We generally like to have our American Blackbelly Ewes give birth in March. The weather has warmed up enough by then that we don’t need to worry so much about a newborn getting chilled, or mama being stressed enough that she decides she doesn’t want another mouth to feed. Because sheep have a 5 month gestation, that means that we put our ram in with our ewes in early October.
But not last year. Kenny, our beautiful ram, had only one fence between him and his girlfriends, and he had been pining after them for MONTHS, and so he promptly rammed his rather substantial head and horns against an inadequate wooden fence post until he broke the post. That, along with the bottom of the fence not being well attached, and in he went with his girls in early September.
Which means… Our first lamb was born January 27th this year, and then they were all born in pretty quick succession, the last one on February 23rd. We did lose a few, very early on. But we have 14 bouncing babies out in the field right now, to 12 mamas (and NO bottle babies!) We have two additional ewes who are small (likely due to our parasite issue last spring) and if they are bred, they were probably bred late. So we think we’re done for a while.
We sold off 10 bred older ewes last fall, and so had quite a few singles this year (first year ewes generally only have one lamb). But lo and behold, this year we have more girls than boys. If you have been following along, you know that for some unexplained reason, likely tied to diet, or maybe the ram genetics, we tend to have a very screwed sex ratio of mostly boys when we have babies in March (2014, 2016). So maybe there IS something good about having babies in February.
Meanwhile, with our incredibly fickle rainy weather this year, I was able to tap our black walnut tree and our two silver maples and get enough sap to make a couple of pints of silver maple syrup. (Did you know you can make syrup out of other trees than Sugar Maples? You can! Birch, black walnut, other maples, box elder….). The black walnut yield was tiny, as my timing wasn’t right, but we did get enough to sample, so we know if its worth doing again. It is. It’s yummy.
The key to a good sap run is a period where it is below freezing at night and in the 40’s or so during the day. Because our springs tend to warm up quickly, this means that you really need to tap the trees around here in early January. I was a bit late this year, but the first couple of weeks in February were cooperative. It was lovely to get back into it, as I haven’t done a successful sap run since 2011.
AND a friend of ours is keeping her two hives on our place. One hive didn’t survive the winter, and so we harvested about 3 gallons of honey and about a pound of beeswax out of it. Such sticky fun!
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2017 where we are SO ready for spring, and could it PLEASE stop raining for more than 2 days in a row?