As sheep (along with dogs) were among the first animals to be domesticated by human beings, it stands to reason that we have collectively accumulated a vast amount of information about raising and caring for these animals. For centuries this knowledge has been added to and passed down orally, from generation to generation. Then, with the advent of the printing press and the scientific method, our knowledge about the raising of sheep was able to be refined and preserved.
Like all ancient crafts, the raising and breeding of sheep is best learned by doing, in a hands-on manner, overseen by an experienced mentor. It does not lend itself well to pure book-learning by itself. And of the many different aspects of raising sheep, surely one of the most fraught and ticklish is the matter of lambing. Lambing, of course, is the act of a ewe (female sheep) giving birth to a baby lamb. A successful lambing season demands deep biological knowledge, familiarity with the personality of the ewe, the patience of a saint, and nerves of steel. Even then, so much can go wrong.
In that event, the sheep farmer—even the most seasoned—may find him/herself at the limit of their knowledge. If a trusted vet is not immediately available to assess the problem, it is up to the sheep farmer to solve it. The books listed below may be of assistance and should be ever-present in the sheep farmer’s barnyard library. Continue reading “5 Essential Books for Lambing Season”
We typically associate lambing season with springtime. Yet many who keep sheep find that lambing can begin as early as December. Whatever time of year your lambing season begins, it is vital to plan ahead. Preparing well for lambing season will optimize the number of newborn lambs and help keep your flock healthy. Key preparations boil down to:
“So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.” ~ T.S. Eliot, ‘The Ad-dressing of Cats’ from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Perhaps it is due to a defect in my character, but the company of animals has for me often been preferable to that of human beings. Not that I am any sort of misanthrope. I like people, and get along well with practically all of them. It’s just that I find the complex machinations of the human mind—how to read it, how to respond to it, what to make of it—quite exhausting at times. Whereas the instincts, behaviors, and personalities of most animals lie much more at the surface, readily accessible if not always understood. Their innocence is profoundly appealing, and thus dealing with them is just easier for someone like me.
So yes, I love animals, all of them. I daresay, they tend to love me back most of the time. And how could it be otherwise?—given that my namesake saint is most famous for his inspiring rapport with birds and every other beast.
There are strange and mysterious sounds When the winds of winter blow, The long nights are crystal clear and cold, And the fields and meadows are covered with snow.
~ Joseph T. Renaldi (from “Winter Wonderland”)
Even for those who don’t much like the season, winter does have its charms. Is there anything more serene than the sight of newly fallen snow on a frozen meadow, or more enticing than festive holiday lights illuminating a city street? Yet behind all that beauty lie dangers, hidden and unhidden, that every pet owner must be aware of once the winter months roll around. Now, with daily temperatures dipping below zero in New York, New England and other northern states, we will end the year with cautionary advice for pet owners keen to protect their animals from these perils and keep them safe, healthy, and happy. Continue reading “Beware Winter Pet Perils”
The homesteading movement in the United States represents a return to “first principles,” chief among which is self-sufficiency; and two of the cornerstones of this burgeoning movement are “do-it-yourself” and “grow-your-own.” Now that Spring is just around the corner, what better time to put both these ideas into action at once than to build your own backyard chicken coop?
It’s easier than you might think! More importantly, the overall benefits far outweigh the initial investment and effort. The endless supply of farm-fresh eggs alone is worth the price of admission. Without the added chemicals and hormones you might expect from mass commercial egg production, they’re healthier for you, they taste noticeably better, and they’re available at a moment’s notice just a few feet from your kitchen. Likewise, if you use the birds for meat, they grow fast, don’t take up much space, and more than pay for themselves in reduced grocery bills. Last but not least, it’s fun to raise your own chickens—it’s something that you and your whole family can learn from and enjoy in its own right.