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Phew, it’s been a busy few weeks! Here are some goings-on around our farm. And a sun-shiny picture from the summertime when there is green grass, blue sky, daylight and no mud. I can’t wait for that to come around again! I am already appreciating the lengthening days, and small bits of daylight in the evenings. I’ve heard a few birds singing. And we’ve had some warm and dry days, great for working outside. It seems like just when you can’t stand another minute of winter, signs of spring come flooding in, and there is something to look forward to again.

Flood Preparedness

And speaking of flooding, last week there was threat of flood again, so I moved the sheep, dogs and all their gear uphill on Sunday. It went much faster this time, both because the animals remembered where to go, and because I had brought fewer items down to the field after the first flood. Moses was very cute, in typical dog fashion, he is relishing his knowledge of our routines now. The first flood move was a little stressful for him, a change he hadn’t experienced before, and dogs just don’t like unpredictable things. But this time he was all over it. I moved the sheep first, and he barked and barked with excitement. When I went to get him and Bronte, I let him loose and he rushed up the hill and waited by the sheep pen, as if to say I know this one, I know what we do now, we go up here to live for a while! It ended up not flooding, I think the water was about four feet shy of overtopping the dike when it crested Tuesday morning.

I prefer to be conservative and move the sheep early for several reasons. For one, it’s easier if I can move them on a weekend, so I don’t interfere with my work schedule. I sleep better if I’m not subconsciously tossing and turning, dreaming about floods and wondering if I should get up and look at the online gauges yet again. I have recurring dreams where I wake up and realize it’s already flooded and I cannot find the animals and am praying they are alive somewhere. Or I dream that I spend an hour screwing around on the computer and cannot get the flood gauges to display, and when it finally occurs to me to look out the window, the entire valley is already filled up with water, and again, I am looking for my animals.

Moving the sheep in the dark is a pain,they get panicky and it ends up being a circus and often with them falling in the ditches and getting wet and cold. So definitely better to do it in the daytime. And I like to do it when I’m not feeling rushed. If you herd, you know that anytime you are feeling pressured, it transmits to the dog, and then to the livestock, and it never goes well. Moving in a relaxed manner when there is plenty of time always goes more smoothly. The llama is especially sensitive to rushing, so I try to be very casual about the routine so she will cooperate.

And lastly, when the river is high, there is a lot of pressure on the dike, and a remote possibility the dike could break. I’ve heard and read a lot of local horror stories about the ‘75 flood, where our pump station was blasted apart in a dike breach. Apparently when this happens, it’s a very different sort of flood. Very fast, furious, violent and with a lot more water volume. Just picture a bathtub- if it’s full and water starts rolling over the top, that’s one thing, the water moves pretty smooth and gentle, distributed all along the tub edges. And most of the water still stays in the tub. But if the side of the tub were broken out with a sledgehammer, and then that hole were to rapidly erode, the movement of water is very different and you get everything in the tub too.

So, that is my big fear: in the ‘75 flood, people had no time to get animals out, and a lot of livestock died, trapped in barns and pasture fencing. I have a 1975 newspaper clipping of a dairy farm near here, showing a teary-eyed farmer in the foreground, and a morbid scene in the background of dozens of bloated Holsteins with their legs sticking in the air; a barn completely filled with dead cows that had no way out when the water came. How horrifying. That image likely fuels my flood nightmares!

So, I’d rather do the flood fire drill a few times too often than ever find myself in the panic of trying to react to a sudden dike breach, since I have a lot of not-so-clever animals to move. Sometimes I’m actually a little disappointed when it doesn’t flood. We are lucky in that our house is out of the flood plain. Flooding still means some inconvenience in longer road closures, and some mess cleanup and possible fencing damage. But, it brings a lot of soil fertility, and that’s what our valley is famous for (my neighbor says his corn is never so sweet as in a summer following a flood year). So, after doing the work of preparing for a flood, it’s almost a tiny letdown when it doesn’t happen. But I’m always glad for our few neighbors who do still have non-raised houses, as it’s a big cleanup job for them when it happens.

Pregnancy Confirmed

In other news, blood test came back for dark-colored ewe who wasn’t rattle marked: she’s definitely pregnant.

Pregnant

I have two wethers that I need to take to the butcher soon, and she would have joined them if she was open, so it’s good to have this to-do item taken care of. I haven’t had time to weigh those guys, but they look big enough, so I’m hoping to get them out of here soon and save myself another month’s worth of feed going into them.

Scrapie Inspection

I had the state veterinarian inspection last week and that went fine. I was able to move the sheep down off the hill just in time, so that we could use gates to sort. I packed the sheep all into a corner (or, rather, Maggie did) and I had Millie, the inspector, stand on the other side of the gate, in the big field. I wanted to try  keep her pants clean from wet sheep, because she has a long drive home back to Olympia! I’d grab a sheep, show her the tag, she’d mark it off on her clipboard list, and open the gate to let the sheep out. It only took us about 10 or 20 minutes to verify all 33 sheep. And the sheep all obeyed my request to not lose any ear tags between the time that I submitted my inventory and the inspection-yay!

Millie had done me a favor and asked around about sheep vets at the Washington Sheep Breeders convention a few months ago, and she brought me a list of people to call. So maybe there is hope of tracking somebody down nearby who doesn’t advertise large animal services, but is willing to work on small ruminants or at least do CVI’s. I’ll report back what I find out!

The Barn

It’s coming along. It’s been a bit of high overhead for us lately, managing all the pieces and doing some of the work ourselves. And that comes with the territory for sure. I am so looking forward to it just being done, and it’s close completion-wise. Just calendar time ticking by. It took two months to get a plumbing permit, which we just picked up yesterday. That has been holding up the concrete pour. And now we’ll have several wait times as we plan for and bring in power. But that’s less time-critical, because we can make do with some extension cords, and at least start making the barn useful, once it has floors and stairs. I’ll post more pictures soon, the red siding is mostly done, and that really makes a dramatic difference visually!

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