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.
I went out this morning to feed the horses. They will eat everything they have access to so we have to limit their food. I burned a few cardboard boxes on my way to the barn and after starting the fire I looked up and headed to the barn. The sheep were all congregated around the entrance to the barn and about halfway there I realized why, there were lambs! I spotted one, then two and heard the third one before I found it. Three little newborn lambs trying to get out of the barn entrance. I chased all the other sheep out of the barn lot except for four ewes. I only needed two of those ewes but I did not want to run the babies so I opted to trap a few extra until I could get the momma/baby area set up.
I went into the barn and opened up the momma/baby area and then tossed out some bedding and pulled in a feeder for the momma area. I then had to go shut some gates to isolate the momma area and move a panel so they had access to clean water. Then I had to go clean up down by the spring and bend some fencing back into place so the babies cannot slip out of the pen. I never got around to building a short bridge for them to cross the spring. They will have to jump over it this year, maybe next year I can get that installed. As I headed back up to the barn I spotted all three lambs out in the sun and their moms in the barn eating the hay I had just put out. I snagged all three (hard to carry more than three newborn lambs) and put them outside in the momma baby area. This let me sort off the two extra pregnant ewes. I tried to get the numbers from the ear tags of the two new mothers but they were not cooperating. Tonight when we lock them into the momma/baby area we will be able to grab them and look at their tags. We will need to lock everyone up in the barn tonight and every night until all the lambs are born. It’s a lot easier to catch them in the barn! I forgot to check all three babies for gender when I caught them. One is a boy, one is a girl, and I didn’t look at the third one as it was the last one caught and it is a lot harder to hold onto 3 wiggly things than 2!
It has been an incredibly long lambing season, over three months of trickle babies the entire time. The ram was totally slacking this last time around and us not having everyone synced did not help matters. We have one last go around to do out in the barn. We still have about 8 babies in the momma/baby area that need to be tagged and banded. Once that is done we are absolutely done. I will go out and lock the cows out of the orchard this week and let it start growing back again so in 2-3 weeks we can sort off all the old ewes we are culling and all the female babies that we don’t want pregnant and they can live in the orchard away from the ram. He better be too busy to worry about those ewes once we turn him in with the main herd. Our last set of twins was incredibly tiny and they have spent a week in their own pen growing. They are now in with the momma/baby pen because we got tired of carrying water every day to them. Now we just open the gate and they go get their own water.
I was headed to work last week and spotted mouse down by the creek avidly staring at something. When he pays that much attention to something it is usually bad for the other thing. It turned out to be a little lamb that stuck its head through the fence to get to the green grass and then when the dog scared it, it stood and could not get its head out of the fence. Once all the dogs figured out the lamb was stuck, they all wanted to go over and lick its head which just freaked the lamb out more. Once I forced its butt down it slid right out of the hole.
We have one brown and white speckled baby that keeps making these weird sounds. I didn’t notice it (I never notice anything weird in the barn) but Annmarie said it was making these grunting sounds and trying to poop. So I was out in the barn getting ready to feed and while chasing everyone out heard this weird noise. I started looking around and spotted that baby ewe trying to poop. I could not get a hold of it before it ran outside. I have been paying attention to it ever since. It is a little girl and it has a sweet tooth! It keeps eating at the molasses licks in the barn and getting constipated from them. That is some dedication to your passion.
These are are final numbers for winter 2019. We actually did pretty good compared to the big farms. We only had a 16% lamb mortality. We almost had 150% productivity when you counted live lambs at a week and when you just counted births it was almost 180%! We are super stoked about those numbers and hope to keep up the average on the next go around. The best part was I did not have to pull a single lamb this lambing season.