Saturday, January 31, 2015

Barn Cats

We've been trying to get a barn cat or two. There was a promising cat on Craigslist over Christmas but the people wanting to get her a new home changed their mind at the last minute.  I was thinking of using the local barn cat rescue when a cat started showing up wandering our property. We think he/she may belong to a neighbor but aren't sure. Then another cat showed up. This cat likes to sit at our patio doors and look pitifully inside.
We haven't seen this cat in the last couple days. I hope nothing happened to it. We've been putting out food for the cats in hopes that they will stick around and catch mice. The cat we see the most is a gray tiger cat with a white belly and is missing 2/3's of its tail. We named it "Stumpy." Stumpy covers all the property from the house to the barn to beyond the goat pen. I hope he is taking care of a lot of mice.
Update 2/1/15: Finally was able to get a photo of Stumpy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Another Weigh In

I didn't weigh the new lambs last night right after they were born. I didn't want to upset Chloe anymore than we already did with all of our fussing over her new lambs. They have been nursing like crazy so I may have to deduct a little from their weights this morning.
Ewe lamb, probably named "Cora", weighs 7.5 pounds!
And her older brother weighed in at 9 pounds. Ram 3 weighed 13 pounds at birth and 17 pounds a day and a half ago when he was five days old! I have so much to learn about raising sheep and from everything I have read gathering good data helps. Now I just have to figure out a good system for record keeping.


I did my usual check on the sheep when I got home from work last night, around 10:45PM, and heard two baby lamb bleats. One sounded like ram 3 but the other was from a much smaller lamb. There was Chloe licking off a lamb who looked to be about 5 minutes old. The lamb was still very damp and trying to stand. The two ewes and ram 3 were milling about trying to check out the new arrival. Luckily Alan had followed me up to the barn and he ran back to the house for all the lambing supplies and a stack of clean towels while I set up the temporary pen for the new mom and her lamb. Soon after Alan arrived back up to the barn I saw another set of very slippery looking legs behind Chloe.  She spun around and I watched as her second lamb slid out. These lambs were half the size of ram 3 when he was born!
I dried them a well as I could (who knew their hair holds onto so much moisture!) Then treated their cords with iodine. They both were up and moving around relatively quickly and after a few false starts both got the hang of nursing.
A ram lamb was born first (ram 4) and then we finally had a ewe lamb born! Now to pick a name for her. Something that starts with a hard C as we want to have all the maternal lines begin with the same letter as the original ewe.
Here are a few pictures of all the cuteness.
Chloe is proving to be a very attentive mother.

There were a few "face plants" as we figured out how to walk.
Ram 3 is nursing on the left. He is only 6 days older than the new twins but looks a month older.
It is so cold out (teens last night) that the lambs were put into their jackets. I am glad they figured out it is warm under the heat lamp!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Weigh In

I was reading an article about comparing the rate of growth of lambs and the different variables that must be accounted for. The age of the ewe affects milk supply and of course whether the lamb is a singleton, twin or triplet will also affect how much milk they get from mom. There is a nifty chart that simplifies the formulas.

So out to the barn with the new scale we went.  Unfortunately I don't have birth weights on the first two rams we got, but today, at 66 days old, they weighed 35 and 26 pounds. Considering I was nearly certain that the smaller ram would die soon after we got him I am fairly happy with these weights. When you factor in the frigid temps we have been having in December and January I guess they are doing really well. Using the table in the chart above the older rams need to have their weights adjusted by a factor of 1.16 since their mom will be two years old this spring and she birthed and is rearing twin rams. That puts their adjusted weights at 40.6 and 30.16 pounds.

But the star of the weigh in was ram 3. He weighed 13 pounds when he was born and now, at 5 days old, weighs 17 pounds.  It really helps to have mom's milk all to yourself! I can't wait to get a 60 day weight on him to compare to the other rams.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

First Contact

The old sheep and goats met the new sheep last weekend but I realized I did not put up this post. We still haven't had them in the same pen; I am waiting for a couple weeks after lambing until letting that happen.
But the meeting went well.
 The ram lambs were more interested than the ewes.

It will be interesting to see how Mama (on the left) and Leda (the tallest on the right) get along since they are both leaders of their little flocks.

More Tractor Bay Work

Back to work on the garage tractor bay/shed.  The Tyvek went up.
Alan made a home manufactured main beam from three 2x6s glued and nailed together.
Putting up the main beam went well, except when Alan was banging on the main beam I could see a lot of the block wobbling. I still am not sure how the wall is still standing.
2x4 joists on joist hangers will support an 8 foot wide storage area above the bay.
The back half of the bay is longer than the front half and just a bit over 12 feet.  Alan needed to make a truss design for support so he used bracing which allowed him to span the length he needed.
The plywood rectangles are spaced to accept the knee wall studs to complete the truss.

The Tyvek gets a sheathing of 1/2 inch plywood to protect it from damage from things in the tractor bay and to stiffen the structure. Darkness was coming on so this was as much plywood as could be put up before clean up.
The weather is acting up again and we are supposed to get nearly a foot of snow between tonight (Sunday) and Tuesday afternoon. So Alan had to close up the bay as much as he could and clean up. The garage door is gone so hopefully we won't get too much snow blown into the bay.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ram 3's Big Day Out

Moose and her lamb, Ram 3, have been doing so well that today I let them out of their separate pen, or lamb jug.  There was a little bit of butting and bleating but everyone did pretty well getting to know each other.
Yes Big Boy you were that little once.
Two month and 3 days old meets 3 days old!

Chloe has still not delivered her lambs yet (I hope she has more than one!)  Sometimes she stands around looking into a corner and I wonder if she is going into labor.
Soon, hopefully soon!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's a Boy, and a Really BIG One!

Warning-some graphic pictures.

Moose went into labor this afternoon (of course during a minor snow storm.) Here are the other girls coming in out of the snow to check out the progress.

Maddy caught the beginning of labor and called me at work. I arrived home just as we could see two little feet.
She pushed and pushed and pushed.
She got up, sat down, walked around, crawled (I've never seen a sheep or a goat crawl) and even took a break to eat some hay.
After a little more than an hour of pushing I began to get worried that this was a very large lamb. Finally the lamb made a little choking sound and I felt the need to help out.
Maddy kept Moose still and I helped wiggle that big boy out with the contraction. Out came a single thirteen pound ram lamb.
He was up walking around in about 15 minutes and nursed well within a half hour.
I love to watch the lambs wag their tail when they are getting milk.
And the new mom sounds are just adorable. Moose is bonding very well with her new baby.
The other sheep were very interested in what was going on in the next stall.
Hopefully this will give Chloe some ideas about going into labor.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Udderly Fascinated

I have been obsessed with sheep backsides lately. Watching the udders grow and fill and waiting for lambs is a frustrating business. If we had any idea when the ewes were bred this would be so much easier. Our twin ram lambs were born on November 22nd and we haven't had any lambs since.

But two of the sheep have been growing their udders since mid December and lately they have really started to fill up. The sheep are getting spooked because I am constantly checking for swelling of their vulvas and passing mucus.

Here is Chloe. She has been huge since she arrived here. I hope she has a least twins.
And here is her udder.
Moose is the other sheep we think is getting closer to lambing.
She has a funny little kink to her tail and makes the oddest noises when she brings up her cud. You can really see her lambs moving around in her.

Even Leda, the leader of the flock, is starting to grow a little udder.
I don't think I will ever lamb again in the winter if I can help it. I am constantly worried about missing the birth and having the lambs get too cold and dieing.  I will be happier when I can control their breeding next year.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Garage Work

The third bay of the garage, the future lawn tractor shed, has a cinder block wall in need of replacement.
The wall was only built with 6 inch block and we don't think there is any reinforcing rod in the block or drainage behind the wall. It was bowed in when we bought house and has gotten progressively worse.  It's a little hard to see but the board in the picture above is flush with the block below Alan's hand and about 5-6 inches away at the top of the wall.
So the plan is to get the wall replaced this spring but first we have to support the roof and replace the joists. The roof joists are well built but the floor of the attic space was made with scabbed together 2x4s and not very structurally sound. These 2x4s sure do look bigger in the picture below.
The attic is nice storage for garden supplies and will get a stronger floor and new doors.
Rather than have the ceiling/attic floor supported by the rods from the roof, Alan is putting in a main beam to support the floor.  Unfortunately, when he planned where to put the door from the main garage he wasn't thinking about the main beam. So his framing for the door is right where the support for the beam has to go. 
Well, the door can easily get shifted over a little at this stage of construction. Below is the structure with all the inadequate 2x4 joists removed and the temporary joists installed to allow work on the new structure.

We also said good-bye to the falling apart garage door. Alan will build new doors that will swing out like old carriage house doors. I think we may even have the hinges already.
The weather lately has been perfect for this project. It's nice to get back to work on the house after all the outside work lately.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Goat Tote Update

When we moved the goats to the new house we built this goat tote. We realized after a few trips that the connectors to attach the panels together weren't as strong as we would like. While shopping recently at our favorite Mennonite bulk foods store, Echo Hill, we saw their sheep fence with some new hinges. These wire panel connector hinges from Premier 1 attach two panels together and act as a hinge.  Because they go through each panel opening they hinge the two pieces along the entire length.
We ordered some and Alan wasted no time beefing up the Goat Tote.
We used the connector hinges to hold all the panels together and act as the hinge for the door.
We will feel much more confident that the tote won't fall apart while we are transporting animals!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Catmometer

Lily is our catmometer. You can tell how warm the wood stove is by how close she is sleeping to the it.  Usually she sleeps about 2-3 feet away. Once the stove starts cooling down a little she moves up next to the stove.
As the stove gets cooler she moves a little underneath.

If we are really slacking and the stove needs attention immediately she is pretty much completely under the stove.
For these pictures we were letting the stove go out so we could clean out the ash. Lily was not happy about that!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Orchard

Last winter with horrible weather the deer used my apple trees as a snack bar. Consequently, we harvested about five apples. The growth they put on last summer should get us a better harvest next fall, but not if the deer return to eat. Enter the three wire electric fence.
Our latest project over the past few weeks has been to fence in the area that will be the new orchard. This area encompasses the existing apples trees and heads down the south-east facing slope in a roughly 43x37 foot rectangle.  Alan hooked up the fence last night to the energizer and the meter pegged out at greater than 8,000 volts. Watch out deer!

With orchard area now defined I ordered some heirloom apple trees, a self fertile peach tree, two pear trees and a crab apple tree. Computer time has been used up reading all about organic orcharding and management.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tagging the Lambs

Royal White Sheep all look the same at first glance. Now that we've had the sheep for a while I can tell all the ewes apart without looking at their tags, but I am sure that once all the lambs are born and growing they will be quite hard to tell apart. So for that reason, and others, we are tagging all our sheep. The ewes came with numbers. Three have tags in their left ear and one has it on the right ear. I like the idea of having ewes tagged on one ear and rams tagged on the other side.  Premier 1 has a great page on different numbering systems and other tagging FAQs. Since we won't be having a lot of sheep I am keeping it simple with just a chronological order and I decided to go with ewes having the tag in the right ear and rams in the left ear (that seems to be the common placement among people on line.)
Meet 0001 (AKA Big Boy):
And 0002 (AKA Little Boy):
They didn't make a sound when the tags were placed. A little grain for a treat afterward and they were happily jumping around as usual.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Electric Fence

When the fence guys put in the new fence they added a wire around the top to electrify.  Alan got the charger hooked up and now the wire is hot. Our meter pegs out at 8,000 volts even at the farthest point. That should keep everyone in and predators out!
Alan also made this great little box to protect the charger. When the charger is on you can see the light blinking through the hole in the door and it makes a very audible click that is very reassuring.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Here is my obligatory "Boy is it cold outside" post.
At 2:30 PM today the temp sat at a balmy 18 degrees fahrenheit.
The lows have been in the single digits overnight and we are about as prepared as we could be.  I bought a heated bucket to keep at least one of the sheeps' water buckets unfrozen. I have another on back order. These are the greatest and I wonder why I never had one before now. Oh yeah, something about the directions saying not to use it outside. Since this is my first winter with a barn this is really the first time I could use one.  Now I can't wait for the second heated bucket to come.

The sheep are snug in their barn. Of course they are eating a ton of hay to keep their rumens working to make heat. And, thankfully, no one has lambed yet. Those lambs are a lot warmer inside their moms than they would be outside.  But we are ready for lambing as well. We have two heat lamps, extra bulbs and our lambing kit ready to go. It would be nice if they would wait until it's not so frigid outside.

Inside, our wood stove has been burning nonstop for a few days. Alan has been getting up in the middle of the night to add more wood. It's nice to wake up to a warm house. Of course our bedroom is about 50 degrees at night since we have to keep the door shut to keep the cats out and there is no insulation in the outside wall.  But that's nothing an extra quilt and burrowing under the covers won't fix.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Icy Roads

At our old house there were two car accidents nearby in the 30 years we owned the place. At our new house I have lost count of the accidents we have seen in the two and a half years we have been here. Last night we heard a lot of tire spinning going on. When we went outside we found this poor soul.
He was trying to go up the hill to the right (which is much steeper than it looks in this picture) but got stuck. As he backed down to try again his truck slid off the road and down the stream embankment. This is the second vehicle we have seen in this exact same position. The poor driver then lost his shoes in the stream trying to see, in the dark, if he could get himself out.

So here the truck sits this morning. They will try to pull out the truck with a backhoe this morning. Good Luck Guys!