Friday, May 17, 2013

A Teeny Bit Sheepish

Our beloved neighbors, Betsy and Don, are away tonight for Don's son's graduation. It is a tricky time to be away, because a whole bunch of lambs are due to be born any moment. They hired Cadence to  farm-sit while they are gone and she and I got a crash course in lambing.
It is predicted to be a rainy, stormy, muddy night, so of course it is highly likely that a bunch of lambs will elect to be born tonight. I went over to help with the evening chores and we were met by this darling lamb outside the fence (he was born a month ago, a result of the ram jumping over the fence before his scheduled rendezvous date.) It's ok of he gets through the fence- he won't stray far from his mom.
Aha! We spied a new lamb, apparently born just minutes before we arrived, still wet. We were relieved to see it up on its feet, looking strong and healthy.
Cadence decided we should do all the other chores first then try to get the lamb and ewe into the barn. The other sheep were hungry and we wouldn't have to contend with their demands if they were distracted by eating.
Cadence and Israel fed the sheep, donkeys, horses, chickens, and dogs while I prepared bottles for the lambs.
When we returned our attention to the newborn lamb, we discovered a second lamb! It must have been born while we did the chores. We  followed Betsy's clever strategy of  putting the lamb into a sled (two lambs and two sleds in this case) and dragging them slowly to the barn as the moms followed. Easier said than done, however; my hour-or-so-old lamb kept jumping out of the sled.
Don has built a nursery in the barn with a dozen small pens where the lambs can become securely bonded with their moms - no risk of getting confused with the wrong ewe. Weaker lambs will get extra attention and supplemental bottle feeding. The  blue pvc pipe down the middle is a watering system.
We bottle-fed a couple of lambs whose moms were not adequately nourishing them.
This lamb was born  last night in the rain and when Don found him this morning, he thought he was dead until he saw him wiggle a bit. He was a very large lamb and had been stuck for a while during birth so fluid had built up in his head, which was very swollen. Don said he didn't have a very good chance of surviving, but showed me how to tube-feed him this afternoon. Don had put the lamb under a heat lamp, but he was shivering and if you put your finger inside his mouth, it was cool, not warm like the internal temp should be. Tonight I put my finger in his mouth and his temperature was considerably warmer than this afternoon.  It also looked like the swelling of his head had gone down a bit, but he was still lying motionless beneath the heat lamp, his mom curled around him. I was really nervous about tube-feeding him.  If you accidentally slide the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, that will kill him. But the tube slid in easily and I fed him a whole bottle of milk while Cadence held him. As we fed him he wagged his tail and then he pooped on her boot, both of which seemed like good signs! I hope this baby is standing tomorrow!
Kind of nerve-wracking, but I like these sheep!
If you want to know more about Don and Betsy's sheep, you can listen to my very first episode Prairie Air, my new radio show on the COBB, where I interviewed  Don about sheep-shearing and lambing season.

Garden Progress!

I was beginning to despair that it would never dry up enough to  till and plant! But then Wednesday it seemed  almost dry enough to till the  veggie garden on the uphill slope. I spent about three hours trying to enlarge this plot , tilling through the sod on the edges, with the  little Toro tiller.  But then around supper time a neighbor stopped by with his  big tiller behind his tractor, and in about  15 minutes  tilled a new bed for us (the far one in this photo) and  re-tilled this one, incorporating two  front-end-loader-scoops of composted cow manure (courtesy of our other dear neighbor, Frank, who had come earlier in the day with his big machine to clean up our muddy cow yard!) I am so grateful to our neighbors who took a little tinme to help us out despite being equally behind on their own, much bigger farms! We paid them in eggs and dollars, but probably not adequately. Yesterday morning, Cadence planted the tomatoes, basil, and peppers - and it has rained steadily ever since; happily, we got them in in the tiny window of opportunity.
Cadence transplanted some of the daffodils that were encroaching on the asparagus bed to the east side of the garden shed and they seem to like it there.
We are feasting on the most delectable green and purple asparagus every day!
 The garlic is looking great.
Cherry blossoms! The pears are also in bloom, but the pear, plum and apple trees were girdled by rabbits this winter and won't survive. Heartbreaking.
The yellow fence is now erected around the bee and butterfly perennial garden- my Mother's Day project from Rog!  We still have to  make gates and paint the arbor. And the house!
I planted and mulched all day yesterday, trying to make it look presentable for our farm's  grand opening and art fair this weekend - it's getting there.
A little garden sculpture I got at the Gold Rush antique fair last weekend (I spent as much money as I made, but it was a crummy weekend weather-wise and it wasn't much.) I have loved this figure ever since I saw it years ago in Savannah, GA; it is featured on the cover of  the book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
The yellow butterfly magnolia is just about to bloom. It is not as heavily covered in buds as it was last year, before it was so rudely frosted and all the buds turned black, but it will still be pretty.
The serviceberry  bushes are covered in blooms! The blossoms should make the bees happy, and if we can beat the birds to the berries,  it looks like a good crop coming.
Greenhouse crops are doing well.  We have been eating  this fabulous lettuce and spinach!
Red and gold beets in the high tunnel, interplanted with carrots.
Next stop on the garden tour, the silo pond. I removed the greenhouse plastic from the sides this week.
The frog population in the silo pond has now grown to at least seven - I have no idea how they find this pond!
Plants waiting on the patio to be  put into the ground...
More plants in the pickup--please don't tell Rog how many flowers I have purchased this week!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Just What We Needed!

We are getting rain!  Ordinarily that would make me happy but the ground is so saturated already. Will it ever dry up enough to plant??
The worst is the pasture between the  barn and loafing shed, the sacrifice yard where the cows trample the grass to death all winter. By yesterday it was drying off enough that I didn't sink up to my knees when feeding the cows, but today it is back to deep muck in the heavy clay soil. With all the  deep  muck-boot- and hoof-print-potholes, it never drains. Maybe we should haul in a huge load of sand.
The ducks and goose are the only ones enjoying it. This is precisely the area I had plans for putting my raised beds for squashes and long beans growing on arched trellises!
The cows pretty much hang out inside the shed or on an island of spilt hay by their feeder.  They may be  wasting hay intentionally to enlarge their island. I wouldn't entirely blame them but at $6 a bale, it is a pricey island.
There is now a small pond between the loafing shed and the big compost pile.  The ducks and goose LOVE it.
Yesterday afternoon was so lovely I decided to do the chicken coop spring-cleaning. However, I was not able to push the wheelbarrow full of old bedding through the  mud (it wasn't nearly as muddy as today) to the compost pile, so that job  is postponed.
Despite the rain, I decided to take Zinnie for a walk through the prairie this morning and see what's growing. There is a moat around the big rock.
Some of the bloodroot I transplanted from a roadside ditch last spring is  coming up.
I planted one marsh marigold a couple years ago I got at the  Quarry Hill native plant sale, even though we don't really have a marsh, but do have sort of ephemeral wetlands. This year it must be very happy! It has buds already.
The mowed  path through the prairie is lush and green.  This is the  path of the future sculpture walk --we hope to start installing sculptures this summer.
Looks very lush, even though the buds haven't popped open yet. Once they do, you can't see the prairie for the  grass and bushes.
Walking through raindrop diamonds.
Meanwhile, back at the bird food court, dozens of impossibly yellow goldfinches.
I am especially happy that mourning doves have returned.  I realize now they disappeared the year of the great-horned owl family.  Maybe it is safe now that the owls have moved on (cross  your fingers.)
We have a beautiful new bird this summer -  rose-breasted grosbeaks! this morning they were at the feeders, but I wasn't able to get my camera in time for a good shot. The male has been serenading us with a sweet song.