Lambs squared

Annmarie said the sunrise was beautiful. I was inside nursing a cup of coffee and doing the dishes while she went out to check on the lambs. It has been 44 hours since our last post and we have only had one lamb born in that time frame. Honestly, sometimes the life of the farmer will make you crazy. The timeline is not set by you, its set by the animals and the weather. Even after all these years I want to drink coffee and take it slow in the morning and Annmarie has already been out to the barn and is now making us mashed potato, ham and onion pancakes for breakfast while I “blog it”.

The last 24 hours has been full of those teaching moments. Thursday night I woke up to Annmarie hollering “Chickens!” Followed by a slap to the chest. We sleep with the windows open year round and so when something is picking on the chickens we usually hear their death squawks, it is a very distinct scream. We have an automatic chicken door, if the stupid chickens would just go inside the coop before it gets dark then they would be perfectly safe. I have been getting eggs on a more regular basis but I don’t go out every night. I have noticed over the last two weeks that 1-5 chickens are protesting and refusing to head back to the coop until the automatic door is already shut. When I do go out and notice them I throw them inside the coop, unfortunately I don’t always go out and the predators seem to be more reliable than me when it comes to visiting the coop.

I leapt out of bed and grabbed my glasses and almost ran downstairs naked, but its cold outside and the death knell had already been sounded so I figured there was no saving the chicken. I grabbed the first bathrobe I could and ended up with a thigh high robe and headed downstairs in my slippers and robe to confront another chicken destroyer. I grabbed the trusty laser sight Walther P22 pistol and ran out the front door. I went right for the coop via the front yard. I wanted to catch the varmint in action! I spotted feathers as soon as I got out of the yard, there was a trail leading out of the coop yard door headed toward the barn. I started following the feather trail in hopes of finding the cause of said trail. I went over by the barn, looked in the front creek, flashed light over the hillsides and under barn to no avail. I headed back to the barn and spotted a chicken over by the old house. It was the source of the feathers and it was still alive! So I decided to leave it and complete my patrol. The last place to look was over on the dry creek side of the old house that runs behind our house. A HUGE fat raccoon was waddling away and he was already about 60 feet away. I quickly discovered a few problems. When you shine the super bright flashlight on the object of your desire, you cannot see the laser dot. 60 feet is a long way to shoot a pistol at a moving target and after three shots there is so much smoke, your super bright flashlight now makes it look like light is emanating from your head. To combat this shroud of light surrounding me I pointed the flashlight way off to one side and focused the laser dot near said enemy and blasted some more. All in all I hit nothing, Annmarie is now ribbing me about my shooting accuracy and just going out and plinking is not the same thing. So after the sheep are done lambing I will be going out after dark with my trusty Walther P22 pistol and shooting at my target in the dark with a flashlight only. I may have to resort to doing it in a bathrobe and slippers or just the slippers to mimic my combat environment. The battle was lost but the ongoing war is not yet decided. I will not give up!

So as soon as I get home yesterday I am walking down the sidewalk and Annmarie hollers from the barn that she needs some help. I expected this as we were going to try and go to the movies. The next words out of her mouth brought dread to my head. She cackles “you better bring the shoulder gloves”. There is only one reason to grab the gloves, someone needs help birthing a lamb. I have only had to assist twice in eight years and so far I have a ewe survival rate of 50%. Annmarie and I have this discussion every time I think I am going to have to pull a lamb out. I don’t like it. She says her dad did it all the time. I tell her she grew up on the farm so she should do it. She tells me I have helped deliver human babies so I have more experience. I tell her they are in no way the same as you don’t need a shoulder glove to help with a human birth! She then states I have done it twice already so am the more experienced as she has never done it so I get to do it again. This is typically done with me laying on the barn floor and Annmarie holding the ewe down. I dread it every time it comes up, we have the exact same conversation every time and every time I end up wearing the glove. I grabbed two gloves just in case and went out to the barn.

She had isolated one ewe and her single baby. The baby was huge and she was worried that a second baby was stuck. The mother was active, interactive with her lamb and eating and drinking. I told Annmarie I don’t go in until the situation is desperate. This was no where near desperate, personal crisis averted. We fed and watered the rest of the sheep, Annmarie had already rearranged the barn and added in the two wire gates. We will do some more pen building today.

After the movies I had to go out to the barn in the pouring rain to check on that ewe and her baby. Luckily I got some new mud boots this week and going through the mud pit to get to the barn is pleasant. I keep tying to plant some kind of grass or cover that will last the summer but this rock bluff gets parched and hot and everything dies in the summer.

Every picture has baby lambs hidden all over the place!

Wife rabbit punched me

I have been having horrible rib pain the last two weeks. Nothing I seem to do is making it better and it just persists. The odd part is it is all low rib and diaphragm region. It has been going on long enough that I had started accusing Annmarie of rabbit punching me in the ribs when I was asleep. I could not figure out what was causing the pain. Well I figured it out on Wednesday, it is my welding class. We are doing vertical SMAW welding (rod welding) and the way I am holding it in an attempt to get a passing bead is causing me to tense up my muscles. So for six hours a week I am tightening my diaphragm and rib muscles. They do not like nor appreciate the workout. I have quit blaming the wife.

The closet shelves look great and Annmarie has already started to put stuff on them so tomorrow I need to get some varnish on them. I am going to do it in the upstairs bathroom area so I can leave the vent fan on all night long. I got a little light headed when I put the stain on and don’t want a repeat of that with the varnish.

Earlier in the week I was lazy and with the weather being nice I fed the sheep out the side of the barn onto the ground. The sheep kept trying to sneak in through the door and get directly into the hay room. So every time I opened the door to toss out hay I had to be quick. As I was getting ready to head back inside I noticed one ewe picking the alfalfa leaves off of the back of our ram. He was almost green from standing under the door as I tossed out flakes of hay. She had figured out it was easier and more productive to just eat off of his back then dig through the hay on the ground.

I like to make a hearty breakfast when I am going to be working outside during the day. This lets me skip lunch and not starve to death, I had ham, potatoes and onions this morning then poured some green salsa over the top and it was wonderful. Our pig turned out very nice this year and the ham is very good.

I need to go pickup my 1×8 x8′ boards we purchased at the fundraiser but I need the flatbed trailer. I still had 20 railroad ties on it so today I hauled them off with the tractor. The only bad part is I have to manually lift all 20 ties onto the the tractor bucket one at a time. So I now have about 30 large wooden fence posts to use next year. I want to put several in the barn lot to finish stiffening the outer fence and cross fencing the inside.

I got a call this week from the water conservation district about our grant application to fence off the creek in a couple of places. This helps limit and control access to the water mostly for the cows. I can still use the sheep to go in and clean out the weeds alongside the waterway. This will also allow us to kill areas and then replant them which will cut down on the weeds. We should know by January whether we get the grant or not. We supply half the cost of the fence, which equates to all the labor to install it and have to purchase all the supplies in advance and don’t get reimbursed until the fence is installed.

I ended up moving scrap metal around to our metal pile behind the grain bins. I still have a pile over by the old house that needs to get moved. I will be seeing if I can put on an old tire onto my Toyota pickup bed trailer I got from the scrap yard. I can haul it around with my tractor and get it filled with all the metal from the old house. I also need to drag all the scrap metal and fencing in the ram pasture to the pile. If it doesn’t rain tonight and tomorrow I can do that in the late afternoon. This will get the ram pasture all cleaned up.

The chickens are not doing their part. We were down to two eggs a day and now that I have replaced the light bulb we are getting 4-5 eggs/day. I really need to off the slackers.