lesson in patience.....

Today was a rainy 55 degrees with lots of mud.  LOTS.  I hopped into Ruby (F-150) to head to the farm, and she wouldn't start. She would turn over, but nada.  No go.  So I swapped my farm essentials into the Subaru and headed out to the farm.  I went about my business doing my usual feeding, when I cracked my head on the long iron barn door latch when I completed dropping the hay down to the sheep.  It was a paralyzing kind of hurt where I immediately felt nauseas.  Not a good way to start off the day. I was hit in the head by a falling 2x4 two years ago, which left me with a huge knot and a black eye for two weeks. Not even then, did I get the sensation I did today.  I guess steel hurts worse than wood.  

After getting myself reoriented, I walked down to the barn to divvy out the hay rations and found that the 2nd pen that my niece and I set up last week with a few very pregnant ewes,  had a new guest.  A huge, and beautiful colored ewe lamb.  (you can see more of these photos on instagram.)  I decided to leave her in the pen with the other 5 mamas, because she was big and healthy and I didn't worry about her getting roughed up.  

Next on the agenda was to check the ewes in the field.  I spotted a new set of twins out in the field and decided to take advantage of the warm weather, by getting the sheep ALLLLLLL back in the barnyard lot.  The plan was to herd them into the barn and try and sort out the bigger pregnant ewes into smaller pens under the barn cover.  The barn is set up in such a way that I can separate into several groups. I find that it is much more manageable to separate a flock of 80+ sheep into groups of 15 or so in smaller pens.  I don't feel so overwhelmed when I see the sea of wool, and the babies, if born before I can pen up the mother, are less likely to lose sight of their mama.  Sounds simple right?  Move sheep into barn from field.  Easy as Sunday morning.

The first thing I was going to need in order to get them back in was the 4-wheeler (aka quad).  I went back to the barn and tried to start it, with no luck.  I changed the spark plug two days prior, so that's not it, but I decide to double check anyway.  Still nothing.  Gas? Check.  At this point, I was going to flood it if I kept trying, so I left it sit and headed back out on foot to the field, with a flake of hay in tow.  The leader is always Magnus.  If you can get Magnus to follow you, the sheep will come.  Problem is, donkeys can be moody.  Magnus can either be your shadow and right next to you at all times, or he can come up to briefly say hello and then retreat to find a dusty pile to roll around in.  If he is in the latter mood, this would make things much more challenging.  As my luck would have it, he was just in that kind of mood.  Even though he wasn't feeling all snuggly today, I did get him to follow me and slowly the sheep marched their way out of the field into the much smaller field outside the barn.  To give you a visual of our set up, think of the farm as a wagon wheel.  The hub of the wheel is the barn and all the spokes are fields. We have a small field coming off the hub that allows the sheep to graze, but not get into any of those spokes (aka other fields.)  Then, inside the hub where the barn is located, is a small  are with concrete.  That is what we call the stack yard.  It basically is the concrete lot outside the barn.  I wanted to work my way from big field, little field,to stack yard, then barn.  

After about three hours, I accomplished the above-goal.  Magnus was in a pen, sheep were in a pen and I gathered the new twins and got them inside the nursery pen. I was able to put their mother in with them.  The temperatures are about to drop and we are expecting snow Thursday, so I felt relieved (and exhausted) that they are all safely inside the barn area.   

It takes a lot of work to get animals where you want them to be.  But more so, it takes patience; a lot of slow movements, and a calm demeanor. When sheep feel panicked or threatened they will run. Sheep run fast. I do not.  A two day old lamb can outrun me even on my best day.   So, if you want sheep to move and go where you want them to go, you had better allow ample amount of time and not be in a hurry.  Especially if you don't have a herding dog, are on foot and are alone in doing it.  But, I did learn something today, that I CAN do these daunting tasks alone.  It seems damn near impossible at the time, but it really isn't. You just have to be creative with your methods. I am so happy, that with the several inches of snow that will be upon us Thursday, the sheep are on mounds of fluffy bedding and should they give birth, they will all be snug and warm. I may not be able to move very fast tomorrow, and I still have a headache from earlier, but those sore muscles are gentle reminder of how lucky I am to be doing this everyday.  


Autumn surprises

We have had unseasonably warm weather in Ohio the past few weeks, where the temperatures held steady in the high 70's low 80's.  But, today the rain finally came and with it, so did the cooler temperatures.

I came out to the barn today to find a mama and her sweet baby ewe lamb dozing off and in the barn away from the drizzling rain.  I knew she was due  soon, but with the Ram running with the ewes since March, we were unsure of how the breeding season would go.  It was a pleasant surprise to find her sweet face when I rounded the barn door corner.  Typically, the ewes aren't exposed to the ram until the late summer/early fall when the ewes will go into cycle (heat) and then five months later, the lambs will be born (typically January).  But, we are trying things a little differently, and I wanted to see how the ewes would cycle and left Barry (the ram) with them all spring and summer. Not all sheep breeds will cycle out of season (meaning other than late summer/fall) but some can and will.  Katahdins, Jacob's and Icelandics can cycle in times, and so I let nature take its course so we could observe and see which ewes would cycle and give us fall lambs, and those that will give us winter lambs.   

It is days like today that I enjoy farming so much.  There is something magical about the ebb and flow of farm life that force us to slow down.  To observe. To simply be.  The weather dictates my schedule, and I like that.  I like that my life is so intertwined with it that it allows me time to pause, reflect, and "see" what is happening around me.   I watched the mama ewe with her lamb, and she watched me, unsure if I posed a threat or if I was harmless.  She stomped her feet when I got too close, warning me that I was closing in on her personal space and she wasn't having it.   After moving them into their own "nursery suite" I left them alone and watched from a distance.  Not everyday is simple and sweet like this, but I am thankful for days that are.