Annmarie says I need to quit complaining about there being too much hay this year, since last year I complained that there was not enough hay! I told her I am embracing my inner farmer it has just taken me a while to internalize the dialogue. We were going to leave the farm for a whole week and I was super nervous that the hay would just lay on the ground an not get baled. Luckily for me a nasty weather front moved in and it has rained for the last three days! This has put the haying process off at least several days so now I can enjoy my time away from the farm guilt free. Our lavender patch is really shaping up this year. The bees from our hive love it and no plants died this last winter. We are hoping that by next year the plants will be nice and mature. Every year they get a little bigger.
The baler had a broken pickup tooth, so on Saturday first thing in the morning I decided to be a mechanic. Now honestly I don’t like to mechanic, but I do realize that it is a necessary evil. Mr Professional usually does all of the repair work. It was too early to bale so I decided to take on changing out one set of pickup rakes as that was what I was told was broken. Well after having broken a bolt and breaking out the grinder, hammering a piece straight on the anvil and discovering a second broken pickup rake I was two hours into the repair before I had them both changed out. I decided, after searching YouTube for a repair video and finding nothing, that I needed to start recording repair videos and posting them for everyone else who cannot find anything. So I took snippets of videos while I was doing my repair and now I just need to learn how to edit and mash all the snippets together into one video. I may even have to do voice over on the videos even though I did talk while filming the snippets. I am trying to work on a TikTok channel but I am not sure if I can figure that out or not. Somethings I don’t understand well but daughter #1 tells me I need to get with the times.
The girls are managing things while we are away. So daughter #1 and daughter #2 are in charge! Daughter #2 has been watching the sheep and so far it is going amazingly well. We have had triplets, twins, single, twins, twins, triplets. The last set of triplets today the single mother took over one of them! We are so keeping her, if she will foster out an extra baby every year she is worth the effort to hold onto her. It is hard to find a non-picky ewe and having 1-3 of them in the flock is a true blessing. Lambs don’t go hungry when you have a few in the herd. So far this year our lamb productivity is at 200%! This is the best start we have ever had.
Daughter #2 could not start the John Deere tractor this morning. She texted me and I was sure that the battery was acting up again, nope, she did not have it in neutral!
We have five creches, jugs per wife, for newborns setup in the barn. One is larger than the others so we stuff multiple day old mommas and babies in it to free up the individual jugs. Twice this week I have had to go out after work and tag and band babies to release them into the momma/baby large pen. There was simply no room at the inn to keep them until the weekend. Now when there is only one momma and a set of twins in a single jug it is relatively simple to tag and band and send a text to Annmarie with momma number, number and gender of baby(s) and their tag numbers. This is infinitely more complex when you stuff four mommas and four sets of twins into one large jug and you want to assign the correct babies to the correct mothers. I had to just sit down on the barn floor in the bedding and watch the sheep to see who belonged to whom. The easiest way is to wait for them to nurse. The mommas don’t like milk stealers and will head butt any strays to keep them away. This worked for the first two pairs but the second pairs I finally had to catch babies and just hold onto them until they bleated then turn them loose in hopes that they would run to mom. It took about thirty minutes to get them all tagged and banded. I even managed to get more baby sheep poop all over my Carhart overalls. As soon as we are done lambing it will be time to wash the overalls. They are getting all kinds of interesting substances on them.
The babies are so curious that if you just sit down on the floor and stay quiet and they will come over and start sniffing you and playing around you. This is highly entertaining and very therapeutic. It is very hard to be sad or frustrated when baby lambs are leaping around you and coming over to sniff your boots and hands. I highly recommend this course of treatment. Especially when an entire section of the barn is nothing but lambs cavorting and running around like miniature mobs.
Thanksgiving was very nice, a good friend of our came up to spend it with our family. This is always nice as I did not do any work on the farm other than feed and take care of babies while Doug was visiting. He left Saturday morning and I headed out to the barn to do chores right afterwards. There were four more ewes that had given birth! There were two sets of twins and two singles. I pushed everyone else out of the barn then proceeded to rearrange areas to take the new babies and mommas. I put both singles and their mothers in the same pen, I tag and banded the twins that were under the stairs and released them into the momma/baby area. I put a new set of twins under the stairs and I penned the last set of twins in the far back corner of the barn mostly because they were there already and it was easy to pen them there. I then had to feed and water everyone. At some point trying to get over the 2×4 we keep at the barn entrance, to keep the horse out of the barn, I ended up falling on my face. Luckily, the ground was dry and I was able to slow my fall. This would have been very messy earlier in the week when there was four inches of squishy mud and sheep poop. I will be moving the 2×4 over to the end gate on the side of the barn, I don’t know why I did not think of this sooner. I guess I just needed the proper motivation.
I had noticed that the spring was getting pretty muddy the previous day. It was a combination of silt buildup and sheep pushing dirt into the spring bed. So after taking care of the sheep I went and dug out a short section of the spring bed. I even built a new cinder block wall out of six blocks using sticks, mud and gravel, not my best work but I do expect it to last through the winter until it can be corrected in the summer. I went in and took a nap after that. I used the breaker bar too much last week helping with the fence and had to sleep 10-12 hours a night for three nights running to even feel good. My chest pain started to come back so I have vowed to take it easier and let my helpers do the metal breaker bar work and I need to let them do the heavy lifting. Even after 12 months of catching Covid, I am still taking high dose aspirin, only twice a day now, and get intermittent chest pain with increased physical activity. My hope is that by 18 months I will be back to normal, the only real problem is I will be 1.5 years older and out of shape!
Mr Rainman and Mr Tex came out this morning to work on fence. There was another set of twin lambs born last night. So all of the mommas/babys from yesterday all got shoved together in the far end of the barn and the new set of twins got put under the stairs.
11 of 34 ewes have given birth, 32% completed
Lambs born alive 18, birth rate 164%
Stillborn lambs 0
Lambs rejected 0
Lambs died before 2 weeks 0
Lambs bummered not rejected 0
Flock productivity 164%
Singles 5 of 11, 45%
Twins 5 of 11, 45%
Triplets 1 of 11, 9%
My single biggest summer project is getting the rastra and new drive over culvert installed. After that is in then I can think about other items. We would like to get our septic tank pumped but currently no big truck can get to the house.
We worked on the fence some more, the barn lot is pretty beat up alongside the wheat field. The horse has been pushing on it and bending the T-posts. We are working on getting some wooden posts in the ground along that side of the fence but it is rock from about 12” down, very hard to dig a hole in. Luckily, with the moisture we have had we are having pretty good luck digging holes with the tractor auger, I only sheared 3 shear bolts today. We are working on the corridor fence that will allow us to run the animals from pasture to pasture without keeping all of the pastures open. We want to control the pasture rotation better next year. We think we can extend the usefulness of our pasture this way. We got 18 posts set today with 12 of those including digging the hole. We had to create one rock-jack as the posts were directly on top of a rock bluff. I think four more days should see us getting the fence completed. Its a race with the weather now. Although it was 66 degrees F today and we all wore short sleeves and blue jeans, except me, I wore a long sleeve shirt also but I do that when its 100 degrees F. The weather is very crazy.
Well, we think we are done having lambs. It was pretty drawn out this year and our plan to stop this is to turn the ram loose with the sheep in a confined space. When he has to run all over the farm and try and catch all the ewes to breed he starts taking his time and we need a faster approach. We will be putting the ram in with the ewes in 1-2 weeks so he can start the process all over again and we will have lambs again in five months!
49 lambs born alive
32 ewes delivered
0 pregnant ewes (we think….)
15 single lambs
17 twin lambs
3 bummer lambs, all survived
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
144% production rate (goal >150%)
96% survival rate at birth
98% survival rate at 2 weeks
Annmarie has already sold 20-25 lambs to a person nearby who wants to start their own herd of hair sheep! The truly amazing part is this same person wants to run them in with his Dexter cows!! We got a good laugh out of that as we thought we were the only ones in the area who had done this. He wants the sheep to eat what the cows will not which is exactly what they will do. He has not yet discovered the joy of eating a hair sheep and the fact that they are milder and sweeter tasting.
A lot has been happening on the farm. Not a lot by me, but stuff is getting done. As always, Annmarie is keeping us afloat and continues to do 85% of the chores, maybe 90%! I do go out to the barn once a week to “do my part”. Getting to the barn is the hardest part, once I am there I can do the feeding but the return trip to the house I can feel the shortness of breath and chest pain kicking in, I need to get past the Covid leftovers so I can be ready for spring. The sheep are really not doing their part on having babies. They are doing some serious lollygagging, I suspect the chief culprit is the ram. So we are still lambing, one here, one there, we have only had two born since the last blog update.
30 lambs born
20 ewes delivered
15 pregnant ewes (I counted Jan 2, 2021)
10 single lambs
10 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
29 lambs on the farm
150% birthing rate
145% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (26/26)
On Friday, I needed to go to the scrap metal yard and pickup a culvert and check on my gates. We have opted to no longer go with commercial gates as the bull has decided he can just bend and twist them to his whims. I had asked for three 12’ gates a few weeks ago, I now need five 12’ gates. Luckily, I knew there was needed lag time so I don’t need them for about another two months. I am now on the list for five gates. I picked up two loads of old metal rims for a new section of fence down by the machine shop and a 20’ four foot diameter culvert for the barn lot drive over crossing. This crossing will be about 16 feet of drivable wide crossing with the other four feet taken up by concrete rastra and rebar. I am going to put rastra on both ends of the culvert and some cable between the two ends so if the water runs over the top it won’t be able to push out the downstream side. This and two fencing projects are the big ticket items for this next summer. I ordered an attachment for the tractor bucket that should allow me to push in a T post into the ground instead of pounding it in. This won’t help where its super rocky but the fence I want to install is just long, not horrible tough ground. So I now have some more metal rims, but not enough to do the section of fence I want yet. I will need more trips to the junkyard for that. This expended a lot of energy, even though I did a lot of sitting.
I am not known for my Uber iPhone skills so my phone will randomly take pictures when I am trying to use the camera. I decided to keep the sleeve picture as its my father’s old denim coat from the late 1960’s. We use it as a barn coat and it has just gained more character the longer it is in use.
Saturday morning was the planned day to work on the barn and I just did not want to get out of bed. I was reminded that the day before was really a play day and I now needed to get to the planned job. Again, very correct and I drug myself out of bed and went and picked up Mr Professional so we could work on the bathroom. We managed to get the window cut using a plastic bag and a vacuum cleaner to try and keep the dust to a minimum. This is never possible when cutting sheet rock with a sawzall. So it took another hour to vacuum, wipe up the mess and clean up the stairwell. I spent most of the day cleaning up the breeze porch. The window caulk came and I want to get it up so we can keep some of the bugs off of the porch. We removed lots of trash and tools and even ordered some new dog kennels in an attempt to neaten up the porch.