March 1, 2014
Right on time, a set of triplets was born Thursday night. I had worked a little late, but the ewe conveniently waited to present her first water bag for right when I went out to do chores at 7pm. I was able to intermingle my regular chores with checking on each lamb as it arrived.
The second one presented with one upside-down foot jutting out, which catches my eye and makes me immediately check where the rest of the lamb’s parts are. He was backwards with one hock bent, so I was glad I was there to quickly correct it. The lambs were small enough, all in the seven-pound range, that he might have delivered that way anyway. But, better safe than sorry, I don’t wait around for those backwards guys. I don’t want to risk them aspirating placental fluids when the cord breaks and they are only halfway out.
That ewe is a good milker, so I have little concern, her crew should do fine. They are happily mixing spunky-monkey, jumping about with frequent, contented yawning and napping.
February 23, 2014
This has been a really easy winter, with long stretches of dry, hoodie-sweatshirt-warm weather. Though it’s not so great for skiers or people worried about the snow pack and water supply, it sure makes outdoor chores pleasant and non-muddy! I run the sheep in our middle pasture during winter. It is predominantly made up of reed canary grass, or RCG. This grass dies back completely in winter, and is one of the later grasses to get growing again in spring.
The sheep came back into this pasture when the RCG was several inches tall, and already starting to go winter-dormant. They tend not to eat the yellowing grass, since it’s probably not very tasty compared to their nice hay. This makes for a fairly clean pasture for them to winter on, the dead grass mat keeps the mud at bay. The moles still kick up plenty of piles of loose dirt, so the sheep do get a bit dirty walking through these mounds. But they don’t have to, which shows that they don’t really mind mud in the same way we do. I like to leave the sheep loose in this several-acre pasture most of the winter, so they have enough room to get a little exercise during early pregnancy. They stroll and nibble on what little green grass and small weed species there are; tiny plants which will get aced-out by the voracious RCG once it comes in.
February 17, 2014
In honor of Engineers Week, I thought I’d highlight a neat new company I’ve been watching with interest. GoldieBlox – a start-up founded by Debbie Sterling. Debbie is a mechanical engineer. She shares the same concern that most in our industry have: why aren’t more girls going into engineering?
Unlike some career paths which are bastions of manhood and very hostile and unwelcoming to women, I think engineering is hardly so. Engineers are generally very focused on smarts and output, and barely care about (or even notice!) a person’s gender or other physical traits. Given that most “boy nerds” grew up with some level of social ostracism as punishment for their smarts; adult boy nerds are rarely prone to exhibiting discrimination based on outward appearance. Rather, geeks of all types tend to band together based on their common love of math and science. Our field, as a whole, is very concerned about the shortage of engineers. Especially female engineers. So, a lot of effort is being invested in studying and trying to remedy the problem.
February 10, 2014
Posted by Michelle Canfield under Business
| Tags: Business
Continuing along with my occasional discussion of Lean Six Sigma topics which apply well to farming, here is the next: the Pugh Matrix (or decision matrix method). We are often faced with making a decision between multiple choices which have complex variables. In engineering and manufacturing firms, obvious examples are deciding between two major design path choices, or selecting a vendor who will supply components long-term or perform some sub-contracted duty.
These are decisions where there are many pros and cons between all the choices, and it can be overwhelming trying to choose which is the best solution. The worry is that if we just default to our “common sense,” we may end up being biased and unable to make a truly objective choice. We may unconsciously place more importance on a certain consideration than other critical factors; and in the end, not select the best solution. With vendor selection, it can be easy to be swayed by one you know well and like; or by a good salesman. With design choices, the most assertive person in the room can sometimes sway the group in one direction. With farming, especially animal selection, the potential for bias towards our favorite animal, or best-looking animal, is huge.
February 1, 2014
Posted by Michelle Canfield under Nature
| Tags: Nature
We live on a major bird migratory route. Above is a photo I captured a few years ago, of Snow Geese in the snow. I am not a bird expert, so I have no grasp of how many different species move through here over the winter, but I know it’s a lot. Flocks of little birds are not always as noticeable. Though, I do often see intermittent spikes in my chicken feed consumption, that I attribute to these stoppers-by, seen fluttering about the feeder en masse for a day or two, then gone. The big birds are another matter, they are a constant and dramatic presence. Ducks by the thousands (millions?), for sure. Bigger yet, Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and some other goose species I’m not as sure about. And the big daddy of them all, the Trumpeter Swan.
January 24, 2014
The second ewe due to lamb did her job on Sunday, phew! I swung through the barn in the morning to feed, and everything looked boring. I checked one more time mid-morning, nothing. I went in a few hours later to use the saw, and there she was, cleaning off her second lamb. Everything under control.
January 18, 2014
Well, finally, the first, accidental lambs of the season arrived today. I was working from home, so was able to check-in on them a few times, though no help was needed from me. First, a 7.7 lb ewelamb. A spunky little thing. Growing lambs, like all baby mammals, like to do a lot of hopping and jumping in play; gaining physical strength and skill by performing elaborate bronco side kicks, lateral jumps, and other fancy freestyle leaps (about half of which end in ungraceful belly flops). Usually they don’t start doing this until they are several days old. But this little lamb was already doing them before she even had her first drink of milk!