In Love With Lambs

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This is my favorite time of year on the farm-lambing season. We have had 20 beautiful , healthy lambs so far with 2 ewes still to lamb And we have 1 beautiful cria (baby alpaca) with possibly 4 still to birth.

I am in love with lambs (and crias). I love their hair, fluffy as white clouds (we have hair sheep, not wool sheep). I love their tiny arrow-shaped pink noses. I love their sweet pink lips that form a perfect heart. I love their pink ears that they hold out straight on both sides of their head, as if they are trying to catch the wind. And the cria, she is all legs. She looks like she belongs to the giraffe family.

I won.t even get into the ones with brown spots. There is one that is mostly brown, with a few white spots. She stands out in the crowd. Then there is “Ruby Slippers” who has 4 brown socks and spots on her face. She is a triplet and we are bottle-feeding her. But that’s a post for another day.

If you’ve ever considered raising sheep, run, don’t walk, and buy some. You will be in love with lambs, too.

 

Holding On

IMG_3504 The last couple of weeks we’ve been dealing with snow and ice and frigid temperatures. I know we haven’t had it as bad as some parts of the country so I shouldn’t complain, but I am. I do not like winter. It’s hard on my body, soul and spirit. It seems like we are in a holding pattern right now, waiting for the weather to turn warm. The ewes we bred last October are almost ready to lamb. We have divided them into small pens close to the house so we can keep an eye on them and offer assistance if needed. They don’t usually need it. Katahdins are good mothers.We’ve got the scales, towels, scissors and iodine ready for each lamb that’s birthed. Our sunroom is full of tiny garden plants that Bill started early for seed. He has fixed two more raised gardens so we can grow even more tomatoes and green beans this summer. Which means I have to learn to can. My pressure cooker I got for Christmas is in the garage waiting for me to put it to work. My flowers seeds are ready to plant after the last frost which usually comes around the middle of April in our area. I have the shade garden planned out so I can buy the plants I want when they turn up in the nurseries. I look longingly at each seed cataloge we get in the mail. I want them all. So we’re stuck in this holding pattern between the icy frost of February and the yellow daffodils that peek their heads out of the ground in April. And I’m holding on with the knowledge that Spring will be here soon. It has always come after winter. You can bet the bank on that. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

Escape Artists

We’ve had a little excitement on the farm this week. But not the kind of excitement we like. Sampson and Delilah, our two livestock guardian dogs have gotten out of our fencing three times in the past six months, including this week. We have good, sturdy, sheep and goat fencing with barbed wire on top. We’ve been vigilant about checking and rechecking the fence for holes of any size. It amazes us how their wiggly bodies can get through the tiniest of spaces. Before when they got out, someone in the neighborhood would see them and give us a call. Believe me, they are hard to miss when they are walking side by side down the road. This time, they were gone for two days. We took flyers around to vets and animal control, posted on Facebook pages, drove endlessly around the neighborhoods asking people. Finally, after two days, someone posted on Facebook that they had seen them walking down a busy highway about five miles from home.Then our phone rang and a lady said they were at her house. Bill rushed over there to get them and I did a happy dance and thanked God. They are back home now. Sampson has been temporarily housed in our backyard where we don’t think he can get out of. At least he hasn’t yet. We want to keep our eye on him. We know he’s the instigator, with his devil-may-care, “I can do whatever I want” attitude. He still has a lot of puppy in him. Delilah is in the barnyard where she belongs. She has too much natural instinct for protecting our farm to leave on her own. Plus she has a cautious attitude. All’s well that ends well. We’re so thankful to have our “gentle giants” back where they belong. And we’re praying they stay home from now on. That kind of excitement we can do without.

A Simple New Year

 We had a delightful Christmas with all of our family. Since they blew out the day after Christmas, Bill and I have settled into a simple, restful routine. We ended 2014 and welcomed 2015 in our comfy chairs in front of the fireplace. I know you young folks are thinking “Boooring!”, but I can honestly say there is nothing we’d rather do than have a quiet evening at home on our farm.

Call us “old fogeys” if you like, but we get all the excitement we want from caring for our animals. Why, just this morning, Bill got out in the cold and rain to move the pygmy goats from one pasture to another. He moved them to a pasture with shrubs and trees so they could have shelter. All six of them, at one time, had been trying to get into a doggy igloo we had put out there. Goats don’t like bad weather but, believe me, that was a tight squeeze.

And then, we had made a trip to Lowe’s and had just got in the house when a neighbor called to ask if one of our big dogs had gotten out. So we walked over to get him and bring him back. Then we found one of our guinea hens (a dead one) in the pasture. Sampson, our big dog who is an escape artist, likes for everything to be in its’ place. From time to time he will go and dig a dead animal out of our compost pile and bring it back to the barnyard where he thinks it belongs. Now, where else but on a farm can you get that kind of excitement, and for free?!?

I never got out of the house this week except to buy groceries, until we went to a movie yesterday. It’s nice to get out every once in awhile, just to be sure you still can. We want to wish all of you a healthy and happy new year 2015. We are praying for ours to be simple and quiet. I think that God made winter to allow all of earth to have a rest. Happy resting to you! to us!

We love Christmas on our farm.  We’ve had the granddaughters from Oklahoma, 3 and 9, since Saturday. It has been so much fun seeing the season from their eyes. They decorated the tree for me Thanksgiving night and it is beautiful-even the random pieces of cotton batting and torn paper that were carefully hung on.

We’ve made cookies and decorated and decorated and decorated them. We were almost through when my grandson brought over some he had baked and a tub full of fun icing pens and tubes. I knew there was a reason I never bought those. They have very concentrated food coloring in them  and will dye everything they touch; including little teeth and lips. But the girls had a blast and it all washed out eventually.

The animals are peaceful and seem to be enjoying a little respite from frigid weather. The full blast of winter will be blowing in soon enough. I wonder if the animals enjoy the Christmas lights along the fence line as much as we do.

Last night we took the girls to Lights of the Ozarks in downtown Fayetteville. They are beautiful, especially shining in the eyes of two young girls. Some neighbors of our were giving pony rides so the girls enjoyed that, too.

 And shimmering underneath all the sparkle of the Christmas season is the humble stable from long ago. And the manger our Lord, Jesus Christ, was born in. And the star that shone brighter than any man-made has ever been able to do since. Because without Jesus, there is no Christmas. And with Him, the brightest of all lights shines in our darkness and transforms us.

Have a very Merry Christmas season and seek out His light in the New Year.

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Chasing the Guineas

My husband, never one to let grass grow under his feet and an eter nal optimist, had another brilliant idea for our farm. He decided to get some guinea hens. (I see a smirk spreading across the face of those of you who have had guineas. Stop it right now.)

He went to a farm and bought eight of them last week. He brought them home in our giant dog crate and dumped them (I mean, let them out gently) in our barn. Having thought this through a little bit, he had closed all the barn doors so they couldn’t escape. They were on one side of the barn and our laying hens were on the other (we had brought them into the barn when the weather got freezing). All was well, or so  we thought.

The first day, all was well. Everyone stayed in their place. The second day they had flip-flopped and the guineas were in the hens place and hens in guineas. The third day the hens were all over the barn and the guineas were nowhere to be found. (I still see you smirking. Stop it right now.) Turns out, they were across the street at our neighbor’s house.

When he herded them back, they went into the tall grassy area by the side of our house. They seem to like it there. They hide in those tall grasses and we can’t find them. It’s amazing how quiet eight loud-mouthed guineas can be when they want to be. After a few days,  he herded them into one of our fenced pastures, where we keep the livestock, to do their job. Their job being to eat ticks and parasites and other varmints that live on farms with livestock. We’ve even heard they eat snakes and mice.

All was well, until the next morning when we got a call from another neighbor that they were in his front yard and he’d like them removed. So my husband herded them back down the street and put them in the pasture with the cows.

We’ve become a little anxious in the mornings when we wake up. The first thing we do is look out and see if we can find the guineas anywhere on our ten acres. This morning, we couldn’t see them at all, so my husband got in his truck and looked in all our neighbor’s pastures. By the time he got back to the house, they had magically appeared in our front yard. Now, Bill is not a patient man and these guineas are trying his patience big time. A few more times herding them out of our neighbor’s yards and they may end up on our Christmas table.

I hope you savor the moments of this holy  season and in the middle of the hustle and bustle, take time to remember the grace that came down in that baby in the manger and to thank Him for His grace. For what would we be without it?

 

Brrrrr!

DSC_0830                                                We’ve had a record cold spell hit our area. I know many of you have, too. This artic blast, polar vortex, whatever you want to call it, has caused it to be colder this time of year than it has been in a decade. I. Don’t. Like. It. It’s bad enough to have winter in January and February, but in November?!? No, thank you!

It has caused us to make some winter preparations for our farm earlier than usual. One such preparation involved moving the hens into a large pen in our bar n where their water and food and coops will be. We’ve laid out fresh hay and pine shavings. The ladies seem as snug as a bug in a rug. They are having the time of their lives. Except for the one or two who keep flying out and getting into the big pasture. They haven’t fared so well.

Then there is the matter of breaking all the ice in the water troughs.( I know. It would be so nice to have electricity and an underground water system but we’re not there yet. Don’t judge.) That’s a coooold job -but it’s not mine. It’s my husband’s. Bless his sweet heart! Although I did walk around the pasture like 100 times in below freezing temps because we could’nt find our big dogs. (I know. How could we lose two 150 pound dogs?!? But that’s a story for another day.)  They were found and all is well.

The big dogs love the cold weather. So do the alpacas. They have built in fur coats. The sheep are indifferent to it as far as we can tell.  However, the little pygmy goats head for the barn at the first sign of bad weather. And I’ll be right behind them. I hope you stay safe and warm this long winter season. Remember to thank the good Lord for all the simple joys that can be found in the ordinary days of life.. Even cold ones.

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Rammed

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We’ve had a lovely stretch of fall days; the kind that make you want to be outside. On one such day last week, I strolled through the house and told my husband that I was going to the pasture to see Rosemary, my pet sheep. Now I had heard him at least twice this past month, tell our grandkids not to go in the pasture with the ewes because our 275 pound ram, Wildcard, was with them for breeding season.

But that day, in my hurry to get outside in the sunshine, it never crossed my mind. My husband was busy making chili and wasn’t really listening to me. (You know where this is going, right?!?) So I went out to the pasture. When Rosemary heard my voice, she came running. (It’s so fun to have a pet sheep). Several of her friends came with her and then the whole flock came over. I was talking to Rosemary and slipping her an animal cracker or two (Don’t judge!)

Next thing I knew, I was flying through the air and landing on my bottom. “Oh yeah”, I thought when I could catch my breath. “Wildcard is in the pasture and he thinks he owns these ewes”. And in my opinion he does. I now have a healthy respect for the head-butting ability of 275 pound rams. I sure won’t ever forget the lesson I learned. Do not go in the pasture with the ewes when the ram is in there with them, or he will ram you quite a distance. They don’t call them rams for nothing.

Our Gentle Giants

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Sampson (left) and Delilah (right)  have been such a gift to our farm. I don’t mean a gift like someone gave them to us. (I wish! But no, we paid out of our teeth for them!) (Worth every penny and more!) But they have been a gift from God and a blessing, twice over.

Especially Delilah. She has the personality of an “old soul”, wise  beyond her years. Her intuition concerning our animals is amazing. She gently nudges the lambs back to their mothers. If a lamb gets in the wrong pen, she will stand by him and bark until we come put him back where he belongs.

One of the most incredible things I’ve seen her do happened not long ago. I was walking my Border Collie around the pasture. Delilah doesn’t want my dog near the sheep because she chases them.  There was a sheep in our pathway. Right before we got to the sheep, Delilah headbutted the ewe in the rear and knocked her out of our path. She intuitively does things like that to protect the sheep.

They lounge around the barnyard during the day. But come nightfall, their loud, deep barks can be heard all over the pasture. They are letting predators know that if they want in our pasture, they are going to have to come through Sampson and Delilah. So far, we haven’t had any predators willing to take on that challenge.

We haven’t seen any unwelcome critters at all on our farm. We give our big dogs credit for that. This breed can fight bears if they need to. Yet they are gentle and loving with us and our grandchildren. They are never aggressive toward people. They love people and we love them. We just can’t say enough good things about our “gentle giants”.

 

 

 

Our 43rd

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Bill and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary last week. I think that deserves a blog post. It’s amazing! It’s a miracle! No, really!!! We only dated two months before we got married and we are polar opposites about everything. I guess you could say it makes life interesting. I guess that would be an understatement.

I’m sure no one gave our marriage a chance when we got married. Except for me and Bill. We both made a vow that we would not get angry and leave. Once you take that step away from home and family, it’s hard to come back. And we were determined to make it work.

There were some hard times early on, but by God’s Grace, and I mean, by God’s Grace, we were able to make it through the difficulties. The older we get, the sweeter our relationship becomes. We are so glad we stuck it out.

We went to Italy to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We didn’t do much to celebrate this one. We had an early dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and then back home to our little sheep farm. Our farm is where we are the happiest these days.