Annmarie was out of town starting on Monday of last week so I was supposed to get the floor finished while she was gone. That did not happen despite my attempt. Chores take time and when you are doing all the morning chores and all the evening chores I was spending about 2.5 hours a day doing chores. The snow keeps coming and going so I am now sweating whether we are going to have enough hay. The barn is almost empty so I will have to start bringing it over from the machine shop. We had a set of triplets, and I isolated them under the stairs. They appeared to be doing well. I found one lamb under the feeder a couple of times but everyone was getting up and eating. I went out the third night and found this gal buried under the feeder and ice cold. I brought her in and took her over to the propane stove to get warmed up. I tried to feed her a bottle but she didn’t have the energy to drink. So I worked her jaw for her. That got a little in until I got a syringe and started to squirt it in her mouth and rub her throat to swallow. She looked much better by the time that Tisha arrived to take her to her forever home.
We had a single born three days later and it is huge compared to the triplets. They are very small.
Our current numbers are as follows:
13 singles (33%)
18 twins (50%)
5 triplets (17%)
36 ewes birthed
2 pregnant ewes pending birth
55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded
3 lambs to process
On our farm and alive 161%.
Since we are running out of feed I am taking every opportunity to utilize outside feed. Our corral has an isolated pen that the grass had grown up in so I let the sheep in here to eat it down. The weather man says we are going to get 4-7 inches of snow over the next five days. I had to keep staining the stairs repeatedly. I forgot that I had put down oak treads and they just won’t take the stain very well. I had to stain the stairs three times and the upstairs floor twice. I managed to get the stain to a place that was acceptable. It’s not near as obvious where the dogs have created a path. My goal is to put on more than two coats of Varethane. I went to Sherwin Williams to get the same Varethane and found out it was discontinued but they had four gallons left. I only needed one and it cost about 1/3 of what I would have normally paid for it so I was pretty happy.
We are supposed to get a big winter storm today. So far the sun has been shining and the temperature got to 43F and now its 21F and snowing. The best part is we only have a slight breeze and not the predicted gale that is surrounding us. I spotted the quail this morning out in the front yard and this evening they were on the back hillside. I counted over 21 quail! If they can survive the next two weeks with snow on the ground we should have a huge population by the end of the summer. We usually only have 4-8 quail by the end of winter. This could make the population boom!
The back runoff creek is running clear. It has dropped several inches over the last few days. Our rock we use to measure it is now visible. Hopefully, the snow will stay in the mountains and melt off slowly. This is our wish every year but it doesn’t always happen.
The hay is running low in the barn so I moved a ton of alfalfa into the barn and out to the old lamb shed for the ram. We are going to start feeding 1/2 bale in the morning on top of the 1/2 bale we feed at night and we are giving two scoops of sweet mix in the morning. The ewes are getting skinny! The lambs look amazing!! You would never be able to guess that the oldest one is only six weeks old by their size
Zeke has figured out how to get out of the yard again. He dug out under the fence near the creek. He is so devious. I almost need to line the creek sides with wire directly under the fence to stop this problem. I tossed another 50# rock in his hole to slow down his escape. If he wants out again he will find another way, there is always another way for a Border Collie.
Annmarie, Sarah and I went out to the barn today to tag and band the rest of the babies. We caught nine babies and four were boys. The triplets were all boys!! We wanted to save any girls from that set as their mother is fantastic but no luck. We still have a few ewes that are not delivering. They are the jumpiest sheep of the bunch and we think the ram had a hard time doing his business with them. So the plan is for us to put the ram back in with the main herd next week. This should get us back in sync for more lambs in 7 months.
Our current numbers are as follows:
12 singles (35%)
18 twins (52%)
4 triplets (11%)
34 ewes birthed
4 pregnant ewes pending birth
55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded
On our farm and alive 162%.
I heard that Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow therefore we would not have 6 more weeks of winter. Well we had snow over the last 24 hours and a winter weather advisory. Luckily for us, we did not get as much snow as was predicted and the storm went north of us. Whenever this happens to us late in winter I always start to have a mild panic attack. I am always fearful that we will run out of hay. What would we feed the animals? Yet, having too much leftover in the barn means you paid for too much hay. It would be one thing if we were producing our own hay then some carryover would not be near as big a deal. We could just sell the extra in the late spring to make room for our next crop. Us doing our own hay is going to be a game changer as far as expenses go for us. Paying out $6-7K annually for hay is not worth raising the animals, we need a source of hay that we don’t have to pay for annually.
It’s going to be real close on the hay and will require me to start bringing over alfalfa hay from the machine shed to finish feeding the sheep. It just dawned on me that we may even be able to put up a little straw for ourselves. This will require us to talk with the nice gentlemen growing wheat on the farm. We only use 2-4 ton of straw annually so not very much.
One of the new lambs decided that to get maximum access to the food it needed to crawl into the feeder and on top of the hay. I had to move the lamb out as I was afraid it would get stuck once its platform got eaten away. I never looked to see if it was a boy or girl but since I don’t see a tag in its right ear I am betting its a girl. A tag in the right ear means its a cull animal and all the boys are not keepers. I went out this morning to feed after a few hours of sleep and there was snow everywhere. The big bales are done so the cows are now eating normal 100# bales of alfalfa but these allow them to tip the feeders very easily. I wanted to feed some alfalfa and a little straw to the cows with the tractor. I started up the tractor even with the temperature under 20 F, no trouble. I let it warm up for a few minutes and put it in gear, the tractor died immediately. I did this 3-4 times all with the same results. I lifted the bucket up and down without any trouble. Stumped I decided that it just needed to warm up some more and I went and fed the sheep and horses. No babies this morning. The “wide as long” ewe was still in her pen and still not doing anything. The sheep are starting to mob me as I am giving them grain in the morning on top of their hay and at night I am tossing a half a bale of alfalfa onto the top of their hay.
When I was feeding the ram and his three ewes I noticed that our water was running again. We have a hand dug well on the property from the 1940’s and it has buried pipe that goes to the barn lot and under the creek over to behind the old chicken coop. The standpipe by the coop is broken and needs to be replaced. This will spontaneously start to flow when the ground water level gets high enough in the well. It will run for 3-4 months. Now we don’t have to bucket water to the ram. I just placed a drinking bucket under the running water and the sheep can just drink as much as they want. The pipes don’t freeze as it runs continuously.
I went back to the tractor and again tried to put it in gear and drive away, and the tractor tried to die. I was able to slip it back into neutral and it stayed running. This led me to think that it was the safety switch in the seat. It is there to make sure someone is sitting on the tractor when driving it or running the PTO. I stood up, beat on the seat a few times with my fist, sat up and down a few times and it worked! Problem solved! I fed the cows and went back inside after 2.5 hours outside doing chores.
This evening when I went out to do chores the “wide as long” ewe had finally had her babies!! She had a set of triplets and they were all sitting up and cleaned off. She paid attention to all three so we are going to let her try to raise them. We will leave them in the separate pen for a few more days to make sure they are all eating well and that mom and babies have bonded.
It looks like a lamb but it is just one of the barn cats! I had to really look when I went to feed and water our “wide as long” ewe. The new barn cat has been hanging out with this ewe for the last couple of weeks. Annmarie spotted the ewe chasing her off a couple of days ago. We are hoping that means she will have her babies soon! They get super protective before and after delivering.
The barn is definitely chaos now when you walking through trying to feed. I shuffle my feet so I can just scoot the lambs out of the way as I head to the feeders. I love this part of having sheep. It is pure chaos and cacophony in the barn. After feeding I usually walk through and snag various lambs to pickup and pet on. The ewes get so tame that you can just walk through and touch everyone. During the summer we will only be able to touch 3-5 as they get very wild running around and free ranging.
Every morning and night we go out expecting babies and are disappointed. I did the night chores on Wednesday at night and checked, no babies. I went out, in the daylight, first thing in the morning Thursday and found a set of twins under the overturned wheelbarrow! The little buggers had hid from me the previous night. I chased the mommas out and noticed that their momma went right to them. She had to have bonded well and fed them well for them to survive outside in 26 F weather. I chased the pregnant mommas back into their area and opened up the area under the stairs. I put food and water in there and chased the momma inside. I had to snag both babies and they tried to run away which is a great sign of their strength. I locked them up and left them. I had noticed that they had nursed already so I was hopeful they would get their sea legs back. Last night they looked great!! We are going to write down the ear tag numbers if either twin is a girl because that is one good momma! The ewe is pretty jumpy, but it is her first set of babies but coming back and owning them after they spent 12 hours outside is amazing. No more babies this morning. The twins looked great, but they are small and I will paste them tonight. I didn’t want to upset the mother. I am going to have to increase the height of one wall under the stairway. the gate on one end is low and I need to raise it. We like this area as a crèche. Normally, it was just sitting unused but this is the second year we have used it and its handy.
The two DeWalt battery work lights are amazing! We now have them at each end of the barn and if you turn them both on the entire barn is lit. We are seriously considering two more, one for each hay room and calling it good. We were talking about installing solar and a 12 V storage system with LED lights throughout the entire barn. That was gonna cost about $2k without labor. For $480 and 4 hours of labor to install mounting spots we can have better than daylight light levels inside the barn.
We are talking about a water storage tank for watering in the winter. The water could come from the roof and a gutter system. This is purely in the discovery phase. I would love to find a 500-1000 gallon water storage tank for fairly inexpensive. I also still need a manure spreader! So keep your eyes out for one, looking for an older one that needs a new floor. I want it to work, but it does not have to be pretty.
Our current numbers are as follows:
13 singles (39%)
17 twins (52%)
3 triplets (9%)
33 ewes birthed
5 pregnant ewes pending birth
46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded
5 babies dosed only
2 babies undosed
On our farm and alive 161%. 150% is great, 125% is bare minimum. We are winning!!
The back creek started to run this week. Its pure runoff from the mountains and runs about six months out of the year. On Monday night I spotted some standing water in the creek, on Tuesday when I came home I heard it running and it kept me awake all night. I again thought that I should go out and lift the fences from over the creek. I did not do this and Wednesday when I came home the creek was a torrent! I ended up spending an hour in the dark in my wader boots trying to get the fence out of the creek and the weed dams to broken up. Every year I end up out in the dark surrounding by raging water trying to lift the fence. I tell myself that every year I should go out on the very first day I notice the standing water. I never do, I always wait until the last minute.
The upper fields are improving but the one is solid green while the other is just having the green start to poke through. I keep hoping the second field will take off. Today I had to start feeding the cows alfalfa. At the rate we are going through feed I am sure we will end up with some left over. The cats are going to be disappointed when it goes away as they keep tunneling down into it to stay warm.
I spent an hour with the new calf table cleaning it up and trying to get it to work. I managed to get all the pieces moving but I can only get the table to lean back 45 degrees. Annmarie tells me for $50 I had to expect to work on it more than one hour, but hopes springs eternal in my mind and I was hoping for instant success.
I thought I had misplaced the box blade but managed to find it after a couple of hours. This is super good as I do not have to admit to the wife that I misplaced it. See it was sitting right where it was supposed to be.
Our current numbers are as follows:
29 ewes birthed
7 pregnant ewes pending birth
46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded
3 babies dosed only
Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.
I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!
The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.
I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.
I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.
Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.
I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.
I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.
Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.
Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.