Lamb rodeo, honeybees gathering water, and swallows learning to fly

As lambs get older, they like to run around in packs. We call it lamb rodeo time.

Did you know that honeybees gather water to take back to the hive? What do they do with the water, drink it? In fact, bees do not drink water, but rather take it back to the hive for cooling.

While the lambs are learning to run in packs, the young barn swallows in the barn are learning to fly. Barn swallows are long-distance flyers, traveling from our barn in Iowa all the way to South America and back annually.

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First 2013 lambs and first salads

The ewe is attentive to her new lambs, licking them off and 'talking' to them. The lambs are about 3 hours old.

The ewe is attentive to her new lambs, licking them off and ‘talking’ to them. The lambs are about 3 hours old.

Just found the first lambs of my 2013 crop in the barn this morning. The male weighs 10 lbs. and the female 8 lbs. Their mom is doing a good job getting them started in life. That is the critical element in the survival of my lambs: the quality of the mother and her milk. A good mother will lick off her lambs and “talk” to them immediately. This stimulates the lambs to stand up and look for milk. The first milk, or colostrum, is essential for the well-being of the lambs.

We have been having our first salads of the year from this kitchen garden of spinach and lettuce. I planted these vegetables in late March when the soil was still partially frozen.

We have been having our first salads of the year from this kitchen garden of radishes, spinach and lettuce. I planted these vegetables in late March when the soil was still partially frozen.

Shearing time and spring chickens

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My 15 crossbred ewes just after shearing on March 23, 2013. They are primarily Dorset-Suffolk cross.

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These fleeces just came off my 15 ewes. The nicer fleeces are from the ewes that are mostly Dorset. Usually we put the fleeces in a wool bag, but I haven’t sold my 2012 wool yet, and I have only one wool bag..

Time to shear. The concept is that before the ewes lamb it is good to “clean them up” a little so that when the baby lambs try to find milk, they don’t end up sucking on dirty wool. Wool isn’t worth much these days; it doesn’t even pay for the shearing. We sheared yesterday. Ron and his son sheared 15 ewes in 45 minutes. I was the “catcher” and they did the shearing. Each fleece probably weighed from 5-8 lbs. depending on the size of the ewe.

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Several of my Black Australorp hens. They are 13 months old and happy to be outside in their yard after a long winter of cold wind and snow.

My Black Australorp hens lay about 10 eggs a day now. Egg production slows way down during the short days of the winter and then picks back up when the days lengthen. I bought these hens 13 months ago as day-old little fluff balls; they started laying eggs in July 2012.

2012 lamb crop

We raised some nice lambs this year; these lambs are cross-bred Dorset-Suffolk breeding. They were born in May 2012 and weaned about 5-6 weeks later. They have always had alfalfa hay available in a self feeder. I have also fed them a small amount of cracked corn over the last 3-4 months. There was very little pasture available last summer due to the drought, so even though my lambs would usually have access to some pasture in my small orchard, that was not available this past summer.

Market lambs feeding on alfalfa-orchardgrass hay March 10, 2013.

Market lambs feeding on alfalfa-orchardgrass hay March 10, 2013.

The 2012 season so far

A very good year for garlic! This garlic has the roots trimed, next stop in the corn crib where it will hang to dry for a couple weeks. Then we sell it.

A very good year for garlic! This garlic has the roots trimmed, next stop in the corn crib where it will hang to dry for a couple weeks. Then we sell it.

There are two surprising weather differences so far this season. First, we had a very mild winter. Then we had an early spring with the fruit trees blooming and the honeybees working but then along came a late freeze that killed the young fruit. Due to this early freeze, there will be very little local tree fruit available in Iowa this year. Our friends at Webster, Minnesota, Sweetland Orchard, think they might have a 10% crop. Our friends at the Berry Patch, east of us, also have very little tree fruit.

The early spring meant that we harvested garlic about 3 weeks early; by June 18 it was all hanging in the corn crib drying. Other crops like red potatoes are early too. We harvested garlic last year on July 11 and the two years before that on a similar date in July.

Everything is connected on the farm

One of the things we notice around here is the interconnectedness of a farm. The sheep provide fertilizer which we apply to the gardens to improve the vegetable crops. We eat or sell the crops. Any plant vegetable crops that we discard go to the hens who lay eggs for our consumption. The hens also provide fertilizer for the gardens. The sheep and hens also graze the pastures that we set up which decreases the amount of mowing we have to do.

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