Sunday, May 12, 2013

Spring 2013

On the day our first lamb was born this January, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was gone a month later. To say this was a earth shattering event for me would be a gross understatement. My world turned upside down as I entered a new phase in life, one in which I am experiencing the most visceral grief I've ever felt, and one where I was now responsible for caring for my mother and the house that I grew up in, along with my own home.
My husband took over care of the farm while I moved in with my parents to do the right thing while my dad was sick. Subsequently, I haven't had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my flock this year, or watch the lambs grow. Something I took for granted in the past. I now struggle to find balance between caring for two households and keep a part of myself grounded so I don't lose who I am.
I've cut back on some areas of my life here, no garden this year for example, and will need to make a decision which way to take my flock. Meat or fiber? Can I continue to do both? We'll see.
We've been struggling with an invasion of horse nettle and some kind of invasive grass that the sheep won't touch. So we bit the bullet and tilled up the east pasture, which is half our pasture. We're currently re-seeding it. We'll have to keep the sheep off it completely this year, and next year we'll do the same with the west pasture.

 We didn't do any purebred Shetland breeding this year. It felt nice to take a year off and just have some cute lambs just for fun. We used our commercial ram, Jackson, over the Shetlands. Here Twilight had a black ram lamb and white ewe lamb.  
 Marble had twin ewes.
 A spotted Katahdin ewe lamb meats a whiteface lamb.
 Shamu had a cute off-white ewe lamb (on the left) and a fuzzy legged ram lamb.
 We traded two bred ewes over the winter for hogs! They've been a lot of fun, but now it's time to send them in for processing. They're going this Thursday. We're keeping the meat from one hog, the other hog was sold and the buyer will pick the meat up from the locker. Raising hogs over the winter was a cake walk. No smell or flies. 

 Scampi is a two year old homegrown commercial ewe. She is Cheviot/ BFL/Suffolk/ Clun and threw triplets for us her first lambing! I had to tube the littlest one to get him up and running, but all three survived and are doing well.   
This is a Katahdin ram lamb single. At 3.5 months, they are heavy little beasties. I like watching them grow. We are going to butcher our two year old ram this week. I figure butchering a ram in May will give me a good idea how this breed tastes before I start selling them for meat. If the ram tastes good, I'll be comfortable marketing them throughout the year.     
Here is a sable colored Katahdin ram lamb. I sure got some beautiful color this year, but we all know that color doesn't equal quality. I've had a few bad bites, testes slow to descend, and not all my Katahdins shed their coats. I had to have a few of them sheared.
My 2013 lambs are all over the place in terms of "quality", as are the foundation stock I had purchased over the last few years now that they are mature. I made few novice mistakes, and bought a few "dogs", learning the hard way that not all Katahdin breeders are ethical or will stand behind their stock. Quite a shock after dealing with Shetland people over the last decade, who at least care about their reputations. So I'll focus on the journey and have some fun working with them to get them where I want them. I 'm considering getting a Dorper ram to put over my ewes, that adds some chunk to the lambs.

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