TnT (Tails and Testes)

The kombucha is starting to skim over on top; the sourdough bread that was bubbling and acidifying with viability for 4 days is now fresh out of the oven in top notch Mixed Herb and Cinnamon Raisin form; and the yellow dock and dandelion are tincturing away in the closet. Now, onto other cultural news of the farm: 


First order of business: Lambs; tag ’em, dock the tails, castrate the boys. Sounds like a lot, but really it went quickly and with only minimal jerking around and bleating for dear life. 

Tagging the ears is quite easy and surprisingly clean considering the gage of the plastic tag going through the ear.  There are a series of ridges and hollows on the underside of a sheep’s ear, and provided you can clamp the tag down and through one of the hollow spaces, no blood will flow and it’ll be over before you know it.  With the lambs, it’s easy enough to hold them against your body and press the clamp down without them making a move; lasso-ing, tackling, wrestling and restraining the adult sheep breaks a little bit more of a sweat though. (This is only an ocassional thing, like when the tag gets ripped out accidentally.) 

Docking the tails is a practice used for the purpose of keeping the tail clean when it doesn’t have enough muscle to lift during excreting, and the technique is similar to that of castrating; using the elastrator (a 4-bent-pronged instrument) you wrap a special elastic band around the prongs, separate the prongs by squeezing the handle, slip the tail or testes to be removed into the band, then release the handles and slip the band off with your other hand.  It’s only at this point that most lambs make any complaint…..and for the rest of the day the little boys are wallowing and flopping on their sides making pitiful, whiny bleats and carrying on with general malaise. But in the morning they’ll be up and at ’em, and we’ll be picking up little detached testes and tail-tips (well, maybe not that quickly.) 

The ewe that doesn’t have a working udder had 2 babies, a boy and a girl. The boy is lively, frisky and hungry! The girl on the other hand, has spirit and demonstrates quite a strong will when being handled, but just has actually been losing weight as she doesn’t seem to be acclimated to the nipple-in-a-bucket set up we have in the corner of the barn. So we’ve had to take to feeding her a bottle every few hours so she can stay nice and healthy. She has all the traits Natalya looks for in a good keeping ewe: nice hocks, a mobile tail, good coloring around the face, and a nice transition from wool to hair on her britch (area between hock and hip on the back legs.) Got any good names for little black and white-faced lamb girls? I’m taking suggestions. 

We’re still waiting for the other 4 ewes that are pregnant to start showing signs of labor. 2 have been as big as the broad side of a really broad barn for a week. Their udders are filling out amazingly, their vulvas have started swelling and they’ve been pawing at the ground (all signs that it’s not far away!) We’re convinced all the ewes are conspiring against us and waiting it out til the full moon on the 29th. Then it’ll be a lambing fiasco. It’s been known to happen in years past……… 

Once we finally stepped out of the barn, it was a high-velocity planting extravaganza. Seed potatoes were bought and cut to size (about as big as a hen’s egg) making sure that a couple good eyes made it onto every “seed.” These got planted in the field of beds made of over wintered barn bedding – and as it’s generally accepted that potatoes don’t do as well under a heavy fertilizing of manure (all the nitrogen makes for great greenery, but wimpy-ass potatoes) we planted rows in one bed with a manure covering and 2 beds of rows without it for later season comparison. We also decided to compare potatoes planted now in the waning phase of the moon to those we will plant after the full moon on Monday night (remember there’ll be a Spring Lamb Advisory) when it will begin to wax. It is old folk wisdom and the tradition of planting with the signs that tells us that any crops that produce above-ground (spinach, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, etc) are to be planted



Potato/Tomato field

during the first 2 phases of the moon as it’s getting bigger, and that those crops that produce mainly underground (radishes, carrots, beets, onions, etc) will do phenomenally better when planted as the moon is decreasing; potatoes obviously fall into the latter category. Truth or myth? I’ll have to get Natalya to let me know how the project goes, I’ll be on my way somewhere else! 

Besides potatoes we got in 3 more beds of salad greens; lots of Bloomsdale spinach, some of it seed that Natalya saved from a hardy over-wintered crop last year, and some more romaine, both green and “freckled.” 

In between these planting though, came the bed preparation (raking away hay mulch, pulling persistent weeds and grasses and cultivating down about a couple of inches) for the greens. 

Salad beds

To my delight, lots of persistent dandelion to be harvested as an addition to the tea blend – some of it also went into the aforementioned tincture in the closet. Dandelion root is a wonderful diuretic – it actually preserves the potassium in your body instead of depleting your stores like most commercial diuretics are known to do – it’s also a wonderful liver cleanser. Both of these qualities make it an ideal addition to a skin-cleansing, pre-menstrual or detox/weight-reduction blend. The greens of the plants we are giving to Mabel, the sheep with the stressed udder, along with wormwood, parsley and lemon balm to act as a diuretic to help ease the milk out.  She loves getting her own special salad! 

A mulch of reject sheep's wool. Slower break down but lots of nitrogen.



3 responses to “TnT (Tails and Testes)

  1. Oh, farm humor! I’ve never spent much time around sheep–are they definitely stupid? I guess I just have a goat prejudice, but those lambs are absolutely precious!

    My great aunt used to make sauerkraut only during the new moon underneath an oak tree. This sort of thing is really fascinating to me.

  2. The lambs are so beautiful! How about Flower for the black and white one (like the skunk in Bambi)? My other suggestion is Braith, which is a Welsh name that means black and white.

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