Monday, April 30, 2007

Bran

This is Bran (pronounced Brawn). Bran first started coming around a couple of years ago. During that particular winter I would leave dead mice caught in the barn traps out on the crust of snow for the ravens to come and "dispose" of. One of them started coming closer and closer to the barn

area.
Before I knew it, we were trying to hold conversations with each other. Yes, Bran was trying to teach me how to speak Raven.

Although he won't take treats out of my hand...yet, Bran will get within six feet of me and attempt to teach me new phrases once and a while. I have actually noticed different inflections and tones in the way he'll speak to me. When I talk to him, he will cock his head and try to answer me.

It's probably no more than a "Hey, Silly...I can't understand a thing you say!" or "Forget trying to talk...where the heck is the food?" Each day I try to leave him something both morning and evenings. It may be nothing more than an animal cookie, but he accepts each offering with grace and a "Gwak!", which I can only assume is "Thank you" in Raven-speak. On occasion I will leave him an egg from the chickens. It may be a dirty egg or one that's been cracked. Giving them to Bran has been way more fun than placing the bad eggs in the compost pile. Usually, Bran will bury the egg somewhere close by. An amazing thing about ravens is the they will remember exactly where they bury their "caches". I have seen him dig through inches of snow, then frozen dirt, and come up with whatever he buried in that particulr place. I wish I had that recall ability. :-)


If you're wondering where I got the name Bran from, it's the name of a Celtic god who took the form of a raven whenever he appeared. My DH thought I must have gone off the deep end when he heard me talking to someone out by the barn.
Oh, he knew I talked to the chickens and sheep as if they could answer me, but occasionally he would notice that I was talking to no one in particular. The only other creature around would be a crow sitting on the roof of the barn. I had to explain to him that the "crow" was the one I was talking to.
This year I have found that Bran comes much more often to the barn. I can hear him in the trees around the neighborhood and no sooner do I head for the barn than he appears. Even if I am just pulling weeds or watering the garden, he'll be somewhere close watching me and repeating the same vocabulary he's teaching me at that time. The only mischievous behavior he's shown was just this past weekend when he tried to rearrange the garbage bag in the back of my DH's truck...and I believe he brought friends to help him with that particular project.

In any case, he's become almost like one of the family. I'm glad to see him when I happen to look up from what I'm doing. He warns me of hawks and eagles, even the odd coyote out for a mid-day hunt. But the craziest thing he's done is stand on the roof of our cats' vet's mobile van and try to get in the vent to see what I was doing in that thing. I felt like Edgar Allen Poe.

"As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door...
Only this and nothing more"

Thanks for looking out for me, Bran.

Friday, April 27, 2007

An Arrival @ Sheep Thrills Farm!

When I walked up to the mailbox today to see if the mail had come, I noticed a smallish box hanging from the mailbox by rubberbands the mail-person had creatively origamied together. It was from my friend, Michelle from Boulderneigh (www.boulderneigh.blogspot.com)!

Inside the box was the cutest Treasure Box of a sheep and inside the box was a teeny, tiny sheep as well (sorry the picture didn't turn out and my batteries died).
The attached card stated that Michelle had found this at the Shepherd's Extravaganza she had just attended - as well as entered her sheeps' fleeces in this year. (She even won a few ribbons! Go, Michelle!) Inside the card she wrote: Congratulations on the first Sheep Thrills lambs!

What a very nice thing to do, Michelle! thank you for thinking of me, er, us...well you know! ;-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Brand New World

Yesterday, while I was feeding sheep, we let the ewes and their lambs out for a bit. Our weather hadn't been cooperating until late yesterday or they would have been outside much sooner. Here you see Lacey and her brood, Shaun and Blessa, out in this brand new world!

I have to admit that I really love all the lambs, but Shaun and Blessa hold a special place in my heart. Their mom is one of the sweetist sheep I've ever known and they both have picked up that aspect of her personality. And Blessa will be joining the ewes when she's older - staying with us. Shaun, if he turns out the way I believe he will, should go on to sire some lambs of his own. He's awesome! But then, I am very biased, aren't I? :-)


Amanda's boys are going to be absolutely gorgeous! Both are big guys, tentatively named Sven and Ole. When I was in feeding today I noticed that one of them has a few white hairs on his head. I'll have to take a closer look at them this evening when everyone goes in for the evening.

Sven was the large first-born ram lamb. The night he was born I had decided to just check one more time on the new little family. I donned my boots and coat and went out to the barn at about 11 p.m., only to find Sven curled up in a corner, not moving! We rushed him into the house to warm him up as even his ears were stone-cold. I thought he was a goner. But, with a roaring fire in the woodburner, he soon regained the warmth he needed. I also had called our wonderful sheep-vet who concurred about bringing him in the house for the night. You see, there is always a chance that a ewe won't take the baby back. The baby then must be hand raised by the shepherd until weaning. And I hadn't done that sort of intense mothering since my own daughter was born.

Not only did we keep Sven warm, but I also gave him some B-Vitamins and the Midwestern cure-all, a solution of Karo syrup mixed with water to dilute it. The one thing missing from my lambing kit this year was an injectible dextrose solution for just such an occassion. My grandmother, being a nurse, had introduced the Karo-Miracle-Cure to me many years ago when I was pregnant with said daughter...one Tablespoon in a glass of milk sipped slowly in the morning before rising took care of the horrid Morning Sickness I had - but that's another story. ;-)

By morning, Sven was jumping out of the huge box we had placed him in under his own power! He was good-to-go so we wrapped him in a big towel and trotted him down to the barn. No sooner did we get the jug's gate open than Amanda called to her son and he almost jumped out of my arms! He headed straight for the "Milk Bar" for breakfast. (I had milked Amanda using an EZ Milker I bought just for this kind of situation and fed Sven through the night with a bottle.) It was great to see her accept him without any problems at all.

The only one who was being left out was Skittles! All he had seen for the past two days was the comings and goings in the barn. I'm certain he was wondering what on Earth was going on what with people coming and going in the far end of the barn and the younger sheep out in the pasture for so long. I could just hear him thinking, "I'm here and being fed, but no one is coming to brush my face or talk to me!" "What is going on?" "Why is my dinner so late today?"


Well, don't worry, Skit...we still love you, Big Guy. Just wait until you see your batch of new kids...they're totally awesome!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Masked Ram Strikes Again!

Yes, Folks...it's happened again! Who was that masked ram that had a wild time with my girls about 147 days ago?


We got home from town about 1 p.m. only to find Amanda in labor. I had gone down to the barn to check on her and waved frantically at the Sheep-O-Vision monitor. Ralph got the message and was down in a flash to see if there was something he could help with. But he was able to get a picture of me tryng to force Amanda into a jug before someone hit the ground, literally!


The first lamb was big (they both were) and at first I thought all was well...two feet and a nose between starting the voyage into this world. But, wait a minute, that's ONE foot! When I went in to examine the situation more closely, I saw that what I thought were two feet was actually one giant foot! The lamb was not in total proper position for entry into its new orbit. It was too far out to push it back in to correct, so gently but firmly, I pulled. Out popped a large Shetland ram lamb!


Amanda, being Amanda, made it known that she had everything under control, thank you, and now you can go about your business away from here. We both just sat and waited. About 15 minutes later, a second large ram lamb was delivered. Drat! I was hoping for girls...I will have to speak to Skittles about this.
Now we have a second family jugged safely in the barn - and all are doing well. I have to admit these little ram lambs are so cute! Someday I hope they will have a group of ladies all their own. For now, they are Amanda's.

She just allows me to grace her presence once and a while. Thank you, Amanda.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Introducing...

This morning when I got up, I took a glance at the Sheep-O-Vision screen to see what was going on out in the barn. I was hoping for more than the two ewes, but no...it was just the two girls in their pen. Then something caught my eye. Not a lamb, but the way Lacey was treating Amanda - almost as if Lacey was defending a corner of the space they shared. Lacey was butting heads with Amanda. This was new...but also, it was a sign of things to come.
I got dressed and went down to feed a bit early just to see what all the hub-bub was about. By the time I reached the barn and peeked in at the girls Lacey was frantically trying to dig to China. Hmmm. Defending her territory AND making a nest. These were sure signs Lacey was beginning Labor!

I quickly let Amanda out of the barn to join the youngsters for breakfast and put Lacey into a lambing jug - a small pen where mom can have lambs quietly by herself. Lacey wouldn't touch the small bit of hay I placed in there with her. Another sign of labor.

I went back to the house to have a cup of coffee and glue myself to the monitor in the office. I answered emails and had time to post a short note to this blog about the goings-on. When it came time for another cup of coffee, I took a look at the screen...Lacey was frantically trying to dig a nest out of the straw in between lying down and getting up. No problem...I have time to get another cup.



When I got back from the kitchen I noticed that "something" I had been watching for was taking place. I saw the beginnings of the birth of a lamb! Hurriedly I rushed down to the basement, put on barn shoes and my coat and headed out to the barn. By the time I got there, Lacey's first lamb was halfway here. (I did take pictures but as this is a G-rated blog and don't want to put any of you off your dinners have decided not to post all of those nitty-gritty pictures) :)


So, Folks...let me introduce to you Sheep Thrills Shaun (the black lamb) and his sister, Sheep Thrills Blessa! All three in the little family are doing quite well.


And of course, I made Ralph get in a few pictures for scale...




The only problem I've run into is that our weather was turning quite nasty today, so I had to plug-in a heat lamp for the lambs and Lacey. We are expecting snow tonight and tomorrow and our night-time temperatures are still quite low, The heat lamp reflection is the red you see on Lacey's face in this photo to the right.


Shaun appears to be all black while Blessa is a mocha brown with a white semblance of a krunet marking (white crown at the top of her head). I also noticed that Blessa has white hairs on her ears and is lighter around the eyes and mouth. This means she carries genetics for greying and will probably change color on us.
So, there you have it, Bob's your Uncle! I see from the monitor right now that the little family is snug and sleeping. You deserve it, Lacey!


So, Amanda...when is it going to be your turn?

It's About Time -or- Let The Waiting Begin!

I just thought I would let everyone know that Lacey's in labor!!!!! She would not come out of the barn this morning when I fed everyone else. Right now, as I watch her through Sheep-O-Vision, she's much more interested in builing a "nest" than the bit of hay I put in her jug. She's also been grinding her teeth and licking her lips. Every now and then she'll come over a grab a bit of hay. I'm sure that this is done between contractions as within a short time she's circled over towards the corner and started nesting again.
So, folks...it's early stages but we're on our way...finally! :)

Naturally, she'd plan this on the day I need to make a trip into town...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nothing Yet....

For those of you who are checking back to this blog on a daily basis for a "Lamb Report", I wish I had more to offer. Absolutely nothing has been happening with the girls other than normal, everyday activities. You can tell I have a following...yessiree...a following right up to the open feed room door by sheep and chicken alike. Here you see the mob hot on my heals when I went into the feedroom looking for a handout, or better yet, something snatched while they think I'm not looking. Sure fooled them, didn't I? ;-) This is Amanda trying to sneak up on me from behind. From this angle she doesn't look too rotund, but believe me when I say she's waddling everywhere. There are certain angles of viewing her that lead one to believe in litters in sheep...yes, she's really big. I was sure she'd lamb before Lacey. Lacey *should* be due on the 19th. At least the 19th is 147 days from when we last saw her in "active negotiations" with Skittles. The only thing I'm sure of now is that both ewes are indeed pregnant. And Skittles isn't saying a word about it either, just looks at me, snickers, then goes back to eating or hitting the tire-swing-toy!
So, we wait. I'd rather have everyone "late" than have problems, so I'll just keep watch and wait for signs of the impending births. I know we're getting very close...yup, any minute now...any day now...anytime...getting closer...


And I leave you with this picture of Amanda who was planning a "hit and run" on my pants just before I turned around. This must be a new game they've come up with - "Let's see who can plant a nose-print on Mom's butt and run without her knowing who it was!"

Fools. don't they know there are better things they could be doing....like having lambs?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Of Course! I Should Have Realized What Day It Was!

I should have remembered earlier this week that this Friday is the 13th. That would explain the way things have been going around here lately.
At the end of last month, my DH went to ISC West in Las Vegas. Normally I would have gone with him as I enjoy seeing what's new on the security systems front, marvelling each year at just how small cameras are getting and what's new in protective barriers for buildings as well as new systems for police vehicles. I stayed home this year to watch the sheep and cats as our normal "sitter" person was in Italy with her daughter. My DH was only gone for a few days. The problem came the day after he got back.
We were out touring through the yearly home show when I noticed my other half not looking too well...actually looking a bit ashen. It seems he not only brought me Ethel M chocolates but a nice case of the flu as well. I felt so badly for him as he had to leave the next day for a week-long law enforcement management training seminar. The poor guy was miserable. And I thought I had dodged the bullet. Boy was I wrong.
This past Wednesday I had the "Mother-of-all-split-my-head-open" migraines with body-wide joint aches as well. I was hoping Ralph would take pity on me and come in the bedroom where I had sought quiet darkness for relief and shoot me but all I could hear was laughter as he spent the evening downloading "Shaun the Sheep" from YouTube. Curse him!
I remembered thinking on how Amanda's lambing should be due and oh, please-God-not-tonight-I-can't-move playing over and over in my pounding head. Thursday morning I knew that my wonderful mate had indeed shared his flu with me. But you know shepherds, flu or not, you've got to be ready for those lambs so yesterday saw me getting jugs ready in earnest as today marks the start of actual lambing possibility. It was 147 days ago that Skittles and the girls were penned up together.
I know that Lacey's lambs are not due for at least another week as we were actual witnesses/voyeurs to the, er, um,...well, you get the picture. ;-) But Amanda is our shy gal and from the looks of her bag - very much more developed than Lacey's - we feel she'll be the first one to lamb this year.

Last night I stayed up until 1 a.m. making sure that Amanda wasn't in labor as she had acted a bit "suspicious" yesterday. I should have known it was more the weather change than lambing as this is what we awoke to this morning. I also remembered that all the sheep were acting strange yesterday as we had tremendous winds preceding this storm.
I don't recommend the combination of lambing and the flu. I'm on the mend but we've heard from friends in the medical field that this "stuff" going around our neck of the woods has been notorious for hanging on for three weeks. I am becoming a believer as this is the third week my DH has had the effects of it lingering on. Oh, joy! Something to look forward to. (Note to Self - No flu at lambing next year!)

But, on a brighter note...I did receive a package from our friendly UPS person...it was a box of the new fibers I ordered to mix in with fleece as I card or comb them. When spun these glistening fibers will add a new depth and dimension to the yarns. Oooo...sparklies! Even in the fuzziness of the flu-impaired brain I just sat and pondered the possibilities. I can hardly wait to try them!
The picture doesn't even begin to do them justice. There are colors such as peacock blue and green, copper and rose gold (that will be great in Skittles, Loretta and Colin's wools) and a few different types of clears and whites that reflect everything from multi-colors to a sort of iridescent blue off the white fiber. The blues and greens will look great in indigo-dyed wool with a bit of green wool thrown in. The mind boggles with thoughts of combinations and possibilities...or is it just boggled with the flu?
In any case, I hope every one of you has a great Friday the 13th. Keep your fingers crossed that I see Amanda in labor early enough to get her into a nice clean jug for her delivery as well as it being an easy delivery for both ewe and shepherdess.
I remember one thought crossing my mind as I turned out the lights of the barn at 1 a.m....
-not tonight, Dear...I have a headache....-

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Incahoots!

Sometimes, if you're very lucky, you get to see a "gem" in life. As you can tell from this picture of Max (left) and Shadow (right) I had a rare jewel staring me right in the face today. Literally.Most of you have seen Shadow's picture here before. Shadow was abandoned in our neighborhood when the renters next door moved out leaving him and another cat to fend for themselves. Shadow wouldn't get near anyone but me. I kept leaving food out for him after I saw him fighting crows for bread crusts one day. After we became friends he followed me into the house and, well, you know how the rest goes. That was almost 11 years ago.
Max had been dumped at the farm of a person Ralph works with. When she decided to sell her place and move into town in 2001, she asked us if we would take Max. Being the softies we are we said sure...what's one more, right? It was thought that Max was about 8 when we took him in. One thing was for certain - someone in Max's early life had abused him. It took years for him to warm up to people and he is still very much afraid of loud noises and people talking in a loud voice. But he sits with me in my chair every night and watches TV with us. He's even been known to sleep between Ralph's legs when he comes to bed and Ralph's sound alseep...but he won't get near men in general (although he likes Hugo, Ross' dad).

I just thought I would share two of the "gems" in my life with you...especially since they were so kind to plan this photo-op. (And being cats you
know they planned this, right? ;-)

Monday, April 09, 2007

How We Spent Our Weekend...

After the "Great Tire Disaster of '07" we see Ralph hard at work trying to redo Skittles post and tire, plus a new post for the gate into the ram's pen. We jacked the 6 x 6 post up out of the ground, Ralph re-dug the hole for it, then we placed the post back into the hole - this time adding two bags of quick drying cement with it! All I can say is OMG those posts are heavy! I "helped" but was of little use I'm afraid. I just can't sling those things around like I used to. Ralph did the majority of the work on this project.


And there's always time to stop and give a buddy a scratch in the right place...Skit insisted that Ralph take a few moments to pay attention to himself. He was the "Snoopervisor" on this particular job curiously inspecting the project from start to finish. As soon as everything was done and the tire re-hung through a new eye-bolt (Skit snapped the 3/8" bolt clean off so Ralph went to 1/2" this time.), we could hear the "thunk" of happiness as the happy ram went back to the second thing he lives for in life.After the job was all over, Ralph took Colin out for a bit of a walk around the place to spend a little quality time with his "Bud". But, having a bit of a sit-down was just too much for the "real" Queen of the Barnyard, Miss Nosey-Josey herself! So Ralph and Colin had to be thoroughly inspected and given a talking to by Josey as to why she was not allowed to view the project at close range, giviing instructions for proper installment of the post and tire.

But that was only Saturday......

Sunday was a whole different ballgame!

On a trip into town, we saw a nice, small Globe Willow tree on sale at "the bad place", Home Depot. We call it "the bad place" because every time we're in there we come out with more than what we went in for AND we've spent enough money in there they should name an isle for us. :)
We'd been wanting to plant a tree between the barn corral and the little creek that runs through the pasture giving shade to both. And as you well know...no good deed goes unpunished.

We were putting things away in the barn when we looked over to see what Colin and Skittles were up to with the realigned posts and tire. But something was wrong. We started to walk over to have a closer look at the boys when I noticed blood on Colin's right ear. The first thing I thought was that he had gotten his eartag caught on something and ripped it out of the ear. But no, I could see the tag was still there. Then I noticed it. Colin's right horn was definitely way shorter than the other horn.

At first, we thought he'd snapped just the tip of the horn off. It was then we finally caught him and had a closer look. No, it wasn't the horn tip...it was the whole outer horn covering that had come off leaving only the soft tissue underneath it exposed!Ralph got a halter on Colin and I walked the fenceline trying to find any evidence of what had happened. I didn't see a thing. I went over to help Ralph and noticed a drip, drip, drip of blood coming from the horn tissue. That's what caused his ear and shoulder to be wet...they were wet with blood.
I got out the first aid kit and immediately doused him with blood-stop powder. The powder didn't completely work...we had to make a decision to call the vet on Easter Sunday. I saw the look in Ralph's eyes...his buddy was hurt and needed help, so I dialed the vet's office.
Within minutes Dr. Moore had called me back. He'd stop by the clinic then be right out. Always as good as his word, he showed up about 20 minutes later. While we were waiting for him, I was applying pressure to open areas of Colin's horn and Ralph walked the pen again, looking for any sort of clue. Then, about 10 feet away from the fenceline Ralph found Colin's horn. It had come off with such force to send it flying! Along that side of the fenceline Ralph found one spot of blood - that was all, just one spot of blood. It must've happened as we were planting the tree, but we never saw or heard a thing.Dr. Moore cauterized as much of the horn tissue that he could to stop the bleeding then wrapped the exposed tissue, finally taping it to keep the bandages in place. Just imagine someone ripping their entire fingernail off leaving exposed nail-bed...that's very close to what this would feel like. Colin also got a shot of antibiotics to prevent infection. We decided to put him in the barn so we could better keep an eye on him.

As it was, when we found him he had started to go into shock. If we had not seen this at the time we did, I don't think Colin would've been with us today. He must have a Guardian Angel watching over him.

I suspect Colin got his horn caught in the fence and lost the horn in his struggle to free himself from his entanglement. We have decided that when he is over this trauma we will take him in to Dr. Moore to have the other horn clipped off to where it won't be as easy to get him into trouble. This has alot to do with genetics...Colin inherited genes for horns that grow dangerously close to his head. That's why we had him wethered in the first place - his horns were coming in so close we had to decide to either have him castrated or eat him. I could not call myself a reputable breeder if I let these genes continue and Ralph is very fond of Colin - so, he's now a fiber-producing-pet. :)

We weren't the only ones worried about Colin. During all of this activity, Skittles paced the fenceline fretting about his "Little Buddy". Skit's very protective of Colin. And I had to laugh when Dr. Moore told me that his answering service didn't mention that I was talking about the "wether snapping a horn off"...he said all he could think about was that it was Skittles who had snapped the horn and he was very thankful it was Colin instead.Well, Skit...you'll just have to make-do with the tire for now. You're "Little Buddy" has to recuperate at bit before he can come out to play. And thank you, Ralph...for the video camera where I can watch Colin to make sure he's OK.

As for me...I think I need a vacation...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Big Time Frustration -or- What's Wrong With This Picture?

Gee...Can anyone tell me what's wrong here? I would never guess. :) Now, I have seen Skittles hit this tire so hard it goes straight up into the air bound to the Earth by only its rope so this scene should not surprise me one bit! When I went out to feed everyone early Tuesday morning, this is what I found.












I then saw poor Skittles with a look of sheer panic on his face. (No one can tell me animals don't have expressions!) The poor guy would look at the tire, then back to me...the tire, then me. I could just hear the pleading in his voice saying, "Please fix It! I will do anything for you...I'll be good...just Please Fix It!!!" Of course I know full well - he lies, he lies.
Naturally this would happen while Ralph's away at a big conference. I did go into the pen and took a closer look at "The Toy" thinking maybe it was just a torn rope or something else easy to fix. Well, not so. The carriage bolt holding the rope to the post had been sheared off and, well, you can see the post is toast - leaning like a Tower of Pisa, er, Tower of Ram. When I told Ralph about it he was totally shocked. No, couldn't happen...I put that in with....and on it went until I finally convinced him that yessir-indeedy-do...Skittles broke it.

The only look worse than the one Skit had on his face was the one Colin had on his. You see, since Skit has nothing to play with and occupy his time with he's decided to chase Colin for amusement! Tonight I had to promise poor Colin that I would have The Man fix it as soon as he gets home so Skittles will stop picking on him for entertainment.

I do hope Ralph hasn't made any plans. I have a feeling there's something he needs to take care of this weekend before he does anything else.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Server, Anyone?

This is just a quick post to let those who have been trying to get a hold of us via email that our server is down. We haven't been able to send or receive any email since yesterday.
So, don't worry...all is fine and when lambs start coming I will post both pictures and accounts just as soon as I can pry myself from the barn to come inside to do so. :)

And I would like to take this opportunity to say Congratulations to John and Tina of Marietta Shetlands (click on the link to the right for "A Blip On The Radar")on the arrival of two new lambs! The other wonderful news from them is that Shepherd John was able to go out to the barn to see Mama-Sheep with the lambs! John is still recovering from his back surgery. Good onya, John!

More from "Oleo Acres" later. I will try to check comments here often until the server resolves their "upgrade" issues. Those needing to urgently contact me can always call.