Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Gains and Losses

My sister Jean came to visit at the end of July. She made a big loop, starting from her home in St. Louis and driving to the Eastern Shore to visit some friends she had made when she interned at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. She then came back west, stopping at my other sister’s place in Madison for a few days before alighting at my house for the last part of her visit.

She arrived here on a Thursday afternoon and we met Laura for dinner at the Wild Onion in Randleman. The Wild Onion has some great food, and the menu is great fun to read too! This started the theme for Jean's visit, which was quite a gustatory one (yes, we Poudriers like to eat, and when we get together, there’s no better excuse for going hog wild!). And those gains I mentioned in the title to this installment? Well, you can just imagine where they took place.

I guess I should back up to the Tuesday before Jean’s arrival. Last year she had wanted to buy a sheep from me and have it butchered, but we couldn’t figure out an economical way to ship the lamb to her in St. Louis. So when she called to say she was on her way out, the bright idea occurred to me that we might want to butcher a sheep so she could take it back with her. She and her husband thought it a good idea, so on the Tuesday before her arrival, I took two sheep (one for Jean and one for my other sister Renee) down to the butcher. On Wednesday, I was called to come get their pelts.

I didn’t get time to do anything with those pelts (thank goodness the folks at Chaudhry salt them for you) until Friday morning. Welcome, sister. Come help me salt some icky, smelly pelts! Hey, where else can you have that sort of fun on your vacation?

In the meantime, I still had that sick little ewe lamb. On consultation with the vet, I had started her on milk replacer and an electrolyte/probiotic solution called “Formula 911.” At some feedings she would be positively perky and at others, she’d seem near death’s door. But just when I’d be thinking maybe I should give up, she’d rally, stand, go drink water, and look like she was seriously considering recovery.

So here we are Friday, trying to get fresh pelts thoroughly salted, and keep the sick lamb force fed, and of course show Renee and her kids, Aaron and his wife Emily, Sam, and Jesse around the farm. Nothing like introducing them to the grim realities along with the fun!

By the time I had given the lamb her second feeding, I had pretty much decided that her case had gone from hopeful to hopeless. She was no longer able to use her back legs, and so I decided that the humane thing to do at that point—after nearly two weeks of trying to save her—was to have Jimmy put her down when he got home. In the end it wasn’t necessary, as she died later that afternoon. There is nothing more heartbreaking than working so hard to save a little one and be unable to do so. That poor little lamb had a rough last couple of weeks, but she seemed to have such a will to live that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on her. In the end, it made no difference, and so a loss.

A Picnic in the Park
The Friday plan for the group of us—my sisters and the kids—was to take a picnic lunch to a local state park, Hagan-Stone. We had lunch in a shelter there and just enjoyed visiting with one another and catching up.

Jean, aka Annie Leibovitz, took this photo of us under the picnic shelter in a rare moment of not eating. Jean is the one with only half a face. Tee hee.

Then we took a three-mile hike on one of the trails, at the end of which I had to head home to meet up with some customers who were coming to buy a lamb. I got home 15 minutes ahead of the appointed time to find them already there. Fortunately Jimmy was there too, but for some reason he had decided to get Twist--probably because she wasn't crated and so was right at the door--out to bring the flock in, even though Twist won’t work for him (as she was proving at that very moment). Kat and Lark will work for him, so he should’ve gotten one of them instead. The funny thing about it was that these folks had come the night before to pick out a lamb and had been so impressed with the work Twist did that they brought a couple other guys with them to see her work. They all got a laugh out of her obvious disdain for taking any sort of command from Jimmy and how she did a complete turnaround once “mom” showed up and brought the flock up and helped sort off the lambs very nicely, thank you very much.

About the time they had loaded their lamb and headed out, the rest of the family returned from the park. They wanted to see Lark herd the Rhode Island Red chicks, so I gave them a little demo before everyone packed up to head back home. What could be cuter than a tiny little dog herding little red hens around the yard?

Rhode Island Reds are pretty, perky little (well, not so little compared to my OEG bantams) things! They make me laugh with their "Chicken Little" antics around the yard and pastures.

So what did Jean and I do together? Well, we built a new gate to go across the driveway. (Hey, I didn’t tell her she could relax on her vacation, did I?). We also went to the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s market and did some shopping for the weekend. Probably the best thing we found was The Goat Lady’s cheeses. Yep, we lived off bread (made by the Amish), goat cheese, and fresh fruit for breakfast and lunch during the rest of her stay.

Jean also inspired me to new heights of entertainment. (Okay, new heights might be a bit of a stretch, since in general I don’t entertain and this time of year generally don’t even cook since by the time I get in the house I don’t really feel like it and it’s too late to be bothered. And that makes even the slightest effort a “new height.”) Not only did I actually cook food while she was here (Jean pitched in A LOT so I could be free to get farm chores done), but I also invited people over so that she could meet my friends and neighbors. On Saturday night, Jimmy cooked a deer ham (roast), while Jean and I made the extras to go with it. On Sunday, I cooked a leg of lamb and got Jimmy to make his famous deer bites (tenderloin medallions wrapped in a slice of bacon and cooked on the grill to melt-in-your-mouth perfection). Monday was fried fish (hybrids caught over the weekend). The sides were all fresh veggies or fruit (for example, we had mom’s “fried”—actually sautéed—apples to go with the lamb in Saturday, and squash and cornbread with the fish on Monday). We pretty much succeeded in making all of our meals from local farm sources, with the main dishes either raised on the farm of caught in the wild (in one form or another). I can’t remember exactly who came for what meals, except that Aaron and Emily were there for the lamb and deer bites (new foods don’t faze them as they spent time in Chad as Peace Corps volunteers—an interesting aside, Aaron said one of the biggest adjustments on returning home was going to the grocery store and seeing chicken breasts for sale that were larger than an entire chicken you’d find in Chad), as were Laura and Mary, and then we had Laura and Chuck back on Monday for fried fish, along with Mary and Henry Kuykendall and his nephew Mike. Anyway, we had a great time and ate lots of food. I told Jean it’s a good thing I see her just once a year, because I got all of my entertaining out at one time and won’t do it again until she dares to darken my door another time! (Hee, hee, do you see an ulterior motive in all the fun chores we did together? Will she dare to come back?)

Jean did get some pictures of me working my dogs on Monday morning (pictures at the end of this entry). I had told her that Lark will go through the window in the barn to get to the back paddock. This is a handy thing because often it’s easier to climb through the window to get back there rather than go through the two gates in the “pass through” stall. So I asked her to snap a picture of Lark as she went through the window. This is what she got (sorry Jean, I had to do it):

So I took a couple of photos of Lark going through the window the other day, so you can see how she does it with great grace and style:

The little cheater is using the tire to hop up to the sill (I've seen her jump a six-strand high-tensile fence, so I know she doesn't really need that tire)....

This is what you find on the other side, the “Holstein” girls (and the two hair wethers) and the second crop of karakul lambs that were moved to the paddock behind the barn for weaning and supplemental feeding. This group gets let out to graze the unfenced pasture, which was reseeded and has new grass and brassicas growing in it, every day. It's a perq they get for being worked by dogs fairly regularly (well, at least when it's not as hot as it has been lately).

Behind the Barn
You can actually find all sorts of things behind the barn. My free range Old English Game bantams spend a lot of time there. This hen looks like a Golden Sebright, but she’s actually an OEG “mutt.” There are some Sebright genetics way back in there so it’s likely that’s how she ended up looking like one. Her two chicks didn’t get her lovely coloring though.

The ram lambs also have a paddock behind the barn—well more off to the side actually, although they do have access to the last stall. Here’s Lark bringing them up so I can check the feet on one of them.

And here’s a couple more shots of the lambs. Complete with devil eyes. Let’s hope those eyes aren’t windows into future evil ram temperaments! It’s interesting that they all have rather large scurs given that all of their dams were polled, as was their sire. The ram I planned to keep to use on the flock is the white one, although the “skeletor” lamb has turned out pretty nice too.

As promised earlier in this missive, here are some photos, not all entirely in focus, that Jean took of my dogs working. First up, Lark driving:



A series of Twist pushing part of the main flock through the foot bath chute. A lamb pile-up at the front of the line made things a little more difficult that they might have been had one of the ewes been at the head of the line:


carson-crazies said...

Oh YAY!! You DID get pics of miss Larky jumping thru the window. Great shots - I love the RIR's. It was SO nice to see Jean - she's always so much fun. Thanks for having me over - I enjoyed being part of the family.

I LOVE how buff Pip looks in his pics, by the way!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Nice pictures! Sounds like you had a very nice time :)

Julie said...

I always enjoy when Jean visits. And although it was a pain doing so, it's nice to actually have some pictures up again. Pip is quite the handsome fellow, isn't he, even for all his whiteness!

The RIRs tickle me because they seem like such clumsy giants compared to my OEG bantams. But I'll never forget that special RIR named Curious we had when we were kids, and so I have that soft spot for the breed. And I'll get yummy eggs, and they're on ALBC's conservation priority list, so good things all around!

Rachel said...

Sorry to hear about your little lamb. She really did have a will to live.