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Archive for January, 2009

Forgettable Friday

January 23rd, 2009 Comments off

Some days are better than average, and some are not.  Yesterday we had a gathering consensus that our sick ewe was probably not going to recover and should be put down.  This is a hard decision for me.  (a)  I have been nursing her for 4 days now and I hate losing her (b) It is an economic loss – we are down to 1 breeding ewe now and will need to replace her or give  up sheep. (c) Killing an animal is a wrenching experience – I do it because I have to, but I have to detach myself from the process and not think about what I am doing in order to get through it (d) Disposal of a sheep carcass in winter is a real problem.  We don’t have all that much space where I can bury it, and digging a hole in winter ground is difficult in any case.  The animal removal service (“the knacker”) charged me $50.00 to pick up a dead goat last month and that’s a lot of money.  Well, sometime in the wee hours of the morning the solution came to me:  I would combine a trip to the removal company’s drop off service in Siler City with a trip to the meat processor, also in Siler City, and convert some lambs and Mr. Trouble (a superfluous goat) into a more marketable form.  I called the processor to confirm that they would buy the goat and the die was cast.  Once coffee and paperwork were taken care of I put my plan into action.

The first challenge was to round up the sheep.  This turned out to be a heartbreaker.  KC is definitely having difficulty seeing things.  He knew the sheep were out there, and when they were running around he was ok, but when they hid behind the feeders or got in with the cows he had trouble picking them out.  By keeping him close to me we finally managed to herd them into the barn along with all the goats, then separate them into a stall.  I got Mr. Trouble into the front compartment of the trailer, then started roping the sheep so Chris could decide which ones were going to market.  Once selected, I then had to carry the wiggling, terrified, heavy lamb and put it in the rear part of the trailer without letting the others out.  I finnaly had all 3 lambs and 1 goat in the trailer, and now it was time for the ewe.

I cannot remember ever needing more than one shot, but this morning it took 3 before she dropped.  This was an animal that yesterday I was nursing with warm molasses and trying to comfort while I gave her grain.  But at last it was done and I had her loaded in the truck and I set off for Siler City, about an hour’s drive. Arriving at the slaughterhouse around 2:00PM, I learned that during the morning call some vital information had been omitted, namely, that goats and sheep had to be delivered by noon or miss the day’s processing.  Our animals would not be done until Monday.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to take them home and bring them back, so I unloaded and headed out to the knacker to send our ewe to her final rest.  Which is when I found out that ever since the mad cow scare in 2003 they are prohibited from taking dead sheep because of the supposed danger of scrappie in sheep.  By this time I was numb anyway so I just turned around and came home and buried her myself – not a fun job, but my only remaining alternative.  On the way home I noticed I had a voice-mail from Chris, called her, and learned that she had rear-ended a stopped vehicle and the Aveo front-end was toast. Thank God her only injury, if any, will be some brusing, but she was practically in tears and feeling like an idiot.  Of course, vehicle accidents are almost a statistical certainty, but I can’t help thinking that she is probably more at risk than usual because of the back pain and resulting stress.
That’s it.  A day in the life of a livestock farmer.  Welcome to my world.

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Molasses in January – Wednesday

January 23rd, 2009 Comments off

The boys are still home due to school closings, so anticipating another lazy morning I didn’t get coffee going until later than usual, and then Surprise!  Lauren and Ethan arrived at 7:45 to spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa.  We had to finish coffee quickly and somewhat unsatisfactorily and fast-forward to be grandparents.

Doubtless, the phrase ‘as slow as molasses in January’ was coined by a farmer trying to get an under-nourished ewe through lambing with molasses.  I have switched to a dosing syringe with diluted molasses in it – she still gets her quarter cup twice a day, but I squirt it down her throat which gives  her some liquid as well as the sugar and iron.  But mixing cold molasses is impossible.  I have moved it inside to keep it somewhat liquid.

Spent major part of day on taxes and paperwork.

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Snow Tuesday

January 21st, 2009 Comments off

We are snowed in here at the Farm.  I went out early to give our sick ewe some molasses so Chris and I could have a lazy coffee time before everyone got up.  Most of the morning was spent watching the inauguration.  We did chores, fed everybody, worked on admin jobs during the afternoon.  Dewey’s Saturn lost the clutch – another problem.  Water in the barn unfroze long enough to free the drains.  Boys are in a vacation mentality and don’t want to do anything.

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Monday morning Ewe

January 19th, 2009 Comments off

Owing to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday the boys were all home from school and I got a late start.  Managed to just get coffee to Chris when our little girls showed up to spend the morning with Grandma and Grandpa.  Our sick ewe was still alive in her stall. She had eaten only a little of the molasses grain I left last night.  I called the vet service to say we definitely wanted the vet to stop in when he could. I also wanted him to look at KC, and Mack needed an ear-mite treatment.
Spent much of the day doing book work.  Dewey went out for his first longish solo drive over to Durham Tech to get practice during an off-day.  I worked on the greenhouse and books.

The vet office called late in the afternoon and advised force-feeding our ewe, so I went out and gave it a try.  I was spooning the last of about 1/4 cup into her when Dr. Eads showed up, confirmed the probably cause (pregnancy toxemia) and the treatment.   He also gave her a bunch of shots.

Next on the list was Mack and his mitey ears.  He hated the treatment but will feel better as a result.  But KC was not so lucky.  We are going to have to take him to a canine opthamologist to confirm this, but the vet’s opinion is that he has lost his pupil dilation reflex (and other vision functions, probably) probably as a result of trauma – in KC’s case, most likely getting kicked while herding.   I don’t remember a solid head-kick, but I’m told he has gotten kicked in the last month or so.   He is not blind, but his vision is affected. What will I do if he can’t herd?  What will he do?  I will leave it in God’s hands for the moment.

We made a lot of foolish farming decisions today.  Neither the ewe or the lambs she carries are worth the vet bill.  Mack’s bill is pretty small and besides, he’s a housecat. If KC’s vision doesn’t come back he will not be much good herding.  And yet, without being pathetic about it, these animals have been given into our care by a loving God and I cannot just throw them away.  I’ll put the ewe down if she’s suffering, but tonight she is quiet and it seems to me, maybe just a little better.

That’s enough for one day!

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Sunday Men

January 18th, 2009 Comments off

I got the boys up early to attend the newly-established mens’ Sunday breakfast which our pastor and deacons hope will become a regular event.  We ate, practiced some hymns we were going to sing, and had good fellowship before departing for regular Sunday School classes and choir practice.  The service was quite moving.  A large congregation and we had a Baptist Men’s speaker.
Katherine came in to report a ewe down in the lower pasture.  Investigating, it looked like the ewe was in labor or in some other trouble so KC and I got her moved into a stall – a traumatic and exhausting trip for her, but necessary.  I fed her some grain and we’ll see what she does tomorrow.

Dewey drove over to see Lindsey, and made it safely.  I hope we’re not taking too many chances with his driving.

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Cold Saturday

January 17th, 2009 Comments off

Water freezes at 32F.  This arcane fact became reality around here when the temperature dropped into the low ‘teens last night and left us with no water down at the barn.  First to be discovered and fixed was the lower hydrant serving the livestock tank which was frozen solid because the supply hose was not disconnected and the hydrant left open.  I had to take the acetylene tank down to get it unfrozen, but still no water.  What is still frozen?  Hydrant? Line?  Supply?  I backtracked back to the pressure tank and – no pressure, which meant that the guage was frozen, the switch inoperative, the pump burned out (ouch!), or the line somewhere between the well and the guage was frozen (unlikely, I thought, because I have heat tapes on the pipes).  I eliminated the first two, decided to hope it wasn’t the pump, and started heating every inch of the exposed pipe and finally heard the blessed sound of water running.

Later in the afternoon Noah, Chris, and I took advantage of the frozen ground to go get the rest of the parsonage wood while Dewey stacked what is here. I cut, Noah drove the tractor, and Chris loaded.  We got two full loads and should have several weeks of wood from it.  Now all we need is to get the splitter working again.

Otherwise it was a quiet day.  We kept the fire burning and tried to stay warm.   Chris is planting stuff like mad – the lights are on again in the mud-room.  I better get the greenhouse operative.

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