It seems that winter has settled in. We have had several days of below-zero highs, and it was -22C when we woke up yesterday.
I have been dreading winter for months. We didn’t get much warmth over the summer, mostly just constant chilly rain, and it’s done a number on my mood and many other people’s moods. There’s just been this overwhelming sense of doom building. And yesterday I woke up to -22. And then the sun came up and started sparkling off the tiny bit of snow we’ve got, and things just started looking up. Because yes, it’s going to be cold, and it’s only getting colder. But we have a well-insulated house and heat. And sunshine. And this cold means that the drizzly chill that we’ve been fighting with all summer (we sometimes refer to it as dementors) is gone. We are back to a cold that is dry and easier to keep at bay, and the clouds only come when we’re getting more snow, which doesn’t happen all that often really.
And the other good news is that I managed to get a gate into the fence between the ram and the ewes this year, so (as long as everyone lives that long and does their jobs) we will have lambs in the spring.
It’s possible. Really, it is. It’s not even all that different from training a dog, except they’re prey animals, so you can’t be too scary. (Don’t ask about how well-trained my dog is, he’s a freak of nature and he’s too dumb to know his own name.)
So the man I buy hay from called on Sunday and said he was baling that day and if we would come pick them up in the field, they would be even less money than the crazy low price he gave me last year. And since we’ve been having so much rain, there’s not much good hay available and what there is is astronomically priced. Anyway. Of course we ran out to pick up the first of the 2 loads I need to get us through the winter. And when we got back and I went to move sheep and close gates so I could drive the truck into the pasture, I found one of my favourites with her face all torn up. I’ll spare you that grizzly photo, but I had to do a quick change of plans whereby other people (namely children) went to get the rest of the hay while I waited for the on-call vet to come sew her face back together. She is all back in one piece now and doing really well, with swelling coming down a lot already. But she needs a few doses of antibiotics, because she just does.
Which brings us to the training bit. So far, the extent of my sheep training has consisted of “wear this halter and follow me when I tug on the leash” (so we can take sheep to school to visit) and “when I am running, chase me and you’ll get a treat” (because them chasing me is much easier than me chasing them). Well, Ophelia (the aforementioned stitched up sheep) isn’t really into having antibiotics. Mostly because they are delivered intramuscularly and she thinks that’s rude. So here comes my brilliant idea to use the sheep scale I bought last fall as a chute to contain her while I inject her.
Well, nobody was too interested in getting into that scary box until I brought out the grain scoop. Luckily for me, Ophelia was the first one to squeeze in and I was able to medicate her without any of the others up in my business. Then it came time for the others to try to make their way through, and the promise of a bit of grain at the end caused a miniature stampede. Now, I only have the 5 ewes, and they’re not enormous. But then, neither is my scale (which, I suppose, was originally a hog scale). 4 of the 5 managed to suck in their guts and fight their way through the chute, but poor Blue just couldn’t manage it. Poor girl had to wait for me to drag the scale out of the way and open the gate for her. She was unusually vocal about her displeasure. She’s usually the quietest of the lot.
So training is going about how I expected. But it will make my life a good deal easier if they will catch themselves when they need vaccinations or medications.
And the shearer is coming, so the sheep are indoors. Ish. Olaf is indoors. The ewes are in a sheltered pen with a big tarp. They are not very impressed to be confined after weeks in the pasture, but they’ll be thrilled to have their wool off.
According to my diligent photographing of my weather station, we had 50mm/1.98in of precipitation on June 3. As of today? 194mm/7.6in. And it’s raining again. I had to drill holes in my tomato tub today. It’s a galvanized wash tub that I have had tomatoes in for 3 years previously, and I didn’t put any holes in it because I needed it to retain water. Well, several days of dumping water out of it means it needs drain holes, I guess.
At any rate, my shearer is coming soon. Which means that I am going to have to be able to keep my sheep dry because wet wool doesn’t cut. This is going to be a juggling act of epic proportions. Last year, I put them into my decrepit tarp shed where I keep my hay and I just put up pallets on t-posts and made a fence. This year? the part of that shed where I put them collapsed under the snow load in the early spring, and while the structure itself is still standing, there is much less actual shelter with 20′ of roof gone. My “barn” has 2 8′ x 8′ stalls in it, which will hold my 6 sheep for a day or so manageably, except that one of those sheep is a ram who needs to be kept separate. And one of the stalls is full of baby birds. What is likely going to happen is that I will fight with my hay tarp to get it back into position where it can shelter the ewes in the shed and make them a new pen in there. The ram can go in the empty stall, and on shearing day, I will boot the chickens out of their room in the little barn and put the ewes in there while they wait to be shorn. Spoiler alert: they hate it when I put them in the chicken room. Stay tuned. Because it’s about 50 yards between the hay shed and the barn, and only one of my sheep is halter broke. Last year I had to carry 2 of them for most of that distance.
I loaned one of my gates to a friend, so my girls haven’t been able to go out to pasture yet. Which is kind of a good thing, because it means the pasture has grown plenty for them and hopefully we won’t be playing catchup all summer long. They are certainly pleased.
Last week of school, lacrosse playoffs, So. Much. Rain. Ducklings sharing space with a murderous cat. They are safely locked in a cage he can’t get into, but he’s going to have to move out to the barn when they get more active. He should live out there already, but he doesn’t believe he’s a barn cat. Be grateful you’re not still a bridge cat, you ornery thing.
Product review time: I use Brinsea mini eco incubators, and mostly they work really well. there is some necessary repair, because as is the nature of motorized parts and humidity, things corrode and stop working. But repairs are easy and parts are available. That said: the fan quit in my original incubator and the replacement I found wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be, apparently. Long story short, it didn’t keep the temperature where it was supposed to. I meant to recalibrate it, but its still sitting on my shelf waiting for that to happen. Because I bought a new one the mini EX. I like the premise behind the new design. Add water from the outside so you dont have to open it up so often. Except that you can only add 1/4 of the water that you can from inside the other ones, so it dries out really fast. And that doesn’t work out so well when you are trying to incubate ducks. The ducks really need the base that doesn’t have the hole in it because they need that humidity to stay in and stay high. I got 2 ducks out of 6 eggs, and 3 of those 4 died in the last 2 days of incubation, where humidity is so vital. I think I’m going to plug up that hole before I try to hatch anything else out of there.
For those following along at home: the ducklings have been named, which is certain doom for any small farm animal, but you just can’t reason with a 9 year old. They are called Nibble and Squeak, and they are identical except the tiny black dot on the top of Nibble’s head.
Someone I admire told me that she wishes I had a blog she could read and share, so maybe I’ll give it a go.
Today we are getting a bit of much-needed rain. So of course, while I was hunkered down on the couch with my tea and knitting, the neighbour called and told me my sheep were out. Now the particular pen that the sheep were in has been securing two dogs for weeks, but the sheep were indeed out. I was going to take a picture, but Ophelia was eating my apple tree that barely survived winter, and then she tried to bolt for the garden, so no photos. Semipro-tip: Teach your animals to chase you. Now, the chickens are too stupid for this trick, but the sheep are full-speed ahead if I start running. Which is very helpful since my border collie failed herding school.