Happy St. George’s Day to our readers in England. I am writing this on April 23rd, and it is snowing in the mountains of Pennsylvania yet again! The pastures are finally being transformed from their dull winter brown to the beautiful green of new growth. Unfortunately winter doesn’t want to let go of its iron grip just yet. This morning we woke up to a white coating again.
Yes, we do have new spring arrivals. But by spring arrivals, we don’t mean lambs or kids. We are still awaiting the goats, and there are still two ewes left who haven’t given birth.
First, we have 80 new baby chicks, supplementing our existing heritage breeds, and almost doubling the number of chickens in the coop. We have added 17 more Easter eggers to our heritage chickens. They produce the ever popular blue green eggs that everyone loves. The others are red sexlinks and golden comets. They are both good and productive layers of between 250-320 large or extra large brown eggs a year. We are optimistic that our egg production should be considerably higher by the end of the year.
Second, we have just acquired 6 new Icelandic yearlings, 5 ewes and one ram. Icelandics are known, not only for their beautiful and lustrous dual coats, but also for the wide variety of possible color combinations and patterns that those coats can come in. Colors can range from white, honey and light brown, to darker browns and even black. With a spotting gene, those combinations can produce a variety of multicolored fleeces. Our first two Icelandics, Heidi and Gretchen, are, of course, pure white. They are in complete contrast to our pure Black Welsh Mountain sheep and our Black Welsh crosses. Our entire flock is black and white, and all 22 of our lambs are black. We can now say that we have added color to our herd, and spectacular color at that. Sahara, as you can probably tell by her name, is the color of the golden desert sand. Rene is a badger face with a light, creamy colored coat. Vivian is dark brown with an even darker chocolate undercoat. Dulce is a light caramel color with white undertones, and Olga is almost an exact replica of both Heidi and Gretchen with a pure white coat. Stuart, the ram, so named because he resembles a Scottish warrior, is a caramel color with a darker brown undercoat. We can’t wait to see the variety of colors they will produce in their offspring. We love the Black Welsh, but there are certainly no surprises when it comes to their lambs. They are all virtually identical!
We have a separate area in the barn to house new arrivals. It serves a tri-fold purpose. First it is a gentle way to get them used to their new surroundings before introducing them to the big barn and the rest of the flock. Second, they start getting used to us in a limited setting. We feed and take care of them without interference from the other sheep. Finally, and most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to make sure they are healthy and not bringing anything with them that could infect the rest of the flock. When they first arrived we gave them cydectin, an oral drench for sheep that gets rid of worms, particularly barber pole. After two weeks of careful observation, they should be ready to be integrated.
For the first day or two, the new Icelandics were very nervous and frightened. Every time they saw or heard us coming, they quickly fled into the farthest corner of their pen and just stared at us. Six pairs of eyes focused on us and nobody moved. If we moved an inch or made a noise, they would wedge themselves even farther into the corner, not taking their eyes off of us, even for a second. Throughout the week, we have been talking to them and encouraging them to take grains from our hands. Today, they started coming up to us, albeit cautiously, but approaching nonetheless. And tonight, they positively ran towards Nick when he came up the stairs to feed them. Step by step they will gradually learn to trust us. I keep telling them that they have come to the Ritz. I don’t believe they could have come to a farm that treats its animals better and more lovingly that at Black Sheep Meadows.