Saturday, December 21, 2013

Potamus and the Patch

That's a Harney County sunrise. It's hard to keep the windshield clean with 35 miles of dirt road between home and the highway.

It was time for my 8 week trip to town again. Our truck has been broke down since the last trip 2 months ago and unbeknownst to me, the boss hauled it in for us some time ago to a shop so it could be repaired. He was also kind enough to loan us his truck so we could hook up our horse trailer and head out to get our errands and shopping done as well. We had to pick up straw for bedding, livestock panels to make feeders with, and a young Nubian buck, as well as replenish the pantry.

We headed out the door at 5:30 in the morning as my first Dr appt was at 12:00. That would give us time to have breakfast and maybe hit the feed store before I had to be at the hospital after our 4 hours of driving. About 20 miles down the road, the truck started to choke up. Randyman managed to get it going again and we continued on. All the way to Burns Junction...about an hour or better from home. There it quit completely. We pulled over and waited about 30 minutes before we realized it was NOT going to come back to life. 
TheMan put in a call to the boss ( a truly awesome guy ) who along with one of his sons ( another truly awesome guy ) hooked up a flatbed trailer and drove 2 trucks to come rescue us. I don’t know too many people who would drive over an hour away to bail someone out early in the morning on a cold, cold day. It was 9 degrees out. It was also 9 degrees inside the truck by the time they arrived.

I looked on as they unhooked the dead truck from our trailer, towed it around and pulled it up on the flatbed,  (really, it was a super impressive feat, the way it was accomplished. ) left us the extra truck so we could hook back up and be on the road again. It was awesome. The only downside was the heater in the extra truck didn’t work, so it was STILL about 9 degrees.

We made it to town 2 minutes before my first appt. Everything was white. 

Every tree, every single thing, was covered with ice and frost. I called the goat guy and told him we’d be there the next day as we’d be totally unable to get any errands done.
My second appt was pretty close to the first so I spent most of the day there. We left the hospital at about 5:30 and went to get something to eat. We then got a room for the night.

Next day, we started going down the list of errands. It was snowing a little and there was ice hanging from the wires underneath the dashboard of the truck. It was NOT a real comfortable situation. Hours later, we found out our own truck was ready to pick up, so we headed that way. When we got the bill we almost had a heart attack. Add to that fact that it was EXTREMELY high, they only accept cash, no credit cards. Again, Randy called the boss, who is unlike anyone we have ever met...he called in to his bank to have them make out a cashiers check so we could pick our truck up. We headed back across town to get it and agreed to split up so we could get the errands done faster. I climbed into my warm truck with the heater on full blast, grateful tears rolling down my face, thinking of how some people really live what they believe, while others only pay lip service to it. Our boss and his family, are of the former.
Later I jumped back into the loaner truck, as it was late and we had no time to switch the trailer before picking up the goat...who was supposed to be about 6 months oldjust barely old enough to maybe get Anniegoat bred this winter. Turns out he is, maybe, 2 months and I suspect he had not been weaned. Slightly misrepresented, but I took him. He is cute, so we tossed him in the trailer. After taking the boss’ loaner truck to a spot we could leave it, we switched the trailer onto our own, grabbed some dinner and headed to the auto parts store to buy another plug for the trailer as we had no lights. It was so COLD!
I bought a big chamois and some tape and taped it around the little guy to make a blanket as it was cold and windy inside the trailer. Randyman arranged the strawbales to make him a little cave and we headed on home.

It was late when we got home so we left the little goat, we named “Patch” in the trailer overnight with some water.

Next morning I took him out to put him in with Annie, who immediately attacked him. I got Potamus to go in the pen where he would live, to protect him. He was TERRIFIED of dogs! Thin, frightened, traumatized, he was reactive and frightened beyond anything I have seen. Potamus went and laid down in the shelter after I had held the goat to try and make introductions. I put feed in the shelter, hoping Patch was hungry enough to approach Potamus. A wise and intuitive guardian, Potamus played dead, but would open his eyes every couple of minutes to make sure Patch was all right. He was determined to win him over. 

* note the open eyeballs when Patch isn't looking...

 I went back to check him a couple of hours later, and this is what I found.

Two goofuses that had to clown around...

It didn't take long for Potamus to win him over. Now Patch is so attached to him, he won't eat unless Potamus is near him.

I put Annie back in with the other critters and am working on a diet that will suit Patch as I don't believe he was fully weaned yet, and he has a few problems from it. Meanwhile, Bruno watches over the little band of sheep and Potamus keeps Patch safe and feeling loved.

Life is good.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ranch Life Reality

My oldest ewe, Madge, has made this year interesting to say the least. She has had problems lambing every year. It looked like she never got rebred and I was agonizing over what to do. I can’t afford to keep a ewe that can’t produce for us, but Madge is so sweet and so sociable, the idea of culling her was really upsetting me. Luckily, I decided to give her a bit more time. Oddly, within just a couple of weeks she went from looking barren to being enormous and bagged up. I put her in the lambing shed with the camera on her so I could observe her, thinking she was ready. Several different nights she carried on, pawing, pacing and acting as if it might be imminent, before barking up a cud to chew and sleep the rest of the night. I finally gave up and kicked her out in the pasture with the others.

Because she was so much bigger than she has ever been before, I was worried about her possibly getting rolled over in the shelter by the other sheep and not being able to get back up. This usually has fatal results as sheep suffocate when this happens. I decided she could stay out by day, and come back in at night, so I could watch her on ‘ewe-tube’ and determine if she was going to go into labor or if I could actually just go to bed. 

Another week went by and her udder enlarged to proportions I have never seen on any of my sheep before. She looked more like she had the endowment of a Jersey cow. Appalled, I checked her over thoroughly and figured it was a good bet this would be the night.

Around 9:30 she was showing some definite signs of impending labor. I watched alone, unable to nap, in case she got in trouble while I slept. Around midnite I woke up my partner in crime who has never seen an animal give birth. I headed out to the lambing shed with my bag of tricks while she got dressed. Bruno, who usually attends all the birthings with me came in and we sat in the back of the shed. Madge was a little unsettled when our 'Roomie' stepped in, but being a very social ewe who was familiar with her, she settled after a few minutes and hard labor began. 

The water bag presented with a lamb's head close behind. No front legs. Again. As soon as Madge went down pushing hard, I put on latex gloves, lubed my hand up good with lube as warm as I could keep it in the 14 degree air under my coat and slipped my hand inside. It took a minute or two to find a front leg and hook it with my finger, bringing it up carefully. The lamb was small enough that with a little twist he popped right out. A ram lamb. Again. No bother, he will be a freezer lamb, but I was so hoping for a ewe lamb from her as she is my only purebred ewe.

As she babied and bonded with #1, #2 made its appearance without any sign of contractions or pushing. I figured this one was gonna be a breeze and for once, she could deliver one by herself. Then things went bad. Another head unaccompanied by legs. A much larger head. I reached in and attempted to push the lamb back but Madge started pushing so I had to wait. With my arm caught inside. The lamb was not going to go back any further than its ears. I managed, again, to find a front leg after much probing and searching, and feeling so badly for Madge who by now was very uncomfortable. With a lot of work I managed to get it straightened out, but the lamb wasn’t coming. It was stuck. The other leg and shoulder were caught underneath Madge’s pelvic bone. No matter how many times I tried to push the lamb back, there was no getting it unstuck. I couldn’t get my hand underneath there as there was not enough room and my hand couldn’t bend back to scoop it anyway. I kept trying to rotate the lamb sideways which is easier, as there is more room side to side than top to bottom, but the shoulder was still below the rim of the pelvis. I continually twisted, lubed, probed, and despaired of either of them surviving. I didn’t think I was gonna be able to get that lamb delivered. FINALLY it’s body turned enough I was able to press the shoulders up with my fingertips and the front half of the lamb was out...hanging up behind, but easily fixed as it slid back enough for me to straighten the legs out as it slid into the world and #2 was born. 

I had to check to make sure there were no more lambs and there weren’t. Surprised a little at the small size of the two lambs in regard to how huge Madge was this pregnancy, I watched her. Knowing she had to have experienced unbearable pain during the delivery of these lambs I felt a little sickened. The lambs were fine and healthy. #2 lamb was a little traumatized and Madge was busy with #1, trying to lick him more while he tried to find the cafeteria. I brought #2 into the house at about 2:30 and dried him off well, grabbed a bottle and lamb nipple and headed out to the shed. The rubbing had stimulated him enough that he was now wanting to nurse so I got him underneath her and he found what he was looking for. I grabbed up all the rest of the supplies, shot a bit of antibiotic infusion to her to help discourage infection and headed back to the house. Sleep didn’t come until 5 a.m.

TheMan said goodbye at 8:30 and I  dragged myself up to join our Roomie and feed critters. NO small task as the bales are 1600 lb bales and a very small flake is 4x5 feet and very heavy. Even with two of us, I usually have more alfalfa leaf in my hair than I leave behind in the feeder.

When I checked on Madge and the lambs she still had not passed the afterbirth. She dove into her hay, just happy with the world and her new lambs to whom she was very attentive. 

I went to the house, found my oxytocin that helps start contractions, another tube of antibiotic and dropped a note online in the sheep section of TheFamilyCow. Her contractions started on their own, so I didn’t have to administer a shot or do anything but check on her. She would lay down and push hard, the lambs would beg her to get up and she would stand and let them nurse. This went on all day. Some progress was made, but she still had not cleaned by nightfall. Not unusual or particularly alarming, from my understanding. After feeding cows, horse, sheep and chickens again we turned off Madge's light so she could sleep better at night.
Come morning,  Roomie and I were up again and headed out to feed. I looked in the lambing shed and two hungry lambs were bleating and nudging their mother trying to raise her up. 
She had died in the night.
 My hurt lurched up into my throat as tears threatened to overflow. She was the friendliest ewe in the flock. I had agonized over what to do with her just weeks earlier, when I thought she was unbreedable. We can’t afford to keep a sheep that doesn’t produce as it costs too much to hay feed them in the winter. I would have to cull her or feed her to the dogs. Either way, selling her or using her ourselves, she’d be butchered. I suppose this made things easier as I knew she would eventually die lambing if I continued to breed her, because she had problems like this every time. She was likely to pass on whatever was wrong with her if she gave me a ewe lamb. I managed to get my emotions under control by the time Roomie caught up.

Madge had looked so good the morning after. Happy and eating and making much over her newest lambs. I mixed some painkiller in with applesauce and grain for her hoping she would eat it and it would make her more comfortable. She didn’t seem to want to eat or drink. The contractions were coming more often. I was concerned, but hoped the afterbirth would pass quickly and she’d be fine. It was not the way things turned out.  

In God's grace, He made the decision for me and gave me two more lambs before He took Madge. For that, I am grateful.

The orphan lambs are in the house now as they cannot regulate their body temperature yet. We are bottle feeding them some more colostrum I saved from one of the goats, as it has a little more fat to it. They will have to adjust to powdered milk replacer in the morning. I hope they do okay on it, as nothing is better for them than real raw milk. They have taken some solace in the Maremmas who will protect them throughout their lives, and are settling into their temporary spot in the house as they get their routine established.

Sometimes life hurts. But it also has its rewards.

And yes, that really is a hideously ugly, old, turquoise linoleum. It goes with the territory.

Monday, December 2, 2013

...And So Forth...

The heaters are plugged in on the water troughs, the shelters are up the hay has arrived and we are pretty much ready for winter. I was worried about Madge, the last of my original original Dorper ewes. It has been a year since she lambed and I thought maybe she wasn’t able to have anymore as she has had trouble lambing every time and I have had to intervene. I was glad to notice her little lopsided udder suddenly evened out. In less than two weeks time she went from looking not bred at all to absolutely enormous. She is currently in the lambing shed, lonely and uncomfortable. She’s taking her sweet time too, but I am glad because she is a sweet thing and I didn’t want to cull her.  In fact, night after night I have been watching her, although she doesn’t have the classical signs I usually am able to pick up on, such as hollow flank, tight, shiny bag and going ‘slab sided’. No, instead, her Madge-esty simply enjoys eating copious amounts of hay day and night and rocking back and forth in her attempts to get up and get down. She backs up to the wire grill door, with her ever so itchy derrier just out of sight of the camera and does the mambo, as I sit on my perch in the warm living room rocking with laughter at the sight.

The cougar still haunts the houses up above us, walking around the ranch compound without fear. He is still spotted in broad daylight, often not far from where the guys are loudly working in the shop. He avoids capture or destruction time after time. The cowdogs sound off at him as they back their way to safety, one reason I think he is so bold. The LGD’s would not be so easily intimidated, but as they cover much ground on their perimeter patrols, they still risk being caught in one of the traps the cougar has NOT stepped in. I’ve heard some of them could be lethal. At least one trapper will be here until January. It’s going to be a long, long 6 weeks, regardless of how very much we like him and enjoy his company.

EmmaLouMoo is about 4 1/2 months pregnant now and should calve in March. I was hoping to have SushiMoo bred but there wasn’t a bull in at the right time. Then they brought a bull up with some calves for some reason and had them in the back pasture. I asked the boss if I could put her out with him and he said “sure, but he leaves in 10 days.”  I watched everyday to see if she was in heat. She was coming in the morning they came for the bull. I just hope she got far enough along to be bred before they moved him. I hate having to wait over another year to see what kind of milk cow she is going to be for me.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making lots of soap. In addition to my normal inventory I have added Jasmine, which is fast becoming one of my new favorites. I have also made a couple of batches of Salt Soap which is exceedingly nice. It has incredible lather and I love the way my skin feels after using it. It gets things really clean without drying my skin out and the Himalayan Sea Salt in it does its work detoxifying and nurturing. I think it’s going to be a pretty popular soap. There are tons of different varieties cured and ready to go for Christmas gifts. They make great stocking stuffers! If anyone cares to order, please remember our pony express here is a little slow, so get your orders in soon if you are wanting them in time for Xmas. Soap is currently 3 bars for $12 but prices will be going up after the 1st of the year due to the rise in shipping and supplies. Salt soap is currently $5.50 a bar. They are very large and very heavy bars.

Health issues have kept me indoors much more than I would like lately, so I went out into the small sheep pasture  to visit with the Maremmas. Bruno is getting stir crazy and REAL crabby. He was complaining at the ram so badly I had to yell at him to stop. I had just fed everyone, and as usual, when I went to toss the hay over the fence, the sheep made sure to all be right in the landing zone. I watched as Annie-goat’s baby “Shugar” grazed all the leaf off the backs of her lamby companions. The dogs left their food bowls to visit with me and to keep the neighbor dogs at bay, as one Border Collie was taunting them with the famous BC ‘evil eye’. Next thing I knew, one of the young wethers had snuk over to their dogbowls and was helping himself. Now the Maremmas work hard at disciplining the sheep to leave their food alone. They roar and charge and run them off, which is okay, as they would otherwise starve. They never injure the animals so I see no reason to put a stop to it. The sheep know better...even this guy. I was curious to watch, as instead of running along the fence to run him off, they instead circled around at top speed through the middle of the flock. Instead of scattering in terror (because none of them are afraid of the Maremmas, instead they run TO them when frightened) they all watched as the dogs ran between them with the look on their faces of “Oh boy, Joey is REALLY gonna get it!” And he did.

The dogs clown around, wrestling and knocking each other down until someone gets mad...

Then, of course, Potamus wants to kiss and make up, much to Bruno's humiliation.

Next up on the entertainment list was Cowboy the rooster. He has adopted the sheep as his ‘flock’, grazing and foraging with them by day and sleeping with, or in many cases on them by night. He particularly enjoys riding around on Thyme’s back. She was waltzing across the pasture to the water trough when he hitched a ride and apparently he’s due for a pedicure because she took to pitching and bucking until she unseated him. He landed gracefully behind her and picked someone else to sit on. It’s funny to actually watch as the sheep stretch out their necks and sniff his face while he stands and allows it.

This evening, as usual, I fed the horses, captured my recalcitrant milk cows, fed them, fed the sheep, then in turn, fed the dogs. Once again, they had to run sheep away from their bowls. As I was heading for the house I noticed them return and with confused and forlorn looks on their faces, they looked at one another then just sat down, staring in the direction of their dog bowls without eating. Curious, I walked back to find the rooster and a friend had decided to help themselves, and gobbled up kibble unimpeded while the Maremmas looked on sadly. The LGD’s sense of honor is beyond fault.