As we dive straight into December and busy ourselves getting ready for the coming holiday, it serves me well to take notice of my friends in the pasture. These days are short on sunshine, but when it is out, the animals are too; napping, exploring, nibbling or just hanging out. All seem content, and not the least bit stressed. I for one am looking at the time left and trying to figure how I am going to get all the knitting, embroidery and crafting done to complete the gifts I am planning to make. But these fuzzy critters are not frazzled.
Hickory is enjoying his stay in the “honeymoon suite”. He is assigned to be dad of the spring lambs because of his soft moorit brown fleece and all around good looks and sweet personality. I would really like more brown lambs to have more brown yarn and roving on hand. He is enjoying the company of four ewes, Pansy, Dahlia, Gwyneth, and Motto.
The duck trio are our newest residents. They were rescue ducks from Wildlife Rehabilitation. They usually rescue and doctor injured wild animals. But these three were domestic ducks that were neglected and one was attacked by a dog. All were in sad shape. But they were recovered and needed a forever home. We were chosen because of our ponds. But they actually prefer bathing and swimming in their tub. They take turns jumping in and splash around as only one can fit at one time. I have nicknamed them the bucket ducks. They have settled into their routine. They head back to the barn at night to be go to bed protected in one of the stalls. So they are there by dusk without me having to herd them back. And I am excited to report that Estelle is now laying eggs for the first time.
The bantam chickens are just about full grown now. And I have to say, they are so delightful in how they all get along and play together. I wish I were so care free. I am eagerly waiting eggs, but in the meantime, I am enjoying their antics.
The growing lambs are getting used to their new haircuts. We sheared a couple of weeks ago and I understand that lambs should go through a growth spurt after shearing. They look so sweet as they go about looking for food, take naps in the sun and even spar with each other. I am amused as I see baby ewes butt heads like rams. And they take their sparring seriously. Yet are friends after the battle.
So I am refreshed after visiting and feeding everyone this morning. Now back to speed knitting.
As I sit here all dirty with lanolin, and crud that sticks to lanolin, I reflect on a crazy busy 2 days. Shearing time demands all hands on deck. My two teenaged son’s would rather be cruising You Tube, but with the daunting task of catching 16 sheep and their 15 lambs, their grudging help is required. Now complaining allowed.
We start by attracting the flock into a corral area with the promise of grain. The easy part. As they much away, we strategize our plan of action. The idea is to get them into one corner of the corral and slowly ease them along the back fence line and into a dead end area where we can block the opening with a section of picket fence. Sheep naturally follow fence lines, as long as they stay in their flock and not spooked. We get most in the first try and work methodically to move them, one by one up to the barn. An arduous task and the barn is not as close as I would like it. Sheep don’t lead well. Note to self….would be nice to have a four wheeler for easier transport.
So doing this, and getting the boys took about four hours. We got bucked, kicked, dragged and yes, the sons did complain. And so did the husband. I of course am not allowed to because all of this sheep business is my idea. But we did it and it is satisfying that this biannual task is once again done.
Today was the shearing. I am blessed with an awesome shearer- in talent and demeanor. Emily and her sweet redheaded daughter came mid day. My friend Hannah and her two redheaded kiddies came too. Quite fun watching little ones with flaming hair running around as the big folks get down to business.
Emily pulls out each sheep and my older son manages the barn door. As Emily briskly starts shearing, I ready the vaccines, Hanna’ s other daughter Morgan, fills out cards with each sheep’s name and readies a bag. After the sheep is sheared, Emily trims hooves. I gather the fleece put it in the waiting bag, I then administer the vaccine. Back in the stall for the sheep and Emily pulls out the next sheep. The process moved along without complications.
When all are sheared, Emily and daughter Lydia head out to the next county for another farm with waiting sheep. But I am not done. Hannah and I get back to the barn and start working on the 15 babies. The lambs will not be sheared for the first time until the Fall. Today the all need vaccines and need to be tagged. My flock is getting large enough, that I can’t keep everyone straight. Since I have a registered flock, it is important that I keep track of parentage. So Hannah stayed on to help me.
We closed ourselves in the stall and got to work. We caught lambs who I knew for sure. While Hannah held the little one, I gave the vaccination in the hip. Then I loaded the tag into the applicator, Morgan recorded the number with the name of the lamb and I pierced the ear between the two main veins and attached the tag. It is a quick process and we did not have anyone even call out or cry. Such brave little lambs.
The last part is to get the flock back to the pasture, not one at a time, but all at once. I gathered some grain, opened the stall, and called “Sheep, sheep!” All at once, they follow me baaing and bleating into the gate. Such a noise. So now they are contentedly grazing. I sit here covered from head to foot in barn dirt. A whirl pool tub is calling my name. I have a closet full of fleeces that will soon head to the mill to become yarn and roving sold at festivals and my Farm store on etsy. Now for that bath.
Gwenyth and her 2 lambs, Zinnia and Heather were featured in a photo on Channel 6 this morning in a segment about the up coming Fiber Festival we are attending. Whoo hooo!
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RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) – The Powhatan Festival of Fiber is a celebration of Fiber and Fiber Arts. Along with delicious foods, you have the chance to see lambs and find out about their role in the production of cloths and clothes. Angie Cabell, Coordinator of the Festival along with Animal Expert and handler, Kim Harrison from Ruxville Farm share a preview and brought along two lambs. The Festival is Saturday, April 27th from 10am to 5pm, 3920 Marion Harland Lane in Powhatan.
I will admit it, I am not a fan of summer. I spend lots of time outside as I have to tend animals and a garden. But it become increasingly difficult this time of year, so some things do fall by the wayside-namely keeping a tidy garden. I do just enough not to be overtaken by weeds-but not much more. And I struggle daily with the watering-my garden always seems to need more than I give it so it is looking a bit haggard. That being said-it still is producing. My sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are more like sweet 1000’s. And I am now getting a good crop of peppers. And I even have harvested 4 cantaloupes this week.
As we have had the hottest and driest July that I can remember, I dread August even more. Our pastures still look like a moonscape. The few rains we have had have not made much of a dent. While I have added hay to the diet of the sheep and goats-they seem to be even more eager to get their grain rations-if that is possible.
I have altered my schedule to feed animals in the evening-when things cool a bit. After giving grain to the sheep-I have gotten in the habit of sitting on the crunchy grass with my flock to look them over and build our shepherd/sheep relationship. Some of the lambs now come over to be scratched-namely Wally (of course!) but also Hickory. And they even pay me in little lamby kisses. Such a treat for me as I love these little guys.
But still…I do need to venture out in the hot conditions to tend to the rabbits-keeping them cool with frozen 2 liter bottles of ice. And also making sure everyone has water and so on. Not to mention hanging out over hot pots of steaming yarn as I dye. I have never sweat so much in my life. At the end of the day-I cannot cool off fast enough and rid my body of salty sweat. (Maybe that is what the lambs are kissing off!)
Well-Fall is 6 weeks away…cannot get here fast enough! My kids are saddened that they start beck to school this week-I say-be happy you are in air conditioning.
Quick recipe for using up your squash-this is what I dream of in winter as I am planning my garden. And it is soooooo easy!
Slice 2 good-sized Summer Squash and slice 1 half of a sweet onion and put in a microwave safe casserole dish. Mix together. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of water. Slice 3 or 4 pats of real butter and place on top. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place in microwave on high for 8 minutes. Stir and there you have it-a lovely side dish for any meal in just a few minutes. Enjoy and stay cool!