Sunday Homestead Update – Time for a Break

This will be my last post for a while.  We have a lot of things going on in our life right now, and I am finding that I need a break from blogging for a bit.  So I am hitting the pause button.  But don’t worry…I will be back soon, and I will have a lot to share as we enjoy spring on the farm.  Before I go, one final Sunday Homestead Update catching you up on each aspect of the winter homestead…

Sheep

Daisy and her lambs, Dusty and Dixie, are doing well.  She is producing LOADS of milk.  Much more than last year – which was her first freshening.  We have decided to just let her lambs have it all for the first 3 weeks or so before we start milking her.  But I am looking forward to seeing how her production compares to last year.  The lambs are so active that it is difficult to get photos in the little jug.  It has been too cold to let them out yet, but this week is supposed to be beautifully warm, so they are going to see the outside world for the first time tomorrow.

Freya either did not get pregnant, or she miscarried during the wildfire evacuations.  So there will be no lambs from her at this point.  We can hope that maybe she was bred by Nilsson in December or January and is due this summer.  Time will tell.  But for now, there are no more lambs due for our farm until the end of May.

Several sheep are desperately in need of shearing.  We have had some crazy busy-ness going on, not to mention bitter cold temps that make us not want to shear.  We will be shearing several of them within the next few weeks as it warms up.

Goats

Belle is continuing to do very well with the loss of Pansy.  She seems to be fitting in fine with the sheep and is kind of making friends with the wether, MacDougal.  Not to mention the bond she has always had with Anya, the LGD.

We are drying Belle off (gradually ceasing to milk her and stop her milk production) this week in preparation for her kidding coming in April.

Chickens

The chickens have done an excellent job of laying through this cold winter, especially considering the stress the wildfire evacuation put on them back in October/November.  All is well with them and there is not much to report.

Ducks

Our first winter with ducks has gone better than expected.  We had planned to just give them a chicken waterer and no pond throughout the winter.  But we have found that with a trough heater in the bottom of their pool, it stays thawed and they really enjoy swimming in it and they don’t seem negatively effected by the cold.  We do not let them have it when the temperature is below about 15F.

Heritage Arts

I am about halfway down the length of the sweater I am making for Mtn Man.  He tried it on and it looks like it will fit great.  I am very excited and hope to get this done before it is too warm for him to wear it this winter season.

I finished the first side of my summer poncho.  I started the second side, but I am trying to work less on this as it can wait to be worn until summer, and focus more on Mtn Man’s sweater.

Sunshine recently took a colorwork knitting class and learned the basics of colorwork through making this hat.  There were many ups and downs for her, as it is pretty difficult to learn the right tension for colorwork.  But I think the hat looks amazing!

Hazel and Jerry

I can’t leave, even for a short break, without giving you all some pics of Hazel and Jerry.  Every day they are cuddled together in a new, cute position.  Love these two!

Daisy’s Lambing 2021

Daisy has certainly taken us on a long ride this year.  She has had all the “imminent” lambing symptoms for over 2 weeks, and combined with the bitter cold that has meant nightly checks on her every 1-2 hours for over 2 weeks.  We are tired.  But she finally lambed last night!

We checked her at 10pm and she was relaxed and chewing her cud.  Mtn Man was planning to check her again at midnight (2 hours), but felt like he needed to check again at 11 instead (1 hour).  When he got up there, both lambs were born already.  She snuck them out on us in a very short amount of time!  But she successfully birthed them both on her own, which is such a relief after her dramatic birth last year.

It was quickly clear that one lamb was having issues.  It appeared that Daisy had birthed the ram lamb first, and began licking him/drying him/cleaning him.  Then she stopped half-way through drying him off to birth the ewe lamb.  Then she went to work on the ewe lamb, cleaning her off and drying her and didn’t get back to the ram.  It was 19F inside the barn (and much colder and windier outside the barn).  The ram lamb was hypothermic because he hadn’t been dried off fast enough.  The ewe lamb was nursing and doing well, but the little guy was droopy, inside his mouth was cold, and he was gasping for breath.

We brought him down to the house and got the woodstove stoked up nice and hot.  We cuddled him on our laps in front of the fire and used a hair dryer to warm him up (you have to be careful if you do this, don’t heat them too fast, or too hot).  His initial temp was 98, and it took about an hour and half to get him up to the appropriate 102.5.  Once he was up to temp we started syringe feeding him some milk we had milked off Daisy.  It took about 1/2 hour to get 2.5 ounces into him (be careful doing this as well, you don’t want to cause them to aspirate and get pneumonia – especially if they are already having trouble breathing they can have issues swallowing properly), but through that time he definitely started perking up and his breathing returned to normal.  It is amazing what a warm tummy and some good nutrients and sugars can do for a struggling lamb.  His ears perked up (they were drooping down), and he started calling for his mama and trying to stand up and walk (he had been pretty lethargic and limp before).  So we took him to his mom and he nursed and started to really stabilize.

The kids have named them Dusty and Dixie and they are currently doing very well, though Dusty is still a bit behind Dixie.

They are huge babies.  Milk sheep generally have lambs around 7 lbs.  Her single lamb that got stuck last year was 10.5 lbs.  These babies are just plain huge!  The ewe lamb was 11.2 lbs and the ram lamb was 11.8.  We continue to have very large lambs are our farm.  We have discussed it with the vet as well as seasoned shepherds that have more experience than us.  There are two main camps on this, one is that it has to do with the ram, but we have used several different rams of different sizes over the years.  The other camp is that it has to do with overfeeding in the last two weeks of pregnancy, but we are feeding less than the recommended amounts and less or the same as all the other shepherds we talk to.  We don’t want to cut back any more because then we would risk pregnancy toxemia.  So we don’t really know what to make of these large babies.  This particular pair seem like they were overdue, and that could be it.  Mtn Man jokes that it is the fresh mountain air that causes our sheep to have large lambs.  LOL.

This morning we let the flock and the LGD come meet them through the wire.  They were all very curious about the newest members of the flock.

We are still getting very cold temps here, especially at night, so we will be keeping a close eye on these two over the next week or so as they get used to life outside the womb and they wont be joining the flock in the outside world for quite a while.

Sunday Homestead Update – Deep Freeze

We are in a deep freeze.  We have been getting temperatures down to -15F at night, not including wind chill.  This morning, it was still -15 at barn chore time, and now, midday, it is -4F.  Brrrrrr, brrrrrr, brrrrr.

We have been staying indoors by the fires as much as possible, very busy with some indoor projects.  But there have also been some outdoor things that have needed to get done, so Mtn Man, and the boys have been bundling up and layering like crazy and working out in the cold.  We have made many cups of coffee, tea, and cocoa to warm them up.

We are also busy keeping the animals warm in the bitter cold, and making sure they have plenty of water.  I am so grateful we have such a great barn where we can leave them closed in on mornings like this morning.  It was -15 outside, but 15 inside the barn.  30 degrees is a lot of difference!  So we hauled water to them and kept them indoors.

Egg in a Frame

I have heard this breakfast called several things…egg in a frame, egg in a nest, etc.  It is my favorite breakfast.  Sweet Little Miss surprised me with a heart shaped one earlier this week.  Love it!

Sheep

This is definitely not a good time to lamb, and we are grateful that Daisy is still holding those babies in where they are warm.  The official due dates for her (our best guess because we didn’t see her bred) and Freya (who we did see get bred) are this week, although it looks like Freya didn’t get pregnant.  She is showing absolutely no signs of pregnancy.  It is strange, because after that breeding she never came back into heat again.  She was with two other rams throughout the fall and we never saw them even show interest in her.  So it was clear that she was pregnant.  But now it looks like she isn’t.  Maybe she miscarried and we missed it?  Or maybe she doesn’t show it much?  This is our first year owning her, so she has never lambed with us before, although she has lambed twice in her life.  Not sure what will happen with that situation.

Daisy is continuing to have all the imminent, going-to-lamb-any-second, signs.  She is huge, HUGE, and getting bigger every day.  She grunts and groans whenever she moves.  She is standing super wide, and can’t squat to pee.  And, the sign that usually means less than two days…her udder is full and tight and dripping milk…and has been for 2 weeks now.  Which means we have to check often because the only sign left is for her to go off her feed and not all ewes do that before they birth.  We have had a couple that were eating, walked away from the food, laid down, and gave birth.  So there are really no more signs to help us know.  We are doing hourly checks during the day, and checking every 2-3 hours over night depending on the temperatures.  We really don’t want to lose a lamb to the bitter cold.  Hopefully, she will hold them in another day or two for the weather to warm up even slightly.

 

Sunday Homestead Update – Death and New Life

No one said homesteading was easy.  It is much easier to go buy a neatly packaged pile of meat from the store and not think about the fact that the meat used to have fur or feathers.  It is much easier to buy a carton of eggs and not think about the fact that some had poop on them originally.  It is much easier to get nicely bundled veggies than to think about the fact that 3/4 of the crop was lost to frost and pests.  And it is much easier to not have to deal with the inevitable unexpected death that comes with raising animals.  But….you miss out on so many amazing and good things as well.

As hard as it is sometimes, I would never trade this lifestyle.

As we awaited the birth of Daisy’s lambs, Monday brought us unexpected sorrow.  Our goat, Pansy, died.

We bought Pansy two years ago as a birthday present for Little Miss.  She had wanted a dairy goat of her own SO badly, and we decided she was ready.  She immediately bonded to Pansy and they became good friends.  Pansy quickly ascended from livestock to more of a pet status on the farm.  Last year, Pansy had a very difficult delivery.  She had ring womb – where the cervix doesn’t dilate during delivery.  We were able to save her and the doeling, but she was never really the same.  Her doeling died a few weeks later and Pansy’s health quickly declined.  We had the vet out over and over again.  We talked to goat experts.  We ran tons of tests and tried anything and everything that “might” fix the unknown illness.  Over the last several months she has had periods where she seemed fine and like whatever it was had resolved, and then she had periods where she would start to decline again.  We wrestled with the decision of whether to breed her or not.  During November and December she was doing really well, so we went ahead and bred her.  The last couple of weeks she had started to decline again.  By Monday she was suffering.  The vet said it was time, and we made the very hard decision to end her suffering.  Little Miss is heartbroken.  We all are.  She was a wonderful dairy goat, and pet, and we will all miss her very much.

We were very concerned about how our other dairy goat, Belle, would handle the loss.  We have found that generally one goat living with our flock of sheep is rarely happy – they usually need a goat-friend to keep them happy.  But, surprisingly, Belle has done fine.  It was strange, it was almost like she knew that it was best for Pansy.  I know that sounds weird, but it feels true.  They were very close friends and Belle would call for Pansy any time Pansy was out of her sight.  And yet Belle didn’t even call once after Pansy died.  It is a blessing that we don’t have to rush to find a friend for Belle and can just work through our loss for now.

Meanwhile, Daisy did not lamb yet.  Last year, she had her lamb within a few hours of her milk coming in.  Typically, milk coming in means the ewe will lamb in about 12-48 hours.  We have had a couple of ewes that went 3-4 days after their milk came in.  But that has been rare in our flock.  Well…just when we think we know what to expect from this homesteading life…we are proven wrong.  Daisy has been in milk for 8 days now.  She is hugely pregnant and groans when she moves, she has continued to have all the symptoms of imminent delivery…and yet…she is still pregnant.  So we continue to watch and wait.

We never saw her bred, so we don’t have an exact date, but we saw her and the ram being very friendly one day and guessed that as her date, which is the 19th.  But when she got her milk in we decided we must have been wrong.  You never know, maybe our previously thought due date is indeed the right one and we still have over a week – LOL!

Homesteading life has constant ups and downs.