5 months later.... Lambing!
An entry that has taken 4 months to put together 😬 for no good reason lol. So as you read this you can tell what updates are from October and then continues on until now. Bare with me :)
The sheep are doing well and are bundled up against the cold in their ever growing wool coats. The five spring lambs have had a hard time with parasites the last couple months, but I think we’re on the upward trend. Mitt especially has been effected, but seems back to his perky self even if he’s still a little pale. They are gaining a few pounds back finally! All the mature ewes are back together from their breeding groups. It makes it much easier to manage the flock in one group with the alpaca.
Koda was especially distributive last last few months and tried to break into Carson’s breeding group. He rammed the cattle wire I put up as a temporary separation in the run, bending it into a giant U of metal. He knocked the heavy gate off it’s hinge and a week later rammed the gate until the latch broke. I’ve kept him somewhat afraid of me so I don’t get rammed. But I don't let Mason walk around with the sheep anymore unless Koda is in a different paddock. Yes, they are called rams for a reason! But Carson didn’t display any of these behaviors And is still as sweet as ever. I‘ll have to think about what options we have for Koda‘s future. Hopefully his lambs will be beautiful this spring so we might pretend this wasn’t so aggravating... but a higher chance that he will find a new farm or be processed. Life is too short to have a risky ram.
As breeding season essentially came to an end, all the ewes were marked (Except the ewe lambs) so I’m now not so patiently waiting for the lambs to arrive! In the meantime, I’ve been spinning our wool and alpaca blends the last few weeks. Most are batts that I didn’t spin during the Tour de Fleece this summer. My goodness, my batt making skills have improved since these were made. And just fiber prep in general. These have so many nibs, short fibers, hay and other unwanted goodies still blended in. Makes it hard to spin smooth singles, but I love the finished product! Today I spun 500 yards of suri alpaca and black/blue silk blended in. Can’t wait to make something with it! I reached out to the farm it came from and asked for 5 more batts in a gradient to make this a larger project!
Its been a while since my last post. I think I was going through a farm low, as one of my sheep mentors calls it. Caring for the farm in winter has not been without its own set of struggles. Hauling square bales up to the farm everyday since the run is too wet to take the truck up with a weeks worth of hay. Mud everywhere, more than ankle deep in Charlotte's paddock. Less and less milk every morning and I still haven’t figured out the best way to separate Charlotte from her calf every night so we get the morning milk. And now I get no milk. Frozen water hoses. Frozen freezer lid at the barn so I can’t get to the sheep feed. The rye grass we planted not coming up as well as we would like. Charlotte being thin and not gaining weight despite a significant increase in grain each day. We lost Scarlett the baby alpaca. Her loss was different than the others. I hugged her everyday. She hummed at me every morning for her bottle. She gave kisses to Mason. We all became so attached to her cute face.
It makes it hard to stay positive and see the vision I had for the farm when everything seems to go wrong. But it’s not really wrong, just an added challenge and I keep reminding myself that every year this will get easier. Hopefully. When people close to you say that best thing is to get rid of the cow or half the sheep without offering a solution keeping the animals it’s another sort of pressure. So I just keep chucking. One day after next and wait for spring to bring new challenges.
We are now counting down days for lambs to arrive! To say I’m excited to see our first lamb would be a huge understatement. The ewes are vaccinated and mostly crutched. This is like a sanitary cut for the ewes and wool trimmed around teats and cleaned up to make it easier for lambs. A friend of mine from the NC Sheep Producers Association came to the farm this to show me how he shears his sheep. I was eager to learn how another Shepherd shears his flock first hand. Very grateful he was willing to come out and get covered in lanolin. It didn’t go too bad, but Carson defiantly was cut when it was my turn. Poor Carson. And I learned a valuable lesson about body condition of lambs and how full fleece can be deceiving. After shearing Carson and Aria the 5 spring lambs will be separated so they aren’t pushed out and are getting enough grain feed. Last year I used a 20 tooth comb for shearing and now switched to a 13 tooth. So much easier to cut the sheep With less teeth and after cutting Carson the first time I was less confident in my strokes. But John was patient with me and walked me through the steps. Shearing the rest of the flock seems both easier and more daunting since I don’t want to hurt anyone. But slow and carefully placed strokes will get them done in no time! The rest will be sheared in a couple weeks after lambs arrive.
Lots of changes on the farm in the last several months. The barn is being extended so all the sheep and alpaca can fit in the barn comfortably and room for lambing jugs. The sheep can fit now, but it’s a tight squeeze with full fleece, growing bellies, plus the alpaca. The new paddock is finished going up in the front field. This gives us almost another much needed acre of pasture to rotate through. I underestimated how fast in winter a pasture can go from grazed to over grazed. Within a couple days it went from low to I hope the fescue recovers in spring! The sheep have been off pasture for about 3-4 weeks now. I was running low on hay and Wayne had extra round bales so we put one in the run with the sheep and one with Charlotte. I feel spoiled now not having to take hay up every morning! I'll try and keep them off the pasture for a few more weeks so there's no more damage and the grass can really come in well. We over seeded fescue and annual rye in October so I hoping that comes in nicely. We‘ll be fertilizing soon!
We've added more concrete pads around the water trough to help with hoof traffic. It really helps and is easy to clean. Chase made a new hay rack that goes in the barn. Its much longer so more sheep can eat at once and the slats are closer together so there’s less hay wastage and competition for food.
Cleaning the barn - so easy to get behind! There must be 8” of hay on the barn floor. I was clearing sections and putting the hay in the run that is so muddy. It’s helping keeping their feet drier but the pace is slow. Then my hours of work was scooped up by a well meaning tractor thinking it was the sheep dragging out the hay. 😂😍 but not to worry there is plenty more to clean out of the barn! This week has been drier so it’s actually a dry run again! Thank goodness. Grateful the romney breed has great hooves for wetter climates.
Charlotte and the calf are enjoying the round bales the most! I must say that this seems like one of those duh moments to have round bales for hungry cows! Charlotte seems huge eating all the hay she wants everyday. I haven’t milked in almost two months but with it warming up soon and spending more time on the farm with lambs I’ll be separating Charlotte from the calf in the evening to get the morning milk. I don’t know how much we will get, but I miss the fresh milk in the fridge! The whole point having a dairy was to have milk so time to get back to it. I miss the peaceful mornings milking.
I‘be been spinning our wool and fleece into a cowl! Made entirely from our flock. I can’t wait to wear it!... might be next fall before I get to really show it off now that it’s getting warmer. It’s The Shift by Drea Reneè Knits. Fun pattern using mosaic knitting. I haven’t ever been much of a knitter, but using my hand-spun yarn has made it really enjoyable! I also finished the Copland shawl by Expression Fiber Arts. Easy pattern which was perfect for me to do while hanging out with the family (When Mason allows). It was made with 2 braids of fiber I bought last year at Carolina Fiber Fest and I added in our silver Romney for striping. Its not perfect, but I’m so proud of it! My first shawl, all done with my hand spun wool and in part from our farm.
We have lamb photos coming up the 22nd, 26th, and 29th. There are a few slots left for the 29th. Please reach out to Jessica Marie Photography to book your appointment! The cuteness on the farm will be our of control with adorable human babies and lambs! These are 15 minute MinI photo sessions, 25+ pictures that you will have full rights to and be able to access online.
April 25th Skybrooke will also be hosting the NC Sheep Producers Association Shearing school! Students will get hands on experience shearing sheep, how to handle them and use the equipment. We’re limiting the class to 5 people to make sure everyone gets individual instruction so sign up soon!
Spring is almost here! The things to do seem never ending! Upcoming is lambs, shearing, prepping pastures for grazing once they are in, barn cleaning, and finishing the extension of the barn. Mason loves being outside and now that he’s older he is exploring more and more and enjoys the farm in new ways. His amazement at nature is priceless.
If you’re looking for lambs, please let me know! Taking reservations now.
More to come soon!