Scenes From An Early Spring

03.30.18a

One of the chickens has taken to laying eggs inside the haybale, where the sheep have made indentations from snacking. When done with her daily task, she’s been known to pause for a nap on Darby’s back for a bit.

03.30.18b

I’ve always seen sweet pictures on the internet of sheep with other little animals on their backs; usually cats. I’ve never had it happen here before, and I seriously doubt Samson cat will ever get up the nerve to nap on a woolly back. It’s a happy circumstance for me, then, to catch this hen hanging out with her ovine companions.

03.30.18c

Most of our hens now are laying darker brown eggs; a fact I realized today when getting ready to boil eggs to dye with the kids. Nothing worse than having four dozen eggs in your fridge and having to buy more so your kids can play with pastel colors.

03.30.18d

My Shepherd Sweater is flying off my needles with much more speed than any of my previous projects. I’m guessing this is due to the huge amount of time I’ve spent this year waiting. Waiting for Neve to get out of school. Waiting for doctor’s appointments. Waiting for the garden to wake up. I’ve got the main portion of the body done, and am about to finish the second sleeve.

03.30.18e

I still have to do the pockets as well. They are done as steeks, and I haven’t ever worked one before, so I’m a bit nervous.

03.30.18f

Handsome Granola. I hope he’s done his job!

03.30.18g

The Bradford Pears and Forsythia are finally blooming, and the Cherry Blossoms are on the verge.

03.30.18h

The peonies have only just started poking up, and I’m seeing the very beginnings of the radishes I planted starting up, as well as one lone asparagus that has broken up through the earth. I’m really hoping the rest will show themselves soon!

Advertisements

Not For The Squeamish

Something I’ve learned over the years is that farming and raising livestock is not for the weak. Not only is it physically (and emotionally at times) demanding, but it can also at times be downright gross. This is one of those stories, and I’ll warn you: if you can’t handle light gore, this post is not for you. But, it’s something that happens, and because it has a happy ending, it’s taken on a dark comedy aspect.

A while back, one of my older ewes, Willoughby, was being bullied pretty hard by our goat, Caramel. She was keeping her from eating any hay or grain, and by the time I caught in to what was up, Wils was feeling a bit weak and anemic. At that point, I separated her out and put her in her own pen with fresh grass and fed her with high-protein alfalfa hay and grain so she could regain her strength. At the same time, Caramel turned her bad behavior on another ewe, and earned herself a ticket to a different farm with other goats where she wouldn’t cause so many problems (she’s doing very well there, btw, and has happily fallen into line).

Willoughby recovered fairly quickly and before long I had her back on regular hay and was preparing to release her back in with the other sheep.  Except for one thing; she was favoring one leg. It wasn’t a terrible limp, but I checked out her hoof for signs of injury or infection, and found nothing amiss. I felt her knuckle and squeezed her leg a bit, but it all looked and felt normal. So I kept her secluded a bit longer. I figured at worst it was a sprain, and I’d let her recover with minimal interference.

But….days went by. Then weeks. She wouldn’t put weight on her leg. In fact, it started to look like she was curling it up under herself. I was wracking my brain trying to find anything wrong with this leg when we had an unseasonably warm spell. That’s when I noticed that this leg of hers had a smell to it. A smell that was undoubtedly rotting flesh. Immediately I started inspecting further up her leg, completely frustrated and feeling helpless. I still found nothing to explain this. That is, until a hunk of wool pulled off as I brushed by her knee joint. Under the wool was a tiny, thin line indented into the flesh, as though some very thin band had wrapped tightly around her leg in that spot. Some very thin band like……..a strand of plastic hay wrap?

Now, when we get our hay bales, they are delivered with plastic mesh wrapped tightly around them. When I put them in the field, I leave that mesh intact, because even though I don’t like it (and it gets into the ground and just is a nightmare), taking it off means that the hay bale falls apart and gets mostly wasted. I’ve had a metal round bale holder on my wish list for ages, but they aren’t super cheap. Now, though,  I’m going to work harder to make that happen sooner, because this is where it all clicked into place.

That leg of Willoughby’s had been tourniqueted by a thin strand of that plastic at some point, and her leg had been slowly starved of blood until it died.  Now I was left with a whole new dilemma: amputate the leg or put her down? Either way I’d need a vet, and I couldn’t decide how to handle it. She seemed happy and healthy otherwise, but goodness, how much was a farm visit to amputate a sheep leg going to cost?

The first thing I did was get antibiotics on board. The leg above the knee looked absolutely fine, and her temperature was normal, but I wanted to make sure that she didn’t become septic. Also, I felt like the worst shepherd in the history of the world for not figuring out the issue sooner.

This whole thing coincided with one of the busiest few weeks for me. I had picked up extra hours at work, Neve had extra-curricular stuff going on at school, and I kept pushing off deciding how to handle Willoughby.

Then one day at feeding I noticed that when Willoughby came galloping up to the trough (even on three good legs she can move!) that something seemed……off.

And by off, I mean OFF. The offending leg portion was simply gone.  Her remaining stump end was clean and scabbed over, and she didn’t seem to have any issues with it.

After a few moments searching, I found the leg part in the field where she likes to lie in the shade, sitting there as though when she stood up, it had simply opted to stay behind.  I sprayed her stump end with an antibacterial wound spray and sealant, just to be safe, and kept careful watch over her behavior for the next week.

It’s been well over a month now, and she’s still fat and happy. Her temperature continues to be normal, so it seems that the issue really did stay local to the lower leg and went no further.  I’ll be adding “plastic bale wrap tourniquet” to the list of things to look out for.

F762F94A-56FB-4E8F-9E4B-61D25C569FE4

90AC97DA-04E8-4A01-A8EF-DC730CF82EC6

87A53913-8936-472C-9B61-FE061BB1B56F

I feel pretty bad for my little tripod lady, but damn if she’s not a hardy one! Now that some time has passed, I can tell the story of how my sheep’s leg fell off. And maybe get a laugh or two.

Welcome Spring 2018!

03.21.18b

It almost looked like spring out there, with all of the buds about to open on the trees, and all of the daffodils blooming.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  I love a good snow, and a good day off! Besides, here in Central Virginia in March, this will be gone tomorrow, and we’ll be back to business as usual. In the meantime, we are enjoying a day of relaxing and knitting inside.

03.21.18c

I tried getting some good pictures of the flock, but they were convinced I must have cookies in my pockets for them, and wouldn’t let me step back far enough.

03.21.18d

03.21.18e

Darby unbelievably turned 5 a few days ago. 5!

03.21.18f

03.21.18g

Scout has taken her usual spot for the day……

03.21.18a

…..and so have the cats. What’s funny about this situation on the cat tree is not that it is unusual – they do this every day. What’s funny is these two hate each other, and only on the tree do they reach any semblance of coexistence.

03.21.18h

Of course, a snow day would be incomplete without a baked good of some sort. This is our current favorite – the Whole Orange Bundt Cake  from Joy the Baker. The recipe can be found HERE, and I highly, highly recommend it.

I’ll be rounding out the day by knitting and listening to podcasts ( current favorite is My Favorite Murder ) in front of the fireplace. Maybe a nice wee dram of scotch later  – current favorite for that is Ardbeg.

How are you spending this spring day?

Finding Some Hygge

Once in awhile you get a perfect day. One where the weather gives you a little bit of the magic you were looking for (in the form of snow), and you don’t have to be anywhere but right where you want to be.

01.19.18a

We finally got a respectable snow fall this week. The schools closed down, the driveway became impassable, and we were treated to a quiet and cozy winter day at home filled with baking, cuddling with pets, and knitting.

01.19.18b

This rooster ( aptly named Snowball) stood at the backdoor just like this all day, alternating with leg he’d tuck up into his feathers. We tried moving him to dry, non-snowy spots, but it seemed like he was enjoying spying on us too much and kept coming back.

01.19.18c

01.19.18d

I love seeing sheep in the snow.

01.19.18e

01.19.18f

01.19.18g

01.19.18h

After morning chores I made a loaf of cinnamon bread.  Oona hung out by the fire to wait for it to be ready and to snuggle.

01.19.18l.jpg

01.19.18i

I also started working on my next big knitting project: The Shepherd Sweater by the amazing Pam Wynne.

01.19.18j

Spending the day watching the snow by the fire, with cinnamon bread in the oven, knitting, with a small glass of lovely scotch: exactly what I needed. Any chance I can get one of these every week until spring?

01.19.18k

Granola!

I’m beyond thrilled to introduce the newest addition to my little flock. He is a Rambouillet/BFL/Finn cross, and his name is Granola (he came with the name, and it’s adorable, so hes keeping it). He was born last spring, and he is an intact male. Meaning, of course, that once he’s feeling it, he can breed my ewes. And let me tell you, I for one assumed he’d be a bit young still to attempt any romance, but within an hour of being here, he was already making sexy faces and advances on Willoughby. She is super not interested, but Lyra and Carina won’t leave him alone.

01.14.18a

01.14.18b

01.14.18c

01.14.18d

This post is Lyra approved!

In The Bleak Midwinter

This seems appropriate for today’s grey, overcast stillness. It’s, as John Mayer once put it, “the kind of morning that lasts all afternoon”, where the sky remains the same dreary hue from dawn to dusk.

It is, however, above freezing today. The polar temps we’ve been experiencing have relented and given way to some balmy 40 degree days. Honestly, I’d rather keep the polar cold. It’s helpful in killing off harmful parasites and bugs that plague us all through the warmer months. On the plus side, it’s nicer when the water troughs and bottles don’t freeze immediately after they’ve been filled. The sheep have a heated bucket that keeps water liquid, but it’s rather small and requires me hauling buckets of water out rather frequently. The rabbits, unfortunately, do not have heated water bottles, and we’ve spent a great deal of time thawing them out so they always have something to drink. They are otherwise doing very well and producing an impressive amount of compost for the gardens.

01.10.18a

The ducks and chickens are hard-up for water, too. Mostly they drink from the stream, but as it is solid right now, they too are depending on us putting out water.

01.10.18b

Despite the relative quiet and lack of activity here right now, there are a couple of new faces.

01.10.18c

This is Scout. She is a Great Pyrenees who belongs to friends of ours who are transitioning from one home to another, and she is lodging with us while they find their new place and get settled. Though she’s used to guarding livestock and being outside, she followed me in one day and claimed the couch as her own. Most days that’s where you’ll find her.

01.10.18d

She does get overheated fairly easily in the house, though, and will tap on the back door in order to go lay out in the cold for awhile.

01.10.18f

The second new face around here is a permanent one. Meet our new farm cat, Samson.

01.10.18g

Samson is what you’d call “aggressively friendly”.   He’s the friendliest rodent control you’ll ever meet.

01.10.18h

He’s an outdoor cat, but he has a bed in the garage, as well as a sun room on the back deck ( basically, a big box with a cat door with a glass panel that faces out and gets a ton of sun. He loves it).  He is a much better solution to keeping rats away from the livestock feed than any kind of poison or trap!

01.10.18e

Samson accompanies me on my walks around the farm to check on things and enjoy the sites. I love the bare shapes of nature in the winter.

01.10.18i

Even the little waterfall in the stream is frozen solid. There were little birds skittering over the surface, but on my approach with the cat, they flew off.

01.10.18j

It’s an interesting state everything is in; not quite asleep (there are buds on some of my fruit trees!), but not quite ready for spring, either. We haven’t had any real snow yet, though I am still hoping for at least one good storm. Maybe we are all holding our breath a bit, waiting to see how much winter is left.

Buns of Fiber!

After years of waiting and wanting, I’ve got bunnies!

I brought home a brother and sister pair of French Angora rabbits in a color called “Chestnut Agouti” (that’s what their papers say anyway. They’re like a grey and tan).

They are the friendliest, snuggliest little buns, and the kids have named them “Gene and Louise”.

11.03.17a

Miss Louise. They very much like kale and carrots.

11.03.17b

I’m excited to plant a garden full of greens and herbs for them in the spring.

11.03.17c

Gene. He is super chill.  Right now I have them in a large dog crate (separated so they don’t breed!) while I await their more permanent hutch that is coming.

11.03.17d

I’m looking forward to having an adorable source of soft fiber. The kids are thrilled to have bunnies that love being cuddled and played with. Either way, they are a welcome farm addition, and I so hope they are happy here!