HyperTufa Fun

Yesterday a group of us had an opportunity to join Dan and Ali of Henbogle and Signs of Maine at their lovely home and got dirty!  They taught us how to create HyperTufa objects (a mixture of things that allow you to form planters and outdoor containers).  It was one of the few really beautiful days that we have had and it was delightful.

Dan gets the dry ingredients started
Dan gets the dry ingredients started

Dan and Ali have a nifty setup:  a small, electric cement mixer that mixed the cement, sand, peat moss and water just right.  Plus, a big, beautiful yard to spread out in and enjoy the fun.  And we can’t forget to mention that the potluck lunch was amazing!

We all brought tubs and were wowed by the collection of neat bowls and containers that the denizens of Henbogle use for their HyperTufa creations.  And then we got to play!  I made a small bird bath and a planter.

My HyperTufa creations!
My HyperTufa creations!

It was loads of fun.  While my forms are curing, I am looking around for more containers to use for the next project.  I think that my bird bath needs a base…  and maybe some feet!

Out to Pasture

Electric fence ready to go
Electric fence ready to go

This is the back of John’s truck awhile ago when we actually had a break in the rain. We had had to dig our rolls of electric fence out of the field where they had been rolled and stacked last fall, and then snowed upon before we got them home. If it looks like hand-to-hand combat, that’s what it feels like sometimes!

Ewes out in the pasture
Ewes out in the pasture

Putting the flexible net fence up isn’t difficult, just awkward for someone as short as I am.  And between the rain and our work schedules, we ran late in getting everyone out onto grass. But every year we manage to get the whole crew there in the end… two by two, in the back of the Forester :*)

Piggies In, Chickens Out

I love it when we find balance on the farm.  Our daily life is very routine-oriented and when anything changes that routine, it takes me almost a week to fine-tune how my chore times look.  Maybe I am slow to adapt, I don’t know!

As our farm goes, we try not to have too many different groupings of animals to care for at one time, as that complicates life greatly.  Sheep and milking goats are our mainstay, but we really depend on our pigs and our roasting chickens to get us through the food year, even though we only need to keep them as part of the farm animal scene for a portion of the year.

This year things have worked out quite well in that regard.  We got our roasters early, and our piggies late.  So this was swap week.  We picked up the piggies on Sunday, and the chickens had their date with destiny on Tuesday.  It’s been a long week, but I think things have died down to a dull roar now.

Piglets on board
Piglets on board
8 week old Cornish X chickens
8 week old Cornish X chickens

Finally! All Kids have joined the party :*)

Last kid of the year finally joins us!
Last kid of the year finally joins us!

I think that I can finally get to bed at my usual earlier hour again! Yesterday morning I got out to chores a little on the later side (as I am totally dragging, having to stay up until 11 or 11:30 to check on our expectant mom) and couldn’t see Snow Pea’s face through the tarp on the greenhouse… well, she hasn’t been popping up for breakfast with alacrity in the past few mornings, she waits to see the green coming at her before she makes the effort. But as I approached the greenhouse where I had penned her, all I heard was grunting. Yay! She stood up to greet me and when she turned around I saw a pink nose and two little hooves protruding from her backside. So I left her to it, and while I fed everyone else, checked on her periodically. Everytime I approached, though, she stopped what she was doing to beg for food, so I had to ignore her. Just as I was getting set to begin milking, I heard her bellow her welcome “maah” and her boy was on the ground, shaking his head and snorting. So our complement of goat kids is complete: 3 doelings and 4 bucklings.  Not a bad year!