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Posted 3/26/2009 6:06pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Seven ewes lambed today yielding 3 single lambs and 4 sets of twin lambs; of these, 6 were ewes & 5 were rams bringing the total to 58 lambs on the ground.  It was a busy day—all lambs came on Dominique's morning watch—but luckily the lambs were healthy and their dams were attentive. 
Greenmarket's Davy Hughes was up here Tuesday to video lambs being born with his Kodak Zi6 Pocket HD Video Camera which looks like a Blackberry and is not too much bigger.  He got some good footage of the sheep, of  the lambs, of the lambing barn, of us, but in the several hours he spent here, he wasn't able to get a ewe lambing—the ewes were camera shy. 
And without video of actual lambing, he had no movie. He was planning to come up to the farm again to see if he could happen upon a lamb being born; it seems that when people do come to see lambs born the ewes don't produce for them, but maybe he would get lucky.
In the meantime my Zi6 arrived from Amazon (cheaper than from Kodak) and today about 4 PM a ewe lambed when I was there, Kodak in hand, to capture the process from contraction, to parturition, to the ewe licking her baby, to Dominique luring the ewe into the barn by carrying its lamb.
Sunday, Davy will edit my footage; if it's suitable  (not too shaky, framed well enough, etc.) he can combine it with his and he should have his film about sheep farming with lambing as its centerpiece.  I will embed the video in the blog early next week.
Posted 3/25/2009 9:55pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Lactating Ewes
Lactating Ewes
6 ewes lambed today bringing the total to 47 lambs: 20 ewes and 27 rams.  We are about a quarter of the way through lambing which continues for 2 ovulation cycles or 36 days, the length of time we kept the breeding rams with the ewes.  The births have been without complications, the lambs have been vigorous and the ewes attentive to their newborns.  
The lambing barn is on a hill swept by the chilly north wind.  To protect the lactating ewes, we fenced in a yard on the southerly side of the barn; there, separated from the gestating ewes, the ewes with lambs can enjoy larger portions of grain, a healthy mix of 65% whole oats, 25% cracked corn and 10% soy flakes (sheep granola), required by nursing mothers who must eat not only for themselves but for their rapidly growing babies too.
Posted 3/25/2009 8:10am by Eugene Wyatt.

"Shopping at Whole Foods is a literary experience. That's not to take anything away from the food, which is generally of high quality, much of it 'certified organic' or 'humanely raised' or 'free range.' But right there, that's the point: It's the evocative prose as much as anything else that makes this food really special. ...

"With the growth of organics and mounting concerns about the wholesomeness of industrial food, ... it is Whole Foods that consistently offers the most cutting-edge grocery 'lit.' On a recent visit I filled my shopping cart with eggs 'from cage-free vegetarian hens,' milk from cows that live 'free from unnecessary fear and distress,' wild salmon caught by Native Americans in Yakutat, Alaska (population 833), and heirloom tomatoes from Capay Farm (S4.99 a pound), 'one of the early pioneers of the organic movement.' The organic broiler I picked up even had a name: Rosie, who turned out to be a 'sustainably farmed' 'free-range chicken' from Petaluma Poultry. ...

"The organic movement, as it was once called, has come a remarkably long way in the last thirty years, to the point where it now looks considerably less like a movement than a big business. Lining the walls above the sumptuously stocked produce section in my Whole Foods are full-color photographs of local organic farmers accompanied by text blocks setting forth their farming philosophies. A handful of these farms still sell their produce to Whole Foods, but most are long gone from the produce bins, if not yet the walls. That's because Whole Foods in recent years has adopted the grocery industry's standard regional distribution system, which makes supporting small farms impractical. Tremendous warehouses buy produce for dozens of stores at a time, which forces them to deal exclusively with [huge] farms. ...

"The question is, ... just how well does [today's organic] hold up under close reading and journalistic scrutiny? [Not that well]. At least that's what I discovered when I traced a few of the items in my Whole Foods cart back to the farms where they were grown. I learned, for example, that some (certainly not all) organic milk comes from factory farms, where thousands of Holsteins that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced 'dry lot,' eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day. ...

"I also visited Rosie the organic chicken at her farm in Petaluma, which turns out to be more animal factory than farm. She lives in a shed with twenty thousand other Rosies, who, aside from their certified organic feed, live lives little different from that of any other industrial chicken. Ah, but what about the 'free-range' lifestyle promised on the label? True, there's a little door in the shed leading out to a narrow grassy yard. But the free-range story seems a bit of a stretch when you discover that the door remains firmly shut until the birds are at least five or six weeks old--for fear they'll catch something outside--and the chickens are slaughtered only two weeks later."

Michael Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma, Penguin, Copyright 2006 by Michael Pollan, pp. 134-140.  From

Posted 3/24/2009 1:31pm by Eugene Wyatt.

First Party Certification is asking the farmer at market how he grew the produce that you are buying. Second Party Certification is asking the trusted farmer at the next stand, "Is that guy telling me the truth?" 

Third Party Certification is believing the signs at Whole Foods, or those of any independent agency endorsing food at market.

Posted 3/23/2009 3:03am by Eugene Wyatt.

After a slow start lambing is well underway with 33 lambs on the ground at the end of the first week:  15 ewe lambs and 18 ram lambs, all weighing between 6 & 8 lb. at birth—good birth weights for my 125 lb. ewes—lambs that are slim enough to deliver easily but with a fat reserve sufficient to ensure their survival on the critical first days of life as they realize instinctively, but by trial and error, the goodness of mom and milk. 

22 ewes have lambed so far; there have been 2 sets of triplets, 7 sets of twins and 13 singles.

Posted 3/22/2009 7:39pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Aileen's Mom's Scarf
Cables in Deep Indigo
Aileen came by the stand to get two more skeins of indigo for her mom to finish this lovely scarf.  Cable patterns take more yarn; perhaps someone can tell us how much additional yarn would be required by a cabled pattern compared to a stockinette pattern. Half again as much, or more, or less?
I hope she wears it by when finished.  Spring is almost here, yet we still need wool to keep warm.  This  winter has been colder than any I can remember, not by its extremes but  by its constancy: the unrelenting sub-freezing temperatures with nary a warm spell have been unusual.
Posted 3/19/2009 8:12pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Later on day 4, for the evening lamb check, Poem and I drove to the farm at dusk to find 6 healthy lambs: 3 singles and a set of triplets (the three were an hour old) born this afternoon.  Lambing has come like welcome rain.
Posted 3/19/2009 7:52am by Eugene Wyatt.
On the chin
To check focus, I enlarge the photographs I've taken to look at the eyelashes or whiskers of the subject.  This shot was made using a Nikon D700 mounted with a Nikon 70-200 mm f 2.8 VR telephoto zoom lens;  the Focal Length was 170 mm, the Exposure was 1/200 sec at f /20 and the ISO was 1400. 
The camera was handheld and the photo was taken about 10' from the sheep; other than the enlargement, it has not been retouched.  Even from a respectable distance this lens is intimate; when I photograph passers-by in Union Square, the portraits show pores, wrinkles, scars, and blemishes  that only a person kissing the face would know.  
Dominique does the morning lamb check and I look in on the ewes in the evening, but if she needs me I'll be there.  I got a text message from her this morning, "no lambs," as of the early lamb check on day 4 of lambing.
I guess I'll finish my taxes.
Posted 3/18/2009 7:34pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Cannondale Synapse

Today finishes the day 3 of lambing; one would expect  twenty lambs on the ground now, but we have one: ram lamb number 001 to be exact.  We should be busy in the lambing barn; instead we wait.  Most of the ewes are bagging up (showing udder development) and they are due, have been due, will be due...all twenty plus ten more will lamb tomorrow; I'm as sure of this today as I was sure of it yesterday.

The sheep are not worried so why should I be; they're laying around in the warm sun, ruminating on something pleasant—what I don't knowbut each has a peaceful, lost-in-thought expression like my brother Kirk had when he sat across the kitchen table from me at breakfast, eating Shredded Wheat with milk and sugar, dreaming about the Indian lore he read on the cards from inside the Nabisco box.

With the weather this afternoon, I decided to take my Cannondale Synapse out for its maiden ride on the Heritage Trail.  The tires needed air after not having ridden the bike there since October; the branches overhanging the trail are barren now, but the buds will redden and  the leaves will burgeon green—like me, the trees are waiting.

Posted 3/17/2009 9:22pm by Eugene Wyatt.
First Lamb of the Spring

"No one will be watching us, why don't we do it in the road..."  The White Album.

Finally, lambing begins on day two.  About 4 PM, just minutes before I arrived for my evening lamb check, ewe 258 had a healthy ram lamb.  From outside the fence, I  watched the pair: the lamb was calm and the ewe was attentive to her little man.  Good. Older lambs, having been born last summer and never having seen a birth before, came over to sniff the newborn; the ewe permitted their curiosity but kept her head close to her baby nuzzling it and cooing in that unique gurgling sound of new mothers that I will record for you when I get my Kodak Zi6 pocket video camera from Amazon later in the week.

I slowly approached, one hand carrying my D700 mounted with a Nikon 70-200 mm lens, a telephoto zoom to keep my distance if the ewe needed it, a lens that was long enough to get close-ups of the two from 15 feet away—stopping, taking photos, advancing, I came up—the other hand holding a bag of lambing supplies: ear tags, ear tag pliers and spray markers for identification, and a bottle of 7% iodine to disinfect and desiccate the lamb's umbilical cord.

With no fuss, the ewe let me pick up and ear tag her lamb, 001, then dip his navel in iodine.  She and I were moving, not in slow motion but deliberately, if not with a tai chi chuan flow then in a slow dance of alternating leads: she then I, then she again—considerate we were of her lamb—our eyes avoided contact and the world was right for us at that moment of newness.  I put the lamb down,  rose and stepped back; I typed a self-addressed email on my Blackberry "258 001 r" and copied it to Dominique.  Back at my iMac running XP I will copy and paste that data into my lambing records in Excel.

The afterbirth tells me that the ewe will not have another lamb—no twin here—if the sac protruding from her vagina were filled with clear (not bloody) amniotic fluid we would be expecting another lamb or two.  The afterbirth will fall away from the ewe within the hour.

My last two kelpies, Miss and Shade, loved to eat afterbirth—good and tasty—they would sniff it out, a week old, buried in the barn's bedding and run like furtive-eyed Wall Street thieves (something this rich must be a no-no), the long gore hanging from their greedy mouths, to a safe spot where they could chomp down, eye the devil, and enjoy their meal.  Poem hasn't learned of this barnyard delicacy yet; but she will, as a dog's sense of smell is 100 times more acute than our own: she can smell an AIG broker and his credit default swaps from a mile away.