Wednesday 29 July 2015

Scarecrow Fashions

One coyote prevention tactic is scarecrows.  Ideally the scarecrow should be dressed in unlaundered clothes that smell of humans.  This is not always possible since we are not all the same size and our clothes won't necessarily fit the scarecrow.  As well this requires a lot of costume changes.

Other coyote interventions include:

  • Putting bells on the sheep since coyotes do not like this seemingly unpredictable noise.  I have put bells on a few sheep choosing the ones that are often last in the flock and some vulnerable lambs such as the orphans.  
  • Shiny things disturb coyotes so I have hung aluminum foil pie plates of various sizes and non-functional CDs and DVDs, some of which have been donated by friends.  I have hung them around the edges of fields and on fences.
  • The radio is on all day in the barn tuned to a talk station to suggest the presence of humans in the barn all day.
  • Outdoor lights are left on at night.  Coyotes hunt primarily at night - although all of our attacks have been in daylight at varying hours.
But this post is about scarecrows.  Although a coyote intervention / prevention, it has become an amusing and fun farm feature.  So, this year the focus has been on scarecrow fashions.

Hubby purchased some human like targets that are providing the basis of this fun.  It's like dressing a grown up doll. Unlike when I had Barbie dolls as a child, I do not have a box of ready made clothes for my dolls.  I'm making it up as I go along.

Hubby also had some out of fashion, de-commissioned, uniform jackets and they fit very well!  Recently, while sister was visiting and cousin came for lunch, we set out to walk the property with the task of checking on the scarecrows.  So, let the fun begin!

Rebel Rosie

The name was inspired by the head-wear.  The balaclava provides distinctive human like features that might perturb a coyote.  Here, Cousin is fixing Rosie's arm-holder-upper, a branch, which again provides a more human look.  The skirt is an excellent feature as it blows in the wind.  This was the first "new" scarecrow made from the newly purchased targets.  The target is affixed upon a stand.


 This scarecrow was featured last year but has an update for this year.  Once again she sits on the chair in the middle of the Middle Field.  We moved the chair from one knoll to another giving Betsy a good view of the entire field - for all coyotes to see.

Legless, the chair allows Betsy to function fully as an active scarecrow.  Note the newly discontinued uniform jacket, adorned with coloured bits of scrap fabric to brighten Betsy's day.  On her head is a sparkly scrap of fabric with shiny bits of which a coyote might be wary.  The midriff feature is not a belt but twine affixing Betsy to the chair.  There's one around her neck too.

Princess Cone Head

New this year is Princess Cone Head.  Last year she just remained headless but this year I have employed an orange cone for a head.  You can see in this first photo the effect of Princess Cone Head as she and her admirers look out over the field of sheep.  Princess Cone Head is even keeping an eye on Henrietta the llama.

The observation point is a good one as Princess Cone Head can see across the road and onto the neighbour's hay field where a coyote might be lurking.  Up in the bush there is rock where coyotes are known to live.

Princess Cone Head is a bit tipsy in this photo.  We managed to remedy that as Cousin discovered the support pole had fallen down into the base.  Now, hopefully, Princess Cone Head will no longer do any nose dives when the wind comes up.

Note a further use of the decommissioned jacket.  This blends reasonably well with the purple fabric employed as a skirt - of sorts.  The cone head is pressed down onto the neck base of the manikin form and is adorned with several lengths of scrap fabric.  These lengths were selected because they contain shiny bits and they are long.  They are wound around a few times, with some holding on to the cone head and others through the epaulets to stabilise the entire creation.

There is a strong regal image portrayed here with lots of waving in the wind of long lengths of material.  This scarecrow is most visible to passers by and neighbours who likely question the presence of this creature amongst the other livestock.

All in all the purpose of scarecrows is to perturb coyotes, however it's been lots of fun too!

Sunday 26 July 2015

Sister Therapy

Sister decided she should come and keep me company for a few days while hubby was away.  Coming here to the farm is "therapy" for her as it is a huge change from her work.  She enjoys fresh air, some hard work, and some fun.  Oh, and we eat and drink well, too!

Sister arrived on the Friday and stayed until the Wednesday.  She made some huge contributions to life here over her stay.

  • Helped to set up the garage for an upcoming garage sale.  It's good to get the stuff sorted and "moving along". 

  • Expended a gallon of forest green paint on the garage-Small Barn:  the door frame of each the person door and double garage door; the double dutch door into the small box stall; the rolling garage door at the north end of the barn; and, flecks found on a red hen.
  • Weeded the Potager / herb garden which really is thriving.  Her personal project it is a lovely sight to behold from the kitchen window.  And to think it used to be a swimming pool!

  •  Cooked several meals and dishes, including chard, turnip and kale from the garden.   The garden is beginning to burst with its fruits.

  • Good company shopping.
  • Treated me to an outing of chocolate mouse cake and red wine on the shores of the St. Lawrence in celebration of my birthday.
  •  Assisted with household chores such as laundry detail, emptying the dishwasher - I still can't find some things....
  • Helped with chores and holding sheep as needed.
  •  Wound up electric fence wire.
  • Discovered the vandalised mailbox and provided appropriate soothing and the photo.

  • Provided first aid when I was stung by wasps.  This occurred two days after I was stung by a bee.  I survived all stings.
  • Weeded the vegetable garden which has been over run with weeds.  Discovered ripe turnip and beets, etc.
  • Many other tasks I am sure I have left off of this list.

All in all, sister therapy is a mutually satisfying interchange.   We are grateful for her interest in helping out on the farm.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Losses, Son's Visit, etc.



We have been free of coyote losses this year, thanks to the effective work of Maremmas, Millie and Ruby.  Now the losses are due to illness in the adult sheep and it has been heartbreaking.

Polar Bear has been ill for some time.  As the sheep went out to pasture she was unable to tolerate the green grass.  She would "spew" her cud.  Sheep don't vomit but I was reminded at times of projectile vomit.   I consulted the Vet and was informed it was Frothy Bloat.  Bloat is the filling of the rumen, the "first stomach" of a ruminant, with gas and / or foam which is unable to escape.  Often it is caused by too much of a particular food item that is not well tolerated.  For example, legume pasture such as alfalfa; or, if a sheep got into grain and ate A LOT!

Polar Bear did bloat a few times as I tried to introduce her to grass again and again.  It got to the point where she could tolerate thirty minutes up to three times a day.  Often she would look poorly after the third outing to grass.

I decided that Polar Bear would have to go to auction as a "cull" but that first she needed to get her twins well launched.  Over time they have lagged somewhat. At the end Polar Bear likely had little milk to give to her lambs.  If a sheep could be pale she was terribly so.

As Polar Bear was noticeably sliding downhill, Libby suddenly did not look well.  Libby is my special purchase sheep with the coloured fleece.  She too had twins.  Libby was not going out with the flock but lying down in the barnyard.  I brought her in.  She was thin as she was not eating.  She ate hay well.  After a few days I moved her in with Polar Bear as it was easier to have them all together in the one barn.

On the Friday I took fecal samples of each to the Vet.  The results were expected over the weekend if not on Monday.  I was disappointed that I had the weekend and no idea what to do with these sheep.

On Saturday Polar Bear fell down trying to get up.  The others went outside and I left Polar Bear in the pen.  I had to go.  I went to Guelph to fetch son for a visit, returning the next day.  Hubby emailed that Polar Bear died that morning.  He buried her.

When I got home Sunday I worried about Libby.  She looked worse and was eating less.  I knew she was anaemic and it might be parasites but I had de-wormed the flock exactly one month previous and five weeks before that.

On the Monday afternoon the Vet called with the fecal results.  The parasite load was high for both sheep indicating drug resistance to the internal parasite mediation.  Yet I was also a bit confused since no animals had been on the field the sheep were on for years previous, and often a heavy parasite load is from pasture.  It was the drug resistance that was the problem and so the parasites continued to be prolific.  With the recent weather conditions the parasite population increased and the medication did not hold it in check.

Polar Bear was already compromised health-wise and the internal parasites were just too much for her.  Libby lambed late and she too would have a compromised system, as I read in my research.  A strong sheep, it was shocking to see Libby fail and so rapidly.  The Vet had some medication for me to pick up the next day along with a different worming medication for all members of the flock.

Libby was dead the next morning.  I cried a lot, then, and later.  My neighbour was shocked as she had come over on Saturday evening and Sunday morning to give Libby a supplement.  She was chewing her cud happily on Sunday morning and dead on Tuesday morning.

I tried over three days to get Libby's lambs to take formula in a bottle.  They were five weeks old, too young to be weaned.  They just would not take the bottle.

Son was here and helped with the drenching or de-worming.  The sheep were wet from rain.  It was hot and humid.  It was a mucky, messy job and it got done in good time.

And then I madly set about to set up new pasture.  I needed to get the sheep off the current field after a few days to pass the nasty parasites.  In two weeks time I will change the pasture again.  The parasite life cycle is about fourteen days.  So, if I can change pasture every fourteen days I can break the cylce and make a dent in the population.

 Son helped me set up the electric fence in the field.  The next morning, before letting out the sheep, I rearranged another electric fence to make a corridor for the sheep to access the new field.  I got the final electric power to the fencing the next day, one day after I put the sheep out there.

I have been struggling with what I could have done differently.  Not much.  This drug resistance is new to me and was not a concern [thirty-five OKAY!] forty years ago.  Now I know that there is a medication to assist the sheep when they become anaemic this way.  Now I know that deterioration is rapid.

My neighbour has had the same issue and also lost a favourite ewe.  She listened to me cry.  What a great neighbour!

Son's visit

He said he wasn't bored even though there was only one day of fishing.  Son arrived on the Sunday and left by train on the Friday.  He was a huge help with the fence, drenching, moving stuff.  He checked the coyote trap each day too.  And when the neighbour borrowed the trap he went out to the field with him to fetch it.

On the way to the train station I said, "I hope you weren't too bored".
"No", he said.  "Your place is really peaceful.  The farm is nice.  It's a lot of work."

He was good company while hubby was away.  It was good to spend some time with him.  He will get very busy again in the fall when he begins Grad school.


She is the ewe with the gangrenous mastitis.  It is especially gross as the affected half of the udder sloughs away.  Trixie has bounced back in an amazing way.  She continues to raise her lamb, Bambi, who nurses on the unaffected side of the udder.

I recently learned that iodine is good for fly control.  The flies have been really awful this year.  So, following daily Epsom salts bath treatments, I applied an antiseptic to the affected part of the udder and abdomen.  Then, I began to spray with iodine.  The iodine sprayer keeps getting plugged up so yesterday with sister holding Trixie, I heavily swabbed the lesions with the iodine solution.

Today there is some weeping from the wound but the fly control is excellent.  In addition, Trixie is now outside as much as possible all day.  This keeps her out of the dirty and fly filled barn.  Fresh air and green grass is very healthy.  It's better eating for her and her lamb too. 

Orphan Lambs

Polar Bear's lambs, "Rosie" and "Rosie's Brother", are now out in the flock.  Rosie steals milk whenever she can.  This was stress that Trixie did not need.  These twins are older too, born May 30th.  I tried to get them on to a bottle and was not successful.  I put little bells on each of them and put them out in the flock.  For a few days they hung around the barn and got through the fence and back with Trixie.  They no longer do that.  They seem quite content in the flock.  Rosie still tries to steal milk.

Libby's twins remain with Trixie.  And today it seemed that Trixie was behaving as a true Auntie and cried out for about ten minutes looking for these lambs.  They were behind the house out of earshot.  When they found each other they were all happy to be together again.  These lambs are not trying to steal milk either.  The four of them are a nice little happy family that graze around the house.

Trixie with her lamb, Bambi, who is standing, and Libby's orphaned twins.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Spun vs Spit


 As usual Ruby slunk across the barn to greet me on Sunday morning.  I thought to myself, oh, she has such frosty whiskers this morning.  Then I awoke from my morning fog - it's not frosty whisker weather!  Those are porcupine quills flapping on her face.

I let her out of the barn to eat her food while I returned to the house to get hubby.  Millie was not appearing in this time, likely hiding with her own face full of sharp quills.  Hubby and I each did some quick internet research on the day's crisis.  IN addition we called good friends with lots of quill removal experience.  We listened to their advice and absorbed their best wishes.  We gathered up the necessary tools and equipment.

When I returned to the barn Ruby had managed to eat most of her food by dumping it out of the bowl and gathering it off the ground rather than bump the sharps on the inside of the bowl.  I quickly fed the other animals and put the flock out.  We met Ruby at the back of the house.  There we spent a solid hour painfully pulling out quills.  Ruby dragged us through the wet grass, slinking under and around us.  Finally, she began to thrash and caught hubby across the ear and face.  We had all reached our limit.

I hung upside down and peered under the veranda after we located Millie there.  Yes, her face was decorated too.  We did not pursue Millie.  I gave each dog painkillers and an antihistamine.

We went off to the day's event returning in the late afternoon.  Millie came out from hiding.  She easily allowed me to remove a quill by hand which encouraged me and I went to find the pliers.  I slowly removed from her top lip the quills I could see.  She began to burrow her nose to keep me away.  I stopped.  I had removed enough that she could eat.

For dinner I fed them soft food in a shallow dish and they managed.  Ruby was feeling much better but I could still see four quills.  I already had a Vet appointment for Ruby the next day, Monday.

On Monday when I called the Vet they said to just come whenever I was ready.  Millie had been to the Vet on the Thursday before and treated for a broken dew claw and the removal of the actual claw.  She was already receiving antibiotics and painkillers.  I had become confident about getting Millie to the Vet again and here was my chance to find out.  Yes!  I was able to get all 102 pounds of Millie into the car by myself. My neighbour had helped on Thursday but we were good now and Millie seemed less stressed and less resistant about going.

At the vet I said "She's back!".  When I explained it's getting easier, the Vet Tech said, "Of course.  Every time she comes here she gets to go to sleep!"

Yes, they sedated her - again - and removed many quills.  Some were on the inside of her top lip, which I would not have been able to get to.  They were thorough, checking her feet, her legs, between her toes, her chest, her throat, etc.

I drove Millie home and put Ruby in the car.  Oh, Millie had vomited in the car and now it was Ruby's turn.  Ruby too got to have little sleep at the Vet's.  In addition to the four quills I had not removed there was one inside her nose.  These hidden quills convinced me of the importance of the Vet visit and sedation.

Needless to say the Vet bill was A LOT!

Upcoming Fashion Debut

I have a new expression:  "I feel a blog coming together" and this is how I feel with some recent work I have begun making this year's scarecrows.  Hubby ordered some cool looking cardboard figures.  I am spraying them with a protector and this is taking time.  And then the design work takes time too as I have to sift through what I have and create the stunning look.  So, coming to a blog real soon - "Scarecrow Fashions."

Mrs. Bogart

She's been here for about one week now.  We are sticking with the name she came with, Marjie, with the addition of Bogart.  A real pair, Mr. and Mrs, Humphrey and Margie Bogart.  She is a lovely tortoise shell kitty.  A feral cat, there is no love between us, which suits my allergic self pretty well, actually.  Originally a barn cat, she was recently rescued by an organisation at the request of the new farm owners who did not want the cats in the barn.  She has been spayed and vaccinated and now, re-homed.  Or, is that re-barned -? 

In order for the wild thing to understand that this is home, we have to keep her crated for two weeks, at least.  She needs to learn where the food is coming from and the normal noises of the place.  So, I placed the dog crate atop four bales of hay in a barricaded corner of the barn.  The lady who delivered Marjie thought this was perfect.  The cat carrier door was removed and the carrier - avec le chat - was placed inside the dog crate.  Then a litter box, food dish and water dish were added to the crate.  There is now no floor space left in the crate.  However, Marjie could, if she desired, sit on top of the crate and fully observe the goings on in the barn.

I have never seen Marjie stand up, never mind come out of the carrier or sit on top of it.  She now regularly eats her food, drinks her water and uses the litter box.  Sometimes she faces outward and other times she faces inward.  So, I no she moves.  The greatest movement I have observed is the blinking of her eyes.

Humphrey greeted Marjie when she arrived.  Frequently Humphrey is now found sleeping on the floor in that barricaded area.  I have moved Humphrey's bed on to the top of the dog crate and now feed him next to the crate.  He 'talks' to Marjie and has tried very hard to make her feel welcome.

Henrietta - spun and spit

She really can be a cranky thing, Henrietta.  Since hubby took care of the fishy smelling dead snake, that we think Henrietta killed, she has been nasty to him a few times.  She snorts and spits and aimed one day.  She also went at him with her chest, pushing in to him.

Henrietta has been downright nasty to me for awhile.  Some new learnings about llamas indicate that are stroking, cooing and giving her treats is not a good idea.  She is unclear of her order in the pecking sequence.

So, when she spits I raise my voice and tell her "No!"  As well, we are trying to ignore her.  We no longer offer treats unless it is a training session and the treat is a reward.  I catch her and stroke her as if I am brushing her to get her more used to that.  I don't brush her unless I can hide the brush on my person while I catch her. 

It will take some time, but we are learning more - again - about llamas.

I have been regularly attending a Friday afternoon group of handspinning.  This has allowed me to finish one project - spinning some Rideau Arcott mixed with Mohair - and begin a new project - spinning Henrietta.  I is BEAUTIFUL!  There are chunks of hay and vegetable matter but it is so very soft and spins up very finely.

The spun is much nicer than the spit!