Monday, April 3, 2017

We Interrupt This Shearing......

Friday was Round Two of shearing and we managed thirty-four before the power went out.  Ugh. We've had a lot of rain and a tree probably tipped onto a line up the road somewhere.  Andy fired up the generator and we could have proceeded but Brian had to leave at a certain time anyway and honestly, the sheep were giving him a workout.  Whether it was the phase of the moon or what, the sheep were stiff and balky and resisted being manipulated during the process.  It seemed prudent to quit rather than risk fatigue-caused injuries to man or beast.

The girls are looking good this spring.  They might be carrying a few pounds more than they need to be but I'd rather have them fleshed out than too thin.

The broom is always a source of curiosity.

And of course watching the other sheep be shorn was alarming interesting.  Actually, Fuzz has a natural look of perpetual surprise.

"That just CAN'T be good!"

The sheep coats continued to prove themselves a good investment as all the Cotswold fleeces look great beneath them.

We took Peanut's coat off and she leaned against me in a sheep hug.  She is so sweet.  One can see the difference in cleanliness and condition between the coated fleece and that which was uncovered on her neck.

And with the coat taken off Fuzz you can picture what a mess her wool would have been without it.

Rupert, one of our young Cotswold wethers, was quite dejected after shearing.  I think he was not happy at all to find himself without clothes.  

 "At least they let me keep my hair."

 A few more days and another group will get nekkid!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Shearing - Round One

After scrubbing our first scheduled shearing because of a winter storm (winter storm 'Stella' which I have pictures the phone...) we did get the first group of forty-one shorn yesterday.  We went through the flock and used the oh-so-scientific method of choosing those who were oozing out from under their coats the most.

"What do you mean our butts are sticking out?  That's an awful thing to say."

We had penned those sheep the night before and gave them a very light feeding of hay so that full bellies wouldn't be more of an obstacle than necessary.  We moved ten or so at a time into the shearing area.  The sun came out periodically and it was much nicer than some shearing days have been.

Mickey, waiting his turn.

Snubby, looking a whole lot smaller with all that wool off.

The sheep waiting their turns watched with varying degrees of concern.  Most eyes and ears were on us.

The fleeces this year seem much bigger and even prettier than usual.  We did have early hot dry weather last June and managed to put up better hay than in the past few years.  Coupled with the lack of weeks of deep cold I think the sheep put a lot more energy into wool production over the winter.  The thirty gallon trash bags I put each fleece in were very inadequate in several instances.

Mickey's sister, Minnie.  That's a lot of sheep to reach around.


One of the Cotswolds - maybe Oleander.  We invested in a lot more sheep coats and put jackets on everyone, including all the Cotswolds, when we started feeding hay last fall.  So far, so good.  The ones we've shorn so far had no cotting although the curls initially looked kind of flat.  I think they'll perk up after being flopped out onto the skirting table and moved around.  Regardless, the wool is spotless so that's a huge plus.

 Who's that faded moorit?

It's Carmel, whose fleece was dark last year like her face.

She's faded in the span of a year to a warm sand color.

Great crimp and very long for the grade - close to five inches.  I think I've found one of our entries for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival's fleece show and sale.

That's five weeks from now - yikes!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Never Long Enough

It's always hard to say goodbye to our most favorite animals.  Bug was a bottle baby but I think her sweet nature and chattiness were natural.  She always baa-ed "hi" to us when we came in the barn and stomped over to get petted and scritched on. Thirteen years is a long time to tote around a hefty girl like Bug and her knees and hips reached a point where they just totally wore out and meds couldn't help any more.  With heavy hearts we asked our good vet to put her to sleep today.  Andy and I will both look forward to seeing her friendly face again in time.

4-10-04 to 3-7-17

Monday, February 13, 2017

Assisted Living

Getting old can be tough whether you're human or a four legged critter.  Your teeth can give you trouble (or jump ship altogether), arthritis makes it painful to get around, it's hard to keep your weight up, your eyesight may fail and even your toenails get thick and hard to cut!  Hopefully you live where someone cares and tries to help make old age less of a hardship.

We offer "assisted living" for the oldest flock members. (Thecrazysheeplady in KY has Del Boca Vista for her geriatric friends).  If you are getting to an age where the other sheep push you around or you just need more time and better hay in the feeder you get moved here.  We even divided it further into two smaller groups because Pickles is a bully who punches anyone she can is assertive.  She's in a pen with girls that are bigger and don't take any guff,

Pickles, Fiesta, Kahlua and Gilly

The adjacent pen houses Dollar, India, Bunny, Ruby......

"I have teefers, they just wobble some."

And Bug.

"I have teefers and a good appetite!"

With the passing of Drambui and Alexandria, Bug has recently picked up the unwanted title of 'most needy old ewe' by becoming quite arthritic in her front legs and having trouble getting around.  (Kind of like being the oldest man in the world -you don't really want the title but you don't want to give it up either!!!)    She's now on anti-inflammatories and we're hoping for a boost in her ability to get around without hobbling. 

And Kittin is still in kitty assisted living in the wool shop.  She's fat and happy and impaired to the point that it's not safe to let her try to handle the rigors of being an outside cat.  But with the help of Aunt Julie's newest catnip toy she's trying to manage.  ;-)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Nursery Furniture

One can never have enough equipment for handling sheep and sometimes you really NEED more equipment.  Brian Magee, the gentleman who used to shear our sheep is also a shepherd himself and operates his flock using the Star System which he and Doug Hogue designed when he worked at Cornell University.  This system breaks a breeding flock into five groups which lamb in a staggered sequence around the calendar and evens out lamb production so one theoretically has lambs ready for market several times a year rather than one seasonal glut in the fall.

Anyway, Andy had built Brian some folding panels a while ago with which to make temporary pens. They functioned so well that Brian wanted more, plus a couple of creep gates and creep feeders.  He picked up eight of the bifold panels......

Three of the creep gates (the horizontal bar keeps ewes from trying to wiggle through and can be raised as the lambs grow.  Lambs can slide through a narrow opening but it's harder to crawl through a low space)....

And three grain feeders.  The bar across the top is plenty high enough to allow them to eat but keeps lambs from easily standing in the feeder and fouling the feed.

It ended up being quite a load for the little trailer Brian brought but the guys got it strapped down for safe transport.

A great many lambs ought to benefit from safe and sturdy surroundings.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Alexandria And Drambui

Two grand old ladies left the flock yesterday.  Both had gotten very old very fast in the last few months and were becoming so crippled with arthritis that life was more of a chore than a pleasure.  They both passed gently on to greener pastures with the help of our good vet.  We'll miss their faces and friendly manners.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Was That Crazy, Or What?

Our January thaw was amazing.  Temperatures were in the 50s and all the snow melted except for some small hard strips hiding in ditches and under overhanging pine boughs.  I watched our driveway change from a tilted ice rink to a normal patch of stone you could safely walk across again.

This break in the winter weather afforded us the chance to do some outdoor work we didn't imagine we'd get to, such as cleaning the concrete yard between the sheep barn and feed bunk. The sheep drag an awful lot of bedding out the two doors as they walk back and forth to the 'picnic table area' and of course leave lots of sheep berries out there too.  We scrape that area clean daily in above-freezing weather but once we get snow that sticks around there's no good way to do it.  That area becomes a trampled glacier of frozen manure and bedding. It's not slippery for the sheep but on warm days the surface thaws enough to make it sloppy and unpleasant to walk through.  Usually it's there until spring but this year....

For the internal combustion engine and hydraulics, we thank thee!

It was forecast to fall below freezing at night so we scattered some Sure Foot (a brand of barn calcite) on the wet concrete.  Pro tip - use this around your house, garage and yard in place of 'ice melt' products.  It's completely non-toxic to animals, birds, fish, plants and bees.  Find it in places like Tractor Supply or other feed stores.  It's usually cheaper than other material meant to make ice safe, too.  The down sides are that it comes in 80 lbs bags (so eat your Wheaties before shopping) and it does track into the house on shoes and paws.  It's ground stone so not friendly with hard flooring but it sweeps up easily.

Another day we went to the woods to augment the firewood supply.  Usually that's a move of desperation in January but with no snow it was just another fall-ish day. Andy managed to take down at least a dozen moribund ash trees which is about the only species that burns well without curing.  Holly was thrilled.

"A walk in the woods?  Heck, yes!"

Once they were down Andy pulls them out into the field to dismember.  It's safer than using the chainsaw with brush and whippy saplings underfoot and around you.

Despite the lack of snow the day presented other challenges.  Fortunately it was only this one wheel that found a soft spot.  Andy was able to back up and get away from the area without further problems.

The field next to the woods was put into soybeans last year by the fellow who rents land from us.  He never did harvest them last fall, due to the heavy rains I suppose.  They seem to be standing OK and not deteriorating but the fields are floating now, so they may end up a loss.  That would be a shame.  Someone has made use of them, though.  It's out of focus but some enterprising chipmunk or red squirrel has packed soybeans into the cavity of this damaged sapling at about chest height.

Other woodsy critters were taking food out of the trees rather than putting it in.  Here a woodpecker has made a neat rectangular hole (bit hard to see but take my word for it) which is a hallmark of a pileated woodpecker.

Being in the woods is thirsty work and Holly tiptoed into this puddle of ice water for a drink.

"Wild water is the best!  Lots of flavor!"

Makes me shiver just to think of putting my feet in it.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Doldrums

Winter makes me lose any blogging mojo I have.  Things are mostly gray and cold, days are short, chores are very routine and work in the wool shop slows due to holidays, year end book work and trying to catch up on neglected indoor tasks.  You can only say 'fed the sheep and skirted a fleece' so many ways.  ;-)

I tend to feel like Dexter - brace against something and sleep till spring.

But we do accomplish things every day even if it feels like we're just treading water. Here are a few occasions noteworthy enough that I took pictures.

I finished two scarves for Christmas presents.  As both have finally been presented as gifts I can show them. Both came to me as fiber during the guild's Christmas exchange (different years and they have been in the stash) and both have Blue Faced Leicester as a major component although they are from different producers. The fiber was nice to spin and the projects were simple and quick.  I used a simple pull-through pattern I grabbed off Ravelry - the Noro Keyhole Scarf.

We had a belated but fun Christmas dinner at Julie and Red's and Holly never wants to go home.  She has two perfectly good beds at home she rarely sleeps on and stuffed toys that she walks over and here she looks like the poor rescue dog finding warmth and safety for the first time in her life.  I guess most kids think their friends have cooler parents and better stuff.

The sheep welcomed some short but sunny days and napped in the barn doorway after filling up at the hay feeders.

And we were finally able to get every sheep into a jacket.  We ended up buying from both Rocky Sheep Company and The Wool Tinker.  Both brands are of good quality and the sizes alternate, with Rocky Sheep running odd sizes (37, 39, 41, etc. inches) and Wool Tinker being even (38, 40, 42, etc.).  Between the two everyone has a coat that fits... at least for a few weeks.  We'll have to change up many of them between now and shearing.  Buying the extra coats was a considerable investment but being able to market all the fleeces as coated will be worth it and save me time in the long run during skirting.

And what's better during the cold, dull winter but a little more cat sniffing?

Holly sez....

"I've sniffed enough cats today.  I'd rather go chase that squirrel.....except he 's way over there through the deep snow.....but if he comes over here he's dead!"