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Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

Amram

He’s here!  Amram the hair sheep.  And we are terribly pleased with him.  He is gorgeous.

We found him by accident back in November when we went to the auction to buy some rabbits.  Those who read this space regularly will remember that Brittan struck a deal for him with his owner without ever laying eyes on the ram.  We saw him once right around Thanksgiving, but waited until today to allow him to be weaned.

Amram has the classic Katahdin look, except he has some horns.  All the Katahdin’s I’ve seen were naturally polled, so it came as a surprise.  It also leads me to believe there is some Dall sheep in his lineage.  Dall are also hair sheep, but have magnificent curled horns.  I don’t believe Amram’s set will be that grand, but it will be fun to see how they turn out.

He has the same kind of raspy  baa that Gabby has.  It is totally different that the dairy sheep.

Right now we have the little guy in a stall in the barn.  We’ll keep him there for a couple days to get used to us.  He is a bit on the wild side.  I think it will take a while for him to settle down and be sociable.  Our East Friesians were easy to handle right from the start.  Gabby was afraid of us for weeks.  The thing that won the day was the fact that her flocking instinct was stronger than her fear of us and since the other sheep were friendly with us she had to tolerate us in order to be near them.  Perhaps it will be the same with Amram.  As with so many things, time will tell.

 

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Bah, Bah, Brown Sheep!

The long hot summer is sure taking its toll. You already know about the trials and tribulations of our vegetable patch, but even the sheep have been affected. Our beautiful white sheep are currently reddish brown like Georgia clay. Our pasture is underdeveloped and will only sustain a small number of animals at this time. It has some bald and very thin spots. First the clay dust coated the sheep, followed by rain and mud. They look a little odd right now. I can’t wait for them to get to some better pasture. They should hit the thicker stuff in a couple weeks. At that time I may consider giving them a bath. Or at least hosing them down.
From our “Does Not Compute” files, I have read several comments on discussion boards lately, and saw some reader remarks in Hobby Farms magazine, that kind of disparage sheep. It seems that some people have not had as good an experience as ours has been. Sure, we only have three right now, but they have been excellent to work with. They are responsive and entertaining. Our ram gets a bit full of himself once in a while and wants to do the head butt thing. He gets his feelings hurt when we don’t respond to that behavior. When his authoritative efforts get rebuffed, he actually pouts. It is a laugh out loud experience. Other times he is like a lap dog wanting his chin scratched and to snuggle up next to us.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I sure hope sheep are a part of the future for a long time.

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Murphy’s law; it’s immutable and it’s universal.  It struck the burb last weekend.

While our garden has suffered indescribable devastation this season, things have gone quite well out on the farm.  Sure, we lost a couple chickens, but that’s to be expected.  On the whole, the Buff Orpingtons have performed well in their pasture pen.  The sheep have been a pure delight.  Not a worry in the world…. until Friday.

Thursday night we moved the chickens, then the sheep and prepared for our trip to Arkansas.  We didn’t give them a second thought, because they always behave admirably.  Friday night I received a call from our farm sitter to let me know that the sheep were wandering the fields.  She said that upon close inspection, the electric fence was down and the sheep took advantage of the opportunity and went walkabout.

Fortunately, some good neighbors spied them, grabbed a bucket of grain and led them up to our ‘permanent pasture’ by the barn and chickens.  It figures that when we’re 1000 miles away, something would have to go wrong.

I suggested that Molly and Dan just move the portable paddock up to the pasture and keep the prodigal lambs double fenced in the enclosure.  It worked.  In our original plan, they would not have to move the fence at all, but they had seen us do it the weekend before and remembered the process.  The fence was tight and fully charged.  The sheep were safe and happy inside.  Well done, Dan and Molly.

When we got home yesterday, B and I went down to investigate.  From the looks of things, a deer (or several) came up from the woods and knocked over the fence.  Their trail through the tall grass was plain.  It’s not the first time deer have torn down a paddock, ask any rotational grazier.  The annoying part is that it happened while we were too far away to help.  But our sitters and neighbors did a fantastic job of keeping an issue from becoming a disaster.

So last evening, while I wrestled with ground rods and boat batteries, B grabbed a bucket of grain (no corn, in case you were wondering), and the sheep followed her like puppies through the fields back down to their paddock.  It was so cool to watch.  I only wish I’d had a camera.

Last night passed without incident.  I checked on them this morning and all was well.  Of course it was.  We’re back home.

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Call them learning opportunities, errors in judgment, user error or just plain bad luck.  But we’ve had one heck of a spring. I hardly know where to begin.  If you’ve followed this space, you are no doubt aware of some of our trials, but for the sake of the drive bys, let’s review.

We decided this year we were going all natural.  I prefer that to ‘organic’.  IMO, ‘organic’ has lost its meaning.  I use the term ‘post organic’.  But as usual, I digress.

In early December, we placed our order for seeds.  We went with all open pollinated, heirloom varieties in anticipation of saving non hybrid seeds.  Unfortunately, heirloom varieties are not always strong producers.

In late December we started our seedlings.  The germination rates were terrible (with the exception of the Naga Jolokia Ghost Peppers), and the plants were not vigorous.  To offset this, we planted a whole second set of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc.  The second set germinated a bit better, but I forgot to unplug the heat mat and they dried out and died.

We nursed the living and transplanted them from their seed trays to grow cups.  We were excited when the day came to start hardening them off and we rolled the racks outside.  We would open the plastic covers in the day and close them at night to prevent frost bite.  One morning, either we forgot to open the cover or it fell back down.  Normally not a problem in March, but we had a sudden heat wave and the seedlings cooked.  We salvaged what we could.  Since we usually over sow, we would still be ok.

Then came the wind.  It was a beautiful March Saturday.  The sun was out, a few clouds dotted the sky and Spring was in the air.  With the onset of early Spring, we also deal with the March winds.  But this day, while gusty, the wind didn’t seem overly worrisome. How naïve.  We returned from a shopping trip to find one of our racks of seedlings blown over with plants, soil and planting cups snarled and scattered everywhere.  We lost quite a bit of stuff that day, but salvaged some.  Our visions of abundance were rapidly becoming hopes for enough.

It’s June now and the garden is in full swing.  Our beans and squash have been prolific.  The cucumbers, melons, peppers and tomatoes are…. Sporadic.  Some plants are doing well and producing well, like our Roma tomatoes.  But our Beefsteak heirlooms are one step short of non existent.  The plants are big enough, in some cases, stunning, but they have very few tomatoes.  One bush has one giant tomato, one.  Another has zero.  The plant is over 5 feet tall, full of blossoms and never a tomato.  A few of the other plants fortunately have a good handful. But they have been vulnerable to Blossom End Rot.  I have fought rot harder this season than ever.

Our ‘early varieties’ look to be producing well enough. Like the Roma’s they appear strong and have not had tendencies to rot.  Small blessings are appreciated.

Until this year, I thought peppers were bullet proof.  With the exception of occasional Blossom End Rot in a bell pepper, we have always been successful growing both hot and sweet peppers.  This year, except for our Ghost Peppers, they look awful.  They are spindly and stumpy and the few fruit are small.  I am truly disappointed in my heirloom adventure. This winter it’s back to the drawing board.

At least those mistakes and accidents weren’t expensive, just disappointing.  Some of the others have been more costly learning experiences.  Take for instance, the dog kennel we bought for extra shelter for the sheep, and the “Poultry Tractor” kit I bought off the internet.  Those cost a pretty penny and are less than state of the art.

The kennel came in pieces with a big roll of chain link, rather than in panels.  Not good.  Once together, it appeared flimsy and ungainly.  In this case, appearances were not deceiving.  It is difficult to move around the pasture.  It was useful at first, because we could shut the sheep in at night and with a tarp over one end and part of the top, it provided shade and shelter from rain.  But earlier this week, when I had to pull it about a hundred yards with the lawn tractor, it pretty much fell apart.  It is now a dinosaur standing in the middle of the pasture with no useful purpose.

To make matters worse, our Friesian ewe was following the move and tried to dart into the kennel while it was moving.  She got her leg tangled and was being partly dragged and crushed.  I was oblivious.  Brittan managed to get my attention.  She was traumatized, I was mortified, but the ewe just jumped up and went to grazing.  Luckily, her leg bent with the joint rather than against it.  Disaster averted.  I went the next day and bought a big shade umbrella to move around with the sheep.  It can be carried by hand, has a sturdy base and won’t risk the animal.

The poultry tractor looked like a good idea.  The reviews of it are good.  The reality is less than we had hoped.  It came as hundreds of pieces of pvc with a roll of chicken wire, a tarp and some hardware.  The instructions were skeletal.  Brittan went to work putting it together while I disked and planted a pasture.  She was not happy.  It was a stressful, time consuming project that produced a monstrous chicken coop that may or may not actually be mobile.  We have our doubts.

One last disaster, planting the pasture.  The project itself went well enough.  I took my lawn tractor, loaded the aerator/spreader with seed and fertilizer and went to work.  I got a couple acres done and was quite satisfied.  The pasture I sowed starts fairly flat and high, then slopes down to a valley and climbs a hill to a large flat area.  The hillsides needed grass in a bad way.

All went well.  The planting, fertilizing followed by a gentle rain.  That was Saturday.  On Sunday and Monday we had old fashioned ‘gulley washers” that washed all the seed off the hillsides and now I’ll have to do it over.  Another hundred dollars quite literally washed away.  I suspect the valley will be quite lush later this summer.

Our experiences have taught us much, cost us more and taught us a few valuable lessons.  They have also made us appreciate what large farmers go through year after year.  We won’t make the same mistakes again.  Why do that when there are thousands of new ones out there we haven’t made yet.

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Welcome Howard and Vestal, the newest residents at East of Eden.  They are East Friesian dairy sheep we picked up yesterday from down in Swainsboro, GA.  It was a long, hot drive (90 degrees) in a pickup truck with no air conditioning.  The worst part was Atlanta rush hour traffic on the way home.  Not fun.

Howard and Vestal are named after a famous Southern Gospel Music couple that Brittan and I have always appreciated.  Both sheep settled into their new digs very nicely.  Today we set up the electric paddock fence.  We let them roam it for a few minutes.  Starting tomorrow they will spend the day in the paddock and nights in their pen.  We will move the paddock twice a week to keep the sheep on new grass.  We think of it a s simplified rotational grazing.

I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about Howard and Vestal in the years to come.

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