…and then maybe the lion eats your liver.

Lamb FamilyIt’s been an interesting month here at Miles Away Farm. Starting in late February, we started to have new lambs on the ground. The first was born February 26th. We had 17 bred ewes. We ended up with a total of 28 lambs. We would have had 32, but for the following:

  • One was a set of triplets (our only triplet of the year – all three male) and was super tiny, and didn’t survive the night. Note that this same ewe successfully raised a set of male triplets last year.
  • One was a single to a young ewe who just couldn’t manage to give birth. The baby was big. She was small. She was in labor for days. If we were going to intervene, it would have needed to have been done within a few hours of her being in labor. (We did lube up and feel around, and didn’t feel any obvious part that was stuck anywhere – the baby was NOT in the birth canal). The ewe was NOT stressed. She’d be in active labor, then get up and eat and poop and generally go back to being a healthy ewe. We’d never had this situation happen before (a ewe unable to give birth). It would have taken a vet (and a minimum $500 vet bill) to find a solution, the lamb would not have survived, and we would not have wanted to breed the ewe again, assuming she COULD be bred again. So, we made the logical but incredibly difficult decision to humanely euthanize the ewe.
  • Two bottle babies – that were killed by our dogs (most likely Gideon, but because they are litter mates, its difficult to know who actually did the deed, which we did not see). The first lamb killed was likely not going to make it anyway. He had a difficult time suckling, and was hard to feed. The second lamb, Donald, was hale and hardy, and completely imprinted on me. He slipped through a gate that had a gap JUST big enough for him, looking for me, got into the perennial garden, and the dogs killed him before I even knew what had happened. I was in love with this lamb, and utterly devastated.

Peach budsYou may remember, we adopted Rossi and Gideon three and a half years ago, when they were two years old. In that time, they have killed various adult chickens, most of my young turkeys last year, the two lambs, and bitten at least four people. When you love an animal, you blame yourself when this kind of thing happens. You think “it’s my fault we didn’t have better fencing” or “it’s my fault I didn’t get to the dogs to control them before that person got out of their car”. But the death of Donald was the last straw. After a brief stint advertising them on my Facebook business page, and contacting the original owners, who had made us sign a contract saying we would give them the option of taking them back if we could not keep them (they chose not to do so) we surrendered them to the local humane society. These are great dogs if you are looking for excellent 24/7 companions and protectors. They were not a good fit for our farm, where we want people to come and see and learn and feel safe while doing so.

Then, a few weeks later, something, likely a fox, got into the hen house and killed two hens and a rooster. It was just dark, and my husband went out to close up the hen house and found the carnage. One of the reasons we had the dogs was as a predator deterrent. Having dogs on site marking their territory and barking the alarm when anything comes into the yard makes for a lot less dead chickens and a lot less deer in the yard destroying fruit trees. So…after a couple of weeks of being dog free for the first time in our almost 18 year marriage, I started looking for a new dog in earnest.

I’m a big believer in rescuing dogs, rather than buying purebreds for big bucks. Unfortunately, about 90% of the dogs at the humane society are either a pit mix (I love pits, but terriers are bred for hunting, and so are generally hell on chickens. Not ALL of them, but I’m not willing to risk my birds to test it out) or a chihuahua mix. My experience with chihuahuas is that they either suffer from small dog disease, thinking it is their job to challenge everyone and everything all day long, barking at every leaf that blows through the yard, OR they are afraid of their own shadow, and spend most of their time shaking in terror and loosing control of their bladder at inappropriate moments. When I met my husband, he had an “I Believe” sign. And one of the statements was “I believe that any dog who weighs less than 10 lbs is NOT a dog”. I’m definitely in that camp. Charlie & Bodhi

So, I started cruising Craigs List and found Charlie and Bodhi (formerly Buddha – but this dog is so not zen – so we changed it to Bodhi, short for Bodhisattva). Bodhi looks like a large beagle and is supposed to have some Australian shepherd in him. Charlie is dachshund but is supposed to also have red heeler (technically called Australian cattle dog). Bodhi is really really smart and sweet and Charlie is the most exuberant joyful dog you’ve ever met. The dogs former owners needed to move, and weren’t able to take the dogs with them. They both need to be fixed and to get up to date on their shots. Both are about 7 months old. I had two groups of Whitman College students come out last week. We sat in the grass and talked about the farm, and the dogs went from person to person getting pets and sitting in laps. We’ve only had them a week, and we are still all getting used to each other, but so far, it seems like a much better fit. Even the cats, who are NOT happy with the new dogs after having a couple of weeks alone in the house, are adjusting well.

FawnSomewhere in all of this drama, we walked out one morning to find the goat in the driveway, rather than in with the sheep where she was supposed to be. No major damage, other than a few lower branches on a pear tree lost, but we had NO idea how she got out. And I had this moment, kind of like with the dogs, where I asked myself, after all of the plants lost to escaped goats in the last few years, “why do we still have this goat”? So, the decision was made to find Fawn a new home too. She’s now at a farm with other goats, including a billy, so she has a boyfriend for the first time in several years!

In other news, I’m raising 25 golden sex-linked day old chicks that came in the mail on the 24th. They are all female. My current crew of chickens is so mixed from cross breeding them over the years that I’ve completely lost track of who is who and what ages they are. Various leg bands I’ve tried have been a disaster. So this will give me a breed/color demarcation where I’ll know ages from here on out. AND on Monday/Tuesday I hatched 14 ducklings out of the incubator. Plus I still have one more bottle baby lamb, Drew, who is still getting fed three times a day by me. So, its baby season all the way around right now. Seedlings are started in the greenhouse, the garden has had compost applied, been tilled and the drip system put back together for the next season. And today I planted beets and carrots, and a variety of small starts of lettuce, kale, peas and various greens. Netarts Bay Oregon

We also managed a quick crabbing/clamming/mussel harvesting trip to the Oregon coast, had an old friend come for a visit, and celebrated my 50th birthday. I don’t know why I always expect March to be the calm before the storm. This year I’ve decided that it is the month that renews your spirit and breaks your heart in equal measure, sometimes in the same day.

Lots of pictures of the spring blossoms can be found here.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2016, where we hope that April brings showers to make the garden grow, and peace in the hen house.