and that’s a wrap

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With the arrival of one last little ewe, we officially ended our 2013 lambing season on Monday. That makes seven ewe lambs and six rams for a total of 13 babies born. Almost an average of two sheep per bred ewe, which I am to understand is a pretty good result with Shetlands, especially considering many of them were first time mothers.

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With the exception of Hope and Catalina, who both lambed the same morning, each ewe gave birth within 48 hours of the previous lambs being born and I dare say you may have been able to set your watch to it. I think Kevin and I agree that it was the most fun we have had in all of our farm duties to this point. The anticipation of each ewe going into labor, combined with the surprise of how many would be delivered and what the new lambs would look like, made it that much more exciting.

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As far as we know (about half of the girls lambed without any of us witnessing the process) there were no birthing issues with the exception of the slight surprise of Catalina’s second twin being born hind legs first. No complications have occurred, no lambs have been rejected and all Moms and babies look healthy and energetic. All of the first timers have taken quite well to their new roles as mothers and milkers and we have been slowly introducing the new additions into the flock with little to no issues.

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We did have a couple of surprises that shocked even us. One of my favorite girls, Hannah, graced us with triplets (two ewes and a ram, no less) which is not only fairly rare in this breed of sheep but even rarer in a Shetland ewe’s first time lambing. The littlest of her lambs weighed in at 3 pounds and took an extra day to fully get her legs under her but she’s a little fighter and seems to be catching up quite nicely to her brother and sister. She has learned how to fight for her time at the udder to be sure that she always gets her fair share. Hope, one of our more experienced ewes, only had a single which I was not expecting but looking back on it now I should have been able to tell from her shape while pregnant. Her lamb turned out to be our only other completely white fleeced baby and was unfortunately a ram. Granted, he was the largest lamb born this year, weighing in at 9 pounds, and seems to have a very cute personality. While I was in the barn checking on everyone this afternoon, I turned around to find him chewing on the hem of my pants while his mother stood by nibbling on some hay.

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Looking back over the entire breeding and lambing process I believe that it was a success. Traveling to buy Zeke and Fergus looks as though it will pay off quite nicely as they have sired large, strong, healthy and interesting colored lambs. All the mothers have taken to their new roles better than I could have hoped for and have seemingly provided us with beautiful additions to our growing flock. I am fairly happy with the breeding pairs that I made and for the most part got the colors and patterns that I had hoped for. We are already looking forward to next fall’s breeding schedule. With a few tweaks, and last year’s ewe lambs being added to the mix, I am hopeful and excited to see what we get in 2014.

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For now it is back to sleeping through the night without going out on barn checks, having more time to write and post on this little blog of ours, as well as catching up and commenting on others, and attending to all our normal spring duties here on the farm. All with a few moments stolen to watch our little lambs bounding and hopping in the sunshine, of course. 😉

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happy sheep shearing day

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Today was shearing day here at the farm. Our twenty ovine friends got a trim bright and early this morning. All were fairly cooperative and the entire process took just over two hours. It was also 27 degrees and blowing snow, not exactly the spring weather we had hoped for on such an occasion. Consequently, everyone will be staying in the barn where they will stay dry and out of the wind until our weather improves a bit.

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Here is Miss. Dessie (one of our favorite and friendliest ladies) before shearing.

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And here she is after her hair cut. I think I spy a baby belly.

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They look so different without their fleece!

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Hannah is looking at Kevin, possibly wondering why we would do such an embarrassing thing to her?

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And the most mortified of all, the boys. Can’t you tell by the look on Zeke’s face that he is not happy with us?

We also uncovered more than a few large udders while removing all that fleece of their’s, leading us to believe that all seven ewes in this year’s breeding plan will grace us with at least one lamb each over the next month. Now we just wait and see!

I have twenty garbage bags of our very own wool to skirt, wash and process into roving. Let the fun begin! 🙂

Happy weekend!

Catching up

I had been tossing around the idea of starting this blog for awhile, as a way to chronicle all the goings on around here. I kept coming up with reasons to put it off, “I can’t come up with a good name, I don’t have extra time to sit down and write” and many other excuse that are too numerous to count. Thanks to constant bugging prodding from Kevin and gentle nudges from other friends and family, here it is. So, I needed to find a good way to catch everyone up on what has happened here on the farm since last November and this picture post is what I came up with. My hope is to be able to focus, in more detail, on the individual aspects of our homesteading life in the coming weeks. You know, in the spare moments between preschooler requests, toddler needs, animal chores, garden weeding and harvesting, food preserving, meal making and all the other “to-dos” that come with this simple life.

I’m also slowly working on the look of the blog and have been constantly tweaking it, so, if it seems to change every time you stop back you’ll know why.

Okay, here you go, the quick version of the past 9 months here on the farm. The amount of time it will take you to look through the photos is about how fast it felt while we were actually living it. Time flies and all that, ya know?

A little bit of our little prairie, covered in a morning frost.

Not long after moving in we discovered that there were gorgeous sunsets almost every night.

The first animals to arrive at the farm were the guinea fowl (above) and 10 Cayuga ducks. (Below)

During the heat wave, in March, we were able to get a head start on tilling up the garden and Dad’s hops yard, with help from our neighbor down the street.

The veggie garden, which we calculate to be about 2/3 of an acre, plowed, tilled and ready to be planted.

Planting peas, the first seeds to go in the garden of our new homestead.

The next arrival on the farm was Lilac, our someday dairy cow. We bought her from an organic dairy farmer, her farm happens to be right around the corner from us.

Next to arrive were the heritage breed piglets who will be pasture raised to market weight and then put in the freezer. Any extra meat, exceeding what we can eat in a year, will be sold.

Here are the first three, of our now 18, Shetland sheep. From Left to right, Hershey, Dessie and Hope. They are here not only to eat grass, giving Kevin and Dad a break from constantly mowing, but to also provided me with fiber to process and spin into yarn. Hopefully, this will make feeding my knitting habit much less expensive.

The growing garden in May.

Some of our laying hens outside the mobile coop that Kevin built for them. One hen has started to lay tiny brown eggs.

Free ranging on pasture will make for tasty and healthy eggs.

The first pullet egg next to Henrietta’s pale blue egg. Henrietta is the Americauna hen we inherited from the previous owner.

Some goodies, picked from the garden just a few days ago.

What’s new in your neck of the woods?