Life on the Farm: Lambs!
I know it's been a busy spring when I am just now posting pictures of the lambs born in March! My colored ram's genetics was evident as two of Holly's triplet ram lambs are the gorgeous English Blue. The contrast in colors between the white and colored lambs is dramatic.
Ivy followed up with her own set of triplet ewe lambs - all white this time. One of the babies became a bottle lamb so she is at my feet as I take a picture of her sisters.
Lambs, lambs everywhere.
The sheep and I are all waiting for lambs to arrive. The ewes' bellies and udders are growing bigger and bigger each day. Jasmine, Ivy and Holly are looking like we should have some sets of triplets running around soon.
At the early morning check the ewes are lying in the hay, calmly chewing their cud.
The yearlings are much more energetic and are ready to run out to the big pasture for that lovely early spring grass.
Life on the Farm: Shearing Day 2017
It was shearing day again on the farm. All the sheep were put up in the barn the night before in preparation for the next day, their long, lustrous locks shining in the light from my flash.
I was honored to again have Kevin Ford, Master Blade Shearer, to shear my sheep for the 15th year. Kevin travels down the East Coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina and back, shearing at 300+ farms a year. It is always amazing to watch Kevin, with his over 40 years of experience shearing, gently turn the sheep as he clips their wool with his very sharp hand blades.
Jacob, my colored ram, looks particularly gorgeous after shearing, his silver color shining through.
After a bit of head butting to figure out who these newly shorn sheep are, the ewes finally remember their sisters, and settle down to graze.
Ever since the arrival of our Leicester Longwools about 12 years ago, this farm has mostly been about the raising of heritage sheep. The sheep, however, were always raised alongside the other animal residents which at different times included horses, a donkey, chickens, guineas, peacocks and goats, as well as dogs and cats. We never had pigs, and it seemed like the time, so today, two little Guinea Hogs came to the farm - a gilt and a boar. According to the Livestock Conservancy, the rare Guinea Hog is a small, black breed of swine that is unique to the United States; the breed was once the most numerous pig breed found on homesteads in the Southeast.
The forecast was for 9" but we only got about 3" of snow last night - just enough to make things beautiful, especially as the sun came out this afternoon. We're all warm in the house by the woodstove, knowing the roads aren't plowed and there's nowhere to go.
This post was originally going to just be about falling trees, but last week I had a frightening reminder of the fact that rams can be very dangerous, especially in breeding season. Things have been really busy on the farm but it was time to take the ram out of the ewe's pasture. I had a free half hour Friday morning, and luckily was able to smoothly separate the ram (and his whether buddy, Pepper) from the ewes, while also putting the ewe lambs back in with the flock. I put the ram & Pepper in an adjacent pasture because that was the easiest thing to do, even though I KNEW it wasn't the best idea. Sure enough, I went up the next morning to find the ram, having broken through a panel, back in with the ewes. I was desperate to get him out before he bred one of the lambs, so I climbed the gate and ran around the outside of the paddock to the small gate, yelling down to the house for my daughter to come help me. With her help, we were able to eventually get all of the ewes through the gate, keeping the ram on the other side. He then went berserk and starting ramming the fence. I yelled to my daughter to jump back over the fence into the yard for safety, while I ran down & opened the big gate to the outer pasture for the flock to go through & then shut those gates behind them. The ewes would hopefully go on across the creek as usual, where they would be out of sight and smell of the ram. This whole time I was fearful the ram was going to break down the fence to where I was. However, we were able to get Pepper back in with the ram who then calmed down somewhat, and after a bit more work, we were able to move them into our usual ram pasture - well away from the ewes. We used up a bit of adrenaline that morning!
Here's the bit about trees; this seems to be the year of large trees falling. I heard what sounded like an explosion last August that seemed to go on for minutes. When I went out in the pasture to look, I found this huge old oak, hollow in the middle, that had cracked and fell on what was a sunny, windless day. Luckily for us it didn't require an immediate fence repair as it stayed balanced on the trunk.
This very large beech fell across our 50' creek last spring; all the floods undermined the roots until it came down, taking a couple of smaller trees across the creek down with it.
This big tree also came down on a sunny, still day for no apparent reason. It, however, took the fence down with it so a bit of repair work was needed. Life on the farm - it goes on & is rarely dull.
I haven't posted anything since May as it feels like not very much happens on the farm over the summer. That's not really true but lambing is long over, there's no shearing scheduled and it's not breeding season. The sheep and lambs are just out eating grass and trying to stay cool. It has been a hot and humid summer, and very wet until recently. That has meant lush grass all summer for the flock to graze. With the heat, they head out to the pasture as soon as the sun is up in the morning, graze for a couple of hours, and then go lie in the shade for the rest of the day. As soon as it cools off in the evening, they head back out to the pasture. We humans follow the same pattern, any work that needs done happens very early in the morning or in the evening. The heat and humidity also means the internal parasites (worms) that infect the sheep are at their worst and I have to be very diligent to keep ahead of them. I check the adult sheep every other week but have to check the lambs weekly, as one of the types of worms causes anemia and can kill a lamb within a week. This is the time of year when I start hoping for an early frost to kill the worms even though I know it will be another month before that will happen.
One sure sign that fall is coming is that I will be putting the ram in with the ewes soon. It was time to get a new ram so I got this fine looking fellow from a Leicester Longwool breeder in VA. His name is Jacob and, as is obvious, he is a black ram which will give me better odds of getting some black lambs this year. I'll keep my fingers crossed; I think the ewes will be happy with this guy.
The sheep & lambs eagerly come towards the gate to be let out in the morning. The lambs are old enough now so that I feel comfortable letting everyone out into the north pasture. With lots of rain and warm weather, the grass is lush and the sheep can't wait!
The lambs generally play for the first few minutes, then they too settle down to the serious work of grazing. I have videos of them playing on my Facebook page (click icon in upper right corner.)
I am enjoying these sunny, cool days of April. The lambs are growing; Holly's triplets are the youngest and joined the flock last week. I'm thankful Holly has plenty of milk for all three.
Some of the lambs are learning to go into their creep feeder (where the ewes can't fit) and eat grain. I'm glad of this as some of the lambs are five weeks old already and the ewes milk production starts decreasing at six weeks.
The wethers and yearling ewes, in a separate pasture from the lactating ewes that receive grain, are enjoying the early spring grass.
And the lambs just get cuter as they learn how to play.
The first spring flowers are starting to bloom and every time I turn around it seems like another lamb is being born.
There's Ivy with her big ewe lamb.
And Jasmine with her little boy.
The lambs are so sweet and love to be petted. They are also incredibly cute but cause Kristie distress because they follow us instead of her. They twine around our feet every time we go in the pasture, making walking very difficult. And then there's the making of formula, warming bottles, washing bottles - oh, the fun of bottle babies. I really am so glad that spring is here!