The Hole That Ate the Chicken

Subtitle: Or why I don’t get much done during lambing season.

I am so behind on blogging. I really do like my blogs to be in order. I have lots of photos and blog ideas that I want to post but at this point they will be all out of order. There are more cute grandkid photos, photos of my weekend trip to Ft. Bragg, photos of sheep, but the last two weeks was hectic. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my daughter and grandkids but I also needed to work on my new website and get it mostly underway before lambing began.

So there is nothing very exciting about this morning but I was in the barn from about 6:30 until 11 when I could get in for breakfast and there was one incident, very minor as things go, that gave me the idea for this blog post.

At 6:30 I saw that Hallie had lambed with twins and they were clean and fed. I had put her in the night before thinking she might be ready. The other ewe I had guessed might lamb had not and was supremely annoyed. I let her out.

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I caught these two sheep. First I brought in the older ewe, Sophia, who I had been watching in the back. She didn’t go in with the others when I fed but got up as I approached. She has shown some lameness on a back foot and I haven’t had time to look at it. That could account for her not getting up but she just didn’t look right.

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The younger ewe, Alice, needed her eye treated. I had been putting ointment in it but stopped before I should have (or there is another problem I don’t know about–I never did find anything in it).

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As I looked in the back again I saw Jean (the sheep not at the feeder). This is an excellent photo of the sunken sides of a ewe ready to lamb. She appears gaunt after the lambs have moved into position. So I brought her into the lambing area.

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I took video of Jean during lambing which I will edit and post eventually. Here are the two healthy lambs.

I continued to watch Sophia because she didn’t look right. I spend a lot of time just watching sheep during lambing. To make that effective you have to spend time watching sheep that are not lambing as well. You need to know the difference to know when one of your sheep isn’t quite right. I left her in the lambing area while I worked on other things…like when the phone battery died just as I was doing more video. I went to the house for the cord and then spent some time rerouting the extension cord that is going to the scale so that I don’t trip over it. Why not spend time fixing the plug that doesn’t work which is why an extension cord is necessary? I can do extension cords. I can’t do electricity.

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Before I move lambs and ewes out of the lambing pens I tag each one, give BOSE (selenium and Vitamin E supplement), and place a tail band. I started with #1 and then realized that I made my first mistake. The real #1 died (triplets born while I was in Ft. Bragg but that’s another story) and this should have been #2 or #3. So I already messed up. But I messed up prior to this by buying tags a size larger than I usually buy for the lambs. I haven’t quite decided if I want to keep using these or get the right ones. They seem awfully big for little Jacob ears.

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My routine is to move 3 ewes with their lambs into a group pen for a few days. I can keep a better eye on them and the lambs learn to stick with their mamas and not annoy the other ewes, who are quite convincing to any lamb that gets near. In this case, Clover is with her two, Rosie is behind the bale with her single and Jillian is out of the photo behind a feeder with her twins. I have been trying to get all the ewes’ feet trimmed BEFORE they lamb because it’s much harder to do when they are worried about where their lambs are. Mistake #2 today. I forgot to trim Rosie’s feet. I’ll have to remember before she goes out.

I was still watching Sophia. She is a week from her due date but she is big and round…and fat. She stands like she is uncomfortable and her leg is bothering her. My feeling is that it is the hip, not the foot, that is the problem. We used to have cows that would be gimpy in late pregnancy because of the calf positioned on a nerve. She ate a little grain, but not a lot. As I watched I felt like she was a little quivery. That can be a sign of pregnancy toxemia or hypocalcemia. I got out the jug of propylene glycol that I hardly ever use. That meant a trip to the house to look up the dosage. It won’t hurt is she does not need it, but it will be interesting to know if it makes a difference.

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Back to work. I was cleaning pens as I went, moving water buckets, etc. Mistake #3 and what inspired the title of this post. This is looking down on a half wall that separates the lambing area from the main part of the barn. There is plywood on both sides of the 2×4’s. A chicken fell in there once and it required rescue. This is the story as Maggie told it. The end of those two 2×4’s on the right makes a convenient place to put things like hoof trimmer or gloves…one of which fell into the hole. That’s when I thought about all the little things that add up that are the reason you spend the whole day in the barn and you don’t really accomplish much.img_7719

This is the view that I use when I make a first check on the sheep. I can look out this window and they don’t all get up like they do if I go into where they are. Now that the weather has changed and the pasture has started to dry out I want to get them out but there is a break in the electric fence and I need to fix it before I can let anyone in the pasture.

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This is a closer shot of another ewe that looks suspiciously ready to lamb, but really a lot of them do.

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Here is where we are so far.

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Onyx isn’t even on the list for two weeks.

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According to the list Esmerelda still has a week to go.

The glove is still in the wall.

Puddle Jumping

Someone is making the best of the rainy day.

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We went to the barn to see the sheep and get out of the house. Jade is the only sheep who will approach a little person without the bribe of a bucket of grain.

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I stood under the roof and out of the rain and watched Kirby…

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…run back and forth.

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dsc_6358Contemplating the Really Big Puddle.

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The sheep weren’t thrilled about all this activity by the little pink person.

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By the time we got back to the house I figured that a little more water really didn’t matter. So Kirby ran through the lake that was our driveway until she’d had enough. Tonight it is still raining.

More Grandkid Photos

I’ve been so focused on #1 family visiting and #2 trying to get my new website up that I haven’t done much else. I did have a request for more cute grandkid photos though and since cute lambs haven’t arrived yet, here they are. (Not that I’d show cute lamb photos to the exclusion of cute grandkid photos. I’d just have to fit both in.)

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Here is what greeted me on Valentines’s Day.

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We planted them together.

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For the first several days of Kirby’s visit the sun was out and things started to dry out.

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We were still wearing boots to the barn, but didn’t have to tromp through as much mud.

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Aunt Meryl manages a gymnastics club and there is an Open Gym hour on Wednesdays, in addition to a Wednesday morning Mommy and Me class.

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Kirby went to both and loved it.

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Gathering eggs from the chicken house.

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It’s best if she carries just one.

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It started raining again so there were puddles.

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Not to forget that there is another grandchild visiting. He just doesn’t spend as much time at the barn.

 

More Cuteness…

…but maybe I’m just biased.

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Kirby reminds me so much of her mom when she was little.

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Farm Club members helped with vaccinating this morning but there were some distractions in the barn.

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Kirby and Lisa looking at chickens.

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Kirby set up her doctor office in the barn.

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And the Cuteness Begins

No, it’s not time for cute lambs yet. How about cute grandkids?

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Meeting Kirby at the Oakland Airport.

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Holding her baby brother while Mommy gets the carseats strapped in.

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We got home in the early evening and someone wanted to go right to the barn to see “sheeps and conkey”.

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I got a couple of photos with sheep but the donkey photo will have to wait.

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Uncle Chris has the right touch to get a smile out of 7-week old Kasen.

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Tracing Aunt Meryl’s hand.

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Letting Ginny clean up the egg that was dropped.

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Papa Dan, Kirby, and Rusty.

Shearing the Rams

Shearing was a few days ago and it’s an event worthy of a few posts. I started talking about it in here but have been distracted by a major project which will take over my brain for a couple of weeks. I need a break from that so here are photos of shearing the rams. Thanks to Dona and Carole for contributing some of these photos.

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This isn’t a ram but while I was catching them John started with  Mary’s  seven sheep.

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Then it was Faulkner’s turn. Faulkner is a Bluefaced Leicester (BFL).

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Catalyst is a lilac colored Jacob ram. Lilac refers to the gray-brown color of his wool and the facial markings.

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What a gorgeous fleece!

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Bide a wee Buster is almost a year old.

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It’s been on my list to trim Buster’s horn, but John did it before shearing.

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That’s another beautiful fleece coming off.

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A shearer has to be careful in maneuvering those big horns.

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Here is a close-up of Buster’s fleece. Notice the difference in color of the outside of the fleece and the inside in the photo before this.

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Joker was the last ram to be shorn.

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This photo clearly shows the difference in the black & white and lilac color pattern in the Jacob sheep.

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Next up–shearing the ewes.

 

The Morning After

We sheared yesterday (more about that in future blog posts). Here are some photos from this morning and some before-and-after shots.

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You can fit more sheep at the feeder after shearing and it’s sure easier to keep an eye on udder development and predict lambing.

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The aftermath where the skirting table was yesterday. We were so lucky with the weather yesterday–no rain after continual storms. This water is from last night’s rain (almost an inch).

Meridian Zoey. Zoey has freckled skin but not freckled fleece–that’s two different things.

Meridian Fandongo. Notice how the sheep look like they have brown spots in most of the “before” photos. The wool has sunbleached tips. Underneath it is black, or gray if the sheep are fading, or gray-brown if they are “lilac”.

Puddleduck Petra. A good example of a black fleece that looks brown when on the sheep.

Meridian Alice, a two year old ewe.

Meridian Bertha, another two year old. It will be only another day before the sheep look dirty again and you don’t see that bright white against the black.

Shadow Mountain Shelby. Shelby is lilac. Her facial markings are gray, not black. Her spots are a light gray. I used my iPhone for this morning’s photos so some of the sheep look like they have abnormally big heads. Maybe that’s only partly camera perspective but partly that they no longer have huge fleeces around those heads.

Bide a wee Hallie.

Meridian Cindy, one of last year’s lambs. Oops! It turns out that she is freckled. Those smaller spots are in the wool. You can’t tell about freckling when the lambs are born. After a couple of months it will appear. I think it shows up in the secondary follicles instead of the primary ones and that’s why you don’t see it at birth. (I’d like to hear someone who knows explain if that theory is correct.) I also noticed it in her twin brother, although you can’t really see it in the photo below.

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Meridian Joker, Meridian Catalyst, and bide a wee Buster.

And here is what I saw when I first checked on the rams this morning:

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That wall behind Joker is supposed to be attached to the 2 x 4. I found the drill and some screws and put it all back up and it was only then that I looked at the other corner:

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Oh, that’s a bigger problem.  This wasn’t originally a ram barn. It started out two calf hutches that I made. Eventually they were put on this slab facing each other with a space in between and another roof overhead and the kids show pigs lived there for a few months a year. Then it was Faulkner’s pen and he was pretty easy on it. Now that the Jacob rams live there it needs reinforcement. Dan got the jack out to jack it up back on the cement and then reinforced everything inside with heavier 2 x 10’s at about head-bashing level. It could still use interior solid plywood walls but hopefully this will get us by for a few more months.

Stupid rams. You should be grateful that you have a shelter to get into after shearing and you’re not expected to stay out in the wind and rain.