Monday, November 24, 2008

Winter Wonderland

This is the scene that greeted us this morning down our driveway.

And off of our deck, looking to the west -

To the north -

And to the east -

Very pretty, but I wanted to get some pictures before the sun started shining later today, as the temperatures are supposed to get above freezing and I am hoping it will all melt later today. We haven't gotten our winter water hauling system set up yet and right now, if the hoses are frozen, I fill buckets and cart them out to the sheep in the garden cart. Water for just over 100 sheep, in six distinct pasture/pen areas. So let's just say it is not my favorite chore. And if the snow gets deep, the garden cart will not move easily through the snow.
So, to take a break from the water hauling, yesterday Mom and I did this:

We drove into Milwaukee to see the Florentine Opera's production of Madama Butterfly. They don't let you take pictures in the theatre, so you will have to settle for a picture of the program. While I am not an opera buff, I do like some of the music (Puccini being one of my favorites) and yesterday I even recognized some of the songs! It was a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon (we went to the Sunday matinee) and it didn't snow, so I managed to navigate the new Marquette Interchange without any major mishaps.

In Sheepy News, we put Eddie (who can be seen on the November 5 blog entry) in with his girls this past week. He immediately began courting them, but was delayed as Florence, our Jacob ewe (who can be seen on the October 17 blog entry), tried to kill him. Really. She got in a few head-on attacks, got him down and then went in for the kill. Fortunately, we were right there, so could rescue him. Florence has been moved in with group two of the "big, whites" where she is not the biggest (although maybe the meanest). She complains every time I am within earshot (and maybe when I am not), but she has to play nice with the other sheep, or her time here on the farm will be limited.
And my parting shot today, the kittens on the front porch are almost adult cat size now and two of them actually sat still long enough this morning for me to get a shot of them. They are very friendly (when this picture was taken, kitten number three, a tiger, was rubbing my ankles) and if I didn't already have three house cats, I would scoop them all up and bring them in with me. But I don't want to become one of those crazy cat ladies whose house has been taken over by the felines!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 10, 2008

One Down, One to Go!

Although the Packers couldn't get it done yesterday, I did. Finish the first of the Packer socks, that is. Toe Jamz sock yarn in the "Go Pac" color. I hope to cast on the second sock later today. And get them finished fairly soon, as they are a gift.

I apologize for my lack of photographic skills, but I did get to Spin-In two weekends ago and my purchases are pictured below. Mom and I make a day of it, browsing the vendors, having lunch, stopping on the way home for ice cream. Although Spin-In seems to be shrinking since I first started going quite a few years ago, it is a nice day out for the two of us. I do think if they didn't have Spin-In shortly after the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, they might get a better turnout. As part of a belated birthday gift to me, Mom bought me two pounds of Coopworth roving from Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill (hi, Carol and Paul!) in their Tapestry color. I already have a bit of this and really liked the way it spun up, so wanted to buy enough for maybe a sweater or a vest. But don't hold your breath for the finished product. I think the color shows up OK. It's primarily a deep red, with gold and navy highlights. I know, I know, with a flock of about 20 Coopworth in my back pasture, I really didn't need to BUY Coopworth roving, but this is so pretty and the sheep don't really come in this color. And anyway, I sold most of my Coopworth fleece this year, so had to buy my supply elsewhere! The other is a merino/tencel blend from Frabjous Fibers. I think you can see the colors from this picture, but the shiny white bits (I think that might be the tencel) reflected the flash terribly. While it is a "flashy" roving, it's not quite as bright as the picture leads one to believe! It's labelled as sock roving and I have four ounces there, plenty for socks for me and my small feet. Maybe after I get that second Packer sock done, I can spin this up - it's so pretty, I don't think it will sit in the stash too long! (Of course, that is what I said about the fiber I got last year and some of that IS still in the stash!)

That is really not a very good picture. I'll try harder next time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall on the Farm

Fall on the farm means the weather gets cooler (of course, the past few days have been in the 70's and it has been gorgeous!), the bugs go away - and we start feeding hay. This year we are feeding the large, wrapped bales that you can see in this picture.

I should have stood Nicholas next to the bales - or had him climb on top of them, which he likes to do, to give you a reference point regarding size. I guess you can see the barn behind the bales, so you can get some idea. In any case, they are big and one needs a tractor to move them around. Which we started doing two weekends ago, just before dividing our 80 "big, white" ewes into their breeding groups (also a sign of fall on the farm). After placing several bales in each pasture area, we sorted the ewes into three breeding groups. Here is group one, about half Coopworths and half "other assorted". As you can see, they are thoroughly enjoying their first bale of hay of the season. There are always a few sheep who must eat their hay from the top of the bale.

Group two contains most of this past spring's lambs and other assorted Polypays and crossbreeds. This picture was actually taken a couple of days after sorting. As you can see, they have pretty much eaten down their bale of hay. Shortly after this picture was taken, I opened another bale for them.

Group three is a smaller group, and here are a few representatives for them. They are some of our better lambers and they will be lambing on pasture in May, with minimal shelter and assistance from the shepherd (hopefully).

And here are the boys. Not a great shot of them, but left to right is Heinz (he will go in with group two at the end of the month); Val, our Coopworth ram, who is actually already in with group one (we gave him his harem this past Sunday); and Sammy, who will go in with the smaller group three, also in about a month. Val weighed just under 200 pounds when we purchased him, so, although we haven't weighed any of these guys lately, we think Sammy probably goes well over 200 pounds. So when he got a bit pushy on Sunday, I fled from the pen and left Larry to catch Val by himself. Well, what do you expect me to do? Sammy outweighs me by quite a bit and I really didn't want to wait and see which one of us would win in a pushing contest!

Now, at the other end of the "scale", we have our Shetland sire for this year. This is Eddie, who we brought home from the Sheep and Wool Festival in September. He was raised by Laura Matthews at Psalm 23 Farm in Kiel, Wisconsin. He is just a lamb, so probably only weighs about 40 or 50 pounds right now. Much smaller than our "big, white sheep". I am hoping he is fertile, as he will go in with his girls in about 2 weeks. His fleece is a bit finer than our girls' fleeces, so I can't wait to see his lambs in the spring!

And finally, a parting shot. After the leaves fell off the trees in the pasture behind the house, I noticed this hornets' nest up in one of the trees. We joked about donating it to the science class, but were afraid that if the hornets were dormant, they would wake up in the warmth of the school and terrorize the kids!