Lambs & More

The current Covid situation means I’m home full-time for lambing for the first time ever. That’s one of a couple silver linings. There are also many depressing aspects to the stay-at-home quarantine. I try to keep from thinking too much about those. Dwelling on what we can’t control isn’t very good for the soul. Most days I can keep from succumbing. Cloudy, wet, cool days when I can be too much in my head… maybe not so much. We’ve already determined ‘in my head’ is not a good place for me to hang out.

Which is why it’s a good thing I have the dogs and livestock to occupy me even in those moments when I don’t feel up to being occupied.

This little guy was one of a pair born to a first time mom. She’s being really good with his brother but, as sometimes happens with first timers, she didn’t realize they were both hers to raise. I’m calling him Pita, even though he’s really not. He took to the bottle straight away and is doing really well with a minimal amount of fuss.
And even though I don’t often name lambs, though other people have been known to name them for me, this duo were the first to arrive and demanded to be called Salt & Pepper. If any lamb is going to cause problems, it is one of them. They’ve already caused me to put up additional fencing to keep them in the maternity ward.
This is the second year I’ve used Cello, a Barbados ram, and I love not only the personality of the lambs, but the coloring — getting both brown and white Barb marked lambs.

Then we have a bunch of red babies, with or without white, and two solid browns courtesy of our solid brown ewe.

We’re down to just two more ewes left to lamb. Despite the issues that can crop up, lambing is one of my favorite times of the year. Mainly because there is no greater stress reliever than watching a bunch of lambs playing. The next nice day we get, I’m going to plant myself in a chair to just sit and watch their antics. I plan on taking Finn with me so he can learn how to relax a bit around livestock.

Finn gives ‘intensity’ a whole new definition. Let’s see, there are the sheep, of course, the chickens, Rebel Kitten, and, apparently, trimming trees. Something we discovered the day we took the clipper along on our daily walk-about to trim some of the branches hanging in the trail.

Finn was quite obsessed with the whole routine and would happily gather up all the branches, no matter their size.

He also attempted to bite off some of the tiny saplings we were thinning out. I’m not sure he believed Dave was doing it correctly.

I have to say, Finn is a pretty cool dog and I can’t thank Becky enough for giving me this opportunity. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of pushing a young dog as driven and as mentally strong as Finn is. Thankfully I have a friend and mentor whose opinion I value greatly to remind me how young Finn is and how unwise that would be. Finn has shown me what he has to offer, it’s up to me to take the time to develop that potential. Taking time means putting in the time on the groundwork. You can’t build a very good house on a shaky foundation. A lesson you think I would have learned by now.

As far as Jig and Dillon, we haven’t gotten in too much training over the past week, mainly due to a strong, cold wind off the lake. Makes being out in the field just this side of miserable even when the sun is shining. Hopefully Spring settles in soon. If I have to be home 24/7 I’d like to be able to work my dogs, even if I can’t be doing it in the company of the folks I most enjoy.

March was off to a rocky start not only with Cian’s breakthrough seizures, but with lambing as well. The weather was absolutely frigid, the majority of ewes were first timers, we lost a couple lambs, and one mother earned herself a spot on the fall trailer ride. All-in-all, that’s life on the farm. Things seem to have leveled off, however, and we’re down to just one ewe left to lamb. Seems there always has to be one holdout. To give us all something to smile about, I give you Photo Sunday, and a level of cuteness only lambs can achieve.

All images ©2019 K. L. Schwengel/Rustic Photography

Jig’s Journey ~ A Blast From the Past

This clip of 5 month old Jig showed up on Facebook’s ‘See Your Memories’ thing. According to my post that day:

Took Jig into the small arena today, just for grins and giggles, and Tija was able to catch some of it with her phone. At first Jig was obsessed with one of the ewes that wanted to stick to me, she just kept circling me and the ewe, trying to get her to move by heeling her a couple times. I put the lead back on her so I could direct her a little further, put the sheep back together and then just wanted to see what I’d get when I released her. Got lots of promise, that’s what I got.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdXYeJYM9Xs]

Sometimes, to see how far we’ve come, it really helps to look at where we started. Five years and a lot of miles later Jig and I are *finally* becoming a team. We still have a long way to go. Me, more than her. Good thing we like each other!

Jig’s Journey ~ Sticking With It

One of Jig’s regular jobs around the farm is to move the sheep to their temporary grazing area.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rQXkDB_qEU]

This time of year, that happens on a near daily basis. It’s a challenging job because it’s very rare that the ‘gate’ remains in the same location more than two days in a row. The electrified netting gets repositioned into often very creative shapes around the open field, wherever the grass is in need of trimming. Not only does that change, but the route we take to get there varies. With the adults being grass-whores, and the lambs being… well, lambs, the job can frequently test Jig and I to the extremes of our patience. Me, more so than her.

Over the past month I’ve been getting very frustrated with some of Jig’s antics once we’re in the open. For instance: her reluctance to take the flank I want her to take, her refusal to lie down, her obsession with the ewes that want to fight her (because, who doesn’t like a good fight, right?), the complete disappearance of our ‘There’, her apparent inability to SLOW THE HELL DOWN, and the resurgence of her crack dog ears.

I will admit, when a job that should have taken only 5 minutes or so takes over twenty, the f-bomb gets dropped with increasing levels of volume.

I also freely admit, even though it sets me off, once I cool down, I assume 80% of the responsibility for her behavior. Maybe 81.5%. Something I’m doing, or have done, is perpetuating this. But, as I reminded myself in my training journal…

0514161100~2~2Yes, ‘thang’. You need to read it in a southern accent.

 

And so I set about brainstorming ways to fix the ‘thang’, even though I didn’t know exactly what was causing it. The first thing I intended to do was not lose my cool. I needed to remain calm, fair, and consistent. If I resorted to cussing her out, I needed to do so in a pleasant tone of voice with a smile on my face. No problem. What the second thing was, I couldn’t rightly say, but I hoped through careful, calm observation (see how I keep throwing that word in here?), I would be able to discern it.

A day or so later, when I was in a hurry to move the sheep, I forgot my stick. No biggie. I occasionally work without it, and Jig knows her verbals. Had I known the result would be a totally different dog, I would have left it behind a lot sooner. Not to say everything was miraculously 100% better, but there was a very visible difference. The crack ears all but disappeared, she was more responsive, and though a couple things were still a bit rough, overall, I was greatly pleased.

And greatly bemused.

Since then I have consistently worked Jig without a stick, during training and chores, though I have been carrying a shaker bottle in the event she needs a reminder. Which she has. Once or twice.

I was obviously misusing my stick, or overusing it, or flailing it about like a drunken conductor, but at least now I’m aware and can, hopefully, correct the issue and work past it, which makes both of us just a bit happier.

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It’s That Time of Year

Yup. Now’s the time I bore delight you with far too many numerous adorkable lamb pics. So far we have 4 sets of twins, with ram lambs outnumbering ewes at 5-3. I’m hoping that turns around and we don’t have Year of the Ram. Pretty pleased so far with the size and coloring. The Captain has done well.

Ram lamb #1. Wasn't sure if he would make it, because his mother kept pushing him away. But looks like he's doing fine, even if she does like his sister better.

Ram lamb #1. Wasn’t sure if he would make it, because his mother kept pushing him away. But looks like he’s doing fine, even if she does like his sister better.

 

Mom, with his sister.

Mom, with his sister. For  awhile the ram lamb had to use his sister as a shield any time he wanted to nurse.

Red

Our second set of twins. The larger one is the ram, the smaller one is the ewe.

 

The ram lamb making kissy face with one of the yearlings.

The ram lamb making kissy face with one of the yearlings.

 

Speed's twin boys, grandsons to Mother. Some of you know her story, and how she got her name. Still, she turned out to be an excellent ewe.

Speed’s twin boys, grandsons to Mother. Some of you know Mother’s story, and how she got her name. Still, she turned out to be an excellent ewe.

 

I just love the expression on this lamb's face. Not sure if this is the ram or the ewe, these two are pretty similarly marked.

I just love the expression on this lamb’s face. Not sure if this is the ram or the ewe, these two are pretty similarly marked.

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Out Like a Lamb…

I go into lambing each year with a mix of anticipation and dread. Lambs, like puppies, are adorable. I can watch their antics for hours. Once they start to discover their legs and each other, they begin hopping about like popcorn and organizing lamb races while the adults eat. Such displays can pull a smile and laugh out of me even on my most frustrating day.

It’s tempered by the complications and unknowns that can arise. Some years are worse than others in that department, but a big part of the reason I chose Katahdins was their ability to pasture lamb with little to no interference from me, and without the need for lambing jugs. Yes, I’ve had to step in from time-to-time and, yes, the occasional ewe will find herself confined for a bit if I think she needs help or her lambs don’t appear as thrifty as I like. Overall, however, they need to be able to handle things because I can’t be there 24/7.

We’re lambing later than usual this year. Normally, I’m about done by now. Yesterday we had our first lambs. A set of nice twins, one ram, one ewe. This is the ewe lamb…

ewelamb

…all legs and a healthy set of lungs anytime mom strays too far.

I’m fairly certain when I get home today there will be others. Several of my ewes are looking quite wide. This is the first group of lambs from Captain Jack, and I’m anxious to see what he produces.

Yesterday, I also decided it was time to let Grady and Dillon have a bit more play time. Dillon’s been a holy terror to poor Rowan. He really needs to expend some energy with someone who can take his brand of rough-housing. He’s finally big enough that I feel safer allowing him and Grady to engage in a more lively manner, and Grady, for all his size, really is a gentle soul.

Grady also thinks the boy might be a bit odd. After all, who fights with a weed?

He does, however, think the boy might be a bit odd. After all, who fights with a weed?

 

stalk

It took Dillon a while to find his courage, and he spent some time stalking Grady before launching the attack.

 

And Grady 'falls down' so Dillon can have a bit of fun pouncing on him.

Grady crumpled under the vicious assault, and Dillon took advantage of it by pouncing on his fierce foe.

It was a short play session, but it certainly helped get some of the piss and vinegar out of the pup. Now, if only I could convince Jig he’s not for eating…

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Jig’s Journey ~ Lamb Antics and Keeping Ones Mouth Shut

I began my previous post with this: I’ve come to the conclusion that trialing Jig is a lot like handling some highly explosive chemical. It’s certainly exciting, as long as you don’t jostle it too much…

I may have been a tad bit sour when I wrote that. After some time to reflect, I’ve come to realize not only is it true, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. I love the excitement that comes from walking that edge. The energy waiting just beneath the surface. Do I love when it explodes in my face? Not so much. But you’ll have that from time to time. All that quivering, eagerness surrounds an intensity and instinct that’s easier to appreciate from the outside because when you’re in the center of it, all you can do is hang on and hope for the best.

The past weekend we had Deb Conroy at the farm for three days of working dogs with a great group of handlers from advanced to beginning. Everyone seemed to learn a lot and went home with plenty to work on.

Some of my personal highlights included:

  • Working the lambs. I normally don’t. But who knew they could provide such a great opportunity for a few of the more advanced dogs (Jig included) to accomplish an actual lift. I have to say, these are some of the nicest, most sensible lambs I’ve had. The three dogs that worked them all handled them very well. They actually worked a bit like the sheep at the RRV trial, so Jig and I got to work on her push as well. And it was a blast! They definitely made the dogs think, and that’s always fun to watch.
  • Working ducks. Okay, it’s a well-known fact among those who know me that I do not like ducks. Not working them. Not owning them. Not one thing about them. Deb was nice enough to haul some ducks down with her and I was forced into working them. Jig was pushy so we worked on that. Then we worked on our take pen. I expected problems. I hoped for problems because then we could work on fixing them. Jig did the pen picture perfect. Three times in a row, mind. Cain’t fix what ain’t broke.
  • However, because of that /\ Deb gained insight into what may be the root of my take pen problems. I’ve tried just about everything to fix it and nothing seems to work. Deb noticed that when I did the duck take pen I never said a word to Jig, just opened the gate and stood back. When I do the sheep take pen I talk. I give a flank, a correction, a back, a down, a navy knot, a granny knot, a wing-ding-a-what-knot. In other words, I never shut up. So I tried it with my mouth firmly closed and saw improvement. Now I’ll need to practice that some more before Nationals.
  • Trying to purposely cause a bit of a train wreck so that I could fix it, and having Jig rise to the occasion and handle things like a champ. She also saved my bacon more than once when working on the free-standing pen.
  • Having more than one person tell me how far Jig and I have come since last year. I’m not one that needs ego stroking or pats on the back, but sometimes we’re so close it’s hard to see progress is being made. It’s nice to know the hard work is making a difference.

Now I’ve got less than a week to brush up on some things before we pack up and head to Tennessee for the ASCA Nationals. As usual, I’m equal parts excited and terrified. Jig’ll do that to me. She is definitely Longellow’s little girl, minus the curl…

There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

 

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A Passal of Warm Fuzzies

As usual, it’s been a while since my last post. But as I mentioned before, not a whole lot goes on around here during the winter. With spring comes lambing season, although mine began as somewhat of a surprise a couple weeks ago. No one looked even close and I wasn’t expecting lambs until… well, now. It hasn’t been the best. In fact, it goes down in my books as the worst. But, on the bright side… there’s these…

"We can dance if we want to! We can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, they're no friends of mine."

“We can dance if we want to! We can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.”

ear

When mom’s busy, your sister’s ear apparently acts as a fine pacifier.

levitation

Lamb levitation.

puppy

Puppy? Lamb?

Queen

I have some lambs with attitude this year. I call her Queen of All I See.

Ram

And this is Mr. I Think My Shit Don’t Stink. (But he is quite handsome. Just don’t tell him I said so.)

scratch

“Look, I can touch my ear with my toe and not tip over!”

stuck

“Who wants a ride in the rocking tub?”

suspicious

My photographic efforts were being met with a bit of suspicion.

suspiciousduo

“Why is she laying on the ground with that thing stuck on her face?” “I don’t know, but I suggest we back away slowly… “

trouble

Trouble in the making.

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