Tuesday 27 January 2015

One year

In the next week we can say that we have been here one year.  What a year!  We are feeling settled, finally, although a few things are not yet in their rightful place.  It seems many things in life take a year to get settled...

Dogs and Balance

As of late Millie no longer escapes from the field.  It seems she has gained some weight and can no longer do the Houdini-skinny-thing and fit through the page wire fence.    Her latest escape had become jumping the fence.  This was after I foiled her by fixing that section of the fence so she could not get under.  The fence is sagging.  I strung two strands above it and she fits between, the clever girl!  So, finally I decided to apply myself and I found a large branch in the woods nearby and propped up the fence so she cannot get over.

Yet, I really think that Millie has decided that, yes, she does belong with the sheep.  I do know  that some sections of the page wire fence are broken and therefore larger and she could actually get through if she wanted. In addition there are other sections of the fence she could jump over.  And down at the road at the end of the driveway, even with the snow, the dogs could wiggle out underneath it.  She just stays put.

In contrast, Miss Ruby Tuesday or Ruby Dooby is constantly escaping.  Part of this is the discovery that she can.  Often if left alone she just gets herself back into the field.  She loves to play with Beau and often will get out to play with him near the house.    And in short order she is back with her sheep.

So, last week, Ruby was out and playing with Beau.  They play chase and they also play king and queen of the snow pile.  I looked out front and they were half way down the driveway.  I called Beau and he came back.  Ruby was looking at me standing on the veranda, while she stood in her spot half way down the driveway.  Maremmas are known not to be obedient.  It has to be their idea and it wasn't Ruby's idea to return.  Then I thought I heard a car coming.

Just as Millie taught her, Ruby ran for the car.  It was not going fast, it was actually going slowly.  And Ruby was right there.  And then I heard her yelp.  I leaped back into the house and while jumping into my boots and coat saw Ruby run past the house.  When I went outside she was heading for the back gate behind the barn.  I scooted up there and saw her holding up a hind leg.  She went right to the gate, limping, but using the leg.  She ran through the gate and into the barn where she lay down looking frightened.  I gave her a quick going over and nothing seemed to be broken.  There was some broken skin on the inside of a hind leg but no bleeding.

I went back outside and Millie was at the road barking as the car was still there at the side of the road.  I ran down the driveway - as much as the ice would allow me to.  I carefully walked up to the car giving it a wide berth as I had no idea what I might find inside the car, maybe a very very angry person.  The window rolled down and inside was a sobbing and soft spoken young woman.  

"Your dog jumped in front of my car" she said.  She was so worried that she had hurt Ruby.  I calmed her down, assuring her the dog was okay - despite being a twit to jump in front of her car - and sent her on her way.

And then a truck pulled up.  "Was that your daughter?"  I asked the couple.  And they said it was.  I apologised for my stupid dog.  I said how upset their daughter was and that I tried to explain that the dogs keep getting out and they chase cars, etc.  We introduced each other.  After a few minutes the neighbours I had just met for the first time went on their way.

Ruby has been fine.  I asked my shepherdess neighbour to come by and have a look which she did.  I taped it, trying to get the skin edges together.  Then I wrapped it in a bandage with the final layer a section of old pantyhose.  Three days later Ruby had left it alone and I removed the bandage.  The skin edges were not together.  There was some infection but between my pouring hydrogen peroxide on it a few times and Ruby licking it, it got cleaned up.

The Vet will see it when she goes in for spaying.  I had thought I might breed Ruby in a few years but have changed my mind.  Ruby is bonding with the flock very well.  The sheep are having a greater problem with this than is Ruby.  There have been so many dog issues and it has been so busy that I really don't need a litter of puppies at any time soon.  And I do not want to deal with three weeks of a dog in heat, a dog I need to be actively protecting the sheep.  The scales for me tipped and I chose to have her spayed.

So, on Monday I moved Ruby's swimming pool bed - which she has been sharing with the chickens as they try to stay warm, and Lucy the ewe lamb.  I put the bed in the Small Barn in the box stall.  I caught Lucy and her buddy Clover and put them into the box stall.  Then in the evening we coaxed Ruby into the Small Barn.  This was challenging as she does not usually go there, mostly because Millie won't let her as this is where we feed Millie.

On Tuesday, Ruby went to the Vet for surgery.  She was spayed.  The vestigial dew claws on her hind legs were removed.  She was micro-chipped.  The road rash and related wounds were inspected and cleaned.  At last check early this evening she was in her swimming pool.  She is sore and not interested in food.  I'll check her again and take her a warm hot pad to comfort her sore and shaven belly.

In addition, Beau has torn a nail, right down to the quick.  It hurts just looking at it.  He has been uncomfortable all day.  I managed to get some anti-inflammatory medication for him when I picked up Ruby this afternoon, so he is now resting more comfortably.

The biggest challenge will all of these wounds is infection.  The cold is an advantage right now as the infection bugs are not very active.  At the same time though cold can make the animal rather vulnerable to infection.  It's a balance.

Abe Update

I see blue!  Abraham the new ram has marked six ewes.  That is, Abe has been equipped with a marking harness so that when he mounts a ewe to breed her he leaves a crayon mark, in this case a blue crayon mark.  The blue has certainly confirmed for me that getting Abe was a very good decision.

In addition, Abe is a nice guy.  Many if not most rams are somewhat aggressive and even more so when out with the girls.  I have been at the wrong end of a ram who has run across the pen to let me know my presence was not wanted.  It hurts!  The rule is do not turn your back on a ram.  I try to follow the rule, even for Abe. 

Following his initial hesitation when he first arrived, he lets me pet him now.  We had to catch him three times to put on and adjust the harness.  He was not easy to catch but once caught stood still and didn't fight us away.  He loves bread and I had begun to give him a half a dinner roll at bedtime.  But then he began getting pushy and nipping at my clothes.  Okay, he was tearing at the pockets of my winter coat and running over to me when I arrived at the barn.  So as not to encourage this cute behaviour to develop into unwanted aggressive behaviour the treat routine stopped.

This evening I had to bribe Henrietta to come in to the barn.  She was laying down under the overhang.  She did this one night last week too.  I got a small amount of grain and she leaped up and followed me into the barn.  I set it down on top of a partition when I closed the door.  Henrietta reached for it and then knocked it down.  There was a rush and Abe was leading it. 

The fallen grain was gone very quickly.  Henrietta and I were surrounded by pushing sheep.  Slowly they dissipated.  As I held Humphrey kitty - which I can do rather comfortably in my winter clothes as they protect me from contacting the hair to which I am allergic - Abe began nibbling then tearing at my clothes.  I also noticed at one point he maneauvred himself around several sheep to check out my opposite hand, in case I was holding back some grain. 

He has settled in quite nicely.  Lambing was supposed to being around April 9th, according to when I put Birch into the flock.  As well, noting the last ewe marked by Abe, lambs will still arrive at around Jun 3rd.  It will be a long lambing season indeed.

Friday 16 January 2015

Cold events

The green Christmas quickly turned into Winter as the snow fell down and stayed.  And now it is cold.

I know that cold is part of winter but does it have to be so very cold?  Actually it is not as cold here near the St. Lawrence Seaway as it was - and is presently - in the Ottawa Valley.

So, how do I know it's cold?  Let me tell you...

  • It snowed and then it rained and then it snowed and got really cold.  Someone asked me how the sheep were managing the cold.  They haven't been bothered by the cold, but after this Topsy turvey in temperature the outer wet layer of their fleece froze.  It was like little icicles.  The sheep do not like the wind and if a storm is happening they are happy to move under the overhang.
  • Henrietta the llama was shivering one morning.  It was before she had eaten her breakfast.  And then the sun came out and she soaked it up.  In short order the shivering stopped.
  • My hens are suffering from frostbite on their combs and wattles.  Just the Reds.  My research indicates they don't need heat but ventilation.  At any rate, I put on a light to offer a small amount of heat.  In addition I have applied Vaseline to the sensitive areas, an event in which they were very cooperative.  In terms of cooperation it's good it is the Reds as the Chanteclers would not tolerate being held never mind touched.  The Chanteclers have settled in and the pecking order has been established.  All nine of the birds now eat together and they will roost together too. The Chanteclers are a specifically developed breed that has small combs and wattles to survive the Canadian winter - no Vaseline required.
  •  The water was frozen two mornings in a row.  That is, the handle of the pump was frozen.  Thankfully the water completely drains back down into the ground when the handle is put in the off position.  Fifteen minutes under the heat lamp thawed out the frozen handle and water was again available.  It is a pain carrying water, even more so in the snow.  I carry water at the end of chores so that if I slop it on myself I am about to go in to thaw out anyway.
  •  This is Ruby Dooby puppy's first Winter - first snow, first cold, first ice - and it's all an absolute blast!  She rolls over and over on the frozen pond.  She digs her face in the snow.  It is wonderful to watch her experience this newness with delight.  And since she is young and a hardy outdoor breed, she doesn't seem to feel the cold at all.

  •  It wasn't cold so much as just a lot of snow.  One morning they didn't come to plow the driveway.  The arrangement was that hubby needed to be on the road by 7:15 a.m.  This morning he was in bed with a cold.  As I finished up chores the plow arrived.  He said it was bad.  The road had not yet been plowed and hubby wouldn't have made it to work anyway.  We've had the plow five times already.
  • Cold is when I opened the barn door in the morning and the sheep all had frosty whiskers.  As I worked through my chores, frost built up on the front of my coat.  And I got cold.  I kept delaying returning to the house as there was more to do but finally I knew I had to get to the house to warm up.

  • For Christmas hubby gave me some gloves.  The intention was that I wear them in the barn under my leather work gloves.  These thin gloves were designed for e-use, to touch ones device as required in the cold weather.  Well, I don't have a device and if it's that cold why does one need to be playing with such things anyway.  However I am so thankful for these gloves.  They keep me warm in an amazing way.  And if I have any task that requires some dexterity I can usually accomplish that task without removing the inner gloves, just the outer gloves.
  • Cold and snow also mean it is time for snow shoeing.  So, Sister was hear this week with a Belgium colleague.  He had never been on snow shoes before.  We had a super time.  He was thrilled to snow shoe!  He took this photo of Sis and I.

    • You know it's cold when you don't want to get clean.  After all, getting clean requires removal of all of your clothes and stepping under water.  Oh, wow, the floor is cold, the water isn't warm enough yet.... 

    Wednesday 7 January 2015

    Holiday Highlights

    During the holidays we enjoyed a good long visit from our adult children.  This was the first time that our son-in-law had been to the farm.  I sometimes had help with chores.  The kids moved a big desk for us - their backs may remember this for some time.  We cooked and baked and shopped, sometimes together and sometimes not.

    We were able to enjoy our living room at last since it has been stacked with boxes for most of a year, prolonged by the flooded basement and subsequent repairs.  It is a lovely room and that is where we put the Christmas tree.

    I made the Christmas trek to Guelph; it is always a busy time.  This year Sister was away and the kids had a rental and drove together, so I cranked up the tunes and sailed on down the highway on my own.  Although a green Christmas it was perfect for travel.  My brother returned with me and stayed for a nice visit over New Years.

    Here is a collection of photos from the holidays. 

    Unwrapping Christmas gifts is a lot of work!

    Santa maintained a wintry theme this year, bringing snowshoes, flannel jammies and warm socks.  The California couple was assured they could leave the wintry items at the farm for their next visit.  Despite the wintry theme it was a very green Christmas.  On Christmas Day we enjoyed a great walk around the farm.

    Christmas Day walk with two Maremmas and one Border Collie tail at the bottom of the photo. 

    This is a great time of year to discover where the birds make their nests in the shrubbery along the forest edge.

    Here we are enjoying the views from Table Rock.

    This photo shows the interesting plumage on the Chanteclercs.  In the background is an unhappy looking Red who is in the process of moulting.  They are to be handled gently during their moult as they are very sensitive.

    Daughter and Humphrey hit it off very well together.

    I accused daughter of only liking the animals whose name begins with an "H":  Humphrey kitty and Henrietta the llama.

    Another photo of the colourful plumage of the Chantecler.  The combs are smaller in order to better manage the Canadian winter.

    Millie getting in to her Christmas treat - a HUGE bone.

    Ruby, too, got a BIG bone from Santa on Christmas Day.