Happy Dance!

Every family member and all the animals on the farm are doing the happy dance today!  We got the lab work back on the flock and NONE….NOT EVEN ONE…of the other sheep and goats is sick.  Yipppeee!  What could have been a big disaster for our flock and could have meant a lot of culling of animals has turned out great!  We are very happy with the news, to say the least.

Rianna is still fatally sick, and we are still hoping to save her lambs by removing them from her before they nurse and bottle raising them.  She has Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP).  The same virus that causes OPP in sheep causes Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) in goats.

From what I understand, OPP is a slow progressing virus that is contagious the entire time the animal has it, even when they are not showing symptoms.  Because it is so slow progressing, they often don’t actually show signs of illness for 2-5 years from when they originally get it.  But that entire 2-5 years they are contagious, passing it on to their offspring and to their flock-mates.  That is why it can be such a problem for flocks, and so hard to get rid of – because you can have infected sheep in your flock and not know it unless you test them regularly, and they will be passing it on to the rest of the flock – and it can be passed to goats and becomes CAE, which is just as much trouble in goats as OPP is in sheep.

We are very happy with this news and are glad to be able to breathe and move on with our previous plans for our flock this year.  It has been a very tense last 5 days while we waited for this news.  All the animals will be re-tested in 8-12 weeks, just to be completely sure.

Meanwhile, Rianna has been isolated from the flock, which is sad but necessary.  We are keeping her as comfortable as we can while we await her lambing.  She does not seem to be suffering in any way, just super-duper skinny and breathing a little harder when she lays down, which is likely somewhat due to the lambs taking up all that space inside her.  Hoping she lambs very soon.  Once she does, we will euthanize her.

Sunday Homestead Update

There is good news and very bad news this week.  I will start with the good…

Garden

Garden season has officially begun!  We started our first seeds indoors on the grow-light shelving unit Mtn Man built two years ago.  We are a LONG way from our last frost date, but it is fun to begin some work with the garden indoors.  Also, the nice weather has given us some time to work outside preparing the garden for the coming season.  We have turned the compost from the animals into the garden soil and smoothed it all out.  I also figured out the planting map for this year and we put the trellises into place where they go.  We still absolutely love our DIY trellises that we built a few years back.  Check out that post by clicking here.

Chickens

The chicks have been moved up to the upper coop and are doing fine up there.  They have their Ecobrooders to keep them warm, and much more space than they had in our little brooding boxes in the house.  Their feathers are really coming in and we are able to begin seeing the colors and patterns we have.  We are delighted and surprised to find that the one little silkie I added to the chick box at the last minute turned out to be a splash color!  We love splash color, so that was a special treat.

Goats

Little Fern is an expert at sunning herself, which is such a fun thing to see in the barnyard each day.

We have now tried out chevre cheese, cottage cheese (which turned out pretty much the same as the chevre), and mozzarella cheese with our goat milk.  The mozzarella turned out excellent, just as good as the cow’s milk mozzarella I have made before.  We enjoyed it on our homemade pizza, and then as a snack with tomatoes and basil.

Sheep

And here we come to the very bad news…

In December we purchased two new sheep for the flock.  They are both old ewes that are pregnant.  We bought them hoping one would give birth to a ram that could become the breeding ram for our flock since he wont be related to our current breeding ewes.

Last week I mentioned that we noticed that Rianna (one of those two ewes) was having trouble keeping weight on.  With her at the very end of pregnancy, plus the fact that she is older, and the fact that she is the bottom of the pecking order, we figured that some TLC and private feedings twice a day in the birthing stall would bring her weight back up.  Unfortunately, it didn’t and in fact she continued to lose weight.  We got the vet out and are devastated to find out she is fatally ill, she came to our flock already carrying the illness, and she has likely spread the illness to some of the rest of our flock.  We will know more later this week as we do more blood tests on the flock to find out how devastating this is.  We are hopeful that she will survive long enough that we can save her babies and bottle raise them to help keep our flock going.  And we are hopeful that this doesn’t wipe out the whole flock.  It is a huge blow to us emotionally, and to our homestead.  I will share more as we know more.

More Cloth Napkin/Placemat Sets

I am working on finishing up the Spring/Easter cloth napkin/placemat sets.  I have a goal to have a different set of cloth placemats/napkins for each season for our family.  This makes the third set out of the goal of four.  Next fall I hope to make the winter/Christmas set and then they will all be complete and I will be able to change out our table decor seasonally.

I like to make the placemats reversible, with one side seasonal and the other side holiday.  But I don’t like the napkins to be reversible so I make a separate set of napkins to match each side of the placemats.

Here are the newest additions:

Spring

Easter

I think that the spring set is my favorite of all the sets I have ever made!

 

Here are the other sets I have made so far:

Summer/Independence Day

Autumn/Thanksgiving

Sunday Homestead Update

This week Mtn Man made a good analogy of what our life feels like lately – he said it feels like every day we start competing in a new episode of American Ninja Warrior.  We are constantly facing one obstacle after another and have to decide how best to conquer each one quickly, but effectively.  But in our daily life version of the show if we fall in the water we aren’t done…we just have to continue on with the rest of the obstacles while sopping wet.  And at the end of the day we are anxious to just slam down on that buzzer, celebrate that we survived, and collapse into bed exhausted.  It seemed very fitting to me when he described it.  So, needless to say, we are in a busy season right now.  But we are getting through it well, with only occasional sopping wet moments, and a lot of good buzzer moments to look back on.

The loss of Gretchen’s doeling and the stress of the ordeal surrounding it has been hard on the family this week.  But the morning that she died, as I walked out to the barn at 5:30am, I saw this amazing sunrise. It was even better in person…I find that my phone camera never does justice to a sunrise or sunset.  But it helped give me perspective on how blessed we are despite the loss.  And I will continue to choose the homesteading lifestyle even though it sometimes breaks my heart.  Because really, every version of life will break your heart at some point, and we love all the blessings that come with the homesteading life.

 

Goats

Heidi and her baby, Fern, are doing well.  Fern is oh-so-cute bouncing around the barnyard.  She loves to play king-of-the-mountain on top of the compost pile.  Her ears are pretty funny – since her father was a Nigerian Dwarf (upright ears), and her mother is a Nubian (droopy ears), she has these in-between ears that kind of stick out to the sides most of the time, but also go up a lot.  Very cute.  She is anxious to have someone to play with, so I hope our first lambs arrive soon.

Gretchen is recovering from her delivery.  Her milk amounts are slowly increasing, but are way below what we expected.  We don’t know why she has such low production.  Maybe her old age?  Maybe the trauma from the delivery?  Maybe the meds she had to take afterwards?  We still can’t drink the milk until Monday because of the meds.  We haven’t decided what we will do with her yet.

It was really cute when we started letting Heidi and Fern back out with the flock.  Gretchen was so happy to have them back.  She definitely does not like hanging out with the sheep and is adamant that she is a goat and needs to hang out only with goats.  Her and Heidi were rubbing on each other with their heads, kind of like cats do.  Clearly happy to be back together and able to form their own little group separate from the sheep.

We made our first batch of Chevre this week with the goat milk.  It tasted good just plain, but we are also experimenting with adding different herbs and such to the cheese.

Sheep

We are closing in on our first sheep lambing due dates.  Rianna’s udder is starting to bag up quite a bit, and her babies have dropped.  So we are expecting hers this week.  We are struggling to keep weight on her because #1 she is old and her back teeth are not good, #2 her babies are taking up space so she can’t eat as much, and #3 she is the bottom of the pecking order and always being chased away.  We have been putting her in her own stall to feed her and we are giving her as much grain as we can safely give her, plus almost unlimited alfalfa, but she is still underweight.  We are contemplating getting her some alfalfa cubes and moistening them to see if that makes it easier for her to eat.  This is definitely her last year as a breeding ewe.  We bought her a few months ago, already bred, to hopefully sire the future breeding ram for our flock.

Violet is the next one due and she is a first-time mother.  Her udder is bagging up just a little at this point.  Agnes is starting to bag up as well, and might be due sooner than we expected.  Fiona is the last one due – mid april – and she is the flock matriarch.  She is getting quite overweight in our efforts to keep everyone else up to weight.  So we are contemplating ways to be sure she doesn’t get any fatter because it can effect her ability to give birth safely.

Managing the flock has been a bit high-maintenance lately, as you can see, but we are really excited for all the upcoming lambs.

Chicks

The chicks have left the fluffy stage and are in the half-fluff/half-feather stage.  They will likely move up to the coop, with their heaters, sometime in the next week or so.

Barnyard Maintenance

We don’t have any pasture since we live on a rocky mountainside.  So all of our animals live in the barnyard.  The main key to making that live-able and clean is to be very careful not to over-crowd the space.  We keep our number of animals low so that all the animals have plenty of space and the area stays cleaner.  A few times a year we rake all the barnyard mess (droppings and leftover hay) into the compost piles in the center of the yard so it can mix with the stall scrapings and break down into compost for the garden.  It helps keep the ground cleaned up for the animals too.  The chickens and Mountain Man stir and turn the piles throughout the year to help them break down.

We had some really nice weather this week, after the winds died down, and we used the opportunity to do a barnyard cleaning.  As we raked the spots that had a lot of hay on them we found a layer of snow and ice under the hay that hadn’t melted because it was insulated by the hay.  So raking it up will help that melt as well.

Heritage Arts

Despite the crazy busy life lately, I still am working on my heritage arts projects – they are my sanity :-).

I finished a cross stitch bookmark for Little Miss:

And I am now working on this cross stitch pattern called “Market Carrots.”  I have never done a project on black Aida cloth before.

And I am also working on serging the edges of the new spring/Easter placemats and cloth napkins I am making.

Plenty going on around here!

Homestead Adrenaline Rush

Some people bungey jump, others dive with sharks…here at the homestead we find our adrenaline rushes in other ways.

First you need a few pics to understand the story.  Here is a picture of the stall we see when we first step through the barn door.  It is our large sheep stall, and it has two gates into the birthing stalls.  One of them is open in the picture, right by the dog, the other is closed to the right.  And the door on the left to the barnyard is open during the day and closed at night.

Here is a picture from the other side of that stall, you see the birthing stalls, with that same big sheep stall to the left.  The door we walk in is just to the left out of the picture.

Now, on to the story…

In the evening, before we eat dinner, we do barn chores.  All the animals are closed into the coops and barns for safety overnight.  Whichever goats/sheep are close to birthing or have just birthed are closed individually into the two birthing stalls, which are about 5x5ft.  Since Gretchen’s kid died at birth, she has recently moved out of those stalls and back into the big stall with the sheep, and two of the sheep (Violet and Rianna) are each put into a birthing stall because they are due in the next 10 days or so.  So we got the animals all closed in, Violet and Rianna each in a birthing stall, 3 sheep and Gretchen goat in the big sheep stall with Tundra the farm dog, and Heidi with her baby Fern in a stall that is not in any of these photos.

Later in the evening Mtn Man goes out to milk Gretchen and Heidi.  It’s dark outside, but the barn light is still on.  He walks into the barn and glances into the big stall and all he sees is Tundra sitting in the center of the stall wagging his tail at him.  ALL the sheep and the goat are GONE!  Sudden adrenaline rush!!!  He says he had instant freaking out.  Where the heck are the 3 sheep and the goat!?!?!?  All the barn doors are closed and latched, the stall doors are all closed and latched, and yet the 3 sheep and goat are gone!  Where did they go!?!?

Then all of a sudden he sees Gretchen goat pop her head up over the stall door that goes into the birthing stall.  What!?  Gretchen wasn’t put in the birthing stall!?!?  He runs forward to get a view of the birthing stalls and he finds ALL 3 sheep PLUS Gretchen PLUS Violet (the sheep that was supposed to be in that stall) squeezed together stuck in the 5×5 birthing stall!  4 full grown ewes and a doe all packed into a 5×5 stall.  They could barely move and were pushing and shoving each other around.

At this point the adrenaline rush gave way to hysterical laughter.  I SO wish that Mtn Man had taken a photo for me to share with you all, but he was too busy trying to figure out how to get them out.  Why?  Because the birthing stall doors open INTO the birthing stall, so with them all cram jammed in there he couldn’t open the door to get them out!  🙂  So funny.  He contemplated lifting the smallest ewe, Toffee, up and out and over the wall in order to make enough space to open the door, but he couldn’t figure out how to even fit in there with them to get her up and out.  He shoved and wiggled and finally ooched them all around enough to crack the door enough for one to get out, and then the rest followed.  It was like a clown car, or back in the day when college students crammed themselves into phone booths.  It was crazy.

So….what happened?  From what we can figure out Gretchen was unhappy to have been evicted from the birthing stall (where they get fed alfalfa and some grain as opposed to the grass hay fed in the main stall).  So she somehow broke the latch and went into the birthing stall with Violet.  Being that there was alfalfa in there the rest of the flock followed and somehow while they were all jostling around in there they got the door closed behind them.  And then, since the door opens inward, they were stuck and couldn’t get back out.

Always an adventure!