Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pools of Love

The last few months have just whipped by and we had the early spring storm windstorms that have hit our area heavily in the last seven  or so weeks. We were blessed with sun in January and parts of February a and a few days in March. However, since then we have had winter windstorms, rain, and hail. It’s been super muddy over here; more so than last year and parts of the marsh pasture is in knee deep water. I had it disked last year and planted grass and it grew quite well and took stock before winter hit. Who knows when the grass will be warmed by the sun as it won’t be anytime soon.

White graceful swans have stopped by, you can hear their eerie cries in the early morning fog, and hundreds of ducks, brown, teal, patches and all colors of the rainbow have stopped to graze on the grass in the marsh pasture. You see a black, floating mass and then hear an Bald Eagle call, and a huge swarm of black takes to the sky. The Bald eagle swoops but cannot pick one bird from the mass and soon she sits on the tree, waiting for a solo duck to fly by for an easy target.

One afternoon we saw a unlucky duck in the clutches of the eagle and my tame ducks all huddled in the corner of their pen. For a few weeks of the year a few Bald eagles perch on my farm and take their quota of ducks. I have learned to keep my ducks locked up as one year, in a space of less than two weeks, I lost over twenty of my feathered flock. I also lost a tiny lamb last year. It’s a fact of life on the farm and even the wildlife must eat.

I toss grain and bread to my geese and a couple of wild mallard hens join in. I have had a couple of wild mallards come in for chow time at each evening feed and I think they are the same hens that have been coming for a few years.. They hear me call “Sheep, sheep and Geese” and they fly in and join the sheep and geese for their share. They are not afraid of me and I know they are nesting so I toss them their share. They look at me and not in fear but in anticipation of the next piece of bread. Soon in a few weeks, I will see the hens with their brood in my ponds and watch with pride.

I also see that a couple of Canadian Geese might have taken up residence in the marsh pasture. It is quite secure in fencing as well as Emmy, the elderly guardian Arab who kills any coyotes on her watch. One such coyote is missing half of his tail when he thought he would go after her charges (lambs) a few years ago. I saw him after that, avoiding the pasture and his eyes looking suspiciously at the horses.

Shearing went on without a hitch and we also sheared out new neighbor’s flock. We had an assembly line and it went quick. We also sheared the three Llamas and they were not happy about being sheared. Sharyn took the wool to make use of it and I hope she make some clever wool hats. I can’t knit or spin at all.

Lambing went smoothly and we had no death from lambing itself. Some of the lambs are quite cute and you soon see their personalities emerge. Popcorn, name because she jumps around, is usually the ringleader and leading the other lambs astray. Barney, the son of Bruce the Dorper, is a stout and square ram lamb and would be a fine addition to another flock. Callie, the old ewe didn’t take (since she was not with a ram) and held up well during the winter. She is eleven years old and my pet. She has raised lambs for her prior owner as well as some excellent lambs for me. I kept a ram from two years ago from her and half of the new lambs are his. He has his mother’s gentle and kind nature. I notice that several of my Clun Forest ewes are getting old but great moms and producers. After their lambing days are over, they will move to the Nanny flock with Callie. Some are my pets and love to eat from my hand or get petted. Jasmine loves to show off her new lambs to me, Petunia like to follow me in case I might have some hidden treats and Fergie just likes to bellow for more food.

I sold Frankie, my Maremma to a home in Georgia. He was bugging Kodi, the aged LGD and hurting him even though he meant to play. Kodi is nine years old now and looking his age. He doesn’t spend too much time with the sheep but sleeps in his straw pile in the barn. He has been getting kibbles as well as raw to help him in his old age. He also gets supplements. Woodie, the Manx cat has taken a shine to Kodi and will try to share his raw food or bones with him. Kodi ignores him.

We had a nice crop of lambs this year, all healthy and fat. I am keeping six from this crop as replacements and must limit myself as I have limited time and space. The rest of the ewe lambs will go to Nayab for his foundation flock. He has already spoken for my ram lambs. All of my Katahdin ewes had ram lambs except for one ewe lamb so I guess that will be an easy choice of what ewe lamb that I will keep. She is a dark chocolate color with a white star on her head. She is from my foundation flock that I first started with when I first arrived. Her great grandmother is from Patrick Shannahan sheep flock and the lines have been the best. I have bought other Katahdins but in the end I end up keeping the “Big Ugly” lines as they are great moms, great structure, easy to keep and super healthy. I was sad when Big Ugly died a few years ago. I got her from Patrick and she was a tiny ewe lamb with a huge roman nose and ugly spots. I called her Big Ugly but as she grew up, she turned into a beautiful ewe. However, the name stuck.

The dogs have been doing farm chores and learning to work ewes and lambs. Megan, #30, (Clun Forest) is a very protective ewe. Even steady Tess who calms the sheep received a blow to the side when Megan decided that 10 feet was too close. Tess retreated to 15 feet and Megan was still kept giving her the evil eye. Megan is from Petunia who is my shadow for food. Even now, with her lambs at three weeks old, Megan will whirl and charge at the dog.

The ewes lambed in the stall and we had no issues with any births. We had twins, singles and one set of triplets. It was nice to be able to sit and watch lambs being born and taking their first step and then their first drink. Tess and Nan get to be the lambing dogs and soon Nan learned to move lambs with her nose and a easy shove and not be so panicked. She has turned into a fine lambing dog and loves to help in the stall. She has gotten where she can squeeze herself between the sheep and the wall to move them and hit the hock low to the ground.

I have also been using Roo as a lambing dog. He still gets too amped up and doesn’t settle the ewes when he is in the stall but in time he will steady down. He is very enthusiastic to please but has to learn to calm down. He is used to put away the ewes and lambs away at night in the lambing corral.

I got a new dog. He is from Lisa Webb. He was called Rags but his new name is Taff. He has learned his new name and is very much like his dam, Nan. Nan is his mother and his sire is Ralph Pulfer’s Tweed. He does not lack for confidence and is very pushy. He adores me, screams, and barks when I work another dog; just like his mother but in male form. I love him dearly and we have been learning to work together. I hope to run him in PN this year and it might be a rough time but it will come together.

Tess has finally resigned herself to her retirement and is often found curled up next to me on the couch. She puts the ducks and chickens away at night and takes great joy in that. She will run in a few local trials in PN with Janet and has worked well with her in practice. I play toss for her each night and she goes for rides all the time. Even thought she is not running in Open anymore, she still is the alpha dog on the farm. If a dog steps out of line, she will enforce the rule. Additionally, she is the only dog allowed to carry the ball back to me and woe to any dog that tries to take it from her will suffer dire consequences.

Spring may have been  noted on the calendar but it was been wet and very windy. The last week it has poured so much that the ground cannot soak up the water. It hailed so bad that everyone ran for cover and poor Tess who was putting the ewes and lambs away was left standing in the field by herself. It was the first time that the ewes and lambs have not protested but ran helter skelter for the lambing corral while I ran into the barn, Tess was in the middle of the field, still doing her job while the hail pellets stung her like bee stings. I called her but she finished her job, looked for any stragglers then came running to the barn. We huddled, wet and cold and waited until it subsided and then ran for the house.

We walked in, both dripping wet and raced up the stairs. She ran to her treat jar and I gladly scooped out a couple of extra treats for her and told her that she was the better half of the partnership. Het wet tail slowly wagged and huge drops slowly fell to the floor and pooled next to her back legs. I bent down to wipe it up and soon drops from my hair joined the pool on the floor. Together as one in a pool of love

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