Saturday, March 8, 2008

"The Lion Shall Lie Down with the Lamb"

They say of March weather, "In like a lion, out like a lamb."

Well, I've got the lambs--and the weather is roaring. Bitter cold today, and snow. Not just a few flakes, but steady all morning and into the afternoon. The ground is frozen solid again. It's hard to imagine planting potatoes in a week and a half--St. Patrick's day being the traditional beginning of this important farm activity. Our seed potatoes won't even be shipped until early April...but we'll buy some locally to plant for the special day. Garden center bulk seed paotaotoes are inexpensive, so if they rot in the cold ground it won't be a huge loss, and if they thrive it will be an early crop.

After three days off, I went back to bus driving today. I needed the break from farm work (my legs are sore from all the walking and squatting these past couple days), and a chance to just sit and drive the nice warm bus after a busy morning.

*****
Patience, and a subtle knowledge of sheep psychology, can often substitute for a lot of brute force.

The goal was to separate the 5 "new" (last fall) Suffolk cross ewes from my "old" flock, since they aren't due to lamb for several weeks, and I didn't want housemates to have to deal with any miss-mothering of lambs that might be born while I'm at work. Separating off the culprit would be difficult and dangerous--solo sheep tend to panic, and it takes a strong fence to keep them from going back to their buddies. Thus my choice to separate all 5.

I'd noticed that the Suffolk cross ewes tended to bed down on the east end of the pen, the others on the west...and in between was a gate. So the first thing I did when I went out for my morning lamb chores was to close the gate. Presto--separated!

Oops. There was one of the "old" ewes in with the Suffolks.

I got the lead rope and some alfalfa hay, thinking I might be able to get the rope around her neck while she was eating. No such luck. She knew something was up, and ran away every time. The Suffolks enjoyed their pre-breakfast, though.

Finally I decided to just leave her in with them. She isn't "bagging up" (getting a full udder) very much yet, so she may not be due until about the same time as them. I opened the gates to the side pen, and she strolled through while they stayed at the pre-breakfast. Ok, I couldclose the gate and separate them, but then there would be no way for me to catch her alone in a large pen, and she was in the pen I wanted THEM to be in.

So I ran her back into the pen with them. She willingly went towards the other sheep when faced with my frightening presence.

Then I started to run all 6 of them into the pen. But as I drove her farther from her "old" flock, she paniced and peeled off from the Suffolks to go stand by the gate separating her from her "own." I quickly closed the gate between her and the Suffolks, and presto! everyone was where I wanted them, without any wrestling!

Now instead of caring for 2 groups of sheep twice a day, chores encompass:

--The main ("old") flock of 9 ewes and Freckleface.
--The 5 Suffolks (in the side pen).
--The three ewe lambs (outside the barn, with occasional excursions into the barn for water).
--Eider in the stanchion and her triplets (she is getting antibiotics twice a day to prevent infection from the very invasive assisted birth; special feed; water bucket to keep thawed and full; cleaning soiled hay out from under her twice a day; occasional releases from the stanchion; bottling two lambs; cleaning their poopy butts....)
--Mary Kay tied up to keep her from trying to kill one of the lambs the Suffolk ewe tried to steal, and her twins (water, hay, check tie, milk out to supply Eider's 2 small ones).
--Cleo, a good mom to both of her lambs despite having a baby stolen (water, hay, tie up and battle to milk out for Eider's lambs).

Oh, and feeding the chickens and letting them out of their coop, feeding the cat, feeding the dogs....

The hardest chore to remember sometimes is to feed and water myself.

1 comment:

Catlady said...

And of course, you know the hardest chore is also *THE* absolute most important -- without it, you wouldn't be able to keep up with all the others. Remember to always make time for yourself!!! And I'm keeping all of you in my prayers. I'm so happy to hear that the early lambs are still thriving :)