Sad day

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When I took this photo of a storm moving in over our property, I had it in mind to post about the beautiful open skies that we are graced with each day. However sometimes figurative grey clouds loom over us as well.

Today we went out with the intention of checking all of the sheep for signs of parasites, and then we had planned to merge the rams with the ewe/lamb flock. We checked the ewes and lambs first, then went over to bring the rams in for examination.

When we went to move Clancy, he stopped and refused to move. Roy realized quickly that something was making him lethargic, and quickly checked his mucous membranes for color. A nasty parasite, which infects all sheep, had taken a stranglehold on Clancy, and he had lost a lot of blood in his stomach since he was last checked a week ago. Normally, weekly checking is adequate for this parasite, but we knew that Clancy had undergone a stress about a week ago, suffering mild heat exhaustion in the blazing sun. This probably lowered his resistance, and he lost the battle with the worms. It was amazing, because he seemed relatively normal last evening.

We quickly treated him with wormer, probiotics (he wasn’t eating, and we were worried about his rumen being healthy with bacteria), B12 and iron injections and some Vitamin E/Selenium (always good when they’re stressed, as they tend to need more at those times). We put him in the shade with access to cool water, hay and some grain, but he wasn’t interested.

Unfortunately, we lost him a couple of hours later. We explained to the kids that this is God’s way of selectively thinning the flock. We obviously didn’t need 4 rams, and God chose which one was no longer necessary. It was also a natural culling of possibly weaker genetic stock. We’ll never know, but perhaps his genetic stock is less resistant or less resilient to worms.

Here’s his “baby” picture – from when we bought him in September of last year:

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And here he is before the spring shearing, looking pretty shabby from the winter. Look how beautifully his horns were curling!

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Regardless, we are blessed to have his offspring still with us. Because of his dam, he’s bound to be an even better ram than Clancy. The king is dead. Long live the king!

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Well, well, well

Stuff happens around here when I’m away.

The other day, when it was 192 degrees outside, and not a breeze was stirring, I ran out to the local grocery store for a quick shop for things for 2nd son’s birthday. I was gone for no more than 2 hours. It’s amazing how much can happen here in 2 hours.

When I left, Roy was taking a friend down to show him the old well on our property down past the barn. We’ve been hoping that we could get this well up and running with a hand pump, and we’ve been researching a couple of nice stainless steel pumps. Also, we could see a big ball of dried grass caught on a pipe down there that we couldn’t reach, and we were trying to figure out how to get it out without it going into the water. Perhaps our friend would have some ideas…

This old well has a 6 inch casing (the big metal tube that sticks up above the ground), and from it emerges a bundle of wires. Roy and I have been examining it – trying to measure the static water level (technical term for how far down before you hit water). We’ve also determined that, seeing as there are wires coming out of it, somewhere down there there’s a submersible pump. The question in our minds was – do we need to get rid of that pump, and if so, how?

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We had called some well drilling companies, but they were too busy to come out and check it. So we started doing some research. The good news was that with the newer hand pumps, the cylinder that goes down to the bottom of the well is very narrow, the idea being that it could pass by the pump apparatus, leaving the pump, etc. undisturbed. It was VERY CLEAR to us that day that the pump DID NOT need to be pulled. We were so happy! We were suddenly thankful that the well guys had been so busy, because it saved us the expense and them the trouble of pulling out the old pump! Make a note of those words above: “VERY CLEAR” and “DID NOT”, because they will play a big role in the next part of the story…

When I returned from shopping, I first noticed that “my” tractor was not in the garage. How did “going down to show him the old well” turn into a need for the tractor? The kids were looking sheepish (no offense to our wooly friends by using that expression!) Roy was walking up from where the well was, and I said something like…”I’m afraid to ask what you guys are doing!” Roy’s smiling response: “Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.” I braced myself.

When I got down to the well, here’s the scene I saw.

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Notice “my” tractor, parked beside a big mound of dirt. This was clearly NOT an exercise in simply “going down to show him the old well”, and I couldn’t imagine how they were using the tractor to get a bit of grass out of there! Something big was going on, and I was planning my approach as to asking what it was as I walked down the hill.

The guys proudly looked up, showing me they had just got a chain around the pipe, ready to pull the submersible pump! They had dug down to the pitless adapter, cut the underground pipe that came out of it, leaving a big hole in the side of the casing into which dirt was falling (subsequently falling into the well water!) Oh yeah – and they had used the shopvac to get the fluff of grass out! (I just found out that that was 2nd youngest son’s idea!)  They were quite chuffed!

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They had made a big pile of dirt!

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Truly, I would have been so pleased if they had told me that they had just gotten that bit of grass out, and left it at that. But then, for some reason, they decided they HAD to pull out that pump. I think it was some male need to see what was down there – how hard would it be to pull up? What would it look like? There was this sudden need to explore down in this hole. Because the pump COULD be pulled, it now MUST be pulled.

And then I surveyed the scene again,

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and slowly said the words that pulled the plug out of their “boys will be boys and must explore” machine.

“Um, Guys, did you forget that the pump we’re buying does NOT require pulling the submersible pump?” “Guys, did you realize it’s 192 degrees out here, and you have fences to build, wood to split, etc., etc.?” They were crestfallen. I tried to backpedal a bit…they looked like sad little puppy dogs who had just chewed my favorite slipper…but something had to be said! “Have you guys ever done this before?! I watched the video! It’s not just a matter of hooking it up to “my” tractor and pulling! There’s gonna be a big long pipe!” Ok – so maybe I DIDN’T backpedal! I just continued to let them have it!

After a prolonged look of forlorn on both of their faces, and a bit of guilt on Roy’s as he seemed to suddenly recall that “Oh yeah…we DIDN’T need to pull the pump!” the two of them finally relented, but informed me that they needed to now go to Home Depot to get a plug for the hole created at the site of the pitless adapter. Realizing that their trip to Home Depot would further impede their ability to get things done at the farm, I insisted that I go instead, after receiving instruction of what was needed. Of course that meant that I’d be leaving the two of them alone together, and who knows what they’d get up to next—how big would the NEXT hole be that they dug? I decided it was a risk I had to take.

However when I returned they were on their best behavior, and chores were getting done. They were still sorely disappointed that I interrupted their fun, and I was instructed that I should never go grocery shopping so quickly and efficiently again!

I got an earful (in a good natured way) about how I ended up also making a mistake — (gee, I really thought I was perfect!). I bought the right plug, but apparently I didn’t buy galvanized, as I had been instructed! Now the plug would only last 100 years instead of 500. Oh well!  (Pun intended.)

The end of the story is that we had to admit that it was actually a good thing that they dug down and pulled off that pipe from the pitless adapter and plugged the hole. However it may have been 20 years too late. Our next step with this well, before we spend oodles of money on a hand pump, is to have the water tested. Who knows what has leached into the well through the cut pipe that was connected underground to it!

A prayer to St. Isidore that the water is potable for our livestock…Maybe we should have the well blessed!  It will be so convenient to have access to water in this part of our property, not to mention, if we have a power outage, we’d be able to pump up some buckets of water to flush toilets!

I’m just waiting for the well people to come on Monday to test the water. I have this haunting thought in the back of my mind that they’re going to tell us to pull up that pump because it’s leaching something into the water, and then the guys will have the last laugh at my expense!

The boys…

The two ram lambs born at Morning Star Meadows this spring have had some good news!  Seems both are going to be sticking around a little while! 

 

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This year was definitely a “ewe” year for us, which is fantastic, because the more ewes we have, the more lambs we’ll have and the quicker we’ll build up our flock!

 

But rams are different.  They’re boys.  

 

Having been an only child/girl myself, I did not really know what it was like to have boys around until I had 5 of my own!  

 

They’re messy.  They smell worse than girls.  They fight a lot, and sometimes draw blood!  

 

But that being said, they are a lot quieter than girls.  They like to keep to themselves more.  They don’t meddle in things.  They pretty much leave you alone.

 

Rams — boys — men…all pretty much the same when it comes to these things…Ya just gotta leave them alone to do whatever it is they want to do (e.g. buy a bigger tractor) and everything goes ok.

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So this year we were blessed with a solid black ram out of Monty, and a white ram out of Clancy.  They are, as yet, unnamed.

 

Since we can only have so many rams (since we believe in polygamy when it comes to sheep breeding), we have explained to the children (including me) very specifically and firmly that we DON’T NAME RAMS because we don’t want to get too attached to a critter that someday may end up on the end of our fork!

 

Roy has been dying to have some Morning Star Meadows lamb for dinner, but I think I’ve convinced him that he’ll have to wait another year, and hope that next spring brings us a “ram year”!  

 

Yet-to-be-named white ram was a winner because he’s out of our matriarch, Millie.  Millie is just an amazing ewe out of an amazing dam.  She’s getting a bit past middle age, and we’re not sure how many more lambs she’ll give us.  We want to keep her stock, and her lamb is just gorgeous, with big strong horns and a good solid conformation.

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Yet-to-be-named black ram was a winner firstly because he’s solid black.  This is a very desirable fleece color for spinners, of course.  Secondly, he has one of the nicest temperaments of all the lambs this year.  Hopefully he’ll toughen up a bit, actually, before he joins the all boys club!  He’s just too sweet!!  We’re hoping that he’s heterozygous for the moorit gene – the brown color that his sister, Bruna, has.  If that’s the case, we could breed him with one of our ewes, Matilda, who we know to be heterozygous for moorit and end up with a few more moorit lambs in the future!

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Actually, on the matchmaking side…we announced at the dinner table tonight that the ram lambs would be staying, much to everyone’s approval.  As we were discussing possible names for them, the girls (of course) started making matches for these boys already!  “I think we should put X and Y together – they’d make such cute lambs!”  or “NO!  We can’t put them together!  That’s his mother!”  It was quite amusing, and middle daughter (maybe we should call her Yenta from here out) has already begun a list!  Some of the matches will have to wait, though.  We’re only going to breed the ewes we bred last year and give these ewe lambs another year to grow and mature before making them moms!

 

So that’s the news here at the farm.  If you have any original name suggestions to share, leave them in the com box.  Blackie, Charcoal, Snowball, etc. are out, though!  :  )

 

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"Hay" there!

It’s the peak of haying season…second cut is done, and for many farmers there will be a third cut this year!  

Today the boys from Valley View Farm in North Stonington delivered our second haywagon load of gorgeous green, fragrant hay!  The loft is now loaded and we’re ready for winter!  

Here’s “before”:

Fun at the Fair

We’re worn out! We spent the last two nights at the fair. We had planned to go only once, however the hay bale toss got rained out on Friday and was postponed until Saturday. Problem is, they didn’t plan well enough and had no payloader to use to toss the bales into, so about 10 minutes before the event was supposed to start it was canceled! I can tell you, there were a lot of strapping young men mighty upset that this annual contest was officially off the program for 2011! It is really quite popular!

On Saturday afternoon we snuck away from our chores to take a break, and I can safely say that the kids cleaned up at the pie eating contest! About half of the entrants were our 5 youngest children, and of them three of the boys took home first, second and third place ribbons, a belly full of blueberry pie and cash prizes of $3, $2 and $1! They were quite pleased!

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The girls got to see one of their favorite critters – the horses.

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We also got to “hang out” in the sheep barn and meet some local shepherds and fiber artists, which was quite a treat! There weren’t enough sheep to have a proper contest this year, however they did a demonstration of how it would be done and one of our boys got to actually show a young ram lamb!

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We then came back home to give the lambs their booster shots and check them for parasites, grabbed some dinner, then headed back for the evening to watch the oxen pulls, in lieu of the canceled hay bale toss. Even with the mess up with the hay bale toss this year, the fair was a hit, and we truly love the fact that our small town has supported an agricultural fair now for 47 years!

Come to the fair!

It’s been busy around here!  

We’ve finished picking strawberries (phew!), but now the peas (snap and snow) and beans are coming in!  

The lettuce keeps on coming:

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We’ve picked and pickled a bunch of beets,

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and we’re still picking patty pan squash.  There’s a baby zucchini on the vine with my name on it (needs another day or two).  There’s a cluster of tomatoes going through all stages of orange on it’s mission to become red.  And the weeds, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles and potato beetles are thriving!  

I haven’t even had time to take many photos, though Roy implored that I did after his big-time weeding with the Mantis rototiller and stirrup hoe the other night!  Just have to remember to bring my camera when I go down!

As for the sheep, they seem to be doing well.  We’ve been doing regular anemia checks for parasites – Millie, our matriarch, continues to defy the worms and maintain a healthy glow!  We’re so pleased with her genetics!  But due to her age and natural loss of incisors (front teeth), she’s having a hard time keeping weight on -she’s such a good mom and rarely turns her lambs away when they’re hungry.  So she’s getting some pampering each day – a big bucket of clover, alfalfa and orchard grass, fresh picked from our lower pasture, and a nice scoop of sheep formula.  She’s starting to expect it now, and comes right to the fence when I approach!

ANYWAY…Roy’s off all week, and he’s working hard.  I’ve been running errands, interrupted by oldest son breaking his foot and ending up getting a cast yesterday!  We’re looking forward, though, to the end of this week when we will all pack up and head down the road to the annual North Stonington Agricultural Fair!  Unfortunately we won’t be showing or exhibiting anything or anyone this year, but we will definitely be having fun!  If you go, we can highly recommend the highlight of Friday evening – the hay bale toss!  It’s the best thing happening for miles around (well, considering how remote we are here, it’s about the ONLY thing happening for miles around apart from the casino!)  At $7 for adults and $0 for kids under 12, it’s a real bargain, too!

Hope to see you there!