Monday, May 30, 2011

The Little Things

I was going to make a post about the Big Things around here, like the view down the valley from the barn door, and the size of the flock spread out (and some are over the knoll of the hill).

Cool and cloudy, just what the sheep like.

The sheep have the best view on the farm

Sheep spread out as far as the eye can see

But then coming back to the house I saw a cool Little Thing.  LOTS of them in fact.

Salutations, Wilbur!

Apparently, the overlapping edges of the siding on the house was a safe place to put a big spider egg sac last fall.  They are blurry if you biggify, but trust me - they are black and yellow and might grow up to look like this: 
Yellow Garden Spider

There were several of these beauties in the privet hedge last year.  By the next morning the little ones were all gone, carried away by their silk draglines, just like Charlotte's children.

Alexi says,

Spiders? Ptooie. No meat on 'em.

We'll look for more big and little things tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

THIS........ is Spring

Except for lambing season, which only hints that spring is coming...........

Nothing says Spring to me like plants growing  and blooming.

Of course, there's the lawn which has gotten out of hand......

Eeesh, this could take a while....

But there are also actual flowers!

Solomon's Seal and Money Wort


Holly in the Forget-Me-Nots with Bleeding Heart behind

 Eighty degrees tomorrow?  Bring it on!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Spring Cleaning

In a week the flock has pretty much eaten the Baby Pasture down to the nubbins.

Wish our lawn was this short

After a week of becoming acclimated to fresh grass it was safe to let the sheep out on the main pasture for the bulk of the day.  This gave us time to clean the concrete barn yarn and bunk space.  Andy scrapes the concrete clean about every other day with the skidsteer, and pushes the manure into the corner of the bunk until there's enough to make a spreader load.  Today there was enough accumulation to warrant bringing in the spreader.  We swung the big gate to let the spreader in and keep the sheep out in the pasture. 

Hot stuff

We lo-o-o-o-ove hydraulics

The manure is not on fire.  Being in a pile, it is heating as any good compost pile would.  The kicker is that it's 42 degrees out.  Forty. Two.  As in, 10 degrees away from having water turn to ice.  At 2 PM.  May 16th.  So when you stir it, the manure steams like a pot of soup.   I am not a happy camper.  The sheep, however, are thrilled with this weather.  No bugs, no hot sun, just cool grass.  Still, sheep and cats always think they are on the wrong side of a closed door - or gate.  So, when we swung the gate shut behind the skidder the sheep took it as an invitation to come back inside even though they were perfectly happy out there two minutes ago.

Can we come in now?

The sheep were out in a nice light rain yesterday and the Cotswolds are starting to clean up and show their curls.

Yes, don't hate me because I'm beautiful

I can haz curls?

I love the way the lamb wool starts to looks so silky, and it feels that way, too.  Click the picture to biggify.

O, hai!

We had enough sun the other day to wake up my flowers in the bed along the front of the house.  Creeping phlox, basket of gold, candy tuft, aubretia.........

Showers of flowers

And here's a surprise.....I didn't plant this.

The brightest thing in the yard

And if you look closely.......I'm not the only one who might get surprised by this tulip. Click to biggify.

Come into my parlor................

OK, the picture's blurry, but there's a yellow crab spider in there.  You find the neatest stuff when you take  second to look closer at things.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Desperate Times.... for desperate measures.

It's 8 PM Friday night.  The mittens for tomorrow's guild exchange are still wet from washing.  It's raining out, and too humid in the house to dry.  I still need to add an embellishment to the finished (which means 'dry') mittens.  Something must be done.  (Something other than having finished them earlier, that is.)

MacGyver would be proud

The nerd in me is amused that I figured out a way to get them dry in about 15 minutes. 

A pair....wait...geez, they still aren't identical

OK, despite a practice pair of mittens that preceeded them, I have still managed to 1. have them turn out differently in color, and 2. have thumbs and tops that aren't quite shaped the same.  On the upside, the cuffs are more 'cuffy' than the first pair, and they are both about the same girth.  Despite the fact that I frequently held the 4 dpns with as much finesse as a drunken monkey I really think that I could muddle through another pair without having to refer to the pattern.  Thank you, Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild, you forced me to learn something!  (Not that they forced me - they aren't like that at all, they are all very nice people who would never publicly shame you for non-participation....   I mean, I volunteered for the project, but they did provide the spur to encourage me to make the effort).

Beads!  Click to biggify.

And lookie here....I even embellished!  Oh yeah, I'm runnin' with the big dogs now.

Warmer Weather

It's warmed up and dried out enough to start doing fieldwork.

Andy plowing

This field is going to be seeded to timothy, a perennial grass, a planting of which should last several years before naturally dying out and needing to be replanted or more likely switched to another crop.  Timothy hay doesn't have as high  a protein content as does alfalfa, but the sheep don't need the high powered hay except at late gestation/early lactation.  Sometimes - when the weather cooperates - we make enough hay to sell extra to horsey folks in the area.  We haven't been able to do that the last couple of years due to poorly timed wet weather.  I haven't figured out who to complain to about that to get better results :-/  We have needed all we made, and a late spring like this illustrates the logic behind keeping more than you *think* you're going to need.  The flock consumes about 4500 bales each year, all small square bales, all handled by just us.  Plow the field, use a disc, vibrashank or other equipment to fit the field (smooth it out), drill (plant) and fertilize, mow the crop, rake, bale, unload from wagon and mow it in the upper barn (not enough storage space in the lower barn where the sheep live), take it back out of the mow and bring to lower barn load by load as necessary, feed to sheep.... and then take the manure out and put it back on a field.  Ah, the circle of life.

It's much easier when the sheep harvest their own forage and spread their own manure.

Big rams on pasture

Unfortunately, they only get to DIY for about 6 months of the year.  Sometimes we even need to feed hay in the depths of summer if drought and heat keep the pasture grass from growing.

Holly watching the sheep

Holly says, "EVERY day is 'the dog days' around here."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Promised Land!

We have had a miserably cold and wet spring, and pastures are about 2 weeks behind where they should be.  (Note to really can't have too much hay in the barn.)  While I was away at the MD Sheep and Wool Festival, Andy started fixing pasture fence.  Snow load, clumsy deer, falling trees, time, rot.... all those things conspire every year to make the fences tip, sag, or get squashed flat.  The rams went out the day I left, and the ewes and lambs got their first taste of grass on Tuesday.

Sheep are not stupid, although they can make very bad decisions under pressure.  Their strong suit is memory.  Everyone over a year old knows perfectly well that when people are in the pasture they are Doing Something.  The last few days they have been really agitated any time you walk toward the gate, toward the fence or into the feed bunk (it goes to the big pasture).  And yesterday was the Big Day.

GRA-A-A-A-A-S-S-S !!

This is the Baby Pasture.  It's only about an acre and a half in size and is the closest one to the barns and barnyard.  It's a good one to start the flock in each year because of it's ease of access, ease of rounding the flock back up, and lack of serious clover.  After not seeing fresh grass for 6 months, everyone needs some time to acclimate to it to avoid serious digestive problems, including fatal ones.  We allow the sheep 20 minutes only for the first 3-4 days, and that's in the afternoon after they have eaten all the hay from morning chores.  No one OD's on lush pasture and it gives the rumen microbes enough quantity to work with that they can start switching over to processing fresh forage. After that initial few days, the most lush and problematic plants have been eaten down and the sheep can stay out longer each day.  By the time the Baby Pasture is thoroughly eaten down, they can start safely going out to the Big Pasture for a couple of hours in the afternoon, after all the hay has been eaten inside.

I don't know what you call it...but I LIKE it!

Most of the older lambs go right to grazing.  The younger ones nibble, but also do races and jump around a lot.  They have all. this. space.!  

And then the time's up.  It's astounding how much grass they can chow down in 20 minutes of frantic eating and they are actually not too hard to shoo back through the gate.  

Go in??  We just GOT here!

   Don't worry, another 24 hours and we'll let you out again.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Supper Time

Things change so quickly with lambs.  The majority of them have discovered the joys of alfalfa hay.  They have their own creep area that the ewes can't enter, and even though there is room at the other end, they seem to enjoy crowding each other.  It's not worth eating unless I took it away from somebody!

Mine!  Mine!  Mine!

Well heck, if nobody's gonna eat that......I can juuuust reach it. that better over there?

And BB, the bottle lamb, and the others who have been getting supplemented have graduated to the nurse bucket.  Feeding that lot lately has been like showing up for a mugging four times a day: total thuggery - pawing, jumping, shoving......   No personal service now, but it's always there for a slurp as you're going by.

"Momma" had a makeover, kids.

Don't worry, they still get hugs.