Sunday, March 19, 2023

The shepherdess' guesses

Now that entries are closed for my lambing contest, I'll give you my best guesses, along with reasons based on my daily interactions and history with the ladies in waiting.

1. Who will lamb first? Blaise, because she has the most udder development and vulva changes.

2. What will be the date of that first lambing? March 28, because Blaise's udder and vulva do not yet indicate imminent lambing.

3. When the dust settles, how many lambs will I have? Nine. I think Bree will have a single and everyone else will twin.

4. Will there be more boys or girls? I'm going to say girls, but as blessed as I was by ewe lambs last year, this may well be a ram lamb year.

5. What percentage of the lambs will be black-based? I'm going to say four out of nine, or 44.4%. That's more than Spot has sired so far, but he does have a 50/50 chance of contributing a black gene, and that's all it takes to produce a black-based lamb.

Bernadette has been waddling uncomfortably for weeks, if not months. Friday evening she laid down and I was sure I saw contractions, even though her udder and vulva didn't look promising. Stranger things have happened, though, so I got busy readying the lambing stall while thinking of "Irish" names (Blarney Stone and Baileys Irish Cream were the top contenders). Then I caught her up for a closer examination (by now she was up and eating) and decided she must have only been trying to move her lambs into more comfortable positions. She's so round and uncomfortable that I was entertaining the thought of triplets until I looked back at my 2022 posts; Bernadette was very round and waddling uncomfortably more than two months before giving birth (via c-section) last year. Another example of the benefits of blogging....

I did get one sheep sheared during last week's nice weather. Since Bridget's sheep suit was very snug and she has the woolliest tail (making lamb watch harder and lambing messier), her number was called on Friday:

She looks much rounder in real life!
Got milk? Not yet!
Tuesday looks like an auspicious day to shear another ewe. Last year I was able to roo Bette in April, so I will check her fleece first. If she's not roo-able, I may shear Bernadette. Why not Blaise, if I think she'll lamb first? She wasn't sheared until May last year, so I'd like to wait another month.
Blaise, R, with Bette, who I think will lamb second
Blaise with the very round and uncomfortable Bernadette

L-R: Bernadette, Bree, Boop, Bridget, Bette, Broadway, Bling, Blaise

Last week's spring-like weather made the purple croci out front smile brilliantly:

Oh, how I love these colors!

That's it for now from . . .

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Chicken Pi Day

Time for a different kind of flock talk!

The girls have slacked off a bit from the January/February egg rush, but we are still getting enough to use and sell. Rhode Island Red Kate (no photo) stopped laying her large brown eggs for several weeks, and is now laying JUMBO eggs. Whiting True Blue Splash is currently my closest hen-friend; she's the only one who seems to enjoy being held:

Once-gamebird-beautiful Spangle (my other Whiting True Blue) is molting so heavily she looks like a quail amongst the flock, poor thing:

Pearl, one of our four recent acquisitions (along with Puff, Lady E, and Ashes) is so similar to Splash that I have to look carefully at their combs to tell them apart from a distance. Up close it's a no-brainer since one is friendly and one is not. Pearl is downright vicious when in a nest box!

Little Puff, like Pigpen in the Charlie Brown comic strip, is always dirty.

I named this Easter Egger Lady E, but I've often thought since that with her white 'lace' collar, she should have been dubbed Ruth, for the Notorious RBG:

Ashes, above, is very different in color and shape to my three old grey hens. The six-year-old Blue Wyandottes are massive in comparison; beautiful to look at but not great layers.

My other old hen is a seven-year-old Black Australorp, not shown. Never fear; none of them are ending up in a pie or pot in this vegetarian's kitchen, today or any other day! Our hens live out their days here, and I enjoy watching and interacting with them.

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Spring towards St. Patty's Day!


Bree in front, her daughter Bette behind


Yesterday was a beautiful day, so the horses got arena turn-out and the sheep got pasture time. I walked around and took 'belly drop' photos of all the pregnant ewes and wished for a week of likewise weather so I could start shearing. It's grey, damp and cool today, but I may get my wish later this week; so hurray – and pass the Aleve. 😉

All those bellies, and slowly filling udders, mean it's time, folks; this is the official lambing contest post! You have from now through midnight Friday (St. Patrick's Day) to enter by putting your answers to the questions below in the comments to this post, or emailing them to me at mmcmillen AT macnet DOT com. (I understand the link at the right that says "Email me!" may be broken.) NOTE: QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN UPDATED as of Monday afternoon!

Yes, I've buried the lede in order to add a little weight in favor of faithful readers. And in appreciation to faithful commenters, bonus entry points will be added based on the number of prior 2023 posts commented on. At the end of lambing, the person with the most correct/closest-to-correct answers + points can choose between a handknit headband,  a Fair Isle hat, or a set of sheep photo notecards as a prize. Here goes:
  1. Who will lamb first?
  2. What will be the date of that first lambing?
  3. When the dust settles, how many lambs will I have?
  4. Will there be more boys or girls?
  5. What percentage of the lambs will be black-based?
I did finish my second Da Crofter's Kep, the one I plan to keep. As a palette cleanser, I'm spinning up the last of this black merino/alpaca/Tussah; then I'm going to cast on a new Fair Isle hat that I'm not going to keep. 😉

Let the lambing countdown begin at . . .

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Hats and bags

No, this is not a post about fashion; you've come to the wrong blog for that. I wear what I like and don't care much about what is in style. I don't like to wear hats and I don't change handbags to match my outfits. In fact, I get a handbag/shoulderbag I like, use it until it wears out, then get a replacement.

But I did cast on another Da Crofter's Kep  . . . and I may just have to keep this one.
I'm farther along than this now

After this one is done, I want to knit one more Fair Isle hat in the neutral colors below so I can offer "winner's choice" from three very different color schemes for the lambing contest yet to come. I'm thinking of ways to weight this contest to favor the small fraction of you who regularly comment; I appreciate you so!

I'd better keep my needles busy; the ewes are starting to bag up a little. It would be nice to have them sheared to make observation easier, but it's currently too cold for my hands to handle hours of scissor-cutting. So I just watch them and get my hands on them when I can.

The other day when I was in the fold, I got the opportunity to grab a three-generation shot of grandma Bree, daughter Bette, and granddaughter Boop. This is unusual, because Bette and Boop are two of my more skittish sheep, along with Bernadette. I think pregnancy is making Bette, at least, more friendly.

I'm letting the girls out for exercise and fresh grass as often as I can, which is when I can turn the horses out and then ride Stella. A couple neighbors in the woods have reported sitings of an immature cougar, so it's "eyes on" for safety, just in case one is around. I took this video and some stills from it a couple weeks ago and shared it on Instagram, then forgot to share it here. The three yearlings have more than enough energy to make up for the gravid ladies!

Even though the dogs and sheep get most of the focus here, Chuckie, the horses, and the hens get care and attention, too. Lance got some amendments to his stall so he doesn't electrocute himself playing with the light switch/outlet box.

Chuckie still wants to be part of the pack; I frequent scoop him up when I head out the front door to do chores and carry him down to the barn, which he loves.

The hens are doing well; they all know I am the bearer of goodies but only two are okay with handling. Splash actually seems to like it. She's one of my Whiting True Blues.

Finally, our happy little housemates:

I make our bed, then Poppy makes her nest

Rick is under there somewhere!
That's it for the menagerie for now from . . .

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Guess I should have waited a day

Because by the end of February, not only did I finish a hat, it snowed again! You know what THAT means; lots more photos. 😉

Later, one of my favorite birds – a mourning dove – showed up

Today is bright and sunny, recharging our solar emotional batteries before more rain and possibly snow arrives.
This is not a forecast that bodes well for riding time (or even turn-out), but Stella and I will pick up and move on when we can and all will be well. I forgot to mention in my list of notable February happenings that I entered a dressage show!!! I found one in April that doesn't require stabling and is very affordable in all other fees, and I am so excited. (Once again, I have got to update my dressage blog.)

Today's sunshine and calm means March is coming in like a lamb; hopefully that means March will bring lambs. But no one is bagging up yet, and that can start happening weeks before lambing. The ewes could all wait until April to pop; hmm, I might need an Easter naming theme.... Let's see, Bunny, Bonnet, Basket, Blessing (remember, all my lamb names must begin with "B"); that would only cover a couple ewes' offspring. Oh well, like good weather for riding, the lambs will come when they come. In the meantime, I might cast on another Fair Isle hat or two. They are kinda like potato chips, and I'm thinking 'reader's choice' might make a good prize for a lambing contest! If you're interested, keep following along – and commenting.

As we near the time to "spring forward," how about a blast from the past? Not even my past, although my own husband was fooled.
Last night my sister emailed me this photo of my mom at 18, with her sister-in-law in the background. Yes, Rick thought it was an old photo of me. People have long told me I look like my mom; I've always thought she was much, much prettier. She was certainly more comfortable in front of a camera than I have ever been!

March on, from . . .