Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Surprise Package!

Yesterday I received an amazing package from my friend, Jan, in NJ. She knitted designer lamb coats for me! Five of them! They are gorgeous! I can't believe she did it. AND they have an adorable signature crocheted flower on the side. Jan has arthritis and the tiniest hands and fingers I have ever seen. Every stitch is an effort. I am so grateful. What kindness and caring! I better take some good pictures and submit them to a knitting magazine. The box also included some therapeutic cremes for Big Daddy's aches and pains. What a lucky ducky I am to have such wonderful and crafty friends.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lilly Has Black Ram Twins!

Mia really hoped to be here for a birth, but that was not to be. When she did her OB rotation she told her professors she was ready for anything because her mom prepared her with lambing on the farm. But this year the ewes did not cooperate. They took some time off while Mia was here. Monday night after work was not something I would like to relive...suffice it to say that I don't ever want to tow Matt and our other truck out of a snow bank again. I succeeded in pulling him too far, up into another snow bank. I couldn't hear the screaming but saw him waving his arms wildly and thought he was telling me to go farther. He was yelling at me to top. When he got out to "talk" to me he locked himself out of the truck with the motor running in a snow storm...oh, well! I had a feeling I would be doing chores alone that night...I was right. I went through the barn with Izzy to move them out and noticed Lilly was lying aside from everyone in that particular posture and far away look in her eye. She was going into the pre-birth trance. I thought if I announced happily to Matt, "Lilly's about to give birth!" that he might come out of his funk...not yet! I went about my business checking back on Lilly. It was a perfect birth...great big ram lamb out like a sleigh ride in a big puddle. I let her lick him off and carried him to the jug. She followed beautifully, and, when inside, had another black ram lamb to match the other. My euphoria died when I nursed her out and found a mass inside one udder. My heart fell to think that these big twins would have to share a teat, and that Lilly, my favorite sheep, should not be bred again. She let me nurse out the good udder without having Matt hold her, my only sheep who will do that. Oh, well, I will be happy if this mass goes away after she dries up, and will give her the rest of her life off. Lilly is the one that walks over to greet me whenever I come in the barn and waits for her nose to nose hello. She is the subject of many of my prettiest photos, together with her friend, Patrick.

Mia's Surprise Visit

The Saturday morning Donnagh/prolapse delivery was over and the day was still ahead of me. I could have called it a day right there, but a happy event was about to occur. Mia called to say she was coming up after Sat. morning clinicals, no argument. She had previously cancelled saying there just wasn't enough time to come up and get back before Monday morning clinicals and I agreed. I worry so much about her overdoing it, and with nursing boards coming up I want her to save her strength. But she wanted to come and see us and the new lambs, and besides she had presents for us! We ran around like crazy to make the place presentable...the Milk Room and trailer are our only living spaces, and they do tend to pile up.
Mia came loaded with trays of baked ziti, grocery bags filled with kidney beans and ingredients for tacos, and soap wrapping fabric sent by a friend. When Mia comes the room lights up with her radiant presence. She is bubbly, fun and simply wonderfully divine. I think back on her visit now and wonder if it was a dream...She ran around taking pictures of the lambs, puppies, bunnies, and acted like a kid gone wild at a petting zoo. I cooked a fafallel dinner for us and she loved it. Oh, Mommy, she said, what you are doing here is just so COOL! What more could a mother ask for? A daughter who thinks this wild adventure is the neatest thing? How could I be so lucky? We snuggled and giggled on the sofa bed Sat. night. I climbed over her for the wee hour check and watched her sleep for a minute. All the loving, caring and nurturing of the past 27 years was coming back to me exponentially. We got up Sunday morning and Mia cooked us an omelet from eggs laid the day before. She helped me with chores, and we went to get the Sunday paper together. A storm was heading for NJ so we made her leave early to beat the snow and get to her clinicals safely on Monday morning. It was back to work for me, too. Matt said it was great spending so much time with me over the last week. He said, "Was I good to you last week?" He was looking for a job and was totally devoted to the Farm...what more could a girl ask for?

So Much to Tell...

It's been two days since I posted which may as well be an eternity at lambing time. When we are not tending to births, newborns and other critters, we are making feeble attempts at mundane tasks like laundry, cooking, tidying up, and treks to the hay man, feed store, etc. There have been more births since I posted the last lamb picture. Let me try to bring us up to date...

Donnagh was licking and bonding with her lamb when I noticed she was squatting and straining quite a bit. Afterbirth coming, I thought. A half hour passed by with no afterbirth and it hit me...there must be another lamb in there. I gave her a dose of oxytocin to assist with getting whatever is in there out, and nothing happened. I slid my hand's so much easier when they are fully dilated and wet...and sure enough, there was the head, not fully descended. I got a hold of it, which I always try to do with the dreaded lamb pulling device, and counted legs. You have to make sure you are pulling on the front legs with the head, not back legs. There is not as much room to work with as you think. My hand takes us the whole vagina with no room to spare. I cupped the head with all five fingers and pulled down and out. The lamb and legs came without too much resistance. I was concerned that it had been so long, but he sputtered before he hit the ground. No she should get better, I thought. The long prolapse saga was over...I had a ewe and ram lamb from her, good size, considering the difficult pregnancy. I was still concerned about her ability to be strong enough to mother them. We'll find out.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Purebred Prolapse

My beautiful purebred ewe, Donnagh, was trussed up in a prolapse harness for the last three weeks or so. It started when I noticed a grapefruit sized bright red shiny mass protruding from her vulva. This was the first prolapse for me, and I was very concerned. I had heard horror stories about the whole uterus coming out and having to be pushed back in. I knew about the pushing back in part but little else. I got on Sheep List and found out everything I needed to know, including the bad news...that a prolapsed ewe will do it again, and her lambs will also be prone to prolapse. Now that's bad news as I paid a LOT of money (for me) for this ewe. I have two purebred ewes side by side in the maternity ward, and together they produced three ram lambs (essentially only good for wool as I do not eat them) and one ewe lamb, which every shepherd hopes for - all ewe lambs!
Mattie and I got the baling twine harness on Donnagh, which worked like a charm, but she prolapsed again when the strings stretched and she was able to push again. Her condition suffered and she was thin and gaunt looking. I put her in a pen to feed her more often but she looked miserable. I let her out and she would wander slowly around with her stinted walk. I was worried..
Yesterday morning I noticed little hoofs sticking out of her and rushed to cut the strings. Hooray I thought as lambing is the only thing that will relieve the prolapse. She needed help as her feeble pushes only succeeded in getting the front part of the lamb out. I gently slid out a ewe lamb and placed it next to her face for the licking-bonding process. Part II to follow - Mattie is kicking me out of the Milk House to use the facilities!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Box of Love

Teddy is warming up with help from Santa and Noelle. I will keep you posted...

What Do Lambs Do at Night?

Now I know what the lambies do at night in the dark when their moms are resting...they play with the llamas! It's always nice to find myself grinning in spite of the worry I have over a newborn who's not jumping up to nurse, or one that is prone to chilling. Chris and Breeze have the patience of saints when it comes to the lambs...although when Breeze realized I was taking this picture he got up and walked away. I guess he didn't want to appear too indulgent of the little darlings...

Almost Lost Teddy

Well, remember Florence Nightingale's triplet brother, Teddy? His mom has not been nice to him. We sanded his sharp teeth but that didn't seem to help much. Last night after chores I lay down on top of his mom and held her down while Teddy nursed. He just sucked and sucked on that teat. Mom was not amused, but I had lost patience with her. Well, my four o'clock barn check revealed nothing unusual. Teddy and Florence were snuggled together. Lambs were playing leap frog over the llamas. Later that morning Teddy looked awful, positively awful. He was stiff! I picked him up and he was almost frozen! Remember how I told you I would not post unhappy endings? At twelve noon I think I almost have him on the mend. We tube fed him some warm milk and molasses, and put him in the oven - well, almost in the oven. Old English shepherds would put them in a special compartment in their Aga stoves, but I don't have an Aga (would love one...) We put a fence up between Teddy and the elements. I gave him my favorite angora scarf and plaid baby blanket to rest on and went about the other unfolding drama I will tell you about next. I think Teddy is here to stay, but he is definitely MY Teddy now. I told his mom she should be ashamed, but she just touched her chin to Florence Nightingale as if to say, she is all I want and need. Bluefaced Leicesters are superb mothers and she had been through a terrible all day ordeal with those triplets. I am trying to understand. Raising a bottle baby is not easy with a full time job...

Poof and There They Are!

One of my purebred ewes was acting a little funny at feeding time last night. Now, it is quite a noisy and chaotic time when Izzy is running the sheep and goats out of the barn and we are getting the bowls ready and bringing the grain down from the upstairs storage room. She was making funny noises and I thought she was seperated from her lambs and calling to them in that special language...She kept sniffing at one spot on the hay...but I went about my business. It was snowing, the wind was howling and it was bitter cold, so I didn't want to keep the moms and lambs outside for long. All of a sudden...there was a little slimy bundle on the hay! And another one just beyond the first one! Like two little spurts within minutes - the way twins are supposed to happen (but mine didn't as you know from a previous post). I couldn't believe it! I called Matt and we quickly got the pen ready. I usually let the mom do all the licking and bonding on the spot but a quick judgement call had me scooping them up and doing my bent-over sliding backward Michael Jackson act with the lambs in front of her nose...she followed beautifully. Once the newborns were placed on fresh hay in the jug we got the others fed and I got to work on the little ones. It is one of my favorite places in the jug with a mom and newborns. I am seized with an overwhelming peace and faith in God and the future of the planet when I see the mystical magical bond between mother and child manifesting itself before my very eyes. The fact that I can have a minor role in this miracle is an honor indeed.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Off to Hamilton

Big Daddy and I are taking a ride to Hamilton to put up some handyman signs. It is the last day of my vacation and it will feel like an outing. I am afraid to stay away long as I have a few more ewes with big bags and swollen female parts who look like little hoofs will stick out any second. It is very, very cold and windy today and I am always afraid one of them will wander outside to have their baby in private. That's one danger when you leave the wool on sheep when they are lambing...but mine have stayed inside, thankfully.

Hamilton is the home of Colgate Univ. and very upscale. Just 19 miles over the hill from Brookfield it boasts some cute shops and a college bookstore that rivals anything in New Jersey. I went there frequently last summer when I was living here alone and needed some people contact. It was funny to see the NJ parents flashing trendy clothes and credit cards in the bookstore. I hung out in the Hamilton Whole Foods, a neat health food store with great magazines, pottery and terrific earrings made by Sandy, one of the women who works there. I can get a falafell pita with yogurt sauce and wash it down with homemade ginger ale. Last time I had falafell that good it was in the parking lot of one of the last Grateful Dead concerts at Giants Stadium in NJ. Mia and I were going to sew Deadhead dresses to sell in the parking lot before the next show there, then Jerry Garcia died and spoiled everything. I was never a Deadhead but I enjoyed the spirit the surrounded their concerts...and one of my all time favorite groups, Traffic, opened for them on one tour.

Next to the health food store there is a sushi restaurant that is out of this world...Then the high tech sports shop with all the latest skiing and hiking equipment for the yuppie college kids. There was a time I would have lusted after that stuff (Mia just goes limp but knows better than to go inside the door) but now I lust after hay feeders and chute systems.

A Welcome Home After a Long Day at the Office

Little, or Big Manny is doing great - he's on the teat, nursing away, wagging his little tail. I'm still bringing Florence Nightingale's triplet brother along. He cries and cries. While checking his mouth for chilling (that's how you tell if a lamb is warm enough, if his mouth is warm, he's okay, but if his mouth is cold - danger! do something quick!) I discovered a razor sharp tooth. No wonder mom jumps when he tries to nurse. I had a lamb like that a couple of years ago. I ran a flat bastard file over the tooth and no more problems. Mattie doesn't have that kind of file, and I don't even have an emery board so out came the sand paper. Got the tooth sanded, but he is so used to crying for the bottle now he is not trying as hard to nurse. His sister is way ahead on the nursing and is heavy and solid. What can I say? Girls are just smarter...

It snowed last night and the trench Matt dug to the trailer is covered. It's cold, sunny, snowy and blustery. The warm water in the trailer thawed on the 50 degree day we had this week and is still going...I keep it on a little all the time but the propane we are using must be unbelievable. Mattie and I both got hot showers yesterday - gave the stock tank a rest. I am paying off the $800 electric bill I heaters in the trailer use a lot of juice! The electric cooperative was great about working with most people are up here in NY. We may be limping through this winter but next one will be better. God gave us two hands and 24 hours in a day and I will try to do the best I can to do the most with it.

On days like this I used to have a roaring fire and spin/knit all day. I am still finding little skeins of bulky angora and wool here and there. I can't spin that bulky any more...a common problem! My friend from work, Gretchen, sat down at the spinning wheel for the first time and started spinning semi-fine. I tried to tell her how unusual that is - you could tie a boat to a dock with my first spinning. Now it is between sport weight and worsted, always slightly overspun. Can't seem to loosen up! I will try spinning on my old Louet and maybe my old handspinning will surface again. My Robin, although engineered like a Louet and bobbin driven, has me spinning finer. I am such a gut spinner and don't go into the mathematics and physics of spinning the way some do...I just sit and spin and see what happens...

Three more days and back to work. Work is a good thing and I find myself thinking about my co-workers, wondering what this one is doing, that one is doing, etc. They are a great bunch, all so different and interesting, hyper-educated, intelligent, yet so human with their personality quirks and foibles. We have good days and bad days, days when I feel betrayed and misunderstood and days when I think I am the luckiest person on earth to work there. We work with the toughest student population short of the penal system. Some of our students have been barred from setting foot on their district high school property, yet we do just fine with them for the most part. We have a new assistant principal/disciplinarian who bears the brunt of the behavioral problems. He happens to be the nicest, most easy going guy in the planet, not angry with an axe to grind like many vice-principals.

Mattie is concerned I have gone over the edge with this blogging thing...I better give him some attention.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Be Nice to Your Wool

When I went to check on the new lambs this is what I found...Miranda struggling to give birth to a great big ram lamb. Look at that grimace. I would grimace, too, if I had that monster coming out of me. First time mom, thank Goodness they are both fine. She was very nervous, and after every push she would jump up and check the hay for something that came out. It took about an hour to get that boy out, from the time I saw the little hoofs to what you see here. What should I call him? For some reason Manny comes to mind...appropriate for such a Butch of a lamb. The rams are catching up. Four rams born in less than 24 hours...Matt said I jinxed it by mentioning that we are having such good luck with so many ewe lambs this year! Unfortunately for them, you only need one good ram, and I have next year's ram already waiting for me in Pennsylvania. I put a band on the pouch before they leave the jug, so they are "wethered" from the start. That way they aren't a loose cannon in the flock but they do get big and fat and knock the girls away from the food. A seperate wether pasture where the goat bucks and ram can hang out until they are needed is planned. Wether wool is sometimes nicer than ewe or ram wool.

Web site coming...

Leslie Shelor of Greenberry is doing a web site for me. Why I didn't get this lady to make my web site a long time ago is beyond me. She is a spinner fiber artist whom I admire with a similar lifestyle to mine, although many fewer critters. Most sane people have many fewer critters. I got so excited when she emailed me a sample of the site including a shopping cart that I had to have a little drinky-poo. We are such lightweights here (Matt has been dry for about 14 years) that a sip of wine is all I need for a nice buzzzzzzzzz. I have always been a "cheap date." One drink lasts all night. I still have many ewes poised and ready to give birth any second. A couple of them are my Lilly and Myrna and Blue Tag and Moira. Myrna and Moira had problems the last two years. If they don't deliver this week I will be back at work next week. I don't know why I am worried - the majority of them deliver in the middle of the night anyway! My job is so perfect - all professionals who are totally non-demanding as long as you do your job. I think they are amused by the fact that I am a farmer. I thought there would be many more of us up here in Central New York...but we are a dying breed here, too. One has to be landed with equipment to make a farm work, even then it requires skills that so many young people aren't learning, and capital to keep it going. The people in general are just easier to get along with and far less uptight than in NJ. I asked Mia why she thought that is the case and she replied, very matter of factly, they are non-competitive. I pondered that for a moment and realized she is so correct. People in NJ were so consumed with materialistic things for the most part...real estate, decorating, remodeling, clothes, cars, and social things like who you ate lunch with, who you sat with at a pep rally, and who you met after work to hang with...and where you were travelling on break and in the summer. I had a hard time finding someone to eat lunch with...who wanted to talk about sheep and wool? And what a rat race with the highways, and accidents, and crowds. People here are more content with where they are and what they are doing. They are more philosophical about their social and economical status. Their values lie more with doing whatever job you do the best you can do it, whether it be mowing and baling hay, or teaching at an alternative high school. Someone like me who is so devoted to a flock of sheep, a throwback to another time, is accepted and understood...not simply an anachronism. Well, I am going to take my anachronistic self out to check on the new lambs.

Another Drama Unfolds

Okay, so let me get a grip on the last 24 hours. Writing it down and sharing it with you somehow helps me make sense of my chaotic and wonderful world here. Remember I talked about the ewe gently pushing night before last? Well, after my new friend, Laticia, had gone home with her new wheels, and we went to town to run errands, I came back to the barn to notice "Eve" with a big balloon coming out the back of her. I called Matt and while we approached her she jumped and ran, bubble bursting and spraying amniotic fluids everywhere. The chickens moved in to gobble up the membranes while we tried to corral Eve. No good. She has four legs and we have two - and we didn't want to unduly upset her. We did our chores, which takes about an hour and a half, then I putter and do more, and noticed that she ate with everyone else, grain then hay, then stood apart. Great, I thought, maybe it's happening now. Nothing happened, no pushing. I called Matt to hold her while I examined her and felt a big head with two hoofs on either side, ready to dive out. But Eve won't push. Now this is a case for Oxytocin, a hormone that MAKES the uterus contract and the ewe has to push. Nasty stuff, but definitely helpful in some cases. My vet says it only works for 15 minutes, and I thought that would be all that we needed. Still no pushing! Matt and I got her in the jug, set up with hay, for the birth. Still no pushing. An hour passes. Another shot of Oxytocin. I go away so she can relax...then finally! A great big giant black ram lamb slides out and Eve licks him off! Hooray! She had him - she likes him! If a sheep doesn't lick, we have problems! I let them bond, then do my clip, dip strip. She has tons of milk. This looks better and better - but no placenta! I say to Matt, she's GOT to have another one in there. But she drank her molasses water, which some shepherds say is a sign they are finished. Not here. I go away again, make dinner for Matt, come back and there are two little hoofs sticking out! But no pushing! It's late now, I am tired, she must be tired, and I wait. And wait. Finally I say, okay, this is ridiculous. I do my Rulan Gardner Olympic wrestler move on her and gently push her up against the wall with my body, arm around her neck and hold her firmly there. With my left hand, I slide my hand into her, over the head and shoulders of the second lamb and cup my hand over it's shoulders, pull down firmly. A long, warm, black shiny torpedoe slides out with no effort. Another ram lamb, bigger than the first one! Don't boys always give me trouble...I moan to myself. She licks him off but it becomes apparent she doesn't like him like the first one. I have to milk her out myself, more wrestling moves, but the second lamb comes up under us both and tries to nurse! I hold her, trying to let him get a bellyfull before I call it a night. She butts him away! Oh, no, it's going to be a long night. And it was...As of 10 AM the next morning, which is now, she is tolerating him, I am supplementing Charity's second lamb with a bottle, and might have to do it with Abel. I call the black boys Cain and Abel - Eve's boys. Oh, Boy!

Oye Vey, What A Day!

Starting the day with the birth of a lovely ewe lamb was wonderful. Then a sweet, kind, beautiful fiber artist named Laticia came to buy my wheels and we made fast friends. If I was to fantasize about a home for my wheels hers would be it. She was thrilled that she doesn't have to wait two years for a Robin, now she has two to play with and I have a New York fiber buddy. As I was taking Laticia through the barn to show off my flock, I was shocked to find that Florence Nightingale was not the only surprise her mom, Charity, had for me. There was another strapping ram lamb and a, sigh, stillborn lamb that looked like it died in utero. Later I clicked on the fact that Charity is a triplet! No wonder! Unfortunately, Mom had gotten used to the idea of one cute little lamb and was not nice to the new guy. This happens in the sheep world - if things don't go just right, or mom has a hard time of it, she becomes unhappy and her instincts go awry. It is up to the shepherd to pick up the slack...and I am still trying to make them one happy family. I hear his cries as I type this - cutting right through me just like a human baby's would. We are biologically programmed to be annoyed by a baby's cries - that way we go to pick up and feed it, therefore preserving the species! I just wish it wouldn't cut into my sleep the way it does. Maggie is quite the zombie today...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Ewe Lamb...

After having a nice birthday conversation with my angel daughter, I came into the barn to find a perfect little ewe lamb, already cleaned off, standing, looking for her mother's teat. Mattie says I should name her Florence Nightingale, the first nurse, in honor of our nurse daughter, Mia. I think that's a great idea. Our conversation this morning was all about the excitement and pride of graduating from UMDNJ this May 21, passing the boards, taking off to Europe with her friend from kindergarten, Jenny Brady, and what type of medicine she will practice. When I say practice, I mean really practice, because Mia plans on going for her MSN and being a Nurse Practitioner. She will help people manage their diabetes, a national problem, with everybody eating fast food, etc. I am so proud of Mia and her brother, who is working on two master's degrees simultaneously in Nevada - Political Science and Theology. He relocated his National Guard status to a unit in Las Vegas. They do op-force training for units all over the country who go there to learn how to fight in the desert. He is working for the Evil Empire, Bank of America during the day, and everything else at night and on weekends. Eric, Annie, Hannah and Luke put him up in their palatial town home in Sumerlin, an upscale planned community in LV. I wish I could spend more time there...but there is a new lamb waiting my care in the barn!

Happy Birthday AJ and MIa

Today is my twins birthday...they are 27! I couldn't sleep last night, thought for sure lambs were coming. One ewe gently "pushing" on her back end before I went to bed, so I thought I would get some sleep before it happened. Went out at 1:30, everthing quiet. I got the dogs to barking, and they barked all night. Must have been coyotes around, in which case I am glad they are barking. Chris and Breeze would stomp on anything that came in the barn to get the lambs, but the barking tells them to stay away in the first place.

27 years ago I was in labor all night. Yikes, it still hurts to think about it, and every time I am with a sheep in labor I feel her pain. My twins were six weeks premature, easy to push out I thought, unlike Eric, the 9 pounder I had first. Mia just popped out - perfect little darling she was and always has been. AJ never came down and Elizabeth Coultas had her arms in me up to her elbows pulling him out. Just like I have done with sheep. Ohhhhhh, the pain. Then he was sick, so sick. Now they are both big, healthy, happy, grown-up kids...but they will always be my little twin stars.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Look at Him Now!

Remember Numero Uno? Well, look how big he's grown. The cold weather seems to suit the lambs just fine. This guy busted out of this sweater a long time ago. His favorite pastime is playing "head butt" with Holly, my Lab-Rottweiler mix the kids got me for Christmas. It's a riot! Matt wants to eat him for Easter dinner, but that is not an area I would like to explore. Never have, and don't want to...I love the little tear drop marking under his eye. It says..."Don't eat me, don't eat me! Pleeeeeaaaasssse!"

A New Family

Here are Goodness and Mercy saying welcome to the new twins in the flock. Since their mother is Domina the only thing to name them is Caesar and perfect! G and M are growing so fast it's time to wrestle their sweaters off.

I am still nervous about the nursing since Domina is flighty and doesn't like them near her teats. Matt is off on a job interview and might have to hold her again when he gets home so I can nurse out some more colostrum for them. The first 24 hours are so important. Up at 3 am for a barn check, then up for the birth at 5...I will be dragging a bit today. The temperature is supposed to soar up into the thirties today...tee-shirt weather! We're off to buy hay this afternoon. I have vowed to have enough hay in the mow to go the whole winter next year. This year was touch and go but the lambs are thriving beautifully.

This Is What We Start With...

I know it's not pretty but this is what we start with when I get them just born. I wait until mom has licked most of the sacks and birth fluids off. That's a very important part of the bonding process. You can see how they would chill quickly as they are soaking wet. I rub them off with a towel, clip the umbilical cord with scissors dipped in Betadine, then dip the stump in the Betadine which I've poured into a pill container. I hold the lamb up against my stomach, belly facing out, and lean the pill container up against the stump so the whole area is covered. The cord is a direct conduit for germs to get into the lamb. This ewe had the twins in a dirty area of the barn and they show it. Once I get them toweled off the sweaters go on. This mom was very sensitive about her nipples and I had to get Matt up to hold her while I nursed her out. She tried to put her back foot in the little pot I use to collect the colostrum several times but I hold it very tightly. Then I use a 3cc syringe barrel to pour colostrum into the lambs. 3 cc is about a teaspoon which is just right. When I am drawing up more the lamb has time to swallow and take some breaths. If I put the colostrum into a bottle with a nipple, most of it would coat the bottle, it's so thick. This way the lamb gets more. The colostrum lights a fire in the belly and warms the lamb so it can get up and nurse sooner - vital for survival. In the wild only the lambs who get up and nurse quickly survive. I help the process because I don't want to lose any. When the lambs get their first belly full of this gooey stuff they calm down and shake a little, they are absorbing the antibodies the mom gives them. They have receptors lining their stomachs that aborb the antibodies with decreasing efficiency over 24 hours. After that, colostrum doesn't do any good. I leave all three alone and watch from afar. This new mom doesn't like the lambs fooling with her teats. I watch frustrated as the lambs dance around under her trying to nurse...and she runs from them! I can only hope she calms down after enjoying the fresh hay I've given her. I have warm molasses water in her dish, which gives her calcium, magnesium and potassium to boost her strength for nursing. She will only drink it when she is finished giving birth, one way to tell if more are coming.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Big Brother Breeze

The lambs are having a wonderful time climbing all over Breeze. He is smaller than his brother Chris and the same color as their mothers. But do sheep see color? Hmmmm, I have to check that out. Matt has seen them make a running start and pounce on Breeze's back. Now, I can't get near him but he takes this abuse from the lambs like a champ. Chris and Breeze were born in a neighbor's front yard in western New Jersey. The woman had four little kids and was home schooling them. Her husband persuaded her to get into the llama business. She soon had 29 llamas in the front yard and no time to take care of them. That's how I got Chris and Breeze. They have been living the Life of Riley (boy do I date myself there!) since they've been with me. They went from a postage stamp pen, broiling in the hot sun without a blade of grass, to green fields with trees and streams to romp and play in. The only problem is, since they were never handled much when they were little they have no use for humans. I have to attract them into catch pens with grain to work on them and they hate it. Shearing is even worse. It's so important to "gentle" llamas when they are young, like so many other big animals. I am crazy about them and get lost in the big, dark pools of their eyes.

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

Okay, so how to feed hungry sheep and pay mortgage? One has to do what one has to do. I have three Robin wheels and two of them are going on sale. I bought them for Mia and Hannah. I can't see Mia spinning anytime soon with nursing school, etc. and Hannah has the Louet I bought for Annie, her mother. Annie wasn't happy with the Louet and bought herself a Jensen, so they have two wheels in the house. We're covered there. Robin wheels are works of art and the waiting list is two years, last time I heard. They are "gently used" but work like charms and Gilbert looks them over for me when I take them to shows.

Mattie is working hard looking for a job. He is going for an interview on Wednesday for a woodworking job. $10 an hour - ouch. This is not New Jersey. I tell him the way things are now he is only good for sex and heavy lifting so he better consider it. At least it is steady and indoors. He agrees. I secretly want him to give up the construction trade as it is deleterious to one's health. The social historian in me is incredulous at the way construction workers have been exploited post-industrialization. Sucking up toxins, abusing the joints, going deaf from heavy equipment noise, getting knocked on the head, etc. I could go on and on. Carpenters were held in high esteem during colonial times. Now they are just bodies to abuse. I figure a carpenter uses all nine of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences, but very few earn a decent wage.

I Was Warned

I knew it must be cold when my pillow was frozen to the wall of the trailer. Holly, who I usually "encourage" to sleep between me and the wall had moved - smart dog. I flashed to the time when I paid good money to ski in this kind of weather at Killington, Vermont - the coldest place on earth I thought at that time. (Every time I kneel down in a lambing pen I am reminded of my ski career.) Funny how age changes your perspective on how you spend your energy and body equity. Matt had done the wee hour check for me and the monitor had been quiet. I push the dogs off me and slide out the bottom of the bed. Pull on the gear and out the door. There it wonder my pillow was frozen - it's minus 20!!! Okay, okay, so I was warned I would freeze my a-- off here. Am I sorry? No - not at all. I love it here. I am sorry I wasn't better prepared financially to weather the first winter. I would have been if FAMILY nonsense had not interferred. Okay, so here's the deal, in case the reader is wondering why a mature, college educated woman would think she could move a farm to the wilds of Upstate New York with no job and no money. You see, I inherited my mother's house in NJ along with two brothers. One brother, the first born, has always lived in the house and doesn't want to move. He WON'T move. The bum has always lived there and my parents paid his bills, even his phone. They were crazy about the guy. Don't ask my why - he is college educated, never married, and is not mentally impaired to my knowledge. He is just a selfish bastard. I delayed moving here a year after I bought the farm to give him time to find another place to live, time to sell the place, get my share, etc. Didn't happen. I needed land for my sheep so I cast our fate to the winds and took off. If I didn't find my BOCE job we would be eating the sheep by now. Family stuff - tacky, tacky, tacky. Every family has got something but mine defies belief. Don't even get me started...

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Anyone reading this blog would think, does this woman ever do anything else but tend to her sheep? By sheep I mean, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs...but it is easier to just say sheep. Yes, I do, but moving here and living with them has enabled me to immerse myself in a shepherd's lifestyle. When I am not at work or asleep I am with my sheep and it suits me just fine. It feels just right. I am doing what I was meant to do. When lambing is over and shearing takes place I will immerse myself in preparing all this fiber for various things. I purchased a 20 year old Patrick Green carder from a shepherd friend in N.J. It has had three owners before me and I know them all from my old spinning guild, North Country Spinners. My shepherd friend Lisa Merian of Spinner's Hill Shop cards all her beautiful fiber on the same machine. When I told her about it she said, Maggie, if you don't buy it, I will. So I did. What a beast of a machine. When I got it up here and stashed it in the tractor shed I plugged it in and turned it on...yes, it works! It quickly got covered up with raw fleeces and other moving junk. I plan on getting it operational this summer. I will have a carding workshop next to the barn apt. where the carder will be set up. I will do my washing and dyeing in the milk room, and drying and carding in the work room. I wish I had a yarn spinner. I had some fiber turned into yarn last year, and it sold out. There is definitely a market for yarn, as there are only so many knitters who buy roving. All fiber processing equipment is expensive...oh well, fantasies are free!

Just What I Wanted to See

Here is little Nonnie, nursing from her mother, Naomi. It took a whole day to happen, but she is standing on her gimpy leg and doing what she is supposed to do. Mom is happy, baby is satisfied and Maggie is happy. Two sweaters will stay on as the temperature is diving tonight. Minus five is expected and she just doesn't have the body weight to withstand that cold. Thankfully, her belly will be full of mother's milk which is the perfect temperature.

Maternity Ward

Matt built me five jugs, or pens, where moms can bond with their babies and spend the first three days seperate from the other sheep, goats and llamas. This way the lambs don't have to chase the moms around for food, or get trampled by the flock. I can make sure they are on the teat and progressing nicely, or give them help if they need it. If they need a heat lamp I can hang one, which I try not to do for fear of fire. I use sweaters instead. The milk room, where I have heat and water is steps away. Today I let Gloria with Goodness and Mercy out of their jug, along with Dulce and her lamb, Dorcas. Naomi and Nonnie are still in and will be there for another two or three days. It's so interesting to watch a new mom come out of the jug. She calls to her lambs to keep them close, and the lambs always know their mother's voice. They have been hearing it for the last five months from their watery world. Goodness, Mercy and Dorcas all started jumping around, enjoying the open space. Once in a while another mom would give them a little head butt, telling them to get out of here - you are not my lamb! Then it's high tail it back to mom for a reassuring drink.

Hay Mow Kitties

I got this shot last night as the girls were waiting for their dinner. They watch us running around, taking care of the sheep and goats, and must find us amusing, like watching a Benny Hill TV episode. Their world is dark and spooky, filled with pidgeons, owls, wind whistling through the boards and things that go bump in the night. Matt says they are peeing on the hay stacks. Don't know what I can do about that...I need them roaming the barn, keeping the rats at bay. When we moved here we found the concrete floor in the lower barn cracked and heaved. Chris Kupris told us the rats had undermined the floor with their vast tunnel system. The earthquake in 1986 didn't help any. So far we have only two rats - dead - and the kitties are keeping it that way. Good work!

So Much to be Thankful For...

Got my sleep...midnight check revealed nobody in labor, no chilled lambs, just happy moms, moms to be, a real Winkin, Blinkin and Nod night. Woke up with a start, as usual, warm dogs and husband packed in tight all around me like hot water bottles, all different sizes. It was just too quiet. Had hubby turned down the microphone during the night because of screaming roosters? I whispered sweetly, honey, do you think you can take the dogs out just once? I got a very sweet "no, give me until 8 o'clock." Well, the yips and whines were coming over the baby monitor, telling me it's time to let them out. I had a lamb I was worried about I climb over dogs and husband and get out to the barn. Out with the doggies to play in the snow. We tiptoe around the sleeping moms and lambs to get out of the barn into the winter wonderland. I gasp at the beauty...after playtime we go back in the barn and I check on little Nonnie. She has a bum leg, must have been kinked in the womb. We nursed out Naomi several times yesterday to bottle feed her. She was having trouble finding the teat and her bum leg was keeping her down. I had two sweaters on her, a tight alpaca goat kid sweater, and a bigger Bluefaced Leicester sized sweater to cover her bony hips and lame leg. Sweet little lamb, she just needed some help getting started...and, thank you Jesus, there she was, standing under mom, tail wagging under the sweater, pulling on the teat. I am blessed with some terrific moms and Naomi was standing very still, very patient, trying to help her baby do what she needed to do. I let Dulce and Dorcas out of their jug, and Gloria with Goodness and Mercy. Three beautiful ewe lambs added to the flock. That makes 3 ram lambs and 7 ewe lambs so far. Maggie is happy...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wishing for Sleep

I have a feeling it will be a long night. I see a couple of ewes straining now and then...could be gas, but then they are so very pregnant. Getting up twice last night really took it out of me. It's 5 pm and I would LOVE to lie down and take a nap...but chores are just starting. Matt gets up in the grain room in the hay mow upstairs and shovels feed into the chute with a wheel barrow waiting down below. We try to get as many sheep and goats out of the barn before we do this, or else we have a riot on our hands. Once the throng of sheep picked me and the wheel barrel up and moved us along down the length of the barn, snapping the undercarriage. Trouble is, there is so much snow outside the sheep don't want to climb onto it, and try to stay on the path. I remember asked a Vermont shepherd who raises Babydoll Southdowns how he manages in the snow since his sheep have such little legs. He said, no problem, and doesn't even own a tractor. The sheep tamp it down. Well, my sheep don't seem to want to tamp it down and prefer to stay in the barn. I figure after living in the wild with no barn for five years they are entitled. I will drink a Coca-Cola, which sometimes works better than coffee for me, and get the chores done. We have two moms ready to be let out of the maternity ward...Dulce with Dorcas and Gloria with Goodness and Mercy. They are so fine and I am so proud. There are little lambs hopping all over the barn. Matt and I just stand still, hand in hand, and admire them for they are truly the fruits of our labor.

A Week of Vacation from School

Is it really true? Am I home from school for a week? This is the greatest thing about teaching...just when you think you can't stand it a minute longer and you are fantasizing about weapons and methods of torture, you get some time off. I've got a million things to do and don't care if I get in the truck...can't afford the gas to go anywhere anyway. I've got flour, sugar, eggs from the chickens every day, and the ingredients to make a giant pot of chili. Big M had roasted peppers in a jar on the $1 counter and I guiltily bought two to put in the chili. I have a half gallon of Tawny Port left over from Christmas so I can put some of that in the chili and down the rest myself...maybe I will sip some when I take my stock tank bath tonight. Poverty really stinks but can be character building. I used to give all my left overs to the dogs but now I eat food three days old. I used to stop at the market every day and buy ten dollars worth of canned food for the cats and dogs and run that can opener for ten minutes opening them all. Now they get the dry store brand Tractor Supply special (and seem to enjoy it!) Every egg the chickens lay I stroke and admire. I bring some to work as gifts for the girls who give me coffee, cut my hair, and otherwise befriend me. It will soon be farmer's market/sheep show time and the money situation will be better. When I look at the bills piling up I fantasize about the women walking into my booth and plunking down the cash for my bags, soap and wool without a minute's hesitation and I tell myself things will get better.

Snow Drifts on my Future Home

This is the West End of the barn where we plan to live as soon as we can come up with the money to finish the apt. This will be the back side where we planned to put a door but look at those drifts! The front side, facing the hill and views, is also drifted over. Hmmmm. Will have to put some kind of snow screen around the doors. I am only four hours from where I used to live and I feel like I am in Northern Vermont. I've got the snow, the wind, the cold, but no tourists or skiers. I feared the noise and smell of snowmobiles coming through but I have only heard them once, across the valley. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of cars that pass by each day, but the plows keep the road totally clear. People at school complain about the roads the same way they did in NJ, and have the same driving anxieties, so I am right at home. Chris Kupris, former owner and dairy farmer, is still in the house he was born in next door, which is kind of cool. He is full of stories and advice, like where not to park my truck under the barn roof (a snow slide totalled his one year). I thought it would be cool to live around so many dairy farms, but the cruelty of raising milk smacks me in the face every time I drive out of here. Bull calves are taken from their mothers so the milk can be sold. They are tied to cold plastic huts far away from the herd where they can only look at where they want to be. I see beautiful animals standing knee deep in mud around empty feeders, not a blade of hay to seen. There are a few grassy hillsides where cows graze, and fortunately I pass one of them on route 80 going to Sherburne. Matt says it must be an organic farm because there are weeds in the field. I try to buy organic whenever I can to support these brave people who buck the dairy lobby. I plan on buying my own cow and raise my own milk...but what happens when she gives birth to a bull calf? I will face that dilemna when I come to it and, in the meantime, try to get used to soy milk (ugh!)

Little Trailer on the Prairie

Here we are, one week post Nor'easter. It is cold, cold, cold with bright blue skies today. The cold water is frozen in the trailer now and we bring in jugs from the milk room. I have had the same set of silk underwear on for a week. It reminds me of when moms would sew their kids into a set of underwear and they would wear them all winter. I totally understand. Tonight is bath night! Whew-whew! Red neck Saturday night! Maybe I will make a pot of chili to celebrate. The last time I made chili I set two big plastic containers out on the porch to freeze, which it did, solid and heavy. A few days later when I wanted to thaw some to eat the plastic containers were gone. Nowhere to be found. Searched around in the snow, no chili. Must have been the dogs, but how did they get it? They would have to had knocked the containers off the ledge, rolled them down the stairs and dragged them away. Icy chili doesn't appeal to me but I guess it did to the doggies. I planned on living on that chili for a week. On our budget, or lack of any money to budget, this is a hit. Coyotes, maybe? I can't imagine they would come this close to the house, with the LGD's barking away. Speaking of LGD's...the rotten dogs ran away. I am really pissed off at them. I let them out to play in the snow while I took care of the new lamb, and off they went, over the fence. These are dogs who are bred to bond to the sheep, live with the sheep, protect the sheep. My dogs don't give a flip about the sheep. They are nice to them and tolerate them eating their food, etc., but I don't see the protection aspect there. Maybe if a coyote or two came into the barn (which does happen around here) their instincts would kick in. I have heard that sometimes a dog's instincts have to be turned on. But for now, I just wish they would come back.

Midnight Surprise

Matt heard the sounds first and woke me up. I was grateful to see him getting up to come and help me in the barn. Naomi, a new mother, was standing over a little lamb, licked off but wavering in the dark. I approached her slowly with the towel and scooped her up. Normally moms will follow me to the maternity ward but this new mom was flightly. Took me a while to get her in. Matt had the heat lamp turned on but it gets lost in the cold. This ewe lamb is alert but weak and can't stand up. My lamb M.O. is to keep the lamb with mom until it becomes impossible. Maybe it's the fact that my own baby was whisked away from me and taken to another hospital - I can still feel the anxiety. I put double sweaters on her and Matt helped me get colostrum nursed out of an unwilling mom. Why wouldn't she want my freezing cold fingers pulling on her teats? I can't imagine! Got lambs tummy full, set her under the lamp and went back to bed. Thankfully, I went back to sleep and woke up at 3. Gear on, back to the barn. She's still weak but standing and they are talking to each other. I mixed up some hot water and powdered cow colostrum the vet had left me. I didn't want to upset the whole barn by scuffling with a new mom in the middle of the night and Matt was tucked in tight. He had a job interview in the morning and I didn't want to rouse him. "Nonnie" (an old friend's name) took the bottle fine and I went back to bed, feeling better there was something in that little tummy. This morning she is up, trying to nurse, but teetering on her feet. Naomi was lying down so I took that opportunity to jump in the pen and lie on top of her while nursing out some more colostrum. She didn't fight me, but after standing up I tried to get the other nipple and no way. I flashed back to the time I tried to nurse out Lucinda by myself and was suddenly looking at the ceiling of the lean-to with my glasses somewhere in the field! The power of motherhood! I poured the colostrum in the bottle and gave it to Nonnie. Hopefully as the day progresses, she will get stronger and stronger and find that nipple. Another day on the farm with many births to go.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Time for Night-Night

Chris and Breeze know it's time to settle down but Dora and Thea are still rambling around and having fun. They are growing so fast it's almost time to wrestle them out of their sweaters. It's so cold and the wind is howling and whistling outside. I put a sweater back on Xena after taking it off yesterday. So many pregnant ladies walking around the barn, and with so many lambs making noise it's hard to hear a newborn on the baby monitor. Chores are done so I'll go to bed now and set the alarm for midnight to check the barn. Goat babies will be coming soon and they are much more vulnerable to the cold than lambs. They tell me spring comes a month later we are in for two and a half more months of this. I will much better prepared for next winter.

Santa and Noelle

Another adventure involving animals. I am my own Animal Planet! I was driving home from work when I passed a neighbor's farm. Very nice people who I only know to wave and say hello. Their petite black lab was out in the front yard which is right on the road. So many farms have their barn yards divided be the road - barn on one side, house on the other. She was running around, kind of frantic, like she was looking for help. On go the brakes and I got out of the truck. I saw little tiny puppies running around near a garage type opening in the back of the house. A woman walked out and I told her I was concerned about the dog, etc. She said very matter-of-factly, "Do you want any puppies? I was just going to take them to the ASPCA but my car won't start." I said I would look at them and she led me to the hole in the back of the house. It must have been a firewood storage area and was full of old boards and junk. No discernable dog bed, or rug, or house. Eight little puppies were huddled together on top of some boards. The woman told me she can't afford to keep them all. I asked who the father was and she said she thinks it's the Rottweiler down the road. Hmmmm, I thought, a recurring theme - the Lab and the Rottweiler mix puppies. Just like my Holly. My mind was racing...Dog pound for the little darlings???? She couldn't take them tonight and it was brutally cold. I wanted to say things like, why can't you take them in the house? Or barn? Somewhere protected from the cold and the road? None of my business. With all kinds of warning signs going off in my head, I picked up two little females and off I went. The woman thanked me and gave me a bag of their puppy chow. At least it was "puppy chow" I thought. Matt met me in the driveway and his face said it all. Okay, Okay I said...I just wanted to save two of them from the cold! I promised I would find them homes. As of tonight, there are two possibilities in school. I am enjoying them while I have them...cute, hardy, wonderful puppies! So smart and friendly. I hope the others made it to the pound, and out of the cold.

Cold, Cold, Cold and No Hair

The lambs are huddled together against their mothers today. With wind chills down to 30 below, I feel it, too. Can't get my toes warm no matter what. I pray to Jesus the power doesn't go out, or I can't get water to the animals. I keep the tank filled but that will freeze quickly. We are looking at two more months of this, I think.

Okay, so I cut my hair. With no shower and not even a bathtub it was just too much. I looked like a homeless woman, only dressed better, with that stiff braid and itchy head every day. Now I can wash it in the milk room sink. My friend at work, Kelly, cut it for me in the Cosmetology classroom. There was no time to do any styling or blow dry. When I went to the next class the girls were, "You CUT your HAIR?????????" like I had done some kind of life defining alteration to myself. The science teacher, with long hair, unconsciously started flipping hers to the front of her chest, like she was making sure it was still there. I started fidgeting for my braid, for security, and couldn't find it. Next classroom, same thing. Everybody noticed. You have to understand, my school is small and intimate. Nothing escapes anyone and they care about what is going on your life after hours. It's great for someone like me, who moved here without knowing a soul. They are my New York family and I am so grateful. Then I went home and three days later I am still waiting for my husband to notice that I cut off my hair!!

After the Storm

Good thing I wrote that sweet Valentine post it is more like, "MATT!! Get your butt out of bed!! Come in the barn - I need you!" Yesterday's Valentine is sleeping in and, to my horror, has turned off the monitor so he can't hear what is going on in the barn. I wade through four foot drifts to go back to the trailer and find out if he is #1 dead, or #2 almost dead, which would be the only two good excuses for turning off the monitor. I get a lame, "The roosters were driving me insane." Not good enough...he wants me to linger but by now I am so annoyed it's impossible.

My prolapsed ewe is showing signs of pink again. I examine her and she is only one fingertip dilated - no lambs coming yet. We will have to put another, tighter harness on her. Dulce is yelling to get out of the jug - a good sign. Her lambs are looking good so the one udder is producing enough milk for them both. I will continue to offer the lambs the bottle to relieve the pressure for her to produce.

Here is Mattie, looking cute in his Carhartts and Fingerlakes Fiber Festival cap and sweatshirt, smiling and funny, ready to shovel. I guess I will keep him.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy on the Farm

St. Valentine's Day - February 14, 2007

Matt and Maggie, December 19, 1998 - "Still Crazy After All These Years"

Ode to Mattie

Here we are, snowed in on our first St. Valentine's Day on the farm together. The storm has been raging since bedtime last night. Matt heard our old buck, Black Jack, calling from the boy's pen adjacent to the barn. He pulled all his gear on and went out into the storm to find Black Jack, lying on his side, snow piling up over him. Matt has had a special relationship with this goat ever since he bought him for me at the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival, almost 7 years ago now. Black Jack was Best Baby Buck and was a mass of black ringlets. Matt carried him to the truck and people ooohhhed and aaahhed. He got BJ into the shelter, stood him up, and talked to him a while. Why relate this story...because it is a perfect example of why I am with this man. Matt is like a prickly pear, coarse and rough on the outside, sweet and juicy on the inside. We don't have two nickels to rub together...buying the farm and moving up here took just about all the money we had. All the money we make now is spent on the farm and the livestock. But Matt doesn't complain, and shows no bitterness over leaving the business he built up over the last five years, and the carpenters he worked side by side with. They were the perfect professional team and Matt enjoyed listening to the rock and roll adventures of Jamie and Brett. Clients called Matt a miracle worker with wood who made dreams come true. He enjoyed a vocational satisfaction most people can only fantastize about. My farming dream became his dream. Matt was willing to move us to the remote frontier of Central New York and start all over again. There is no work for him here yet, but he remains optimistic and keeps looking. We are together with our critters and enjoy a common goal. I often think we could be doing this and that, trips and outings, visiting the grandchildren in Las Vegas, Matt's son in San Francisco. But the flock binds us together and we share something most people couldn't understand and will never have.

Gloria, Goodness and Mercy

Okay, my camera battery charger is lost in this chaos of a life I live...but I have to tell you a happy story. There are so many unhappy stories in raising critters, that will just rip your guts out, and I resolved not to tell them on my blog, and to focus on the happy endings, or beginnings, in this case.

Gloria went down about three weeks ago. A down sheep is too often a dead sheep. Dr. Rachel, my vet, couldn't figure out why she wouldn't get up, or eat. We treated her for milk fever, and ketosis, the usual suspects for late term gestation, but no improvement. Matt and I would try to lift her up - not easy for a big sheep - thinking she would just feel better if those legs were not folded under her on the cold floor. I would pull them out and massage the joints. I made a pot of oatmeal with molasses every night, and stood over her, lifted her head up and poured it into her mouth...trying to keep her nourished and prevent her lambs from dying inside her. One day we found Gloria standing up but she crashed to the ground. Another day, she was up again and managed a shaky few steps before falling down. Then we would find her in different places in the barn and we knew she was getting herself around. She began eating hay, and low and behold, she was up moving with the flock. Fast forward two weeks and I am in the barn in the wee hours, following the newborn sounds to the far end of the barn. And there is Gloria, is all her glory, a sea of black fleece, washing off two little white ewe lambs, steam rising as they lay in a pool of birth fluids. Gloria making those chortling, rumbling noises to her babies. I ran for my kit and towels and got them all situated in their own room in the maternity ward. Glory is the perfect mother and seems fit and happy. I named the little ones "Goodness and Mercy" which seems fitting after her ordeal. I love happy endings, and new beginnings.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dulce Has Twins!

We've had two births in the last 24 hours...I came home from a lunch at my principal's house to find that Boadicea had a huge ewe lamb...I mean, a big girl. She must weigh 15 pounds. I was thankful mother and babe were doing well. I got them fixed up in the jug (lambing pen) and sweater on. Fortunately, I had a lovely pinky handspun sweater from a couple of years ago, partially felted from washing and big enough for this hefty girl. Did chores and went to bed after watching the new episode of "Rome" on HBO. Very violent but interesting...and isn't it a riot to see Mr. Bingely of Pride and Prejudice as Octavian Caesar? The roosters were screaming all night and, desperate for some sleep, I turned down the baby monitor. Woke up with a start, out to the barn to find Dulce chortling over little black of each, licked off and making noise. Always good to hear noise - a quiet, listless newborn lamb is not a good thing. I had been concerned about Dulce, a registered "Natural Colored" sheep who came with my first founding ewes from Ohio, because she had mastitis last summer. I was dropped off with my flock and had no one to help me during the week while Matt was still working in NJ. I saw the problem but couldn't give her an injection without someone to hold her for me. In desperation, I tackled her, held her down, and gave her the LA200. The mastitis went away, but not without damaging one udder. This morning I was relieved to find that the remaining udder works just fine. Dulce is a serene, calm, loving mother and produces fine crossbred Bluefaced Leicester/Natural Colored lambs.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Happy Birthday Mom!

February 12 is my mother's birthday...Adeline Webster Alexander. Mom was a Daughter of the American Revolution and a Daughter of the Confederacy - and a Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. She fought many battles over the course of her lifetime and always with grace and pride. I lost her in December of 1999 and miss her every day. She taught me lessons I am just beginning to realize. Matt tells me we will all be together again someday...

Tomorrow is my Mother's Birthday

February 12 is my mother's birthday. She never understood me, and didn't really like me but I know she loved me. The whole animal fixation was perplexing to her. She had a hard time with any pets in the house at all. The first cat I ever had, Ditty, named after Mrs. Vandetti, the school bus driver, ended up being given away after I didn't take care of the cat box properly. I lost my mother after a devastating stroke took away her speech and mobility. She lasted two years in a nursing home in Georgia before complications from diabetes killed her. I would have liked her to see my farm...even though she wouldn't have wanted to stay here more than one night I would think. Mom was born and raised in rural Georgia. Her folks were granted land by King George a hundred years before the Revolution. Other ancestors were granted land in Georgia for their service in the War for Independence. She's as American as any European American can be. She and her three brothers volunteered for service in WWII. Mom and her sister Lillian were Army nurses, the brothers joined the infantry and pounded the ground in the European and Pacific theaters. It was the Army that got her over the Georgia state line for the first time, but it was my father who got her over the Mason-Dixon line. They met at Fort McClellan in Alabama when mom was nursing the wounded. He was from a Swedish immigrant family in Brooklyn, New York, an officer himself, and incredibly handsome. He showed her five uncashed Army paychecks. They were married in Washington, D.C. and together they were shipped off to Germany where my father was assigned post Liberation. They lived in a castle which was divided up for officer's apartments and Willie and Freddie were born in the Munich Army hospital. They learned German as a first language. I was raised on stories of Germans trading diamonds for cigarettes and food rations. Back to the USA where I and my brother Mark were born in the Staten Island Hospital. We lived in a housing project full of returning veterans who became policemen, firemen and all kinds of workers in the post war US. Mom would have to pack up four kids under five years old and take us down an elevator six floors and outside to hang up our clothes to dry on a lot across the street. One day my father came home and announced he bought a house on the wild frontier of Branchburg Township, New Jersey. Only 35 miles from Manhattan, it might as well have been Mongolia. I remember riding in the cab of the moving van where I couldn't see over the dashboard. This move was not what my mother wanted. Her dream was to go over the river into Manhattan...the Georgia girl would have loved pavement under her feet for the rest of her life. But she followed her man to the country. So the Bundaflicka Saga began...

Sunday Morning on the Farm

What a gift, the Sabbath day, when we don't have to rush off to work. I can take my time bringing water to the chickens and the upstairs hay mow kitties. Not a rat to be seen and I have them to thank. The pine trees on the ridge, silhoutted by the pink sunrise with the new crescent moon still hanging in the sky. Not too cold so I linger outside taking it all in. The barn has been very quiet, peace on earth. Just roosters crowing here and there through the night. The baby monitor works so well I can hear sheep breathing and urinating. I know, I know, but farmers don't mind that sort of thing. We are into the "basics" I guess. Last night we put tail bands on Tiny Tina and Quentin and the state mandanted scrapie tags in their little ears. (Don't get me started!) Gave worm shots to the moms...birth stimulates worm production and I hate the thought of creepy crawlies inside my beautiful girls. I opened the gates to their pens this morning and watched the moms come out, lambs tip toeing into that vast and scary world that is the barn. The moms run interference for the babies and call them to come and nurse for reassurance. I notice Bruno playing catch with a rooster. He is huge and handsome...growing like crazy. We must be doing something right I say to myself. I walk around checking out the moms who are so very pregnant, watching for a strain or grimmace. Sometimes I stop to watch one who looks like something might be happening, but a big BM pops out. Pooping is good (the farmer thing again). I imagine all these gorgeous fleeces, turned inside out in bags after shearing - the Motherlode - and all the work, caring and expense that goes before the shearing. If the knitters only knew...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lizzie and Liam

Here are Lizzie and Liam, born Thursday morning at 6 AM. Found them at the east end of the barn by the open door. Scooped them up in a towel and mom followed me to the lambing pen, running circles around me, yelling like crazy. What was I doing with h er babies???????? She had already cleaned them off but I rubbed them some with a towel (never want to clean them too much) and got their cords dipped. Matt held mom while I nursed out some colostrum. Gave it to the little ones and got their sweaters on. Left Matt in charge and rushed off to work feeling great. There's nothing for a shephered like a successful lambing, especially when there is a ewe lamb or two as a result!

Dora and Thea Out for a Walk

Saturday morning...cold and sunny, just beautiful. Finally fell asleep after my 3 am barn check and woke up in a panic at 9. Don't know how that happened, but it sure felt good. Scrambled back out to the barn thinking their must be newborns that didn't make any noise I would hear on the monitor but nothing going on. Little twins born day before yesterday doing fine. They are Lizzie and Liam, and although mom is attentive, little Lizzie is becoming dependent on her supplemental bottle. Too much dancing around underneath the teats, while brother Liam nurses vigorously. Lizzie would rather wait for her human to come and take care of her. She's so tiny I am afraid not to supplement, but I confess while lying in bed last night I thought of withholding the bottle to force her to nurse from mom. Let's hope she is nursing when I don't see her.

My prolapse ewe is signs of labor yet. The baling twine prolapse harness, a miracle of simplicity, did the job. I snip the lower of the two twines crossing over her vulva so a lamb might slip out if I am not there. I will watch her carefully over the weekend.

Will try to get some knitting bags cut out today. I have gorgeous fabric in a pile just waiting for my scissors and the machine. Have to get the tall stock tank in the milk room for our Saturday night bath. Still no hot water in the trailer. The cosmetology students at school took care of my head, but I have to do something about the rest of on the farm!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tiny Tina

Here is Tiny Tina in her little Lamb Coat. She is one day old and such a sweet, friendly little lamb. When I talk to her she answers me with a little baaaa. I am supplementing her mother's milk with a couple of ounces of milk replacer severl times a day. We call that "cheap insurance" - making sure the little belly is full if we suspect the lamb is not getting enough nourishment. The bottle does not turn the lamb off on nursing from the mother sheep.

It will be a long night ahead - still hideously cold. I will have to do some night checking. Several ewes are all puffed up, bagged up and ready to go. Why, oh why didn't they do it during my waking hours? I'll never know...

Off to another walk through...

Future Home

It's coming along and it can't happen fast enough. The hot water is frozen in the trailer and I told Matt not to spend any more time on it, and to please, oh please, work on the barn apartment. He does as much as he can, and it's cold and slow going in there. I will be able to walk out of the apartment into my workroom, complete with large cutting table with storage underneath and in cabinets all around. I will leave my workroom and enter an insulated bunny room where the bottles won't freeze. What a dream come true! Exit the bunny room and there will be the sheep, goats, llamas and chickens. We will all be under one roof. The windows of the apartment look out onto the pasture hillside. A fenced in doggie yard will be outside the apt. door so I can just roll out of bed, open the door and say, "Doggies out!" Estimated time of occupation? Who knows? I pray it's soon.

No Frozen Bundles

Woke up with a start...the night had been so quiet, nothing on the baby monitor or I slept through it. I have a feeling Knut barks when lambs are being born, but not sure yet. It's hard to get the sleeping dogs off me, they are just like people - leave me alone, let me sleep. Then I say a very firm, "Doggies OUT" and the jump up and run for the door. I run, too, for an extra pair of fleece pants over the silkies I wore to bed. Big Daddy wore two pair to bed, so I go back to his cot and beg them off warm! Am I out the door yet? NOOOOOOO...straight to the coffee pot. Feel a twinge of guilt. I imagine wet babies wiggling in the freezing air as their mothers frantically wash them off, the saliva turning to icycles. But I still go for the coffee pot. Then out to the barn. PTL, yesterday's lambs are snug in their sweaters, moms-to-be are sleeping and resting, big woolen mounds scattered throughout the barn, black and white. Sheep get up, stretch, then pee - just like people! I let the LGD's out of the pen and they run over the woolen mounds to get out the barn door. We have our doggie play time then back to drink more coffee, do chores. I think I should stop complaining about the cold. I checked one of my favorite blogs, (omigosh, what a talented lady, so savvy, so self-assured, living alone in the frozen Canadian northland and making it look so easy and fun) and lusted after all the fabulous socks she knits. Anyway - she showed the thermometer outside of her window - 30 below zero F. I have not experienced that here, not yet, not ever, I hope! Not until I can figure out how to make my barn warmer!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Our Flock is Growing

Here is Quentin, son of Shavaun and Legolas, who came into this world around 2 am this morning, along with another ewe lamb, Tina (who is very tiny). I woke with a jolt when I heard a little "maaaa" "maaaa" on the baby monitor. I slept in my clothes so I could get out to the barn quicker. I opened the door to the trailer and a blast of wind slammed it back. Wonderful...I thought. Temperature outside minus three, inside the barn - 16F. There they were, two moms on either side of the hay feeder with their babies. Luckily, Matt had their pens set up and I was able to coax the moms in by holding their babies eye level with them and walking backwards. I ran back to the trailer, got Matt up and he held the moms while I squeezed out some colostrum. It "lights the fire" in their bellies. Navels treated, sweaters on, bellies full, heat lamp up and we dragged our weary bodies back to bed. Two hours of rest and up for work - but not before checking out the newborns, checking for any more newborns, and all the chores. Oh, that cot in the trailer was hard to leave. Pip was up against the small of my back just right - even shielding the cold spot on the wall where he tried to eat his way out last summer, leaving bare metal. Bodie and Izzy on the other side, Jasper and Holly under the covers against my belly. It was a five dog night, alright, and tonight will be the same with probably more births to come.