Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Old Gray Sweatshirt

       Things can go from good to bad on a farm real quick like, on any given day. We had planned on Saturday taking off for the woods and hunting morels but that was not to be. I had done the morning milking and chores at 5:00 am like I do every other day and all seemed to be normal. I went through all the chores like I always do, making sure everything that is in a cage has food and water. I fed the donkeys, sheep and goats. I made sure that Naomi had hay and fresh water. I also gave her grain and made sure that little Abigail was nursing like her big brother. I did the milking and returned to the house. Around 8:00 I went back to the barn to check on the new lambs and knew instantly that something was wrong. Naomi was down in her pen and trembling. I had never seen milk fever but had heard enough about it, to know this was what I was seeing. I went to the medicine cabinet in the milk room and grabbed a calcium drench and a bottle of calcium gluconate. I started injecting the calcium gluconate under the skin and giving the drench orally. She was going down hill quickly. She was shaking and foaming at the mouth. Her little lambs stood at the back of the pen, watching my every move and crying for their mama. It didn't take me long to see I was fighting a losing battle. I finally laid down on the hay with Naomi and held her in my arms as she took her last breath. I had never seen any animal die so quickly.
           Right about now you are wondering if I titled this post right or if I was losing my mind. Well, you see, I have this old hooded gray sweatshirt, the kind that zips up the front. It's what carries me through, from the heavy Carhartt jacket to just a t-shirt in the spring and then again in the fall. I had this sweatshirt on on Saturday. I hang it in the mudroom and grab it whenever I head to the barn. It usually is dirty from little muddy goat hooves and spilled milk on it. After Naomi had died and we took her on the hill to bury her, I knew I had two little lambs that I would have to teach to take a bottle. I warmed some milk in a bottle and as I grabbed that sweatshirt, I saw a stain that hadn't been there before. It was from where Naomi had laid in my arms, across my chest. She was foaming and frothing at the mouth and the stain was from her saliva. I thought to myself, I would throw it in the washer as soon as I came back to the house. I headed to the barn with my bottle of milk.
        Anyone who has ever tried to teach a baby lamb or goat to drink from a bottle, when they are used to their mama, knows what a battle it can be. They clench their little jaws tight and want nothing to do with the nipple. I started with the ram lamb and could not get him to drink, so I tried little Abigail. As soon as I picked her up she struggled against me but all of a sudden she smelled my sweatshirt and the smell of her mama and she snuggled right up against me, with her faced pressed against where her mama had been just a little while ago. It was all she had left. With tears steaming down my cheeks. I gently opened her mouth and she began to suck on the bottle. Thank goodness for that old sweatshirt. Since yesterday, both lambs are now thriving on goat milk. They are starting to hop and play, like little lambs should. I am their mama now. And guess what..?? I'm not washing that sweatshirt for awhile either.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Twins !!

     We were rewarded this morning with a beautiful set of twins from our ewe Naomi. One big ram lamb and one very tiny ewe. In the keeping of Biblical names, we have named the ewe lamb, Abigail, who was a wife of King David's. So Abigail joins Ruth, Naomi, Esther, Miriam and of course our handsome ram Boaz. It is our intention to raise the ram lamb for the freezer. Our first little ewe of the year, Miriam, has grown by leaps and bounds. She is as black as coal and has become so popular with all who drive by our farm. Every one stops and looks for the "little black lamb". This farm raised sheep over 100 years ago. We still have a barn on the farm that used to house the sheep. It too is over 100 years old. I think it is so special that we have brought sheep back to this land.
      In other news regarding the sheep, we are so excited to be having Calvin McCutcheon on our farm next week. He will be here on Monday to shear our sheep and the Angora goats. He is 7 times state champion shearer and 2 times national champion. He has been so much fun to talk to on the phone and we are thrilled to be meeting him in person. I will try to get lots of pictures of that event. Our goal in the next few days is to keep the sheep nice and dry for him. Any sign of rain and the sheep must stay in the barn. Their fleeces are amazing and I can't wait to get them on the spinning wheel. We can never thank the girls over at Sheeps and Peeps Farm for such quality animals they have started our flock with. Whoever visits our farm and sees our sheep always wants to know where they came from. They are so beautiful. I encourage you to visit their blog at They had surprise lambs yesterday.
       In other news on the farm, we have sold all the Nubian kids that we are going to sell this year. We have kept back 4 doelings as replacement does. This is more than we usually keep but the herd had started to dwindle down and we would like to do some building back up. We have put a deposit on a buckling in Ohio who has some incredible bloodlines, both show and milk, so we are excited to put him into the mix.
      We have 14 baby call ducks in the barn and another duck hen that has started a clutch. The chicks that we had ordered are in and thriving. We are still waiting for our Sebastapol goose to start laying. So far, she is not cooperating. We have sold 12 baby bunnies, just in time for Easter, thank goodness. We also are still waiting for the arrival of our first baby miniature donkey. Our jenny, Sunflower, is huge and I have begun to think she is carrying an elephant instead of a donkey.
       We will be starting up the greenhouse this weekend. The pepper plants have been started in the house for weeks now and are ready to make the trip to the greenhouse. It has been too wet to till up a spot for lettuce and onions but maybe in the coming weeks. We have had a very long, cold spring. We have heard spring peepers a couple of times but they seem to always get covered up by a snowfall. Hopefully we are done with snow for now but you never know. The wood frogs have come down to the koi ponds and laid their eggs and headed back to the woods. The ramps are up and we will be taking a trip up into our woods this weekend to hunt for morels. The turkeys are gobbling on the hill and I can hear the hens starting to cluck for the toms.  The rhubarb is popping through the ground and the pussywillows are swelling. Robins sing to me while I milk both morning and night. Spring is in the air but if you have any doubts, a trip to the barn will take care of that.  I hope you are enjoying this time of the year.