Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wet, Wild and Windy

It seems so strange that a week ago I was complaining about the cold because right now it's plus 16, yes, PLUS! And my goodness it's windy! Consequently it's melted everything and there's water flowing everywhere. Before it cools down again I hope things get dried out so it's not too icy. At the farm there's hardly a speck of snow left but there is plenty of flowing water.

Meghan, bless her, thought that getting some fresh flowing water would be nice for the ewes so she devised a contraption to let her get water without getting her feet wet, blowing away, or falling on the ice. Yes I realize it looks a bit weird so let me explain. The toboggan is tied to the van to prevent it sliding away and she is using a clean shovel to scoop water into the bucket because apparently the shovel is lighter and easy to use. Did it work? Yes it did! One of the most important skills any farmer can have is the ability to improvise a solution to a problem. People don't always think of farmers as being particularly smart or creative and I'm here to tell you that you couldn't be more wrong. Every farmer I know can easily list 20 or more used for that piece of bale twine or string we all seem to have in our pockets. I like Meghan's blending of practicality and safety features in her water gathering project. Very funny yet effective. It was quite early in the morning so the light is pretty weak in the photos.

Given the strength of the winds today and yesterday I'm amazed that the tarps are still holding but they are, and I'm grateful. Steve got one end wall almost done and the eaves are now boxed in too which keeps the barn nice and warm inside compared to outside on a windy day. There's still good ventilation but no breeze blowing through as much as before. Very much appreciated by all of us who spend time in the barn. i put a gate latch on the side door so that we can latch the door closed more tightly and also open it from the inside. I should have used shorter screws though because they stick through a bit and when the wind blew I put out a hand to stop it and skewered the base of my thumb on a screw, OUCH! But at least now we can pull the door shut from inside and latch it tightly, and get out again which is always a bonus.

I was a bit surprised that Sweetpea hadn't had her lambs yet and she's really eating and drinking lots, they all are. The lambs put on a lot of their growth in the last few weeks so now the ewes are looking like they've swallowed basketballs! Sweetpea's udder last night was looking firm and round with her nipples sticking out so it shouldn't be long now and they're definitely starting to get a bit uncomfortable with such big bulky bellies. I'll see if I can get them to stand still long enough to take a photo.  It's not at all unusual for Rideaus to have triplets or quads so we'll see how it goes. Most breeds have singles or twins which works out well because with 2 teats they can feed twins but any breed with improved milk production can support more lambs and that's what ours will be good for. Older ewes are also more likely to produce triplets than younger ewes and this breed is known for larger groups of lambs so it will be interesting. One of my ewes has hardly gained any girth though and her udder is unchanged so I'm not sure that she's even pregnant sadly. Time will tell.

 Next year I'm going to have a plan in place that allows me to know when each ewe was serviced so that I know when to start increasing her feed and when she is due. Well, as much as any shepherd can know because these things aren't an exact science.

In addition to using pallets as dividers we've put together some wooden panels to use for making temporary walls and gates so that we can divide off the mothers and their lambs to have a bonding area for a few days and to make temporary pens for any bottle fed lambs. These are light weight and sized to allow a tall person to step over if needed. Now that out pallet pile has started to defrost I'm going to get the boys to help me stack them individually so that they don't freeze together again. This afternoon I want to make a trough for the sheep feed too. Keeping it off the ground is important for cleanliness and to prevent wastage which is more economical. Both boys write their last exams today and then have the rest of the day off and tomorrow too so I have slaves! Yay!

Well, time to pick them up from school. Hope you are all enjoying the last day of January.

Best Wishes!   Elizabeth

1 comment:

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