Maine Fiber Frolic 2017 Poster
MOFGA Common Ground Fair Poster

Counting Down

We gathered all the ewes and moved them into the barn today — twice.  The weather has been every kind of wet imaginable so we decided to get the ewes under cover in preparation for shearing on Saturday.  Moving them from their winter digs into the big barn (some distance away) isn’t that much of a big deal but it does take some planning.  We’ve done this many times so we just went about our business and everything went fairly well…a couple of stragglers needed to be rounded up but hey! we weren’t complaining. It wasn’t actively raining and there was a nice gentle breeze so we left the barn doors open to give the sheep some natural light and fresh air.  Into the house we went to get on with other things (like posting here).

I was in the kitchen and thought I heard baa-ing so I looked out only to see the back end of a bunch of sheep rounding the corner of the barn and heading for who knows where.  My attention turned to the pen just inside the open barn doors — the EMPTY pen!  At this time of year, every tiny blade of grass is a sheep delicacy.  They’ll go to any extent to find it and devour it.  Because there isn’t much out there, they tend to spread out, keep moving and go into some sort of grass trance.  It’s not so easy to get their attention and about the last thing they want to do is go back into the boring barn.  Well, we managed to get them back into their winter paddock and began to rethink how we would move them…again.  We couldn’t imagine how they’d escaped so we went to the barn to see what we could find there.  It turned out that they’d pushed the panels beyond the floor of the barn where the doors were open.  That 3 inch drop from the floor to the driveway was just enough to unhook the panels where they were joined.  Note to ourselves: close the doors or tie the panels so they can’t come apart.

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that you very often get 1 shot at maneuvering sheep.  Once they know what you’re up to, they’re less likely to cooperate.  We put up a bunch of flexible fence to keep them moving in the right direction and prayed that they would respect it eventho it wasn’t powered.  This is not a recommended use of flexible fence. Do not try this at home!  We also rigged up a temporary gate arrangement to close behind them so they couldn’t change their minds about going into the pen once they realized what we had in mind for them.  It worked!  The sheep are in the barn, the panels are tied, the doors are closed…two days and counting.

So where was Skye the wonder dog throughout all this?  The truth is that Skye isn’t good at moving sheep in tight quarters and we’re even less good at keeping Skye under control in tight quarters.  It’s unlikely that either of us will be learning new tricks anytime soon so we just let him stay in the house when we do this sort of thing and everybody’s alot happier in the end.

Photo Mystery

For some reason, I’ve been having a lot of problems getting photos into my posts here.  I mean ALOT of problems…pulling my hair out problems!  Yesterday I was practically in tears after I’d put everything together in a post and then just as I was about to post it, 90% of the photos just disappeared!  Since then, I’ve managed to get some photos to “stick” but I have no idea why it works sometimes and not other times.

I’m not going to hold anymore posts just because of the photos problem.  I’ll just keep trying…

Getting Ready for the Big Day

Shearing is coming right up and we’ve been getting the barn and holding pen ready. It’s really in pretty good shape for the most part but there’s one spot where there’s quite a thick layer of poopy straw on the floor.  It’s where Tatum and Bubba spent their quarantine so that needs to go and we’ll put a good layer of lime down before the fresh straw goes in.  The ground is way too soft for us to tractor all the old bedding to our own compost pile so we’ve borrowed our neighbor’s nifty dump trailer.  The poopy bedding is being “donated” to a different neighbor who will compost it for his garden.  Hate to lose it but we don’t want to rip up the lanes with the tractor either…and he’ll surely get some nice tomatoes out of it. 

It looks like the weather isn’t going to cooperate so we’ll be bringing the ewes into the barn a day or two ahead so they’ll be dry for shearing.   And this year, we’re shearing in two groups.  The first group will be done on March 28 and the second on April 4.  Our shearer, Emily, had a baby in January and we’re happy to be flexible while she’s still working out the “juggling two children” thing and nursing the baby.  Anyway, there’s no reason to kill ourselves — we’re all in favor of making this a fun time!

Now I’m starting to think about food for all the people who come to help out.  Baking is not my thing (I’ve learned to accept that) so my friend, Heather H, is going to bake for the big event and I’m going to keep her in eggs for awhile…or lamb sausage or whatever she’d like. I’m so thrilled with this arrangement.  It’s just one less thing to angst over — and Heather is an extraordinary baker.  Yum!

I keep peeking under coats whenever I can and it’s looking pretty good under there!  I can hardly wait til Saturday! 

Some more photos of cute lambs…

Lambs hang out in the sunshine while their Mom's are busy at the hay feeders.

Lambs hang out in the sunshine while their Moms are busy at the hay feeders.

"This green stuff isn't bad but I like the milkbar better!"

"This green stuff isn't bad but I like the milkbar better!"

Snoozie lamb

Snoozie lamb snuggles with Mom

A Trip Down Memory Lane

It’s been a little weird around here lately…not bad weird, just different weird.  It’s the “no lambs” thing.  It all started with no pregnant ewes (by choice) and that meant I didn’t spend endless hours staring at the ewes’ butts nor did we have long conversations about so-in-so’s vulva over our evening meal. (Our sons used to love this!)  I wasn’t trying to sneak a hand in behind the ewes to feel their udders while they were busy at the feeders.  And chores were done in much less time because I wasn’t standing around staring at those wide bodies in the hope of seeing a lamb butt or foot moving around.  I can’t say I’ve missed those “last check before bedtime” trips to the lambing shed/paddock, especially when it’s the kind of night when getting dressed to go out takes 10 minutes and then when you get out there the ewes are snoring, cudding, “heavy with lambs” grunting.  They look at you — you know they’re laughing because you look so ridiculous and they know that nothing is going to happen until 6AM.  You know it, too, but you can’t sleep unless you check…

Not long ago, I found myself heading out to check the hens just before midnight.  I couldn’t remember whether I’d powered up their fence after I’d collected the eggs that day and the dogs were barking to beat the band.  I didn’t need a headlamp because there was a big moon.  It was cold but dry and the sky was full of bright stars. Somebody’s dog was barking far away and a coyote was singing back…or maybe it was the other way around.  No peepers yet…still too cold. As I passed by the sheep paddock, pausing — I could see shadowy sheep “bumps” spotted around.  That was a nice walk out…like at lambing time.  Maybe I am missing it just a bit.

I’ve been visiting friends with lambs, but also I’ve been getting my “lamb fix” by going through photos of lambings past.  Talk about a trip down memory lane!  I’ve gotta share some of these.

Here are a couple of those wide bodies (aka the aircraft carriers) waiting for the big moment —

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes!

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes! In the meantime, she enjoys the warmth of the early Spring sun.

When a ewe decides its time, she picks a spot where she feels comfortable.  Each ewe has her own idea of the best place to bring her lambs into this world. Some like to be in the middle of everything.  Others like privacy.  Some lie down, labor quietly and produce lambs in a nice little space all neat and tidy.  Others tear up the bedding all over the barn and make an awful mess.  And, our favorite, there are ewes who will find the muckiest spot in the paddock and do it there.

Most of the time, lambs are born without incident…front hooves appear first,  followed by a nose and before too long, the whole body arrives.  The lamb comes in a bag along with its amniotic fluids. The bag is most often broken during the process or when the ewe stands to deliver the last bit of lamb. At that time, the umbilical cord is broken and the lamb begins to breathe on its own.  It’s a neat arrangement that Mother Nature has come up with.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

In just a moment or two (which seems like wa-a-ay too long when you’re watching this process), the lamb is shaking its head and starting to wriggle around a bit.  Mom is already talking to her newbie and the lamb is responding.  She’s chortling and humming (singing the mama song), licking the lamb to clean and dry it. There is nothing more efficient than a ewe’s tongue for drying a lamb. And boy! are they ever wet!  You could easily soak a couple of plush bath towels trying to dry a lamb and get nowhere near the results that a licking ewe will get. Ewes will often nudge their lambs or paw at them to get up and before you know it, the lamb is getting its legs in gear. Once mobile, the lamb will seek out the udder and tank up on precious colostrum…the original energy drink!  The lamb is good to go once its well fed.  Ewes are the ultimate multi-taskers so if another lamb arrives, she’ll get everyone organized. Amazing!

As the lambs dry, they become the most darling little bundles of wooliness.  And around here, they come is all sorts of colors.  That’s the wonder of owning natural colored sheep!  And the best thing about the white lambs is that we can really see their expressive little faces.  Of course, we think that Coopworth lambs are especially cute!  So here are a bunch of photos of the little darlings…

Great markings on this little one!

Great markings on this little one!

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Siblings snuggle together.

Siblings snuggle together.

That Spring sun feels so good!

That Spring sun feels so good!

the lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

The lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

OK — that’s enough for now!

She’s Back!!

The car is back…all fixed and pretty!  And the one perk of having it spend a good part of the winter at the auto body shop is that when it comes back, its been detailed!  Smells like new, too — what fun!   I’m so happy!!