Monday, December 22, 2008

December, Christmas is coming, Hanukkah's here

I'll find a photo or two to insert later-- I'm at the library!
My camera isn't doing justice to the winter wonderland outside, and it's so danged cold this month I haven't been strolling around taking pictures.
Lycra "longjohns", snowpants, barn boots, two pairs of socks, balaclava, lined leather gloves, heavy "barn" coat, and I head out the door each day to feed and water the sheep and birds.
When I come in after 45 minutes, I rarely want to go out again.
If you live in the US you have heard how cold and snowy it is, enough said.

On my last post, I posted a goodbye picture from July the ram. . . who is still here, keeping big boy Mullein company. The Willis' from WI prefered a gray spottie I had named Mike, they renamed Wrigley (his mother is Minwawe Chicklet).
I used NASSA's new online system to register the ram--that was so slick! So now Wrigley lives in WI. We did the interstate paperwork correctly, too-- another thing to learn. Vet check, etc. . .

This is the first of 8 days of Hanukkah, and my family celebrates that tradition as well as Christmas, which will be here soon, as well.

I am writing the annual Holiday letter and mailing cards at the last moment... but it's fun to create the letter.
I took pictures of Howard plowing snow with the big red tractor yesterday-- I'll see if I can get one of those photos in here.

Everyone enjoy this last two weeks of 2008; especially the time you spend with families and friends.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 08, Election over, hooray!

I just got tired of it. Everyone did, I know. But I got tired of the meanness, people forgetting to care that when they insulted the other candidate, they might be insulting their friend or acquaintance who LOVED that candidate.
I think unless you're on the high school debate team, mediated, you need to watch what you say to others.
Okay, that was MY soapbox moment.
Back to sheep and family-- we have a new president, hooray. It's done.

My ewes are getting really wide with wool-- but snowy backgrounds make the picture dark, so here's a shot of grassy green September days. This picture makes me yearn for warm weather, already!

It's LRO Maple front and center, but perky Lassi, the finnsheep, is peering around her. Lassi has "smirslet" white head markings and white feet, with a fawn, crimpy wool. The finn wool is, I think, like Bluefaced Leicester-- crimped tightly, and lustrous.
This weekend was our first shocking winter cold after a week of balmy 70s-- good thing I took advantage of that time to mow, rake, clean barns, etc. On Saturday, we caught, wormed and hoof trimmed my 15 ewes, some of whom seem HUGE now with all their wool (and maybe, they DID get enough to eat this fall). Someone called to talk about getting a ram, two other folks came out for other reasons, and we baked pumpkins and pumpkin bread in the house. A nice, cozy way to spend the rest of that day.
Sunday, we visited Carlson's Lovable Llama farm with the 4H group-- piercing cold wind, but nice proprieter. He told the kids how they could lease a llama, for next to nothing, and learn to show them. We all walked llamas around on lead ropes. Gentle animals. Incredible long "fleece" on them, some ringleted. Interesting.

I'm still deciding breeding groups, here, wanting to limit the number of pens I have to bring hay and water to throughout December.
I have recommended July, out of LRO April and a mioget ram, Firth of Fifth Bourbon, to the Wisconsin family looking for a last-minute ram . I really think he is perfect, with a tail and legs I'd like on all my lambs. However, he's pretty related to a lot of the little ewes, and I don't really want horns anymore.

Here's friendly July, saying hello/goodbye. They might choose a spotted gray, Mike, we'll see.

Enjoy your holiday preparations, everyone.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October's Chill

Here are some ewes in the field on Saturday, when it was warm and the fall colors glorious.

The chill is from sending little rams off to butcher, sigh. But so much less pressure on the pastures and hay barn, it's a great relief.
I had butcher dates for the 10 ram lambs I did not need, and got their lovely fleece sheared off on Saturday. I decided to spare one with scurs, several other really good looking boys. . . Then, a local guy called me and came to take all the lambs, himself, off to his restaurant buyers. Less work for me! And the price was just what I'd have made through processing and selling the meat myself.
But I remember the little rams sadly.
I'll recover. Here is pretty little Mari the finnsheep, our sweetest, follow-you-everywhere lamb who was a bottle fed quad, at one time.

And this is the, ahem, social activity at the fence line lately.

Every sheep thinks the other sheep smell VERRRY interesting. I'll keep the boys from the girls for another month, so the lambs will arrive after April 15th, 2009.
I just started a tax specialist job at AgStar Financial. Tax returns for farmers, what could be better?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Fun

We had a little fun with the garden produce tonight. Of course, I have to weigh any of the zucchini that hide until they are bigger than my child was at birth.
And Howard had to photograph the event, so I added garden veggies for a still life!
Orient Express and Fairy Tale eggplant, cocozelle zuchini, a tomato. . . The old scale indadvertantly acquired at an auction really works, and reads 7.25 lbs.

The other day, I took a few pictures of Little Red Oak Maple, my best ewe, Highland Hollow Bluebell,'s '08 daughter. Here are the two lovelies. I was thinking I'd sell Maple, because she doesn't like me, and you know, more room in the barn this winter, more hay for everyone else. . .
but she is so very pretty, I couldn't do it. She looks like Bluebell did as a lamb, with that super-pouf coat of wool. She is musket, but her brown base is really a modified one-- it was obvious at birth. So she can throw some more lovely lambs, maybe solid mioget. Now, if I can only get her to be less afraid of us. Bluebell's not!

We sold 3 more ewes last weekend to a farm-neighbor who was missing having sheep. He used to raise suffolk/hamps. This should be different for him! We sold him some very good brown and spotted ewes as unregistered-- we're getting down to only my favorite or best stock, now-- there are 13 shetland ewes remaining, and two finn girls. I still think springtime lambing will be wild with their thirty lambs coming! And right now, they all fit in the horse's shed in a rainstorm!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September, ushering in Fall

Cool nights, sunny days. . . and school is in session again.
We finished summer with a trip to the Minnesota State Fair. Emily had a 4H exhibit and earned a blue ribbon; I put weaving and spinning entries in (for the first time!)and we all enjoyed our day walking the miles of fairgrounds, taking in the exhibits, sights and sounds.
Here am I in front of the fiber art case:

And here are Emily and Howard in the big butterfly building exhibit:

We had so much fun.
The next morning, I piled out of bed, assembled materials and drove up-country to Pam Davis', another Shetland shepherd near Cokato, MN. She was hosting a natural dyeing workshop taught by Karen Rohnsvoog. The participants had spent Friday gathering pots of dye materials, and when I arrived Saturday, I just had to make little skeins of white wool and try the different dye pots. Oh, and also help everyone mix up a vat of indigo I'd brought from my vegetable garden. The colors were amazing-- see here some results:

The dyes were: left: a combination of lead plant, goldenrod and indigo. I'd dipped a ball of yarn in the three pots in succession. Next, indigo, near the end of the day, so lighter blue; the gray is from purple basil; canary yellow is from apple bark; bright orange-yellow is wood sunflower; light sage green is Black Raspberry (leaves?); dark indigo blue from an early dip in the vat; goldenrod; and logwood.

Amazing. Beautiful, naturally obtained colors. I want to weave a plaid scarf from the colors just to remember that day and how much fun it was.

I'm meeting spinners on Thursday for another fiber outing-- the Northern Lights Handspinners' group-- and I regret that I WON'T be going to the big Shetland Sheep show and Fiber weekend in Jefferson, WI this weekend. A family reunion, and finally, the necessity of bringing the last of our hay into the barn on Friday clinched that decision for me.

I'll spend the coming weeks processing garden produce-- selling some, giving some to the middle school teachers, librarians, anyone!-- and canning and freezing more.

Today I worried about hay for the winter-- the last cutting is laying on the fields, drying after a drenching rain on Tuesday, sigh. And there isn't much baled from this whole summer. This summer and last, a younger guy with haying equipment did all the work of haying our 8 acres of hayfields and gave us a third of the take. Last year there was enough for 23 sheep and two horses.
The horses are gone now (Yes! KC found a good home!) but this year there won't be enough for 25 sheep, even.
So I worried. And made an appointment with a country butcher to process 10 lambs in a month or so. Ram lambs. Nature makes too many of them, I'm afraid.
Anyway, Fall begins. It's a beautiful time of year.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August, Summer's last hurrah

Yikes, 5 weeks since last blog! Too busy enjoying the sun and green and all growing things, I guess.
First, we hatched a lot of monarchs in the kitchen again. This one is a boy. . .

. . . and this one is a girl. Google the answer as to how we know, or you can ask me! ;-)

Next, we got about 30 exhibits ready and took 'em to the Carver County Fair. Garden flowers, zucchinis, eggplant, Child's weaving, my spinning and weaving. . . At the fair, Sister, Child and Husband posed in front of someone else's lovely pumpkin exhibit.

And when that week was done, we brought all our ribbons home. Four days at the fair makes a happy, busy week.

I remembered this year!--to enter in the sheep's wool exhibit in the livestock building, and we took home the grand champion and reserve champion ribbons! Yay for LittleRedOak Mullein, the Shetland ram (light gray, just crimpy-gorgeous)and good old Minwawe Panda Bear, an older ewe with silvering black fleece! I wouldn't agree with the judge on his order of ribbons, but what the heck?

Tomorrow I'm taking my 90-year-old Father in Law to the library to show him what a blog looks like.
Hello, Arnold! We love you!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Finn Sheep!

Yep, I decided I really wanted these new beauties. My spinner friend Angie said "I'd vote for that, they have yummy wool". I wanted sheep that would get a little bigger than Shetlands, while having a similar look, colors and patterns.
And I like it that they are polled, too.

I bought these registered Finn sheep from Gale Woods Farm, a Minneapolis-Metro area (Three Rivers Park District)farm demonstration park. The site manager has a flock of cluns, border leicesters, finn and icelandic sheep.

A light brown ram was available, I heard, and I picked a white ewe (we named Mari) and a spotted, light brown ewe we named Lassi. We're calling the ram Osmo, for Osmo Vanska, the conductor of a local Minnesota orchestra. It was one of the few Finn names we knew.

Other doings here include the usual summer vegetable gardening, some remodelling on the house, drain tile excavating being done. . . and we're selling the little horse we got last fall. We decided to spend the money his hay costs on lessons instead of feeding and watering the horse. More fun! So if anyone wants a little POA/Morgan cross who used to do barrel-racing, he's waiting for a job!

I've also been selling ewes and lambs (those who don't like me) to a young man from a nearby farm who is, apparently, smitten with the Shetlands. I'm giving him a very good deal, and I feel like I'M getting a great deal: these ewes can go on to lead productive lives at Andrew's farm while he learns about breeding our beautiful little sheep. So, I have no guilt, while keeping my flock size manageable.

I do have a number of little rams this year, and I hate to see the great modified genetics of FirthofFifth Don Telmo Bourbon go for naught. His beautiful mioget color will surely shine out of some of his descendants, if anyone needs a ram.

I had 14 ram lambs this year, and at least 5 were moorit/fawn/mioget (it's not apparent with many of the modifieds, for a while). These rams are out of Bourbon and Little Red Oak Amy, LRO April and LRO Mallow. Amy is fawn, April and Mallow are both friendly, great-looking moorit ewes. They are 3 very different lines. Their sons are all handsome boys I can barely tell apart. Here's one, hanging around while other lambs get lamb-lead class.

Also pictured is one of Minwawe Chicklet and Minwawe Equator's gray and white flecket sons, Mike or Ike; they are also available.

I hope everyone's having a great summer that included fireworks on the Fourth of July!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Learning new genes-- for Horns and Modified color

Hi everyone,
I am one lazy blogger -- or one busy shepherd, this spring. You'd think I didn't have sheep to sell, I've been so reluctant to post information! I DO, so if you need sheep or lambs, email me!
But right now, I'm puzzling on colors and horn types that cropped up in this years' lamb crop.

One handsome lad, the first born, who has a modified (fawn? mioget?)golden color --
He is a twin out of Justalitl Sarah, my fawn ewe-- but the dad was not my mioget ram, FirthofFifth don Telmo Bourbon-- he was my best fleece/tiny horn guy, Little Red Oak Mullein.
So what gives? I wonder. 'Splain to me these horn genetics and these modifieds. . . because it sure looks like he's got the tiniest little horns coming I ever saw in a 7-week old ram. I knew his dad had tiny horns-- and I still don't know if they are "scurs" or just "teacup" horns or "aberrant" horns-- they should teach a class. I know, I AM a member of the Yahoo group about Polled Genetics, and I'm doing my best to "get" it.

Soooo.... here's a picture of several rammies last April, woefully unclothed after shearing. This is AFTER they remembered each other without their fleeces, and were on speaking terms again. ;-) There's a lot of head-butting until then. You can see Mr. Mighty Horns, LRO Alex; a nice brown (moorit) boy with normal enough horns, and third, Mullein, the guy with the not-so-hot but maybe that's good- horns. His right (our left) horn broke the tip off when he was younger.

I throw in this post-shearing picture to show the difference between a mature moorit ewe, in the middle, Sheltering Pines Ferah, contrasted with the mature fawn ewe, Justalitl Sarah, on right. Really pale color at the skin. And some light hairs on her nose-tip, something I've seen on another modified ewe Kim Nikolai brought me, Bramble Bess.

Finally, I just cave for these little white lambs I got this year. This is Little Red Oak Elwood, out of Bramble Elsie and LRO Mullein. He's handsome, don't you think?

See you next week, when I really , really need to talk about which sheep need new homes!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day weekend

Minnesota is officially in Spring, though it's in the 50s at night-- full green and sunny, tulips up, lilacs blooming, dandelions infuriating or delighting-- depending on your mood. We've been terrifically busy for two solid weeks --we hosted a big family event. The house, the grounds, even the barns got cleaned because all the friends and relatives came out last Sunday. . . and now we can relax on Memorial Day.
Our lambs are delighting us. They're plumper and fluffier at 2-5 weeks of age, and many are more adventurous, less timid around us. They crawl under gates to go to the lamb playground, a few wooden structures they like to climb on. Then they rejoin their moms in the pasture that's knee-high in alfalfa and grass.

This little white ram is out of Bramble Elsie-- LRO Mullein the father. His mom is a sweet ewe, we'll watch how he develops. I'm delighted to see white lambs this year. Minwawe Lopper's unnamed moorit daughter is snuggling the boy.

Finally, Chicklet's ram sons (gray and white flecket) got named Mike and Ike, for the candy we like so well. One is really friendly, though we turn him away. Very sweet. We're just getting to know the little lambs now, and evaluate them.

I've had a few inquiries about lambs-- we're still looking at them all. I know the two friendliest girls will stay-- maybe 3-- but there will be a few that need homes, and boy, do we have BOYS that need homes. One is a gorgeous mioget ram lamb out of Justalit'l Sarah and FirthofFifth don Telmo Bourbon. Solidly built, crimpy from head to toe, golden brown in color.
There also appears to be a LRO Mullein look-alike in the pack- cute gray nose on his black body, same little horn buds his dad had (and they are fine, now). We'll see but I bet he'll be another great fleece and conformation builder for a flock. A moorit flecket or HST-- his picture was shown weeks back-- Abbot.

More to come soon, glad to be back.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last lambs of 08 before Shepherd's Harvest

I think we are done. Minwawe Lopper delivered two ewe lambs last Monday morning, Cinco de Mayo, a black one and a brown one, white tracery around the head-- No spots, darn! They are out of LROak Mullein, the new fleece king. So we will see how these little girls look later. These two ewes made it, I think, 14 rams to 8 ewe lambs out of 12 bred ewes. 5 ewes didn't take--! I was surprised that NONE of the girls I left with Mr. Big Horns and Great Spots, LRO Alex, got bred. I don't doubt his sperm count, but it showed me that those little rams can get no respect (or anything else) from the ewes. He was small-- as a lot of breeders like them-- and I saw this 2 winters ago, when Minwawe Silver could not get a girl to take him seriously, but they sure did the following winter, when he had more size to him.
I didn't mind having open ewes-- I don't need that many lambs-- but I did want to see Alex's offspring. So that will have to wait.
Happy to be done lambing, though.
I spent the day at the wonderful Shepherd's Harvest in Lake Elmo, hawking fleece and roving to a crowd who really wants it. That was very successful, so my storage space will free up, here. The company there was great, and the other exhibitors have truly beautiful yarns and other products.
I'm going back tomorrow. Happy Mother's Day to those who will be busy celebrating that!

Monday, May 5, 2008

And more babies. . .

So here is Minwawe Chicklet, a grey flecket ewe, and her two new fine sons, either black flecket or gray, like mom-- too early to tell yet. They may both be gray-- but we'll see.
Chicklet's the one who tried to mother up Elsie's newborns, until she inexplicably produced two of her own to take care of, and then felt all better. One of her rams had a "leg back" at the shoulder (for non-shepherds, that means NOT the normal birth position of chin and nose resting atop toes of two front feet; here, one leg is forward, one back along the body). This was the second time I experienced this type of birth, the first being only 10 days ago. The books say: push the baby back inside, bring the 2nd leg forward, pull the legs out front together. I say, you expect me to get my hand next to that baby in that tight passageway? I just pulled the one leg and head together, and baby boy slipped right out, leg back and all.
But maybe that only works well when the ewe's already enlarged by the first delivery.
Anyway, I think I'm learning.

Second picture: little katmoget baby May, out in the grass with the big sheep. Pretty darned cute. Her mama tells her to keep away from us, although her mama loves us.
I don't understand.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Baby bonanza in the barn

7am Sunday.
Bramble Elsie says, "My God, that was EXHAUSTING! They don't call it LABOR for nuttin'! I'm working on delivering my second baby and some crazy spotted ewe comes and starts claiming my firstborn like it was hers! An' I'm, like, incapacitated, lying there, trying to get No. 2 ram-baby into the world, and Other-ewe, Mom-zilla, is licking off my son, talking to him, telling him she's his mama! It's enough to drive a girl INSANE!"

(The shepherds found this whole affair rather difficult, as well. These two ram lambs are out of Elsie [NOT CHICKLET!-- who produced flecket ram lambs 2 hours later!] and Little Red Oak Mullein-- and are solid gray and white ram lambs.)

Darn! No offense to the male gender out there, but we just don't need so many guys in the flock! Chicklet's two made it 14 ram lambs vs. 6 ewe lambs. Oy.

See you tomorrow. Fingers crossed for ewe lambs!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Some lamb photos, finally!

Announcing, Alyssum and Catnip, out of Little Red Oak (LRO)Yarrow and Minwawe Equator!
The friendliest, suck on-your-pantsleg-climb-in-your-lap little ewe lambs ever!

And Little Red Oak Abby and Equator's son, hmmm. . . Abbot?-- may change that name. An extremely friendly boy (Dad Equator is-- Abby is NOT). Having encouraged him to like people, I now have to turn aside when I see him, so I don't have a ram who butts for attention!

And June, the tiniest, intense and friendly solid brown (moorit) ewe lamb, out of Little Red Oak April and FirthofFifth D.T. Bourbon. Her solid brown twin is July!

Not a very fine photo of our newest, little Katmoget LRO May, out of Minwawe November (a fawn katmoget) and Equator. She could've been spotted and Kat, but I think just Kat-- what do you think? All those color changes on one fleece!

Finally, what to do with all these new lambs? Sit and pet them, of course!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

No babies for a week, now a Katmoget!

We had our first little katmoget ewe lamb, Little Red Oak May, out of Minwawe November. Just born today, mother and daughter are doing great. Photos of a DRY baby tomorrow!

Here, too, is a photo of Bluebell's babies born a week ago-- the ones who've given me a great scare twice so far--
I still don't know if they had a selenium deficiency or something like "navel ill"-- a systemic bacterial infection--
but I've been catching and giving .25 cc shots to these little ones all week. Selenium, twice, antibiotic, twice. I've been talking to vets by phone--
They seem quite a bit better.
Bluebell's ewe lamb is really exquisite-- her fleece has the velour look that her big brother, Mullein's did, and I was right about him-- it was great when sheared.
Her color is the modified, mioget or fawn of her dad, FirthofFifth Don Telmo Bourbon-- but she is Ag and will fade to musket. She also has spotting around her head, behind the ears, here and there. She'll throw some lovely lambs and produce a lovely fleece.
Jimson is Bluebell's white ram-- he was the sickest of these two. Right now he has loose white curls-- so what his fleece will be like when mature, I don't know, but will wait eagerly to see. I'm so happy to have a white lamb, it's my first!

Now today, November's katmoget girl. She's only thrown solid lambs before, and singles each time-- but she is small. Maybe Nature limits the number of lambs if the ewes are smaller.

The past two days were spent gardening, ahead of the storm that is now thrashing about outside. Yesterday, we moved about 40 strawberry plants that had been planted by birds in my perennial flower beds and made a little patch-- fenced the chickens out of it and congratulated ourselves on a fine job!

Today, we moved about 30 orange daylilies to a long line along our 40' pole shed. We also dug two small ash trees up and put them in one of the ewes' pastures, with guards around them against the sheep. We're hoping they'll "take" well at this time of year, and give shade, someday, to the animals.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Back at the Library

Hi again--library, same story. This was funny--Emily and I went home from the library on that sunny Wednesday afternoon, and from the driveway, could see Little Red Oak Malicious (oops, Mallow) bending over and licking a brown lamb clean. It was a lovely day, so we waited for her to finish up outside-- and she did, delivering a second ram a few minutes later.

Then we noticed her grandma, HH Bluebell, groaning on her side on the lawn nearby. We jugged Mallow and sons (both brown, one with white tufts behind the ears and cheeks) and gave Bluebell a few minutes. She can only produce Ag or Awt lambs, so. . . a brown (musket, then) ewe popped out first, a big girl, with white tracery around her head, identical to her older sister, Yarrow-- and then, a white ram lamb. My first white lamb! Same brown speckled legs and face and tail tip, like his mother. The fleece is what Bluebell's all about, and I just don't know, yet, about these two. The musket ewe is curlier than big sis, Yarrow, and the white ram has super-soft curls, but not tight.
So it will be exciting to see them both grow up and develop.
Library's closing, gotta go!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lambs all around and I Can't Blog

Lambing, and I can't blog. . .
Grrr, how frustrating.
Something about cookies being disabled, blah blah-- I am so mad at my computer. I am at the library today, accessing my blog remotely.
But my photos are at home on that computer, so they will be added when I figure out Blogger's persnickety problem. (I DID! on Friday, 4/26!)

We've had some lovely lambs over the past 5 days. Things began on Friday night, 11pm. JustaLit'l Sarah produced twin boys. She has a (locally)favored fawn fleece, and one son is milk chocolate colored (fawn, I'd say) while one is dark chocolate (moorit). One has tight little curls in his fleece, I think the milk chocolate guy. One has a tiny white spot on his head (indicating spotted recessive gene? We can hope.) They're tall, good looking boys.

The next day, Little Red Oak April had another set of brown twins, but one is M and one is F. Adorable, friendly and approachable lambs from Day 1. Now bouncing around in the field.
Sunday was a day of rest, and then:
1am, Little Red Oak Yarrow delivered two ewe lambs: one a moorit HST, the other a musket with white tracery all over her head. Yay! Looking just as Yarrow did 2 years ago. And their fleece looks curlier, too-- Yarrow's is only wavy, but very thick.

6am, Amy twinned, 2 more fawn/moorit rams, just like Amy's mother, Justalit'l Sarah.

6pm, just before the thunderstorm began, Ferah produced black twins, M&F.
More about that later.

Tuesday, little yearling Abby produced a little spotted ram.

Now, waiting for the next wave (and ready to fall asleep at this computer.
So I'll sign off and come back when I am not SOOO SLEEPY.
Happy Spring, all.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Still waiting for Spring, and lambs. . .

But we got the shearing done, last Sunday! Here's a photo of Little Red Oak Mullein's fleece.
He's the son of Highland Hollows Bluebell and Little Red Oak Frazier; I posted photos of him and spotty Alex together in a field, last November. Mullein is light gray and apparently inherited a significant part of Bluebell's wonderful, crimpy fleece. So I was happy to see the fleece at shearing day-- he is not one to let me sidle up to him for a look just anytime, you see. He keeps his distance.

I can't go further without saying a word about our old Jake-kitty, who passed away this week. On Thursday, my daughter and I sat weeping in the vet's office with our big, white, purring kitty in our lap, waiting while all the other cute little dogs and cats of Norwood got taken care of. I think we gave all the other folks pause, but it seemed as natural as rain to do what we did. We'd already seen the vet and knew we had a decision to make-- and after holding him quietly that long time, we let him go. . . and now there's one less white kitty at Little Red Oak Farm.

So here's a memorial photo of a fine kitty, with his favorite girl.

And now on with the weekend, and when the lambs start coming here next week, I'll write about every one.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March, still waiting for Spring

This is Copper, a little ewe born here in 2006 out of Twin Brooks Nugget and Bluff Country Bravo. She was afraid of me for a full year-- just her nature. Her mom always kept herself just beyond my fingertips, but wasn't really fearful-- Copper stayed well away-- until last summer. Well, when she was pregnant for the first time, last Spring, actually-- she let me pet her over the wire gate one night, a long, long time-- and that was it. A singular bout of affectionate contact. She had her little twins in April, and all three stayed away all of May and June. Then I promised to sell them all to new shepherds. I'd even sold Copper's mother. Is that what did it? Copper suddenly adopted me. I mean, yearned for me, ran over to the fence for petting. I couldn't sell her after that. I talked the buyer into accepting a little, perfect ewe lamb in Copper's place, at a bargain price.
Now I have a(nother) best friend who I like very much.

The ewes are getting grain at night, now-- not a lot, but it's a concentrated source of food in these last few weeks of their pregnancy, when there's not much room in the belly for food that is bulky-- the usual hay.
All the sheep are ROUND and WIDE with wool and babies inside.
We shear next Sunday morning, the 6th, and expect a few helpers to come out-- if you are free, you are invited!
I'll try to put some pictures in here. In another 3 weeks, the babies start to come!

Happy Spring, even if the snow still stands where you are!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Peepers in February!

January was peaceful, albeit brutally COLD at times;
I met nice spinner-women on many occasions and passed many lovely hours spinning, talking, always learning from them about the projects they're making, the equipment they use, the fibers they spin with. That has been the surprise reward of raising sheep, for me. I began with no desire to spin or felt, and could've finished out my life without weaving again. . . but here I am, surrounded by these gentle, creative (mostly) women, so I began. Their friendship and company is very warming in these wintery months.
When I came home from the Northern Lights Handspinners' retreat on January 20 (my birthday weekend. what a great present!) I learned that one of our hens was broody.
You non-fowl people: broody means the hen wants to "set" (incubate and hatch) some eggs. This is evidenced by said hen sitting stubbornly and exclusively in the nest box on whatever eggs are there, or none, if they've been taken out. We've been through this a half dozen times in our 5 years with chickens, and we almost always let the hens who want to, set eggs.

So see what Emily's favorite hen did? After 20 days of sub zero weather, she's kept a clutch of eggs warm enough to pop 4 little chicks into being! No. 5 is still out there wet and flopped in the straw. I'll see in the morning if he's alright. A few more may follow. (I should add: the hen house has a small propane heater and a wood stove; she didn't do it ALL herself!)

Yes, we've been through this over a half dozen times, but we still get so excited to see the babies, so Emily and I fussed and set up a perfect chick play area, and Howard went out to take baby pictures. This is the first!

My final story of the week: about the lady who called and said our wonderful country vet, Dr. Molnau, told her I might be able to give a home to her 3 shetland sheep who needed one. I told her I didn't really NEED any more sheep, but I am sympathetic to animals who NEED homes, so I asked about their color, age, etc.
It was soon apparent to me that this was a woman I had SOLD these sheep to last June, and she'd forgotten my name! These were pets to her, and now, she told me, her relationship was breaking up and he didn't want any animals left behind!
I really didn't want to bring these sheep back here, as it would mess up my scrapie certification date, upset my ram pen with a new addtion, and I was trying to keep the number of black sheep down. . .
To make a long story short, I went to see them-- and the pony she also needed to place. Partly I just wanted to see, again, the farm where the animals bunked in new, roomy horse stalls in a barn with a chandelier! And the sheep were lovely, soft with the cleanest long wool! I convinced Terri Drimel, another MN shepherd, that they were worthy animals and that I could restore their status to pedigreed-- and she took them home. End of story.
Lucky animals, and everyone is happy.
Have a nice Valentine's Day, everyone! And just remember that spring is right around the corner. ;-)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ah, January!

Happy New Year!
I'd better post a snowy scene, quick, before it all melts next week! We have had the usual Minnesota -10 to +28 degree weather since the first snows came in early December, so it's stayed on the ground all month. Now they tell us we will have temps above freezing for 4-5 days, so this should be interesting.
Before it's gone, here's a snowy scene of my two old farm cats, Frances and Jake. They "came with" the farm when we bought it 4 years ago. This is the only season in which their natural camouflage coloring works, so I had to catch them sunning in front of their barn. Frances is in the wonderful black plastic sled made for hauling hay bales, and Jake poses modestly in front of the old runner sled now made obsolete by the plastic sled. (Shepherd's tip: the black sled also worked really well as a hay manger-- until it was needed to tackle the deep snow. Same manufacturer as those round plastic calf huts we all like as little sheep shelters.)

Now, secondly, someone once wanted to see a picture of Bourbon (Firth of Fifth Don Telmo Bourbon), a very pretty, mioget? fawn? caramel-colored ram that Garrett Ramsay so generously let me buy last summer. I did catch a nice picture of him with Minwawe Equator last November-- these two senior rams together, just before they were sent into breeding pens with the girls. So here is that photo. Bourbon's on the right. He's going to need a new home or, ahem, another situation soon. I can't wait to see his caramelly offspring in April, but I never want to put him near a building I value again. Of course, maybe some advance planning will take care of that.

Have a great New Year! I am happy to be through the holidays, fun as they were, and on into spinning & weaving season!