Thursday, March 5, 2015

Almost Lost One

A week ago today we had another episode of weather. We'd had a combination of rainy snow through the night. My sweet husband, Al, had done his 5 a.m. walk around & all was well so he went on to work. I  was just trying to get some things done in the house but kept having the feeling that I ought to go out to do my usual chores a little early. I headed out, glanced across the first pasture & laughed at myself when I hesitated because a pile of snow seemed almost lamb-shaped. No sheep were around it so it obviously couldn't be a lamb. I took a few more steps, glanced over again & just wasn't sure. I put down the egg bucket I was carrying & walked over to the fence. There was a lamb laying in a puddle. I raced through the closest gate, swooped the little thing up, stuck it inside my coat & glanced around. About twenty feet away I noticed that #802, a Romney ewe, was busy cleaning up a lamb. It seemed I had a twin tucked in my coat. I took the lamb over to #802 but she was interested in her newest lamb. I put him right at her face & she did take a look at him. I was encouraged that she didn't shove him away. I was also glad to see that she'd taken some time to clean him up initially before she stopped to deliver brother.
I called Al at work to let him know what was going on. He is fairly flexible so offered to come home to give me a hand moving the new family through many gates & into the stable. I took a few more pictures as I waited on him. It was pretty obvious that mama was not worried about her first lamb.
He was cold but strong & fighting for some attention.
His brother was not as thoroughly cleaned but mama was busy helping him get situated to nurse.

Al & I got them all into the stable & we put them under a heat lamp. I spent extra time working the outcast brother over with a dry towel. 
Brother #1 was too cold to try to nurse & at that point mama's colostrum was just coming in. To make a long story short, I ran to a friend's for frozen colostrum & started the little fellow on a bottle. I usually keep a supply here but had run out. The time that I was on the road gave #1 a chance to warm up even more so that he was ready to be able to take a bottle when I got back. 

We have had many bottle lambs through the years but would much prefer that mama raise her young. We left the little fellow out with his mother & brother & brought him a bottle every few hours. After a few days of noticing how well they were all getting along, I decided to try one more time to get him back on mama. At bottle time, Al & I both went to the stable. Al held mama as I laid on the ground & worked hard to stick #1 on a teat. It took some work but after about 10 tries the little fellow finally latched on & I could hear him nursing. He was even wagging his tail - an almost sure sign that he was actually getting milk. We watched him very closely. He was up under mama as often as his brother. He quit crying for us when he heard us come into the stable. He began to fill out. After 6 days of very close supervision, we let the little family out of the stable to explore.
So far, so good. Mama loves & feeds both of them.
And we still tell the boys apart by who is the clean one & who is the dirty one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Little Winter

We did get sleet & ice last night. We also got a new lamb. Al found the little one at five this morning & assumed her to be about an hour old. Mama was doing a great job with her. Al tucked them both safely in a stall with lots of fresh hay & water. I waited until almost daylight to go out & take a few pictures. It was dark in the stable even with a few small lights on so I simply set the flash on my camera, pointed in the general direction of ewe & lamb & just shot away. I managed to get a few decent pictures.
Although I never got a good picture of the little eweling standing up, I can report that she has some crazy long legs. Her little belly is full & mama is very attentive & sweet to her.
We had a bit of damage to the big dog kennel as a large pine branch came crashing down into it. We only use that kennel when we babysit our children's dogs for short visits. The kennel was empty & we have time to repair it so no complaints.

We also had some pine branches down throughout the pastures. The sheep & sweet little Ralphie, the goat, were already hard at work on clean up.
This sweet sheep was just trying to ignore the whole thing.

Gwen was tucked away in the old barn. Again, I had to just sort of point & shoot in the dark to get a picture of her. She was just wagging her tail & grinning. We'd let the back sheep into the old barn for the night so Gwen had obviously chosen a high perch to keep track of the flock.
Once I was sure that all of the animals were safe & sound, I did take a few pictures of the ice. It really  was beautiful.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Last week as I was walking in from gathering eggs I noticed that Ravi, one of our Anatolian Shepherds, was perched on top of a round bale in the front yard. I had one egg that had a small crack in its shell so I handed it over to him. He very delicately nibbled away the end of the shell and enjoyed eating the raw egg.
I went out today to gather eggs & discovered Ravi resting in the tractor shed. Since all of our chickens are free range egg gathering can be a bit of an Easter egg hunt! We do have nest boxes in several buildings around the farm. Those buildings have small openings where the chickens can come & go all day but the dogs cannot get in to steal eggs. Many chickens lay there but some of the gals are a bit more random with their laying. Someone had made a little temporary nest in the hay on the floor & had laid an egg just a few feet from Ravi. 
He was ignoring the egg when I noticed it. I asked him if he knew it was there & this was his response:
I laughed at him, added the egg to my bucket & walked around behind him to look at the little nest that a few of the gals share between some of the square bales that we loaded in last week. This is what I noticed as I walked behind Ravi.
I added that egg to my bucket as well. I attribute my lucky finds to the fact that Ravi had already had a nice breakfast & was more busy sleeping it off than seeking out a midmorning snack.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Silly Bird

Yes, this is a Shetland ewe examining a Pearl Leghorn pullet (young female chicken) who just happens to be in my egg bucket & on the way to the house. I came out to do my usual egg collecting when I heard one of the young pullets carrying on outside the back door of the old barn. I opened the door to discover the noisy bird perched on the edge of the water trough. It was squawking at the other bird who was barely keeping her head above water by standing on the small ledge inside the water trough. She was soaked from about the shoulders down. Her wings were spread out on top of the water but were beginning to weigh her down as they were getting wet. I pulled her out of the water, tucked her under my arm & went about my egg gathering. I set her down in the sunlight hoping that would help to dry her. Her friend went on about her business as soon as I pulled her out of the water. I gathered almost a full bucket of eggs & checked on the little one again. Even though it is a warm day, she was shivering. I decided I needed to take her into the house & dry her off well. As I walked across the barn yard, a few of the sheep came up to see what I was carrying. They often glance in my egg bucket but as soon as they realize that the bucket contains only eggs they usually walk away. This time my bucket was a lot more interesting. A few of the sheep stopped to nuzzle the pullet as I walked through their pasture.

Now, those of you who know me probably would guess that I am not a blow dryer type of gal. I wash my hair each morning in the shower & then let nature take its course. But we do keep a blow dryer because you never know when a lamb will be born on a cold night or a silly chicken will decide to fall in a water trough. I plugged it in & began to systematically dry the little bird from head to tail. I lifted her wings & heated her chilly skin. In a matter of minutes she was dry & looking a lot better. She will stay in the bathroom for a little longer until I am ready to gather another bucket of eggs but at this point it looks like all will be good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

This Is Why

1) I always carry a knife in my pocket when I am at home. I never know who will need rescued. I used to always carry a knife in my pocket, period. But I often go into schools as artist in residence & coming in fitting their definition of armed & dangerous is frowned upon. I also have a good pair of scissors hanging on a nail in just about every building on the farm. You just never know. I even keep a tiny pair of stainless surgical shears for cutting little shreds of baling twine out from between the toes of chickens.

2) I walk the farm frequently throughout the day. This silly girl had only just gotten herself wrapped up in a mess of baling twine while sampling a new round bale that was not supposed to be eaten quite yet. She had not yet realized that she was going to be in trouble so had not started to struggle & pull at the twine that was still attached to a 750+ pound bale of hay.

3) We spend lots of hands-on time with our animals so that they do not panic when we do have to work with them. Many, in fact, will come running to us when they can or at least call out to us when they have a problem. I know it sounds hard to believe but it happens frequently enough that I know it is not just a coincidence.

It took me just a moment to pull my knife out of my pocket, cut a few wraps of baling twine, look the gal over to be sure nothing was still wrapped around a hoof or ear & then let her go on about her day. I also trimmed up the remaining bits of baling twine dangling from where she'd gotten into trouble.

Years ago we sat in on a lecture with a goat expert who started his presentation by stating that a goat gets up every morning & the first thought that goes through its little goat head is, "How can I kill myself today?". I don't think sheep are as intentional as our goats when it comes to getting themselves into trouble but that certainly doesn't mean they don't find plenty of ways to do it. Which is why we take this shepherding business quite seriously!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


We've been occupied with babies lately. We're up to 13 lambs as of just an hour ago. Here is the very latest little one. It is cool & rainy here this morning so she was a colorful little addition to the dreary day.
I actually noticed her because Regina, our oldest Anatolian Shepherd, was down at the edge of the pasture snooping at something. I couldn't see what was going on because of the drop of the hill in the pasture but I knew there was something I needed to investigate as Regina did not come up to the top of the pasture to greet me when I walked through the gate & down the hill. She is a good dog & quite pretty as well.
Once Regina realized that I was coming all the way down to where she was working she came to join me. I did have a chance to watch as she calmly helped the ewe clean her lamb. This old ewe was not at all disturbed by Regina & was licking on one end of the lamb while Regina gently licked at the other end. The lamb was trying to lift its little head but was being held down by all that licking. Once Regina came up & sat with me, the little one lifted its head & worked itself up to standing. It was poking around trying to find mama's udder while mama was still working to free it from the rest of its birthing mess. I decided to give the two of them a little more quality time together before moving them into the stable. I took Regina with me as I figured she'd helped quite enough. I went on to gather eggs while Regina parked herself up on the stable porch to oversee all the lambs in the barnyard. They are just going about their normal business on a cloudy day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Just Working

The dog in the background is Baloo. He's just having a normal day at work. He is 3/4 Great Pyrenees & 1/4 Kangal & comes from good working stock.

We adopted Baloo from a goat farmer in North Carolina several years ago. He was a young dog & part of a litter that were much more accustomed to living with their goats than engaging with people. In order for us to purchase Baloo, the owner had to put feed out & jump on the dog that we'd pointed out to him. The big white furball did not want to be held but we just knew he would be a special dog. We loaded him into a kennel in the back of the car & headed for home. It was a fairly long drive so we stopped for a quick bite to eat. We got Baloo a plain hamburger & placed it in his kennel. When we got home the food was still on his kennel floor & he was laying silently next to it. He was too anxious even to eat. He needed to learn to trust us.

He spent the first few days with us in the house. He gradually warmed up & now is a friendly & loyal dog who does his job well. Although he can wander most of the farm, this time of year the best place to find him is near a lamb. He has his priorities well in order & we just adore him.