Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Watched Sheep...

Take a look at poor Acorn:

She is sooooo totally pregnant. I've been expecting her to lamb for five days now, checking every few hours all daylong, then twice at night and waking up extra early too.

And still, nothing. Except an uncomfortable ewe with a "What are YOU looking at?" expression on her sheepy face.

It appears that the old adage is true: A watched sheep never lambs

Acorn is our friendliest ewe. Also the ewe that has had the most "issues". We had to assist in her first lambing (two lovely twins!) and in her second (one 11 pound ram lamb with enormous horn buds) and then she was cast, developed a case of dry mastitis, a cut that happened at the peak of fly season (luckily she did NOT get flystrike). We gave her a lambing break last year but now here she is: huge and miserable all over again.

Hopefully, this will be an easy spring for the old gal.

As some of you might know, we drastically reduced our flock last year. Well, truth is, we'd planned to quit with sheep altogether. But we're just too attached to these old girls.

Here's current flock:

Matriarch Copper (she's 12 now!), young ram, Ewok, and flighty gal Penny. And of course, our dear Acorn (pictured and pictured and pictured above)

But any day now, this little flock will expand.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sending Off the Roos

I'm all for the new, localvore, non-industrialized, back-to-the-land type of farming. Heck I AM it-- at least on a very small scale.

But it is what it is, which is to say: not pretty.

Farming (even vegetable farming) is, at its most basic level, about manipulating natural things so that they serve you. In other words "using" them. It is not really a quaint, idyllic pastime. It is messy and brutal, beautiful and hard and very, very real.

I have to re-learn this every few months here on Maggie's farm. Yesterday was a case in point.

Y'see, we had five too many roosters. They'd been part of the batches of hen-brooded chicks that blessed last spring. The ones that survived the fox attacks and hawk swoops. And they were now grown up enough to bully each other and stress out the hens and generally act like the feathered bags of testosterone they were.

We knew we should eat them. But Dan wasn't up for it after the last time, and I didn't want to try it alone. (Have I mentioned we are wimpy farmers)

So I put an add in Craigslist knowing that what I was too soft to manage, some other person could do with a quick twist of the neck.

Then I chased down those five roosters, feeling all the while so sad and sorry as only an absolute farming wimp can. In the crate, the cocky birds continued their squabbles, the weaker ones, crouching in the corners, the toughies crowing victory. "Soccerball," who'd turned out to be a beautiful feisty rooster was in there, and the soft ginormous "Mongo Rooster."

(LESSON LEARNED: Never name your rooster chicks.)

And then the guy came to get them and I felt..... awful.

I know. It makes no sense. They were making themselves (and the hens) miserable. They'd kicked our formerly-dominant rooster, Jaguar, out of the coop, they were all fight and fury, but I felt so responsible for their fate. I hoped the guy who bought them would give them a decent life/death, but I had no more control over that.

But I sold them. For $2 each. And washed my hands.

And then I moped about the way farming is not the bucolic wonderland that is sometimes portrayed.