Blog Archive

Below are the blog posts predating March 1, 2016

Maybe and her lambs

7 AM Monday – February 29, 2016

We’re lambing! Five ewes have lambed so far and today looks like it wil be a busy day. Sweetpea started us out with quads on Thursday; Bonnet had twins and then just as I was bringing the ewes into the barn for the night, Gracie went into labor and had a single. The next day while Lisa and I were working with the first group, another ewe had triplets outside. Yesterday Maybe had a vigorous set of triplets. Our new apprentice, Melinda, arrives today, not a moment too soon!

A break in the storm…

6 PM Tuesday – December 22, 2015

Last night I was kept awake by the howling wind and rain. I tossed and turned all night because I knew we needed to work the sheep today and couldn’t imagine doing it in that storm. But the wind and rain gave us a bit of a reprieve this morning, and Lolo and I got all the girls condition-scored and separated into two groups based on their due date. Dr Dotti was out in early December to do our annual ultrasound and from that information I had projected due dates for all the ewes. Those who are due in the first 2 weeks of March start getting grain added to their feed today to prevent pregnancy toxemia. The rest of the ewes will go on the richer diet in a few weeks. We were pleased that all the ewes were in good body-condition, and pleased with all the rain too! More than 2 inches in the rain gauge this morning, bringing our total for December to 8.5 inches!

Nadie: Feb 3, 2008 – October 7, 2015

9 PM Wednesday – October 07, 2015

I know we ranchers aren’t supposed to make pets of our sheep, but Nadie was special. She was one of the 25 lambs I bought in 2008 from Everona Dairy in Virginia. She came from a litter of four and was tiny when she arrived, but she grew well and turned out to be a great milk producer. Early on, she showed a unique personality–I would walk into the milking parlor where she was in the holding area waiting with all the others to be milked, and she would look up at me, consider for a moment, then make her way over to me to have her chin scratched. One day when some friends were visiting, I said, “This one needs a name!” My friend’s wife said “Nadie,”and so she had a name. Nadie had a single lamb in 2009 (Nan), and a single in 2010, then in 2011 she nearly died from pregnancy toxemia. I saved her with a lot of care and energy drinks, and then induced labor and spent a long night in the barn pulling quads out of her. She got a uterine infection, which we cured, followed by mastitis which ended her dairy career. I told her she could come live at the house and be my pet. She was my first “house-pet”, and lived in our yard for four and a half years, with an ever-changing group of pets and retired ewes. But Nadie always gave me the most joy. She knew her name, and watched me through the windows of the house, commanding me with her eyes to come out and give her a chin scratch or a few kernels of corn. She always came to the driveway to see me when she heard me pull up in my golf cart. I would pull a weed from the garden and offer it to her and she always accepted it as if it were the rarest gift, and ate it with relish, even if she were standing knee deep in similar or more appealing greens. About a year ago, we noticed a lesion on her right eyelid. Dr Dotti said it was likely squamous cell carcinoma. He froze it, but it grew back, so in March he did surgery to remove it. Nadie came home looking like Frankenstein, but healed well and enjoyed all the attention when she was convalescing in the lambing barn. She had a few cancer-free months, but the cancer grew back and in the past few weeks it became clear that soon it was going to start compromising her quality of life, so today Lisa and I took her back to Cotati Vet and had her put to sleep. I will really miss her.

Getting ready for winter

5 PM Tuesday – September 29, 2015

Things are getting busy here as we prepare for winter and for the drying off and breeding of the ewes. We are hoping for a wet winter courtesy of the big El Nino that is building in the Pacific. Lolo has put new water bars in our road, and has been spreading manure, painting the creamery and doing other winterizing tasks around the ranch. Taryn will make our last batch of cheese on Thursday, and the last 3 hogs will go to slaughter next week after they have eaten the last of our whey. In preparation for breeding, the ewe lambs got their booster shots yesterday and the ewes are all getting pedicures this week. Drying off the ewes is a process that takes some effort–we have been decreasing the protein in their diet to help them stop making milk, and after Thursday, we will milk them every second day for a week, to relieve the pressure in their udders. We will freeze that milk to use to supplement the lambs next March. Finally, on October 8th the rams will go in and breeding will begin, ensuring that our lambs will begin to be born right around March first! Photos: Lisa with Snagglepus earlier today, preparing for her pedicure.

Happy 30th Taryn!

9 PM Thursday – June 25, 2015

Taryn was scheduled to make cheese on her 30th birthday, so we planned a little surprise party…Lisa suggested a cake decorated to look like a Baserri, and I did my best–the first cake I have ever made, and it sort of looked like a Baserri, helped with lot number 30. I interrupted Taryn after the cheese was on the press–told her I had something to show her outside and Lolo was ready in the milking parlor with his guitar–he played Happy Birthday as well as a lovely Mexican birthday song, and we had cake and iced tea in the milking parlor before Taryn and Lisa went back into the creamery to finish the cheese.

Memorial

11 AM Monday – June 22, 2015

Lisa and Caroline and I went out to the “memorial site” on the ranch and strung some prayer flags to remember the ewes and lambs we’ve lost this season–not too many but we do miss them; Trixie and Nan, the old gals who needed to be put down due to cancer and a bone infection, Bambi the lamb with pneumonia, and 4113 who we had to put down to end her suffering with severe mastitis.

Bambi

11 AM Monday – June 22, 2015

We lost Bambi the other day. Sweet little Bambi with the ridiculously big ears, the black lamb shown here with her mother, Angel, and her sister Alice. She got pneumonia and we just couldn’t get her over it. Finally breathing was just too difficult. She’s the only lamb we’ve lost this season, but it still hurts.

Orbit

10 AM Monday – June 22, 2015

Orbit is acting very grown up already, apprenticing with Big Otis and fearlessly protecting the milking ewes.

Orbit and 1115

4 PM Monday – May 25, 2015

Orbit is settling in, and clearly prefers the company of his ewes, like a good guardian dog. 1115 and Dolly love him too.

New Team Member

6 PM Saturday – May 23, 2015

We have a new team member: his name is Orbit and he is 4 months old. He arrived last weekend (here he is in his dog-crate before he got here). Orbit was born with sheep and raised with sheep, and he is going to apprentice with our oldest and most experienced dog, Big Otis, who is 8 years old. Since he arrived, Orbit has been getting used to things here and living in the barn our   two dry ewes, 1115 and Dolly. Aside from a mishap when Dolly learned she could jump into his feeding pen to eat his dog food (we caught Dolly on the lamb-camera and have now changed the gate), their relationship has been going well.Orbit is already a very serious fellow with a deep grown-up sounding bark. He barks at things he perceives as potential threats to the ewes, but not at the ewes themselves, and Dolly and 1115 are very calm around him. We’ve also seen no evidence of him chasing or trying to play with the ewes, although he likes to lick their faces and they seem to like the attention. Soon Orbit and new charges will be going outside together, and once he is settled in that arrangement, we’ll move him to the front pasture with the milking flock and Big Otis, so he can learn the trade from a pro.

Sheep Compassion

8 PM Wednesday – May 13, 2015

We’re all sad here tonight because tomorrow two of my sweet pet ewes are going to the vet to be put down. Trixie, the ewe giving me a kiss in the milking parlor in the photo on the “history” page (under “about us”), has been retired at my house for the past year. She has a very aggressive cancer on her lip that did not respond to treatment and now is traveling up her nasal passages and causing her discomfort. And Nannie, the ewe who had pregnancy toxemia in February, and then got a knee infection as a result of being down for a month, is not getting better.  All of our patient doctoring has not helped–her leg will not straighten and she can’t get around. She’s still eating like a bear, and loving her lambs, but she has gradually been getting weaker, the lambs are old enough to wean, and it is time to give her deliverance from this. She hasn’t been able to follow the pet flock on their evening trip from the back yard to the front yard, and she usually stays in the back alone, calling occasionally until they return. Tonight I noticed the sweetest thing–Bebe, the black ewe who was paralyzed last year, and slowly regained the ability to walk, was keeping vigil with Nan, standing over her, trying to get her to get up. And when Nan didn’t, Bebe just nuzzled her and grazed quietly next to her, staying with her until the others returned. It was so tender, it broke my heart.

Vaccination clinic

10 PM Tuesday – May 05, 2015

We vaccinated our lambs yesterday and needed to draw blood from 22 ewe lambs as part of an experimental vaccine program. Andria, our apprentice, who will be starting vet school at UC Davis in August, got to learn jugular venipuncture from our resident pro, Lolo. Lolo had a twinkle in his eye when he announced, “I’m teaching the new vet how to draw blood!” Lolo hits the vein perfectly every time, and under his careful instruction, Andria was doing it perfectly also.

first cheese

12 PM Saturday – April 18, 2015

Taryn  and I made the first cheese of the season yesterday! The milk was beautiful. We made ten wheels of Baserri and 21 wheels of Txiki. Photo: Taryn with one of the Txiki wheels.

The Pigs are here!

12 PM Wednesday – April 15, 2015

We weaned the lambs from 25 of the ewes on Monday and began milking. No photos from that day–it was crazy-busy. But here’s another sure sign that the first cheese is on the way–the pigs are here and they are demading fresh whey! We got 8 beautiful little pigs today, and will make our first cheese on Friday so they won’t have to wait long.

Lamb-cake

6 PM Tuesday – April 07, 2015

Our last lambs of the season were born on Good Friday and as they were almost Easter lambs, Lisa named them Bunny and Peep. But today a different kind of Easter lamb arrived. I have an antique cast-iron lamb-cake mold that a friend gave me a few years ago, and every Easter I’ve wanted to make a lamb cake, but have never managed it. Andria, who worked as a baker at Arizmendi in San Francisco for 10 years, took on the task and this afternoon we had our Easter lamb-cake, a lemon pound-cake with whipped cream frosting, creatively applied by Andria to look like wool. Andria and Lisa posed with Andria’s cake and one of our live lamb-cakes in the barn this afternoon. I only wish my photography skills matched Andria’s baking skills!

Apparently it runs in the family…

9 PM Friday – March 27, 2015

So, Almost an Angel’s little white daughter was…well…almost an angel today. Lisa brought the mother-daughter group with the youngest lambs into the barn this afternoon, and when she and Lolo counted the lambs, they were one short. (We ALWAYS count lambs!). Lolo said, “I know who it is–the little white lamb.” Angel’s little girl, the youngest lamb. Lisa went back to the pasture and searched it twice, and found no lamb. Then she realized another strange thing–Shep the dog had refused to come in with the sheep. Lisa had thought it strange at the time, as Shep usually wants to stay close to her flock. Now Lisa was convinced that a bobcat had carried off Angel’s little lamb, and she admonished Shep for falling down on her guarding duty. Exasperated and not finding a trace of the lamb, or evidence of a kill (which we have NEVER had, by the way), Lisa searched the pasture again. There are some badger holes in one part of the pasture (near where Shep had parked herself) and Lisa remembered me saying a few days ago that we need to do something about those holes because they are big enough for a lamb to fall in! Lisa looked into the holes, huge tunnels that disappear into the ground after a foot or so. In the second one, just at the edge of what she could see, there was a little white nose, and one little lamb foot! Angel’s little lamb was wedged way down in the hole. The poor little thing had apparently given up on rescue–she wasn’t making a sound, and had her eyes closed. Lisa reached in, freed her front feet, and in an act reminiscent of delivering a lamb, pulled her out. The lamb was “reborn,” Lisa said when she told me. She brought her to the barn and Angel and her daughter were joyously reunited. That little lamb had been so beautifully cleaned off and bright white when Lisa found her newly-born on Sunday night; this afternoon she was pretty soiled after being lost down a badger hole. We’re feeling so lucky…if she’d fallen just a bit further Lisa wouldn’t even have been able to see her. Apologies to the badger family, but tomorrow we’re filling in all those holes. Photo: Angel and her lambs a few days ago.

Everyone is recovering well

8 AM Friday – March 27, 2015

Our little “hospital” group is doing so well! Hopalong is running, jumping and playing now without any kind of splint or bandage–she seems completely normal. Goldie, our ewe who had the C-section, is doing really well and raising her lamb, Nugget (we pulled Dusty and Flake into the bum-lamb gang so as not to put too much pressure on Goldie). Nadie’s eye is recovering from surgery and her dissolvable stitches are starting to come out, and 9028, the ewe who had pregnancy toxemia, is still raising her lambs and now is getting up on her own, although she still has some difficulty with one leg. Our latest arrivals were twins born to Angel (short for “Almost an Angel” because she nearly died when she was born last year). Lisa got to the barn around midnight Sunday night, turned on the light and exclaimed, “Wow!” There was Angel, a first-time mother, with twins, beautifully cleaned off and nursing. We have just 3 ewes left to lamb: Rider, who looks like she will lamb any minute, Pinkie, and 1115, who may not be pregnant, but sure looks like she is. Photo: Hopalong with her mother, Luna.

Nothing like a nap after a satisfying meal!

7 PM Tuesday – March 17, 2015

Our lambing is winding down; only 5 ewes are left to lamb. Last night Gracie went into a very slow labor in the early evening. Andria and I checked on her at 10 when we fed lambs, and I decided I needed to stay in the barn with her. I slept for short spells on an army cot, covered in some old blankets, and got up every 45 minutes or so to check on Grace. She had a lamb at 1:30 and I stayed with her until 3, decided the lamb was a single, put her and her lamb in a jug and went home to bed.This morning Andria got there at 5 am and found Gracie with twins! All are doing well. Photo: One of my older and extraordinary ewes, Emy, with one of her triplets using her udder as a pillow. When you’re a lamb, it’s so nice to have a dairy-ewe for a mother!

Lamb storm

10 AM Wednesday – March 11, 2015

It has been a crazy-busy few days. Monday I got a call at 5:00 from the barn–“It’s a lamb-storm!” said Andria. We had 3 ewes in labor simultaneously and it has kept up that way for 2 days. Monday in the midst of all the lambing I took my old retired ewe, Nadie, my beloved pet, to the vet for surgery to remove a cancer on her eye. I picked her up yesterday; Dr Dotti was able to save the eye while getting all the cancer from the lower lid, and I hope Nadie, now 7, has a few more good years with us. Our little crippled lamb, who has been named alternatively Tiny Tina and Hopalong Cassidy, is hopping along quite well with her bandaged leg, and soon may be able to walk without the bandage. Goldie continues to recover. Last night Linda and I had three ewes in labor including a very difficult pull that involved sorting out three terribly tanged lambs, and didn’t get home until 1:30 am, after 8 lambs were born (two sets of triplets and before she left for the evening, Andria had delivered twins from Sweetpea, a first-time mother). This morning has already begun with twins born to a first-time mother, who did it all by herself in the pasture when no one was looking! I’ve lost count for the moment, but I think we’ve got only 16 ewes left to lamb. Meanwhile, the lambs and mothers have been having a wonderful time on the pasture. Photographer Marla Dell was out on Monday and got some lovely photos, including this one.

Moms and lambs on the pasture

11 PM Saturday – March 07, 2015

We’re more than 1/3 of the way through lambing: we’ve had 20 ewes lamb so far and 27 left to lamb, and we’ve got 39 beautiful lambs! Today four of our yearlings lambed, three with big singles and Brown-Nose with twins. Snagglepus was the last of the yearlings to lamb, delivering an 11-kb ewe lamb around an hour ago. All the first-time moms are doing well, as are their lambs.

Lamb-storm 2015!

9 PM Friday – March 06, 2015

We’ve been predicting a lamb-storm one of these days, and Andria has been affecting an AM radio-DJ’s voice, saying “LAMB-STORM, 2015!” So wouldn’t you know it hit on Andria’s day off! Today began at 12:30 am when Lisa called from the barn, initiating a Keystone Cops routine here at the house. I was unable to find the right button to answer the phone, then tried to call the barn but dialed totally the wrong number, waking up some poor guy, and convincing myself that I had forgotten the barn phone number. So I got dressed to run up to the barn. I read my watch wrong and believed it was 5 am and Andria needed me, even though today was Andria’s day off and Linda and I were on duty for the 5 am barn check. Meanwhile, Linda had answered the phone and determined that LIsa did not need us. She had delivered Beata’s two lambs on her own, but had a question–the little crippled lamb had slipped out of her brace and Lisa wanted to know what to do. Linda decided it could wait until morning, and stopped me on my way down the hall headed for the barn. We had a big belly laugh trying to figure out what time it really was, and then both went back to bed. At 5, Linda was up for the early barn-check, saw lambs on the lamb-cam, so went straight to the barn. I was 10 minutes behind her with coffee. Bailerina had had twins, including the most gorgeous ram lamb–he reminds me of a bird we saw in Costa Rica called a masked tityra. This lamb has a totally black face and a stunning white coat with black spots (I’ll post a photo tomorrow). Highlights of the rest of the day: our down ewe, number 9028,who was down for a week before we induced labor, and has been slowly slowly improving in the week since lambing, was well enough to walk on her own out to the pasture with her lambs! (photo: 9028 with one of her lambs). Then 9014, another of my treasured older ewes, gave us our first quads of the season. She popped them out with all of us in attendance, but with little need for help, in the outdoor shelter. All the quads nursed very quickly and were basically trouble-free. Later in the afternoon 1115, daughter of the famous Panties, went into labor in the pasture and we had to intervene because the first lamb had  both feet back, and the second had one foot back. It was a very tough intervention, confusing to sort out the large lambs, and a very hard pull. But mother and lambs were doing well after all got sorted out. Then this evening one of our first-time mothers, 4045, went into labor and delivered a single. Tonight Lisa is checking the barn and we hope all is quiet so we all can get a night’s sleep. Meanwhile Andria will be back after a day off to do the 5 am barn check!

Our newest happy ending

7 PM Thursday – March 05, 2015

I told Andria, our apprentice for lambing, that at the beginning of lambing you have a few problems, and then all the good lambings, and the good ones pass through the barn and pretty soon the ewes and lambs are out in the pasture doing well, but the problems stay in the barn, and then there are a few more problems, and pretty soon although your pastures are full of trouble-free moms and lambs, the barn is full of problems! That’s how lambing started this year, with two induced labors, one of which became a C-section, then a bunch of uncomplicated births, then yesterday the first of our yearlings to lamb did it on her own in the pasture in the early morning, and Lolo found her totally freaked out, with one lamb dead and one injured in the hind leg. We felt terrible…every year there are a few ewes whose ultrasound doesn’t accurately reflect their due date, and 4123 was one of those. Her little lamb was so pathetic–her back leg wouldn’t work right and we didn’t know what to do. Andria texted a video to a vet friend of hers, and he immediately diagnosed it as a ruptured tendon on the upper rear of her leg, and told us to make a Schroeder-Thomas splint. We googled it, and got some wire and gauze and cotton, measured the little girl today and made her a splint, which works kind of like a crutch. For the first 24 hours she was listless and in pain, and we had to tube-feed her, but once she was fitted with her splint, she was standing up and being loved by mom, and she immediately began to nurse! That’s our third success story…after Goldie, our C-section mother, and 9028, the ewe who was down for a week before lambing and a week after, but is up and walking now, and feeding her twin lambs. So the barn is full of former problems, all on the road to success. Photo: our little girl in her splint, being loved by her mother.

Goldie and her lambs

8 PM Monday – March 02, 2015

3074, now named Goldie (you can ask me why), is doing GREAT! For the first day or so after surgery she hated her lambs and wouldn’t let them near her. We were feeding them with bottles and worried that she never would mother them. But with each day Goldie got stronger and as she was hurting less from surgery she transformed into the perfect mother, first getting up on her own, and tolerating her lambs while they nursed, and then last night beginning to call to them and nuzzle them as they nursed. Yesterday and today we had her outside with her lambs and today she was the perfect attentive mother keeping them close by her all the time. Her milk has come in and she is feeding all three easily.

Scary stories, happy endings

8 PM Friday – February 27, 2015

So 3074, the second ewe with pregnancy toxemia, finally went into labor but didn’t dilate so the lambs couldn’t’ be born. I took her to Dr Dotti yesterday afternoon and he did an emergency C-section, a first for us after 8 lambing seasons! 3074 had been in pretty bad shape, but came through the procedure well and her milk came in while she was still on the operating table, so her triplets got a drink of colostrum before they left the hospital. She is convalescing and doing well, despite the antics of her VERY rambunctious lambs, who are giving their mother no rest. (Photo: 3074 with her little black girl.) Meanwhile, 9028, who had NO milk after her lambs were born, has begun to produce a wonderful rich colostrum. She is still weak, but today we had her standing for more than an hour twice and her lambs were nursing from her.

First lambs of 2015!

2 PM Wednesday – February 25, 2015

Two of our ewes, 9028 and 3074, have been down for a few days with pregnancy toxemia. This is a dangerous condition that occurs when a ewe has a belly full of lambs and can’t keep up with their growth nutritionally. She gets weak and stops eating, which makes everything worse. These two ewes had not been able to get up for days, and I had been keeping them alive with an electrolyte and sugar solution–energy drink for sheep. Yesterday I decided their best chance was to induce labor, so I gave them each a shot to bring on labor. 9028 went into labor this morning and Lisa and I saw her through a difficult delivery of triplet lambs, all breech. One was dead but the other two are very vigorous and healthy! And at present they have not only a loving mother, but a very loving “auntie.” 3074 hasn’t gone into labor yet, but having the two little ones around has boosted her spirits and she was busily cleaning them off along with their own mother.

Vaccination day

8 PM Thursday – February 05, 2015

We were scheduled to shear the ewes today, but when we got news earlier this week of the impending storm, we scrambled to change the shearing to yesterday (you can’t shear a wet sheep!). John came yesterday and sheared the whole flock, and Jackie Post and her posse of fiber-loving friends skirted all the fleeces and Jackie bought most of them for the beautiful felted crafts she makes for her business, Sheep to Shop. Today we vaccinated all the pregnant ewes. Barbara came to ride Pepper and got a photo of Lisa and me holding a ewe while Lolo did the vaccinating, and Shep the guardian dog looked on from amongst the ewes.

Ranch Life without Lolo

11 AM Saturday – January 17, 2015

Lolo has been on vacation in Mexico, and the day before he left, he got a twinkle in his eye and said to Lisa and me, “OK, who’s going to learn to use the tractor?” Eight years on the ranch and I’d never driven our tractor! Lolo noted that with our current feed-use schedule, there would be bins of feed to pick up in town and unload from the tractor when he was gone, so one of us needed to learn. Lisa and I looked at each other anxiously, and Lisa gave the honor to me. Pretty scary at first using something that big, but once I got it, it was quite addictive! This is me yesterday moving feed bins. Lolo will be back Monday and I’ll have to see if I give the tractor keys back to him!

Joe and Dolly (part 2)

9 PM Friday – January 09, 2015

When Dr Dotti came to ultrasound all the ewes in December, Dolly and four others weren’t obviously pregnant. So today I took them to Cotati for a second ultrasound and the good news is that Dolly, Pinky, Angel and Rider are all expecting lambs in early April.  Dr Dotti estimated about 60 days gestation for all of them. I told Lisa the good news and she recalled “that night Dolly and Joe were out all night!” Yep, that was exactly 60 days ago! (Photo: Dolly)

Film-Star

4 PM Tuesday – December 09, 2014

In November, 1000 Los Angeles schoolchildren enjoyed a children’s program of the LA Chamber Orchestra, which included a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony, and a “music of the farm” multi-media composition by Chris Kallmyer, featuring our sheep and sounds from our ranch! Our ram Joe did a lot of baaaing the day that Chris was filming, and so was a star of the show. Check out this photo of Joe on the big screen projected behind the LA Chamber Orchestra! What a hoot! (That is Chris’s microphone Joe is investigating in the photo…)

It’s raining and the girls are all pregnant!

2 PM Friday – December 05, 2014

We’re having a welcome rainy spell–we had more than 4 inches in November, and we’ve already had nearly 4 inches in the first 5 days of December! The ranch is greening up–a very welcome sight. Dr Dotti was out on Tuesday to ultrasound the ewes, and all but one (1115, who was sick in October) are likely to be pregnant. It looks like Pinky, Angel, Dolly and Rider will be the last to lamb in 2015–their pregnancies were apparently less than 30 days along, which is too early for confirmation by ultrasound, so they will take a trip to Cotati in January to confirm their pregnancies. We knew Dolly was going to be late because she was hanging out with Joe on November 10 when we combined all the groups. Photo: Dolly and a few friends on Monday.

Joe and Dolly

9 PM Monday – November 10, 2014

It’s been a little over a month since the rams went in to breed the ewes. Usually all the girls are bred within the first 4 weeks, and things had quieted down in all the breeding groups suggesting that was true. Once the ewes are pregnant they are no longer receptive to the rams’ advances. Today we took the rams out and put all the girls into one group, and just in case any are still unbred, we put Joe in with them as “cleanup” ram. Joe was pretty happy with the situation. For the past few weeks he’s been spending all his time gazing out at other pastures wondering if there are any unbred girls out there. Today his wishes were granted. We put a marking harness on him with a green crayon, so that if he does breed any ewes, they will be marked and we will know they are likely to lamb after all the other ewes. As soon as the group was mixed together, Joe had paired up with Dolly, one of the ewe lambs. When we looked a few minutes later, Dolly was sporting a very green rear end! Joe and Dolly were inseparable all afternoon, so I guess Dolly is going to be one of the last to lamb next spring! Photo: Joe with Dolly

The music of the lambs

9 AM Friday – October 17, 2014

Musician and educator Chris Kallmyer and his videographer Charlie Nordstrom visited the ranch today to capture the sights and sounds of our sheep flock. The video and sounds will be part of a multi-media composition that Chris is creating to be performed by the LA Chamber Orchestra as part of a children’s concert in Los Angeles on November 21st. The concert will include Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, which will be followed by Chris’s composition using the sounds of our sheep, to show the children the real “music of the farm.” Chris and Charlie were a lot of fun to work with. Our boy Doe-Eyed Joe (behind them in this photo) was quite vocal today and so will be one of the stars of the show! Chris is hoping to take the program to other symphonies around the U.S. I will share a link to parts of the video when they are available.

Breeding day

9 PM Thursday – October 09, 2014

It’s been a busy week–a week ago today I made my last cheese of the season, and Lolo delivered our last butchered lambs to Osteria Stellina, leaving only the 15 ewe-lambs we had saved to join our milking flock. I’ve made 4500 pounds of cheese this season, compared to 9400 pounds last season, but this season we milked 34 ewes compared to 80 to 90 last season! The girls’ production this season exceeded my hopes. Friday the ewes and ewe lambs got their vaccinations and worming, Monday everyone got a pedicure, Tuesday we loaded two HUGE hogs (300 lbs and 370 lbs) into the trailer and Lolo took them to the slaughterhouse, yesterday we milked for the final time and gave the girls their dry-treatment, today the two hogs were delivered to Duende in Oakland and our local abbatoir, John Thomas, came and killed the final hog for Lolo for his season-end carnitas party this weekend. Today was foggy and cold, a perfect day for hanging meat and for working sheep, and that was a good thing, because by 8 am, the quarters of Lolo’s hog were hanging in our nice cool barn, and Lolo Lisa and I were busy finishing up the ewes’ pedicures and sorting the ewes and rams into their breeding groups. By 1:00 we had the ewes, ewe lambs and rams all in their pastures–a total of 5 breeding groups, with Lucky Boy, Panda, Joe, Beau and Harry presiding over their new harems. Bebe and Trixie had their retirement party and joined Nadie and Bugeyes in the retiree flock at my house, with Lisa’s pet wether Grey Shoulder joining the old ladies while all his male friends are busy fathering lambs. A good day’s work, and tonight I believe the first lambs of March 2015 are being conceived! Photo: Joe with one of his ewes, and Big Otis looking on. (We marked the ewes’ butts with orange paint when we trimmed their feet; the orange mark on Joe’s chest is an indication that he’d already been busy just an hour or so after meeting his girls.)

Pets

9 PM Saturday – July 26, 2014

Gracie and Nadie have both retired from the milking parlor and live a life of leisure at our house these days, getting treats on our front deck. We had a lovely warm day today and enjoyed the deck with friends, who enjoyed getting to know the pet flock.

Big Boys

9 AM Wednesday – July 23, 2014

My three beautiful boys, the ram lambs we have kept this season to sell as breeding rams. They are huge for 5-months old, 130 to 140 pounds, but they still frolic like lambs when they see me coming with their hay twice a day. I have them living in my back yard right now, because we’ve combined the wether-lambs and ewe-lambs together in one flock. That’s Joe on the left. He’s the son of Panties, our very best producer for 6 years in a row. In the middle at the gate is Prince William (he’s sold and leaving Friday) and his twin brother, Prince Harry.

Pedicure

7 PM Tuesday – July 22, 2014

Last week was pedicure week–the girls all got their nails done. Lisa held one of the ewes in the sheep-chair while Lolo finished trimming her hind feet.

Ambush

6 PM Wednesday – June 11, 2014

I was mobbed by the ewe lambs when I went out to feed this afternoon. That’s Brown-Nose jumping INTO my lap on the ATV! At 80 pounds, she’s a lap-full!

Gold medal

9 PM Thursday – May 29, 2014

Baserri won a gold medal in the CA State Fair cheese competition!

Pigs!

9 AM Tuesday – May 27, 2014

We got our pigs about a month ago and they are growing fast on the whey! Feeding time is always a bit chaotic, and Lisa and I are a bit nervous of getting in the middle of a piggy squabble as they compete to get to the food. Lolo is going to build us a trough that runs along the fence so we can pour the food in from the outside!

A Mob of Lambs

3 PM Saturday – April 26, 2014

Every time I take the ATV, pulling the hay-wagon, into the lamb pasture, the lambs mob me. There is even one, nicknamed Brown-Nose, who jumps up and wants to ride on the seat with me! Others choose to jump on the wagon and eat the alfalfa, or run alongside. It makes the going very slow. We’ve got 79 weaned lambs in the lamb-pasture now, all being protected by Oso the dog, who is doing a great job. If a few lambs are off by themselves, Oso is with them. I swear he can count to 79. The other day Lisa and I were feeding the lambs, and Lisa looked at the mob of lambs and said, “I find it so hard to believe that in February, none of this gang even existed yet!” It really is a rich abundance of new and exuberant life!

Bebe and her lambs

6 PM Thursday – April 03, 2014

The work-load at the ranch is relentless this time of year. When the last lambs are born a whole new level of work begins, as we take care of all the health needs of 115 lambs and their 50 mothers, while also working to get the creamery and milking parlor ready for milking and cheesemaking to begin. Each day the urgent to-do list seems to get longer rather than shorter, as the deadline to begin milking rapidly approaches. And with all these young lambs and post-partum mothers, each day seems to bring a new emergency or crisis to throw us off our plans–a ewe with mastitis, a lamb rejected by its mother, teat-sores and sprained legs, and always the bottle-lambs who need to be supplemented with milk 3 times a day.

BUT I vowed that tonight I would finally tell the long-promised story of Bebe and her triplets. Bebe is one of my best ewes, a sturdy gal with a sweet temperment, and one of the best milk-producers. She is 5 years old, which is late-middle age for a ewe, and this year, she had problems near the end of her pregnancy. Her back legs seemed weak, which can be caused by the lambs pressing on a nerve. She lambed on March 9th, with beautiful black triplets–2 girls and a boy. She seemed fine for the first few days after lambing, and when it was time to leave the jug, she and her lambs went out to the pasture every day with the group. Her back legs still seemed weak, but we thought she would improve. Then 6 days after she lambed, on a Saturday, she did not get up in the barn to go out with her lambs. We were unable to get her up, and when we lifted her, her back legs were completely limp and seemed paralyzed. We rigged a sling to try to lift her and had some visiting friends help to heave her over a bale of straw, thinking she might get her strength back if she were propped up. But nothing worked. We buiit a pen around her where she lay in the barn and started feeding her lambs with a bottle, thinking we would have to put her down and they would be orphans.

Monday morning I called Dr Dotti and he said the prognosis was very bleak for a ewe her age who had been down for several days and was unable to get up. But I said, “she still has a ravenous appetite!” I said I couldn’t put her down when she still wanted to eat. Dr Dotti agreed that we should let her keep going as long as she seemed to be enjoying life and her lambs, and wasn’t suffering. Right after I got off the phone with Dr Dotti, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lolo getting Bebe up, and she stayed up, supporting her weight while he held her. ! I felt like I was at Lourdes seeing someone get up out of their wheelchair and walk! Over the following days, we would get Bebe up several times a day. She was still eating ravenously, and doting on her lambs, and feeding all three of them well. After a day or two, Bebe could stand on her own if we got her up; although she was wobbly, we could see her work to keep her balance and not fall down. In a few more days she was taking a few steps. One day about a week after she went down, Lolo said “she needs to go out in the sun,” and he walked her all the way down the alley to our corrals, where her lambs played on the grass, and she alternately lay down and stood up and grazed, getting up on her own. I briefly considered milking her this season, but decided she probably is not strong enough for that, so now she and her lambs have moved to the “pet flock” over at my house–the small group of ewes that I don’t milk or don’t breed–where she can raise her lambs in the company of Auntie Nadie and Bugeyes, Dot and their lambs. And I’ve promised Bebe she can retire–I certainly wouldn’t breed her again, and she and Nadie can live together in our yard. Photo: Bebe with her three lambs, in the night-pasture before moving to our house.

 

Chef Meets Lamb

6 PM Friday – March 28, 2014

We had a visit from our friends at Osteria Stellina yesterday, chef/owner Christian Caizzo, Laughty Nixdorf and her 7-year-old son Liam, and chef Justin Langer. Justin REALLY enjoyed snuggling with the lambs, and he got very emotional thinking about the difficulty of what I do, working so hard to raise and love these lambs, then sending them off to be someone’s dinner. But it is partnerships like the one I have with Stellina that allow me to give the lambs (and their mothers) the care and love they deserve–a good, happy life and a humane death. Then it is Stellina’s turn, because Christian and Justin really appreciate the art of butchering meat, and their preparations of my lamb are a great honor to the animal. (What every animal needs: A good life, a good death, a good butcher and a good chef–Italian saying). I appreciate their passion for local food and for supporting the farmers and ranchers who produce it.

The Princes

8 PM Thursday – March 27, 2014

We’re calling them William and Harry, these two VERY splashy ram lambs from 2073, one of my best 2 year old ewes. Their colors are gorgeous, their father is Elvis, and from an early date, their mother seemed to know she had an exceptional pair of boys. She parades them around the pasture proudly, and they have been growing at such a rate that they are almost twice the size of many of the lambs. She holds her head high, they stop and pose, and all know they are in the presence of royalty. I left them intact, as they represent some of the best genetics I have and are so handsome to boot. I think they have a future in someone’s dairy flock. (OK, I know I promised Bebe’s story, but I’m waiting for a pretty day to take a nice pasure photo before telling her story.)

Done lambing

9 PM Monday – March 24, 2014

We finished lambing on March 21st, the first day of spring, with a pair of lambs born in the barn just as my friend Annie and I came in from feeding the bottle-lambs at noon. We’ve got 115 lambs from 51 ewes. We’re still recovering here from the sleep deprivation, and celebrating a great lambing season with very few illnesses or problems. Tomorrow, the amazing story of Bebe and her triplets…

Phew!

12 PM Wednesday – March 19, 2014

Well, it is March 19th and we’re almost done with lambing! It has been a great lambing season–we have had 113 lambs from 50 ewes for an overall 225% lambing efficiency. We have just one ewe left to lamb. We’ve had no sick lambs, and have only lost one ewe. All the other ewes are healthy, we have only 2 cases of mastitis, and we are monitoring the ewes’ udder health by bringing them into the milking parlor several times a week for examination. Our two ewes who are raising quads are doing a great job of it, and all our triplet-moms are feeding their lambs also. We are bottle-feeding our two orphans who lost their mom, and two other lambs whose moms rejected them, and we are supplementing a few of the quads and triplets to take the pressure off their moms as the lambs grow.

The only worry is the drought. Our pastures are green now, but without more rain they won’t be for long. However we are taking advantage of the nice weather and have all the ewes and lambs out on pasture day and night, with the exception of the very youngest lambs and their mothers. It has been beautiful the past few nights to walk out in the pasture for the late-night lamb-feeding, to see all the mothers and lambs bedded down in the moonlight, protected by our awesome dogs.

Triplet Storm

9 PM Thursday – March 13, 2014

We’ve been having quite a run of triplets. Today we “mixed out” the lambs that were born 3 days ago–four ewes in a row all lambed with triplets (actually there were five in a row, but the fifth was after midnight, so won’t mix out until tomorrow). We ear-tagged the lambs, painted them with colored dots on their faces that match their mothers, so that we can easily match mothers to their lambs if they get lost in the pasture, and mastitis-tested the mothers to be sure they don’t have udder-infections. Then we let lambs and mothers out of their pens where they have spent their first three days. At first the mothers are very protective, and moving mothers and lambs over to the “mixing barn” where they will live in groups at night and go out in groups to pasture during the day, is a bit like herding cats. Late this afternoon, Lisa and I moved out the “triplet storm” of 4 mothers and 12 lambs born 3 days ago.

so many lambs!

10 PM Wednesday – March 12, 2014

As of tonight we have 95 lambs from 40 ewes. Do the math–that is a lot of triplets and quads! Today was typical…Lolo arrived in the barn at 5:00 am to find 2027 with twins already born. Later in the morning we found 0027, a great ewe, Bebe’s daughter, with triplets born outside in the storm-shelter. We brought her in and she had a fourth, our third set of quads so far. All are doing well tonight. Photo: a lamb enjoying a puddle of sun in the lambing barn.

 

10 PM Tuesday – March 11, 2014

Oh man, we have been SO busy! We have had 38 ewes lamb so far and have 90 healthy lambs. Triplets are all the rage this season (everyone is having them!) It seems like more triplets than anything else–yesterday 4 ewes in a row had triplets. Only 2 singles and overall a 236% lambing efficiency. The mom’s udders look beautiful and most moms are feeding their litters just fine–we’re only supplementing a few lambs, including our quads. Photo: a lamb in the pasture peering around a feeder on Sunday.

Cuddle

9 PM Sunday – March 09, 2014

Well it was a beautiful weekend and we had a number of visitors, including everyone on the lambing tour on Saturday, who would have LOVED to see lambs born, so of course…no lambs born since 2:30 AM on Saturday (Linda and Lisa did the honors there, a difficult birth of a single to a first-time mother, and the FIRST single we’ve had this lambing season!). So the tour saw no action and we had a quiet time with our guests. Until this afternoon, at 6:00, quitting time…when Lisa found Bebe finally in labor. By 7:40, Bebe had triplets and then 1116 started in with hard labor. I left the barn at 8:20 to have a quick dinner and then go spell Linda. I’m watching on the barn cam and Linda is working to get that first lamb to nurse. Looks like 1116 has at least another, but it hasn’t been born yet. The photo is one of our tour guests yesterday (Trish Hudnall), cuddling with a day-old lamb.

Color Coded

9 PM Thursday – March 06, 2014

We ear-tagged lambs today and color-coded them to match their mothers. Because we have so many black lambs, painting numbers on the lambs and mothers doesn’t work so well because we haven’t been able to find a color that shows up on black lambs. So we’ve taken advantage of the fact that most of our black lambs and black mothers have white spots on their heads and are giving each mother and her lambs a unique set of different colored paint-dots on their heads! This lamb and her siblings and mother all have blue on the right and orange on the left. Then she sat down next to a stack of colored feed buckets and made a nice photo op!

 

9 AM Tuesday – March 04, 2014

http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2009/04/12/by-michael-dennis-browne/chronicles/poetry/ We had a guest last night and brought her to the barn for our post-dinner check. A ewe was in labor, and soon we saw two feet and a nose, and she delivered a 12 pound boy all by herself, then proceeded to have a 13 pound boy right after. Our guest, Hilary, was enchanted, never having seen anything like this, and recalled this poem from school. She called it up on her cell phone, and  we read it in the barn while watching the new lambs nurse from their mom. It reminded me of the little lamb born two nights before who almost didn’t make it and took us a good hour to stabilize. That lamb is doing fine now, and Lisa has named her Almost an Angel.

Lamb

We had a guest last night and brought her to the barn for our post-dinner check. A ewe was in labor, and soon we saw two feet and a nose, and she delivered a 12 pound boy all by herself, then proceeded to have a 13 pound boy right after. Our guest, Hilary, was enchanted, never having seen anything like this, and recalled this poem from school. She called it up on her cell phone, and  we read it in the barn while watching the new lambs nurse from their mom. It reminded me of the little lamb born two nights before who almost didn’t make it and took us a good hour to stabilize. That lamb is doing fine now, and Lisa has named her Almost an Angel.

If we stay this busy we’ll be done lambing in 4 days!

9 PM Saturday – March 01, 2014

We’ve had 10 ewes lamb so far and it’s only March 1st! If we stay this busy we should be done with lambing in 4 more days! (But of course that won’t happen…) After our first surprise set of twins on Wednesday, we had a surprise set of twins yesterday in one of the outdoor shelters, a surprise set of triplets in the other shelter, then last night in the barn after dinner Linda and I found Pearl with triplets and another ewe with twins. Pearl went on to have a fourth, then this morning at 5:30, Lolo found 9014 with two on the ground, and she went on to have two more for our second set of quads in 12 hours, and the day went on with 4 more sets of twins, including an amazing pair of Dalmation twin boys to 2073, followed by a vigorous set of twins to 2073’s triplet sister, Long-Face. And then 2085 had a set of twins, the second of which was a girl born very weak, who struggled to breathe for a good hour, before we gave her some milk by stomach tube and left her in a basket in the jug with her mother and brother. Just now Linda checked the barn and found the little basket girl jumping out of her basket. She proceeded to take a long drink of milk directly from Mom so looks like she’s going to make it. Photo: Long-Face shows off her first lamb. (Lisa’s comment whenever she sees this ewe: “Why the long face?” was the origin of her name.)

We’re lambing!

10 PM Wednesday – February 26, 2014

“Lambing…stretche[s] as one long steady emergency, like a war-alert, which never quite ignites into battle, but keeps on demanding scurry and more scurry.”

Ivan Doig, This House of Sky

This first day of lambing was very true to this, one of my favorite Ivan Doig quotes. We’ve been desperate for rain, and let’s see, among the aphorisms going through my head today have been: “When it rains, it pours;” “Be careful what you wish for,” and “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.”

Our March is coming in like a lion–with lambs. And we hope it goes out like a lamb, with NO lions! I woke up this morning in a panic about the office work I need to finish before lambing begins. Dove into my desk backlog, and then made the mistake of looking at the barn cam, and saw Lolo with a lamb in each arm, coaxing their mother into a jug. I threw on my coveralls and ran up to the barn–in a light drizzle–and found that one of the lambs, a little boy, was very cold and would not suck. I put in a stomach tube and fed him colostrum while Lolo fed the rest of the sheep. Then I cleaned out an outside sheep shelter so we could put the ewes out of the barn into a pasture with a shelter. I finished just as the real storm came in with torrents of rain. Fed the little boy his secod tube feeding, and headed home to that pile of office work, only to see the truck delivering our rice-hull bedding, hopelessly jammed in our front gate. I roused Lolo from his lunch break and he worked for four hours freeing the truck and unloading its rice-hull load. Meanwhile, my worker’s comp auditor arrived but couldn’t get through the gate, due to the stuck truck–we were in the midst of an unrelenting downpour at this point–and with all the excitement, I forgot that the horses were out in the pasture, and the ewes went unchecked for many hours. No one went into labor, but we discovered that Pepper’s waterproof blanket is no longer waterproof. He came in shivering in a heavy and totally drenched blanket, but after a towel rubdown and a hot mash, he is feeling better, and the ewes and horses are all happy and dry tonight in a barn buttoned up tight and bedded with new rice hulls. The storm is still howling, and the little boy is finally nursing on his own. The last thing I said to Lolo this evening is “this is a day we will always remember.”

A Visit from an Authentic Basque Shepherd

4 PM Wednesday – January 01, 2014

Basque Anne Marie Chiramberro and her parents were part of my ranch tour in December. Her father, an authentic Basque shepherd, who used to milk sheep and make cheese in the Basque country, was so interested in our operation, and it was an honor to have them on the tour. Anne Marie wrote a delightful blog entry about the visit. (“Aita” is “father” in Basque). Photo: Anne Marie and her “Aita” with me in the barn.

Nice Day for a Tour

2 PM Friday – December 13, 2013

We really need rain, but meanwhile the sunny weather is good for tours! Today a group from West Marin Food and Farm Tours visited with the pregnant ewes. That’s Bugeyes in the distance (the first lamb born on our ranch in 2008, now a matron of the flock) and Edith’s daughter Mini in the foreground. Bugeyes and Mini aren’t dairy ewes, they are both in the small flock who produce lamb but aren’t milked.

Lisa and Grey Shoulder

10 AM Thursday – December 12, 2013

Most people who have a pet have a dog or a cat, but Lisa and I have sheep for pets. I took some photos the other day of Lisa with her pet lamb (now full-grown), Grey Shoulder. She has him trained to lead with a halter, and he literally jumps for joy whenever he sees her.

Lolo and his pets

10 AM Thursday – December 12, 2013

I happened to have the camera the other day when Lolo was on the ATV doing the feeding, with his constant companions, Bola and Runi, with him.

Breeding is over…

9 PM Wednesday – December 04, 2013

…and the rams have moved back to their “bachelor pastures” for another 10 months! Monday we took the rams out, and Dr Dotti came to do a pregnancy check (by ultrasound) on the ewes. All but two were clearly pregnant, and Lolo noted that one of those two, number 9032, had been flirting with Elvis on Thanksgiving, so she may have a receent pregnancy that isn’t detectable yet. Rams can get pretty cranky when they are deprived of feminine companionship, so when we first put them back together we fit them with “ram shields,” specially designed masks that prevent them from seeing straight ahead so they are unable to back up 30 paces and charge at each other. (Why do you think they are called “rams?”) After a few weeks they become best buddies again and we can take the ram shields off. Photo: Joe, our ram lamb, just 9 months old but already due to be a father, and Elvis (on the right), who will be 3 in January.

Don’t we love breeding time!

8 AM Wednesday – October 16, 2013

Yesterday morning when he was feeding, Lolo noticed TWO dogs in the front pasture. That wasn’t right, so he looked at the gate and discovered that Elvis had RAMMED his way through the gate to the next pasture, where Joe was with his ewes, and Oso had wandered down through the open gate to visit with Shep. Don’t we love breeding time! At least the groups of ewes didnt’ get mixed up.  Lolo got Elvis to hop into the trailer to be delivered back to his ewes, and then Lolo gathered that group in the corner by the gate. Our dogs may not be socialized, but they are always watching us to see what we want them to do. Oso and Shep were sitting together in the corner of the pasture, and I stood at the gate and just said “Otis.” Otis looked at me, I opened the gate, and he trotted through, back to his flock. God I love my dogs. We moved Joe’s group to another pasture. They have no shelter there, but the weather is good, and now there are two fences separating each breeding group. Unfortuntely some of the ewes we meant to breed to Joe might have lambs fathered by Elvis. We should be able to know which lambs those are by when they are born.  Photo: Oso back with his group in the Bay view pasture.

Chuckwagon

11 PM Monday – October 14, 2013

I was on feeding duty this morning. A beautiful fall morning and really nice to be out feeding all the breeding-groups. These gals were stealing an extra few mouthfuls from the trailer while I put their afalfa in the feeder.

Lisa and the lambs

9 PM Thursday – October 03, 2013

Had a nice visit with Lisa and the ewe lambs at the end of the day today. I like this photo of Lisa’s hand and the lambs. A lot of love there, going both ways.

Justin serving us roasted neck of lamb

10 PM Friday – September 13, 2013

Justin followed the offal platter with a special dish for us; slow-roasted lamb neck, rubbed with an herb mixture that included coffee (!), and slow-cooked for 3 hours. The meat was tender and flavorful. It was served with a yogurt-mint sauce (Straus organic yogurt), and roasted delicata squashes from Stellina’s garden. We met other friends at Stellina who were raving about Justin’s lamb ragu. Thank you Christian and Justin, for all that you do to support local agriculture and show our products at their very best!

wonderful dinner at Osteria Stellina

10 PM Friday – September 13, 2013

We had an amazing dinner at Osteria Stellina tonight, featuring our lamb. Chef/owner Christian Caiazzo had picked up 6 of our lambs at the slaughterhouse yesterday, with all the organs. One of the many things I love about Stellina is the way they honor the animal, by using every part to its best advantage. And what they do with those parts! Tonight chef Justin Langer prepared a lovely offal platter with heart, sweetbreads and tongue, a wonderful mustard-based sauce, and house-made cucumber and onion pickles. It was divine. Photo: The Offal plate: clockwise from top left: toasts, sweetbreads, house made pickles, tongue, heart and mustard sauce.

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She’s learning to make cheese too!

11 PM Thursday – June 13, 2013

When she’s not doing affinage, I’ve been teaching Taryn to make our cheese. Hooping (putting the curds into the molds) is her favorite step. Here she is today, hooping Baserri.

Taryn hams it up in the aging room

11 PM Thursday – June 13, 2013

Taryn is our newest employee, returning this season to run affinage for me. It is wonderful to have her back; Taryn first worked here doing affinage one day a week in 2011. Since then, she has interned with Mons Affineurs in France, and she retunned with lots of great ideas for improving our affinage. I’m so grateful to have Taryn on board this season, and the cheeses are happy too!

Lisa and her brood

10 PM Sunday – June 09, 2013

The lambs are growing up, but Lisa still loves to go out and visit with them, and they still view her as “mom.” Photo: Lisa with a few of her pals, including her special pet, Grey Shoulder (on her left).

Glamor Shot of Baserri Mold

11 PM Monday – June 03, 2013

Mycologist Ben Wolfe of Harvard took this lovely photo of Acremonium, a mold cultured from the rind of one of our 2012 Baserris. Isn’t it beautiful? We are working with Ben to better understand all of the complex molds, yeasts and bacteria that flourish on the rind of our cheese. Cheese is indeed a living, breathing organism, from its birth in the vat to its later stages in our aging room and eventually on your cheese-board.

She who lambs last…

12 PM Wednesday – April 24, 2013

…gets to keep her lamb for a month! Since 2011’s lamb arrived a nearly two weeks after the last lambs before her, we decided to just let 2011 raise her lamb for a month, rather than putting the lamb in our lamb-feeding program, as we would need a special feeding schedule just for that one lamb. So mom and lamb moved to the nursery-flock at our house today, and were quite happy to be together outside.

Last lamb! At last!

10 PM Monday – April 22, 2013

We’re finally done lambing! 2011, the last pregnant ewe, finally lambed two nights ago. Lisa found her in the barn at 10:30, having taken care of everything on her own, with her lamb up and nursing. A very cute little girl.

First Cheese!

1 PM Saturday – April 20, 2013

I made the first cheese last Thursday, April 11. There are three lots on the shelves now, and Anna is making Lot 4 today! The June 15 ranch tour will get the first taste of 2013 cheese when it has just reached 60 days, and it will be available in shops in mid-July at 3-months of age!

We weighed lambs Wednesday, finishing yesterday. In the past two weeks, Tiny’s lamb TidBit, and 1104’s lamb Big Eddie, won in the weight-gain department. Each gained nearly a pound a day. TidBit weighs 28 lbs at 3 weeks old, and Big Ed weighs 33 lbs at a month.

Today we’re weaning the first cohort of lambs, all of whom have reached 42 days of age. The lambs are well-adjusted to eating pasture, alfalfa and grain at this point, and this means we’ll have more milk to make cheese!

Windy Tour

6 AM Sunday – April 14, 2013

We had a great tour yesterday, despite the fact that it was blowing a gale, and we spent most of the time in the barns. The lambs at my house were un-bothered by the wind, playing on their favorite rock. Their moms were seeking wind shelter in the lee of the rock.

It’s been a very busy 2 weeks; our friend Chad from Montana drove down last week to help us weigh and vaccinate lambs, and to take Gordy home to his new job guarding Chad’s sheep in Montana. I stuck myself with a needle while vaccinating the ewes and wound up with in the emergency room with blood poisoning (those nasty red streaks running up your arm). We had two more sets of twins born and only one ewe left to lamb, AND Thursday I made the first cheese of the season! Making cheese again today, with Anna. Photo: the lambs at our house playing on the big rock.

Lamb # 195

10 PM Sunday – March 31, 2013

Tiny lambed on her own in the barn Friday night; Ignacio found her with this 15-lb girl already nursing when he arrived at 5 am on Saturday. Mom and babe are doing well. Three ewes left to go.

Sibling Love

9 PM Thursday – March 28, 2013

I’ve got these two ewes, Fun-Size and Pig-Face, twin sisters who were among the original lambs I bought from Everona Dairy in Virginia. They were pulled from their mother at 3 days old, and I have always wondered how they even know they are sisters, which they clearly do–they are always together, won’t go onto the milking platform without each other, and even lamb together (again this year!). I have always been amazed at their attachment. Then along came Big Ed and Moxie, twin lambs born to our ewe 1104 a week or so ago. Big Ed was very slow at first due to a difficult birth and perhaps a lack of oxygen, and I thought he wouldn’t make it. His little sister Moxie was a pistol from the beginning, half his size and running circles around big slow Eddie, who wouldn’t even stand up much when they were still in the jug with their mom. Now they are in the lamb barn with a whole playground full of lambs, but while most siblings seem to quickly forget each other, these two are inseparable. Big Ed is doing great, eating well and jumping and playing, but still seems a bit dorky and clumsy. And little Moxie can’t stand to be apart from him. They are always cuddled up together, and if she gets separated from him during feeding time, she is distraught until they are reunited. That’s Big Ed whispering in Moxie’s ear. Hard to get a good photo in the lamb barn, especially when they are covered with rice-hull bedding from their playing.

2013 house pets

10 PM Tuesday – March 26, 2013

House-pets 2013: We’ve had such a successful lambing, with 90 healthy ewes already in the milking parlor, which was our goal, and 4 ewes still left to lamb. That means that Delia and Bugeyes, who aren’t really dairy ewes, but have been called into service in past years, get to have a holiday this season. They are living at my house, raising their lambs and mowing the lawn. Bugeyes, who is half-Katahdin and half-East Friesian, has been the lowest producer in our flock each year. Delia, a purebred Katahdin named after my mother’s great aunt Delia, and the grand-dame of our flock at 6 years old, has actually been a fair producer, better than Bugeyes, but still not in the league of most of our flock. Better that they earn their keep by raising their lambs. We love having them at the house and they are awesome moms. They and their precious lambs are protected by our fierce protection dog, Shep. Photo: Delia with her lambs

4 ewes left to lamb

9 PM Thursday – March 21, 2013

Lisa called from the barn last night as she finished the late-night lamb-feeding. The call woke me from a sound sleep, and I heard Lisa’s voice, saying “11:05.” I looked at my clock and said “No, 12:05.” Actually, she was talking about the ewe, 1105, a lovely black ewe, one of our best in her yearling class last year, who was in labor with a very big lamb having a hard time being born. I rocketed up there, and Lisa assisted while I pulled a huge nearly 15-lb boy from 1105. As I was getting him up to his mom’s head to be bathed, I said to Lisa, “Is she going to have another?” and Lisa said “Uh, yes!” and bloop, out flew a little girl lamb. Lisa left and I got the lambs their first drink, dipped their navels, weighed them, got mom and babes into a jug, and was home by 1. This morning Annie and I were up there at 6:30, and discovered that Ignacio had found another ewe with twins in the barn when he arrived at 5 am. All are doing well. We’ve had 93 ewes lamb in just over 3 weeks! Nearly 200 healthy lambs. Photo: My friend Annie holding 1105’s big boy, who we have named Big Ed.

Watch one, do one, teach one

10 PM Wednesday – March 20, 2013

We have been so lucky this season; we have a barn full of healthy happy lambs, more than 2 per ewe so far (91 ewes have lambed and we have 188 lambs). One case of pneumonia, no soremouth, no scours (diarrhea). My biggest problem has been a few lambs with entropion, a rolled-in lower eyelid, that can cause blindness if not corrected. We check every lamb in the day after birth for entropion, and usually if we find a case we can manually roll out the eyelid, hold it for a few minutes and the problem is corrected. But this year, two lambs had entropion that did not respond to that treatment. So Monday I got off the ranch for the first time in over 2 weeks, to take a little lamb with entropion to the vet. Dr Dotti showed me the technique they use to correct it, first injecting a little lidocaine into the eyelid to numb it, then injecting a big bubble of fluid to puff out the eyelid and reverse the rolling. Today, with Lolo and Lisa’s help, I did the procedure on a second lamb. It is scary injecting something so close to the eye, but Dr Dotti’s instruction was so clear that things went very well and now we have two lambs recovering from entropion. And if what I have heard from my medical-student friends is true (watch one, do one, teach one), I’m ready to teach anyone how to cure entropion! Photo: Lisa holding the lamb, Lolo immobilizing the head and me injecting the eyelid, in a photo taken by my friend Annie.

8 ewes left to lamb

11 PM Sunday – March 17, 2013

After another busy day beginning with lambs born at 6 am and ending (so far) with lambs born at 8 pm, we have ony 8 ewes left to lamb. We have lambed 89 ewes with over 200 percent live healhy lambs! and it is only March 17! Photo: Lunch al fresco–lambs having their first outdoor milk-lunch on Friday.

Eleven left to go this evening

9 PM Saturday – March 16, 2013

Crazy day–began at 5 am and may not be over yet…there is a ewe in the barn looking like she is in early labor. The good news is there are only 11 ewes left to lamb. I was on milking duty today due to employee days off, and was multitasking on both the morning and afternoon millings–65 ewes in the parlor and several ewes lambing during each milking! Photo: today’s Madonna with lambs, on a clean bed of rice hulls.

Sun-worshipper

8 PM Thursday – March 14, 2013

One more photo: I found this little lamb enjoying the rays today…Lisa quipped: “Oh man this is great–it was so dark in there the past few months.”
Today we got the lamb-runs set up and tomorrow our oldest lambs go out on pasture for the first time. Sun and grass for all to enjoy.

Polka-dot

8 PM Thursday – March 14, 2013

This morning began at 5:45 when Ignacio’s call jolted me out of bed. “Ayudame, pro favor”was the request and I rocketed up to the barn to find Ignacio surrounded by ewes in labor. Three ewes with two lambs each and more on the way. Ignacio and I had a hilarious time figuring out which lambs went with which ewe, but luckily the ewes were very clear about this, so when we made the wrong decision, the ewes let us know in no uncertain terms. One of the ewes, Emy, daughter of Emily, and one of my favorites, went on to have quads, 2 black and 2 white. Later in the morning, Fun Size, who had decided to stay in the barn in the morning, went into a very dramatic labor. She is a small ewe and was very full of lambs, and it took her whole being to get them out! Lolo found her completely on her back with her legs every which way, and called me for help. Her first lamb was head first, with both front legs back, so we had to put it back in an rearrange things. Then it was born fine, and two more after that. Ignacio found Pig Face, Fun-Size’s twin sister (the two are inseparable) in the pasture looking like she was ready to lamb, and brought her in. I thought this was amazing–those two usually manage to lamb together. But this time Pig Face seemed to be faking, just to be close to her sister. She stayed close to Fun Size all day, but no lambs.
This afternoon we had the most amazing little lamb born, with polka-dots! Only 20 ewes left to lamb, thank goodness. I’m pretty tired and LInda leaves tomorrow.

First Quads of the Season

1 PM Wednesday – March 13, 2013

We had our first set of quads for the season this morning. Emy was in labor when we got to the barn at 6:30 and had three black lambs, 2 boys and a girl. I weighed the lambs and saw that they had their first drink and put Emy and her lambs in a jug, and went to the pasture where Miss Piggy had gone into labor as soon as we put the ewes out of the barn. I came back with Miss Piggy and her twins, looked in Emy’s jug and there was a little white lamb, all cleaned up and nursing! Those quads were big, too! 8.5, 9.5, 9.5 and 11 pounds–that was a belly full of lambs! Photo: Emy with her quads.

We had our first set of quads for the season this morning. Emy was in labor when we got to the barn at 6:30 and had three black lambs, 2 boys and a girl. I weighed the lambs and saw that they had their first drink, then put Emy and her lambs in a jug, and went to the pasture where Miss Piggy had gone into labor as soon as we put the ewes out of the barn. I came back with Miss Piggy and her twins, looked in Emy’s jug and there was a little white lamb, all cleaned up and nursing! It looked like a cuckoo’s egg in that litter, but it couldn’t have come in from anywhere else. Those quads were big, too! 8.5, 9.5, 9.5 and 11 pounds–a belly full of lambs!

Photo: Emy with her quads.

Graduation day

9 PM Tuesday – March 12, 2013

Good day today; the pace was a bit slower. Three ewes lambed and all had triplets, for a total of 68 ewes and 143 lambs! We are tired, but working well as a team, which this photo of lamb-school illustrates! The lambs start out in the lamb barn being bottle-fed, then when they are aggressive bottle-suckers, they graduate to little buckets of milk, each with three nipples, and once they are good at the buckets, they get promoted to the big tubs! This photo is an example of what happens when a group of lambs graduate from the buckets to the big tub. It’s full of ewes’ milk with 18 nipples arranged around it. What results is pandemonium–a lot of very excited hungry lambs who have to be encouraged to recognize their new food source!Once the lambs have learned to drink well from the big tubs, they will be going out onto pasture to play during the day, and will receive their mid-day feeding there.

Two-thirds done

11 PM Monday – March 11, 2013

I did the stats tonight and we have had 65 ewes lamb to date, and we have 134 lambs, for a greater than 200% lambing efficiency. We have had two lambs with pneumonia, and both recovered when promptly treated, and other than that we have had no bad health issues. It has been a great lambing season so far. Thirty-two ewes left to lamb.Photo: a first-time mom with her twin babes

Don’t yell “milk” in a crowded barn!

11 PM Monday – March 11, 2013

Josi was mobbed by hungry lambs in the lamb-barn this evening.

It was a really busy but very good day. Ignacio found a ewe with triplets this morning, and we had 2 more ewes lamb during the rest of the day. Feeding the lambs has become a very big job, but it is going well and Lisa is loving it. Linda and Josi helped Lisa strategize today about training the lambs to feed off the large milk feeders, and today lots of lambs graduated from buckets to feeders. The lamb barn sounds like a kindergarten at recess time!

 

9 PM Saturday – March 09, 2013

Last night after I made my blog-entry, we all went to bed. Lisa called at 11 and Linda went up to the barn and was there until 4 this morning. 12 lambs were born to 5 ewes. Linda left the barn at 4:00 with one ewe in early labor, figuring I’d be there soon. And I was, an hour later, to find that ewe with lambs and another ewe in labor. Poor Linda had run out of lambing pens (called “jugs”) and had found some very creative ways to pen ewes with their lambs. I was supposed to feed all the lambs this morning, but looking at the lambing barn I couldn’t see how I could get everything done. I called Lolo, who generously took 4 hours out of his day off to help me, and do the morning milking, while I got the lambing barn organized and the ewes all fed, and Ignacio and Linda fed the lambs. We had 14 lambs born in one night! We had a tour today and they got to see lambs in the lamb barn, mothers and ewes in the lambing barn, and an afternoon milking. After a cheese-tasting, everyone in the group got to carry a lamb from the pasture to the lamb barn! We had a ewe in labor who had delivered one lamb before the tour. She did not have another and we feared there was a stuck-lamb, but after the tour, Linda and I investigated and found that she was truly finished with one lamb. Mom and babe are doing well tonight. Photo: Brown-Nose with her lambs a few days ago. No time for photos today.

Half-way there

9 PM Friday – March 08, 2013

We are halfway through lambing and it is only March 8! 47 ewes have lambed and 50 left to lamb.

Yesterday after I posted that entry, I went to bed. I was operating on 4 hours of sleep after the marathon Wednesday. At 11 pm I got a call from the barn–Lisa was there and found 3 ewes that had lambed, and 5 lambs. All the ewes seemed to love all the lambs! I went up and found 0025, a ewe we had been very worried about, because she had been in labor for days, with triplets, and 2100, Panties’ daughter, with twins. And poor Guapa had delivered a stillborn fetus. Guapa was loving all the lambs, but particularly one of 2100’s lambs. Guapa is an amazing ewe, one of my best producers, and last year she lambed with a single just as 0025 was having quads. Guapa voluntarily adopted (read: stole) one of 0025’s lambs and raised that lamb from then on as if it were her own. Last night she was ready to raise any of 0025’s triplets or 2100s lambs as her own! This morning we gave Guapa 2100’s girl and tonight she is nursing her as if it were her lamb. This kind of behavior is VERY unusual!

This year we are doing something different–we are taking the lambs off their mothers at 3 days of age. This was a hard decision, because I love to see the moms with their babes, but we made the decision for the health of the mothers, because of all the udder-health problems we had last season. Things are going really well…it is actually less traumatic for mother and lamb when we remove the lambs at 3 days. We are feeding all the mothers’ milk back to the lambs; we won’t make any cheese until April when the lambs begin to be weaned. The lambs are doing really well under the care of Lisa and Ignacio, growing well and thriving. And we have the moms in the milking parlor twice a day to monitor their health and they are doing very well also. Photo: Lisa, our head lamb-wrangler, feeding one of her charges.

The Endless Day

8 PM Thursday – March 07, 2013

I didn’t have a chance to write yesterday, because it truly was an endless day of “scurry and more scurry” which is how Ivan Doig describes lambing. Today Linda and I had an attack of hilarity when we counted the lambs born yesterday and realized we had 23 lambs born! From 10 ewes. The day began at 5 when we got to the barn and found Ignacio there already. Delia had adorable fluffy Katahdin triplets, all cleaned up and with full bellies, and Bebe with vigorous twins. We got those ewes and lambs into pens, and by 6:30 number 0084, one of my favorite ewes, was in labor. She delivered two huge lambs, each nearly 13 pounds. The day continued like that; every time we tried to catch our breath, Lolo or Igancio was bringing in another ewe, either in labor or already with a lamb. Linda scurried back to the house in mid-morning to bring back hot coffee and scrambled-egg sandwiches for breakfast, our friend Bobbie brought a deli lunch, and our friends Alice and Rob cooked us an amazing dinner. And through it all, we were vaccinating lambs, trimming ewes’ hooves, worming, ear-tagging, delivering lambs and being sure they got a good first drink, weighing them and entering all the data into barn-records. After dinner with Alice and Rob, we returned to the barn to find 3 ewes having lambed, and 5 lambs in the barn. We sorted out which lambs belonged to which ewe and the surprise was that Bugeyes, who always has triplets, had only one rather small lamb. Linda and Lisa were in the other barn feeding lambs when I realized Bugeyes had another lamb, stuck in the birth canal, with head coming out but legs back, a very bad “presentation” as they say, which required that the lamb  be pushed all the way back to the uterus and repositioned. It was midnight, I had been going since 5 am, and I desperately needed help, but Linda and Lisa were beyond reach. I got Bug to cooperate and I slowly pushed that lamb back in and could only find one leg. It was a hard pull and very traumatic, but I was amazed to find the lamb was still alive and Bugeyes and the lamb are doing well! (And she had a third after that one!)

Photo: 2134, a yearling ewe who lambed just before Bugeyes, with her lamb.

Quieter day

9 PM Monday – March 04, 2013

After yesterday, today felt quiet. It started when I got to the barn at 5 am to find 4 lambs and two ewes who had lambed. Luckily it was 9035 and 9025, two experienced 4-year-old ewes, and they had their lambs all cleaned and nursing. I got the ewes and lambs into jugs and headed to the other barn to help Ignacio, when Lolo came in and said, “there’s a lamb in the ewe barn!” Turned out I had missed a lamb, but Lolo took it to both ewes and 9035 made clear that it was hers. Around 6 am, a young ewe we’ve named La Loca for her high-strung behavior, went into labor and deliverd a big boy. This ewe has been having premature labor for weeks, and has been calliing all over the pasture as if she had a lamb and lost it. But when actually confronted with her real lamb, she was in shock! She backed away in terror as the lamb approached her on shaky legs, and finally hauled off and butted the lamb. We put her in “the stocks,” a stanchion that holds the ewe’s head so she can’t hurt her lamb. Her poor little rejected boy got to nurse this way. Then she went into labor with a second lamb. We took her head out of the stocks, and she started licking and loving her first lamb! She had a second, a girl and now loves them both. A happy ending, all before breakfast! After that it was a slow day until this evening, when another young ewe, one of Shorty’s triplet girls from last year, had twins. So, 7 lambs today, a quiet day compared to Sunday (14 lambs) and Saturday (13 lambs).  Photo: 9035 with her triplets.

A very fullfilling day!

9 PM Sunday – March 03, 2013

What a day it was. We’ve been completely swamped, but so far everything is going really well! Last night didn’t end until after midnight, thanks to a yearling ewe who took a very long time to finish lambing. Linda generously volunteered to do the morning barn-check at 6 am. At 7:15 I was jolted awake by the phone. Linda said,”It’s a little busy up here, can you come?” I leaped into my clothes without so much as washing my face, and headed up. Linda had found 2 ewes and 5 lambs when she got to the barn at 6 am, and while she was sorting them out, another ewe went into labor and had a hard breech birth. Linda finished that one before I even got there. But there were two more ewes in labor, and the day went on like that. We had some Basque guests come for a visit later in the morning, when Linda and I were doing the morning “rounds,” giving the lambs their shots, worming and hoof-trimming the moms. Our guests visited and entertained us while we kept working, afraid that if we stopped, we’d get busy with more lambs, and never catch up. And we did get busy again, with ewes lambing in both pastures. By evening, we had a total of 17 ewes having lambed, 13 of them in the past 2 days, and, if I remember right, a total of 36 lambs. Tonight all is quiet in the barn, thank goodness. Photo: our Basque friends having a tailgate party outside the barn, Basque style, with good bread, wine, and Txiki cheese.

What if everyone lambs at once?

10 PM Saturday – March 02, 2013

That’s what it felt like today! The day began at 6:00 when Linda discovered a yearling ewe in the barn with one lamb on the ground and a second being born. Later in the morning, we were working in the barn when Ignacio whistled from the pasture with a ewe in labor; she had one in the pasture and we coaxed her into the barn where she had a second. Then no sooner were we done with those lambs when Ignacio whistled from a DIFFERENT pasture with 9065 in labor; we got her into the barn and had a tough time pulling her first lamb, a beautiful ewe-lamb, white with black spots (in the photo). 9065 went on to have triplets. At the same time Linda found two yearling ewes, Brown-Nose and another, in labor in the pasture. The other yearling had developed a neurotic need to be next to Oso the dog, and poor Oso didn’t know what to make of this. The ewe was keeping right next to him, and licking him. He kept trying to get away and she’d run after him. After Linda delivered 9065’s triplets, she and Ignacio and I managed to get the two ewes (minus Oso) into the barn, where Brown-Nose proceeded to have triplets and the other ewe had twins. it took us the rest of the afternoon to get all those lambs taken care of, the we headed home for much needed showers and dinner. After dinner we went to check the barn and another yearling was in early labor; Linda is in the barn watching her now while I tie up some loose ends in the office.

The flock following us

7 PM Wednesday – February 27, 2013

Flock and dog, all wanting to get in on the act. The ring-leader was little Fun-Size, who is always a busy-body at lambing time.

More early lambs!

7 PM Wednesday – February 27, 2013

Today we had another surprise set of lambs, this time in the group of ewes we didn’t expect to lamb until after March 9! I was about to head into the creamery to weigh and wrap the last cheese I needed to ship and deliver before lambing, when Ignacio called me from the pasture where he was doing the noon feeding. There was 9001 with her water broken. I attended her while Lolo and Ignacio took their lunch breaks, and she had a beautiful white boy in the pasture. Once that boy was licked off, I picked him up and used him to lure his mom into the barn to have her next lamb. Babe was calling mom and mom was answering as we headed for the pasture gate, and all the ewes in the pasture were VERY interested. It was hilarious–they all started running after us! I had to shut the gate in a hurry or I would have had the whole flock out in the driveway. (see next photo).

9001 had a second boy in the barn. We were so close to being really ready for lambing this year, and these early lambs have got us scrambling! I had to get the lambs nursing, then run to the house and clean up and change clothes to go wrap the cheese, barely making it to Fed Ex and Tomales Bay Foods in tiime.

First Lamb of the Year!

7 PM Wednesday – February 27, 2013

Four days early, I might add. Yesterday morning I headed up to the barn at 7:00 with a full to-do list of last minute work to be accomplished before lambing. As i was talking with Lolo, ignacio called out from the ewe pasture that we had a ewe in labor. It was 9046, not due until next week, and yesterday was only 138 days after the rams went in, the earliest lambing we’ve ever had. Her first lamb was tiny, and born dead, and I was afraid she was having a miscarriage of her whole pregnancy, but then she delivered a big healthy and vigorous white girl.  The lambing barn wasn’t quite ready, but Lolo rushed to get some bedding in a jug while I brought the lamb and her mom into the barn, where she delivered another lamb, a healthy black girl. Getting both lambs established set my day back a bit, but I still managed to get to Petaluma to ship cheese, to my parents for a quick lunch, then to Yolo County Woolen mill to deliver the last of our wool.

yes sir, yes sir, 30 bags full

11 PM Friday – February 15, 2013

Here’s another photo from shearing today–Anna and Lisa busy at the skirting table, removing the manure-tags and alfalfa debris from the fleeces before bagging them to send to the woolen mill.

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?

11 PM Friday – February 15, 2013

The milking parlor was converted to a shearing parlor this week as we had a two-day shearing marathon. Unseasonably warm and dry weather made the ewes particularly happy to shed their winter coats. Our shearer, John Sanchez, is very gentle and makes the experience as stress-free as possible for our ewes, who are due to lamb in two weeks, and got their booster vaccinations today along with shearing.

Sorting ewes

9 PM Wednesday – February 13, 2013

Tomorrow is shearing day; today we separated the ewes by the quality and color of their fleeces, and gave them their clostridial vaccinations (for tetanus and related infections, common in sheep). We had to widen the treatment chute in the corrals to give our widebodies room to pass through. Guapa and her daughter Guapita are two of the widest. I’m suspecting quads for those girls!

Tête-à-Tête

9 PM Monday – January 14, 2013

I took the 6 ewes who were not confirmed pregnant in December to Dr Dotti on Thursday and he confirmed that 5 of them are pregnant. That means we are heading to lambing in March with 97 pregnant ewes! Corey had a visitor on Saturday, Jaione Maiz, who is not only a wonderful photographer, but also is Basque! On her way home she took this lovely photo of Nadie with one of the ewe lambs.

Rock-Climbing

10 AM Saturday – December 29, 2012

The ewe lambs area having a great time today climbing all over the big rock in our back yard.

Pre-Natal Care

11 PM Thursday – December 20, 2012

This morning we condition-scored the ewes to see how they are faring in their pregnancies. We expected it to be raining, so set up to do it inside the barn (in the photo,the girls are waiting for their exams) Ignacio helped guide the ewes into the chute, and Lolo and I examined each ewe, feeling through her thick fleece to assess the muscle and fat cover along her spine and hips. Each ewe gets a score from 0 to 5, where 0 would be starving and 5 is very fat. Our ewes were all in good shape for dairy sheep; the East Friesians ranged from 2.0 to 2.5, while Bugeyes and Delia (our fat girls) were 3.0 and 3.5. They are in the “dieting” group, while the rest of the girls will start getting concentrated feed to keep up their nutrition and make sure they don’t lose condition as their pregnancies progress.

Lamb Kiss

10 AM Sunday – December 16, 2012

I had a nice visit with the ewe lambs this morning, and Corey had his camera.

Try This While Pears are in Season

8 PM Tuesday – December 11, 2012

I received this note the other day from my friend Dick Roth, who lives in upstate New York and buys a wheel of Baserri directly from us almost every month: “We just finished a fabulous brunch: a pear Dutch baby with gingered maple syrup accompanied by 6-month Baserri, as documented in picture.”

Dick says his wife Myrna says it was the best brunch EVER. For Dick’s recipe, click here.

Cheese Course

9 PM Tuesday – December 04, 2012

Elizabeth Hill shared this photo of our Baserri, served with walnuts and membrillo at a dinner at BiRite market in San Francisco last week.

Elvis: back with the boys

11 PM Monday – December 03, 2012

Today Elvis had to leave his harem…he was the “cleanup” ram, the last guy in with all 98 of the ewes, to be sure everyone had a final chance to get pregnant. But since we don’t want to be lambing any later than April, today was the day for Elvis to come out. Some of my tour guests Saturday saw him romancing one of the ewes, so that means that our last lambs could be as late as April 30th. Elvis not happy about leaving the girls today, and with all that testosterone flowing, he was sure to pick a fight with his old chums, so all the guys had to be fitted with ram-shields again. These face masks keep them from seeing straight ahead, so they can’t do what testosterone-charged rams like to do: back up 30 feet and ram each other head-on. Rams have been known to kill each other with one blow, so these ram shields are a great tool to keep rams safe and healthy. They can see sideways and get around fine, although they look kind of goofy as they cock their heads this way and that to try to see where they are going. The shields will stay on for about a week, until the guys have settled back into bachelor life together. Photo: Guapo, Elvis and Guerito, Elvis’s son, who will be a father himself come March.

A Respite Between Storms

12 AM Sunday – December 02, 2012

In a perfectly timed lull between rainstorms today we had a great ranch tour. Everyone showed up despite threatening weather and we were treated to some beautiful views of the bay and a nice visit with the ewe lambs. We got an inch of rain yesterday and tonight it’s howling again. Dr Dotti came yesterday to ultrasound the ewes. Ninety-two of 98 ewes were confirmed to be pregnant, all due to deliver in the first three weeks of March. The other 6 girls need to be re-checked in January, but without a doubt it’s going to be a busy March!

Big Day on the Ranch

9 PM Monday – November 12, 2012

I got to hug all my rams today, which is one of my favorite things.We spent the morning separating the rams from the ewes and checking the rams’ health. We think all the ewes should be bred by this point; an ultrasound by Dr Dotti at the end of November will tell us for sure. Just in case a few aren’t pregnant yet, Elvis will be living with all 98 ewes for the next two weeks, on what is known as “cleanup” duty. Lucky Elvis. Meanwhile, today Bat, Panda, Lucky Boy, Guapo and little Guerito, who is only 9 months old but due to be a dad in March, got fitted with ram shields, masks that prevent them from seeing straight ahead (they can still see to the side), and went back out to their bachelor pastures. The masks are to prevent the rams from fighting as they are coming down from the testosterone high of breeding season. Rams fight by backing up a good distance, and charging each other, banging heads with frightening force. They can seriously injur or kill each other. But the ram shields completely neutralize this behavior, because they can’t see straight ahead, so can’t charge each other accurately. The rams were all fit and very handsome, huge and strong. They are awesome creatures. I love hugging them because they smell so “rammy.” It’s the smell of lanolin on steroids. Photo: Lolo with Panda (our biggest, baddest ram) in his newly fitted ram shield.

Beautiful November day

8 PM Sunday – November 04, 2012

I went out on horseback early this morning to check the cattle pastures after the first rain of the season. It was a beautiful day on the bay! It was early enough that I couldn’t avoid Belle’s and my shadow in the photo. (“by eight the morning fog must disappear…” OK our Camelot season is very short–a few weeks in October and November–but it is glorious!) And look at all that green grass popping up!

Good weather for growing grass!

10 PM Thursday – November 01, 2012

It’s beautiful weather for seeding pastures, which is our major focus right now. We’ve been getting wonderful, soaking rains, all at night (is this Camelot?), and lovely warm sunny days, perfect for making the seeds germinate and the grass grow. Today Lolo began seeding the sheep pastures.

Ovine/Bovine stroll

10 AM Thursday – November 01, 2012

Bills cows and their new calves were walking up the hill on one side of the fence, and Nadie and the ewe lambs decided to join them for a multi-species stroll.

Panda Rocks!

9 AM Friday – October 26, 2012

Our Panda may not have hit 3 home runs in a World Series game, but he is a star player on our team here on the ranch, siring lots of awesome daughters. Here he is in his playing field, with one of his current ewe-friends.

Via Magazine

9 PM Wednesday – October 24, 2012

We got a very nice mention in the November 2012 issue of Via magazine, along with our friends at Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station and Hog Island Oyster Company here in Marshall.

Nadie and Button

8 AM Friday – October 12, 2012

Well, Nadie has reconciled herself to rooming with the ewe-lambs for a while. She hangs out with them most of the time, although sometimes I find her by herself in a corner of the pasture, a very un-sheep-like behavior, just having some quiet time. And when she sees me through the windows of the house, she comes over, hoping for some special attention. This morning, little Button appeared to have adopted Nadie as her surrogate mother, following her everywhere. Nadie seemed to grudgingly accept the attention.

Who invited the kids?

9 PM Monday – October 08, 2012

Poor Nadie had her world rocked today. We are getting ready to breed the ewes to the rams tomorrow, and so the three ewes who have been Nadie’s companions since December got moved to the ewes’ pasture because they are due to be bred tomorrow. We sorted the ewe lambs into the group to be bred and the group who get to grow for another year, and brought the second group down to the house to keep Nadie company. Nadie is my pet; another pregnancy might kill her and so I’m not breeding her. But she is a very mature 4-years old, and did NOT appreciate being asked to room with a bunch of adolescents. She spent the afternoon trying to dissociate hersef from the rambuctious youngsters, head-butting them jealously, and staring balefully through the windows at me wherever I was in the house. Whenever I was outside, she followed me around like a dog, clearly preferring my company to that of her new flock. I found myself late this afternoon sitting beside her in the field, hand around her neck, whispering soothing things in her ear and hand-feeding her alfalfa, because she refused to enter the fray at the feeder and compete with the young’uns. Last breeding season she was all alone, and she hated that. I’m sure she will learn to appreciate the company of the lambs, but it will take a few days. In the photo, (click on it to enlarge) that is Nadie, behind all the ewe lambs, looking accusingly RIGHT at me.

Back in the Saddle

9 PM Wednesday – August 22, 2012

I’m recovering from my surgery and literally back in the saddle–I had my first long ride today. Yesterday I personally handled every one of our sheep: Lolo, Ignacio and I milk-metered the ewes in the parlor in the morning. Production is dropping off as the summer progresses, but our top performers are still the same, Panties and her sister Miss Piggy, Estrealla Blanca, Bebe, Guapa, Guapa’s daughter Guapita, Fun-size and her daughters and granddaughters, including Pirate and Nervous Nellie. After milking, Lolo and i weighed the lambs. The lambs are doing great…most weigh over 100 pounds. Button weighs 75 pounds, and little Valentine, the last lamb, born in May, black and white with a perfect black heart on her butt, weighs 65 pounds. I tried to get a photo of Button for the blog, but she is such a pet that she gets too close to the camera for photos. This photo is of Estrella Blanca’s beautiful daugher, who Lisa and i named Brown-Nose (her nose was browner when she was a lamb). If she’s anything like her Mom she’s going to be a great producer.

Good to be Home

9 PM Monday – August 06, 2012

What a week. I flew to Raleigh, NC for the American Cheese Society meeting, and wound up in the hospital in Raleigh, having my appendix out. I had wonderful care at WakeMed in Raleigh, but it felt awfully good to get home yesterday to the land where a down vest is indispensible summer attire. And to be greeted by my ewes. Photo: Nadie and the gang, runniing headlong to greet me today.

King of the Hill

9 PM Monday – July 30, 2012

I had a busy day today delivering and shipping cheese. The ram lambs had a busy day playing king of the hill.

How to Catch a Hog

11 AM Friday – July 13, 2012

How to catch a hog… Our first hog is scheduled to go off to the slaughterhouse next Monday. But how to get him there? You can’t herd hogs like sheep, and they aren’t as willing to jump into the trailer as the sheep are. So we set up the stock trailer in the hog pasture and are feeding them in there for a week so they get used to it.

Our first hog is scheduled to go off to the slaughterhouse next Monday. But how to get him there? You can’t herd hogs like sheep, and they aren’t as willing to jump into the trailer as the sheep are. So we set up the stock trailer in the hog pasture and are feeding them in there for a week so they get used to it.

House Pets

10 PM Monday – July 09, 2012

Tonight the house-ewes were listening to coyotes howling and asking if they could please spend the night in the living room? I almost said yes. But with Oso to protect them they’ll be fine.

Nadie

9 PM Friday – July 06, 2012

Nadie in the yard with the other “housepets,” finishing their alfalfa supper. Coyotes howling already in the distance. Thank Goodness for the dogs.

Sunset with lambs and coyotes

10 PM Tuesday – July 03, 2012

Today was a beautiful day, after a weekend of drippy fog and high winds yesterday. We weighed lambs this morning and groomed the dogs. I thought poor Otis would have a heart attack, he was so uncomfortable with the human contact, but I think he appreciated having his fur-mats removed. Tonight Corey and I sat on our deck enjoying a glass of wine and a light dinner, and watching the ewe lambs in the pasture beyond our house. The coyotes were howling VERY close, while the sun was still high. Oso gathered his precious charges into the corner of their pasture, and patrolled above them, barking in warning. Thank goodness for our dogs. Now as I write the darkness has descended and I still hear the high whoops of the coyotes, and Oso’s deep-throated response.

My heart is very heavy tonight with the news of the loss of Daphne Zepos, a shining light in the cheese world, whose love of Basque cheese and Basque culture gave her a special place in my heart. Daphne chaired a session on the Basque tradition at the Seattle Cheese Festival in 2010 that gave my father and me the opportunity to speak together of our individual experiences with sheep and the Basque cheesemaking tradition. It was a very special moment for my father and me, and one that I treasure. I will always be grateful to Daphne for her big heart and her generosity. And will miss her very much.

Where did June go?

10 PM Tuesday – June 26, 2012

June has flown by! The aging room is full of cheese and the first 2012 cheese is due to be released in early July. We had a great tour on June 16. It was a truly exceptional crowd, all very interested in agriculture and food production. We had a great visit with the growing lambs (photo courtesy of tour-member Michael Nicholson), and tasted the first cheese of the season (just over 60-days old), along with some year-old cheese from last season. Our lambs are growing well, and are regularly on the menu at Osteria Stellina in Pt Reyes Station. Tonight I’m looking out my office window at my pet ewes in the yard below the house, and the lambs in the pasture beyond, spending their first night in a new pasture, with Oso and Otis standing guard. Photo: guests on our June 16 tour, cuddling some lambs.

Lambs

7 PM Tuesday – May 29, 2012

We weighed the lambs today, and they are all growing really well. Little Button, the premie and smallest lamb ever born here, is nearly 40 pounds and gained 5 pounds in just the last week! We’ve sold breeding stock this season to folks all up and down the west coast; 10 ewe lambs made the trip to San Diego last week, and today one of our very handsome ram lambs started his trip up to northern Washington. Photo: lambs playing in the evening light tonight, with Otis keeping watch.

Spa day for the guys

3 PM Monday – May 28, 2012

We’ve been busy here at the ranch…cheesemaking is in full swing and the aging room is filling up with cheese. This season our first cheeses will be released at three months of age, in mid-July. We’ve had some lovely tour-days on the ranch, and everyone has enjoyed visiting with the lambs, who are happy on their pasture, and growing fast. (Maybe some lamb photos when we do the weekly weighing tomorrow). Our first lamb is on the menu at Osteria Stellina in Pt Reyes. Today we spent some time with the rams, trimming their feet and giving them their annual vaccinations. Bat, Panda and Lucky were a handful. They are huge rams and wrestling them into the sheep chair for their hoof trim was quite a task. The young rams, Guapo, Guero and Elvis, were a bit easier. Photo: Lolo trimming Guero’s feet while Ignacio keeps him calm in the chair.

Summer has arrived!

8 PM Wednesday – May 16, 2012

Well it may be only mid-May, but summer weather has arrived in Marshall! The fog is thick, the wind is brisk, the ewes are happy and we humans have a roaring fire tonight to keep us warm. Photo: Nadie and the other open and dry ewes outside our house in the fog this afternoon.

First milk-metering

10 PM Friday – May 11, 2012

We just finished our first milk-metering of the season, and the winner is……Panties! (Pictured here earlier this season with her babes). For the 4th year running, she is our top producer. Nearly 2 months after lambing, and after raising two lambs for the first month, she is producing 1.1 gallons per day. Our flock average, including all the yearlings, is nearly 3/4 gallon/ewe/day, and four of our yearlings are among our top 1/3 producers, including Panties’ daughter, 1116, with no handicap for their young age. All in all, we are very pleased with the production and the beautiful udder conformation of our new ewes.

The lambs are growing up

3 PM Tuesday – May 01, 2012

We weighed lambs yesterday and they are growing well. The weaned group has lots of 50- and 60-pounders at less than 2 months of age. Photo: Ignacio with a handsome ram lamb.

Sheep Heaven

10 PM Monday – April 16, 2012

We moved the “pet flock” to our back yard today, where they found themselves eyeball-deep (literally) in poppies, grass and beautiful clover. The pets include Nadie (my pet ewe), Edith (my dad’s pet, a Katahdin who we don’t milk) and her two lambs, three ewes who didn’t get pregnant this year, and one ewe with an infection that means we can’t milk her but poses no threat to her two lambs. So we have 6 ewes and 4 young-uns just outside the door, and this is a joy.

First cheese of 2012

11 PM Friday – April 13, 2012

Anna and I made the first cheese of the season today. I was thrilled with the milk: rich and oh so sweet! Love that high lactose content of my ewes’ milk. We had more than 60 gallons; more than a gallon/day from the first group of ewes. It was great to be in the creamery again with my awesome team; Anna and I had a clock-work day of cheesemakng, and marvelled at how we were able to pick up where we left off last October. Lisa fed lambs and then helped with cleanup, and Lolo and Ignacio had a productive milking-clinic with Dennis Ferl, in addition to doing all their other daily chores. We had a visit this morning from Mike Tusk from Quince, and I got to show him the ranch and the lambs while Anna hooped the cheese. Tired tonight but feeling good about ann auspicius start to our 2012 season, even though it is Friday the 13th! Photo: Anna flipping Baserris this afternoon

Bring your Daughter to Work Day

9 PM Wednesday – April 11, 2012

It’s been a busy week; we weaned the first cohort of lambs (66 lambs) on Monday, and had our first milking yesterday. Lisa, Anna and I worked most of today cleaning the cheeese room to prepare for first cheesemaking on Friday. Meanwhile the Patience and Button story has a new twist–Button was looking hungry and we discovered that even though Patience has lots of milk, Button was not drinking! She prefers to be a bottle baby. We tried to convince her to drink from mama but when it became clear she may starve,we resigned ourselves to feeding her with a bottle. She is now drinking greedily from the bottle 4 times a day, and still very bonded to her mother, who still adores her. We decided that the thing to do was to put Patience into the milking string, but Button is still too young to be taken from her mother; and their bond is so tight that it would be very stressfull for them to separate them at this time. So this morning we took Button into the milking parlor and Patience followed. She was a bit reluctant (photo) to head up the ramp to the milking platorm, but when we put Button on the platform, she went up. After milking, Patience was reunited with Button and they spent the day out on the pasture with the group of ewes and lambs who have not been weaned yet. This afternoon the ewes and lambs came in before milking; we transferred Patience and Button to the milking parlor and after Patience was milked, they were reunited for the night. Meanwhile, Button got all her feedings by bottle, but mother and daughter spent all their time snuggled up together, in the pasture and in the barn. This will be their routine until Button is old enough to be weaned. I’m quite fond of that mother and daughter–and it’s a good thing because this is a bit of work!

Shearing day

11 PM Wednesday – April 04, 2012

Today was shearing day. Our wonderful, gentle shearer, John Sanchez, arrived at 11 and we had all hands on deck to make it a minimal-stress experience for the ewes. We were a great team, managing the movement of the groups, sorting the lambs away from the ewes and delivering the ewes to John as fast as he could shear them, all in a calm, controlled system. Anna and Pat did an amazing job skirting and bagging fleeces as fast as John could shear them. Lolo and Ignacio did the major ewe-wrangling, and Lisa and I spent our time bringing in new groups, sorting lambs from ewes, and helping with fleeces. After we did the big mixed groups of ewes with their lambs, Lolo drove the trailer down to the ram pastures and collected the rams, who happily jumped in the trailer for a ride. After shearing, the rams jumped back in the trailer on their own without our even having to load them. Last we did the mothers of the tiny babes, including Patience, and also two ewes who lambed yesterday and this morning. Lisa held the tiny babes nearby while their mothers were sheared and we kept the separation as short as possible. The ewes look good, not too skinny, but I’ll have to get to know them all over again because they look so different without their fleeces (the black ewes are all truly black again, shorn of their sun-bleached brown fleeces!). We have some really beautiful fleeces that will go off to some hand spinners, including my cousin Linda, and lots of other very nice fleeces that will go off to make this year’s blankets. Phew. It was a long but very satisfying day. Thank you John and all our crew!

Upgrade to a Suite

10 PM Tuesday – April 03, 2012

Button is starting to look like a regular lamb! We weighed her today and she weighed 6.75 lbs, a 1.25-lb weight gain in two days. Tonight after dinner I looked at the barn cam and saw a new lamb in the drop-pen, where the 4 remaining pregnant ewes are. We went roaring up to the barn expecting a new birth, and instead found Button playing among the pregnant ewes. She and her mom had broken out of their jug. It wasn’t a good idea to have her in with cranky expectant moms, so I built them a custom suite, separate from the others, but with room for Button to run and play. Tomorrow we’re going to ear-tag Button and put her and her mom out with the other moms and lambs. I think she’s ready for some playmates. Photo: Button kicking up her heels in the barn today with Patience looking on.

Weighing lambs

9 PM Monday – April 02, 2012

We weighed our lambs today in preparation for weaning the first group next Monday. Animal Welfare Approved requires that no lambs be weaned before they have tripled their birth weight, and we were pleased to see that virtually all of our lambs older than 25 days had tripled their birth weight, and then some! Little Button (Lisa’s name for Patience’s babe) has gained a pound, which isn’t bad when you started out at a mere 4 lbs. She’s active and adorable, and Patience is living up to her name and being a model mom. We’re letting them out of the jug during the day, but not mixing them with the others yet, because Button is still so small and vulnerable. Photo: Lisa wrangling ewes and lambs in the corrals during weighing.

She sucks!

11 PM Thursday – March 29, 2012

I’ve named the mom Patience because of her quiet perseverence, always attentive to this little lamb. This is an old photo–the lamb is not in the laundry basket any more; she is active and a wiry little thing, but all day today, despite all my efforts, I could not get her to nurse. My dad was visiting, and we worked hard trying to get the little girl to nurse, then gave up and tubed her with momma’s colostrum. This afternoon, I tried again, but finally just took the babe on my lap to feed her colostrum with a syringe. Patience was in close attendance the whole time, either nuzzling me or her babe, but always right there, wanting to be a part of the efforts. Tonight I was ready for another long frustrating round of trying to feed the babe, but when I got to Patience’s jug, there was her lamb, nursing! By herself, drinking greedily from mom. What joy. I think she’s going to make it.

Another storm and a wave of lambs

10 PM Wednesday – March 28, 2012

Another howling-windy, rainy storm came through yesterday and we were busy lambing all afternoon and evening. After a slow morning, catching up on chores, we were at lunch when I checked the barn cam and saw a new lamb in the barn.1040 had one lamb on the ground when we got there, and like some first-time mothers, she did not want anything to do with it. We put her in a jug and I held her head close to the lamb, forcing her to smell it and talking to her, not letting her act aggressively toward it. She would not lick the lamb, except for the occasional tiny kiss. Then she had two more, and with all three lambs on the ground, suddenly became a loving mother to all three. As we were finishing with her, a second ewe went into labor and delivered twins, then a third began contracting and before long we had another set of twins! We staggered home for showers and dinner around 7, watching another ewe in the barn cam who had seemed to be in early labor. After dinner we went back up, and that ewe delivered two TINY premie girls, 3 lbs and 4 lbs. The lambs breathed well and were active, but could not get up or nurse. We fed them colostrum with a stomach tube then put them into an incubator–a laundry basket lined with a heating pad and cushioned with warm towels–in a jug with their mom, who kept vigil all night. Annie and I went up at 2:30 am, and Schell and I went up at 6 am, and each time the ewe was standing with her head in the laundry basket, nuzzling and licking her little lambs. She reminded me of a human mother keeping anxious vigil at her babe’s hospital bed. The lambs were alive this morning, and mom remained vigilant, but the smallest just didn’t have what she needed to survive, and died this afternoon. The other girl is getting stronger; she’s out of the incubator now and swallowing colostrum from a syringe. I have high hopes she’ll survive; and am going up in a few minutes to feed and check on her. Photo: our sweet vigilant mom with her premies.

Double-triplets

10 PM Monday – March 26, 2012

Yesterday Corey and I enjoyed a Sunday-night dinner with our friends Annie and Schell. We had the computer on the dinner table and were watching the barn cams. There didn’t seem to be much happening, but then I noticed all the ewes hjad moved out of one part of the barn, and I wondered why. Annie and I headed up and were greeted by a yearling ewe in that part of the barn, with a lamb at her side! Soon she got busy delivering a second lamb. Meanwhile, I noticed, in another dark corner hard to see on the cameras, another yearling ewe, with triplets, all up and running around her! All this had been happening while we were finishing dinner! We put the first ewe in a jug with her twins, and tended to the second ewe with the triplets. Next thing we knew, the first ewe had delivered a third lamb. We had a busy time getting all the lambs nursing and into jugs with their moms, and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. Still, it was an easy six lambs, with no assistance needed and all moms and lambs doing well this morning. Today we readjusted the cameras so that there will be fewer blind spots!

Meanwhile, the problems created the other night have subsided; Polly, the little rejected lamb has come through her first few days just fine. Today she was eartagged and got to join her age-cohort, where we will continue to bottle feed her. Tonight she already had a new friend–she and another lamb were curled up together, snuggled up to that lamb’s mom. And the ewe who had lost her lamb in the night and decided she didn’t like it in the morning has now come around. After a few days in the jug, she is loving her lamb and letting him nurse.

Photo: Annie bottle-feeding little Polly.

Maybe the old timers are right…

10 PM Saturday – March 24, 2012

…when they say that a drop in barometric pressure brings on lambing. A storm came in last night, and we’ve had six ewes lamb in the past 24 hours. Only 18 left to go.Last night was the first night that I failed to wake up to look at the barn cam, and it was a mistake I’ll be paying for. At 5 am when I got up and looked, there were 4 lambs running around the barn. I headed up with our friend Schell, and found two ewes who had lambed. One seemed to have a single and another seemed to have triplets, but one of those lambs had wandered off after being born and now she didn’t recognize it. Later, we realized that a third ewe had lambed, and had to replay and carefully examine the barn cam for a very long time to figure out which lamb belonged to which ewe. At the end of it all the little lamb that had wandered off was rejected by its mother (our friend Annie named her “Polly” because she was such a politician, working the crowd all night on the camera, asking every ewe to be her mother), and another lamb was only grudgingly accepted by her mother, who had also misplaced her for hours in the night. Meanwhile, at 6 am while we were sorting out that mess, another ewe lambed with twins, and two more lambed before the end of the day. It is the young yearling ewes that are lambing now, and their pattern seems that one moment they are totally calm, and the next moment they are in hard labor. The good news is that so many of them are lambing totally unassisted, and the lambs are strong and vigorous. Even little Polly who is now a bottle baby is an easy lamb, active and eager to eat. Photo: Schell and Marcia giving a new lamb its vitamin E shot.

Lambing for an audience!

10 PM Friday – March 23, 2012

To those of you following our blog, I need to report that Panties’ little grey lamb did not survive. She died the following day, peacefully, with her mother nuzzled up against her. Very sad, but we are pursuing all genetic avenues to be sure that we don’t make the breeding crosses that will produce grey lambs in the future.

Today was a good lambing day; 3 of our yearlings lambed, two with singles and one with twins. We hosted a tour from the Artisan Cheese Festival, and the tour came just in time to witness a full labor and birth, with a little bit of drama because the ewe had a large single lamb which we had to assist with a bit of pulling. Lolo was tremendous in his judgement, and the audience gasped when the little guy emerged, drew his first breath and was greeted with warm affection by his mother.

I SO wish I had had the presence of mind to take some photos of our wonderful audience, and of the mother and lamb, but I was too engaged in what needed to be done to think of photos. Here is a photo of Dumbo with her lamb.

Hundredth lamb

10 PM Tuesday – March 20, 2012

Our hundredth lamb of the season was born today, to my wonderful ewe, Panties, best milk-producer in the flock, and a very loving mother. The 100th lamb is the grey girl you see Panties cleaning off just after she was born.

Panties has a very interesting brood this year, the result of a tragedy that happened this morning just before she lambed. Ignacio found a ewe in the pasture, who wasn’t due to lamb, according to the ultrasound, for several weeks. But she had prolapsed her uterus, a problem that is very hard to correct. Ignacio found her lamb in the storm shelter, born sometime in the night, all cleaned off by mom and quite strong, but cold. He brought him into the barn, while Lolo and I evaluated the ewe and decided that the most humane course of action would be to put her down.

Now we had an orphan. I warmed some frozen colostrum and fed the baby with a bottle. He was hungry and strong. Then Panties went into labor. She delivered a black and white girl, and I suddenly had an idea. The timing was perfect. I grabbed the white orphan boy, smeared him with Panties’ birth fluids and presented him to Panties, along with her own girl. She loved them both. Then she delivered her second lamb, a grey girl. Panties had a grey lamb two years ago that died, and we have just learned that grey color is linked to a fatal mutation in sheep, and Panties may be a carrier. I didn’t have much hope for the grey lamb, but she breathed well, got up energetically and even nursed on her own. I still don’t know if she is normal enough to survive, but for now, Panties has triplets, and the little white orphan has a mom. In the photo, taken just 15 mnutes after I had presented Panties with the orphan, he was curled up with his adoptive sister and actually nursing while Panties was lying down.

34 left to lamb

11 PM Monday – March 19, 2012

We’ve got 47 moms and 97 lambs as of a few minutes ago, and 34 ewes left to lamb. Today began when Lisa got to the barn at 6:00 and found 1104, a yearling, with twins, both up and nursing. And 1124, another yearling, was in labor. 1124 had a very big single lamb, and Lisa called me for assistance pulling it. Mother and babe did well with minimal help. While we were doing the morning chores–kind of like making rounds in the maternity ward at the hospital, cleaning babies’ butts, checking general health, following up on treatments, giving first immunizations and tending to the mother’s needs–Ignacio came in saying we had lambs out in the pasture. 1062, a yearling, had delivered twin girls, unassisted. We got them into the barn. Wouldn’t you know–1062 was THE ewe that I wanted a ram-lamb from, for complex genetic reasons, and she had twin girls.

No more lambs all day, but lots of work, just keeping up with what needed to be done. It was a beautiful day, and Lolo set some electric fence to let the lambs and moms graze our driveway-bank. This evening I was trying to catch up on some essential office work when I looked on the barn-cam and saw lambs running around in the “drop-pen” where the expectant ewes spend the night. I got up there to find 1099 with twins, a black girl and a white boy, both very vigorous and running all over the barn. It was an easy job to treat their umbilicals, see them have their first drink, and get them and mom into a jug for the night. Four ewes today, 7 lambs. I hope we’re done for the night. Photo: lambs on the pasture today.

Great article in the Bohemian

9 PM Friday – March 16, 2012

We, and many of our friends and colleagues, including Weirauch Farms and Bleating Heart, got a very nice write-up in the Bohemian recently. Thank you to the reporter, Stett Holbrook, for listening so carefully and representing what we do so well. Stett interviewed me while we were crutching ewes and I was giving them their tetanus vaccinations and trimming their feet. Most of the time we were talking, I had a syringe and needle gripped between my teeth and was bent over a ewe. Stett captured my deepest sentiments about why I do what I do. I really do believe that when you consider that sheep are the second domesticated animal after dogs, whose lives have been entwined with ours for 10,000 years, and when you consider the rich iconography in our culture regarding the shepherd and his flock, you must conclude that we are all descended from shepherds, and we have a special link to these animals, a pastoral instinct.

Endless day

9 PM Friday – March 16, 2012

Last night I had a feeling about Miss-60, a two year old ewe who was huge and clearly close to delivering. I went to the barn at 2 am and found her with two beautiful lambs on the ground and ready to nurse. It didn’t take too long to get the lambs nursing, to treat their umbilical cords and get mother and babes into a jug. Still, it left me pretty sluggish today. I’m so thankful for our feeding program that keeps most lamb births during the day and limits the all-nighters!

This morning it was pouring, as it has been for the past 3 days (a miracle-March, saving our pastures from what looked like an inevitable drought). Lisa was on for the early-morning barn-check and she made sure that Miss-60’s lambs were nursing well. Lisa and Lolo and I did the morning chores, checking on all the ewes and lambs that are under medical treatment, doing general udder-health management, and ear-tagging the three-day-old lambs so that they and their mothers can join the mixing pen.

It was too rainy for the mothers and lambs to go out, so Ignacio freshened the barns around their ovine inhabitants, while Lolo and Lisa and I tended to 0008, who had gone into labor in late morning. She didn’t progress, and when I investigated, I found a tail in the birth canal,sign of a backwards presentation. I pulled the lamb, and it was a girl who did well. 0008’s second and third lambs were all backwards, and the second must have inhaled too much birth fluid on the way out, because we couldn’t keep him breathing. He seemed to just want to drift off to a place where one was not required to breathe, and we had no choice but to let him go. After a long and trying morning, mother and her two healthy babes were installed in their jug, and this evening they all were doing well.

This afternoon I retreated to the house to try to get some office work done, and at 4:00 Lolo called to say we had a new family and he needed my help. 1098, the second of our yearlings to lamb, had twins, a boy and girl. The girl was nursing well but the boy needed some coaching, which I gave while Lolo and ignacio finished the afternoon chores.Photo: another image of my Dad in the fog yesterday helping with lamb-related work.

Lambing Ups and Downs

9 PM Thursday – March 15, 2012

It’s been a busy week so far. After a really tough Sunday, with the drama over Cashew’s delivery, we were relieved on Monday when several ewes lambed with minimal assistance, and healthy lambs. Yesterday began when Lisa got to the barn at 6 am and found Delia with triplets, all cleaned off and nursing. We played back the barn camera and found that Delia had lambed in the wee-hours, and those triplets were running all over the barn, keeping her busy following them and trying to keep them together until Lisa got there and put them in a jug. Mother and babes are doing well. Later yesterday, 9025 had a beautiful set of triplet girls. 9025 is a wonderful ewe, a really good producer and good mother, who herself was one of a triplet set of girls. Mom and babes are doing great.

Today was a slow day–no lambs born. Linda left to return to Idaho–always a very sad day for me. My dad came out to see Linda off, and helped me to feed some of the lambs we are supplementing. Three of these lambs are orphans whose mother died shortly after lambing, and a couple of others are lambs whose mothers are playing favorites and not letting all their lambs nurse equally. We are always observing, looking for these issues, so we can step in and supplement the needy lambs. They learn fast to come for a bottle and can be quite aggressive!

We are halfway through lambing: 40 of our 80 ewes have lambed. We lost one ewe to post-lambing stress, and have lost a few lambs who failed to thrive (a sad but inevitable occurance). Despite those losses, we have 84 healthy lambs: better than a 200% lambing rate! I would love it if the next 40 lambed in two weeks like the first 40 did, but based on Dr Dotti’s ultrasound, it is going to be a bit longer for the next 40 to lamb.

Intense weekend

7 PM Monday – March 12, 2012

It was a very intense weekend. We had a difficult delivery at 2 am on Saturday, then 1533, one of our ewes from Virginia, had a beautiful pair of twins Saturday afternoon. Sunday Lolo got to the barn at 5 am to find Trixie (the ewe giving me the kiss in the milking parlor at the bottom or our “history” page) with twins, already all cleaned off and nursing. But Cashew, the first of our yearlings to lamb, was in labor and wasn’t progressing. Lolo called me and when I got there, we found that Cashew was not dilated. Ugh. It took us 3 hours to manually dilate her cervix enough to pull her lambs. The sweet little black lamb in the photo was very stressed by the time we got her out. We gave her some colostrum by stomach tube, and warmed her with towels heated in the dryer, and a heating pad, but she didn’t make it. Luckily Cashew had a healthy boy who came out ready to live, and so this very sweet and willing mother has a lamb to love. Photo: taken by our friend Robert du Domaine, of Cashew loving her little black girl as she was snuggled in the warming basket.

Fun-size had triplets

6 PM Friday – March 09, 2012

So just as I predicted, Fun-size was next to lamb, right after her twin sister and constant buddy, Pig-face. Lolo got to the barn at 5:00 this morning and found Fun-size with three boys, already up and nursing. She’s jugged up right next to Pig-face and seems very happy about that. Dumbo lambed today with a huge single boy, and this afternoon, just after Linda’s daughter Josi arrived to spend the weekend, another ewe had twins. We have 64 lambs as of tonight. Photo: Fun-size with two of her lambs.

Six more lambs

11 PM Thursday – March 08, 2012

Today had far less drama than yesterday. We caught up on shots and ear-tagging, while 3 ewes each had a set of twins relatively effortlessly. The ewe I call Little Pig-face lambed today with beautiful twin girls. Her twin sister, Fun-Size, is her constant sidekick and last year they lambed within hours of each other, each with triplets. I’m predicting Fun-Size will be next, but no sign of that yet. Photo: Pirate with one of her lambs

Intense day

11 PM Wednesday – March 07, 2012

Another crazy day. Two of our 2-year old ewes lambed today. 0019 lambed this morning with twins. In the afternoon, 0073 lambed and it was a very difficult delivery. She had been in labor for a long time and Linda said we needed to investigate. I scrubbed up and found that the lamb was breech, back to the cervix, a very hard situation. With Linda’s coaching, I gradually repositioned the lamb, got her hind feet, and pulled her. After that delivery, 0073 had two more lambs, and each was a difficult pull. Lisa had come by after finishing affinage and it was a good thing–we put her to work keeping the lambs warm and loved by their mom while we worked on delivering the rest. My dad was also here for a visit, as was our friend Alice. An intense day but with a happy outcome–everyone is doing well tonight. Photo: Moving ewes and lambs from the lambing barn to the mixing barn this afternoon.

Another non-stop day

10 PM Monday – March 05, 2012

What a busy 24 hours it has been! I was in the barn until 1 this morning delivering triplets from 9026, a ewe who had been down for several days and couldn’t get up. We induced labor and when I got to the barn at 10 last night, she was in labor with the first of three lambs. All the lambs were strong and 9026 was clearly feeling better the minute they were out. She was a good mother, and mom and babes were tucked away in their jug by 1.

This morning Lolo got to the barn at 5 to find Estrella Blanca with triplets. All morning we took care of the ewes and lambs in the barn, and then at 11 things got crazy when Lolo came in announcing that we had lambs in the night pasture. Guapita and Pirata each had twins on the ground already, and 0084 was in labor nearby. It was a cold foggy day and we got the ewes and lambs into the barn and spent the next hour getting the lambs nursing and taken care of while Ignacio hurredly cleaned jugs for the new arrivals. 0084 had twins also, and by 12:30 we had mothers and babes in their jugs and our first mixing group of mothers and lambs frolicking in the open part of the barn. After lunch, we managed to get soremouth vaccinations done on the first cohort of lambs, while Bugeyes delivered twins. Whew. All is quiet tonight. We have 41 lambs so far, from 18 ewes. No time today for photos. Here’s one of 0016 in the pasture yesterday shortly after delivering her twins.

Edith’s Twins

5 PM Sunday – March 04, 2012

We have had a crazy weekend with 21 lambs born. On Friday evening Linda and I went to an event at the Basque Cultural Center and left Lisa and Lolo watching the barn. Lisa and Lolo were busy with Miss Piggy, who had a healthy set of twins. At 5 Saturday morning Lolo found Guapa and 9047 with twins each, and later in the day Emy had triplets in the pasture. Last night Linda and Corey and I were about to sit down to dinner when Linda saw lambs on the barn cam, and we ran up to find 0025, a very petite ewe who didn’t even look that pregnant, delivering one big lamb after another. We thought she was done with 3 and put her in a jug. Meanwhile 9001, Delia’s granddaughter, had a single. We got home for dinner around 9:00 and after dinner went to check the barn and found that little Miss 25 had not been finished. She had quads, totalling 38 pounds of lambs. We were worried that she couldn’t support four, so Linda slipped that last lamb to Delia’s granddaughter, who had stopped with one, and she loved that lamb like her own. So Miss 25 has triplets and Delia’s granddaughter is happy with her twins. This afternoon we had our hands full with Edith delivering twins in one of the outdoor shelters, 0016 delivering BIG twin boys in the night pasture, and Bebe’s daughter, 0027, having triplets in the barn. Whew! I can’t even tell you what sex Edith’s lambs are right now, but they’re pretty cute! As usual, Edith took care of everything very efficiently all by herself.  Photo: Edith with one of her lambs.

3 more lambs

7 AM Friday – March 02, 2012

We’re off to a bit of a slow start. 9014 had twins Wednesday evening around 10:00, two nice girls, one black one white. Then no lambs yesterday. We spent all day troubleshooting a problem with the barn camera that didn’t let us or our family see the barn camera on line. Lolo sorted it out by the end of the day, and it was a good thing! At 7:00 while we were eating dinner and watching the camera, my mother and father called from Sonoma to tell us that a lamb was being born on camera 2! We were watching a different view and didn’t see it. It was 9065; she had a nice black girl. We got that lamb taken care of and were back by 8 for a late dinner. Photo: 0015 with her quads, and 9014 with her twins in the background.

Quads!

5 PM Wednesday – February 29, 2012

Our first lambs were born around 6:00 this morning. Lolo had checked the barn at 5 am and all was quiet, no one obviously in labor. At 6:50, I got there just a moment after Ignacio and heard the familiar sound of little lamb bleats and a mother’s crooning. Ignacio was in the corner with 0015, the ewe who had had the swollen ankles, and he held up 4 fingers to me. Quads! We replayed it on the barn camera, and she gave birth to all 4 of those quads in the hour before Ignacio and I got there, and they all were up and nursing by the time we got there! A great start to lambing. The rest of the day was quiet, although 9014 and 9026 both look like they are going to lamb this evening. Photo: 0015 with three of her quads.

No lambs yet!

6 AM Tuesday – February 28, 2012

I’m scrambling to finish my office work before the lambs start coming. Maybe today. Miss Piggy, Pirata and 0015 look very ready.  Photo: Ignacio bringing in the ewes last night.

Bellies Full of Lambs

10 PM Sunday – February 26, 2012

Oooh you can see those lambs swmming around in Miss Piggy’s belly! I wish I could post a video of that bulge contorting and changing shape. According to Dr Dotti’s ultrasound, the first lambs could be due tomorow, and Piggy is more than ready. Guapita and Pirate are also wide-bodies although their due-dates are still a few days off. Edith, Delia and Bugeyes are seeming very matronly, waddling around in a stately manner and not complaining. And poor 0015 has painfully swollen ankles. She’s due tomorrow and I’m going to keep her in the barn and hope she’s the first to lamb.

A Day at the Spa

9 PM Monday – February 13, 2012

The ewes who are due to lamb in early March had their salon day today. They got their pre-lambing vaccinations, as well as a pedicure and the sheep version of a bikini-wax, a shave of the wool around their behind, to keep things clean while they are giving birth, and so that the lambs don’t have to poke through a lot of wool to find the teats and have their first drink. In the photo, Bebe is having her 10 minutes in the salon chair.

They may be pregnant, but they still kick up their heels!

5 PM Monday – January 16, 2012

Today was a busy day–we gave all the ewes their sore mouth vaccinations. Sore mouth is a virus that gives the lambs short-lived sores on their lips. My flock has a mild strain, so the lambs are never very bothered by it, but they transmit it to their mother’s teats, and sores on the teats are bad news at the beginning of milking. So we vaccinate the moms and the lambs to keep the incidence to a minimum. The vaccination is like the old smallpox vaccinations–you have to scratch the skin and then dab on a solution of live virus. Lolo is  a pro at it, and our vaccinations have a high success rate. Photo: At the end of day the ewes frolicked on their way back to their pasture with Oso the dog.

Lambs on the way…

10 PM Tuesday – December 20, 2011

 

Today was our second of two ultrasound days (that’s our vet, Dr Dotti, setting up the ultrasound in the barn). Today we checked the ewe lambs, and a few ewes who were not clearly pregnant three weeks ago. The good news is that all but 6 of our 85 ewes and ewe lambs are confirmed pregnant, with lots of twins and triplets. Elvis was in with the girls until today, so the last 6 may just have been late to conceive; we’ll check them in another month. We’ll spend January and February getting ready for next season, because by the end of February we’ll be busy lambing.

 

The Three Amigos

2 PM Thursday – December 01, 2011

Bat, Panda, and Lucky, The Three Amigos, back together again after the season’s breeding. We ultrasounded the ewes yesterday with Dr Dotti from Cotati Large Animal Clinic, and the great news is that almost all of the ewes are confirmed pregnant. Good ole Edith is incubating her usual brood of triplets fathered by Bat, and Piggy, Panties, Bebe, Guapa, Guapita, Pirata, and the rest of our top milk-producers, are all pregnant, most with twins or triplets. Based on Dr Dotti’s estimates, the lambs should start dropping around February 29th. Elvis rocks—all his ewes got pregnant, and so now we have Elvis in with all the ewe lambs, just to breed any that might still be open. Dr Dotti will preg check the ewe lambs in three weeks. We were so busy handling ewes during the ultrasound yesterday that I didn’t take any photos, but I’ll try to take one when Dr Dotti does the ewe lambs.

Peaceful evening

9 PM Tuesday – November 01, 2011

It was a windy afternoon, but all got calm as sunset approached. It was crystal clear, Tomales Bay was calm as glass and there was a huge expanse of glittering ocean visible beyond Point Reyes. Panda and his ewes were out grazing above our house in the waning light and Gordy watched the sunset and prepared to be on guard through the night. I can hear him barking now, telling those coyotes to stay away.

Teenage boys on hormones

9 PM Friday – October 28, 2011

How much trouble could these two adorable boys cause? Oh man, don’t ask. Think teenage boys out on the town. We put our ewe lambs in with two of our ram lambs today and these boys were the ones left without girls. We put them in our house-yard because we could keep an eye on them and they wouldn’t share a fence with a breeding group, but they took things into their own hands as it were, and K-2 (on the left in the photo), the son of our acrobatic Katahdin ram Bat, jumped the fence and trotted up the driveway until he found Lucky Boy and his girls. He and Lucky had a fight through the fence, and K-2 managed to break a water pipe, sending a geyser 20 feet into the air, which Lisa and I saw from where we were working in the creamery. We dropped everything, got the little trailer, went to capture K-2, and moved him and El Guerro (his partner, on the right in the photo) to another pasture, where they unfortunately shared a bit of fence with Bat and his girls. An hour later, I looked down from my office to that pasture and saw blood–and Bat backing up 30 feet and ramming the fence. Bat and his son were locked in battle through the fence, and Bat had punched a hole in the fence with his head. I dropped what I was doing and rushed back to the creamery to get Lisa and off we went with the trailer to get the wayward boys once again. This time we brought them back to the night pasture, which shares a fence with Elvis and his girls. So we moved Elvis’s group to the one remaining pasture we have that doesn’t share a fence with another breeding group, and we hope we have solved the problem. While Lisa and I were taking care of the boys, Lolo was patching the water pipe, and by sundown our water was back on, and all was quiet. Damn that testosterone!

Puppy love

8 PM Wednesday – October 12, 2011

I was driving into the ranch today and saw our little ram lamb Elvis snuggled up with his first girlfriend. Each ewe comes into heat for about 36 hours, once every 17 days or so. So when a ram goes in with a group of ewes, he checks around to see who is receptive to his advances and that ewe (or maybe more than one ewe in a large group) is his girlfriend for the next day or so. There is sex involved, but also they just hang out together like a couple of lovers enjoying each other’s company. Elvis and this ewe were so adorable, and I got off one lousy picture at a distance through the fence before my camera battery went dead. (click on photo to enlarge)

Breeding day

5 PM Monday – October 10, 2011

Today was the day for the rams to go in, to ensure that our lambing begins around March 1. The forcast said “chance of showers.” It’s been raining steadily all day, almost an inch so far. A miserable day for working the sheep, but we got it done. We started by milking the ewes one last time to relieve the pressure in thier udders, and giving them their dry treatment to keep their udders healthy until spring. Then we herded the ewes to the corrals and sorted them into 4 breeding groups, and weighed and wormed them all. I plan in advance which ram is the best to breed to each ewe, and then we sort the ewes into the groups to go in with each ram. After the ewes were separated, we moved the rams, Panda, Bat, Lucky Boy and our new little ram Elvis, into their respective pastures, and then moved the ewes to join the rams. It was a long, wet day, but Lolo and Ignacio and I worked efficiently and tonight everyone is where they are supposed to be. Keeping notes in the rain was a challenge, and I have soggy pieces of notebook paper all over my office drying right now. Photo: Pretty Guapita in the corrals waiting to meet her new boyfriend (Elvis!).

Last Cheese of the Season

11 PM Wednesday – October 05, 2011

I made the last cheese of the season today! Only 40 gallons of milk, as we have been working hard to dry off the ewes this past week, decreasing their feed and dropping to once a day milking. Here are some of the Txikis, waiting for Lisa to weigh them and put them into the brine. I’m going up to take them out of the brine right now.

Fence-flirting

12 PM Saturday – October 01, 2011

It’s just a little over a week until the rams go in and for the past week we’ve been fence-teasing the ewes; we put the rams in adjoining pastures to flirt with the girls to make sure everyone is cycling and ready to get pregnant when the rams go in. Each day it is a different group of girls who have more interest in hanging out with the rams than in eating or sitting in the shade. Photo: Panda with today’s harem.

The rams

9 PM Tuesday – September 20, 2011

The other half of the picture: the rams. This is Panda, our best sire. What a handsome guy. He doesn’t know yet, but he has a date with Panties, the black ewe among tonight’s hussies, who is our top-producing ewe. The lambs should be awesome.

Shameless Hussies

9 PM Tuesday – September 20, 2011

We are getting close to the end of the milking and cheesemaking season. Only 5 batches of cheese left to make; this Friday we switch to once-a-day milking and begin to decrease the ewe’s feed to help them dry off their milk. On October 10 the rams go in with the ewes. Finally our Marshall summer has arrived; it was dry and 80 degrees today and Tomales Bay was as calm as glass. As this season arrives every year, the ewes are cycling into heat regularly. We can always tell which ewes are in heat; after milking, they forego their dinner to head down to the corner of the pasture that is closest to the rams, and make eyes at the rams across the way. I call them the “shameless hussies.”  Meanwhile, the rams in their pasture pose nonchalantly in the evening light and seem to take care not to look too interested. Photo: Tonight’s shameless hussies.

Visit from Cheese Plus

9 PM Thursday – September 01, 2011

Two weeks ago I had a very nice visit from Ray Bair, owner of Cheese Plus in San Francisco, and his niece Stephanie and her boyfriend Ty. I was too busy to blog about it at the time, but I had a great time showing them around. Anna was making cheese that day; they got to see the end of the cheesemaking, the aging rooms, and visit with the ewes. Today Ray sent around a very nice piece about the visit in his September newsletter from Cheese Plus. He also posted this photo of me with Bugeyes, as well as some lovely photos of the cheeses.

Weed Eating

9 PM Tuesday – August 30, 2011

It was a long cheesemaking day today and when I got back to the house around 12 hours after I left, Nadie perked up and came over to greet me, with Edith and the others following. We had a “weedeating” session, in which I pull the the dandelions and other weeds that grow along the house-side of the fence, and feed them to Nadie and the gang. They happily chow down on the fresh salad and look up asking for more. I actualy have to apportion the weeds, making sure there are some left for tomorrow! Photo: Nadie, her granddaughter, and Edith, followed by the black ewe, coming up for some weed-salad.

Cheese Pickup Day

9 PM Sunday – August 28, 2011

I had a wonderful time this afternoon meeting new and old friends who came to the ranch to pick up their pre-ordered whole wheels of Txiki. Everyone got to meet the girls who were in the parlor for milking, and one enterprising couple brought a picnic that they enjoyed in our Bayview pasture until the fog rolled back in and chased them to the warmth of their car. Thank you everyone for coming out to get your cheese and for your support of local agriculture. Photo: another of Jodi’s–I really love these Hipstamatic photos!

Cool photo app

10 PM Saturday – August 27, 2011

We had a visit this evening from some friends Melissa, Paul, Jodi and Ryan, who enjoyed visiting with our ewes Edith and Nadie. Jodi took this photo of me with Nadie and Edith, with her iPhone, using an app developed by Ryan’s company, to make iPhone photos look like the fun photos taken by plastic toy cameras from decades ago. The app is available for the iPhone for $1.99. Check it out at Ryan’s company’s web site: www.heysynthetic.com.

Breeding season in a little over a month

6 PM Friday – August 26, 2011

We don’t focus much on our rams during the lambing and milking season, but they are there, happily grazing in their pastures and waiting for breeding time. Our Katahdin ram Bat (pronounced “Bot,” the Basque word for “One,”) and our East Friesian ram Lucky Boy are old buddies, palling around shoulder-to-shoulder all year. When they come back from breeding the ewes, they are more likely to fight, but we control that by putting masks on them so they can’t see straight ahead and can’t charge and ram each other.

Vaccination day

12 PM Monday – August 22, 2011

This morning was foggy and cool, a perfect day for working the sheep. After the morning milking Lolo got the sheep scale set up in the corrals and I prepared the ewe lambs’ tetanus and pneumonia booster shots. Lolo and Ignacio brought the lambs up from their pasture, and we worked with amazing efficiency, weighing and giving shots to all 40 ewe lambs in under an hour. Lolo worked the chute, letting one lamb at a time onto the scale, and recording her ear-tag number and weight, then Ignacio got her off the scale and held her while I gave the shots, and Lolo weighed the next lamb. These girls are our going to be milkers next season–we will breed them in November and they will have their lambs in April. They are looking beautiful and healthy, and weigh 110 to 140 pounds. Bringing the lambs into the corrals also gave us a chance to give their protection dogs, Big Otis and Shep, a much needed grooming. Neither Otis nor Shep cares much for human contact–the only way we can catch them is to bring the sheep to the corrals and sort the dogs into a small pen–but once we had caught them they tolerated us as we brushed them and removed fur mats. Photo: Otis with some of his charges in the chute.

New cheese press!

10 PM Friday – August 12, 2011

I got my new cheese press today, designed by my friend Harvey Levin of Hope Farm in Vermont, who taught me to milk sheep in 2006, and made by Dennis Ferl of Northbay Mechanical here in Petaluma. It is a pneumatic horizontal press, like the ones they use in the Basque country, but modified by Harvey to be on an angle for ease of loading, and to counteract the friction of the molds against the frame, so each cheese receives the same pressure. I expected an adventure operating it for the first time today, but it worked beautifully and was such an improvement over the way we have been pressing cheeses, in stacks weighted by water bottles. No more leaning towers and we are able to completely clean the cheese room and equipment while the cheeses are pressing. Previously, we stacked the cheeses inside the cheese vat, so couldn’t clean the vat until the cheeses were done pressing. Thank you Harv and Dennis!

Visit from Mission Cheese

7 PM Tuesday – August 02, 2011

I just got some photos from a fun visit I had last week from Sarah Dvorak and her staff at the newly opened Mission Cheese, in San Francisco. They came at the end of my cheesemaking day last Monday, donned lab coats, booties and hairnets and helped me unmold and weigh the cheeses and put them into the brine. They bought some wheels for the shop, had me AUTOGRAPH them, and left with big smiles after watching the ewes be milked and helping me to bottle-feed our three late lambs. What a great crew. Sarah said they love our cheese and are selling a lot of it!

Spa day for the ewes

8 PM Friday – July 29, 2011

Today was pedicure day at the ranch. The fog was kind and stayed in all morning, keeping it cool and comfortable for both the spa-workers and the ewes. The ewes come down the chute one at a time and are ushered into the treatment pen where Lolo and Ignacio tip them into our spa chair, and Ignacio cradles their head while Lolo trims the front feet and Marcia does the hind feet (except when she’s taking pictures). Hoof-trimming is important for the health of the sheep and our ewes all were happy with their newly-trimmed toenails. Our “spa chair” is from Premier Sheep Supplies. “Equipment that works, from people who use it…every day!” is their tag-line and they are right. We love their equipment. And it turns a day of hoof-trimming from a back-breaking ordeal into a pleasure for us and the ewes. Photo: one of our ewes having her nails done.

Visit with the Lambs

6 PM Saturday – July 23, 2011

Our friends Rae and Felix from Vermont paid us a visit today with their daughers Mimi and Kasumi. We had a nice visit with all the sheep; Edith and Nadie got their chins scratched at the house, and up at the barns, the month-old lambs were a hit. Photo: Kasumi with one of the young lambs.

The Fog is back…

9 PM Monday – July 18, 2011

…but given the news stories about stifling heat over much of the country, we feel very lucky! We never saw the sun last week, but for the past few days the fog has burned off giving us cheerier days, but with temperatures barely reaching 60. Ha! Great weather for working outside and the sheep are very happy. We weighed lambs today and most have reached 80 to 100 pounds. Even little Peanut is 75 pounds and gaining steadily, as are our latest born triplets. Almost all of our meat-lambs have been harvested for this season; we have 41 ewe lambs left from the best producing mothers, and I’m watching them graze in the pasture below my office. Elvis weighed in at 105 pounds today and we are saving a son of Panda and a son of Ike as our other new rams (thinking of keeping with our rock-star theme and naming them Jimi and Mick…) Photo: view from my office of the ewe lambs in the late-afternoon fog.

Long summer evenings…

7 PM Saturday – July 09, 2011

It’s a breezy but clear evening in Marshall. Never in our 18 years in Marshall do I remember such fog-free evenings in June and July. To be able to enjoy the long summer days, right into the evening, is a rare treat. I’m sitting at my desk finishing up bookkeeping, and looking out at our 44 ewe lambs frolicking and grazing in the hill pasture in the distance, while in the foreground Edith, Nadie and the other dry ewes are mowing the lawn around our house. Photo: Edith and Nadie one of their companions.

Last lamb

9 PM Wednesday – June 29, 2011

1436’s lamb is doing well, palling around with Guapa’s two. The new boy was 11 pounds at birth and is growing steadily, and Guapa’s twins are already at least twice his size at a little over two weeks old.

We had an inch of rain yesterday, unheard of in June! And this morning was miserable, cold and drippy. But the day warmed and Corey and I celebrated his birthday sitting out on our front deck with martinis and a cheese plate, feeding grain out of our hands to Edith and Nadie. The sun was too bright for photos…

Photo: 1436’s boy with Guapa’s behind him.

Beautiful June

5 PM Sunday – June 26, 2011

We’re having a beautiful June and the lambs and dry ewes are enjoying the pasture around our house. Our first cheese is out and selling fast at Tomales Bay Foods. We had our last lamb of the season born on Friday: 1436 had a single boy. Mother and son are doing great–photos soon. It is amazing how fast Guapa’s twins have been growing. I need to weigh them–they must be more than 25 pounds already at 2 weeks old.

Photo: One of the older ewe lambs with Shep in the pasture.

Our Cheese will be at the Point Reyes Farmer’s market!

9 PM Thursday – June 23, 2011

You can buy our cheese this season at the Cowgirl Creamery stall at the Point Reyes Farmer’s Market, beginning this Saturday! Our first wheels of cheese were ready last week. The very first went to Christian Caiazzo for our Outstanding in the Field dinner, and the next wheels went to our good friends Thane and Steve, to celebrate Thane’s 50th birthday (our very first commercial wheel of cheese was served around this time two years ago at their housewarming party). I took our first 8 lots of cheese to Petaluma on Tuesday and sat down with the Cowgirls (Rachel, Debra and Peg) to taste. We were all delighted at the flavor and texture, and Rachel tells me our first cheese is selling fast. They have chosen our cheese as one they will sell along with the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses this season at the Point Reyes Farmer’s market, so please stop by and buy a piece.

Photo: yearlings hangin’ out in the shade shelter on a hot June day

The fog is back!

9 PM Tuesday – June 21, 2011

Today was SO hot in Marshall that the sheep were panting. We kept 1436 in the barn where it was cooler with good air circulation, because she is ready to lamb any day. All the sheep in the pastures have shade shelters, but Ignacio moved the dairy ewes down in the front pasture to shade-up where it is pleasant under the cypress trees and there is a lot of green grass for them when they feel like grazing. This afternoon I was returning just as milking was due to begin and I saw the ewes wending their way up through the pasture, single-file. I looked for Ignacio but he wasn’t behind them; he was up at the top of the pasture with his “tin-dog,” the string of milk-cans on a wire. He didn’t have to go get them; they were coming up in response to the familiar shake of his rattle.

This evening was one of those warm beautiful evenings that are so rare in Marshall. When have we seen the sunset on the solstice? Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, nature had its way and the fog returned, showing up first as a blur on the horizon over Point Reyes, then swiftly coming in and engulfing us. in the course of 5 minutes it felt like the temperature dropped by 20 degrees. The sheep seemed to pause in their evening grazing to breathe a sigh of relief, and once again, we did not see the sun set on this solstice. But MAN does it feel good to have our fog back!

Photo: The promised photo by Paige Green of 1436 giving me a kiss in the milking parlor. She is very pregnant and due to lamb on the 23rd…

one more photo

9 PM Sunday – June 19, 2011

We’re still basking in the glow of that wonderful dinner.

The pet ewes have settled in around our house and now they watch us through the windows and come to the fence for a treat of a few corn kernels whenever we go out the door. It is good to have pets. After all she has been through, Nadie is looking really happy and healthy. And Edith is as much of a character as ever. Her two sons went off to be breeding rams for our friend Bill Barboni at his Hicks Valley Ranch. More photos of them soon.

Guapa’s lambs are growing well. More photos of them soon also.

Tonight one more of Corey’s gorgeous photos from the Outstanding in the  Field event.

Outstanding evening!

9 PM Thursday – June 16, 2011

Our Outstanding in the Field event was a huge success, thanks to the outstanding group who put it on, and to Christian Caiazzo’s talent at showing off our lamb, sausage and cheese, as well as David Little’s wonderful produce. We had an amazing evening, clear and warm with just a little breeze. Wonderful wines from Pey-Marin, a mead from Heidrun Meadery and a great group of guests rounded out the evening. What at treat to sit out in one of our pastures until after sunset, with a wonderful group of appreciative guests.

Edith’s gang

8 PM Wednesday – June 15, 2011

The sun is setting on a beautiful June evening, and we have sheep right outside our door! Edith, Nadie and the two open yearling ewes have become our “pet flock,” living at our house. The two yearlings have great genetics and we’ll breed them in the fall; we’ll breed Edith again also, as she always has beautiful lambs every year. Her two boys went off today as breeding stock to introduce some Katahdin genetics into a neighbor’s flock. Nadie, after all she’s been through, will be retired and live here as long as she wants. Photo: Edith and one of the yearlings.

Animal Welfare Approved!

6 PM Wednesday – June 15, 2011

We received our Animal Welfare Approved certification for our ranch today! We are so pleased, because their values are very much aligned with ours. In their words, the Animal Welfare Approved label verifies that participating farms are putting each individual animal’s comfort and well-being first.To learn more about AWA, visit their web site.

We’re having a spell of beautiful warm, calm weather for Marshall…hope it lasts through tomorrow when over 100 people will be dining in our pasture at the Outstanding in the Field event. Chef Christian Caiazzo from Osteria Stellina has crafted a beautiful menu showcasing our lamb and cheese.

 

Lambs

9 PM Sunday – June 12, 2011

These lambs are just too cute, and such a novelty in June. I had to include another picture of Guapa’s boy. Tonight I was thinking that lambs in June may seem strange, but no stranger than basketball in June! I always think of lambing as our own form of “March madness,” while sports fans indulge in the frenzied end of basketball season. But this past week my husband Corey has been obsessed with—the end of basketball season! In June. So what’s so strange about a few lambs? (click on the image to enlarge it)

June lambs…it seemed like a good idea at the time…

11 AM Sunday – June 12, 2011

So last January when an ultrasound confirmed our fears that Guapa and two other ewes weren’t pregnant, we thought we’d put them in with the rams and give them a second chance. It is supposed to be difficult to breed ewes out of season, but that wasn’t our experience. As June approached, it was clear that Guapa and one of the other ewes, 1436, the sweet ewe giving me a kiss in the parlor on our “history” page, were pregnant. Guapa’s earliest possible due date was Wednesday and we started bringing the pregnant girls into the barn at night and watching them on our web cam. This morning at 6:30 I got a call from Ignacio announcing “Babies!” Guapa had had twins in the early morning, a white boy and a black girl who is Guapa’s spitting image, right down to the white anklets and little white beauty mark on her lip, just like Guapa’s ewe-lamb, Guapita, from last year. Guapa was our third best overall producer last year as a yearling, and her daughter Guapita is one of the top 3 yearlings this year, so we have high hopes for this little girl. She’ll be too young to breed this year, but we’ll keep her anyway. But what to name her? We’ve got a whole lineage of little Guapas, just as handsome as their mother.

Cheese Elves

7 PM Saturday – May 28, 2011

I’m still without a camera, but Anna got one, and took this photo of me with one of our new employees, Lisa, washing cheeses (the title is Anna’s). The aging room is filling up and the first cheeses will be ready in late June.

Lisa is awesome, funny and fun to have around, and a great help in the milking parlor and aging room. She is just one of a fabulous set of people working with me this season; Anna has graduated to assistant cheesemaker, and is making cheese two days a week, as well as managing the affinage. Lisa, who lives across the road, is milking on the weekends and also helping with affinage and creamery cleanup, and Michelle and Taryn will be doing lots of affinage. Lolo is still working closely with me to manage the flock and milking, and Ignacio is awesome in the milking parlor and in all his work with the sheep. We’re a great team.

All this help should give me the time I need to catch up with office work, but I’m still woefully behind, and I apologize to those of you who have tried to sign up for our mailing lists. That part of the web site needs to be updated and fixed and I haven’t found the time. Soon. Meanwhile, just email me if you want to be on a mailing list for our products.

I’ll be selling cheese, sheep milk soap, and eventually sausage, blankets and sheepskins, every other Saturday at the Marin Country Mart farmers market in Larkspur, starting July 2nd. And Anna will be selling our cheese at the Occidental farmers market every Friday afternoon.

Still seats available for Outstanding in the Field

9 PM Tuesday – May 24, 2011

Sign up now while there are seats available! Christian Caiazzo will be preparing Barinaga Ranch lamb, sausage and cheese and serving it accompanied by a wealth of other local Marin County produce, at a table set in our pastures with a 180-degree view of Tomales Bay. June 16 at 4 pm.

Too much milk!

11 AM Saturday – April 16, 2011

Yesterday was the first day of cheesemaking, and it went well, with Anna in training. We had a few surprises using our new vat, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The biggest surprise was TOO MUCH MILK! We are only milking 36 ewes now, because we haven’t weaned the second group of lambs. I was expecting about a half-gallon per ewe per day average, which is what we got last year at the beginning of milking, but after we filled the vat and measured the milk, it turned out that we’re getting an average of 3/4 gallon per ewe per day, and more than half the ewes in the parlor at this point are yearlings! And this is after they’ve spent their first 4-5 weeks since freshening nursing their lambs. This was a very exciting problem to have. We had to adjust our cheesemaking schedule for the first few months of the season, and it was a bit of a scramble to get together enough cheese molds and get enough brine made, but by the end of a 16-hour day all the beautiful lot 1 cheeses were bobbing happily in the brine. Photo: the cheese room at the end of cheesemaking.

weaning and milking

10 PM Tuesday – April 12, 2011

I haven’t been blogging because my camera is broken and I’ve had no time to deal with it, but I realized that shouldn’t stop me because i have a great stash of nice photos. We weaned our first two cohorts yesterday. This morning we had our first milking, of the 36 moms. More than half of them were first-time mothers, but things went amazingly well in the milking parlor. The more experienced ewes led the way and some of the first-timers followed, while others had to be coaxed. I was up on the milking platform helping some of the first-time ewes, and I realized it does feel a bit scary and exposed up there. Some crept along like cats, but they all did it, and we have a bulk tank filling up with beautiful milk. We took our first lambs to the slaughterhouse yesterday–6 milk-fed boys, and Tom at the slaughterhouse called me to tell me how beautiful my lambs were, and how big and chunky for lambs their age. I was pleased–it’s a testament to all that good milk. He said it also must be genetics, and I couldn’t disagree. Photo: one of Estrella Blanca’s handsome twins. She’s the daughter of Lucky, our 100% Friesian ram. Estrella is 50% Katahdin, but one of our top milkers; her father Bi was a Katahdin who turned out to be a fabulous dairy sire, and his line also fathers incredibly well-growing lambs. This girl will be part of our dairy flock next year, and I think her brother would be great breeding stock.

New dog!

6 AM Tuesday – April 05, 2011

We have a new addition to the flock, a 2 1/2 year old Great Pyrenees protection dog. She lost her former job when her owners sold their sheep and wound up back with Becky, who we get our dogs from. Becky said she thinks she is a perfect dog for us and after 2 days I agree. Her name was “Sheep,” but I can’t have a dog called “Sheep,” so we named her “Shepherd,” Shep for short. She doesn’t like contact with people, which is the way we like our dogs to be. On her first day she was guarding her own group of ewes and lambs. She met Otis and Oso at the fence, and they quickly accepted her as a new member of the professional team. When we brought her group into the barn at night, she led the way just like Otis and Oso do, then hunkered down in the sheep pen and hoped I would let her be. But she obediantly went to her kennel when I cleared the way and made it obvious that was what I wanted her to do. She shows all signs of being a great dog for us. Photo: Shep with her sheep.

Feels like summer!

10 PM Wednesday – March 30, 2011

We had a beautiful day today, with only moderate winds. Warm, sunny, and the lambs and ewes were loving being out on the pasture in the sun. At 7:30 am it felt like 6:00 on one of our rare clear summer mornings, and put me in the mood to be up in the cool summer dawn, milking the ewes, and making cheese. We were busy today preparing for the upcoming milking and cheesemaking season, but did take a few moments to enjoy watching the lambs at play.

March winds

9 PM Tuesday – March 29, 2011

As soon as it stopped raining, the March winds began blowing, albeit a bit late. Still the ewes and lambs enjoyed being outside in the sun. We vaccinated another large group today and put them out for the first time. Guapita and the other ewes that lambed last are all doing well. Now it’s time to catch up on office work, and clean up the creamery and milking parlor for the beginning of cheesemaking season.

We’re done lambing!

7 AM Monday – March 28, 2011

We finally finished lambing yesterday. Gianaclis Caldwell from Pholia Farms in Oregon visited me in the morning and together we looked at Guapita, the last ewe to lamb. Gianaclis taught me to feel the ligaments that run from the spine to the pelvis on each side of the tail, which soften when the ewe is ready to deliver. Guapita’s felt like Jello. Gianaclis suggested that after lunch I might need to investigate further and see why she wasn’t in labor yet. I wasn’t looking forward to intervening in yet another birth, but after lunch I was ready. Then Ignacio called to say Guapita had a water bag showing. I went to the barn and Ignacio and I kept an eye on Guapita for about an hour of labor. When I did investigate, I found three legs and two heads, indicating two lambs coming together. I sorted them out, pushed one back and pulled the other, a 12 pound black boy. He was followed by another beautiful lamb, a 12 pound white boy. Guapita and her lambs are doing great, and I slept for 9 hours last night! Photo: our white-board in the barn with the lambing stats: 134 lambs from 67 ewes, a full 200%. 68 boys and 66 girls.

Three to go

9 PM Friday – March 25, 2011

Last night got busy when I neglected to watch the barn cam during dinner, then got to the barn around 9:00 to find one ewe with twins and another, Miss Piggy, with a single. Piggy was loving her lamb and letting him nurse, and 1590, the other ewe was loving her twins. Piggy went back into labor and I waited while she delivered a big black and white boy, 14 pounds, similar to her single boy from last year, nicknamed “The Tank” who was 15 lbs at birth and weighed 80 lbs when he was weaned (Miss Piggy is my second best milk-producer). So I put Piggy and her two lambs in a jug, and 1590 and her two in the next jug, and went to bed. This morning Lolo asked me, did I see Miss Piggy deliver that white lamb? No, but she was loving it when I got there. Well, Lolo said that she had rejected it by morning and only loved her big boy. When Lolo transfered the little white boy to 1590’s jug, she loved him immediately and let him nurse. We replayed the barn cam for the hour before I arrived last night, and found that actually 1590 had triplets! One of them had wandered off to the corner of the barn where Miss Piggy was going through a very long labor, and got adopted by her! Ewes in a long labor will lie down and push and push, then get up and turn around to see if there is a lamb there. One time when Piggy did that, she found a lamb! And loved him like her own. That is until her own boy was born, who smelled even better to her than the adopted one.

Lolo had more to do at 4 am than just sort out those lambs–Speckles had a lamb when he arrived, which turned out to be a single. That was the only other lambing action today. We have only 3 ewes left to lamb. I’m watching them very carefully on the barn cam tonight and they are very still.  Photo: Pirata with her twins  (I named her “Tao” because of the lovely yin/yang marking on her face, but the fact that it resembled an eye-patch led Lolo and Ignacio to name her Pirata, so Pirata she is. She’s a first-time mother, and a very good one.)

Our new addition

9 PM Wednesday – March 23, 2011

We needed a ram who has good dairy genetics and is not related to all the girls in our flock and the answer hails from Locust Grove Farm in Knoxville, Tennesssee. He’s dark and handsome and given the Tennessee connection, we named him Elvis! Monday I went to San Francisco airport to meet Elvis, who at the young age of 5 weeks made the flight by himself from Atlanta to San Francisco. Thank you to Delta Airlines for taking such good care of him. My friends Jennifer Bice and Bill Davis, both breeders of quality dairy goats, assured me that they fly goat kids by air freight all the time without any problems, that the kids make the trip fine, and they also told me that Delta was the best carrier. So I placed my trust in them, and convinced Elvis’s breeder, Sheri Palko, to trust me also. Sheri and I were nervous, but she assured me Elvis was healthy and ready for his trip. My friend Alice joined me for the drive to SFO and we waited anxiously in the cargo terminal for him to arrive. The Delta agent was very excited and said she had never received a lamb before. Then we were buzzed in to the cargo terminal, with all its fork lifts and noise, and I got more worried about how Elvis would have fared in that environment. An agent came up wheeling a cart with a large dog kennel on it, and I peeked inside and there he was, sitting there with what looked like a smile on his face, ears perked, and generally alert and chipper and taking everything in. Alice and I got the kennel strapped in to the back of our pickup, filled his water bowl and made sure he had some fresh hay to snack on, and drove him home. He hadn’t made a sound, but when we pulled off the freeway in Novato and headed into ranch country, he started baaing, as if he could smell fresh grass and livestock and felt like he was coming home. Elvis is tucked into a lambing jug in our lambing barn for now, and is eating well and flirting with the ewes. As soon as our rain stops, we’ll let him out on the driveway grass, adjacent to the pastures where our mothers are with their lambs, and once our lambs are weaned, he will join the lamb flock.

Other news today: It’s shaping up to be the wettest March we can remember, with our March rainfall about to surpass Decembers (and it was a very wet December!). But despite the forecast of 100% chance of rain today, the rain all fell last night and the ewes and lambs got to go out on pasture today. Three more ewes lambed today. The legendary Panties, best producer in the flock, gave us TWO girls (yay!), and two other two-year olds, twin sisters, lambed almost at the same time and each produced a single. We have only 10 ewes left to lamb! Lolo and I are both dead tired and hoping the ewes keep up this lambing rate so we can start sleeping more in just a few days. Photo: Elvis in his new home.

Busy weekend

9 PM Tuesday – March 22, 2011

We had visitors over the weekend, our friends Chad, Susan and Alexis Waite, from Seattle. They are planning to raise sheep in Montana and wanted to learn a bit about lambing. We had a full weekend, and they got to see and participate in a lot of lambing activities ranging from flock vaccinations and all the routine shots and treatments we do to the mothers and young lambs, to births ranging from the routine to the heavily assisted. On Sunday, after we had done flock vaccinations, 8002, the ewe known as “Salt Lady” from her habit of standing with her feet in the salt last year, went into labor. She delivered one lamb and then stopped contracting, and after almost 2 hours of no progress I had to go in and pull the next two. The lambs were slow to nurse, but got lots of attention from Alexis and Susan as well as from our friend Laura Schwartz and her daughter Sarah who were also visiting for the day. Mother and babes are all doing fine now. Yesterday the Waites got to see another ewe deliver twin lambs, all by herself with little assistance, and this morning we had a whirlwind of activity with mastitis-checking for the ewes, and routine shots for the youngest lambs and their mothers as well as hoof-trimming and worming for the mothers.

After they left, it got even busier. We had twins born in the late morning to Katrina’s daughter, then I got busy with a visit from my parents and my mother’s cousin Joan and her son Peter and granddaughter Stella. We went off to lunch and when I returned the twins had expanded to triplets, and Lolo and Ignacio had one ewe in the barn in early labor, and another, Pirata, a ewe lamb with a pirate like eye-patch marking, delivering twins out in the windy pasture, too far along when Ignacio found her for us to bring her in. By the end of the day, we had twins from Pirata, triplets from Katrina’s daughter, and twins from another ewe lamb, who has beautiful animal-print patterns on her ears, and who I haven’t thought of a suitable name for yet.

As of tonight we have 113 lambs from 54 ewes, and only 13 ewes left to lamb. If they keep it up at this rate we’ll be done by Friday. But I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking.

Tomorrow–pictures of our newest addition: he’s dark, he’s handsome, he’s sexy and he’s from Tennessee. He arrived by plane yesterday and Alexis named him. . .Elvis!

Photo: Alexis with a lamb (click on photo to enlarge).

A surprise

9 PM Wednesday – March 16, 2011

So things were quiet around the barn this afternoon, and I headed to the house to get some essential office work done. Mid-afternoon I got a call from Lolo and his first words were, “We have a surprise.” One of Lolo’s favorite expressions, when discussing the measures we take for the welfare of the sheep, is “We don’t want any surprises.” So I don’t like hearing from Lolo that we have a surprise. Indeed, it was a surprise, but not totally unexpected. Chiquita, a ewe lamb from last year, who we thought wasn’t pregnant, had just delivered triplets. I had realized two days ago, when Chiquita began to “bag up” or have a milk-filled udder, that i had made a bookkeeping error when we had our last 5 ewes pregnancy-checked. Our vet had found three to be pregnant and two to be “open” or not pregnant. I was the one taking notes, and i made a mistake and switched Chiquita’s number with that of the other young ewe we were checking. So we thought Chiquita was open, and put her in with Bat, our ram, to try to see if she might get pregnant and have a lamb in June. When the other ewes were being coddled and fed high-protein diets in their final trimester, Chiquita was out with her boyfriend Bat and no special feed. But she had three buns in the oven, unknown to us, until she bagged up last week. Amazingly, all three lambs are strong, albeit skinny. And Chiquita is now getting the rich diet she needs, and is feeding her lambs. We’ll have to keep an eye on the lambs, but all seems well for now. Whew. Photo: lambs and ewes on the pasture today.

Soggy

12 PM Wednesday – March 16, 2011

We had another inch and a half of rain yesterday and last night, and it was so nasty yesterday that we had all the ewes and lambs in the barn all day. With nearly 5 inches of rain so far this March it is the rainiest March since we’ve had the ranch, and while it will be great for the grass, it does make things difficult in the short term. We are having a respite today, and the ewes and lambs are all out enjoying the pasture while we clean the barns.

No lambs born in the past 24 hours. Delia had twin boys yesterday morning around 5 am when Lolo was checking the barn, and Delia’s granddaughter followed late yesterday morning with two more boys. We’re still at 200% with 43 ewes and 86 lambs and at this point our male:female ratio is even, with 43 of each. Photo: lambs on the pasture this morning.

Outstanding in the Field Dinner at our Ranch

7 AM Tuesday – March 15, 2011

Outstanding in the Field, a group that hosts dinners set outside on farms and ranches across the US, will be holding a dinner at our ranch on Thursday, June 16. Tickets go on sale on March 20. Christian Caiazzo, of Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station, will be the chef, and will be using our lamb, sausage and cheese, as well as other local produce. These dinners sell out fast. For more information to to this link:http://outstandinginthefield.com/events/2011-tour/?dinner_id=127. The photo is from an Outstanding in the Field dinner last July in Sunol, where Guillaume Beinaime spit-roasted three of our lambs.

More triplets

8 PM Monday – March 14, 2011

Bugeyes finally had her lambs–our third set of triplets in a row! Lolo got to the barn at 5 this morning and found Bugeyes with one ram lamb on the ground, and working on a second, with only the head presenting. Lolo handled the difficult delivery on his own, got the lambs legs free and delivered him. The third came flying out, a girl. All three are black, and big! No wonder Bug looked so huge–she had more than 30 pounds of lambs in her. We had a busy morning vaccinating the second cohort of lambs. We had over an inch of rain last night but despite forecasts we were spared today and had a chance to get the mothers and lambs out on the pasture and clean the barns. No more lambs today. We’re at 41 ewes and 82 lambs: 200%! Photo: Bugeyes with her triplets.

Yesterday wasn’t over either…

5 PM Sunday – March 13, 2011

When I posted that blog last night i thought I was done for the day. But when I went to the barn at 10:30 for a last check, I found Nervous Nellie in labor. True to her name she was quite agitated by the whole process, but she produced beautiful triplet girls. The lambs were vigorous but it still took a long time to get all three to nurse successfully and wound up being another late night. No more lambs born today…yet. Forty ewes have lambed and they have 79 lambs, all healthy, a lambing percentage of nearly 200%! Thirty ewes left to go. Photo: Orphan Annie with her triplets. The lamb in front is Peanut, our first lamb of the year, who weighed only 4.5 lbs and got quite chilled because she was born in the pasture on a windy day. She was the first lamb I’d ever tubed, and it’s gratifying to see her healthy and growing well.

Triplets

8 PM Saturday – March 12, 2011

Today was a slow lambing day. We put the lambs and their mothers out on the pasture this morning and the lambs had a great time running around in mobs then resting with their mothers. I caught up on office work. In the afternoon,  Ignacio and I put the expectant ewes into the lambing barn, then brought the lambs and their mothers into the mixing barn. As soon as we had finished with that, we returned to the lambing barn and heard the distinctive moans of labor. 1605 was not wasting any time; she delivered her first lamb just as we walked in, a beautiful, vigorous white girl. Twenty minutes later, after that first lamb had already nursed, she delivered an even bigger white boy, followed ten minutes later by a beautiful black girl with a big star on her head. I told Ignacio this was just what 1605 gave us last year; a white boy and two girls, one black, one white. Last year we called them Small, Medium and Large, because the white boy was fully double the size of the white girl, and the black girl was somewhere in the middle. This year they were 9, 10 and 11 pounds, and all are doing well. Photo: a pasture scene from today.

The day wasn’t over after all…

1 AM Thursday – March 10, 2011

Just as I was finishing the last entry I saw a ewe in labor on the barn-cam and went up, walking in just as the first lamb hit the ground. A nice black girl. She was followed by a black and white boy and a white boy, and then the ewe threatened to have a fourth for about an hour before it was clear she was done. Gives me an excuse to post another nice photo from the pasture earlier today of one of my yearling mothers with her very handsome boy.

First day on pasture

10 PM Wednesday – March 09, 2011

Today was a beautiful day on the ranch. We gave first vaccinations to the first cohort of 39 lambs and then they and their mothers got to have their first day out on pasture. The lambs had a great time racing around and the mothers were happy to see grass after a week in the barn. By the end of the day all the lambs were tired and ready to head into the comfort of the barn for the night. It was a good steady day of lambing, with 4 more ewes lambing, starting at 2 am and ending (I hope) at 9:45 tonight. Each had a boy/girl pair of twins. Photo: lambs enjoying the sun (click on photo to enlarge).

Busy again

12 PM Tuesday – March 08, 2011

After a quiet weekend with Linda’s daughter Josi and her husband Karl visiting, things have really picked up again. Yesterday afternoon and evening three ewes lambed. It seemed that every time we went to the barn to check through the evening, another ewe was in labor. All went well. This morning I was awakened at 6:30 by Lolo. He had three ewes in labor and one was not progressing. I went up and we had a very difficult two-hour delivery of very big twins. Meanwhile two other ewes had singles, and Delia’s Daughter, who was HUGE, had triplets, all of which presented with a problem–a leg back, or backwards, but all are doing well now. With 29 ewes lambed, we have 55 lambs. Photo: Moving ewes and lambs from the lambing barn to the mixing barn on Sunday.

Too Busy to Blog!

9 AM Friday – March 04, 2011

Of lambing, Ivan Doig has written, “lambing stretches as one long steady emergency, that keeps on demanding scurry and more scurry.” That’s how it has been; with no time to blog or take many photos. We have 38 lambs as of this morning. Two nights ago I spent all night in the barn again, this time with Nadie’s daughter, a ewe-lamb in her first season, who ALSO had quads! I looked at the barn-cam just as i was going to bed, at 12:30, and saw a lamb running around. I dashed to the barn and found Nadie’s daughter with one lamb, and the other running all over the barn. I got them in a pen, got them nursing, and was ready to head off to bed when she went into labor with a third. Damn! Then as soon as I delivered that lamb, a 4th popped out! The 4th, a little girl, was weak, and I had to put in a stomach tube and give her some colostrum that way. Around 3, when i finally had Nadie’s daughter and her brood all settled, with full stomachs, another ewe went into labor and there went the rest of my night. I got to bed for a couple hours around 5:30. Nadie’s daughter was a single, but apparently quads run in that family!

Interestingly, except for Nadie and Edith, the only ewes that have lambed so far have been our ewe lambs, the young ewes just a year old and having their first lambs. They have done fabulously as a group, delivering their lambs largely on their own, with very little need for assistance, and their lambs are strong and healthy.

Photo: An experienced mom: Edith with her lambs (click on photo to enlarge).

Happy Story

1 PM Monday – February 28, 2011

We saved Nadie! Nadie is a very sweet 3-year-old ewe and one of our best milk producers. She came down with pregnancy toxemia on Friday, a condition that arises when a ewe has too many lambs in her and can’t get enough energy from her food to support their growth. It is a very frustrating condition; by the time a ewe is showing signs, it is very hard to save her. I didn’t have much hope for Nadie, but i was giving her all the high-energy treatments and vitamins that are recommended, and she was hanging on. We decided to induce labor, because she was due within a few days, and last night she went into labor. I was up all night with her and by 7 this morning she had 4 healthy lambs! They were our first quads born here, and obviously this was the reason she became toxemic. I had to pull all the lambs, because Nadie didn’t have the energy to get them out, but they were all born very vigorous and Nadie seemed like she couldn’t believe her good fortune, loving each one up and feeling better as she was gradually relieved of her belly-full of lambs. Meanwhile, while I was up to my elbows–literally–in Nadie, over in another corner of the barn, Edith popped out her standard set of triplets all by herself, got them cleaned off and up and nursing all on her own. Each time I looked over she had another, and the previous one was already up. Boy I love those Katahdins. Sometimes I wish I had 70 of them! Lolo got there around 6:30 and I went home for a few hours of sleep. By the time I got back to the barn, all 4 lambs were nursing and Nadie was up and eating and walking around. Photo: Nadie’s gang competing for a drink. Click on photo to enlarge.

 

 

Second lambs

1 AM Monday – February 28, 2011

Lolo just returned from vacation, and got to the barn at 6 this morning to find another ewe lamb with a set of twins, both girls. The new lambs are doing well. Today was a beautiful day, sunny and not too cold. The ewes enjoyed the sun and grass in their pasture. Tonight things are quiet in the barn, although Bugeyes is huge and is threatening t to go into labor. Photo: Orphan Annie’s triplets.

We’re lambing!

11 PM Saturday – February 26, 2011

Well, lambing began today 3 days earlier than expected. Ignacio went out to do the noontime feeding and found Orphan Annie licking off a pile of triplets. With the Canadian cold front we’ve been experiencing, and a wind on top of it, it was nasty in that pasture, and the lambs were quite chilled. Two girls and a boy. The first-born girl was only 4 pounds and very cold by the  time we got them to the barn. We warmed them with towels heated in the dryer, and then with a heating pad Corey brought from the house. The larger girl got up and nursed with a lot of guidance from Ignacio, but it became clear I needed to put a stomach tube in each of the other lambs to give them a belly full of colostrum to get started. Annie had lots of colostrum which we milked out of her, and my cousin Linda instructed me over the phone how to tube a lamb. Linda was a great teacher and both lambs got nice full bellies and now are up and nursing on their own. No time for photos today, but here is a nice one that reflects what it looked like on the ranch today.

Hard to believe it’s January

8 PM Wednesday – January 26, 2011

We’ve been doing very un-characteristic activities for winter, like painting the barn, and enjoying wine and cheese in bare feet on our deck at sunset. There is so much water in the soil that the reservoir is still spilling over in Nicasio, and the grass is growing in the warm sun. And we have faith that it will rain again before much longer.

Got rain?

9 PM Friday – January 21, 2011

Still sunny, and now it’s warm, with the 10-day forecast showing nothing but more sunny weather. It’s beautiful weather, but this is shaping up to be a very dry January and we need some more rain soon to keep the grass growing. We ultrsounded all the ewes and found out we have lots of tripets and quads coming in March. We also learned the approximate due dates which will help us manage our ewes during lambing. Two ewes were “open,” meaning they are not pregnant. One of them was  a ewe lamb, and the other was Guapa, one of our two most productive yearlings last year. We put Guapa and the open ewe lamb in with Bat and Lucky, hoping they may become pregnant, even though it is not the right time of year for ewes to come into heat. Guapa immediately came into heat and Bat and Lucky beat each other up fighting over her. We reconsidered our strategy and left Guapa with Lucky,moved Bat and the ewe lamb to a different pasture, and all is quiet again. If these girls get pregnant we’ll have some June lambs this year. Photo: Edith and her pals with Otis guarding.

Sunny Skies

7 PM Wednesday – January 05, 2011

After receiving nearly 11 inches of rain in December, we’re enjoying a week of sunny but cold weather. There is lots of frost in the morning, but the sheep are warm in their wool coats and are enjoying the new grass and the sun. I found Bat and Lucky resting yesterday; Bat was asleep with his head on Lucky’s back. Keeping the rams in pairs is working well and we have far less fighting. Bat and Lucky are good buddies and Panda and Lau seem content together also.

On the New Year’s Eve Menu at Bistro des Copains

4 PM Tuesday – January 04, 2011

Bistro des Copains in Occidental featured this lovely “crispy hot purse of Barinaga Ranch sheep cheese,” served with mesclun greens, Bartlett pears and a citrus chardonnay vinaigrette on their New Year’s Eve menu! Our friends Thane and Steve said it was amazing.

Blogging again!

8 PM Tuesday – November 30, 2010

It has been a great season, and our cheese is being featured at more Bay Area cheese shops and restaurants than I can even list. The newest is Bistro des Copains in Occidental, who posted a blog about our cheese the day they received it! We have some delicious sausage available in 4 flavors, including Merguez, the traditional Moroccan lamb sausage, as well as bratwurst and sweet and hot Italian, all made locally by Sonoma Direct. I have shipped off more wool for blankets and will have those available soon, we have some sheepskins still available for sale, and soon I will have wool-flled comforters available also, made at the Yolo woolen mill. I attended the annual dairy sheep meeting in Wisconsin in November and gained a lot of practical knowledge I plan to implement right away here at home. Our flock of 70+ ewes and ewe lambs should all be pregnant and expecting their lambs starting March 1. The ewe lambs have grown so beautifully that it is hard to tell them from the ewes. The ranch is looking beautiful after some good October rains followed by warm sunny weather gave the grass a good start. I promise to take and post photos regularly on this blog, so all our friends can share in our progress.

Back to cheesemaking after ACS

8 PM Monday – August 30, 2010

It has been a busy summer, with cheesemaking, managing the ranch, and preparing to sell our old house and move into our new house on the ranch. Today I was back to cheesemaking after spending a great three days at the American Cheese Society meeting in Seattle, where our cheese was very well received at the “Meet the Cheesemaker” event.  I made some new cheese friends, including cheesemongers from around the country who are eager to carry our cheese. It was also great to meet and share information with Brad and Meg Gregory, of Black Sheep Creamery in Washington, whose Queso de Oveja won first place in the farmstead sheep cheese category. I also had the pleasure of reconnecting wtih Pat Elliott, of Everona Dairy in Virginia, from whom I bought most of my original dairy ewes. Pat’s Piedmont took third place in farmstead sheep cheese. Today I was back in the creamery, and mid-day, the Marshall fog rolled in, dropping the temperature by 15 degrees in half an hour. At the end of the day as i was waiting to put the cheeses into the brine, I did my favorite thing and poked my head out to watch the girls trotting into the parlor to be milked. This photo is of Nervous Nellie and Bebe, both daughters of Pat’s wonderful ewes, on their way out of the parlor.

Milk Bath

9 PM Wednesday – July 07, 2010

The pigs are supposed to EAT the whey, not bathe in it! Whenever they do things like this, Lolo just says with a smile, “Well, they are pigs!”

Visit from the Pasta Shop

10 PM Sunday – July 04, 2010

We had a visit today from Juliana Uruburu and members of her cheese-selling staff at the Pasta Shop in Berkeley in Oakland. They had a tour of the creamery and milking barn, followed by long visits with the ewes and lambs, and went home with 5 wheels of my first Baserri cheeses. Photo: a little kiss from one of next year’s milkers

Visit from Sierra Mar

9 PM Monday – June 28, 2010

Corey and I had a wonderful visit yesterday and today from Craig Von Foerster, executive chef at Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, and his wife Tamara. They arrived yesterday in time for the afternoon milking, which Tamara was eager to see, as she grew up on a Jersey dairy in Missouri. I cooked them a Basque dinner with my grandmother’s recipes, and Tamara shared stories of her grandparents, and of her growing up on a dairy, where her many jobs included cleaning the milking units and bulk tank, a job with which I’m very familiar! This morning they were up early to have a cheese making lesson and help me make today’s cheese. After the cheese was in the molds, they headed back to Big Sur with lambs and cheese for Sierra Mar.  (Photo: Craig stirs the curd. Click on photo to enlarge.)

New Employee!

2 PM Sunday – June 27, 2010

We have a new employee! Anna Erickson, who grew up on a ranch in Valley Ford and went to college in Montana, is now growing vegetables on her family ranch and selling them at farmer’s markets. And in her spare time, she is working for me, taking care of the cheeses in the aging room. Anna is a great lover of cheese, and the cheeses are benefitting from her careful attention. She will also be learning to run the milking parlor so she can help out with milking on the weekends. Photo: Anna with the cheese. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

 

The cheese is almost ready!

9 PM Tuesday – June 22, 2010

The aging room is filling up and June 27 is the date when our first cheeses will be 60 days old. I’ve been pre-tasting and they are delicious. If you have signed up on the cheese mailing list, please note that I’m having trouble with that provider and can’t access that list right now, but hope to have the issue resolved soon and will be in touch as soon as I have your mailing addresses. My first cheeses will be going out locally to Cowgirl Creamery/Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes and San Francisco CA, Oliver’s Market in Santa Rosa, CA, The Pasta Shop in Berkeley and Oakland CA, Raymond & Company, The Cheese Board in Berkeley CA, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco CA, Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station CA, Nick’s Cove in Marshall CA, Quince Restaurant in San Francisco CA, Restaurant Marche in Menlo Park CA, Sierra Mar in Big Sur CA, The Marshall Store in Marshall CA, Point Reyes Vineyard in Point Reyes CA, and The Basque Market in Boise, ID.

Edith and her brood

10 PM Saturday – June 12, 2010

We never weaned Edith and Delia’s lambs. They were among the youngest lambs and Edith and Delia are pure Katahdins and not great producers in the parlor, although Delia was amazing last year for a Katahdin, and her daughter and granddaughter are doing well this year. Nevertheless, Edith and Delia are pastured with their lambs, and the lambs have the additional attention of two maiden aunties–our two E. Friesians that didn’t lamb. Edith’s lambs are adorable and never far from her–three freckle-faced copies of their mother, always clinging by her side. And some days Delia’s twins are hunkered with Edith’s brood as well.

Schmoozing with the lambs

10 PM Friday – June 11, 2010

After a long day of cheesemaking, and a very long cold week of extreme wind and fog, today the sky was blue and by the end of the day the wind had finally diminished enough for one to actually want to be outside. At 7:00 when I had finished with the cheesemaking, affinage and clean up, I wandered over to the pasture by our new house where the lambs are living, in grass taller than they are. I sat down in the grass and they all came to visit. Bugeyes’ daughter, Ladybug, was walking by and I called to her; she immediately came to me like a puppy for scratches and affection. I tried to get a photo with my iPhone; but she was too close and curious for a good picture.

Weighing Lambs

3 PM Thursday – May 20, 2010

We’ve had two days of rain this week, with nearly 3/4 inch accumulation, which is amazing for May. The grass is just growing and growing. Today was our day to weigh lambs. The lambs are growing nicely–we have lots of lambs that are 70 to 90 pounds and only a little over 2 months old. The gang went out to a new pasture after weighing, and if there is no rain in the forecast, we’ll move them tomorrow to a more distant pasture with even better grass. Photo: Lolo and Ignacio with the lambs in the corrals.

Visitors

1 PM Wednesday – May 19, 2010

We had a very nice visit on Monday from Colette Hatch and her cheese-counter managers from Oliver’s Market in Santa Rosa. They arrived just as I was getting my cheeses into the brine, and they stayed to meet the ewes and watch the afternoon milking. Today we had a visit from Guillaiume Bienaime, the chef at Restaurant Marche in Menlo Park, and some of his staff. Restaurant Marche will be featuring our spring lamb on a special chef’s menu this Friday and Saturday, May 23 and 22. It rained for both visits–I think I need to keep booking visitors; it will be great for the grass! Photo: Lolo milking.

Seattle Cheese Festival

11 PM Monday – May 17, 2010

My dad and I just spent a very nice weekend in Seattle, at the Seattle Cheese Festival, courtesy of Daphne Zepos who chose to feature our family story as part of her session on Basque cheeses. The city was beautiful, the audience very receptive and we had a wonderful time. I was only sorry that I didn’t have any cheese ready for the session, but Daphne chose lovely examples of Basque cheeses to sample, including an Ossau Iraty, Abbaye du Belloq, an Idiazabal and an Ardi Gazna. We are so grateful to Daphne for such a delightful opportunity to tell our story.

Cheese and lamb

7 AM Wednesday – May 12, 2010

I’ve been locked out of my web site for a few days due to technical problems, but there has been a lot happening at the ranch. The first cheeses are in the aging room, and the oldest ones (two weeks old today) are starting to grow their rinds, with white geotrichum, some rosy B. linens, and some brown mycodore spots. We have harvested our first lambs and they will be on the menu soon at Osteria Stellina–Christian has already served up some seared lamb livers. The ewes are healthy and happy, enjoying their green pastures. Their milk is beautiful and abundant. We did our first milk-metering yesterday and have many ewes producing over 5 pounds a day, and three, including Bebe, the yearling who was in my arms in the photo on the mission page, are producing more than six pounds a day!

Pasture Pigs

11 PM Monday – May 03, 2010

Sunday I sold 8 lambs to a wonderful couple in Sonoma for breeding stock. those little lambs–6 girls and 2 boys–are very lucky lambs who will be loved and doted on by a family. The same day we aquired 8 piglets to fatten up on the whey. They are enjoying the lush grass in their little pasture (formerly the maternity pasture). I tried to get a photo of them slurping up whey, but they all scattered and this was the best I could do.

First Cheese!

11 PM Wednesday – April 28, 2010

Wow! I have been so pleased with the beautiful udders (size and conformation) on all our yearlings ewes, and eager to see what their production was like. Today when I transferred milk for my first cheesemaking, I was thrilled. My vat was full with just 4 milkings! I did the math and found that our girls are producing an average of 5.7 pounds/ewe/day. And that is in a flock with more than half of the ewes in their first lactation. AND most of the yearlings are 3/4 Friesian, 1/4 Katahdin. It’s early in the season, of course, but these numbers are better than I had dared to expect. My first cheesemaking day was a bit hectic with all that milk and working out the logistics of operating with a full vat. Lolo helped me sort my way through several first-day crises ranging from water-heater problems to whey transport, and by this evening I had 9 Baserris and 9 Txikis ready for the brine, and a batch of ricotta made from from the whey draining in my kitchen sink for a dessert on Saturday. Saturday we’re getting six piglets from Clark Summit Farm to grow fat on all the whey I can’t make into ricotta.

 

Weaning and first milking

7 PM Monday – April 26, 2010

We weaned all but the 10 youngest lambs this morning. Big Otis is doing his best to protect and comfort the lambs. This afternoon we had our first milking and the ewes did really well, even the yearlings. The milk yield was good and the milk tasted delicious! This evening the lambs were buttoned up in the barn chowing down on alfalfa and their mothers were knee deep in clover in a new pasture. We’re expecting more rain! Photo: Otis and his charges after weaning.

Ready!

10 PM Sunday – April 25, 2010

Today was another gorgeous day and this afternoon Lolo and I did the parlor-training by ourselves. I was worried, but the girls were great–we didn’t have to do much besides stand back while all the ewes, including this year’s yearlings, eagerly waited for their turn to run up the ramp to the parlor. Tomorrow morning we’re weaning all but the youngest lambs and we’ll begin milking the first 40 ewes tomorrow afternoon. Photo: One of the Evangeline’s triplet daughters from last year (the Barbies), ready for milking.

In the Parlor

10 PM Saturday – April 24, 2010

The girls are getting used to giving up their lambs for an hour or so and filing into the parlor. The older, experienced ewes are helping the younger ones get comfortable with the routine. Corey and Ignacio and I did the training this evening and it went very smoothly, and tomorrow Lolo and I will do it alone. Monday morning all but the youngest lambs will be weaned and Monday afternoon Lolo, Ignacio and I will begin milking. Photo: Three of the yearling ewes–Gigi’s daughter, Katrina and Delia’s granddaughter–on the milking platform.

Ready to milk

12 PM Friday – April 23, 2010

The ewes are all sheared and enjoying their new haircuts in the warm weather. We’ve got the parlor and creamery ready and Lolo and Ignacio are finishing a new alley to bring the ewes up from their pasture to the parlor. The lambs are enjoying their last few days with their mothers. We will wean Monday and I’ll make my first batch of cheese Wednesday. Photo: Lambs playing on the concrete footings from the old Marconi radio towers.

Training the ewes

9 PM Wednesday – April 21, 2010

Phew–we had almost an inch of rain yesterday–Lolo and Ignacio used the rainy day to shear in the barn, and Pat and I tested the bulk-tank cooling system and cheese-vat heating system, then made a run to town. Today the shearing was finished, and we began to train the ewes to the parlor. The older ewes remembered the routine, ran up the ramp and filed in to get their feed. The yearlings were skittish, but Lolo and I coaxed them in, and we know from experience that tomorrow they will be more willing to run up that ramp, now that they know there is food involved. Today required a lot of hard work, but tomorrow we may have time to take a few photos of the process! Photo: Our Basque guests Asun with her husband and daughters on the ranch last Saturday.

Another storm coming

10 PM Monday – April 19, 2010

We’re expecting yet another storm tomorrow, while the ewes and lambs are enjoying the green pastures. Shearing is almost finished. Photo: The Tank, at 60 pounds and less than 6 weeks old.

Beautiful weekend

9 PM Sunday – April 18, 2010

It has been a beautiful weekend in Marshall and we have had many guests–my father and friends from the Basque country yesterday, and some business colleagues of Corey’s today. The pastures are brimming with wildflowers and the lambs are growing. My friend Pat is helping me get the creamery, milking parlor and milk room ready for the cheesemaking season. After days of hard work the creamery and milking parlor are gleaming,smelling clean and ready to receive milk. Next week we’ll begin milking and cheesemaking, which means our first cheese will be out in late June. Pat and I built a creep feeder in the night pasture today, and if the good weather holds, the mothers and lambs will start spending the night outside, this week, with two dogs for protection.  Photo: Edith and one of her lambs enjoying the sun.

Shearing

9 PM Friday – April 16, 2010

While my friend Pat and I get the creamery and milking parlor ready for this year’s season, Lolo and Ignacio are getting the flock sheared. Milking and cheesemaking is scheduled to start in less than two weeks. The mothers and lambs have been enjoying the warm weather.

Getting ready for milking

10 PM Monday – April 12, 2010

Today I cleaned the milking parlor, and cleaned, checked and sanitized all the milking equipment in preparation for the start of milking and cheesemaking. After a blustery storm yesterday and nearly 2 inches of rain, it was still raining off and on today. As I worked at the sink in the creamery, watching the changing weather through the window, there was a beautiful moment between squalls when the ewes and their lambs wandered out into the pasture from the storm shelter, and were silhouetted in the sun against the steel grey sky.

More rain on the way…

9 AM Saturday – April 10, 2010

We’re expecting another storm on Sunday, and all this late rain promises to make this a great year for grass. The ewes and lambs are out on the pasture with a storm shelter to keep them warm and dry when the rain comes. The oldest lambs are starting to ruminate; it is so cute to see them hanging out chewing their cuds like grownups. Dave Ansley sent this photo taken by Ardy, the exchange student from Java, of his friend Li from Shanghai making friends with Belle.

Getting ready for milking

10 PM Thursday – April 08, 2010

Today we weighed lambs, and Miss Piggy’s boy, nick-named The Tank, because he was a hulking 15 pounds at birth, now weighs 56 pounds, and he’s just one month old! (Guillaume, this lamb is going to be on your special chef’s menu in May!) Meanwhile he is having a happy life with his mother on our pastures. We also began shearing the ewes. We’re shearing ourselves this year, for biosecurity reasons, and so far the ewes have been very understanding as Lolo and I teach ourselves. The first ewes won’t win any beauty contests, but they were happy and cool and clearly feeling svelte. We had to stop today when it was time for Dennis, our dairy contractor, to come and talk us through the routine for bringing our milking parlor on line the week after next. Next week we’re scheduled to clean and outfit the milking parlor, milk room and creamery, shear the rest of the ewes, and begin to reaquaint them with the parlor. The week after, we’ll get our pigs who will be raised on the whey, and with luck we’ll be milking by the end of the week. I don’t have any photos of our shearing party today,but here is an archival photo of Corey in 2005, learning to shear a ewe at Linda and Dick’s place in Idaho. This is a sight never to be seen again. Lolo and I are using the same system, shearing the ewes “4H” style, on a show-stand.

Vaccination time

5 PM Tuesday – April 06, 2010

After the weekend storm, it was wonderful to see the sun today. We vaccinated the rest of the flock for soremouth, with Ignacio holding the lambs and Lolo administering the small-pox-like vaccine, while I held Lolo’s implements and noted eartag numbers.

April rain

10 PM Sunday – April 04, 2010

We had a big rainstorm today; great April rain for the pastures, but kind of a gloomy Easter. The ewes and lambs stayed warm and dry in the barns. Yesterday was cool and windy but the rain hadn’t started yet. We had a wonderful visit from Dave Ansley, my former editor at the San Jose Mercury News, now of Bainbridge Island, WA, his wife Jeanne Huber and their family and exchange students from China and Indonesia. Highlight of the day, besides the visit with the ewes and lambs was Li from Shanghai getting to see, and pet, and lead and hug, the first horse he had ever laid eyes on. He and Belle were instant friends. I’m only sorry I don’t have a photo of them. But I do have this lovely photo Dave took of lambs in the pasture.

88 lambs

7 AM Friday – April 02, 2010

We have 88 lambs and lambing is winding down. Yesterday morning I pulled up to the barn at 6:30 and heard that sound I love, of a mother talking to her newborn lamb. It was 9035, the last of the yearlings, and she had a pair of twin boys on the ground. The first was perfectly cleaned and she was dotingly working on the second. Within minutes of my arrival, Ignacio showed up and together we watched while the lambs figured out how to nurse on their own. Dipped their navels, popped them in a jug and got home by 7:15 for breakfast! We had a lovely visit from friends yesterday who enjoyed watching the lambs frolic on the pasture. We have two ewes left who haven’t lambed, but they may not be pregnant. We’ll give them another week or so until it is mathematically unlikely that they could still have lambs, and then decide what to do. Meanwhile, it’s time to start to start preparing for milking and cheesemaking. Photo: 9035 with one of her newborns.

Wool Blankets for Sale

8 AM Wednesday – March 31, 2010

We have wool blankets for sale, made for us at a woolen mill with the wool from our sheep. We still have a few lap rugs left for $80 each. This is what they look like. (Cat not included). We are sold out of fulls and queens but plan to have more made this year if there is interest. We’ll have a page up soon for blankets and other products, meanwhile you can indicate interest on the “contact” page. Photo: Courtesy of Thane, starring Emily the cat.

Edith had triplets!

3 PM Tuesday – March 30, 2010

We’ve been busy again with the lambing finale, and rejoicing at the late-March rain. After the three lambs born Saturday, two more ewes lambed yesterday morning before I left for my presentation on the last day of the Artisan Cheese Festival. They were both yearlings and each had a single–one boy and one girl. This morning I checked the barn at 5:30 am and all was quiet, but by the time Ignacio and Lolo got there at 6:45, Edith was in the process of having triplets! Finally. She was as huge as a house for so long, we’re happy she has her lambs and is doing well. The lambs are adorable, purebred Katahdins, that look just like her, with freckled noses and freckled legs. One girl and two boys and all are doing well. Edith is such a sweet mother. When I got to the barn at 9:00 to check in before going to meeting, Lolo and Ignacio had finished with Edith’s triplets and were attending to 9043, another yearling, who was in early labor. She had a big black and white boy. We have 86 lambs and 3 ewes left to lamb, one yearling who doesn’t look too ready yet, and Mini and Suffolk-face, both of whom look like they may not even be pregnant. That would be a bummer, but I hope with more time they will show signs of having lambs. Photo: Edith with one of her triplets, in one of her characteristic “sheepish” poses.

Three new lambs!

8 PM Saturday – March 27, 2010

I was at the Sonoma Artisan Cheese Festival this morning giving a presentation on the Basque inspiration for my cheese, while Lolo held down the fort at the ranch. I returned at 1:00 to find the barn door open, and Lolo, his wife Lola and her sister and brother-in-law all outside the barn. I feared disaster, but Lolo informed me with a smile that we had “a new family” and Lola and their visitors had come up to see. One of the remaining yearling ewes had twins, a boy and a girl. I put on coveralls and helped Lolo get the lambs settled in a jug with their mother. Meanwhile another of the yearlings, one of Evangeline’s triplet girls from last year (affectionately known as the “Barbies”) went into labor. We brought her into the barn and she had a single girl. Lolo stayed with me until 3:00 wehn he left to enjoy the rest of the day wtih his guests. Seven ewes left to lamb, and I think we are getting into our next wave of lambs. Photo: Delia’s daughter (a Friesian/Kathahdin hybrid), with two of her triplets. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

New Pasture

9 PM Friday – March 26, 2010

No lambs born today. When are those last ewes going to pop? We have 9 ewes left to lamb and Edith has been looking ready for days, but is still eating heartily and showing no signs of being imminent. Today was another unusually beautiful March day with minimal wind and warm but not too hot. We put the ewes and lambs out on a new pasture and they feasted on the clover. We also had a farm-visit from participants in tne Artisan Cheese Festival. Everyone had a nice visit with the ewes and lambs, and then after a milking-parlor and creamery tour, we had lunch on the lee side of the barn, hardly necessary on such a mild day. Photo: Katrina with one of her lambs, on the new pasture. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Growing Flock

9 PM Thursday – March 25, 2010

Tueday morning Delia delivered a beautiful set of purebred Katahdin twins. We realized that although Delia is a very good milker for a Katahdin, we wouldn’t be keeping her ewe lambs for the parlor, so we bred her to our gorgeous Katahdin ram, Bat, in hopes of some nice Katahdin lambs, And these are lovely. Tuesday evening 1620 had twins as well, and those were our last lambs for the past few days. We have 77 lambs so far. We have used the quiet time to give our oldest lambs their first vaccinations. Today my father was visiting, and he helped us vaccinate lambs. He caught lambs and Lolo and Ignacio vaccinated. We had a great time working the sheep together. Dad reminisced about working the sheep in his youth on the family ranch in Idaho. My only regret is that we were so busy I neglected to take photos. Photo: Oso keeps watch over lambs in the pasture.

Happy Ewes

8 PM Monday – March 22, 2010

As I got out of my car outside the barn on my 5 am barn-visit, I was greeted by a soft bleating sound that I recognized as a mother ewe talking to her newborn lamb. As the lights in the barn came up slowly, I saw 1436, a very sweet ewe with big expressive eyes, laying down and talking to a very robust ram lamb who was standing next to her. 1436 stood up to greet me and it was clear that she had not only delivered this large lamb on her own, but that he had already nursed well. I clipped and sanitized his navel and weighed him (13 pounds!). It looked like the mother was expelling the placenta, so I figured she was done with a nice big single. I put them in a jug, gave her some water, and headed home to try to catch another hour of sleep. When I got back to the barn at 7:30, Lolo told me he had arrived at 6:30, just as 1436 was delivering her second lamb, a 10 1/2 pound girl! The lambs were amazingly robust and 1436 was a very good mother. Those were the only births today. It was a windy day so we put the ewes and lambs out in the small night-pasture, where they would have some wind-protection. Eleven ewes left to lamb, and at least 5 of them are not very bagged-up yet, so delivery does not seem imminent. This is the hardest time, when we are all so exhausted and eager for it to be over, but the last ewes are going to straggle in one at a time. Our two remaining Katahdins, Edith and Delia, are huge, and look ready to pop at any time. Maybe tonight. I have been bottle-feeeing Shorty, Evangeline’s girl, to take some of the pressure off of Evangeline, whose milk is still sparse after her illness. Every time I show up in the mixing pen with a bottle, Shorty comes running; and close behind her is Bebe, now a mother herself, but still remembering her role as last year’s bottle-baby. It’s very sweet–this big ewe coming with some deeply rooted response to a person with a bottle, and then not quite sure why she is there. Photo: Emily’s daughter, one of our yearling Friesians, with her twins. (The painted numbers are so we can easily tell which lambs go with which mother). Click photo to enlarge.

Busy Weekend

10 PM Sunday – March 21, 2010

Saturday began for me at 5 am with a barn-check; all was quiet. I snuck back home to try to get another hour of sleep and was awakened by Ignacio beginning his day at 6:30 with a phone call: “Please come now.” I launched out of bed and into my coveralls, and got to the barn to find Ignacio with a ewe in labor and what was showing of the lamb was a tail. This had been my biggest fear, a lamb presenting rear-end first, with the legs back. With Ignacio ably assisting, I did my first serious birth-intervention, easing the lamb back into the uterus and fishing out the hind legs,so I could pull the lamb backwards. It survived, and the ewe went on to have two more! Ignacio and I were elated from the experience. Carol, Taun and Alice came up to help with the days chores, and in late afternoon we all assisted at the birth of twins in the maternity pasture. After we had all the sheep in the barns for the evening, another ewe went into labor, and Ignacio stayed to help me deliver another set of twins. Today was a bit slower–beginning with twins at 7 am, wtih Lolo assisting, and me showing up just as everything was over, and then followed by a single lamb born in the middle of the day. The drama in that case was that the yearling ewe was very skittish, and we had to bring all the ewes into the barn to get her inside to put her in a jug with her lamb. All was quiet in the barn tonight. Evangeline seems fully recovered and today, 3 weeks after they were born, her twins got to play in the big mixing pen, with mom hanging out with 30 or so other mothers,all calling to their lambs. Photo: I find the mothers of single lambs form really sweet and tight bonds with their “only children.” Maybe because I’m an only child myself, this really touches me. This is 9053, one of our yearling ewes (a first-time mother), resting with her ram-lamb. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

A Beautiful March Day

9 PM Friday – March 19, 2010

It was a slow lambing day–Lolo started off delivering twins at 6 am, and after that all was quiet. That gave Lolo and Ignacio time to clean both barns for the weekend, and reconfigure the mixing pen to give the mothers and lambs more room to play. I took the day to catch up on office work. And the sheep enjoyed the warm sunshine and calm weather–one of those rare and special March days. Tonight it was actually too warm in the barns, and we left the doors open until after dark. Photo: Bebe (the lamb who was in my arms on our “Mission” page) with her twins.

Salt Lady had triplets!

10 PM Thursday – March 18, 2010

Linda left this morning and Lolo and Ignacio and I were very sad to see her go. It has been a wonderful two and a half weeks with lots of laughs and joy and hard work, which thank goodness Linda enjoys. As I feared, within hours of Linda’s departure, lambs started coming. During lunch, 1745, also known as Speckles, for the spash of white freckles across her black face, went into labor, at the same time as our gargantuan ewe we call Tiny. Both had twins out in the pasture, with Lolo and Ignacio and I attending and assisting, as the lambs were large. Then, just as we were bringing the ewes in for the night, 8002, the ewe who mysteriously and hilariously always wants to stand in the salt, went into labor. She popped out a nice little ram lamb in 15 minutes, but took over an hour with the next. Lolo had to leave for a meeting, and Ignacio stayed to help me. With no sign of a lamb, I had to go in, and found a lamb all ready to deliver, but just not coming. I pulled that lamb, a nice boy, and then just as we thought we were done, she popped out a third, a ewe lamb. By 7:00, Ignacio and I had all three lambs drinking from Mom, and settled with Mom in a jug, and had medicated the mother to prevent infection from the intravention. Photo: Lolo wtih Tiny and her first lamb in the pasture (click on photo to enlarge.)

Late Night at the New Ewe Spa

11 PM Tuesday – March 16, 2010

Linda just returned from the late-evening barn check to report that 24 ewes are resting in relative comfort with no sign of lambing before morning. And we had a hilarious laugh over this ewe, 8002, who for some reason spends all her time in the barn standing with her front feet in the salt dish. This has been going on for a week now–we figure she considers it to be salt-scrub manicure treatment.

Slow lambing day

10 PM Tuesday – March 16, 2010

Just one lamb born today, late this afternoon. But it gave us a chance to catch up on shots, ear-tagging and other chores. Also it was a beautiful day to watch the lambs playing and sunning in their pasture.

Half Way

11 PM Monday – March 15, 2010

We’re half way there–26 ewes have lambed and we have 26 to go. Today began at 5:45 when Lolo found one of our 2-year-old Friesians giving bitth to a nice single ewe lamb. Then at noon today, two ewes lambed in the maternity pasture at the same time. One of the 2-year-old hybrid ewes had triplets,and a yearling had twins. Linda and I were very busy with those 5 lambs and their mothers, as well as ear-tagging the lambs that were ready to leave the jugs, and giving vitamin shots to the lambs born in the past two days. In the late afternoon, Ignacio found a yearling ewe in the maternity pasture who had already delivered a lamb and had a second on the way, bringing our total to 47 lambs, 24 boys and 23 girls. This evening our jugs are nearly full. Evangeline is still recovering from her post-delivery illness, so she and her lambs remain in the lambing barn where they have become great pets. Today was too busy for much photography, except for a photo of Evangeline cuddlnig with her twins.

Another beautiful lambing day

11 PM Sunday – March 14, 2010

The day began with Linda’s early trip to the barn, where she found Lolo delivering twins, and helped him finish. It was another beautiful relatively calm and warm sunny day, and around noon one of the yearling ewes lambed in the maternity pasture. Karl got to assist in his first lamb birth, a single girl. This evening, Lolo checked the barn after dinner and found another of the yearlings delivering a single boy. By the end of today 21 of our ewes have lambed and we have 39 lambs. Photo: Karl with the newborn lamb in the pasture (click on photo to enlarge).

A beautiful day and more lambs

10 PM Saturday – March 13, 2010

Today started at 4:30 when Lolo found Katrina in labor. He stayed with her and she had twins by the time I got to the barn at 6:45. It was a beautiful day on the ranch and after breakfast, Josi, Karl, Linda Dick and I vaccinated ewes and gave vitamins to the recent lambs, while Ignacio cleaned the barn. in the mid morning Ignacio alerted us to a ewe in labor in the maternity pasture, and Karl assisted in his first lamb birth, a very big single boy born to one of the yearling ewes. The rest of the day was quiet–we had a nice lunch outside and a visit from my dad. This evening after dinner we checked the barn and found another of the yearlings in labor; she had a boy and a girl and we saw them take their first drink and settled mother and lambs in their pen before retiring for the night.

We’re Busy!

7 PM Friday – March 12, 2010

We’ve had 7 ewes lamb in less than 24 hours! All were yearlings and all had twins, with a total of 7 boys and 7 girls. Two ewes lambed last night when Linda and I were in the barn, then Lolo found one of Evangeline’s daughters lambing at 4:30 this morning, and another yearling lambing at 7:00 when he returned to the barn. This afternoon Linda and I went to town and when we returned Lolo and Ignacio had just finished delivering two sets of twins. While we were there, Gigi’s daughter finally went into labor and delivered twin boys. We have extra help coming tonight–Linda’s daugher Josi and her husband Karl, and Linda’s husband Dick. So far all our lambing has been in early morning and evening, none in the middle of the night, although we were expecting it last night. Photo: Gigi’s daughter with her twins. The first, on the right, was the one who must have been holding things up in delivery (she seemed to be in early labor for more than 24 hours). His birth fluids had the orange color of a lamb that was stressed in delivery. His brother popped out minutes after him, and was as white and clean as snow.

Finally–Lambs!

11 PM Thursday – March 11, 2010

Tonight the spell was broken, and the yearling ewes started lambing, 142 days from when the rams went in with them. At 9:00 when Linda and I went to check the barn, Emily’s daughter Emy had one lamb on the ground and a second on the way. She was a wonderful mother; she delivered both lambs on her own and loved and cleaned them up. A nice boy and a girl. Before we could even get Emy and her lambs into a jug, Nadie’s daughter had two hooves and a nose showing, and soon she had delivered a nice girl, with another on the way, a boy. She was also an excellent first-time mother. By 10:30, we had 4 lambs, and several other ewes appeared to be in the early stages of labor, including Gigi’s daughter, Bugeyes and Delia’s daughter. Most of the rest of the 30 ewes in the barn were feeling uncomfortable and definitely cranky, and hilarious little fights and spats were breaking out all over. We decided that I’d better go home to get a little sleep, so I could come up at 2:00 to spell Linda if she was still there. I left Linda finishing up with the second set of twins and came home for a few hours’ sleep.

Still No Lambs

6 PM Thursday – March 11, 2010

It was a beautiful sunny calm day, and to avoid feeling discouraged because no ewes were lambing, we took advantage of the nice weather, washed a load of lambs’ wool that Linda plans to spin into yarn, dried it in the sun, and prepared one of the garden beds for planting. Thirty ewes—including Eva, who still has not lambed—are in the barn tonight, all looking like they could lamb at any moment. We certainly wish one of them would start things off. As we were leaving the ranch this evening, I got this photo of our Katahdin ram Bat, posed on his favorite rock, with his sidekick, East Friesian ram-lamb Lucky Boy at his side(click on photo to enlarge).

Still Waiting

12 PM Wednesday – March 10, 2010

Eva is holding out, looking like she’s in early labor, but no lambs yet. Many of the yearling ewes look ready to lamb, and we’ve moved them into the same group with the older ewes,so they will be coming into the barn at night. We don’t want any lambs born at night in the pasture. Evangeline and her lambs are still in the barn because Evangeline requires some extra attention, although she’s almost back to normal. Shorty and her brother seem happy with each other’s company and Shorty still likes to sleep on top of Evangeline (click on photo to enlarge).

March Winds

8 PM Tuesday – March 09, 2010

Our March winds have arrived and it has been blowing for three days. Still, the mothers and lambs are enjoying the sunshine and grass in our night-pasture, which is wind-sheltered. Monday morning, Psycho lambed with twin girls. Psycho got her name because she was a very bad mother last year and showed no interest in her lambs. We kept her because she is a fabulous producer in the milking parlor. This year she loved her little lambs right away, and has continued to be a good mom, to our great relief. No lambs born again today. We are mystified that the lambing pattern is so different this year than last year, and will have to analyze our procedures once all the data are in. Today Linda and I prepared our second lambing group, last year’s ewe-lambs, who are due to start lambing tomorrow, by clipping the wool from their rear-ends for cleaner lambing. Tonight one of our Katahdins, Eva, seems about to go into labor, so it may be a late night. Photo: Nadie and her lamb in the night pasture (click on photo to enlarge).

We’re going to be very busy one of these days!

5 PM Sunday – March 07, 2010

Another day with no lambs born! With the help of friends Rich and Lori, we cleaned the barn, set up a creep-feeder for the lambs, vaccinated, wormed and trimmed hooves. Mothers and lambs spent a happy day in a sunny and wind-sheltered pasture, since our March winds have begun to blow. We have 14 lambs so far, 7 boys and 7 girls, and 44 ewes left to lamb. Photo of Linda with lambs was taken yesterday by Carol (click on photo to enlarge).

More Lambs

10 PM Saturday – March 06, 2010

Lambing is still slow, but one of these days it has to pick up. Thursday Elsbeth delivered three healthy boys. Later that day, Estrella Blanca had a healthy boy, after a difficult delivery that required assistance. Mother and baby are doing well. Friday no lambs were born at all. Evangeline is eating her regular rations with gusto for the first time since lambing. This afternoon Miss Piggy delivered the largest lamb we’ve ever had, a 15 1/4 lb boy. The older lambs and their mothers spent the day out on the green pastures and now are settled in a new mixing pen in the milking barn. The expectant mothers are looking even more expectant. We had help at the ranch today from friends Carol, Melinda and Heidi, and Carol took this photo of one of Split Ear’s lambs in the barn-aisle. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

We Indulge all Your Cravings at the New Ewe Spa

10 PM Wednesday – March 03, 2010

Only one lamb born today, a beautiful black girl to 8024, who had triplets last year. The ewes were having their breakfast outside, but 8024 returned to the barn to go into labor and delivered a 14-lb girl, with Lolo and Ignacio attending. Evangeline was still out of sorts after lambing several days ago, not eating and worrying us, until she suddenly went beserk and started chewing on Marcia’s sweatshirt sleeves. We wondered if she was craving something besides grain and alfalfa, and went out to cut her a fresh salad of grass. She stuffed her mouth greedily and has been gorging on fresh salad ever since, and seeming much happier.

Rain and Sun

2 PM Tuesday – March 02, 2010

We had 3/4 inch of rain last night, with intermittent sun and rain today. 1585 (Nadie) had a nice single ewe lamb last night around 9:00, and all was quiet when Linda checked the barn at 2 am. This morning Split-Ear had twin girls, a black and a white one. We have been feeding the ewes at noon rather than 5 pm, to encourage daytime lambing, and it looks so far like maybe this is working. And out of 8 lambs born so far, 6 are girls, so we’re feeling very lucky indeed! Photo: Nadie with her ewe lamb.

First Lambs!

6 PM Monday – March 01, 2010

Today was a slower lambing day then we expected. It started out with two sets of lambs; Lolo got to the barn at 7:00 and found Evangeline with twins, a girl and a boy, and 1605 with one ewe-lamb and another on the way, also a girl. Linda and I got there by 8:00 and I pulled 1605’s third, a large boy. Evangeline’s twins were tiny, but active, and 1605’s triplets were small, medium and large, but all vigorous. No more lambs for the rest of the day, although a dozen of the ewes look very ready. We may have a busy night. Photo: 1605 resting her head on two of her triplets.

Expecting

10 PM Sunday – February 28, 2010

Our grass is green and lush from all the recent rains, and the wild iris are coming up in the pastures. Lambing is due to begin tomorrow, Monday, March 1. The girls are all looking very pregnant and we are as eager as they are for the lambs to start coming. We’re expecting little sleep and lots of lambs in the next week, but I will try to post news when I have a chance. My cousin Linda arrived yesterday and today we trimmed the wool of all the ewes to keep them clean and tidy during lambing and help the lambs find their first drink of milk.