Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to Dock Lamb's Tails - in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

The first lambs to make their presence this year were an adorable set of twins we named Esther and Mordechai.  Can you guess their birthdate by their names?

When the lambs are about one week old, we dock their tails.  We've debated back and forth about whether or not we should leave the tails alone.  Afterall, "if God wanted them to have short tails, He would have created them that way!"  Well, maybe... if they weren't in captivity and could roam the hills to an area away from "flystrike".  Flystrike is a condition caused by the sheep's manure getting caught between the offending tail and their bottom.  Flies lay eggs in the manure and maggots can be seen crawling through the woolen area, causing open sores.  Gross, right?  This is why we dock the tails.  There are many things that are necessary to maintain for animals on a farm that wouldn't normally need to occur in the wild. Burning goat horns is another "necessity" for domesticated goats - but I'll save that discussion for another day.

Docking lamb's tails is much easier than it sounds.  We use a castrating device and castrating bands.

The bands look like green "cheerios" made of rubber.

The band is placed on the castrating tool and opened to the width of the lamb's tail.

We place the band about 3 inches from the top.  Enough to cover their "hole", but not much further. 

The lambs don't realize, at first, that the circulation is slowly being cut off from their lower tail.

However, after a few minutes, they run around trying to get away from the discomfort following behind them.  It doesn't last long.  Usually within an hour they are back to what they were doing before the ordeal.

It takes about 10 days to a couple of weeks for the tail to finally fall off painlessly.  When we notice that the lambs are sporting their new "tail-less-ness" we compete amongst ourselves to see who can find the lost tail.  Unfortunately, our dogs are usually the ones to bring home the "prize".  

And there you have it!  Easy as that!

Not quite as quick as "two shakes of a lamb's tail", but quick and easy nonetheless.
Happy docking!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sowing Seedlings

Even though our evening temperatures are still below freezing, our daytime temps are climbing nicely toward warmer spring weather.  HOPE!  It's been a long winter, one we won't soon forget.  In our climate, when warm weather finally arrives, it comes on with a vengeance.  That being said, it's time to plant those seeds that need a boost before setting them in the welcoming soil.  Cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, herbs, onions, etc.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that our local hardware store were selling these neat little greenhouses to help start seeds.  Basically, it was just a plastic container with preformed cups of soil covered with clear plastic.  For about $10, someone could start a dozen seeds on a sunny window sill and be ready for spring planting.  My first thought was, "Someone is a genius for thinking to market something so simple."  My next thought was for those poor unsuspecting souls that will pay $10 for something they could easily do at home with materials on hand.  

During the winter months, we begin saving all of our lettuce, spinach and yogurt containers:

The lettuce containers are just clear plastic boxes with a lid.

The yogurt containers are from Nancy's and have these neat little lids that keeps the fruit seperate from the yogurt until you combine the two.  

First, we organize the seeds and decide which seed will go in which container, then we label the container's accordingly. 
We poke holes in the bottom of the containers and set them on "drip trays" to catch any moisture and for easier watering later on ( we fill the drip trays with water and let the soil pull the moisture to the seed.)

Next, we put the planted seedlings in our garage against a sunny window.  Because we have more seeds than can take advantage of the full sun, we hung a grow light above the seedlings near the back. Also, we put a heater (set on low) under the tables since our garage is unheated.

We keep the soil moist and the lids on the containers until we see the seedlings peak their heads up from the soil.  

We planted these seeds 5 days ago and already we're seeing good progress on their growth.

 These should be good and stable for planting in the garden in a few weeks.

 The next project is to get the garden ready to receive these seedlings and even more seeds.  I'm impatiently waiting for the sun to give up it's warmth...soon I hope!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Confessions of a Slacker

It's been nearly 2 months since I last updated my blog.  Why?  Because I'm a slacker.  Call it what you will, there is just no getting around being a perpetual procrastinator.  Oh, I have good intentions, but as a billboard I recently read states: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."  I laughed out loud when I read this and said to myself, "Well, I guess that means I'm going to H - E - double-toothpicks!"

Within the past 2 months, I have:  been to Oklahoma to visit our daughter at college, had several lambs and goats born, watched our 20 year old son ferry an antique airplane across the country (only to have engine failure mid-flight), helped return a prolapsed uterus in a too-young mama goat, sent my husband and youngest son to San Francisco to see our niece's wedding, hatched out 25 chicks, made a decision with the family NOT to move to Hawaii, and most importantly - developed several new friendships in our community.

All this plus the usual springtime-doings on the farm.

I've intended to "blog" about all of the above and more.  I've even taken pictures and started to write new blogs several times.  Titles such as: "How to dock a lamb's tail in 2 shakes of a lambs tail", "College Cafeteria Blues", and "Hatchin' Out Turkey's", are all half-written and in my edit box.  Complete with pictures. *Sigh*

So, what's the hang-up?  I'm not exactly sure.  I'd like to say that it's because we're so busy being busy that I simply don't have the time.  This is partly true. However, in retrospect, I suppose it's also partly because I'm a bit melancholy of where technology has taken us.

A friend called the other day and asked why I hadn't been on Facebook lately.  She noticed I hadn't updated my status and was concerned that something had happened to make me pull away from the social network.  Though I was encouraged that she called to check-up, I wondered if our quick glimpses into eachother's lives had taken the place of the friendly chats that can only come by face-to-face, sit-down-to-coffee conversations.  She confessed that she thought maybe I was depressed since I didn't appear to have enough Facebook "friends".  I smiled into the phone and gave a little chuckle. At the point she told me this, I was cleaning up from a dinner party we had at our house the night before with 14 of our friends in attendance.  Of which I didn't share on my Facebook page.  It was a lovely evening, spent in praise and worship.  It is an evening I will always cherish - somehow posting it on Facebook would have taken away from the special memory.

Last week, we received a hand-written letter in the mail.  I think it's the first hand-written letter we've gotten in years (since email came along.)  It was from an elderly woman we had met last Fall at a gathering several hours away.  She was writing to let us know of a conference that was coming up in our area and thought we'd like to know.  She then went on to share little tidbits about her life - about her grown children, her cat, her loneliness.  Handwritten with emotion, very special.  She doesn't have email and I doubt she even has internet - which is refreshing.  I sat down and penned a letter back to her (after I dug out the yellowed stationary from the back of the desk).

We have an elderly couple living down the road from us, he a retired vet and she a retired nurse.  They spend their days caring for their 6 dogs and 8 horses.  We've learned that when we go over to their house (which is at least weekly to share from our over-abundance of eggs) we make sure that we only go when we have time to "sit and chat a spell."  It seems that their coffee pot is never empty and they pour you a cup whether you want one or not.  The stories we've heard from their experiences are rich with history and full of lessons to be learned in life.   They should have a blog! But no, they don't have internet.  And it wouldn't be the same.

Yesterday, another elderly friend, recently widowed, stopped by our house.  I was outside hanging laundry on the clothesline and was trying to hurry so that I could get some spring planting done. "I don't want to keep you from your work," she said.  "I was in town and my prescription won't be filled for another couple of hours. I don't want to go back home so I thought I'd see if you wouldn't mind a visit."  The soggy laundry sitting in the basket and the seeds in their packets can wait.  I put the teapot on and listened attentively while she shared her life.  Again, so much to be learned.

I love reading blogs.  Like my friend, Teresa, once said, "Reading blogs is like reading a good book you can't put down."  So true!  And Facebook isn't evil, in fact it's nice to keep up with friends we haven't seen in 20 years or more...and friends and family we'd like to see more often but can't because of distance or time-constraints.  But what I don't want to be guilty of is using Facebook or blogging as a replacement of good old-fashioned conversation.

All this to say, I will stop procrastinating and start updating my blog.  However, if you ever find yourself in our neck of the woods, please stop by for a cuppa' and conversation.  We have much to learn from eachother - and may the warmth of friendship never be replaced by technology.