Monday, January 31, 2011

Monkey in the Doghouse

I'm very upset with Monkey. I was delighted when I got home from work and saw a tiny baby standing next to Monkey. She was standing on a patch of hay near Thor's bed and the woodpile. My joy turned to dismay when I found a twin, a red doe kid, dead and cold on the concrete. Monkey doesn't like twins. I was a able to rescue Billy Goat when Monkey rejected him last year, but then it was night time and I was home. I was afraid this would happen. Monkey knows I am mad at her. I took the baby into a pen with Monkey trotting behind me, and did clip, dip and strip. I confess I was a bit rough with Monkey while nursing out her colostrum, but not as rough as she tried to be with me. She fought me while I leaned her against the wall and did her best to escape. This is so Monkey. I managed to get a cup full from one teat but reaching farther over to the other teat didn't happen. She's a real scrapper when she wants to be. I know I'll forgive Monkey eventually for killing her little girl. She probably ignored it and let it freeze there on the concrete. I can hardly stand to think about it. I have to tell myself that Monkey's mother, the beautiful Celeste, who I paid a lot of money for and just adored, rejected Monkey in favor of another twin, too. Maybe Monkey's little goat brain tells her to do the same thing to her own second baby. Oh, Monkey, you are a monkey.

Babies Doing Fine

36 F. in the barn this morning. 0 F. outside. Not too bad. Big storm coming, hoping school will be out on Wednesday. Too early to start getting excited. Little Brad and Angelina are doing fine. A yearling goat buck, Billy Goat's brother, and Daphne, Dolly's ewe lamb from last year, jumped in the jug with the new goat family, quite a feat. It's happened several times so I decided to leave them in there. Mom doesn't see to mind too much and I don't want them to jump back in and possibly jump on Brad or Angelina. Brad slipped his sweater, it was a little big, so I put a smaller crocheted sweater on him. The rows of double crochets hold on to the baby even better. Oh, they are so cute I can hardly stand to leave them...but I know there will be more. I wonder how Libby is doing out there in Rochester. She' so lucky to have her hubby vet and big strong sons home all the time. Matt is heading out to Rochester also. We gave Sombra her last shots this morning, as I will never be able to hold on to her long enough for shots. I've tried that running injection thing before - not easy! Sombra is improving little by little. I'm very hopeful. Gotta jet!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cold Week Ahead

We're going back down to negative digits this coming week. Matt and I spent some time spreading a giant sheet of plastic across the opening to the very end of the barn. Even though the barn was cleaned out the big door still won't slide closed. Yes, a barn can be too big, contrary to popular belief, if you want to keep it warm. A hundred cows once kept this barn fairly warm, but my sheep and goats don't. The plastic will cut off the dark wall of cold I feel when I walk down to the East End. That's where I found the angora twins last night, little bundles of goo lying in cold dirt with steam rising. I gave them hay at that end today, which covered the dirt a bit. There is some advantage to wasting hay - it makes a pack to absorb pee and to keep babies off the dirt. I'm not happy about the flock being shut in the barn with no escape in the event of fire, but I don't like frozen babies either. Matt is leaving for a week in Rochester tomorrow. I asked him if he could have picked a better time but no, he waited six months to get into this OSHA training, and he has to go. The guy who did OSHA training for his agency moved to the West Coast and Matt is taking it over, but first he has to get certified. A week sitting in classes, then sleeping in a nice hotel at night. More chocolates on the pillow for Matt. He put together three more jugs for me to put moms and newborns in. We'll see what the week brings...

Twins at Midnight

I was just dozing off watching Saturday Night Live after stuffing the wood stove and snuggling down under the down comforter. Suddenly there was a different noise coming out of the baby monitor on top of the TV. A goat was making noise, not a night-time noise, but several loud baaaas. Then I heard the unmistakable baby cries. Don't know if I would have heard it had it been ten minutes later and I was sound asleep. I jumped up, got all my gear including two tiny angora/wool baby sweaters that had shrunk from many washings over the years. Angora goat kids are much smaller than lambs, and, if they are twins, they are very tiny. I tiptoed out into the barn and listened. I never burst into the barn, as I don't want to stampede the flock and trample babies. There was a cloud of steam rising all the way to the back and then there was Chris, my llama, standing over the wet steaming bundles, with his nose down, checking them out, saying hello I will take care of you. It was such a lovely scene,and disturbing to realize what the cold would have done to them had I not gotten to them in time. I waited until mom had done some licking of the birth fluids but I wasn't worried. She was talking to them already and they were talking back through the membranes that covered their faces. I scooped them up and walked them into a pen closer to the middle of the barn where it's warmer. My towel was saturated from them and I rubbed them with paper towels. While they were still damp I put their sweaters on. God Bless these sweaters. By the time I was done working on them I put my hand under the sweater and it was toasty warm. You don't have to burn your barn down with heaters if you put sweaters on your babies. And you can't tell me moleskin or polar fleece is as warm as wool blended with angora or alpaca/llama. Anyway, Mom was not happy about me being in the pen on the floor with her babies. She pulled bits of my hair, and made mock bites on my hands. I told her I was just trying to keep her babies alive for her, but it didn't help. She did let me dip the cords in iodine and was somewhat cooperative when I leaned her up against the wall and nursed a nice jar of colostrum out. I wasn't easy finding those tiny teats under the forest of mohair. The babies gurgled and sputtered but I got their bellies full with my little 3 cc. syringe. They became drunk with the warm gooey fluid and went right back to sleep. I placed them in the corner of the pen and went to get hay out of the mow. The hay mow kitties wondered why I was climbing the ladder in the middle of the night. I knew I had to feed the whole flock or they would break down the new mom's pen to get her hay. So everybody had a midnight snack! Mom drank an entire bucket of warm molasses water in one continuous drink! I knew she would make milk after filling up with that sweet water, filled with iron and sugar. I piled a mound of hay on the babies and prayed I had done enough to get them through the night. This morning I found two tiny bouncing babes - one little black girl (my favorite!) and one white boy. I think the doe kid had been nursing as one of mom's udders was empty. Matt helped me get mom trimmed so the babes can find the teats. I got mom wormed (birth stimulates parasites) and everybody got their selenium shots as per Dr. Rachel's instructions. Matt and I have a lot of work to do today, building pens and trimming pregnant goats. He is leaving for a week's OSHA training in Rochester. I know, I know, just when the barn is filled with pregnant animals! I'll do the best I can...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nursing 101

Prince William is learning how to nurse. His large size makes him a little clumsy I think. I help him find the teat and hold him on it while he slurps awkwardly. When he's tired of that I nurse some milk into a bottle and give him a drink. I can't have him going weak, then he would never get up and try nursing. I don't want to mix milk replacer when mom has plenty of good, warm milk already made.

Kids in the Kitchen

Libby traded hay for goats and look what she got straight away - twins! Now she's got kids in the kitchen!

Where's the Food?

They are all waiting for food. It's hay feeding time and it takes a lot of time and $$ to make sure they get what they need. I would love to buy those Christie Brinkley glasses and get my missing tooth fixed before Mia's wedding, but, with hay bills it's just wishful thinking. The sheep come first. I'm hoping I can get Stan and son to do my leased fields on shares this summer so I can get some hay in the barn BEFORE winter this year. Previous attempts have not worked out. Farmers are the classic eternal optimists.

Zack is One of the Gang

My new registered Border Leicester ram, Zack, is settling in nicely. He is very handsome and is relaxed and friendly, more like a ewe than a ram. Zack is very nice to the moms, but I will be separating the lambs and ewes from the wethers and rams shortly. They do tend to push the girls away from the food and we can't have that when the moms are lactating. They need all the nourishment they can get.

Sombra Still Sick

I'm worried about my Sombra. She is having trouble urinating and is not comfortable. Look at her ears hanging down, a sure sign that she hurts. I with I could do more for her but I don't know what to do short of keeping up her antibiotics and banamine for pain. I'm sure I hurt her badly when I pulled those dead twins out of her ring-womb. I know what it felt like to have a nine pound baby pulled out of me with forceps. I couldn't pee either. She needs a vet to check her but I don't know who to call.

Pretty Chickens

I'm not getting many eggs right now, but then the amount of eggs chickens lay is directly related to amount of daylight they receive. I get a about a dozen every other day and a half dozen on the off day. They sure are delicious. I just ate two right from the nest box and thanked the girls for their gifts. And the eggs come in their own biodegradable packaging! I don't care about the number of eggs as the girls are so pretty to look at. I could do with fewer roosters. They are a real pain in the butt when they are all living in the barn. I keep catching them and tossing them outside, but who wants to stay outside when you have a nice cozy barn to hang it? The girls like a big male or two around, but too many boys chasing them is problematic. Funny how the animal world relates to real life - you only need one good male in your life!

Maternity Ward

I have several VERY pregnant ewes. I mean, I can't believe they are still holding on to their babies. I think they are waiting until Auntie Kim Cornerstone comes to farm-sit when I go to Mia's wedding.

Patience is a Virtue

I spent some time sitting in the pen with Prince William and his mom, showing him where the teat is, slipping the teat through the side of his mouth and holding him under the chin while he slurps some milk. He tends to pitch forward right past the teat and rummage around the udder to find it again without latching on. I'm hoping with patience and persistence he will get it in a day or two. I filed down a sharp tooth last night but another one sprouted overnight, or maybe I missed it. Mom is incredibly wonderful about letting me sit in the pen and fool around with her udder and her baby. At first we went round and round and she toppled me over, but I put the baby under her while I was nursing her out into a bottle so she stayed still rather than hurt her baby. Shepherds are full of tricks you learn over the years - mostly the hard way - and we utilize every bit of experience we can muster. Prince William likes when I come along and roots on my leg, then blows hot kisses onto my lips when I sit on the hay with him on my lap. He associates my presence with a warm, full belly. Kate Middleton, next door with her mom, has it all figured out and nurses regularly. What a smart little girl she is.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Boy Trouble

My Blue Boy gave me the same problems last year. This morning Matt brought Prince William inside and said you better work on him, he's cold and stiff. Oh, Joy, I thought. Just what I need when I'm rushing off to work. I put him in a basket and quickly prepared a bottle of milk replacer, thinking I might have to tube him. Luckily he took to the Pritchard's teat and sucked down a huge amount. I felt confident enough to put him back with mom for the day. She clearly adores him, he has a warm sweater on, and, when I reached under her a gave it a squeeze, her teat gave me a good strong squirt of milk. Hmmmm, I would have to ponder this. He must not be getting on the teat properly. Once home from work and doing chores I decided not to mix more milk replacer but to get it right from mom, who has one good working udder. I got in the pen and with baby right in front of her I leaned against her and, working blind, put the soda pop bottle right under the teat and milked out a good amount. When I pulled it up and looked at it I had half a 12 ounce bottle. Prince W. sucked it down in a flash. I put him under mom and, while holding him with one hand, I slipped the teat in his mouth. He started to suck but mom pulled away. Hmmmmmm. I felt inside his mouth and there was a razor sharp tooth which was likely hurting mom when he sucks on her teat. I called Matt at work to ask him for a flat bastard file which he brought home with him. A few quick swipes in the tiny mouth and the burr was gone. Unfortunately, that did not completely do the trick, as PW is a rather clutzy nurser. He latches on and slips off, unable to latch on again. Hopefully, in a day or two, with me making sure his belly gets full so he has the strength to keep trying, he will learn how to get his meals. It would be a big help to the local shepherd - moi.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Clan of Candace

Mia commissioned my friend and local jewelry designer, Candace Cain, to make earrings for her bridal party. Those of us who wear her creations refer to ourselves as the Clan of Candace. I am wearing her lovely sterling silver Viking-esque earrings as I speak. Candace came up with several designs and Mia is thrilled. She chose the drop earrings on the far right. They go perfectly with the orchid chiffon bridesmaids gowns and the black velvet capelets I am going to make (if I can stay away from those little lambs in the barn long enough to sit down at the sewing machine that is!) Thank you, Candace! You really came through for us!

Auntie Kim's Sweaters

Auntie Kim makes the best lamb sweaters. She lovingly spins the wool and knits a lovely garter stitch back and forth. The sweaters are what I call "cheap insurance." I could leave for work today knowing my lambs are snug and warm inside their sweaters if, God forbid, they get out of the pen and sit in a draft. The turtleneck keeps their chests and neck warm, while a cape hangs over the back. The bottom is only connected half way down, leaving the bottom open for Mom to get her nose under it to nuzzle her lamb. If the sweater gets caught on a nail or fence post it is stretchy enough to pull off the struggling lamb. Thank you, Auntie Kim!

Where's the Teat?

This is just what you want a lamb to do - get up and start looking for that teat with the life sustaining milk. I was happy to see this before I left for work. Little black girl was still sleeping.

The Beast and the Babe

Matt snuggled with his little black girl before he rushed off to work.

Finally - Lambs to Love!

Matt came running back inside saying We've Got Lambs! There they were, all cleaned up, one white, one black, curled up against a white ewe on the hay. I took pictures while Matt put fresh hay in the jugs (sheep lingo for lambing pens). Knowing that we both had to leave for work I had to get these lambs situated. I picked up the lambs and did my backwards walk, keeping the lambs in front of mom's nose. Low and behold, two moms followed me. I realized I either had two births, or an extra wanna-be mom trying to claim a baby. I got a sweater on the smaller black ewe-lamb, and had to find a bigger sweater for the large ram-lamb. I did my clipping of the cord with scissors dipped in iodine, dipped the stumps with the same iodine, and got ready to collect colostrum. I gently leaned the first ewe against the wall of the pen, and reached under for the teat. I use my chest to hold the ewe still while holding the jar under the teat and squeeze out the waxy plug, hoping the colostrum would follow. First ewe had just a few drops of clear liquid. Second ewe had plenty of colostrum, which I collected and gave to both babies with a 3 cc syringe barrel. I love the way they get woozy and sleepy after the sweaters are put on and the bellies full with delicious, gooey fluid. They must feel like they are back in the womb again. I took a minute to sit on the hay and smooch with them, savoring the moment. I confess I shed a tear or two after the sheep difficulty of the last few days. I finally had my lambs to love, and burrowed my face into the little necks that smell so good from their mother's washing. It was tough to leave them to come to work. I trust the moms to feed them, but am satisfied to know I got a belly full of antibodies in them before I left. To say I will rush home after work today is an understatement!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Balmy 26 F.

26 F. here in the wee hours. How wonderful. Everything in life is relative. 26 is warm after 20 below. Back to school this morning. The order and structure of school will seem so surreal after the events of yesterday. Never a dull moment in farming. No babies in the barn, live or dead, which is okay. I need to see my friends, who are very nice to me despite the fact I know they think I'm crazy. That's okay, teachers are often quirky and "different." The education field nurtures diversity and quirkiness (a nice word for weirdness). I'm getting dressed up today, something I've enjoyed lately. I've worn jeans to work for five years. I forgot how much I love clothes, and used to dress up for work in New Jersey, but when I moved to the farm and lived in the little trailer for a year....well, things went downhill. I still don't have a closet in my apartment so my clothes are in piles. I hung so many things on my bedpost it broke. I've been trying to talk Beastie Boy, the former Master Builder, into building me a closet. He informed me "I'm not a carpenter anymore." I think of saying, "I'm not a cook anymore," but I like to eat, too, so that doesn't carry any weight - well, yes it does but here we are. Better get this show on the road.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lilly the Freeloader

Lilly likes to sneak into the milk room where I keep bags of grain. She nuzzles her long snout into the sacks and samples them all - cracked corn, egg layer mash, and fitting, her favorite. I don't mind Lilly helping herself to a treat. She's an "aged ewe" and pregnant with lamb. Lilly is a little too thin for my liking. I named her Lilly because she was born on Easter Sunday, almost ten years ago. I still have Lilly's mother, Harmony, who is also pregnant. Fingers crossed on how that goes. All this talk about pregnant sheep makes me want to go out and check on them. After that I will go horizontal until the next barn check.

Up and At 'Em

Sombra, my lovely black Bluefaced Leicester ewe, is doing well despite having two dead lambs pulled out of her today. She is nibbling on hay and doing her little sheep muttering when I walk by. I nursed out some colostrum from Sombra while she was down to save for lambs with dry mothers. Colostrum is like gold and gives a newborn lamb or kid necessary antibodies and energy to thrive. You can buy powdered colostrum but it's not the same. There are specific antibodies in colostrum that the sheep and goats have developed to fight diseases that this flock has been exposed to. I would also like to keep Sombra in milk in case I have a lamb rejected by it's mother, or triplets, or whatever happens - and, in my experience, anything can happen.

Quentin Peter and Libby

Libby Llop, my long-distance-endurance rider fiber-artist friend, and her son, Quentin Peter, came to visit this afternoon. What a timely visit, after the rigors of the morning. Libby inspected my ewe, and pronounced her in very good shape considering what she had endured today. Libby studied animal management at Cornell and has raised sheep all her life. Quentin P. set about fixing my hay elevator, something to celebrate, as I no longer have to haul bales from the cart in the driveway, up the milk room steps and into the barn through two doors. Now I can climb the ladder and toss bales down from the hay mow. He unloaded the fabulous alfafa hay while Libby and I picked out seven lovely angora goat does for her to take home. I hated to see them go but living at Inverness Farm, south of Rochester, on 500 acres with barns full of alfafa hay and feed mills full of grain is no shabby prospect for the goaties. Libby is also a shearer and I know the mohair will get off them in time and put to good use. She's anxious to weave rugs and knit socks with their fibery gifts. When they left I started chores and got a limb sawed off the tree blocking the garbage truck on Wednesday morning pickups. Matt got home after missing all the excitement of the day. We finished chores and I fixed a hot meal - spinach, mashed potatoes with lots of dill, and ham steaks from my piggies. I am greatly relieved that my ewe Sombra looks so good, nibbling at hay and "talking" to me when she sees me come in the barn. I hated losing those lambs but would much rather have my ewe safe and sound. We share a special bond now.

So You Want To Raise Sheep?

Last night Sombra's prolapse was gone, but a tiny bit of membrane was dangling from her back end. That's not good. I examined her and felt a bit of lamb face behind her tight cervix, which never wanted to go past three fingers. A disturbing odor told me this lamb was dead. My beautiful, big, black, healthy, robust ewe had a festering fetus inside her. I had a very restless night. This morning, nothing had progressed. I called in sheep, never easy for me to do but having the amazing Robin in my room helps assuage the guilt. Called the vet service and woke the nice lady up, who called Dr. Rachel, who called right back and told me I could do the same thing that she would do and that would be to get the dead lambs out. Easier said than done. Matt put skid marks in the snow getting out of here, calling, "I have a class waiting for me!" And there we were. I kept going back inside to get this and that, putting off the inevitable, but when Sombra lay down and looked just awful I decided that I had to woman-up. She tried to help me, but she was still only dilated about two inches. I felt something and grabbed it, pulling steadily and downward. I had the jaw bone, but it pulled away as I feared it would. The lamb was coming apart. For the next two hours I pulled and pulled on any hoofs, bones and flesh I could grab with three finger tips. Gas and fluids bubbled out, bits of flesh and bone tore off. I tried a rope but after securing it to something it pulled away too. I got what was a small lamb out, counting legs to hopefully get it all, when I realized there was probably another one in there. I went back inside to belt down some coffee and mixed some molasses in warm water for Sombra. Back in the pen and made her drink some of the sweet water to give her strength. Our shared ordeal was not over. Unfortunately she was positioned so that I had to sit with bent knees scrunched in the corner. Sombra must weigh 200 pounds and there was no moving her. Poor girl kept on pushing as I pulled. Some hefty hind quarters came out a centimeter at a time. I can't believe she didn't start to dilate as I was doing this. I had spent some time rubbing the cervix prior to starting, just as I heard other shepherds talking about in their lambing stories, but this bottleneck just didn't want to give way. I was afraid of tearing it with my efforts, but it held. As I pulled what I thought was the last of the second lamb out, a big gush of fluid and gas expelled and her belly caved a bit. I gave her a big dose of LA200 antibiotic, oxytocin to make her uterus contract and get rid of any tissue I left in there, along with Banamine for pain. She is flat out, panting. I can't tell you what was going through my mind through all this. Some things I just can't share. You find out what you are made of when you are alone in a barn with an animal you care about who is in a desperate situation. Nobody should have to go through something like this alone. Someday when I am living in cozy Morristown working as Mia's cook and nanny and writing my memoirs at night, I'll look back on all this and marvel at myself. Did I really do that? Now to go out and check on my poor Sombra. I hope she's still alive.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So Cold

Minus ten and going down as of 11 PM. I gave the sheep extra hay tonight. Hay keeps sheep and goats warmer than grain as it combusts inside them and makes heat. The temp in the barn is 20F. Not as warm as I would hope, but the east end door is frozen wide open and there are still many holes for air to get in. I managed to sew one of Mia's bridesmaid's capelets today. It will be lovely - black velvet over the orchid chiffon gowns. I was concerned about how the velvet would hang over the lining we chose but it's great. The capelets won't keep the ladies very warm, but will allow them to get some pictures taken and into the hotel a block away without freezing too quickly. I'm exhausted and need some shut eye stat.

Deep Freeze

It's cold and getting colder. Horizontal snow in lovely Brookfield, the tiny town with it's own little micro-climate. Tonight we'll have quite a dip. The barn is one big ice box. I bought this big classy old barn on a wing and a prayer, totally oblivious of what it would take to run it. It's a miracle I'm still here. I could keep six sheep in a little shed warm, but 60 - 70 sheep, goats and chickens in a giant barn meant to house a hundred cows? Impossible. Oh, well, gotta deal. We'll thaw out eventually, lick our frostbite wounds, and go forward. I love the winter and don't mind being pitted against the elements if I have a few creature comforts like firewood and running water. Electricity is a beautiful luxury and I never take it for granted. Someday I'll have a working generator on hand just in case. On the sheep front, no lambs yet. No tiny frozen bundles when I went out this morning, thankfully. The dexamethasone labor-inducer has not brought any relief to my prolapsed ewes yet. Very depressing. I'm fearing the worst and preparing myself to let them go in some way, I haven't decided yet. Libby Llop warned me, if they lamb the lambs may still not be viable. I wouldn't mind losing the lambs if I could save the ewes. At this point, I'm tired of seeing them suffer and I'm tired of pushing that mass back in so they can pee. Very depressing. I had a competent vet here twice and that didn't help. We'll see what the day brings. I'm preparing for my daughter's wedding and will try to focus on that.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Dr. Rachel Fraser - my hero - came with her able-bodied assistant, David, and took care of my ewes. After careful examination she determined they could be induced, and gave them Dexamethasone to bring on labor. She gave them epidurals, cleaned up their prolapsed back ends (not a picture anyone could be comfortable with) and laced them up. I don't have to fiddle with harnesses and push them back in any more. We should have lambs this weekend sometime. Twice this week Dr. Rachel came out right away to help me. Grateful is an understatement. Now let's hope for no more vaginal prolapses...

Sheep Stress

As if my job is not stressful enough...
I have two sheep with vaginal prolapses. Yes, I know, not for the weak of stomach. I had a feeling it would happen and there I am this morning - lying on the hay pack, up to my elbow inside this poor ewe who is flat out. When a sheep prolapses the bladder becomes distended and the poor girl can't pee. I had to push the prolapse back in to relieve the bladder. Urine came gushing out around my arm. No lamb coming down, but she is dilated three fingers. I got Beastie Boy up to help me and he held her head while I did this. We got a prolapse harness on her, not easy to do on a sheep who won't get up. I gave her Banamine to reduce swelling as per Dr. Rachel's instructions, and an antibiotic to hopefully prevent infection from tissues being exposed to dirt, etc. This is Sombra, a beautiful, great big black sheep who is such a dear. She lambed effortlessly last year. I'm wondering what happened this time. Fortunately I was able to speak with Dr. Rachel this morning for a consultation. Needless to say, I called in Sheep. Can't get Robin on the phone, but she knows what to do without me. Have to go get hay. I'm down to 7 bales, a pittance, with 6-12 inches of snow forecast. Another winter with an empty hay mow and picking up hay every week. Not what was supposed to happen, but here we are.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mother of the Bride

Mia is shopping for dresses for me to wear to her wedding. She is the ultimate discriminating, skillfull, efficient shopper. Not a surprise as she is half-a-JAP. Mia can take a day and cover a LOT of territory. She hit all the top department stores in her area of New Jersey, then found these gorgeous gowns at Lohman's. Lohman's gets dresses from the classy stores and sells them at cut-rate prices. The lovely dress on the right is from Cachet, a boutique at the Short Hills Mall via Lohman's, and is very "forgiving" of any figure flaws. Mia has three more dresses coming for me to try on. How will I ever decide? I'm so lucky I have such a sweet, thoughtful daughter who loves me so much, and who knows how stressful lambing time is on the farm. Maybe she's afraid I will show up at her Hyatt wedding in barn boots and Carhartts?????

Monday, January 17, 2011

Elegant Ewe

Bluefaced Leicester sheep are very beautiful and elegant. I call them the ballet dancers of the sheep world with their long slender bodies and bare, shapely legs. Every once in a while they turn their heads so sweetly and give me a lovely pose.

Any Ray of Sunshine Will Do

There is too much snow for the wild chickens and roosters to go outside and forage. They are stuck in the barn and try to take whatever they can get from what drops on the floor from the bucket when I carry feed into the chicken room. They steal food from the cats in the hay mow. I shoo the aggressive roosters away when I climb the ladder with kitty food, but it's quite a fight sometimes. I'm trying to catch the wild hens and put them in the chicken room where there is plenty of food and water, but they would rather be free. They ride around on the backs of the sheep to keep their feet warm and find any sunny window they can to soak up some rays.

Sheep Eating Snow

I let the sheep out to play in the snow today. The sunshine is glorious and with rain/snow coming I thought they should get some outside time. I love to see them stick their noses in the ice and lick it with their tongues.

Minus 12 F.

Got suited up, thank you Carhartt, Muck boots and my fabulous friends who knit socks, hats and face warmers for me. Kimmie Cornerstone, Lynn Rettberg, Libby Llop, Gretchen Hoag and Henya Kazatchkov all kept me warm this morning with their incredibly talented fingers. I feel their vibes as I push open the frozen door and plow through the snow with the doggies. The sun had not yet peaked over the ridge and - is it Jupiter? - is glowing bright in the northeastern sky. We had our way through the snow to the other side of the barn where a thermometer hangs - minus 12. I'm not surprised. The coldest it's been here in the last five years was minus 20. The locals tell me I came at a good time when there has been a warming trend and milder winters! After the doggies made their pees and poos and said hello to the happy, quacking ducks (how in the world do they keep their pretty feet from freezing?) we went back around the barn to get in the apartment door avoiding the sleeping sheep. Lock up the dogs and tiptoe in to listen for baby sounds. All quiet. I don't know why I thought they would start up just because I was home for three day weekend. I had some lambs bouncing around for a month or so this time last year, but I had Wooster, a mature ram, in with them. Kimmie Cornerstone is really going to have her hands full when she comes to farm sit for Mia's wedding. I know she'll be fine with Darryl and the kids to help her. Too much on deck today to do it all but I'll put a dent in it. I'm sorting through a couple of mountains of clothes in my bedroom. Some are so worn they went in the garbage, others are put away for summer, a couple of new/old outfits are hung up for school next week. Ran up to Joann's yesterday to get the pattern I need for Mia's bridesmaids capelets, only to find it sold out. Bummer. I ordered it from McCall's online, making me wonder why I didn't think of that before. Anne Fisher is coming up with fantastic ideas for centerpieces and pew decorations, including a boxwood/grapevine wreath and cranberry hurricane candle holders for the rehearsal dinner. I want to get collapsible black umbrellas for the bridal party in case it rains or snows during the "procession" to the Hyatt, a block away from the church. Won't that be a fabulous classy scene, all those orchid chiffon dresses with black velvet capelettes, escorted by the men in their grey tuxedos. Mia will have a full length, velvet cape with ruffled hood. We're hoping to get some photos on the square between the church and reception. That's where I took Mia and AJ to see Santa as babies. Time marches on...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Here We Snow Again!

I know, I didn't make that up but it's cute. It's snowing like crazy here and I love it. What a gift to be home on the farm, with heat, hay and all the food we need for all species - and no pressure to brave the roads to get to work. No lambs or kids yet and everyone is resting comfortably. I am enjoying this calm before the storm.

Mia's Boots

This is why I love thrift shops. I bet someone got these J.Crew boots for Christmas and didn't want them for some reason. Mia has been looking for boots to wear to Switzerland on her ski honeymoon next month. I stopped at The Key in Cazenovia yesterday on the way to Pompey, and spied this pair right away. They are Mia's size, brand new, and have a removable, washable fleece lining. I didn't find any Mother of the Bride formals, but scored some cheap fabulous sweaters and a nice pair of lined wool pants - my new blue jeans. I've also started wearing long wool coats this winter. I've picked up a couple for ten bucks, brand names, lovely fine wool. When I venture out in the morning I'm toasty warm, like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. It takes a bit of doing to climb up into the pickup truck, but I manage.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Still Snowing

Had a lovely time in Pompey with a great group of folks, all friends and co-workers of Dale and Stephanie Sherman-Cross. I knitted on a sock I started who-knows-when. It was snowing when we left and continued the whole time we were away from the farm. We followed a team of two snow plows, side by side on route 20, all the way there and all the way home. The last eight miles to Brookfield was eerily silent on a covered road in driving snow. On the way to the party we stopped at The Key in Cazenovia, an upscale thrift shop I've wanted to check out for years but never hit the time right. I scored a new pair of J. Crew fleece top boots for Mia to wear on her ski honeymoon in Switzerland, along with a gorgeous Icelandic sweater. I also picked up an Eddie Bauer sweater, a Ralph Lauren sweater and some lined wool pants. Real neat stuff and incredible deals. This shop supports the local Episcopal church. Home early to check for lambsicles and do chores. Matt is watching Black Hawk Down, very disturbing even though I've seen it before. Was hoping for SNL but he is riveted. Still snowing and getting colder tomorrow, negative digits. Randy, my former BOCES student, delivered about a month's worth of firewood today. Good thing, I'm burning it like crazy.

Dawn January 15

So beautiful this morning on the farm. I love getting out early with the doggies. The sheep are inside, cozy and dry, but I'll let them out to play in the snow today.

Early Saturday

I got the doggies out early this morning just as the sun was peaking over the ridge. I love to see the silos and the angles of the barn silhouetted against the feathery pinkish-gray rays of the morning. My thermometer is on the other side of the barn but I could tell it's colder this morning, probably colder than it's been all winter. There is a certain burn to any exposed skin, and the dogs hold up their paws one at a time to give them relief from the pain. I try to sneak out to take a peak at the sheep but when I head to the door the dogs rush over, so I get them out first. Luckily this morning they were anxious to get back in and get under those covers so I didn't have to stay out too long. The sheep had heard the disturbance and started rising. Ideally I get out there before they get up - that way I can stand still and listen for any sounds that will tell me there's been a birth. I do this in the middle of the night the same way a mother will stand in the door of a nursery to listen for breathing. I took the harness off my prolapsed ewe last night to clean caked manure away, and decided to leave it off for the night. Sure enough, when she started to move around her uterus started to slip out. Since most of the sheep were up I made my way through the crowd to her pen and climbed over. I caught her around the neck with one arm and pushed the soft, spongy mass back in with the other. Pee gushes out telling me her urine is cut off when the prolapse occurs. The vet says to check the cervix for dilation at this time but it's easier said than done. It takes one person to hold the sheep and another to work the other end. I felt around for it but am not sure what I found. I pushed her back in and went inside to check for Matt's availability to help me. He was emerging from the bedroom so I got a bacon/eggs/toast ready for him. The delicious breakfast helped his mood a bit, but when I asked him for help getting her harness back on he told me he was off to pick up hay and couldn't help me now. How can I argue with someone going to pick up hay for me? Matt always comes back from Jim Postma's in a good mood, after exchanging some philosophy and small talk about this and that. So the lady in distress will have to wait a little while. She might have pulled it back in herself before we get to her, as she's been doing. Most shepherd's don't keep a sheep that prolapses. The tendency is genetic and will occur in subsequent generations. This girl has a nice, thick, lovely fleece which makes me want to keep her. We'll see...Off to an office party today with Matt's organization. I would rather stay home with the sheep and wait for lambs but Matt wants to go and I'm trying to be supportive. They are very nice people, but none of them are involved with agriculture in any way and we don't have much in common. Last year I found myself in a room with some Cornell professors, who gave me a blank stare when I told them where I worked. Okay, so think about it, Cornell vs. a Vo-Tech school. Oh, well! That's okay - I enjoy playing the Mother Theresa of the Education World role. Nobody to talk to about sheep. One can feel a bit isolated at times - but not too many people are as crazy as I am. The need-to-farm genes are very strong in me. I'll pass The Key Consignment Shop in Cazenovia on the way and check it out for gowns for Mia's wedding. She is shopping for me this weekend in NJ, and is heading for Lord and Taylor, our old source for prom and party gowns. We'll see who comes up with The Mother of the Bride Dress first.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Safe and Sound

If we can make it to school safely, snowy days are a lot of fun. There are usually a few teachers who couldn't make it for a variety of reasons. Maybe their own kids are home from school, or they don't have 4WD F150 trucks to drive like me. The unlucky students who do make it to school either relax and enjoy the extra attention or they have their noses out-of-joint all day. The roads were not as bad as I anticipated and I didn't see any wrecks. We only have two out of eight districts sending today. Robin is baking banana bread with a student and we're doing some arts-and-crafts. The smell is deeeevine! Nice, easy day. We need it once in a while.

Winter Wonderland

Out early with the doggies to play in the snow. Only 6 inches or so here, but it's fluffy and wonderful as our snow usually is here in Central New York. Our solitude was interrupted by the local plow guy coming to do the mile-long meandering city-slicker driveway across the street. Great cash-cow for him. I stood with the doggies and watched for a few minutes. Plowing has got to be hard on a pick-up trucks transmission. Back inside to put the dogs in the apartment then go check on the sheep. All quiet on the eastern front (their end of the barn). My prolapsed ewe is standing up chewing her cud - a good sign in sheep - but looking a little stiff in her straps. I want to get Dr. Rachel over here to check her. The haybaletwine harness allows a lamb to slip through, but not this harness. Glad I have it. It was a bit of a surprise to come home from work to find a shiny red football sticking out her back. Not pleasant for her, either! Hope she lambs okay eventually. Talked to Priest-in-Training son, AJ, still stuck in Charlotte, but safe and comfy in a hotel. Glad he got his GI Bill to pay for this "vacation." He had a real nice time in Dallas with Eric and family and told me how nice the new house is, etc. I don't know when I will see it, with Mia's wedding and Md. Sheep and Wool coming a few weeks after the wedding. Jim Baldwin is shearing on April 9, then it's up to my elbows in wool preparation for me. Better hit the road - it will be slow going for me this morning. Matt is working from home today so I won't have to worry about lambs coming while I'm at work. TTFN!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


No, not the skinny red headed comedian - the hunky Barbarian on the steppes of Asia. Oh, Arnold, you were soooo pretty in those days! It's snowing hard out there. No lambs or kids yet. I think they are all going to come in one or two days and I will be begging Kimmie Cornerstone to come from Canada and move in with me to help get everyone sorted out. My pretty ewe prolapsed badly while I was at work today. Glad I had Shepherd Mary's Premier harness to put on her. I had pushed the uterus back inside a few times to no avail. Had to resort to the straps to hold her in. I had a heck of a time getting it to fit on her with all the wool acting like a big sponge. As of 10:30 tonight it is holding her in. I'm going to get some shut eye for a couple of hours before I have to get up and stoke the stove and do a barn check. AJ is stuck in Charlotte, NC, trying to get back from visiting Hannah and Luke in Dallas. Mia started another semester of clinicals, working with a family practice doctor in Succasunna, NJ, learning how to do everything from pediatrics to pap smears. She has to put in 135 hours with this doctor before the semester is over, while working full time at the hospital and going into Newark to school one day a week - all this with a wedding coming up in six weeks! I am hoping for a snow day tomorrow. If not, I will have another white knuckle drive to work. Don't want to worry about that now...nighty-night.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

All Quiet

The barn is quiet except for the munching of hay and chewing of cud. I love to watch the sheep eat. It's been snowing all day and the sheep are locked in for the night, along with Chris and the goats. Thor, Finn and Knut are inside with the sheep. Thor and Finn like it fine but Knut gets antsy. We got some more leaky windows covered with plastic and Matt closed the back doors as much as possible. I didn't get much done today other than clean the stove - big job as I cook every night - and make some ham and bean soup. If I'm home and it's snowing I have to make soup. It warms the apartment and my innards. Between the stove and the wood stove it gets hot in the apartment. I have only to step into the bedroom or bathroom to get nicely chilled again. We are over-engineered for heat if necessary and when the temp goes to minus 20 F. it comes in handy. Hoping for a snow day tomorrow, but they haven't been too quick to close schools around here lately so I'm not counting on it. I have lots of wedding sewing to do and really need to start making soap again. I love to give it away and I surely did at Christmas.