What's Happening on the farm
What goes on at a farm in the winter? Do farmers just have 6 months off a year in Canada because the ground is frozen and there is nothing to do? I think most have a secondary occupation that takes up much of their time, either an off farm job and they are simply less busy in the winter, or cutting firewood, and plowing is an obvious one because of the seasonality. In our case we do have a "quiet" time of the year which is generally December and January. Winter is well and truly upon us and so there is no clean up or outdoor garden work that can be done, snow in most years covers the bare earth. But we do have sheep and so eventually they need us to supply them with their daily needs. Once that snow cover is there then they are fed hay every day and fresh water which is heated to remain drinkable, but otherwise their demands are low, they are simply eating and gestating, waiting like all of us for spring to come. Are they bored with the monotony of eating the same meal twice a day? My kids complain if I serve leftovers for lunch, but these guys are anxiously waiting every day saying to themselves "What will it be? Oh goody, hay again!" They run back and forth from one feeder to another just to make sure the other guys didn't get a better batch until they are reassured that they all have the same good stuff and settle in to eat and then chew their cud.
Things start to gear up in February when their udders begin to swell, and their sides visibly plump up and we begin the daily feeding of grain which enables them to produce large lambs that are strong, while not losing body condition themselves while pregnant. This daily feeding of grain is like opening the door to a kindergarten classroom and yelling "Who wants ice cream!" and so they get quite excited. This means that feeding equipment needs to be repaired every year to ensure that it will stand up to the abuse it is about to take. This year we had some help while the older boys were in school, and we brought the youngest out with us and on a couple of warm days in the greenhouse we were able to accomplish alot. In March, a couple of weeks before lambing starts we have to give the sheep their annual booster shot of vaccine. This is not a painful thing, but it is a live vaccine and so has to be kept cold until it is injected which is uncomfortable for the sheep. This is important because lambs are born without any immunity, and only gain protection from diseases by the milk they drink from their mothers in the first few days of life. We enlisted the "help" of the children, fed the sheep their grain to get them in a good mood, and then pressed them to the back of the greenhouse which helps keep them under control and easier to catch. Being a beautiful almost spring day, we quickly stripped down to our shirts, Eric caught each ewe,
Toby checked the numbers off for the ewes as I gave them their injection, and Finn and Sam marked their foreheads with Crayon. Final count: 45 ewes vaccinated, Finn trampled 3 times, Toby twice, Same once. And since Sam and Finn kept changing their markers we ended with a collection of animals with a rainbow of markings on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies. And after an afternoon of hard work, then everyone deserves a nap!