Spring really is coming

We have finally given up on the sheep having any more babies. So we tossed the last five ewes in with the rest of the main herd. It is a lot easier tracking one herd than two. There is a third (now second) herd down below. They are the eating ones of which we already have nine sold. We know spring is here as I have commenced the inaugural lawn mowing of our front yard with the sheep. It takes 2-3 days for the sheep to tear the lawn down. They like the shortest grass so clumps of tall grass tend to standout. I had just tossed out a pound of clover seed on the hillside before letting the sheep out to graze. They will push the seed down into the ground. The clover also does great with trying to stay alive after getting eaten so it will spring back twice as thick as it was before the sheep grazed on it. We are finally starting to get some clover all over the hillside now. Due to the clover we have now given up chemical weed control on the hillside. All thistles and stinging nettle are removed with a shovel. I spent a couple of hours this weekend digging weeds.

Since the bees have survived the winter I dug up a couple of patches of dirt and planted flowers on the hillside. I will need to add a small fence around them to keep the dogs out but we should have blooming flowers in 45 days. We are going to use our circle planters in the back yard to plant marigolds in and around our garden. We are hoping the marigolds will help with insect control. We are trying to get more flowers growing for the honey bees. I have a couple of other spots I want to toss out some flower seed on.

Saturday, Meathead and I worked on getting the five new half wine barrels ready for herbs. I drilled holes in the sides so that water could drain and then she filled each barrel with five gallons of gravel to cover the bottom. I would like to say she carried a full bucket of gravel but that is not really realistic. She carried it in two half filled buckets. We had a long discussion about me using the tractor to scoop it up and drive it around but by the time we go through all of the gates and still carry it the final way in a five gallon bucket we have not saved any time so she got to carry gravel in buckets. It takes four buckets of soil to fill the barrel the rest of the way. We have a big tote with gardening soil in it that we are using to fill them.

I took chance out with me to put the sheep in and she did great! The picture of her above is in the lamb shed when we were feeding the ram and bull. She kept them from coming into the shed when I opened the door to feed. She did so well after everyone was put away I let her off the 30’ lead. Huge mistake, she took off running and would not listen to me. I may have gotten upset and hollered repeatedly which caused her to look at me, come within six feet and stay out of reach. I finally calmed down, bent down on one knee and called her, she came running and got hugs and licks in. She is too smart for her own good. It turns out that Annmarie had tried to use Chance to get the sheep out of the yard earlier in the day but only had her on a a six foot leash. The puppy did well enough that Annmarie let her go and then Chance dove for a lamb and would not let it up. This incurred the wrath of Mom which may explain why she was so good working the animals with me later in the evening. Once I got her back onto the lead I used the alpaca as training fodder. This works for the dog and me and the alpaca don’t really care for the dogs so it gives Chance a shot at moving a difficult animal. She did really good.

Our second bee hive arrived, I just need to assemble it. We are going to keep them in the lavender patch. I was out working today and had 4-5 honeybees land on me. I am unsure what they were looking for and as long as you just ignore them and don’t accidentally squish them they are harmless. It takes a while to get used to ignoring them.

Lamb update

This weekend some time had to be devoted to the sheep as always when we have lambs. I used to think it was special to spend a few hours in the barn but with the lambs and constantly changing situation I have just realized that I will be out in the barn for a few hours. I have been trying to clean up the old house porch which means burning scrap wood. I had a gallon of beeswax finish that was done and was holding saturated rags. I tossed it on the burn pile to get it cleaned out before tossing it in the trash. Unfortunately, I left the gallon paint can out in the pasture and one curious lamb got it stuck on its head! The dummy could not get it off of his head. This was noticed and said offending bucket was removed from said idiot’s head. The bucket went into the trash can and the lamb went off on its way as if this was a normal part of life.

I pulled down three jugs. We only have three set up now and there are no sheep in any of them. Not having to haul water is amazing! We are so glad we only have to do it when the ewes are in jugs and otherwise they can get their own water.

I have started to toss out four bales outside the barn so the sheep can pull the bales apart and eat what they want. I also gave in and opened up the barn lot to the mommas and babies. So they have another 1 acre area to roam around on and to eat the grass. I had been keeping them off of it so the grass would grow. It had grass several inches tall on it. If we would ever warm up the area would shoot up with fresh grass. The weather keeps driving the sheep back into the barn. They don’t mind a little rain or sleet but they don’t like a downpour or pea sized hail.

The sheep all have their own personalities but some tend to stand out amongst the others. This little lamb is easy to spot in the barn. It wants to run off and do everything by itself. It is super curious and will come right over to you looking for a treat. It also gets lost and distracted easily. When everyone runs off to the green pasture it stays behind and hollers because it is alone. This morning I had to chase it out of the barn area and out into the pasture as it could not seem to grasp the concept of leaving the barn to find their friends.

The back creek is running from the melting snow but since the mountains keep adding snow we have not had a noticeable rise in the runoff. I took the tractor and drove through the creek to go to the wood shed and get bee supplies and drip irrigation supplies for Annmarie. They now go in her little garden supply shed by the garden. She is eager to get out in the garden but it keeps freezing at night. I scraped the car windows last week. Maybe by mid April she can start getting plants in the ground. She has started herb seeds inside the house this weekend. I got a heat mat for starting cut propagation attempts on my house plants, so the seed starts are taking up most of the mat now. My African Violet starts are starting to take off and I may be able to get 12 more plants. I am shooting for 25 plants in the next couple of months. I have about 10 Jade plant starts going right now and have managed not to kill any yet.

  • Date of update- April 2, 2023. We think there may be 4-6 ewes left per Annmarie, I think there are only two left but I would not bet more than $10 on my opinion, Annmarie is usually correct!
  • # of Lambs born – 54
  • # of ewes who have delivered babies – 33
  • # of ewes still pregnant – 8 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
  • # of single lamb births – 13
  • # of twin lamb births – 19
  • # of triplet lamb births – 1
  • # of bummer lambs – 5
  • # of lambs who died in first two weeks – 3
  • Total # of lambs on farm -46
  • % birthing rate- 164%
  • % production rate -139%
  • % survival rate at birth – 100%
  • % survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 85%

Lambing update week 7

This weekend I had to spend some quality time in the barn again. The mother/lamb area needed to be expanded. It now covers 2/3 of the barn. The rope we used to tie one side of the creep gate in place is getting stretched by the ewes and the thin ewes are able to crawl through the side. This morning one of the ewes was stuck in the creep gate. She got stuck right in front of her back hips and could not move. I had to pull the pins out of the gate and drag her back out. It took her about ten minutes to get her sea legs under her. Her lamb was glad to see her and kept nursing as much as it could. This has prompted us to get bigger eyelets so that we can stick a 1” rod down through the right side of the gate. We are out of the skinny rods so the bigger aluminum ones need to be used. I am afraid to use an eyelet that just gets screwed into the wood. I am afraid the ewes will just tear it out by pushing on the gate. I had four of them pushing on it Saturday as they were able to get their noses into one of the feeders. They could barely reach it with their tongues but they were not giving it up! I had to lean over the gate and hang in the air to push it away from them. They would not let me pass. I have a bolt on eyebolt that will fit and now just need to install it.

We are now certain that a second ram is needed. We have been lambing for seven weeks and we are still not done. So this spring we are going to keep the sheep in a small contained area when we introduce the ram. NO more letting the sheep run over 40 acres and the ram having to chase them all down.

  • Date of update- Mar 12, 2023
  • # of Lambs born – 48
  • # of ewes who have delivered babies – 30
  • # of ewes still pregnant – 12 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
  • # of single lamb births – 13
  • # of twin lamb births – 16
  • # of triplet lamb births – 1
  • # of bummer lambs – 5
  • # of lambs who died in first two weeks – 3
  • Total # of lambs on farm -40
  • % birthing rate- 160%
  • % production rate -133%
  • % survival rate at birth – 100%
  • % survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 83%

We had one of the traveling staff from Florida come out for a few hours on Friday and see the lambs and ewes. She got to pet everyone and tour the house. We then fed her leg of lamb for dinner! It was amazing as always. She wore her snow boots out in the barn. Being a city slicker she had never seen anything like it before. She kept marveling at the fact that there were no neighbors.

Minutiae abounds

It’s been a long week and it Mother Nature cannot decide what she wants to do. It was clear and warming up at the beginning of the week, now there is snow on the ground and snowing again, we have about two inches on the ground currently. Annmarie has been using her office! I have been slowly putting little things in place. I got our old dining room table in there and we used some table elevators to lift it two inches so we could slide the smaller sorting bins under it. There are now six bins under the table. The new cable for the router came so I will be installing that soon and finishing up the corner trim to hide the cables. Gizmo has a new doggie bed, he didn’t like the old one it was too small for him he thought. Annmarie needs to start bringing out books but she is going to sort them first and thin them out. So I have resisted the temptation to remove them from our bedroom. I would like to see them thinned out also. There is a small table down at her mom’s that she wants me to retrieve and refinish. It has marker, paint and nail polish on it I think. It was from a long time ago when Sarah was a menace. She wants it to go in front of the couch.

I messed up last week and should have kept the two ewes and three lambs in the same pen I had them in when sorting them. I sorted the wrong babies but I did watch them nurse. The trouble was two days later both ewes were head butting the lambs and refusing to let them nurse. Unfortunately, in two days we ended up with three more bummers and another death. No clue why the lamb died, it may have been suffocated by its mother. We have been supplementing grain since the babies have popped out. The ewes are getting mighty skinny. We will be worming them again next week. We wanted to let them have the babies and have the babies be a little older. Last year our weight loss was due to worms. So we treated in the fall and are going to treat again in the early spring/late winter. I just need to verify we have enough medicine to treat all of the ewes.

We have been having a hard time finding bagged sheep feed. We keep looking but everyone else is looking and buying before us. I went ahead and reserved all of the lamb feed coming in this week so we can keep feeding the lambs using our creep gate. We figure if we can get the lambs to eat solid food they will take less calories away from the mothers. I worked on getting the creep gate installed in the opening of the pen under the stairs. I am not sure why we never thought of this before. I put in four eyelets and was able to attach it to one side with a metal pin. I need to get longer eyelets for the other side. I forgot it is a piece of rough cut lumber so its about 2.25” wide. My eyebolt was too short so I had to use the one inch piece next to it and tie on clips to the gate. The gate is not rigid but it does move around, about three inches, until I can get the new eyebolts installed. This movement does not seem to bother the lambs. They get in and out just fine.

I had to go in and pickup some lumber for the barn doors in the office so I grabbed enough to do the frames for the bathroom closet. I did one frame out of 1×4” boards but Annmarie thought it was too heavy. It is solid, no doubt about that. So I picked up a bunch of 1×2” boards to make new frames. I was not sure if my Kreg tool would do this thin of wood but I had no trouble drilling angled holes and assembling the frame with screws. I had to install three pieces on the front of the doors to attach magnets. Once I get all of the frames built I will need to cover up the outer edges of the closet with blue tape and then clamp each frame in place and drill a small hole through the frame and into the closet opening. This will mark my spot to drill the sink holes for the magnets that need to be installed on each side. The blue tape will help protect the wood and let me draw on the frame to mark their proper location.

Lambing update fifth week

Well our annual second winter came this week. We got about eight inches of snow and the temperature dropped into the single digits. The cows were happy I took them another big bale of hay. I fed out two more big bales this morning and only have five big bales left. I have half the barn and the machine shed full of 40# round bales that can be fed out! Once I get all the big bales fed I can let the cows into that four acre area. No animal has been in there to graze since last fall so with a little warm weather that area will perk up quite nicely and allow for some decent grazing.

This weekend some time had to be devoted to the sheep again. We have to get the ewes and babies in the jugs tagged and banded so we can make room for more babies. Currently we only have two jugs open. I think I can tag and band the single under the stairs and the other single. Both of those babies are healthy and moving around well. It gets a lot harder to find mom when there are 25 other screaming little lambs running around.

Yesterday morning I had three different sets of babies in the barn. I was able to let everyone out but those thee ewes and their babies. One of the ewes was crazy! I know this because after 20 minutes I had still not managed to trap her in a jug. I also noticed she had a notch out of the no ear tag ear. I have a notcher for marking the bad ewes. I almost never use it as I don’t like it, but this ewe is getting another notch and we need to cull her. I ended up trapping her in the chute then opening up the barn side of the chute and chasing her into the jug under the stairs. This worked surprisingly well. It did require moving stuff around but in the long run it would have saved me time. I had a set of twins and a single in with the two ewes. When I separated the ewes I must have messed up. I went out there this am and the dark black ewe was head butting both of the pure white babies I had in the pen with her. So I swapped babies and will need to go out later and see how the babies are doing. When I swapped them out the mothers went right up and were sniffing the babies. Yesterday the ewes were eating and they let the babies nurse. So I could not tell who belonged to whom.

  • Date of update- Feb 26, 2023
  • # of Lambs born – 41
  • # of ewes who have delivered babies – 25
  • # of ewes still pregnant – 16-18 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
  • # of single lamb births – 10
  • # of twin lamb births – 14
  • # of triplet lamb births – 1
  • # tagged male (weathers-neutered) lambs-13
  • # tagged female lambs-13
  • # of bummer lambs – 2
  • # of lambs who died in first two weeks – 2
  • Total # of lambs on farm -37
  • % birthing rate- 164%
  • % production rate -148%
  • % survival rate at birth – 100%
  • % survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 90%

The ram and his cronies got out of Alcatraz this week. I am pretty sure they got out through the lamb shed. I did not reinstall the gate in front of the barn after it got knocked off last summer. Not only do I need to reinstall the gate but I need to mount a cattle panel onto it so the sheep cannot pass through the bars. I managed to lure them back with grain and used the horseshoe door anchor in addition to the clip.