Baa Baa Black Sheep

The Shetland Lambs of 2013 are arriving, gorgeous and healthy. Three mamas are relieved and contented, grazing and nursing.

The count is 3 ram lambs, 3 ewe lambs with 3 ewes left to deliver in the next week or so.

So much fuss with installing our lamb-cam, much enjoyment of remote viewing, sharing the view with our friends of the farm… and in the end, two mamas delivered in the run-out, out of view of the camera entirely.

We came upon them immediately after delivery and had to make a judgement of who belonged to whom because there stood Maggie & Ruva with 4 darlings at their feet.  They sniffed and licked left and right and seemed indiscriminate.  Quickly we paired them up with our best guesses so that we could ensure everyone would get a proper meal and not be left out in the cold.  Maggie was behaving as though she was ready to abandon one of them.  Who knows?  Maybe she singled and Ruva tripled?  Anyway, they’ve each got, and are nursing, two beauties.  Nikki then lambed 4 hours later and delivered two more gorgeous bundles of wool.  Fortunately we were on the scene then because Pansy, Nikki’s sister, was in the stall with her and SO eager to snatch the babies.  We ushered Pansy out and away from the new lambs with as little intrusion upon Nikki’s laboring as possible.

Pansy, Lily & Winky await, not patiently.  Perhaps Mother’s Day will bring them special gifts?

I hope so.  I’m a bit tired.

But elated.

Nikki's little Shetland ewe lamb & Farmer Tam enjoying a gorgeous Vermont May day

Nikki’s little Shetland ewe lamb & Farmer Tam enjoying a gorgeous Vermont May day

Duck, Duck, Egg!

The Blue Runner Ducks are laying again.  Finding their eggs scattered willy-nilly about their duck coop since the beginning of March has been both a blessing and a curse.  I’d have to lay on my stomach every morning and crawl into their low-roofed abode, stretching and reaching toward the corners to harvest the precious cargo.  Then wriggle backwards out, still on my stomach, so that I wouldn’t slam my head on the top of the doorway.

I found a tool a couple of weeks into this new daily chore, and pulling the eggs out in the basket of a garden cultivator meant I was spared the (reeking) immersion.  However the long handle would awkwardly slam and jab the coop or me or get tangled in the mesh garden fencing outside -just another little annoyance that I seemed not to master.

This past weekend we pulled the roof off the coop, purged it of the very sodden & soiled (translation:  disgusting) bedding, refreshed it with pine shavings, and in a corner right next to the doorway, placed a pile of straw bits.

Just as I’d hoped, the gals created a stunning nest for depositing the daily golden eggs.

I love how animals communicate.

Indian Blue Runner Ducks' eggs

Know anyone looking for duck eggs? Hands down they are the best to bake with, and also make gorgeous decorated Easter Eggs.

Flying. Nuns.

Yesterday a friend and goat admirer stopped by while I was doing morning chores.  I was bundled to the nines, it was bitter in the a.m. and the morning barn is a cold barn.

Funny thing is that the evening beforehand I was having a great time mocking the commercials about some sort of cosmetic surgery to reconstruct your chin/neck to reveal a more youthful image to the world.  The point of the ad was that the sagging neck was unsightly, ugly, made you less than perfect and life was hardly worthwhile if you could fix it all with a new, younger neckline.  I mocked the ad so much that Char started giving me stern looks that it was quite enough, Mom.

Anyway, I never intended to be so moved as to remedy my own “sagging neckline” with my wooly neckwarmer this a.m., but the souvenir photo my friend sent along to me this evening had me in giggles.  I realized I was effectively combatting the cold while simultaneously “improving” my look!

I hope you can laugh along with me.  In the end, I just think a nun’s habit would do the trick as well.

Patricia & Farmer Tam

Patricia & Sister/Farmer Tam

But let’s talk about Patricia.  She is my beautiful mixed Nubian yearling doe.  She & her stall mates, Lucia & Marcia, love attention.  Of late, the goats have to stay inside because I need to do some fence repair on their pasture.  Waiting for a break in the weather, and after hearing this weekend’s forecast, it will be a few more days.

Patricia somehow managed to leap out of the window of their stall in the afternoon after I’d locked things up in the barn.  Or so I thought.  In the evening, Jim discovered her in the locked, (or so I thought), tack room, chowing down on the bin of sheep grain.  I did an extra evening check to make sure she wasn’t suffering from her overindulgence, and she sprightly jumped up onto the stall door to give me a hello,  just as she had in the morning.  She was as round as a barrel, but fine.

Jim did a special tie-job on the stall door/window, hopefully foiling attempt #2.  But hey, if these guys have learned how to fly, I’m banking on God to lend me a hand.

Monday Night Minus Football

We watched the Superbowl last evening.  I’m not an ace where football strategy is concerned, but I enjoyed the game.  I’m still wondering what I thought of the halftime show…

And here we are, the Monday-night-after.   Our Paint gelding, ‘Ruger Jac’, didn’t want to throw his weight around amongst the girls when it was time for dinner  this evening- a sure sign he wasn’t feeling well.  He had to be convinced to take his rations and convinced to come into the barn.  The girls tired of waiting for him, so they motored past to get to the hay.

I called in my reinforcements to help me complete the chores.  Jim & Char came out to help finish filling water buckets and then Char and I observed and inspected Ruger’s locomotion.  The ground is so darn hard and frozen everywhere that it’s tough to get a read on his gait and what exactly is going on.  There are ice-filled depressions in the footing around the barn and in the pasture so that moving evenly over the terrain is tricky.  We are sure he is in discomfort because of his tentative behavior and so we filled a stall full of shavings for him, loaded him up with rations and treated him with a dose of Bute as an anti-inflammatory for the night.

In the morning we’ll spend more time trying to assess what’s up, calling the vet if necessary.

I hope he’s right as rain tomorrow -it breaks my heart when my kids and my animals don’t feel well.

Ruger Jac's typical clownish behavior with SJ

Ruger Jac’s typical clownish behavior with SJ

Char had a pile of homework to attend to so Jim helped me with sheep-wrassling and we de-wormed the flock before I move them into new pasture in a couple of days.  This is our attempt to keep the flocks parasite-load down and to rotate pastures, allowing the freezing winter temps to kill any shed worms.  This is a way to minimize grazing in infested pastures.

I was able to do some exams on the ewes, too, to see who was approximately how far along and I think that the race is on between Ruva & Maggie for who will lamb first.  Fat bellies on those girls!  I’m so excited for lambs!

Last, but not least, I had Jim assist me with the dark-of-night covert chicken-wrangling.  We ferried fat hens from one coop to the other so as to empty the smaller coop, readying it for a new purpose.  Then, from the large coop, we retrieved the Faverolle Rooster, ‘Almonzo’, and his girls to the Love Shack.  We’ve got an order for Faverolle chicks to fill this spring and in order to ensure that the eggs we hatch out are purebred, it was time to sequester the micro-flock to their own quarters.

I’m not showing favoritism to the Faverolles, it’s just that there is this special request.  However, they are a delightfully tempered, beautiful and hardy breed so it will be fun to have more of them this year.

Join me in praying that they’re not all roosters when they hatch…

Our Faverolle Flock, last summer at 2 days old

Our Faverolle Flock, last summer at 2 days old

Weathering the weather

Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot.
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we
Like it or not!

(You all knew this little rhyme from childhood, right?)

Only 5 below this a.m. and the report on the barn critters is that Shetland Sheep are impervious to cold weather, horsies have frosty muzzles, hens have turned tail, ducks are tucking in and the goats NEVER enjoy the windchill.  Indoor pets have been enjoying luxurious sunny naps on the couches, yet spring into action to run around in the brisk outdoors whenever there are chores to be done.  I’ve been dosing on Vitamin D & lots of hot tea to help with the deep-winter slow down, getting excited for what is around the corner.

Enjoy the cold day photos from the farm, thanks for popping by!

January 24  Sunrise in Shaftsbury

January 24 Sunrise in Shaftsbury

Wethers weather the weather

Wethers weather the weather

Cold Ducks - thrilled with the extra hay I gave them this morning

Cold Ducks – thrilled with the extra hay I gave them this morning

Rear View of our little white leghorn - she peeked out into the cold, cold morning and then turned around fast to go back into the coop!

Rear View of our little white leghorn – she peeked out into the cold, cold morning and then turned around fast to go back into the coop!

Nite Nite enjoyed peppermints this morning

Nite Nite enjoyed peppermints this morning

Izzy had a frosty muzzle, too, but not too frosty to enjoy some peppermints after her breakfast.

Izzy had a frosty muzzle, too, but not too frosty to enjoy some peppermints after her breakfast.

Games on "Goat Rock" helps the girls to forget the cold for a bit.

Games on “Goat Rock” helps the girls to forget the cold for a bit.

Grain run

H.N. Williams, Dorset, Vermont

Here is where you’ll find me once a week, early in the morning, to stock up on organic grain for my turkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, ducks, horses & bunny.  Inside this fine establishment, a jury of gentlemen are assembled with coffees and donuts, cordial greetings and conversation ranging from the price of gas to whether you should fib when your wife asks you if “this dress makes me look fat.”  Sometimes I am the consult on certain topics, and so I weigh my words carefully in response to the chat-du-jour.

It’s out of my way, but they take great care of me here.  I’m grateful to live in a part of the world where you can pick up a car full of chow for your livestock and a freshly baked scone-to-go, get the bottom line on politics and the weather, and lean on the counter to share a farmyard story or two.

My family and I are grieving a recent loss.  My youngest brother.  A frequent compliment/condolence was that he lived a hundred years in his 50. He was the type of guy that had a thousand friends in the community.  He was just such a fella that took the time to chat.  They jokingly called him “the Professor” in his town, at his job, because of his knack for throwing himself into lectures and debates with his neighbors and co-workers, but finishing always with a joke and a smile.  I hadn’t recognized the value, the importance of my weekly grain-run ritual, spending time with this micro-community, until I sat down to write and fell to thinking about Larry….

I’m not sure how long I’ll be feeling so reflective, friends, so bear with me.  I’ve got a lot of blessings to count.

Free Horses

We’ve had 3 free horses here at the farm.  If you talk to a horse-person, they generally don’t think that a free horse is a thumbs up.  They’ll be skeptical.  They’ll be wary.

Our first free horses were a mother and daughter Arabians.  Very pretty girls that hadn’t been ridden in a long time.  Ten years or more.  So when we got them, they needed a little work.

My daughters love training horses and spent a good deal of time with the two ladies.  As it turned out, the senior mare(going on 30 years) just couldn’t carry any of us because she would go lame.  So we couldn’t really ride her.  In the herd she was the alpha and created tension in the paddock.  Her temperament was cool.

The younger gal was 20 and plenty fit.  She was a handful, though, and daughter Char was her rider.  Char worked with her intensely to get her to a manageable place.  She spent so much time with her, but got very little reward.  If she wasn’t being ridden consistently, she would slip right back to her old and haughty habits.

On top of this, she was a cribber.  “Cribbing” is when a horse bites onto a fence rail, or in Lunah’s case, anything, and sucks in air.  This action creates an endorphin rush and the horse becomes addicted to it.  Lunah came to us with this habit which she’d been indulging in for nearly 20 years.  We tried special collars and wrapping the wood with netting, running electric braid above the fence line, treating the fences with a foul-tasting product – nothing worked.  She was bent on getting her fix.

This behavior destroys the farmyard over time, but worse than that, it can be very harmful to the horse.  The horse can become prone to colic by having gas distention in its intestines or its teeth become worn down.

The last free horse we owned had been Max.  He came to us “Whiskey”, but Char renamed him.  He had some “crow-hopping” issues, some bucking.  While Char was schooling at home, she had time for a project horse.  When she became enrolled outside of the home, there was not as much time for working with him.  Each outing on Maximus resulted in rodeo-riding for Char.  After about a year, we felt that he wasn’t being ridden enough because our other, better-behaved horse became Char’s steed.

So we have found homes for our three free horses where it is a better fit.  And we have learned lessons from them that, in the end, may have paid off their debts while they were in our care.

No more free horses.

It’s in writing, so I must mean it. :-)

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Some of us have been away from the farm and are back, but we’re heading out again.  It’s a major feat, any of you that own a farm know, to get away for even a day.  So to be gone for 5 and then for 3, well, a lot can happen.

A quick peek at leading up to the first departure has me and my friends and family preparing 90 pies in my absence to carry on my baking business:

Good friend Kerry and I feel the “force” of rolling out 90 pies for the freezer!

Grammie & Sarah Jane having a fluting party.

And here, a couple pics from my absence reveals the why and the where and the how of the getaway:

Son Jody wins trip to FLW Forrest Wood Cup Tournament on Lake Lanier, invites mom to be his all-expense-paid guest and we go fishing with FLW Off! Pro Terry Bolton!

We are guests of FLW at the Forrest Wood Cup Tournament launch and weigh-ins for 4 days on Lake Lanier & in Duluth, Georgia.  Day 4 of the Forrest Wood Cup culminated in a huge and historical win for 21 year old Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis, IN.

I have a lot of musings about those few days away.  That’s what is nice about leaving town.  Experiences to make you appreciate your backyard and your community as well as the growth from seeing different places, inhaling and learning what you can from new smells, sampling a variety of tastes, listening and hearing fresh sounds and experiencing touch in a changed-up environment.

And nothing says “re-entry” like taking your bag out of the overhead compartment of the airplane on the last leg home and having it slam full-force into your eye/cheekbone, leaving you with a nice black-eye upon awaking the first morning back home.

Meanwhile, my fabulous farm-girl daughters and their friends baked and delivered my pie orders, the fatties(my meatbirds) are fatter, the turkeys are larger and more beautiful, the chickens are still happy, the sheep and goats were thrilled to see me, the pony laughed when I fed her an apple, and the dogs and cats climbed on me all night long.

Here’s to August!


Why my (people) house is a mess:

I began my day with the nicest visit from a neighbor and her little one and then sent two of my hens home with them to add to their flock.  After finishing the barn and coop chores, I took 50 photos of the Faverolle chicks and our dog Cricket.

The Faverolles are at that awkward “tween” stage of life, but I love them anyway.

Cricket is my favorite sidekick.

And that’s why I’m not likely to have a tidy home to accommodate our out-of-town guests next week.  It has less to do with my perception of the lack of household help, and more to do with my free-ranging whimsy.

Which would you rather?  Clean closets or gaze into puppy’s eyes?

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