We think. Tomorrow is predicted to be one of the coldest days of the season. High of 24F. Today it was in the 40s. And it rained. And rained. I know we have had a few lovely days in the past week or two, but the overall feeling is of the grey sky and damp. My arthritis is killing me. It definitely does not feel like December.
Enough complaining, though. It is past the Solstice, and we are still just wearing light jackets. Not too shabby! My husband keeps the wood stove going, and dollars to donuts, we have to keep opening the back door or the windows. (I get where he is coming from; he hates to have to restart a fire everyday, so he wants to just keep it humming along. Sometimes that humming is to the tune of 80F in the house. Too hot for me!) So it is this season. Warm so far. It feels more like a spring mud season than the end of December. Mud and water galore in the paddocks. The donkey didn’t want to go into her shelter in the last few days, and we finally realized that it was too wet where we had placed it over the summer. We moved it this morning, thanks Sam, and now she is cozying into it.
Anyhow, it’s the holiday break and I am loving it. Sleeping in until 6:30 a.m. Lingering over coffee in the morning. Not getting dressed until I have to. Reading into the night. I must be in training for retirement. Hmm. Sounds good to me!
Well, today was the day. We took the last 3 sheep up to our favorite butcher this afternoon. This is always something that needs to be planned for carefully, and since John’s hand surgery, we needed an extra special plan for the loading of the sheep into John’s truck. His Ford F-350 1997 diesel rides very high off the ground. With my bursitis hip issues, I can no longer get into the truck without stepping onto a bucket or a milk crate anymore, so that should indicate how high we have to lift the sheep to get them into the bed of the truck! We definitely needed reinforcements, and our friend Jim Child of Hatchtown Farm came to help, as well as our teenage grandson and his mom.
We don’t have a livestock trailer anymore, so John and I opted to build a “crate” out of galvanized metal panels in the back of his pickup. We made a teepee-type structure, and then John used a tie-down strap over the top for extra safety. Luckily, we had the manpower, and as all the ewes were haltered, we really got through the loading in record time. The men had to lift the front end of the ewes up and over the tailgate, and I am still ok to lift the hind end in, thank goodness! And so we got them settled and took the 40 mile ride.
When we got home this evening and I went out to do chores it was definitely a different landscape. All goat, all the time. The one thing that I was able to do this evening was to put out the salt and mineral mixture with added copper that the goats really need. Sheep cannot have extra copper, so I have always had to get the extra copper into the milking stand mix for the goats as I could. This whole setup will definitely simplify my day to day operations from now on. But, I am really going to miss my sheepy girls. (But I won’t miss moving fence down in the pasture. Really!)
Today was the big day. Our 4 breeding ewes took a ride to their new home down in Wiscasset (only about 10 miles away). Amy and Jeff Burchstead have Buckwheat Blossom Farm and are a young, hard working family. They have been raising Coopworth and Coopworth X sheep for many years now and actually, I bought our first 3 sheep from Amy 12 years ago. I was extremely pleased that they were looking for some extra ewes when we called them.
So today was the big day. We got the ewes penned and waited. Esther can never help herself, she just can’t stop jumping up on fences to take a big-picture look at things. What a cutie! When Amy and Jeff came, they had their 3 lovely children along and we got to work loading the ewes. In spite of the mud and the muck, we managed to get the girls into their truck without too much trouble. It was lovely having a visit with them, and it’s also wonderful to know that the ewes are with a good flock and they are only a few miles down the road. Visitation!
Funny that the first sheep I bought were from Amy and Jeff, and now the last sheep we are selling we sold to Amy and Jeff. (Actually, one of the ewes we sold them is the daughter of Norma the ewe that we got from Amy all these 12 years ago). Nice to have that sewn up so nicely. Sniff, sniff, I am going to miss them.
Phew! All went well. The day began cold and bright, and is ending a little warmer and with a few clouds here and there. In between, we got a torrent of rolling giant-flaked snow followed by a little bit of rain, but we were already finished with the shearing and safely inside, gorging on a great potluck spread. Everyone who came did a lot of work, and before we got the meal going, Pam of Hatchtown Farm made an extremely lovely toast with some yummy Prosecco to our last shearing day.
I am sore and achy, but we got a lot done in a very short amount of time. Emily the shearer did a wonderful job as always, and we have 7 more beautiful fleeces to process or sell. I do not think I will ever run out of fleece! The only issue we had today was weather-related: Fern’s fleece (the big white ewe) was damp all the way through, a reminder of the downpours the other day. So the lovely ladies tagged the fleece and I already have it inside, spread out on the floor to dry. As the temperatures are due to go down in the next couple of days (down into the single digits tomorrow night, ouch), the heat in our floor should take good care of that. But as I sit here and look at these beautiful, lustrous locks (6″ average), I may just have to wash some up and do some spinning tomorrow!
And so goes the last sheep shearing at Ruit Farm North. Great excuse for a party. But I have plenty of other excuses that work just as well, no shortage there :*)
Not so officially, it sure doesn’t feel like it’s anywhere close to spring! I know that winter usually lasts quite a bit longer up here in New England than in many places. I don’t usually have too many beefs with Mother Nature, but this year I definitely have it in for this weather :*) Cold, cold, cold, snow, sleet, ice and cold. It feels like it will never end!
Whine, whine. We are stuck in a perpetual whine about the messiness and bitterness of it all. I am no better than the next person, although it just is, and I don’t usually let it get my blood pressure going. But trying to keep our 7 ewes dry this past 24 hours has been a bit of a challenge since our greenhouses are not as zaftig as they once were. Our lambing/kidding greenhouse is covered with a stand-in tarp which is missing most of its grommets on the south side, so we have tied it up as best we can. The rain looks like it has stopped for the moment, and I am thinking that it’s over… but oh, I forgot! It’s supposed to rain and snow on shearing day this Saturday. I can hardly wait.
It’s doing it again. Half this country seems to be cursed with the snow, ice and wind. Ugh! Enough already! It’s certainly not news, but it definitely is a downer, particularly after we had the wonderfully warm weather so recently. I feel like I keep posting photos that look the same as every other photo from this winter, but I guess that is the reality, so that’s what we have today. Photos that cannot be differentiated much from any others during the never-ending winter of 2014. Dark and grey, with a lot of white!
Today is our 6th school snow day, so we officially will be going a day later in June, although I am sincerely grateful that we didn’t have to drive on the sleety, icy roads this morning. To top it off, I woke up with the cold that my husband has been fighting for the last few days. It doesn’t appear to be as bad as the bug he has, thankfully.
I am off to do a little more knitting, and my husband is making his amazingly wonderful deviled eggs… just right for a snowy, windy, icy, yucky morning :*)
It was a balmy 6F this morning when I went out to feed the hungry crowd (and it got up into the high 20s by this afternoon). It really did feel warm compared to the past few days, and it was good to get the girls fed out of the greenhouse. They have been cooped up and crunched in together, which the ewes do not normally tolerate. If the wind and the temperatures had not been so extreme, the ewes would not have taken shelter inside. And I have been very grateful that they have been. I hate to worry about pneumonia in the flock.
This morning everyone was out and about. Even after all the hay was out on the clean snow, 3 of the girls were having none of it. They were very concerned about re-negotiating who is the queen of the paddock (they can worry about this all they want, the goats are really the ones in control!). Esther and HoneyBea were the two biggest contenders, and Fern, the one and only white sheep, kept putting her two cents in as well. There was shoving from behind, and head butting galore. Every time they separated there was a lot of pawing at the ground to indicate their displeasure with the outcome of their negotiations! By the time I stopped taking video, they all just shrugged and found some hay and gave it up. This afternoon everyone was fine, all were lined up as usual at the feeder for grain, and each ewe and doe found their place at the flakes of hay like clockwork. You just never know. 7 ewes and 4 does in the paddock have their issues from time to time!
Tomorrow brings us 40 degree temperatures with heavy rain, and then by tomorrow night we are supposedly going into the deep freeze. Hopefully the YakTrax on my boots will keep my upright. Fingers crossed :*) I can hardly wait.
Well, we got back to work for a half day yesterday. The snow was coming hard and fast from before we even got to school, and we got a legal half day in! Today, thankfully, we had a snow day. I would not have been able to get out of the driveway even with a delay. It’s been quite the weather show.
The real problem comes with the temperatures. We never got above zero degrees today. It was -18 when I got up this morning, and by the time I did chores it was -14 with high, gusting winds. Always fun! I fed everyone inside as best as I could, but the ewes and the does need to have some space, or there is fighting over hay. Everyone is ok. They have water (thank goodness for the tank heater) and enough shelter to keep the wind away. The two boys are hunkered in with Zorro the fuzzy llama, and they seem to be fine. We are feeding out more hay than usual, in the hopes that they will keep their calorie intake up and make more body heat. This has been such an unusual winter so far, I do not even know what to say. Except that we are all still here and doing okay!
It doesn’t look like August from that photo! John has picked up some dump truck driving jobs this week so I have been messing around the house trying to get some things done that need some sunlight and a little breeze (and I also have not been able to pick up my little car yet as John hasn’t been home at a decent hour to get me over there!). I never had gotten to skirting the two fleeces that came off of our two ewes who are out of sync with the shearing of the rest of the bunch, so I am tackling the dark fleece today. Little India is a small ewe, which is one reason she never went to the butcher last fall, but she has such a beautiful, dark fleece that I am glad she hung around.
I don’t think that I will get an enormous amount from the fleece. She was coated most of the year, but as I thought she was going to be shorn one weekend, she got tangled in her coat, I removed it, and then the shearing didn’t happen until the next, or maybe two weeks later. Which means that she does have a little more veggie matter in her fleece than I would have liked, but Coopworth and Border Leicester fleeces have such open locks that most of it will shake out as I pick it for spinning. It’s beautiful. I have some washing up in the sink right now.
I had hopes that it would spin up to be enough for a vest, but probably not. It all depends on how much I end up with after washing. We shall see! There’s always something to do with some lustrous black fleece…
This afternoon when I got home I let all the moms and babies out of their jugs. It was time. It also is not raining, and tomorrow looks like a cloudy but dry day, so it will be a good time to let everyone get used to the mashup of babies, mamas and others.
There was a lot of lambie crying, dancing, bouncing and back flipping going on, so I know the little ones were ready for some freedom. And this morning our first lambie boy, Bertie, was doing flips in the greenhouse when he finally discovered that there are other little critters just like him! He would not even listen to his mama calling him from outside. He just jumped and cavorted in the greenhouse for the whole time that I was feeding everyone this morning. So now he has a cohort, and he was thrilled to pieces this afternoon. Hopefully they settle in and navigate the paddock well!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!