The last month has been a whirlwind. I’ve moved, I’m leaving my job of nearly 4 years, and I’m making big changes to the flock.
Big Event #1: Health Crisis
Back in late October, I went to the ER with sudden abdominal pain. Making a long story short, doctors found a 7mm kidney stone on my right side, lodged right near my bladder but unable to pass. Three weeks, lots of painkillers, and generous help from Jake and Priscilla, Christine, and many others later, I’ve passed the stone on my own and narrowly avoided surgery. Phew! This medical misadventure set me back a great deal in my move and in my sheep plans, and I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to have the animals going to slaughter shorn beforehand to make more yarn.
Big Event #2: Ram Swap
One of my big struggles this year has been finding an acceptable ram for my ewe lambs sired by Earl. I thought that Merle, Martha’s son by a different ram, would be a good candidate but he never grew adequately. With no good options and not wanting to house Earl with his own daughters, I decided to exchange him with another shepherd for a ram of comparable quality. On Monday, I drove through the snow and ice up to Montgomery Center, VT with Earl in the back of my truck.
At the new farm, I released Earl into a pen where he immediately began to baa at nearby ewes. My introduction to my new ram, Cinder, consisted of seeing his huge head rise above the high horse stall wall. Wow. I stepped into his stall, and he approached me gently and allowed me to pet him beneath the chin. Though he is nearly in full fleece, he clearly has spots of white in his steely gray fleece. His wool is very fine, as he is 3/4 Cormo. Thought loading an unwilling 300 lb ram into a truck was challenging, it was fortunately far easier to unload the same – a shake of the grain bucket and the baaing of some new ewes brought him right out of the truck and straight into his pen with little effort! He’s friendly and easy to handle; a pleasant break from Earl, who was becoming more aggressive with age and size. I can’t wait to see some lambs by this handsome fellow!
Big Event #3: Heartbreaking Culling
Because of the divorce and some other factors, I’m keeping fewer ewes this year than last. As I described in an earlier post, some of my original ewes were on the old side to start, and now their age is a real impediment. I chose to let go of Shirley and Dot, as Shirley never regained adequate weight and Dot’s teeth wouldn’t hold out another year, not to mention her poor parenting. I also shipped Ida due to low wool quality.
I was determined to keep Peggy, Agnes and Valentine, and had already committed to both Bobolink and Timberdoodle to ensure that I have plenty of brown wool. I had room for one more adult and possibly one more lamb. I would have liked to keep Esther, my little brown sheep and ship Martha, as I’m struggling to keep Martha’s wool clean enough, but due to an injury Martha was disqualified from slaughter (sick and injured animals are not allowed in the food supply). So much to my dismay, I had no choice but to ship Esther. I think it will work out, as Esther is very small and might not handle twinning in later years.
In any case, I cried all the way up Kibbee Road and much of the way to the butcher shop. As hard as I try to see the sheep as primarily economic and secondarily “friends”, letting good sheep go still made me cry.
When I got back to the barn later than evening and looked at the beautiful sheep who remained, now calmer because the crowded barn had a little more space, I felt that I had done the right thing despite the pain.