Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farm Update 5/7

Well, my first week as a full-time shepherd has been chaotic, heart-warming, exhausting and heart-breaking. And it's only Wednesday.

I'll start with the sad news. We lost Sage yesterday. Little Sage was the second kid born in February. He was fine when I feed in the morning, but when Patrick and I went back to move the animals in the afternoon we found him lying by the hay feeder. I wish I could tell you exactly what happened, because I think knowing would make it seem less scary, less likely to happen again. But I just don't know.

I suspect that he may have gotten butted very hard into the hay feeder by another animal, but I only think that because he had hay in his mouth when we found him. Otherwise, there were no clues whatsoever as to what happened to him.

We could ask the vet to perform a necropsy (the animal version of an autopsy) but most vets discourage it unless you are having multiple unexplained deaths.

I felt so terrible when we found him- angry with myself for not being there when whatever happened happened, so sad that he was no longer with us, so sad for his poor mama. But mostly I felt helpless. No matter what I do, how many every-four-hour barn checks I do, how many how-to-farm books I read, how much I worry, I can't protect my flock from everything. I hate that feeling.

I went straight to bed when we got home from doing chores and didn't get up till morning. I feel better today, but I'm still sad. Luckily, I had my work today to take my mind off things and get me back on track.

Beatrice and her twin boys are doing well. I was planning to let them out of the kidding pen today, but as soon as I got the gate open, Mrs. Doubtfire (#25) rushed over and she and Beatrice got in to a nanny goat smackdown. I have no idea what stared it, but these ladies do not like each other. I had to pull them apart and close Bea back in because I didn't want Chipotle and Ancho to be injured. Even after I closed the gate though, the two nannies stared each other down through the bars. I put off turning the family out until tomorrow until, hopefully, both goats have had time to cool off.

Miss Linda still hasn't had her babies yet. She is just so pitiful looking! I know she is super-uncomfortable but it can't be too much longer. Basically, you know a goat is ready to kid when her, um, hoo-ha swells and her udder fills up with milk (called "bagging up"). [Hope the graphic language doesn't offend anyone, but if it does, you may want to skip the next three photos. And the three after that.]

The picture below if a normal nanny goat's backside.

This is Miss Linda's.
And here is her udder.

So you can see, Linda has clearly met all the requirements to go into labor at any moment.

Speaking of swollen hoo has, I have some very good news. I was over photographing the sheep at Felix Neck today and I made a wonderful discovery while looking through my telephoto lens. Sicily, Salina and Daisy are all definitely bred (we weren't sure) and due to give birth sometime in the next two or three weeks! 

We weren't sure if they were bred for a couple of reasons. First of all, our sheep breeding program is a good deal more relaxed than our goat breeding practices. This is mostly because lambs are really sturdy when they are born while goat kids are very fragile. Sheep have no problem whatsoever lambing in the field, something we would never even consider with the Angora goats. 

In December 2006, we purchased Sicily and Salina and put them in with Lincoln, our feisty cormo ram, in January. Most people we talked to told us that they probably wouldn't breed because it was so late in the season, so we were thrilled when FDR was born in early June. But the other ewe didn't breed and we thought she was probably not ever going to. 

When Jeff, our shearer, was here last month, I asked him if he thought they were bred and he said no. Funny thing is, he sad the same thing last year. But I have photographic evidence that says otherwise!

The big surprise here is that Daisy is bred. [This is the original Daisy, my babydoll southdown ewe, not Daisy2, the Navaho Churro/Icelandic cross.] Daisy was one of my very first sheep and she has never been bred before. She is four, which is older for a ewe to become pregnant for the first time. I am just over the moon to be getting a lamb from her.  And it will be really interesting to see what kind of fleece a babydoll southdown/cormo cross has. I can't imagine that anyone has ever crossed these two breeds before, because cormos are a very sought after, fine wool breed and babydolls are mostly kept as pets. The lamb could be the very first babydoll cormo ever!

Tansy and Mint found their feet this week. There has been all kind of jumping, leaping and gambolling going on over at the hoop house. I spent a couple hours watching them today and it was just the antidote I needed for my blues. Here are some of the highlights.

All that jumping can make a baby tired.

This is my very favorite picture of Hannah and Mint.

In other news I have started attempting to dye yarn this week. I say "attempting" because it's a good deal more difficult than I thought it would be. Here are some of my early efforts:

This one turned out basically the way I expected. It's called Tashmoo. 

I have no idea what happened here. I kind of like it, but I don't know how it happened. It's called Sunset over Menemsha. [Menemsha is a harbor on the Vineyard where everyone goes to watch the sunset.]

This one is called Sea Witch.

As you can see, I have a lot to learn about dyeing yarn! 

Finally, I have been getting lots of email from shareholders asking how we will be releasing the Spring 2009 shares. The general consensus is that current shareholders should have first dibs on the next set of shares. Meanwhile, since we sold out of Fall 2008 shares yesterday, I've gotten 10 emails from people who haven't bought shares before who want Spring 09 shares.

I am really conflicted about this, because I don't ever want to give the impression that I am pushing ya'll to buy more. I really appreciate every single one of you and everything you've done for our farm. You were here for me when I needed you most. 

I have been working with a business advisor from SCORE and we've determined that 300 shares is really the maximum I can handle for one shearing. However, if you add up all the Spring 08 and Fall 08 shareholders, there are more than 300. 

So, if you are interested in a Spring 2009 share, shoot me an email at susangibbs1 [at] mac [dot] com with "Spring 2009" in the subject line. I will send out a Paypal invoice in the order I receive the emails and after everyone who wants one gets a Spring share, I will open whatever is left to the new people. 

The price for Spring 2009 will be the same for the current shareholders ($100 + $10 for shipping) but we will be raising the price a bit for new shareholders to help off-set rising fuel and feed costs.

Have a great week and check you inbox! Linda will be dropping those babies any minute now.


mydogpetey said...

Oh, Susan, how heartbreaking about Sage. Try and stay strong - you have some new and upcoming momma's that need your help. You are doing a fantastic job providing all that love and care. Sometimes things just happen - it's the circle of life that we cannot control. You have a lot of support behind you!

Katom Burke said...

ok, sadness about Sage aside...I had to laugh when I realized that I was reading a blog post full of sheep vaginas! I did find if very informative however.

Elsie said...

Wow. Big week for you. All the wonderful and awful parts of life on the farm rolled into one wild week. You will never be able to protect them from everything. You can do your best, and your best is to respect and cherish them for the time that you have together. It is clear that you do that from how you write about it all. The pictures are super and there is nothing like cavorting kids to help you through the tough spots.

Susan said...

Thanks ya'll. Somehow having to think through how I'm going to explain all of this to you all helps me to work through things in my mind.

Katom, you totally cracked me up and I spit Diet Pepsi every where!

caracolina said...

Sorry to hear about poor Sage, but thank you for softening the blow with the rest of the post.

jenibug said...

Susan, never forget how wonderful you are, and just think how great a job you are doing. As others have said, there are completions of the circle of life we just can't time to our desires.

That being said, on to the sheep vaginas. I had to laugh when I read that part of the post. What a hoot! But I must tell you Susan, as a nurse... the term "hoo-ha" is very very technical and should only be used by licensed professionals.... (wink)

Joan said...

Susan - so sorry about Sage, he had a great life with you while he was here.

I'm learning more about goats then I ever thought I

A Crafty Lawyer said...

So sad about Sage -- I know it must be very difficult for you. But then seeing those photos of Tansy and Mint gave me such a smile, I hope they can cheer you up as well.

Jenny said...

Oh, Susan. I am so sad about Sage and so sorry to hear. The way I look at it, though, is that there are SO many of these little guys, and things like this are bound to happen without ever giving you notice, or a reason to get worried beforehand. I think you're doing an AMAZING job of caring for your flock. I've never seen anyone so in love with their animals- they couldn't ask for a better caretaker. That "in love with their animals" line may have sounded a bit gross, but I truly meant it as appropriately as possible.


We will come up with some way to honor little Sage.

Maggie said...

Oh Susie, I am so sorry. Just know you are an amazing goat mom and shite happens sometimes. ((((Hugs)))) and a hot cup of tea coming your way...

Crista said...
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--Deb said...

Poor Sage! Didn't he realize that the other kids can play rough? Poor little thing...

Though, those frolicking youngsters at the end of the post sure made me smile.

And, as to offering current shareholders a spot on the next shearing? Speaking AS a current shareholder, I think it's a great idea, but think you could reasonably limit the amount of time they have to take advantage of a guaranteed space--say, an advance warning of a day or two or a week. They could still have a fair shot of getting a share after that window, but they'd have first dibs... (I mean, unless your share start selling in 37 minutes flat once they're available, and I think all of us would like to see that happen for YOUR sake, at least!) And a "guaranteed low price if we renew now?" Tee--it's like a magazine subscription, only better!

Jean said...

I thought your dye colors were exquisitely yummy. I love the names of the colors, too.

Crista said...

It IS very sad to hear about Sage, but nature is also providing you a baby you never expected from Daisy!

And not to fret about the sunset and green yarn. I personally "work" to get variants like that.

Perhaps we should have a lovely yarn in his memory?

Jenna said...

So sad to hear about Sage, hug warm hugs to you! mean to tell me that "hoo-ha" isn't the official term? 8D

Phyl said...

I truly was so sorry to hear the news about Sage. I'm sure it doesn't matter how many you have that when you lose one it's a heartbreak.

THAT being said, I also wanted to thank you for the anatomical info on female sheep, something I've not often thought about but none the less very informative.

: )

Susan said...

I really thought for a long time before settling on hoo-ha, partly because I didn't want pervs googling "sheep vulvas" and ending up here!

Becky said...

Why do I feel like a part of this little sheep community? You are so informative. I know how busy you must be but this is just great. It is the next best thing to being there shoveling hay poopy and checking hooha's.

Happy Shepherding, Susan.


Mary, Mary... said...

Go, Daisy! As for Sea Witch, I would dream up a very kelplike shawl or scarf with insidious tendrils. My condolences on the wee bairn--they may be domesticated, but they're not tame.
Hugs, Mary