15 January 2012

Lambs in January!

There's so much to talk about between participating in my first chicken and pig processing sessions, to moving a 32 by 14 foot long hoophouse full of chickens 200 feet uphill.  It's definitely winter now in Maine as last night was a few degrees below zero and the yurt was about 45 degrees warmer than that despite our waking up three times in the middle of the night to stoke the fire.

There was an unexpected lambing last the Tuesday after New Years.  We expect most of the ewes to give birth in March; hence the "unexpected."  I showed up at the pasture that the ewes and ram were on at about 7:30 AM expecting to just feed them some hay and call it good for sheep chores.  As I approached their paddock, I saw two small, dark shapes on the ground in the distance.  At first I thought they were cats or racoons or some other small mammal.  While carrying a bale of hay towards them, I slowly realized that they were two lambs.  This was not such a big deal except it was about 20 degrees outside with a wind chill of probably 5-10 degrees less.  I quickly covered them up in my sweater and tried to encourage their mama, who was nearby, to continue to lick them dry and nurse them.  Unfortunately they were quickly approaching hypothermia, especially a very cute grey and white one.  I called Jeff and he came down and quickly made the decision to get the ewe and her two lambs over to the greenhouse.

Moving them to the greenhouse proved to be much more difficult than it sounds.  The ram decided it would be great to try to either mount the ewe again or try to ram Jeff and I while one of us were carrying the two lambs to the truck while the other was dragging the ewe along towards the truck.  I quickly put the lambs in the truck with the heat running while I helped Jeff fend off the ram while simultaneously dragging the ewe towards the truck.  Jeff lifted the ewe over the now turned off fence while I kept fending off the ram with kicks in the face.

When we arrived at the greenhouse, we set up a pen for the ewe and her lambs with some mulch hay as bedding.  The black lamb, which was stronger in the first place, seemed to warm up and after a lot of coercion and stripping the ewe's udder, we got it to nurse while we had the grey lamb in hot water to try to get its body temperature up to the average 101 degrees F.  Amy continued to direct Jeff and I on what to do and when the lamb's temperature was finally close to normal, we got it to nurse after Jeff trimmed the wool around the ewe's udder.  They two lambs are now healthy and happy; the grey one likes to make a little nest on top of its mom's back when she's lying down.

So other than that, Kate and I are slowly planning our move to my next farm up north in Knox.  Part of our plans are to raise pigs on Ken and Adrienne's land to till up some marginal land and land that they plan on turning into gardens.  We will be marketing them by the half or quarter animal with customers paying a deposit ahead of time.  Right now Kate and I are planning out a budget to figure out some numbers for customers.  Let me know if you're interested!  We plan on having pigs ready by September or so.  I can't promise updates more regularly, as some may have noticed, but I will try my best as always...  Stay warm, eat well, and love the special people in your life!