Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Ignorance is Bliss

... it is, in regards to sheep anyway.

Last Year, I had no idea what to expect.  And the first lambs came over night and surprised me in the morning, all cleaned up and perfect.  This Year, because of last year, I'm watching closely.  According to the day we got the ram, and how long a ewe's gestation is, first lambs could have started arriving on March 16.  Here we are on the 18th, and my poor sheep look like they could burst at any second: they are grunting a lot, their udders are HUGE and they seem so uncomfortable.

And last year, the ewes were all first timers, as was I, so we all learned stuff together.  Now, fortunately or unfortunately, I'm watching for certain things.  For example?  "Moo" birthed both her babies backwards.  Healthy and wonderful, but thank goodness I was around to give her a hand or it may not have ended so nicely.  So I'm watching her.  And her sister, Dulcie, birthed triplets, but after the first 2, she looked like she was done, so we let her be.  And unfortunately found #3 dead in the straw the next morning.  It could have been born dead for all I know.  But this year, I know she's fully capable of birthing more than 2, so I'm watching her too.  Stella and Sunshine both birthed beautifully on their own, so I'm not too worried about them.  And then there's Smudge - Stella's little white lamb from last year.  I think she might be preggers too, but I held her back from the ram a bit, to give her a chance to grow up a little more on this end of things, so I'm still not sure if she took.  We'll have to wait a bit to find out.

As there were no lambs in sight this evening, it'll be at least another day or 2 of watching...

Monday, 3 February 2014

Embracing 2014

Well... it's been a while.

I had every intention of writing for the last... well, since the last post really... I have lots to say (wink)... it just didn't happen.  (Obviously.)

We were away on a little jaunt to Southern California for a sunshine break  and I couldn't seem to log on to post anything.  And now, I want to write stuff, but my camera's on the fritz.  So finally, I figured I'd just jot down a few things... a "to-write" list, if you will:
- a photo of my finished shalom sweater (which I LOVE, btw)
- an easy-peasy pattern for a simple cowl that I knit on the road (when I was FREEZING on the Oregon coast), in a light grey, Royal Alpaca.  Dreamy.
- a soap-box version of what I think of this latest backyard chicken craze
- chicken update (all those babies from last year?  All grown up and Gorgeous!) & plans for 2014 babies!
- sheep update (Yep, I think they are all preggers -- due anytime after March 16)
- a mild rant on my frustrations and successes with home-schooling
- book reviews on 3 (!) novels I read while away.

.. and a few other things.

Suffice it to say, that I'm REALLY glad 2014 is here because 2013 was not my favourite year.  Putting a positive spin on it, I did A LOT of learning (read: made a ton of mistakes) and I'm looking forward to putting my learning into practise this year.  (Lesson #1: NO PIGS).

That is all.

For now (another wink).

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Weekend Reading

Ah Hah!  I found one.  A novel I could read right through.  I have attention-deficit when it comes to novels, you see.  They can't seem to hold me very long.  But something the way Jeannette Walls writes really pulls me in.  I've read her memoir, "The Glass Castle" and her other novel "Half Broke Horses", and now this, her third "The Silver Star".  She says it's a novel, fiction, but I'm sure there are pieces of her crazy childhood all over this book.  Especially in the mother character.

I said it before after reading one of Walls' books:  If you think your life is spinning out of control, just try to imagine what life was like for her growing up.  Your life?  It ain't so bad.  Cozy up this weekend with a good read and really enjoy that extra hour tomorrow.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Welcome Back Apollo!

Heeee's baaaaaack!  And he's bigger -- much bigger!
After several lengthy family discussions, the conclusion was reached that although shipping the lambs off in the fall is very sad, the joy we get from seeing them born and having them bopping over the pasture all summer far outweighs the sadness at the end of it all.  Daughter thinks it will get easier, as it did with the extra roosters and turkeys that ulitmately end up in our freezer.  I guess we'll see about that. 

I realized today why so many books are written on farm stories.  Because so many ridiculous things happen on farms.  Like today.  Hubby and I went over to a neighbor farm to pick up our stud-Ram this morning.  Same Dude as last year.  And yes, that's Dude with a Capital D.
Well.  My neighbor shepherds have a lot more sheep than we do and do things a little different than we do.  They don't have time to pussy-foot around.  Ahem.  We do.  So, instead of their suggestion of tying him up and dragging him into a cage on the back of their well-equipped pick up, we gently loaded him into the back of our mini van, furnished with soft hay and willow branches to munch on.  We were warned it wasn't a good idea.  He was going to vault over the seats and create such havoc that we'd probably have an accident on the way home... so they said.
Not so.  My dear hubby sat in the back of the van with him (ok, kind of "on" him) and talked nice to him and when he started to get a little jumpy, stroked his ears as I directed.  Mr. Man lay back down and totally relaxed. 
I think he remembered us.  I've read that sheep can remember people for up to two years.  We were nice to him last time and he knew that.  So he settled in for the short ride and seemed genuinely happy when he realized where he was going (thankfully, a short ride down the road).
And?  He got right down to business as soon as he was re-introduced to the girls.  We'll be seeing lambs in March.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Good-bye Kiki

Our little farm has one less this week. 

Kiki was a tiny mille fleur d'uccle that hatched from some eggs given to my dear chicken-lovin daughter this summer.  This very observant child of mine noticed right away that something was up with the itty-bitty bird's beak.  Kiki, as she came to be called, was born with cross-beak, a genetic deformity with no cure. This sweet little thing would trill when you talked to her, like she was just tickled to be having a chat with you... she would happily scamper after the kids, and put up with the costumes the children made for her.
Some survive, some... don't.  We did all we could for the tiny, fiesty creature.  We made sure she could eat, undisturbed, with a deep dish that she could get her whole face into.  With a cross-beak, a bird can't peck or preen the way "normal" birds can, so they need special attention.  Unfortunately, with a severe case (like Kiki), try as they (and we) might, they just can't get enough food to sustain them. 

Kiki passed away quietly, early Saturday morning.  We will miss her vibrant spirit.  It gives us peace to know that, somewhere, she is finally eating her fill.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Sheep Dreams ...

I have sheep.  But they may soon be but a dream.


We bought our 4 little lambs a couple of years ago with the idea of breeding them -- for meat lambs, as they are hair sheep.  We raised them and then decided not to breed them that first year as our very sensitive (especially in the animal department) daughter couldn't bear the thought of sweet lambs going off to be "murdered".

So that opened up the discussion that we aren't keeping the sheep for pets, and if they aren't going to "earn their keep" by providing us with lambs that we in turn sell for other people's dinners, then we can't keep them.  Daughter decided that she can handle it if we don't get to know the lambs and whomever buys them (and then eats them) does not EVER speak of it to her.  Okay .... 

We bred the (now) ewes last October; they all gave birth to beautiful healthy lambs in March.  And yesterday, the last of them went off to the slaughterhouse.  Dear, sweet daughter was beside herself with the emotional pain of saying goodbye to these lambs we raised over the past 7 months.  We did end up keeping one lamb, Stella's little white girl, who has just the gentlest personality that she had to be spared.

It's again breeding time for the ewes.  But now, after witnessing our girl's reaction to the reality of raising lambs for the table, we need to revisit the conversation: how do we do this, and honor our child's feelings at the same time?  Is this something we need to harden her to, to force her to accept that this is what we do if we want to keep so many animals?  She doesn't have to come to the abattoir.  She doesn't see the carnage. She only has the images in her head. Granted, they are powerful images.

 Or do we abandon ship, truly honoring her feelings, and sell our little flock?

Selfishly, I say, but, what about MY feelings?  I feel like I have finally found something that matters to me.  Providing quality meat to my friends; raising the lambs as healthily and ethically as possible.  A very wise person once said, to change the world, you first must change yourself.  I want my food raised ethically.  So that's what I'm doing.  But I may not be supported in what I believe and enjoy, and may have to give it up.  And that makes me so sad.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Weekend Reading

"Farm City - The Education of an Urban Farmer" by Novella Capenter was EXACTLY what I needed to read.

If you've been reading this space for a while, you may have noticed that I have taken a significant break from posting my once-traditional Friday "Weekend Reading" posts.  I love to read.  I try  to read novels.  Sometimes I succeed. Mostly I don't.  Well-meaning friends pass along these "wonderful" books for me to read, and I start them, and enjoy them for a chapter or 3, then I put them down ... and down they stay.  Unless it's a novel I can learn something from.  I don't mean history or geography.  I like geography.  History is a bit meh for me as I prefer to live in the present and not-so-distant-future.

So this book was so perfect for me. Right now.  Basically, this apartment-dweller decides to squat on some land next to her rented space and first construct a garden, very quickly adding poultry that will eventually be consumed.  (Unfortunately, not all are consumed by the author.  I'll spare you the details - you'll just have to read it.)  Then she decides to raise a couple of hogs and this, for me, is where it got interesting.  

I was reading this book when I was knee-deep in the middle of raising our 2 pigs, by very similar methods as the author.  I laughed at her follies (which were not so different from my own) and gave a nod to her observations and comments about raising her pigs in the manner she chose.  Finally!  I felt like there was someone out there doing what I was doing.

Now, I'm sure there are LOTS of people doing what I'm doing.  I just don't know any of them, and they definitely don't run in my social circles.  Most unfortunate, this, as my frustrations and exhausted ramblings about the amount of food pigs can consume, and how much decent food people will throw into the garbage mostly fell on sympathetic ears who really had no idea how commited we were to raising our pigs.

If you choose to read "Farm City", I'm sure you'll enjoy it, even if you never raise hogs or know anyone who does.  It's an eye-opener, let me tell ya.