Tag Archiv: sheep

Sheep solutions plus justice

 

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As mentioned before, Violet had her lambs and is happily wandering the pasture with her little flock of three in tow. Lily gave birth to four, so far bright and hearty lambs. Daisy on the other hand is a source of debate.

What if she’s not pregnant vs. She is definitely pregnant

Waiting another few weeks would undoubtedly solve the mystery, but I’m not that patient. I am a problem solver who spent the weekend working out the details to our solution.

Beginning today, the children have been divided into teams (Boy one/Girl two vs. Boy two, Girl one). Each team is equipped with 3 pregnancy tests. They work on humans, why shouldn’t they work on sheep?

The kids have never seen these sticks. They’re getting three because I’m guessing they’ll use at least one stick to pee on themselves. But once we explain the importance, and especially once we  mention the reward, they should be good to go. The trick will be the need to have the sticks placed in the urine stream for five seconds. I began to worry for them. Should one hold the sheep while the other holds the testing stick? Should we find a way to restrain the sheep on a raised platform? Should they simply be on shifts lying quietly in the barn at night until the ewe forgets they’re there? . . . I was going a bit crazy until I remembered that this was not my problem; the kids can think for themselves. My part is to provide the testing sticks, the explanation, and the reward. How they get that five seconds of urine from an anxious, jittery, possibly pregnant sheep is something they can brag about in the future.

It’s not easy being the problem solver, team captain, chief cheerleader of unusual exploits. My heart is swelling with something somewhere between pride and satisfaction to picture one of them lying on the ground trying to baptize their stick and stay dry. There’s a lovely sense of primordial justice to the fact that this won’t be possible (the dry part).

Last night I realized that this little exercise needn’t be limited to our current crisis. Come August, September, even November, when there hasn’t been a ram in sight for ages (they won’t know the difference) they can be sent out as needed to check all the sheep. It ought to take hours of hit and miss attempts of catching and holding. There is nothing, I realize, to stop me from responding at will to a few weeks of feral behavior with my own little sense of fair play. It is a calming and beautiful thought.

Beginning with the commencement of our games today, once again, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

Cold Snap

 

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Before Christmas, there was this. Then came the rain that washed all the snow away. (There followed wet and brown.)

 

 

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At last a bit of snow and ice, but some really cold temperatures to go with it. The mother hen in my head began to afflict me so I go out and check on the animals. Twice (it was in the -30’s with windchill) I went to put them inside but they were fine. Even with the animals inside for the night, I lost some sleep when the actual temperature was -33. The barn is far from air tight with four by six feet chunks of open mitigated by hanging feedbags only. I was too afraid to check the windchill while my mother hen head kept me up fretting .

 

 

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The girls like to have their picture taken (as do the eunuch sheep, but we call them girls too). The husband sheep is in there somewhere right now. He arrived December 13th. With about ten others, he will leave for sunnier pastures sometime in the next few weeks . . . at which point we will not eat chicken for two or three weeks out of gratitude for the fullness of our freezers.

 

 

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Buster is a rather sulky lad. He is especially irritated by all attempts to have his picture taken. This was his best attempt at a smile. Most attempts end in pictures of his backside.

 

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I have limited patience for this and my fingers outside the glove were beginning to harden.

 

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Misty will look at me for an apple, otherwise, not so much. At least the kids like her. If we lived in France, I’d vote for her making the final journey with the sheep in a few weeks. Alas.

 

Hope everyone is staying warm. The snap has lifted a bit and the house is toasty again. This weekend we hope to clear the pond and at long last inaugurate the skating season.

 

 

 

Ninety-nine

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Sometimes I have heretical thoughts. Ninety nine hit me walking through the fields the other day. The kids have been at each other’s throats lately. Everybody picking at everybody else, no longer willing to endure another second of the many faults glaring at them in capital letters. I’ve got one who can’t stand if siblings chew too loudly, or touch the edges of anything, or fail to follow any number of eating rules that REALLY matter. I’ve got another who can’t stand anyone else’s singing. Or reading out loud in the car. I’ve stopped the car multiple times on the way home from school. It’s supposed to be this major event where they realize they are no longer progressing towards home and they immediately quiet in hushed tones so as to get me driving on the road again. Except they really don’t care if the car is moving while they argue or not. They don’t feel that motion is relevant to their case for moral superiority.

Walking through the fields occasioned me to gaze at sheep and stumble upon a very new conclusion. I have always thought the parable of the good Shepherd lovely; him lovingly leaving his flock and going out into the far, far away mountains to search for the one tiny little lost lamb. Then there in the field it came to me (heretical thought). Getting away from 99 sheep is not as terrible as it might seem, in fact it sounds pretty good. If there was a sign-up sheet today to stay with the 99 or go get the lost one, I’m going lost one every time.

Smart Bird

I saw this from my bedroom window and went to get the camera.

I saw this from my bedroom window and went to get the camera.

 

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Ms. Bird apparently liked the restaurant. She walked around without a care, stopping to pick up a bite, then wandering on.

Ms. Bird apparently liked the restaurant. She walked around without a care, stopping to pick up a bite, then wandering on.

 

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She outlasted me contented on her perch so I went in for breakfast.

She outlasted me contented on her perch so I went in for breakfast.

 

 

Seven and counting

 

 

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Friends of ours keep a chalkboard at the end of the driveway each spring for cars to see. It’s a tally of how many lambs have been born so far. Unlike us, they are actual farmers, so their tally goes on for a few weeks and reaches 600 plus sometimes. We like our lamb count around  9 or 10. That’s enough excitement for us.

This year, the skinniest ewe (who we suspected would be late – if she was even pregnant) was the first to deliver. She must have been keeping one in her leg, as she birthed not one but three healthy lambs. Saturday morning, her lambs will be a week old. They look great. Very spunky. Two boys and a girl. They’re the snowy white lambs in the pictures. Lambs are born with a yellow coating gooped all over them. Their cute because they’re little and new to the world, but they look very dirty. After a few days, the yellow is licked and rubbed off, and then they are downright gorgeous.

The mid sized ewe was second to deliver. She had four. This is one too many for perfection. Our sheep breed, the Rideau Arcott, was developed in the 1970’s in Canada (Animal Research Centre Ottawa . . . ARC OTT). They’re a great sheep for a couple of reasons; they tend to have multiple births for one. Many other breeds typically have one lamb per birth. Rideau Arcott typically have 2 or 3, and 4 is not uncommon. The problem is that for milk supply, a ewe can really only handle 3. The extra are usually separated and bottle fed. We did this for a few years. It works, but the bottle fed lambs never thrive the same as the lambs with the mother. Based on our friend’s experiments and some ideas of our own, we currently have all the lambs with the mom, but are also bottle feeding every few hours during the day to supplement. So far, everyone looks good.

Our large, bursting any minute ewe, Lily (our original ewe, and herself a bottle fed, “extra,” from a multiple birth) is still waddling around giving us fits wondering what exactly is going on inside her. Her biggest year she delivered a group of 5. Last year, she was bigger than ever before and we thought another basketball team was en route. Instead, she birthed two lambs bigger than the two week old lambs. We called them the football players.

This year’s group of four is interesting. They’re only three days old, so they’re still pretty yellow. Unlike most of our lambs, they have quite a few markings of black and brown patches. A few more pictures will come next week. Currently, the camera has no zoom, and lambs were not in the mood to sit still while I shoved a camera in their faces for a close up.

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You can see the dirty coat as well as a little of the speckles, although it's hard to see which is which. This one is yelling for his mother to save him from all the scary other lambs out there and reminding her that she is not to go more than a few feet away. If anyone wanders it is supposed to be him, not her. (Amazing what they can communicate in one mad little bleat, yes?)

You can see the dirty coat as well as a little of the speckles, although it’s hard to see which is which. This one is yelling for his mother to save him from all the scary other lambs out there and reminding her that she is not to go more than a few feet away. If anyone wanders it is supposed to be him, not her. (Amazing what they can communicate in one mad little bleat, yes?)

All of a walk

I checked on the girls. They just got haircuts so they look like goats, but they really are 2 of our 3 pregnant sheep.

I checked on the girls. They just got haircuts so they look like goats, but they really are 2 of our 3 pregnant sheep. Lily had two little football players last year. Looks like she might again.

 

Molly (black) and Jasmine (the visiting poop connoisseur) were happy to get to the woods.

Molly (black) and Jasmine (the visiting poop connoisseur) were happy to get to the woods.

 

We found remnants of deer getting rid of winter coats too.

Guess the deer have had it with winter coats too.

 

Light dappled the path

Light  like this always makes me think of Narnia. The kids and I call these woods, “The magic forest.”

 

Spring's forest pools del.ighted us

Spring’s forest pools delighted us

 

I saw my first snake, small but happy for for sunshine. He was ok with being watched but said, "See ya later," when the dog and the camera came out.

I saw my first snake, small but happy for for sunshine. He was ok with being watched but said, “See ya later,” when the dog and the camera came out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First day of school

A few hours after self guided lessons

A few hours after self guided lessons

Buster is rambunctious. This wanna be farmer is wondering if he is destined to be veal. I am told that 1200lb beef cow is his destiny. A scary thought at the moment.

After some days inside, I thought it was time to get outdoors yesterday, at least while I cleaned up the stall. Anabelle was ready. Out the door and thirty feet away without looking back. She was revelling in space and air and sunshine when Buster’s soft little moan called. (Roughly translated . . . mom, where are you? The door is open. What do I do? I don’t want to do it by myself.)

This was very sneaky. Buster didn’t mean much of it, but that is what he said.

Anabelle mooed softly. Buster moaned back and Anabelle was there. Sniffing, rubbing, talking. Stuttering steps.

Three pregnant sheep and a nervous Misty looked on. Misty has anxiety issues. (Also control, gluttony, and patience issues.)

Buster saw Misty, trotted away from Anabelle boldly, sniffed Misty’s nose and trotted around to check out the rest of her.

This triggered panic attack. With Misty’s disorder, panic equals I hate the world and I cannot stop running. Misty bucked kicked. (Anabelle gasped when she saw those hooves in the air only a foot from Buster’s head. I did too.)  Then Misty took off running. Circles. Pause for catch your breath obesity moment. More circles. One of Misty’s favourite ways to say I hate the world, is to chase the sheep. Occasionally, she looped towards Buster, mostly she ran laps with timeouts to charge at the sheep.

The sheep, bellies full of baby lambs, have unfortunately not been keeping up with their prenatal exercises. I had thought the snow was prohibiting movement, but based on the successful mad dashes away from Misty every third circle of the pasture, the snow was not as much of an impediment as I had thought. Buster was unphased by the goings on. He was ready to explore by himself, thanks. If anything, the fat galloping pony gave him confidence. Ten feet he would run. Anabelle moved in front. Twenty feet the other way. Anabelle ran or walked as needed. Buster went where he wanted, but Anabelle stayed in between Misty and Buster at all times.

The sheep begged to get inside away from equine insanity. I have a soft spot for expecting mothers, so I let them in. A few minutes later, Misty was begging to get inside. She never chooses in, always preferring an open field, but even she had had enough. It was time for somewhere quiet. Safe from that nasty black thing in the pasture. The only one at peace was Buster. I put Misty in, made sure she and the sheep had hay and water and left Buster to it with the whole pasture to himself.

Anabelle appreciated the arrangement.

Bath time

Bath time

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All of a perfect Saturday

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Another good day for a ski

 

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Sheep want to know if its time for dinner yet

 

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Cow, Anabelle surveying her kingdom, an icicle sucker waiting to ride, the rider, the leader, and the star of the show

 

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Close up of Misty, the star

 

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End of the day . . . light is fading but not the delight at perfect sledding conditions

Mercy made known

Yesterday, the first day back from Christmas holidays, was a snow day. More accurately a rain and freezing day. The thought of a quiet house had grown to full blown longing when we saw the notice that the busses weren’t running. Alas.

Monday was also death day. I love the farm. I believe in animals that are happy and well cared for. It matters to us to know where the meat on our kids plates came from and what kind of quality of life those animals had. That doesn’t make the day the lambs go to the butcher any easier.

Everything about the send off was complicated on the icy narrow path that is our driveway at present. It wasn’t possible to get a truck out to the barn like usual. It wasn’t possible to do it all while the kids were at school. We worked together to make the driveway navigable. We worked together to get the sheep in the trailer. And we hissed and spat and growled at each other.

Afterwards I went to my room to plan boy one’s execution and to figure out how to get the house partitioned so that none of us had to live together. Eventually common sense and mercy found a crack large enough to get through. None of us had handled it perfectly, but we weren’t mad, we were sad. The first time I remember figuring this out, I was 18. It was a strange revelation. I felt like someone had struck me dumb. Sssso nnnnow what? I wanted to stammer. If it’s not sarcasm and rage that’s dying to get out, what then? If I’m sad and not mad, exactly am I supposed to do? Just sit here and cry?

Well, yeah.

I thought I’d already learned that lesson, but yesterday I learned it again . . . and helped my son figure it out too. Naming things correctly doesn’t change them, except it does. Understanding what I’m dealing with changes how I treat the people in my life, including me. Understanding what’s underneath somebody else’s mad, changes how I feel about them.

Sometimes being sad means you don’t do anything except let yourself be it for a little while. It feels like getting out of prison again.