Monthly Archives: January 2014

While I Was At Work

While I was at work yesterday Polly was apparently working, too.


I came home and was greeted my two new members to the flock and a look on Polly’s face like, “what took you so long to come homme this evening? I did this all by myself!”


Good job, girly. Two ram lambs. I had hoped for a ewe from her, but so far she’s 3-0 on rams. They are cute and friendly, and looks like they are growing little horns, too! It will be fun to see how these guys grow up. I kept Polly in a “jug” all by herself (private pen, maternity ward, ect) and it worked out okay.


Tonight when I came home Ash had some birthing something hanging from her bottom. Usually people leave ewes in the jugs for about 3 days, but Polly was begging to come out and Ash needed to go in so I made the switch. By the morning I expect lambs from Ash, too.


(that is if it survive. I think i inhaled a bug and can’t stop coughing. hopefully i don’t die in my sleep!! haha!)


Weekend Work

This weekend I had out a work party to get a few things done that needed done.


When Peppercorn got out and mixed up the bedding on the barn floor she really kickstarted the composting. Which was great for making the barn warm (it really was warm!) but then the roof was getting so much condensation and dripping it was turning all my hay mouldy again! ARRG!

So folks came out and helped me muck the barn. It took so little time with helping hands! We piled that stuff up on the huglekulture mound (we’ll talk about this later) so it went to good use. Clean straw was put out on the barn floor in preparation for lambs. I had a friend help me organize my tool space, then some general clean up that is low on my list of things to do. I had two people who were exerienced in building so I had them build some portable wall dividers so I could build a lambing pen. I don’t know how long they will last, but these are attached with a bar through eyelets on the side and cost less than $10 to make each one (more like $8). I can move them, build a wall with gate, build a jug, all sorts of things, then pull it apart in no time and stack them flat! If they hold up these are going to be awesome and I’mma gonna build more. This means, I have a lambing “jug” which can easily be converted into a milk parlor.


In the morning my mother and I castrated the piglets for the first time. It went smoothly. I led mom out of the barn, ran an electric line across the door hole (there is no door anymore), then a piece of plywood to keep her out. The piglets got herded into a corner where I captured them with the remains of the piglet nursery: and L shaped piece of wood that I screwed into the walls. We picked them up and did the deed. None of the piglets are my friends anymore 😦



Then finally we moved a fence line to keep everyone out of the pasture outside my back door. hopefully soon all the pigs can be united again into one paddock.

I still haven’t sheared the remaining sheep. I just never have the time or the energy. I need to, their clean fleeces are getting filthy with the hay!


Polly is technically set to lamb anytime now. Her udder says shes

got a ways to go. I’ve got her jugged since the rams have been kind of harassing the girls lately, so they need their ram free space. its unfortunate since the walking helps put the lambs into the right position. I’ve got a plan up my sleeve, though, and maybe I can have best of both worlds! That is if it go to bed and get up early and start working. Off I go! I leave you with a picture of Ash who’s udder is filling up. They are both looking mighty wide.


What Quacks Like a Duck and Looks Like A Cow?



Yes, Peppercorn farrowed sucessfully. Sadly, she had mostly mummified piglets. 7 or 8 mummies (I lost count), 1 still born but 6 lovely, happy, healthy live births.

Friday night I came home from work and she was nesting like a mad woman. Crazy lady needed, “THAT PIECE OF STRAW, RIGHT THERE, YOU SEE IT? I NEED IT!” irregardless of any obstacles and objects in the way. Piglet box: obliterated. Walls: being lifted up and destroyed. Pigs are strong. I tried to make a roll bar so the piglets had a safe space they wouldn’t get squished. she broke it. So I put up an electric line. She backed into it and went from “straw straw straw…warm fluffy softness. need more straw!” to staring at the electric line going, “danger. there is danger next to my nest. its going to kill me. kill me and my babies. theres one there too. what do i do?! DANGER!!!!” She stood for an hour or two staring at the polyrope until i took it back down. even then she didn’t trust the space it was in. IT MIGHT COME BACK TO KILL HER, YOU NEVER KNOW!!!! I gave her fresh straw and she got back to nesting. midnight, barn was freezing, she was fluffing up straw but no real contractions. I went to bed.

5 am its time to do a check up. I got up, throw on some clothes and see how things are. Only she isn’t in the pen. oh dear. She lifted up the hog panel and slipped underneath. I turned to look to my right and there is now a GIANT pile of hay, straw, empty feed bags and trash shaking and oinking. Nut job isn’t in labor yet. I’m going back to bed.

Morning comes and I go back to the barn. I was fine until I realized she had grabbed Blazes fleece, pulled it out of where i was storing it, pulled it out of the bag and mixed it up with the hay. VIRGIN WOOL WITH ALMOST NO VEGETABLE MATTER, POSSIBLY A $30 FLEECE I WAS GOING TO TAKE TO SHOW DESTROYED.


I lost my temper. I admit it. Hog panels were lodged on the riding mower, my tool area was torn apart, the bedding was all mucked up. And for what? Another piece of freakin’ straw. I tried to get her back into her space, but she didn’t want to go. DANGER! I finally calmed down enough to come up with a plan…..clearly she was terrified of electro-rope at the moment, so I just ran some unelectrified roped over the new nest. uh oh. THAT NEST IS DANGER NOW. she looked for an exit: the tool space caught her eye, but before she made her move I ran a line across the barn. She looked at the new line, new nest and old nest….and walked back into her space. After inspecting that it was safe she fluffled up the straw and plopped down. pretty soon she was into contractions.

Why is the image of a farmer a calm and collected man and woman? Because when you let emotion get in the way you waste time, energy, thought and make things more dangerous than they already are. Trying to force Peppercorn into the pen again would have been useless: she would have broken out again and possibly hurt me in the process of moving. When I calmed down and observed her mental state I was able to quickly and safely move her with almost no effort on my part. Part of being a successful farmer is letting go of emotion. It is what it is.

I had a heat lamp up and the frame up a roll bar up. I sat there cheering her on. I wasn’t looking when she gave a big push and out came the first piglet. After the first one popped out and started running around she sat up, looked at the piglet, looked at me, oinked a little, “What the–?” and I could hear from outside of the barn Rosie and Dot shouting at her, “Don’t worry! Its okay! Its your baby! You’ll love, lay down and let get some milk. You’ll feel woooonderful!” She laid back down this time with her butt towards the heat lamp  and stayed down the rest of the time. Next out was a very large still born and plecenta. I checked the body to see if i could revive it or figure out the cause of death.  I was still very pink and warm, fully grown, but the umbilical cord was filled with blood. By the time it the umbilical cord broke off the heart was not pumping blood. It was DOA. Was that all that was in that one horn? (Pigs have 2 uterus-es known as “horns”)

I was going to leave her, but i was concerned now that one still born came out. I noticed about two weeks ago she didn’t have alot of movement in her belly for her size. By a week before farrowing I was very concerned that the little movement I saw had largely stopped. Dots belly was dancing before she farrowed, Peppercorns did not.

I sat by as living piglets came out followed by dead piglets. Most were fully formed and very large in size. I would guess the majority died in the past 2 weeks.

I lost count. I refused to count until it was all said and done. I was hoping for 8 live, I got 6. Still, better than 2. Don’t let emotions get in the way. Can’t beat myself up about not getting all 14. It would have been good money, but, hey, it happens.  Looks like 3 boys, 3 girls. I will cut a few boys this time since I’m selling to 4-h kids.

Peppercorn continued to pull apart any bumper I tried to build going so far as to look me in the eye as she did it. How dare I try to decorate her nest!


Shes a very good mother. Very calm and careful not to squish anyone. Calmer than Rosie was, more careful than Dot. I could have let her farrow alone in the woods and it would have been fine, though I think she liked having a midwife 😉


Everyone is growing, a few faster than the others. I’ve not yet seen piglets that take this much time to choose a teat. A few are very opportunistic and bounce from teat to teat. They are the big ones. I’m happy with this litter, I think they will be quite nice pigs. I’m worried about the other two sows catching what Peppercorn had (I think Porcine Pariovirus) and having failed litters so I’m going to try and vaccinate them if its not too late. So much for being all organic! Now ya see why big producers use vaccines and anti-biotics, right?!

One Foot In Front Of the Other

Sometimes progress means small steps.

I got up this morning early so I could hit the hardware store early and pick up some wood screws. Alas, they have winter hours of 8 am to 5 pm, and my getting into town at 7:30 meant waiting around until someone opened. I could have stayed home and finished chores! or eaten! or had a cup of coffee! nope. I had to buy a cup of coffee and wait. So I did, and I got my screws.

Then I came home and cleared out a section in barn to expand the pig space…but before I could move the paneling and my pregnant gilt in I had to finish up regular chores and go to work.

So I did. And I worked all day.

Then I came home and ate and avoided doing what needed done. Finally I mustered the strength to go outside in the cold (thats not really that cold, but I’m tired so it feels really cold) and get going. Within no time I had the barn lined with plywood to prevent walls from being punched out, panels moved, the pig space expanded, fresh straw in the space and as I was finishing up I heard the gown pigs arguing outside the barn. Apprentely my pregnant girl, Peppercorn, was not happy with the sleeping arrangements and was standing complaining bitterly. I was able to coax her out of the pen, in the dark with no head lamp, out to the place in the barn I fixed up. .

She’ll be rooming with the two pigs born in October, I figure she should be fine farrowing around them. I was suprised how aggressive she was towards them when it wasn’t even her space she was defending from n00bs, but a new place with lots of food and straw! I’ve got her calmed down now but she wanted to show the two young’uns that she was boss.

 A good portion of this monumental task has been completed. now i just need to move the piglet nursery and build a hay feeder for the sheep and I’ll be in good shape.

Hopefully now that this is off my mind I can sleep tonight!

All That Building And More

I am not a carpenter. My ex was, and I hoped through some sort of knowledge osmosis I would learn some of the trade, but I didn’t. Now I’ve got lots to build and someones gotta do it. My mother is good at reading technical manuals and understanding what to do. I told her in late November I was going to build a lean-to. In a weekend. With scraps on hand.

Well, thats not her style, so we ended up doing it right. No janky-town lean to, our first was 8×24 off the barn with a good metal roof and build to (hopefully) withstand pigs. In 3 weekends we built a strudy structure and our next will go faster.


Upstairs the two of us (though mostly my mother) put in a bamboo wood floor.

I got stubborn and felt like I was depending too much on my mothers help (though she’s doing a really awesome job on everything she does and I really VALUE her help) so I declared barn building my shtick. Girls gotta learn to stand on her own sometime.

Only I have anxiety issues and it sometimes takes me a while to get started on something I’m not comfortable with. Like building the hay loft. It was really hard to get started since I’d never done anything like that before. I discovered halfway through the project that you measure from the center of a stud, not the end. ooops. My studs got off pretty quick and I had to readjust my design. another phase of inertia and anxiety. I got everything squared away after a few trys and thought I was done…then i saw two more boards, an extra piece of plywood and a few hanger still sitting around and said, “eh, what the heck!” and in a matter of minutes added another length to the loft.

Hay Loft

Then I got stuck on having to create a hay elevator since I thought the delivery truck couldn’t get into my barn*. I was stuck on the pully system and finally said, “aw screw it! I’ll just carry everything up a ladder if i need to!” Turns out we were able to squeeze the truck it and that puts us are just the right level to toss everything from the truck straight into the loft. Awesome! Now I’m all stocked up with feed.

Now to complete the barn I need to make a wall to keep the sheep out of my tool space which was another project that took me forever because the first wall I tried to do peg and pin style and I failed. In lots of ways. Like my inability to cut at a 45 degree angle. Or cut straight. So I’ve been putting this wall off because I finigured it was going to be as awful as my last one. Well, most my cuts were better but I still somehow ended up with a 1/2 gap between my post and studs even though I measured repeatedly. Oh well, it sturdier than the last one was anyhow. and actually square this time. Oh, and I have a clock now so I don’t loose track of time in the morning. maybe I can get to work on time from now on?


Next project I started to tackle after getting up the wall was to build a feeder in what is to be the lamb space. I want a place for grain if I choose to grain feed and a hay feeder


I had sheep keeping an eye on me the whole time. making sure its done right.

I got halfway done before I had to leave to visit with family. This project went better as i didn’t measure a thing and just eyeballed everything.  You can see it halfway done in the picture below. Now I need to build something to hold the hay.


Blaze without any clothes on

That is not a happy face

That is not a happy face

Finally to end the night after dinner with my family I came home and harassed Blaze. I tried to shear Polly New Zeland style the other day and was so-so with her, I get Blaze a chance to just stand i the milk stanchion but she wouldn’t so i flipped her over and had another go and New Zealand style shearing. Blaze is a bit of a fighter, though, and I wasn’t able to get it all off in one go. I also had a few spots where I didn’t cut close enough and lost some good wool. Oh well. She sure is soft. Shes pretty funny looking as shes still a skinny, gawky teenager. Last years shearing theme was “lions” this year I’m leaving a little tail on everyone to make them look like llamas.

Ash is definitely bagging up. Polly a little bit, but I gotta get crackin’ on subdividing the barn!  I’m going to be milking here, and LOTS of milk, pretty soon!



*okay, okay, maybe i was also hoping to impress the cute guy who delivers the hay with my farmy-craftyness, also, which added to my anxiety. Didn’t happen. womp womp.


Getting REady For Lambs

Lambs are due in 4 weeks. This means it really is time to start shearing. I started with Ash because shes looked a bit skinny for a while, though her body condition has improved I wanted to see her shape first. Its pretty hard to tell a sheeps condition in full fleece, so off come her clothes! Both girls thinned out towards the end of lactation in the summer. Not totally sure why as there was lots of pasture and they got limited grain and a pound or two of alfalfa, but they didn’t gain it back as quickly as I expected. (Probably because they need wormed)

I lured her away easily and she hopped right up into the milk stanchion. I’ve been using the stanchion for the ewes since i can feed them and keep them mildly entertained while getting the hang of shearing with GIANT pointy hand shears.This is what I started with.



I went a bit faster this time taking off the main portion of fleece, but i left on the britches and neck to do last. That stuff was hard to do while she was standing. Especially when she started dancing out of boredom and want for more grain.


Dispite the photographic evidence to the contrary my cuts were much more consistant and I hardly got any second cuts. yay!


I decided this year to leave on the tail wool to make her look like a llama. Last year they got to be lions.

I left a ridge of hair on her spine so she looks more spinal than she really is. I would score her as a “2” or a bit thin. This means I need to up her calories and worm. You can see she is starting to bag up a little, more on her heavy milking side.

I finally got tired of trying to snip off the bits on her legs while she was standing so I got her out of the stanchion and flipped her over finishing her up with some New Zealand style cuts. So. Much. Easier. Ash has a nice fleece so I didn’t want to mangle it, but i think im proficient enough with the hand shears to start shearing NZ style be sitting the sheep on their butts and rolling them around. It keeps the skin tight so you are less likely to nick them and makes for easier cuts. Plus the fleece comes off in one piece. I’ll be trying this on Polly since her fleece is not worth much. I was going to use it for batting anyway.



I left her collar on again, but I’ll be taking that off this weekend. One down, 5 more to go.