Saturday, February 28, 2015

Too Soon

I was so worried about more lambs freezing in the way back that when I saw a black ewe with one lamb at the end behind the old stanchions I got ready to move them forward.  I noticed the placenta had passed
 and the lamb was standing, yet still I waited a while, maybe a half hour to make sure they had mothered up.  I got Matt to help me, always good to have an extra pair of hands with my monster sheep the size of ponies.  We caught the mom and right away she started freaking, so unlike the little ewe from this morning who had followed me quietly all the way through the barn to her pen in the maternity ward.  This girl wouldn't follow her lamb held at eye sight.  She bucked and kicked.  Matt had her by the halter and couldn't make her move.  She lay flat on the hay, panicked.  I took the lamb to the safety of the maternity ward and put her in the pen with lovely fresh hay underneath.  Her wool was glistening black from the bath she received from her mother's loving tongue.  Back to the ewe and Matt who was with her.  I looked at her back side and saw hooves sticking out!  She was trying to birth a twin when we interrupted her!  Here I was trying to prevent a disaster and I was making one!  She was not trying to push it out so I helped her.  The head was right there, so I reached in, capped my big hand around the top of the head and pulled downward.  A long black submarine of a ram lamb slid out.  I wiped the nose and mouth and laid it next to mom.  She was so upset about the manhandling she totally ignored it.  Matt wisely said, wait a minute, give her time.  The lamb quivered and shook a bit, then made a sound.  She answered back.  I decided to take the lamb to the pen and come back and help Matt with her.  She didn't make it easy.  In a perfect world I could have left her to come to her babies when she was ready, but in a barn full of sheep, in the dark, on a night with plunging temps, I wanted them all together, on fresh hay, with molasses water to invigorate her, and where I could check on them.  We pushed and pulled and finally got them together.  I thought, oh, no, she will reject the ram lamb in favor of the ewe lamb she had first.  I gave the lambs a shot of Nutridrench and left them alone to mother up.     As I walked away I saw mom munching on hay.  Good girl.   I'll go out and put their sweaters on now and hopefully she's calmed down.  Good intentions on my part got in the way of what would probably have been a normal maternal bonding.  Maybe she'll forgive me with a dinner of cracked corn.  Maybe.

Way Back Twins

I thought I better get to the way back and check on things.  Good thing I did.  There they were - one of the lovely black ewes I brought back from Pennsylvania when I picked up Gippeto, my gigantic Wensleydale ram, at Laurie O'Neill's farm.   She did what sheep and goats naturally do - she went to a far away private space to have her lambs.  Trouble is, that is the coldest spot in the barn.  I saw that she had licked them off and placentas had passed.  Mom's back was covered with frost.   I ran for my kit and sweaters.  When I picked them up I discovered they had frozen ears!  No wonder, it was ridiculously cold this morning.  My thermometer said minus ten but I've heard it was minus 20 south of here.  Did I read it wrong?  Anyway, this lovely little ewe mother followed me all the way through the long barn, holding her babies at eye's height, walking backwards, to her own corner pen, a primo spot in the maternity ward.  I did my clip-dip-strip and got a cup full of thick colostrum. I gave half to each baby.  My friend Julia says it is the most important meal of their lives, and she's right.  All the antibodies mom can give them are concentrated in this magical elixir.  I don't wait for them to get it themselves.  I nurse it out of mom while I'm gently squeezing out the waxy plug at the end of the teat.  In nature, only the strongest lambs can suck out that plug, ensuring only the strongest of the species survives.  I want everybody to survive so I help them along.   I've been truly blessed so far with moms who can feed their babies.  My only problem so far is Margot, who is still shy of feeding her baby.  She just can't relax and let go.  Finnute, the O'Neill ewe, won't be a problem. I massaged the lambs' ears with warm molasses water, figuring mom might lick them to bring the circulation back.  I don't think there will be any damage.  Counting my blessings.  I don't even want to think what would have happened if it was a work day and I was not here.  I'm praying for milder temps next week.  This cold just has to let up sometime soon.

Good Morning to Ewes!

Roused myself at sometime after five.  Got the fire going, coffee brewing and dogs out.  Was nervous about going out to the barn.  Minus ten, still and very cold at first light.  What was I going to find?   I heard a newborn noise but thought it came from the maternity ward.  Dogs back in, downed some coffee and went  out.  Everybody lying down with their lambs.  Sandy jumped up and asked me for his breakfast.  Held mom for a while so he could nurse.  I walked to the maternity fence intending to stand there and just listen - it's what shepherds do.  Sounds tell us so much.  Then I looked down and there they were.  Older mom tending to a teeny tiny dripping wet newborn.  It pained me to look at it, shivering in this awful cold.  It hurts to take my gloves off.  Five minutes without gloves and I'm running back inside to run my hands under warm water.  This tiny baby was struggling to stand up with mom's warm tongue swathing all over it.  I ran for my sweaters and lambing bucket.  My bag of sweaters is full of all kinds of little coats, larger and smaller, real wool and acrylics (kindly donated by friends but used only in last resort).  I found a tiny one, wool and angora (the best for newborns) and ran back.  Mom looked nervous like she was going to bolt.  I found a panel (thank the Lord) by the pig pen.  It was just the right size to keep this mom and baby in this nice little cubby hole.  Wrestled it free and brought it over to mom.  I had to tiptoe and move slowly so as not to freak her out.  Got her penned in and noticed she was still nervous.  No wonder - there was a ewe twin on the other side of the wall!  It was cleaned off and just lying there, head up, shivering.  Ran for another sweater, got them both sitting on fresh hay with mom, with a dose of newborn Nutridrench in their bellies.  OH they are so cute!  I gave mom a bucket of warm molasses water and she sucked it up like a sailor new in port.  I still have to milk her out but I'm hoping spouse, who is snoring away on the sofa as I write, will get up soon and hold her head for me.  It's cramped in her space and I don't want any stepping on babies.  What a lovely surprise.  I knew this weekend would be exciting and here we go.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Give Us a Hug

My beautiful Margot, Bluefaced Leicester/Border Leicester ewe, first time mom, just can't get used to a lamb pulling on her teats.  She does not try to hurt her lamb but she does gently butt him away, kick at him, and lie down so her teats are hidden under her voluminous fleece.  She is beautiful enough to get away with this behavior, as often happens with beautiful women.  I was tying her to a post and standing next to her, leaning on her so she couldn't prevent him from nursing.  Now all we have to do is give her a hug and she stands still.  Sandy is so spunky and leaps around the pen playfully.  He will dive under her and try to nurse as if to steal some milk before she can move away.  I offered him a bottle to supplement his milk but he doesn't like it.  I think he has some oral dysfunction as his tongue can't quite latch on to the Pritchard's teat.  It slides all around the nipple and sticks out on either side.  Maybe he's acting like a "special lamb" so I'll get frustrated and put him back in the pen where the real nipples are.  What a smart little guy.

Like the Dead

I slept like the dead last night...right through til dawn...and woke up with a start.  I usually get up two or three times a night to stoke the stove or do what nature calls for.  Not last night.  The tip of my nose was cold and spouse was snoring away.  He had offered to work from home today to baby sit the lambs and watch for more dropping.  No wonder his alarm didn't go off.  I got up and built the fire, suited up and went out to the sheep.  Little Sandy jumped up to greet me.  He still thinks I'm his mother since I've paid more attention to him than the lovely and aloof  Margot.  I stood still for a moment, listening, and there it was....the sound that cuts right through you....the cry of a new born lamb.  I sighed when I realized it was coming from the way way, the coldest place in the barn.  I stepped carefully through and over the wooly bodies strewn about and there they were - a big black ewe with a shivering but standing black lamb.   I scooped him up - couldn't help but notice the little sac on his belly - and held him to my sweater.  Mom didn't like that a bit and instead of following me walking backwards with her lamb to the maternity pen, she bolted.  This is never easy.  I went inside and woke up my long suffering husband, who quickly suited up to come help me.  It works so much better with TWO people.  He caught her with the leg crook while I popped on the halter.  We got the pair in the pen and I did my business - sweater on, Nutri Drench, cord clipped and dipped in iodine.  Matt held mom while I nursed out her teats and caught some colostrum in a cup.  I was pleased to find her udder soft and teat unplugged.  This strong little guy had surely been nursing already and that's why he is alive.  At minus 8 last night, and him born in the freezing way back by the open door, well, he is one tough ram lamb.  My daughter said something very wise to me.  She said, mom, remember, the lambs that don't survive you have to attribute to natural selection.  It's true, in the wild only the strongest lambs born in this frigid cold will survive.  I want them all to survive and do my best to make that happen.  Sometimes I slip. I used to be very hard on myself about this but over the years I've become more philosophical.  If it was up to me I would camp in the barn with them all night long and really be a shepherd.  Historically shepherds have lived in the fields with the sheep.  Remember who the angels chose to be notified of the imminent birth of the Saviour?  They were in the field, under the stars.  I like that.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ewe and Me

I had to go back to work today.  My aides were valiantly holding on without substitutes while I tended to my lambs.  I thought I could make it work if I supplemented little Sandy with a bottle and held mom still while he nursed for a while.  Poor little guy, he is uncoordinated a bit and his tongue can't grasp the Pritchard's teat long enough to suck on the bottle.  The tongue slides all around his mouth.  I had to squeeze gently so the milk would fill his mouth.  I worried all day and rushed home as quickly as I could.  Sandy seemed to be okay and was happy to see me but not screaming for food.  Was mom letting him milk?  We filed down his sharp teeth with a tiny file the night before.  Was it helping?  I didn't have long to think  about it as I saw, half way down the long barn, a lamb standing next to her mother.  She was very muddy but looked as if she had been on this earth for a few hours.  Mom leered at me like "don't you take my baby away."  She walked toward the back of the barn and the baby toddled after her.  I picked her up and noticed she was cold and wet with mud.  Sheep don't always pick the cleanest places to have their lambs.  I took the hefty ten pound or so ewe lamb with me and gave her the newborn Nutri Drench, got her clipped and dipped - trimmed the dirty cord and dipped the stub in iodine to prevent infection - and put on one of my larger sweaters.  I set her down where mom could see her and went about taking dogs outside to pee, etc., and change my clothes.  I set about finding mom, who was calling to her baby but keeping a safe distance.  Some people do this so easily, but it's never been easy for me to catch a great big sheep.  They run fast and are very powerful.  The next hour or so is a blur, mercifully.  I toyed with the idea of letting the lamb go to find her mother and live happily ever after.  I decided against it when I thought of lambs getting into trouble, or worse, in the past.  I was losing my light, and the leg crook kept sliding off her leg which was covered with wool.  I decided to do it the old fashioned way and put corn out. While everybody was mashing around the corn I found her in the mob and got her ankle with my crook.  l  dropped the crook and picked up both her back legs with my hands.  Having chased her for so long I was not letting go but she was determined to kick me in the face with those back feet.  It must have been quite the scene, with my arms flying in and out in time with her leg thrusts..  I finally, in desperation, pulled her down and laid on top of her while wrapping the rope around her neck  I am sure she thought I was going to kill her.  At this point spouse came in from work and helped me open the maternity pen gate.  Panicky mom was reunited with her baby, who she had been calling to but was not willing to surrender to confinement.  Now she is loving it, with cracked corn, warm molasses water, fresh hay, etc.  Now mother and child can get to know each other and the baby will be sure to get her belly full whenever she wants it.  I served dinner and did chores and suddenly it was ten o'clock at night.  Now it's almost eleven.  I think I'm too tired to go to bed.  Some chamomile tea with milk and honey and I'm going to give it a go.  I'll say a prayer and ask God to take care of my barn until morning.  He might have to.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hot Box Lamb

I found this little girl flat on the hay this morning.  She was fine at 1 am barn check.  I suspect she was nursing on the side dry side of mom's udder.  Her sister is fine.  I've got her in a copy paper box from school, in front of the wood stove, with a heating pad underneath.  I nursed out Margot, the young ewe with the ram lamb, and gave it to this baby along with Nutri Drench.  She was able to swallow which is much easier than tubing her.  I'm hopeful I can bring her back.  Breeding older ewes is very tricky. Many lamb just fine, but the babies are not as viable as the lambs young mothers produce - kind of like humans.  I won't put her back with mom for fear of a repeat.  Looks like I've got myself a bottle baby.  Wish I had a milking goat but my Nubians won't give birth for a while.  We'll see how it goes...In the mean time Cooper is standing guard. No cat or dog dare come near.

20 Above

20 above instead of 20 below.  Forty degrees makes a world of difference.  If it would only stay like this...but it won't because it is upstate New York and I'm lambing.  Everything was fine at 1 am but not 6 am.  I don't know what made me think I might be able to go to work today.  Thank goodness I have sick (sheep) days and two very capable classroom aides to help me through this challenging time.  I didn't lamb for the last two years which lulled me into a dream-like world of happy dancing lambs who are born easily and who all survive.  Reality bites.  Nobody standing over chilled lambs in the way back this morning but one of the little ewe lambs born of the aged mother was lying flat in her pen.  I scooped her up, warm mouth, but obviously starved.  She was probably nursing from the non-working side of the udder while her sister had the one with the milk.  I've got her in a box inside my workshop covered in sweaters,  Luckily she's able to swallow.  Gave her Nutri-drench with the propylene glycol, molasses, electrolytes, etc.  Sandy, ram lamb, was yelling for breakfast.  Margot, his drop dead gorgeous young mother with the heavy lustrous fleece (or else I might strangle her) was still not letting him nurse.  I tied her to the post, leaned on her with my thighs and put Sandy under her.  I heard slurping and licking and finally a sucking sound.  Maybe one day old makes enough of a difference and he can finally nurse by himself - if she would only let him.  I held her there for a few minutes so he could get his fill.  When I let go Margot was pee-ohed me and tried to butt me.  Kind of funny actually.  I turned her massive body around and milked out the other udder for my weak ewe lamb.  Sandy stopped yelling so I guess he's full for now.  Many shepherds cull sheep who are not good mothers, but I don't want to lose this girl.  Her fleece is magnificent, like her father, Zack, a Border Leicester ram I bought at Maryland Sheep and Wool a few years back.  What a pussycat he was, gigantic with a thick fleece.  I have hopes that Margot will calm down and let her boy nurse.  She gets cracked corn and all the hay she can eat.  Life is good in that hotel, all I ask is that she feed her baby.  Now for a bit of breakfast for the shepherd and a bath.  I've had the same barn clothes on for two days.  If anyone came to the door I would faint.  Or maybe they would.  The intercom is quiet except for chickens and ducks.  Even the pigs are quiet right now.  I'm exhausted but that's how it goes. When I came back in at 2 am I shut off the intercom and got a few hours sleep.  Doesn't feel like it.  Will milk out Margot and feed the weak girl in a couple of hours.

One AM Barn Check

Little ram lamb born today is not happy.  His beautiful mother, first timer, is still very nervous and doesn't like him around her teats.  She dropped him in a great spot this morning, near the lambing pens, but ran off to join her friends at the hay racks in back of the barn.   The fact that he is a monster, ten pounds at least, didn't make her feel any more kindly toward him.   I had to pull her back up front and put them together in a "jug" so they could get mothered up.  Not going so well.  She has lovely teats and a virgin udder producing rich milk but she's not giving it up easily.  I had to tie her head to a post and nurse her out several times today to give the boy a meal.  I'm worried that she didn't pass the placenta, but she might have dropped it in the hay in the way back where I didn't see it.  Don't think there is another monster in there.  The lamb, I named him Sandy after my friend Sandy McGuire - it's her birthday - is a real sweetie and keeps "rooting" on my leg.  I spent so much time in the jug with him today he thinks I'm his mother.  While holding mom I put his mouth up against her teat and did my best to make him suckle.  He's a little slow on the uptake, sliding his mouth all around but not latching on.  I think I have a bottle baby on my hands.  That presents all kinds of issues, like how the heck do I go to work?  I've taken lambs to work with me before and always got caught.  People see them in my car where I can visit them on my lunch period for bottle feeding and report it to the office.  I sneaked a lamb into the classroom a couple of times. The students loved it but the principal found out and reminded me that we don't have an animal husbandry program at our school.  Matt has heroically taken lambs to work for me without too much trouble, but that's only in a last resort.  All this is very muddy at one forty in the morning.  The intercom is noisy, with Thor barking all night - I noticed that Knut sleeps better than Thor - and roosters crowing.  I heated a milk replacer bottle for Sandy but he's not crazy about it.  I don't blame him.  Nothing like mother's milk.  He's a little uncoordinated with the sucking thing just yet.  I wanted to wander back to the end of the barn, where most moms like to drop their babies, but everybody is lying down like big wooly mounds scattered about and I don't want to make them jump up and run.  Hopefully my chamomile tea will help me get back to sleep and I will be able to figure out what to do in the morning light.  I might have more lambs by then.  Many pregnant girls with huge bellies.  The tiny ewe lambs from yesterday are wonderful, delicate little angels.  They take turns nursing from their aged mother with one working teat.  I picked them up to check their bellies for fullness and mouths for warmth - that's how I take their temperature.  I kissed them and thanked them for being such good little girls.  I need an area for moms and babies so the little ones won't get trampled.  A space that would be perfect for that is taken up with PIGS right now.  I'll figure that out later, after some blessed sleep...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


I came home from school,  first day back to work after winter vacation, and went about my business taking care of dogs, watering the sheep and bunnies, building up the wood stove, and  putting dinner in the oven to help heat up the house.  Little did I know lambs were about to drop in the way back of the barn.  I had finished chores around nine o'clock when I heard that little meep-meep.  There they were...ewe twins!  We got them in the pens we built the day before.   Took quite a bit of doing with mom reluctant to follow and us unable to catch her.  I put sweaters on the lambs straight away.  Good's minus 20 this morning, still and very cold.  Mom has only one working udder and the stronger twin is keeping it all to herself.  I nursed out colostrum for the weaker twin and will supplement her with a bottle until she is able to get her share of the milk.  No doubt more twins will be dropping as many of my ewes have swollen udders.  Here's hoping for milder temps and bountiful mother's milk.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tucked In

Pipes were frozen in the milk house when I went to do chores this morning.  Was so careful about leaving a drip on inside but not out there.  Spouse turned up the milk house heater and by nightfall they had thawed enough for me to get water for chores.  The water buckets hang on the fence outside the milk room door so it is much easier to carry water from there .  The big slop sink drain is still frozen but oh, well, if this is the worst this severe cold throws at me I'm lucky.  I was able to take a lovely rest in the middle of the day and knit a while, something I'm not able to do on a work day.  It was glorious and gave me the strength to deal with all this snow and cold.   The Nubian girls are starting to show. Very thrilled they will deliver in warmer temps.  Goat babies are much more vulnerable in the cold than lambs.  No lambs yet and, if I'm correct, the only one who will deliver soon will be Finnute, one of the little ewes I brought home with Gippeto, the big Wensleydale ram.   I'm counting my blessings.  I was upset because Louie, little Wensleydale ram, was  too small to mount the big ewes when I brought him home last summer.  If he had bred them I would be in the throes of lambing right now.  No thanks.  It was 14 F. in the barn this morning.  24 F. tonight, much better, but still not ideal lambing temperatures.  Lots of people are lambing now because they want lambs for the Easter market.  I don't sell lambs for meat at all, and I keep the boys for wool,  so I don't have to do that.  The cold weather lambs are healthier they say, and I believe it, as only the strong ones can survive this cold.  The piggies are doing fine.  I am so pleased with the hardy, stocky nine week old piglets i brought home from the Montgomery's farm in Unadilla Forks.  They are thriving on the warm mash I give them twice a day.  Was feeding them three times but two seems to be fine.  I make it very warm and soupy and give them all they can hold.  When they are finished eating I pour warm water in the pan so they can suck up what's stuck on the bottom.  Love the way they swish the water around with their snouts.  I gave them plenty of hay to make their beds.  Somehow they manage to cover each other so no skin is visible at all.  I'm not going to talk about pigs at work any more. People are horrified that I can raise animals to eat.  They eat commercial bacon and sausage, some of the more cruelly produced food of all. and they don't stop to consider where it comes from and how the animals are treated.  My pigs are spoiled rotten their entire lives and only travel five miles down the road for their appointment with Miss Tammy.  Go figure.  Speaking of spoiled animals, my rabbits are FAT.  I've stopped feeding the bucks and childless does twice a day. I bring the bunnies inside at night to sit on my lap for brushing.  Couldn't help but notice the poundage.  Spouse says we are running out of firewood.  He thinks he can get some up the road from a nice man who has a cross in his pasture illuminated every night by a solar light.  This man even delivers.  Matt is very good about humping in wood for me to keep the stove going.  It has to be stoked every three hours or it's out.  The Beast as I call it is great for this weather.  It has one speed - blast furnace.  When it's minus 25 outside that's just what I need. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love is in the Air...and So is the Snow

     Valentine's Day came and went with an icy grip.  My monthly obligatory shift at the Broad Street Gallery required travelling over some icy roads with worsening weather in the forecast.  Matt gallantly offered to drive me to Hamilton and wait for me there.  Smart man, he also saw an opportunity to read the paper for three hours and eat the delicious grape leaves he likes so much at Hamilton Whole Foods.   We had a total of three people wander in to the gallery despite restaurants on the block doing a brisk business.  The gallery is gorgeous.  Can't understand why it doesn't draw in more business.  We drove home in an icy, sleety snow and got stuck on an incline at a stop sign.  Took a half hour of inching to get through it with a sheriff's deputy blocking traffic - actually there was no traffic but he was trying to be helpful.  Our Valentine's dinner consisted of take-out Indian for me and Matt was satisfied with his grape leaves.  There are left-over bagels and smoked salmon in the fridge.  Think I'll make them for brunch.  It's a good day to have something simmering on the stove.  It doesn't take much cooking to heat up this little apartment.  Took a bit of doing to get the wood stove going with the down drafts coming through the chimney.  Without the draft inducer he installed I'd be in big trouble with smoke pouring into the house.  The gusts of wind shook the barn around me through the night.  I heard bangs and clatters I don't remember ever hearing in the almost ten years I've spent in this barn.  The weather is definitely changing, with more colder temps than in years past.  The dogs keep me warm.  Something sparked a tussle in the night and I woke up with dogs fighting over and around me.  Somebody nipped my right forefinger in the confusion and I can hardly bend the knuckle.  Such passionate Valentine doggies!  I can't remember anyone ever fighting over bed rights with me like that.  I have so much I would like to get done today it defies all sanity, and will strive to get some of it done.  I am off next week, thank you very much. I love that about the teaching profession.  Just when you are at the end of your tether they pay you to stay home for a week.  That kind of treatment keeps us coming back for more.  I'm on a button crafting roll now, and have used up much of my stash of Femo clay.  I do adore Kim's horn buttons but like having the colorful clay buttons on hand, too.  I'm making Lemon Eucalyptus and Anise soaps this week.  I'm hoping to make a trip to visit Mia in New Jersey for my twins birthday next weekend.  Spouse is travelling to Buffalo this week for weatherization trainings, lucky him.  On the farm page, the piggies are doing well, drinking their warm slop then burrowing into their pile of hay to keep warm.  The new boar, Matt named him Niven, is the biggest and most aggressive at the slop pan.  They love living in the barn with the sheep, goats and chickens all around them.  I love the way they chase the chickens away from their food.  Matt just came in and informed me my big barn door is broken from the ridiculous wind.  My fault - I should have climbed up there and put the large cross bar in the inside of the huge doors.  My workshop has a covering of snow from it blowing in through the quarter inch hole around the door.   Better suit up and get out there to check everything out myself.  It's just that it's so cozy in my jammies...with the fire...and the puppies...and the kitties.....but duty calls.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Room for One More...

I had a message that one little girl was left from the litter of piglets in Unadilla Forks.  I thought it over and thought it over and decided I couldn't let one little piglet be purchased alone, in this awful cold and harsh winter, with no litter mates to keep it warm.  I told Kelly I would be there after school tomorrow to pick up the last female.  I stopped at the bottom of the lane because the snow was deep and my van is not the best to climb up an icy incline.  The husband and son came out and we went into the darkish barn.  The piglets were slightly illuminated by a heat lamp. They are keeping three so four were squirming and running around.  The men got in the pen and started examining the babies, looking for the girl.  There was some question about which is which, then they said, oh, here she is.  The lovely little spotted girl was banded and off we went, carefully hiking down the driveway, the big man holding tightly to the piglet who was screaming her head off.  I thought neighbors would come running out of their houses to find out who was being murdered.  We put her in the back of the van, in a rabbit cage and the receipt was made out.  Suddenly, the son said, wait, Dad, that's a boar!  We looked and sure enough.  The son also said, I think that's the boar Mom wanted to keep for breeding.  Dad said oh, just take him, clearly not wanting to hike back up the lane and do it over.  I secretly wanted a girl anyway.  I said, no let's get him back inside.  I don't want Kelly to be upset with me.  We pulled him out of the rabbit cage, screaming that ear splitting pig scream, and marched back up to the barn in the snow.  Once again the men went in the pen, hmmming and hawing about this one and that one, how many spots, and then, here she is!  They banded her and took down her ear number and off we went again, tip toeing along the icy walk and carefully down the drive to my van.  I drove home listening to the cute little piggie grunts , wondering how she would be received by her mates who had not seen her for a couple of days.  Matt helped me bring her inside, with me running ahead and opening barn doors, and him holding the screaming piglet up high above the dogs in the barn.  We watched as the new member of our pig family sniffed and trotted around the long pen.  I watched as the piglet mounted the others one belly!  The father and son pig men had given me another boar.  I decided not to call and make any more trouble over the piglets. This was a fine pig and would have to do.  He's big and handsome and is already "hogging" the warm mash, pushing the others away.  I had to chuckle to think how experienced pig farmers would have so much trouble determining male from female in a litter of eight week old piglets.  In the meantime I am really enjoying the piglets.  They are healthy and so much fun, trotting around, sniffing at the sheep across the fence, ears flapping and making the funny little grunts.  One pig belongs to Matt's friend who made a deal with him involving the old Dodge Ram truck.  I'll only have them for four or five months, after which they will be as big as Volkswagens, like my Scarlet and Sue Ellen.  I would like to keep Natasha for breeding, but that remains to be decided.  It's time for me to go mix some warm mash.  The weather has taken a turn for the cold again.  The barn is shaking in the wind and the wood stove is roaring.  I'll give the piggies extra hay tonight for their bed.  They are experts at utilizing body heat to huddle together and keep warm.  Pigs in a blanket of hay...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Bunny Sighting

I had not seen her in a while and feared she was dead.  Surely she was taken by the hungry fox living under the piney ridge, in the den under the big tree.  Maybe my own dogs got her.  She was not peeking out from behind the round bales while I was forking hay, watching me curiously.  I had worried about her getting water.  Was she licking snow and ice? I was putting a bowl of water up in the hay mow for her to drink, but it was quickly  filled with dirt and debris from the ducks up there.  So I waited and watched from the corner of my eye while I worked, unlayering the bales and tossing down the hay.  Suddenly there was a blond streak across the hay mow and it wasn't a cat.  It was Louise!  Yes, that's what I call her.  Louise.  If I ever catch her, and she turns out to be a boy, she can be Louis.  I don't see that happening.  Louise is not a wild rabbit, but she is wild. She let me get closer than I ordinarily do, and I thought perhaps she missed me.   I hope she stays around.  I hope she manages to stay alive.  I guess if she's stayed out of trouble this long she must be one smart bunny.  

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Three Little Pigs

The piggies have landed on the farm.  With the ominous weather forecast for the next couple of days, we decided to fetch the piglets from the Montgomery's farm in Unadilla Forks.  I prepared the large indoor pig run and off we went.  The piggies screamed for their mama, and she protested loudly, as pig mamas do. One by one, Natasha, Neville and Nigel were placed in the rabbit cage in back of my van for the five mile ride to their new home.

The piggies were curious about their new home, and wandered around the long pen, tiptoeing into the darkness at the end.  I mixed them some warm slop,  and they licked at it, suspiciously at first, but then with more gusto.  I also gave them some dairy pellets, which is what they were being fed at their home, along with mother's milk.  The piggies much preferred the warm slop.

We put the piggies to bed with lots of fluffy fresh hay.  This morning I tiptoed out and found the three little pigs sound asleep in a nest they made for themselves, lying side by side to keep each other warm through the night.  They didn't notice me at all until the chickens and roosters squawked around them and woke them up.
I'll feed them three or four times a day for a couple of weeks, then cut back to two times a day.  They will always have fresh hay and water available.  This will be the fourth set of pigs I've raised, very successfully.  I like the idea of spoiling them and making them happy before the inevitable happens.  I've had people at work say they are shocked that I would eat my pigs....but I am supporting humane, healthy agriculture instead of the commercial market which is neither humane, nor healthy, for pigs or humans.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Drifting Through Winter

We seem to have more snow every day.  Getting out of the driveway and on to the road is more of a problem than driving once I get out on it.   The old girl is out gunned by deep snow.  Would love a better tractor with a front loading bucket....dream on.  Made it in to school without mishap.  I only have two stop signs in 25 miles - yes, we are in the country - but I have to make sure I give myself ample time to stop or I slide right through them.  I had my annual evaluation today, which had me a bit nervous.  The new principal is a very nice lady but I never know about the kids in my high school equivalency class.  Turns out, they were fantastic, asking questions, paying attention.  When she left I told them I would kiss them if I could.  A chorus of eeeewwwww's rang out.  Very relieved that is over before lambs start coming and I really lose my wits.  B-day Studio Art was much better today largely due to the 7 foot tall professional football player part- time classroom aide who filled in for the regular aide who usually comes with them.  Oh, it was a beautiful thing.  Yes, my students respect size and power.   Once home I was greeted by a drifted over front door and walk.   Fortunately a shovel was standing where the concrete is and I used it to dig my way in.  It was a quick walk out with the doggies, who ran back to the door holding one frozen paw up at a time.  I'm pulling on layers of clothing while stoking up the fire in anticipation of chore time tonight.  Spouse is bringing home Chinese tonight.  I think he figured four nights of pulled pork in a row was a bit too much, as delicious as it is.  I'm turning in early as the fretful night of tossing and turning over my observation/evaluation today is taking a toll. Or is it the cold?  Would turn in right now if I could.  I'd like to comb out another bunny tonight and get some angora yarn spun.  My three exquisite angora scarves were stolen out of my pick up truck three years ago.  It will take years of work to replace them.  I curse myself for leaving them in there.  In the meantime my angora socks will have to do for warmth in my cold clammy barn boots..  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Nigel and Neville

Spouse said no more pigs.  We had let Scarlett and Sue Ellen get way too big and go into heat.  They broke out of their pen so much we let them stay out and live with the sheep.  He stepped on my canning rack and developed a life threatening infection which required two hospitalizations.  It was up to me to deal with the pigs, who by then had the run of the farm.  Mary and Robert stepped in to help and the girls were in the freezer before they could hurt anybody or cause a traffic accident.   No more pigs.  Then, seven months later, his friend "gave" him a pick up truck with the condition that we raise a pig for him.  Guess who told me to find some pigs.  Well, easier said than done.  Pigs are really big now.  As soon as pigs are posted for sale then whoosh they are gone.  These pigs were posted online yesterday afternoon.  I called but they wanted cash in hand and, although the farm is five miles away, the tractor was stuck in a snow bank along with Matt's car.  There was no going anywhere last night, and we were off to work this morning.  I thought I lost these piggies but two males were left and tonight I claimed them.  I'll call them Nigel and Neville.  They are Tamworth/English Spot/Berkshire crosses and absolutely adorable.  I have the perfect winter pig run between the wall and stanchions on the north side of the barn.  The pigs can run races a hundred feet long.  I love raising pigs.  I wish I had found a boar for Scarlett and Sue Ellen.  I would have piggies galore now.  

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sheep Love Snow

Sheep love to eat snow and many shepherds will stop putting out water when snow is available.  I have to keep watering the flock as the goats still need it along with the cats, dogs and chickens living in the barn.  This sheep is looking for grass underneath the snow.  It will be a long time before she's out on grass again. Little Louie, my Wensleydale ram, is camera shy and is running back into the barn.  We are forking hay morning and night.  I'm half way through the upper hay mow with at least three months of feeding to go.  Fingers crossed I'll have enough.  It's no fun to scramble for hay in April.

Smudge, my favorite hay mow kittie, always keeps me company while I fork hay.  She's staying up on the bales because Reba, my constant side kick, likes to harass the kitties.  It's a dog thing..

 The big barn doors are closed over the winter, but Reba manages to squeeze through the duck and kittie hole I leave open.  The little "wild" rabbit is living in the hay mow, too.  I call her Louise.  I haven't seen her in a week or so.  I hope she's okay.  Once in a while she comes out to watch me work.

 Reba always leads the way.  She is two steps in front of me or two steps behind me during my travels around the farm.  I absolutely adore her.  This is her farm.

Snow Day!

What joy!  No need to rush through morning chores, scrape off the cars, or creep along slippery roads.  I was skeptical but my school buds posted the good news online early on.  I played with the doggies outside, took my time with chores,  took photos of the beautiful snow and ate two breakfasts.  Yes, I'm naughty on snow days.  I mopped the work room floor and cut out several bags.  I played with bunnies and kitties.  I finished plying the bobbins of magenta started in the gallery on Saturday and washed it in my new workroom sink.  The cabinet pulls are perfect for hanging skeins over the sink.