Predators, Parasites, Persistance

I’m discouraged, lately. I think we both are. The only thing that is really thriving is the bees. (Murphy — back off. We do not need to have something happen to them now, thanks!)

The sheep are having huge parasite problems. Selina and Fiona both showed awful bottle jaw, so we were worming them frantically, spending lots of time at the vet’s office doing fecals, worming and giving them extra vitamins and iron and anything else we could do. Then Buster drops dead. We hadn’t even noticed he was sick. The day before, he’d come up for a cuddle, the next day, he was dead.

Then Gracie, who is over on Other People’s Pasture over in Epsom dies overnight. He said the same thing — she was fine the day before, then stayed out in a thunderstorm so he knew something was wrong, and called us. We were going over this morning when we got the email that she didn’t make it through the night.

Mama and baby Then we went out to do morning chores, and the broody mama who hatched out four eggs? She abandoned the rest in the nest, so I put them in the incubator. Last night, after she had gone to sleep, I took one chickie who’d hatched and stuck in under her. All seemed fine when I tucked them in for the night. This morning, though, not so much. Too many feathers all around the coop, and the mama and her babies were no where to be found. Frank later found one little chickie frantically searching for her mommy.

Ready for the night I guess what we’ve figured out is that this is the first time we’ve had anyone on the floor. These Icelandic chickens all like to roost as high up as they can get. Sigh. It was so depressing to find that something got her and her babies. I’ve got the one that survived and another that hatched from the abandoned eggs in the incubator in a cardboard box in the living room. I’ve still got two eggs in the incubator, and hope I get two more chickies. Hope springs eternal, I guess. Life after death and all that.

Then the blasted sheep all got out again, for the forty eleventh time. They were all over my garden and I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Too much stress today, but I’m afraid I was a bit of the crazy woman, chasing sheep out of my raised beds. We just can’t use any electronet at all, ever again, I swear, no matter how much money we have tied up in it and how little permanent fence we actually have.

I convinced Frank to let me call a local handy man to help me put up some more permanent fence. Frank just can’t spend all day helping me on the farm — someone has to bring in the actual cash money. But Bucky charges far less per hour than what Frank can earn pushing a computer, and we just need help. So he’s coming over tomorrow, and we’ll see what I can get done for a couple of day’s worth of work. He loves our sheep — he was our sheep sitter every time we got sent on the road a couple of years ago. There are times when he shows up even though we are here, just to be sure they are spoiled enough.

I also called Jeremy, left a message that we could use some physical labor if he can spare a weekend or two. It’s already mid-July, and we have so much left to do. We can’t get ahead because we are constantly fighting the crisis of the day.

When we were driving over to worm the rest of the sheep in Epsom, we talked a lot about what else we’d do if we threw in the towel. It’s hard to imagine. We’ve had homesteading as a goal for so long. We relaxed as we drove, and sort of understood that a really bad string of days shouldn’t make us quit. But man, as we were driving home, knowing the freaking sheep were still out and probably still eating my damn garden, the stress level went right back up!

It actually wasn’t that bad — I’m now operating under the theory of keeping the house and gardens as a sheep-free zone. If they want to go into the woods or swamp, fine. I will work with Bucky to get that fenced, but in the meantime, stay out of my garden, or else! Lamb chops for dinner. One local summer, indeed.

We took on too many new things this year. We still don’t have any out buildings, and pigs, horses and chickens are all new critters. We justified it by saying the horses will help us log as we clear land. The pigs will root up the stumps, and the chickens will help with the parasite load. Yeah, whatever. We should have waited to get all of those after the fencing was done. Live and learn, I guess.

2 thoughts on “Predators, Parasites, Persistance”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. We are new at farming/homesteading too (and not too far away from you guys) and it HAS been a summer full of “learning opportunities”. Our sheep have also been wreaking havoc on the fences– I think this may be a particularly Icelandic habit (We’ve seen Franklin, our wether “testing” the fences by ramming each section just in case. And it’s worked pretty well for him, too.) Good thing he has other more endearing qualities.

    James the “Little red boy” was neglected by his Mama and we’ve been nursing him (Well, holding her still so she will nurse him”) through a bad upper respiratory thingy.

    And we are having a time growing grass fast enough to keep up with our flock of 13!

    It hasn’t been an easy one.

    Good luck and don’t quit! You guys are pretty amazing!


  2. Don’t quit! We all have ups and downs, and have to be there to support each other. Sheep have eaten their way through our garden not once, but twice. (Try explaining THAT to the members of the CSA…) I wish I were close enough to offer a few days of fencing labor.

    We have fingers crossed for the chickies, (we lost one to heat stroke, but have three left…) And get this – our rooster has engaged in his amorous advances so diligently that we have to cage him up from now till the county fair, in hopes that the girls can regain their feathers. Now where was over-sexed barnfowl in the Homesteader’s handbook?


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