Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Surprise Arrivals

If you read my last post, you might remember I said the lambs were staying snug and warm in their mamas and we were not expecting any babies until the first part of February?
Apparently, Salty had a secret and somebody was sneaking around on the wrong side of the fence last summer! She had two nice, healthy, full-term ram lambs this afternoon. Come to think of it, Salty seems to be the early lamber every year . . .
Salty is the sweetest ewe in the flock. She was raised on a bottle as a bummer lamb, and, like many of our animals, spent her first summer providing therapy to special needs kids at Western Trails Therapeutic Riding Center. Last Christmas, she performed at our church's Living Nativity, only to pop out a nice set of twins about 2 weeks later. Again, with no warning and unexpectedly early. Many of the ewes grunt and groan and look as if they are going to pop for weeks ahead of time, but Salty has always just snuck her birthing time in when we aren't looking. By the time we have found she has lambed, she has them cleaned and dried off and they have been up and had a bit of rich, nourishing milk. She has never needed any help with her babies, always knowing exactly what to do. Tonight I was watching her for a few minutes after I put her in the barn. The white lamb appears to have been born first and is figuring out the dinner thing pretty well, while the black lamb hasn't quite gotten it down yet. Salty kept talking to him and nudging him in the right direction until he found the dinner table. Oh, did his little tail wag in satisfaction as the rich, creamy milk warmed and strengthened his little body!
I remember my father-in-law routinely tipping over every ewe and squirting a few drops of the rich colostrum into the baby lambs as that swallow or two would often make all the difference and determine if the baby would live or not in the harsh Wyoming cold. I am glad Salty is a good mama and I don't have to take her on in a wrestling match! Even though Salty takes great care of her babies, even wrapping them in a sheep hug by snuggling her large, wooly body as close as possible if it is cold out, all ewes should be penned up to bond with their little ones for a few days to eliminate any confusion as other lambs are born. Sheep are notorious for stealing other ewes' lambs, then forgetting their own. They also need a bit of molasses shortly after the birth to ensure their calorie count stays high enough to keep them healthy as they produce the extremely rich milk the newborns need to build their fat reserves.

Hey, you don't suppose Salty got word of my last post and wanted to get in a good practical joke, do you? Or maybe she was just jealous of the cows with all of their new little bundles of joy?

Regardless of the reason, somebody was still doing a little bit of slipping around last summer, and sneaking in the dark will always catch up with you eventually!

Until next time, I hope your sneaking always turns out as a nice surprise!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Blessed Season

The ice sparkled and glowed, adding extra cheer to Christmas this year. A white Christmas seems to be so much sweeter than does a brown. We often make do with brown over white, living in the Columbia Basin of Eastern Oregon, but have been blessed with two weeks of winter this year.

We had lows down as far as -10 and it snowed nearly every single day. Roads were closed, schools shut down as the drifts piled ever higher. The frantic pace of our everyday lives was suddenly interrupted. Mothers with young children played out in the snow instead of bundling babies off to daycares. The snow angel population grew by leaps and bounds. The squeak of the snow underfoot tinkled like tiny enchanted bells. Gallons of rich, creamy hot cholcolate were consumed, toasting tummies from the inside out. The woodstove in our living room puffed and chugged along, warming many a backside and drying out snow pants and work boots.

Deer and antelope moved down from the higher country to eat alongside the cows.

While the new lambs stayed warm and snug inside their mamas, not quite ready to be born yet, flurries of calves arrived along with the snow squalls.

The goats enjoyed their daily snow walks, but enjoyed more returning to their deep straw beds in the barn!

KP and Roland found a little time to play in the snow. Roland is KP's Unimog, easily plowing through the chest deep snow they ran into back up the canyon, with never a slip due to being born out on the range to a wild and free mama Mustang.

Roland and Jordan also got to help move cows down from the upper pasture a couple days after the canyon jaunt. I was unable to capture any photos as I rode Roland part of the way, then helped via 4-wheeler after I traded Jordan as riding bareback with the leg brace was proving to be a bit much. I have resigned myself to using the saddle next time as I can't get enough grip with the silly brace in the way. Pooh!

Elmer and Sebastian were content to much hay while Roland was off adventuring.

Roxy had snowballs all over her body after following KP and Roland. Adventuring is great, but I do beleive she hears the call of the rug in front of the crackling woodstove!

All of the wise banty chickens moved into the barn to cozy up, but the silly Barred Rock roosters adamantly remained at their post, roosting on the fence rail in the front yard. For several days, we dilligently moved them over under the shelter of the the huge Douglas Fir tree, but, realizing they would not get down during the day, pity was taken upon them and they were moved onto the front porch along with feed and water until the storms abated. They soon found a favorite chair, but every couple of days would wade through the snow and roost again upon the freezing fence rail. Their combs are damaged from the cold, and one of the boys has lost some weight, but they have survived this round. Now to wean them from roosting on the front porch . . .

We awoke Saturday morning to warm winds and dripping eaves as a Chinook blew in, bringing spring in the middle of winter.

By Monday morning, most of the snow had turned to mud on the ground, but had freshened the trees up nicely.

And the roosters were ecstatic to be freshening up with a good dirt bath. This guy kept turning around, throwing dirt up on himself, then would snuggle down into the good, brown earth as if he thought he may never see it again.

Hmmm . . should we let him in on the forecast? Possibility of snow showers again on Thursday. We'll just let him enjoy his bit of springtime for now!

Until next time, may all your seasons be blessed.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snow Trophies

It has been snowing nearly every day for two weeks now and has really dumped a lot on our litle banana belt of Oregon. Jordan has a new pickup which he has just been itching to try out in the snow, so it seemed like the perfect time to see what it could do. He, of course, was alone here on the farm that afternoon when he headed up the canyon behind the house. He followed the Rhino tracks for a ways, but even they soon ran out and still his pickup was plowing forward, albeit, somewhat slower than at the lower elevations. Before he knew it, he was just pushing too much snow and could no longer move forward. So he tried backing up, but, hmmm . . . Too late. He walked back to the house in the dark and the next morning, he and KP headed up to unstick him. KP was able to get him out with his pickup, but in the process, the deep snow pulled off both bumpers. My reaction would have been - OH No, my truck is broken! But the boys see it as an opportunity to make new bumpers!
Until next time, may you be blessed with the ability to see the opportunity in adversity.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The knee surgery I had the end of May put me out of commission much longer than I had anticipated, but am slowly regaining my strength and resuming daily activities. Many thanks to all who have faithfully been checking my blog, knowing I would return one day!

Jordan helped me can cherries last week and we put up 14 quarts of cherries and 16 jars of jam. Mmmm, I had to bake bread the next day just so we could have that delicious jam on fresh bread. It was so worth it! These were some of the best cherries I have ever had and came out of Benton City, Washington, which is located about 45 minutes away. I find it extremely satisfying to put up food for the winter this way and love to gaze upon the vibrant colors of the fruit jars lined up on the pantry shelves. As the summer wanes and the nights start to chill, I often feel this strange compulsion to stuff jars full of any produce I can lay my hands on and have experimented with some unusual recipes such as pickled watermelon and corncob jelly.
I have strong memories of my grandmothers putting away food for the cold season and recall the dusty, apple-scented must of the fruit room in the cellar. My little girl eyes would shine with wonder as I contemplated the perfect jar of fruit to choose to accompany us at dinner, or the jar of pickles to take on the family picnic. I would remember the hot, sticky days of laughter as we picked fruit on a family outing, the yellow jackets causing shrieks from us kids as they competed with us for the sweet fruit. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches eaten in the grass of the orchard with cold, fresh water to wash them down. Faces stained with juice as we had eaten enough for a belly ache. Preserving food, preserving tradition, preserving memories. I am proud to carry on this family legacy.
Until next time, may you be blessed with sweet traditions weaving the past with the present and tendriling on into the future.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Last Sunday afternoon started fairly quietly. The sheep had found (or created) a hole in the fence to allow them access to the lovely new wheat. Jordan was away at fire training in Sisters, Oregon, so the rest of the family pitched in and helped chase them into a holding pen until some fence repair could be done.

The guys were itching to go four-wheeling, so as soon as the sheep had been secured, we headed down to the woods. This picture had been preceeded by one of those "should we, or shouldn't we?" moments. The question is answered here- we did, but maybe shouldn't have!

This is what happens when you get stuck as good as we were. Yes, it is the rear bumper off of Mike's little Ranger pickup. KP was making decent, but slow, progress pulling the Ranger out, when suddenly, POP, off came the bumper, flying through the trees like a trout on a line. Tammy is such a sport, enjoying the humor of the situation. Little did she know that when KP and Taylor headed back to get the caterpillar to help out, they would get stuck too and Tammy ended up having to run the come-along to pull the Ranger out. She was not comforatable trying to drive the pickup (and the hip-deep water on the driver's side was also a deterrent), so she stuck with the hard labor. Poor girl, I am sure she had to have someone else comb her hair for her the next morning as she probably could not raise her arms! Mike, good husband that he is though, continually shouted encouraging words through the open window!

Okay, next time we will . . . .

And I wasn't a whole lot of help, stuck inside the truck with a bum leg, either.
But a short three hours after we started on our 30 minute adventure, everyone was safely back up at the house, eating cake and watching the bumper-be-gone video amongst hoots of laughter!!
Until next time, may all your misadventures end in good humor.

A big thanks to Taylor, who shot most of the pics and got this video, too!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

FarmBoy Prom

All dressed up and ready for a night on the town, Jordan's senior prom - Woooo-Hoooo! Jordan looks very handsome and Alex is gorgeous in her ivory gown. It was quite chilly on this evening, but I hear it was warmer inside the dance! The handsome couple had reservations at the Bonefish Grill in Tri-Cities before the festivities.

And they are out of the gate!

Well, he is polite and opens her door for her, but that pickup sure is dirty. Chivalry is still developing!

Oh, no - what is this? Alex waits in the truck while Jordan races to shut the gate before the sheep get out!
Don't worry, they made it to their dinner reservations on time and the night went off without a hitch, despite this minor detour as a country boy tries to get to prom without mussing his clothes, or the lady's! Everyone at dinner was polite and made only small mention to the slight scent of sheep poo wafting up from someone's shiny black shoes!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Steep Price

The goat brothers, Snickers (above) and Hershey (below), came to live with us last fall after serving a term as therapy goats at Western Trails Therapeutic Riding Center. These guys are two of a set of triplets and were bottle raised. If you know anything about goats, you know they socialize to humans extremely well, so having been raised on bottles and then used as therapy animals for kids with disabilities, they are very people-oriented. They are Nigerian Pygmy goats, so are pretty small. This combination makes them difficult to keep in a pen and impossible to keep out of the yard. They quickly figure out gate latches and only complicated devices requiring thumbs are able to foil these guys. They are seriously like having twin two year olds around. I wouldn't mind them in the yard, except they have a fondness for my roses and other flowers. They also just generally get into stuff and drag it around the yard. Consequently, they have spent much of the winter in a large, hay-filled, chain link dog kennel inside the barn. I let them out every evening and we would go for lenghty walks together. They stay closer to me on walks than the dogs. It is so funny to watch them romp, stand on their hind legs to head butt each other, and just generally enjoy life.
Now that the weather is warming (slowly!) and the green grass is growing, I wanted to put up the electric sheep and goat fence for them. Behind the house looked like a great spot, a steep hill for them to climb and romp on, sagebrush to scratch those itchy backs, four large apricot trees for shade, and best of all, lush green grass to graze on.

Not to mention, the view from up here is spectacular. I especially like how the cow trails all converge at the corral as the cows have come in for water from all parts of the pasture.

Here is Jordan helping out. Notice how far down the trees look, and yes, they are the old apricot trees which are included in the pen also. It was so steep I actually had to crawl on hands and knees with rolls of fence on my shoulder to get up some parts. What a good workout! Well, it turns out old ladies with creaky knees shouldn't be hill crawling so much. I am now in a knee brace and the doc is not allowing any flexion on that leg as we attempt to avoid surgery. Hmmmmm . . . . . Anybody in the market for some really friendly goats?
Until next time, may the hills rise up to meet you . . . gently!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sebastian's Surgery

"Hey guys, whatcha doin'?"
Sebastian was very curious about this unfamiliar pickup with people getting out of it. Little did he know it was the vet and his crew coming to geld him. I wonder if he will be so friendly to strangers in the future?
What a gorgeous day we had for this surgery, reasonably warm with no wind, yaaay!
For anyone unfamiliar with horse terminology, to geld a horse means to castrate, or neuter, him. Unless you are set up to handle a stallion, male horses should be gelded. Stallions are unpredictable and can be hard to manage, so gelding them makes them much safer and easier to work with. Jordan aquired Sebastian last year and had no plans to use him as breeding stock, so planned to have him gelded from the start.

Jordan steadies Sebastian while Dr. Lincoln inserts the catheter for the anesthesia drip.

And down he goes. Dr. Lincoln steadies his head as Sebastian went to his knees, then over on his side. It was apparent that Sebastian was unsure what was happening and it was a little scary for him, but he was soon sleeping like a baby.

Jordan offers a soothing touch and comforting words as the anesthesia takes effect.

Dr. Rademacher gets down to business as Dr. Lincoln monitors vitals and Jordan holds a leg out of the way.

Joni takes over holding the leg for Jordan as Dr. Rademacher takes the time to explain part of the procedure to Jordan.

Jordan mentioned Sebastian seems to drool a lot, so his teeth were checked and floated as he had some sharp hooks on several of them. The guys took care of that little job while the anesthesia was still working. He should be able to chew better now.

And the big guy is back up! He is still pretty unsteady, but is attempting to creep closer to people for comfort. He especially wants to be as close as possible to Jordan. I am a little worried that he wants Jordan to hold him on his lap!

Oh, man, Jordan, just stop this world from spinning and I will do anything for you!

A big thanks goes out to the vet team who came out and took such good care of Sebastian, allowed me to take pictures, and who went over and above the call of duty to take the time to explain to Jordan what they were doing and why during every phase of this procedure.

Just in case anyone is wondering, Sebastian still loves all people just as much as he used to! He is much calmer now, though, and safer to work with. Jordan walked him quite a bit during that first week to help with swelling and soreness. Sebastian followed everywhere as meek as a puppy on a string.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing in our farm seasons. Until next time, be careful if the world starts spinning, who knows what might come next!!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Sunshine and Showers

I must beg forgiveness for my long absence. So many things have taken place since I last posted, I will touch on several today, then plan to post often until I get caught up. As the weather improves and outdoor work increases, it may become much harder to keep up with the posts, but I promisse to do my best!
Spring has certainly sprung, although the weather has turned off cold again. I took this picture of a daffodil out in the front yard this afternoon, hoping it would show the snowflakes falling down, but none of the snow stuck and the focus didn't allow for the falling flakes. I wasn't able to get outside during the heavy part of the snow flurry, but according to the forecast, I may still have another chance! We have had a chilly spring, but it is very unusual for us to get snow at this time of the year.

The cows returned to the high pasture this week and this calf didn't waste any time rubbing his head on one of the dirt banks. I am not sure why the cows seem to get such a lot of pleasure from beating up the hillsides. I used to think it was to keep the bugs off, but there aren't any flies out yet, so there went that theory. Cattle behavior can be quite interesting. Whenever the cows are in the low pasture which is a large, flat pasture with few hiding places, they tend to take turns babysitting, and seem to be comforatable leaving their calves behind while they go off to feed or water. One cow will stay with a group of calves and I have seen them babysitting up to 10 calves at a time. This behavior occurs much less frequently in the high pasture which is a maze of canyons and plateaus. The cows tend to keep each of their own calves by their sides and are more watchful for dangers when they are amongst these wilder places.

The sheep are anxious to head toward the high pasture every morning also. There is still one ewe left to lamb. I thought she would be one of the first to lamb as Jim was terribly interested in her right after he joined the girls, and she has always been a reliable early lamber, so I am not sure what happened. She was Jordan's first ewe and a bummer lamb, so even if she doesn't lamb, we will keep her, but we will be culling a couple of the ewes this year and replacing them with some of the nice ewe lambs. We actually had a very nice crop of lambs this year and will be keeping most of the ewe lambs in order to increase the flock.

It is fun to watch the woolies climb this hill, but even more of a kick to watch them barrel down it in the evening on the way back to the safety of the sheep pen. I really love watching the lambs jump and frolic and butt each other as they tumble over the hillsides.

The feed is good up here on top. This is a former wheat field left fallow for this year and the volunteer wheat makes for nutritious spring feed. This field has a double track running through it deep enough that all the years of plowing and working the field has not removed the road. It is probably a wagon track and may be an offshoot of the Oregon Trail as the house and barn were built around 1865. It is fun to walk it and imagine what it must have felt like to have followed the Umatilla River up on the dry bluffs for miles and finally be dropping down into a green valley with access to the good, sweet water and plenty of room to make camp.

Until next time, Happy Trails to you and may the spring sun shine warm upon your face.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Goodbye, Earl

Amongst all the new life springing forth comes a reminder of the fragility of life. We lost our friend, Earl, last week. True, Earl was just a lamb, but Earl had personality. He was born the runt of a set of twins in the spring of 2007. He was a gorgeous little tiny thing with his pure white wool and luminous dark eyes. His little black nose and perky ears added to the cuddly stuffed animal appearance.

Earl's mama, Blue, didn't quite know how to mother two lambs as last year was her first time to be a mom and she eventually rejected Earl completely. So Earl became a 'bummer' lamb, one who learned to sneak up on a ewe who had a happily nursing lamb. Earl would steal several swallows of rich milk before the unsuspecting and unwilling foster mom discovered him and indignantly bunted him out of her family's space. Never did I see Earl look discouraged after being sent away. Instead he was on the lookout for his next opportunity. What I could learn from that attitude!

When the slow-witted shepherdess (me) realized what Earl was up to, I began feeding him on a bottle. Oh, how his little tail would waggle in pure bliss as the creamy milk slid down his throat! Earl followed me everywhere and because he was so small would willingly ride around on my shoulders until he was a couple of months old. Bummers are always friendly to the people who raised them, but after the daily bottle stops coming and they are weaned, they realize they are sheep and hang out with the flock. Not Earl. If he wasn't able to follow me, he preferred to be alone rather than hang out with the other sheep - quite un-sheeplike bahavior. Earl found it difficult to relate to the others. Many times I would watch him try to play with the other lambs, but it seemed he did not know the rules. Earl would body-slam a much larger lamb, often one with horns. When the larger lamb followed through on the challenge Earl presented, the resulting head butt would leave Earl shaking his head and looking quite bewildered. He would glance my way as if to say "Is this not how a lamb plays?"

Visiting kids loved playing with Earl, though, and he loved them in return. Finally, someone to play tag with and scratch all the unreachable itchy places under that soft, fluffy wool. In early summer, Earl moved from his birthplace to Western Trails Therapeutic Riding Center. Here he was able to give love to kids with special needs and the fact there were no other sheep on the place bothered him not in the least. Earl had found his calling. Even though he had to tolerate a bath now and again and live with the two goat brothers, it was worth all the attention.

When riding lessons and animal therapy ended as the school year began, Earl moved back home along with the goat brothers. Although the three were quite bonded by then, Earl did start hanging out with the flock. We let him go at his own pace and allowed him to stay with the goats or sheep, whichever he preferred. Eventually he chose to mostly stay with the sheep and often grazed and slept close to his birth mother who seemed to enjoy snuffling his face. Can sheep say "I'm sorry I was young and made a poor choice?" Maybe that is kind of crazy, but there is no doubt she did remember him. Did her acceptance let Earl return to the flock and learn acceptable sheep behavior? I really don't know, but would like to think so.

We believe Earl died from internal injuries caused by the ram, Jim. Earl was still fairly small and Jim is quite powerful and can be aggressive during this part of the year. We recently had a day where Jim accidently got into the pen with the other sheep after which Earl began acting droopy. We put him in the barn with his goat friends and doctored him as best we could, but just couldn't save him.

Saying goodbye to Earl was heart-wrenching as we had made the decision long ago to keep him as a bellwether instead of a market lamb, meaning he would live out his days as a companion animal for the ewes. As most sheep become very anxious if isolated or left alone, it is good practice to have an animal available to fill that role if needed. Because Earl was too small to be a physical threat to another sheep, was so gentle and easy to work with, halter broke, and had a calming nature, he was perfect for the role. But that apparently was not to be. Instead, we were to say goodbye amidst all the hellos to this year's crop of babies. Parting is often sorrowful, especially when it is not our choice, but we will always carry a bit of our friend with us in memory.

Until next time, let not the sweet sunshine of a memory be darkened by the shadow of sorrow.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Mother's Love

Spring is here! Lambs are popping out all over, there are large gangs of calves rumbling through the pastures, the robins are back and meadowlarks are singing. We have even had two sets of triplet lambs so far. This baby is the smallest of the first set of triplets. Her brother and sister were obviously getting the majority of the nutrition before birth. But this little girl is a fighter. She is already catching up with her siblings. Her mama, Ivory, is only a yearling, so this is her first time as a mom, but she loves all three of her babies and is a very good mother. Today was this little family's first time out of the barn and it seems you could see them growing like little weeds in the sunshine. Ivory kept a close eye on all three babies while they were in the barn lot and did not let them stray far from each other.
I have not had a yearling ewe have triplets before. If any of you have first hand knowledge of yearlings having more than twins, I would be curious to hear your story. This ewe, Ivory, was born here in December of 2006 and is out of Jordan's oldest ewe, Becky, who is four now and the matriarch of the flock. Ivory's twin sister, Ebony, should be lambing any day, so we will see what she has been hiding in her large frame.

Umtil next time, may you be warmed by the blessing of a little love in your day!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Snow Babies

The first lambs of the season were born a week ago today. Their mama, Salty, had them cleaned off, dry, and well-cared for by the time we found them, but the little family still went into a warm, dry barn stall for several days in order to make sure Salty got a little extra feed since she is such a heavy milker. This is Salty's second set of lambs, she also had twins last year as a yearling and cared for them just as well. This set are both ewe lambs, so they will be helping to increase the flock. Papa is black, one lamb looks like Dad and one like Mom. We haven't decided on names yet. I was considering something to go along with Mom's name. Cracker, Tater and Chip, Saucy, etc. Peanut and Pretzel . . .??? Any ideas?

Salty was raised on a bottle and worked as a therapy lamb in a center where horseback and animal therapy was given to kids with disabilities, so she is one of the most gentle ewes in the flock. She also loved playing a part in our church's Living Nativity this past Christmas. She absolutely loves to have her head scratched!

Gosh, Mama, what is this cold white stuff? If we stand real still, maybe it will go away!!!

One of the Ladies in Waiting. Seems the calves are popping out fast and furious now and that first lone calf has a whole gang to play with now!

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, may you be blessed with the sparkle of new beginings.