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It will never be perfect

We called the vet yesterday afternoon for two sick sheep.

One of our Border Leicester ewes lost her ability to use her hind legs a few days ago.  Earlier this year, we had treated her for hoof issues.  She limped for a while, even after the hooves had healed.  We assumed that she was still having some hoof soreness, so other than hoof maintenance, we just awaited her slow recovery.

When she went down, we checked hooves again.  They were healthy and normal.  So what was wrong now? We isolated her and waited to see if a little TLC might help.  Then we called the vet.  In my initial exam, it didn’t feel like her legs were broken, but I’m not a professional.  The vet confirmed that indeed, she was having neurological problems, not physical problems.

Meningeal worm is a harmless parasite, provided it lives in its natural host, the deer.  When a sheep accidentally eats the snails that carry the larvae of meningeal worms, the worms instinctive “roadmap” doesn’t work.  It moves into the spinal cord and brain of the sheep, causing neurological damage.  Treatment uses regular worm medications, but often the worms are out of reach of the blood-carried medication, or the damage has been done.  That appears to be the case with our poor down ewe.  I was not aware that meningeal worm could lie dormant and strike so late.   Neither were the people I contact for advice.  It wasn’t until the vet came that I learned this, and I am afraid I have learned it too late for this dear girl.  She is still down as of Sunday evening.   It wouldn’t be fair to make her go on, unable to walk.  We talked about a wheelchair, but sheep need to be able to stand and lie down at will, which wheels would prevent.  There’s nothing for her, unfortunately.

Our poor girl.  I wish I could be more hopeful.

The other ewe is a brighter situation.  Eilis (a Gaelic name, pron. Ay-lish) is a beautiful BFL ewe who has lost weight in the last week or so.  She seemed to suddenly thin out.  We wormed her pre-emptively, and we’ve now giving her a special grain ration.  Feeding grain to one ewe is a lot like trying to give candy to one preschooler- everyone else who notices the treat wants in.  Fortunately, though she is shy, Eilis is large and aggressive, so it’s not too hard to feed her without feeding everyone.   In another week or two, we’ll start feeding our better second cut hay.

Eilis, on the left.  She was sceptical of humans until the grain train stopped at her station.
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The Snow Came, Part Deux

Yesterday, chores were a struggle against the snow.

Today, it was the wind.   It blew coldly from the north and west.  The geese wouldn’t budge from under the mower.  We are thinking of relocating their hut under the carport, where they seem to prefer to be anyway.

Our major issue came with the sheep.  The bitter cold did not spare the sheep barn.  While I was preparing the barn so we could bring in new haybales, I touched my bare skin to a bit of metal and tore some holes in my hand!   I have a bad habit of not wearing gloves.  I’ll resume wearing gloves now.

After that, it was time to bring in the bales with the tractor.  We plugged in the engine heater for the tractor to warm up the diesel fuel and de-congeal it.  After an hour of warming, the tractor started and Matt drove up the hill.  Soon, the steady chugging of the engine slowed..and then stopped.  Cold diesel has paraffin, and solid paraffin was blocking the fuel filter.

The sheep were hungry and needed to be fed to keep warm.  We can’t move 600 lb round bales ourselves, and the little Ford tractor had a frozen snowblower attached where a bale-fork would go.  So we went to town where we purchased square bales.  Matt ran into the auto-parts store, where a temporary pyramid of bottles of Diesel 911 greeted him.  He bought the half-gallon size.

Once home, we fed out the hay to grateful ewes.  It took another hour and a half to get the tractor moving.  We had to use an electric space heater to heat the fuel filter, but it did the trick and our tractor didn’t catch fire.   It was 7pm before we were all done with our day.


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The Snow Came

Did you wake up today, look outside, and then decide to say in?  Or was it time to go to work anyway?

On the farm, it’s time to go to work anyway.  After all, the sheep are already up, working hard at growing beautiful lambs, so the least I can do is put on some lined pants and trudge out there.

I waded out to the chicken coop first.  The snow was almost up to my knees.  The chickens packed into their coop.  They know better than to set foot outside in high winds.

I turned back to the geese, who I found trying to complete their commute to work.  Up to their shoulders, the geese were making slow progress towards their feed and water.  I shooed them back to their shelter and moved their food and water to a more accessible location.

Our faucet was buried in this snowbank.  It was about a foot down.


Since the wind was mainly from the north, our barn filled with snow on the north end.  Our prevailing winds are from the west, so we don’t usually have this situation.  It’ll get eaten, covered in bedding and it will melt away.20190120_110443It’s easy to tell who slept out last night.  I parted some fleece to find the ewes entirely dry inside.  Wool is amazing.  No one was uncomfortable or shivering- just a bit snowy.Cloverworks_farm_sheep_in_a_storm

As usual, I moved some waste hay out of the feeders and fluffed up the feed .  The ewes milled around.  Just another work day for them. Cloverworks_farm_ewes_in_barn

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Logging On

Today, the loggers came to harvest some cedar, spruce, pine and poplar from our woods.

We went down the hill with our forester to see the loggers working on our land today. Our property finally froze-in, despite being rather wet, so they were able to get started yesterday. We watched the feller-buncher for a little while. Imagine a machine that neatly “picks” trees, leaving neighboring trees untouched. Turns out that chains for your skidder cost $3k per wheel, and a feller-buncher weighs 20 TONS, a weight necessary to prevent it from just overturning as it snips some trees and moves them to another area

Our land is fairly complicated to work on, since we have lots of streams and seeps moving into a plain ol’ swamp at the very bottom. We want to log the trees we can reach without leaving giant holes and ruts, without damaging root systems, and while leaving some of the best trees to reseed the property as well as some of the gnarliest to nurse those seedlings and to provide habitat (stick-straight regular trees with no holes and no seeds aren’t actually great habitat).

I also find it interesting to look into a world I don’t know well. When a tree is cut down, the best of it is used for high-grade timber. What is unusable for timber might become a fence post, and what can’t be a fence post is pulp, and what can’t be pulp is slash, which will help the ground recover. If a hurricane came through and the forest fell down of its own accord, the slash would shelter the seedlings replacing the lost trees, so leaving the slash makes the open area replenish more naturally, while providing habitat for animals who seek forest transition areas.

Much of the land will regrow into woods, feeding deer and other animals for years to come. Some we will move into pasture, stumping out a few areas. The key is to not bite off more than we can chew, pasture-wise. We need to be able to keep the brush down while the grass begins to grow. As soon as the brush is too thick to be mowed, we’ve lost and it will grow into poor habitat with low-value, low-quality woods.

To see the feller-buncher in action, check out our Instagram page!