Built a shelter for the rams that made it through the recent windstorm

Here is the nice shelter.  The rams like it.  It currently (for a few hours at least) has some hay in the feeder.  It keeps the hay dry well and we’re already seeing a lot less waste.

The wind blew it loose in the back, but that’s getting fixed up this weekend.  Cattle panels+tarp=happy rams no longer shivering in the rain and wind.

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Pasture improvement is slow and steady

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This used to be a massive blackberry thicket.

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Grey and Ripley love hanging out up here in the shade. I wouldn’t enjoy sticks under me, but I’m no sheep.

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You can really see the slope and how they tore into the blackberry here.

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This was much more brownish-yellow before the sheep got to it.

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Now that’s the start of some soil fertility.

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Not a golf course yet, but maybe someday? Hehe.

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Miracle or mundane?

The sheep are doing a pretty decent job.  As much as we fret about how terrible and sparse our pasture is, right now the sheep cannot eat as fast as new growth comes in, and that’s from all their stompyfoot and grazing and pooping.  So it is getting better, but the process is years-long no matter how hungry the little sheeps are.  (The older kids call them “sheeps”).

 

Homesteading Diary, Thursday, January 8

Husband and I: Coming off a very sick holiday season, but doing better and may be up and about this weekend.

Sheep:  Pregnant ewes are pregnant, looking ok, we just have to find a Saturday to move them back in with the ewe lambs, hopefully it can be this one.  Scottie is bold as brass, which will make sending him to freezer camp easier, but that’s probably still a couple weeks away.  All the sheep are miserable about the rain.  We have to order a ton or so more hay and a bunch more straw this week.

Kids: It’s a rainy enough winter that even they don’t want to be outside constantly.  But they do want to run around and finding places for them to do that has been a bit of a challenge.

That’s all for now, next week should be more normal and busy.

No lambs yet, the rain is terrible.

But on a brighter note, the grass is green enough that the sheep are eating less hay, so we probably are done with hay buying until the fall, unless we have a dry summer (not likely in our little microclimate).

Despite all their wool, the sheep are getting tired of the rain and are hiding out in the barn.

The ewes are also starting to roo, we may end up “shearing” them ourselves right after lambing instead of waiting on a shearer.  I put it in quotes because we’d be scraping the shedding top layer off the fresh new wool rather than taking both sets of fleece and leaving bare skin.  We weren’t expecting that we’d have to consider the skinning-knife approach to get their wool off, but it may be where we end up, at least for the spring fleeces.

Anyway I have to wash wool this weekend.  Then when it dries, I get to start the learning curve to combing fleece into roving.  Soaking in cold water first helps the fleece separate into locks, which is good to know.

I like wool, but I never really thought about how it gets off the sheep and into mittens and sweaters and wool diapers.  It’s interesting.

Homesteading Diary, Monday, December 9

Husband and I: doing better on the health front, gearing up for holidays and the new year.

Sheep:  ordered lambing supplies and vaccines, everything should arrive well before Christmas.  Gotta put some more straw down, now that it’s winter they hang out in the barn more.

Bucky and Shaft fought, Shaft lost and his scur is a bloody mess.  I can’t get close enough to check it out at length, but when my husband’s home tonight we can probably catch him long enough to dump some antiseptic and maybe cornstarch on it.  Shaft seems ok and is behaving/eating normally, it’s just messy where it was either torn or broken off.  It was a loose scur in the first place.  I’m checking him and putting out treats to get a little closer every hour until my husband gets in from work.

Now that the goats are gone, we’re down to maybe 10-15% hay lossage.  They just don’t spill nearly as much even still having to use the manger.  The bunk feeder made it all the way to Oregon and should be here this week.  So we’re still at about a bale a week even though they are coming in for hay all the live long day with the increasingly cold, dry weather.

The ewes are fine, they look to be growing bigger, so I guess they are getting enough nutrition to grow their lambs.  I sure hope so.

Ducks: We’re gonna eat the two leftover ducks.  Even leaving the barn open during the day, they can’t seem to lay with the current amount of light, so we’ll just eat them and try again in March or whenever we can round up a few laying Khakis or runners.

Kids: Love going out in the weather, it is quite the challenge bundling them up sufficiently.

Well, it’s off to check on Shaft and hope he isn’t still battling Bucky with that stump/fragment.

Homesteading Diary, Monday December 2

Husband and I: Husband is doing better, I am still pretty tired from the poor weather though.

Goats: still on track to go to freezer camp in a couple more days.  The two wethers are getting almost as big as the doe, so at least 100lbs of offal/cuts/heads is probable.

Sheep:  The ewes are looking ok to my untrained eye.  They don’t look scrawny, like it’s all going to the lamb(s), but they also don’t look like they’re getting overfat (no signs of back fat or other overconditioning according to my lambing books’ drawings).  Despite the wastage, we’re going through about a bale a week and that seems to be adequate and likely to remain the eating rate after the goats are gone. And the ram lambs look ok as they pass out of lambhood.  Icelandics are relentless grazers, it’s really stunning to watch.  One can barely tell our pasture was overgrown this summer.

The little golden ewe looks a lot more pregnant, but still like it’s a just a single lamb.  Oh well, that’s typical for a first lambing.

Still no bunk feeder, putting a screen on won’t work with the manger, but they are wasting less hay as the grass gets less available and just eating quicker instead of being a bit leisurely as they were in early November.

Ducks: It was sleeting like crazy today and the ducks didn’t even care, they were as happy as anything in this crazy weather.  So we will continue to watch and wait on moving them into the barn since they seem quite happy in their run.  Did get them onto fresh new grass finally, so that’s off our backs for a week.

Kids: Busting out the light box (a form of therapy for SAD, which is rampant up here) has helped both of them with moodiness.  My oldest wanted to party in the sleet and didn’t understand why I was agin’ it until she heard the sound through an open window.

Thanksgiving was delicious and we used the long weekend to catch up on holiday shopping.

It’s been an ok few days.

Homesteading Diary, Tuesday November 26

Husband and I: still working through a series of health problems.  It’s all the bare minimum to get to the next day right now.

Goats: the goats were contained with our last fencing efforts, but two of them got unhappy and now just crawl under the fence, careless of the shocks.  Hunting season has slacked off, so one of the local butchers said they did have freezer space next week, so hopefully we can just go with that option, since the health stuff has really made it impossible to set a date to do it ourselves, even though the weather is really great for it.  The escapee goats have started nibbling a neighbor’s trees, so it’s time for freezer camp.

Sheep:  Unlike the goats, Bucky and Shaft are perfectly contained and happy to hang out eating hay and grass with the ewes and don’t even try to test the fence now.  So once the goats (even the sole non-escapee, little tame Taco) are turned into deliciousness, there should be no further misfortunes with stray livestock eating the wrong trees in the wrong yard.

Three of the ewes look pretty pregnant and one looks maybe sorta pregnant.  I am beginning to think we might actually have an out of season conception on our hands, but things will be more obvious around Christmastime.  Getting the sheep to notice where we put the minerals has been hard, they’ve only eaten a little and I worry about that one and have to hope the hay and alfalfa treats are good enough.  I still have the expectation that seven lambs are most likely if the ewes carry to term successfully and nothing about their growing size suggests fewer or more right now.

The hay situation is miserable, our homemade manger leads to spilled hay like whoa and the only reduction in lossage is by giving 1/5 or less of a bale at a time and “fluffing” the hay in the manger a few hours later so the fresh bits are back on top.  We ordered a bunk feeder, but it’s backordered and who knows when it will turn up with the holiday.  Until then, small amounts and lots of fluffing and sighing at all the hay on the ground.  The goats jumping into the manger doesn’t help.  I am writing this post so I will remember to try putting a screen on top in the next day or so and see if that helps reduce the lossage.

Ducks: Down to 2 eggs a day the last couple of days, if we stay on the mend, we’ll probably move them at long last into the barn this weekend.  They have ridden the frosty mornings and nights out like gangbusters, happy as anything even when their swimming water is frozen and their waterer is crusted over with ice.  Due to the health stuff, they haven’t been moved like they should have been and are down to mostly bare earth, so I am going to give it a try with my little arms today or tomorrow.  I’ve been keeping them on 2 quarts of feed, 1 in the am and 1 in the pm.

Kids: Not sick as far as we can tell, just a little stir crazy with the cold and rain.  It’s been warmer and sunnier this week, so we’ll get them both out more.

It’s been a hard week and is likely to continue being hard for another week or two.  But we’re all still here, the animals and kids are healthy and ridiculously well fed and we don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, so that stress is off our minds.  We are going with these neat people who like to source local and organic and sustainable whenever they can.  They used to be a nice local go-to for us when we were living in suburbia and they are always worth the custom.