Trickle lambs

It looks like a lamb but it is just one of the barn cats! I had to really look when I went to feed and water our “wide as long” ewe. The new barn cat has been hanging out with this ewe for the last couple of weeks. Annmarie spotted the ewe chasing her off a couple of days ago. We are hoping that means she will have her babies soon! They get super protective before and after delivering.

The barn is definitely chaos now when you walking through trying to feed. I shuffle my feet so I can just scoot the lambs out of the way as I head to the feeders. I love this part of having sheep. It is pure chaos and cacophony in the barn. After feeding I usually walk through and snag various lambs to pickup and pet on. The ewes get so tame that you can just walk through and touch everyone. During the summer we will only be able to touch 3-5 as they get very wild running around and free ranging.

Every morning and night we go out expecting babies and are disappointed. I did the night chores on Wednesday at night and checked, no babies. I went out, in the daylight, first thing in the morning Thursday and found a set of twins under the overturned wheelbarrow! The little buggers had hid from me the previous night. I chased the mommas out and noticed that their momma went right to them. She had to have bonded well and fed them well for them to survive outside in 26 F weather. I chased the pregnant mommas back into their area and opened up the area under the stairs. I put food and water in there and chased the momma inside. I had to snag both babies and they tried to run away which is a great sign of their strength. I locked them up and left them. I had noticed that they had nursed already so I was hopeful they would get their sea legs back. Last night they looked great!! We are going to write down the ear tag numbers if either twin is a girl because that is one good momma! The ewe is pretty jumpy, but it is her first set of babies but coming back and owning them after they spent 12 hours outside is amazing. No more babies this morning. The twins looked great, but they are small and I will paste them tonight. I didn’t want to upset the mother. I am going to have to increase the height of one wall under the stairway. the gate on one end is low and I need to raise it. We like this area as a crèche. Normally, it was just sitting unused but this is the second year we have used it and its handy.

The two DeWalt battery work lights are amazing! We now have them at each end of the barn and if you turn them both on the entire barn is lit. We are seriously considering two more, one for each hay room and calling it good. We were talking about installing solar and a 12 V storage system with LED lights throughout the entire barn. That was gonna cost about $2k without labor. For $480 and 4 hours of labor to install mounting spots we can have better than daylight light levels inside the barn.

We are talking about a water storage tank for watering in the winter. The water could come from the roof and a gutter system. This is purely in the discovery phase. I would love to find a 500-1000 gallon water storage tank for fairly inexpensive. I also still need a manure spreader! So keep your eyes out for one, looking for an older one that needs a new floor. I want it to work, but it does not have to be pretty.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles (39%)

17 twins (52%)

3 triplets (9%)

33 ewes birthed

5 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

5 babies dosed only

2 babies undosed

Production rate:

Birthed 185%

On our farm and alive 161%. 150% is great, 125% is bare minimum. We are winning!!

It’s the small things that count

Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.

I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!

The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.

I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.

I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.

Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.

I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.

I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.

Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.

Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.

Almost 75% done lambing

We keep thinking we are closing in on being done but the sheep are dragging it out. After tonight we have 11 ewes still to give birth out of 40. Every day we get one more ewe. I had three tonight that look like their sides are going to split open. They are almost as wide as they are long.

Annmarie flipped me a lot of flack over my last post. I did not feel well and she said I failed to capture any humor and kept repeating myself. After sleeping for 14 hours and rereading my post I did notice a prolific amount of repetitive statements. So in the interest of appearing to have an interesting life I am going to attempt to be an engaging author tonight. I am not saying that this is possible every time because in all reality it is not. Sometimes I think my success at the blog as far as sticking with it is because I do refuse to quit. I do just keep after it. Annmarie tells me I can not post or do it later but I know if I don’t keep after it I may stop or just limit my post to the occasional humorous story. Fifty years from now when our relatives are reading this blog and looking at the pictures and the books we have made of each year (which Annmarie has to catch up on) they will know what has happened in our lifetime, our trials and tribulations, the minutia and the cost of running a farm. We were able to save a lot of pictures and knowledge but there are still mysteries we keep discovering. I would like future generations to know what happened while we were stewards of the farm. Three years ago, Annmarie brought home some large used gunny sacks from coffee bean storage to use out in the barn. I had grand plans to make removable frames and stretch them over the frames to keep the barn warmer in the winter. Today I finally just put them over the wire panels I have over the windows. The barn already gets several degrees warmer just from shutting it up the gunny sacks will help. Installing the large window will make the biggest change and I really want to do that next year.

We had another single baby born yesterday during the day. This morning Annmarie discovered another very large single baby and tonight I found another set of twins. The twins were still wet and the ewe had not passed the placenta yet. I watched both lambs nurse before I used the lambs as bait to lure the new momma into her own private area. I did not dose the babies with selenium paste, when they are that new we try not to mess with them a lot until the momma is well bonded. She was very attentive to both lambs.

As I made my way out to the lamb shed to feed the ram I started looking around and my head lamp kept spotting eyes all over the place watching me! I chased two deer away trying to discover if they were coyotes. Three different cats from various buildings or near the creek tried to creep up on me. Its kinda spooky! If we could have two ewes give birth every day by Sunday afternoon we could tag and band and almost be done with the whole lambing season. I will redo the count but again, a disclaimer, until we do the next tag and band session and do a physical count these numbers are mere educated guesses.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

12 singles

14 twins

3 triplets

29 ewes birthed

11pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

12 babies dosed only

2 babies just born

Assimilation issues

Well we are not part of the Weather Underground yet. One of the things that Annmarie and I did not know was that Weather Underground actually has recommendations for brands and models of weather stations that work well with their website. We did not get a recommended brand so Annmarie is going to have to work harder to make it happen. I am sure she can win once she puts her mind to it. She tells me that she just redid it today about two hours ago and thinks it may work! We are KORPILOT6 and so far it is not updating put it can take up to one day to update on Weather Underground so we will hopefully be up and running tomorrow. The ram must have had some issues when he was impregnating all the ewes. We went four days without a single ewe having a baby. Since Thursday we have only had one ewe per day give birth. We are thinking he went at his job gangbusters and got all the compliant and easy ewes first, had to take a few days of rest to recuperate and then started to work harder to get all the Wiley ewes. This part of the process seemed to take longer if our extended birthing time is any indication of his progress.

On Thursday I found the first single baby and isolated them in the momma baby area for the day. Unfortunately, I had installed our brand new aluminum gate between the momma/baby and pregnant ewe area. Doing work in the barn should not be an unfortunate thing but it seems like whenever I change something the sheep figure out how to prove that the job is incomplete. The little buggers can squeeze through the new gates! I had three lambs in the wrong area and unlike the feeders that they usually just crawl back out, they did not want to leave all those adult sheep even though none of them were their mommas. Two of the babies had ear tags already and the third was tagless but a big baby and not new. The first two just ran over and found momma and ate, the tagless one was crying nonstop and could not find momma. I had to block the new gate with an old wooden gate to keep the lambs from repeating that trick.

Momma had abandoned him so he came inside and went into the laundry basket. He jumped out first thing and ended up doing the four way splits on our tile floor. I was heating up his bottle when this occurred. After saving him he took a little milk and fell instantly asleep. I fed him three more times but every time he got a little in his tummy he would just fall back asleep. Tisha came and saved him, he will go live with the other three bummers, all of them are still alive.

On Friday we had another single lamb and the rest of our brand new movable gates arrived. Now I just need to find time to fix them, Annmarie suggested we just cover the bottoms with chicken wire so as not to add weight to the gates.

Saturday morning we had a set of twins. Every lamb has been getting the paste and now that it is freezing outside we don’t have to use the syringes. We just squeeze out the frozen length we need and roll it into a ball and then feed it to the lamb.

The lambs are all over the place, I am sure we have lost track of how many we have despite writing it down every day. We should only have 9 untagged babies now but when I look at them running around it looks like more that’s that. Next week I will do the whole tag and band adventure and then we will count everyone again. We have 14 ewes left to give birth. One ewe is not pregnant so we will watch her, I am not sure if she is barren or just lost her baby but she has no udder and is not pregnant. She does have a girl tag, I might want to check her gender just in case there was an error. The lambs are very comical at this age and there are a lot of them. I was out in the barn today applying chicken wire to all the new gates and they were running all over the place. I had kicked out the ewes and pasted and moved the single lamb with our old lead ewe into the momma/baby area. This let me keep the barn closed up so I could fix and install new gates and not worry about mixing up everyone. This is a nightmare if you have to resort with this many babies. The chute doesn’t work well as everyone gets separated. You have to mix the sheep up in a pen then find babies and get them to bleat so you can find their momma then separate them off, it takes forever.

The lambs kept trying to go outside, so they would run down the chute and then run back to the main area. I snagged this picture when they were running back into the main area. This is not all of them.

I just zip tied some chicken wire to our brand new fancy gates. The gates are very light and we did not want to put wire panel pieces on them and weight them down. The chicken wire adds almost no weight and does its job well.

I installed a gate in the far end and attached two new anchor bolts into the main beam so there are no more bungee cords needed. I also installed a gate over the end of the chute so we can close the gate and the babies cannot sneak through. I also installed another gate between the momma/baby area and the pregnant ewes. I had to use bungee cords on that one. I need to install another board and some eye bolts.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

10 singles

13 twins

3 triplets

25 ewes birthed

15 pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

 10 babies dosed only

These numbers are a mere approximation. Until I do the tagging and banding and physically touch every baby and count every ewe these are best guess. It never fails that every year I try and keep a strict count I always manage to get off somehow. They do add up but that doesn’t mean they are right.

Let there be light

The weather station is still working 24 hours later. Annmarie will have to figure out why its not talking to the Weather Underground as she is the go to electronics fixer.

When I went out to the barn this morning we only had one more lamb, a single, that makes the second single we have had this lambing season. I am counting as it has been very few this time. I got the new mom and baby over to the momma area and I used the isolated ewe’s lamb as bait and she walked through the whole crowd of sheep to go over into the chute system allowing me to move her into the momma area.

Annmarie and I have been talking about what we can do to better divide up the barn during lambing. One of the things we started this time in earnest was figuring out how to move a wall in the main part of the barn therefore expanding the momma baby area as lambs are born. We still need to keep the chute intact to allow us to get the sheep in and out of the barn. We went to Premier1fencing website today and ordered all the stuff. I will need to cut two 16′ 3×3 in panels into four foot sections and we will be ready. This will make it possible for us to just create a moving wall with gates in it for easy access throughout the barn. We probably have 50 bungee cords in use in the barn. When you have to jump over the wall or undo the bungees its easier to jump over. I only almost fell on my face twice. The nice part is there is a thick layer of poop impregnated straw just waiting to pad the fall. It would be more humiliating than anything.

If you look closely at the side of the grain bin in the below picture you will see our new Dewalt rechargeable light. I bought it as a Santa gift for Annmarie. It is incredibly bright and makes it a dream to work out in the dark. I was trying to figure out how to install boards everywhere to clamp it on when we accidentally discovered it has magnets! (Annmarie read the directions) She discovered it would stick to the grain bin fantastically so today I went out and used an old piece of tin and made metal pads throughout the barn on various walls.

You can see two of them on this wall at both ends of the picture. I installed five of these on opposite walls. The one end has the metal grain bin to mount on and the other side has a 2×6 that the light can be clamped onto. We can now move the light all around the inside of the barn. It is so cool we may get a second one and I can put off installing solar panels and a 12V electric system for another 3-5 years. Its rechargeable so we can just bring it inside the house and recharge it. We have had it a week and it is just as bright as ever. We typically only use it 30-60 minutes a day.

The chickens are enjoying the back hillside today. It is truly amazing to realize its almost January and we still have green grass on the hillside. You can see the weather station on the right end of the wood shed. We are getting a great wireless signal from it.

Lambies are here

The quail have discovered our yard. We like this as we get to see them and the dogs seem to ignore them. The only real problem is our very large living room windows look out onto the yard. The stupid quail think they can fly through the window! I heard a large crash in the living room and ran into it from the kitchen, there were feathers on the window but by the time I got to the window the cat had already managed to pounce on one stunned quail and bit it in the neck killing it. I saved the other one but it had broke its neck and was dead so I didn’t really save its life. We would love to have 50+ quail flying around all over the farm, instead we have about 15 now flying around and we are two more short now.

I snagged this picture of all the pregnant ewes the day before they started popping out babies. They were very interested in eating as much hay as possible and ignoring me. I had just thrown out another bale of straw a few days before this picture.

The lambs are coming fast and furious now! Annmarie is on winter break from her job and is going out to the barn three times a day to deal with all the new babies. We have had one ewe deliver one baby, one triplets and one quadruplet. We have only had to bummer out one lamb and he was from a twin set. The mother is not very good about raising more than one lamb. We need to cull her. The quadruplets seem to now be triplets and the fourth lamb is now with one of our older mothers that only had a single baby. She is now nursing two lambs and everyone is very happy. So we have 16 lambs and 8 ewes feeding them. We still have 30-32 ewes left to give birth. We usually have about a 135% birth rate but we are over 200% now. If we keep that up we will end up with 80 lambs and 40 ewes! That is a lot of sheep. I will be super happy with a 150% birth rate. In a couple more days we will start letting the older babies go outside with their mommas into our limited outside newborn enclosure. This is our set of triplets. All the babies but three are solid chocolate brown. Three of them are spotted white and brown and very cute. One of those is a girl as I checked while getting lamb snuggles today. We may keep her. Her mother is super relaxed and calm which is what we are looking for in a breeder ewe. Annmarie and I went to town tonight and got two 8 foot gates so we could use them in the barn. Annmarie wants to order some twisty hinges from our sheep products supply company and I will be cutting 4×16 foot 3 inch square panels into 4×4 foot sections for her to arrange in any pattern her heart desires. The small panels make it easy to move parts all around the barn. I will need to grind off the sharp edges after I cut them with bolt cutters. We will order the twisty things when we order some liquid marking paint. Our hope is the ewes all have their babies in the next seven days.

Barn teenager done

As I slept on the cough today trying to get better Bubba “finished” the barn. I say this because Bubba did a teenager finish. I now really understand my father as he was always getting on me about the minutiae. I learned by the time I was a teenager that the job had to be perfect. Yet every teenager I have ever had out to the farm uses a different measuring stick of completion. Bubba is correct, this section is clean of poop and straw. Yet for the barn to be functional we have to have all the sorting pen that was removed reinstalled and all of the feeders put back out.

This doesn’t include the two smaller areas where we keep the new mommas. It still needs to be cleaned out and under the stairs needs to be cleaned out. I went out and talked to Bubba to give him clearer directions and then we went over how to clean out the chicken coop. He started working on the coop after that and I went back to the couch for another several hour nap. We should have all the buildings cleaned out by Monday. I am super stoked. I need about 8 more hours on the bull enclosure and then its onto the next project. I need to trim the alpaca feet and fix the machine shed overhead beams I broke last year with the tractor. I will call on Monday and get some custom beams cut for the repair.

We need to clean out the milking area also. Meathead is coming out on Tuesday to finish moving all the straw and poop from the barn over into the compost pile. She can grab the extra compost from the alley way and front barn lot at the same time. There are four big rocks in the milking area I would like to take out. They were used as support for floor beams but they just get in the way now. I have tried to get them out with the tractor but there is no room to move the tractor around in this tight space. I am just going to have to use a breaker bar, shovel and fulcrum to get them out. Last night I went to bed early due to an illness. I was dead asleep when I was woken up by the dogs just raising a ruckus outside. It sounded like they were tearing something up and it was vicious. This went on for a little while then I heard Annmarie slap the side of the house loudly to shut them up and I fell back asleep. When she came to bed she told me that the dogs were at the back garden gate barking and trying to get at the four raccoons on our back porch. They were helping themselves to the cat food. She had flipped on the light and took a shot at them with the 30-30. She missed as they were almost gone by the time she got back with a weapon. So we have baited the back porch with more cat food tonight. I didn’t feed the cats in the barn and we are going to send Annmarie out to the chicken coop area and I will come out the back door blazing. Last night the raccoons ran toward the chicken coop. Annmarie will be waiting for them. As soon as I start shooting she will turn on her flashlight. I will not leave the back yard so she can shoot at anything that comes her way, no crossing of fire lanes. This is a stupid problem to have but they cannot get at my chickens! My babies should be laying next month and I do not want to wait another 8 months before getting more eggs.