Raven’s Morning Boy

Finally!  Raven's ram arrives to a sunny morning
Finally! Raven's ram arrives to a sunny morning

With only two more ewes to go we have doggedly continued the lamb watch… each night I try to keep myself up past 11 p.m. so that I can go out and make sure no one is in labor. Last night I waited until one of the hard rain showers had passed and headed up to the greenhouse to check. Everyone but Zorro the llama was inside under cover (Zorro doesn’t like being where he can’t see what’s going on, being a good guard animal). What a coup! I very sneakily pulled a green panel across the opening and locked them all in for the night. But before I left the paddock, I thought I should make sure that none of the lambs had gotten locked out and began to make a pass up on the hill with the flashlight, hoping that I would be able to pick out any stray black lambs. What I picked out wasn’t a lamb, it was Raven! She was on the other side of the upper feeder, just standing there looking uncomfortable. Nothing really new, but since everyone else was inside I wanted to make sure that she joined them. A handful of grain and a halter in my pocket did the trick and she went in with the group. I stayed for awhile and watched, but all was calm and Raven didn’t look like anything was going on. Sigh! I went off thankfully to bed and my husband went out to check around 3:30 or 4 a.m. and came right back in… nothing going on.

Being school vacation, I have been getting out to chores a little later in the morning than usual, and I didn’t really get a move-on too quickly this morning. I’m not used to these late hours! Went out about 8:15 and the girls were still locked in and at a glance I didn’t see anything going on, so I did my usual routine, which means giving the big boy group their hay first, or Jingle the donkey goes nuts and hee-haws so loud it could burst an eardrum. I walked into the back of the ewe’s greenhouse to put some hay out for the goat moms and across the expanse I saw a ewe licking off a little wet head. Yay! A group of older lambs were very intent on the new little one, standing around Raven and her baby in a semi-circle… wish I could have gotten a picture of that! I took a closer look to make sure everything seemed to be going well and it was. I think I was giving the boys their hay when she had her lamb and I missed it! She’s never liked an audience of humans, and she made sure my back was turned :*) I had to run up to the house to call our friend Chloe, as Raven is her sheep. What a thrilling morning. While Chloe guarded Raven and her rammie boy, Kali and I undid the green panel and let the stampede of hungry ewes out into the paddock. Phew! I didn’t want the new baby to get trampled. We jugged them and our boy got almost right down to business with his breakfast. All in all, a very wonderful morning!

Advertisements

Playtime @ the Rock

Lambs at play
Lambs have a break from play

So it finally stopped raining and it’s playtime! The big rock is again the center of activity in our winter paddock. The five oldest lambs are taking a break from their run-and-chase-game to find out what I am doing… their mothers are busy at the feeder, and the youngest two lambs are hanging in the greenhouse. They will get with the program soon!

Zach the Ram Lives On!

I finally think that we will have a few days’ break from lambing now. After last Sunday’s early morning twins we had an early flurry… seven lambs so far. 4 rams and 3 ewes.

My happiest moment came early on Tuesday morning when I arrived in the greenhouse at 5 a.m. to do chores and found that our first time mom, Lupine (a white Border Leicester X Coopworth cross) was lying with an enormous, black, wet and slimy ewe lamb behind her. She looked all done in, and hadn’t gotten up yet. I think I just missed the delivery, which was probably a good thing since I think it must have been a doozy. The ewe lamb had bloodshot eyes, which means that she was really tightly squeezed for a long time on her way out. For a 15 pound lamb with tall goofy legs, she got up and going remarkably well. Once I realized that she was going to be o.k., we tried to get her nursing. Jugged and snuggling with her mama, I did all my other chores and got back to find that she still wasn’t nursing yet. It was already an hour and a half after her birth and I was beginning to get anxious… about ready to tube her when we got her onto the teat and full. It’s always a very anxious time for me, since I do have to go off to work and do not like to leave before I know everything is proceeding normally.

I was worried enough about her that when I went off to work I asked our friend Pam from Hatchtown Farm to look in on Lupine and her girl.

Rosie with her milky mouth
Rosie with her milky mouth

She’s a very special ewe: her father is a black Border Leicester ram named Zach that I no longer have (story for another day) and I was afraid that none of the girls he bred would actually have lambs from him. (They were all re-bred by the Coopworth ram). But Lupine came through, with a ewe lamb at that! Phew! We have named her Rosie. And she is gorgeous :* )

Lambs at Last!

We had a wonderful day over at Hatchtown Farm’s shearing yesterday. It was a disappointing day since the sun never did come out and it was a bit misty, but the barn was dry and full of great people visiting and helping out! Emily the shearer put in a long day and Pam fed us a great meal :* ) And the fleeces are totally gorgeous!

I went home planning to get a really full night’s sleep, but Norma had other plans… it’s always the way! She looked quite uncomfortable at 10 o’clock

Norma warms up!
Norma warms up!

when I checked on her, and John came in after the 1:30 check to tell me that she “had a bag out!” The first signs that labor has progressed to the point of imminent arrivals, a sac of water makes an appearance and kind of hangs there on a ropey cord. Our friend Kali has been excited about the lambing so she joined us in the peanut gallery as well. We began the vigil and Norma did her pacing and her pushing for the better part of an hour.

It’s always very exciting to see two little hooves emerge with a black nose on top, and ordinarily things move along fairly smoothly at this point. Norma worked, and worked, and got nowhere. I really don’t like interfering with this process, but she lay down and appeared to give up so I gave a little inspection and found that both feet were there, but the head was so huge it just wouldn’t go any farther. I made sure the feet were out there and just got the head a little bit forward and she stood up and took care of the rest. It’s always startling to see the head emerging with a tongue lolling out the side, but he did, and arrived with a 13.5 lb. thunk at 2:55!

Norma cleans off her ram
Norma cleans off her ram

Norma went to work again, cleaning him off and pawing him to get up and belly up to the milk bar. He took some time getting onto those 4 long legs, but once he realized what was waiting for him he really got moving.

Norma is a great mother and she really takes time with her lambs. I was convinced that this ram was a single; she was expelling what looked like the beginning of the afterbirth and we all sighed and admired the beautiful silver ram, wished there were twins in the offing (with a ewe included!), dipped his navel in the iodine and prepared to get back to bed. But Norma was becoming frantic with her baby, pushing him to nurse more and more… and then we realized she was having more contractions and she wasn’t delivering the placenta: it was another lamb!

Waiting for the arrival of his sister!
Waiting for the arrival of his sister!

An hour after the ram lamb arrived, she had an 11.5 lb. black ewe lamb. She popped out with a good wail and was up very quickly. Yay Norma! Way to go :* )

We finally got a few hours of sleep, and when I got back out to do chores this morning, this is what I got to enjoy: Norma cuddled up with her babes… both with milky mouths!

The morning after!
The morning after!

Will She, or Won’t She???

It’s amazing me that Norma is still able to get around. She looks like she’s ready to blow! We calculated her due date at the 147-average mark which made her due date this past Wednesday. But she normally has her lambs on about the 150th day. Could be tonight :* ) Think I will head out and put her into the larger jug now.

Norma is on the ragged edge!
Norma is on the ragged edge!

Norma’s babies have dropped in the past 12 hours as we can see on her right side. She has to be close! She keeps flaring her nostrils and grinding her teeth when I stand near her… I think she thinks it’s about time!

She's ready!
She's ready!

Asthma Firestorm

It certainly looks innocent enough:

These two pens caused all the problems!
These two pens caused all the problems!

Lambing pens (we call them “jugs”) with clean straw, just waiting for our sheepy moms to go into labor. Maybe 8′ X 12′ in area.

Last Sunday they didn’t look this nice. It was a beautiful day and I thought that I would just fork out the old straw and poo, and get some lime down and cordon it off for the impending births. It was a warm and breezy day and it felt great to be outside. Lots of good stuff for the compost piles. Everything went well and John joined me to put down the lime. I finished up chores, went inside and showered and settled in for the evening. I guess I had gotten more than my quota of a snootful and a lungful of molds and bad things that day, and never had a clue that I was about to be very unhappy! About 2 a.m. I woke up feeling like I needed some air. The old asthma was giving me a lot of grief. I used my rescue inhaler and went back to bed… but by the next afternoon at work I was really in distress. Ended up at the doctor’s office having a nebulizer treatment and being given the news that my rescue inhaler (which I only use a few times a year) was totally empty. Great! go home and get some rest and drink a lot of fluids.

I figured things would get better by the next day, but three nights of horrendous coughing later, no sleep and very little air exchange, it became obvious that I needed more help. I haven’t been this sick in about 6 years! My asthma has been very well-controlled with daily meds, and Maine’s climate seems to be a great fit for me. So this has been the first time in a long while that I have actually welcomed prednisone. Not kidding. Last night was the first night that I actually slept – for almost 5 hours. Finally! Now we can bring on the lambs :*)

And o.k., you can all shake your fingers at me and ask: Why was I not wearing a dust mask for that task? Sheer stupidity, with not an ounce of forethought!

Ruit Farm Television

I got the sheep header picture a couple of weeks ago one morning before I went in to feed the ewes. They were standing, waiting for their hay and grain, silently and expectantly, and the picture opportunity was too much to pass up! After I cropped it so it would fit, I got this result. Every time I look at this picture I think that it looks like a website for a network t.v. show! All the major players are standing there, mugging for the camera, with a straight face, being very serious :* )  Barnyard CSI?

What a hoot!

Got Milk? Goat Milk :* )

For someone who has never (I mean never) been a milk drinker, I am incredibly happy about milk today. I have always been plagued with some lactose intolerance, but our goat milk doesn’t bother me at all. Not that I am drinking it, just making cheese with it! And after a hiatus of 2 1/2 months, it’s good to be milking again.

Saturday's milk harvest
Saturday's milk harvest

We don’t do things the way most dairy operations do them. We don’t take our goat kids away from their mamas, which means that while they are nursing we have to share the bounty with the babies. Honestly, this is more convenient for me as this allows me to get back into the swing of milking, storing and handling the milk, and making chevre. Since lambing is coming right up any second now, it’s kind of a relief to know that I don’t have to get out at 5 a.m. before work with milk pails in hand yet! That will come when we wean the kids. For now I am just milking in the afternoon and calling it good. And I am playing with goat milk lotion, which is my favorite in the whole world. Hopefully my recipe will work!

Anyone out there that’s doing goat cheese for a living right now is laughing that I am crowing about a gallon of milk for my milking… but I am not doing things on a grand scale and we love what we are doing. It’s fun, and the product is clean and not filled with hormones. It’s a good thing!

No Horns Allowed!

It couldn’t have been a better day! Well, maybe it could have been a few degrees warmer, but the sap is flowing and the sun is shining, and the goat kids are having a blast, and the pregnant ewes are starting to complain a lot! If they can’t be eating, they are complaining that their babies are kicking the daylights out of them. It’s quite a sight!

Thursday afternoon I raced home from work so that I could pick up all the goat kids and take them down to Sea Breeze Farm in Friendship. Brian is a good soul who is willing to do the evil deed of de-horning our babies for us. We do not have the box or the iron and I am not sure that we have enough goat kids in a year to warrant the purchase and learning curve to use them. So we put the babes in the back of the Subaru and rode down. Chloe came with me, and with great care, Brian burned their horn buds.

Pippi plays with her sister Oreo
Pippi plays with her sister Oreo

The worst part of the de-horning is that you can smell the burning hair. Brian shaves the area before applying the iron, but you still get that smell. Minutes after they are back in the car they are snuggling with the other goatie babes and fine. They look a little strange, like Pippi in this picture… a little like they have crop circles engraved on their tiny heads. Horns are so much trouble in a dairy herd, as they can damage their own udders as well as hurt the others. So we have the onerous task each spring, but it also gets us down to Sea Breeze Farm for a nice visit! And in another week, we will all have forgotten this and have moved on to lambing!

Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!