Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Busy bees and more sick sheep

Summer is in full swing now, with days that get well into the seventies (F), and nights that show no hint of frost. But we had frost just last week, and so all the tomato starts that Aimee grew in the greenhouse, now hardening off, must stay in their trays for the time being in case they need to be whisked back inside. All the cabbages, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are in, though. They can stand a small frost. Peas are about four inches and onions two.

Aimee has had her first day of marine biology field research, while I'm a couple days into my summer roughnecking trade of raising and lowering and moving anemometer towers from site to site. This is basic research for small scale wind power and wind mapping in then the good old State o' Maine. The results allow me to redraw the current wind map, which is based on a computer model and not especially accurate, given our tough topography of hills and dales and tall trees.

The wind does what it wants in this state, not what computer geeks who primarily sit in offices and tinker with algorithms think it does. You have to measure directly, at least for a year or two more until we get an algorithm that works. If we ever do. Which suits me. I'm a field site, ground-truthing, just the facts, ma'am, kind of dude.

I have a merry group of students on payroll, and we are going back today to clean up our first site and begin configuring a couple of 30 meter anemometer towers out of two 60 meter ones. These will go to a couple of farms that have nice high hilltops, where they'll tell us if a farm wind turbine is a good investment, and also fill in some blank spots on the map.

The Camry fuel tank has arrived, but I have to get some field work done first. Friday will be Camry day, weather permitting. And maybe this will be the weekend the tomato starts go in.

We have another sick sheep. Actually, we had two, but we seem to have cured one. First a male lamb, whose name Aimee could tell me but she's still fast asleep, got the same septic arthritis that sent Polly to the butchers last year. This time we were ready and a quick shot of penicillin and a dose of selenium/vitamin paste was administered and he was back on his feet the next day. The other is Jewel, who has gotten "circling disease," one of the several creative and inventive ailments sheep have in their vast toolbox of ways to die.

Diagnosis was difficult at first because she was just sad and off her feed for several days. If we had given her penicillin right away, we might have done better. But we were just scratching our heads, and worrying what essential sheep nutrient she might be missing, or whether she had a bad case of flystrike, or whatever. Sheep are often sad, it seems. I examined her over and over trying to figure it out. But after a while, encephalitis set in, she developed "star gazing" and one-sided paralysis, head-resting, and a tendency to go around in clockwise circles when bothered.

So now she's fighting it, with massive doses of penicillin. The encephalitis symptoms are somewhat reduced, and she's comfortable in the barn. But she still hasn't eaten for days. She is drinking, though, and I have given her glycerin for energy and will give her more. What she could really use is an IV drip with feed and fluids and penicillin, but she's still too mobile for that.

In any case, she's a working sheep, who lives on a farm in Maine, not a human, and definitely not a pet. If she was on some total vegetarian hobby farm, she might get that kind of treatment. But she's a retired ewe on a farm that slaughters and culls appropriately, and will have to take her chances. As long as the symptoms are less than they were, she will live, but if they get worse she will have to be culled right away.

But I feel bad for her and hope she gets better.

All of these diseases, the listeriosis, the arthritis, and the tetanus that Maggie had, are caused by critters that live in soil, and probably can't be helped much, but we have moved the rest of the flock from their home pasture, the Back Forty, to the nice clean New Paddock as a precaution. As soon as I can get the Kubota back from my wind power work, I'll rake up manure and waste hay in the security pen and we won't let them back in there until the fall, by which time sun and wind and rains should have reduced the bacteria load in the surface soil somewhat. Even this precaution is a trade off. The New Paddock is by no means as secure from coyotes and stray dogs.

All of the breeding flock, including the temporarily arthritic lamb, seems healthy and happy on the New Paddock, so I'm hoping this is the end of sheep disease for one year. Shearing time soon, so that's another danger point, when fresh wounds are made and so on. They've all had fresh tetanus shots, though, and the ewes have had two each, since the previous shot didn't seem to help Maggie much, so we suspect that batch of vaccine. If we can get through shearing, we'll be home free, I think, and we'll have saved all our breeders except Maggie and Polly.

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