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A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
Growing Your Farm: How the Numbers Work


Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep
by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius has an expanded format and newer information on medications. Wonderful pictures of lambing positions and shearing. From the shearing pictures you can easily learn to handle a small flock.

Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont


 

Lambing at the Farm at Morrison Corner

I should prefix this missive by stating categorically that we’re still married, the Wife and me. But it’s been tough, and we’re down to only four bottles of champagne.

My latest tribulations began with the onset of mud season. Wife, while not a neat freak, prefers her arable land outside. With five large dogs, three cats, and a grubby hubby, this is not always possible. There are times, mud season being high on the list, when some of our acreage is bound to find its way inside the house. This year, mud season was gratifyingly short lived. Mansfield is officially thawed, and major portions have dried to the point where it is possible to traverse without leaving one’s footwear behind.

Then there was the fox who developed a taste for Wife’s chickens. We lost three birds one sunny morning: two prime laying hens which were left in the field to rot, and one of her prize little bantam roosters. Later that afternoon I spotted a fox and fired off a round from the shotgun just as the predator was lit up by six thousand volts from the electric fencing. Maximum range and all I had was #8 shot, but the rascal got stung and I hoped he’d seek safer prey.

About half an hour later I was in my shop, tinkering and generally minding my own business, when my bride – an avowed pacifist and gentle soul – came charging out of the house with her shotgun, cramming round after round of 00 buckshot into the magazine. That, in itself, was an accomplishment, as in practice she had never demonstrated enough thumb strength to load the magazine. But there she was, Bride of Rambo, transferring cartridges from her mouth to her shotgun like she’d been doing it all her life!

In our home, I have arranged the shotgun shells for my lovely pacifist bride such that she doesn’t have to remember what each size shot is for. When standing next to the ammunition supply, the box closest to you is #8 shot, conveniently labeled “Annoys Squirrels.” The next box is #6 shot, labeled “Kills Squirrels and Annoys Rabbits.” Then there is a box of #4 shot, labeled “Kills Rabbits and Annoys Coyotes.” Then there is a box of 00 buckshot labeled “Kills Anything and Knocks Wife on Ass.” Beyond that are boxes of my 6.5x55mm that go with that lovely rifle that lets me hit half dollars at a quarter of a mile. But Tamara doesn’t like the rifle since it requires careful aim. She prefers the shotgun with light shot.

But it was double-ought she was loading. Magnum rounds. Big suckers! And she was waving the barrel of that 12ga shotgun in the general direction of two antique trucks, a tractor, our Subaru and my plain but utterly reliable Dodge pickup. I thought for sure everything I owned was going to be full of holes! But then she dropped to one knee, took careful aim, and fired in the direction of the chicken coop.

Two things happened then. A large red fox thirty yards away was hit in the chest and fell mortally wounded. And my pacifist bride was knocked on her ass. But her hens had been threatened, so she rose and in her best Linda Hamilton Terminator 2 imitation chambered another round, fired, another, fired, another…till the magazine was emptied! The fox, well, we salvaged a beautiful tail.

Aside from my pacifist bride’s clearly developed maternal instincts, the other incredible thing about that attack was the behavior of our surviving rooster. He had called the alarm and ushered all the hens inside the coop to safety…but remained outside with all his plumage fluffed up clearly intending to take on the fox! Eggs aside, I don’t think much of the hens and find chickens some of the stupidest creatures on the planet, but I have to admire that rooster doing his best George Bush “Bring ‘em on!” imitation in the face of certain death!

Work has been hell recently. Challenging, fun, rewarding, stimulating, but the pace has been truly brutal for the past several weeks. By Tuesday afternoon I’m ready for Friday. Tired. And so you’ll understand why, when I crawl home at the end of the day, the animals’ food and water is replenished, but from me the chickens and sheep get little more than a cursory nose (or beak) count.

This past week, however, it was impossible not to notice that our fenced enclosure was full of udders with sheep attached to them. Big, honkin’ udders. Harbingers of impending lambs. And ewes so wide they barely fit through the doorway into the shelter we made for them last month. Thirty gallon wooly trash cans with legs!

Slept late this morning. Didn’t get up till 6:30. Went outside to bounce the dogs. Wife staggered outside to feed her sheep. Fudge Baa, the roundest of the ewes, had expelled the mucus plug from her cervical opening. “Wow,” I thought, “what exquisite timing! No late night marathons by flashlight. No delivering lambs in a driving rainstorm by Braille. What a nice little ewe to time it for my day off!” We spent the next several hours with me observing nature run its course while feeling quite comfortable that all was well… Two front hooves came out. Then a nose. Then most of a muzzle and a pink tongue. The ewe gave a mighty push, then another. The slippery little lamb slid right out and into my waiting hands.

There followed a mad scramble to shear wool away from Fudge’s udder, as the little lamb couldn’t find a nipple. So as mother and baby bonded, Wife and I hacked away. We needed to get that colostrum into the lamb, so finally resorted to milking her into a mug, then pouring it carefully into a Diet Coke bottle, slapped a nipple on top, and bottle feeding that critical fluid. Then we left them alone so mom could clean baby. Half an hour later we realized we had no idea what the lamb’s gender was, so we went back to look. The conversation went something like this:

W: “I think it’s a boy, but it’s dark down here.”
H: “Hold him up to the light.”
W: “Still can't see anything! I think it’s a boy. Or maybe it’s a girl.”
Anyway, after careful examination under halogen lights, it’s a boy! We think. He has huge ears, so we’ve named him Weasley! And now we’re down to three bottles of champagne…


 

Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
Shearing
Hobblewood
Flush
The Fourth of July
VISIT A VERMONT SHEEP FARM | LIFE WITH ICELANDIC SHEEP | WEAVING STUDIO FIBER SALE | ABOUT US | NEW ENGLAND ICELANDIC SHEEP BREEDERS ASSOCIATION
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The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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