Name the Lambs Contest Winner!

I am pleased to announce a winner to our Name the Lambs contest. Mike and I narrowed down the list of potential name themes to our five favorites: types of tea, candy, National Parks, Disney characters and Shakespearean names. We then let our Sheep Shares CSA 2014 members cast their votes to decide this year’s theme.

The choice by a clear margin was to use the Shakespearean theme for naming this year’s lambs and credit goes to Anne who was the first to suggest this theme on March 20 at 1:06 pm. Thank you, Anne, and to everyone who added to the great list of suggestions.

The above photo is Cobweb, having breakfast at 5 a.m. today. He and his sister Peaseblossom were born to Cormo ewe Tupelo last Tuesday.

The lamb count is at 10 as of 4:30 this morning. It’s been a tiring week full of drama – I will fill you in on the details in a separate post. But everyone in the barn is doing well and I’m trying to hold it all together on little sleep.

Congrats to Anne. and again, thank you, everyone.

Categories: Books and lambing.

Lambing and Lactating and Crashing and Burning

Let me tell you about lambing season. It has been quite an intense time. Things got off to a rolicking start a full week earlier than expected and the pace is only now starting to ease up. I’m coming up for air to give you the run down.

Papaya kicked off the season with an easy-peasy, “look, Barb, I don’t need your help” birthing of a strapping single ram lamb. A string of smooth deliveries followed: a darling single ewe born to Blaze (her first lamb!); lovely pairs of Cormo lambs to Aberdeen, Chloe, Corona and Dune. Add a pair of Moorit ewe lambs (courtesy of Bailey) to the mix, our first Moorit lambs ever. All straightforward, no worries.

Last week, another round of Moorit ewe lambs – a set of triplets born to Cognac. After two years of trying for the elusive brown color trait, we have it in five ewe lambs this season. I’m over the moon.

There have been a few hiccups. Early on, Tupelo handily delivered an adorable pair of Cormo lambs. Then I sadly discovered she has only one functioning teat. Apparently some scar tissue from a previous lambing had sealed off the duct from the milk gland. So she and her lambs are in the “special needs” category. Mother, to make sure mastitis didn’t bloom received hot compresses and round the clock bag-balm massages. Her lambs receive bottle supplements.

At 11:30 one night, I went over to the barn to see what was up with Tansy, a Cormo ewe who seemed to be pushing longer than what should have been necessary. I haltered and tied her in a pen, scrubbed my right hand and arm up the the elbow, lubed up and went fishing.

EEEK. Four legs and two heads all heading for the exit at once! I brought the leg that seemed closest out to daylight with my right hand, held on to that foot for dear life with my left hand, then went back in to see which leg, neck and head belonged to that foot. Fortunately, a contraction shifted the log jam slightly and the matching foot came forward with the head and shoulders of a ewe lamb. I went right back and to fish out her sibling, a ram lamb, and then back again to see if there was a third. There was not. Both lambs were just fine once on the ground. It was scary, until I had sorted out the feet and got alll of them on the ground. I went back to bed after seeing that both lambs had nursed, relieved that all had turned out well.

Our first catastrophe hit the barn when Calypso, a matronly Cormo ewe, went into labor. And then stopped at 3 cm dilation. I spent the better part of a day waiting for her to move things along. When it became apparent that things were not moving right along, I got hold of a vet. Doc diagnosed her as having a case of hypocalcemia, otherwise known as “milk fever”. It’s common in dairy cows after birthing. Less common in sheep, though when it does occur in sheep, it’s just as they are getting ready to deliver. The body tries to mobilize calcium for milk production and in the process, the ewe’s strength gets tapped out. The only way to reboot the labor is through massive infusions of calcium, directly into the abdoment. Doc came, administered 300 ml of calcium gluconate, and said Calypso should kick out her lambs before morning.

Calypso delivered her lambs about 2 hours after Doc left. The first was born dead. The second was born with a heartbeat, but despite my efforts to clear her airways, never drew a breath. A pair of Cormo lambs – lost. And a ewe who despite deep exhaustion, was in frantic maternal overdrive looking for her lambs after I had removed them from her birthing pen. Even Crackerjack was distraught. I could see him glancing into her pen quizzically then glancing around the barn as if to say, “Where did they go?”. The only thing in the pen that smelled like her babies were a pair of leather gloves I had been wearing while trying to revive her ewe lamb. I had dropped them in a corner of the pen. When I retrieved them later, they were soaking wet, from Calypso licking them, as though it could somehow my gloves could bring her lambs back.

We rallied around Calypso with supplements and antibiotics (she never expelled the placenta) and took her temperature daily. Her udder looked like a fire ball, full of colostrum. We fed her first cutting hay and kept her quiet, until her milk subsided and her bag went slack – about a week’s time. She went from being down, to perky and is now her normal self again.

Disaster struck a second time a week later when Belle, another mature ewe, went into labor that came to a standstill before really getting started. By that time, I had read up on hypocalcemia and was nearly certain that we were seeing the early signs of a second case but was unable to persuade the vet “on call” that evening of this. One of the frustrations here is that there are few large animal vets and even fewer who know much behond the basics about sheep.

So it wasn’t until the following day that my own vet came to the barn to administer calcium, in hopes that Belle would deliver. I watched and waited. As the day wore on, it became clear that her lambs weren’t forthcoming. I wearily watched as her fatigue set in. By that time, my vet was out straight with other emergency calls, unable to make it to my barn. I knew Belle wasn’t going to make it until morning. I called my back up vet and asked her to come right away to perform a c-section in my barn.

By the time the vet arrived, I had converted the milk room a surgery. Belle had to be wheeled in on a wagon, as she was too weak to walk. We deliberated – whether we should simply put her down because the prospects of live lambs were slim at that point, but decided to sedate her for the procedure, in hopes of salvaging something. I tied her and kept her calm until the sedative took hold. Dr. B. retrieved a live ewe lamb from her womb and passed her off to me to work on getting it going. She then pulled out a second lamb, a ram, who was not alive. We could see Belle was in very rough shape and make the decision to put her down. I would raise her ewe lamb as an orphan.

And that is how I came to have an adorable but very needy housemate. Here she is sleeping in her crate in the kitchen. We have named her Snug because she spent her first night snugged right up against my chest in bed (until I had to go to the barn at midnght to deliver more lambs and then I handed her to Mike – she spent the rest of the night snugged up against him). It’s been touch and go with this one. She seemed to lag developmentally at first, understandable after a long, shaky journey.

I am reeling after an intense, exhausting three weeks. I don’t mind the work. I don’t mind being tired – sleep deprivation comes with lambing season. The emotional piece has hit me hard. Losing lambs. Losing a sweet ewe. Making difficult decisions under duress. Second guessing. I’ve had several moments of wondering if I am tough enough on the inside to bear when things go wrong with my flock. Part of raising livestock is coming to terms with the reality that there will sometimes be deadstock. And sometimes there will be tough decisions. And sometimes, you will want to throw in the towel, but you can’t, when your animals depend on you.I guess the self doubting also comes with this job.

All you can do is keep moving – and to try to learn what you can from the times when the shit hits the fan.

We’re now up to 22 lambs in the barn. I’ll have to list their names in a separate post, as I can’t remember them all. Everyone on the ground is thriving. Snug has moved from my bed, to the kitchen, to the barn starting last Sunday. I adore her. Tupelo’s ram lamb, Cobweb, is also on the bottle, teetering closely into the realm of permanent pet, as he too is adorable. Sigh. I am such a sucker. My time for getting anything done not involving sheep (like eating, laundry, food shopping, sleeping, shipping yarn) is chopped up into four hour intervals. But feeding adorable lambs is not a bad way to punctuate one’s days (and nights). Only for 8 more weeks.

I am waiting to see if two ewes, Galveston and Stella, are holding out on me or if they somehow escaped breeding and have just put on a few pounds this winter. If they are going to lamb, it really should be this week. I need to get back home, to my own bed.

Categories: animals/wildlife, lambing, and sheep.

First Lamb!

Meet our first lamb of the season, a singleton ram born early this afternoon to Cormo ewe Papaya. I came home from the grocery story to find him in the barn, on his feet, all cleaned up and sturdily nursing. Lamb is tuckered out and Papaya is worrying over him, licking him up and down. She’s still having contractions, trying to pass the placenta so she’s constantlyt blatting. I expect to find it when I head back to the barn in a minute for afternoon chores. Just wanted to share the news.

Thanks for the great name suggestions. This little guy will remain unnamed until we’ved settled on this year’s theme.

And a big thank you to Cheryl of In the Loop for hosting my book signing and yarn trunk show yesterday. I enjoyed the visit!

Stay tuned for more updates from the lambing barn.

Categories: animals/wildlife, lambing, and sheep.

Contest – Name the Lambs

COMMENTS FOR THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED. THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT SUGGESTIONS.

CHECK BACK ON SUNDAY TO SEE OUR SELECTION.

Spring has sprung. Sort of. Here in the hillls a sheet of sleet and slush marked its arrival. Which made my morning drive to the barn rather interesting.

We are on the brink of lambing season. I’m keeping close watch on the flock now, as our lambs should be arriving very soon. The sweet face above is a lamb from a former year. I’m tingling with anticipation of this year’s arrivals. You might remember we took year off from lambing in 2013 and I while it was nice to have a break, I really missed having them. We’re expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 little ones over the next five weeks.

Which reminds me that I’m a little behind schedule in selecting a theme for naming this year’s lambs.

So today I’m kicking off a contest. Would you like to help us name this year’s lambs?

To enter please suggest a name theme in a comment on this post. And you must share this post via social media (FB, Ravelry, Twitter, your own blog – just pass it along, please). Let’s see how many ideas we can generate in a week.

Mike and I will select our five favorites and then it will come down to a vote from our Sheep Shares CSA 2014 members. The suggester of the winning theme will receive a special prize: a signed copy of my book, Adventures in Yarn Farming and 2 skeins of Cormo Camel Silk – enough yardage to complete one of these two projects from my book: the Sundance Scarf by Marnie MacLean or the Full Snow Moon Cowl and Mitts by Barbara Giguere (a total value of $79.95).

To avoid repitition, here are themes used in passed years:

2005 – Greek mythology

2006 – herbs & spices

2007 U.S. cities & towns

2008 Fashion Designers

2009 – Colors

2010 – Fonts & Type Faces

2011 – Apples

2012 – Flowers

The deadline for submitting a theme is 5 pm EST, Thursday, March 27. Please, one suggestion per person. If the same theme is suggested by more than one person, credit will be given to the person who suggested it first – so be sure to scroll through the comments before posting. Our Sheep Shares members will weigh in & vote. Then I will announce a lucky winner on Monday, March 31, here on my blog.

Be inspired and have fun – and please spread the word.

Happy Spring to you.

Categories: animals/wildlife, lambing, and sheep.

More Shearing Day Scenes

I had way too many photos for one post. Here’s another round of pics showing moments throughout the day.

We stopped mid morning to celebrate our shearer Andy Rice’s birthday with a delicious cake baked by Sheep Share member Pat Philbin. ( I think we were shy a few candles on the cake!).

Many thanks again to all. Photos here provided courtesy of Lisa McGuire.

Categories: animals/wildlife, shearing, and sheep.

As the Wool Flies – Shearing Day, Part 1

Yesterday was our Sheep Shares CSA member shearing day. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of helpers, better weather or prettier fleeces. Mike and I thank everyone who came to pitch in. We accomplished so much in one morning – fourteen sheep shorn and about 90 lbs of wool boxed and ready to ship! You guys are awesome. Here are some scenes from the day:

Thank you to Lisa McGuire for taking these photos. For more pics of Shearing Day action, visit our Facebook group: Foxfire Fiber Friends.

Categories: animals/wildlife, shearing, and sheep.

Gypsy gets a vet check and new friends

Gypsy gets a vet check and new friends

The vet was running late. It was a shivery 45 minute wait in the barn Monday afternoon. Thirteen degrees, wind chasing snow ghosts across the field. While I crouched and rubbed my hands together between my knees, Gypsy enjoyed my new down coat.

We had to put her in a holding pen prior to Doc’s arrival. Catching her – not so easy. We used panels to corral her in a corner. But when I approached to hold her, the poor kid trembled so hard, I thought she was going to fall over. Made her comfortable, gave her a treat in a small pen (above) but she was still shaking so badly, I wrapped her in my coat, tying the sleeves in a double knot round her chest. I couldn’t figure out if she was stressed or cold.

Doc gave her a thorough examination. No obvious signs of trouble, other than the involuntary trembling which he said was a sign of stress – not a sign of being cold. Beneath my down jacket, she has a beautiful mohair coat of her own. Her internal temperature was fine. The act of being caught again brought on the trembles. She was traumatized by being taken from her barn last week. It will take a while for her to recover. I suppose it’s like PTSD. Doc said the best thing for her was to keep her with her buddies and stick to business as usual. Although I think she rather enjoyed my down coat, we untied the sleeves and released from the catch pen. She was eager to rejoin her flock.

Thank you all for expressing your concern for her. I really appreciated your comments. She’s acting more herself each day, beginning to “help” Mike with morning chores, as usual. As for the three men who stole her – that matter is in the hands of the local police.

Ironically enough, several weeks before this incident, I had begun the process of searching for caprine companions for Gypsy. Goats prefer goats to sheep. And I could use more mohair.

And so, as soon as the weather softens, Gypsy will have new friends.

Meet Greta and Galloway.

Adorable. Gorgeous, colored mohair.

Kid Friendly

I can’t wait to bring them to the farm.

In the meantime, thanks for reading – and again for your support throughout the stress of last week.

Categories: animals/wildlife and Kidnapped Goat.

Our Goat was Kidnapped!

Our Goat Was Kidnapped!

If Gypsy, our dear Angora doe, could speak she’d have a heck of a tale to tell about the last 72 hours.

First of all, Gyspy is okay. She was returned to the farm yesterday by two of the three people who had stolen her from our farm on Thursday night.

Now, let me back up a bit.

I had to be in Connecticut all day on Friday. Mid morning I received a call from my husband Mike. He and our farm assistant, discovered upon arriving for morning chores, our flock was minus one goat. Gypsy was no where to be found.

There was a trail of goat hoof prints outside the fenced paddock accompanied by several sets of human boot prints (not Mike’s, not our farm hands’ and definitely not mine) that followed the goat prints around the north side of the barn, over the stone wall and down through the ravine. The tracks continued on the opposite side of the road, heading down toward the dairy barn. A thorough search revealed no other signs of goat anywhere on the farm.

I had several appointments to keep in Connecticut that day, so Mike kept me posted via cell. The authorities were alerted. Mike contacted our security company to download all the video from our barn security surveillance cameras that record everything that happens near our barns and paddocks. I got home just before dark Friday night and spent the last minutes of daylight scouting for goat prints, droppings. I hollered “GYPSAAAAY” down into the dell, hoping to hear her reply.

Got an early start on Saturday morning – I was slated to be vending yarn and signing books at the Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market Fiber Day from 10 to 2 which meant I had to leave the farm by 6:30 a.m. Before I left, I spent half an hour down at the farm again, searching for any fresh goat prints and calling for Gypsy.

It took hours for the security company to sift through the video.

But Saturday morning, long after I was on my way to the Farmers’ Market, Mike heard from the surveillance company that there was indeed footage of Gypsy being chased, cornered and dragged away by three men on Thursday night. When Mike eventually saw the images himself, it quite literally made him sick. Who were these people? What were they planning to do with our goat?

I was grateful to be so busy at the Wayland Farmers’ Market, while all of this was being sorted out back home. I kept waiting for a text or call from Mike. The longer I waited, the tighter the knot in my stomach became. At one point a customer asked me a question I’m often asked – how many and what kinds of animals do you have? I began ratttling off my automatic response: 60 sheep, 3 llamas, 3 miniature donkeys, and 1 goat – but when I got to the goat part, the words stuck in my throat, because I was feeling nearly certain at that point that I would not see my goat again.

By bizarre coincidence, a few local individuals had noted some interesting recent FaceBook activity – a few local guys posted pictures of themselves posing with beer and a goat. The dots were quickly connected and the goat purloiners identified.

After sharing the videos and the discovery of the incriminating FB post with the authorities, they contacted the perpetrators. Mike received a call from the local police – that our goat would be returned to the farm within the hour. Mike headed straight to the barn.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, a truck rolled up at the farm with Gypsy tethered in the back. Apparently after the intervention of the authorities, two of the three men who were responsible her disappearance decided it would be a very good idea to return her to the farm.

I got home late, exhausted last night after a very busy day at the farmers market. It was dark, snowing and I wasn’t dressed in barn clothes. But the barn was my first stop, to bring Gypsy a slice of apple I’d saved to share with her. You can see her apprehension in the pic I took, above. She wouldn’t approach me for her treat, so I left it for her in the feed bunk. Understandable behavior on her part, really, given her experience.

I will have the vet out tomorrow to make sure she is healthy, unharmed and has not been abused in any way.

Mike and I slept well last night, knowing she was home. We’re still processing the weirdness of it all – and deciding where we go from here.

We have exactly zero tolerance for mistreatment of animals. Even if there was no malicious intent, (and it’s still unclear to us – what would have been her fate had she not been tracked down so quickly?) how could anyone mishandle an animal, just for sport? I just don’t get it.

Gypsy’s is a lucky goat – to be back in her barn, ruling the roost, bossing the ewes about and paling around with the donkeys. There’s a chapter in my book, Adventures in Yarn Farming called “Goats are born looking for trouble.”

In this case, trouble came looking the goat.

Categories: animals/wildlife and Kidnapped Goat.

This is about Sheep Shares

There’s still time to join us for 2014!

Sheep Shares is my farm’s yarn and fiber CSA. It’s a way for you, wherever you are, whatever you do, to participate in the life of a working sheep farm – and to receive in the course of a year two shares of either yarn or spinning fiber produced from the wool of my flock, delivered neatly to your doorstep. You need never set foot in the hayloft, skirt a fleece, nor lift a shovel.

If you sign up, I promise the sheep and I will take care of the rest.

I’m writing because there are only a handful of openings left for Sheep Shares 2014. If you have been on the fence, now is the time to act.

You can find all the details here on my website.

Thanks for reading!

above photos: Cormo Silk Alpaca yarn (fall yarn share for 2014)

Cormo Silk Alpaca roving (fall fiber share for 2014)

Categories: Uncategorized.

Passages

This is Cocoa, the oldest, dearest member of my flock. Cocoa is one of the pair of my very first sheep. My flock started with her.┬áCocoa will be 17 in March which is very old for a sheep. She’s doing incredibly well, given her advanced age.

I took this pic this morning after we fed her and bedded her pen. She and three other senior ewes live in our “Assisted Living” Barn. They get individual pans of grain and mushy alfalfa cubes soaked in warm water every morning. Winter is especially hard on old sheep. We do what we can to help them get by

I received some sad news just after Christmas. “Chocolate Chip” who was Cocoa’s very first lamb, born 16 years ago, died the day after Christmas. Chip had been living at my sister’s house, along with her menagerie of other sheep and goats. Kathy found him in the snow that morning. Like Cocoa, he had been receiving preferential treatment, although declining. And like Cocoa, he lived a long and contented life.

It’s difficult seeing out the senior members of our flock. Chip’s passing makes me grateful for every day Cocoa is still on her feet at the gate to greet us when we enter the barn. Although she is stiff-gaited and her eyes are clouding over, she’s wily, strong and independent

We had lost another old timer back in June. I was so sad at the time, I’m sorry, I just didn’t feel like blogging about it. It was Pansy, a 13 year old Cormo ewe who was the last of our original Cormo matriarchs. She lived long enough to be present for a Sheep Shares gathering in June (if you attended that event, you may remember the frail ewe in the Assisted Living Barn). Pansy passed away the very next day.

Our flock has a higher than average number of old timers – ewes, mostly, who have more than earned their keep over the years. Not all of them are as personable as Cocoa, Chip or Pansy, but their presence is part of the spirit of this place and they are dear friends. Let’s hope winter will lighten up for the sake of the old timers.

* note – post edited to fix grammatical error, yikes.

Categories: Uncategorized.