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A Small Family Teaching Farm
  20 September 2021

forgot the statistics! - 16 Apr 2015

So the count- 18 bred ewes, 15 have delivered so just three left to go.  Likely all singles....all big singles (ugh- see above).  (In a larger flock it's much easier to divide into feeding groups- when our feeders get built we'll be better at this.)  17 lambs bounding about...lost 2 this year.  Our goal is to lose only one a year, but we're still figuring out how to best set things up in the new barn.

more lambs...Daisy lambed last night - 16 Apr 2015

We're now nearing the beginning of second cycle breedings...ewes have a 17 day breeding cycle, so we're just starting on the ones that were bred during cycle 2.  So we're more than a little tired...and lambing times are less predictable.  Ewes that have a single lamb now have had that extra two weeks of generous food- so the lambs are bigger, and sometimes the births come harder.  Last night Daisy had a hard labor with a big ewe lamb.  Presentation wasn't great- one leg/foot was back.  And Daisy is a big, strong sheep- who did not want help!  It's hard when you know how to make things go better but can't get the sheep to cooperate!  Do I wake the neighbors?  Why didn't we get that phone set up in the barn?

Finally went up to the house to call for help....when I came back down I was very relieved to see a live lamb being enthusiastically licked!  Daisy was a bit the worse for wear; it's one of those times I'm very grateful for penicillin!  Got the teats stripped,  the lamb iodined and weighed, the jug freshly strawed, the pair jugged.  Daisy got a lovely tab of hay and her bucket of warm molasses water. 

And the wonderful, coordinated lamb nursed- no help needed!!  Sleep was wonderful!


a goodly group of lambs- finally! - 07 Apr 2015

The traditional Easter open farm was held on Sunday- and everyone ignored the occasional swirling snowflakes!  More people this year- feels like we're beginning to be found again, even away from all of our old friends.  We had eight lambs for everyone to admire....and Ophelia's was very special since she was just a few hours old.  We've already had two sets of twins, so we think the twinning rate will be better than last year.  Just like people, sheep need time to feel at home after a move.The ducklings in the kitchen (just for the open farm!) were also a big hit, with our friend Mary Ellen helping kids to gently hold one.  No chicks...we had a few hatch- the next day!  I think the eggs started out colder than usual (not a surprise!)- so they took 22 days to hatch (normal is 21).  Jim's been sleeping out in the barn when he can- I appreciate an occasional warm bed wearing pajamas rather than farm jeans.

And the forecast is calling for snow and sleet here the next few days...but we'll get through it!


Waiting for lambs.... - 04 Apr 2015

Eighteen bred ewes this year...two lambed early (breeding mishap).  Three have lambed since the 31st...all white single males.  Thirteen ewes are very pregnant, standing about & chewing their cuds...

It's good to have 14 new ducklings under a lamp in the cellar- they run about and liven up the place!


And still no new lambs... - 31 Mar 2015

Out to the barn...Tracy's acting a bit weird- staying separate and rolling her eyes a little....but not yet.  Her daughter Teresa seems almost as ready.  But both happily ran out to the field where I lay their "first course" every noon.  I'm convinced they need the exercise for easier deliveries.

Sweep and Maude take turns each day, holding them out while I clean and fill the barn feeders.  Maude's getting a bit tougher- even kept Cloud back from her lambs today.

Oh well- more barn trips tonight.



still no new lambs.... - 30 Mar 2015

One of my favorite kids' books about lambing is called "In the Moonlight, Waiting"...I know they'll start very soon.  After 11:00 pm checks the past two nights- seeing no signs of imminent labor- I slept in my snug bed.  No point sleeping in the barn before one has to..

But someone needs to be here, to keep checking.  Gestation ranges from 145 to 150 days- I always predict on the early side, just so we're ready.

a fresh start- and a night out of bed - 28 Mar 2015

Yes, I will someday have a blog with photos!  But for now, this will have to do.  So I'm starting again.  Which feels very good!

Lambing looks to start this evening for real- Cloud's twins born on the 7th were warm-up.  The barn is quite a walk from the house....(and yes, we knew this-  the land has definite constraints.).  Right now the walk is a long and unlovely squish through mud.  Not something undertaken sleepily in pajamas. Especially since the intercoms we put in are giving us just static- can't hear grunts and digging. All in all, the barn looks cosier than multiple trips to make sure all is well.

This reminds me of the three summers we took turns sleeping in the truck- to guard lambs, then to help the llama guard sheep, then to protect the livestock guard dogs from irate neighbors.....a week in the barn looks to be a vacation!!

Back in the Saddle - 11 Mar 2014

So strange- the blog's my favorite part of the website- but no entries for 6 months.  I guess it was an indicator of busniness and a little stress. 

Today is an absolutely gorgeous day!  Almost 50 degrees.  We've never had maples to tap before this- we've hung six buckets, and the sap flowed well today.  I love maple syrup and maple candy- so this is most exciting.

The home page talks about the move- lots of challenges, but things are going well.  Not lambing until May takes off a lot of pressure- and the goats don't kid until June.  Kids are beginning to sign up for programs- a relief, given our new location. 


we're getting closer to a move date! - 10 Oct 2013

Things seem to be coming together.  The septic plan here has been approved and work will start very soon.  Septic in Colrain may need to be done in the spring, but is OK for now. The farm siting plan is coming along, but has a way to go...It'll be good if snow holds off until Thanksgiving... but the sheep will be OK since we're not doing any fall shearing.  Fence and barn and/or shelter work will need to be done quickly.

But it's really going to happen.



The past eight months - 04 Oct 2013

have been very disjointed.  Should we try to move?  Were we too old?  Maybe it was time to cut back on farming and programs... But we certainly didn't want to stop raising sheep, and the sheep and their protectors were causing most of the problems. And we didn't want to stop!

So we got through that stage before lambing.  Then- lots of fixing up and moving to storage of things in this house.  For months! Finally ready to list the house- which sold very quickly.  But so many hoops to jump through now when selling a house!  And then we had to move quickly to find our new home & farm.  This was the first time we could put land at the top of our list of needs. (When we moved to Leverett we weren't farmers yet.) And then to find a place we could afford with lmany acres of open land and a house with lots of room for programs and guests- we feel so very blessed!  All of the detail work was worth it.

We still don't have our final closing date...near the end of October, assuming all of the septic work is set.  And moving a farm is more than tricky. 

We'll get some pictures up soon.


Panting in the heat - 23 Jun 2013

Weather like today reminds me of a hot June day 28 years ago....we brought home our first Romney sheep.  Now they had water and shade trees... but of course they were stressed.  So there they stood, panting.  I was worried- are sheep supposed to pant?  None of the sheep books said anything about panting....

A call to Nancy Hughes (who very politely never laughed)- it was OK.  Thye'd stop soon.  And of course they did.

Never get your first sheep from someone you don't want to call with beginner questions!



First day of summer...and sunny again! - 21 Jun 2013

What a beautiful day!  We've been letting many of the waterfowl groups wander about for several hours each day.  We love watching the parenting skills of the geese- they do such a good job.  And the loose ducks are happily grazing on the plentiful weeds.  Nice symbiotic relationship.


One group of sheep has been on pasture for three weeks- they look gorgeous!  Lambs and ewes are finally going to Gordon's today....they'll look gorgeous soon, too- just need to be rained on a couple of times.  Alka, Boro, Sweep and Maude can hardly wait to do more work!  We all love summer!

What a Lambs' Open House it was! - 01 Apr 2013

Somewhere between 200 and 300 people visited the lambs (and the sole duckling, the six chicks, nine baby rabbits- and all the other adult animals) yesterday.  It was a tad brisk- but the rain held off.  We had seven lambs and their five mothers in the nursery group, and the two most recent births in jugs.  Ten lambs, altogether.  It was a lovely, lovely day.  Lots of young families, and many older people as well.  And almost $100 in donations for Right Sharing of World Resources.

Chicks, yes. But ducklings? - 30 Mar 2013

Tomorrow's the Easter open farm- and we have 6 lovely chicks who hatched right on time.  But the duck eggs which came from a west coast hatchery aren't hatching yet- except for one lonely guy.  All of the eggs were candled a couple of times and they seemed to be developing nicely....have to wait and see.

Planned lamb births- right on time! - 29 Mar 2013

It's great when things work out well....last fall I realized I'd not checked Easter's date in 2013.  Breeding groups were planned, just not set up yet.  So we moved quickly- but I sure don't like to farm or plan programs on a "just in time" basis- this isn't manufacturing.

Anyway, Sally had twins at 5:00 this morning, then Mercy singled at 7:00 pm.  So there are lambs for the lambs' open house on Easter!  Four, counting Storm's early delivery- who's doing well.


baby rabbits! - 28 Mar 2013

One of the early rabbit breedings worked beautifully.  Beatrix (yes, Beatrix....I said I thought she was too high strung to breed, but someone wanted a golden bunny....) Anyway, she was bred to Bartholomew- and on Tuesday she delivered nine babies.  Usually with a littler this large we give a couple to a doe with a smaller litter- but unfortunately the other two does bred at the same time didn't kindle successfully.  So we'll see how well she can feed them all- eight is usually the limit.  Interestingly, Beatrix has been quite calm and gentle with both her babies and with me.  Some gentle does become quite aggressive after kindling- last year Godiva both growled and tried to attack my hand.


blogging blues after the full moon - 27 Mar 2013

Drat!  Just messed up my favorite blog!  It was the one for March 13 when I talked about Boro claiming the lamb.  First I cleverly managed to duplicate it- and then I erased both duplicate and original.  Oh, well....

Beautiful full moon last night, with coyotes in full voice.  Alka and Boro responded appropriately, down at the fence line nearest the swamp with fearsome barks.  It was interesting- even when I went down to check they weren't reassured.  And then five minutes later the threat was gone- and they returned to lying down with the sheep.

the white world - 07 Mar 2013

It's just so beautiful out there right now....especially since the car is put away for the night. And it's relatively warm, without a strong wind. The sheep are all inside,since we're trying to keep their fleeces relatively dry. And the website is up! Of course if you're reading this you already know that. I am so looking forward to the first electronic registration!

Shearing Day preparations - 05 Mar 2013

Thank goodness I did so much dyeing in January and February! This is the first week before shearing day when dye pots aren't bubbling away, drying racks all over the living room with fans blowing away.... it's really great. But of course there's still a lot to do: lamb chili, chicken soup...and a lot of cleaning! Then comes the fun of putting out all the dyed fleece and roving, the wonderful natural wools (especially the Blackface, Karakul and Churro- they're so different from the lovely Romney and Cormo). Wet weather's coming tomorrow- we'll need to close in the three sheep groups. At this time of year it's hard to keep them dry enough for shearing. Their wool absorbs so much moisture from the air. (duh...that's why wool socks and sweaters are so great- they can absorb a lot of water and you still stay warm


the website is within sight - 03 Mar 2013

We've been spending many hours this week working on the website we'd first discussed several years ago. I've had the most fun reviewing the thousands of photos we've taken of animals and people- the computer photos alone go back for eleven years. And some of the "best of the best" from earlier years managed to get on the computer as well. It's amazing to look at pictures of eight year old kids who are now in junior high! I've been feeling so privileged to have known so many great kids for so many years.

And Mary Hager (functionfirstdesign.com) is a delight to work with! She's bright and funny- and has such a practical approach to design. All this- and she's a farmer! Jim has enjoyed learning about constraints and peculiarities- but they're both quite kind when I groan.

first incubator day - 01 Mar 2013

Today is the day the duck eggs from Metzer Farms go in the incubator. With any luck we'll have some ducklings (Grimaud Hybrid Pekins and some Welsh Harlequins) hatching on March 28th- right in time for the Easter Lambs Open Farm.