Monday, November 28, 2011

When the Party's Ooo-vveerrrrrr............

Breeding season is officially over today, and not a moment too soon.  Isaac has worked himself near to death.


Ha ha, just kidding.  He was just enjoying a nice post-breakfast lie down.  Sheep sometimes do like to lay flat out on their sides and they sure do look alarming until you see them breathing.

Breeding season started on October 24.  We had seven breeding groups and one group of youngsters and old ladies that didn't get a ram.  Given that gestation is 147 days, give or take a day or two, our first lambs should arrive on March 20 and the last possible lamb could be born April 24.  A span of 35 days allows for all ewes to cycle once and most will have time to cycle twice if they don't catch on the first breeding.  And if someone doesn't conceive, it's OK.  The barn is always full!  We schedule lambing this way so that we are past the worst of the cold before babies arrive but by the time everyone is done and the barn is bursting at the seams they can start going out to pasture.  Also, I'm sure that all ewes have lambed and all lambs are out of the jugs before I go to MD for the sheep and wool festival in early May.  I would never leave Andy with pregnant ewes to watch when he has so much other stuff to do that time of year!

The rams are all haltered and tied in the trailer for the trek back across the road to the upper Bachelor Barn.  Having just come out of their harems, they are primed to fight with one another so tying them is the safest way to get them where they're going.  They were all gentle and well-behaved with us when we went into the pens to feed or water, but it's like flipping a switch when they get together.

Hmmm........I have a bad feeling about this........

Once in the upper barn we build a temporary - but very sturdy - small pen for them to get reacquainted in.  We make it small on purpose so that no two rams can back up and get a running start at each other to butt heads.  Broken necks can - and have - resulted.  It takes many days, even a couple of weeks, before they have resigned themselves to the fact that the girls are gone and they have re-established their pecking order among themselves.  We move them off the trailer and tie them again until we can get the heavy panels secured that will hold them until they come to grips with the new reality.

If I can...just...chew this...a little more....ugh....almost there...

Once everything is secure it's a free-for-all of pushing, grunting, sideways head slamming, jumping, thrashing and general mayhem.  But they really can't do worse than bruise each other.

*#$*#!&*&...I'll  fix you, you $*&#%$&#* !

We did use one ram lamb this year.  He's very promising and seemed to have no problem breeding the girls, but we didn't need to put him in with the big guys.  He's not all hopped up on attitude the way the adults are, and besides...he'd probably get killed.

Nooo!  Don't put me in there!  I'll be gooood!

Isaac is especially peeved at being back in with other rams and worked himself into a state pretty quickly.  He only weighs 275 compared to the two white rams' 325, so while he was hurling himself at them they just took it and gave him a whack in the side for good measure.


Sorry guys, eleven months must seem like a long time, but it will give you something to look forward to.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Frosty Thanksgiving

The last two days were foggy and alternating freezing rain, snow and regular rain.  Today the sky was clear.  Hooray!  It did go below freezing last night, so this morning eveything had a lovely rime of frost on it.

This oak leaf blew in from the woods

A cluster of apple leaves

I love how delicate the bit of wild carrot leaf in the lower right corner looks, and the buttercup leaf in the upper left looks like it's dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Single apple leaf

Notice how each little hair on the devil's paintbrush leaf is outlined in frost. 

We need to remember to give thanks every day - for family and friends of course, but don't forget the blessings we live with every minute:  to see the beauty around us, to breathe deep the cold clean air, to have the bounty of fruit trees and plants and the animals we keep, warm clothes, clean water, medicine when we need it, to be living in a free country.....

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spinning Saturday

The Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild meets monthly throughout the year.   I'm usually able to attend half or more and they are always a delightful day out.  Any spinner or wannbe spinner ought to try to hook up with a local guild.  They are THE best place to gain inspiration, knowledge and a dose of renewed enthusiasm for that project that's been languishing in the bottom of your tote bag.  Today's meeting was well attended (around 60 of the 100+ members signed in, I believe) and lively. 

Spinners, spinners, everywhere

Several of us set up vendor tables in the back of the room and sell fiber, equipment and related things, and sometimes handcrafted jewelry, soaps, candles and the like.  You can always find that small birthday or thank-you gift that you were needing if you shop the tables in back. 

One of the best features of our meetings is Show and Tell.  It's a great way for us to show off our triumphs to people who will appreciate them, whether it's a skein, garment, book, piece of equipment, dye experiment, or 'the first time I ever did one of these'. 

The line for Show and Tell

We also have a potluck twice a year and November is the year's second.  Naturally it features hearty, hot dishes, but also lots of salads, fruit and good-for-you items which tend to balance out the tables of baked goodies.  With so many fantastic cooks under one roof the array is astounding and everyone finds just the cuisine they want.  We really should compile a cookbook using the recipes of the bi-annual potlucks, but so far no brave soul has stepped forward to do it.

Only two of the four tables laden with food.

And another really good feature of the potlucks at a guild meeting is that nobody freaks out if there's a hair in the food.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Class Picture Day

I had a fellow in OH phone about possibly getting some Cotswold ewe lambs to start a flock.  He'd like to stick with the ACRA registry, so I flipped through my record book to see who was eligible and who would also be a lamb I would sell.  (Must. Not. Keep. Them. All.)

Once I had them picked out on paper we went through the lamb group and separated them into a smaller pen so I could (try) to take some pictures.  Taking decent photos of a group of milling lambs is like watching fleas in a teacup.  It's a good thing I started with fresh batteries.  They were shorn a few weeks ago so they are at an unflattering stage right now.  Typical kids.  Besides side views and butts, I took a head shot of each. 

Looks studious.  Voted "Most Likely to Succeed".

Clueless party girl.  Voted "Most Likely to Make the Headlines".

The Drama Queen.  Voted "Most Likey to Make it to Hollywood".

Gets along with everyone.  Voted "Miss Congeniality."

Teacher's pet.  Voted "Miss Goody-Four-Shoes".

Very athletic.  Voted "Miss Jock-ette".

Biggest hair.  Voted "Most Likely to Be a Cheerleader".

At least I didn't catch anybody with their eyes closed and mouth open.  This time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Last Weekend...... cousin Carolyn and I went to a small craft show "over the border" in PA.  We had not heard of it before, but having gotten a personal invite to attend (they really wanted spinning and hooking demos and gave us a plum booth spot) we decided to go.  Besides, it was a fundraiser for the local library system so how could anyone say 'no'?

Turns out Prattsburgh is a thriving metropolis compared to Genesee, PA.  We were housed on the open main floor of an old hotel.  We saw a thermostat on the wall, but it must be a sacred item as no one touched it all day :-(  Ah, well, dressed in wool and drinking hot coffee all day we were able to stave off frostbite.

Lamb, yarn, sheepskins (and Julie!)

Quilt batting and lots of roving

Rug hooking fabric, kits and samples

Carolyn brought some nice hooked items she has done including this one of her son's dog.

Tezel, hooked from her portrait

Having tallied up the hours and dollars spent making the rug, Carolyn opted to send her son a photo of the rug.  He can visit it anytime he wants.

We didn't get out much as the craft organizers graciously had runners to get lunch for us, but Julie did see this flock of exotic birds.

Rusticus shovelia, subspecies pennsylvanium

Gotta add that to my Life List!

The people there were really nice, but it wasn't a fiber crowd.  Roc Day in Ithaca, hosted by the Black Sheep Handspinners Guild,  in January will be a different story!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Indian Summer

We are having a gorgeous, unusual streak of warm sunny weather.  Everyone is loving it.

The ram boys are queued up every morning to go out and poke around in the pasture.  They have hay available in the feeders at night to snack on. Even though the pasture is old and past its prime this time of year they still want to go out and do sheepy things.

C'mon, lady, hurry up with the gate already.

Mr. Bill photo-bombs the scene

This black lamb had dozed off while waiting.  Note the white spot on his side.  It's the only white mark he has.  His buddy was kind enough to sit and wait for him to wake up.


Then he woke up and ran to catch up.

Crap, I hate being last.

And everyone spread out for a nice day of grazing.

Living that good sheep life.

Andy has been able to get after picking the corn.  For ear corn to keep in the crib it should be 24% moisture or less.  The snow and cold we had slowed its progress but now we're good.

Trusty gravity box and elevator

Flowing out well with the help of an occasional poke to keep it moving.

Filling the center bay of the crib

The ears are not husking nearly as well as last year's variety.  It might be peculiar to that type or it might be due to weather and environment.  It's undesireable to have so much husk in the crib as it cuts down on air circulation and promotes mold growth, but there's nothing to be done but hope for the best.  We are much luckier than some people who have lost their corn crop to drought or flood.

Last year's corn on left - husked well.  This year's on right - not so much.

Wouldn't this make a cool jigsaw puzzle?

Holly got as far as the apple trees before collapsing in the sun.

Huh?  Wha..?  Could you not make so much noise?  I'm trying to rest, here.

Such a hard, doggie life.