Good Riddance, Winter

This winter was terrible. Plain and simple. I'm having a hard trying to describe how winter felt this year. Torturous. Barren. Unrelenting and engulfing. It was just so cold, so snowy, and so dark. Winter is always an introspective time for me. Much more so this year. Many changes, many endings and beginnings. I am more than excited for the coming spring and a little brightness. 

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With the end of winter came lambing and kidding. After Rosemary's triplets there was Polly with a single buckling. Four buckling kids all wiggly, healthy and cute. Not as many ewes were bred as I had hoped. Only three of the eight I had expected were actually pregnant. A total of 5 lambs were born, two sets of twins, all girls. The one new mother of the bunch, Cricket, had a really hard labor and one extremely large lamb. While mom did recover and baby was ok for a couple days, she mysteriously died one night. It was a bit devastating, especially after another couple of deaths within the month. A virus took out Luna, one of the merino ewes, and then 2 weeks later, the same day Cricket had her lamb, my little fighter, Nugget, the crooked lamb that I had bottle fed in October was killed by a goat. I know death is a part of farming, and especially lambing, but I have been lucky enough to not have many unexpected deaths in my farming career.

I recently took 18 fleeces to the mill for spinning. It came to a total of 144 pounds of raw wool and mohair. The blends coming back will be a 30% mohair/70% targhee wool sport weight yarn, a naturally brown merino wool in worsted weight, and colombia, targhee, and rambouillet wools blended into a worsted weight yarn which will be SO soft. I kept Stella's silver coopworth fleece for hand spinning as well as Rocket (tan romney), Rue (coopworth), and Leia (kid mohair).

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Now that the snow is melted and things are greening up, I can focus more on planting and creating growth. The flower area is tilled and ready for planting. I've started a bunch of carnations and mums and ordered a load of other perennial root stock that I am anxious to get growing outside. The berry patch is just starting to wake up. I'm currently putting down plastic mulch and cedar in the walkways to get ahead of the weeds this year. The front herb garden survived well, as did all but one fruit tree. A pear tree whose bark was eaten around by voles.

I am worried about the vole pressure. They seemed to have an absolutely phenomenal winter and have maybe tripled their numbers from last year. I may have to get more cats.

I decided I'm going to be making short videos marking the progress of the farm from time to time through the year. Here's the first one:

Getting ready for babies

There are melting snow and puddles everywhere! Which means I needed to get the barn cleared out while the muck isn't frozen. Mucking a barn is not the most glamorous part of sheep and goat farming -I'm not sure if there is a glamorous part- but it is satisfying to know it is done.

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I had a feeling Rosemary's babies would be born soon. Within the week, I'd thought. Cleaning the barn is one of the things that tends to get neglected in the winter because the snow and frozen weather makes it hard or impossible at times. But it NEEDS to be done before babies are born. Babies need clean playpens. 

So melty! 

So melty! 

I fed hay out in the field this morning so I could clean while they ate and have them out of the way. I got the top layer of mucky muck cleared out, which is better than nothing. But, man was it hard! I ended up slipping on melted-poop covered ice, getting the wheelbarrow stuck in a melty poop bog and having to dump it in place, and also having Kallan decide the wheelbarrow was too full and dump it back out for me in the barn.

Too soon, everyone was done eating and were way too interested in what I was doing. It's hard to shovel when there's one sheep standing on your foot, one pawing at the wheelbarrow, and one tugging on your coat. So that was fun. Then I spread straw to make warm, clean beds for everyone. But really I just ended up making a mess of the goats who wouldn't get out of my way. 

One of the other things that need to be done before the sheep begin to lamb is shearing. I'm looking at the first weekend in March to have shearing day. (Helpers are welcome!)

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 For the rest of the morning I dyed some yarn I'd spun up with the last of my dried flowers. Hollyhocks and coreopsis from the garden at our old house. I got some great color from them. 

hollyhocks, coreopsis, natural 

hollyhocks, coreopsis, natural 

Jiah and I ran some errands in the afternoon. Grocery shopping and such. As we pulled up back home I heard a little bleat. Immediately I knew there was a kid somewhere. I changed my boots and ran to the barn. Sure thing, triplets! Rosemary had just had 3 beautiful bucklings. I'm so glad I didn't put off cleaning for another day. I knew she would be early because she had snuck into Blue's pen about a month before I was planning to put him out with the herd. She's such a stinker. So these are Blue's first kids! Go Blue!

When I first found the kids.  

When I first found the kids.  

Rosie is such a good mom. She may not like me most days, but she knows when I'm trying to help. She let me clean off the babes and hold them up to her so they could find her teat. I just had to make sure they all ate before I went inside. 

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I'll be checking in on these precious little boys a lot. Make sure to follow along on instagram.