We just moved the sheep onto their summer pasture. The grazing will improve as the days get warmer, but the beginnings of green grass are a welcome sight for our wooly ewes. They will continue to be fed hay and grain until the fields can really sustain them, another 3 weeks or so. Tomorrow is shearing day! Off come their winter coats, their hoofs will be trimmed, and each sheep will get a dose of wormer. Always a big day here at the farm, another task that signifies the coming of spring! If you are a hand spinner looking for a luscious Blueface Leicester fleece to spin, give us a call! I am determined not to keep them all!
The nursery is shaping up….the rows are cleaned and filled with plants for the upcoming season. Some great new additions that we’re really excited about! We open on May 3rd and we are looking forward to seeing customers and talking about gardening!
We hope everyone is enjoying the arrival of warm weather and the promises of a new gardening season. Happy Day to you all!
Best not to mention, perhaps, that one of your very first tasks when you arrive here at Fernwood as a WWOOFer may be wrestling with a little lamb to get her diaper on. Zoe, our latest WWOOFer (what’s a WWOOFer? Check out this site), jumped right in and helped us tend to ‘Dottie’. ‘Dottie’ had stepped on a sharp stick out in the field and it had made a puncture wound in between her hoof. After a trip to the vet for a check up and some antibiotics, Dottie has settled into a life of comfort. Laying on a rug by the woodstove wearing her indoor attire ( Pampers), being bottle fed, and wandering her outdoor ‘play area’ while the nursery is open. She is healing quickly and has become quite accustomed to the attention of all the people living here. She will soon be healthy enough to return to her flock but I think she has been adopted by our friend Sally.There she will join Wallace, Fiona, and Penelope ( Sally’s little trio of Southdown sheep)and continue to live quite comfortably with LOTS of attention. A pampered ‘Pampered’ lamb, for sure!
Our current house guest? This little gal who likes to stretch out underneath the table after her breakfast. Why live in a barn when you can be among hosts who feed you, give you an extra blanket at night, and are happy to have you snuggle in their lap? Itty Bitty, as we call her, has things pretty well figured out!
We bred fewer ewes this last fall and we also bred later than usual. Often our lambs arrive between mid-February and mid-March. I was late putting the ram, Hero, out with the gals because I was off traipsing around Ireland much earlier than usual. It was, however, the very first thing I did when I arrived home…. our ram, of course, being very anxious to spend time with his ladies! Any day now we expect lambs to start arriving. We’ve finished the lambing pens we construct each year so that the ewe’s have a ‘private’ area to birth in. As you can see from the back end of one of those rather plump sheep, they are close to ready. At this time of year I spend a lot of time with the ewes in the flock, checking their udders to see if they have begun to ‘bag up’ …. or to become full looking. From the back of the sheep in the picture, you can see that this is happening and also that the ewe’s vulva has become swollen and brighter pink. A sure sign that she is getting close! A day or so before they give birth, the lambs will ‘drop’ into the birth canal, you may be able to detect this happening by noticing a concave area between the ewe’s hips and her last rib. There will be a ‘dip’ or ‘hollow’ in this area of the sheep’s back as the lambs drop into position. The lambs that are bred this year are all seasoned mothers and I don’t expect that I’ll need to intervene at all. I let them have their babies, only assisting in the actual birth if there is an evident problem. Afterwards, I do go out to help dry them off and to be sure the lambs are standing and suckling. Our ewes are quite friendly and are comfortable with us working around them. I think they would be very happy to crawl into my lap for their rubs and back scratches.
Dear Aunt Sally, (down in Key West……. you know, Wallace and Fiona’s mum). Were not in Margaritaville, wearing flip flops, stepping on pop tops, or nibblin’ on sponge cake, ( Sally just saw Jimmy Buffet in concert) but things back here in your home state ( Maine) are not too bad either!
Two Lambs In A Plastic Feeding Buffet Bucket
We truly feel like we are suspended between seasons. Our minds are on all the tasks of April. We are ready to dive right in and get to work, yet we can only tend to the ones that present themselves as the snow slowly melts and as the plants finally have access to the direct and warming light. Full on gardening? Not quite yet. This year it has been a long slow process. We stand by, and then feel such delight when we can finally engage in some seasonal task…like sheep shearing. Real work, something to do other than twiddle our fingers waiting to hit the ground running ( I’m not sure we’re actually ever ‘sitting around twiddling our fingers’, that may be a bit dramatic). But the sheep shearing has to happen. The ewe’s fleeces have grown heavy and shaggy. Despite some still chilly temperatures, I think they are more than ready to shed those long winter coats…..and so are we, by the way! So off they come, each fleece skirted ( which means to remove the unwanted areas around the outside of the fleece which may be heavily soiled) and then wrapped into a sheet, labeled and dated. The fleeces are stored until we can begin sorting through them, deciding which ones will be sold and which ones will be kept, picked over, washed, carded, and then spun into yarn. The sheep seem happy to have less weight to carry around, inside and out! Their lambs find it much easier to find their milk supply without having to tunnel through thick locks of fleece. Imagine having to eat your breakfast with a heavy carpet over your head. Shearing brings about some real freedom for the flock and a day of good solid work for us. Now with that done, we’ll carry on as winter takes it’s leave and spring slowly doles out her request for action. We stand by, ready and waiting.
Winter has been reluctant to let go. Spring wants to take over, I know it does, but here in the north east the two seasons are overlapping and on some days, winter has continued to get the upper hand. On the days that spring does play a more dominate role….. sunshine, glorious warmth, and mud reminds us that it is in fact, Spring.
The mud season foot bridge out to the hoop house
However, the traits of winter still show up too. Yesterday was cold, windy, and with a bit more snow. I’m not kidding. Hats on, hats off. Scarfs wrapped warmly around our necks, scarfs unwrapped and tossed aside. Woodstove still cranking, next day…..let’s open the windows! Geez!
Regardless of the weather, lambs are still being born and the seedlings are putting on growth. On Easter we had a set of twins, two ram lambs. And yesterday, another set, a ewe and a ram, who needed a bit of help making their way out. My friend Pia came over to help as midwife, and between the two of us we were able to assist two slippery babes out into the world. The first lamb delivered was very large and his front foot kept getting stuck against the ewe’s pelvis. The ewe kept pushing but couldn’t quite move that lamb out and beyond without some help. Thank goodness I was close by and could see that she was having a hard time. It was also super helpful to have another set of hands( Pia). Both sets of twins are doing very well and the ewe that needed help is just fine. Maybe that little ram lamb who was a bit stubborn about making his way into the world was waiting for a “spring” day. Can’t really blame him!
The lambs have been taking advantage of this glorious sunshine. Sunbathing. Having a dreamy little mid afternoon sleep while the sun sinks into their bones. Aah! And when they’re not napping, they’re trying to make friends with the chickens, who are so happy to find a little bare ground to scratch in, they don’t seem to mind hanging with the sheep in the hoop house. The sun is out, the day is warm , it’s a very good day!
Could not post this yesterday because we were busy with these two. Born first thing in the morning, twins, a ram lamb and a ewe. We spent the morning helping Bella get her lambs dried. Bella is a good mum, and almost always has twins. I think she appreciated the help of getting her lambs dried and toasty on such a cold day. Then we spent the rest of the day getting ready for the next storm ( which didn’t amount to much), hauling in wood, clearing paths, buttoning up some of the sheds because of the predicted high winds. By the end of the day, we were too tuckered out to post the news of the new lambs. Apparently more snow is on its way, we’ll see what we get. What a winter it has been! By the end of next month the greenhouse will be fired up and the first of the season’s seedlings will be started. It was 20 below yesterday, I only hope it will warm up before we start heating the greenhouse. Oh my goodness! We’ll keep you posted as new lambs arrive, and as the horizons of spring come into focus…….it could be awhile.
While the moon was still bright, a new life was arriving to greet us. Our first lamb of the season, born to “Took”, a first year mama ewe. She delivered her lamb without a glitch, and right away
began the ritual of cleaning her new babe. In no time this little lamb was on her feet and suckling away. Bella, the next in line to lamb and Took’s stall mate, and a veteran mama, looks on. Everyone loves new lambs!