Thursday, April 24, 2008

Got milk?

This little guy is just one of the gang that greets me several times a day when I go to the barn. He actually had already been given his bottle, along with the rest, but decided to come back a second time, on the off-chance he could get a another helping! This is Pauladeen's baby boy. He has a twin sister, who was off playing with the other lambs, instead of begging for more milk.

Today I have great cause for celebration. The last ewe lambed around 10 am today. She has a beautiful single ewe lamb, and I don't think I have ever been so happy to see a single! That means no more triplets this year, yay!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Knitting book love

I picked up several new knitting books last week and have had very little chance to sit down and really look at them until last night. "A Fine Fleece" by Lisa Lloyd is my new favorite knitting book! I love everything in this book and wish I could sit down and start knitting on one of the projects right now. There are 26 projects, including sweaters, vests, hats and scarves and I would be oh so happy knitting any of them. That, my friends, is a rare occurrence for me. I buy lots of books, sometimes because there is one thing in the whole book I really like, so I feel as though I struck gold with this one. The cover and all the inside photographs are so appealing, I can just leaf through it and enjoy looking at the pictures. The patterns are shown in handspun yarn (hence the title), but each item is also shown in a commercial yarn of comparable weight. Besides the beautiful and classic patterns, there is a wealth of information here, from fleece characteristics of different breeds of sheep and other fiber animals to design philosophy.

I have never met Lisa Lloyd and have no vested interest in promoting her book, but I know that I appreciate a recommendation when someone has found a really good knitting book. So there you have it....I would give it 5 stars!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Look what came in the mail today

Yes, it's officially Spring now! The chicks have arrived. The post office called at 6 am to politely request that I come pick up the chicks.....ASAP!
(Sorry about the blurry picture. As you might imagine, it is impossible to take a non-blurry picture of 25+ moving, chirping chicks.) It is 25+ chicks because Murray McMurray Hatchery requires that you order a minimum of 25, and then, bless their hearts, they throw in a few "bonus" chicks. Part of this little flock will go to live with a friend. We combined our orders to meet the minimum, as neither of us needed 25 for ourselves. My portion includes more Araucanas, Black Australorps, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Partridge Rocks, Cuckoo Marans (chocolate colored eggs!), Red Stars and, just for fun, a few Bantam Golden Laced Cochins. Which all adds up to much more than I needed, but they all looked so pretty in the catalog and the descriptions of their personalities made them irresistible. I couldn't help myself! We haven't had new chicks in many years, so it will be fun to watch these little ones grow. And I do mean little! Some of these babies are not even as big as a golf ball. Stay tuned for progress reports.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

9 X 3 or 4 = a lot of bottles

We have had some glorious weather of late and the crabapples are bursting with blooms. Because we have had cooler weather than usual, things seem to be coming into bloom a little later and staying longer, which is just fine with me. My lilac bushes are full of blooms and I'm cutting them to fill vases all over the house. I love the way they smell and knowing they are a short-term pleasure, makes me appreciate them all the more.

I'm trying to remember to stop and smell the lilacs right now because otherwise, I am covered up in barn smells. We have one more ewe left to have lambs and I am so grateful it is almost over. Out of the 19 who have lambed so far, we have had 7 sets of triplets. That's not the usual situation for the breeds of sheep we have. Nature did not really intend for there to be more than two, I think. I mean, consider the fact that there are only two places for lambs to nurse, and you can quickly see that having three competing for the available places makes for someone getting the short end of it! That is where I enter the picture. At this moment, I am supplementing 9 lambs and it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare bottles 3 and 4 times per day for each lamb. Hopefully, they will start eating grain in the next few weeks and I can gradually reduce the number of bottles. The lambs are so cute at this age, and one of the joys of having them around is to watch as they run around the fields in little gangs, jumping and bumping into each other. Already I can see personalities emerging. The first born lamb is a ram lamb and he has a very confident way of interacting with the others. You can tell, he plans on being the boss of everyone in his world! All too soon, it will be time to make decisions about which ones go and which ones will become part of the flock. So, even though I'm somewhat overwhelmed at the moment with bottle feeding chores, I know it won't last forever.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Outside my comfort zone

This is a shocking sight! It is unusual to find these colors in my dye bath because I much prefer an autumnal palate--mossy greens, rusty reds, golden yellows. Yesterday afternoon I decided to force myself to dye roving in colors I would never knit for myself. I used the Grumbacher color harmony wheel to select these shades and I have to admit, it was fun to throw caution to the wind and just wait to see the result. I am anxious for these to dry so I can spin some up and see what the yarn will look like. It's really bright and cheerful (even more so than it appears in the picture) and, if nothing else, I know I can knit grandchildren's hats and mittens with it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mark it off the list

Originally uploaded by sheep dreams

Another UFO off the stack. I wish I could recall the name of this yarn. It's a sport weight, which I really like to knit heavier socks. I need socks like these to wear with clogs and the boots I wear for barn work (and that seems to be all I ever wear these days). These are made from a combination of standard issue sock patterns--2 x 2 ribbing, flap heel and I make the ribbing part of the sock about 9 inches. I like my socks just a little taller than most patterns. The first socks I ever knit, I used the Green Mountain Spinnery LBH's sock pattern. It is such an easy to understand pattern. Of course, that was many, many years ago, before books like "Getting Started Knitting Socks" appeared. That is the book I recommend for beginners. Now I only have 5 or 6 or maybe 7 more single socks waiting for a mate!

By the way, I never imagined how difficult it is to photgraph my own feet. Weird camera angles sure seem to make my legs look bigger than they are in real life.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Out of my (cooking) rut-

Twice in the last month I have spent the evening at Honest Farm store, taking cooking lessons from Susie Quick (yes, I think that is her real name!). I'm so bored with the menu options I come up with around here. I have wanted to simplify the process and make our meals more healthy at the same time. These lessons and the ones I hope to take in April are just what I needed. Especially at this time of year, when I am often in the barn most of the day, I end up not actually planning anything for dinner. Then before I know it, it's time to be putting it on the table. When that happens, I am most likely to fall back on the food I grew up eating----which is Kentucky country cooking. I love to cook and eat, and too much of that kind of cooking results in too much of me!

For the first class Susie prepared chicken with lemon-green olive sauce, cous cous with lentils, a wonderful salad of mixed lettuces and lots of vegetables. And, for dessert, lovely little berry- yogurt parfaits. I recreated that meal at home for my husband a week later and we loved it. In my quest for healthier meals, I have resolved to get back into my garden this summer and grow lots of vegetables. In fact, I planted spinach a week or so ago and it is up and growing.

So anyway, Susie's book is "Quick Simple Food" and though it is no longer available in bookstores, I did find a barely used copy through Amazon and have been trying one or two recipes each week.

You can find information about Honest Farm and get some wonderful recipes at

Thursday, April 3, 2008

There's a new kid in town

This cute girl showed up here on April Fool's Day (hope that's not a sign!) Neighbors from a mile down the road (in the country, that is a neighbor) drove into the farm lane Tuesday morning with this girl running behind their truck. They assumed she must be ours because we are the only weird people with the sheep and big white dogs around this part of the county. Well, it's starting to look as though she may be ours. We've called everyone we know to report that she is here, if anyone wants to claim her. So far, no calls. She is about 6 months old and now that she has had a few days of good food and sleeping, she is full of energy. She is a little slow to catch on, but the big dogs have told her repeatedly it is not nice to jump on a 9 or a 10 year old Great Pyrenees' head! She really, really wants them to play with her. They keep telling her to get serious, there's work to be done guarding these sheep. Eventually, Hannah, the 5 year old we have, will make up with her and play some, but right now she is sulking about not being the "baby" anymore!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Presenting Pauladeen's babies

As often as I have witnessed the birth of lambs, I find it a miracle every time. The way the ewe's instincts guide her through the birth process and the lamb's instincts to get up and look for nourishment immediately are amazing to me. Usually, my role is to just be on stand-by in case something goes amiss.
Pauladeen is my favorite ewe, as I have mentioned before. She is a special personality and because she was bottle fed, she still thinks I am her mother. About two weeks ago, Pauladeen began to prolapse. We were able to get everything back in place and sewed her up to prevent it happening again. That meant that when she actually went into labor, I would need to be here to cut the sutures so she could push the babies out. All day Sunday, she stood around, shifting her weight and gradually getting that sunken in look that happens when the lambs drop down into position for birth. I was afraid to leave her, so I sat up with her all night Sunday. Let me tell you, it was a very long night! I spent a lot of time promising Pauladeen she would not ever have to go through it again! Finally, around 4:30 am I woke up my husband to help. Long story, the end result being two huge lambs, 1 ewe lamb and 1 ram lamb, both black. Pauladeen seemed almost unconscious afterward, until she heard her lambs bleating. Then, amazingly, that mothering instinct kicked in and she got herself up and went to work cleaning the lambs and encouraging them to get up and nurse. She is being such a good mother, and after a few days of obviously not feeling like her old self, she seems to be just fine now.
So far, we have 6 lambs out of 4 ewes. Only one white lamb in the bunch. We used a black ram this year and a lot of the ewes are black factored, which means they carry a recessive gene for black. Since we have a handspinner's flock, we like having as many black lambs as possible.
We have 16 or 17 more ewes that are pregnant, so we are a long way from the end of lambing.