“Rejection” Update

Tate and his sister

It’s been ten days since our littlest guy began his bottle feedings. In the beginning, I had to lift him to a standing position so that he’d feed (as if he was nursing from mom) and when finished, he’d find his spot, curl up, and  lie down again. I’ll admit: I had my doubts he’d make it.

Tate has since graduated from drinking a half cup of replacer at each feeding to almost a full cup. He’s still relatively small in stature compared to the other lambs his age and his actions are a bit tentative. However, his feedings in the morning are quite aggressive—a good sign that his strength is building (slowly, but increasing).

We have been careful to watch momma Brownie as well. It’s still a mystery as to why she rejected him in the first place. Our good friend and fellow Churro breeder, Linda Cummings, suggested we keep Brownie under close supervision because apparently these situations have been known to become violent. In this case, I suppose it’s a good thing Brownie wants nothing to do with Tate.

Oh, don’t worry though–he’s getting plenty of love and attention from us and from his sister. Churro siblings seem to instantly bond. She is as playful and as loving as she can be. In a week to ten days, everyone will be out on pasture and in one, big, happy flock so he’ll have lots of support from the other 16 newbies!

It’s Maple Syrup Time on the Hobby Farm

Join Tracy, David and the kids in this webisode as they tap maple trees, collect sap, and prepare for processing sap into maple syrup.


Brownie (named for her caramel color) is one of our most affectionate, sweet, and lovable ewes. She had a single lamb last year—a little brown girl, Friday. She twinned this year: the first, a little brown girl and the second a little white boy.

One of the first signs you look for in newborns, once they’re on their feet (which is normally minutes after being cleaned by their moms) is whether they’ve latched on to mom’s udder. The first pulls provide the colostrum from momma which is essential to getting baby off to a healthy start. Imagine our surprise when Brownie would not let either baby latch on, especially the little white ram-lamb. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch a wobbly little newborn attempt to bond and the mom keeps inching away or turning from the baby.

Some say rejection can be rooted in the baby’s color. I don’t know if it was the case here but I’m suspecting it might play a part in her rejecting the little white ram-lamb. Brownie nuzzles him and will answer him…sometimes (other moms will call out immediately to newborns) but her attitude just seems different with the little brown girl.

Yesterday, we brought him in the house. He appeared so weak and thin and cold all of a sudden; it’s amazing how quickly they can slide downhill.

We placed him in a towel, under a heating blanket on “high” and held him for hours while giving him Purina’s “Kid Milk Replacer” with a syringe. It is a powder formula you mix with hot water– specifically for livestock babies.

After five hours inside, offering replacer and warm water, he appeared a little more energetic so we took him back out to momma’s stall. She seemed genuinely happy to see him. Nevertheless, we’ll keep a watchful eye on him, keep the replacer coming at prescribed intervals (he drank a full “dose” this morning!) and, of course, bring him to cuddle on the couch….often.

How to collect soil samples for testing

Join Tracy and David in the garden as they collect soil samples for testing.

The Master Gardener Program

Join Tracy to learn more about The Master Gardener Program made available by your local extension service. The program provides interested individuals with extensive training in many phases of gardening. They, in turn, volunteer their time to share their learning with others.

A Visit to the Cooperative Extension Service

Tracy visits the office of the Cooperative Extension Service in her community to learn more about the type of agricultural information that is available.

How close is the lambing???

Our first lambing season was incredibly exciting because we had absolutely no clue what to look for in a ewe that was close to delivering. The entire family constantly ran to the barn for “ewe-checks” to see if a lamb had just dropped out.

Linda Cummings (Shepherd’s Loft Farm) had given us a few pointers—physical traits to be on the look-out for—still, at four months, I was convinced Reese was ready to deliver at any minute (sheep gestation is five months).

Here are some photos taken this morning with some ewes drawing closer to their due dates. As I’ve said before, the Churro tend toward multiple births and it’s rather easy to tell who will “twin” at this point. This late in the game, the babies are putting on most of their weight which really makes the ewe’s belly protrude.

Reese - "Rounding-up"

On Reese, you can see how she’s “rounding-up” on the sides. Late in the gestation period, the lambs appear to move forward from mom’s back hips and make a mound on each side of the ewe.

In this next picture Pixie, a first-time mom this year, is carrying twins (99 percent sure).

Pixie "hollows"

Notice the area along her spine seems to have “hollowed out”?  That’s another trait to look for signifying the late stages of pregnancy. My camera was flash-happy and evened out the shadows or the “hollows” would have been easier to see.


One sure-fire way to tell that lambing is just days away is the ewe’s udder. In preparation for the lamb’s arrival, the ewe will “bag-up.”  Her udder will begin to fill with milk and the physical change in the udder is undeniable.

This will be our fifth lambing season and, although we now have a few years experience, it is still an incredibly exciting event.

Between you and me?  You can mark on your calendar exactly five months from when the ewes and the ram were together…and you’ll be able to predict arrivals within days. Still, it would take the fun out of running out to the barn every few hours during that last month to see if a lamb has “dropped.”


Reese - The Matriarch

I laughed out loud when I took this picture.

I was so careful to line up behind Reese. I wanted that perfectly square-on shot from her back end to show her growing abdomen (her lambing is just weeks away). Normally, she doesn’t let anyone stand behind her for too long. She is the matriarch, after all, and is usually front and center with everything and everyone.

The reason I wanted the picture in the first place, was to show her symmetrical, expanding abdomen.

Rosie - A Riveting Image

With only two weeks left until the start of lambing, the ewes that appear to be carrying twins are shaping up nicely — almost as if they have saddle bags hung neatly on each of their sides.

Early in the gestation, I jump to all sorts of conclusions based on the way they are “presenting.” One year, I was convinced Reese was only carrying one lamb (she has always twinned). She was carrying so low, and her sides just didn’t seem to protrude like they did in years past. When she went into labor, we watched in amazement and delight as she gave birth to triplets!

This year’s shaping up to be just as exciting….stay tuned!

Egg Anatomy Q&A

In the local elementary school, fourth grade students hatch chicks as part of the science curriculum—learning about the daily development of a chicken egg along with way. Egg customers of ours will occasionally ask about eggs so I thought I’d include a few of the answers to the frequently asked questions (I stay refreshed because both my children have hatched chicks in class in recent years—plus, I can always ask them!)

Are all eggs fertilized?
Nope. Only if a rooster has been in the “company” of a hen. Usually, one rooster can “service” approximately ten or so hens. Roosters are necessary only if you wish to hatch chicks (of course, they’re also beautiful to have around).

You mean a hen will lay an egg that’s unfertilized?
Yep. In fact, that’s how it happens in, I’d say, most of the commercial egg “battery cages.” See our egg in the dish on the left?  Note the blastoderm. That’s the little concentric circle in the yolk. It’s indicative of a fertilized egg. The egg on the right is one I purchased from the grocery store (hadn’t done that in years).

Why are the yolks from your chickens so orange-ish?
We feed our chickens “feed corn” purchased from a local farmer and supplement with “layer” feed. They are free-rangers (given access to come and go as they please) and are outdoors from sun-up to sunset. I say:  orange-yellow yolk equals happy hen.

What are the white squiggly things attached to the yolks?
The chalazae are on either side of the yolk, stretched tightly, to anchor the yolk to the shell. They recoil against the yolk and “squiggle” when the shell is broken. There is no harm in eating the chalazae.

Are brown eggs better for you?
Unfortunately, I just read that some white shells are dyed brown (news to me?!) because consumers believe the brown shell means a healthier egg. I can’t find any evidence to support this. I will tell you a chicken with white lobes (they look like earlobes—if chickens had ears) will lay white eggs and a chicken with red lobes will lay brown eggs. There are a few exceptions to this. The most noteworthy is the green-blue egg laying Auracana (but that’s another blog post, altogether).


According to Storey’s Guide To Raising Chickens, “sperm of a fertilized egg contributes an insignificant amount of nutrients to a fertilized egg” and “shell color has nothing to do with an egg’s nutritional content.”

Winter Shelter

Tracy chats with Kevin Guldin, owner of  Oley Valley Feed, who shares a number of helpful tips on sheltering your animals in winter.

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