Thursday 28 May 2015

End of May

Trapped.  Twice.

We were finally able to set up the coyote trap down the back just inside the woods and near the swampy bits we know the coyotes like.  It's near where the hunter shot the coyote in the fall.  Hubby continues to research and learn much about coyote behaviour and how to hunt them. 

 So, we added to our daily routine the checking of the trap.  And to keep extra tabs on the dogs knowing that one of the three could find themselves in the trap.  We were more concerned about the Maremmas since they can be very food focused and of course raw meat is the bait of choice in the trap.

 Twice Rocky Raccoon got himself into the trap.  He is cute.  We figured he / she was a yearling.  Wary, it would not leave the cage while we were there, but he did leave.

We have since moved the trap to a different location.  And no dogs have yet been caught in it.


 Lambs can be very curious and playful.  It gets them into trouble!

Here is a common gathering spot for lambs.  It seems their mothers drop them off at the park while they graze nearby.  The lambs like to rest in the warm sand and nibble on some grass tidbits.

Another favourite lamb play spot is the weeping willow tree in the front year.  Yes, the sheep are mowing our yard!

From the front door we watch lambs play in the weeping willow tree.  This brave guy has a jumping game going on.

Can't you just hear these lambs having a conversation?  "Come on, get up here.  There's room for all of us.  It's fun.  It's not too high up.  Your mother won't mind at all.  Come on!"

Garden Goings On

We are very grateful for the fall donation of a rototiller.  I was looking forward to getting to it.  It's been a busy time.  I just could not get it started.  So, I called the fix-it folks.  They came and took it away and brought it back a few days later with a new starter.  Now I could start it.  Well...  After I put some gas in it.

And away we went.  One good pass around the garden and there were problems.  A belt had slipped off.  And the handle bolt was missing.  So, off it went with the fix-it folks again.  It finally came back - no charge this time.

In the meantime a neighbour offered the use of his tiller.  This was wonderful!  It has been so busy with other things but finally I got to the tilling and yesterday planted the majority of the vegetable garden.

Next is to finalise the new herb garden.  Well, as final as a new garden can be in its first year.  Hopefully I will get our tiller onto that garden today.

The fortunate thing is that my tardiness in getting plants into the ground meant we had no losses with the hard frost last week.  There were many losses across the province.

Rams and Lambing

This year there is an extended lambing period.  Usually, since sheep have approximately a three week reproductive cycle, the bulk of lambs come in three weeks followed by some stragglers in the second three weeks.  Our year has been much stranger than that.  We jokingly say that the new ram lamb, Birch, got tired.  Abe, the emergency Christmas Eve ram purchase, is older and much more experienced.  I realise now that Birch was sick. 

Birch is starting to look more like a ram.  Hanging out with Abe he should learn how to walk that talk.  Abe can be very dominant and bashes Birch a lot.  Abe has come at me a few times.  He now wears a bell so I can hear him coming.  One should never turn their back on a ram.  When I go into their pen Birch runs up to me and slips behind my legs as if he is hiding from Abe.  Birch is quite friendly and has made no unpleasant moves - yet.

The lambs are good and strong.  There have been lots of single births.  Cookie's cast comes off this week.  I did some rearranging and have been able to get her and her mother, Nancy, outside.  Here they are...

Nancy and Cookie - outside at last!

At this point in time, there are five sheep left to lamb.  It's getting hot and I'm sure they'll be glad to get those lambs on the ground.  I still expect lambs up until June 5th or so.  So, stay tuned.

Friday 15 May 2015

Shearing Day 2015

First, let me send a HUGE thank you to the four gals who came out to help.  You really were amazing, one returning from last year and three newbies.  They managed the skirting station in the garage.  I asked them to be brutal and they were, removing anything that a spinner would not want to deal with.  Two of these fine friends went home with a fleece of their choice - okay they battled over the two - and I look forward to seeing the results of their creative efforts.

I need to back track a bit.  Shearing begins days ahead of time.  I had to watch the weather and ensure the sheep remained dry.  The one night it rained my sheep were locked up inside whereas if we did not have housing that would be an issue. 

And I had to set up.  Things were different this year and we could not shear where we did last year.  So, I fenced off an area in the south overhang so that the sheep could move from the large area in the Big Barn to a small holding pen, to the shearing area and then outside.  The shearer liked the arrangement and all went very well.

There was excitement during the day but all went well.  The shearer arrived late but that was okay.  This meant that shearing continued until later and I had planned for this.  Hubby was on task to barbecue the dinner I had prepared and we had extra for the two helpers that stayed late.  Again, I had planned for this.

The shearer agreed to trim Henrietta the llama's feet.  I was pleased with this but had no idea what this adventure would entail.  After lunch, I asked if he was ready to do her as she was volunteering.  I got a hold on her halter and the shearer said "Sure.  Let's do her now."  She was quite good for the first three feet, fighting a bit but okay.  For foot number four we had quite a dance around the barn.  I was not letting go.  Henrietta I guess gave up.  She went down on all fours, laid down on her side, stretched out her head and wailed.  The shearer finished her foot and we left her there, feeling quite indignant.  And it was done!

Henrietta really wanted out of the barn.  I tried to coax her out but she would not go past the sheep that were left to be shorn.  Then the door got opened somehow, whether by a sheep or Henrietta.  And she was away.  But then so was an unshorn sheep.  So, after herding the unshorn sheep into the holding pen, I grained the rest of the flock to get them all into the barn.  I captured the MIA unshorn sheep and got her into the holding pen.  All was well.

Some sheep were very buggy but most were better than I expected.  At the vet's advice I had drenched them to deal with the bugs and plan to repeat the procedure.  Some sheep look thin but they are heavily producing milk for twins right now.  The seven who have not lambed are all pregnant. 

Abraham - Abe - the big ram.  His fleece was very white and he was very well behaved.

Now that the sheep are without their wool I have to learn who they are again as they do look different.  I also realise how much I rely on their voices to distinguish them.  It's coming together.  Sometimes I just hang out with them to figure out who they are.  And they are so very small now without their wool!

Libby, the colourful spinning fleeced ewe I purchased last summer, has a gorgeous fleece.  The spinners were in awe and would have fought hard over that one had I not declared in advance "It is mine!"  And she looks different now that she is shorn.  And the shearer wonders if she is not carrying triplets!

The colouring on Libby's legs and belly looks like that of a leopard.

A close up of Libby's delightful fleece.  It contains all colours.  Underneath it is much more black while the topside is sun bleached and a lighter brown.  Lots of colour here for sure!

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Lambs abound

Hubby has been enjoying gathering photos of the critters, especially the newborns.  And I've had several requests for photos.  So here are a few.

This year we have blue ear tags for the boys and red ear tags for the girls.

They look so tiny when they are out in the pasture!

Can you eat it? 

Ear tags are essential.  They all look the same to me too!

There are more males than females so far this year.

Nap time!  The adult sheep nearby are yearlings born here last year.  They have not yet lambed.

These are Polar Bear's twins, about twelve hours old.  I love the turned up tips on the ears of the male on the right.  This is a feature of the ram's breeding.

I wonder if it is instinctive for babies to play on this well cover?

The lamb has approached Ruby and she is carefully staying down as she knows if she gets up she will startle the lamb.  It is expected that the dogs will bond closely with this year's lambs.

Maremmas are known not to be obedient so I can assure you we did not set up this photo!  Wonderfully, this is what they do - and I tell them, "Stay with your sheep".

Friday 1 May 2015

The Clover Calamity

It went on for several days.  I never realized how concerned and worried I was until the Vet pulled out of the driveway.  Poor Clover....

Clover is Smudge's lamb from last year.  Smudge has, well, a smudged faced.  It looks as if she stuck her face in the ashes of a fireplace.  Smudge is a character with a strong focus on food.  Thus, I thought a food related name for her ewe lamb was in order and clover is something sheep like to eat.

Clover is also a best buddy of Ruby Dooby.  When Ruby had her spay surgery Clover was one of the sheep that kept her company for the two weeks she was in the box stall.  Clover is very accepting of both dogs.  She can be found lying in a doorway and does not move; others have to go around her, whereas most sheep would jump up to be out of the way, especially the way of an oncoming dog.

She was getting big and I was pretty sure she was going to have twins.  Finally on the Saturday evening she was off by herself and was not eating.  She was not chewing her cud either.  That evening I was able to put her into a pen.  Nothing seemed to be happening.  It needed time I thought.

On Sunday I checked her numerous times.  It was now more obvious that the birthing process had begun but she still did not lay down and push.  I consulted my shepherding neighbour.  Between the two of us - she came over to check out Clover - we found that she was not dilated enough, that lambing had begun, no lamb was stuck...  It just wasn't right though.  After another hour, I called the Vet.

He called me back quite quickly for a Sunday after hours call.  The Vet and I have really gotten to know each other in the last ten days.  He arrived in less than an hour.  Despite all his efforts he was surprised that she was so poorly dilated.  He managed though to break the water.  It was dark - not a good sign. 

We decided to leave it overnight, that the breaking of the water should be prompt enough to get the process moving along.  If not, a caesarian section was in order.

I checked Clover several times during the night and all was the same.  I examined her at about 7:30 and all was the same.  I could feel something, but it was not a foot or a nose...  I called the Vet.  His office suggested he would be here late morning.

Dr. McG - yes, he's a Mc while we are Mac - arrived at eleven o'clock.  The service is mobile.  There is no clinic.  Dr. McG examined Clover again and concurred my findings.  He began set up for surgery.  There's a workbench in the barn, alongside Clover's pen and that was cleared off for the surgical site.  He located an electrical outlet for his clippers.  I brought over the trouble light for lighting the area.

He had already given Clover a sedative.  We lifted her onto the workbench and I stationed myself at her head.  She was immobile very quickly.  I put a towel under her face.  Dr. McG began shearing / clipping the surgical area.  I wanted the fleece so we piled it up nearby.  And then he washed the area about three times with three different 'soaps'. 

My Sister had arrived on Sunday afternoon just as the neighbour was leaving.  We chatted briefly over a tea.  I explained what was on for dinner, that I had thawed a roast beef because she was joining us but that she now would be cooking it.  She took over in the kitchen and I went back outside.  I was gone several hours tending to the Vet then doing chores.  We met back up over dinner.  She hadn't planned to stay overnight but changed her mind.  She had an emergency toothbrush and jammies with her.

I was so grateful for her help.  She appeared in the barn just as Dr. McG was completing the clipping.  I was attached to Clover and not much help with anything else.  Sister got a bag and gathered up the fleece.  She stood by and was that extra pair of hands that one needs in such crazy situations.

I explained to the Vet that I can be squeemish so if I turned my back to him he was not to take it personally.  I am usually okay, but some days....  He explained that he really did not know what we would find.  He began.

As the abdominal cavity was exposed Dr. McG let out an explanation of surprise and jumped back a bit as fluid rushed out of the cavity toward him and onto the floor.  I wondered if her guts just landed on the floor, but thankfully not.  He explained to me later that this was fluid from inflammation.

There was another surprise voiced as the dead and deformed fetus fell to the floor.  It was HUGE and he called it a calf.  No sheep could have delivered that.  As we discussed, it was a one-off, genetic malformation.  When he examined the carcass later we saw how it was so full of fluid, that the huge and puffy ear was likely what we had felt that morning.

I said we made all the right calls.  From my calling him on a Sunday, to waiting an additional twelve hours to moving forward with the c-section.  There was nothing we could or would  have done differently with the information that we had.

Clover began to stir as he completed his stitch work.  Closing her up seemed to take a long time.  Dr. McG administered a long lasting anti-inflammatory and antibiotic.  I was to give her a five day course of antibiotics.  Amazingly, as we moved her from the table to the pen floor, he said she would stand, and she did.

It was now about one o'clock and I was very hungry.  Sister and I had bacon and eggs and she headed back to the big city.  Having experienced several nights of distressful sleep I had a good solid nap.

It was Wednesday before Clover began to look more like herself.  Her eyes were brighter and she was more engaged with her surroundings.  She fought with me a bit as I gave her an oral liquid supplement.  She was now drinking and eating.  Later that day I saw her chewing her cud for the first time since the weekend.  She is on the mend.