Friday, April 23, 2021

A fast trip from Vienna to Berlin

This afternoon I dashed down to turn out the ewes just before leaving for a vet appointment with Poppy (vaccinations). I peeked in as I reached the gate and saw – a LAMB?!? How did THAT happen so fast? I've been keeping an eye on Vienna and signs of imminent lambing just weren't there! I snapped a couple fast photos, scooped up the little ewe, let Blaise out of the lambing jug (where she could recover without getting picked on), led Vienna in by carrying her lamb in front of her, let the rest of the ewes out on pasture, and took off, hoping that if there was another one she could manage by herself.

I was gone longer than expected (or desired, given the circumstances), but some dear senior friends were having trouble and needed some errands run. Thankfully Brian got home in the meantime; he made sure the lamb latched on, and reported that there were no more lambs and the afterbirth had passed.

On the drive home I mulled over names. I didn't want to go with my musical theme for a 'lonely only;' I'll save that for a bigger lamb crop. Vienna usually has twins but is ten years old now, so this is likely her last lamb. So I decided it fitting that my ewe named after the capital and largest city in Austria should have a daughter named after the capital and largest city in German.
Meet Berlin!

She is brown, which tells me that daddy Spot carries a gene for brown as well as the black he exhibits. Berlin's head spotting looks like what you typically see on a lamb with the Agouti, or fading, gene, but neither parent carries that gene so she is a moorit (brown) with minimal spotting.

I'm still feeling some dismay over breeding three ewes and ending up with one lamb, but you have to take what comes and look for the blessings in it. And "Blessing" was a name I considered!

That's it for now from . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A soundtrack for sadness

Yesterday Blaise acted like she was in early labor again. She didn't really want to go out to pasture with the rest of the ewes, and kept going back to the gate. I finally went down and opened it, and she walked herself right back into the fold.

I checked on her every hour or two, but nothing was happening. She was shivering a little, which seemed odd given our unusually warm spring weather, but otherwise acted content to be in the fold alone, not eating, not restless, not nesting, just . . . waiting. When it was time to bring the other ewes in, I put Blaise in the lambing jug so she could continue her solitary work undisturbed.

This morning Blaise was still shivering, and also grinding her teeth. I got an uneasy feeling. When I got back to the house I laid out the situation for Rick, and asked if he would check her out; I had to head to town for an 8:00 PT appointment. He left me a message that he gave her Nutri-Drench, calcium, and dexamethasone, thought she might have ketosis, and said the lamb wasn't yet in position (but the dex might help that). When I got home, Blaise was sweetly 'talking' to her sides, the first time I've witnessed a ewe do that. Heart warmed, I went to the house to eat and give her a bit more time. When I headed out to check on her again, I could hear a different kind of vocalization; she definitely sounded distressed. I ran down to the fold to find her straining and 'yelling,' and a lamb beginning to emerge. I got ahold of what I hoped were two front feet and tried to assist its exit. It was a very tight and clearly uncomfortable fit, but we got the lamb out. I cleared its nose, rubbed its side, swung it around, did fingertip CPR, but got nothing, no sign of life. Just a perfectly formed but deathly still black gulmoget ram lamb with a little white spot on his head. I ran back to the house to clip all my fingernails so I could go in and check in vain for another, hoping against hope that he might stir while I was gone, but he didn't. Although I never saw her check him out, I left them together for several hours while I sheared Bette hoping it would help her understand. But she continued to call plaintively off and on the rest of the day, even when I turned her and the rest of ewes out on pasture.

So much talking, and no little lamb to answer. It has been a sad day.

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, April 18, 2021


Still no lambs, and I no longer think anyone is 'on the verge.' I do this every lambing season. As bellies, udders, and girl parts swell, I start thinking the blessed event could be close. But when the end-stage changes occur, I remember what "close" actually looks like. Neither Vienna or Blaise looks like that yet. But Blaise is a bit of a wild card being a first-timer, and the other day in the pasture she acted very much like a ewe in early labor. How uncomfortable those lambs must have been making her! They have dropped some now, but are still extremely active. I took a snippet of video in which you can see her whole body shudder with their movement:

I got Bernadette sheared on Sunday; like Bridget, there was a well-fed young ewe under all that wool! She was very good even though she is one of my wilder flock members. I was able to roo around her face, upper legs, and crutching area, which speeds things up a bit. Rick and his wood-turning mentor hauled in a Silver Maple tree trunk while I was shearing, and Richard snapped a photo.

Rick plans on initiating the spalting process in that log before turning any wood from it, so he will have a long time to anticipate what it might become. I asked Poppy to jump up on it for scale.

Looks like Poppy is anticipating catching a bird!

That's it for today from . . .

Friday, April 16, 2021

The only things popping are the buds

Apparently Blaise's 'boarders' were being rude tenants yesterday, making her very uncomfortable, but she hasn't managed to evict them yet. This morning I turned all the ewes out so I could keep an eye on Blaise from the house, and she grazed with the flock as usual. Oh well, the maternity ward is ready when she – or Vienna – needs it.

Since there are no cute lambies to photograph yet, I walked around this morning taking photos of the fruit trees and other things in bloom. Susan, the first photo is of your favorite prunes-in-the-making. 😉

l got all my cooking and prep done for tomorrow's meal and had time to ride Stella, too. Now I need to measure this skein of yarn spun this month for a Ravelry challenge and figure out what to make with it.

Hope you all have a dandy weekend!

That's it for now from . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Is Ewe fat, fluffy, or fecund?

I have not been the productive shepherd this week that I need to be. I got Bridget sheared on Sunday, but that's it. Tuesday and Wednesday were opportunities lost to family drama – or rather to allowing myself to be paralyzed by the drama. Sigh.

Bridget started out fluffy,
but under all that wool it turns out she's fat, too!

As for the fecund, I managed to get a shot showing Blaise's and Vienna's developing udders by peeking through Stella's 'window.' (Sheep don't like to turn their backsides to anyone unless they are running away.) First-timer Blaise, on the left, is carrying her lamb(s) high and wide.

Here's the view I get if anyone notices me trying to get a photo:
That's very fluffy Bernadette.

This afternoon I let the ewes out and got ready to ride Stella. As I glanced out the window, I noticed that Blaise was off by herself. Hmm, that's notable. Her shape hasn't changed at all to indicate that lambing is imminent, but as I watched more intentionally Blaise definitely acted uncomfortable and preoccupied. I decided I'd better set up the lambing jug before riding, and wondered if I would need to skip agility class.
From left to right that's Vienna, Blaise, Sarai, and Bridget.

Cleaning out the corner of the fold so I could set up the chain-link panels and put down fresh straw took longer than I planned, so Stella didn't get ridden. But I did get Blaise ensconced and took Poppy to agility, figuring lambing would take awhile, if indeed it is that close. The lambs (I'm thinking twins now) haven't dropped, so maybe they were just kicking up their heels and making Blaise really uncomfortable. There are more subtle changes, though.

I am crossing fingers and toes that Blaise either lambs tomorrow or waits until next week. We have a guest speaker coming for church and an afternoon seminar, and they are coming to our house for dinner between the two. I don't want to miss his message or be distracted by lambing; the dinner itself is challenging enough. Not only does everything have to be ready so we can dash home, eat, and get back to the church for the 3:00 meeting; one member of the visiting speaker's family can't have gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, or rice! They said not to worry about accommodating her; they would bring food she could eat. But I really wanted to fix a dinner that all could eat, and surprised myself by coming up with an acceptable menu using things I have on hand –except for fresh parsley, which I purchased today (I thought I'd have some volunteer parsley in our garden, but didn't.) Let me know in the comments if you're curious about what I'll be serving. 😊

That's it for now from . . .

Friday, April 09, 2021

Spring harvest

I am plugging away on harvesting fleeces whenever I have a big block of time (I never know how many hours one will take me). After rooing Blaise I turned to Vienna. Her belly and backside were easily rooed (so she's ready for lambing; 👍🏻) but her body fleece is firmly attached.

Here's a good illustration of the elasticity of fine, crimpy Shetland wool. Vienna's fleece looks short-stapled, but when I separated out a lock to snip for micron-testing, it's a good three inches.

Knowing Vienna would take awhile to scissor-shear, I turned to Sarai, who has been one of my reliably roo-able sheep. Not this year! So I scissor-sheared her, running out of time to get her neck. She's thin (clearly not pregnant), but doing fine on hay, pasture, and regular handfuls of alfalfa.

On Tuesday I decided I'd better salvage what I could of Spot's fleece, since the base of his neck was framed with tattered old fleece, the upper covered with new growth. His fleece is quite short (1" unstretched!) because he was sheared late last year, but when I went to take a mid-side sample for micron testing, it pulled off easily. The boy was ready to roo! I wouldn't think his fleece would have been worth anything last year if he got this significant a rise last spring, so I don't know if this is new for him or what. Anyway, it went fairly well considering he's not really halter-broke. Afterwards I tied him to the fence to recover from his struggles on the stand – and look who came over to socialize. 🙄

Sarai is apparently just into romance, not reproduction (remember; she is the only ewe I witnessed Spot breed last fall). BTW, Spot is still jet black, but the heavy grease at the rise makes him look rather gray after rooing.

Vienna and Blaise will both surely lamb this month, but I'm not setting up the lambing jug(s) just yet. Feeling lots of anticipation about what they will produce with handsome Spot. Because Spot still boings around like a lamb, I've decided one of his offspring will be dubbed Bebop. That set me on a musical/dance theme, so there may be a Bamba, Boogie-woogie, Blues, or Big Band as well. This will be a fun 'harvest'!

I also feeling like I'm now reaping the results of the long, slow work of relationship-building with my beautiful Morgan mare Stella. I am now riding her regularly at walk and trot, which just thrills me, and there is much promise of greatness to come. You can always get more on that subject over on my Dances With Horses blog.
I hauled her to a round pen for our first solo trot work

That's it for now from . . .

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Happy place report

Enjoyed a wonderful retreat on the Oregon Coast last weekend. The speaker was excellent, inspirational and challenging. The weather was nice and the Pacific, as always, spectacular. There were lots of little shells to be found, and an immature bald eagle flying around the beach both mornings (on Sunday it flew up and joined three more eagles in a tree!). It was nice being with a group of ladies, but I can't say it felt strange or long overdue; it just was. I walked on the beach five times, mostly alone, enjoying the scenery and solitude. Since I couldn't take any of you with me, I brought home pictures. 😊

Find the tiny people at the edge of the ocean for scale.

That's the retreat report from . . .