Sunday 28 December 2014

Kitty, Rams & Dogs

The Love Kitty

It has been difficult for hubby to get photos of Humphrey-kitty as he lives in the rafters of the barn.  However, Humphrey has become bolder and comes down more frequently when the barn is clear of dogs.  Often the dogs are about but ignoring Humphrey’s presence and then he is safe.  I don’t know how he can tell.  Well, sometimes he can’t tell and the white flash of dog up the pile of hay sends Humphrey-kitty scurrying back up into the rafters.  

Sister described him as love starved as he just clung to her and crawled up onto her shoulders.  Over the holidays daughter was quite taken by Humphrey-kitty for similar reasons.  He really is very loving.  Unfortunately, this cat-allergic owner is not very loving in return.  And so often I’m busy doing this and that, fetching hay from his safe spot where he is fed; Humphrey-kitty remains love deprived. 

We have decided to get a second kitty to keep him company.  We need to do so soon before Humphrey gets much older and less accepting of a new friend.


I got into a panic I guess.  The Pepto Bismol was not working and Christmas was coming for real.  I had dewormed Birch, the ram lamb, but still there was no improvement.  So, after some consultation with my shepherdess neighbour, I took up a plastic spoon and Ziploc bag and scooped some poop.  I went to the Vet and submitted the sample for testing.  This was the 23rd and they had regular hours. 

I dropped it off and returned home well before company arrived.  Lunch was already prepared; it just needed to go into the oven when the guests arrived.  Late in the afternoon I returned to the Vet to pick up the prescribed medication for the now defined problem; a more specific dewormer and an oral remedy for a bacterial gut infection.

And then the next panic set in.  Since the marking harness was too large for Birch, I had removed it.  After the normal three week reproductive cycle of the ewes I put on him a homemade marking harness that was small enough to fit and did not rub him raw on his legs like the other.  I used Beau-dog’s car harness and a marking crayon, the same as that on the ram harness, provided by my neighbour.  Now, if Birch marked any of the ewes they had not conceived in the first cycle.  This could be his problem or hers….

There were two that were marked in the first week of wearing the harness.  And then some other ewes looked to me to be in heat but there was no observed interest or marking by Birch.  I began to panic.  What if we had no lambs?  That would absolutely not do.  Maybe I had made a mistake getting Birch….

I got online and found a mature ram on kijiji.  There was a brief email exchange on the 23rd, a phone call the morning of the 24th and the ram arrived just after lunch.  They had named him Rambo.  I thought, unless he’s going to shoot a coyote, that’s not an appropriate name.  I suggested the children name him and son-in-law came up with Abraham as he is to sire many.  It stuck with me, and Abe it is for short.

He is a North Country Cheviot from Saskatchewan.  He is 5 or 6 and has progeny to prove his worthiness.  The seller reported that he likes bread and was good with their two children of four and seven years of age – which means there is less fear of him running across the field to bash a person as rams have been known to do.   He can be “aggressive with a pail of grain”.  If Birch has bred all the ewes then Abe will be the flock sire next year.  Either way it is a win-win situation.

On Christmas day hubby and I outfitted Abe with the marking harness and let him out with the flock.  We found that once we caught him Abe stood almost without being held and allowed us to put the harness on him.  Stay tuned….

Over & Under

The Maremmas have been quite good about staying in the field with the sheep.  I tell them, “Stay with your sheep” and when they get out and we head back to the field, I say, “Sheep, sheep, where are your sheep?”

Hubby has noted that there is a pattern to their getting out.  Mornings are a popular escape time.  At first Millie was going under the fence.  It was some time before Ruby began to do the same.  We have had more workmen around and this seems to entice the dogs out of the field.  After several escapes and I was able to deduce that it was under the fence that they came, I plugged it with a log across the bottom of the fence.

That worked for a bit.  Maybe one day.  Then Millie began to get out again.  After a few days I was able to determine she was getting out at the same spot by jumping over the fence.  It was not an easy jump though.  She was limping on a hind leg one day.  She stopped jumping out so I deduced she caught her leg on the fence while jumping out. 

Then Ruby discovered her own Houdini-ness and began to shrink to nothing and squeeze under the back gate.  I wondered why the inside of her back legs were muddy.  It was the squeezing part.  Hubby put her back three times in quick succession.  She’d go back in the front gate and scoot to the back gate and squeeze under it.  I put a log along the bottom of the gate and that ended that. 

They had previously been squeezing between the set of gates at the back and I had covered that with some plywood.  Much of their getting out is to follow a scent, check out a sound or greet a visitor.

The morning pattern was an important one to note.  In the morning Millie is coming off the night shift and is tired.  Ruby is cooped up in the barn all night and full of puppy vigour in the morning.  The dogs were accustomed to a good walk in the field first thing when we took the sheep out in the morning.  Often Millie is sniffing the air toward the back of the property after I let the sheep out of the barn.  So, I have begun to put the dogs out through the back gate in the morning.  They have a good ten or fifteen minute run and check of the back field and then they return.  They often end up at the house but they will come back into the field with the sheep.  The other morning Ruby came to the house and Millie was sitting at the back gate waiting for me to open it for her.  I walked Ruby back to the gate to where Millie had been waiting and put them back the way I wanted them to go. 

It will take a while to catch on to the pattern.  I often find I have to think like the dogs and try to work within that framework to make progress for all.  It will change, again, I know – with the seasons, the weather, the day, Ruby’s growth, etc.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Pool, peels, pepto bismol & bashing

Each day is the same but different.  Sometimes there is an event that is all consuming and often times the days are the same with only variations in the weather.  And yet there are silly antics that occur all of the time...

Pool Bed

Beau loves water.  And mud and snow, too, preferably all three at the same time.  So, a few years ago I picked up a doggie wading pool.  And to my utter disappointment Beau did not play in it.  This is the same dog who: will lie down in a puddle because it is there; will run through a puddle and then turn around and run back through that puddle; and also, the same dog who will bury a tennis ball in the snow and then dig it out again - because it is so much fun.

I recently put the pool to a new task.  When Millie began to appear lame or arthritic, which may be related to lyme disease which she has, I thought of keeping her warm and off of the ground.  So, I set up the pool as a doggie bed.  I put a rubber mat in the bottom and then added a bunch of straw bedding and some fleece from the sheep.  Millie did sleep in this once or twice that I observed.  Note it is not a water bed but a pool bed....

My goal was to get Millie grounded to the Small Barn and this has worked.  Some of my plans however have changed and there are now no animals spending the winter in the Small Barn.  So, now I have been working out how to get Millie more grounded to the Big Barn and the sheep that are in the Big Barn. 

I asked a neighbour to come over and create a dog opening in the bottom of the person door in the Big Barn.  He welcomed the task and had it done in no time.  He went home with a dozen eggs.  Inside the Big Barn dog door I created a pen that Millie can access from outside while the sheep are kept inside.  And in this pen I placed the pool bed. 

To my knowledge Millie has not accessed the dog door in the Big Barn without my coaxing.  Thus, she has not used her pool bed.  Ruby however has been found on numerous occasions in the pool bed.  She loves it!  She would like to stay in that pen and that pool.  It won't be long before I place that pool bed out where Ruby can make the most of it.

Banana peels and pepto bismol

Birch, the ram lamb, has had scours for over a week.  In non-farmer speak he has diarrhoea.  So, in one hand I had a syringe of pepto bismol for Birch and in the other hand I had a banana peel treat for Henrietta the llama.  Both Maremma dogs met me as I entered the barnyard.  They wanted what I was carrying.  After all, it is food.  This is significant considering that several months ago Millie ate very little.  Now she eats the full amount of kibble suggested by the food label, plus goodies I add to it.  I still make one dog's worth of dog food but simply cannot make food for three dogs, especially when two of them are LARGE.

I gave each of the dogs a small piece of banana peel and they wandered away to chew on it - literally and figuratively.  Both rejected this llama delicacy.  Their preoccupation with this activity allowed me to move across the yard to Henrietta.

And as I arrived at Henrietta both dogs were at my sides, again, and both were eyeing the banana peel that Henrietta was now eating.  So, once again, I gave them each a small piece to satisfy their incessant need to eat what another is eating. 

They went away and quickly returned, again.  This time Henrietta was pretty well finished eating the banana peel, at least, I had no more left in my hand.  I still had the syringe of bright pink pepto bismol.  Ruby jumps a lot, still, and now she jumped after the pepto bismol hand.  Then she jumped at Henrietta to get closer to her mouthful of banana peel.  Henrietta responded by spitting that mouthful of banana peel - as only a llama can do - at Ruby - of course she also got me and Millie.

Ruby jumped away and then back again, half leaping up at Henrietta.  The llama's response was to half leap forward, poking her face forward too.  No one was amused.  Ruby does bring this upon herself.

Bashing sheep

Ruby has been well bashed by sheep.  They have become accustomed to her but do not usually like what she does.  She wants to play with them and often approaches them as a litter mate.  They scoot away...  Some of the ewes simply bash her outright whenever Ruby gets close.  And if she's not close they will run four steps to bash her.  This is about as aggressive as a sheep can and will get.

Tall Girl - yes she is the tallest sheep I have - seems to do a lot of Ruby bashing.  Unlike gossipping this kind of bashing is physical.  I have been bashed by a few hundred pounds of ram during mating season.  It is not a pleasant experience.  Granted, Ruby now weighs almost as much as the ewes but they do have a hard head. 

So, one afternoon I was in the barn and observed Tall Girl leap half way across the barn to bash Ruby.  Ruby fell over flat and laid there.  It was not that she was winded.  She has learned that if you lay flat on the ground they leave you alone.  Ruby is more often now seen crawling on her belly in the barn, playing it safe.

Sunday 7 December 2014

One less...

Hunting coyotes is a sport around here.  The deer population is down this year due to an increase in coyotes.  Where livestock is kept the owner has the right to shoot predators.  And a certain level of responsibility since compensation for losses due to wild animals is a provided by the province – that means you taxpayers.

The hunter, Mr. Robert, was referred to us by a service man who has done a fair bit of work for us here.  We had asked Mr. Robert to send us an email when he planned to come and hunt on the property. 

I was in the big city for the afternoon and evening so this really is hubby’s story.  When he returned home from work he found a note from Mr. Robert.

Hubby got the wheelbarrow and headed back to the cabin.  Late home from work there was not much light left in the day.  She wasn’t too big to lift into the wheelbarrow; she being the dead coyote.  At the barn everyone’s full attention was on that wheelbarrow.  Part of this is that the animals were looking for dinner.  I had given them ‘lunch’ which I normally don’t do, to see them through the day until hubby gave them a ‘light dinner’ and tucked them into the barn.

Henrietta came over and looked at the carcass.  She startled, wiggled and squiggled and scampered away quickly – our collective powers of exposition are inadequate to describe Henrietta’s peculiar movements.  I have wondered before if she is afraid of coyotes, perhaps having been chased by one or more since her arrival here.

Ruby looked then growled deeply, recognizing this as an intruder.  Millie leapt for the coyote’s throat which resulted in her landing in the wheelbarrow, and then she began to drag it out.  Thus, one can surmise Millie has had some serious experience with coyotes and has little fear of doing her job.

All of the sheep gathered around the wheelbarrow.  I transport hay several times a day in a wheelbarrow so this activity is literally the arrival of the ‘haybox’ – the military cook’s food vessel .

In addition to these observations, take note of Mr. Robert’s comments regarding the dogs.  He was not willing to enter the field where the dogs guard the sheep.  A pair of workmen had arrived earlier in the day and the experienced fellow told the new lad not to go near that big white dog; don’t put your hand over the fence…  There is a very healthy respect about for the big white dogs.

It was a late half past eleven when I arrived home, noting that hubby had put on a lot of outside lights for me which I thought was sweet.  As I was unloading the car, Beau dog appeared to greet me, and then hubby.  It had gotten very cold outside.  I was not used to being greeted in this way, especially so late in the evening as usually hubby is sleeping by now. 

“Leave your stuff and come and see the dead coyote” he said.

“The what?!  You shot a coyote?”  I responded.

“I didn’t, but Mr. Robert did” And he began to tell me about his evening.

The female coyote appears to me to be a young one, born this year.  As we later viewed a photo hubby had sent to Mr. Robert we admired the colours in her coat.  Its lovely coat does not change the way we feel about this cunning predator that eats our sheep!

And so when hubby sent Mr. Robert an email to thank him and tell him where he left the carcass for retrieval, Mr. Robert came back with “One less coyote eating your sheep”.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Snow Shoot

Snow shoot does sound like snowsuit and maybe I made a typo; but no, this is a snow shoot for real.  Here are a collection of photos that hubby took after some snowfall. 

Mother Sheba and daughter Sheba enjoying the snow.  They preferred the change in weather, choosing to sleep out in the field on several nights.  When the wind picked up they slept out of its way under the overhang against the barn.

"Ruby - Dooby" I call her these days.  See the lovely 'biscuit' colouring in this light.  It runs down her back with lots of the colour on her ears.  Unseen in this photo she has a diamond of colour on the top of her head.  She continues to grow!

This is one of the last photos we have of Sheba.  You can see the expression on their faces that says, 'oh the sun is lovely today'.  The sheep in front of the llamas is Tall Girl.  She is the tallest and tall for a sheep.  Tall Girl has quite a dislike for Ruby, bashing her regularly and for no reason.  Like a dutiful Maremma, Ruby takes it all.  When a sheep threatens Ruby will sit down or lay down amongst them and the threat usually stops.  This evening I was petting a sitting Ruby and when I moved away Tall Girl bashed her.  Ruby fell over and stayed there. 

Having played for awhile Millie and Ruby are taking a rest in the sunshine.  They are on duty in front of the Big Barn.  Ruby is thoroughly enjoying her first snow.


Now the snow is gone, melted on this very balmy day.  Henrietta refused to go into the barn tonight.  She is sleeping under the overhang, by herself.  She does not seem to miss her mother.  She stays with the sheep as part of the flock.  She tries to hog the feeder and gets annoyed with the sheep.  Other than expressing her annoyance by making faces, putting her ears back and stretching her neck to lear at them, they all carry on.  For the most part the sheep seem to ignore Henrietta.  The dogs and Henrietta have had a few confrontations.  Everyone however is integrating as desired.

Millie is not far away from Henrietta tonight.  I heard her barking and it was a confrontation-with-Henrietta type of bark.  Lately Millie curls up into a tight ball in the hay feeding area - day and night.  Both dogs love the hay.  Millie was covered in hoar frost one morning and when I put out hay there was an oval spot bare of snow where she had slept.  Other times she is in the lean-to where I've piled some bedding in the spot she has selected.  She is quite comfortable.  The dog who lived under the veranda, chased cars on the road and wouldn't stay behind the fence now lives in the barn and stays with her sheep.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Busy Day

One of my favourite times of the day is the morning.  I am up early with or without the Beau-dog alarm, get dressed, eat breakfast and head out for chores.  I put the coffee pot on before I go out to the barn.  It warms me up when I come in and I do enjoy coffee, a cookie and writing my blog.

It was a very busy weekend.  Sunday alone was non-stop.  I slept very late, for me, as the Beau-dog alarm slept in and I leapt out of bed at 8:15, knowing that would was to be delivered after 8:30.  The wood delivery was fashionably farm late for a Sunday morning and arrived about 9:30.  This allowed me to get my chores done and get some coffee into me.

As we were stacking the wood, folks arrived to see Sheba.  Suzanne was very knowledgeable of llamas.  She recently lost her dearly beloved llama and was delighted with Sheba.  They took her home with them.  I felt sad to see her go however Suzanne confirmed my thoughts on our situation, that a predator controlling llama needs to be without like company.  I was impressed when Suzanne walked in an slipped a halter on Sheba and then led her out to the driveway.  I had never tried to do this with Sheba, mostly because she was so evasive and we could not touch her.  The only time I got that close was when she was shorn and she was very good to handle.

When they arrived and I looked at the box they had on a trailer, I said she would not fit in that.  But they know llamas and assured me she would lie down in it and fit just fine.  And so it was.  They hooked up her halter to a long line that went through the front of the box.  Suzanne and I pushed on the hind end and Sheba - mostly willingly - got into the box.  The back end of the box was bolted on - literally, with a screw gun - and the trailer gate closed up.  And away they went.

So - maybe my gifted math children will read this and check on my calculations - the wood was $200 and I sold Sheba for $225.  I made $25; sort of.  I sold Sheba for what I paid for her.  There were some costs in between.  The wood will reduce our propane consumption with which we fuel our furnace.  We have piles of wood here but it needs to be split and dried.  It will cost us under $200 to rent a splitter for a weekend but we decided we don't have an entire weekend to dedicate to this activity right now.  And time is marching on.  Although it has now melted with the recent rain, that snowfall last week and the cold were a sudden reminder that winter is coming, if not here.

Millie has had a few busy nights, barking away at coyote traffic around us.  I hear her bark at various points and realise she is actually following them as they go around the house - at a distance but moving all the same.  There are dens in the mountainous rocks across the road.  This is not only the perfect spot for a cell tower - we get excellent reception - but for coyote denning.  They move along the creek across the road and then cross the road at the southern edge of our property, and move inward and to the Middle Field.  And Millie's barking follows that pathway.  And then there are the various criss-crossings across the property...

We have met with a fellow who is willing to hunt the coyotes.  It is a sport around here.  While fixing tea I overheard him showing hubby photos of mother and daughter and thought they were family photos.  When I joined them at the table he showed me the photos of the mother-daughter pair he had shot the week before. 

On sale was a catch and release coyote cage which we purchased.  We do not intend to release.  This is just one more way to remove some of the predator problem.  We need to develop this plan further and likely in conjunction with the hunter.  And somehow we need to keep our dogs out of it

Since the temperature rose and the sun came out we decided to ride the motorbikes to the gas station, to fill up for winter storage preparations.  Neither bike would start and time was required to charge each battery.  By late afternoon when the bikes started, the sun had been covered with cloud but we were going.  We had a nice ride to the nearest gas station, about twelve kilometres up the road and then back.  It was a bit chilly but nice to ride.  While I pulled together a dinner of leftovers and tucked up the critters for the night, hubby finished winterizing the bikes and moving them into the small stall in the Small Barn for their hibernation.

Ruby - or Ruby-Dooby - as I have been humming to her, is full of antics.  She and Millie do not really like the cat.  Poor Humphrey cat lives in the roof trusses.  Ruby-Dooby has climbed up the hay to the rafters several times in pursuit.  Humphrey walks across the trusses to the middle area where boards have been set down to allow the storage of junk.  In addition Humphrey is able to climb over the wall and through to the overhang where there is more hay stored.  Humphrey would like to cuddle; the dogs are not yet ready for that!

Electrocution may be what gets Ruby in the end.  She likes to chew wires, only this time it was the live wire of the rope light I had set up for the hens.  Fortunately she did not damage the timer, just the rope light.  That seasonal feeling from the rope light has now ended.  I have hooked up another light in a different location.  I'm sure the hens are confused.

What a long day filled with lots and lots of activity!

Friday 21 November 2014

First Snowfall

It was rather white and very pretty.  Then it got very blowy - okay, the wind was blowing everything to the horizontal.  And it was cold.  What a LION of an entry for winter's first snowfall!

So, we really were not ready.  I guess it's going to thaw next week to allow us to catch up.  We'll see.  I will prioritise once again.

I am very behind with my blog.  It has been very busy.  There are several new additions.

I found four Chanteclerc hens for sale.  They are just starting to lay.  I had been looking for this breed in particular as it was developed in Canada to tolerate our cold winters; the combs and wattles are small.  I wanted a few more hens since production is not quite enough for me to put a sign at the end of the driveway to advertise eggs for sale.

So the new girls arrived and there was some squawking.  Okay, there was a lot of squawking.  Before their arrival I read that they are not a pet kind of bird and were described as flighty.  This seems to be true, however one allowed me to pet it today.  The reds are nasty to them.  After all, the expression 'pecking order' was created by these creatures and they are demonstrating their expertise in this area.  I have put out a second feeder and moved it closer to the Chanteclers when there is an opportunity.

They are a Banty variety and instead of the white variety are dark in colouring with black and brown and red highlights.  These girls' beaks were not trimmed like the reds were and so they are sharp.  They are young, born in the spring and just starting to lay.  Their eggs are brown and at this point, tiny - especially when compared to the very large eggs of the reds.  An aside, there was a large double yoker laid by one of the reds last week.  Hubby enjoyed that for breakfast.

Oh, yeah, the snow.  Well, more of it arrived.  The sheep are still wandering down by the house and are foraging for grass.  That is, they are digging in the snow to find grass to munch on.  I am feeding hay.  I have been feeding more hay.  I ran through my calculations and I'm feeding more hay.  The sheep have been getting a bit of grain too to add some bonus nutrition for the breeding season.  Birch the new ram joined the flock last week.

There was the wild barn cat I brought home that was last seen in a tree, care of border collie Beau.  I was a little more strategic this time.  I have been watching kijiji and found a young barn cat, fixed, up-to-date on shots and free.  It turns out it is a rescue for euthanasia bound cats.  I was going to get two but the second one was not feeling well.  Humphrey meowed a bit on the way home and otherwise was an excellent passenger.  I had held on to the poultry crate I borrowed to get kitties home too.

At home we took Humphrey in the crate into the barn with the Maremmas.  Ruby went bonkers as there was an intruder in her barn!  Kitty ate some vittles.  He seemed quite hungry.  Ruby didn't bother too much until later and when I entered the barn Ruby was at the rafters on the stacked hay, peering over the wall into the overhang where the hay was stored on the other side of the wall. 

So, Humphrey remained calm and stayed setting atop the wall.  In a second he could dash into the hay on the other side and Ruby would not be able to follow.  Humphrey seemed to me to be quite content.  I was happy as Humphrey remained calm and in control and able to handle this HUGE puppy barking in his face.  And on the other side of the wall there is an abundance of mice and rats. 

Oh, and we picked up a side of beef today.  Local, happy cow.  We had some for dinner.  And last night we ate lamb.  All very good and good for us.  Not sure we can describe snow that way...

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Sheep, llamas, hiking

I am no longer taking the sheep out to pasture in the Middle Field.  Instead they are around the house and in the Front Field.  I am offering a half bale of hay each day but it is barely cleaned up; they prefer the green stuff even though the pickings are slim.

I have also been giving the sheep grain now for a few weeks.  This is called "flushing" and is done in anticipation of breeding.  The ram lamb too has been getting lots of grain.  He's a small ram lamb and growing.  I need him to be a big guy!  The ram, Birch, will go out with the girls this weekend. 

Some sheep farmers hold back their ewe lambs and do not breed them the first year.  We did this thirty years ago, holding them back until they were larger.  It is hard on them as they are not finished growing and they are not always good mothers that first year.  In the thirty years since I had sheep I notice that lambs gain faster.  My market lambs were big, earlier.  And so I have decided to breed the ewe lambs this year. 

When I look at the four yearlings from my flock purchase in March they are all doing very well.  They were all bred their first year.  They are large sheep now and looking really healthy.  Each of them had a single lamb and none of them presented as clueless mothers; they took care of their babies.  And so if I breed my ewe lambs and next year they look like these four, I will be very satisfied.  Also, I could have sold more lamb, so if I breed these four I will have more produce to sell.

Last night when I was putting the sheep to bed, Cotton, one of the yearlings from the original flock was very complacent.  Not in an unhealthy way, just that she was standing right in front of me and not moving away.  I stroked and poked her back and as she did not move.  I stroked and poked some more and talked to her.  I told her she was standing stock still like Millie does when she wants a hug.  Then I realised she was in heat and therefore extremely "affectionate".  I reached down and gave her a hug and told her she'd probably never let me do this again.  It was an amusing experience.

When the last market lambs left a week ago I separated the llamas.  I put Sheba in with Birch to keep him company and I left Henrietta in with the flock.  I posted an ad on kijiji to sell Sheba.  I have had one strange response.  I'll have to freshen up the ad.  In recently consulting with a llama breeder she felt that the lack of coyote interference on the part of the llamas is because there are two of them.  She emphasised that it is very much a personality thing, that not all llamas make good guardians.  As I described Henrietta and some of her antics she did express that those were characteristics that could make her a good guardian.  And so we are moving forward with the ongoing predator control project.

In another vein, some girlfriends came to visit on Friday and we went for a good hike on the property.  I had wanted to mark the trail in the bush while I could still see it.  So, we circumvented most of the Middle Field and entered the bush back near the cabin.  We explored some potential off shoot pathways that led us up a lovely hill scattered with chunks of the Canadian Shield.  We crossed the bottom of the valley and onto the north side of the middle promontory that runs east-west down the property.  We then came up the north side of the promontory and arrived back behind the barn.  Before heading in we hiked over and up onto Table Rock to take in the view there. 

It was lovely.  It is a superb time of year to hike.  All three dogs came with us.  This was the first time that Millie has come for a hike with me, other than a field checking expedition.  Beau could not get enough stick play, as usual.  Ruby really liked my one friend in particular and would sit nicely for her - after jumping on her first. 

After our hike we had a potluck lunch of soup, salad, chili, cheese, crackers...  We took our tea by the wood stove.  It was all quite lovely indeed.

Friday 7 November 2014

Fall & Daily Dog Joy


Although I want to write about Fall it has been snowing, which means Winter.  It has been a lovely Fall, a time of year which is my favourite.  Sightings of Reginald and his relatives is unusual and the bugs are very very few - except for deer ticks as I have been finding them on the Maremmas quite regularly.

The colours have been quite nice with lots of red this year.  It is a good time to see things, really see the land, as the leaves are released from the trees.  There are really interesting rock formations under the forest covering.  And some of the older trees are mammoth in size.  I wonder what they have seen, what stories they can tell.

Out in the Middle Field with the sheep, I busied myself collecting dead fall wood for kindling.  Collecting the bits along the edge of the field allowed me to keep an eye on the flock while cleaning up things and gathering fire starter for the wood stove.  I also discovered some junk.  In days of yore farmers burned and buried their garbage.  What I have found are a few spots where galvanised and other metal has been dumped, and glass.  I have gathered up some interesting glass bottles.  In addition there are also some shiny bits of blue and red glass, broken shards from other more handsome discards.  I have also found useful bits such as concrete blocks and terra cotta tubing that will make nice garden accents.

And other times I took Dot's fleece out with me as I work my way through preparing it for carding.  Also in these times I have been present for the dogs.  Ruby has required some correction to not chase the sheep.  This has worked out well.  All in all I have enjoyed the great outdoors of Fall and tried to make effective use of my time protecting the flock.


It was quite scrumptious.  We will not have as much lamb as originally planned.  I hadn't really planned when we would get some.  Last Saturday when I picked up lamb from the butcher I decided we should have some for dinner and so we became owners of one side.

Chops were what I selected.  They were huge.  We treated them like steak and carefully barbecued them in the same way.  Alongside I served up the last late harvest of broccoli and some homegrown red potatoes.  A lovely homegrown dinner, indeed!


I'm not sure who gets more joy out of a day, me or the dogs.  I realised today that Ruby is the first puppy that I have owned.  I have always had a mature dog and advised others to do the same.  Who would want a puppy?  They are so much work.  At twelve weeks she wasn't any work to house train.  She wasn't in the house and never will be in the house.  Her toileting habits are quite good for a barn dog.

Ruby's biggest challenge is that she jumps - a lot.  It's getting better, though.  After about the third jump she sits down and waits for you to pet her.  The jumping really is for joy:  the joy of the day, the joy of the moment, just joy.  She pounces when she hunts mice.  She curls up in a ball and sleeps wherever.  In the barn I caught her sleeping upside down in the middle of her pen on the Power Rangers blanket she pulled out of the garbage pile.  It's her blanket now, always in her pen.  Slowly the stuffing has been removed from the thin pieces of material.

It seems that the best thing to happen to Millie is Ruby's arrival.  Millie runs and plays like I've never seen her do before.  And Millie smiles and beams and glows with her own joy.  Millie has been showing some symptoms of Lyme disease, despite treatment, but the joy still shines through.  I put hay out for the sheep and Millie went and burrowed in the hay.  She slept in the mound.  Millie and Ruby play around the sheep as they munch away at the mound of hay.

We can learn a great deal watching our animals experience the joy of a second, a minute, an afternoon...

Thursday 30 October 2014

Get Away

It's hard to get away from the farm.  Animals require feeding at least once a day, at least those inside or on limited pasture.  Water is essential and should be freshened.  With the coyote situation it is harder to get away, even for a few hours of running errands.

I requested daughter attend her PhD convocation as she had not attended any other graduation ceremonies.  Knowing the date of this event and noting it was one week prior to my mother's 75th birthday, I suggested to my siblings we get together the day following the convocation since I'd be in town.  Unfortunately, our sister was planning to be away.  On the one hand, kudos to her for landing a series of speaking engagements in Australia.  On the other hand, she would be absent for these family events.

We mustered together a number of folks to check on the animals and feed and water over the two full days we would be away.  The beast requiring the most interaction was Beau dog.  And counting sheep was a task to be done numerous times on account of the coyote situation.  It all came together beautifully.

A couple from up the road came by twice on Friday and once on Saturday afternoon to count sheep, play with Beau and feed him dinner.  Apparently, he bonded with Ruby and they are now best buddies.  Another friend came and stayed overnight, checking critters and amusing Beau.  On my antiquated cell phone I received text message updates, photos and videos - which would not play.  The photos included Beau on the couch, happy chickens eating breakfast, and Ruby in her usual spot at the gated doorway of the Big Barn.  And on the Friday night, before our friend arrived, the neighbour-girl did evening chores, feeding everyone and locking up the sheep for the night.  It was  truly a community effort that allowed us to attend the family events.  We are very appreciative of the many hands that allowed us to get away.

Okay, we do look alike a bit, mother and daughter.  We are all very very proud of this very awesome young woman and her amazing accomplishments.  We will miss her as she sets up house in California for a few years for her post-doctoral at CalTech.  She and her husband - yes, they will finally live together in one place, in one country - are coming here for Christmas.

Before heading out to lunch at a restaurant we met at Mom's for a visit - she had yummy chocolate.  Sister's absence was filled with her photograph :)  She was certainly there in spirit.  Happy 75th Birthday, Mom!

When we arrived home on Saturday evening all was in good order.  We each headed off to do respective evening chores.  The sheep were already in the barn, peacefully lying down and chewing their cud.  Their 'dog-thing', Ruby, thumped her tail on the ground in excitement.  As long as she stays low and down they don't whack her.  Less and less do I find her in her pen; she stays in the larger area with the sheep.  The chickens were roosting and their egg laying Christmas light rope which is on a timer was still on to brighten things up.

I fed those who needed feeding, checked water, gathered a few stray eggs and tucked up everyone for the night.  We petted Millie and Beau and unpacked ourselves, finding our respective comfort zones and tasks to get settled back into home. 

Saturday 18 October 2014

Atypical Friday

Not a typical, but atypical.  I know of no one else who has ever spent a Friday this way.

As I walked up behind the barn I saw hubby's car.  He was home early.  I saw him and called out to him.  "Get your rifle, Honey."  He could see I had mine.  I'd been out for an hour and finally found the carcass.  The sheep 'notified' me when I saw them rushing around the barn, herded in tightly, heads and ears up, eyes half looking behind them.

I'd been in to town earlier and so my rifle was locked up tight.  I ripped through the procedure to get it out, grabbed the ammunition, a coat, hat and jumped into the easy to don rain boots.  I tried counting the sheep but they were jittery and jambed together.  It's easier to count them when they are spread out.  I counted twenty-six three times and did not want to believe that one was missing.  After all, I often had to count three times before I actually got twenty-seven. 

Millie had come into the field with me.  Only a half hour before she and Ruby and I had been out with the sheep for over an hour.  We had been exploring the bush alongside the field.  I had collected some old glass bottles.... 

Millie went right up to the sheep and nuzzled their faces, a behaviour I had not yet seen.  I had not seen Millie try to get this close to a sheep nor had I seen the sheep allow her to get that close.  They were not feeling good and Millie knew something big was up.  Since Ruby's arrival the sheep have been more accepting of Millie.  Unlike Ruby - I refer to her as their 'dog-thing' - who is full of puppy playfullness, Millie is calm and clearly is trying to make them safe as she heads out to the field first thing each morning.  Millie is once again trying to befriend the sheep but they are not the sheep with whom she was once best buddies.  It remains confusing for Millie and as much as Ruby is very grounded at the barn, Millie avoids going into the Big Barn.

Together hubby and I walked out to the field and surveyed the scene.  I had brought my camera to take photos of the carcass.  The sheep were grazing restlessly nearby.  They had followed me out the second time I went out to search. 

At first I did a quick check of the field.  I could see neither a carcass or coyote in the field.  I went back to the barn and counted sheep again.  I counted fourteen ewes and thirteen lambs.  Clearly, a lamb was missing.  I made a mental note of my favourites and they all seemed to be present.  I know, I shouldn't have favourites....  Now I knew I had to find the missing lamb.  I searched the entire field edge, looking closely into the brush.  At the very end of my search, there it was - a dead lamb with grass still in its mouth, chewing unfinished.  He was still warm.  I looked at my watch and sixty-five minutes had now passed since I first looked up from my desk and saw the frightened sheep at the barn.

Hubby was all decked out in his hunting clothes.  These allowed him to be camouflaged, warm and somewhat waterproof.  In addition I sprayed him down, including the soles of his feet, with a no-scent product to allow him to be less known to Mr. Coyote.  It was now about 3:15 pm; he'd gotten home early and was now at work in a different capacity.  I would not see him again until just before seven.  He lay in wait for Mr. Coyote to return to the carcass while I took the sheep back to the Front Field near the barn.

I spent an hour on the phone trying to figure out how to navigate the system(s) to get a Livestock Evaluator to accept my application for compensation for the coyote loss.  This was our fifth loss - plus a major and expensive injury - seventh attack, and tenth sighting.  Hearing them is in addition to these stats.  I could no longer go without compensation; I was losing too much money.  Dear reader I am sparing you the details of the challenge of navigating a contradictory government bureaucratic maze.  I managed to arrange for the Evaluator to come the next evening. 

The Friday evening barbecue plans were postponed.  I had put soup in a double boiler on low so it would be hot and ready whenever we wanted it.  I puttered around outside for the evening, awaiting hubby's return.  I was near the sheep and the dogs, observing behaviours and ensuring safety.  I cleared out a shed and set up for salting hides which I would retrieve from the butcher and then salt to preserve them until ready to ship to the tannery for finishing.  In addition I retrieved from the shed the heated buckets I would need when the freezing temperatures required them. I put up a few items for storage and in the process secured a few rodent passageways into the shed.

I was putting the sheep into the barn when hubby appeared at the back gate.  "I'll help you"  I called out.  It is very awkward to navigate the secured gate with a rifle in hand.  He was
cold and had had enough.  There was no longer sufficient light for the task at hand.  Together we lifted the heavy lamb into the wheelbarrow.  We put it in the big box stall in the Small Barn where it was safe from scavenging and so that the Evaluator could look at it the next day.

There was a fleeting visit by a coyote.  It quickly circled the carcass.  It was so quick that hubby does not recall seeing it's head or tail.  It seemed to be assessing the situation and the return of the entire family was a distinct possibility.

We were away the next day attending a prior commitment -  a gun course, my third one, all part of this new life punctuated with unwelcome visits by coyotes.  The sheep were not put out back but left in the Front Field.  Both Millie and Ruby are very attentive to the sheep when they are in this field.  When we got home I only had to count them once to get the right number, now twenty-six:  fourteen ewes and twelve lambs.

The compensation I will receive - providing all bureaucratic hoops are jumped - is far less than would have been earned had the male lamb lost instead gone to the butcher's next week.  As the Evaluator was leaving this evening he said he has been at one sheep farm seven times in two weeks for many losses, and the farmer has already shot two coyotes during that time.  This does put things into perspective.  Yet, it is such a shame to lose lambs in such a worthless way.  I feel very little control when these things happen. 

And, what a loss of a fine Friday night!

Thursday 9 October 2014

Dogs, Colour & Reno


I say "Good dog!" a lot.  As well, Ruby hears frequently "Off!" and "No Chase!".  She is learning and once she settles a bit knows to sit when she comes to me and then I will pet her right away.  She is very excited in the morning.  And she sometimes chases the sheep.  In turn the ewes are getting kind of hard on, immediately setting out to bash her when she is near.  I've only seen and heard Ruby stand up to the sheep when they get near her food.  Millie on the other hand would never get bashed by a ewe.

With the addition of Ruby and the intense bonding we experienced over the time of her spay surgery, Millie is getting much closer to the sheep.  She rarely parks under the veranda now.  And most of the time she will stay in the Front field which is a safer place from which to chase cars.  I really discourage the chasing of cars in front of the house as she gets right on the road.  The fellow who drives the big red motorcylce says very unpleasant things when chased by Millie.

Part of the attraction to the road is that the coyotes live on the other side of it.  Many evenings now we hear the coyotes howl and yip at dusk just across the road.

With Millie's surgery we locked her into the Small Barn.  She only escaped three or four times - !  She can climb a four and a half foot wall, but not five.  I am still locking her in there at night.  There are a few other animals in that barn now and I am hoping Millie can bond with them.  In addition, we have thought about putting a doggie door into the Small Barn so that Millie can come and go; however, I'm not sure yet.

Millie has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few weeks.  She eats more than she ever has and hangs around the back door from four o'clock until dinner time at seven; she's hungry.  I increased her food again.  She is resting better.  The barn is much cleaner than under the veranda and although she is a happy outdoor dog, she is out of the weather at night.  And she is sleeping.  She has only barked a few times in the last week while locked up in the Small Barn at night.  Before this she worked all night, running all over, barking at shadows and howls and barks and squeaks.  So, she was also too tired to do much sheep guarding in the daytime.

She will now come out to the Middle Field where the sheep are grazing a few times a day.  She will not stay there.  She will however stay in the Front Field for long periods of time.  She can escape out of there but also will slip back into the field.  Interestingly, she blasted Ruby in a major way making it clear that SHE was never to leave that field.

The two dogs play beautifully together.  This makes them both happy. 


A few weeks ago the neighbour girl helped me to weigh all thirteen lambs.  Wow!  In the thirty years since I had sheep it seems, sheep have gained in the rate at which they gain.  My scale goes up to one hundred pounds and most male lambs were off the scale.  Lucky was the smallest at seventy-seven pounds.  The ewe lambs were all around eight-five pounds with one at ninety-five pounds.

By the end of that session, we were both filthy.  You would have thought we had rolled in the manure pile.  I will never get my jeans completely cleaned.  We used the hose to clean up a bit before I drove her home.  Good thing it was a warm day and we could hose down.

As a result I have made arrangements to have lambs butchered over a one month period.  Mostly this is to allow me to manage freezer space.  I will still need to purchase an additional chest freezer.  So, we are taking orders and collecting recipes, looking forward to enjoying some yummy range fed lamb.

I've had to make arrangements with the trucker to get the lambs to the butcher.  I will also have to make arrangements to have the hides tanned.  And I am looking into taking my fleeces to a mill to have them washed and prepared into roving for spinning and some into wool, ready for knitting.  There is a lot to arrange!


Yes, it's Fall and the colours are lovely.  But that is not what I want to tell you about.

I have added colour to my flock.  I have purchased a coloured ewe and a ram who will pass on colour genes.  I have decided to call the ewe "Libby" after Elizabeth Hoey for whom I worked as a teen.  Her coloured flock was a great inspiration and this is the first colourful ewe I have, and she is several colours indeed.  If she were a pony she'd be called a pinto.

The ram is young but will do the job as expected.  He comes with the name "Birch" which I think we'll keep.  I have a marking harness for him to wear when he is put out with the ewes in November.  When he does what he is supposed to do a crayon mark will be left on the ewe.  If three weeks later there are new crayon marks on the ewe, we will know he is not working.  We hope there is only one mark on each ewe.

In addition to passing on colour genes, he has very nice fleece which will also be passed on as well.  His sire was a Blue Faced Leicester.  Spinners love to spin this breed of wool.  The breed is also known for producing good quality meat animals.  So, a good dual purpose breed.  The seller sent me this photo after they left her place.

Libby and Birch


Over the last few weeks a variety of service people have been in and out and we finally have a basement again.  Recall that we planned to renovate to finish the basement as it was just rough drywall down there.  Then there was the flood on April 9th.  So, we went into recovery mode.  So, we have completed the rebuild to recover from the flood; and the Reno, as originally planned.

It is really really nice.  It is bright and white and clean and dry.  Hubby has been unpacking his stuff and setting up his space.  There are 'flood goods' still across the house but we will get it all put away, hopefully by Christmas time.

There are still some shelves to be built, so books will remain scattered or in boxes.  And finally, the sea container in front of the house will go away, hopefully in the next week.  It has been blocking the view of sunsets!

As well, I can finally clean.  There is - of course - a fine layer of drywall dust over everything.  And since I don't expect workmen and shoes and boots any longer, it might stay cleaner.