All week I have been freeing up green panels wherever they are not being useful, planning to get them in a spot so I can let the mamas and babies into an area that has a lot of weeds and grass. It’s always the way however! John got up early this morning and I was steadfastly trying to sleep until 6, but I was awake when he came in a little before that and told me that it looked like the goats were out of the paddock. I don’t panic, as the mamas won’t leave the babies behind, and it appeared as though all of them were not there, some were inside, some were out. And they don’t go far even when there isn’t as much to eat as there is right now.
I got up and had my coffee, and when I began hearing babies crying for their mamas, I went out. All the kids had gone inside the paddock, and only two moms were out. Zelda had gone all the way around and was bellowing right at the gate, and Pippi was still up on the hill. They came right back in, and they got their morning grain. After they had a little hay in their tummies I put the green panels in place and let them go a little wild in the weedy areas. By mid-afternoon they were resting in the greenhouse, belching up wonderful grassy green smells.
They went out again late afternoon and played around the loam pile, some of them on the top and then doing back flips coming down. Couldn’t get a good photo of that, it happens too fast! Oh well, they are in their pen for the night, tomorrow they will have another chance.
I don’t want to hurry the seasons and wish for cold weather or anything, but I love the onset of autumn. This summer has been warmer and more humid than any other summer we have spent here. And don’t even get me started about the insect explosion this season due to the pathetic winter we had! Insect vermin have made our lives miserable this past few weeks and the flies in the pasture with the sheep have reached epic proportions.
But we are finally turning the corner now. Last night I actually had to close the window over my head as it was breezy and down in the forties. And today, Labor Day, is the perfect Maine day. Sunny after the fog burned off with a brisk breeze. While John was mowing down in the pasture I wormed and then moved the sheep, so I did get a tad overheated, but taking some time in the shade with the wind blowing across the hill was fabulous. So the 4 sheep and the donkey are wormed and in new pasture and we are gearing up for breeding time. It seems to have gone by so quickly this year. Lambs to the butcher last week and this week making plans for next year!
We have had a crazy but good week. Spent a lot of time with our grandson and finally got our mama ewes down to the pasture we use, 1/2 mile down the road. This involves popping one or two ewes into the back of my Subaru Forester – the Ewebaru – and winging down the street to lead them into the electric-netted area. (Of course “popping” them into the back of the Subaru is not as easy as it sounds and it is a high-energy activity, one that we dread but know we need to accomplish). John walked our donkey Jingle down to the pasture before we got the ewes down there. When I was penning the ewes into a small area at the house to get ready for the move, one of them (Etti the Tank) broke through and I had to grab her and halter her and being alone here it was rather exciting. But our son got down and helped me with the last two and so it was done. Finally!
Having our grandson visit and spend time with us is always enjoyable. He is an amazing and wonderful child. He loves “feeding the sheeps” and trudges to chores with his fireman’s boots and is of the age where he is walking in amongst the sheep and goats and enjoying the babies. He is in love with our baby doelings, and they are in love with him. What a great time!
The weather is finally behaving more like the calendar date. Being a lovely cold and clear day yesterday allowed me to get a few end-of-season chores completed. Early in the day our shearer Emily came to shear the two sheep that are butcher-bound this coming week. And then I took the opportunity to go down to the pasture and pull all the flex net fence. I am not the best at rolling it up and getting it tied, but I managed. Then John did me the favor of going down with the tractor and moving the charger and all the fencing out. Last year we got caught by snow early and I never got down there. It always makes things difficult in the spring, and sometimes the mice run under the snow and gnaw at the lower wires. It was nice to get something taken care of in time for once!
It’s a waiting game right now. We are scheduled to have 3-6″ of wet snow come in tonight. It’s even beginning to cloud up right now. I am guessing that the pasture won’t look like this tomorrow!
We have not seen the end of the breeding season yet and really do not want to take the girls out of the field. They made it through the high winds of the summer out in the field, and we are hoping that the snow will be gone by Monday. Luckily the girls and Reece are in a section of the field that is pretty protected in the upper corner.
And so the winter weather begins. It has been a strange weather year over all, so why should this surprise us!
We have not really begun to catch our breath from the onset of the beginning of this school year. Lots of things have changed for us in a relatively short time. My job has shifted its focus, and I am now lucky enough to have the same schedule every day, which is quite a novelty, and on a less positive note, we are sorely missing a colleague who has moved into another district. In spite of all the changes, the beginning of this year feels very positive, although it is leaving me a little breathless!
Even with all the changes in our lives, we spent an interesting weekend. We are from the greater NY area originally and were living not far from NYC when the attacks on the Trade Center took place ten years ago. We lived and worked in communities that gave up many. Even as this country and the world have been changed so drastically by the events of that day, our lives have mirrored that as well. The anniversary of 9/11 is always something which gives us pause and conjures up a lot of memories, but this year seemed to be different. I spent most of the day down in the pasture moving sheep fence, and although that is always pretty demanding work, I really enjoyed the time. The day was about as perfect as it could get: blue skies, a few wispy clouds, lively breeze, green grass and very clean and fluffy sheep. (OK, Jingle the Donkey let rip with a few hoots when she thought I was taking too long, but that always adds to the pasturely ambiance). As I unwound the fence and let the crickets fill my head with their late summer song, I had time to reflect on how different this day was in comparison to the same day 10 years ago.
We were not refugees from 9/11 New York as many people thought. We had been planning a move to this spot in Maine for many years and already owned our property here. A number of family issues precipitated the move when it happened in November of that year. It was a difficult move, leaving many close friends and family, but I think that this anniversary Sunday really made me stop and reflect on how different things are for us now, and also how blessed we are.
In contrast to the quiet of the absence of jetliners overhead and the view of the burning towers from the bottom of our street ten years ago, I was able to sit in the grass on the edge of a simply gorgeous field and feel the quiet and non-artificial peace of the day. It was a day of quiet not from the absence of the usual sounds, but a peaceful quiet full of sheep grazing, crickets in the grass and birds very busy in the trees. The sounds of summer slowly giving up, but still hanging on. We have made many changes in our lives in the last decade, and in the past few months I think I have been feeling very unsettled at possible job loss and having to pare back our animal operation to bare bones due to money issues, but I am hoping that I let all those feelings slide down the hill into the beaver pond the other day. We are lucky to be here in this place, with at least one of our sons and our grandson, as well as many new and wonderful friends. And at least a few amazingly gorgeous sheep and goats to keep us company :*)
Seeing the images of the awesome memorial at the site of the World Trade Center on tv also gave me a feeling of release in the same way. It’s the first time I have ever felt the desire to visit what was called “Ground Zero.” Maybe I will have that chance one day, but until then we are here.
I wish we could *really* drive our ewe flock down the road the half mile to the pasture we use at a neighbor’s place, but I think it might be a little too crazy for me to deal with! The few cars that use our road as a cut-through frequently get going quite fast, so it would be too scary to consider, even if the girls were totally well-behaved. So the other alternative is to literally “drive” them down the street. I was talking about putting the girls in the back of the Forester one day at work, and our friend Dan of Henbogle suggested that we should re-name the Forester the “EweBaru!” If the name fits…
Roaster chickens are on the schedule to be moved down to the pasture any moment now :*) The only thing that had put a kink in the works up until now was that we didn’t have a portable shelter put together for them yet. Life being what it is, we had some of the materials, but not all. Advice from a variety of sources gave us too many ideas to begin with, and in the end we decided to take the plunge with some 2X4s and bent hog panels with a tarp on top. The only thing we did that needs some tweaking, is that we placed the panels so that there is a two foot space between them in the middle that needs some support, so John is attaching 3 strips of wood that will hopefully do the trick.
So yesterday we got it put together. It’s nice to accomplish something useful as I so often feel as though I am just spinning my wheels! All we need is a tarp and we can get moving on this. Phew.
School is over and things seem to be moving forward with the farming. Our mama ewes and lambs have been separated for over a week now, maybe almost two weeks. We are very late getting the moms down to the field, as usual, but John was able to mow the perimeter lines for the electric net down in the field two nights ago, so hopefully I can get the fence up today and tomorrow, and insert the moms down there on Saturday! Meanwhile, the lambs are growing like weeds. Here are some photos:
It’s been awhile since I last posted and I feel like a slacker. Starting the week before Thanksgiving we have had a crazy schedule which is partly to blame, and holidays always kind of knock me out of sync with my usual daily patterns. I dried off our doe Elf, as she was having some shyness about being milked during the whole breeding craziness, and I just didn’t want to fight her! Salsa and SnowPea’s milk amounts dropped, and
Salsa’s appetite wasn’t what it usually is, but that has changed drastically in the last week. So I am down to two goaties on the milk stand and am probably going to start the drying-off process toward the end of the month. I like having some milk coming in so I can make mad batches of chevre and throw them into the freezer for our winter and spring dining pleasure! Choretime isn’t the same without the milking routines, and I miss that closeness with the does, but on the other hand, below 20F temps and howling wind make the whole milking experience less than fun. It’s all part of the flow of the seasons and the year. It’s also been a relief to note that Elvis the stink-o has returned more to his normal self and is not constantly trying to impress the girls. I actually got into the pen with him the other day and he didn’t act as though I needed to be inspected and snurlfed like crazy. Hopefully that means that everyone is bred and all’s right with the herd!
As for the sheep, we disbanded the breeding group that was up at the house with Mr. Big
the week before Thanksgiving. He hadn’t been showing any interest in the ewes he was hanging out with (and hadn’t marked any either), so he went back to the boys’ pen and the girls went up the hill into the group with Zorro the llama. That left our breeding group down in the pasture to handle. Everything appeared to be fine with the breeding: our little Hamish the ram lamb took care of business promptly and they have had what is left of the grass in the pasture in a huge area. I had been getting a little nervous about them being in the field as there have been a very vocal group of coyotes in the area. Around dusk I have been hearing them yapping and calling, and then very clearly, an answering bray from Jingle the donkey, who was down there with those 6 sheep. She had also been doing her perimeter run about the same time of day, so I guess she let them know who is the boss! (That. Or a combination of that and the electric fence). The weather has been so balmy that I haven’t felt the usual frantic need to get them home and into the winter paddock, but the threat of this snowstorm got my attention at last. So with Chloe and our son’s help on Saturday, we made 3 trips down to the pasture and loaded them two-by-two into the Subaru and brought them home. Then Jingle walked with Chloe and I up the street and home at last. Another chapter closed as the year ends and our minds turn to lambing!
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