Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farm Story for July 23, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm ,

About a month ago I was scrolling through craigslist and came across a post for bottle fed lambs. Ordinarily I would not have paid much attention except that these were Lincoln lambs, a breed of sheep not really common in this area. The Lincoln is an English breed bred for their long curly locks and heavy fleeces. They are very large sheep with rams growing out to be about 300 pounds. I was excited to see that someone in the area had them so I called.

It seems the woman had two ram lambs that had both been abandoned by their mothers at birth. The lambs were healthy, the ewes just refused to nurse them. They had become bottle babies out of necessity but I know how expensive bottle babies are and I think the woman was ready to be rid of them. We visited them and fell in love with the enormous babies covered with dark curls. The older one was barely a month old and weighed a good twenty pounds. The younger one was a little over two weeks old with a more petite build but still weighed about fifteen pounds. They had bright eyes and were healthy fellows so we paid for them and hauled them home.

They were vigorous little eaters. I soon discovered that for each feeding I needed to mix up a quart of lamb milk replacer. We were feeding them about five times a day and also letting them have all the hay and grain they were interested in. The seemed to believe they were born to eat, enthusiastically following anyone who looked like they may be able to produce a bottle. They were so funny to watch as they were enormous but still acted like babies. We named the larger one Buddy after the main character in the movie Elf. We’ve gotten into the habit of calling the little guy Inky Dink because of his size compared to Buddy but I don’t know if we’ve really decided that that is his name.

So once it seemed our lambing season was pretty well over we took on a new pair of babies. And they have made themselves right at home. They started out living in the stable and although they are often out in the barnyard they make it a point to slip back in whenever they can. They know which stall holds the feed and often stand in front of that closed door, willing us to open it. We began feeding them grain by sprinkling it on the milk stand and encouraging them to try it. Now the minute we open the stable door they race to check for goodies left on the milk stand. The fellows stay on our heels when we work outside and bawl at the barn door should we walk in without them. The two are inseparable so also panic when they end up on opposite sides of a fence. They are rather high maintenance but they are so adorable that we don’t mind. They have very long legs and are built like concrete blocks. Buddy’s shoulders come well up to my knees and Inky Dink, though a little more slightly built, is also growing taller and taller. We’ll just see how sweet they are when they top two hundred pounds apiece. Their saving grace had better be the gorgeous fleeces!

We have been very busy with the heat. It seems much of my day is spent checking water troughs. I also study the pastures for anyone that looks at all peculiar. Any animal that doesn’t jump right up the minute I call gets a visit to be sure that it is simply napping and not suffering from the heat. In the winter the animals move from sunny spot to sunny spot throughout a chilly day. Now they follow the shade.

I have discovered that the chickens seem to know where every little breeze might potentially blow on the whole property. Whenever I see a few chickens standing around in an area I squat down near them and can often feel a very gentle movement in the air. They have found lots of shaded areas as well as little wind tunnels between buildings or in the rises and falls of the pastures. They are drinking lots of water but are not as interested in eating. The heat has caused egg production to drop by easily a quarter of the number of eggs we are used to getting. Some of the hens have also gone into an early molt as their bodies drop feathers and go into a seasonal resting period that would usually occur later in the summer. That means we just keep feeding and caring with fewer eggs to sell but that is just a part of farming. The unpredictable weather is something to take in stride.

We did get a hay delivery on Saturday. One of our hay men brought about two dozen huge round bales to the house. We have been concerned about the lack of rain so are buying hay as we can get it. It is such a blessing to have Saturday Market as it gives us a regular cash flow to buy hay as it becomes available. It really is nice to know as I work with our sheep’s wool that they are helping to buy their own dinner.

I did have a funny little surprise this week. The Pilgrim geese have three water buckets. One has become their favorite for bathing and they drink out of the other two. I always completely dump the drinking water buckets and rinse them before refilling them but sometimes just top off the bathing bucket with the hose. I noticed that the bathing bucket was full of newly hatched tadpoles! I didn’t have the heart to dump the little ones out on the hot dry ground to die so have just been very gently topping off the water , careful not to flush any out. The geese seem to ignore them when bathing but I have been tempted to move that whole bucket to a safe spot and replace it with a new one for the geese. I am sure that during the goose-bath ritual of dipping their heads and letting the water run over their faces and down their necks they are scooping out a few of the tadpoles. But perhaps that is simply nature taking its course. We already have a quite adequate toad and frog population on the farm.

The coming week is supposed to be hot and dry again. I am sure I will spend many hours keeping up with creatures. I might also plan on a bit more time in the house sitting in the air conditioning while spinning some more yarn or knitting scarves for the fall. I do one dyeing and spinning technique where I end up spinning wet wool that sends a constant sprinkling of mist into the air as I treadle my wheel. I think this might be a good time to make a few skeins of that sort of yarn so that I can benefit from the cooled environment that the process generates.

No comments:

Post a Comment