Thursday, 1 July 2021

A 2021 Update

Wow, the year is half over!  Already!  

Happy Canada Day!  I know there are challenges right now in Canada, yet we need to come together and celebrate our nation for the place it is - good and not so good.  Every country has history that is unflattering.  We can work together and heal and move forward, together.

Numbers

This year's lamb crop was excellent, once again.  We had 24 lambs born and lost 1.  So there are 23 afoot.  Shepherds desire a 1.5 average or higher.  Ours was 1.9 for quite some time and then dropped down to 1.8; an excellent productivity rating.  We had 2 sets of triplets this year which contributed to boosting the average.  One ewe was barren.

I supplemented 6 lambs with bottles.  I am so glad that is now over.  Hungry lambs require extra nutrition.  After awhile it just becomes a nuisance.  This year two of them became jumpers and I was always filthy and bruised.  I am still well greeted by (former) bottle lambs when I enter the barnyard and they get a scratch on the head.  The jumpers have stopped doing so and my bruises are healing.


Nap time at the horse shoe pit



Goals

As much as I enjoy the animals, the goal is to sell lamb for meat.  Auction prices this year have been very very high, 25% higher than the year before.  Although I will be raising my private sale price this year, it won't be a 25% increase.  Thus, I will not work hard to sell privately this year but intend to send most lambs to auction.


Wool

Shearing day was, as usual, a busy day.  I have a garage full of wool.  It is lovely.  I really want to get it into the hands of spinners and wool fibre crafters and artisans.  It has been challenging since vending events have been cancelled due to COVID 19.  If you would like wool, I have it!  No reasonable offer refused!  See the Wool page on the website.


Shearing day 2021

In this photo, the shearer is on the second to last sheep, Cookie.  He had to stop to clean the clippers.  I had grabbed Cookie's lamb and sat down and she relaxed in my arms.  It was a lovely feeling.  This lamb has stolen my heart and I guess I'm going to keep her now.  I have named her Ginger.  I kept Cookie's female lamb from last year by the same ram and they look completely different.  Here is a photo of Cupcake after she was shorn for the first time this year. Her wool is divine!


Cupcake

Dogs

We lost our house dog last September and have no plan to replace him.  We loved Beau dearly and had him for 12 years.  My house is usually cleaner now without a house pet.

The guardian dogs, Ruby and Millie, continue to do their job well.  We frequently hear coyotes and have seen the odd one but nothing gets close to the sheep.  Ruby is now 6 years of age, and Millie is ten.  I recently took Millie to the vet since for weeks she has had noisy breathing.  My hunch was correct; she has a breathing challenge.  Diagnosed with Laryngeal Paralysis, nothing can be done.  It is a degenerative condition.  We have no timeline.  We will monitor her to ensure she is comfortable and make the decision to euthanise her when her quality of life deteriorates.  We will not replace her until after she is gone as this would be too stressful for her.

Millie the Maremma and Limpy the laying hen


Hens

When my 20 hens began to fall of in their egg production it was time to consider replacing them.  With the pandemic it has been more difficult to purchase birds from the producers.  I found an ad on kijiji for some young layers and I followed up.  I gave away my old birds, keeping behind one.  When I got the last batch of birds they didn't know to roost.  This was strange, but anyway, eventually they figured it out.  I helped them, going in after dark wearing a head lamp, picking them up off the floor and setting them on a roost.

One bird I got had a limp.  The lady from whom I purchased 5 birds at the end of the summer said she was fine the day before I came to pick them up.  I brought her home and put her in a cage for 3 weeks.  Nothing changed.  She ate very well and laid an egg almost every day.  We called her Limpy and let her out with the flock.  Limpy is now the boss.  She shows these new young girls how to roost and where to find the best worms.  Limpy continues to lay an egg almost every day.  The new girls haven't yet begun to lay.

New laying hens


Cat

We have had Jet Cat for over a year now.  Since Beau has gone, Jet spends lots of time around the house.  Beau did not like cats.  Jet has a roasting pan to sleep in outside the kitchen window.  The roasting pan is on a high cabinet and is lined with a towel.  Unlike a box, the roasting pan will not blow away.

Jet is a failed house cat.  I am way too allergic to have a cat indoors.  She is an excellent mouser and has figured out she is not coming into the house.  She has however discovered the lawn furniture on the verandah, especially the ones with the comfy cushions.  Jet rubs noses with the ram and the goat in the Small Barn.  Millie won't let Jet near the Big Barn - which is too bad as there are rodents there too.  Ruby and Jet have an understanding, if not a friendship.


Enjoy summer 2021!














Monday, 28 December 2020

The Silver Sheep of Kindness

 

I was working as a Cashier in a local retail establishment, a part time job I had between professional positions.  I enjoyed the people contact as I had tired of talking with sheep and chickens.

 

One evening a woman entered the store and I greeted her.  She was wearing a wool winter coat that was red and on the left was a large silver sheep brooch.  It was LOVELY!  And I said so.  She was a little taken aback.  I was trying to make her feel welcome and yet I was truly admiring this lovely brooch.  I said I have sheep and her sheep was really sweet.

 

When this customer was ready to check-out, I was attending to another customer.  After the woman in the red coat left, my colleague who had rung her through the check-out, came to me and gave me the sheep brooch.  She told me the woman wanted me to have it and asked my colleague to give it to me after she had left.

 

I was – and continue to be – so very touched by this super kind gesture.  I now wear the silver sheep on my red wool coat.  Whenever anyone comments on my sheep brooch I share this story. 

 

Thank you, lady in the red wool coat, for the lovely silver sheep brooch.  I am grateful for your kindness and for the addition to my “flock”.  I enjoy sharing this story of your Random Act of Kindness. 




Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Season’s Greetings!

                From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!  We hope that you and yours are well.  We want you to know that we are well and managing these strange times.  Increasingly each of us is personally touched by COVID 19, whether ourselves or someone we know.  Know then that you are not alone – despite the isolation we are all experiencing.

Not much has changed on the farm as a result of COVID 19.  The sheep and chickens, dogs, llama and goat haven’t noticed.  The biggest change is that the opportunities to sell my wool and wool products have all been cancelled.  There are no guild meetings and no fibre events.  I have sold a number of fleeces through the website, but my sales are very low this year, for sure.  The (frozen) lamb sales have been excellent and once again we are sold out.




Just as Ontario was entering lockdown in mid-March, Son, Thomas, came to the farm to stay with us.  We had no idea he would be here for a full four months.  It was a nice long visit.  He enjoyed a few daily chores – collecting eggs and vacuuming the back hall.  He cooked a few meals and helped with other meals.  He helped with outside jobs such as bringing in wood for this winter.  He found a satisfactory fishing hole a mile down the road.  He played his harmonic A LOT.  And, he worked at his desk solving Math problems.  Thomas is well and we look forward to his visit for Christmas, likely for another extended stay.

At mid-April the lambs arrived.  There was one traumatic birth that required the Vet but all recovered (including me!).  We had 24 {25 actually} live lambs (plus one dead / stillborn triplet).  There were no losses over the summer.  My freezer lambs dressed out very well.  We had some health issues last year that we managed better this year and the results were very positive.




As anticipated, our first grandchild arrived at the end of April.  Born in Amsterdam, Leonora Michaela Jeffery-Ernst arrived on April 26th at 7.6 pounds.  Daughter and new Mother, Stacey, and her husband, our son-in-law, and new Daddy, Moe, are wonderful parents.  We were scheduled to visit at the first of August.  D.R.’s employer, the Canadian Military, forbade travel.  By the time July came around my flight got cancelled.  Rather than re-book I decided to just wait.  We have regular video calls and daily photos and emails.  It is exciting to watch her grow.  As this is our first grandchild, we don’t really know what we are missing.  We do however really look forward to meeting Leonora in person.  Usually Daughter and her husband come for Christmas but not this year.




Both of our jobs have continued.  Working at home has had challenges for each of us, from technology to just plain working differently.  We have each experienced various work-related stressors as we have adjusted to this new way to work.  We have not cleaned closets and sorted stuff.  We have not taken up baking bread or any new hobbies.  We haven’t undertaken renovations because we have not had any extra time.  It’s been crazy-busy just keeping up with the new world of work.

We had a bumper crop of maple syrup for the second year in a row.  This is one of D.R.’s annual projects.  This year he bought a new burner apparatus and is currently looking at adding more equipment. 

We also had a super veggie garden.  It got warm early and we planted early and then it got silly hot.  I found asparagus seedlings this year and was so pleased to finally begin a patch.  We lost a bunch in the drought time of our summer, but a good portion survived and is mulched up for the winter.  For the first time, this year we planted Acorn Squash and Pie Pumpkins.  The squash section of the garden reminded me of Jacks’ Beanstalk.  Tomatoes, zucchini, beans, chard, herbs, peppers, onions, celery and leeks did well.  Roots don’t seem to do well but we have learned of one really happy spot for them.  Otherwise, in the big garden the voles and moles devour all that is underground – the hidden part of the iceberg, so to speak.

Working at home put our driving time back into our day and this was great.  It also afforded us the ability to provide the aging Beau dog, our house dog of 12 years, with greater attention.  He had a very good summer.  When summer was over, he’d had enough and began to quickly decline.  We helped him leave this world on September 1st.  He was about 14 ½ years of age; or, 98 in human years.



Each of us recently purchased new cars.  It was time.  My car was 11 years of age, a good ripe age for a car.  D.R.’s car was a bit younger but was going to need extensive repairs / upgrades.  I purchased another Honda Fit while D.R. moved from the Mini to a Honda Civic Sport.  We are well balanced since one is white and one is black, and having owned one of each in the past, neither colour is easy to keep clean.  Our road was the subject of extensive work this summer and the gravel is now gone and we have a hard surface – and the cars stay cleaner.

D.R. has been teaching karate again.  The newest part is he’s teaching online, so you can join in on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings.  He is looking forward to spending more time on this after he retires in February.

In 2019 we spent a LOT of money on fencing the perimeter of the pastured land of the farm.  We have just had a small fencing job done.  The dilapidated fence at the driveway was replaced, two new gates installed along with a new line of fence to create a permanent paddock in which we keep the ram in summer. 

The mild Fall has been WONDERFUL.  We might now be ready for Winter but enjoy any mild weather sent our way.  The sheep are still eating pasture which reduces our feed costs for the Winter.

 Be well. Stay safe.  Find JOY in the Holiday Season. 

 


 


Friday, 13 December 2019

2019 Review



 
Yes, I am very tardy in writing blog entries.  I really enjoy the blog - and a million other things that pull me away from it.....

In February I travelled to Guelph to attend son's graduation.  He achieved his Master's of Science in Mathematics.  This is a major accomplishment for him and we are so very proud of him.



Lambing began in late April and went very smoothly this year.  Thirteen ewes birthed 24 lambs, including one stillborn triplet.  All 23 survived and thrived over the summer.  Son came for a visit at this time.  It was a good time as I had vacation from work and if I needed a hand he was more than willing to pitch in.  He got in a bit of fishing in nearby creeks.

Two lambs were orphaned at two weeks of age when their mother suddenly died while being shorn of her wool.  This is a very rare occurrence.  The orphans went down the road to the neighbours for a few weeks until they got them onto a bottle schedule that worked around my work schedule.  They did okay but orphans just don't seem to bounce back or catch up and so they were sold as soon as I found an interested party.

Maple syrup season and lambing tend to overlap as both are spring activities.  Maple syrup is Hubby's activity as I'm involved with the lambs.  I do the final step, hot packing the readied syrup into jars.  This year we used a hygrometer which has been super for assessing when the syrup is ready. For the second year in a row we had a bumper crop of sap.

Over the previous year we had extensive farm fence installed.  It. was. very. expensive.  Fencing is expensive.  Good thing it lasts 25 or so years.

With the perimeter of the pasture fenced I then set up electric fence netting to section off smaller areas inside the perimeter.  In this manner the sheep are moved every four days.  Although quick to take down and set up it's a lot when you work full time off the farm.  Moving the sheep every four days has had excellent results.  It is good for the pasture and the land; and, the sheep.

It was a very wet spring and difficult to get the vegetable gardens planted.  Many things did not get started well, so the output was less than other years.  I am trying to cut back though so it was alright.  For the first time we used wood chips for mulch and this was very successful. In the past we bought straw for mulch but it was hard to find straw due to last year's excessive rain.  A neighbour who has a tree cutting business is always looking for a place to dump the wood chips.  Later I took another load and used these for bedding in the barn after it's annual clean out.

In July I cut back to working 4 days a week.  This has been very beneficial.  I actually feel I've had a rest by the end of my 3 day weekend.  And sometimes I even get my house clean.  Sometimes.

In mid-July Hubby started a new job with the same organization, just a different department.  Life got kinda crazy after that as he got a few jobs all crammed into one and he was working weekends and evenings and not getting much rest.  And then he wasn't handy for a quick hand in the barn.  By late Fall some of this started to subside and life looks a bit more normal in the New Year.

Lots of things seemed to happen in September.  Daughter was here from Amsterdam, on her way to a conference in Boston, I think.  Son came for a visit too so we had a grand time, the four of us, over a long weekend.  We were all sworn to secrecy until all was confirmed to be well, but this is when daughter told us she and her darling husband were expecting.  This was VERY EXCITING NEWS.  Indeed!

Also in September, we acquired a riding lawn mower.  The bush hog on the farm tractor just doesn't do a fine job of mowing lawn.  The new equipment does a nice manicure.  We also had some excavation of ditches done over the summer.  The front yard drains way better now and has taken the pressure off of some basement seepage that has been ongoing since we moved here five years ago.  We had some culverts installed in some boggy spots on the property so as to assure we won't get Oz the tractor stuck there at soggy times.

I had been toying with an idea for awhile and finally just did it.  I always feel badly that a ram spends so much of his time alone.  We haven't had a ram in a few years.  Last year we borrowed one and planned to do so again, however the poor guy broke his leg and had to be euthanized.  The new ram was scheduled to arrive in October.  So, I bought an Angora goat to keep him company.  I picked up Nigel mid-September.  Born in April he was not very big and fit in the dog cage in the back of my car.

Nigel has become attached to two sheep, Pearl and Frosty, who were orphans from the year before.  They were raised by neighbours who have goats.  Whereas the sheep were pushing poor little Nigel around and out of the way, and out of the food, Nigel could tag along with Pearl and Frosty and know he was safe.

Nigel the Angora goat


Angora goats provide us with Mohair which is lovely to spin.  Angora goats are clipped (or shorn) twice a year.  Nigel had been clipped the week before I picked him up.  He is castrated so there will be no baby Nigels, and hopefully the stench of billy goat will not be a problem.

My Mom's 80th birthday was at the end of October.  We travelled to Guelph to gather with the family to celebrate.  We had a lovely dinner out at a nearby fancy mill restaurant.  Happy 80th Birthday, Mom!!  Mom's birthday is Halloween and one of her favourites is candy kisses.  She always took ours.  I didn't mind because I never liked them.  I bought her a bag of her own for her 80th.

In the Fall I submitted some photos for the first time to the annual photo contest of the Ontario Sheep Farmers.  We are members of this organization that represents sheep farmers in various matters across the province.  We were thrilled to learn that one of the photos won the contest.  We won in the category of "Around The Sheep Farm" and we also won for "Best Overall".  The winning photo is featured on the front cover of the December issue of the Ontario Sheep News magazine.  In addition I had already selected that photo for our 2020 calendar.






As we wrap up 2019 we are reminded of how fortunate we are to live here.  We love the property, the animals and the lifestyle.  We enjoy good quality food, some of it homegrown, while other foodstuffs are locally produced.  Also we welcome visitors and provide tours and information for those interested in learning about agriculture and the interesting geography of the area.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!