Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Predator problem

We lost two more lambs, so two days ago, we decided to put the livestock guardian dog, Sovalye, into the pasture with the sheep. We've never been able to put him in there before, because he and one of the rams would get into a fight instantly. That ram became dog food this year after almost breaking my hand and destroying every fencepost, fence, and gate that he encountered. The idea of putting the dog with the sheep was something that I had not considered before, but then I noticed some of the sheep were getting into the goat pasture when the fence stopped working, and Sovalye was ignoring them. So, two days ago, I took him into the pasture with the sheep. I had him on lead and first walked him around the perimeter, then walked him up to the sheep. Neither he nor the sheep seemed particularly interested in each other, so I took off the lead. Sovalye laid down and closed his eyes!

He's been in there two night now, and we've lost no more lambs. We have, however, lost ducks. We got baby Cayuga ducks in July to replace the ducks we lost to predators this spring. Now we're down to only 12 ducks of the 15 we had. Tonight we are going to see if it's possible to get them into the chicken coop. I certainly hope so, because I'm sick of losing my babies!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunny skies

The bad weather finally seems to be behind us. In addition to no rain the past two days, we've also had very pleasant temperatures. Unfortunately, we've lost a second lamb. I find it hard to believe that a lamb would wander into flood waters and wonder if a coyote got the two lambs that disappeared. The side effect of flooding is that the electric fencing does not work. I know the electric fence stops coyotes because we've seen coyote tracks in the snow heading up to the fence, then there is a "mess" of snow, which the coyote probably scattered when he got shocked by the fence, and there are footprints going away. In addition to getting shorted out, the fences also catch lots of debris, like grass and limbs. Mike spent a few hours yesterday cleaning them up, re-attaching the wires, and weed wacking the grasses under the wires, so hopefully we won't lose any more lambs.

Goats in the news

I've been seeing more and more articles about goats being used to eat brush and weeds. Here is another one:
Goats enrolled to solve UW maintenance problem

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And another flood

The flood waters finally receded yesterday following two days of rain. Tonight, the rain started again. Within less than two hours, the patio -- now called "the mote" -- was flooded again. We have cinder blocks lined up across it so we could get from the house to the driveway without wading through water, and the water is now less than an inch from the top of the blocks, meaning that we had about six inches in less than two hours.

As soon as Katherine noticed the patio was flooded, I realized this meant the middle pasture was probably flooded again. The ewe lamb that was lost on Monday has not been found, and not wanting to lose another lamb or sheep, I sent Katherine to make sure that the sheep were all on top of the hill, rather than at the bottom of the hill where they would get cut off from dry land as the waters rise. We couldn't find a working flashlight, so she went without. It took a while for her to return because she had to wait for the lightening strikes to illuminate the pasture to be able to count the sheep. I had insisted that if she spotted trouble, she was to immediately return to the house so we could come up with plan to deal with the situation. Katherine is infamous for handling things on her own -- even if it is dangerous -- and the last thing I wanted was her swimming in flood waters again. When she finally returned, she said that all the sheep were accounted for, so we shall hope that they all stay at the top of the hill.

Nevertheless, it is going to be a long night. I usually fall asleep easily enough, because I'm exhausted by the end of the day, but when a loud thunderclap wakens me, I'll probably lie awake in bed for a few hours before I fall back asleep. It's just what I do. Margaret has pointed out the fact that it is completely worthless for me to lose sleep worrying every time it rains, but I can't seem to NOT worry when it's pouring outside, especially when I know it's going to flood. This is the first time we've lost an animal in a flood, but I'm afraid it won't be the last. The forecast is calling for another 24 hours of thunderstorms.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pigs, lambs, canning, and another flood

Life on the farm has been so busy the past couple weeks that there hasn't been time to do anything extra -- like writing in my blog. In fact, it's been so busy that we are not even getting everything done around here. There simply are not enough hours in a day. We have been harvesting vegetables from the garden, canning and pickling green beans and wax beans, freezing shredded zucchini, and freezing beans.

We got four new pigs a week ago. They are all boars. We moved the two older boars to another pen. They were approaching puberty, and it's too early for the gilts to be bred, so we separated them. That was an interesting experience. We were able to coax them outside the walnut grove with a pan of grain, but then moving them 100 yards proved to be more difficult than we'd hoped. Of course, by now, we always imagine that moving animals will be a challenge, but we hope we're wrong. We decided to see if Porter, the four-month-old English shepherd could be of help, and he certainly gave it his best shot. He does have amazing herding instincts. he would get the two of them about 1/4 of the way, the one would break away and run back to the fence where the gilts were. After about 15 minutes, we decided to stop, because he is a puppy, and they are not supposed to work that long, plus it was obvious he was tired, whether he wanted to admit it or not. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth, and he was panting hard. Still, he refused to stop trying, so Margaret had to hold him.

Mike picked up the pigs, which are close to 100 pounds now and carried them to their new pen. Of course, they squealed like they were being tortured -- why do pigs do that! And one of them was so upset he peed on Mike. Now I know where that disgusting pig-farm smell comes from. When pigs are not on pasture, the pee has nowhere to go and just sits there and stinks -- which is why pigs need plenty of space.

We've had more lambs, and we've lost one. We had a two-day flood that ended yesterday. As usual, the Shetlands were out grazing in a high spot that got surrounded by water. Katherine was able to get them to move across it to dry land, and everyone was accounted for at that time. But then later in the day, she went out there, and one of the ewes was screaming her head off. Her lamb was nowhere to be found and still has not shown up. We are assuming that she got caught up in the flood waters. It was thigh deep on Jonathan, who is 5'10" tall, and the current was swift, so it could have easily picked up a young Shetland lamb.

Princess is now living in the barn and hating it. She has become too active to live in the house. She runs around everywhere and pees everywhere and nibbles on everything, including power cords. When we are outside, she follows us around like a puppy. She is our shadow, regardless of which two-legger is out there. She clearly identifies with humans as "her" kind. I've taken her to the sheep pasture several times, and she is clueless. The first time I took her out there was four days after we brought her in the house, and her mother still recognized her. She called to her and came up to her. It looked like she was telling her welcome back -- "Let's go honey." But Princess had no idea that that was her mother. She stuck to me like glue. I've taken her out there several times since then, and Pocahontas still looks at her -- stares at her -- but she's stopped talking to her. She comes up sometimes and sniffs her, but it looks like she's given up. If a sheep can look at another being longingly, she is. It's really sad. One day I sat out there with her for an hour, hoping she would start playing with the other lambs, but she didn't. When one lamb came up and sniffed her, she jumped away. I was happy that by the end of the hour, she walked up to another lamb and sniffed him. Progress!

There is still so much to do before winter. Hay is scarce this year, so we need to get more pasture fenced for the sheep. We have more than enough pasture to support all of our animals over the course of a year, but without proper fencing, all that land is worthless.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Poodle sheep?

When I say that we shaved the lamb's back end, I mean we shaved the lamb's back end! We wanted to make sure we exposed all the maggots. Now we realize that Princess looks like a poodle, rather than a sheep.

No more new lambs, but this is Minerva's ram lamb that was born Saturday afternoon. She gave birth to him in the same dusty spot that Princess's mom lambed, and he got a bath from me! I wanted to give Princess and her sister a bath, but I was worried that Pocahontas would reject them because they might smell differently. After spending hours picking maggots out of Princess's back end, however, I realized that it would be no big deal at all to have a mom reject a baby. In that case I would just have to bottle feed the lamb. I took a bucket of warm water out there and rinsed him as well as I could, then I used the towel to continue cleaning him. I figured that as long as I didn't use anything with a scent, there shouldn't be a problem. And today, mom and lamb are still doing great!

Porter is still being hyper-attentive to Princess. The poor lamb can't go potty without his undivided attention. I thought I had finally succeeded in convincing him that he didn't need to clean her bottom as she was peeing, but then he started licking the grass after she walked away!

Today I was doing some school work on the bed in the guest room, and when Princess joined me, I just had to get the camera. She is just too cute! I think I might just be worse than a new mom!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Princess of Antiquity Oaks -- and another lamb

In the middle of yesterday afternoon, I took a break from picking maggots out of Princess's skin and went outside to see if the rest of the lambs looked okay. I knew I wouldn't be able to catch any of them by myself but hoped I could get close enough to see if any others might be having a problem with maggots. I had completely forgotten that there are still several ewes left to lamb. After getting as close as possible to the lambs and seeing nothing but healthy, "hoppy" lambs, I decided to go back into the house. As I passed a shelter, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of something, and I suddenly remembered that we still have pregnant ewes! I ran to the shelter and found Minerva and a beautiful spotted ram lamb nursing. He was quite dirty, so I decided to wash him off in a bucket of water, hoping to give the flies nothing tempting enough in which to lay their eggs.

Today, Princess continues to improve. She is objecting to my poking and picking maggots, which is good. Yesterday was scary when she just laid there for hours motionless and quiet. Every hour or two I check the holes in her skin, and I wind up picking out another dozen or so maggots. Finally it looks like I have them all, but a couple hours later, there are more. Of course, our local farm supply store does not have the spray that was recommended by several of the women on my sheep list. They have almost nothing that I need. I wind up ordering most of my farm supplies on the Internet. So I am stuck with tweezers and hydrogen peroxide until the spray arrives via pony express.

Last night, I dreamt of -- what else -- maggots. After seeing them for so many hours, I really didn't expect much less. I got to bed around midnight, then Princess woke me at 3:30 wanting a bottle. I gave her three ounces of milk, and as I was washing the bottle, she started fussing, so I gave her two ounces more. Then I went back to bed, and every minute or so, she'd let out a tiny little bleat. After 15 minutes of that, I decided that she might need to potty and didn't want to do it in the crate, so I took her outside. The lamb and I stood in the light of the barn for another 15 minutes with Princess just looking at me and sticking close to my feet whenever I took a step in any direction. Finally, I picked her up and came inside. Knowing that she probably just wanted me to hold her, I sat down on the couch, trying to decide what to do. I'd have been happy to have her sleep with me except for the maggot issue. I knew I'd never fall asleep if there were real life maggots in my bed with me! Only a few seconds after I sat down, she leapt out of my arms, ran to the other end of the couch, squatted, and peed. I managed to shove a towel behind her before she actually started peeing, so the couch was saved. I put her back in her crate, and she was quiet until the sun rose.

Today she is spending all of her time either sitting in my lap or laying on a comforter that I put on the floor next to my computer chair. She has definitely bonded to her new human and canine family. I'm not sure if Porter, the English shepherd puppy thinks she is his new toy or his new baby. He keeps trying to play with her, no matter how many times I yell at him to stop, but he also insists on cleaning her bottom every time she goes outside to potty. I'm not quite sure how this will figure into his future as a sheep herding dog.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A change in plans

This morning I got dressed to go into town to pick up my friend from Chicago at the train station. I was wearing my good jeans and a nice top. Before leaving though I wanted to check and see if White Feather had lambed yet. She'd been very talkative the night before, and I figured she might be in labor. I headed out to the pasture, and after seeing all the ewes and no new lambs, I turned to head back to the house.

Then I saw a black lamb lying next to the fence all alone. Her mother was nowhere near her, which is odd for such a young lamb. I walked up to her. Her eyes were open, and she didn't move as I bent over to pick her up. Most lambs would have been halfway across the pasture by then. I smelled something terrible as I picked her up. I lifted her tail, and it looked like she had diarrhea, so I quickly dropped the tail, hoping it would prevent the dreadful scent from reaching my nose. I tried to hold her away from my body, which was a struggle against my instinct of wanting to hold her close because I knew she was having problems. I reminded myself that I didn't want to have to change clothes. As I headed for the gate, her mother suddenly appeared and began to protest. I told her I was sorry, but her baby needed help. I saw Mike in another pasture and called to him. I just wanted him to take the lamb into the house for me, so I wouldn't get dirty.

After Mike took her, he looked under her tail and quickly said, "That's maggots!" Huh? I looked under her tail and realized that what I thought was diarrhea under her tail was moving! We ran to the house and started washing her back end with tea tree oil shampoo. Why? Because it was the only thing I had that I thought would be slightly more effective than plain shampoo. We soaped her up and rinsed her three times. Finally I suggested that we soap her up and stick her rear in a pan of warm water. Maybe we could drown the maggots? After about five minutes, she started to shiver, so we took her out of the water, rinsed her again and tried to pick the maggots out of her hair.

We realized that her wool was a problem, so we got her as dry as we could and started to shave her back half with my goat clippers. That helped make it easier to see the maggots and crush them. Then we decided to get tweezers. Mike sat down and started to pick at the maggots and I ran down to the computer to post a quick message on my sheep list and google "lamb maggots." Most of the information talked about why they dock lambs' tails -- so they won't get manure on the tails, which will attract flies, which will lay eggs, which will hatch into maggots and eat away at the lamb's flesh until it dies!

I made a quick call to a vet who I know used to raise sheep, even though she doesn't "do" sheep. Her receptionist gave her my message and called back to say that I should just continue doing what I'm doing. What? There are hundreds -- probably thousands -- of these little worms in this lamb's skin, and we're supposed to pick them off with tweezers! I found another shepherd's blog, and she talked about her experience picking out maggots with tweezers. The ladies on my Yahoo sheep group offered some tips and tons of support, which makes the group infinitely more valuable than any article that I read.

Three hours after I found the lamb in the pasture, I told Mike that all three of us needed a break. I had sent my son into town to pick up our Chicago guest, and I suggested that we ask them to bring home pizza. My nice jeans were soaked with bath water and lamb urine. For most of the three hours, the lamb laid in our laps motionless and quiet. We kept looking at her chest to make sure she was still breathing. While we waited for Jonathan to come home with our guest and the pizza, I warmed a bottle for the baby with fresh goat milk, then I took her outside, hoping she'd pee. I put her on the ground, and she just stood there looking at me. At least she can stand, I thought! I picked her up, and sat down in a chair under a huge oak tree, and she fell asleep in my lap.

Twelve hours after finding her in the pasture I can't believe how many maggots I've seen and how many I've squished. The lamb now has a name -- Princess -- against my better judgment. My brain just started spinning, even as I told myself not to give her a name yet. What if she doesn't make it? Her mama is Pocahontas, who was a Native American princess, and I'm sure this little girl is going to be quite the princess after being raised in the house. So she is Princess, and if I were a betting person, I'd bet that she'll make it now, although I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I'm still worried, but she is much better. She talks to me now, and she objects when I pick at the maggots. She jumps out of the laundry basket that I put her into, so I need to get a dog crate for her to sleep in tonight. She ran around the dining room and living room for a little while this evening, and now she's sleeping next to the basement door.

My friend from Chicago asked, "Is it really worth it? I know she's cute, but is it really worth it to spend all this time?" My answer at the moment was lame. "No one else is paying me to do anything else right now." But now that I've thought about it, I'd say, yes, it's definitely worth it. This is why I moved out here -- it wasn't to make money. It's Thoreau in my head again. I want to experience all of life -- not just a neat little package of experiences. Some parts of life are ugly -- this may be the ugliest so far. I can't think of anything more disgusting. I know I've never spent this many hours actively working to save an animal. Usually you give drugs, and they either work or they don't, and you just have to wait. In this case, we've spent hours picking maggots out of this little lambs skin. You can't put a price tag on it. It's ugly, and it's disgusting, but it's rewarding. I was originally going to pick up my friend and head to a winery, then come home for a dinner of goat cheese, homegrown chicken, green beans, and patty pan squash. So I didn't get to spend today at a winery. It'll still be there next week and next month. But today this little lamb needed someone to help her. How could I not have changed my plans?

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Katherine just came inside to tell me that we have nine ducklings! Our single muscovy duck has been setting -- again -- in the barn. She set a couple months ago, and we finally took her rotten, stinky eggs away from her. I'd love to know who Daddy is!

Twin rams

This morning, Katherine said that she heard a sheep screaming at 5 a.m. For whatever reason, she went back to sleep without saying anything or doing anything. Upon hearing this news at 9 a.m., Margaret and I immediately went outside and found that Fee had lambed with twin rams. Her udder was huge, and they were running around screaming, unlike most lambs, who are pretty quiet. It was obvious that they hadn't nursed. Fee's teats were the size of a large man's thumbs, which is far too large for a Shetland lamb. Most Shetland mamas have teats the size of one or two joints on a lady's pinkie finger. We brought Fee and her lambs into the barn, where we milked her and gave the babies a bottle. Having colostrum in their tummies gave them the encouragement they needed to keep trying to figure out how to nurse off mama's teats. Like her lambs two years ago, they are sucking on the side of the udder, on the side of the teats, and just about everywhere except where they need to be sucking. Two years ago, we only had to milk her and bottle feed the babies for about three days until her production slowed down and her babies figured out how to nurse on those huge teats. I hope it goes as well -- or better -- this time.


Related Posts with Thumbnails