I am back to the www after a week or so of family, visiting friends, feasting and total lack of normalcy in my family's life. Julia is back to school and The Farmer and I can get back to what feels like our normal. Beginning with our morning walk with the four dogs - the two Border Collies Phoebe and Nessie and the two Great Pyrenees Guard Dogs Archie and Winston.
Going away from our farm is pretty difficult. I find ways to leave - basically that would be "Julia and I are going to visit such and such.... We'll be back such and such....." But The Farmer is always here, tending to the animals. For Christmas, he snuck away for two nights to spend Christmas Day with my extended family. A neighbor took care of Archie and Winston, the Border Collies went with us, and the sheep - well, they survived by being stocked up on hay, water, and adequate fencing. It is dicey to leave 300 sheep in three different locations on their own, to say the least. But sometimes, you just have to hope for the best and hope the sheep gods will look over them. Of course, we prepare the facilities and fencing like crazy, and Neighbor Tom looked in on them all to make sure noone was tipped over.
Yes, you read that correctly - tipped over. When ewes are late in pregnancy, if they trip and fall over on their side, they cannot right themselves. In not too long, they begin to bloat and they die. Sheep are ruminants. They have 4 stomaches and excess gases build up. It's not a pretty picture. If you have ever been pregnant, you may be able to relate to such a situation although hopefully if you fell, some kind person helped you off the ground.
So today, we were back to normal. Julia went back to school and The Farmer and His Wife took their morning walk with the four dogs. Here's how big Archie and Winston are now. They are on their way to being between 100 and 150 pounds....
On Monday, we had our latest appointment for lambs at the processor. Talk about a comedy of errors. On Sunday, it had monsooned so the ground was very wet and not frozen because it had been so strangely warm. The Farmer backed the truck with the trailer into the field where the lambs have been grazing. He had the mobile sheep handling unit all set up and ready to go. I arrived after a cup of coffee, leaving Julia in bed to enjoy her last day of vacation and a good teenage sleep.
Nessie helped us gather the lambs into the corral. We didn't bother to use the scale and sorted the better looking female lambs out of corral to hold on as replacement breeding ewes. Yes, sad to say, but if you were a good looking sheep, as opposed to a not so good looking sheep, you would be living here on our farm as opposed to the fate of most of the lambs. I digress, sorry. Then we started picking the lambs who were going to be loaded into the trailer. One by one, The Farmer wrangled them, I opened the gate, and the chosen lamb went into a temporary fenced chute. We had just sorted 17 lambs, way on our way to our goal of 20, and then did a bit of reorganization with the fencing and the corral. I didn't see that one part of the fence had fallen open but the sheep did. Off went the group of 17 to join those that were staying.
Oops. We began again. What could have been an hour job took about three. The truck got stuck in the wet and sloppy soil and it wouldn't pull the trailer. Luckily we realized this before the trailer was full of sheep. We had to use the old spare truck with more powerful 4 wheel drive which upon getting it started after much key turning and sputtering was almost out of gas. Off to the gas station, back home to the sheep. More corralling, catching of sheep, and then coercing them to get into the trailer. I didn't think they would go on but finally the piles of sweet grain got to them. Then looking for the truck registration and sticker that expired on the last day of 2011. Finally, off went The Farmer with the 20 lambs. I took Julia out to The Wagon Wheel for her last lunch before school began again. I bet you never thought about how the animals you eat get to the processor, did you?
Everytime a batch of lambs leaves for the slaughter house, I feel a twinge of sadness. But then I shake myself out of it. I know that our animals have lived very good lives here at our farm and that they were put on earth to feed our customers. It is hard to feel too sad when you know you are on the verge of a busy lambing season. Here are the first two lambs of the 2012 season.
These beautiful white twins are Cora's babies. The green number on the side of them - #1 - means that they belong to sheep No. 1 (Cora, Julia's bottle lamb from a few years ago). The green color means that they are twins. Lambing is plodding along. It starts out slowly and then - approximately 3 weeks after the first lambs are born, chaos will reign and babies will be arriving in droves. It is supposed to be 5 below zero tonight so let's hope those ewes keep their backends closed up tight so their babies stay warm inside.
So that's it for our new year. No time for resolutions and thoughts of the past. Immediacy beckons. I thank you all for showing up here day after day, post after post. Here's to a great 2012 for us all.
(For these photos, I was fooling around in Photoshop. It was a very gray day and there was barely any color in any of them. I tweaked the levels and then adjusted the vibrancy to make them even more somber and gray to match the cold day here.)