Rest in Peace Doris, Rest in Peace

I finally had to let Doris go last week. She hadn’t moved from the spot she was in for several days – if I am honest with myself, for about 7 of the last 10 days. She still talked to me when I went in to the barn to give her food and water and didn’t look like she was in pain, but laying in the same spot day after day just hoping someone brings you something to eat and drink is just no way to live.

I bought Doris from a local shepherd 5 years ago – she was one of his cull ewes that year. Over the past 4 years she had three sets of triplets and one set of twins on my farm, and was a wonderful mom. She had to deliver last years lambs via C-section, and still, even before she was fully stitched up, went into full blown new mom mode cleaning them when they were placed next to her. Doris1


She was the smallest of all my ewes – I think she might have been part Cheviat – but she was tough. She also had a very expressive face – whenever I was in working with the flock, Doris was always there, looking at like “Wow, you really got it right this time” or, more usually “You have absolutely no idea what you’re doing do you?” I learned a lot from Doris and her expressions.

She had the most distinctive “Baa” and would greet me with it every morning when I went out to get the paper.

Violet’s farm is so quiet without Doris’ “baa”.

violets farm stillwater mn

Curious George on the farm


When is a bad thing really a good thing?

As you may have surmised from this site, my family consists of three Great Danes. I love my dogs, oh so much – they are my kids.  And, just like kids, they are remarkably different.

My oldest is gentle and slightly timid – she is enormous, but when she gets scared and cries, it is the smallest, meekest noise, and my heart just breaks. My youngest is mischievous – you think that she is so laid back and just napping only to find out she has been secretly squirrelling away all of your possessions and destroying them in the yard. My middle one, Edwinna is the most loving, social outgoing Great Dane I have ever had. But, she has an incredible internal conflict because of all the Great Danes I have ever had, she also has, by far, the strongest hunting instinct. I could tell you stories, but that is a whole ‘nother blog post. Living on a farm is a challenge for Edwinna! Such a mighty struggle between wanting to please me so badly, but that inner huntress – oh she wants to hunt!

With that background… this past Sunday,  I had two ewes left to have their lambs, and now have rejoined both the new moms and the moms to be. They are in two adjoining pastures, with the lambing barn in the middle.

Edwinna and the heroic hole2

Edwinna and the heroic hole

I went to check on the two left to go Sunday morning and they were in the barn – which was a little unusual, but it was a warm day, so I thought they must have been enjoying the shade.  I did a little pasture mowing and came back to check on them at about 1pm.  Still in there – but one had had her babies! A little boy and a little girl. I was surprised, as they usually choose to do that outside, and I need to move them in the barn, but I thought “lucky me! Only one to go!” And just put mom and babies into a separate area to get acquainted and rest after their big morning.I went back to my mowing in an adjacent pasture – the dogs were following me – at least as closely as they could while staying in the shade, when Edwinna’s Yin overpowered her Yang – and she shoved her head under a gate to grab a lamb that was laying just a little too close for her to resist it. Another episode of lamb, dog, dog, dog, hysterical farmer later, and the lamb was back with her mom, Edwinna had been scolded (much to her horror) and I went back to mowing. I dubbed the behavior “lamb fishing” and made a mental note that Edwinna could not be unsupervised even NEXT to a pasture the lambs were in – at least not until they are too big to pull under the gate. Or until we get that inner huntress under better control.

I finished mowing the pasture and went to check on the new bunkmates Charles (my Highland/Hereford bull), his girl Blossom (my Highland heifer) and PePe, the poor ram who has to spend the next 6 months without his ladies. To my surprise and delight, they were getting along nicely, and much appreciated a refill of their water bucket and a little fly spray.

Walking back toward the house – past the lambing barn, poor Edwinna was losing her internal battle of ‘naughty vs good’ and was furiously digging ALL of the dirt out of a retaining wall I have next to the lambing barn (I plant sunflowers there – so cute when they are in bloom).

I have hardware cloth between this wall and the barn foundation – an oldie but a goodie of several stone columns separated by about 4-5 feet running the length of the wood barn. I yelled at poor Edwinna for the second time that day “WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” She broke focus, but only briefly – looking at me apologetically and then giving in to the dark side. Curious about what would make her make this choice, I went to see what had driven her so crazy.

I peered into/past the hardware cloth under the barn and saw something. Something furry – and kind of pink-ish.

Oh god.  Oh god.  Oh god.  What the hell is living under my barn. A rat? A possum? A rat or a possum that just had babies under my barn?? Ugh.  ot the way I wanted to end my day. I was envisioning having to camo-crawl/chase a mad momma possum out from under my barn and then what? I had no earthly idea. I just knew I needed to get the vermin out from under the barn.

And then I looked a little closer.

It wasn’t pink-ish so much as it was white, with perhaps a little birthing fluid on it.  And it wasn’t furry, so much as wooly –


Cellar's hole

Cellar’s hole

Franticness ensues….

I had that hardware cloth dug in deep man – there had been skunks on this property in the past, and I didn’t want those nasty things, or raccoons, or possums, or foxes getting into my lambing barn. So, even though Edwinna had dug about 3 feet down, I still could not pull that hardware cloth out.  So, I ran to get some tin snips all the while thinking, “please don’t move, please don’t move please don’t move…”

I don’t know if any of you have had the opportunity to chase a lamb, but they are pretty speedy little suckers – how on earth I was going to catch one of those while camo-crawling through a crawl space was something I couldn’t begin to imagine.  Nor was I looking forward to it.  And I certainly didn’t want to end the day pulling a dead lamb out from under the barn.

I ran and got some tinsnips, while Edwinna continued her efforts – previously deemed naughty, but suddenly seeming pretty darn heroic – at getting at this lamb on the other side of the hardware cloth.  I cut the hardware cloth, reached in and grabbed the lamb, and oh heavenly day, it was still warm, still wet, and still breathing.  I reunited her with her family, and kept a close eye on all to make sure the mom would accept her after her little adventure, that she hadn’t been injured in her rude introduction into the world. I opted to give her some penicillin since I hadn’t gotten to her belly button right away, and today, her, her siblings and her mom are making their debut outside. One big happy family. Her name is “Cellar”.

Cellar and family's debut

Cellar and her family’s debut

Putting the pieces back together, I realize that the ewe that had had her babies around 1 hadn’t had twins – she had had triplets.

And, where I found them in the barn is fairly close to where the water line comes up out of the floor – it is a pretty small hole, but when you are a newborn lamb, coming out into the world in a nosedive, come to find out, you can just slide right through.  So, this ewe must have had this baby either right over that hole or close enough to it, that she nosedived her way into this world, out of her mom, and right into the barn crawlspace.  Must have been shocking as hell – one minute everything is quiet and soft and dark and warm and you’re right next to your siblings and the next minute, you’re in a crawlspace all alone.

And what about Edwinna you say?  Well, Edwinna ended the day a hero, rewarded with a pork chop for her and each of her sisters, with her internal conflict raging on –  “When is it naughty ‘lamb fishing’ and when is it a wonderful act heroism?  So hard….”

Kim Jordahl Violet's Farm

Spring 2016 on Violet’s Farm

I frost seeded my pastures this year and am hoping that will result in lots of delicious pasture for all this summer.

Egg laying season has started (chickens lay more eggs when the days are longer), so we have lots of beautiful, fresh eggs every day.

The younger ewes are pregnant and will be having their babies around Mid-May. It is almost time for the sheerer to come – he comes every year in the spring and cleans up the ladies (and Pepe). Poor PePe’s wool grows long into his eyes, so the shearer will also restore his sight. They all also get their shots at this time, so the antibodies can pass to their babies.

Once the lambs start coming, Pepe will go back to bunking with Charles and Blossom, who are celebrating their first birthdays. Doris will get to go back to bunking with the ladies, and will be glad to be back among her “peeps”.

I would usually have started some vegetable seeds indoors by now, but am thinking I am going to give my vegetable garden a rest this year. And, I am planning on installing an orchard this year – with apples, pears, plums, peaches and apricots. That will keep me plenty busy.