Now the lamb wait starts. Also we got a free cat.

I looked up Icelandic gestation lengths and based on when we got the ram lambs, we could have lambs anytime this month.  We are no longer so certain all the girls were bred during the same week or so, so it could be raining lambs week after week all month long.

Also we got a free cat.  The cat is currently living in the garage and is well on her way to solving our rat and mice problems.  She will (it’s another girl) probably end up out in the barn towards the end of the month.

I have collected a lot of wool and we did some practice combing of a small unwashed lock.  I will probably wash some this coming week and see how combing washed wool goes.

 

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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.

My first hoof trimming

To get the last three sheep trimmed, we put the treat pellets down inside the barn stall and locked in whoever came to eat, which was almost all the sheep.  The two who didn’t had already been trimmed, so they just watched the others get chased around.

My husband sat the sheep up on their butts and it did go a lot easier.  I had to do the trimming, it was my first time and it went ok.  We had Bucky the ram and our black/tan yearling and the badgerfaced white older ewe.  Yes, we need to name the girls.

The badgerface desperately needed her trim, the hooves were curling ridiculously.  The other two were in need, but not great need.  

Both ewes bucked, but it was easier to manage, and I do think it’s because they are pregnant.  They look heavier lower in their bellies rather than up high like during September when we first got them.  So far I think 3 of 4 are going to show really blatantly in the next few weeks.  Our little moorit mouflon that my husband calls Goldie isn’t showing much sign of anything right now.  Our plan is to check up on everyone in two weeks and see how they look and not do further trims if their bellies continue to grow.  

Another sign that at least 3 of the 4 might be pregnant is that little Shaft has been quite aggressive in mating behavior and yet he keeps being rejected by the ewes.  I keep qualifying this because even if they are pregnant, it would be really early, since we got the rams less than a month ago, and I’m not sure how fast Icelandic sheep embiggen for their 140 days of pregnancy.  

We are going to try to hook the sheep up with a pile of rocks to help keep their hooves in shape going forward.  They are pretty responsive to treats and getting more trusting, so that is progress.  I’ll continue twice a day probably until December.  

Back to it, I guess!

We found the hoof trimming shears…at the feed store.

Yeah, we searched everywhere and as it turned out, they can’t be found anywhere in the house, barn or garage.  So I picked up a new pair and we will do the deed for all the animals on Saturday.

Having the goats and sheep contained together is pretty nice.  They are not as a group racing through the hay right now, but in fact are still working on their original bale, so I’m hoping we are good to go for the time we need to give hay.

And that is a thing we’ll have to figure out. We have a ton (literal ton) right now, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re getting in more fencing so we can expand their range.  Right now we’re not going to obsess about the best grazing strategy, we just want to get onto a maintenance schedule and hopefully make it to a lambing season with a half dozen or dozen lambs (the latter would be a banner crop of pure tripletness).

Unfortunately, because of our own illnesses and the whole fencing fiasco, we have to trim this weekend when the ewes might be a little bit pregnant, which is not the best time to do it (right before, but not once they conceive).  OH WELL.  Chalk it up to a learning experience.

Hopefully it goes ok, we get all the animals caught up on trims and the ewes conceive and carry to term with no hassles.  They’ll be on deep litter as we head into winter, so that will help reduce stress around first time pasture lambing.