All of us here in Maine are waiting. For spring, mostly. In this house we are waiting for lambs and kids :* ) which definitely mean spring!
Our vigil begins in earnest this week as we watch our LaMancha goat Elf for any signs of impending labor. Her sides are bulging, but she doesn’t usually look huge like our doe Salsa the Tank does. Three or four times a day we are now checking on her to see what’s happening with her udder and her behavior. Not bagging up yet, so we may have a few days to go!
We are working on getting her pen ready for the big event. Just wish it wasn’t supposed to be so cold this week.
I totally meant to get this post up right away and then the weather decided that we were not to have access to electricity for a few days… but that’s over now and we were lucky enough to get our shearing in between snow storms! Setting up a shearing date is difficult for us because we need to keep the ewes inside a greenhouse for a few days before the shearing so they are dry… and we don’t have a barn so we have to do some of the skirting outside. Last Saturday was a gorgeous, clear afternoon and Jeff Burchstead of Buckwheat Blossom Farm in Wiscasset came over to do the honors. He did a great job. We were also lucky enough to have a great group of friends join us and help out. Thank you, everyone!
We always have our shearers trim the sheep feet before getting started with taking the fleeces off as that leaves us one less task to take care of after the job is done. We like to get those details out of the way before they lamb so we don’t have to man-handle them while they are trying to bond with their lambies. We also take the opportunity while Jeff has them on the shearing floor to give them their yearly CD &T inoculations (to prevent Clostridial bacteria and tetanus) in the form of a sub-cutaneous shot. Much easier while the shearer is holding them so nicely on their bums!
Lucy is the only ewe we kept from the 2008 lambing. She has never been shorn and is not very happy about being handled like this! As her fleece is buzzed off, hopefully in one connected mass, one of our willing helpers grabs the fleece and runs it out of the greenhouse we are working in, over to the nearby greenhouse and gets it thrown onto our “skirting” table. Here we take some time to get the nasty bits off the edges (read here “poopy bits!”) and any little pieces of hay or straw out of the fleece.
Here is a shot of one fleece out on the skirting table ready to be picked over. Then we fold the fleece and bundle it into a large sheet with the ewe’s name on it. Ready to move on to the next step!
At the end of the day we have a group of hungry, naked girls!
Fuzzy (below) looks over Lupine’s shoulder, wondering where is her dinner??? (We don’t feed them before shearing; don’t want them to have a full stomach while they are being tossed and turned on their backs due to possible bloating).
Phew! One adventure down, now we wait for the next big adventure: Lambing :* )
I was so excited this morning when I went out to do chores. For one thing, even though the cold has returned, the sun is shining. For another, when the goats came out of their greenhouse to meet me, I almost dropped the bundle of hay I was carrying: Salsa, our largest almost-white doe, turned away from me to head toward the feeder and her bulging sides started doing a happy dance!
It’s our first sign that lambing and kidding is definitely closer than we think. Her kids must have been as hungry as she was, and for sure were letting her know it :*) I don’t know how many babes are in there, but she isn’t due until March 10th. I would think that I had gotten the date wrong, but her udder isn’t bagged up yet, it’s still mostly deflated, so I am hoping we are right on target. I knew it was time to get my lambing/kidding box together! Better get right on that!
HoneyBea was very obliging this morning when I went out to do chores. We weren’t dressed up as nicely as the Punxsutawney group, but we did examine the ground to see if she could see her shadow. Since we have conflicting results, I am claiming HoneyBea’s: there definitely was no shadow! That must mean that spring isn’t far away, at least in Maine!
We have started 2009 with a big bang of snow and extremely cold temperatures. The last two storms left us with some beautiful soft stuff on top of some heavier, packed snow. The sheep don’t seem to mind it, and when the sun comes out the goats emerge from their greenhouse. Today it feels like we are having a heat wave: it must be at least 24 degrees!
Fuzzy Lumpkin loves the new snow :* ) and the sun feels great as well.
Even though we have backed off on our milking to once a day, we are still getting great milk from our goatie girls :*) And I am making cheese 2-3 times a week. I may be in a rut, but we never seem to get tired of our chevre!
While we are used to seeing cool temperatures at night in August, Tuesday night was quite a jolt! It was just 40 degrees when I got up about 5:30 on Wednesday morning and when I went out to the paddock the sheep and goats were cuddled up in the straw. And I had to wear a sweatshirt to do the milking!
All this cool, dry air is making us think of fall and breeding time. As I approached the boys’ area down in the field I sniffed a hint of ramminess! The hormones are revving up and the rams are beginning to look at each other a little differently, more as rivals than buddies. It’s time to start thinking about our breeding groups!
Our friends Barb and Phil, from Greenwood Lake, NY, got up for their yearly visit to the peninsula two weeks ago. It was wonderful to see them, as usual, although the weather wasn’t as cooperative as it ordinarily is. We had some great dinners together, worked on some really tough puzzles, had a lot of laughs, and went on the Olde Bristol Days fireworks cruise! It was awesome. Gotta do that again next year… that’s the way to see fireworks :*)
We are sorry that Barb and Phil could only stay for the week, but that’s life. Sigh.
In order to get our market lambs ready to go, we called our friend the shearer, Emily, to come over and give the 6 of them haircuts on Sunday. They had been in one of our greenhouses, so they were nice and dry and ready to go. None of them were thrilled so they all crowded into the corner. Nobody likes the sound of those shears!
By the time Emily had done about 3 of the lambs, it got dark, windy and stormy; so dark she could barely see what she was doing (shearing a black lamb)! And when the sky opened up, we probably got an inch of rain before it stopped. We could barely hear each other in the greenhouse the sound of the rain was so loud! We finally got the 6 shorn and we now have 6 bags of gorgeous lamb’s fleece to play with. If it ever stops raining, we might be able to wash it and get carding :*)
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!