Gearing up for Lambing 2019

Gearing up for Lambing 2019
What made me decide to take on lambing again?  After the tumultuous experience of my first lambing, I wasn't sure I wanted to go through that ever again.  But...when I look back, my memory of the heartbreak and hard work is a little fuzzy (probably due to being sleep-deprived and high on a cocktail of panic, adrenaline, and desperation).
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The Hay Chronicles

The Hay Chronicles
My sheep were disappointed with the hay I bought this fall. One of my neighbors had recommended the farm to me, and I called to order 70 bales. I was busy getting ready for Rhinebeck, so I didn't go look at it myself. As it was being unloaded into my hay storage, I wasn’t thrilled, but I didn’t want to complain. The sheep had no interest in it, and I thought maybe it was because there was still pasture. But even after 2 months, my sheep still wouldn't eat the hay. I grew increasingly worried about the coming winter, and having good nutrition for the ewes I want to breed.
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Shearing Day

Shearing Day
I love shearing day. It’s like harvest time but I don’t have to do any of the heavy lifting! My Shetlands are prodigious fleece growers, and since winters are short and relatively mild here, I’ve been shearing everyone twice a year. Timing is always tricky for fall shearing. In a perfect shepherding world, the sheep would have a full coat when it’s just cool enough to kill off the flies and ticks, but not really cold for another week or two. It would rain two days before the shearing, followed by 2 dry days, so that the sheep are washed but dry for the shearer. And of course, all those factors would coordinate with your schedule and the shearer’s. It would certainly be nice if everything fell into place so neatly, but let’s be honest. Sometimes, shearing just happens when shearing happens.
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Thinking of Raising Sheep...?

Thinking of Raising Sheep...?
Lots of people tell me it's their dream to have sheep one day. And the funny thing is, it was never something I hoped to do, until I was doing it. I’ve never been a real animal person; I love animals in a universal, do-no-harm kind of way, but in general, I've always preferred plants and babies to critters. I find caring for animals to be stressful because I’m never quite sure if they’re trying to tell me something important. Is it distress? Or simply gas? Or are they expressing affection?* And I was sure that my wimpy low tolerance for gore and muck disqualified me from farm life.
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Lambing 101

Lambing 101
For the past month, I interrogated every shepherd I came across for their lambing stories. There’s only so much I can learn from books, particularly about lambing for the small-scale fiber farmer. I was lucky to be able to visit two shepherds when their ewes were in labor, and saw first-hand what happens with the ewe and the lamb. But even more educational was watching these experienced shepherds, who seemed to work in partnership with the ewes.

When it was my turn, I lost my first lamb, and I’ll always be haunted by the worry that it was because of my lack of experience. 
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Fleece buying at NY Sheep & Wool

Fleece buying at NY Sheep & Wool
I didn't get to the Fleece Sale until Sunday mid-day, which was both great and not-too-bad. The great thing was that I was one of the only shoppers, so I could take my time and not get caught up in a panicked buying frenzy. The not-too-bad part was that I missed out on seeing ALL the show entries. The opportunity to mosey along the tables without a crowd was definitely worth of cost of missing out on seeing everything. 
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Garden State Sheep Breeders NJ Sheep & Fiber Festival

Garden State Sheep Breeders NJ Sheep & Fiber Festival
This is my backyard fiber festival, and it is, without a doubt, the festival that I enjoy the most. And that's because it's the one show where I get to be a civilian, with no responsibilities or duties. It was a thrill to be on the other side of the booth and to be the idle browser, but what do I do when I'm let loose at a fiber festival? I divide my time equally between the fleece tent and the sheep pens, of course!
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