Monday, May 27, 2013

Hey! It finally quit raining!

But the sheep are on the new pasture, with plenty of grass to take their attention, and Abigail wouldn't come over with her lamb.
This was the best picture I could get.
At least you can see the black legs and tail, and the raccoon mask.
I think he looks like he's wearing musketeer boots...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

And that makes five.

I've been taking my camera out each morning when I do chores, hoping that Abigail would finally get on with it and have that lamb.  Day after day, no lamb.  She just kept getting bulgier and bulgier with no end in sight.  Not off her feed.  Not pawing the ground.
This morning, I forgot to grab the camera on the way out the door.
I was pitching hay and talking to the girls when I realized there was a strange lamb walking around in the shelter, and Abigail was standing there with a puzzled look on her face.

I ran back inside, texted Madman (who was at work), grabbed the camera, and ran back out.  By that time, the lamb had lain down, so I couldn't get a good picture, but here's for starters, anyway.
It's still a little gunky and yellow.  Abigail isn't like her sister, Tiny, who licked her lamb spotless.  ("My lamb is gonna be shiny!")  Abigail is more like her mother, Onyx, who gives some token licks and says "Hey, good enough."
I had to go to work, but I figured I'd get some more pictures when I got home.  But by that time, it was pouring rain, I was tired, and just couldn't face going out with the camera in a 40 degree rain.
The lamb is adorable - black tail and legs, black polka dots (including one giant one) on its back, white ears and face with a black raccoon mask.

Unfortunately, it's a boy.

I was really really hoping it would be a girl.  But somebody had to break the string of girl lambs we'd had so far, I guess.  (I'd just been joking with Madman last night that Abigail would screw it up by having twin ram lambs.  I only missed it by one...)

Here's a picture of Goldie's little girl that I took yesterday.  And it looks like Goldie is going to continue in her history of being a helicopter mom.  She follows her lamb around like a shadow, and chases the other lambs away when they come to ask if Sweetikins can come out to play.

I caught this picture when Goldie and the other moms were busy eating, and the lambs were all happily bouncing and dancing and racing each other.  Though Goldie soon put a stop to that when she suddenly realized her lamb was out there having fun.
"You sit your woolly butt right down there while I eat my breakfast.  Don't pay any attention to those hooligans - they'll only get you into trouble."
Did you know that lambs can sigh?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Well, let's add 'midwife' to my resume...

Of the sheepy persuasion, anyway.
I grew up with sheep.  When I was a kid, my folks raised Suffolks, and we had quite a good-sized flock.  Mom was the Chief Midwife during lambing season, heading out every couple of hours to check on ewes and drag them into the barn from whatever snowbank they had decided to lamb in.  I sat more than one vigil with her back in those days, waiting for a lamb, helping the ewe through a rough time.
But that was over 40 years ago.

Goldie had a hard time.

I knew when I went out to feed the sheep this morning that she was very very close to lambing.  Not only did she eat almost nothing (which is totally unlike her), she'd been quiet.  Normally she's leading the chorus of "The sun has been up for a whole 5 minutes, so where's breakfast?" with great enthusiasm and volume.
So a quiet Goldie is a spooky Goldie.
I checked her several times over the course of the morning and early afternoon.  She was doing a lot of pacing and pawing of the straw in their shelter - sure signs of impending lamb.  But there must be something in the air this year, since all the sheep are having their lambs in the daytime, instead of at night like they're supposed to.  Soon she was making a noise that spoke clearly "I'm experiencing some discomfort," and a sac of amniotic fluid had appeared.  That meant the lamb was due any minute..
But "I'm experiencing some discomfort" turned into "Giving birth really sucks" and still there was no lamb.  I was staying just out of sight, peeking at her to gauge how things were progressing without letting my presence upset her.  (Skittish, our Goldie is.  Not a people sheep at all.)  When the sounds turned into "Holy shit, someone help me!"  I went for a closer look.
Now normally, it's best not to intervene.  You can do more harm than good, without meaning to.  It's hard, but sometimes the best thing to do is just stand and watch.  And normally, sheep don't need any help.  But this wasn't one of those occasions.
Goldie, who should have been laying down and getting on with it at this point, was still on her feet and pacing.  And bellowing.  Worse, I could see a lamb head sticking out behind her, but no sign of legs.  Normal presentation is the front hooves first, followed by the nose, then here comes the rest of the lamb.
We've got trouble.
I ran inside to wash up - hands and arms to the elbow (because I might have to stick an arm in and fish for legs) - and ran back out.
Even though I approached her slowly and carefully, and even though she was clearly in huge distress, Goldie wouldn't let me get anywhere near her.  I kept softly crooning her name, trying to get close, but she would move out of reach as quickly as she could.  I didn't want to scare her any worse than she already was, so I finally stopped moving around and just kept quietly talking to her.
I think finally she decided that I wasn't the scariest thing in her life,  and approached me.  I could see at that point that there was one hoof sticking out a couple of inches, but no sign of the other leg, and both legs should have been out further than the lamb's nose.
The lamb looked like it was dead - strangled, probably, or just too crushed by the birth-gone-wrong.  Its eyes were lifeless and glazed.
I could hear my mother's voice in my head - "Okay, you've lost the lamb.  Now save the ewe."
Goldie was still crying and her eyes were wild, but she seemed to accept that I was there to help.  I gently grabbed hold of the head and exposed leg in one hand, and tried to fish around for the other leg, but she was straining too hard for me to do anything.
"Okay, girl," I said as she flopped herself down.  "You push, I'll pull, and we'll get this done."
And we did.
Once the shoulders cleared, the lamb popped right out onto the straw.
And amazingly, it kicked!
It wasn't dead!
I quickly cleared its nose and mouth of mucus, and let Goldie get on with the business of licking her little bundle of joy clean.

 I can't begin to express my relief at the sight of that little one raising its head.

I hung around to see if it would be able to stand.  That's where the non-intervention is advisable.  In assisting, all kinds of damage can be inadvertently done to the lamb - leg or joint damage, spinal damage - or to the ewe.
If a lamb can't stand, it can't nurse.  If it can't nurse, it dies.
It took a while - the poor little thing had a really rough entry - but finally it struggled to its feet.
And bigtime phew again!
Still don't know if it's a boy or girl - it was way too gaumy at first to check, and now I'm staying clear to let Goldie calm back down and bond with her lamb.  Just because I was her BFF when she was in extremis is no reason for her to really trust me now.
I'll get a peek soon, though.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

You knew there'd be more lamb pictures, right?

Here's our newest little one:

 She looks a little better all dried off.

One of Onyx's babies came up to investigate the strange lady squatting amongst the sheep.

And I managed to sneak up behind this little girl and scritch her under the ear.  She enjoyed the scritching right up until the moment that she realized she didn't know what was going on and looked over her shoulder.  Then she bolted to a couple of feet away and gave me such a Look..

We had a great time at NH S&W, looking at all the wonderful fiber.  I kept visualizing the multiple bags of fleece waiting for me at home in order to restrain myself from buying more fiber.

But this was the big find:

I have big plans...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Make that eleven...

I had a surprise this morning when I went out to feed the sheep.  I thought Goldie would be next, but I was way off.

That's Tiny with her brand new lamb.  And literally brand new - she's about 15 minutes old in this picture, and already on her feet.  (When you're born to be prey, learning to walk as soon as possible is a really big deal.  Learn to run, live to breed.)
I'd really thought Goldie would be next, and that Tiny would be last, judging by their relative tummy and udder bulges.
Tiny looks like she's going to be a good mama.  She was licking and licking and licking this lamb, getting it all cleaned up.  At one point, the lamb got herself dirty, and Tiny sighed and started over...

It was hard to tear myself away, but it was NH Sheep and Wool today, and my daughter and I needed to hit the road.  (This is my Mother's Day treat every year - my girl takes me to NH S&W and we have a wonderful day ogling all the colors and textures and magic.)

So Happy Mother's Day, all, from all of us here including the newest mother, Tiny.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Well, at least it wasn't triplets this time...

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.  Ten sheep. Hahaha...

Onyx finally got tired of carrying all that extra weight and dropped a set of twins - cute little girls.

They're pretty much identical, except one has a couple of tiny white spots on her head

and the other doesn't.

They're still pretty scruffy looking.  Onyx isn't one of those wash-behind-your-ears kind of mothers.

I knew she was getting close.  Yesterday morning, when I fed the sheep, she kept stopping eating and wandering off by herself, staring blankly into space.
Onyx not solely focused on food?  Onyx not pushing and shoving to get at least her fair share and as much more as she could bully the other sheep out of?  I believe that might be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.
Or at least a sign that lambing is imminent.
I kept an eye on her all day, figuring that she would lamb during the night (as sheep always do) and that we'd have some results in the morning.  At 3:30, I left for work.
At 4:30, Madman came home and found Onyx with a very wet lamb.  Apparently she thinks the sheep-only-give-birth-in-the-dark-of-night rule is an old wives' tale.  He had to run a couple of quick errands (made even quicker by the fact that he was dying to get back home and see what was happening) and got back to find a second wet little lamb.  He kept a close watch, but this year she stopped at two.

Here's one of the two checking out Sauron.

 No, sweetie.  Not all black sheep are Mama.  No milk there.  That's your half-brother... um... daddy?.. um.... daddy's half-brother?... um...

There's only two relationships that we can swear to -
1.  Onyx is the mommy.
2.  Orion, since one of his two sons is the daddy, is the grandpa.

That's right, Orion.  Only 2 years old and you're a grandpa.

Say what?

After that, it gets complicated.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

All Quiet on the Critter Front

No sign of any lambs.
No sign of any weasels.

One of those statements makes me happier than the other, of course.

The chicks are growing, getting prettier by the day. Their wings are developing black and white stripes as they feather out, which you can almost see in the picture.

I had a terrible time even getting a picture of the little peeps, because they move so fast.  One moment I had a group focused in the middle of the frame, the next moment all I had was a plain of woodshavings.  The lighting was complicated in this pic by a sunbeam that was peeking in through the upper window of the coop.

The closest thing to animal excitement (and non-quiet) we've had was the other day when one of the hens was out.  (We keep explaining to the chickens that this is not a free-range establishment.  They keep ignoring us.)  I was happily kneeling in one of my flower beds, pulling weeds, when I had a feeling of not-being-alone.  A quick glance to my side showed a hen standing at my elbow, watching raptly as I tugged at grass, with a "Whatcha doin'?" look on her face.  Or maybe it was an "Are you gonna eat that?" look - it's hard to tell with chickens.  This was the same hen that I'd unsuccessfully chased earlier in the day.  There had been one of those mad loud I-laid-an-egg cackles, but it wasn't coming from the henhouse like it should have been.  (Chickens are very full of themselves when they lay an egg.  They're good for several rounds of "Buk-buk-buk-bu-GACK!!!  Buk-buk-bu-GACK!! Bu-GACK!!!  Buk-buk-buk-bu-GACK!!!"  which roughly translates as "I just laid an egg!!!  Me!!!  I laid an egg!!  It's the best egg EVER!!!")  I finally tracked the noise down to the bunnies' shed, where the hen was telling poor Stiffler all about her brand new egg, from a distance of about a foot away.  Poor Stiffler - large ears, sensitive hearing.  He was just staring at her with a rabbity WTF face.  I made a grab for her and missed, but at least it shut her up as she ran out. 
I swear I heard Stiffler give a sigh of relief as I picked up the Best Egg Ever and took it to the house.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Peeps and Sheeps

Another sign of spring is when we do this:

It was really hard to get a picture, since they all move so fast. 

This year's choice for our Chicken of the Year is the Barred Rock
It occurred to me last fall that if we got a different color of chicken each year, we would be better able to keep track of how old each chicken is.  After years of getting Rhode Island Reds, we had no idea which hen was from which year.  And we've still got a bunch of them in our flock - they could be anywhere from 4 to 7 years old.  Now when a chicken inexplicably drops dead (and they do) at least we'll be able to figure out whether it's from old age or from some chicken health-threat. 
And Barred Rocks are really pretty...

Anyway, the little dark chicks are the Rocks, and there are 12 of them all together.  Straight run, so they'll be a mix of boys and girls.  We plan to keep one of the roosters, since our previous rooster inexplicably dropped dead.  (Oh, hell, there's one of those plans again.)

The lighter chicks are actually baby turkeys.  We got 15 Bourbon Reds, which is the same heritage breed that our present two turkey hens are.  (We didn't really want that many, but that was the minimum order.  Given the fragility of turkey poults, it may be just as well that we start with extras, though.)
The plan here (there's that word again) (and I can hear that giggling, ya know) is to keep the best tom turkey out of the group for breeding purposes.  We'd really like to be able to hatch our own turkeys. 
BTW, I might need you to remind me later that I thought that was a good idea.

In sheepy news, all the girls are 'making bag' - which means that lambing could start any time.  Onyx looks like she's getting ready to feed the multitudes - if her udder gets any bigger, she'll be stepping on it...
I hope she doesn't have triplets again.