Monday, February 25, 2008

Persian lamb on the hoof (and a pretty busy weekend!)

Okay, first I have to say that taking pictures of black lambs inside a barn doesn't make for very good pictures, but since I have been remiss in the picture-taking department lately, I grabbed my camera and went out at lunch time and snapped a few.

But let me back up a minute. Saturday was a very busy day. Laura's ewe lamb apparently did get bred that day she squeezed through the gate and got in with the ram. And here's a lesson in why you might not want to breed a ewe lamb (she won't be a year old till April)--on Friday evening we noticed she was prolapsing (vaginal prolapse). It was still at a stage where if she stoood the prolapse was retracted, but I figured I better bring her up into a jug so at least we could keep things cleaner. I called Laura and told her if she wanted to come out Saturday morning and help with the ewe to come on--Mary and I were planning to tag all my untagged sheep and then work on the ewe lamb.

So we filled her up with all sorts of meds and cleaned her up the best we could. Then we got out the baling twine and trussed her up. We didn't use a prolapse spoon--just followed the directions in Ron Parker's The Sheep Book. So far everything is staying in place.

We decided to run into Asheboro for lunch and to visit the Clinique counter at Belk. Without changing clothes. You can imagine the looks we three "hayseeds" got as we bellied up to the Clinique counter....

But, wait, the fun didn't stop there! We had also managed to get ourselves roped into Donkey Basketball that evening, a benefit for the FFA and a local fire department. Mary and I spent much of the day blaming Laura for this. Mary "hosts" an FFA student, who had asked Mary to participate, and Mary had--sensibly--declined. Then one night the three of us went to dinner and got a little, shall we say, full of ourselves. We discussed how we had all grown up on horseback, so how hard could it be to ride a donkey? (You're probably thinking right now about the saying, "What's the last thing you often hear from a redneck? Hey, watch this!") Laura declared, "A girl's gotta show her wild side!" and next thing you know, we'd all volunteered for donkey basketball.

So the big night was here and we were, to put it mildly, a bit nervous. Poor Mary looked like she'd seen a ghost by the time we were done being instructed in the rules of the game. Fortunately for us, the emcee didn't put the women on the wild donkeys at first (what you chose to do later was your choice). So what I learned is that donkey basketball isn't so much about playing basketball as it is about trying to get a donkey to cooperate in any way. I started out with a donkey who was very sweet but didn't want to move, and especially didn't want to move away from Mary's donkey. I mean it was all I could do to squeeze myself in between them so I could mount. Not that it mattered. If your donkey won't move (except maybe to follow its friend) you're pretty limited in what you're going to do on the basketball court.

Later in the game, one of the fellas on our team was riding one of the smaller donkeys. The guy was so tall his feet dragged the ground. And the donkey was behaving! So when his rider called for relief, I donned my charming football helmet (did I mention that style was not to be considered?) and relieved my teammate of his little tan donkey. Oh yes! What a good donkey! As the ball went sailing by down the court toward our basket, I was actually able to lead my donkey at a good clip down the court and got possession of the ball. Then came the hitch. You can't shoot a basket from anywhere but on a donkey's back. So ball under arm, all the while fighting off two volunteer firefighters who were trying to steal it, I attempted to mount my donkey. The little hellion bucked each time I put my leg over his back. What happened to the nice donkey my teammate was riding all over??? I hit the deck a couple of times, but never lost my grip on the ball. I was looking around desperately for a teammate to pass the ball to, but they were all at the other end of the court in a slow-motion crawl to come my way. FINALLY, a teammate comes flying by on an out-of-control little donkey and I throw him the ball. He shoots! No good. Oh well, you can't say we didn't try!

So what did I learn from donkey basketball? It's all about having fun. When someone describes a donkey as gentle, it's a euphemism for "so stubborn it's not about to move, period." A perky donkey is one that's going to toss you ass over teakettle and then refuse to be caught without the help of legions of your teammates. In the end we had a lot of fun. And, yes, there is video. I just have to get it onto my computer and from there onto something like YouTube. So readers, you will just have to wait to view the action!

Persian Lamb
Of course the moment we decide to leave the farm, a ewe decides it's the appropriate time to have a lamb. The ewe in question is a first-timer karakul named Chocolate Chip. When we got back from dinner around 10, I shined the spotlight out into the pasture to see two ewes scrapping over a lamb! We got out there with a lamb sling, and I checked backsides on both ewes to make sure who was the mom. Jimmy took the lamb in the sling and started to head toward the barn, trying to get Chocolate Chip to follow him. But Hazel really wanted that lamb! She kept running in front of Jimmy and generally being a real nuisance, which caused Chocolate Chip to run back to the flock. (It's difficult to get new moms to follow a lamb under the best of circumstances, and these circumstances were less than ideal.)

So I went and got Twist and had her bring the entire flock up to the gate, where I was able to sort of Chocolate Chip and shove her through the gate with Jimmy and the lamb. Once we got them jugged, she settled down and went to taking care of her little ram lamb.

I used Twist to again bring the flock up and pulled out an open ewe lamb, Cinnamon, to go in the jug next to Chocolate Chip so she'd have some company. We then made sure that the lamb's umbilical cord was sprayed with strong iodine, gave him a squirt of nutri-drench, fed and watered mom, and left them to bond. I give a lot of credit to Chocolate Chip for standing off Hazel. They must have been fighting over the lamb for some time, because he was almost completely dry by the time we got home and found him.

Here's Chocolate Chip and her lamb:

Last night Jimmy went out to check the sheep in the pasture shortly before midnight. He said he noticed two sets of eyes that were way too close to the ground to be anything other than lambs, and sure enough, we had a set of twins out there. These were born to Amelia, an experienced ewe, which might be why Hazel didn't bother her (I was concerned that if Hazel kept trying to steal lambs I was going to have to separate her from the rest of the pregnant sheep in her own paddock.)

I couldn't get any decent pictures of either lamb, really. The ram lamb has a white poll like his mother, and the ewe lamb is completely black.

Here's the proud papa, Josias (on the left) and his wether buddy Fido, who is also his son. Fido is the result of breeding Josias to a Scottish blackface ewe. He got his name when he was sent to live at Tony and Mary's place where he was the oddball among their flock of tunis lambs. Tony kept joking about how he looked like some sort of mutt out there among the tunis and a name was born.

I can't really show any decent pictures of the jugs. You can see the wooden panels we made in the photos of the ewes and lambs. Here's a picture of the barn from the back.

This used to be a stable with open stalls for the horses. We closed it in partially so we could enclose sheep in the stalls and then added the panels to divide each 10 x 10 stall into three jugs: two 5 x 5 and one 10 x 5. The stall to the far right is connected to the ram paddock and is where Josias and Fido can get out of the weather. If we get short on space, though, the two boys will have to move to a different paddock so we can divide their stall for use by ewes and lambs too.

The completely enclosed section in the center is what I call the tack room, though it's no longer used for tack. I keep most of my sheep supplies there, as well as feed for the chickens, sheep feed, etc.

The stall on the middle left is how I can walk through from the yard. I store hay there for feeding the boys and any ewes that are jugged. Here's a picture of the stall on the far left. The ewe in front is Laura's number 90 and the one you can just see in the jug next to her is the ewe lamb with the prolapse. Number 90 is there just to keep the ewe lamb company and will be moved out when we have need of the jug.

I like the open design of the barn. It allows for light and good air flow but provides protection from the wind and the elements, which is really all the lambs need in our climate.

And on a completely unrelated note, remember the PIF entry where I talked about the hand-knit sweaters our friend LouAnn gave us? The one pictured below isn't the one I originally chose, it's the one Mary chose. But mine had a border collie in a working crouch on a red background with the sheep below on a black background. Mary looks gorgeous red and I do not, so we switched. Anyway, I think it's a lovely sweater and I will get much enjoyment out of it.

And I think this particular entry takes the record for excessive length, and it's time to go feed and check the ewes, so until next time....


~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

What breed is Chocolate Chip? Her wool looks scruptuous ;-)
The pictures turned out great, nice set up btw, I have always loved the way horse barns are put together... one day, when I am rich....

Julie said...

Chocolate Chip is a karakul. So is Amelia. Amelia is the more "traditional" color. Black lambs will stay black only through their first year (first shearing) and then they start to turn silver to varying degrees as they mature. Other colors do the same, though the change isn't as dramatic. The fun thing about the breed is that you can only guess on the colors when it comes time to lamb. As you can see both Chocolate Chip and Josias are chocolate brown, and yet they produced a perfect little black lamb.

Anyway, if you've heard of Persian lamb coats and hats and such, those black lambs are what become Persian lamb garments--it's the karakul's claim to fame. The whole reason they were imported to this country was for the fur trade. Of course the fur trade in Persian lamb didn't last long here, but when we register lambs, we still have to record all sorts of pelt characteristics....

As for the adult fleece, it's considered carpet wool. It can very in softness from quite soft to something akin to a horse's tail. Historically wool was used for rugmaking and felted garments.

And I'm still waiting for a tunis lamb to come along!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I really like the Karakul faces, and Chocolate Chip is a beautiful color!

I just spun a sample of Navajo-Churro and I must say I've felt horses' manes that were softer.

Julie said...

LOL! Ain't that the truth. I once tried a scarf someone (a karakul breeder, the one I got Chocolate Chip from in fact) had knit as a sample for a breed display. As you can imagine, NO ONE would want THAT near their skin!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Julie, would you be interested in selling CC's fleece?

Julie said...

I'd be happy to send it to you (a raw fleece) if you'd just like a chance to mess with it. It could be a PIF payback. We will be shearing at the end of April.

Arlette said...

Hi Julie,
your lamb pictures are beautiful!
I started on a new art project drawing Karakul lambs with pen and ink, and was wondering if you still have the lamb pictures in a bigger size than on the website? If you do it would be amazing if you could e-mail me a few where the heads of the lambs are visible, as I'm trying to portray them close to how they really look :)
thank you! Arlette