Mid January 2017- A taste of spring in the middle of Winter

The main event of the month is that the first lambs were born! Twin boys from a first time mom.  They are doing great in a stretch of warm (by which i mean it's been above freezing all day).  The snow mostly melted in the last few days, though fortunately the ground is still frozen enough that the mud has not come out.  

The flock spends this time of year in the barn eating hay.  I put them out for a bit on nice days to air out and get some exercise, but they do spend the whole time waiting by the gate. The ewes are pregnant mostly happy to spend their days in the warm barn laying in clean straw.  

Iris, the border collie puppy, is 6 month old  and training her is a blast.  She is so smart, so keen, and just a pleasure to be around.  

The Great Pyrenees guardian dogs spend this season doing a lot lounging around with the occasional night barking at coyotes. 

I still have a selection of fabulous fall fleeces 

2016 Lambing is underway!

2016 is going to be an amazing year.  The season began on the evening of February 4th, it was practically balmy at 50 degrees F. I was doing my evening barn check and filling up waters and feeders for the night.    Two ewes had been looking ready to explode for days with huge udders and big pregnant bellies. One of them, a gorgeous Gotland ewe, #611, was laying down near the water while I filled it.  She stood up and turned around looking uncomfortable.  I watched her in the beam of my headlight and though: It's such a warm night for February, wouldn't it be a perfect time for her lambs to be born.  #611 lay down and her water broke.  

I wasn't sure for a moment if' she'd just peed or really had began lambing.  A glimpse of a front foot emerged. She looked fine so i dashed into the house to get Josh and Brandon to watch.  We got back to the barn with both front feet out and 611 pacing. She then lay down and pushed. Sheep do cry when they lamb, it sounded like she was being torn apart for a moment.  Then the first lamb slid out.  611 stood up and began to lick her new ram lamb while making endearing sheepy cooes and cuddly noises.  The lamb was on his feet within about 5 minutes, text book birth and mothering.  

15 minutes later the second lamb, a girl was born. I waited to see her try to stand. The ewe had the normal looking afterbirth hanging out, it usually takes an hour or so to fully pass.  At that point I guessed they'd be fine and probably wanted peace and quiet for a while.  I put the ewe and both lambs in a lambing pen (jug) and went inside.  

At around 9 PM.  I went out for one more check hoping i'd find everyone sleeping peacefully.  The mother was standing up nursing her three lambs.  Wait, three? Apparently she'd had another lamb tucked up in there! It a big bog with a white spot on his head.  The ewe lamb also had a small white spot on her head.  All three lambs were happy and healthy the next day.  

 Triplet Gotland Lambs the day after birth.  

Triplet Gotland Lambs the day after birth.  

February 5th was a snow storm.  The few days of warm weather were blown away and all the mud was covered up by a fresh layer of clean snow.  February 6th dawned clear and crisp.  Inside the barn fresh life was learning to stand.  A wensleydale ewe, #491, had a white ram lambs nursing.  She also had more feet sticking out of her.  She gave me stink eye and i guessed she was nearly done so I left for a few minutes. 

I came back to no progress at all.  I put her in a very small pen and investigated.  The feet were upside down. That generally means they are back feet and therefore the lamb is breech (backwards).  Let the pulling begin. The ewe was not thrilled for the first moment.  Then she lay down and pushed.  

Trying to pull a breech lamb is hard. The feet are slippery and hard to grip and it feels as though you are about to pull the lamb apart.  I got him to move a tiny bit, then he was stuck.  I braced my feet on the ewe's rump and heaved.  She pushed, I pulled.  I thought we were both about to give up after what seemed like a long time. Then the lamb moved.  We got him out up to the shoulders.  Ok, one more big effort and we got him out.  

The ewe was panting.  The lamb wasn't breathing or moving.  I cleared out his nose and began to rub him all over.  Then he squirmed and took in a huge breath.  Alive, thank goodness.  Both lamb and mom lay panting for a minutes.  Then the mom began to lick and make her cuddly noises. Everything would be OK.  

 Wensleydale Ewe and her Huge Twin Boys.  The larger on in front was the second to be born.     

Wensleydale Ewe and her Huge Twin Boys.  The larger on in front was the second to be born.  

 

By noon the two big Wensleydale boys were trying to bounce and nursing like champs.  

I love lambing season. The explosion of new life is exciting.  I never know what i'll get or how it will go, but the lambs are so cute and exuberant  about life it is worth all the trouble.  

2016 here we come!

 

Welcome to the farm Lil!

Sheep need to be moved regularly. So far i've managed to get them where they need to go with a mixture of moveable fencing, buckets of treats and pure luck.  As the flock expands i see the need for more reliable sheep movement.  There are moments when the above strategies have temporarily failed.  Then someone, or several unfortunate someones, are chasing sheep all over the field.  

For generations shepherds have been perfecting the ultimate sheep mover.  It is a creature of huge intellect, boundless energy, enough predator drive that the sheep fear it, and a desire to please shepherds. Meet the Border Collie.  

 

Lil is 2 years old.  She is bred from working lines of Border Collies going back generations.  She came to me knowing the basics of sheep work, which is a huge bonus since i have not trained my own border collie to work sheep before.  

She is an enthusiastic worker.  She absolutely loves her job and just can't enough of moving sheep around.  I look forward to shaping her and learning all that we can do together.  She also happens to be a really sweet dog and great company.  

Apple Season

Our Orchard is blessed with 27 different varieties of rare and unique apples, including a few familiar commercial varieties.  Walking among the laden trees and sampling the fruit is a journey of historical and whimsical flavors.  Some are so sweet it seems like a mouthful of crisp fruity honey, some remind the palate of spring flowers humming with sunlight a bit of tartness to round out the experience.  They just keep coming too! There should be another month of ripe apples to enjoy, and every week there is something new to taste.  

Shearing a Lamb- With help from the flock.

I do blade shearing on my lambs.  This means I don't use electric shears on their perfect soft fleeces, instead I use a set of old fashioned (and quite cool looking) blades, giant scissors basically.  I take longer to shear a lamb, normally 20-30 minutes depending on how wiggly each lamb is, but I get time to enjoy the fleece and I get the very best possible clip off each lamb.  An added bonus of blade shearing is that it is quiet.  I can have a conversation, or enjoy the grazing sound of sheep while shearing. Since i don't need electricity I can shear out in the field, at the moment this is an advantage since i don't have a barn yet, it is quite pleasant.  

I enjoy shearing.  I take out a piece of a cardboard, a bag for the fleece, and my shears.  I can make the selection of which lamb is ready and go for it.  Sometimes I don't even need to take the lamb out of the pasture and I shear with her flock looking on.  They tend to be really interested when I first start then go back to grazing until I'm done at which point everyone, except the newly sheared lamb, is ready for a few pets and scratches.  

Lamb Shearing beginning June 27th

I love shearing lambs.  The fleece is so beautiful and soft.  I like seeing what they look like under their fleeces, and i can't wait to get their lovely little fleeces on the spinning wheel.  They are a bit wiggly and sort of a pain to deal with, but they make up for by having the most amazing fleece.  

I am only shearing a few with long enough wool. It has to be at least 3" staple, wool length.   Check out my Etsy page to see what's for sale or contact me.  I have a waiting list and many of theses fleeces are already reserved.  

Twin Lambs

This morning one of the beautiful white Gotland/BFL ewes had gorgeous twin lambs.  They are sired by Faradn, an 87% gotland ram.  Both are black and will turn grey as they grow up.  The one with more white on his face and rear is a ram, the other is a ewe with a little white cap on her head.  The ewe has a gorgeous fleece with excellent curls.  It can only be hoped that the lambs will inherit her fleece.