Friday, May 30, 2008

Give Me Land, Lots o' Land and the Starry Sky Above....

Well, the Maggie's farm marathon Memorial day fencing project has paid off in spades. Our neighbor's generously offered acres are now sheep pasture. Yay! This took two days of Dan working alone and one full 12 hour day of working together. Whew! While we tugged the woven wire fencing into place, pounded stakes and strung the electric tape, the kids rode ("rode" is perhaps too generous a word) their bikes down the hill and hitched rides on the ATV as it puttered about, made a thorough mess in the yard, had a pretty entertaining mud fight at the frog pond and they even found time to help out, pulling grass from under the electric fence row for a while and yanking devil's pulpit (hazzardous to sheep) in the boggier forested areas.

Watching the kids helped me realize that we had turned a corner. Our three don't even remember living in the suburbs of Boston. A trip to the supermarket or "Town" is a big event for them. They "make do" and "deal", play elaborate outside games, revel in and regret each others' company. They come home at dusk bug bitten and muddy and with the stereotypical skinned knees. They belong to this place and this lifestyle in a way that perhaps Dan and I never will. Lately, they really have been pitching in with the chores. They can feed and water the poults and chicks and fill the sheep's trough. They are not the least bit intimidated by stomping ewes, our current rooster duo, the curly horned rams.
While we moved (i.e. dragged, and prodded) the sheep one by one to the pasture (So that we could examine them for worm load and general condition and because we didn't want to chase the whole flock down again if it stampeded off in the wrong direction) Micah managed to catch and calm Louise's lamb, Connor, all by herself. I found him sitting in her lap like a puppy while she whispered to him. What a wonderful way to grow up, eh?

As for the sheep, they don't know what to do with themselves. Once in the wide open pasture, part wood, part meadow, they stood at the old borderline gazing off into the great unknown. Finally, Daisy, chowhound that she is, munched her way across into the new space and the rest of the flock just followed along. They seem to have the hang of it now, though they come back to rest and to sleep. Sheep are, after all homebodies.

Next project (There's ALWAYS a next project) is a run for the exponentially growing turkeys.....

Monday, May 26, 2008

Don’t Fence Me In

Yesterday we went off to my nephew’s birthday party and came home to our first round of unmitigated chaos this year.... Sheep EVERYWHERE!

It was dusk, and the flock, spurred on by would-be herder Luka’s incessant barking and Maggie’s silent but tightly-wound stealth, the sheep were stampeding everywhere in clumps of three to five individuals, lambs calling for mamas, mamas calling for lambs, Daisy (AKA"Princess Daisy the pig sheep") calling for grain…. What fun!

To top it off, the kids were in the driveway playing the soundtrack for “Annie Get Your Gun” at ear-shattering volume.

So Ethel Merman belted “There’s No Business Like Show Business” while we hollered and barked, and alternately made mad dashes and futilely shook the grain bucket. Yep, shepherding is such a peaceful vocation…..

Eventually, Luka did manage to move the flock into the barn, everybody except Louise and her lamb, Connor, of course. Flocking instincts be damned, Louise went solo (or nearly solo) and wandered off, a black sheep in the black night. Dan chased after her on his ATV (Headlights!) and he and Maggie finally got her in at the pasture’s back gate.

Everything was back in order more or less.

But it’ll happen again to be sure. Fence breaks are part of the fun here at Maggie’s Farm. The grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. And these wily, smart Icelandic sheep, they know it.

Our flock of twenty-one has eaten down our permanent pasture with lightning speed and also the small auxiliary pasture along the back fence. We’ve been spending every spare minute fencing in a huge new territory, our neighbor’s yard. (Thank You, Rev. Shaw!) but it is slow going. Today, Dan put in about 300 feet of woven wire fence while I cut dozens of rusted strands of barbed wire out of the old boundary line between the properties. Trees had grown around and through the wire, and it was buried under the deep forest loam in places, a sure sheep hazard. I’ve had to disentangle our woolies from raspberry branches and baling twine. Didn’t want to see what a sheep might look like wrapped in 50 year old strands of barbed wire.

Anyway, we are hopeful that this tremendous grassy/brushy pasture will keep our sheep busy while we clean out the barn, lime the old pasture and let it grow, let it grow let it grow!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Profiles in Cuteness: Connor

Connor is a leggy, long-bodied little moorit gray. We expect he'll share some of his Mama Louise's, fine "structure". Louise has a nice straight back and long body. She is also one of our widest, "meatiest" ewes with beautiful "charcoal" fleece. Louise is our most wary, watchful ewe (Okay, she goes a little overboard on the wary/watchful thing) but this is a terrific trait in a ram and we believe it will serve Connor well.

Connor's sire, Bombadil, has a beautiful black gray fleece and a nice long-bodied build as well.

Connor carries the color black as well as moorit and may also carry the mouflon pattern.
He looks to be a very long, very large polled ram someday. Here he is at 3 days old:

We should have a detailed lamb page up soon. But, if you're interested in Connor, or any of the other lambs, please contact us at Maggie's Farm (

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

This is what it's come down to:

A compulsive pup...

an ornery rooster...

....Day in

Day out

The showdown continues.....

And continues....

And continues....

I'm afraid I neglected to snap the picture in which Luka is ON TOP of Batmandu snarling and snapping and making like she wants to kill him. (Kinda busy right about then.)

And Batmandu? He just keeps struttin' on back

Why can't we all just get along?

Monday, May 19, 2008

In the Big Time Now

Last weekend, Dan and I hit the road... and the big time. We trucked our wares down highway 91 and set up shop at Webs annual tent sale extravaganza. Our display was decidedly less polished than our compadres': a card table and a bunch of thrift store baskets. But we had a lot of fun, met a lot of terrific people, both customers and "producers" (Now there's a fancy word for ya) and we even sold some yarn.

We really enjoyed setting up our display. The skeins produced by each sheep were placed in their own separate baskets with a picture of said sheep as well, and people really enjoyed seeing the source of the fine, soft, colorful yarn (Okay, I know I'm gushing a little. But I just love this yarn. It is so much softer than the "Icelandic" they sell commercially.)

We met some wonderful spinners in a neighboring booth, and they spun up a small skein from our stripey gray fleece. It became beautiful variegated yarn right before our eyes, and then promptly sold out! We still have plenty of yarn though, and beige and white rovings as well.

Then we hurried back to the Hilltowns because Micah was also hitting the big time: She had some pieces in the Mohawk School District's "Gala Art Show"!

Guinea Chase

Can you stand another lamb-related story?

It seems our little crew has taken it upon themselves to torment the four remaining farm guinea fowl. Not a difficult task, really. The poor guineas can't figure their way out of a paper bag... on a good day....

...And to them, everything-- everything!-- is cause for earsplitting alarm. Now, I'll admit I sort of like the sound-- puts me in mind of a day at the beach, a great wall of sound crashing, ebbing, flowing around the yard. Dan is not so thrilled with it (and likely our neighbors, the folks in the next town, next county, and everywhere else agree).

Last week we finally discovered a secret purpose for our little guinea quartet. Our lambs enjoy a good wild fowl chase. Especially when one forlorn little guy forgets it can fly over the fence and spends an hour or two dodging woolies and CH-CH-CH-CHIPPing up a storm.

Somebody remind me: Aside from sheeply entertainment, what exactly are guinea fowl good for?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frosty Farewell

You may recall Frosty the Frog, rescued from the shallow tomb of our frozen goldfish pond and lovingly rescusitated by the three small humans. Well, Frosty spent all winter basking in the glow of the woodstove and entertaining children with his acrobatic ingestions of store-bought crickets. Frosty filled out, harrassing the red eft denizens of his terrarium home. He must have figured he was in frog heaven.
But all good things come to an end. And so, with heavy hearts (not so heavy) we trotted the frog and his amphibious companions down to the frog pond (More a "frog puddle") at the edge of the woods.

Good bye, Frosty, may all your crickets be wild ones.

Profiles in Cuteness: Carlotta

I thought I might do a series of "Lamb Profiles" over the next few weeks. Partly because I'd like to highlight the way we are learning to think about our sheep, identifying their good and great qualities (and also some of the things we'd hope to change in our breeding program for next year) and partly because they are just so darn cute. It takes an experienced eye to look at a field chock full o' lambs and see beyond the "cute factor", but a shepherd must. She (or he) must look at those babies and compare them to her breeding goals.... and she must be ruthless in her assessment. Not so easy when you've watched the little things wriggle into the world, cleaned the mucous from their noses and helped rub them dry, but necessary.

Our farm breeding goals match the "triple purpose" characteristic of Icelandics pretty well. We hope to produce big broad, well-built icelandics with beautiful fleece and good mothering qualities. We are also aiming for good temperments (Friendly ewes/wary rams), and an extra bonus is variety in color and pattern. (We love the array of naturally colored yarn and rovings our sheep produce.) In addition, parasite resistance and overall resilience are important traits as well.

And so, without further ado, here is Carlotta:

Carlotta is Penny's lamb, a twin. (Twinning is a trait that is passed on to successive generations and so is a positive.) Carlotta has a very bright white fleece (Not a positive for our farm, but not a negative either) and a chunky build. She is one of our boldest and most curious lambs, the first to check out any new element. She led the lambs on a pretty hilarious "guinea fowl hunt" a few days ago.
Carlotta must carry the genes for black fleece, as her father, Bombadil, is Black gray.
Carlotta's mum, Penny, has shown remarkable mothering instincts; she keeps a constant eye on her twins and this is one of those traits that, again, could be passed on to little Carlotta here. Also, Penny has a good sized udder, and a very wide build. She has had no trouble growing her two little (but not Soooooo little) ones.
In short, we are really happy with Carlotta. As she grows, we will examine her fleece and build more closely.

Time will tell if she'll inherit the qualities that make her a model Icelandic sheep, but she is looking pretty good right now. Oh, and she is pretty high on the cute-o-meter too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Lambing season is over here on Maggie’s Farm. WoooHOOOO!

We can sleep again. We can think of something else every now and again, though really, who can think of anything else, with a pasture of boingy, springy lambs to watch?

Louise had a long-legged moorit gray ram lamb (Connor) on Tuesday. And just yesterday, Copper had a truly humongous white ewe lamb named Cedar. Cedar had some mecomium staining, probably due to her humongous size. Perhaps she was slightly overdue (rare in sheep). Perhaps she had trouble squeezing through; after all, she is week-old size, easy. Whatever the case, she seems to have suffered no ill effects and she is lively and chunky and much like every other lamb Copper's ever produced.

So, now there are eleven. And that does it.

7 ewes, 4 rams.

And a variety of colors too:
4 white, 1 apparently solid moorit, 2 moorit gray, 3 black gray, 1 moorit spotted.

We had one casualty, Leela’s badgerfaced moorit ram lamb, due (I think) to a breech birth in the wee morning hours.

All in all, we had a great, though often hair-raising time. And are we ever glad to be on the other side of it! Checking the sheep every few hours for days at a time does get to you after a while.

We’ll be posting detailed information on our Maggie's Farm website in the next few days. Hopefully, by then, we’ll know who is going to stay on the farm and who is for sale. If you are looking for icelandic sheep with excellent build and fleece, check us out.

But for now, here are a few pictures of our new little flock:

Son of a Glitch

Well Acorn, the dear, sweet, Acorn, friendliest sheep in the flock, Acorn, the kids’ hands down favorite sheep, lambed on Wednesday night. And it was a carbon copy of her buddy, Penny’s difficult night… all the way down to the midnight finish and second (surprise) lamb.

But this birth was even tougher. Acorn never quite went into active labor. Her water broke around dinnertime and then she hung out in the barn, munching hay, getting her head scratched and seeming a bit baffled. Every once in a while, she appeared to have a couple ineffective contractions and then… nothing at all for long periods. Dan and I waited and watched and waited and waited but then we had to “go in” (Now there’s a euphemism for ya) and help. And yes, it was me again (me of the “smaller hands”) who did the honors.

To my uneducated touch, this lamb seemed huge and the passage quite small. (Note to self: Perhaps breeding four year old never-bred ewes is not such a great idea….) Also, the left front hoof was back, waaaay back and, despite reaching around in there for a while, I couldn’t find it and pull it forward. The lamb was so slippery, the space so limited. I just couldn’t get a hold on the one hoof and head. (Second note to self: get one of those strange little device known as a "lamb pullers".)

Acorn was exhausted, panting like mad. We almost gave up. In fact, we called the vet (It was around 11 PM then) and were waiting for his emergency service to contact him, when we decided to give it another try. This time, miraculously, I got a grip and, though the second hoof was lost in the void, yanked and tugged and got that little girl out. Her shoulder was a little “bendy” at first (who knows where that hoof had been!) but she straightened out pretty quick, and she was quite lively too. A twiggy little thing, not at all the monstrous lamb I’d imagined.

There was another, of course. And this one had not only one foot back but his chin tucked as well! The first thing I felt was the crown of his head, jammed tight. It wasn’t so hard to straighten all this out; surprising how roomy a sheep uterus feels once it’s been half vacated. (This begs the question “Was the uterus half full or half empty?” Dan is a uterus half full kind of guy. He never had any doubt things would turn out okay. Of course, I imagined the worst, and Acorn is a dear, sweet trusting sheep, my anxiety was in high, high gear. Hey, we balance each other out.)

Anyway, the second little guy actually WAS huge, a very shiny black gray. Acorn took to motherhood as easily as she takes to everything. And Anna named the ewe lamb Caramel, the ram lamb, Cole. (We'll take some pictures once the trio is out of the maternity stall.)

All’s well that ends well, right?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Met Up With the Gamboler

There are seven lambs at Maggie’s Farm, a veritable miniflock. And let me tell you, they really do gambol, just like in Disney cartoons and hallmark cards, I swear.

Before this year, we’ve only had one or two lambs at a time. Evidently, lambs are not so playful when they aren’t in their own little group. Also, Copper’s line, while well-built and milky, is a little short on joie de vie. Maya’s lambs on the other hand, are the life of the party, they scoot and run and play butt and make mad dashes across the pasture. Penny’s two join in and then, sometimes, Daisy’s can be persuaded to join in the fun as well.

Really, adorable. What more can I say?

We’ve decided to be a little more traditional this year and instead of naming our lambs for months (April and March) or children’s book characters (Charlie Bucket, James Henry Trotter, and Olive), all our 2008 lambs will be named starting with the letter C. Next year, we’ll go D...Unless we get whimsical again, of course. This will help us keep track of which lambs were born when as our flock grows. Here are the current ten:

Daisy’s two ewe lambs were born first. Caroline and Coraline are already HUGE and heavy on phaeomelanin. These two are the product of our first line breeding and it appears that they have the characteristics of Copper to a tee.

Penny’s two are also stocky and bold, though not quite as giganto as Daisy’s. Were calling them Carlotta (white ewe lamb) and Champ (Moorit ram lamb) Carlotta is the boldest little thing, curious and pushy and the unofficial leader of our mini flock.

Maya’s ewe lambs, 3 days younger, will be a
beautiful gray black, much like their sire, Bombadil. Right now, however, they just have “flashing” here and there. These two, named
Chloe and Cleo, are agile, spunky and quick.

That brings us to Leela’s moorit spotted boy, Chance (The kids insist on calling him “Clowny Boy”). His fleece is already showing that fine, silky quality we value so highly in his mother's.