Monday 31 October 2016

Thanks Mom

I know it's been awhile since I wrote here but I didn't realize just how much time has passed.  Thanks Mom for alerting me to this.

The end of the beginning

Butterscotch started us off with our first lambing in April 2014.  She had twins then and each year after.  I kept her first female lamb from 2014, and another one in 2015.  The first female I named Bella after Isabella, one of the women from whom I learned about sheep as a teen.  Bella is a lovely sheep, bigger than her small mother, and also a good mother.  And Bella bellows; she has a big voice.  She likes pats on the head.

This year Butterscotch had twin boys. She had some udder issues which I think I wrote about before.  The udder got better.  The bottle supplementing of the boys became unnecessary.  Butterscotch however remained thin.  So, in July I pulled her out of the flock along with Marmalade.  Marmalade has no teeth so she is much older than I realized.  Butterscotch still has her teeth, and one set of baby teeth which indicates she is likely about four years of age.  Good mothers that consistently have twins each year, I wanted to give them some TLC and get some weight back on them.  So, these ewes and their lambs became my TLC group.

After awhile I removed the lambs from them.  It was time to wean them and Butterscotch was not gaining.  Marmalade had gained and was ready to return to the flock, however I kept her with Butterscotch for company.

At this point there were some other symptoms of illness in Butterscotch.  I won't gross you out with all of the details, however, working with the vet, test results indicated a coccidiosis infection.  We treated her twice with two different prescriptions and the test results showed a worsening.  This took place over several months and by now Butterscotch was on her own, inside, thinner and weaker.  A decision had to be made and we made it.  We euthanized her. It wasn't what I expected to be using my rifle for.  I felt very positive about this as Butterscotch needed help to move on to her next journey - this expression shared with me by the vet staff really helped.

Mucking out

Some times I wear my orange hat while riding Oz the orange tractor.  I know, it's Halloween too.....  Well, Oz has been getting a good workout as we muck out the Big Barn.  In the past I do this in summer but summer was so incredible hot that many things did not get done.  Now that it's cooler - way cooler some days, cool enough to wear that bright orange hat - the job is getting done.

As of this morning I am also completely finished.  I'm working on the corners where Oz cannot get to.  So, I get the bucket about half full, manipulating the bucket to loosen the layers in the corner, then I back up a bit and pick at it and fill the bucket by hand.

I have found most of this task rather boring.  Riding the tractor one morning I became very chillled as there was a sharp north wind and even with that orange hat I was not moving my body enough to keep warm.  Oz did all the work.  So, as much as I felt bored I thought through the enormity of what I was completing.  That Oz was picking up in a few minutes what would take me twenty minutes to toss into a numerous wheelbarrows and dump into the garden.

Yes, this is great garden fodder.  Putting it on now it will decompose and get tilled into the soil in the spring.

The two box stalls in the small barn are done by hand.  I have completed one.  The other, larger stall I am hoping to utilize Oz for completion.  I can get the bucket inside the large doorway of the barn and fill it by hand.  I may have to use the wheelbarrow to get it from deep in the stall to the bucket.  It's still a short distance to push the wheelbarrow.  Oz's help is appreciated.


There have been many fruits to harvest this year, despite the drought conditions of the summer.  Yet, we did have many things that did not do well or did not produce at all.  What we did have kept me busy enough.

Squash once again did super well.  When I bought some heritage tomato plants the man gave me two started squash plants.   He thought they were spaghetti squash or some other kind.  I kept referring to them as spaghetti squash until I finally realized they are delicata.  They are very lovely to eat and I continue to serve them like spaghetti squash.  There were lots of delicata and butternut squash.

Although production was down I still managed to get enough zucchini to make several double batches of relish.

I grew corn this year for the first time.  I'll grow it another year and hope for a much improved product.  What we had was quite tasty.  I grew it in patches among the squash in a very large expanded section just for these vine crops.

Last year's melon crop consisted of ONE.  This year, since the squashy section was much improved and larger and the melon was not usurped by other vine types of plants, we had lots of delicious cantelope.  We ate the last, fist sized one at Thanksgiving.  I cut it into 8 slices and we each got a nibble.

We found apple trees we did not know we had.  It was a bumper crop.  Sister and I made several batches of apple sauce.  I made more.  I put some in the beet - apple chutney I made - with store bought beets.  Hubby has trimmed up the young apple tree so as to nurture it along.  The most tasty tree did not have apples in the past.  And we could not reach the fruit but gathered windfalls from underneath where the pond had dried up.  Who knows what next year will bring.

I have yet to finish harvesting the potatoes.  And I must get the garlic in.

Happy Birthday Mom

So, thanks again Mom for the reminder to get to my blog.  And, Mom, Happy Halloween and Happy Birthday!!

Sunday 31 July 2016

Way behind....

I'm still here.  Just way behind on keeping the blog updated. 

I guess most people think summer is quiet and relaxing.  It is.  But, it can be busy too.  Before summer is spring and it is very busy on a farm.   Lambing took us from March to April.  Then in May and June we were dealing with the veggie garden and its challenges.  Now it is the end of July.  And it has been very very hot.  Yes, it's a drought and any farmer will tell you so.

So, here are some stories about what's been going on....

The Landing

She landed on my head.  It's good that I am usually wearing a hat.  It was morning and perhaps she was not quite awake.  I was putting out feed for the hens.  She - a hen - was on the roost to my right while I was pouring out feed on my left and ahead of me.  And she flew through the air and landed on my head.

No gifts were left behind, thankfully.  I shook a bit.  Or, maybe I knocked my hat off.  Or, maybe she took my hat with her as she fell to the ground.  In stride, I righted my hat and continued with my morning chores, thinking, "that's never happened before."

Maremma Update

 My friend ED dubbed Millie the "reluctant sheepdog" and this does fit - although I am reluctant to apply it so.  Yet, truly it fits.  However, finally, Millie is becoming the sheepdog we expected her to be when she arrived three years ago.

With consistency she is now happy and expects to return to the sheep flock area when she arrives from an outing.  Recently, Millie and Ruby had returned to sleeping the day away under the house verandah.  I put up electric fence around the house and this immediately stopped.  It's hot and the dogs do find it cool during the day to sleep under the verandah.  However, they are barn dogs and there are cool places near the barn, and they have found those cool places.

Ruby pushes the limits a bit further as she can jump out and into the barnyard as she desires.  Yet, she knows I want her back in the barnyard.  Lately when she gets out she avoids me, as if I don't see her there. 

If I tell them to "Git with your sheep", they know what that means.  Ruby will usually "git" by jumping over the fence, or going in through the gate I open.  Millie knows now that the verandah is off limits.  Yep, back in with the sheep is the place to be, and she heads straight there.

Coyotes we hear many evenings.  The dogs bark a lot.  They are not carrying on and getting out a lot.  Ruby can and will jump out and in.  Millie finally discovered the doggie door we made for her in the fence.  She has learned to get out, safely, through this opening.  This is much easier on her hips.  She has not, however, learned about returning to the barnyard that way.  Yet, often Millie will just stay in where she should be.

Usually, the dogs go out to the pasture with the sheep in the morning.  About a half hour to one and a half hours later, the dogs return via the front of the house.  They sleep all day.  After five o'clock dinner they are more alert.  After 7:30 / 8:00 o'clock snacks the dogs are awake and wary.  Ruby will usually stay out in the pasture with the sheep.  The sheep come in by nine.  At night the dogs bark to ward off coyotes, etc.  In the morning the dogs are waiting for me to feed them at eight.  Millie leads the sheep out.  Ruby goes out with Millie or follows the sheep.  Henrietta the llama is very last.  The dogs explore fields, follow scents and tracks, etc., and return at about 9:30.  Then they sleep.

Lambskin Rugs

As we evolve so does our production.  The first lamb skin rugs have been received from the tannery.  This has been a learning experience.  I had forgotten how much salt it takes to prep a skin.  As a result, many have been discarded.  I had a huge number as the butcher let me take as many as I wanted last year.  Now I mostly have a pile of useless skins.

However the first lot back from the tannery is lovely.  I sent six and they had to discard two.  I received back four, with only one machine washable.  There was "slippage" on several where the wool fell out - from insufficient salt in the preparation. 

Another batch of six has been sent off for tanning.  The process takes a minimum of four months.  So, perhaps they will be back in time for Christmas sales.


The first spinning fleece ewes were clipped this spring.  That is the ewes sired by the Birch the spinning ram. The income from their wool is about double that of the nicer non-spinning fleeced ewes I have.  Still, spinners don't like to get dirty.  It is a lot of work to prepare an entire fleece for spinning.  There are small woollen mills around where I can get wool processed.  Like the rugs though, this all takes some cash up front for processing.  With each processing step the sale price goes up.

It's a lot of work to organize these processing steps.  I'd rather just sell the whole fleece as it comes off of the sheep.  Right now my house is full of fibre, mostly that I kept for myself.  I don't know when I will ever spin all of this wool.  And then there is this year's wool I am storing in the freezer.  But soon I have to move it for the meat....


There's been a lot of that this year.  It is a drought.  Many areas around the farm are quite parched.  Neighbours tell me their pasture is done.  We are very fortunate that we have so much land that we have not used yet.  That is, we are not grazing to capacity, so we have lots of eating left here.

The sheep are bothered by the heat too.  They go out to pasture around eight in the morning.  Recall that many coyote attacks occurred here in the morning, so I wait.  I enjoy my morning coffee before taking the sheep out.  The Maremmas go first and check the field.  Henrietta comes up last.  The sheep return to the barn about 9:30.  They drink lots of water and if it's really hot they will rest in the shade in and around the barn.

Some of their best grazing time is in the evening when it cools down.  I stopped going out and gathering them at eight in the evening as they were eating well.  They bring themselves in by nine.  After snacks at 7:30 or so, I take Ruby out to check the flock and she usually stays out with them.  This gives me confidence in letting them come back in on their own.


We have enjoyed many visitors so far over the summer.  Whether here for a weekend or an afternoon, I stop and enjoy the verandah.  I don't get under the verandah like the Maremmas do.  I sit up top in a comfy chair.  And sometimes, as in the photo above, we enjoy an amazing sunset.  Many hours too have I spent this summer sitting at my spinning wheel on the verandah.  It is just lovely!

Thursday 9 June 2016

Creative work


I love to re-purpose things; to figure out a problem or challenge; to make something work.  Here are some examples.

  • the hose reel

Re-purposed, the hose reel has been an amazing time saver for putting up and taking down strands of electric fence.  No masses of knots that take hours to unravel.  Set up and take down is a pleasant experience.

  • the pool ladder

We found the first pool ladder at the dump at the "treasure table".  Hubby's first thought was we could use it to traverse the strands of electric fence behind the house to get the bridge to go for a hike.  Then we realized it 'fits' over the electric netting.  And so I have recently acquired another pool ladder and put it to work behind the barn.

  • futon

I like the barn but I don't sleep there.  Sister had a small futon that she no longer used and it had previously belonged to Brother.  Down to the farm it travelled.  I found this idea on-line and I built it into a hay feeder.  It doesn't get much use now since we switched to the large bales, however I still use it sometimes.


Turtle activity this year so far has been limited, unlike a great deal of activity and many sightings in our first spring here.  This snapping turtle walked through the barnyard one morning.  From the house it was a cat with an odd gait. 

Later in the day I was sitting in the front room and observed a relative walking up the driveway.  He seemed to be on a mission with a determination to his stride.

This frog was found one morning in the barnyard.  He is perched on a concrete block that holds the hen house door ajar.  If you look closely the grey colour on his underside matches the block well.  He stayed there for a good part of the day.



We grow fluff here and the amount is ever increasing.  I must say that the quality of this year's yearling fleeces is just wonderful.  The goal of "prettying up the fleece" is working.  The spinners who helped on shearing day "ooo-ed" and "awed" more than the previous year.

It was a very long day to shear 30 sheep and one llama.  The guy is careful with the animals but not known for speed.

Chiquita getting her first hair cut.  She had not yet had her baby.

 Interestingly nature also re-purposes as needed.

A bird's nest made mostly from sheep's wool.

More creative uses for sheep wool.

Tuesday 17 May 2016


They're everywhere.  There are now forty babies. 

In the quiet of dusk I count sheep.  For real.  At the end of the day, before it gets too dark, I count.  First I count the twenty-eight ewes.  Then I count the forty babies.  Usually I have to count several times to get my desired number.  Often when babies lie together in a heap it's hard to count actual critters.  Add the two rams and we have SEVENTY.

I count before it gets too dark in case I have to search the field for a missing sheep.  Usually if someone is missing there are other signs and counting just confirms that one is missing.  Mother's blat for a missing baby and babies blat for a missing mother.

I am routinely mobbed, several times a day.  This is the reward for healthy bottle babies.  Bottle feeding is necessary for survival and for ensuring that babies get a good start.  In the case of the quads I chose to supplement all four.  In the case of Olive's triplets, I chose to supplement the smallest one who looked hungry.  So, now I have five bottle babies.  Yet, these are all getting supplemental bottles in that they are being raised by their respective mothers.  This is important since their mothers teach them how to be sheep.  Otherwise they want to be humans and move into the big house.

There is now an orphaned bottle lamb, given to me by my neighbour.  I named her Fleur as I will try to name ewes after flowers this year.  Zinnia is a flower.  Freckle is not.  Sometimes the theme doesn't fit.

Back to Fleur.  She is a triplet.  The problem my neighbour has with multiple births is she is convinced they cannot all do well.  This is mostly true, but they don't all do badly.  At any rate, she removes multiples, leaving two only, one for each teat.  The other reason she does this is because she crosses the highway with her sheep daily and a bottle baby running the wrong way is very dangerous.  I understand but choose not to to it that way.  I am grateful for a new ewe lamb for my flock.  Fleur has settled in very very nicely.  Really, though, I am her mother.  Yet, because she was almost three weeks of age before she left her mother, she knows she is a sheep and this is good.

This morning I was late.  It's Sunday.  We were up late.  I woke up at 6:30 and rolled over and went back to sleep.  Usually I don't sleep but this morning I did and the next time I looked at the clock it was 8:14.  That's a huge sleeping in morning for me.  Up I got.

I was juggling two dishes of dog food and a bag of baby bottles.  Millie was behind me going in the gate.  Before me was Ruby jumping on the gate looking for breakfast and under her were the quads.  Somehow this all worked.  I opened the gate and just let it go.  Millie went in, Ruby backed up, the babies scattered for a moment.  Ruby jumped up and knocked some of her food out of the bowl.  I put hers down and quickly moved away to move Millie away - they need some distance between them.  And then moved away at right angles to get the babies out of dog breakfast eating range.

I whipped out bottles.  I clamped one between my knees and somebody grabbed on to it.  I then had one in each hand.  Now three were occupied and the forth jumped on the others, on me, and I used my elbows whenever possible to push it away.  Then the older triplet arrived looking for his breakfast snack.  All five were mobbing me.

I watched as the bottles' contents quickly went down.  Each was allowed a half bottle.  I guestimated and then pulled - hard - to get the bottle out of their mouth to check the volume and decide whether to return it to the guzzler or find a waiting guzzler to finish it off.

It's all over pretty quickly.

Quadruplets in the dog house

And then I move on as I have one more bottle.  Butterscotch, a lovely older ewe who always twins and is a great mother, has had some udder challenges.  The base of the teat had become infected.  This was likely due to an injury from a hungry lamb with sharp teeth.  I should have checked her out sooner.  I kept her in the mixing pen as the lambs looked hungry and I wanted them looking perkier before I put them in the flock.  By the time I checked her there was quite an infection.

Butterscotch's boys basking in the sunshine.

To take some pressure off of Butterscotch's udder and to get these lambs going I offered a bottle.  They took it without much convincing - they were hungry.  So, this morning I took my last bottle to Butterscotch's boys.  I had moved her back to the mixing pen yesterday.  The smaller twin came to me and I scooped him up and sat down on a milk crate.  He slowly and quietly took the bottle.  What a calm and relaxing time we both had while he slowly topped up his tummy.  Butterscotch had continued to feed both lambs but would push them away when that teat got really sore.

The second lamb required catching and he was not that hungry.  Only two thirds of their full bottle was consumed.  Butterscotch was feeding them well.  I managed to feel her udder and it was good.  I would look more closely later in the day.  She was baaing a lot and pacing: she wanted out onto the grass with the flock.

A very happy Millie the Maremma, snoozing in the shade with her sheep

 What a year for bottle feeding.  We have had none of this in the past two years.  Oh well.  The bottle feeding has paid off and all are thriving.

Saturday 9 April 2016


Twenty-four; thirty-seven; two; one...  I've been crunching some numbers now that we are almost through with lambing.  It's been a whirlwind event.  It is so good to know that there is an end in sight....  I will sleep again.

I actually began to draft a posting at the halfway mark.  I never got back to it.  And, I found a draft for "Calm" from before lambing that I did not publish.  It's a crazy time!

The Stats

2 rams put to 24 ewes:  Abe was put to Birch's daughters and Birch got the rest.  My neighbour warned me that I could have double trouble using two rams at the same time, that there would be a double tide of lambs born at the same time.  It wasn't too bad.

14 of 17 days:  The lambing period - thus far, without the 3 stragglers that remain - was 17 days long and lambs were born on 14 of those days.

21 ewes have produced 37 lambs for an average of 1.8 each:  Excellent outcome since one would like a 150% lamb crop and we have 176% - yes I rounded up to 1.8 each.

  • 1 set of quadruplets
  • 2 sets of triplets
  • 18 sets of twins
  • 9 singles
This is great as last year there were many more singles.  The high majority of the singles this year are large and long legged, looking for a hamburger at birth.  The twins are pretty evenly sized, as are the multiples.  There is one set of twins for which there is concern that the younger one is much smaller.  I'm keeping an eye on him and keeping them in longer before they meet up with the entire flock.

8 lambs receiving supplemental bottle:  No "bottle babies" or "orphans", just supplemental bottles.  Each receives about 8 ounces three times a day.  They have mothers that feed them and mother them and teach them how to be sheep.  The supplemental bottle is to ensure they get a good kick start in life.  Still, I am popular and as they get older they get better at mobbing me.

A re-purposed bag for toting baby bottles to the barn.

I am supplementing all four quads.  Three assault me when I walk in the door of the pen.  The fourth, Floppy, needs to be caught and once perched on my lap gobbles down her share.  All four are looking pudgy and more like piglets.  Floppy keeps up with the rest, whereas there were concerns for her at birth.  She is pretty laid back and very happy.

I have been offering a bottle to Spot's largest triplet.  He needs to be caught and sometimes he'll take a few ounces and sometimes not.

MayBell has only half an udder that is working.  Her female comes running for a bottle now.  The male will sometimes take some and does best if held.

Olive's male triplet often gets left out and he now runs to me for his bottle.  His belly is rounded so he is getting enough.

Oh, and one more interesting stat:  one black and white set of twins, care of Lucy!

Lucy birthed them in the field on a nice sunny day.  Thankfully it was not too cold.  The startling white female was followed by the more startling black male.  What better way to carry them in from the field than in a milk crate.  Here I'm having a rest - me, not her - and hubby has met us with the camera.

The black male is a bit smaller and less active so I watched him closely to ensure he was managing.

Thank you EA for this lovely photo!  Blackie has turned out to be more like an appaloosa.  As the two became stronger it was time to put them in a mixing pen with another ewe.  I try to match the ewes, and put singles with singles and twins with twins - when possible.  It depends how fast I need which pens.  And numerous days all my pens were full.

At first I put Lucy and twins with Bella and twins.  On the second day when hubby commented that the little guy is always in the corner, a change was necessary.  I put Lucy back into a lambing pen for a few more days.  Then I put Lucy in with a younger ewe and her single.  This has worked well.  What we observed is that the sheep are racist and bashed the black lamb!

At this point Lucy and twins are in a mixing pen with two other ewes and their lambs and has access to outside.  They are ready now to go out to the flock.  The Appy guy is stronger and quicker in getting out of the way.  He bounces and plays with everyone, so he should be just fine now.  The lambs do not display the same racist behaviours as their mothers.



The Calm, that is.  The one before the storm.  It starts soon, the lambing storm.

At night, all is calm.  Just like the Christmas song, Away In A Manger.  It's very true.  A barn at night is a lovely and calm place.  Even the nocturnal creatures know to be quiet in a barn.  Mind you that is their way anyhow as they try to not disturb as they find their own food in their own way.

It is a lovely day, with crisp cool air and brilliant sunshine.  Excellent conditions to go outside for the first time.

I'm a triplet.  My Mom is Olive.  This is my first day outside - ever!

Earlier in the week I had set up some electric netting in such a way as to create a small outside enclosure at the front of the barn.  This area gets sunshine all day and I knew that I could easily create a small pen or nursery at that end of the barn.  This area does receive the weather as it faces West but I can monitor that.  Besides these babies are now two weeks old and strong.  It was time to see sunshine!

I put Olive and her triplets out first.

Olive and her triplets

 It is their pen I have opened up to create a larger pen.  A short time later I put Chloe and her big boy out there.

Chloe and her boy

Last year Olive did not like to share her space and that was how Cookie's leg got broken.  I watched carefully.  And this time they are all outside.  Chloe's lamb is big and quick and the space is larger.  Whereas Cookie was her mother's first lamb, this is Chloe's third.  Chloe is pushing back and they are working it out.

The photo waiting to happen however is Ruby.  Hubby helped me to tag the lambs after I put the four babies and two mommies in the larger pen.  I managed to catch the babies and Hubby inserted the appropriate tag in each ear.  We can now tell them apart; that is, Olive's two females have specific numbers with which to identify them since otherwise they are alike.  And so it is with all lambs, they get their ears pierced with a plastic tag that has their own number on it.  This year we are continuing with red tags for girls and white tags for boys.

I wandered off topic.  While Hubby and I were working on this, Ruby jumped into the pen with me.  She scrounged around sniffing at things.  Before I left the barn Ruby was lying in the big doorway in the sunshine while lambs were coming up to check her out.  Unlike last year when Ruby would bound up and lick them, she is remaining calm.  As the lamb comes close to her she might sniff it or not.  I did see her half lick one that was very close to her.  I expect we may find Ruby keeping them warm on a cool night, with the calm of her mature, almost two years.


We've come a long way since surgery in early December.  Millie is now back on duty, 24/7.  She usually stays in with the flock, taking off much less frequently.  At first she kept taking off and she'd be gone for hours.  Sometimes Ruby would return long before Millie.  Interestingly, Ruby rarely went off for any longer than twenty minutes while Millie was penned up for her recovery.

One morning I gave the dogs very large bones to chaw on and they stayed put.  All day.  At evening I decided to leave Millie out and not put her into the barn for the night.  In the morning she was with the flock where she'd been left.

A few nights she has gotten out.  We've heard the dogs barking at something, mostly behind the house, rather than across the road.  They come back.  Millie cannot get back in with the flock when she gets herself out.  Ruby can soar over a fence and return to the flock.  This morning, both dogs were "out".  We'd heard them barking madly probably around 5:30.  They showed up for breakfast while I was feeding the hens.  They followed me - okay, they followed the food - back into the flock, had breakfast and began to nap.

Millie wearing her new pink collar

Millie is calm with the sheep.  Everyone is wary of her but it is becoming less so.  Millie is happy.  She was even wearing a bit of a snarly smile the other morning, something we frequently see on Ruby.

I have noted to a few people as of late how the sheep are all calm.  We have more sheep in the flock now that were born here, than were purchased elsewhere.  Many sheep allow me to touch them at random.  Few of them move away from me and none scamper away from me.  They are very comfortable in their surroundings, with their people and their dogs and - heaven forgive me should I forget - even their llama.

I will enjoy the calm for as long as possible - all of it!

Friday 25 March 2016

One, two, three...

...four.  Four?  Four!

Smudge had been waddling for some time.  I wondered if she might have triplets.  I never considered four.  Four is not that desirable.  Even triplets can be challenging.

If you recall previous stories about Smudge she is rather food focused.  Where there is food, Smudge is first.  And she vocalises this interest as well, with a very distinct, high, raspy voice. 

On the Sunday afternoon I could see "show" but Smudge kept eating.  Hubby suggested with Smudge's high interest in food that I bribe her into a pen.  And so, I, the Candy Man / Candy Person, got out some grain when no other sheep were around and got Smudge quickly into a pen.  And this was not hard.

I checked during the night but all was quiet.  When the alarm went off at six I quickly dressed and went straight to the barn, grabbing some lambing towels to have in hand.  As I approached the barn door I could see a little lamb face.  I scooped it up in a towel.  I peered over the pen wall and saw two more with Smudge.  And then out of the corner of my eye and left, something moved.  This truly was a double take.  I looked left, looked back at Smudge, and looked left again.  I went over and scooped up the forth lamb.

I was further baffled that these two lambs were outside of the pen.  I deduced that they were very close to the pen wall and wandered through the slats of the wooden skids I use for pens.  I had forgotten to fill in this area with cardboard.  It keeps lambs in and drafts out.

Smudge made lovely mothering noises - distinct, high, raspy, yet soft.  She seemed a bit overwhelmed.  Sometimes I wonder if she was experiencing a double take, as if to say, "Oh, there's another one, and another one, another..."  I do feel that Smudge had to focus on counting to four.

I worked with Smudge for a bit rubbing lambs with a towel.  It was colder than I had expected and I had to organise a heat lamp.  This lambing season is earlier than the previous two years.  Especially with four lambs, all extra attention is warranted.  I also put up tarps along the sides of the pen to further keep out the drafts.

One, two, three and four!

The four are evenly sized, which is good.  They are small, but that's not surprising.  They are not tiny.  There are two females and two males.  One has floppy ears and had a floppy hind leg.  I have seen this before.  The bones are soft at birth.  By the next day and even the day after that the bones hardened and the only remaining floppy was in the ears and a name.

Four.  I had to help out Smudge.  I thawed the cow colostrum I kept in the freezer.  My very helpful fellow shepherdess neighbour brought me baby bottle and nipples.  I warmed the colostrum and sat on a milk crate in the pen with each of four lambs on my lap, offering them the colostrum.  I did this four more times over twenty-four hours, the most critical time.

And it is amazing the difference following that first twenty-four hours.  I could see full bellies and the babies began to bounce and test out their legs further.  Floppy was okay but I continued to monitor him (or her; I can't remember because there are four!). 

I have continued to offer them lamb milk replacer (or lamb baby formula) several times each day.  They do not consume very much of this at all.  I wonder if one latches on to the nipple better than the others and takes more - but I'm not sure which one that is.  Okay, there are four:  Floppy; one with a black dot on his right knee; one with two back dashes on his right knee; and the other one.

Some shepherds remove one or two of the quads, leaving only twins on the mother.  The one(s) selected for removal should be the largest and strongest.  These would be either grafted onto a mother with a single or raised on a bottle.  I am choosing to leave the four on their mother.  I will continue to offer a bottle for the next several weeks.  I can see already that they are thriving.  It does take a lot out of the mother, but I'll have to monitor that.  Already I see forming a group of multiple birth families which will allow the provision of extra food for them. 

Olive with her triplets is doing very well.  She looks a bit haggard but is managing well.  They are now three weeks old.  I have offered a bottle several times to one that has been looking hungry, but she's not interested.  They are eating hay with their mother and having fun, tearing up and down at the front of the barn.  Last night one of them kept trying to jump on Olive's back while Olive was standing and eating.  Lambs do find mischief.

Frolicking in the sunshine under the supervision of Humphrey kitty.

 As of this writing, there are quadruplets, triplets, two sets of twins and three singles.  That's fourteen lambs from seven ewes for an excellent average at 200%.  The birth of singles following the quadruplets was almost refreshing. 

Monday 7 March 2016


Three!!  It took three people to take care of things while we were away.  Actually, it took more than three but that messes with my story.  We are grateful for everyone's assistance since without your help we would not be able to get away.

Yes, we were someplace warm.  We drove.  A long way.  There.  And back.  We had a lovely time with friends and look forward to visiting with them all again in the future.

Three!!  I was expecting one sheep to maybe, sort of, have her babies near the end of our trip.  You see, Abraham, the old ram, got out one day in October.  I came home and there he was, on the wrong side of the fence, with the girls.  Everyone was happy.  I marked the calendar for March 4th.

Getting ready to depart, it looked like Olive might lamb on the 4th.  It was hard to tell though since the "official" lambing date this year is March 22nd.  Olive definitely had an udder and it was growing and no one else looked similar.  So, I put three long red crayon marks on her back.  This way our farm helpers would know who frolicked with Abe in October.

On Friday, March 4th, we were getting ready to head out to breakfast with our sunshine friends before hitting the road for our journey home.  I checked my email and it said "two lambs" in the subject line.  I was expecting this.  There was more, though.  There had been health challenges for our sitters and trouble with the furnace.  So, I gathered information for my response - call the neighbouring shepherd and the furnace fix-it folks...

I hit send to respond and there was an instant second email with a subject line:  "correction.  six lambs".  Wow!!  And there were photos.  And the neighbouring shepherd was on her way.  And everyone was fine.

So, Olive did lamb.  She had TRIPLETS - two females and a male.  And MayBell had TWINS - a male and a female.  And then Chloe had ONE - a male.  So, three sheep produced six lambs.  What a way to begin the day!

Olive's triplets at three days of age.

Olive's triplets napping - Eenie, Meenie and Miney

The newly certified shepherd couple who were farm sitting at that time have the honour of naming the babies.  Olive's triplets are named as above.  MayBell's twins are Bonnie and Clyde and Chloe's singleton is Lobo.

Stay tuned for the "official" lambing season which is set to begin in two weeks, on or about March 22nd.

Oh, and we had a nice breakfast after everyone enjoyed the baby photos.

Thursday 18 February 2016


Bonding with Oz

Tractor Oz is pretty amazing.  I hesitated to get out there and do some snow removal but once I got going it was fun.  Hubby describes it as real life tonka truck playing and I have to agree.  I have been spoiled, I acknowledge, with the quick disconnect attachment feature.  This makes it so very manageable.  And the hydrostatic is so simple to drive and manoeuvre.  These features are important in avoiding running over animals....

Beau dog follows me everywhere.  Including while I'm on the tractor.  And he's not very cognisant of his surroundings at times, especially when he's super focused on something, as only a Border Collie can be.  Thus, I am constantly telling him to get out of the way.  I can point and say "over there" and he gets that.  He is smart, mostly; just not around vehicles.

Back to Oz...  So, I am up on Oz every three days, roughly, to put out hay.  Usually the bucket is left on for snow removal events.  When it's hay time, I remove the bucket and pick up the forks.  Afterwards I switch it back.  I've learned to let the diesel warm up a lot when it is cold.  And I've also learned that windshield wiper fluid with it's high spirits content is a blessing in the cold.  Twice now I've had trouble with the bucket and it has been the cold that has seized up the mechanism or simply frozen the bucket in place.  Hubby leaves a spray bottle of wiper fluid on the workbench to clean up his fancy car after a mud splattered trip down our road.  I grab it and spray it on the offending bits and all is well.

It is amazing how precise one can be with the bucket or forks.  It's a tight fit putting the hay in the overhang, and then there's getting it out.  I insert the forks, piercing the bottom section of the bale.  I need enough momentum forward to do this without sending it all into next week.  I lift up, tilt up, then back up, lowering as need to avoid hitting the roof edge.  It's all smooth, slow, gentle, and very cool!

I go around the barn and set the bale down.  The sheep have been locked into the barn to keep all safely out of the way.  A few times Henrietta has been out and she runs up to the bale and starts eating it.  I can hear her thoughts, "Oh, for me?  Yes!  Stop moving!  Let me at it!  It's mine!"  Lately she is staying with the sheep and out of the way. 

I cut the four strings that bind the bale and get back on the tractor.  At first I did it all by hand but am learning to always ask myself what can the tractor do.  I use the tractor forks to push the ends of the bale outward to spread out the hay.  If some catches on the forks I move it further.  There are 29 sheep and 1 llama and all need sufficient space for proper feeding.  I dismount from the tractor and roll out the large flakes, spreading the bale around the yard.


Oz has been a blessing with the snow.  However, this week Oz and I were truly challenged.  In one day over 40cm of snow fell.  It was very lovely - at first.  And then there was freezing rain.  And then the big fluffy flakes gave way to lighter, sleety stuff, and back to big fluffy flakes.  There was so much snow.

Oz and I went at it in the morning and moved the light fluffy stuff.  More snow fell in behind us and I left it for later.  I had put hay out in the morning too.  Mid-day I went out again and moved a bit, but it wasn't done falling.  Oz needs new headlights but I did go out in the dark.  Between the house lights, a head lamp and the brightness of snow I could see quite well.  It was tough going.  Oz was getting stuck as the fluffiness was gone and it was now heavy, boggy snow.  I could move it and clear stuff but not enough that I could get the car out.  And it was still snowing.

I came inside, having tucked Oz in for the night, and made some phone calls.  I cancelled my plans for the next day.  I telephoned the snow removal fellow and he said he'd come the next morning.  As he was plowing I was hand shovelling and he opened the truck window and just said, "Wow!"

"Yes" I replied, "That's why I called you."

I had managed in that morning to clear the snow away from the barn doors with Oz.  But it was slow going.  I took the snow off in layers.  My work was sufficient to get the tractor in to move hay.  I was satisfied I could feed the sheep and receive more hay the next week.  All in all though I kept in mind that the temperature was expected to rise in the next week and likely take away some of this accumulation.

Snow.  It's winter here.  It's been slow to arrive but "Wow" is the best way to describe the sudden and bullish arrival of the season.  School buses in the area were cancelled for two days and that is always a good indicator to me of the severity of the road conditions and driving.  I just stay home.


I am overdone.  "Done like dinner", "Toast" are expressions I have used.  I am getting too many hours at work and must stop.  I asked for fewer hours and was denied.  I was instead asked to stay on - with fewer hours - while a replacement if found.  So, I am actually getting what I requested....

It took me almost a week to feel back to normal.  I just needed to rest and find the flow instead of running constantly to work.  The retail work hours are long and I'm on my feet all the time. 

At any rate, it's done.  I'm not exactly sure when my last day will be but know it will be soon.  In the meantime I have had fewer hours and it has been much more manageable.

"The older lady"

She meant me!  I was really set back by this, physically reeling from the telephone.  It was a customer calling about an interaction we had had earlier in the day.  She was looking for a receipt which the manager found on the floor earlier in the day.  All was well with her situation.  But; I thought, she was the older lady!

Some of the other cashiers are my age, while the rest are high school students.  Thus, in contrast I was "the older lady" from this customer's perspective.  Still, despite the grey hair and the physical complaints, we do avoid our own labels.  And then they hit full force. 

I'm not going to dwell on this one. 

Sunday 31 January 2016

Holiday Photos

Mom wanted more holiday photos.

Just couldn't find a suitable tree on the property or the time to hunt further, so we put up the old faithful artificial tree.  A tall, slim tree, it requires limited space, therefore little else had to move to make way for it.

Grandma wrapped up two new toys for Beau-dog.  This monkey and an alligator.  Thus, Beau-dog has expanded his vocabulary with these two new words.  He loves these as they have squeakers in the feet.

Lounging about as dinner cooks; or was this after dinner?

Family photo time!

One is tall and one is not, therefore the tall one pulled up a chair.  All the better for a hug from Grandma.

We are a bit taller than Mom so tall one could stand behind us. 

A blurry photo but I had to share that this was not snow shoeing weather.

A good day was had by all!

A Saturday

I've been itching to write stuff here but have not had the time or energy; so, here goes....!

Today is Saturday.  I am not working.  We have no overnight visitors.  Usually we are up at six o'clock on weekdays.  Hubby likes to sleep in on weekends, but I am usually awake and have animals that watch the clock.  However, anything close to seven is a treat for me.  So, when Beau-dog poked me at five before seven I told him to go lay down and give me twenty minutes.  He complied!

It is unusual for me not to eat before going out to the barn, so I had my usual breakfast of hot oatmeal.  You never know what will meet you in the barn so it's best to have had something to eat before heading out.  I put on the coffee, looking forward to a leisurely cup upon my return to the house.

In the Small Barn I fed Millie and then the hens.  I took Ruby's food up to her and closely observed the sheep in their hay patch outside the Big Barn while she ate.  When Ruby is occupied it is the best time to get close to the sheep.  Ruby is such a squirmy worm, wanting to play and lick and swat the sheep that they all move away from her.  Even Lucy will tolerate only so much and then move on, sometimes butting Ruby with her head before walking away.  But first she tolerates Ruby licking her face, nibbling her ear and pawing her shoulder....

I got Humphrey cat some water to go with his food.  I turned on the radio.  I closed up the person gate to the barn and then dug my heel into the pathway for the door, working it clear of straw and manure to close it.  This attracted the flock's attention and in no time they had wandered into the barn of their own accord.  I closed the door, locking the sheep and Henrietta llama inside the Big Barn.

I gathered up Ruby's empty bowl and headed back to the Small Barn.  I took the empty bowl and new eggs to the house.  At the shed I uncovered Oz the tractor, unplugged the block heater and turned over the engine.  I left it running for a good warm up and headed back to the Small Barn.  There I put the harness on Millie, hooked up the leash and off we went for our morning walk around the Front Field.  Beau and Ruby have mad chase games while Millie and I walk.  Millie 'does her business' and sniffs the air for strange scents that need her attention.  It's a lovely, quiet morning with no wind.  And it is mild, just below freezing.

Millie usually needs a bit of coaxing back to the barn and then she heads straight back and into her pen - a small box stall, huge for even a large dog.  I give her pets and a hug and head for the tractor.

I drove the tractor out of the shed and removed the bucket.  Then I headed back into the shed and hooked on the forks.  The quick disconnect makes this procedure an absolute breeze of a chore.  You take your time, edge in slowly, move the hydraulics into the best position...  At the Big Barn I used the forks to gather up a large rectangular bale of hay.  I am getting good at this!  Humphrey was sitting up high on the remaining bales, observing all.  Beau was sure there was a cat somewhere around here but never looked up at all.

I backed up slowly, ensuring my load was secure.  The forks were not as deep in the bale as I would have liked.  I tilted the forks up further to tilt the load inward as much as possible.  It would hold.  I drove around the barn and into the empty barnyard where I deposited my load.  After cutting the four pieces of twine holding the hay bale together, I used the forks of the tractor to push either end of the bale outboard.  Then I dismounted and distributed the hay by hand, rolling the big flakes out, spreading it around to allow the twenty-nine head in the flock ample elbow room at their table.

I locked Beau dog out of the barnyard and released the sheep from the Big Barn.  The opening of the big doors must be quick.  The doors need to be wide and I need to get out of the way, as the sheep all stampede out to their dinner.  Narrow doorways catch the hip of the nearest sheep and can damage a pregnant ewe.  No ones' looking too pregnant yet - except maybe Olive who might have been caught by Abraham on October 22nd when he was discovered in with the flock.  Any "oops" from this encounter are due March 4th.  Olive looks like she might be bagging up with an udder, more so than anyone else.

I completed the closing up procedures needed after putting out hay.  I put out hay about every four days right now.  Oz has been a blessing as this saves so much time and work.

The rams still had some hay.  I broke the ice on their water.  It would do for now.  I headed to the house and got Marjie's food.  The wild kitty consumes her food but has not been seen since the holidays.  I turned off the tractor as I had let it idle a bit after parking it in the shed.  Oh, I had switched the forks and bucket too.  I leave the bucket on for snow removal.  Marjie lives under the shed, sharing the space with Oz the tractor.


I found myself upstairs and like a whirling dervish just kept going.  There was one bed in a guest room to strip.  I stripped our bed too.  Hubby and I flipped the mattress and I made up the bed with clean flannel sheets.  I folded laundry and put it away.  I made up both guest beds.

Then we went to the dump.  We had no garbage but lots of recycling.  Following this we went to the village and the grocer there for our weekly deli and spirits shopping.  Oh, and lottery tickets too.

Back at home we had lunch and then a nap.  After this I went to the barn.  There I gathered more eggs and watered everyone.  The water buckets for the flock were empty.  On the day they get fresh hay they drink lots of water.  I took Millie out too.  I decided it was time for a long walk out back and so we headed down to the cabin.  Then we went into the bush and did the whole circuit.

As we were returning, hubby and the couple from up the road appeared.  We did the route in reverse.  Millie had a grand walk today.  I think she was tired when we finished.  Hubby said she scooted right into her stall when he returned to the Small Barn with her.  It was the neighbour's first walk along the whole circuit and they enjoyed it.  We do like to share it with others and told them they were welcome at any time.

Back in the house the whirling dervish routine began again, this time on the main floor.  I vacuumed the tiles and then washed them.  This also involved cleaning up various corners of odds and sods.  I left the 'back hall' to last and had to go do afternoon chores.

I quickly fed dogs and hens, topped up water and checked on everyone.  Back at the house I completed the floor cleaning.  Then I started dinner. We had leftover turkey from the freezer.  I added a jerk sauce, onions and garlic.  Along with that we had mashed cauliflower and green beans from the garden.  Yummy!

After some email and a cup of tea it was time to do snacks in the barn; the bedtime routine.  Millie was not interested in a long walk, only a short walk.  I tucked in everyone and returned to the house.  I had not cleaned up from dinner.  I sort of pushed things to one side and started baking.  I doubled my favourite cookie recipe.

The dishes are done up.  There are lots of cookies.  The floor is still clean - my rule is it must stay clean for five minutes and then it does not matter.  I've had a shower, washed my hair, have a glass of wine and cookies!  Another day is done!

Wednesday 6 January 2016


Season's Greetings

In our house the New Year arrived quietly as we slept.  We enjoyed the visit of D & D from up the road.  We shared holiday stories and got caught up.  They left just after ten o'clock and we were in bed before midnight.

Snow had arrived a few days before New Year's.  It then got rather mild again.  On New Year's Eve however there was a biting wind.

We had a busy household over the holidays.  Son arrived on the Monday.  Mom and Bro arrived on the Tuesday.  On the big day, Sister and other Bro came for the day.  It was the first time since 2007 that all four siblings were together for Christmas dinner.

Food was aplenty.  Mom had filled Brother's car with food and gifts and there was already plenty here.  I cooked a turkey two days before Christmas.  On the big day I roasted a leg of lamb - hogget, actually - and this was accompanied by leftover turkey.  Then there was farm potatoes, farm squash, plus Mom's cauliflower dish.  I planned to do peas but forget them.  Then the seven of us enjoyed Christmas pudding with the old family rum sauce recipe, plus custard; or minced meat pie.  Oh, and there was candy cane ice cream for those not wanting any of the other.  We were stuffed, indeed.

In the morning, we went for a walk and did the "loop".  Son and I continued up to Table Rock to take in the view.  It was mild with a wind.  That walk was too far for Mom so I took her out to the cabin and back when I took Millie out.  Mom beat us back as Millie dug in her heels not wanting to return.  I had to haul on her in her harness, for which the harness is a great asset. 


Okay, it's really cold now.  That's enough of winter, already - doesn't your inside voice say that to you? Millie was cold tonight which I found rather shocking.  The onset of the cold has been rather sudden and none of us - including pooches - are used to this.  Okay, the sheep don't seem to put out by it, but still, it has been a sudden change.

The ice is a big problem.  The driveway has been like a skating rink.  Today we had someone come and sand it.  Walking Millie has been challenging as there is a solid crust of ice covering the fields.  Solid it is, until I go through it.  And it's slippery and I've fallen a few times, as has Millie.

Yesterday it was a bit milder.  I drove the tractor all around the Front Field and made a walking trail for us.  The footing is so much better now, even with the colder temps back and the tracks have frozen.

Frozen water is a big issue in the barn.  I only have a few electric buckets; that is, buckets that you plug in so they keep the water warm enough it won't freeze.  We have a few more sheep in the flock this year and the water is a popular item it seems.  One sheep, Chloe, comes running when I bring out a bucket of fresh water.  She did this last winter too.  I think she has a strong preference for really fresh water.

Millie Update

 Recovery from surgery for Millie as gone exceedingly well.  Even the last few days with the freezing temps, things have gone well.  I drove the tractor around the Front Field where we walk and created a more stable walking path for us.

Millie has become accustomed to the routines created.  She is living in the small box stall in the Small Barn.  After her breakfast I put on the harness and we walk.  At mid-day or late in the afternoon - depending on work schedules - we walk again.  And then at bedtime there is another walk.  Sometimes there is a fourth walk in a day.  All of this is leash walking.

In addition to learning how to walk on a leash, Millie is becoming very comfortable with travelling in the car.  The Vet offered twice weekly cold laser treatments on the incision, which aids in healing.  They weren't sure I'd want to do this as Millie has been so difficult to get into the car.  I noted she improved each time I took her in the car, so we have had all of the laser treatments offered.  And, Millie is becoming a sophisticated-farm-dog-car-traveller.  She hops in now without hesitation.  No longer does she salivate madly and lose her cookies along the journey.  She looks out the window, to the side, or peering through the bucket seats to look ahead.  Or, she curls up and rests.  I even leave her in the car for fifteen minutes to run into a shop.  And she just sleeps.

We are currently at week five of twelve weeks of recovery.  We have kept up with most of the physiotherapy.  The Vets are pleased with her progress, as are we.  Millie is feeling frisky and wants to play with Ruby and Beau - and us. This is the hard part; containing her energy to allow for solid healing of the newly build joint ligament.

Sales - lamb and wool

I have not yet tallied all of the sales for 2015.  We will almost make the required minimum for the farm property tax rate.  We are allowed three years to do so and should make it for next year.  Lambs sales have gone very well.

I am prepared to send some lambs to auction in the summer if I cannot sell all of our lamb product as heavy weight freezer lamb.  The challenge with this is knowing how many to send to auction and how many to keep for heavy weights.  So far, we have had great success with heavy weight freezer sales.  This year we butchered twelve with one more to go.  The high majority of customers purchase a half lamb, so that's a lot of sales to family, friends and acquaintances.

Wool sales have been pretty good this year too.  I have sold a number of fleeces to spinners.  There are however some fleeces remaining - far more than I can spin up - and these I will take to the wool market in the next month.  There is no use hanging on to these as there will be more wool in the spring.

Next Year

Well, next year is here now.  The next crop, so to speak, is the topic...

Wool sales to spinners are expected to improve as there are eleven new female lambs added to the flock and all have lovely fleece.  Six in particular are sired by Birch, the half Blue Faced Leicester and those six fleeces look quite lovely already.

In 2015 there were nineteen ewes in the flock.  From those there were twenty-four live lambs.  There were ewe losses, a lamb lost and some ewes had to be culled (removed from the breeding flock as no longer productive).  When the math is all done, this year's flock consists of twenty-eight ewes.  Four of these were born in June and were too small to breed, so twenty-four are expected to lamb starting in late March.  So, the breeding ewe flock has only increased by five this year.  We anticipate at least thirty-six lambs for a 1.5 average per ewe.  This is the minimum expected, although in 2015 we only reached 1.3.  So, stay tuned!