Saturday, March 26, 2016

Fresh snow

Dave and I lay in bed this morning admiring the fresh snow. "It always makes me feel like Christmas when the ground turns white," Dave said.
I agreed. "I always think maybe it will be a snow day and we won't be able to go anywhere."

Whether it was memories of Christmas or the thought of the illusory freedom of a snow day when all we can do is curl up and read while we watch the snow pile up foot after foot, we both jumped out of bed in great moods, ready to spend a day walking the paths in the sugar bush - collecting sap, cutting wood, splitting wood and feeding fires. Fresh snow in the spring always means the sap will rise in the maples at least one more day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Monday morning fog

Monday morning fog. The trees fade into the distance and disappear. The bottle lambs do not appear. They're not out back; they're not in the barn. I set the bottles into a lambing pen and there are the bottle lambs, still in the pen into which we dropped them as they finished feeding last night to make feeding less insane. No wonder there are three ewes in the barn maaing for their babies.

When we finish feeding all eight lambs Dave takes a bucket of water to the rams and I feed and water Amy who lambed yesterday morning. The bottle lambs swirl around my ankles. I know from experience that they will follow me right to the pasture gate and that two of them are still small enough to fit through the wire grid on the gate.  Instead of the straight forward path, I sneak out the people door of the barn and run for the gate.

No baas of bottle lambs in pursuit. I climb the gate and walk the driveway toward Dave who is feeding the rams. He grins and gesture. Lamb number 76 has followed me through the gate after all. I return the lamb to the pasture and tie a hog panel across the gate with baling twine. The wire grid of the hog panels blocks the openings in the wire grid of the gate, but it also keeps me from climbing the gate.

I climb an interior fence to the feed area and then climb the stile, hoping to lose or at least confuse the lamb. She follows me into the feed area and stands at the bottom of our perimeter fence staring at me standing at the top of the ladder like stile. If I descend and start across the yard, the lamb will follow me because our perimeter fences have an even bigger wire grid than our gate.

I stand at the top of the stile hoping that the lamb will lose interest and wander off before I lose patience. "Go back through the barn." Dave shouts. Duh! Talk about early morning fog. I climb back down the stile, walk through the barn, leave by the people door, run across the barnyard, climb over the stile and am out of sight before number 76 stops looking for me in the barn. As long as  Dave is smarter than the lambs, we can still outwit them. The sun burns the fog away before our next feeding.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sometimes when you least expect it...

Thursday I told a friend that we only had two ewes left to lamb and that it would be a couple of weeks before they did.

Friday began like an ordinary morning. I mixed up four bottles of lamb milk replacer and walked out to the barn. Eight lambs met me at the barn door, tripping over each other and tripping me as they vied for first chance at a bottle. I select the two biggest and strongest lambs to nurse first. When they are done, they'll wander off and the smaller, weaker lambs will get their chances to nurse.

Two at a time, they suck vigorously, completely intent on eating. The other bottle lambs try to steal the nipple away, climb onto the backs of the nursing lambs, wedge their bodies between me and the nursing lambs. They try, but if the nursing lambs and I concentrate on what we're doing, each lamb eventually gets his or her full seven ounces of milk.

Just as I finished feeding the last lamb, I heard the flutter of bird wings against a window. The sparrows sometimes get trapped in the barn when we close the big doors, but those doors hadn't been closed in several days. I turned to see a large bird desperately beating the window with its wings. Usually it's easy to brush a bird out of the window and give it a chance to reorient. I started across the barn to help the bird when I saw a little black lamb with a tail nursing on a white ewe.

Okay, which is the most immediate need, I asked myself, to free the bird or to catch and pen the new lamb and it's mom? Another flutter of wings decided me. The bird was frantic and I was afraid it would hurt itself. When I got to the window, I recognized the hooked beak of a hawk. I was not going to try to brush a hawk out of the window with my hand, even a gloved hand. I grabbed my crook and moved it across the window. The bird cowered in the bottom corner, the light brown speckles on its  breast trembling as it panted. The crook scared the bird even more than I did. Next I grabbed the step stool from it's hanger near the ceiling and set it up in front of the window. I unfastened two of the three toggles that held the window in place and pulled the plastic away from the opening. I stepped back and the bird slipped out to freedom.

Then I turned to find the new lamb and it's mom. They had left the barn. I followed them out into the barn yard, but the lamb was easily keeping up with its mother and they both easily kept ahead of me. We'll have to wait until both Dave and I can go out to the barn to corral the new family and dip the lamb's umbilical cord in iodine. We won't jug them, they are obvious doing fine, but the iodine is really important to keep the bacteria of the barnyard from entering the lamb's navel and causing all kinds of problems.

Yesterday, I declared that we had two ewes left to lamb. We still have two ewes left to lamb. This lamb was a surprise. I can't believe that we miscounted pregnant ewes, but somehow, we did. It's always nice to have more lambs than you expect.

I've never needed a bird identification guide in the barn before, but this morning I did. I was so focused on rescuing the bird that I didn't look at it closely. What color were its eyes? Did the speckles cover its entire body or just the belly and shoulders? This was the closest I've ever been to a hawk and I almost didn't  pay enough attention to identify it. I never in my wildest dreams expected to find a a sharp shinned hawk in the barn.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

When images are better than words

You may have already seen this video. It shows a young child helping a ewe give birth. I'm speechless. She is so cool.