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.
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.
It really doesn’t take much! I had a great time outside yesterday taking photos. I don’t manage to grab the camera every chore time, and frequently I wish I had it with me as one of the sheep or goats is frequently doing something cute or funny.
SnowPea the goat is getting rounder by the day. Her due date is at the end of May, so I am pretty sure she really is going to give us some kids. The lambs are growing like hotcakes and their moms are not being as solicitous with feeding times. They are just about 6 weeks old now. I can’t believe it! Pretty soon it will be weaning time.
What a weekend! We went from waiting patiently on Saturday to having everyone have their lambs in a 36 hour period.
Saturday night I checked on everyone around 8 PM and there was absolutely no action. Esther kept giving me that bored teenage look while nonchalantly lying there comfortably chewing cud. When I got out there at 10:15 it was another story: there was Esther with two ram lambs out in the paddock. One black and one white. Nice size, too. She had them all cleaned off, they were both fed, and both were on their feet. We got them situated in their greenhouse pen and I went to bed wondering about the other two ewes. In the morning, still not a thing happening.
I got up early on Sunday and did chores. I was looking forward to getting to Hatchtown Farm‘s shearing day, which is always a social day for seeing old friends and meeting lots of new fiber folk. We had a lovely day, and an even lovelier afternoon potluck. One of our friends from Bridge Farm, Kathy, came home with us. As we drove down the driveway, we saw that our first-timer, Etti, had two lambs standing with her in the paddock. The black ram had just been born, but the white one was up, clean and moving. We got them inside the greenhouse and spent a lot of time helping them get their first meals as Etti’s teats are very large and they had some coordination issues. But those boys had quality bellyfulls by the time Kathy left. We tried penning Fern, the last holdout, before dark, but she remained elusive.
Yesterday morning I powered through chores even though I wasn’t feeling very well. I managed to get Fern penned just in case (although she knocked me down twice before I got her into the greenhouse!). I made it a few miles up the road toward work when I had to turn around because of a gastro emergency. Don’t know if it was a Noro virus, but all was not well. Sheesh. And of course Fern decided it was her turn. John was ready anyway as he knew I was on my way to work, and just as luckily it was an easy birthing. We thought just one very huge, gorgeous black ewe (!). But an hour and a half later, a white ram made his entrance. Wow. And the lambs were up and fed in record time. Both 13 pounders.
So Lambing 2013 is finished. We had 8. 7 rams, 1 ewe. Having 7 babies on the ground is a very nice complement of lambs, considering we only had 4 ewes bred. Definitely time for a celebration (which I am hoping will be uninterrupted sleep!). The wind was an issue most of last week and the weekend, but maybe it was better than fighting the rain that we appear to have scheduled for all of this one!
Snow day! Went to bed not expecting one today. I thought there might be a delay, but after the delay was called, the day was cancelled. It’s really coming down right now and the trees are lovely, offering us a very wintery picture. For the moment. I hate to be an Eeyore, but it’s going to turn to rain by tomorrow and that will really be a mess. Grumble, grumble, growl, growl.
And it’s raining again! First we don’t get any rain, and now we have a week of it. But on the positive side, our most recent lambs are doing very well. I was worried about our newbies. But we kept them together for a few extra days and let them out yesterday morning. They seem to be doing well, and tonight they were doing the lamb dance with the older guys. But they still look like midgets compared to the other lambs!
We are cruising into the weekend and I am hoping that it’s a restful one.
Esther finally got around to going into labor. Not that it was obvious to me at all on the 11 PM check! All was peaceful and everyone was lying down and cudding about then and by 2 AM we had a problem. John came in from a middle of the night check and let me know that Esther had a head and ears hanging out and no front legs to be seen. A big white head with bulgy eyes and the tongue sticking out. It’s a shocking sight and always gives me a fright.
We got our gear together and of course I couldn’t push the head back in to get both legs out, but I was able to get one of the front legs extended and we pulled the large, white ram. Poor guy, he had had hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and he really took a long time to get up and active. (All of his mucous membranes are bloodred because of that). In the meantime his sister was all ready to go, but her elbows were locked around Esther’s pelvis, and none of the ewe’s pushing was getting anywhere, so we needed to help her out a little bit. She is a beautiful black ewe with wonderful white lightning markings on her face.
Needless to say that we are totally exhausted and ready for many nights of uninterrupted sleep! The fun doesn’t end there, however, as we were not sure that the ram lamb was actually getting much milk. His temperature was a little down, and Esther kept pushing him off her teat, so I finally remembered to check his teeth, and two of them were very sharp. I filed them down with a nail file and I think that it actually helped. They seem to be coming along, but every time I go in there Esther gives me the wild-eyed look and although she doesn’t stamp at me, I get the message. Esther just doesn’t want to let me in on what she has for those babes! She is a chip off the old Norma block in that way and I think I am just going to have to trust that she has enough milk to feed those lambies. We will weigh them tomorrow and keep our fingers crossed. The wind is really blowing today and the temperature has dropped so we want the lambs to get enough milk to stay warm.
Is still an Enigma, but we are beginning to see what is really going on.
I have been trying to figure out how Esther could still be pregnant if she got bred down in the field by the ram Reece (which she did). I am a little slow, but I finally realized that even if she had been bred the last day that Reece was in with the girls, she would have had to have had her lambs at least two weeks ago. So I began doing a little detective work in my records and calendars.
As it turns out, when we brought the ewes back from the field (they had all been marked by the ram so we knew they should be bred), we put them into the winter paddock where we had the group of sheep waiting to go to the butcher. We had a few older animals, but we also had ram lamb #107, one of Mae’s triplets, in the mix. He was the only ram in there, so I am guessing that his last few days with us were pretty happy ones!
The butcher group went off early on December 6th, so calculating that as the last date possible for Esther to have been re-bred, her new and improved possible due date is April 30th. A few days after that even, as that is the 145 day average. Of course, she may have been bred sometime between the November 22nd date when we ferried them home, and the last possible date. If this has you confused, I can’t explain how cross-eyed and crazy it has made us!
It will all turn out fine in the end. As a matter of fact I am very pleased that she will actually have lambs because our numbers are down to the minimum and it’s always nice to have a few to choose from should we want to keep any replacements. In addition to that, ram lamb #107 was a beautiful guy, son of Mae the almost 100% Coopworth and Lucky the Coopworth/Border Leicester cross. Both wonderful and productive animals that led long lives and parented many little ones. So this is really a happy accident. John and I will forget this 6 or 7 weeks of late and middle of the night checks after we get a night or two of totally awesome sleep, I am sure!
I feel like vacation is over :*( We still have the weekend, but the rain is coming, and as much as I know that we need it desperately, it is a Force to Be Reckoned With. In terms of doing chores, that is. Today was warm and breezy, but when the breeze let up the black fly babies just cruised right in and bit up my face and my ears. I can’t complain too much, but it is a pain.
This morning we had a little bit of excitement: the ewes and lambs pushed through one of the cattle panels and were wandering around up near the garden. I was running late for chores and as I headed up the driveway I realized that the sheep were out and I ran back to alert my husband to the news. I got a temporary fence up around them and then we set to grabbing lambs and putting them back into the paddock. We really did quite well except for Esther the Enigma and Zorro the Llama. I ended up leaving them in the temporary area as I did not want to chase pregnant Esther around too much, and we don’t really worry a lot about Zorro as he can hold his own even without a fence. As the morning wore on and the black flies got really busy, I went up to the paddock and invited Esther back into the “real” area and she came without batting an eyelash (her favorite spot when the bugs get bad is up in the lambing greenhouse). Zorro followed me in without a backward glance this evening when I was putting out the grain for everyone. I can always count on him to come for that!
Another crazy hot and humid week has come and gone. They are promising us that tomorrow will be cooler and less humid. The air is already feeling much more comfortable! I have been catching up on some farm stuff, moving sheep and moving cattle panels and all sorts of things up at the house. Every time I am down in the field I forget to take my camera, so I can’t show off the happy ewes. Trying to do too many things at once to catch up from putting too much off during the school year!
In between some of the heavier work I have been washing some fleece that I want to process myself. I had held back a hoggett fleece from one of my favorite keeper ewes, Esther. (A hoggett fleece is the first full year fleece from a sheep). Esther is one of the yearlings that I chose to keep as a replacement ewe this year. Her mother, Norma, was the first ewe that we bought when we started with sheep. She has been a consistently great ewe. She has had twins every year since we first bred her. Never needed any help with anything, just quietly had her lambs and took care of them well. We knew that 2010 would be her last lambing and she had two ewe lambs, both silver-saddled and blue. One was teeny tiny and the other was a giant by comparison. Esther is the larger of the two and I knew that I would keep her if she grew well. She is as sweet and mild-mannered as her mama was and she has a fantastic fleece. Blue-silver, darker grey and brown/black around the edges. So I am hoping to spin it up and possibly card it with some mohair. I would love to get enough yarn from it to knit a cardigan for myself, but we will see. This weekend I am joining some spinner friends for a weekend retreat at Sugarloaf (a ski resort). I am really looking forward to the time away. Hoping to totally decompress and regenerate some little grey cells :*)
To that end, I also took some time to rejuvenate one of my favorite spinning wheels, my Jensen Tina II. I didn’t take it totally apart, but enough to clean it with some Murphy’s oil soap and then I tried a new product, WoodBeams wood treatment by the online business Goodies Unlimited. It has some beeswax and a lot of essential oils in it and I like the finish on the wheel. I probably should do the treatment again soon, as this wheel was pretty dried out and under-tended for the last 3 years or so. But she is beautiful again! And she will accompany me for the weekend away. I am really looking forward to this trip. Not just for getting away, but also because I have never been to that area in Maine. I am not a skier; my husband and I have stayed in the area of Sunday River near Bethel, Maine on the NH border, but we have never been to the Carrabassett Valley. Yippee! New sights to see and some wonderful friends to spend some time with. I hope that I remember to take the camera!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!