Monday 27 April 2015

Tough Cookie

She really is a "Tough Cookie"!  Even though I won't be keeping her I have - yes - broken my rule and given her a name. 

Last year Olive had twins and I kept her female lamb and named her Nancy.  Now please understand that when I use a person kind of name I am not naming the sheep after any person that I know.  In this case, Nancy was the last of the five ewe lambs kept that had not yet been named.  In my mind I referred to her as No Name.  Finally my mind said No Name Nancy and from there I called her Nancy.

So this is Nancy's first year to lamb.  One evening I counted the sheep and one was missing.  I looked around and found Nancy standing behind the barn in the process of giving birth.  She was outside the back doors so I scooted around the barn and closed all of the other doors to keep everyone out.  When I reached the back where Nancy was located she was lying down and pushing.  I went to her immediately and could see the two feet and a nose.  A Shepherd is always relieved to see those three things!  It was a tight fit and I assisted, pulling on one leg which eased the shoulder through the pelvic girdle, then gently pulled on the other leg.  The gentle pulling happens in rhythm with mother's pushing.  The lamb eased through and lay in a puddle behind Nancy.

She was beat and didn't move.  Often the sheep jumps up, the umbilical breaks and mom begins to chat to her baby while she licks it clean. Nancy was too tired and this was her first.  She did make a motherly sound or two.  I wiggled the lamb closer to her head but didn't want to pull on the still attached umbilical.  I cleared the mouth and saw that baby was breathing.

I ran inside the barn for a lambing towel.  When I returned I used the towel to wipe baby's face further.  There was a chilly breeze on my back and I was protecting the lamb from that breeze.  Mother still did not get up.  Finally, I shoved her a few times and Nancy got up.  The umbilical broke and mother began the licking ritual. 

After a few short minutes I scooped up baby in the towel and holding it low and at nose and eye level to Nancy, I backed into the barn.  Mother followed, seeing and sniffing baby.  I put down baby just inside and closed the door to the chilly breeze.

After awhile I put Nancy and her new daughter into a lambing pen.  The barn was busy with lambs.  At two thirty that morning I had entered the barn for my night check to find Olive with a new baby daughter.  I had put them into a larger pen.  Nancy got the small pen.

When the lambs are a few days old, they have been ear tagged for identification, have had their tails and testicles banded and are well bonded with their mothers they go into a 'nursery'.  In a larger pen I group a few moms and their babies.  This is a transition to the larger world of the larger flock.  There is some pushing and shoving as the ewes work out their pecking order and mommies and babies work out finding each other in the group.

So, at two days I thought I'd put grandma and daughter together. I wanted to get Nancy out of that small pen.  I figured this would be a good opportunity, that Olive would help Nancy figure out some of the ropes of new motherhood.  Yearlings get picked on by the older sheep but I didn't expect that to happen here.  Olive is a top sheep in the flock as I observed last summer when each morning it was she that led the flock out to pasture.

I was wrong.  There was absolutely no warm familial atmosphere at all.  As I puttered around the barn doing other things I realised there was some bashing going on in that pen.  I made sure they had hay and water to occupy them and with good access by both ewes fighting and bashing should be less.  Still, I could here a bit more thumping going on. 

I looked more closely into the pen and could see Nancy's smaller baby holding up her right hind leg.  She held it high.  Sometimes they get banged and it stings and five minutes later they are tearing around again.  This did not happen; it did not get better.  I picked up the lamb and felt down the leg.  It felt fine to me, but how would I know unless a broken bone poked out sideways.  I put her down and waited.

After a few hours I realised there was no change.  I called the vet.  The office telephoned back to say he would not be there until after seven that evening.  I put grandma Olive in a larger pen with three other ewes and their lambs.  Nancy and her lamb were by themselves again.

It was broken right through in the pastern area.  For such a break to occur someone would have to stand on top of it, the vet explained.  Unfortunately the vet had had a very long day and his supplies were low so he could not cast it.  I wonder if he thought that might not be the outcome.  At any rate, he came back the next day and cast baby's leg.  Almost immediately baby felt better.  When she was returned to her pen she rested the leg on the ground for the first time.  The vet was impressed.

Euthanizing was an option.  This did not readily come to my mind.  "As long as I break even", I had said to the vet.  And then he said, "This is an experiment.  I felt so badly that I didn't have the supplies with me last night."  And he also suggested in our conversation that the leg might not heal very straight.  It would however heal and the lamb would be without pain.  That was / is a worthy goal.

She really is a "Tough Cookie".  "Cookie" will do just fine. 

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Sleep Deprivation

Bob Calves

Bob calves are the male calves from a dairy farm.  A dairy farmer generally has no use for a bob calf so at a few days of age they truck them to the auction.  Thirty odd years ago we paid the dairy farmer down the road one hundred dollars for each three day old bob calf we bought from him.  We did this two years in a row and each time we got three.  Three is a good number since if you lose one you still have a pair to keep each other company.

We bought calf milk replacer and taught the calves how to drink milk out of a pail.  We fed them a starter ration to get them eating solids.  The only health issue we had was scours or diarrhoea.  One calf consumed a lot of Pepto Bismol.  After about a month or so the calves were turned out onto pasture.  There they stayed until it started to get cold in about October.  Then we brought them in a fed them corn for about a month before they went off to the butcher. 

A recent visitor with whom we shared calf fun thirty odd years ago was reminded that she was not disappointed to see the calves go.  They weren't cute anymore by the end of the summer.  This is true for just about any farm animal.

At any rate, this year we had planned to do the same thing.  However, the dairy farmer who got barely twenty dollars a calf two years ago now gets well over four hundred dollars a calf at the auction.  We decided this was not a cost effective venture.  Our goal was to keep a calf in our freezer and sell the other two.  Suddenly there seems to be a huge call for veal bob calves.  This may be due to the overall rising price of beef and oil.  In the meantime we will purchase a side of beef from our butcher friend again this year.


In anticipation of new lambs I began to leave Ruby out of the barn at night.  That is, I did not lock her in with the sheep.  She could get in the barn through the doggy door.  To my surprise I found her in with the sheep in the morning as she climbed or jumped back in with them.  She certainly is bonded to them.

As a result of my permission, so to speak, to be outside all night, Ruby has become very active at night.  She barks at just about anything.  This has diminished a bit as the weeks have gone by.  Now there seem to be spurts of barking by both dogs during the night.  Although we appreciate very much having these girls on duty we are having to learn to sleep through it and this is taking some time.

Muskrat Killer

A new duty with the night shift seems to be the reduction of the Muskrat population.  Perhaps it is the reduction of their numbers that has resulted in less barking at night.  Ruby has now brought home three dead muskrats.  There are no markings on them and she does not seem to eat them.  This photo shows her proud self with her catch that she brought right to the sheep's hay pile.


Spot was the first to lamb on April 17th with twin boys.  Smudge had a single female that evening.  Marmalade had twin boys the next afternoon.  At 2:45 a.m. on the 19th Olive was found to have a female single.  Early that evening, Olive's daughter Nancy gave birth to a single female. 

The pattern is clear:  twins are male and females are singles.  All are healthy and well.  Nancy, a new mother, needed some help and lots of encouragement.  She and her baby have bonded well.

This is Spot in the photo.  She is sporting the latest sheep coat in our flock.  It seems the sheep have discovered that you can scratch your back on the underside of the bucket on Oz the tractor.  The effect is black grease in your coat.  This gives added meaning to the expression "grease fleece" which is unwashed wool containing lots of lanolin.

It was a very busy few days and the first two nights I was deprived of restful sleep.  When the dogs woke me up I went out to the barn.  Otherwise I found myself lying there and worrying. 

I have been very concerned about how the dogs will react to a lambing sheep.  So far, all is well.  Ruby stays out of the way while Millie is desperate to eat the afterbirth.  I spoke to my neighbour on this and got a few pointers as one of her dogs does the same.  I have locked the dogs outside of the barn several times.  Monitoring is needed until we all figure this out.

More baby photos will be posted soon.  Interestingly, Spot was one of the first to lamb last year.

Maple Syrup

Here is our complete production of maple syrup.  Okay, some is missing from that tall narrow bottle as we had some on blueberry pancakes - yum!.  This is the result of tapping two trees plus a donation of some thirty litres from a friend.

Next year we will tap more trees but have not yet decided how many.  Boiling down the sap on the cook stove in the cabin worked very well indeed.  All of the equipment has been cleaned up and put away until next year.  Oz has some work to do back at the cabin to put up a stash of wood for next season's sugaring off.

Friday 10 April 2015

April Anecdotes

The Sled

Okay this didn't happen in April but I keep forgetting to share this story.  We had had a fresh snowfall and after morning chores I walked out to the cabin with the dogs.  This morning walk is helping my back these days.  As we were coming back through the woods behind the house there were some very interesting animal tracks.  It appeared to me to be an animal pulling a sled.  Really, a sled.  Behind the animal was a squared up trail, seeming almost to have a runner at each edge.

I wondered if a coyote had dragged a dead animal.  I discounted this as there was no blood and the track was too consistent.  I then thought of a beaver.  Yes, it must have been a beaver dragging its flat tail behind it.  Still, though, that didn't seem right.  There was such a rectangular shape to the track.

Back at the house I checked out google images until I discovered who my visitor had been.  I was thrilled to learn it was an otter.  And sure enough I followed the trail back to the creek that runs south of the house.  The creek travels east to a neighbour's large pond or west and south right down to the St. Lawrence.  The "sled" was the otter's belly as he moves along in his travels.  He had come up from the creek and checked out one of the still very frozen ponds near the house.

I look forward to observing some otter play when the weather is warmer.

Maple Syrup

The long Easter weekend was somewhat dedicated to maple syrup.  As early adventurers we decided to tap just two trees.  A friend came over with spiles and buckets and a drill...  Hubby had been dutifully checking buckets for days and we had accumulated enough to get boiling.

We got a fire going in the cook stove in the cabin and poured the collected sap into the top and bottom of mom's turkey roasting pan.  It is still blackened from our teenage adventures doing the same thing:  boiling sap.  I still roast turkey in this pan.

After days of progress the well reduced liquid was  brought to the kitchen for completion.  It was not long before the small amount remaining suddenly reached the correct temperature and consistency.  I had to go out to the barn and hubby was minding the stove.  When I returned he was straining it into a bottle.  Oh, and it tastes wonderful!

We are continuing.  The temperatures are suddenly right and the sap is flowing more abundantly.  As a result we have collected a lot in the last week and I began the cook down process today.  I had to split wood first.  That was a pleasure with the new wood splitter.  In addition a friend has given us his remaining sap as he will be away for a week.  So, more syrup is under development.


What better way to spend your holiday Easter Monday than to help your sister needle her sheep?  This worked for my sister and I appreciate her help.  Needling sheep is just that:  giving them needles.  We vaccinated the sheep for clostridium infection.  At this point in their gestation the vaccination will provide some protection to the newborn lambs.  A booster will be necessary.  We did the boys too.

This vaccine is administered by subcutaneous injection.  I am not really comfortable with sub-q however it all went well.

We got the sheep in the barn with some grain.  Remember - to the sheep grain is candy.  Then we bribed them further into a penned area.  The idea was to get them crowded into this pen.  We got 14 of them into the pen.  Of the 5 outside of the pen, 4 were yearlings.  I guess they are not yet into candy.  I climbed from one sheep to the next, while my sister handed me the prepared needle.  The sheep were calm.  They were comfortable, not too crowded and not too worried about anything.  The job went fairly quickly.

The 5 evasive ewes required a different approach.  Two of them we managed to get into another penned area.  One yearling was laying down and she is very friendly so I just walked up to her.  One very skittish one I managed to grab and she leaped into the air but I hung on.  Fortunately she is not too big - yet - and I had a good hold on her. 

Each one had the top of their head marked with a red crayon so we would know who we still needed to catch.  When they all had a red mark on their heads we went in for tea.

Signs of Spring

It is April 8th and this afternoon we were blanketed in snow.  It was very very pretty.  It is not cold, barely sitting above freezing, and quite pleasant actually.  We are however tired of winter.  The season of mud has just begun and is a welcome assurance that spring has arrived.  The snowfall is just mother nature teasing us - further!

There are no baby lambs yet, not even anyone looking really close.  The due date is tomorrow.  I think maybe next week.  My neighbour has no lambs yet either.  We wait.

There has been a lot of bird activity.  Many flocks overhead have been seen and the tell-tale "V" of the geese.  I saw a blue heron last week.  We think we have each seen the Northern Harrier.  And our own chickens are everywhere, it seems.  They are happy to stretch their legs and travel the ground exposed by the melted snow - until this afternoon, that is.

The sheep have been taking strolls around the field, searching for morsels of grass.  I don't see anything green worth eating.  Nonetheless they get muddy mouths for their efforts.  They come back to the barn a lot to pick through the leavings from their last meal.  And they lay around outside, enjoying the fresh air.


I've seen deer across the road a few times; and so have the Maremmas.  The other morning Millie ran barking down to the fence at the road, Ruby following closely behind her.  I followed their gaze and could see the flash of white tail as two deer slowly pranced away from the canine noises.

Later in the early evening the dogs roared down to the fence again.  It looked to me as if the deer were now returning home, back to the bush from which they must have emerged in the morning.  The dogs barked a long time.  Although there is a gap under the fence there, they have never gone under the fence.  I've seen Millie run back to the barn to jump over a fence there rather than get under that fence at the road front.

This was not to be today.  Next time I looked up the dogs were gone, flashes of white appearing in the field across the road.  Beau and I wandered over that way and I called and called.  When I could tell that the dogs were not heading further toward the neighbour's farm house, I slowed up my calling.  I then puttered in the front yard until the dogs returned.

They both hit the ground and inspected themselves.  There were each full of burdock.  Ruby's tail now contained many more burrs than it already had.  What a mess they both were.

The Thief

Her name is Ruby.  Yet, Millie possesses the traits of a thief, too.  I refer to Millie as garbage girl.  If she hears a plastic bag it must be garbage and destined for her.  Several times I have left a bag of garbage outside of the back door to put in the secure bin in a few minutes.  Millie must have a super 6th sense because she gets to that bag in minutes.

I found a sock in the barnyard the other day.  My sock.  Granted it is half of a pair with holes and destined for the holey sock pile.  Ruby must have taken if off of the clothes line or found it near the clothes line - and then back to her lair in the barnyard!

We've been cleaning up the cabin and bringing stuff up to the house.  Most of the stuff has to be cleaned before it can be assessed for its utility to us.  A cutting board broke when it got to the back door so I left it outside to dispose of shortly.  One of the two pieces is no longer at the back door.  There was also a barbecue fork that had previously been repaired and was now destined for the landfill.  I carefully wrapped the sharp end in newspaper and a plastic bag.  I found it on the shavings pile at the barn this morning.

And then there was the hamburger.  Both dogs had disappeared up the road.  This always worries me.  A while later I spied Millie near the end of our driveway eating something, a tell tale plastic bag nearby.  She was eating something wrapped in meat paper.  It was meat.  The paper was stamped "hamburger"  just the way our butcher does it.  Millie inhaled it.  Ruby bounced into the picture and had a wrapped parcel in her mouth.  At the house she dropped it and I grabbed it to get it out of the paper.  Ruby was determined to eat it, and now.  I dropped it out of the paper and she was on top of it.  Beau went for a morsel and was thoroughly told off.

We expect much of spring.  Nature does bring us the next season in due time.

Snow Play

Here are some photos of snow play to take us into spring.  Beau is the black Border Collie with white socks, now in his ninth year.  Ruby is the "puppy" Maremma who will be one in April.

Friday 3 April 2015

Spring and Oz

The melt continues and quickly the ground appears.  This morning the sump pump has been heard to go on and then off, every few minutes.  It's working and that's terrific!  With the bare ground I am reminded of the Vet's instructions to begin the deer tick control as soon as bare ground is seen.

We have tapped two trees that are trickling a bit of sap.  Today we intend to boil up what we have down at the cabin.  It keeps for only so long and it is time.  Maple syrup folks are complaining it has not been a good year.  The temperature needs to hover between five above and five below, getting below freezing at night and above freezing in the daytime.  This is ideal for sap flow and we have not had that this year.  Our goal was to sample and try a few trees.  Next year we intend to do a few more.

My heritage seeds have arrived and I need to get some tomato seeds put into peat pots.  I have some well rotted stuff in the lean-to to fill those pots.  In addition I read about how to root sweet potatoes and grow them in our climate.  I have one sweet potato set up as an experiment.

Last night was Ruby's first night to stay outside all night.  The last few nights I have left her outside with Millie until about ten o'clock.  With lambs coming in the next few weeks I do not know how either dog will behave, so I decided to keep her out of the flock at night.  When I checked at 10:30 pm, Millie was sound asleep under the overhang, barely lifting her head to greet me.  Ruby was just inside the doggie door.  All was well.

I heard Ruby barking a few times during the night and then especially active in the wee hours.  When I came downstairs at about seven, Millie was laying down in the backyard and Ruby appeared shortly thereafter coming out of the woods.  Both dogs were wet and muddy.  When I went out with their breakfast awhile later, Millie was at the back door.  She is very stiff and sore again today; she was yesterday too.  She only moved because I had food and she followed me to the barn.  At the Big Barn, I found Ruby back inside with the sheep!  She had climbed back in with them.  I expect both bedraggled dogs will sleep a lot today.

Now for the recent excitement.....drum roll, please.....!

For my birthday in July Hubby gave me this.

He said that a tractor is in our near future, just not at this time.  We had just returned from Europe and we still had not sold the other house, so the tractor had to wait.  And so it did. Until this past week when this arrived.

The Kioti tractor is made in North Carolina but is of South Korean origin.  We assumed it was Asian and were pronouncing Kioti phonetically as in Japanese pronunciation.  However, I did some research for this blog and it actually is pronounced "ky-oat-tee" with the long "e" sound at the end.  I tend to drop the "e" sound when I say the word coyote, as this is how I was taught by the Conways when I was a teen.  As you can see in the photo, my toy tractor and my new "toy" Kioti are somewhat different in size.

This particular four year old model comes to us equipped with a front end loader and a wood splitter.  The CK27 model should do all that we need, and our needs are plenty.

This machine has a lot of wood to split.  I began yesterday and it is amazing how it makes light of slicing through a two foot diameter log.  There is lots of wood piled along the hill near the barn.  I am pleased that the wood is dry and good quality even though it has been sitting for some time.  The plan is to get the hillside cleaned up.  I want to get as much wood split in the next few weeks as I can - before the snakes come out as I know the hillside is riddled with them.

I have dubbed the orange tractor, "Oz" as he has many wonderfully wizardrous tasks ahead of him on Kinnaird Farm. 

The hydrostatic model is great as the mechanism drives similar to a car and there is less "manual" involved.  If you've driven a tractor you will know what I mean.  We have plans to acquire more attachments as we go along.  Each the tractor and the generator cost more than my car.  I will not be getting a new car, or a truck even, for a very long time.

Recently it was said that I am somewhat of a wonder wife - my phrase - since most wives "want the Holiday Inn" while I do not.  I have never wanted jewellery, diamonds or otherwise.  I am thrilled to have land and a tractor.  This covers a lot of birthdays for a long time.