Saturday 27 June 2015

End of June


The poor dear!  Such agony she must be experiencing. 

The sheep were well ahead of me as I headed out to the pasture after letting them out in the morning.  The Maremmas had not gone out with the flock and usually they will come out with me and when I slip back to the barn they stay out with the flock for awhile.

I saw her because she was noticeably behind the others.  She was slow.  She was almost limping.  I had to figure out who this sheep was so as to follow up later.  There is little one can do when the sheep are in the field.  Even if I could catch her, then what.  It's a long way back to the barn and sheep are not known for their cooperation. 

She caught up to the flock as they began to graze but I hung back as I did not want to rush her if she was not feeling well.  It was Trixie, a yearling, and her udder was very large. 

A short while later when the sheep were back at the barn it was easy to catch Trixie and pop her into a pen I had waiting.  And then I carefully caught her single female lamb.  This lamb was so cute and Hubby named her Bambi.

I thought it was good that Trixie's udder was not hot but cool to the touch.  I learned later talking with the Vet that a gangrenous mastitis udder is cool if not cold to the touch.  It was not a good situation.  I had already given her a shot of penicillin I had on hand when I spoke to Dr. McG in the evening.  He had a better medication and I picked it up in the morning.  You hit mastitis hard with a strong antibiotic.  This drug I was to administer twice daily for five days.

The internet information is poor on this subject.  I was struck that 25% of those infected die.  This was not encouraging.  I had put medication into the quarter - yes, it's a quarter even though there are only two on a sheep.  Dr. McG said that was not necessary as the offending bacteria will have left but that I should milk her out to remove as much of the remaining toxins as possible.

Over the next few days I carefully drained the udder, massaged gently, applied Epsom salts compresses and then udder balm.  I kept her legs clean as the flies in the barn are bad.  I applied fly spray.  Trixie let me do whatever I wanted - until she began to feel better.  It's a sure sign of recovery when they fight back.  She began to baa for her friends too.

I offered Bambi a bottle of milk replacer several times a day for a few days.  I did see her try to nurse, usually on the bad side.  Lambs can be brutal and she butted at mother's sore udder.  I held her a few times so she could nurse on the good side.  I tried to keep her from butting the udder.  Lambs do this to stimulate the flow of milk.  Bambi had milk on her mouth so although I could not usually get milk from the quarter, she could. 

Trixie is recovering nicely, so far.  Now the udder should slough off.  Isn't that just gross?  The entire quarter is not blue - sometimes this is called blue bag and appropriately so.  We'll see...  I was planning to move Trixie to the other barn where I have Polar Bear and some other moms with babies.  However, Polar Bear's lambs steal milk and this might be too hard on Trixie.  We'll see...

Last Lamb

Two year old Peanut was the last to lamb.  She had a single female.  Yes, another single.  Because this lamb is so much younger than the others I will not put them out with the flock until the lamb is two weeks old.  It is a large lamb, which is good. 

I am assuming this lamb was sired by Abe.  Peanut was marked by Abe but that marking indicated a lambing date three weeks earlier than when she actually lambed. 

It feels good to finally have lambing over.  The season stretched from mid-April to mid-June.  Usually the majority of lambs come in three weeks with the remaining thirty percent or less in the subsequent three weeks.  In some ways I can get on with some other things.  For example, there was not much point in considering cleaning out the barn until lambing was complete. 


Just as individuals have boundaries in relationships and we have physical boundaries with our neighbours, there are also boundaries within a property.  We are defining and redefining these as things evolve.

For example, our hens are free range and they have no boundaries.  One boundary they cross that can be frustrating is when they visit the veranda.  The frustration is due largely to what they leave behind.  We are working on Beau dog to chase the hens off of the veranda - gently. 

This afternoon I removed a hen from the veranda three times.  I gently picked her up and dropped her into the garden bed below.  Each time she got back up and came over to where I was working.  Beau appeared from his latest jaunt and I told him to get the bird.  He didn't get the request, as sometimes happens when he's learning something.  I got the barbecue spray bottle.  This worked!  And since I was working right there she got three or four squirts, got the message and moved along.

With the electric fence I have been able to fence the yard around the house to keep sheep in and out of various places.  With this set up I was able to let the rams graze around the house.  In a previous blog there is a photo of the "intruders" on the veranda.  The rams also left evidence of their visit. 

I purchased some more electric fence and created a large summer paddock for the rams.  Now, each morning I bribe them with grain - known to sheep as candy - and we go out to the paddock.  Each evening I put candy - that is, grain - in their pen in the Small Barn.  Knowing the candy is waiting they prance quickly to the barn and to their pen.

So, the rams now have a new boundary, a paddock of their own where they eat fresh grass, enjoy the weather and all that entails.  This is a much healthier set up for the rams.  So often rams spend most of their life in a pen, other than when they are with the girls in the early winter.  Abe is an old guy and Birch is a young guy and this new set up is good for each of their needs.

Since Polar Bear is not tolerating grass and cannot be with the flock I let her out around the house several times a day for up to thirty minutes at a time.  This is all she can tolerate.  Before the rams had their paddock I would alternate the outings between groups.  At the moment there are three ewes and five lambs in Polar Bear's pen.  There is Polar Bear and her twins; Peanut and her ewe lamb; and now Libby and her twins as she is lame for an as yet unknown reason.

We recently discussed that allowing the sheep around the house is not something we want to keep doing.  The boundary breaking is too much.  I knew they would trash the flower gardens and accepted that.  All of these gardens need some serious attention and some select pruning by the sheep was okay with me - for now.  As hubby mentioned however there is evidence everywhere. 

It seems that the Polar Bear group are the hospital wing of the farm.  This is unpredictable and will be different each year.  I can work with electric fence to create some small areas around the house.  Another thought is to consider some permanent fencing - a boundary - immediately around the house.  Lots of ideas are flowing....

Oz's Workload

Yes, I have great fun using "work words" in my new work!

Oz the orange tractor has a long list of jobs.  We have been prioritizing.  When we first got the mower the priority was predator control and the perimeter of the pasture was cut.  This removes the cover for coyotes to hide.  Some areas were cleared of brush, areas where we know the coyotes hide and travel through.

Then we mowed near the house.  Some trails were cleared for our walking pleasure.  And now Hubby has cut the majority of the pasture.  We waited until many of the grasses went to seed but now need to control the height for safety reasons and weed control.  The pasture grass needs to be shorter so we can see the lambs are safe and the coyotes cannot hide easily.  Sheep prefer a shorter grass to nibble.  And the poisonous parsnip is coming into flower and needs to be cut down.  There does seem to be a lot less of the poisonous parsnip this year.

Sister helped me to clear away the pile of brush collected from various wind and ice storms over the last year.  After we moved it I mowed the long grass there.  This cleared the gateway to the ram's paddock.  Near the garage and house, this looks much nicer now.

Today I mowed the Front Field in specific spots where there were thistles and nettle.  A few spots I decided were unstable for a tractor approach and left the weeds for a chemical intervention.

It's just about time to mow around the house again.  The wood splitter has returned from a quick fix-it that was needed.  There is tons of wood to split.  There are things to move with the bucket, such as concrete tiles.  And the new hay will be coming soon and we have the forks for moving around the big square bales which we will get this year instead of the small bales.

So, Oz is very busy.  As is the end of June in general.

Monday 15 June 2015

Goings On

Wood Chips and Turtle Eggs

What a combination!  Wood chips and turtle eggs?  Yes, really, they are related.

With the new tractor, Oz, and its front end loader we have much work for it to do.  The previous owners played with wood and lots of it.  Near the barn is a hill made mostly of wood chips and littered with wood in need of splitting.

So, what do you do with wood chips?  Since this is a hill and there are a lot of chips, down deep the chips are dark and damp and smelly, like a good growing medium should be.  So, we're using those chips for gardening projects.  The largest project has been the new herb garden.  You know, the former Sumo Wrestling pit.  So hubby put Oz through his paces and moved a lot of wood chips to fill the pit and create the garden.  In doing so, he made quite a dent in the wood chip hill.  Okay, it's only a little dent.  Most interestingly, he found a lot of turtle eggs in the hill. 

There seemed to be a line of eggs running from the top of the hill to the bottom.  However, it is likely that disturbing the hill caused the eggs to move downward in the hill.

We figured these were last year's eggs.  We were surprised by how very few hatched.  We have only seen a few turtles laying this year compared to last year.


Happy Maremmas

We have now had Millie for one year.  What a huge number of changes she has had to deal with.  Yet, she is happy.  She is so very much happier than when she first came here. 

In the photo below, Millie is curled up on the door mat at the back door.  This a common site in the morning.  Having gained a lot of weight over the winter, she does not jump fences very much or very well; but will do so if she must.  I turn off the electric fence at night so that the dogs have no constraints.  She gets out to do her patrolling and then parks near the back door near morning in anticipation of breakfast.


 And then there is Ruby.  Just a bit too happy in this photo!  She sails over fences and routinely jumps out and then back in.  Here she is near the back door. 

The dogs are great clock watchers.  If they are at the back door I check my watch since it may be near feeding time.


We have learned by observation that the best vantage point for taking in a sunset is the north-east side of the wrap around veranda.  From here we can take in the vast horizon above the Front Field and we can also see the barn.  So, at sunset and twilight this is a very lovely spot from which to imbibe in a brew or wine to mellow out after a busy day.

The camera's auto flash decided it should be on for this photo and thus the 'aura' in the photo.  It's pretty neat.  The sky was exceptionally red on this evening.

Same viewpoint, no flash, no 'aura'.  Stunning colours....!


I have to be careful now when I say I'm a Spinner.   Many years ago the joke was that the spinners and weavers imbibed a bit too much.  Nowadays, spinning class is on a bicycle.  So, I am a Handspinner.

A few weeks ago I volunteered down the road to demonstrate handspinning and handweaving at the library branch's open house.  They are located in a historical building and one room upstairs in the historic coach house is dedicated to the memories of local weavers.  It was unusual at that time that so many women were handweaving in their homes and delightful that this room pays homage to them.

So, I took one of my spinning wheels and there I met a few local handspinners.  And they meet Friday afternoons while another group meets Tuesdays.  I have been going to the Friday sessions for a few weeks now and having a delightful time.  I am getting to know some local women.  Handspinning is so very relaxing and I am working through a project. 

Some weeks this is the only handspinning I get done.  Yet, this alone inspires me to do more and a few evenings now I have taken my spinning wheel out onto the veranda at sunset time. 

The Weekend

Another week begins today.  The weekend, like always, was fairly busy.  On Saturday we went for a long motorbike ride and went to a friend's for Thai lunch.  And we were sent home with leftovers - yes, on the motorbike.  It was a terrific day for a ride.  I am much more confident riding now than ever and am less perturbed in traffic.

On Sunday, hubby and Oz moved a great pile of debris to the vegetable garden.  This is perfect for mulching between the rows.  Mulching saves so much time and work.  In addition this stuff will compost and add goodness to the soil for next year.  Basically, Oz the tractor was put to work scraping up the hay leavings where I fed the sheep in winter.  Some of it is a bit 'hot' from underneath the top layer, but in between the rows in the garden it should be fine.  I managed to get most of it in place before the rain began in late afternoon.

In addition my dairy farmer friend delivered a load of hay.  Just the rams and an ill sheep are getting hay.  And I do try to get them outside for green eating when I can.  Hopefully this is the last load of last year's hay we will need to purchase.  I discussed with him the new crop of hay.  With Oz we have a fork for lifting large bales of hay.  This will make hay management less labour intensive.  This is progress on the farm!

Friday 12 June 2015

Comic funny

Awhile ago I received a note from my Mom via snail mail.  It was this little comic strip that she carefully cut out of the newspaper and mailed to me.  It is hilarious.  I laughed very loudly.

I have not been able to copy it to this location.  Apparently that would not be legal and I am law abiding.  So, I think you can visit the site to see the comic strip.  If you know me, you understand how this "fits".

Thanks Mom!

Friday 5 June 2015

Lambing update

One more to go!  And I don't think there is any hurry.  Although the ram wore a marking harness and the date marked equates to a due date of May 28th, we're still waiting.  It's Peanut, so named because she was the smallest of the yearlings last year.  She has filled out nicely and is no longer a munchkin.  Last year she had a single lamb but if she still has some time left then I'm guessing she will have twins.

Twins would be good.  There have been a lot of singles this year, twelve to be exact, with an additional twelve from six sets of twins.  Of these 24, 23 were born alive.   What is excellent is that we have had no losses.  The dead lamb born to Clover by c-section was a fluke and dead long before it could have lived.  No adjustment to lambing management could have changed the outcome.  Twelve of the live lambs are male, while eleven are female.  This will make it hard for me to decide who to keep.  Additionally, the overall average number of lambs per ewe is 1.3, a very low average.  Two other sheep farmers nearby also report many single births this year.

The sheep reproductive cycle is about seventeen days.  So, if I add 17 days to May 28th, I think Peanut will lamb about June 14th.  Her udder is still soft, although she has a good waddle to her gait.  Stay tuned....

The Intruders

There seem to be many intruders as of late.  For example, Rocky Racoon found himself in the coyote trap for a third time.  He has been very determined to get the yummy bait, much more determined than any other creature.  So, Rocky was released and the trap was moved to a new location.  This time it was placed closer to the house in a location where we know coyotes travelled last year.  The only evidence of activity was that the trap was knocked over this week.  This could have been dogs playing or coyotes testing....  Hubby is planning the next placement of the coyote trap.

Cloven hoofs on wood do have a distinctive sound, especially when there are four cloven hoofs.  It is a new sound too and therefore Beau dog, upon hearing this from within the house, woofed appropriately.  There was scuffling too so I investigated.  This is what I found!

Abe indeed has enjoyed pruning that plant!  Each day I pull some electric fence wire across the driveway and hook it up to the live section - while the power supply is turned off - and then release Abe and Birch for a few hours.  After a few hours they "explore".  Abe discovered the verandah first.  And this bush. 

I have allowed sheep grazing in the house area to prune away anything in the gardens.  I decided that all needs a good  pruning.  Further, some organic matter is needed in each bed.  I plan - at this point - to add organic matter to each flower bed sometime in the summer.  In the meantime, heavy pruning is underway. 

After the breeding season and winter, Abe looked thin to me.  He is older, although in good condition.  Birch is still growing.  The shearer assured me he would do some serious growing this summer.  So, both rams need some nutrition attention.  I have been giving them grain and am delighted to get them outside for some fresh air and some good greens.  Even today, Birch jumped for joy at the outside adventure of the day. 

Abe comes running when he sees me.  I am the lady with food.  Okay, I am the lady with grain, also known as "candy" if you are a sheep.  He has come running at me a few times.  That is, literally running or jumping at me to bash me, as rams do.  So, I NEVER turn my back on him and he now wears a bell.  Beau has been very good with the rams in his immediate / house area.  And a few times he has herded them very appropriately.  Even though they do not resemble a tennis ball at all....

Today's intruder was near the end of the driveway.  And there was another one a few days ago.  But today, at about nine thirty a saw a blob in the driveway.  I had to turn off the electric fence I had put up for the rams.  Then Beau and I went down the driveway.  Sure enough, the intruder was a very large snapping turtle.

We determined last weekend that it is turtle egg laying season.  It was evening and the dogs had begun their evening watch.  They began barking, both of them.  It is serious when they both bark.  It was a sharp bark.  Hubby went for his boots, saying, "Where is the key for your rifle?"  My rifle was out since we were trying out the newly purchased sling.  I unlocked the rifle while he laced up his boots. 

As he moved toward the dogs I was dismayed and said so, "Did they [the coyotes] get a lamb?"  I had forgotten that I had closed up the gate preventing the sheep from going out to where the dogs were, that all of the sheep were now around the house. 

Hubby arrived at the dogs' location, looked back toward me, and laughed uproariously!  "What!" I thought.  "What?" I said.  "Oh"  I said.  "Is it the cat?" I asked. 

"No" he said.

"A turtle?" I asked.

"Yes!" he chortled.  And Ruby loudly barked at it some more.  It is the season!  So, the rifle went away and the camera shooting began!


Spring is a very busy time for gardens.  In addition to last year's vegetable garden we are adding more garden projects to the mix, so it has been more busy.  And then there were woes with the rototiller, and then glee when it worked so beautifully.  Hubby moved LOTS of dirt - wood chips and manure.

So, the veggie garden got planted and the former sumo wrestling pit got a new look.  It is becoming an herb garden.


Oh, yes, Sister spent most of the long weekend here painting things red!  What better use for a bathtub than the centre piece of a new herb garden and a new container for a pot of mint!


The orange tractor named Oz has a busy life.  I must say, however, that hubby is getting more enjoyment driving the real tonka toy than I.  I seem always to be doing other things.  As well, I am more than happy to open and close gates while he drives Oz and fetches this, and moves that.  There is lots for Oz to do.

Recently, Oz was adorned with a new mower or bush hog.  When we were viewing the property I was told about "bush hogging" and had no idea what that meant.  Now I know.  I was familiar with a large mower attached to a tractor but it was never referred to as a bush hog.  Here, it is, and now we will commence bush hogging. 

Hubby has been out taking a few test runs with Oz, mowing trails here and there.  And there is more on the list to get done!


And then there are glorious sunsets here in paradise....