Monday, October 30, 2017

Last Call

The flock is on the last pasture rotation for the year.  The south pasture is the first one they go to in the spring and the last one they finish in the fall.  Other years, when we were breeding the majority of the flock, they would already be penned into groups and off pasture for the year.  Not breeding does extend the grazing season through mid November and now the signal to really end it will be the first day of shotgun deer season.  The days are getting shorter, leaves are mostly off the trees, starlings are travelling in a big flock and the weather is gray and wet.

The sheep queue up at the gate around evening chore time, ready to come in, find their spots and settle down for the night.

Both Stewart and then Daisy fixed me with a look - I think they were hoping for the cookie signal:  my hand going into my front pants' pocket.

The sheep don't mind the deteriorating conditions a bit and are eating as though they know some morning soon they won't be going out.

Over the weekend we had a long rain event and so they received a good rinsing which I was happy about.  We'll be putting their coats on fairly soon and I was hoping the barn grime would be shed in a rain before that happens.

I read a good axiom last week that rings true - "Well summered is half wintered."  One certainly doesn't want to rely on stored fat to get your stock through the winter but it does help going into harsh weather to have some extra upholstery working for you.

I think Snickers has the concept nailed down.  Lordy.

Knock wood, everyone looks pretty good with just a few old girls looking like candidates for the geriatric pen and special feed this year.


I like this ewe's Cotswold 'presence'.

The wind was blowing hard all day and the fleece on the Cotswold ewe in the foreground is long enough now to ruffle in the gale.

The rain really freshened up their locks.

Angelica says,

"Curls?  Meh.  I haz attitude!"

And a pretty, dark fleece.  Way to go!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Autumn Walkies

Holly is just like me - loves the sun and heat and soaks it up whenever possible.

"Hey, wanna go for a walk?"

"What did I just hear?"

"Walk? Yes, a walk would be acceptable on such a nice day."

This was really from a couple of weeks ago when we had a streak of 90 degree days.  The perfect time to replace a section of roof that has been needing attention for a few years.  

It was crazy hot up there, but Andy took a lot of breaks.  He never puts shingles over shingles, so it was remove, repair, replace, repeat - working his way up the roof.  Only a couple of places needed repair but it was a slow job to do alone and took a full week to complete.

The thermometer said Summer but the plants were saying Fall.  Walking with Holly helps one focus on small details and appreciate the changing landscape.  Asters and goldenrod were still blooming in the wetter ditches and shaded areas.

But were past their prime in open, full sun areas.

This ivy was a deep ruby red - a more somber red than the sugar maples put on.

The neighbors have a field of corn that's ripening fast.  The ears are drying and starting to tip down.  The Amish planted it and they must be planning to pick it.  If it was to be silage they would be chopping it by now.

It was getting windy as the afternoon went on and this Monarch butterfly took refuge on a short stalk of wild aster.  I saw quite a number of them bravely flitting south during September.

And then we came across this interesting character on the edge of the pavement.

My, you are a rather large caterpillar!

I wasn't familiar with this type and had to look him up.  It will become a hawk moth!  Love those!  They mimic hummingbirds and are active during the day - unusual for a moth.   I put him (or her) across the ditch in the tall plants.  

If I see an adult next year flying around the flowers I'll hope that it's this one.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Apple Party

Every fall our for ancient apple trees give us far more fruit than we can make use of.  The Wageners come ripe first, followed by the Wolf Rivers, then the Pound Sweet and then the Northern Spy.  I try to find time to use the best ones and I feel very guilty letting a large part of the bounty go unused but we don't let it go to waste entirely.  The rams are happy to get a small bucket of small or damaged or wormy or knotty apples every morning when they are turned out into the large, back pasture.

Our big Cotswold ram, Neville, doesn't care for them and waits by the water tub for some petting while the others are eating.  Not liking apples is a bit odd, like a dog not wanting cheese, but he's certain he does. not. want.

Castillo and Brick noticed me hanging around the gate and had to see what I was up to.

I really like how Brick is built.  He's a very pretty gray under the sunburned tips.

And then Norris and his two 'uncles' are turned out into their small close-to-the-barn pasture.
We cut the apples into smaller chunks for him and the old guys.  Norris likes apples very much but can't get his jaws around them well enough to crunch them if they are whole.  The old boys have some missing teeth so it's harder for them too.  The last thing we'd want is to have somebody choke to death because they couldn't chew a whole apple.
First Norris eats with Isador.
Then he runs over to Ian's pile to 'help'.  (Ian has a stiff shoulder and limps.  Two piles keep the shoving to a minimum).

It's always a hard sell at the end of fall when the apples stop dropping and there are no more to distribute and I have to convince the rams I haven't just forgotten.  But it's good while it lasts!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Norris Gets A Haircut

This is the time of year that spring born Cotswold lambs need to be shorn.  Fleece is now five to six inches long and lovely to process and spin.  Trying to overwinter them in full fleece is problematic, at least at this farm where the animals are housed in the barns.  Hay chaff will ruin them quickly and coating them has given mixed results including some unfortunate felting.  Moreover, lambs are hot in all that wool and will eat and gain better if they are more comfortable.

Normally I would call our good shearer, Brian, but for just one lamb..... surely I could do it myself.  I've shorn adults before when necessary but I did them standing and I didn't try to manage any particular pattern or take the fleece off in one piece.  I sheared Norris in my head several times and had a plan of action.  This was the week when we had 90 degree days so I knew he'd feel so much better with it off and that cemented my resolve to do it right now.

I didn't want to wrestle the big sheet of plywood into his pen so I fished a giant piece of cardboard out of the recycle pile.

"Hmmm, what's this?"

"Kinda tasteless......"

So, armed with hand shears and a clean bag to put his lovely fleece in I tipped him on his butt and gave it a try.  Have you seen that commercial where the couple is staring up at the wrecked ceiling and pipes dripping water and the husband says, " I can do this."  and the wife does this strangled laugh and shakes her head and states, "No."  The wife was the smart side of my brain about 2 minutes in.  I'm dripping sweat (remember it's 90+ degrees), I have cut off zero wool, Norris is already fussing and I'm afraid I'm going to cut him.

Plan B.  Halter and shear standing up with the help of my trusty ancient trimming stand.  Even that took longer than I like to admit but I can say that neither of us got hurt (although by the time I finished we were both done. with. this.).

I sorted and skirted as I went and ended up with a 3.6 lb bag of colored lamb wool.  Next will be washing, picking and then blending....with something....just for fun.

Norris is much happier and cooler.

As I didn't shear as close as electric clippers would you can already see the waves in his wool that will shortly become curls.

He's growing nicely and showing a significant increase in height compared against the old boys.

And he's staying as sweet and friendly as ever.  I left his forelock on and wanted to get a nice picture but he kept running toward the camera.

There.  The next shearing will be by a pro-fess-shun-all.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Time To Come Clean

Somewhere during the summer I lost my blogging mojo.  No big disasters to blame, I just sort of got out of the habit and.... didn't.  I did have good intentions and have lots of pictures on the phone.  So many that it's telling me my storage capacity is at its limit so be prepared for posts from late spring and summer scattered among the more current ones.

First up is a current post.  I hate to think it but we'll be getting into cold weather soon and then winter.  (Boo, hiss)  I had vowed during the summer that I was going to wash all my good wool sweaters while the weather was warm and dry this year and it was an intention that I'm pleased to say I actually followed through on!

Spa Day for the sweaters.

I recently got turned on to Mrs. Meyer's products and can give two thumbs up to their laundry soap.  I was delighted to find it being carried by a local Ace Hardware.  I love the light lavender scent and it cleans well (as does the dish soap).

The other (or AN other) big cleaning type job I'm tackling is to wash all the sheep coats in preparation of hay feeding season.  I had a dedicated washing machine for super dirty items such as the coats, work coveralls and coats, dog beds, lambing towels and other filthy textiles.  Unfortunately, during the summer it sprung a fatal leak - the drum had rusted through.  Gee, and it was only forty years old.  ;-)

I thought about just using the washer in my shop which I use for fleece washing but it's not a heavy duty unit and I was afraid it would quickly get beaten to death.  I searched the internet and was getting pretty disturbed - the majority of the washers were front loaders (NO!), eco-friendly high efficiency/low water users (NO!), had electronic controls (NO!), had a safety locking lids (NO!) and either cost a fortune or were cheap, lightweight, and looked it.

Then...... (cue Heavenly chorus).... I found this one by Speed Queen.  All the stuff I wanted, none of the features I didn't want AND it's made in the US - win/win/WIN!  It wasn't cheap but it was exactly what I wanted and I expect it to last a looooong time.  I ordered it through the same Ace Hardware that carries the Mrs. Meyer's products and it was delivered a few days later.

Look at all that room!  I could nearly climb in there myself.  It holds six or seven sheep coats at a whack depending on the sizes with room for the water to slosh around the way it's supposed to.

The agitator goes all the way up - none of this low profile, barely there nub of an agitator nonsense as we have in the 'people clothes' washer that I stupidly bought before I knew how ineffective it would be.

Nice simple manual controls that won't die from a tiny electrical hiccup.

So the coat washing marathon is underway.  (I don't use the Mrs. Meyer's for that - good old Arm and Hammer laundry soap from Dollar General is doing a fine job.)  It's going to take a while but they're being sorted when they come off the line and either go to the storage tubs in the barn or into the pile for mending first.

Progress on all fronts!