Thursday, January 31, 2008

Help Wanted

This will be a full-time position. Responsibilities will include helping with facility construction, daily sheep milking, pasture rotation, animal husbandry, and irrigation of pastures. Farming experience is required—with dairy, livestock and/or tractor experience a plus. A good work ethic, dedication to organic farming and a love for animals are also all necessary qualities. This would be a great position for someone who is interested in starting their own farm business in the future and would like to get experience with a whole system operation. Starting date is flexible, ideally before the end of March. Compensation dependent upon experience.

This will be a part-time position (or positions) to begin in late spring/early summer. Primary responsibilities will be running a stall at local farmers’ markets and deliveries to restaurants and vendors, plus two to three shifts weekly in the milking parlor. No prior experience required but knowledge of fine cheese, livestock and organic farming are all a plus. Compensation will be an hourly wage dependent upon experience. (This would be a good position for a student--an internship or apprenticeship is a possibility.)

for more information contact me at:

Little Red Riding Hood

I'm in love! (Hey, and just in time for Valentine's Day)
Her name is Sedona and she is a 2 year old red and white border collie. The first couple of times when her owner, Mark from the local feed store, brought her and her other family members by the farm to herd sheep she barely showed any interest in me. But the third time, when he brought her to me for keeps, she seemed to know that I was to be her person and she immediately became my BFF. Upon introduction to my trailer she straightaway claimed the couch and my bed as her two favorite spots. Thankfully, I had planned ahead and bought a cheap blanket from Kmart to cover the couch and an old sheet from Goodwill for the top of my bed, as she is definitely a farm dog, replete with dirt and mud.
She is also a nervous pee-er, which I discovered the first time I tried to move her over on the bed so I could get under the covers. She is really lucky that she is extremely cute and lovable because I've kicked boyfriends out of bed for less. I can't say I've known a sweeter dog, actually. She likes to always be near me, and is happy to ride along in the truck and hang out while I run errands. When I am sitting on the couch typing at the computer or watching a movie, she jumps up next to me and has to have her head resting on my lap. She keeps me warm at night sleeping on my bed because she likes to be touching me, with her head on my knee or stomach. Sometimes I'll wake up to a strange noise, only to realize it is her snoring with her head on my pillow.

The first couple of visits to the farm she showed promise as a herder, working the sheep with her grandma Ruthie. Border collies are very alert, intelligent and sensitive dogs which make them such good stock dogs. Unfortunately, it also means that Sedona was scared shitless the first time she encountered the electric fence when it was charged. I heard her yelp and out of the corner of my eye, saw her run back toward the barn. By the time I made it around the trailer and past the barn there was no sign of her. After spending the day looking all over the farm and neighborhood, yelling her name, I called Mark, only to discover that she had run to his house, 5 miles up the hill toward Mt. Madonna. Then two days later she did it again, but at least this time I found her closer to home.
Since then she seems to have learned not to touch the fence, which is good, but also seems to have associated the whole experience with the sheep, which is not so good. Every time I move the sheep or a few get out, I call her name and she comes running. Once she realizes that I want her to come near the sheep, though, she tucks tail and turns around. She is gradually getting closer to the sheep before chickening out, so hopefully, with time we'll get past this! Mark is going to bring Ruthie the dog back out to work with us, so maybe that will give her the encouragement she needs to get back her herding drive. Regardless, I think I am stuck with her for life because she is the sweetest thing ever. As I type this she is lying upside down on my bed with her feet in the air sleeping looking incredibly adorable, despite the pee-stain on the sheet under her :P.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

By the Numbers

There's been so much happening in the past month or so I don't really know where to start, so here's some raw data:

Lambs born in the three weeks between Dec. 25 and Jan. 16: 50

Lamb population to date: 64

# of ewes that have lambed: 36

# of ewes yet to lamb: 17

# of lambs with long curly hair/fur (not wool): 2

# of lambs that look like hairless cats: 1

inches of rain since Jan. 1 (according to the pitcher of rainwater on my picnic table): 6

# of times I've moved electric fence for pasture since Jan. 1: 17

# of times I've been to the planning department to submit permit applications: 3

# of 24" enlargements made of plans to submit to planning department for permit applications: 40

# of months waiting for shed company to send me plans: 3

# of weeks until expected response from planning department: 8

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Little Bo Peep

Check this out: My dad recently had our old home movies transferred to digital format and when we were watching them at Christmas we came across footage from Halloween 1981, the year I went as Little Bo Peep. How's that for precognition.

Yes, I was pretty darn cute when I was five. And, yes, I am a bit gentler when handling my lambs these days.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Metro Article

Here's a link to an article about me by Christina Waters that appeared in the local free weekly Metro Santa Cruz a couple of weeks ago.


Joie de Vive

So my efforts to get lambs out-of-season have proved fruitful, so far. Since December 21st fourteen lambs have been born, 8 ewe-lambs and 6 ram-lambs, to 8 ewes. There are another 20+ ewes in the "maternity ward" shed that should be due anytime in the next month. The remaining ewes out on pasture will be lambing in early spring, although I was surprised to look out in the field yesterday and see a slick white lamb's head come sliding out of one of the ewes I hadn't realized was that pregnant. At least half of the ewes were marked by a ram [the ram wears a harness with a wax crayon on his chest so that he leaves a mark on the ewe's rump when he mounts her] so I have a good idea of when they are due. However, there are a good share that were bred to the ram that wasn't wearing a marking harness so I am just going by belly size and udder development to gauge their stage of pregnancy. The "maternity ward" is full of ewes that have become rather spherical in shape, almost as wide as they are long. When I get up at night to check on them when they are all bedded down there is a chorus of soft complaining grunts coming from the overstuffed ewes, who look like wool-covered bean bag chairs.

To date, all of the ewes have delivered their lambs without difficulty and all but two had twins. [Fortunately, both singlets have been females, which I is what I want to increase my milking flock!] Lately, I've been sleeping lightly listening for strange sheep noises or sounds of distress in the middle of the night, but really I've been kind of flattering myself to think that the sheep really needed me to be there while they lamb. They pretty much know what to do better than I do. I've given a fews ewes a hand pulling out halfway delivered lambs as it was too hard for me to sit and watch them straining and pushing with the head and front feet poking out. However, I think the most use I've been to the moms and new lambs has been to pen them up as they deliver and keep all of the other ewes from nosing around and to get the lambs on clean hay and out of the dirt. I also trim the dangling cords and dip them in iodine and watch to make sure the lambs figure out how to nurse--and the ewes stand still to let them. I've been weighing the newborn lambs as well, with most of them averaging about 8 to 10 lbs, which is quite a nice size. One hardy ewe delivered two ram lambs at 13 lbs. and 14 lbs. without a hitch. I had to borrow a scale from Jean to double check their weights because it seemed hard to believe they were that heavy. Looking the lambs over though I realized that they were mostly legs and that those legs were almost as thick as a full-grown ewe's!

Newborn lambs truly are one of the cutest damn things you ever did see. I recently let the first batch of lambs and their moms out of their individual lambing pens and put them in a "nursery" area. The initial fifteen minutes was TOTAL SHEEP FREAK OUT, with ewes pacing around trying to find their lambs, and lambs calling out to their moms, all "baaing" at the top of their lungs. Everyone settled down quickly, though, and the lambs were soon a pack of white fuzz and gangly legs running back and forth across the pen en masse. I particularly enjoyed watching the sassy ones that choose to run diagonally or sideways instead of straight ahead, showing off their newfound ability to scamper. After much contemplation, my New Year's resolution is to try to be as happy to be alive as a newborn lamb, at least once a day.

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