Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day full of love and chocolate.  (Whether you observe Easter or not, the wish is sincere!)

I tried to MacGyver a hotlink from this picture but couldn't manage it so click here to go to another page with a nice card.

Friday, March 25, 2016

More Nekkid

Sheep, that is.  Yesterday was Round Two of shearing and we managed 44 without mishap to anyone.

It started out pretty cold after a night of freezing fog.  This frosty weed was pretty in its own way but I much prefer the crocus from last week.  :-/

We had the doors closed in the barn at first but it did warm up and before we were finished we had rolled them open and I was working without a coat.

First up, Cocoa Puff.

She's faded a lot in one year.  Methinks I have to take a whole slew of new pictures of fleece locks to bring them all up to current status on the sale page.

The crowd waiting to be shorn watched the activity with a mixture of suspicion (the youngsters) and acceptance (the older sheep).

Left to right: Snickers, Gem, Kenya and Tiffany.  Don't they look like the stars of one of those TV dramas like Law and Order where the main characters walk down a hallway together to soaring theme music?

Daisy has a huge fleece and beneath all those crimpy locks she has a very cool pattern of stubble.

Kind of like a highly figured oak board.

"Really?  You're comparing my amazing fiber producing self to a chunk of wood?  We are not amused."

OK, it's more like the pretty wind ripples formed on fine grained sand dunes.

"All right, that's a little better."

Large Marge is turning slightly gray underneath.  There's that need for new fleece pictures again........

And some of the moorits have faded to such a pale shade that it's hard to tell at first glance that they aren't white. This will be a pretty cinnamon sugar color.

Once we got into a rhythm the waiting crowd settled down and Coconut, who's friendly anyway, got curious.

"I think I remember this from last year."

And of course, bored kids have to play with things so the broom got tested tasted for potential. 

 "This thing's kinda chewy.  Tasteless, though." 

 "I don't think you're supposed to be doing that."

 "Nobody said I couldn't.  It's kinda fun.... since there's nothing else to do."

"I'll just give these loose pieces a good pull to even them up."

And then she managed to bonk herself on the head with the handle which resulted in a bit of a panic for a moment.

Old Gem, our only sheep with horns, has a curious color change going on with her left horn.  The horn grows right at the juncture of a black and white area on her head and the horn has grown in line with those colors - one side of the horn is white and one side is black.  Now I see the white side has changed at some point in the not too distant past and is growing black!  She hasn't taken any injury to her horn that I know of so the reason is mysterious. 

At last we found the ewe we were looking for - Ginger - the last one of the day.  ;-)

Whew, that's 83 fleeces so far and two more shearing dates to go.  Better get the camera batteries charged up.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Let's Get This Party Started

Shearing got started as a surprise this year.  The shearer called late Thursday night to say the Friday appointment had cancelled and were we available?  Knowing it will take a few visits to get everyone done we thought we ought to take advantage of his offer even though it was less than twelve hours notice.  We had already fed the sheep but since they aren't bred it wasn't as problematic.  Normally, we don't feed the night before shearing because the sheep are more comfortable and the shearer can work better if the bellies aren't as full of hay.  Also, I luckily had enough giant clear plastic bags to acommodate the number he thought he could shear and as it turned out we did the two groups from the back pens which came to 39.

It turned out to be a raw day with sleet and snow pellets but we were reasonably comfortable in the barn.

Sweetie, waiting her turn

"Oh my gosh, look at that!"

"I can't believe you did that to me."

Everyone came through just fine and looks good.  The next scheduled date is Thursday the 24th.  I'm hoping it will be somewhat warmer.  The sheep were happy to be cooler but I started to get pretty cold.  Not quite enough brisk activity to keep the chill from penetrating the layers I had on.

Now to get all those bags of fleece onto the shelves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Weird Weather

We are having abnormally warm weather and while it's not normal and may show its downside later on, for now I'm just going to enjoy it.

The warmth also brought out insects - this beetle is really this shiny, even more than the picture captures,  hence the name 'Metallic Wood Boring Beetle'.  I love it when things are named sensibly.

Honey bees appeared in droves when Andy started up the sawmill and cut some blanks for grade stakes. We don't know where they came from.  The bees in our tree aren't stirring yet.  Apparently honey bees will take tree sap before pollen is available and these bees were putting sawdust in the pollen baskets on their legs.  There were hundreds on the actual sawdust pile behind the mill.

The sheep are too warm but shearing is delayed (a death in the shearer's family put him far behind) and won't commence for another week.  Things always happen as they are supposed to - if we had bred the flock we'd be freaking out about the ewes getting dangerously heavy to shear but the flock isn't bred and so the delay isn't critical.

The ewes are in full fleece and so far we're keeping most of them pretty darn clean.

There are a few that seem to attract hay chaff but the bulk are either coated or don't mind me fiddling around picking junk off them occasionally.  Of course, when it's hot and they melt it's going to cause some VM contamination.  :-/

We've had the fans on in the barn and they really enjoy standing in the air flow.  They kind of orient like seagulls on a beach facing into the wind but there's always one that likes to get the air up her skirt..

It's a pretty hefty fan and it ruffles the long locks on the Cotswolds.  Of course Fortune has to come see what I'm doing.

When not eating or standing in the fan the ewes sit in companionable groups, sharing gossip.

When we separated the ewes into smaller groups for better managment Flopsy and Snubby landed together.  Having been bottle babies together they are fast friends.

Flopsy's ears are still mounted wrong.

and Snubby would have qualified for braces if she was a two legged kid.

But their purpose is fiber and friendship (and comic relief some days) so it's OK.

Peanut is doing well and is still cute as a button.

"Being short is the pits!!"

Little old Ruby is in with the youngest ewes and looks like she wishes she wasn't at the kids' table.  No one roughs her up but I think she's tired of being the hall monitor.

"Pleeeeease, won't you put me in with the adults? I want to have a conversation with someone my own age!"

Pretty soon!  I think I saw a tinge of green on the south-facing ground behind the barn.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Night Visit

One of the few things I like about the snow is the fact that it records what happened while you weren't looking.  The original, although ephemeral, trail cam.  ;-)

Just as it told a tale here in January, so too we found a story in the snow this morning.  Andy always checks the barns, walks Holly and feeds the outdoor boiler early in the morning before I get up.  He's the early riser here.  Stepping out the side door onto the patio he found strange tracks that he didn't recognize.

Not cat, not dog, not raccoon, not possum or skunk, not fox, not bobcat, not coyote....

Here's one of our big boot prints and a quarter for scale.  You can just see a hint of claw print in front of some of the toes.

Bigger than a cat track (this is from Clem).....

Smaller than Holly's tracks but not by too darn much.....

The pawprints are curiously side by side rather than laying in a straight line with the hind feet stepping on the front foot track. The stride is pretty long, too.

Andy followed the trail.  It came out of the field to the south of the house, crossed the road and milled around in front of the barn door, crossed back onto the house side of the road, came up across the lawn and to our front door....

...followed the foundation around corners, under bushes, detoured onto the concrete breezeway porch, went all the way around Andy's shop along the track taken by the barn cats (yikes).....

....up and over the long concrete patio along side of the house, around the front and across the lawn, between the garage and Andy's sawmill building, up to the upper barns where it circled the empty stock trailer, went in and out of a machine shed, into and out the other side of another big Morton pole building and finally through the ram pasture fence and toward the woods.  This wasn't aimless meandering, this was the purposeful investigation that a smart predator makes when searching for opportunity.

We're pretty sure it was a fisher!  Aka fisher cat, although it's in the weasel family and not any kind of feline. Think of it as bigger than a mink and smaller than a wolverine. There's an outside chance it was an abnormally large marten but the pawprints measure 2.5 inches across and the two tracks together measure 4.5 inches across which is typical of fishers (the pic above with a quarter between 2 tracks shows 'to scale' on my screen.  The quarter is an inch across in real life and ditto on my monitor so measuring the tracks on the screen is accurate and just over 4.5 inches). 

They are a woodland creature and very arboreal as you can see in this video.  Here's one in a New Hampshire yard and a couple youngsters in a wildlife rehab facility.  We seem to be on the southern outskirts of its regular range but since they are predators ( = alert and elusive) and live in the woods it may be that they are 'here' but not seen or recognized for what they are.  A neighbor confirms having seen one last year a few roads over from us. Besides the squirrels, rabbits and rodents that make up the main part of their diets I'm sure they'd take any kind of birds they could get their teeth on, particularly ground nesters, and domestic chickens, ducks, rabbits and probably cats.  :-(   I'm happy to report that all barn cats are present and accounted for this AM!  We'd sure be happy to have the squirrel population reduced. They wreak havoc in the corn cribs.

So that was our cool thing for the day.  Note to self - invest in a good trail cam when possible!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Big Ol' Number Five

The blog, that is.  :-0

Five years running.  As usual, I'll vow to post more frequently and take better pictures.  I have a dandy camera but usually whip out the cell phone.  It fits in my pocket and is easier to carry while doing chores. Here, though, are some random pictures so the blogiversary doesn't pass unposted!

A pretty morning several days ago.  I think this is the day before Holly gave the coyote a talking to.

She likes to go out into the pasture behind the barn and poke around while we're doing chores if the weather is fair.

"Aren't you coming?  It would be more fun together."

Sure would, but we have to feed the sheepies right now.

In other news, I finished plying the last of Mr. Bill's fleece and washed it all.  Allowing for any slight shrinkage during washing I still have 1,225 yards of a 2 ply that's about worsted weight.  It's a nice steely gray, squishier than Cotswold as Mr. Bill was a Border Leicester crossbred and it has a decent shine too.

That's a sizable pile of yarn and while I have to check into patterns I would think it would make a sweater by itself. I was thinking of using it with Pearl's white yarn but if I have enough for a whole project I may stick with a solid color.  

And since we aren't lambing this year, here's a look back to May 17, 2006 - long before I ever thought of blogging!!

I'm not sure what we were doing - it was too early to be weaning but the scale isn't set up so we weren't weighing.... maybe vaccinations?  Whatever it was, Julie was having a good time!

Here's to the next year of blogging!