What could a vial of cologne POSSIBLY have to do with a couple of rams on the day after Christmas?


Today marked another of those “annual events” on our farm.  Each year around Thanksgiving we “marry” the rams and their ewes, and each year shortly after Christmas, weather permitting, we bring their relationships to a screeching halt.


Today was that day.


All of the ewes seem to be bred.  We usually wait about 3 weeks after we witness a breeding to make sure a ewe does not come back into heat.  Once the last 3 week period has passed, it’s time to pull out the rams and send them off to their man cave.  None of the ewes came back into heat this year — all  hopefully were bred on the first take!


Here are the hopefully bred ewes, now all combined and reaquainting themselves with each other, and establishing who’s now in charge.  




There were a few initial arguments, but they were easily resolved over a nice pile of fresh hay.



Removing the rams from their harems is a bit of work, but the real work comes with reintroducing the rams to each other!  For rams, their life is all about smells.  They capture odor molecules from the air on their upper lip and curl it up to their nostrils to pull those molecules to their vomeronasal organ, an accesory sensory organ in their nasal passage.  


Of course they gather those smells from bodily secretions mostly, so though watching them take in a new smell could be compared to watching a wine snob sample a fine Cabernet, it’s really disgusting and nothing at all like it.  




So now we come to the cologne.  The past two years of reintroducing rams we’ve learned from mistakes.  Year one saw one of the rams “ram” right through the fence to get to the other ram.  We stupidly thought we’d introduce them through a barrier!  Hah!  They took care of that barrier pretty quickly!


Second year was a bit better.  We learned that squeezing them together into the smallest space possible was the best.  That way they couldn’t get a running start to head butt anyone.  That all actually went pretty well — just a few minor glitches.


This year we introduced two “new” tricks that we learned from wise shepherds.  We put old rubber tires on the ground in between them to slow them down a bit — to fill in the gaps.  AND we took the cologne and sprayed it on certain body parts to mask smells that they brought with them from their harem of ewes.  It’s actuallly the smells of the other ewes that supposedly gets to them the most.  


We squeezed them in the corner of one of our pens and settled them in for the day with a couple of flakes of hay.   The hay was a good distraction, but it didn’t completely suppress their desires to kill each other.  




I then spent the better part of the next 6-7 hours ramsitting, with an hour or so total of breaks when Roy relieved me so that I could get warm.  Speaking of which — and advertisement here – the Carhartt women’s arctic quilt-lined coat is AWESOME!  Temperatures hovered around freezing most of the time with increasing winds as the day went on.  


I kept warm by walking around the pasture outside of their pen, crook in hand, singing Christmas carols.  I thought that perhaps my voice would at least distract (certainly not soothe!) the rams a bit.  I had lots of time to think, of course, comparing myself to the shepherds keeping watch of their flocks on that first Christmas night, hoping that I might get interrupted in my thoughts by the sudden appearance of a choir of angels singing Gloria in excelsius Deo, but no luck.  


For the most part the boys were pretty good.  Drover is clearly King, and Boomer happily backed down most of the time, but Drover couldn’t seem to leave Boomer alone.  Of course it didn’t help that Boomer kept sticking his tongue out at Drover…




Guys are so difficult to figure out.  I think they actually like each other, but at the same time want to beat each other up. I think human guys are a bit like that, too!  


As dusk descended, they seemed to settle down.  They were yawning right and left!  They had both basically been on their feet for 6 hours straight!  I left them on their own to come up for dinner, and when we checked a hour or so later, they were both snuggled up side by side resting, watching the snow fall, like life long buddies.  


Tomorrow they will be released into the ram paddock, where I suspect they’ll get a few last head smacks in for good measure.  Nothing like a good headache after running full speed at your best bud from 50 feet away, eh?  Guys…. they make little sense, whatever the species!  Strange beings, but I like ’em anyway!


Project Complete!

With the pressure on to complete the quilt in time to send it out for Christmas, scissors, pins and needles were flying yesterday!


We decided to give the quilt an old sheet for a backing — more recycling!




Blue was obviously a big help.  





The blanket was definitely not straight along the sides, so we brought the sheet up and around as a border.




Using the pattern of the sheet helped to visually straighten the edges.




All pinned – ready for stitching!




Looks inviting…




Ready for Christmas!





A shepherd’s quilt

A new craft has taken hold of the everyone here!

Yesterday an article came up on a Facebook feed “9 uses for recycled sweaters” and I had to click on it.  

After our fun with making felted sweater mittens last year, I wanted to see what other ideas there might be for the collection of old wool sweaters we had accumulated.

This one, a patchwork quilt made of hunks of felted wool sweaters, sounded just perfect!  It just seems more appropriate for us to be making wool quilts vs. cotton ones!


First there was a lot of cutting out of strips and squares.  




Dear daughter’s scary finger nails, meant to look like peppermint candies…




The ribbed knit is from the tops of my L.L. Bean socks that had worn through in the heels!




Once a few were cut from various sweaters, eldest daughter started planning the layout of the quilt on paper.


Then she started laying it out on my bedroom floor.  Lucky we just cleaned it the other day — just in time to totally mess it up again!




And now the most time consuming part – sewing the squares together!




I think I know how our evenings are going to be spent trying to get this finished by Christmas!




But it will definitely be worth it!  


Recycled warmth…hand made with love…






A time to spin…

Why is it that this quiet time of year on the farm corresponds to the time when we most need the exercise because it’s full of holiday meals and comfort food?!

Yes, the gardens are resting and for the most part, so are we.  Carrots, parsnips and garlic lay dormant, waiting for the spring.  The pastures, too, lay dormant, and have turned an unimpressive yellow brown.


The ewes seem to be bred, lying patiently, chewing their cud, unaware of the life growing within.


The rams are settling down a bit, seemingly content that they have done their job.  


The sheep, eating their hay mechanically, for the most part are deprived of one of their favorite pastimes, grazing lush pastures.  They seem idle and bored.


The hens are pecking around, looking for the few insects that have survived the hard frosts we’ve had.  They are stingy with their eggs these days.


Yes, the days are short and the farmer now has less hours to accomplish tasks of repairing and building in preparation for the springtime.  The evenings are quiet and darkness bids us to earlier bedtimes.  


But my new hobby has kept  me up late the last couple of nights!  Unlike farmers of days gone by, we have the advantage of electric light at night, and so we artificially extend our days — and my days have been extended by spinning!


No – not the kind that has me madly peddling a stationary bike, burning off those pumpkin pie calories– I’m pedaling a Louet single treadle spinning wheel.  




With Millie and Daisy as my not so willing accomplices (when they gave up their wool for us last spring), I’ve spun our first white 2 ply yarn…and it’s already spoken for!



It is so nice to have these quiet winter months to try to learn something new while I have a bit more time.  I’m already starting to eye up some of our fleeces from this fall, so all I can say is that if you’ve been thinking about buying one from us to spin yourself, you’d better be quick! Word on the street is that a drum carder may be coming our way this Christmas!

I only wish I could burn off some of these winter calories in the process!



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