March 26, 2017
It was a beautiful day yesterday, and we decided all the lambs are old enough for everyone to move outside for good. The young lambs and their mothers joined the older lambs who were already outside with their mothers in the Hilltop pasture, and the “single mothers”–mothers of singles, who we are milking every morning to use their excess milk to feed the bottle lambs–moved to the front pasture (with their lambs of course) where they were joined by Oso the fierce protector, and were overjoyed to be knee deep in salad.
March 25, 2017
Today Melinda and I wrapped all the remaining Baserri. Eighteen wheels for my loyal retail customers, ten wheels for Jackson Family Wines, who have been using our cheese in their tasting program for years, and 23 wheels for Tomales Bay Foods. Such loyal customers, who have been such important partners in my business. Sigh. It was a bittersweet wrapping session, but nice to share the moment with Melinda (in the photo), and to be able to put our First Place sticker from ACS on every wheel!
March 24, 2017
…two lambs in a tub. Lolo spotted this and insisted I take a picture. Blue Streak’s two white boys.
March 23, 2017
Our last lambs of the season were born on Tuesday, March 21st! Cousin, the last ewe, was looking like she was in the early stages of labor all day on Monday, but she didn’t progress. I checked the barn camera every hour from midnight onward, and she was up and down a lot but not in really active labor. Melinda fed the bottle lambs at 6 am and at 7 I arrived and Melinda said “I think it’s almost time!” Cousin was actively contracting but nothing was showing so with Melinda holding Cousin, I did an exam. Thank goodness she was dilated, but there was a tangle of legs in the birth canal. I said to Melinda, “I have four feet.” She thought I said “I have forefeet,” and she thought all was well! I held up four fingers to indicate that it was a little more complicated. There was a head, and it took a while to figure out which feet went with the head. I tried to pull the feet, but that little lamb was very contented inside, and kept snatching its feet away from me. Lolo arrived and with his assistance, I got a lambing rope on the feet and pulled out a beautiful big boy. He was followed quickly by an equally beautiful and equally big girl. Both lambs were nearly 12 pounds. No time to take photos on Monday, but here are Cousin and her 2-day old lambs.
March 20, 2017
Lisa’s favorite lamb this year is Snagglepus’s funny little girl, whom Lisa has named The Snagglepiece. She’s a chip off the old block, as funny and quirky as her mother. And as an only child, she and her mother are inseparable.
March 18, 2017
We had a tour today and Blue Streak and her lambs were one of the highlights. We got her and her little family out of the barn and onto the grass today and she and the lambs quite enjoyed the sun and the grazing options. During the course of the tour, Blue Streak made many friends and people observed that she seemed to be getting stronger just in the time they were here. She was getting up on her own for the first time since she lambed. I really felt that she turned a corner today and will return to health and be able to raise her lambs with the flock.
March 17, 2017
Beata got the triplet variety-pack this year–one of each color.
Wednesday, March 16, 2017
I woke up this morning and checked the barn camera and there was Melinda, who is on the early shift, with lambs in the barn. I called and asked “who is it?” She replied, “Blackbird. And you aren’t going to believe this: five girls!” Blackbird had our first quintuplets ever, and they all were girls! Blackbird has an interesting genetic history–she is the daughter of Bullneck, and Bullneck’s mother was one of my original stock from Everona Dairy in Virginia. Bullneck’s mother was one of a “litter” of SIX! And she clearly got the prolificacy gene, because she had triplets in her first year. Bullneck was never that prolific, but Blackbird had triplets last season as a yearling. There is another, less desirable trait that seems to run in that line; Bullneck’s mother managed to accidentally lay on and smother one of her triplets when she was a yearling. Bullneck never smothered anyone, but her first daughter, 0048, smothered one of her twins, and last season, Blackbird slept on and smothered one of her triplets. It is SUCH a sad thing when this happens, for all of us, including the hapless ewe who makes the error. Given this history, we gave Blackbird a double-sized pen for her and her quints, and after watching them carefully for a few hours, decided that since we would be pulling three of the quints at three days of age to raise in the lamb gang, since we don’t let any mother raise more than two lambs herself, it might be a good idea to just pull them right away and raise them on colostrum we’ve milked from other ewes, just to ensure their safety. So three of the five are with the lamb gang now, and I’m going up in the middle of the night to feed them for a few nights.
Our day began with quints, but it certainly didn’t end there. Just as Melinda hung up the phone from telling me about the quints, she turned around and Long Tall Sally’s water burst. Sally, a yearling, went on to have a single. Melinda went off shift and Lisa and I took over. We were just recovering from taking care of the morning’s lambs when I took the horses out to their pasture and found Lolita in labor in the shelter. She had twins, and I left Lisa finishing up with them while I ran to the post office. I was only gone a half hour, but in that time, Snagglepus went into labor and delivered a single. I told Lisa it felt like the grand finale of a fireworks display! Four ewes and nine lambs today, and only 3 ewes left to lamb. And the day is not over yet.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
We have a happy outcome with Blue Streak, thanks to some good decisions and a big dose of good luck. She was the highest-risk pregnancy this season; she had been ill off an on with weakness since early February. She was down all day yesterday, and seemed to be in early labor, but never really progressed to obvious contractions. She wasn’t eating, and we gave her electrolytes to give her some energy. At 9 pm, Lisa and I were in the barn trying to decide what to do. I had talked to Dr Harlan earlier in the day about whether we should induce labor; he thought it might be a good idea because of her declining condition, but I was still unsure of whether I wanted to go down that road. I examined her and found that she was beginning to dilate, so we decided to wait it out. I was worried that part of her problem may be a calcium deficiency, since she hadn’t been eating well, and that can prevent a ewe from contracting properly in labor. So we injected her with 100 cc of calcium gluconate. Lisa rigged up a clamp-on lamp to shine right on the ewe, so that I could easily check her progress on our barn camera (in darkness it is hard to see clearly what is happening in the barn, but we don’t like to leave all the lights on as it keeps all the ewes up). She was in good view of one of the cameras, and we knew she wouldn’t be moving, as she wasn’t strong enough to get up on her own. Because she couldn’t get up, we knew that if she did lamb alone, she would be unable to lick the lambs out of the sack as ewes usually do. I decided to set my alarm to wake up every two hours all night and check the barn camera, which I can do from my phone, and to go up if she was in active labor. We left, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I realized that the lambs could be dead already from lack of nutrition due to the ewe’s weakened state; and if they were alive, they might be breech or otherwise positioned in a way that would not properly dilate her cervix. I expected that we might lose the ewe or all the lambs or both. But there was nothing to do until morning but stick to our plan. I checked the camera at midnight and she was quiet and unchanged. Then I woke spontaneously at 1:45, before my alarm. I was exhausted and thought I would look at the barn, see nothing changed, cancel my 2:00 alarm and go back to sleep. But when I looked, she had a lamb! It was behind her, clearly alive and moving. I was 100% awake in an instant, jumped into my clothes and shot up to the barn. I walked in and turned on the lights and there was Blue Streak and the white lamb, in the same position. There was a black lamb half-born and still in the sack. I thought I had seen something black on the camera, and I imagined that this lamb could have been half-born for some time and was probably dead. I pulled it out and it was alive! A black girl to go with the white boy. Both were vigorous and when I put them by the ewes’ head, she licked and loved them. I examined her and found that she had a third lamb, which took another hour to be born, a white boy. Meanwhile the first two had good drinks of colostrum, and the third had a good drink also when he was ready. I couldn’t get her up, so I cleaned around her and put down fresh bedding, and built a pen around the ewe to contain her and her lambs. I played back the barn-camera and saw that, miraculously, her first lamb was born at just about the moment I woke and checked my phone. And although I thought I saw something black on the camera from home, I actually hadn’t, because the recording showed that the black lamb was born literally the instant before I opened the barn door and turned on the lights. Lisa and I made some good decisions, but the luck of timing was also on our side. If those lambs had been born a half-hour earlier, they might not have survived. This morning Melinda and Lolo got the mother up and today she is walking around the barn, trailed by her triplets. Sometimes middle-of-the-night lambing is so exhausting and frustrating and I just want to say to the ewe, “couldn’t you have waited until morning?” But this one was invigorating–I was so amazed at our luck with the timing.
Monday, March 13, 2017
This ewe, who we’ve been calling Blue Streak because of a mysterious blue stripe that showed up on her side after shearing (can’t figure what she rubbed up against, or maybe it is grease from John’s clippers?), has been under the weather off and on for the past week. Some ewes get weak before lambing and we just hope that they lamb before they totally run out of gas. Blue Streak is still eating, but doesn’t get around very well. We are supplementing her with an electrolyte energy drink and fresh cut grass salads, which she devours. With luck, she will lamb within the next few days.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Snake Eyes, a two-year old ewe named by Lisa during milking season last year because each of her teats has a perfect black dot right at it’s tip (leave it to Lisa, who always comes up with hilarious names!), was out of sorts all day today. Snake Eyes is quite a character, a very intense ewe with a penetrating stare and perpetually forward-cocked ears. But yesterday she spent most of the day standing in the shelter, head hanging low, ears limp. We watched her all day for signs of active labor, and then finally late in the afternoon we found her with a broken water bag. We encouraged her out of the shelter and down to the grassy area outside the barn where she worked for a long time and finally gave birth to a huge black girl. Mother and daughter are doing well tonight, and Snake Eyes is back to her old self.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Uh oh! Lolo has a pet lamb! This little guy was one of Tiny Tail’s triplet lambs. On day one we called him Longhorn, because of a white marking on his head that resembles the horns of longhorn cattle, when they are growing straight out to the side before they turn. His father was Pistol, so we also considered calling him Son of a Gun. On day 3, after they have had a chance to drink colostrum from Mom, we always remove one of a set of triplets, and raise them in our bottle-lamb gang. We have found that ewes and lambs do better on pasture if Mom only has twins to feed. Both lambs can get all the milk they need and they don’t have to compete. With triplets, the weakest lamb often loses out, even if the mother has enough milk to support three. We steal milk from our ewes that have only single lambs, and use this milk to feed our lamb-gang. Little Longhorn joined the lamb gang two days ago. Yesterday he was crying when Lolo walked into the barn. Lolo picked him up and the little guy went completely limp in his arms and soon was asleep. Now Lolo comes to visit him a lot, always with the same response, and little Longhorn recognizes Lolo and cries to be picked up as soon as he sees him. Now that he is Lolo’s special pet, and we may have to call him Lololito.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
We have been really lucky with beautiful sunny weather for lambing this season. After all the winter rain, the soil is full of moisture and the grass is growing beautifully. The mild weather means that the ewes and lambs can spend minimal time in the barn and lots of time out on the pastures.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Today was a big day for the chickens! Lolo finished their run down by the garden, and then moved the chicken house (with the chickens inside!) down to its new location. The chickens love their new spacious run.
Monday, March 6, 2017
After a rainy weekend, it was a beautiful day today, with just a few lingering showers passing through. Oso and Orbit watched over the pregnant ewes in the Hilltop pasture.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Nanette’s white boy, born yesterday.
March 3, 2017
Today started off well when Melinda found Nanette lambing in the barn at 5 am. Nanette had twins, and then it proceeded to be a rather slow day. I turned the compost with the tractor while Lisa and Linda did rounds, giving day-1 shots and worming the mothers in the barn. Then around 1:00 Linda and I walked home to have a late lunch, checking the pasture on the way. Surprise! 5069, Emy’s daughter, had a new set of triplets in the shelter We had checked just an hour before and all was quiet, but still we felt badly she had done it all on her own. Then we found Marilyn in labor outside the shelter, with a look that said “how can you have abandoned me here?” We called Lisa on the radio and Lisa and I got the triplets into a wheelbarrow and back to the barn with their mother, while Linda attended the birth of twins outside the shelter, then we used the “lamb purses” to bring Marilyn’s twins to the barn, with mother following.
March 3, 2017
This is the first in our “chip off the old block” series. Good Mother, who is distinctive for her “down” ears, and her daughter…same ears!
March 2, 2017
Good Mother was in heaven today. This five-year-0ld ewe who has always been a wonderful and easy lamber and mother, had a difficult end of pregnancy this season. She had a hard time getting up and moving around the past two days. This morning Maybe lambed and Good Mother was still in the barn and really wanted to adopt Maybe’s lambs. She even let one nurse on her. This is very unusual and not a good idea, but in this case it may have been a blessing. Nursing can stimulate labor and a short while later, Good Mother went into labor outside the barn and delivered triplets. Two boys and a girl, and Good Mother was so happy–loving the sudden chaos of a big and rambunctious family!
March 1, 2017
My 91-year old Dad, who grew up with sheep, came to visit today, with his caregiver Rodney, and my cousin Diana and her daughter Angela, who were visiting Dad for a few days.
February 28, 2017
Yesterday at 5:00 Lolo was getting ready to bring the ewes in when he noticed Harriet, a yearling who got her name because of her resemblance to her father, Prince Harry, had a broken water bag. He brought everyone in and gave me a call. By the time I got to the barn Harriet had delivered a beautiful big girl, and then all of a sudden popped out a white girl! The whole thing was over in 15 minutes and Harriet was instantly enthralled with her lambs and is proving to be a great first-time mother.
February 27, 2017
We have an auspicious beginning to lambing. Lisa left the barn last night saying “my money’s on Bunny.” Bunny did indeed look ready, but we didn’t really expect any lamb to be born until tomorrow, 140 days after the rams went in. Surprise! I walked into the barn at 7 am and there was Bunny with the cutest lamb, a little girl, up and cleaned off and nursing. And 2072 had twin boys, obviously born later, but up and getting cleaned off. A great start, nice and trouble-free.
February 23, 2017
A few days after shearing, we notice a huge swelling on Mother’s shoulder. Mother is one of the retired ewes who lives in my back yard, and a very sweet girl with big brown soulful eyes and a love of corn treats. She was a good milk producer who had difficulty lambing last season, and was very stiff in her hind end, so that she had trouble getting up the ramp to the milking platform and we retired her halfway through the season. She has really come back to health being in the pet flock, until we noticed this swelling. I called Dr Dotti, and he said it was likely a hematoma, and that it probably happened when a shoulder muscle got banged during shearing and bled under the skin. Under Dr Dotti’s direction, I inserted a needle to draw off a bit of the fluid and confirmed that it was indeed blood, so this was a hematoma that just needed time to heal. We watched her for a few days, but she was having a hard time getting to water and was getting jostled by the other ewes at dinner time, and the hematoma seemed to be growing rather than shrinking, probably because the activity was making the muscle continue to bleed. So we brought her over to the barn and kept her in the box stall while she healed. She enjoyed the extra attention, and keeping her more quiet did the trick and the hematoma started to go down. We had a moment of alarm when her urine turned dark red, because that can be a sign of acute copper toxicosis, something that can occur during a stressful time, but then we realized that the urine was just red from hemoglobin, because she was resorbing all that blood from the hematoma and metabolizing it. Today we decided Mother was ready to return to her flock, and we took her over on the ATV trailer, with Lisa driving and Melinda and I holding onto Mother. She was happy to see her gang and is doing well.
February 14, 2017
Melinda weeded the garden today and put the fresh-pulled weeds along the fence, where the ewes enjoyed the salad.
February 13, 2017
The ewes are getting pretty tired of both the rain and of being pregnant! They are looking very large, and there is a lot of soft moaning going on in the shelters. Just two more weeks until the lambs start arriving. We are sincerely hoping for a dry March. Lambing in the rain really is a chore, and our pastures are so saturated they need a chance to dry a bit, and some sun to grow the grass.
January 30, 2017
With all the rain we have been having lately, we were worried that it would rain over the weekend, and so made hurried preparations to bring the sheep into the barn, because there is nothing wetter than a wet sheep, and that makes for a difficult shearing. We were lucky and got a dry weekend, so shearing went smoothly. We love our shearer, John Sanchez. He is a lot of fun, fast and gentle with the sheep. Here he is shearing Panda, a ram who weighs easily twice as much as John! He rolled Panda around like he weighed nothing, and had his whole fleece off in under 3 minutes.
January 21, 2017
With all the rain we have been having, it is going to be a great grass year. But right now, everything is saturated and we are swimming in mud, especially in the areas right around the shelters where the ewes are spending most of their time. Lisa comforts Marilyn and reminds her that all this rain will mean lots of sweet grass for her and her lambs.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
After getting 7.5 inches of rain in the past 5 days, everything is saturated here at the ranch and it was really nice to get up this morning to feed the sheep and be welcomed by beautiful clear skies!
Saturday, December 31, 2017
Our first 11 chicks, hatched on election day, moved out to their new chicken house earlier this week. The chicken house will eventually be down below Lolo’s house, near our garden, where they will have a big, covered run, but for now we have it outside the barn, with a small run, so the chickens can get used to their new house and to going in and out while we can keep an eye on them. Lisa sprinkled some corn screenings on their ramp and that was enough to entice them out into their new yard!
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Orbit is turning out to be a great guard dog, but he is also an avid hunter, and we have found him outside the ewes’ pasture a lot lately, waiting in the driveway to be let back in. We discovered he had found a tiny exit hole in the pasture fence where it crosses a creek. He could get out in pursuit of a fox or skunk, but it was more difficult to get back in. Lisa and I went down to measure the hole so that Lolo could cut a hog panel and permanently block it. Orbit watched our work with concern–his walkabout days are over for now.
Monday, November 7, 2016
My select group of retired ewes (the “pets”) live by my house and always gather at the fence when I walk by for chin-scratches or a treat of corn. Bebe (7 years old), Mother (5 years old), Shorty (6 years old) and Emy (7 years old).
Monday, October 31, 2016
Not such a Happy Halloween for our boys–we took the rams out today, a couple of weeks earlier than we usually do. They have been in with the ewes just 21 days, which is just a bit longer than a ewes’ 17-day cycle. We find that most of our ewes get bred in the first cycle, and so each year most of our lambs come in the first 2 weeks of March. But there always are a few stragglers, and we put a lot of labor into waiting for and raising those last lambs, at a time of year when we are pretty exhausted from lambing. We decided that this season we’d take the rams out early, so all of our lambs come in early March (when my cousin Linda will be here!) and then we will be done. And if that means that we have a higher percentage of open ewes (not pregnant), we can live with that. We wound up breeding 38 ewes, when I was originally planning to reduce the flock to 30 or fewer. When Dr Dotti comes to do the ultrasound in December, we will know how busy we will be when Linda is here in March! (Photos: Lolo and Melinda moving Pistol’s group of ewe lambs to the corrals for sorting.)
Sunday, October 23, 2016
It’s breeding month, and all the ewes are in breeding groups with the rams. Most of the ewe lambs are in with our ram lamb, Pistol, and acting all grown up! Nugget (photo-bombing the first photo, taken by Melinda) still has a bit of a head-tilt, but she is a happy gal and such a character, and we’re glad we kept her. Lisa calls her the RCA-Victor lamb, recalling the dog in the RCA Victor ads who cocked his head to listen to the old Victrola phonograph. That is particularly fitting, since our ranch is the site of the old Marconi radio towers and Marconi’s American holdings became the Radio Corporation of America. In the second photo, Pistol is acting like the grown-up ram that he is, courting one of the ewe lambs and testing her urine for a pheromone that will tell him if she is in heat. (That photo of Pistol was taken right after the rams went in on October 10, before we got our big October rain that greened up all the pastures!)
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Who would have thought you could get two 200-pound ewes in the back of a Toyota 4Runner? I was skeptical when Sam Stack came to pick up Brown-Nose and Luna, the two 2-year olds he and his wife Lauren had bought from me to add to their flock at Willy Nilly Farm in Humboldt County. Sam said he likes to transport sheep this way because he can turn on the air conditioning and keep them comfortable in the mid-day heat. He doesn’t even put down the back seats! We loaded Brown-Nose and Luna into our sheep trailer, backed his 4Runner up to a hill, and they stepped willingly into the tiny space and were snug and happily scarfing down alfalfa as he prepared to head out. Brown-Nose looked like she was eyeing the comfort of the back seat, but Sam was confident she would stay put for the ride to their new home.
Monday, October 3, 2016
I took eight ewes who are retiring from production to Soul Food Farm in Vacaville today. We had our first rain of the season, just a light drizzle, but it made the day pleasantly cool, perfect for transporting sheep. In May I had sold four ewes who turned out not to be pregnant to Alexis Koefoed of Soul Food Farm, to be part of her soil management program. Alexis decided that she wanted to increase her flock, so I sold her eight more ewes who needed to retire from lambing, mostly because of udder problems, although they were otherwise healthy. Among the group were old friends including TidBit, Little Pig-Face, and Bebe’s daughters Berta and Beatrice. Also 1116, whose twin sister, 1115, had been among those who went to Soul Food last spring. When I arrived at the farm with my trailer, there were my four girls sitting under their repurposed chicken shelter, looking as happy as could be. Tears sprang to my eyes seeing them again. We unloaded the newcomers, and watched as the four resident girls got up and came over to greet their old friends. It was such a sweet reunion and it is so nice to know what a good home these gals will have, as well as a second career in soil management. Pictures on the left are of the reunited group checking out their new digs.
Friday, September 23, 2016
I made the last cheese of my professional career yesterday. It was a nearly perfect cheesemaking day; I began at 6 am sanitizing equipment and the milk line, began the transfer of the fresh milk from the bulk tank, and was joined by Melinda who prepared the buckets of frozen milk to add to the vat, plated the milk samples and washed the buckets and the bulk tank, while I added cultures and rennet. I had some quiet meditative time alone, cutting, stirring, cooking and hooping the curd, before being joined by Lisa for cleanup, flipping of cheeses and getting them into the brine. It was a bittersweet but satisfying day.
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 3, 2016
Dang me! It has been a rough week for our boy, Pistol. As a matter of fact, it’s been a bit of a bumpy life, but he is coming out a winner. Unlike his namesake in the ’60’s country song, “Dang Me,” Pistol was not the seventh son, but the single son of 2072, a triplet daughter of one of our best ewes ever, the legendary Shorty. Back in March when he was born, we accidentally banded him (a rubber band on the scrotum at 3 days of age for a bloodless castration), and shortly afterward, when entering the date in my records, I said “Oh NO! he was the ram I wanted to save for breeding!” My cousin Linda grabbed the toenail cutters and said, “How long ago did we band him?” I said 20 minutes, and we ran back to the barn with the toenail cutters and cut the band. He grew into a handsome (and well-hung) boy, but we couldn’t be sure none of the tubes were affected by his almost-castration, so this past Monday I took him to Cotati Large Animal Clinic, where Dr Dotti collected a semen sample. To our great relief, it was full of active and very normal-looking sperm! Yay! Lisa had named him Pistol so his children could say, “My daddy was a pistol and I”m a son of a gun!” (a line from the aforementioned song) and it looked like we would have some sons of this gun. Then this morning after I had fed the lambs, I returned to the pasture to give a shot to one of the lambs, and there was Pistol, bleeding profusely from a small cut on his foreleg. There was a shocking amount of blood and it was actually spurting whenever he walked. Minor cut; major blood vessel. I got Melinda and we bandaged it tightly. At first the blood was seeping through the bandage so fast we were discouraged, but eventually it stopped. This afternoon we changed the bandage, perhaps mistakenly, and the bleeding began again in earnest and we couldn’t stop it. I called the emergency line at Cotati, and Dr Wirz instructed me how to bandage it tightly but without danger of damaging the extremity, by using a thick padding under the bandage. It was a howling gale in Marshall tonight so we brought Pistol into the barn with Lambert as a companion, put them the hospital stall, and bandaged Pistol TIGHT, following Dr Wirz’s instructions. Pistol was mellow; Lambert was a COMPLETE drama-queen, VERY unhappy with being cooped up with Pistol and threatening to jump out of the stall. But when I went back to check this evening all was peaceful.
BASERRI AT THE FESTIVAL OF CHEESE
SATURDAY, JULY 30, 2016
Baserri with its First Place ribbon at the Festival of Cheese at the American Cheese Society Conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
Thanks to Seana Doughty for taking the photo!
Friday, July 29, 2016
Woo hooo! Our Baserri won First Place in its category at the American Cheese Society competition today! They even pronounced BOTH “Baserri” and “Barinaga Ranch” correctly at the award ceremony! Congratulations especially to Taryn Orlemann, who made cheese for me last season, including this lot! And to Lisa, Aline, Caroline and Melinda all of whom helped take care of it during the affinage.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Bebe is one extraordinary ewe, and one of my all-time favorites. Her name (BB) stands for Bottle Baby, because she was rejected by her mother (who we named Psycho, because of her complete lack of mothering skills) and we had to raise her on a bottle. I originally decided not to keep Bebe, because poor mothering can have a genetic component, and I sold her as a pet. But that didn’t work out and she came back to us. By then, Psycho had proven to be the most productive ewe of her age-group, so we kept Bebe. She was the friendliest lamb in the bunch, always happy to be gathered up into my arms.
From her first year in the milking string, Bebe was a top producer–second only to the legendary Panties. She was such a proud and beautiful working girl. Paige Green took this lovely photo of the ewes coming up the alley to the milking parlor in the morning, with Bebe in the lead, stepping out like she couldn’t wait to get to work.
A year or so later, I took this portrait of Bebe in her prime. She was always a devoted mother—making me so glad I didn’t reject Bebe on the grounds of her mother’s deficiencies. In 2014, at the age of five, after giving birth to triplets, Bebe became paralysed in her rear legs. She was down and unable to get up for 5 days, and our vet held out little hope that she would recover. But Bebe was eating voraciously, and feeding her triplets even though she couldn’t stand up, so I decided to refrain from putting her down and wait to see what happened. Eventually we were able to get Bebe up, and she was able to stand on her own for a few minutes. After a few days more she could get up on her own. Pretty soon she was walking out to the pasture with her lambs. I told her she could retire to my back yard and raise her lambs, which she did. She loved those lambs and was inseparable from them.
When we weaned the lambs, Bebe still had so much milk that we returned her to the milking string, and she valiantly climbed the ramp to the milking platform twice a day. After that season we never bred her again, but Bebe has continued to live happily in the “pet flock” of retired and non-milking ewes at my house. She is still a little weak in her rear legs, but she can keep up with the flock with little problem.
I keep a couple of younger ewes as pets (Gracie and Maybe) and let them raise their lambs at the house. This year, Bebe has assumed a very devoted “auntie” role with Maybe’s ewe-lamb. They are always together. Bebe calls after Little Maybe as if she were her own daughter and the lamb comes running just as if Bebe were her mother. This evening I was sitting out on our deck enjoying watching the sheep in the evening light and got this photo of Bebe with her adopted “niece.” It warms my heart to see what a devoted mother and auntie Bebe has been. She didn’t get much love from her own mother, but she has been one of the best mothers in the history of our flock.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
I’ve been feeling pretty stir-crazy since I broke my ankle two weeks ago, missing my time working with Lolo, Lisa, Melinda and the sheep. Today I hobbled out to my back yard on my crutches and just sat down there with the pets. Gracie and her lamb Frankie were happy for the company. And their dog, Shep, didn’t seem to mind.
Friday July 15, 2016
Melinda got this cute photo of the pigs the other day enjoying a salad of garden trimmings. This triggered her to look back through her photos and find a photo of the pigs not long after they arrived in May. That’s a lot of growth in two months! But as Lolo is fond of saying, “Well, they are pigs!”
Watch our pigs enjoy a shower on a hot day in this you tube video.
Tuesday July 5, 2016
Barely a week after we lost Big Otis, another sad milestone: We lost Bugeyes on July 4, at 8 1/2 years old. Bugeyes was the first lamb born on our ranch, in March of 2008, to Edie, the ewe who wound up being the model for our label and logo. Bugeyes got her name because she was quite a homely lamb with protruding eyes, but she grew into a beautiful and very sweet ewe. She became one of my favorite lambs.
The day in 2008 before we put the rams in for breeding, Bugeyes went missing. We searched the pasture and she was nowhere to be found. We thought a mountain lion may have gotten her. I remembered the last place I had seen her; she and her mother had been at the fence making eyes at the rams across the driveway the previous evening. I went to the spot, and I heard a faint baaing. There was a storm culvert there under the driveway and I looked in the culvert, and there was Bugeyes, in the culvert halfway under the driveway, looking back over her shoulder and baaing. She must have been looking for a way to get over to the rams! She was panicked and every movement was taking her further under the driveway. It was a very small culvert and I didn’t know how we would ever get her out. While I was trying to find a long pole or something we could push through the culvert from the other end, Luke, a very thin guy who was working on the construction of our house, shimmied into the culvert feet first from the other side, shimmied all the way under the driveway, and pushed her out. Buggies emerged, rear end first, followed by a very shaky Luke (I can’t imagine the claustrophobia of doing what he did) and Bugeyes started baaing and running toward the flock. Her mother, Edie, who was very attached to her, actually did a sheep double-take when she saw Bugeyes coming toward her.
Bugeyes turned out to be a very poor milk producer, so we retired her from the milking string after a few years and she lived in the small pet flock at our house, and raised quite a few sets of triplet lambs. She grew to an immense size and it was hard to imagine she had ever fit into that drainage culvert. In her later years we didn’t breed her any more, but she was always ready for some loving attention. She had slowed down a lot this past year, and Lolo found her dead in the pasture yesterday afternoon. Sad at her passing, I found these two baby photos, but couldn’t find any photos of her as an adult. Then I realized we have this beautiful painting of Bugeyes with Shep by Christin Coy that we bought at the MALT art show last year.
Yesterday was a sad day–we lost Big Otis, our oldest livestock protection dog. Otis had been with us for 9 years–he arrived to protect our very first lambs in 2007, and on day one, at 6 months old, he headed out into that pasture of lambs, checked the perimeter fence, found the highest spot where he had a view of everyone, and got to work, protecting. He never stopped for nine years. I like to tell people that our dogs are professionals–they take their job seriously and don’t need to be trained, they just come in and go to work. And Otis was the greatest example of that. He gave us such peace of mind over 9 years protecting generations of lambs and ewes from predators without one mistake, ever. He hated human contact and we were completely unable to catch him in the pasture, although he would grudgingly submit to some grooming when we cornered him in the corrals or the milking parlor.
Otis is our only dog who ever bit anyone. It happened early one morning during lambing. Ignacio had arrived in the dark at 5 am and heard a ewe talking to her lamb in the pasture, where no lambs were supposed to be born–the ewes we were expecting to deliver soon were all in the barn. Otis was on guard with that group and this was the most stressful of situations–a newborn lamb out in the pasture at night! This was what he was born to protect! Ignacio went out to get the lamb and bring lamb and mother into the barn, and Otis BIT him on the butt! Ignacio wasn’t hurt–he had a towel in his hip pocket–and he thought the whole thing was very funny. Otis is the only dog of ours who I could imagine doing that–he was SO serious and had no sense of humor when the welfare of his sheep was at stake. That is why we chose him to mentor our new puppy Orbit last year.
Otis had been showing his age in recent weeks, and we all knew things didn’t look good for him when he didn’t want to leave the parlor with the ewes on Thursday evening. He had barely spent a moment of his life separated from his sheep. They were what he lived for. I took him to our vet, Bill Barboni, yesterday and didn’t have a lot of faith he would be coming home, so Lisa, Lolo and Melinda said their goodbyes. I was right–Otis was in kidney failure and Bill said the most humane thing would be to put him down. I consoled myself with the knowledge that Otis had had a good, long, useful, and, I believe, to him, very satisfying, life. When Lisa was saying goodbye she told him he would find lots of lambs waiting for him on the other side, including some of his dearest old friends.