Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Everyone's Playing

While we were feeding pigs, a chicken hopped in & ran off with a nice dinner roll. The goats, who obviously cannot fly in & out of the pig pasture realized this was their chance to grab a goodie. But first they had to catch up with the chicken. This game of chase lasted a good five minutes. Of course, I was trailing along behind the majority of the time trying to get some pictures. The pasture has rocks, dips & other obstacles which makes running through it with a camera challenging but I hope I got enough of a picture that you can see what is going on. The dinner roll is bigger than the chicken's head so maneuvering was a little tough but she finally slipped under a fence & into a quiet spot to enjoy her hard-gotten snack.

This little goat kid was busy practicing climbing. What appears to be a rock that it is perched on is actually the mineral block that all the livestock enjoy licking at.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Many of the tasks we do on the farm take a little extra patience because the animals are curious & seem to think they can help or should at least be supervising. The sheep & a goat are interested in the cement mixing process. The lambs prefer simply to nap on the hog panel that needs to go between the posts.

So maybe I'm milking again.....

We had an adorable little gray & white doe kid born yesterday morning. Al found her outside in the rainstorm with her mother. She had been cleaned up & had already nursed. He brought the two of them into the stable where all seemed to be well. She was fine last night when he made the final rounds but found her floppy this morning. She had not eaten through the night. Upon closer inspection of mama, it was obvious why. The mother's teats where huge & swollen so that it would have been impossible for that little one to nurse.

Long story short is that we've milked mama, tube fed baby twice so far, given baby an enema as well as a selenium shot & now have baby under a heat lamp. Mama is anxiously fussing with her but we're not sure about the outcome of all of this. If the baby survives, it will have to be a bottle baby. Mama has LOTS of milk & cooperated when I put her on the milk stand even though this is her first time at handmilking. Looks like I'll be milking every morning & evening then bottling the baby throughout the day. If the baby doesn't make it, I may still continue to milk for a bit as we enjoy making a little cheese & milking time is usually quite a pleasant diversion in my day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Latest Baby

This is our latest little fellow who was born this afternoon while I was galavanting in Anderson. Al & I walked out to do evening chores. I spotted a teeny tiny head among all the big goats laying under shelter from the rain. It took us a few minutes to find out who mama was as we picked the little guy right up & everyone pretty much ignored us. We narrowed the crowd down to two potential mamas & then, upon closer examination, found mama. They are now happily warm & dry in the stable. The darker of the pictures was taken with the little guy next to a pen & paper just so you can see how tiny he is.

Tired of the Rain?

These lambs just looked so bored this morning. I am very appreciative of the rain. I do not mind tugging on my mucking boots each time I go out the door. At least the hay fields are growing! But it is obvious these little ones would much prefer a sunny day to romp up & down their pasture. And they are such stubborn little sheep - they have lots of wonderful shelter but prefer to lay in the drizzle looking put out!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hen on a Rainy Day

We'd just moved a new round bale into the pasture with some of the Dexter cattle. By mid morning of the following day this little hen had already found a nice place to nest that was sheltered from the rain. I happened to be feeding a bit of grain to a nursing cow when I noticed her snuggled in. At the end of the day I gathered the single egg she'd laid before moving on. This morning her little nest was gone, demolished as the cattle ate at the bale.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Goat's Life

Long ago we heard a Texas goat rancher explain that a goat wakes up each day trying to figure out just how it can kill itself. These two little goats thought that, even though they have plenty of their own feed, eating pig chow would be a good idea. I took one quick picture and then went about wiggling their heads around until both horns on each head was at exactly the right angle to pull back through the small hole in the fencing. Of course, if you try to make a goat go in a certain direction, it will always do the opposite. In order to get a head out I had to line up the horns just right & then carefully push forward without losing my angle. The goat, being a goat, pulls its head out to resist my pushing. I have a bruised hand & only a single scraped knuckle. A lot prettier than had they tried eating from the big pigs' pasture - I doubt I could have saved them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Emergency Trip

Well, we do the bulk of our vet care here simply because most vets won't fool with small farm animals. But today I came home to a little angora goat who'd been gored by a cow. I started to look at how to stitch him up & was not comfortable with how much potential damage there was to his abdomen. I called our great vet up in Pendleton. She said she'd squeeze him in so Al & I ran him up there. I packed his belly wound with gauze & he rode quietly on my lap the thirty minutes to the vet. She took a look at both of his wounds & decided the whole procedure would be easier if her were sleeping. She gassed him, did a good exam of belly & brisket wound & then clipped some damaged skin, sewed the rest back together, sold me an entire bottle of an excellent prescription antibiotic & we were on our way. I'm sure the goat is not worth what we spent at the vet's but we couldn't do anything less for him. And we do like to keep a good relationship with our vet - she is very reasonable as far as cost & tries to be supportive of us as small farmers.

The little fellow is now in a small, safe pasture with a buddy to keep him company. We'll give him antibiotic shots for the rest of the week & then take out the stitches in about two weeks. He did well with the car trip, snuggling his head into my shoulder all the way home. I'm sure this was not fun but we were relieved the injury wasn't worse.

The cow, who was already in trouble for opening the big chest freezer where we store grain, is now in another pasture with her calf!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chilly Morning

This is frost on a ewe's back! I was out gathering duck eggs & noticed her running around frosted over her lovely dark wool. The sheep don't mind the weather much so this didn't bother her. But I believe today was the second full day of spring.

We had another ewe lamb born today. Jezebelle, her mother, is a good mama who has given us lots of pretty lambs. She had the lamb cleaned up & well fed by the time we got home from church. Jezebelle is a little Shetland sheep. She started out coal black & is now a pretty brown and gray. It is not uncommon for black sheep to lighten as they age. Jezebelle's name is spelled this way because she is a southern sheep. And she is quite the queen of her pasture.

Pig Update: The little pigs went to a new pasture today. It was funny to see them meet the big pigs through the fence now that their pastures adjoin. I'm hoping seeing the big guys will inspire them to eat even more & grow! After a quick inspection of the new digs, they were ready for a nap. The larger pigs continued to stare at them until distracted with lots of fresh greens.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Lambs - not for the queasy....

Naomi twinned this afternoon & just happened to do it in the middle of the pasture when the light was right for lots of pictures. I'll only show you a few but the last couple are of the birth of the second twin. Don't scroll down if you aren't up for this....

Naomi had been acting oddly all day & had even dug herself a little dip in the dirt in a barn part way down the pasture. When I went out about 4 o'clock to gather eggs again, I noticed she was all the way up at the top of the pasture & way on her side. She was wallowing a little & stretching. I walked over to discover that she was definitely in labor. I called Katy & Nazar out. Within a few minutes of my initial observation, we had two little front hooves. A nose followed shortly afterwards but the chickens had realized what was up & were beginning to bother Naomi. I fed the chickens to distract some of them. We stuck around & swatted at the few persistent hens who wanted to peck at the emerging little fellow. Naomi circled around, laid down again, did a bit more pushing & out popped the first lamb. She immediately went to work cleaning him up but paused long enough to lay back down & deliver his sister. I spent a good hour outside protecting them from chickens while the lambs were cleaned up & had their first chance to nurse. Once everyone was settled down, we moved them into a stall where they are safe from the birds.

Some Shearing

Al is working at getting the sheep & goats shorn. He prefers to do just one or two an evening rather than make a big "shearing day" of it. This shorn ram looks so handsome but with his fleece gone he sure looks like he has a big head.

Al has also been getting calls to shear for other folks. Its good that people are thinking of it now when we can work it into the schedule. In past seasons, we've had "emergency" calls when the temperatures are in the 80's from people who just realized their sheep need shorn. So much nicer to have everyone handled in the spring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One last lamb...

After the day's two ewe lambs, I figured we would be done until tomorrow or the next day but Freckles, our lovely white ewe who had twins last year, had a little ram lamb just as it was getting dark. Once we peeked to be sure the little guy was up & nursing we left them alone as Freckles is an excellent mama. At about 9:00 we went out to bring the two of them into the stable for the night. Freckles had had her little fellow halfway down the pasture but when we started back down we realized that she & her lamb were laying right at the back of the old barn along with many of the other sheep. She'd brought him all the way up the hill & was laying snuggled around him. Al picked up the lamb. Fuzzy jumped right up & followed right into the stable where she was enjoying corn when we left them, occasionally quietly calling out to her little fellow who was quietly answering. What a day for babies!

The Weeping Cherry

Two new ewe lambs so far today! Each lamb & mother are doing nicely. Al found the first lamb right before dawn. Katy & I watched the second arrive before noon.

The picture is of our massive weeping cherry tree in the front yard. It is absolutely buzzing with activity. It is full of small bees (sadly, not honey bees - but life nevertheless...) that work diligently until about 6 p.m. when they must all beat it for home.

Eve, our little Ossabaw donkey, has spent lots of time these last few days resting under the buzzing tree. You can see her as a little bump in the left hand side of the tree pictures. She usually naps somewhere else in the yard so I am surprised to see her here every time I go out the door. I don't know if she is enjoying the snowfall of blossoms on the ground or the soothing buzzing.

Pigs & Bananas

I learned something new today. In the kitchen scraps from the Hyatt was a nice bunch of slightly over-ripe bananas. I flipped it into the pigs & was amazed to watch how carefully the one pig squeezed each banana & sucked the insides out. It went through all three bananas that way so I thought, "Oh, how smart - he isn't interested in eating that bitter peel but figured out how to get at the middle." Well, I was mistaken. After the pig ate the good part out of each banana, he went back & ate the peels along with their tough stems. I love the fact that I learn something new on a regular basis here!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Set of Twins

I went out to gather eggs as usual this morning. I was slogging through the mud thinking how lovely it was that the sun was shining when a movement in the back pasture caught my eye. With the way the pasture drops, I could not see an adult sheep but saw a tiny black lamb. In just a second I saw a Shetland ewe stand up next to it. I put my egg bucket down in a safe spot (the chickens love to try to eat their own eggs out of an unguarded bucket) & went down the pasture. The pretty brown ewe had an adorable little black lamb by her side but I could also see a few extra tiny brown legs sticking out under her belly. She had twins! The little black one is a ram lamb & the brown one is a ewe. They were already cleaned nicely, had well-fed little bellies & ran from me as I approached. They scattered in two different directions, travelled about ten feet then looked back in shock as they realized they were no longer with mama. They ran back to her & tried to hide on her far side. Katy was outside helping with chores so she joined me as we moved the three sheep into the stable.

The Shetland sheep are very hardy so they would be fine outside for the day. The reason we like to pull the newly-born lambs into the stable is so that their mothers can have lots of grain & fresh water without having to compete with the other sheep in the pasture. Amy, our Anatolian Shepherd who is the livestock guardian dog in that pasture, watched us carefully as we carried the lambs out of her field. She walked along with us briefly but then let us go. She is a huge dog & those little lambs would barely make a snack for her - it is amazing how she guards them when they seem like they would be such tempting toys.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Baby

This little doe kid was born in the night during the nasty rain storm but her mama kept her safe & had already fed her by the time Al found them shortly before daylight. We had actually been joking with friends that rotten weather meant more babies were on the way. Mama & kid are now safely in a stall in the stable. Mama has lots of feed & water while baby has a nice corner to curl up in & pretend she is hiding from the big world.

Pig Update: The pigs are still content with their supply of mud. Although the weather doesn't seem to bother them in the least, I am feeling bad enough for them that I bring them new ears of corn each time I pass by to gather eggs. Again, they don't mind at all but I do - I think it is the same as when you have to put on a sweater because your mother is cold....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sad Little Lamb

Well, the little fellow we'd been treating for pneumonia didn't make it. He had such a rough birth, was just not right from the outset & the respiratory problems set in almost immediately. We tried very hard & he was a fighter but it was obvious that he would never be "normal" even if we did pull him through this. We are sad.

Fortunately, no one else decided to be born in this nasty weather. We are very grateful for the rain, just hoping all the babies wait to enter this side of the world until it dries up a bit.

Pig Update: The pigs have been intrigued by the rain. They have used it to help them turn their lovely pasture into a complete hog bath. I think there is one high corner left but they are happily wallowed down into their newly-created mud. They don't seem to mind the cooler temperatures. I'm thinking they are keeping their body temperatures up with all the enthusiastic running around.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thursday & the Weather is Changing

We are due for rain & colder weather some time after midnight tonight. The wind has picked up & even though the sun is shining it is chilly. I took a quick walk to the bottom of one of the pastures to check on a ewe that had separated herself. She was fine - she'd just found her own private little patch of grass. On the way back I found some moss at the base of a tree & thought I'd see if I could take a decent picture of it with the cellphone. Moss at the end of winter always reminds me of my Grandpa Shidler who would take us into the woods as the snow was melting. He carried a magnifying glass in his pocket & would get down on his hands & knees to show us how the moss was beginning to "bloom" with pretty little red stalks.

The goats, sheep & cattle are all acting silly as the weather changes. Every time the wind blows they romp around, running & kicking. Bud, a big Tunis sheep who ended up being a bottle baby & is spoiled rotten, was running next to me all the way to the house. He almost knocked me over as he leaped into the air, kicked & spun. I was carrying a bucket of eggs & managed to lift those high over my head as he landed a back hoof into my thigh. Too much enthusiasm can be dangerous.

I am treating the little swollen-headed lamb for aspiration pneumonia. He is quite congested with a rattling chest so I started him on an antibiotic, an expectorant, a decongestant & an antihistamine. The antibiotic is an injection which he objected to but the he sucked down the other medications. Hopefully he'll get through this mess as his head is almost to normal size, he is nursing well & is interested in the other lambs. What a production he has been!

Just because this is usually the way things work, I am expecting more lambs over the next few days of predicted cold & rainy weather. I'll just check on everyone throughout the day & hope for the best.

Quick Baby Update

The little guy is still alive this morning! The swelling in his head has gone down to where he is just a peculiar looking fellow but you wouldn't know he'd had such a traumatic birth. He has a little round belly so is obviously eating well. Mama is up & about, enthusiastically fussing over him. Her limp from what I assume was nerve compression from the birth is almost gone. We'll continue to treat her aggressively with antibiotics just in case but things are looking pretty good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tough Delivery

This little fellow should not be alive. Nor are we sure he will survive the night. His mother is also in pretty bad shape but trying as hard as she can to be a good mama.

I went out at about 3:30 to gather more eggs. As I rounded the corner, I saw this ewe on the ground with a huge lamb's head sticking out of her. That is not a good sign for a normal delivery. I checked to find that the lamb had its left leg out but there was no sign of his right leg. His face was tremendously swollen as he was stuck. His tongue was turning blue but he was still breathing. I tried gently tugging to free him but he was way too stuck for that option. Ordinarily when only a single leg presents, you gently push he lamb's head back in, fish around for the other leg & then pull the lamb out again by the legs. This little head was so terribly swollen that pushing it back in was not an option.

I went into the stable to get a towel thinking that a firmer grip might help me to tug it out. All I could find was a sweatshirt so I hurried back with that. To make a long story short, I could not budge this fellow by myself. I was pulling the whole ewe across the ground with my efforts. I called Al who immediately left the office. He was home in forty very long minutes. He thought the little lamb had already suffocated but noticed a little movement. I held the front of the ewe and Al tugged. It took a good ten minutes to make progress but the little lamb never stopped trying to live and its mama never gave up either. We finally freed an enormous little ram lamb. His head was too swollen to stand with any kind of balance but he kept trying. Mama was a mess but got busy right away cleaning up her baby.

I went immediately to the house for penicillin, a shot of B vitamins & another shot to take some of the edge off of mama's pain. We then left them alone, anxious for what would happen but not in a position to help much more. Al returned to work, I gathered eggs & mama rested with her big boy.

We've just put them into a stall in the stable for the night. Mama is still bleeding more than I would like but the lamb's head is getting smaller. He has nursed even though his distorted face makes it hard. The more his swelling goes down, the better he should be able to eat. He'd obviously had enough to get him on his feet so we felt like milking out mama & tube feeding him was just too invasive right now.

I know I will not sleep well tonight thinking about this little ewe & her new fellow. We have lots of sheep but each is special & we try our hardest to do our best with them. Left to themselves, both would have died by nightfall so trying to save one or both with all our tugging & carrying on could not have made the situation any worse. We'll just have to see.

Pig Update: The fellows are loving the dirt. They root until they are tired & then nap in their freshly tilled bed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Saturday's New Lamb

Our newest lamb was born Saturday morning. I had been watching a Tunis ewe who had been walking more stiffly & just looking restless most of Friday. On Saturday morning I noticed that she's separated herself from the rest of the flock & was hiding halfway down the pasture in a dip on the field. When I walked up on her, she hardly noticed me. She was busy pawing the ground, maaing quietly & occasionally laying down, only to turn a bit & get back up. I watched her do this for about half an hour. She then stood up & dropped this little ewe lamb on the ground. The lamb was strong & hopped right up. Between mama cleaning the new baby & the new baby learning to use her wobbly long legs, it took another half an hour before she finally nursed. Once she got the hang of that, we left mama & lamb alone for a few hours. The weather was pleasantly warm so there was no concern about leaving them out.

After lunch we moved them into a stall in the stable. This is a protective little mother so when Al lifted the lamb to begin the walk up the hill, she immediately ran in front of him to cut him off. He held the lamb down to her face & after a good bit of starting & stopping managed to walk her all the way to the stable. She ran into a stall without hestiation, just anxious to keep up with her lamb.

On Sunday we opened her stall door so that her little lamb could get out into the center of the stable & play with the two sets of twins. The five lambs are adorable together.

Monday again.

What a gorgeous weekend! The birds were all finding time to lay out & sun themselves. It is su funny to walk up on a chicken that looks like it just keeled over dead in the yard. Its eyes will be shut & its feathers will be gently blowing in the breeze. But if I step to close, it will open an eye, lift its head & scurry away. But this little rooster never realized I was sneaking up on it to take its picture.

The younger hens are really beginning to lay & have already gotten the hang of bickering over nest boxes even though there are plenty to choose from. I will be glad when we are through the pullet egg stage. I am bringing in close to 60 tiny eggs a day. Fortunately, the pigs enjoy them scrambled & I can throw the shells back out to the birds who gobble them down to supplement their calcium intake.

Pig Update: The fellows are thrilled with the outdoors - especially the sunny day we had. These older piglets are white so much more susceptible to the sun. They spent most of yesterday basking & are showing the effects today. That pink glow is real!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Moving Pigs

I'd mentioned before that we'd kept the pigs in the stable because the weather has been so unpredictable. We had been moving them from stall to stall. They were content with the dirt floors, open windows & lots of hay to snuggle in but now that the weather has settled down, it was time for them to move into the open.

This evening we moved them into their new pasture. They have a large grassy area with some nice trees for shade. The grassy area will soon be plowed up as the pigs play but we have another pasture to move them into when that one gets nasty.

Moving was quite the traumatic experience! We decided to put a rope around the neck & around the hips of a pig to guide it to its new pasture. There are too many places for the pigs to get loose during the trip from the stable to their pasture so we didn't want to take any chances that one would slip away, shoot down the hill & disappear into the woods. We also decided to move just a single pig at a time. The boys were going to hold the pig ropes, Al was going to open doors & gates & I was going to stay behind to mind the remaining pig.

As soon as the first pig was roped, he began to squeal. The other pig squealed along with him. The squealing was loud enough to make your teeth hurt. The roped pig was not interested in leaving the stable & the free pig was not going back into the stall. I cornered the free pig while the fellows tugged the roped pig out the door. They managed to shut the door just as the free pig was getting angry & shoving at me to get around to go out the door. While the boys & pig took off for the pasture, the remaining pig felt he needed to deal with me. He kept coming up to my knees & pushing on me with his snout. He wasn't quite opening his mouth far enough to bite but I didn't like the fact that he was slobbering down my legs. I didn't know if he was looking for comfort or a chunk of my leg. I kept pushing him back but every time I touched him he squealed again. In a few minutes the fellows were back, having successfully guided the other pig to the new pasture. The instant the ropes were removed, the outdoor pig began to root around calmly exploring his new home. It took another two or three minutes to rope the second pig. In less than five minutes the two were reunited & having a ball on their fresh grass.

We set them up with a water trough & gave them lots of great kitchen scraps. They were happily rooting away as the sun went down. Hopefully, they will be just as happily occupied in their pasture when the sun comes up tomorrow.

Lots of stuff

I've got lots of pictures so will just post a few with some explanations. We've had a great time with kitchen scraps from the Hyatt this week. Although it is hard to appreciate in a still photo, the hens sucking down spaghetti have been hysterical. They wolf down the easy stuff first & then spend time working on scraping the melon scraps until the rind is paper thin. They've been especially pleased this week with the abundance of cucumber seeds.

This picture needs lots of explanation. This is the outside edge of the chicken house. In the dark on the right you can barely see some pretty gold chicken feathers sticking out. This is the back side of a Buff Minorca hen. She laid this egg on the floor of the chicken house & it rolled out. She is apparently unaware as she is still setting.

We let Fuzzy & her lambs out of the barn since it was such a pretty day. The two girls are enjoying exploring the big world. Unfortunately, they are exploring a little close to the electric fence here. No one hit it while I was outside but it usually only takes one quick zap for the animals to get the idea.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Twins Again!

Aggie finally lambed this morning. She's the ewe we'd pulled into the stable a few days ago to treat for pregnancy toxemia. She responded well to the treatment & managed to get cured this morning - by lambing. She has a little black ewe lamb & a little red ram lamb. Both are up, nursing & still a little sticky dirty from their birth. I took Aggie's daughter from last year out of the stall as she was just not sure what to make of all this excitement & Aggie was being very protective of the new lambs, butting gently when her older daughter got in the way. I'll work on posting a picture or two later but since Aggie was still quite busy with mama stuff, I didn't want to disturb her by turning on extra lights, etc.

This is a picture that I took at the end of the day yesterday. It is of our LaMancha, Vincent Van Goat (named because LaManchas have almost no external ears....) sitting on top a new round bale as the other goats eat below him. I was standing at the kitchen window finishing my coffee this morning when I noticed something looked peculiar about that bale. It had tipped over onto its side & rolled off of the stable porch.

I felt kind of "Wizard of Oz -ish" as I checked the edges of the bale for protruding feet. Looks like no one was squashed in the event.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Storm mess

We've decided to let the livestock eat as much of the fallen pine as they want. Although I cannot quite imagine how good it tastes or, for that matter, how funny it feels going down... the animals are thrilled with all the fresh greenery. They peel every branch down to the white core.

There is still a good bit of snow on the ground but also lots of mud & water running off. The ducks are having a ball bathing everywhere while the goats are tiptoeing & leaping from high spot to high spot.

Aggie, our pretty black Jacob ewe, is in the stable right now. We are treating her for pregnancy toxemia & perhaps milk fever. She was beginning to star-gaze today which is not a good thing. Fortunately, we keep all the necessary equipment & medications here for just about anything animal-related. Aggie was not pleased to be locked up even though Fuzzy & her twins are also in the stable. Al brought Aggie's daughter from last year in to keep her company & perhaps calm her down.

The ducks have decided that they love the new hiding places. These 3 eggs were at the same spot that I found one egg yesterday. Looks like this might become a regular spot for a while. I also found eggs in a variety of new places. One egg was being washed under a fence from the snow melt so, rather than wonder where it came from or when it was laid, I flipped it over into Regina's pasture. The dogs always appreciate a good "spare" egg. And the duck eggs have such thick shells that this one bounced & rolled down the hill. I guess that counts as a little play value besides.

Pig Update: I noticed today that the smaller of the piglets don't have baby voices anymore. They are beginning to grunt in a more throaty voice like the bigger pigs! And they are just SO pushy, climbing either over or under each other to get to food.