Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thoughts of Spring

Beautiful Spring 2006
Peonies and Evening Primroses

Yes, I'm still pining for Spring, but this week we are having such a wonderful break from our 'winter of torment'. :-) Since Sunday we've had 50s and 60s, and mostly sunny. Saturday was horrible. Cold, snowy, with a harsh wind blowing. Sunday dawned still windy, but much warmer.

The ground is very soft and muddy as it thaws out, but its so nice to walk outside and not be all hunched up with the cold. Its amazing too, how much less time chores take when you don't have to struggle with frozen water buckets, gate latches and gates that are stuck to the ground. In the morning I gauge how well I'm doing on getting the chores done, by two school buses that go by. The first one goes by when I'm usually about half way through and the second one as I'm finishing up. This morning, I was all done except tossing some hay to the rams and the first bus went through---I was pleasantly surprised. I had quite a bit of time to let Boone run around while I tossed limbs on a brush pile! It was hard to go inside and head off for work though.

I was very taken aback when I finally realized that the last full week of February is upon us. What this means in my world is that in less than three weeks, little lambs should be making their appearance. The first ones on the calendar should be around March 15-16, however there are three of the sheep ladies who were very discreet, so I don't know when they were bred---the earliest date possible (according to when I put the ram with them) is March 5th! This all translates into I have got to get my fanny in gear! Now!

I try and have all the girls hooves trimmed, plus shots and worming before lambing and shearing day . I've started waiting and doing the rams when they are on the shearing platform, as its just easier to mess with them one time. Still that means that 18 sheep need to be tended to before March 24--eight of those are pregnant, so they need to be first on the list.

I did get Hope down the other night because she was limping a little (I think it was just caked mud in between her toes). I didn't have any vaccine, but got everything else done---so its just 17 and a 1/4 sheep left! ;-) My usual strategy, since I do all the work on the sheep myself and don't have a restraining device, is to only work on one or two per night--this is usually my limit anyway, as I don't have alot of daylight hours when I get home. I will lure the unsuspecting (okay they suspect, big time, but their love of food overcomes....) flock into the barn, choose my victim, and snag them around the neck with one hand. If they are a hard case, I will put the halter on them so they don't somehow wear me down and escape. If they are mild mannered, then I turn their heads into their shoulder, pull up on the outside hind haunch and tip them off their feet---they will slid down my legs so there is no sudden impact with the ground. This works about 95, okay....maybe 85 percent of the time. The other percentage usually disintegrates into an ugly little rodeo. I love the sheepies who, once down, lay serenely on their sides, enduring having their toes trimmed. The ones that kick and thrash about are the worst, and I often think evil thoughts towards them . The Shetlands will not lay on their sides so I've developed a different approach to them--although its far harder on my back. I sit them on their butts (with the above method in modification) and lean them back against my legs. Some of them are still outraged by this and do plenty of thumping around. Giving shots is the hardest---trying to stabilize the squirmy sheep and find a good location--plus pushing all that wool aside.....

Because my pastures and hay aren't that great, I will start increasing supplemental grain to the preggies about 4 weeks ahead of time (note---which its past time to do!). In order to accomplish this I usually have to pen up the ones that need more grain at feeding time. There are always a few in each bunch that are big old hogs, and a few that just won't get in there and fight for it. This year I'm going to 'across the board' increase the Shetland grain so that the six bred ewes will have plenty. Its not going to hurt any of them to have extra eats for a few weeks. The two crossbred Merino ewes are twins, so I will pen them together in a stall at feeding time and start increasing it--now! As unbelievable as it seems the time is at hand.

I also need to work on getting the barns set up , by spreading lime and straw and fixing the jugs for lambing, and revamp the chicken pen (lets just say there isn't much left of it after the girls and Redford went thru it during breeding season!), so I can pen the chickens up. (The chickens roam free on the acreage during most of the year, except early Spring. I don't think they would bother the lambs, but I don't trust chickens, and I also want to re-seed and let grass get ahead of them.) Unless I have the chicken pen re-inforced like Fort Knox, the chickens won't stay in. They appear angered and appalled when I won't let them out, and rebellion spreads rapidly through the ranks. I use cattle panels for alot of the fencing around the 'home' paddock (where the sheep stay at night). Little lambs can scoot right through the panels until they are several weeks old. To prevent them from getting through, I run two foot chicken wire around the bottom. Its fairly inexpensive and can stay in place all year. I have started using the plastic slip ties to secure and they work very well. After the lambs are big enough, I will unwire a corner or two to make 'chicken gates'. Now I need to inspect the wire and reattach as needed as well.

Whew....where did the time go? Or more importantly--when will I quit putting everything off to the last possible second???

Here's hoping the mild and beautiful weather is wide spread so that you are enjoying it too!

No comments: