Monday, November 29, 2010

The Old Switcheroo

We were very careful this year with our rams and our ewes. Red is related to half our flock, as in paternal relations. It would be no good to breed him to his daughters and granddaughters, especially when our vet-in-training is trying to improve the herd, not create freaks of nature.

But, as the saying goes, "the grass is greener on the other side" and Red and Duke (our other ram) decided, just for an afternoon, to pull a switcheroo and mess with Annie's charting. Really, it didn't seem quite fair since the girl had gone to all the trouble of keeping good records and having a plan.

People in the know (that would be those who have raised or been around sheep) will nod their heads in sympathy and understanding. "That's a ram for you!" "Always messing with the system." "Doesn't follow the rules, only the ewes." "It's all about the ewes." "What a bunch of hussies!" (That last comment would be mine)

We keep our rams in with the girls usually for about two months. At six weeks, we were feeling good about our system. At six weeks and a day, we almost didn't have a system. It was only about four hours that the flock intermingled when the gate popped open. Except it wasn't obvious until feeding time when it seemed there were way too many ewes in Duke's group. At which point it became an overnight slumber party, because I had left the feeding until almost dark and I couldn't tell one ewe from another. No one seemed to mind.

Annie came home late from work. I almost couldn't choke out what had happened over at the barn. No, I couldn't separate them in the dark. No, I wasn't sure how the gate had popped open. No, I had no idea when this had actually happened except sometime before feeding.

The next morning we scanned the crowd. The sheep weren't inclined to gather back in their original groupings. We cut Red out of the flock and shuffled him back into the barn field. A few of the ewes followed him and we had to hope these were the original group because, without getting right on top of them to see their ear tag numbers, we could only tell if they 'sort of' looked like his original harem.

We did the math. Everything lamb born before 4/29/2011 could be predicted. Those born for at least two weeks after were a crap shoot for the 'who's your daddy' prize. Just like last year, we were going to have to look for droopy ears and white and black coloring to tell if the daddy was Duke. Small ears and brown coloring - probably Red.

Our records are better than they ever have been and I suspect that most breeding records have some guesses in them. Sheep can be relentless when they want to get somewhere and fencing and gates are merely an inconvenience that will wear down with time. The baling twine breaks. The fence wire pops. And, soon enough, there is the mingling of sheep in a late season romp. All in the name of the lambs.

Photos:(top) Piglet (couldn't find a duo photo with Duke) and Red in their 10-month-a-year retirement pasture; (bottom) eager young rams (before they were sent off to graze the power lines in WA)

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rural Roof Repair

It has taken seven years, but we have joined the ranks of rural roof repair. We have resorted to a tarp. I did, however, put my boot down at a blue one.

We have had a leak in one of the upstairs bathrooms for a while now. Maybe five years. It's not a problem unless it's raining. Let's just say that for the four months of summer, when we are relatively rain-free, we are good to go and the buckets and pans are stashed under the bathroom sink.

With the first rains of fall, I am back to digging around under the sink for my buckets.

It's not that we have just left the roof to leak on its own. Each summer we climb up, way higher than I like to be, to add a bit more tar, a bit more glue, a bit more of anything we think might help. Is it a leak from the skylight or is it the actual asphalt tiles? Is it from the improperly set flashing or something else?

Short of taking all the roofing off, which could reveal far more of a horror than we are yet ready to tackle, tarps seemed the next best solution because, as I may have forgotten to mention, this is a bathroom our guests use, and that would also be my mother.

The leak(s) run right through the middle of the smallish room onto a carpet that begins to get soggy and then stained. We set the buckets and pans down for specific drips, but this means they have to be moved and then replaced if you happen to want to close the bathroom door! There's an art to dodging the dishes. It's not something you want to have to do in the dark, even with a night-light.

What I can say about tarps is that they work for a while. We have taken to tacking them down with wood strips because the coast winds come ripping up our valley in winter and, well, rip the tarp with ripping winds. Hence maybe the saying? We realize this is a temporary solution, but are lulled each time we tack down a new tarp.

Our neighbor thinks he has our solution and is willing to give it a shot next summer when the rain has stopped. We'll try a 'real' roofing trick: tar paper. Since the roof is mostly hidden from view, I don't think anyone will notice. It took us three years just to realize the roof wasn't even shake like the rest!

I'm willing to go along with this scheme, as long as no one insists I climb up to confer (although it is a fabulous view of the farm!). When the rains start again, I'm good if I can look up at the ceiling and only see stains from our tarp and glue years.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones

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