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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Population Control; Not So Much

      These little Japanese Bantams are amazing little chickens.  Hearty, independent, and self sufficient, they only get a handful of scratch from us most mornings.  They roost in the barn above the sheep, away from the claws of predators. We originally got them to control the fly population in the barn.  They have done a terrific job.  In addition to all these skills they are also masters at procreation.  Our mission this summer has been population control.  We did well finding all those hidden little eggs.  Well until now. This hen showed up last week with 10 little ones!  So much for population control.

  The newly hatched chicks are about the size of a silver dollar. 

They are great mothers, teaching their young all about foraging. Also keeping them far from my camera, dang!

Members of the Sheep clan of McTavish Farm.  Waiting for rain and dreaming of green grass.
Mira Loo on watch.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bees and Butterflies

Quite a few years ago, I'm thinking at least 8, I picked up some seeds a fellow beekeeper was handing out at our bee group:  Showy Milkweed seeds.  After reading that showy milkweed was a poisonous plant for sheep I was a bit hesitant to plant it.  One spring I mustered up some courage and planted a few seeds figuring I could keep it contained in my front yard. The plant is a native and one of a few food sources for the quickly disappearing Monarch Butterfly.

Showy Milkweed

Well the plant did grow and each year I plucked off seed heads to keep it from spreading out of control.  So far so good.  An interesting and beautiful annual in an of itself.  The real beauty finally came this year when we were discovered on the Monarch circuit.  We've seen the butterflies quite a few times now and I attempted to catch one on film. 

SwallowTail butterfly with "moth-eaten" wings

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Growing Pains

This time of year I drive myself crazy trying to keep up on things around the farm.  Grass is growing like mad meaning weeds in the yard explode which means it is time to plant the vegetable garden.   It's also time to mow a few of the paddocks as the sheep are disappearing into the grass.  Even they can't keep up with it.  Grass looses some of it's nutritional value as it puts energy into seed heads and the sheep must find it more bitter and less palatable (I can tell because the yell at me as I come out the door).  Mowing helps knock it down so it might regrow again.  All in all it feels like a losing battle.  I just have to remember this frantic feeling will dissipate once it stops raining.

Lambs are growing and we've had some minor growing pains.  Being as we have so many ram lambs this year it means more sets of little horns.  As they learn to manage this growing buddage from their little heads invariably things happen.  Our potentially handsome ram lamb "Spotify" has certainly had his growing pains.  A couple weeks ago I went out to the barn to find one of his horns pointing the wrong way and blood pouring down into his eye and face and onto the ground.  Poor little guy had ripped it off catching it on something, I can only guess it was the hose spigot. Some blood stop powder, hoof trimmers (to trim off the remaining attatchment of horn) and a little pain reliever did the trick but of course he is scarred for life*. " Mr unicorn" my mom now calls him.  Well that didn't last long,  one week later he did the same number to the other horn.  At least now he has a matching set and  he can't possibly do it again!
*FYI once they rip it off it won't grow back, he essentially has done a "horn de-budding" on himself.

As the lambs reach their 8 week old mark they begin to eat more vegetables;  that would be in the form of grass.  Mamma's milk becomes less rich and they begin to supplement.  This means less time spent playing and more time getting down to the business of eating and then later chewing cud.  Less play means less entertainment for us humans.  But, as we have some much work to do, maybe that's a good thing.


Patrick looking handsome

Mira Lu skeptical of the camera

Sunday, April 10, 2016

All Quiet on the Western Front

So far so good.  This morning over coffee we put Mira Lu, our super alert new llama, in with some of the sheep for the second time.  The first time did not work so well.  That was Thursday.  A crazy day that traumatized us all a bit.  No real bad things happened, just some busted fences and bent wire hog panels.  For what ever reason Mira Lu got a bit frantic, charged through a few fences and chased her new sheep "friends" around the paddock.  The sheep were not happy.  When we later in the day deliberately put them together, I made a respite spot for the sheep in the barn, a wood bar about 3 ft up that I thought would keep the llama out, the sheep able to go in underneath.   At one point,  I was in with the sheep in the barn, squatted down comforting and reassuring them that this was a safe spot, that Mira could not get in despite her terrifyingly poking her head in the door, safely above the restraining bar.   So I thought, but  like the scene in "The Shining" when Jack Nicholson was tearing at the door then bursts in with "here's Johnny", Mira ducks her body under the board and quickly pops into the barn and startles all of us.  The sheep bolt and Mira continued to plow through another hog panel fence further in the barn.  Amazing what a 350 pound animal can do in an out of control moment.  Simply stated, it was  fiasco.   We then separated the llama from the sheep and decided to regroup with a new plan.  Apparently things were moving a bit too fast for poor Mira.   So today, a few days later, she seems a bit calmer and although they have not yet touched noses, I am happy to see there is peace in the barnyard.  One small step at a time!

Happiness is a fresh supply of milk!  Not for me, but for all those hungry lambs.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Changing of the Guard part II

Today miss Mira Lu arrived at the farm.  She was to be delivered by her previous owner from the Portland area, a couple hour drive, and I fully expected her to arrive in the usual horse trailer.  But no, just a little mini van.  The side door was slide open and out pops a llama.  She was very neat and tidy on her trip, no messes in the car.  Certainly couldn't ask that of a sheep, at least without diapers!

 She was very alert all afternoon checking out her new surroundings and friends.

Little "Spotify" checking out the big new beast.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Changing of the Guard

 On Tuesday 3/29/16 we lost our faithful guard llama Pele.  Pele came to McTavish Farm in 2005 and served as our sole sheep guard since.  He did his job well as we had no attacks to the sheep from outside preditors.   Although our relationship with him was strained at times, those times including foot trimming and shearing, with the help of my brave husband we worked out our differences and he became somewhat cooperative.  Unfortunately he developed a "mass" at his TMJ (jaw joint) which caused his jaw to dysfunction and he could not adequately chew.  Being as stoic as he was, I did not realize the extent of the problem until we handled him prior to the arrival of the vet.  It was then I could feel through the thick fleece just how emmaciated he was.  Obviously the problem had been going on longer than I thought.  Poor guy.  Llamas have a great way of hiding their illness.  He was no exception.  I miss seeing his serpentine form down in the pasture with the sheep in the misty morning.  Thank you Pele for your years of service.

Monday, March 21, 2016


Our last lamb born this season, despite being a boy, was a fun surprise.   His mom is solid black the father solid brown.  And look what came of that!  As his skin is spotted I believe he will hold these spots into adulthood.

 I apologize for the dark photos, wanted to get some pictures of him before he got out to play in the mud but the barn is a bit dark.

. A couple more fun shots from yesterday

Some spring sunshine through our dirty window
Hopefully it will be nice enough today to get some outside shots.