Archive for Agriculture

Farm Fun

There were seven kids here yesterday, aged almost 12 to 2, running about like little feral children raised by wolves. Some of them amused themselves by chasing the sheep until I told them that from now on, all sheep chasers would be required to don heavy winter jackets, hats, and gloves so that they would know how the sheep felt having to run around in their wool jackets in the summer heat. Surprisingly, there were no takers.

I know, I’m a party pooper.

They watched a duck egg hatch right in front of them. They threw some old eggs against trees that I gave them for that purpose.

Then the kids discovered the (currently) unused rusty hay ring and noted its resemblance to a hamster wheel. For those of you who do not know what a hay ring is, it looks similar to this one here, only ours is not all pretty and shiny and painted. They turned it on end, and with kids pushing on one side and pulling on the other, kid or kids took turns riding up one side, hanging from the middle, and climbing down the other as it rolled. Six-year-old Dylan was especially athletic, pulling himself from bar to bar 8 feet in the air while the ring was rolling as calmly as if he were traversing the monkey bars on the playground.

Naturally, my thoughts immediately turned to broken legs and arms. I was tempted to put a stop to this at once before somebody got killed, but they were having so much fun. “Maybe that’s what’s wrong with us today”, I thought. “Maybe we, as adults, are obsessed with taking the risks and danger out of too many things for children, which, after all, is part of the fun.” I remembered my childhood of climbing high in trees and swinging from vines while doing the Tarzan yell. The vines usually held almost long enough for us to safely reach the ground. We counted that as a success.

Well, the kids were all strong and compassionate (in the sense that they wouldn’t purposely do anything mean to cause somebody to fall and get hurt) so I just bit my tongue really, really hard and watched. My son, who used to rappel off the barn roof, went over to help them roll it and kept a close eye on them. His daughter, granddaughter #1, was on there, of course.

Nobody fell off and all the kids did something that was dangerous quite successfully. They had fun, gained new skills, and I have some new gray hair and a sore jaw from clenching my mouth shut.

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Quadriplegic Sheep is Now a Hemiplegic.

Quadriplegic ram lamb is now more of a hemiplegic ram lamb. His right side is much, much weaker than the left. His front legs are much weaker than the back. His physical therapy involves “walking” from place to place now. I get him up in the morning and, with my hands in his wool over his shoulders and hips, hold him steadyish as he “walks”. His walk is more of a drunken-appearing stumble with frequent falls and face plants if I didn’t have his back (literally). He has only been capable of moving his legs in a synchronized walking motion, no matter how weak the legs, for the first time today. Prior to today, the legs moved randomly in kicking motions with one front leg ominously not moving at all.

He spent several hours foraging his own food today (from his chest-lying position), something he hasn’t done since before he got sick. He would lay passively flopped over until today and wait for me to bring him something, stuff it in his mouth, and prop him back up. Today, he ate grass with his side supported by a log instead of holding out for the choicest honeysuckle vines, grape leaves, pecan leaves, and the leaves of all my other trees and plants that I normally gather for him. Thank goodness! He will baaaaa at me when he’s out of food within neck stretch and I need to move him to a new location. (Yes, I am aware that I have been trained by a sheep. Sad, isn’t it?) His twin usually grazes pretty close to where he’s lying.

His physical therapy plan includes time spent suspended in the sling with his food placed on his weak side so that he MUST put weight on the weak legs in order to hold himself up so that he can eat. The food has to be something he really likes or he’ll just sag in the sling, refuse to stand, and give me evil looks. I’ve reintroduced pellets (alfalfa) to his diet in the last two weeks, a scant handful in the morning for a week, and this week I’ve added an afternoon feeding when he showed no ill effects. He has been eagerly licking the sheep mineral that was sprinkled on his leaves. I probably need to taper that now.

Since his forage intake has gone up, he’s taking in less water. He’s drinking @ a quart to a quart and a half a day as opposed to his previous two quarts plus. He’s urinating well (on my SHOE today) and his manure is shiny and well formed, not dull, dry, and hard.

Goodness, just writing this is boring me to sleep. I might have to sell it on Kindle as a soporific. The purpose in writing this isn’t to bore the normal reader to tears; it is more of a journal to the sheep folk out there who may be contemplating saving their deer-worm afflicted sheep with varying neurologic symptoms. Run away, run away if you have full-time employment off the farm! You will be putting more anthelminthic into the critter than you would receive from selling him or her if/when it recovers. You will be putting hours and hours into its recovery and, even if you value your hours at minimum wage, well, the value of your hours are going to exceed the value of your sheep within a week unless it’s a multi-thousand-dollar show animal. The older the sheep, probably the more difficult the recovery.

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Quadriplegic Lamb

A few weeks ago, one of my ram lambs didn’t “look” right. He ignored his feed, a sure sign that something was wrong. I didn’t know what the problem was. By morning, the lamb was down. He was seizing almost continuously, and appeared to have a high fever. Well, crap.

There were a lot of different things that could be causing this. He could have pneumonia. He could have blue tongue virus. I gave him a high dose of antibiotics in case he had pneumonia. Twenty four hours later, no response. Damn. On to the next plan. Could be blue tongue virus, but the neurologic symptoms were really troubling. Sheesh. He was unaware as far as I could tell. I put tender green forage into his mouth. He would mechanically chew a bite or two, swallow, and seize again. I could only get him to drink a mouthful of water at at time. It was too hot for not taking in any water. Research showed that one of the differential diagnoses was rabies. Well, then. Nothing I could do for that. Another potential diagnosis was deer worms migrating through the spine. A sheep will eat a snail infected with deer worms. Sheep are not the host for these parasites, and they migrate into the spine, causing great damage if massive doses of two different kinds of wormer aren’t given immediately and, even then, it may not work.

So, I gave massive doses of two kinds of wormer for several days. The temperature and seizures seemed to go down but he could not eat. He could barely drink. He was semiconscious at best. For another two weeks I fed him one mouthful of tender green weeds and leaves at a time. I held up his head several times a day so that he could take a sip of water at a time. I put him in a sling, as often as I could, so that he was in an anatomically correct position. I changed his position as often as I could. His integumentary system was starting to break down from urine and pressure, and he started getting pressure sores. I put him in a sling more often. He started getting some control of his neck and could hold his neck up for a few seconds at a time. His legs don’t work together. A front leg doesn’t move at all.

This week, he got his appetite back. He’s wasted away to about half his previous weight, and is eating constantly. I’m putting feed far enough away that he has to s-t-r-e-t-c-h waaaaaay out to reach it. He can hold himself up better, but still requires propping on one side. I picked him up today, steadied him by the wool on his back, and he stood on his legs by himself for about ten seconds before collapsing.

So, he’s getting slowly better. But he may never get any better than this. He may still die of pneumonia, he may choke on his cud, or I may accidentally put him in shade that turns into sun and he suffers a heatstroke. He may drown in a sudden rainstorm.

If you have a sheep with those type of symptoms, I’d think long and hard about the value of the sheep before you try to save it.

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Local Tea Party Group Took Over TWO YEARS (and until after the election) To Get Tax Exempt Status

So much for the conservative groups targeting being done by a few “low-level subordinates” out of a particular IRS office. The local (Jacksonville) Tea Party chapter reports that it took them over TWO YEARS to have their tax exempt status being approved, they had to send in additional paperwork after sending in requested paperwork that weighed over 4 pounds, AND they weren’t approved until after the 2012 election.

You will learn this from talk radio WOKV. I checked the local network news. Zip. Nada. Not interested.

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My Patience Ain’t All That

I’ve been out every couple hours helping the disabled lamb nurse. Mama ewe is not cooperating. She will not crouch for the lamb. She will not stretch her legs out so that her nipples are accessible and, in fact, almost crosses her leg so the lamb can’t access them. While this is going on, I’m holding the lamb up with one hand, trying to guide a nipple into the lamb’s mouth with the other hand, holding the ewe in place against the wall with my shoulder, and holding her up with my knee. All while I’m bent double. My poor back that has been slammed into concrete by SwampMan rolling a chicken pen over me and then again by the ewe leaping into me last night is NOT happy.

Did I mention that the ewe kicked a flashlight outta my hand earlier tonight and broke it? I had to go get a new one at 11 p.m. Then, when I was bent over trying to assist the lamb to nurse, she kicked me in the face and knocked my glasses off and nearly trampled the lamb. Again.

We engaged in a brief pissing contest. She kicked me, I smacked her with the (new) flashlight. Kick, smack. Kick, smack. Kick, smack. I think I won this round, but the lamb lost. I’m not sure if he got any actual milk.

And I gotta do this again in a couple hours. And be up at 6 to go get the grandkids if my back is going to allow me to get any sleep.

On the positive side, the lamb peed all over me so at least I know that he got something to drink some time today!

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First Lambs of the Season are Here!

The first lambs of the season have arrived, twins, a big boy and a little girl. Momma came up to the fence for feeding as per usual and didn’t betray that Tonight was the Night at all. I’d headed out to do a last check for the night before going to bed since I am stuffed to the eyeballs with cold medicine, enough to ensure unconsciousness through the worst cold symptoms, and what do I hear but high pitched lamb voices.

Ugh. Somebody must have been in an ant nest because I note two swollen itchy welts on my arm that I didn’t notice when I was outside transporting lambs to a more secure pasture. Fire ants *will* kill lambs in a short period of time, so I better go outside and recheck to make sure that everybody is okay.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to stay awake long enough to make sure that the lambs are able to feed properly. Note to self: Tomorrow, delay taking double dose of Benadryl until after the sheep have been checked!

I sent nine chickens (seven hens and two roosters) over to son tonight. The pullets are just beginning to lay, so he’ll have a reliable supply of eggs for the next 18 months or so. I’m falling behind, though. More chickens are coming in than are going out! I have 25 bantam chicks and 20 something standard chicks. I should have had @ 40 standard chicks, but the electricity did go out for a prolonged period on a cold evening, so the eggs got chilled in the incubator. I was afraid that we would get NO chicks, so 20 something actually makes me happy. One did not make it out of his shell; the membrane covered his poor little nostrils and smothered him. The last five or six that are still in the incubator got a lil’ hole pecked in the egg and then, due to malpositioning or being too cramped in the shell, they were unable to progress any further.

Now, if those chicks/eggs had been under a hen, they would be dead. She would have had a sufficient number of healthy chicks peeping for food and water that she would have left the nest and those unfortunate stuck or weak chicks would have been eaten by ants or died from the cold once mom left.

The chicks may be weak and die anyway even if I release them from the egg, but I’m still going to do it. The professionals are probably right about not helping them because it perpetuates weak chicks. Good for them that I’m not a professional, right?

The lambs seemed to be doing well at 11:30 p.m., and I’m having trouble focusing my eyes and staying upright. (Taking double doses of Benadryl AND a narcotic cough suppressant has that effect on me. It is SUPPOSED to knock me out.) I hadn’t noticed how wallowed out it was underneath the gate. The space underneath is definitely big enough for a cat or chicken or duck to walk underneath, so it would be no problem at all for a tiny lil’ newborn lamb to lie down next to the gate, stretch out, and roll right underneath. Then, of course, when they stood up, they couldn’t get back through and would be racing up and down the fence line with the momma racing along on the other side. Eesh. I threw a board underneath in the dark to hopefully keep ’em on the same side with their momma tonight, but I dunno. I might have missed a gap in the dark. I just can’t stay awake any longer.

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Wuh Oh

I checked the ads on Craigslist for round bales of hay. There are usually lots of hay farms advertising at this time of year, for this is the time of year when the summer grasses go dormant or are growing very slowly, but the winter season grasses have not yet become well established due to the (relatively) high temperatures. There were very few ads for the big round bales and the ones that were there were miles away. Hunh. I called my usual hay supplier up in Georgia so I could get some round bales for the winter. “Sorry to tell you this, but we’re sold slap out!” he said.

“What? When? How?” I asked, confused, because the pastures had still been relatively good.

“It’s because of the big drought out west. They’ve bought up everybody’s hay and shipped it back to Texas.”

SONuvabitch. I’m gonna have to get my ass in gear BIG TIME and get everything possible seeded, fertilized, watered and, before the winter pasture gets established, I’m gonna have to be out in the woods with my machete choppin’ ’bout anything with leaves for the sheep to eat. I hate to do it, but I may have to sell a bunch of the pregnant ewes for slaughter in order to make sure I’ve got enough pasture for the rest. We’re still in a drought ourselves, so we were short on hay anyway before Texas bought it up.

*sigh* Won’t be any more hay until about June. Then I won’t need it!

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Da Chicks Gots a New Mama

I really didn’t want to keep the newly hatched chicks indoors under a lamp during the night while putting them outside in a pen during the day. There would always be the risk that a sudden storm would blow up, wetting and chilling the chicks while I was gone. Soooooo, off to find a suitable mama hen to see if somebody wanted to adopt.

Since these are large breed chicks, it would make sense to choose a large breed mama, right? Heh. Well, most large breed chickens do not have the maternal instincts of my lil’ bantams. I picked out a tiny lil’ black bantam hen, a young one who’d never hatched out any chicks, and placed her with the chicks. She didn’t hurt them and talked to them a bit, but didn’t seem to know what to do. I left her in there for about half an hour, returned her and replaced her with an older bantam hen. Young bantam hen didn’t want me to catch her to return her to the pen with the others. Older potential mama hen was VERY upset about being removed from her pen and friends and being placed with the chicks, and spent the entire time squawking in protest and pacing back and forth along the pen walls. She didn’t deliberately harm them, but she did step on them when they got in the way.

About that time, SwampMan hollered that we needed to go to town NOW, DAMNIT, and quit messing with the chickens. Okay, fine. The chicks went back to the incubator. That hen went back to her pen.

When we returned, I picked up another older hen. I put her in with the chicks to see if she would bond with them. She picked them. Bummer. No abusive chick killer hens wanted! The chicks were peeping loudly in protest because they were getting cold. It was starting to get dark. The hens were going to roost. Did I screw up in my method this time? Usually I sneak chicks under a hen at night so that she has a chance to get used to them by morning and is usually (but not always) bonded to them by then. I went back to the bantam pen, returned potential chick killer hen, and retrieved the first hen I’d tried to give her another shot at motherhood. If she didn’t want them, I would put the chicks back in the incubator and find another hen, put her in the pen in the dark, and then sneak the chicks under her.

She heard the chicks peeping and started “talking” to them before I put her in the pen. Good sign. I went to feed the cats, then came back. I didn’t hear any peeping. I didn’t see the hen, either. Yikes. I rushed back to the pen and the hen was on the ground fluffed up over the chicks, keeping them warm. She appeared calm and happy. The chicks were warm, calm and quiet. Ah, good. I think they might have a mommy now, but I’ll check frequently during the evening in case she changes her mind.

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Heh. I Just Got Back From Nuke’s…..

I was over at Nuke’s place posting lots of videos from my youth. I wonder if I’ve used up his bandwidth yet? Some people go to bed waaaay too early. He must have to work for a livin’, or sumpin.

Here’s a favorite of mine that I didn’t post over there, but the night is still young, and SwampMan has gone to sleep and isn’t around to restrain me from bein’ baaaaaad:

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Maybe I Should Just Skip The Aerobics Class

I went to aerobics class after work, then promptly blew whatever minor calories I had worked off by meeting SwampMan at Peppers and indulging in chipotle pork. Hey, I didn’t have any sopapillas, so I am making some effort at weight loss, however minimal, okay?

I rushed back home afterwards to let the sheep out to graze while SwampMan went and looked at lumber at a large box store. Looked, because he couldn’t find any boards straight enough to actually purchase. Let me tell you, if SwampMan said that the selection was bad, it probably wouldn’t have made a decent fire. I went with him over the weekend to pick out lumber, and I kept saying things like “nope, too crooked, nope, got a split, nope, too many knots…” and he reassured me that he could work around those teensy little flaws.

When I arrived, I found that the sheep had already let themselves out; that is, the rams and unbred ewes had broken a gate and were in a pasture with the new moms and expectant moms and lambs. Oh, goody. I get to catch all my sheep, one at a time, and perform rude physical exams to confirm sex and breeding status. They’re in full fleece so the fleece is covering important stuff. I walked up to the gate and my two ol’ breeding rams, Mo Mo and Omar, calmly walked up to the gate and out to the horse pasture. The black ram lamb that turned up last year that I left with my ewes because he was too tiny to turn out with the big boys and who turned out to be the baby daddy of half the lambs walked out quietly, too. Maybe child support was mentioned. An unbred ewe lamb not quite a year old ran out. Nobody else was inclined to be cooperative.

I caught those bad boys that weigh at least as much as I do and picked up their front end and walked ’em out on their back legs. They hate that. SwampMan strolled over to the barn with a cold drink for me and took out the last ram that was kicking my ass. As the sun was setting, I realized that I still had 3 nonbred ewe lambs in with the mommies and the expectant mommies. I found it really hard to care at that point about the extra food that I would be feeding them tonight and tomorrow morning.

I’ve been sittin’ here wondering why I would think that an aerobics class would magically cause me to lose weight when dragging sheep, chasing lambs, totin’ feed, hay, and water doesn’t? I’m also wondering if I’ll be able to move tomorrow.

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