We’re Going on a Cougar Hunt

April21

Yep, you read that right.  A COUGAR.  I’ve been flapping my lips lately about how our location close to the city means that we have few predators.  While I did deal with a skunk last June, I haven’t lost any thing to any of the usual suspects.  We can hear the coyotes call out the bedroom window regularly, but our professionally built fence keeps them on the outside.

Enter the cougar.  I was alerted about 3 weeks ago that the News Register had run a story about some sheep and house cats being killed by what looked like a cougar.  The kill matched a cougar’s MO, and they had some tracks verifying.  Concurrent to that, a cougar was seen walking down the road.  What’s more the kills and the sighting were less than a half mile from our property.  I started to lock the livestock up tight at night thinking that the danger would pass eventually and that that would be the end of it.

On Tuesday, we discovered that our neighbor had a ewe and a lamb killed that night.  It looked to be the same cougar and the kill happened about 45 feet from our property line.  My reaction–HELL NO.  I called it in to the police and fish and game and then I called all the friends I have that hunt.  Very kindly, one of my dear friends headed out that night and had a go at calling it in, but it had just got a big kill the night before and wasn’t interested.

This all led me to hone up my shooting skills and get out the rifle.  I headed out and got a cougar tag myself.  While many of the people around here have livestock just for fun or for lawn mowing, my livestock is valuable breeding stock, and a loss of just one animal is a huge loss for me.  That coupled with the fact that I have small kids and I spend a lot of time outside at night (cougars are nocturnal), has led me to decide I’ll be doing a little hunting of my own.

We have a friend who has first hunting rights on our property each year, and I called him up, and he was game to catch a cat, so we headed out at midnight to have a go at it.  We got some things set up and potentially saw something in the distance, but it never came in close enough to get a good shot on it.  We had a few visits from some other wildlife and almost got a shot or two off at a coyote, but no cougar.

And so, until I’ve got myself a cougar rug, I’m going on a cougar hunt!

Twin Lambs

March3

My daughter and I went out to see the ballet, “Giselle” on Friday night to celebrate her 5th birthday. I came home and walked into the barn, and had just missed Lexie giving birth to twin lambs about 30 minutes previously. There’s one ram and one ewe! Hooray, we’ve got a ewe to keep! Of course, the kids are all over making her welcome into the family. Black seems to be the color of this spring!

Giselle

And That’s Life

March16

If nothing else, farming has taught me better how to accept the ups and downs of life.  Farming, especially with livestock has so many surprises, good and bad.  It is so nice to ride a high and enjoy all the wonderful things that can come from this life, but there are also some hard times.

I’d love to stamp my feet and scream and roll around on the ground and make a general big fuss of things when something doesn’t go my way.  That would be so mature, wouldn’t it?  It seems to work for my kids, but since I tell them all the time that they need to grow up and learn to deal with the blows in life, I too have to grow up, toughen up, learn from my mistakes and march forward.

But that can be SO hard sometimes.  Here’s today’s example.

I noticed a few weeks ago, that my calendar was saying that the lambing window was starting soon.  This went right along with me noticing that two of the ewes in particular were starting to really bag up.  Looks like we could have another round of babies here on the farm.

For the past week, I have expected to walk out every morning to some lambs from my moorit ewe, but alas, nothing was happening.  This morning after doing chores and finding no babies, I sat down and looked at the dates again and found that she wasn’t supposed to lamb until Thursday, so I decided to leave her be and stop worrying.

Of course, that meant that she was going to lamb immediately.  I walked out this afternoon to do chores and she had just dropped the second lamb.  The first was laying in the straw not cleaned off at all, and I was suspicious.  The second the second lamb was out mama bolted off and clearly was going to have nothing to do with them.

I rushed over to discover that lamb #1 had been neglected and was not alive anymore but I had walked in at just the right moment to save #2.  I got the slime off it’s nose, tickled it, held it upside down and got it’s airway clear.  I then rushed it into the house, got an old towel and started to work on it very vigorously.  He (yes, a ram) immediately started right up!  Hooray.

I managed to get him dried off and I took him back to mama.  She’s a first timer, and she wanted nothing to do with him.  She was not interested in him at all.  I decided to take him in again and get him warmed up before trying to nurse again.  As soon as he was standing up trying, I took him out to nurse, but he was much smaller than the other lamb, and he was needing some help.  Mama who was not interested in being a mama wanted to eat her alfalfa, and she didn’t really want to take care of the lamb.

I decided to milk the colostrum out for now and bottle feed it to make sure he gets some then see if he perks up to nurse.  This seems to be doing the trick.

Now, the fact that I saved him is good news, and I am so exciting to have lambs around for me and the kids to enjoy.  I’m incredibly bummed that I lost a lamb though.  I set up my breeding program to get a variety of different colored lambs, but I was MOST wanting a black ewe to use as foundation breeding stock for the future.  I bought a really nice ram with a fantastic fleece this year.  He had some black in his background, and I was hoping that my girls would give me some black.

BUT, of course, my very first BLACK EWE had to be the one that I lost.  I am beyond bummed about this.  This makes me feel like I want to dance around stomping my feet and complaining about the rough hand of cards that I’ve been dealt, but I’m trying very hard to act like an adult here.  These things happen in farming, that’s just life, and no matter how big of a fit I throw, it isn’t going to change the fact that I lost her and she’s gone, and the only way to move on is to focus on the future and the other four ewes that are going to throw me some very lovely lambs very soon.

The bright side is that I now have a little black ram dubbed Snuffles downstairs in a laundry basket calling for my attention.  He’s here and he’s got the will to live, and I think I’m just going to bury the bad and run with the good I’ve been dealt today.

Shearing the Sheep and Goats

February17

Sheep are essentially field decorations except for two or thee times a year when you have to shear them, lamb them or harvest them.  Other than that, they’d much rather be left alone.

This year, all the ewes are bred, and they are out on pasture.  They had been shorn at odd times last year and one or two were actually shedding.  I called the shearer out to get the fleeces of the sheep and the goats in a way that would render them useful for spinning.

I have clippers, and I knew I was capable of shearing myself, but I had to do an emergency shearing of the ram back in October when he got caught in some blackberries, and though I did get a usable fleece off him, I could have done a much better job.  I figured that I would watch and learn and hopefully build up my confidence in my ability to do yet another thing around the farm.

Boy! What an experience!  The person doing the shearing was fairly new at it, so she was having trouble doing it.  I learned quickly the general idea of how to do it, and realized that I really was capable enough to do the task.  She was able to get the blanket (the back and side wool) off everyone intact, and I am now the proud owner of some very stunning fiber!

That said, shearing 10 animals took almost 8 hours, so it was a LONG drawn out process.

Happily, I have some amazingly beautiful raw wool now available.  I’m happy with the variety we ended up with.  I’ve got 4 gorgeous Shetland fleeces.  I got 2 Pygora fleeces and3 Angora (mohair) fleeces.  This is all on top of the rabbit fiber that came off the rabbits last week!