As the east coast was getting pounded by superstorm “Jonas”, we had a mild thaw with temperatures in the 30s. After days of overcast, cold, dreary weather it was a sunny glorious day. So, we went about doing some chores to get ready for the certain return of cold weather and the imminent birth of baby lambs.

Piggies frolicking

This July and August, the kids will be showing animals at the local fairs. The current line up has Ruth showing lambs (Chelsea Fair), John showing a feeder calf and dairy heifer (Chelsea), Joe showing a steer (4H), Patrick showing pigs (4H Fair), and Mary showing lambs (4H and Chelsea). Most kids that participate in these fairs will start thinking about buying their animals in another month or so. With the exception of the dairy feeder calves, this year all of our kids’ animals will be home grown. Mama and I think this is really special. Our kids will have helped to plan the breeding of the moms, been present at the birth of their animals, and will then raise and train their animals to be sold at an auction. For the pigs and lambs that will be shown in July and August, we had to start planning for them in September.

Because it is so cold in Michigan, the piglets born earlier in the month and the lambs that will be born soon are being birthed in our barn. If it weren’t for fair, we would time our breeding cycle so that all of our animals would be born outside in warmer weather. Our barn is a bit of a mess. About one-third of it is used by the chickens as their coop, one-third is used for milking, Ruth’s rabbit, and storing feed, supplies, the tractor and the bobcat. The final third generally gets overrun by random items that mysteriously appear in the wrong place. So today, the whole family was out in the barn helping to get it organized so that the middle third could be used by the seven ewes that were hopefully bred in early September.

All through this the sow, LeftEye, grunted and barked at us as she wondered what all the commotion was about. Meanwhile, her month-old babies were able to get through the panels of their pen to wander the farm. They walked around to check out the chickens and appeared a little afraid of Joe’s steer, Thomas. LeftEye didn’t seem to mind that her kids were off wandering. I take this as a good sign that they are ready to be weaned so that LeftEye can get bred again to have another litter in 4 or 5 months.

A full moon rises over the ewes

After we got the barn cleaned up and created an area for the ewes, we loaded the sheep into the sorting equipment. This allowed Mary, Joe, and Papa to sort out the seven ewes from the 24 other ewes and the ram. The only problem is that the sorting equipment is about 100 feet from the door to the barn that they needed to go through. Mary and Papa put a rope halter on the heads of the ewes and then Papa did his best not to drag the poor girls to the barn. Needless to say, the ewes didn’t appreciate this and used their 180 pound bodies to create dead weight. But we eventually got them in the barn and settled. Mary and Ruth will create “jugs” or small pens that the ewes will go into to deliver their lambs. At the end of doing our chores for the day a beautiful full moon was rising in the sky over the ewes. We’ve heard that full moons help induce labor in women, we’ll see tomorrow if there are any lambs in the barn!

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