This first week of January in 2022 is witness to another chaotic holiday season and new year. Despite new, or maybe renewed challenges, Tim and I wish you a Happy New Year.
Unexpected Surprise on the 27th
Winter is the time when the farmers, the land, and the sheep get a bit of a break break in some respects. Ideally, pastures are under a protective blanket of snow, coal-laden fires are in the woodstoves, and the ewes are munching away on much needed nutrition in preparation for the upcoming lambing season. Although many shepherds are meticulous about timing lambing (for many very, very good reasons) we are a little more lax about hard and fast dates. It just kinda, happens. There's a rough window where we expect lambs in March and April. Ewes that had early March lambs are the first to be milked, as their lambs have had 4-6 weeks of milk, and are now old enough have their dams be separated overnight and milked in the morning, and then go back and spend the days with their lambs. Each ewe and lamb is then evaluated to see if they are ready to be milked on an individual basis. Ideally, we then milk once a day until 4-5 months. By then, the lambs are fully on grass and don't need the milk.
But, there are always the outliers. Usually, those are a matter of a couple of weeks later or earlier. This year, yet again, Bossy Boots managed to be first to lamb, by a landslide.
The morning of December 27th we had our first 2022 lamb, in 2021. Maybe he should be considered the last 2021 lamb instead? Anyway, This little guy was a surprise, sorta. He's a lesson to listen to my gut when I think something's changed. While doing chores on the 26, I looked at Bossy's udder, noticing how large it had gotten. That morning I had also noticed how much water had been drunk from the water trough. Sheep will drink a lot more water some days before giving birth for the upcoming milk flush. I parked in in the back of my head thinking, she'll be very soon. There was this niggly little voice saying, build her a pen singing in the back of my mind very quietly. I didn't pay attention to it.
So, the following morning, the 27th, we had a new lamb. His arrival is exciting. Ram lambs don't often cause that much excitement here, as it's generally the ewes we keep. But this guy is a little different. Being an early robust healthy single he will be ready for breeding next fall. If he makes it through the summer how I believe he will, he will be a breeding ram. You see, I'm confident his sire is Mr. Ice. How do I know this? From a few of his physical characteristics.
All the milk sheep breeds we have have naturally long thin tails with very short wool. The lack of wool makes them much cleaner. Our breeding milk sheep ram, Ben, has this kind of tail, he also has "typical" wool. It's on the shorter side, crimpy, crimpy, and coarse.
Mr. Ice has short, kinda fat Icelandic type tail with a little tuft of hair on the end. His wool, while a bit coarse, is long, curly, and beautiful. He has THE best fleece on the farm in my opinion. Both of these traits are quite strong.
Mr. Ice is getting old. He's now 7 years old and will only be around some many more years. He will always have a home here, but he won't always be breeding. I have noticed this year he isn't as active as he was a couple of years ago, but he's still going.
This little guy has a much shorter tail with a little swirly bit of wool on the end. He's also very friendly, and the staple of his wool is pretty long already. He's quite the character too. Bossy has a habit of producing clones of herself, which is fine, because I love her colouring and she, like Mr.Ice, has some amazing qualities, including being on grass and thriving, friendly, seemingly worm resistant, having a unique, and nice wool to work with, and, being a black milk sheep. Mr.Ice isn't a black milk sheep, but aside from that, shares all those qualities, and does carry black genetics.
He is going to need a name isn't he...