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.
Well it is now 2021, we were fortunate to have a New Year’s lamb born yesterday. Unfortunately, it was in one of our young lambs that Annmarie did not think was pregnant, just fat due to her age, so instead of 6 ewes left we probably do have around a dozen left to deliver lambs. We kept quite a few 6 month old lambs this summer when we culled and they must have been old enough to get pregnant. Yes we do know they can pregnant that young but for the most part they tend not to in our experience.
I decided the upstairs bathroom needs to get finished. Due to Covid I have not been doing much this last month but I am having Mr Professional come out now and he does most of the work, cringingly I will add that I do a lot of supervising! This will make some people happy in my life but it is incredibly frustrating for me to stand around and do something for five minutes then sit down and wait or breathe. I vacuumed bugs off of the breeze porch five different times! We have a Dyson with a four foot rigid hose attachment and I kept vacuuming them up and dumping them outside all day. The chickens will not eat grease bugs or the black and red ones, this is a travesty as we have a lot of those bugs around the place. I ordered two cases (24 tubes) of silicone caulk last night as I will be improving the sealing around the inside breeze porch windows and inside siding. The bugs made me crazy yesterday, they kept dive bombing me while I was sitting around doing nothing.
I did manage to get the inside portion for our bathroom window cut. The plan is for me to finish the rough frame, install it and then Mr Professional and I will mark the stairway side by drilling the corners, blue taping the seam, cutting away the Sheetrock with a razor blade with a vacuum going then we will cut out the wood shiplap. Our “window” is a stained glass piece that will look out into the natural light coming into the stairwell. It will be about eight feet above the stairs and protected from approach by a moving overhead fan, no one will be peaking. The bathroom Is in the middle of the house and has no natural light so we thought this was a good way to just come some ambient light into the room and display our purchase from an Oregon Coast trip made in 2020. It will be our version of shining some beautiful light on 2020!
We got the room cleaned up prior to starting as it had “acquired” some items over the last year, cleaned up the horizontal surfaces and floor of dirt and debris. We collected tools, emptied out 12 month old construction supplies into the outside dumpster and then spent about an hour trying to figure out where the cut pieces we had leftover went! We figured that out and figured out which ones we wanted to discard and then started in on the closet area. It doesn’t look like we got much done but we actually installed 11 pieces of wood yesterday. Of those five had to be be custom fitted with more than a single saw cut. It is progress and this is a great thing!!
Our chickens are going gangbusters! We have 27 hens and they are old enough now we have two sizes of eggs, small and extra large. We are collecting almost 16 eggs every day in winter with a light bulb, on a timer, that gives them 17 hours of light a day. This is what I would expect of my summer production so I am not sure what the summer is going to look like. I usually only get about 30% production in winter and 50% in summer. Unfortunately, these chickens don’t like to go into the coop at night so we end up chasing 3-7 chickens in due to them missing the automatic door opportunity. The raccoons will solve this problem eventually.
The mild winters have been great for our bird populations. We have about 50 quail living on the property now and I have it on authority that there are at least 18 rooster pheasants running around on New Year’s Eve. I see the pheasants all the time running around the stubble fields. The pigeons have almost been controlled and the only other nuisance bird causing us issues is the Eurasian ring necked Dove. It is starting to overtake the property and push out the native mourning doves. This will have to become a 2021 issue to correct. We are hopeful that the quail can triple this year! I would love to have a few hundred quail running around on the place, they make us smile every time we see them! We holler out “Quaillyyy” whenever we spot them.
I had to do an update to the lamb count. My version is a 6×9 spiral binder with scribbles. I consulted the wife’s new spreadsheet, I missed a set of twins so that correction will be included below.
This week has been a doozy. I ended up in the ER last week on Thursday night thinking I might have a pulmonary embolus from Covid. I was day 18 out from symptoms and had not seen a doctor or taken any meds other than OTC and one amino acid infusion. The chest pain was getting so bad, it felt like someone had a hose clamp around my chest and occasionally they would just tighten it a little more. Luckily, my chest X-ray was clear, no secondary pneumonia and my lab work was all good and no extra blood clotting was occurring. My EKG was its normal abnormal that I have had for 30 years. This caused me to reevaluate my need for a NSAID once a day. I am now taking anti-inflammatory medication three times a day. I went home and slept, rested, napped and laid around for three days and then went back to work on Monday, worked half day at work and home the next day and on Wednesday (day 24) by 1400 I was starting to get dizzy. Almost passed out a few times when I bent over. I called my daughter for a ride home at the end of the day. You have to be careful to not fall over when you work in the ER, they were all giving me a side look waiting for me to go down to pounce on me. Annmarie and work has been telling me to take it easy. I have cut back dramatically and keep moving more work from home. It just cuts down the amount of walking I do and that makes a huge difference. I am still getting headaches with any amount of overexertion and I still get short of breath very easily. This is not just going to go away. I have not gotten dizzy since Wednesday. I have been careful to not bend over a lot but it was probably just a new side effect. My blood oxygen levels are staying up where they need to be but exertion just makes me short of breath. All of this means that Annmarie and now Sarah are doing the outside chores. I have resigned myself to staying inside for now and doing what I can. I have been doing the dishes and I even cleaned the bathroom and mopped the floors and keep vacuuming up the grease bugs that keep invading the house every time the outside temperature gets to 50 degrees F. I am definitely using a lot of bug spray on the outside of the house in the spring and summer to see if I cannot cut down on the bug invasion.
While I was lounging around last weekend I was looking at the online classifieds and spotted a manure spreader. Now I have wanted a manure spreader for a while as we have lots of manure and I have huge piles in the barn lot. The problem is they are very expensive. So I have been on the lookout for a used one that works, I found one this summer/fall and have been working on it. It has a frozen bearing in the upper portion. I have managed to remove the pin after bending several tools and now need to pull the gear off of the shaft. This has dropped in priority but on Sunday I spotted the find of a lifetime, the exact same manure spreader for sale!! I messaged them and went on Monday after work and picked up the spreader!! Now I can use the parts from one to fix the other and I should be able to go another 10 years with parts on hand, a total win for me.
We have decided to feed the outside birds out our back kitchen window. This means every morning we are greeted by the birds flitting around and eating. I have gotten used to the magpies coming in every morning and finishing off the back porch cat food. There are about four of them that do it every morning. I spotted three pigeons out our front window sitting on top of the grain bins. Their numbers are dwindling slowly but the invasive ringneck doves are really starting to take over. There are about 10 that are now living on the property and they are starting to push the mourning doves away from the feeders. I am going to have to work on that problem soon if they keep multiplying. Our Quail are doing amazing this year! It is the one bird we don’t allow anyone to shoot on the property. There are at least 44 still alive from this summer’s hatches. It will be amazing if we get a decent spring and all of them can have 3-5 babies that survive. I even spotted the covey of Hungarian partridges. There were only 6 of them and they would not hold still for a picture. I spot them once to twice a year. They are pretty elusive.
24 lambs born
15 ewes delivered
19 pregnant ewes(maybe)
6 single lambs
9 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
23 lambs on the farm
160% birthing rate
153% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (18/18)
We had twin lambs born on Christmas morning. The are super healthy and the ewe is very attentive. She is such a good mother that we are going to flag the female lamb as a keeper to breed in the future.
Annmarie has been picking up all the slack around the farm as I have been fairly worthless since catching covid. She has been feeding and sorting and checking on lambs, feeding chickens and collecting eggs. She has been amazing during this time. She made me promise to not overwork myself when I went back to work. I took a few more days off for a total of 14 then went back to work on Monday. I stayed in my office mostly with only 1-2 trips out of my office. Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was unable to do evening chores at home due to shortness of breath and fatigue. By Thursday I started to get chest pain that continued to get worse, I ended up in the ER that night to make sure I did not have a blood clot in my lungs. No blood clots, just post covid syndrome. So I am back to sitting around again most of the day, resting. I hate resting. I have had to reiterate the not working so hard promise.
We have had the usual drama on the farm. The chickens have decided that they don’t want to go into the coop at night. Anywhere from 3-7 chickens dawdle and end up outside the automatic door. This is not healthy for the chickens as we know there is most likely one raccoon living in the barn or around the barn. Annmarie saw fresh tracks in the snow recently. So we have been kicking them back into the barn when we get eggs. Unfortunately, we only let the ones sitting right outside the gate into the coop, we do not hunt down any strays. It looks like one managed to survive a raccoon attack and it is still alive days later. It is missing part of a wing and hopefully can survive. It unsurprisingly has been hanging pretty close to the chicken coop and is making it inside before the door shuts! So it is maybe not the stupidest chicken in the bunch. We have had two more sets of lamb twins and a huge single lamb born since the last update. I will need to go out and tag and band on Sunday so we can integrate all of them into the momma/baby area. The weather has been very unusual, mid 40’s in December! This is so not normal for us. The front spring is already on the rise and the back winter runoff creek has not started up yet.
The ram is not doing his job in a timely fashion. The ewes are taking their sweet time with having babies. We are talking about getting a second ram so in the off season they can have a buddy. We will also split the ewes into two herds. Once we figure out who is the more active ram we will divide up the ewes in the correct proportion. This will also let us save more of the ewes for cross breeding purposes. If we rotate out the ram every three years this will add significantly to our size upgrade. We really want to get the lambing all done in 30 days.