Tuesday 29 April 2014

Lambing Days

Last Thursday when I arrived at the barn, Cotton was down with a lamb behind her.  The lamb appeared dead as there was no stirring.  When I opened the barnyard door the remaining sheep slowly took their exit and I locked the door behind them.  Cotton was up, standing nearby and silent.  This was her first lamb and new moms struggle with what to do.  This birth had been long and hard.  There were no signs when I checked at bedtime.

I moved the lamb's head to a better position and began to clean his airway.  There was no response.  I put my hand to his heart and felt its very strong beat.  I got to work.  I cleared the mucous from its face.  I lifted him up by the legs and gently shook to clear out the lungs.  He gasped.  And so life above water began.

His head and face were quite swollen.  I worked a few more minutes and Cotton was unresponsive and uninterested, likely traumatised, the poor dear.  The lamb was cold so I wrapped him up and headed for the house.  Hubby saw me coming.  He said, "Ray said you'd bring the animals in the house".  "Oh", I responded  "Didn't I tell you that part", and we laughed together.

In this photo I had just arrived at the house.  Poor Tiger's head was very swollen and his lifeless body just drooped.

I worked on baby more in the warmth of the entrance way.  He was breathing, although it was wheezy.  After a few minutes he was holding up his head and then sitting up on his chest.  This was a miracle.  As I worked on him and spoke to him, I named him Tiger - this baby wanted to live.

I had thawed cow colostrum the night before, planning to give some to Dot's baby that for some reason was appearing hungry.  Baby Tiger got a warm bath and colostrum, then took up temporary residence in a box in the warm bathroom on the main floor.

Back at the barn, Cotton was quite quiet, not looking for her baby.  I put her in a pen.  I finished morning chores.  Later when Tiger was more stable I brought him out to Cotton.  She did not fight him away but was not motherly.  I was afraid to leave them alone together for too long in case she did bash him, physically rejecting him.

As I was watching these two under the heat lamp I had set up, I noticed Dot lying down, chewing her cud, and very very uncomfortable.  She then proceeded to show signs of birthing.  I was concerned that she was going to pass a dead lamb as she had lambed two days before.  I had to eat so I slipped back to the house for twenty minutes.  When I returned she had two more lambs!  Her single birth of Tuesday had now become triplets as of Thursday!  Although not usual, it is not unheard of for sheep to give birth to say twins, and then two weeks later deliver another set of twins.  At any rate, Dot was loving them up, they were strong and heading to the food bar. 

I decided to take Tiger back to the house.  He was offered more colostrum several hours after the first meal.  He was not sucking well at all and his throat was swollen.  The swelling on his head and face had quickly subsided but he remained puffy under his chin.  In the evening - with lots of encouragement from hubby, something about sleep difficulty with a bleating lamb in the house - I took Tiger out to the barn.  Cotton allowed him to nurse without pushing him away.  By my bedtime she was talking baby talk to him and it all seemed okay.  Baby Tiger was still bellowing the hungry lamb song.

The next morning as I stood in the doorway I could see Tiger's tail wagging madly as he nursed.  Cotton was making appropriate noises and there was no hungry lamb song heard again.

Company had arrived on the Thursday afternoon as I was finally catching my breath from my Baby Tiger morning.  Tiger was still in the bathroom then.  Dot's additions were fine.

Just after midnight on Saturday, Tall Girl presented one very large lamb.  The next morning I arrived at the barn at about 6:30 and Polar Bear had twins. 

I carefully let out the other sheep and I was attaching the bungee to secure the gate, I let it go before it was home.  It hit me in the eye socket just below my eyebrow.  I reeled feeling the pain reverberate in my head.  My hand went to my eye and then I felt the blood running down my wrist.  A clean lambing towel was at hand and I applied that to the wound.  'What now?' I wondered as I began to crumple to the floor, leaning back on the gate.  I knew I had to get to the house.

I was in the Small Barn which is quite close to the house.  I got there.  I took off my boots.  I kept going.  I climbed the stairs.  I was at the top.  I entered the bedroom and quietly called to hubby as I flopped into the chair at hand.  He was right there.  Various first aid things happened.  I eventually got my barn jacket and pants off.  It was all okay.

After awhile hubby came out to the barn with me to do basic morning chores.  Polar Bear and babies were fine.  Later back at the house, our visiting nurse friend assessed things and applied some homemade steri-strips.  The colours began to blossom in the eye socket.  By the next morning all was a deep fuchsia - although I wonder what my Colour Theory Instructor would call this colour...

Later on Sunday, after company had departed Marmalade insisted on lambing on the far side of the front pasture.  I had followed her around a few times hoping she would go to the barn but she kept going back to that spot.  Finally, from the bedroom window I could see she had one lamb.  By the time I walked out there - again - she had a second.  They were up already, strong, and looking for their dinner.  I returned to the house to get towels and a milk crate.  Hubby brought the camera and after a photo session we put the lambs into the milk crate.  Mother did laps around us as we walked through the field and we eventually got her into the barn.

In all, the day had brought us five new lambs.  I was pretty beat with fatigue... and beat up by the look of my eye.  Although I checked the barn at bedtime I planned on sleeping through...

Wednesday 23 April 2014

The Long Day

I am still adorned with hospital bracelets.  I'm not very good with scissors in my 'wrong' hand.  Yesterday, Tuesday, was a very long day.

At 6:15 a.m. I turned on the baby monitor set up in the barn and heard loud baby lamb noises and mother murmurings.  There were numerous voices in that choir!  I grabbed some fruit bread to eat as I put on my barn pants and jacket.

I was greeted by four new beings, all white, all fairly dry and with the usual wobbliness of newborns.  And there were four mothers licking babies, but one seemed out of place.  I watched and observed. 

I put the hay outside, as usual, for the flock and carefully opened the door to slowly allow the rest of the flock to leave.  The four ewes remained and their babies were out of the way of the quiet breakfast stampede.  And again I watched and observed. 

Finally I made the deduction that Smudge had not lambed but was trying to find a baby that wasn't hers.  Of the other three, two were nursing one baby each.  The third, Butterscotch, was comfortably mothering two lambs who were resting.  The singles were not huge in comparison to the twins, although after weighing them later it is the twins that are excellent in size compared to the singles.  So, basically there were 4 lambs that all looked alike.

Smudge was almost in a frenzy looking for a lamb that was not there.  She did not have any visual signs that she was about to lamb.  Finally, I decided, and was able, to get her out of the barn.  She spent the rest of the day, off and on, circling the barn and bleating.

I left the flock locked out for the day.  I managed to separate two moms and their babes and left the third at large.  After I got some breakfast I spent some time finalizing pen arrangements.  Navels were disinfected and lambs weighed.  Now that the ewes were penned I could read their ear tags. 

Butterscotch and her boy baby and girl baby.  She is a good, not easily upset ewe.  These are big lambs and I will consider keeping this ewe lamb to add to the main flock.

It appears that the moms with singles are Spot and Dot.  This is Dot whose left ear with the dot is not in the photo!  I wonder if there are sisters?  At any rate, I now have tag numbers to go with the names.

Dot always stamps her foot at me.  I think she is the one that bashed Beau dog and seems to watch out for another opportunity to do so.

These activities took up the morning.  In the afternoon I worked my way through the spoiled straw and found more than enough good straw to finish bedding the horse stalls in the Small Barn.  So, it too was now ready as needed.

At evening chore time we penned the last mother and let the flock back into the barn.  The pens are on the outside of the large area.  Smudge started again into her frenzy.  Quickly she went to the wire fencing at the pen of Butterscotch and began to ram the fence.  Hubby suggested putting her in the Small Barn - especially since it was now ready for use.  With some coaxing we got Smudge and another ewe into a box stall.  I was confident now that the lambs would be safe from Smudge's frenzied behaviour and if she was to lamb she was in a good place for that.

Having been dinner for two deer ticks I was now trying to see my doctor.  She is in Ottawa.  In the end she telephoned at four o'clock and advised me to go to a walk-in clinic here in this community.  I made some phone calls and determined there are no such clinics here and I was advised to go to Emergency.  So, after chores at around seven o'clock I headed to Brockville.  By then it was raining and the dog had become quite anxious due to the thunder.  I drove through torrential sheets of rain and hail.  I was soaked through my raincoat walking from the car to the building.

While waiting the five hours there were three or four ambulance arrivals.  I was definitely low priority.  I did a lot of knitting.  I was seen by a doctor at around one o'clock. In the end, all was well, as I expected.  I was given some antibiotics which made me sick.  I checked the barn when I got home at about two o'clock.  Henrietta bounded up to me in the darkened barn yard.  We exchanged greetings and she let me pass.  All was quiet, even Smudge.

What a very long day that was!  Now to find the good scissors and develop skills with my 'wrong' hand.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Easter Weekend

It's quiet now - sort of - but it hasn't been...  Oh, there were some afternoon naps over the weekend but it was a very busy few days.

Service Master was here on Thursday and the "contents guys" went through and assessed what should be written off and what not.  They photographed everything to be discarded which goes to the insurance company.  That is, every one of our fully damaged books - we have (had?) a lot of books and the boxes in the basement were awaiting new shelves.  We are following up however as some books should be discarded and were not placed in that lot and some are irreplaceable, no matter what their condition.  This goes for some furniture too....

Friday I shovelled manure and cleaned out the box stalls in the Small Barn.  My goal was to complete this in March and then the barn flooded as thawing began.  It is now completely dry.  And since removing the manure has dried up even further.  I open the doors daily to let the air move through and allow nature to do her cleaning.

Saturday morning my shower ritual was interrupted with tepid water.  Little to no hot water was the situation.  After awhile the list of breakdown and household challenges becomes rather wearing and expletives flow in an effort to relieve the pressure.  I didn't cry.  Of course, this is a long weekend and after business hours but we did get someone to come out in the afternoon; the company that installed the new hot water tank in December.  The electrical outlet into which it was plugged had failed.  We wonder if this is related to the basement flood and have alerted Service Master to this.  The Service Person did assess the tank for flood damage and said it was fine and did not advise replacement.

We went in to Mallorytown to get the G&M, cold meat, etc.  Then we went to Lansdowne to the LCBO.  And we cleaned.  With all of the service people that have been in and out, the drywall dust all over the basement and the dog tracking in mud - it gets pretty grotty.  There was also planning for our Sunday and Monday guests.

On Sunday I worked on bedding the newly cleaned stalls with straw.  When the hay was delivered in late March I had them place the one large square bale of straw outside the Small Barn.  Now, with all of this time elapsed, and despite having covered it with a tarp, much of it has spoiled.  Not only that, it is still frozen at the bottom.  So, I hacked through it, putting the good stuff in the barn and making a pile of poor stuff for garden mulch.  At least it is not a total loss as I can use the spoiled straw to mulch my new, yet to be created vegetable garden.

Sister arrived mid afternoon on Sunday. 

After a tea we went for a hike.  We avoided the wet areas - which can be a challenge - and decided to find a way to the top of the rock with the table on it.  We discovered the cut path after encircling the entire outcropping.  

We dubbed it "Table Rock".  It is a lovely chunk of the Canadian Shield bursting forth from the Frontenac Arch Biosphere.  This view is north and the summer neighbour's outbuilding can be seen.  We surmise our property goes to the base of the trees in the distance, and further east / right.

The view is amazing, just lovely.  This is looking south, back to the house or the north side of the barn.

Very late on Sunday while getting ready for bed I discovered a deer tick on my shoulder.  Hubby removed it successfully and we kept the specimen.  Unfortunately, in the morning I discovered a second one which did not come away completely.  We researched online, I called Telehealth, etc.  Transmission of disease requires a latched on period of 24 to 36 hours, so I should be fine.  However, I will be following up with my doctor to be sure.

Monday was our Easter celebration with some of hubby's family.  His Aunt and Uncle and two cousins and their spouses, along with one grand-cousin, and my sister were all at table for lunch.  There were ten of us, with nine in the photo as Sister was the photographer. 

Sister and I enjoyed pulling together the food with contributions from our guests.  It was a lovely meal with the "not-on-anyone's-diet potato dish".  After eating we went for a walk to the cabin, to the back field and then looped back to the cabin through the bush.  Everyone admired the lovely wood stove in the cabin.  Uncle stayed back to mind the fort and nurse his tea along with the G&M.

Following this there was a closer look at the barns and the animals, in particular Henrietta who loves to be the centre of attention.  We are learning that her posturing is a warning but also her way of introduction.  She is incredibly social and when you get her humming you have a friend.

We were greeted with huffing and upright posturing.  This did subside as the remaining photos indicate.  She was delighted to have all of these new friends.

She has a soft spot for hubby.  And she is very photo ready - once she puts her ears up.

Even visiting pooch got a close look at Henrietta.

Grand Cousin found a very special friend in Henrietta.  She kept snuggling right up to him - in her way.

Henrietta is an in-your-face gal, pushing right up to the chin.  Yes, she does have lovely eyes and her face is very soft.

We are grateful for a fine Easter Weekend.  We enjoyed lovely weather, a terrific luncheon with family, and hot water by Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Return of the swallows

Isabella Conway was always delighted when the barn swallows returned in the spring.  They usually used last year's nest, doing a few renovations, and then getting down to filling the nest with eggs.  I heard and saw a swallow in the small barn this morning.  To protect the paint on the cars we did remove the old nests in the garage area.

We continue to slowly recover from the basement flood.  I think we can now say we are dry - except for the books.  So many of them are still sopping and mold will likely begin to grow in them now.  There are a few one of a kind that are irreplaceable.  Surprisingly the wet photos have dried well.

We had an amazing weekend with daughter and her godparents.  It was not necessary that they be here at the same time; they were all available at that time.  Daughter arrived on Thursday evening.  I was directing her to the clothing section in the Superstore to look for rubber boots and she announced she brought her own.  She was very well prepared indeed.  Well, I had to lend her a coat for the barn.

It was dark when I took daughter out to the barn.  I had her wait until I turned on some lights.  I wasn't sure if the llamas - Henrietta in particular - would posture and be defensive with this new person.  I had armed daughter with carrots and she was immediately accepted without any qualms whatsoever.

Daughter chuckled and remarked that "This life is so very different from the one you left behind.  I know", she said, "that you have done this animal stuff before, I've heard you talk about it.  But to see you doing this, it's such a big change!"

I was amused and surprised with the remarks.  And tickled too.  She's quite right.  I had not thought of it from her perspective. This stuff feels natural to me but it looks different to her.

The sheep got out and, as hubby said, entertained us.  We gathered them up a few times.  This happened late Friday afternoon after the arrival of the godparents.  They have sheep herding experience which was put to good use.

The weather over the weekend was beautiful, sunny, and warm.  We went for a very long walk on the property.  The guys fixed things, tuning the garage door opener, putting up a new light, tweaking fences, etc., and they made lambing pens.  I was thrilled.  We got big barrels for grain and went to the local grocer to get a few things - all part of the tour. I was booked into a Colour Theory course on the Sunday but everyone managed without me.  Besides, it was an excellent course.

The visitors left on Monday.  And then winter returned.  Just for a day or so.  Tuesday we had rain, snow, and sleet.  I topped up water in the morning.  Wednesday morning it was cold and the water buckets were all frozen.  But Wednesday brought with it the sun and the swallows.  I'll take that.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Wet Things

Dog people can relate when I make reference to the 'Season of Mud'.  It occurs each spring and to a lesser degree in the fall.  The Season of Mud falls into the current category of life I have dubbed Wet Things.  Other Wet Things of late include - our newly flooded basement, my drive home last night, today's rainfall, the neighbour's visit, the small barn, and the muskrats...

Okay, where to begin?  Alright, I'll do them in the order listed above.  Well, it does come across more as a spew of the last few days rather than an ordered list...

For hubby's second day at his new job, we got up at six o'clock.  We decided to follow the old work schedule, only instead of getting the bus at about 7:10, he'd take the car.  He has asked me to specifically be on hand to help him in the morning until the new routine is solidified.  So, we both got up at six o'clock.  The dog did not.

By 6:15 dog was eating his breakfast and I was making mine and hubby ventured downstairs - just like every work morning - to do his fitness workout.  "Oh!" he declared going down the stairs.  "There's water!" 

The next fifteen minutes were rather bewildering as we put on shoes and wandered around the basement taking in the impact. There was just over an inch of water.  It seems the sump pump had failed.  The boxes of unpacked books were piled all over.  The neatly stacked items unpacked and on the shelves had wet items below.  There were Wet Things everywhere.

Organization skills kicked in and we began to manage the Wet Things.  Awhile later hubby gently kicked the sump pump and it came on - and stayed on all day and for several more days.  We worked until about 10:30 salvaging boxes of books and many other Wet Things.  At this time the Service Master fellow showed up.  Hubby had to go to work - it was his second day!  A crew would be here by one o'clock - and they were.  The insurance company would work directly with Service Master.  The Wet Things would be taken care of.

I had a volunteer meeting in Ottawa the night before.  I had been there the day before that to attend a workshop.  I am getting tired of driving to Ottawa.  At any rate, it was decided that with the new job I should return home after the meeting.  I drove home through buckets of rain and many Wet Things.  I think the car might be clean now - the outside I mean as there's still chicken poop on the inside.

The rain continued off and on.  The animals were Wet Things in my day today.  Dog was too.  I didn't get too wet doing chores either in the morning or evening.  The rain is slowly taking away the snow and ice.  Each day more of the earth reveals itself to us, bits of our earth here that we have yet to know.

Just after the crew arrived the doorbell rang.  It was a large man who was one of the day's Wet Things since it was pouring rain when he arrived.  I invited him inside the door and we chatted.  He and his wife live just down the way.  He dropped by to introduce himself and said not to be afraid to drop in and see them.  They go south for three months of the winter and recently returned.  What a thoughtful Wet Things in my day.

Half of the garage is a barn, originally set up with box stalls for horses.  This is where the water tap is located.  The big barn was intended for hay storage and to provide loafing shed shelter.  I had originally planned to house the chickens and lambed ewes in this barn. The small barn has been under water since late February.  We thought it would drain away but it only got worse in March.  Before the chickens arrived on March 19th the water was in every corner of the small barn and that's when we made the decision to put the chooks in the big barn.  According to the seller it has never been such a Wet Thing.

When I finished up the evening's chores I had a look out at the field north of the barn.  The sheep are venturing further each day as the disappearance of snow allows.  The ice on the pond has melted a lot.  Staring back at me from the water were two muskrats, one for each muskrat house.  These Wet Things of course belong in the water.  It was a mutually pleasant introduction I think.

Friday 4 April 2014

Spring Song

It started a few days ago with a bit of bird music in the morning.  And then I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast and observed a pair of robins in the large lilac bush out the window.  I was delighted.  Surely, this means spring is here, with or without the mounds of snow that remain.

The next morning a pair of blue jays were in the lilac bush while I was eating my breakfast.  Slowly each day more snow melts, revealing bits of the earth we have not seen here before.  I am finding gardens I didn't know were there.

After I do chores in the morning and before I get to my coffee, I am greeted at the house by Beau dog.  He bounds out the door and rushes to find his toy.  We must play now.  This is compensation driven by my guilt as he doesn't come to the barn for chores.

At first we had to keep him away from the animals while they adjusted to their new space and place.  We didn't know what the llamas would do, nor did we know what Beau dog would do when they encountered each other.  Would he herd them as his breed instinct demands or is he just a ball-centric BC (border collie)?  After these many weeks now the sheep don't panic when they see him.

One day I took him out with us as I have a few times.  It was not meal time for the animals.  I decided to put Beau on a lead.  He has chased a chicken before but not with the intention of catching it necessarily.  It moved and he leaped after it.  The sheep boldly stamped their front foot at him.  It's rather comical actually as this really has no effect yet the sheep look so stern.  At one point the sheep did get quite close.  Beau did move forward to snap them away, a very typical BC behaviour.  About thirty seconds later one of them bashed him, bunting him head on.

Henrietta got close enough that she and Beau sniffed at each other from about twelve inches distance.  She was not indicating any great distress with Beau at such a close distance.  I have read that the llamas do distinguish between the family pet and an intruding canine.

When we let him out of the house and I'm doing chores, Beau wants to be with me.  When I leave him out of the barn yard he sits at the fence and barks.  The closer I get to the animals the more barking there is.

So, while playing rollie ball in the driveway this morning with Beau dog I was serenaded by a veritable orchestra of spring song.  And I saw a cardinal.  There were three Canada geese in the sky.  There are killdeer down on the pasture pond.  We have seen ducks down there too.  There are many many red-winged blackbirds.  And then the robins were there too.

I was reminded that before the swallows return we must remove that nest from above hubby's car in the garage.  Bird song or no, some restrictions are necessary :)

Thursday 3 April 2014

Stashed Eggs

"I want eggs, girls!" I say several times each day.  I've begun to wonder if I have bad chickens.  You know, got a bad bunch of chickens.  They look like hens but maybe they're all roosters.  Some of them have very small combs and maybe they're too young to be able to tell yet.  Maybe there's something like that wrong with them.

So far, there was the one egg in the cage when they arrived.  It was cracked but only on the outside.  Gently I carried it to the house.  We ate it for dinner, sharing it.

Then there were two more eggs.  Each was found on the same stack of two bales of hay.  To help them out I put a hen box in that same spot, but there were no more eggs there in that spot, not in the box or somewhere else on that small stack of two bales of hay.  We ate those two eggs one day for lunch with a mess of eggs and bacon and tomato, and we each got our own entire homemade egg.

I'd looked before but now I looked more closely.  Each day I use a little LED flashlight I carry in my pocket and I look in corners and under things, for eggs.  I know it's a new place, they're young, it's been cold and the days are getting longer but maybe not long enough to tell a chicken to lay eggs.

A few days ago I'd been all over the top of the hay pile; it's four bales high.  I stood on my tippy toes each day to see if any eggs had been laid on those higher bales.  I'd seen a chicken fly and flutter up to the top.  I've started to pet the chickens each day and more and more of them like it.  Tonight I looked closer and there at the top, in a spot where the bale had been moved were FOUR eggs.  WOW!  Someone is laying eggs here!

I carefully gathered them up.  I had cut a styrofoam egg carton in half.  This material can be washed and it is sturdy material for carrying the eggs to the kitchen from the barn.  Hubby suggested we have eggs and bacon for breakfast tomorrow!