Friday, June 30, 2023

Sheep math

I've never succumbed to "chicken math;" I am happy with a small laying flock and no rooster. I have occasionally indulged in a little sheep math, but have admirably – in my opinion – reined in most of my inclinations due to limited facilities and a desire to stay happily married. This year, with a bountiful (for me) lamb crop, I find myself regularly reviewing my flock numbers. I started 2023 with nine sheep, added eight lambs, lost two adults, traded a ewe lamb* for a ram lamb, sold a ewe and lamb**, and have one last lamb to leave by early August. That should leave me with an even dozen, which is a net gain of three. Not too bad, but like pounds, adding three every year would quickly cause me to outgrow my jeans capacity. Come spring, shearing, micron testing, and lambing (if the little boys prove up to the job) will help me determine which of this year's overwintered lambs will stay on and which may be sold***.

*On Sunday I completed the trade for my new ram lamb. A friend picked Bailiff and me up in her Tesla X(!) and Bailiff, unconscious of the luxury transportation, cried loudly the whole hour-plus ride to Black Sheep Gathering. And probably continued to cry while we all shopped (my friend brought two other people), but the spaceship car is equipped with 'dog mode' climate control so Bailiff could stay comfortably cool on a hot day. I had just enough time to proxy-shop at the Jenkins booth for six other people (and score a Shetland Horn spindle for myself) and find a small family fiber mill willing to accept fleeces onsite (one for a customer and uncoated Broadway's too-trashy-to-sell fleece for myself). Then, at the official closing of this year's BSG, I was able to take Bailiff to her new owner's trailer and say good-bye.
Ed Jenkins with Ravelry member Uté, who made a last-minute trip from Germany!

Uté brought fiber snacks for Jenkins friends, so it inaugurated my new Horn

One of my friend's acquisitions
Gorgeous clematis at the entrance
One final shot with my beautiful Bailiff before we went our separate ways

**On Wednesday, Bree and Blackjack were picked up to join the fiber flock started by Berlin, Boomer, and Sarai (who later died) last year. I didn't get any parting shots, but their new owner sent me some heartwarming photos.
Traveling to their new home in style in the back of an SUV

Boomer and Berlin checking out the newcomers

***After Bree and Blackjack left, I spent Wednesday afternoon trimming feet, picking fleeces, evaluating, taking photos, and getting coats on my last three 'naked' sheep – Bench, Bonnie, and Bitta. I figured out that our empty wood/hay trailer made a great place to do all this! Sanson got coated when he arrived last Thursday, and I cleaned up and coated Bijou and Bauble well before that. Good thing, too, since I turned them out with mom Blaise in the grassy strip between barn and arena and they found the 'sticky weed.' 😱

I finally got the last of my vegetable starts planted. A neighbor had some extra soil and filled my leaky stock tank, in which I planted four tomatoes, two ground cherries, and two sweet peppers and surrounded with wire for protection. My little sheep stock tank garden is growing gangbusters; I need to get it protected before a deer discovers this tasty buffet. My garden deck pot is producing steady snacks of sweet pea pods, and has several green tomatoes, too.

One more thing that got surrounded with wire for protection:

I had noticed a little Oregon-race dark-eyed junco flying up out of the grass near the hen house several times while I was moving around doing chores. At first I thought it was a fledgling, but when it kept happening I got curious and looked around. I couldn't believe this tiny, perfect nest hadn't gotten trampled on by me or the dogs! I put our 'protective custody cage for chickens' over it and checked to make sure little mama didn't mind (she didn't). In the photo below, the location is that sunlit spot just below and to the left of the pop-door of the henhouse, between the driveway to the barn, the henhouse, and the hayfeeder for the wooded lot (just outside the photo on the right). Before this discovery sent me to, I didn't know that juncos are ground-nesters!

If it's the hot season, it's hay season. Load #1 is in the barn; load #2 is waiting to be unloaded. ALL hay has to be inspected by Chuckie. 😉

Farewell June, from . . .

Saturday, June 24, 2023

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Given all that has happened in the last two weeks and the many Charles Dickens audiobooks I've listened to, the title seemed appropriate. Hold onto your hats; this is a long catch-up post.

Rick's and my 39th wedding anniversary was Saturday, June 10, but we scheduled our date for Sunday evening. Sabbath afternoon we just took an afternoon walk with the dogs. At the other end of the lane, I spotted an odd creature. It looked like a cross between an enormous earthworm and a small snake; I'd never seen anything like it. So of course I searched the internet when we got home, and learned it was a rubber boa. This was the first we'd seen or heard about this native species in nearly 34 years of living here –

and then I saw another this week, on our property! Strange to see two in two weeks, after decades of unawareness.

Before our anniversary date on Sunday, we all put in a good morning's work. My big job was chopping thistles (i.e. digging them out by the root with a shovel) while Rick and Brian got a truck and trailer full of oak.

After that, we cleaned up and headed to the coast, singing along to songs from our much younger years. That began because an anniversary 'theme song' had popped into my head – my brain does that at random times – so I had to look it up on YouTube and play it:
That led to a string of Journey songs (and reading up on Steve Perry – one talented dude!) and then others. It was fun!

Our destination was The Bay House, one of only three AAA 4-Diamond restaurants in the state. One of Rick's clients works there, and she had recommended it. I think it was my first four-course dinner; very fancy, and very good. I wanted to take pictures of each lovely presentation but didn't want to look like a rube, so all you get is one photo taken through a lobby window and a surreptitious shot of some of the decorations the host sprinkled on our table.

After dinner we had hoped for a sunset stroll on the beach, but it was foggy, cool, and windy. Still, to me there are no bad days at the beach, so we watched the waves at Boiler Bay and took a little walk at Fogarty Creek State Recreation Area:

Brian did chores for us Sunday night, so it was Monday morning before I saw any animals besides the dogs. I immediately noticed that Bling was laying off by herself, which wasn't typical. I called to her, and she didn't talk back; hmm. By the time I finished chores she was standing, but in the same distant spot; something had to be wrong. I went into the wooded lot,  scooped her up, and carried her outside the gate where the other two yearlings couldn't bother us. I could find no injuries but decided to put her in the lambing jug within the sheepfold where I could keep a close eye on her. She trotted soundly after me to the barn while I got her hay and water, which was encouraging. I did notice that an aluminum panel out in the wooded lot had been propped up against a tree; it had been laying on the ground. I texted Brian to ask if he had intervened in something involving the panel the night before. Boop has been butting Bling around a bit lately, so I wondered if she could have knocked Bling off her feet and gotten her cast. He texted back that he didn't rescue anyone. Hmm again; he was the only one who could have propped that panel up.

By that night, Bling had deteriorated, and I called Rick down to look at her. He noticed that her left pupil was dilated and unresponsive, indicating neurological trauma, and gave her drugs to hopefully help. Had Boop's butting escalated, exacerbated by the size difference? And what about that panel?

The next morning she was critical, and I called Rick, who was already out on calls, to come back home. We gave her IV fluids and DMSO, and I checked on her every hour (in between getting ready for my mom to arrive that night and a horse show the next morning), petting her, talking to her, and praying over her. But it was too late to reverse the effects of whatever trauma she had experienced; my sweet bottle baby – last year's miracle lamb – died that afternoon. 😢😢😢

But I had to carry on. My mom arrived that night for a busy ten-day visit, in part because she wanted to see me show Stella. (For that we had to leave at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning; fortunately, Rick was able to pick her up from the airport Tuesday night while I worked.) But I did take time Friday morning for some grief therapy, cuddling with Bling's mom and twin siblings from this year, along with Bree who shares the barn stall with them. 

The next day, another shock. Sabbath afternoon after church and dinner, I walked down to the barn to check hay and water levels. On my way, I saw a raccoon scuttling across the wooded lot. Remembering that I had heard a lot of chicken squawking from the house a bit earlier, I hurried towards the chicken house. Sure enough, one of my old Blue Wyandottes, freshly killed, lay in the enclosed run. Based on the form I saw hurrying away, I'm pretty sure a hungry mother nursing kits was the source of the first predation we've experienced here, so I've discouraged my guys' inclination to hunt her down. Instead, the hens are under tighter security, and so far, no more have become dinner.

This week started somewhat quieter, and then ramped up as I prepared to pick up my new ram lamb on Thursday. Sanson joined Bridger in one half of the Ram-ada Inn, with Broadway and Boop still free to come and go to the other side. That's a larger 'quarantine group' than I was planning, but after Bling's tragedy, I was afraid to move Boop back in with the ewes and lambs for fear she might bash someone else.
Bridger on his way to the Ram-ada, with the yearling ewes (and naughty Leo)

"Where's my mama???"

Friday Mom and I left for the airport at 3:45 a.m.; after dropping her off I went to work since I hadn't gone to the office the day before, then came home and crashed for awhile. I am so thankful for this day of rest God gave us; tomorrow will be another busy, busy day!

And so it goes at . . .