Saturday 27 May 2017


Pictures can tell a story well.  I am working full time, loving it and have limited time to tell my stories.  So, here are some pics....  Enjoy!

Newborn sporting a homemade coat for a few hours.

Charlotte is one of several sheep who usually have one lamb and had twins this year.

Happy calves in the sunshine


Olive's triplets.  This year two boys and a girl, while last year it was two girls and a boy.  But, wow, triplets two years running, following a single.

Olive's three competing for two teats.  The happy tail wagging indicates success.

I can reach, can you?
Million Dollar Millie.  The hair is growing back after surgery on the back leg.  And then the two Maremmas got into a fight and the vet clipped the hair on the wounds giving her a bad haircut on her head.  She's healed up just fine.

Sally giving birth in the afternoon sunshine on Easter weekend.

Ruby looking for the highest spot on the pile of hay.

Race time!

I was hoping for more black progeny from a coloured ram and here is what we got.  The female twins with the yellow ear tags I will keep.  The mothers of each set of twins are white.
Hanging out under the lilac bush.

There seems to be a regularly scheduled play late after and early evening.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Twelve hours

Yes, it all started twelve hours before, I noted as I was giving Hubby a telephone update.  I wanted to try and nap and thought I should call him before he called me.  I lit a fire in the wood stove to ward off the dampness as it continued to rain, and heavy at times.

I had driven up to the "Big O" to attend a guild meeting and when I arrived home and was unloading the car I heard a sheep bleat.  It was just past 11:30pm.  It had been raining lightly for most of the drive home.  It wasn't cold; just damp.  It was Monday and lambs were due on Friday but it's all a range of estimates so it was a good idea to check the barn.

Sheep don't usually bleat without a reason.  And there is a certain tone to a mother looking for a yet unborn lamb.  I took off my city coat and shoes and donned by overalls, winter barn jacket, muck boots and light winter hat - the one with the head light built into it.

Duchess was  outside at the back of the barn where the overhead light was bright.  It rained lightly.  She was obviously in labour but I could not tell for how long.  I let time pass by preparing a pen for her, fetching a bucket of water, and putting hay there for her.  I worked a bit at setting up some other pens for later in the week.

After awhile I headed back to the house to get warmed and give her a bit more time.  When I returned to the barn at about one o'clock, I got out the intervention gear.  I got out my OB gloves and lubricant.  There was a lamb's head, but no legs.  Oh dear!  I struggled with this for some time and eventually delivered a dead male lamb.  It was followed by a belch of gas of a disagreeable odour.

Poor Duchess.  She was a long time getting up.  By then I had the little guy wrapped up in a plastic bag for disposable.  She followed me as I held a soiled towel and the bag of dead lamb.  I put her in the prepared pen.

I observed and waited to see what would happen next.  I expected she would have at least one, if not two, more lambs.  She was large enough and it was her mother, Smudge, who had the quadruplets last year.  One can never know however, as Duchess herself was a single who had twinned last year.

I went back to the house for another break and had a quick snack and tea that was already in the pot.  Back to the barn and intervention mode.  I could feel a large ball which turned out to be a sac of fluid.  What I observed could be another lamb or just afterbirth.  But I could not feel another lamb.  The sac wasn't right.  It was thick and hard to break but I did succeed in doing so.

It was three o'clock and I was three hours short of being up for twenty-four hours.  I went to bed.  I mostly slept but it was a worried sleep.  When the alarm went off at six I bolted, dressed and went to the barn.

In Intervention mode I could feel a lamb head but the feet were far back, but they were there.  I pushed it back.  Were there more feet?  Was that another lamb?  This was too much.  And in consideration of the long labour and dead lambs I decided to call the Vet.

First I consulted my neighbour who I knew would be up.  She agreed with my plan.  I got the Vet's answering service as it was just before seven.  The Vet phoned me back a short time later.  I had long enough between phone calls to put on the coffee and make myself some breakfast.  Oh, I made Hubby's breakfast too.

I had a quick peak at Duchess and all was the same.  I carried on with my chores.  It was pouring outside and the flock was out.  I then realised - and observed - that Millie was keeping everyone out.  I also saw Ruby - in a more kind way - chase a few ewes outside.  But not Fleur, neither one of the Maremmas bothered last year's bottle baby.  My neighbour's dog does this too.  They are keeping the others away from the lambing ewe.

Dr. K arrived and delivered Duchess of another dead lamb.  We discussed follow up.  Then we went to the other barn and I had Dr. K look at the Holstein calf.  As Dr. K. drove down the road I carried a bucket of water up to Duchess.  As I neared her pen I was shocked to see a mass of red at her back end.  I quickly put down the bucket and jogged to the house as Dr. K's truck disappeared around the last bend.  I called the Vet's office and they called Dr. K who returned in less than ten minutes.

She gathered together the equipment necessary to replace a prolapsed uterus.  As we gathered at Duchess' pen I began to lament the end of her reproductive life.  Then Dr. K looked closer and said, "Wait a minute!  It's another lamb!"

She pulled the dead lamb out of the red membranes, and tossed it into the corner.  Dr K examined Duchess again and I saw her off once more.

Duchess drank lots of water in the day and was eating hay.  She was bleating for more food.  I checked her udder but as of yet it was not a problem.  I needed to monitor this over the next few days.

My neighbour came by for coffee and we had a nice visit.  She brought me a partial bag of calf milk replacer, a kind of trade as I'd given her a partial pail of lamb milk replacer.  It worked for each of us.  After she left I decided to call Hubby....

Twelve hours and the Duchess ordeal was done. She will continue to be a productive member of the flock, next year.

Tuesday 28 March 2017


That's right, Moo.  Not Baaa.  Moo.

We've talked about getting calves since we moved here.  It's happened.  I bought three new buckets:  Blue, Green and Red; and those are the names of the calves.

If you enjoy consuming dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, then you indirectly support veal farming.  It is not nasty or bad.  It just is.  Bull calves are not wanted by dairy farmers.  A fellow farmer knows of a local dairy farmer from whom he got us the three calves.  The first calf, Blue, is a Holstein.  The second and third, Red and Green, arrived about ten days later.  Blue was just over three weeks when he arrived, while Red was 4 days of age, and Green was 5 days old.

From left to right, in the photo at left, are Green (lying down), Red (with the bell on his collar) and Blue (the black and white Holstein).  Jerseys are TINY compared to Holsteins.  They are all cute.  I like the bucket colour names better than some other name ideas, such as T-Bone and Sirloin.

In this next photo you can see their sizes better.  This is a fuzzy shot of Blue as he was shaking his head.  Red is on the right.  He is all red, while Green has the white markings and his collar is green.  Blue's collar is green - just because.

They got cold and I made them coats.  I even put up a heat lamp which you can see in the photo.  At first their coats were "superhero capes" made from towels and held on under their chins with alligator clips.  The best were some pillow shams I do not use.  I was able to put a towel or remnant of something warm inside the sham.  I sewed on velcro at the front of the chest and then under the tail.  Yes, it got dirty and then it got washed.  The desired effect was achieved and the boys got warm.

They are now eating solids, consuming some Starter Ration and nibbling on some hay.  The goal is to wean them off of milk replacer and have them graze all summer.  

Maple syrup is another sign of spring.  We are using the BBQ this year and it seems faster.  It's less work than stoking the cook stove in the cabin and the BBQ is pretty close to the kitchen.  We 'finish' the syrup on the kitchen stove.  That is, the last hour or so is completed in the kitchen. 

Black gold, indeed!
It is yummy stuff!

Bruce the ram is a rammy guy, a real danger.  He has nailed me a few times and it hurts.  He weighs more than me and he can move quickly.  I am very cautious around him.  Here he is in his corner of the barnyard.  I separated him from the flock with a length of electric fence and gave him access to the chicken coop.  He is an outdoor guy, having come from a farm where there were no barns, only 3-sided shelters.  I have not seen him lay down in the chicken coop.  He has helped himself to their food.

I have several people in line for some of his fleece...

I have just put Bruce and Zeuss back together in one pen.  I was worried but they are getting on fine, with minimal bashing by Bruce.  Zeuss is old and thin and I have been feeding him lots of extra grain twice daily.  I am able to let him out of the pen to continue to do this, leaving Bruce with a morsel to keep him occupied.  My plan is to use both rams again this next year.

So, Spring is springing.  Stay tuned for baby lamb photos after April 7th!

Sunday 19 February 2017


This is my third go at this post.  My last work was not saved - ugh!  Here's hoping you get to read this today!!


I plant sunflowers because I like the look of them.  They do come in some stunning colours too, not just the ordinary bright yellow petals and dark, seeded centre.  The ornamentals come in shades of rich reds, burgundy and pink petals.

And they can get tall.  In our previous abode in the big city our neighbour's elementary school aged boy planted a bright yellow sunflower and it became a monster.

I do recall that on the same day I planted sunflowers in the Potager garden close to the house and then down the centre of the veggie garden.  The veggie garden is clearly more fertile as depicted in the photo below.  This demonstrates clearly the benefits of good quality sheep manure, more of which has been deposited on the vegetable garden than the Potager garden.


Apparently on an incredibly mild day, at the end of the third week in January, the chickens thought it was spring.  Never mind that they are swimming.  That is, it had been so mild and so suddenly that the hen coop was a big soggy puddle.  It's a good thing they roost so as to get out of the muck.  The nesting room remained dry.  And rather than leave them cooped up - all puns intended - until noon, I had been letting them out a bit earlier so they could get out of the muck.  They hang around inside the small barn, but then with spring like weather they wander wherever there is lawn to explore.

And they think it is spring.  One day there were 7 eggs, while the next there were FIFTEEN!  That is excellent at this time of year from the current hen flock of seventeen.


It's been a long haul to get to a terrific year of tanned hides.  I collected hides in the first year and sent off a few.  I sent 6 and got back 4, one of which was the most desirable.  I've learned a lot...

I've learned that hides need LOTS of salt for about ten days.  And then they need to just get dry.  Laying them out on the driveway for a few days helps and turning them over allows the wool side to dry out too.  A sunny day is perfect for this.

In our second year I had many many hides as the slaughterhouse was happy to give me any and all they had.  Otherwise they are sent to the rendering plant.  But, I ended up having to discard the high majority of them.

This year, our third year, I think I've got it.  LOTS of salt and attention to drying.  I have a little salt house.  It's a metal garden shed that was here.  I don't recommend metal but it suits my needs at this time.  Now I actually salt the hides outside and at the end of the day roll them up and put them in the shed overnight.  If the weather is not good I can salt them inside the shed but prefer to work outside on this.

Hides can sometimes require some trimming.  Fortunately I spoke of this at the slaughterhouse and the butcher gave me a no longer needed, very very sharp, knife.  This has worked very well.

Unlike when I lived close to the tannery, now I mail the hides to them.  And they mail or courier the finished product back to me.  This adds to the cost but is less expensive than driving half way across the province, once to take the hides and once to retrieve them.  It takes a few months for tanning.  And now, unlike when I was a teen, they can process the hides so that they are machine washable.

They are divine.  I have received 21 now.  There is a pile of more to go to the tannery.  First though I need to sell a few of the 21.  They make a lovely gift, perhaps for a wedding, Christmas or special occasion.  There are many benefits to be gained from sheepskins and these include:
   *A benefit of importance for babies and the elderly, there is no static electric charge possible and therefore no shocking
   *Keeps you cool in summer as absorbs perspiration and then releases it seven times faster than synthetic fibre
   *Naturally resistant to holding dirt and bacteria
   *Reduces the likelihood of bed sores, since there is a reduced possibility of friction between the skin and bed linens, allowing the release of moisture from skin keeping it dry, free of chafing and irritation
   *Keeps you warm, the wool holding onto your body heat yet the hide is breathable
   *Luxurious feel and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

On Guard

We keep the llama and the two Maremma dogs for the sole purpose of protecting the flock from coyotes.  This has been successful.  However both species have presented various challenges.  It is often difficult for persons not familiar with these animals to understand how they fit into the sheep flock.  The photo below explains this well.  These animals live right in with the sheep.

R to L:  Henrietta the llama, Ruby and Millie - and a sheep I do not recognize from this angle

 Millie remains the queen of all.  She gets first dibs on everything, including food, compost leavings, greeting guests, etc.  Ruby and Henrietta are actually buddies.  We have observed Henrietta initiating play with Ruby.

The Maremmas are busy at night, woofing up a storm, often under our bedroom window.  Ear protection is provided to visitors to assist them is sleeping through the night.  The bark to maintain territorial boundaries with the coyotes.  The bark in response the coyote vocals, scents and sightings.  And the dogs sleep a lot during the day.

Million Dollar Millie

Despite their original purpose, we have, of course, become attached to the livestock guardian animals - especially the dogs.  It's a good thing because they have not been a cost effective purchase.  That is, it would have cost less to allow the coyotes to steal the lambs.  Millie has been very expensive, while Ruby has been 'normal'

Millie awaiting the arrival of dinner with Fleur the bottle baby adorned with bells on a blue string, also awaiting dinner

Millie arrived in June 2014.  By fall we had her vetted for the first time in her life and learned she had Lyme Disease.  Then we had her spayed.  In December 2015 Millie underwent surgery to replace the cruciate ligament in her left hind leg.  In the photo above she still has a bare spot near her left shoulder where the pain patch had been applied following her surgery.  In January 2017 Millie underwent surgery to replace the cruciate ligament in her right hind leg.  She is recovering well.  She is now worth just under a million dollars - or so it seems.

Thievery and Treasures

I was leash walking Millie on the front lawn on a mild day and a neighbour stopped to chat.  He asked if I had eggs, paid me, and said he'd pick them up later from on top of the generator.  So, I carried on.  I place the dozen eggs on top of the generator.  I tie the carton snuggly but lightly with a bit of handspun or a ribbon to keep it closed.  The eggs are so large the carton often does not close up.

I was off to work and left hubby a note about the eggs on top of the generator.  He read the note.  He saw the eggs.  

The neighbour arrived.  He and hubby noted that there were no eggs on top of the generator.  Hubby found another dozen eggs in the fridge for the neighbour.

When I arrived home from work later in the evening all of this was reported to me.  There was light snow overnight.  While doing chores I had a look around.  There, just inside the gate, was an empty egg carton.  There was not a speck of shell to be found, the carton was smeared in egg and it was still tied with a bow.

Our in-house thief has a very shiny coat!

The thief also brings home treasures.  I now take photos of what she brings home which I will not post here as my readers will not enjoy these.  As happened last year, there has been a collection of calf body parts arrive across several weeks.  We are pretty certain of a particular neighbour that butchers a calf for home use and plunks the leavings out behind his barn.  The dogs smell these and investigate and eat and bring home bits and pieces.  This is a dog thing, for sure, but moreso for a guardian animal they are cleaning up to dissuade coyote traffic.

The treasures have diminished quite a bit and we are glad for that.