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A Lovely Day, and More Lambs

What a lovely precursor of spring we had today!  It got to sweatshirt weather!  We were able to go out this afternoon without crampons/cleats for the first time in almost a week!  We did need the crampons this morning, when we found two more new lambs (Madison and Martha) - that makes 5 lambs so far this year, beginning Friday a.m. 

We have another 5 or 6 ewes on the "watch list" for imminent lambing (another 7 - 10 lambs in the next 48 hours or so, at least).  We have a bank of pens ready to go, the molasses is in the sunroom where we can get to it easily (and it will be a few degrees warmer than in the cellar); we just need to fortify ourselves for the imminent explosion of lambs this week.

Artie is now taking this all in stride;  what a magnificent Pyr puppy!  Actually, I think today is her birthday - happy first birthday to Artie!

Our 4-H members had lots of lamb love time today, after we tagged Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, and turned Washington and Adams out with mom Peaseblossom to greet the world.  They are adorable.  Tomorrow we will send Jefferson out into the world with mom Cleopatra, and Tuesday will be the big day for Madison and Martha (mom Moth). 

The 4-H girls/ladies were so excited about the lambs!  I've been sending text messages to them as the lambs arrive, and it apparently caused momentary pandemonium on the school bus Friday when we announced our first lambs....  <LOL>

It's been a good weekend - we visited friends and their 2 month old son yesterday (lots of nice baby moments, in addition to reconnecting with friends), did LOTS of farm/lamb stuff, made a big pot of spaghetti sauce, and made time for personal development stuff in the corners.

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It's officially Lambing Season!

We have our first lambs – Peaseblossom had twins this morning!  Welcome to Washington and Adams.  Artie did very well during the actual lambing – she patrolled the area around Peaseblossom to let everyone know she was going to protect her, and then settled down a few feet away to keep watch.  She got more interested when we put little Washington in the sling to get him and mom to the barn, but stayed pretty cool.  We put mom and lamb into one of the pens and continued our morning feeding routine; Artie went with us as usual.  When we got back to the barn, little Adams had arrived, and Artie was most interested. 

traderjack  and I divvied up the duties (molasses water, iodine cup, etc.).  When we got back to the barn with the "stuff," Artie was frantically trying to get to Adams.  This was her first lambing, and she was trying to figure out if the lambs belonged to Peaseblossom (first impression, for obvious reasons), or to traderjack  and me (since we had "taken" the lamb and brought it to the barn), or to her since we had decided we didn't want it (because we put it down in the pen and "left" it, which makes her think it's hers).  We read the riot act and did our best to make the point that the lamb belongs to Peaseblossom (which Peaseblossom will most enthusiastically enforce as soon as she gets out of the 5' x 5' pen. 

Artie needs some repetition to set the pattern that lambs are born to ewes, then we take them up to the barn, but the lambs still belong to the ewes.  The ewes will help with this in a very forceful manner.  Artie's breeder says it should sink in with just a few repeats - yes, we were confusing the poor puppy with all these pseudo changes of ownership, and she's really trying to understand who really owns the lambs, but she will catch on pretty fast.  

Demeter Update - Worried

We're concerned about Demeter - the dexamethasone (not the treatment of choice, but deemed necessary to save Demeter) is very likely to cause her to abort, although we're hoping it works out otherwise. 

We think it's way too early for the lambs to make it; they can only be a day or so earlier than 145 days, and she's probably somewhere between 130 and 140 days (best guess, no documentation).  traderjack  just checked on her and said she is standing in the corner of the pen pawing at the ground, a behavior that frequently indicates labor is underway.  We'll check on her again soon.

I guess a live ewe and no lambs beats dead ewe and no lambs, which was the alternative.

Healing energy, candles, and prayers are welcome.

Another Baa-d sheep video from TATYSAMN

TATYSAMN, CLABKESN, and VBPAKAN are 3 of our 4-H members, and they have done several really fun videos.   This one is "Sweeney Baad, Demon Barber of Fleece Street."  It took some work to clear some copyright hurdles on this one. 

The credits say that Willow Hawk Farm provided the wigs (so that's why the ladies wanted those bits of fleece from shearing last month)....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7syGw5kMR88

Another Veterinary Emergency

When we went out to feed the sheep this morning, Demeter was down.  She couldn't get up, even with our help.  She didn't even try to do get away when we put her on a tarp to drag her up to the barn.  No acetone breath, so not ketosis.  The only thing I could come up with was pregnancy toxemia - very, very bad. 

When Dr. Mike got here, he confirmed toxemia - gave Calcium gluconate (actually, CG-CPK - has dextrose, potassium added) - rather than the usual SQ, he needed to give it IV if possible.  He could only get about 10 ml in IV (she was not staying still enough), and had to give the rest intra-peritoneally (2nd fastest way to get it through her system).  He had to give dexamethasone (steroid) - high risk in late pregnancy of causing abortion, but without it, death would be certain.  A few minutes later, she was on her feet, and we were able to get her into sick bay. 

Next we needed to get 30 ml propylene glycol into her orally, and give vitamin B, then concentrate on getting her eating.  When I got the propylene glycol ready for her, we noticed she was chewing cud (Yay!).  I went back to the house to get some yogurt and the yogurt syringe, and when I got back to the barn, she was standing up eating hay, so no need for yogurt right now.

Now we just have to monitor her very carefully, and watch for any signs of labor starting - if the steroid is going to cause her to abort, it could be anytime in the next 5 days.  I'll be heading out to check on her hourly for the rest of the afternoon, then every two hours.  A little reiki wouln't hurt, either.  And a candle.

Of course, traderjack  and I were supposed to be going to the family birthday celebration beginning at noon for his mom, his sister, and me.  He's on his way there now.  It's not starting out to be the smoothest weekend around here.

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The Flock Inspection Went Well

The Virginia USDA Vet/Inspector for the volunteer scrapie control program inspected our flock today. traderjack  and I had a bit of prep work to do this morning to get the ewes contained in the holding pen so they could be caught and checked off on the flock list as the vet checked them out.  We also got lots of really good information from the vet.

We had some minor (miniscule) complications with tag compliance: our original USDA-issued scrapie tags (tiny white metal tags) that we used our first couple of years are only compliant for the mandatory scrapie eradication program (the tags we have been using since 2005 are compliant for the voluntary program), so we had a few ewes to re-tag; the registered Romneys we have purchased from our favorite Romney breeder do not have compliant tags; and about half of the Border Leicester x Romneys we purchased in the fall of 2007, the purebred Finns, and Blake II did not have compliant tags. All told, about 20 sheep needed new tags.  Having a tagger in my pocket, a couple of strips of compliant tags, and a clipboard and pen to record the new numbers took care of that one.

The logistics of checking off the sheep was pretty wild.  I made it in one piece, with only a scrape down my shin from a rather large ewe's hoof as damage.  We had those ewes packed like sardines (couldn't fit the last 8 in the chute, and had to chase them down in the larger holding pen).

Good news (which we fully expected):  we seem to be good to go and on target for certification in 5 years.  And we will be (in a week or two) in the program at the baseline level, which makes us a safer flock from which to purchase both breeding stock and meat than a flock not in the program.  And each year, our flock will move up closer to being fully scrapie-free certified (as long as we do not introduce ewes with a lower status).

Big first step completed.  A major milestone.

Flock certification process kick-off

We're starting the process to get our flock registered in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program - a 5 year process to get certified, assuming I keep a closed flock from here on out. The point is to have a certified scrapie-free flock (scrapie is a TSE). Our flock is clean, but the certification will be good to have, and doesn't cost us anything. The only catch is getting set back if I bring in new sheep from non-certified flocks.

Our current Premise ID (for the mandatory scrapie eradication program) can also be used for this, so I don't need to load the sheep up with additional ear tags (yay!). Tomorrow the USDA vet will be coming out to do the initial flock inspection, so I have to get the flock list updated with the new tag #s for the ones we replaced a couple of weeks ago and print a copy with the required information to go with the application.

Only one small problem - we put a new tag on Cleopatra 2 weeks ago (her original flock of origin tag had broken and fallen out), and we found the new tag on the ground a few days ago (not broken, so she probably ripped her ear). So I have to try to catch her tomorrow morning and get another new tag in her - that's not going to be a fun time. We're going to try to feed everyone in the holding pen tomorrow morning, and I'll let them back out into the barn field after the inspection.

NO to PATH !!!!!!

A mega power transmission line project is being proposed to transmit dirty coal power from Putnam County, WV to Frederick, MD through Loudoun County, VA - right behind our farm. 765kV lines on 200' monopoles and/or 170' bipoles. None of this power is for VA, and 9 WV Counties and Frederick Co. VA have all passed resolutions opposing PATH, and Frederick County MD has requested a study to evaluate underground lines, but Loudoun hasn't acted.

I really don't want to see power poles as tall as 20 story buildings a few hundred yards from our farm (never mind living that close).

For what it's worth, the transmission project allows the power companies to avoid emissions regulations for building a new power plant near where the power is needed, AND get paid over 14% per year interest on their "investment" in the transmission lines - they'll get paid to dodge clean air regulations.

There are petitions on-line - see the extract from the NOtoPATH website and link below:

http://www.notopath.org/

The PATH
PATH - (Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline)

This project will cost 1.8 Billion dollars and the power companies will get a return of 14.3% yearly on every dollar they spend on the project. We are opposed to building the line anywhere and are determined to stop it!

John E Amos Power Plant in West Virginia is the source of the power generation that will be transported over the proposed 765kV PATH lines. This plant burns dirty coal. Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury air pollution. Nationwide, the power plants that provide electricity to run our homes, businesses, and factories account for 40 percent of carbon dioxide, roughly two thirds of sulfur dioxide, 22 percent of nitrogen oxides, and roughly a third of all mercury emissions.

Getting the barn ready for lambs....

We've been getting the barn ready for lambing for a few days, and have more to do over the next week or so. It looks like we're going to have an explosion of lambs right at the beginning of lambing time, so we need to have more pens in the "maternity ward and nursery" this year, which means rearranging the barn a bit. The last bit of January and the first week or so of February are going to be a bit hectic, I think.

This weekend we cleared out most of the main area and set up the first 7 pens, and reconfigured the larger pen that is open to the outside (so lambs and ewes can come in for shelter at will) to make room for the lamb pens. In order to get the rest of the pens (2 more before lambing gets underway, and 3 more as needed) set up, we have to move the fleeces from their current location. We'll need to sort them and select a goodly number to send to the woolen mill to be made into lovely roving, and store the rest in another area of the barn.

This afternoon, a couple of our 4-H'ers came over to help, and we cleared out a space in the large enclosed section that has been a catch-all storage space. A major achievement! This weekend we'll set up the fleece storage area there and finish setting up the lamb pens.

On a less positive note, Antony, the ram with the spinal injury (injured 2 weeks ago), is not improving. His prospects are pretty dismal.

Yesterday was supposed to be the farrier appointment, but he had to reschedule for today due to the snow (one of the other stops on his schedule has a really steep hill that wasn't navigable for his truck and trailer), so he arrived at noon today, so I missed the inauguration. Oh, well.

Hmmm, I've been collecting more dragons - no useful purpose, but fun - and they're so pretty!

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
My head hurts. I spent about 5 hours at the County Courthouse researching our farm title today (and missed lunch - bad move).

Our farm property with its present boundaries has changed hands 11 times from 1969 to the present.  Then the fun begins - multiple parcels being traded like baseball cards, with pieces added on from other deals and pieces being carved off - I need to become a surveyor to follow this.  At least the deeds have provided sufficient info for me to trace the various parcels that include our farm back to 1896:  another 6 headspinning deals involving multiple parcels in each transaction (tracing all the parcels in the deal to identify  which 200+ acre parcel that includes our 18 acre farm is totally nuts!).  The property boundaries shift with each transaction:  "A" may sell exactly what s/he acquired from "B" to "C" (gods bless), or "A" may sell part of what was purchased from "B" and part of what was purchased from "D" to "C", or all of "B" and all of  "D", and so on - I am glad I don't do this for a living.

So, I have a private spinning lesson here tomorrow morning; then it's back to the courthouse - I still can't believe how many times our property changed hands just to 1896 - I still haven't hit the land grabs and slick preservation deals during and immediately following the Civil War and the other Reconstruction deals.  Once those are traced, we should get to a somewhat more sane environment.  I think I will need a couple more days to trace this.