When I left you last, our dear Nellie had just died and winter 2016-2017 was in full swing.
Old Man Winter was pretty kind to us. The temps stayed fairly normal, and the young dogs took over full time guarding. In February Alfred, who was 14 months old, had his first real experience protecting his flock. A couple of coyotes got pretty close and were making a racket one Saturday morning. The dogs were with the ewes on the far side of the barn, and Alfred figured that the yearling bunch needed protection, so he scrambled over the dividing fence (a snow berm made it pretty easy) and rounded up the gang, moved them away from the barn, and stood guard in front of them for at least a full 10 minutes. Meanwhile, his partner, Callie, stayed with the ewes and barked like crazy while Bill went up with his rifle and fired off a warning shot. The coyotes got the message and decided it was better to leave. Only when the coast was clear did the dogs release their charges. It was something to see!
Lambing due date was April 19th, and we are traditionally right on schedule. We usually have at least one ewe lamb on the first day, with the others following shortly after. I was pretty much ready by the wee before, but had a few things left to do. On the 14thI went to town to stock up on a few things, and was going to come back and set up the electric fence to keep the sheep closer to the barn where I could see them. I did my usual check on the flock before I left, and all was quiet. When I returned two hours later, there was a huge commotion in the upper part of the pasture up over the rise of the hill where I couldn’t see. I heard dogs barking, sheep baaaa-ing and figured there must be some sort of disaster. As I got closer I heard a lamb cry and soon saw a mother ewe with one lamb, and the other one a little way off. The dogs were “protecting” the lone lamb from it’s mother and she was desperate to get to it. I intervened and got them all together, when I heard another lamb crying! I couldn’t believe it- two ewes lamb 5 days early when I happen to be gone for 2 hours? I looked around to see who the other mother was, and all the rest of the ewes were sitting quietly with no evidence of having recently given birth. I finally figured out that this was a set of triplets. Pretty extraordinary, considering the daddy was our new ram, George, who was only 9 months old when he bred her. After a comical episode of me trying to carry 3 lambs at once, with a concerned mother following me down the hill, I finally got them all into the barn in a lambing pen with food and water and they settled down in to a happy little family. The rest of the lambing went mostly smoothly, with George performing very respectably for a young ram. He had 2 sets of triplets and 3 sets of twins with the 5 ewes he bred with. Manny, our Cormo ram, held up his end with one set of triplets, and 4 sets of twins from his ewes.
Fortunately there were no more disasters in the second half of the year. Bill’s friends Matt and Cathy visited us from Oregon and helped put up the walk-in cooler that we have had in storage for 5 years. It fit perfectly into the space we designed for it, which was very satisfying. We finished painting the interior of the new shop, and installed cabinets and lighting.
The last quarter of the year was busy as usual. Canning, preparing for winter, and of course working on the shop. We had a Halloween surprise, when one of our hens showed up on October 31st with a single chick. We finished all the interior trim work and finally started moving into the new shop. Bill found a nice drill press that someone was selling for cheap, and we built workbenches, moved cabinets and generally got things organized. We were really happy to get our mini-split heat pump hooked up, and found that it kept everything toasty warm. The cooler compressor was connected, too, and proved to be very convenient for our Fall butchering. We bought beef from our neighbor, and were able to hang that for a month, which made for some mighty tender steaks! After all the meat was gone, we used it through the winter as a root cellar, and I have to say, I have never before had carrots last until April without getting soft. I stored them in a bin with peat moss slightly dampened, and it works like a dream. A carrot that I took out of the bin on April 1st(harvested in late October) was as firm and crunchy as if it were just pulled out of the ground. We managed to get some shelves built in the carport for storage, and Bill got enough wood split to last us all winter. We spent the holidays with friends and family, reflecting on how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful, bountiful place.