Thursday, December 2, 2010
And inside, they answer that question in the form of a Fiber Basics article,written by Carol Huebscher Rhoades and using several of my sheepy pictures and spinning up our fiber for their samples! That's one of our ewes in the picture below.
Monday, November 29, 2010
We have recently added some more Jacobs - I think this is the wether - hard to tell sometimes, when they no longer have the normal male equipment.
And we have added some Nigerian Dwarf goats. These should be the two wethers, Jack and Dexter, although I'm not sure which is which yet. They love the fallen leaves from our London Planetree - somebody tell me quick if those are poisonous.
And a few more Jacob ewes. Although this is only one of them. Must be Zola? She is supposed to be the friendliest, and as the others were hanging way back, I'm deducing that this is she.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
But I have always wanted some guineas, and "Mr Opportunity" was knocking! Here they are in our brooder, which was their temporary home until we got something bigger set up for them:
They have since moved into a dog kennel enclosure in our barn, complete with multiple roosts, while they get a bit bigger and become attached to our barn, so that at some point, when they are allowed to free range, they will still come home at night.
On our next trip to Stasia and Jeff's, we picked up a few sheep, including some beautiful Icelandic ewes, two of them pictured below. Thank you so much for allowing us to bring all of these beautiful animals to our farm.
And, because the majority of the animals on this place have to be productive - we are trying to bring in a bit of income, after all - we obtained this Icelandic ram at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival last month:
He's a lamb, so I'm hoping he is assertive enough to stand up to our Icelandic girls who are a few years older. We're hoping to have nice lambs out of them in April. I can't wait, as Icelandics are like Shetlands - it will be like Christmas, waiting to see what colors/patterns will be on the lambs when they are born! Already getting impatient and the breeding groups don't go together until mid-November!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
There is also a bit of a gap between the breeders breeding for bigger sheep and those of us who like the smaller sheep. We got a lot of comments this past weekend at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, where we were exhibiting some of our Shetlands, about how cute and small our sheep were. Well, our Shetlands are the same size today as they were almost ten years ago when we bought our first Shetlands. And we still have one of those original sheep, and she is about the same size as all of our other adult ewes. Shetlands are not "miniature" sheep, but they are small - they are supposed to be small. If you want a nice leg of lamb, get a Polypay or a Coopworth (we have those, too).
When visiting the Shetland barn at the Festival, we noticed some Shetlands that were quite large. In fact, they compared in size to the Icelandics that were being exhibited in another barn. I will have to do some research - I'm not really an expert on the "perfect" Shetland. But I seem to recall that Shetlands were supposed to be finer boned, agile - more "deer-like" to successfully navigate the rocky shorelines of the Shetland Islands. Ewes were to be feminine and the rams should be "manly", but still agile, not heavy, ponderous things.
And the one thing that really gets me is when supposedly reputable breeders sell adult rams with crappy horns. Sometimes a ram lamb will be sold who eventually has fatal horns - I had an absolutely gorgeous ram lamb, with wonderful wide horns, one of our first years with Shetlands. But those gorgeous, wide horns grew right back around, heading for the underside of his jaw. He ended up in little white packages and was very tasty. But year after year, we see adult rams, with terrible horns, being sold to other breeders.
We all have an opinion on what is a good fleece, or whether we like solids or patterns, or whether "bigger is better". But there is really no excuse to keep a ram after his horns take that deadly turn back toward his head. Wether him if you must, take him to market, but don't sell him to another breeder. And if you don't know what good horns look like, see below. While the photo may not be the greatest, the horns are pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
To bring you up to date, school has started for another year, Nicholas is now in high school. He seems to be liking it more (at least, so far) than he did junior high.
The heat has subsided - the last few days have even seemed a bit "fall-like" - been tempted to turn the heat back on in the mornings, but I know that it is to be back up in the 80's in a day or two, so am enjoying being able to put on slippers, an extra blanket on the bed, cuddling in the afghan while watching TV in the evenings. The good thing about a hot, wet summer, is the pastures have lasted much longer this year. Last year we fenced part of the hay land for temporary pasture. We haven't had to do that this year. In fact, we have been able to let some of our pastures rest a bit this summer, instead of overgrazing them as in some summers past.
The bad thing about all this rain - well, the mosquitoes, of course. I planted a few flowers and veggies early this summer and that was about the end of the gardening for me. Not being a great gardener anyway, when the mosquitoes are as abundant as they have been this year, I don't like to linger any longer outside than I have to. If I had known that it was going to be so buggy, I might have looked into a CSA and let someone else grow my produce.
We have made some additions to our farm. Thanks to the very generous nature of our friends Stasia and Jeff we have adopted some more sheep, some guinea keets and some goats. We now have 5 beautiful Angora does.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
I did participate in the Tour de Fleece this year. That was part of what I tried to post earlier this month when Blogger was giving me fits. I do have fibery pictures, but they are slightly out of date, so I think I will take new pictures and post those next month. I did not spin as much as I would have liked, but I did spin a bit. I was very pleased with having spun any amount, as it has been so freaking hot and humid here. Of course, much of the country is actually hotter than we are, but there are reasons I live in Wisconsin - one of those being family, of course, but one of the other reasons is it is cooler here than in regions to the south of us. And Milwaukee (about 30 miles east of us) received about 11 inches of rain in July - I think they said we normally get about 3 and 1/2 inches. June was also wet. The pastures look very nice, due to all the heat and rain - so do the mosquitoes.
In pictures today, I give you Chickie. She is the sole survivor of our previous batch of chicks - from several years ago. She and her flockmates would roost in the barn, usually above the lambing jugs, which tends to get messy, if you know what I mean. But over time, coons or something got to the rest of the flock, so now she is alone. Which makes her very friendly, so here she is on our deck. Soon, though, she will have help in keeping the bug population down, as our spring chicks our getting very big and some of them will move here to our part of the farm (they are currently residing in the coop across the road at Mom and Dad's). I hope they adjust to their new home and I hope Chickie adjusts to them (not very original with the names, am I?)
Before the mosquitoes moved in this summer, I managed to get a few hanging planters planted. Petunias grow pretty well for me (as does the Queen Anne's Lace, which you might notice encroaching on the pots) - I don't seem to have much luck with pansies or violas, though.
But what I always seem to have a bumper crop of is thistles. I probably shouldn't show this picture to my fleece customers - but they are awfully pretty and I love the birds and the butterflies that feed off of the nectar and the seeds. We do try to get rid of as many as we can, but they seem to get away from us every year.
We tried something different this year, in that we put the Shetland ewes and lambs in with the big whites. The Shetland pastures get a bit sparse as the lambs grow, so, since the other girls have a large pasture, we thought they might like to share. The pastures are adjacent, so all it took was opening a gate. It makes it easier for the shepherd (me), as I only have one ewe/lamb group to rotate every day or so and one group of rams to feed (the rams are a bit hard on fences, so they are more confined and are fed hay most of the year - but there are only five of them, so it's not too bad - and, Larry and Nicholas feed them more often than not, so it's really not too bad for me!) The funny thing is - sheep are such creatures of habit - even though the ewe flocks have been merged, the Shetlands usually go to their original area at night and the big, white girls stay in the area that they were used to.
Well, if I don't get this posted soon, it will be August. Forecasts for the coming week are for temperatures still up in the 80's - I would kill for some highs in the 70's - and there is more rain in the forecast. At this rate, school will be starting and I will have accomplished much of nothing this summer (did I already say that I don't do well in hot, humid weather - no ambition, no desire to do anything but sit in front of the fan, maybe knitting a dishcloth. Watching TV is about as active as I get in this weather). But soon, regardless of the temperature, we will have to take the culls to market, lambs will have to be weaned, decisions will have to be made as to which lambs to keep and which to sell, sheep will have to be moved to new pastures. Maybe August will be cooler - one can always hope!
Friday, June 18, 2010
But in order to get these bales where we want them, we have to be here when the neighbor and his crew bring the bales in from the field. They brought the first load over around 9:00 last night - then they had to get some fuel - so they didn't finish yesterday - and today it is currently sunny (which is an uncommon occurrence this June), so I am thinking they are doing something that is more dependent on sunshine than hauling wrapped bales in from the fields. But, I have to stay put until either they deliver the bales, or Larry relieves me to take his turn at "hurry up and wait". We have decided that Shearing Day is less stressful than Hay Delivery Day, because our shearer has an appointment, which he keeps very efficiently, whereas the Hay Guy is more vague. But, like the shearer, custom hay guys are few and far between, and we bow to their needs. And, he's a neighbor, so we try to be "neighborly".
I haven't blogged in awhile, so since I am waiting today, I thought I would take the opportunity to sit near the fan and try not to move too much (it's hot and humid here, but a cold front is coming through later, although I think that means it will no longer be 90 and humid - maybe low 80's and less humid).
June, so far, has been a bit of both good and not so good. Nicholas finished Junior High and will be going to High School in the fall - of course, in Creek, that means that he goes to the other wing of the Jr/Sr High building. Not a big adjustment. That was a "good". "Not so good" was the day the washer decided to quit just as a load was spinning out. And, on the same day, the faucet on the bathroom sink decided it didn't want to turn off. I'm not good with plumbing, so being alone in the house at the time, I turned it off as best I could and made sure the drain was running clearly and abandoned ship (meaning I went to my parents' for a cup of coffee!) On the "good" side, I found out that my family is actually descended from John Alden, who is rumored to have been the first person to step off of the Mayflower. Apparently, that also means that I am related (a long ways back) to both President Adamses (is that a word?). And, I guess, to Dick Van Dyke, Marilyn Monroe and Dan Quayle, among others, who can claim to be related to John Alden. To heck with the DAR (which I am also eligible to join, I believe) - I can join the Mayflower Society. Yes, I am a genealogy snob.
We finished up lambing with about 100 lambs. We lost one ewe to pregnancy issues and two lambs very early on - one had physical issues and I don't think she was meant to live. Now I am watching all very nervously as it has been so wet and rainy that I'm sure the worm load on the pastures is unreal. The majority of the BWS have been wormed - the Shetlands are next on my list.
I have been doing some knitting. I have started the Lutea Lace-Shoulder Shell from the Interweave Knits Summer 2007 issue. I am using Plymouth Yarns Llama Cotton Worsted in color 1249, which is a nice "peachy" color. I don't have automatic links to anything, as I am working offline at the moment (in case the hay guy calls to say they will be moving hay soon - or won't be moving hay soon - but chances are, he won't call at all, he'll just show up). The yarn is wonderfully soft, some VM, we'll see how it wears after I finish the top. This is an adventure for me, since I have never knit a garment before, only socks, scarves and dishcloths. But my gauge appeared to be on. I'll let you know. I'm almost done with the body of the top and will soon separate the front and back (currently knitting in the round) to begin shaping up towards the shoulders and the lace portion (which will take me a lot longer than the stockinette portion).
And these are the socks that I actually started when we were in San Francisco in March. I got about an inch knit on the first sock while we were gone (why do I even bother? We are so busy when we go on vacation, that there really isn't time to knit - but, as a Knitter, I feel the need to travel with a project, I guess). After we got home, I was just flying through the first sock - at the rate I was going, I felt I could knit both socks before April ended. Of course, I forgot to figure in the time that lambing takes. So when that first lamb was born, knitting came to an abrupt halt. But the second sock is on the needles and I am working on the foot, so maybe if I go back and forth between the socks and the shell, I could get them both done this summer. Yes, yes, I am a slow knitter - and I want to get my spinning wheel back out and spin the rest of the Coopworth so I can start knitting a cardi for cold weather.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
As for lambing, we have two Coopworth ewes that haven't lambed yet - one looks like she will go any minute - hopefully she comes into the barn and does not lamb in the lake - the other is not terribly big and may wait until the last minute. The Shetlands are done - although I did put Gallifrey in with the ewes again this spring, as I didn't have him shorn by the shearer and needed a place to put him while the rest of the rams were being shorn. So there is a slim chance that we will have a few August lambs - although I'm not going to hold my breath, as Shetlands don't lamb well out of season.
And for the obligatory lamb picture, this is one of Sparx's ram lambs - he is a gorgeous grey, not black and white - those light spots on his body are grey - I hope he grows up with good conformation and nice horns (he is standing kind of strangely in this shot - he looks better when his legs aren't all bunched together - his head isn't really as big as it looks!)
We've got three jugs full in the barn again, so chores today will include tagging, docking, castrating and lamb shots - also worming of the moms. I hate to do all that in miserable weather, but it has to be done. Morning bottles have been fed - soon they will be reduced to two bottles a day. Baby chicks in the brooder. And I have to be down at school at lunchtime, as it is an early release day, so I guess I better get moving. Or maybe just one more cup of coffee?!?!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Lambing went fairly smoothly - I assisted with a few deliveries - one girl wasn't lambing fast enough the day of the FFA banquet, so I nudged her along a bit with a gentle tug on her big single.
One of my best moms (Cappuccino - Shetland ewe), decided this year, that since she was about to go into labor, she would try to steal someone else's lambs. She has never been a problem for me, but this year she chased one poor lamb all over creation until I corralled her in a private pen where she delivered the first of twins just before I wanted to call it a night. Then she presented the head of the second and continued cleaning off the first. Apparently one was enough for her this year, as she ceased trying to deliver the second. Thinking that maybe the second delivery was too hard for her, as the front legs appeared to be back, I gave a gentle tug on him. Well, he "splooshed" right out - I guess Cappuccino only wanted a single this year - maybe she thought if she didn't deliver the second, he would just go away. Actually, she is normally the most laid back mom I have ever seen in the pasture. She has delivered a lamb backwards, no problems. She always twins and, although her lambs are always the "rebellious" ones, she usually has her head in the feeder until you ask "where are your lambs?" and she looks around like she's just remembered she's a mom. But her lambs thrive. Probably because her milk is good since she has no nervous issues.
I do have five bottle lambs this year - five too many. I have two sets of twins whose moms just do not have enough (or any) milk. Both moms are already on the "cull" list. And I have a triplet - born in the wee hours of the morning, Larry discovered them when he went out to the barn very early about a week into lambing. I was still in bed, as it was a Saturday and my intent was to sleep in a bit. He woke me to let me know I had a lamb to tube. So he brought her into the kitchen, near death, very dirty. This is what she looked like after I fed her:
That is our Lab mix, Kipper, being the good mom and cleaning her off (she was the cleanest lamb you have ever seen when he was done). Well, I got a few ounces into her, popped her into the playpen and went back to bed. Unfortunately, since Kipper claimed her and I fed her, Mom would not take her back. But "Spot" is our pet now and follows Kipper all over the yard. She tries to nurse off of him, tries to jump up on his back if he sits down. He hangs his head and gives me this look as if to say, "Mom, do I have to put up with my little sister? She's so annoying!" But he did a good job - I think she looks a lot perkier now:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The best shot I could get this morning, as Abra (her mom) was being the typical Shetland and not letting me get near her. Of course, that's what I like about the Shetlands - their primitive responses to things like lambing. Don't let anyone with a camera get close to your lambs! The lamb looks to be grey yuglet katmoget - sired by Psalm 23 Edinburagh, now gone from the farm, as he tried to kill one of his ewes last fall.
Now to finish my cup of coffee and back outside. We had a set of Coopworth twins early this morning and I want to check on them. One of our Polypays is soon to lamb. And Nutmeg, another of our Shetlands, had a difficult lambing this morning - I ended up having to corral her and pull the lamb. Lamb is a ewe (I think) and appears to be nursing, but Nutmeg is very skittish and I wanted to back off and let them do their thing without me hovering. I thought that was a good excuse to come in for a few minutes and have my first cup of the morning.
Monday, April 19, 2010
This little one was either just getting up from a nap on Mom's back or is using her as a springboard in a game of lamb tag. It's very hard to get action shots, in the barn, at dusk. This was the best I could do.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Second lambs, born this morning - around 10:30. Clun Forest x Polypay. I think she was only having twins - once I got her in the jug, she refused to turn around for me so I could check to see if more were on the way. She is very skittish and I don't like stressing her too much when she is in that tiny space with new lambs - so I try to stay out of her way. Fortunately, she is one of the best moms in the pasture, so I don't worry about her too much.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
We stayed right in the Fisherman's Wharf district - very nice. We rode cable cars and trolleys. One cable car we took to the cable car museum, where we saw the continuously running cables that make the cable cars move. When we attempted to get back on a cable car to continue on our way, they were very crowded, so we decided to walk for awhile. We ended up in Chinatown. I'm glad the cable car was crowded. Chinatown was fascinating - all the shop signs were in Chinese with no English translations. We turned down a little alley and found a little "factory" making fortune cookies (it's actually written up in all the guide books, but I had sort of forgotten about it until we came upon it). I had a nice picture of Chinatown to insert here, but too many pixels.
We took a ferry to Alcatraz - the night tour (meaning we took the ferry over about 6:30 and returned to Fisherman's Wharf around 9:00 for a late supper - I think Nicholas really wanted to take the NIGHT tour, so he could look for the ghosts he had seen on "Ghost Hunters"). Very interesting place, kind of depressing, though - although I guess that was the whole point in putting the prison there. I had pictures of that too.
In Golden Gate Park, we stopped by the Academy of Sciences, where we took in the Planetarium show. We had tea at the Japanese Tea Garden (Nicholas took a perfect picture of the tea garden framed by gorgeous flowers - rhododendrons, maybe - too many pixels).
One morning we took a cab out to the San Francisco end of the famous bridge (picture of that too that you are not seeing). I took pictures at Fort Point, pictures of Sausalito and Alcatraz Island across the Bay, pictures of the Pacific on the other side of the bridge. Lots of pictures, as we walked all the way back to the hotel - must have been 10 miles or so - just kidding - it was probably only 3 or 4 miles. We visited the USS Hornet, had ice cream at Ghirardelli's, saw the port of Oakland - one of the coolest things was just before we landed back in Milwaukee - our flight followed I-94 and I got a picture of Johnson Creek and even saw our farm from the plane (although, in all honesty, the picture of the farm didn't turn out, so you aren't missing a picture of that).
We ate lots of good food, although I didn't take pictures of that, so nothing missing there - salmon, clams, calamari, dungeness crab - we had an absolutely fantastic lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant - Kitchen Kura, I think it was called - probably a few health code violations there - but I actually ate my whole meal with chopsticks - they didn't offer stainless (although we did get Nicholas a fork so, as Larry put it, he wouldn't starve to death). We actually do have a picture of the outside of the restaurant, but - oh, you know by now. And I made it to one yarn store - no pictures, but I do have a picture of the yarn I bought - I took that after we got home with my very old, 1.3 mega pixel camera!
Lambing should start any day now. Hopefully not tonight, as we are getting rain at the moment, which sounds like it is turning to sleet and is predicted to turn to snow before morning. I'll try to blog once in awhile after the lambs start arriving.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I thought it fit right in with the Olympics, as it was knit up in the colors that were on all the bibs that the athletes wore and adorned the banners along the sidelines of the events. I'm not sure what they called their colors, but mine are Toe Jamz "Lavender & Sage" and Dream in Color Smooshy "Some Summer Sky". Pattern, "Chevron Scarf" from the book "Last Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson. I made my scarf much shorter than the pattern, as I just wanted to hang it over my neck, not loop it all around - an advantage of being short, less yarn used on a scarf! And I have enough of both yarns left that I could do socks to match.
Although the Olympics are no longer a timely subject, I just wanted to say that I thought Vancouver did a lovely job - I would very much like to visit someday, so their tourism board was successful in this household. And I noticed that Canadians all seem to know the words to their national anthem. And they sing it out proudly. Why don't we do that in this country? I suspect that most of us don't really know the words to our national anthem - my excuse is the wide range of notes and my really lousy singing voice. It's quite embarrassing to try to hit those high notes of "the rockets' red glare" when no one else in your part of the stadium is doing more than, maybe, moving their lips. If you need to refresh your memory, or if you want to read the history of our national anthem, see here.
In other news: Well, there really isn't much "other news". February was a quiet month. My excuse for being lazy - resting up for shearing in March and lambing starting in April. We shear next week - lots of rain lately, but fortunately most of the sheep are smart enough to go into their barns/shelters when it is pouring. I was out yesterday feeling of fleeces and they were fairly dry. We now have forecast several dry sunny days before the shearer arrives. If that changes, I will be locking them into their shelters.
Here are some pics of the Shetland girls still in full fleece - can't wait to get those fleeces on the skirting table!
The big news yesterday - I am now officially a "Loopy Groupie"! I not only scored a skein of the Sanguine Gryphon's Bugga Sock yarn (that was what I ordered, it's the dark yarn on the right - the rest is Loopy loot), but I received my Loopy Groupie welcome pack, full of lots of nice gifts. Thank you, Sheri!
Well, Nicholas has a cold and he has just informed me, that in spite of the fact that doing chores would allow him to drive the riding lawn mower around the property, he does not feel up to doing them. So I guess I better have another cup of coffee and maybe a long john and get my own self out there to feed the sheep. At least the hoses are again connected and I don't have to haul endless buckets of water out to them.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
So I cast on another one, although, since I'm not made of money, I am doing this one out of Lion Brand's new wool/acrylic blend "Amazing" in the colorways Aurora and Mesa. It is a pinkish/purplish thing with some blues, golds and autumn tones mixed in. Not quite as bright pink as it shows up in the picture. I'm not a "pink" person and I have absolutely nothing to wear with it - of course, I guess it would go with my barn jacket, which is black - but the sheep might revolt if they saw me wearing a scarf that was partially acrylic!
So, January is almost over - a quiet time here, really. The rams went back together after breeding season fairly uneventfully, earlier this month. The ewes are getting fat, hopefully the adults are all bred - lambing is scheduled to begin mid-April. We've got a month and a half before shearing. So I think I will enjoy this relative lull and do some spinning and knitting and look forward to warmer weather and lots of woolly twins!