Tuesday, July 16, 2013

4-H 2013

We just finished putting together Chris and Sam's portfolios with all of their project records for this year. They go in on Thursday for their Interview Evaluations (no clue why I capitalized that, but somehow it looks wrong in lower case). I dread this week, every year. We COULD do a better job at keeping up the record books throughout the year... but... every year we scramble, pull out our baggie of receipts, and go through my phone to find all of our project meetings/events.

This is Sam's first year as a regular 4-H member (instead of a Cloverbud). He completed an Electricity project, Cavy project, and Breeding Sheep project. It's just a few years since Sam first became verbal, and so I've worried about how he's going to get through interview evaluations and showmanship, but so far he's doing a great job!

Sam was enrolled in Market Sheep, and weighed in a lamb, but a few days later we went out and it was gasping for air, and died about fifteen minutes later. I still think that he somehow collapsed his lungs... but I have no idea how/what happened. Luckily the lambs are insured through the market livestock sale committee  and so he will get back $80 after the sale. The lamb cost $90, and we only fed it for about a week, so it's not a huge financial loss. He has had a hard time learning to handle sheep, so it might have been a blessing in disguise. When the lamb died, we quickly enrolled him in the breeding project and put him in charge of the ewe that I bought him two years ago. Sam has never been interested in the ewe, and so Chris had sort of absorbed her into his flock of ewes. Sam now goes out and throws hay twice a day and is always in charge of water. Luckily his ewe is incredibly gentle. We've lambed her, and handled her for two years now... so hopefully... Sam won't lose her during showmanship at the fair.

This Chris's fourth year as a regular 4-Her. He also spent four years as a Cloverbud. No wonder I feel as if we've been doing this forever! He completed Breeding Sheep, Market Sheep, and Cavy projects. He also did all the work for the Electricity project, but for some reason isn't wanting to complete the project and do an interview evaluation for it. We are still in negotiations about electricity.

This was Chris's first year lambing. He had three ewes bred (four if you count Sam's Brisca- who Chris was caring for throughout that time). Some very nice friends of ours volunteered to let us breed to their rams, and helped with all of the pre-breeding things like vaccinations. The ewes returned about three months later, fat and happy. We started really watching for lambs about the 11th of February. In the evening on the 17th Brisca's lambs had dropped (which means that there were hollows in her flanks and her belly was lower). Otherwise she looked normal at feeding time. I went out at 9:30, right before the kids went to bed, and found her at the feeding grounds with one lamb up and nursing. Chris and I moved her into a lambing jug inside the shop, and then evaluated her. She turned around and had a lamb head trying to come out. This is worrisome- because lambs present with their legs stretched forward and their heads tucked between them. Before we even had a chance to become alarmed- she delivered the second lamb, head first, legs back, no problems. I think if it had been one of the black face ewes we might have lost a lamb in that position, but Brisca pushed it out like nothing was unusual. She immediately cleaned that lamb and got it up and feeding. Wahoo! Successful lambing. Everyone else looked normal.

So... I woke up at about 4:30 (after checking sheep at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:30am). No one was scheduled to go look at sheep until 5:30... but I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about lambs, so I decided to go check anyway. Tulip was at the feeding ground with a HUGE ewe lamb on the ground. The lamb was mostly cleaned off, but still wet, and hadn't stood to eat yet. I moved her into the lambing jug and Tulip nicely followed along. Her jug didn't have water in it, or hay, so at that point I remembered that I have children for a reason and went inside to wake up Chris and send him to get her hay and water. I didn't tell him about the lamb, just that he needed to take water to the lambing jug (pen if you haven't figured that out yet). He went outside, half asleep.

A few minutes later he came in and said, "Mom, there's a lamb..." I told him that I had wanted to surprise him and so didn't tell him, and then asked if he'd given her water. He shook his head and repeated, "there's a lamb...on the feeding grounds. Is it Tulip's?" At that point I jumped up and we went back outside. As we left the house we heard a lamb on the west side of the shop. I asked him if there was a new lamb. He said he didn't know, but that the lamb he was talking about  was on the feeding grounds. So... we stopped on the west side first, because, clearly, there was an unhappy lamb over there. We found a ewe lamb, still in the amniotic sac, covered in dirt. She was very... vocal, and kind of cold. I picked her up and we proceeded to the east side of the shop (and the feeding grounds). I could hear/see a lamb on that side, but all of the ewes were eating hay and ignoring it. We dropped the poor, dirty, cold lamb in the shop door and then went out to pick up the other and bring her and her mom inside so that we could set up a lambing jug for them.

When we returned to the feeding grounds Chris picked up the other lamb, I tracked down Rose (his Hampshire ewe) who still had membranes hanging behind her. Rose wanted nothing to do with being caught OR her lamb. It took us three hours to get her into the shop. I finally had to call my mother for help. After about an hour I was worried about the poor wet, cold lambs in the shop and went in and offered them to Tulip. It isn't unusual for a ewe to have triplets, but sometimes one of them needs a supplemental bottle. Tulip- who had delivered within half an hour of Rose, immediately took the lambs, cleaned them, and got them nursing. Whew! Everyone had colostrum! We went back to trying to catch Rose.

Mom came, we finally got her cornered by smashing her into the fence with another fence panel (Hamps are so very... Hampy). I dragged her into the shop. She still hadn't delivered the placenta (because she was running around like a crazy sheep instead of nursing her baby). On the feeding grounds my mother noticed an older placenta (Tulip delivered hers in the lambing pen, while we were trying to pin down Rose). So... we tracked down the big commercial black face ewe and discovered that she did have a tiny amount of discharge, but was was basically clean. We determined that she must be the mother of one of that morning's lambs. We led her into the shop (she's mostly Suffolk- much more cooperative than Hamps).

When shown the lambs, Sheepy (big black face ewe) tried to kill both of them. We tried to get her to nurse, but even cornered and not allowed to attack the lamb, she didn't have any milk letdown... and whenever the opportunity presented... she tried to kill her lamb (we decided that hers must be the one left in it's sac on the west side).

Rose didn't try to hurt the lambs, but wasn't even mildly interested in hers. She just wanted back outside. Eventually we put Rose and Sheepy into a large, makeshift pen inside the shop... about the size of two lambing jugs. Tulip still had the care of all three lambs, but we did get Rose to nurse one of them when we smooshed her into the corner and held one of her feet up so that she couldn't kick. We decided to leave the two ewes together (because we were confused about which lamb went to which ewe- we called their area, "The Pen of Shame") and then we left all three lambs with Tulip. Every few hours we would go back outside and try to get the other two ewes to nurse their lambs. By the next morning we turned Sheepy outside and declared her a "cull," meaning that she was destined for the sale. She still attacked lambs who tried to nurse on her. Rose would nurse when cornered and forced, so we kept her as a supplemental milk source and planned to continue letting Tulip care for all three lambs. I threw hay into Tulip's pen and knocked over one of the four lambs who were clustered around her. Feeling bad for the poor thing I reached in to help it up, realized it was wet... and well... there were FOUR lambs!

Apparently Tulip had another lamb, inside another placenta, and delivered it almost a whole day after she delivered the first lamb. He was healthy and perfect, and had already nursed. So... Tulip was raising four lambs, which is quite a lot, even for a really good ewe.

We returned to the shop every two hours to force Rose to nurse two of the lambs. We didn't care which lambs, just picked up whichever two looked hungriest. After about five days Rose would see us coming and stick her own head in the corner. A couple days later she would stand there with her head in the corner and her foot lifted. The day after that we tried her with the lambs without our assistance. She still wasn't interested in them... but she let them nurse and didn't hurt them. For another day we went out every two hours and put the smallest two lambs in with Rose (Tulip's lambs were much larger than the lambs of the other two ewes).

FINALLY, we opened the lambing pens and made a large pen (the size of four lambing pens) where we left Rose and Tulip for another three days, mixing them and their lambs, and making sure that everyone got enough to eat. At that point- we decided to risk letting them outside with the rest of the ewes and the yearling lambs we had kept from last year (for eating).

Things went smoothly with all of the lambs from that point forward. Tulip mothered all four black face lambs. Rose would let anything nurse on her that tried. Brisca easily, and quietly, raised her twins... with no interference from us (I kind of love Dorsets).

Early this summer Chris had the opportunity to purchase a Navajo Churro ewe and her lamb. They are a three purpose breed, used for food, fiber, and milk. They are also horned, and have a very unique wool. Chris has been enthralled with them for five or six years now. He's really excited to try raising some of his own.

Each of the boys, including Jake will be showing cavies at the fair. Sam and Jake have had crossbred pet sows for a couple of years now. Chris acquired a pair of Peruvians from some friends in our homeschool co-op. The kids have had fun taking care of their own pigs, and it's been interesting seeing how they interact with each other. Cavies are pretty neat critters.

Brisca's lambs. Good Brisca.

Tulip, on the morning I noticed she had FOUR babies. Tulip earned her home here for life.

Sheepy and Rose in the Pen Of Shame. Bad Sheep. BAD sheep.

Treasure and Prisey, the Navajo Churro additions to our family.

Treasure, looking beautiful.

Chris with Nasturtium. She was born in May of 2012, so we thought she was too young to breed last fall. She looks good now, though!

Sam with his Dorset ewe, Brisca. She is Nasturtium's aunt. She's been a great sheep for Sam.

Jake, examining fiber from the Navajo Churro

RC and Kiera

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We have been part of a homeschool co-op for several years now. Anyone who still reads my blog might remember that I've mentioned the co-op before. :-) We think of it as our homeschool family. My kids love going, and I have learned more from the other moms than my children have learned in their classes (and they've had some really good classes). We love it there. It is "home" to us.

Today, in my email messages, I found an email from one of our directors.
Dear Families, 
Thank you for a great 5 years. I have enjoyed working with you and getting to know you and your children. We have had some great classes and opportunities. At this time, I have decided I am no longer willing to be a director for this program after the current term ends. I would like to find someone to help Patty, at least to finish out spring term. At this point, I don't know if we would be willing to attend spring term as regular participants or not or if I am just completely done with it. But I do know that I am no longer enjoying all of the behind the scenes work that goes into making co-op successful. Co-op is no longer an enjoyable day that I come home from refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of my homeschool week. It has become draining and exhausting, which tells me it is time to pass the reigns to someone else. I know we have many wonderful talented women in this group and hopefully one or more of you are willing to step up and help. I will bring my notes for spring classes on Thursday to pass on to someone to use or not use as you see fit. In addition the figuring out classes and schedules and classrooms, you will need to update the website each term, orient new families, stay to help clean up, and handle any "issues" each week. It can be and has been an enjoyable and rewarding way to serve the homeschool community and meet new people.

If you have questions about what the role entails, feel free to contact me. If you want to volunteer, you can contact me or email Patty directly. 

Thank you for all you have taught me and my kids. Hopefully the friendships we have made can continue.
I understand where she's coming from. This is, and has been, such an integral part of our year (and our social life), but it HAS become exhausting and draining. It seems as if there is more work than joy a lot of weeks. This term I'm in a classroom for three out of four hours and don't see much of the other moms at all. BECAUSE I'm in a classroom for most of the day (and setting up a classroom during most of the lunch hour), I don't know how the rest of the moms feel or what they're dealing with this term.  Is everyone feeling overwhelmed with work and lacking in fellowship?

It feels like there. are. so. MANY. complaints. I feel like I'm always whining about something. Nothing "feels" the same anymore. We had to find a new facility- and it feels different. We have a few more kids- and that feels different. We've had a change of leadership- and that feels different. We've added more electives- and that feels different. We're cold all the time- and, well, that is familiar. We were cold at the other church too.

Are we really complaining more than we ever have before? Are there more problems than we've dealt with any other term? As a whole, are we unhappier than we have been other years?

Let me go out on limb here and guess that the answer is no. Personally, I am more tired and overwhelmed with life in general. Every person in our group has a life outside of co-op. It's easy to forget that, especially when we are having a hard time keeping our own heads above water and meeting the needs of our families. Some of our members have lost family members this year. Others have had very full work schedules that they juggle on top of caring for families and homeschooling. Some of us struggle with health issues.

In past years I have felt that co-op is something that I do for me, as well as for my family. We started coming because I felt it was good for the kids... but we stayed because I fell in love with the moms. :-) We have some awesome and amazing moms. When my husband died, it was our co-op family who supported us and provided community, allowing us to be pretty darned strange while we were healing. Visiting and laughing with the other moms saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

This term I don't have that. It makes me wonder how many other moms are missing the same thing. It doesn't feel like we are one big family. Because of my schedule it seems like most of my interactions with a lot of the moms involve expressing complaints, or accepting suggestions for improving my teaching skills. It's really easy to get prickly about those complaints/suggestions because... that's all I'm hearing. It's easy to think that everyone is unhappy... because unhappiness is what I'm hearing. In reality, I don't think that there are proportionately more complaints this year. I THINK that what is really missing is the positive interactions that refill my cup. We aren't all giggling the corner somewhere at some point during the day. I don't know what's going on with the other moms, even the ones I'm close to, unless one of us calls on the phone... and how many of us spend much time talking on the phone? I realize that we are supposed to be doing this for our kids... and we are... but, the moms need to come away from the day with something other than a tension headache and a list of things that they need to do better next week.

Maybe I am isolated in feeling this way. I over committed my time and that's my own fault. But... what if I'm not the only one FEELING isolated? What if we're all a little on edge because we aren't connecting like we used to? What if everyone feels a little judged because the only interaction they get with the majority of our members is to discuss what is wrong, instead of what is right?

If I feel this way... how do our directors feel? You know when you're young... that seems like a prestigious job. It seems like there should be some glamour, or glory, or at least power to be had by filling that position. Yeah, there isn't. It's hard work. It requires someone who is capable of balancing all of the strong personalities within our group. It's not a good thing when one of our most competent and diplomatic moms ends her resignation letter by saying that she hopes the friendships she and her family have made can continue.

As individuals we are doing something wrong and we need to do better. The difficult question is: WHAT can we do differently?

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room