Monthly Archives: February 2011

Due Dates

Our rent-a-ram Zeus first “serviced” the ewes on December 14, which means if any of them got knocked up that first day, we’re looking at a due date of May 10, with a “be on the lookout” range of May 1 through May 22.  If any of them got pregnant on his last day at the farm, the due date is July 5.  Meaning our window for lambing is May 1 through July 17.  That sounds like a really long time to be at the ready.

Given Barney the Boar’s recent exploits, we could have piglets on June 20.


An email from my husband

This was just too good not to share verbatim.

Barney got into the ladies today. He could not have been in there more than 2 hours before I got him back into his pen and shut tight.

He did try to mount them all though.

He also hurt his nose, I think the ring got caught on the fence as he was scooting under it. Some blood and torn flesh.

I tried to clip the thing off but he screamed and ran, I should have waited until it healed. He’s depressed now.

What do other people do when they have a cold?

Love ya,


Replacement puppy

After Watson died, we decided we wanted to get a new dog relatively quickly.  As Will put it, it was just too sad looking at his empty bowls and bed all day. We knew we’d never feel the same way about another dog, but the next dog would be Alston’s dog – the one in all his childhood memories.  The search was on.

We started at the SPCA, but no one seemed to fit the bill.  We tried a basset hound rescue group, but the only dog available within 50 miles of us was already spoken for.  Lady became our rebound puppy, until that didn’t work out so well for the sheep. And then Will found a dog on Craig’s List.

His story and pictures reminded us a lot of Watson; another beagle who was found wandering and appeared to be well cared for.  He was likely a hunting dog that just didn’t work out, as so many abandoned hounds are in Central Virginia.  Based on his teeth, the age guesstimate is about a year.

For the first few days we couldn’t decide on a name, so we took to calling him New Dog, a nickname Alston immediately accepted.  Upon waking every morning he’d say “I go downstairs, see New Dog.”  We’ve since settled on the name Tuck, as in Friar Tuck… a true sidekick and perhaps a bit more adventurous than Dr. Watson.  Just what a farmer boy needs.

In some ways, Tuck is so much like Watson; same size, both curl up into the same beagle ball, wag their tails in the same desperate anticipation of people food.  But they are just dissimilar enough that I don’t feel like I’ve tried to replace Watty with Watty Light.  The basset in Watson added to his endearing  patheticness; those droopy eyes and jowls, his long ears, that log like trunk, his old-man-ness.  Tuck has wonderfully thick doggie eyeliner, a less neurotic disposition, a willingness to play with other dogs, and a lot of spots. Not so much an old soul as a willing companion.

And did I mention those beagle eyes?

Glimmers of spring

This weekend, it got up to 70 degrees here.  I know, that’s evil of me to say when half the country is still buried under epic amounts of snow, but it really was like waking up from a long nap and being greeted with a warm cup of tea and a copy of The New Yorker (okay, maybe that metaphor was a bit me-specific).

And so, while it’s back to the realm of the freezing, I’m staring at the daffodils poking their heads out in search of longer days and commiserating.

Meet the boar

While I chronicled Barney’s arrival, I never did post a proper picture, so consider this his formal introduction.

As you can see, he looks much more like a wild hog, with his elongated snout, than the girls.  He also has a “humane ring” in his nose to keep him from rooting.  We’re going to remove it, although I must say he does a pretty good jobs tearing up the ground in spite of it.

He’s very friendly, and Scout appears quite taken with him, hanging out by his enclosure all day instead of her usual post on the back porch.  Now that the ladies are located next to him, he makes these odd grunts that Will describes as a Harley Davidson idling, but what must be the pork equivalent of pillow talk.  And now, filed under the category of too much information, is a shot of just how absurdly large his balls are.

I know, right?

Big Bertha Update

The good news is that Big Bertha appears to be doing quite well.  Her limp is almost healed and she’s able to keep up with the rest of the herd.  Unfortunately, she still appears to be blind. So I guess I have a Special Needs Sheep now.  Hmmm.

We never did need those antibiotics, in case anyone was keeping tabs.  It may have been an unnecessary risk we took by skipping them initially, but we got a pass this time.

Big Bertha used to be the alpha sheep, but now the one we’ve taken to calling Mangy seems to have assumed the leadership position (her wool is all patchy, likely from excessive rubbing up against trees to scratch).  She’s the first to the feed bucket, the first to venture out of the woods, the first to walk up to the watering tub near the house.  I’m just glad they are looking out for their differently-abled sister.

Lady is a tramp

Up until this weekend, Lady (our surrogate puppy) pretty much left the sheep alone.  I’m not sure if she just finally noticed them, or if it’s some sort of developmental milestone for dogs, but something clicked in her brain and she started chasing the animals.

Yesterday morning, Will found the pasture in disarray.  The electric fencing for the pigs was off and the wires were pulled from their posts in places.  The sheep were hiding in the woods and Big Bertha (our largest ewe) had blood on the wool of her chest and her face looked damaged.  Lady had been chasing them in the dark of night and in their flight, the sheep plowed through the fencing and Bertha must have plowed into a tree.

We had the vet come out and check on things and she discovered that Big Bertha is now blind.  She has a bit of a limp but otherwise seems to be doing okay – she’s walking around a bit and even found food at one point.  The vet gave her an anti-inflammatory and some vitamin B to potentially help her vision.  Depending on how she’s doing tomorrow, she may come back to give her an antibiotic.  The other sheep, who up until this point were silent members of the farm, now baah to help their sister find her way.  If we’re lucky, we’ll still have some lambs come spring.  This kind of stress can lead to miscarriage.

We were torn about the injections.  We want to be as organic as possible, but we also want to be humane.  Just like our decision to de-worm the sheep, we decided it was best to try to save our ewe if possible.  Sure, it would be a shame to lose her in terms of an investment, but more so here was an animal that got injured on our watch.  And while it is a slippery slope, there is a difference between giving a potentially pregnant ewe a single course of antibiotics and therefore having non-organic lambs, and having antibiotics used prophylactically in their feed on a daily basis like commercial producers.

If she looks better tomorrow, we may get a pass on antibiotics.  If she looks much worse, we’ll probably put her down and eat her.  Anything in between involves antibiotics.  Farm life really does have a way of putting things into perspective, especially compared to my days spent as a desk jockey.

As for Lady, she is officially banished from the pasture.  If she was our dog, we could try to train her, but she’s not our dog.  Even Watson wasn’t allowed in the pasture because he chased the sheep.  We thought Scout had Lady under control, but that was our mistake. Will lined the cattle gate with hogwire so she can’t get in anymore.  I’m sure she’ll still hang around the property, but she and Scout will have to place chase on opposite sides of the fence.

Scout appears heartbroken to lose her companion.