Friday, March 27, 2009


Farming with livestock is so often about life and death. It becomes somewhat easier to be philosophical, especially if it pertains to an animal with whom I have not formed a close bond. Please don't think I take death casually, even then. I care a great deal for all of my animals and only want to provide the best care I possibly can. The real pain comes from losing an animal that has been a big part of my life for a while.

My old cat, Buster was such an animal. He came to me over 15 years ago at a very difficult stage of my life. I was going through a divorce from someone I had been married to since I was 18 years old and Buster was a welcome distraction and a comfort. He always had a quirky personality and was affectionate to everyone; people, dogs, sheep included.(The exception was the cat we "inherited" when we bought the farm. He never really warmed up to her and periodically tried to "muscle" her around, just to show her that he was the barn boss!) All this to say that last weekend we made the difficult decision to put Buster to sleep. He was in kidney failure and was so very sick. It seemed cruel to prolong his suffering.It was hard.Now he's buried in our little pet cemetery with the other cherished pets who have died since we moved to the farm. The picture above is the only one I could find on my computer, but it very much captures the way he was.

I tried to write this post on Monday and just felt maybe I was being too maudlin, so I ended up deleting the whole post. I'm better now. Still missing him, but trying to remember all the funny, quirky things about him and the good memories. And in an effort to end this post on a happy note, here's something I found today on youtube. I'm probably one of the last on the planet to have watched it, but I thought it was great. (Be sure to turn your sound on--that's half the fun!)

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'm coming down with something

Those few wonky little unblocked squares were supposed to grow up to become a full-sized afghan, but it's looking as though they are now destined to become a pillow top or a doll afghan.

Recently a friend and fellow blogger, Lindy, turned me on to another blog that has started a craving. Attic24 has turned me into a crochet wanna-be! I am not much of a crocheter, but man-oh-man, I want to make a granny square afghan and a ripple afghan. Right now! And the colors--so far out of my usual palette, but exactly what I want to be working on at the moment. I've never been particularly drawn to bright colors. Mostly, I go for the earthy shades and more subtle hues, but her colors are calling loudly to me. I did a little search in my studio this week and came up with a few granny squares I started years ago. My idea was to make a throw, all from my hand-dyed, handspun yarn, for the back of the sofa in the sunroom. (I had visions of being curled up next to the fireplace, with the afghan over my lap, knitting away on a snowy afternoon. Not likely to happen, but I love the vision!) That dream has been replaced and, as soon as I can gather up all the colors, I'm starting a bright, sunny afghan. My reasoning is that it will be the perfect project for summer----small, portable, and I can even take it out on the boat. Perfect!

As you can probably tell from the size of those bellies, we are still waiting on the first lamb. All the pregnant girls want to do is eat and lay around groaning with every breath. Not that I can blame them.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Well, she did it. I wouldn't have put money on the possibility of that hen actually hatching out any of those banty eggs, but on each of the last two days, an egg has hatched, revealing a teeny, tiny chick! Yesterday afternoon, after one of the chicks fell out of the nest box (about 3 feet off the ground)and survived, I decided I needed to move chicks, surrogate mother hen, and the rest of the eggs to a lower and safer location. This was somewhat tricky because once I moved everyone, the hen could have abandoned the nest. I cut a cardboard box to resemble the nest box and filled it with some straw. She was very indignant when I started pulling the chicks and eggs out from under her! I managed to catch her and put her under my arm, and with the chicks and eggs in the box, I moved them all into the 10 X 10 dog kennel. When we put the peahen and her chicks in there last summer, we put netting around the bottom of the pen to keep the little ones from wandering outside the safety zone and getting picked off by the barn cats. I was so relieved to see her settle back on the nest and tuck those babies right under her wings. They are so tiny, it's a little scary to try holding one in my hand (the spool of thread gives you some idea of their size). She still has 6 eggs in the nest, so time will tell how many more (if any) will hatch.

And don't you just love that expression?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Before and after

I recently mentioned that the pregnant ewes had been shorn and some of you asked why we would shear when it's not really warm weather yet (though it is today, hallelujah!). Looking back, I can hardly believe I ever went through a lambing season with the ewes in full fleece. Not only is it much messier with all that wool "back there", but it puts the rest of the fleece, a whole year's worth of work for the ewe (and for me) in danger of being trashed. There is nothing much cuter than seeing a lamb nestled up on its mother's back, but just imagine what all that climbing and jumping around does to mom's fleece. And it only makes sense that if it's really cold outside or rainy (or both), when the ewe is wearing basically the same amount of wool as the lambs, she is going to seek shelter. In full fleece, my ewes choose to bed down outside in a snow storm! One more reason is that it makes it so much easier for the lambs to find the milk bag, especially when they are just minutes old. Obviously there's much more space at the feeder with all that wool gone and, though they are not crazy about the process, the ewes are all glad for not having to fight for dinner!

Today is a glorious day with temperatures in the 70's and all those naked ewes are lazing about enjoying the sunshine. I hope there's the promise of warm, sunny days ahead wherever you are!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The name of the game..

is waiting. That's what we are doing around here. Waiting for spring, waiting for lambs, waiting for the garden to dry out enough to start sowing some seeds. Things are beginning to turn green and when I paused to look at the lilac bush on my way to the barn, I was amazed to see these nearly bursting buds! The daffodils are blooming and poppy and daylily shoots are emerging from the ground. All in all, it's an encouraging scene.

We are still waiting for the first lambs to arrive. The shearer was here last weekend to shear the pregnant ewes and, finally, I could get a good look at them. I think at least one of them will lamb this week and the monitor in the kitchen is turned on all the time now. No matter how many years I have experienced lambing season, somehow it doesn't seem quite real until the first lamb is born.

I was pleased with the condition of this year's ewe fleeces. This fleece is on the skirting table waiting for my attention. My skirting philosophy (if there is such a thing) is to skirt heavily and take out anything that I personally would not want to pay for or spin. There were no breaks in the fiber from illness or stress and very little vegetable matter. I'm thinking the lamb/yearling fleeces are not going to be as nice. Most of them are black and have sun bleached tips and they have been in the barn nearly every night through the winter. (I have spoiled them, I know.) I'm planning on cutting just the tips off the black fleeces before the shearer comes again, in hopes I can salvage at least part of them.
I hope spring is showing signs of being on the way, wherever you are, and that you won't have to wait too long.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Not cars or birds, but hummers of the four footed kind. (Be sure your sound is turned on when you play the video.) Sunday afternoon I put Strawberry and Pippi in with the yearlings and then put the alpaca boys in with the male llama. I was hoping everyone would get along and, so far, they have. Pretty soon I'm going to need to wean Pippi and I thought having her in with the yearlings and being used to them would help during the transition. The male llama is not happy about being separated from Strawberry and has spent the last few days walking the fence and vocalizing (that's the humming you hear). Strawberry has acted oblivious. She's been giving him to cold shoulder and refusing his attentions, so I'm hoping that means she is bred. In any case, I think he is going home around the end of the month. He's a lovely boy and has been absolutely no trouble at all since he came here last fall. Pippi is crazy about him and she will miss him when he's gone---much more so than her mother will, I think.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What makes chickens happy?

Why, leftover quiche, of course! That broccoli and cheddar quiche caused a feeding frenzy in the hen house this morning. The chickens are the ultimate recycling method used here at Tanglewood Farm. They get a lot of vegetable peelings and leftovers, especially during the winter, when they spend most of their time indoors. The excitement is rampant when they see I have a kitchen container in my hands. It doesn't take much to make them glad to see me!

This little guy is our resident rooster, "Doo" (short for Cockey-Doo, so named by his previous owners). He's a Golden Laced Cochin Bantam and we have one little hen to match him. "Doo" has been on thin ice lately because he has decided he doesn't want anyone coming into the hen house but me. Every time my husband goes in to feed, "Doo" comes after him! Needless to say, this behavior is not well received. I'm hoping when the chickens can come outside everyday and expend more energy scratching around in the barnyard and beyond, he will settle down and be a nice boy again. Mike can handle his grumpy disposition, now that he knows to look out for him, but I don't want him terrorizing the grandchildren.

One last picture from the chicken house. This girl decided she wanted to be a mama nearly two weeks ago. I spent a week taking her off the nest, only to find her right back on it next time. I've given up and she's been allowed to keep six banty eggs to see if she can hatch some chicks. By the way, she is not a banty. She's a Black Australorp and one of the biggest breeds we raise. I figured she'd be big enough to protect the chicks, if she's successful. Stay tuned for updates on this.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Barnyard buddies

We're all just trying to stay warm around here. It was 9 degrees this morning and finally got up to about the freezing mark this afternoon. I am so over cold weather!

This morning, Sadie, the barn cat, was doing her usual routine of following me around while I was feeding. We found the two donkeys in the back barnyard, using the livestock trailer as a wind-block and radiant heat source! I've been letting them into the barn aisle at night whenever it is wet or windy, but as soon as the sun comes up they go out to stand beside the trailer. Jenny and Fannie are both wearing the latest in donkey winter-wear----fuzzy coats. When the weather warms they will shed those woolly coats and be slick and shiny for the summer months. These girls are the ultimate easy keepers. In fact, we have to keep them on pretty sparse pasture when the grass starts growing. Jenny (the oldest and the mother) is about 14 years old, we think. She had foundered before she came to live here and we have to be especially careful with her diet.(Foundered is a common name for laminitis-a very painful foot disease linked to over-feeding and around here that can be from too much lush grass in the spring.) She was with a large herd of donkeys when I picked her out and bought her for $100 as a companion for my horse. We bred her a few times, always getting males until this last time. A friend of mine had a male miniature donkey and since Jenny is a very small standard, we thought that might be a good option. Not only did we get a very small baby, but finally a girl! Fannie is about 4 1/2 years old now and is a real sweetie. She and Sadie seem to really like each other.
Holly and Hannah were in the front of the barn soaking up some rays, too. Today the feed store made a delivery of sheep feed and 100 lbs of dog food. The guys unloading the truck asked if I had a lot of dogs. I had to laugh and explain, no, not a lot in numbers, just two big dogs with healthy appetites. When it's cold like this, they will sometimes eat as much as 4 lbs a day--each! They eat much less in the summer when it's hot. I guess it takes a lot of fuel to keep their energy levels up and keep them warm. They are oblivious to the cold. Not me. The weatherman says it will be in the 60's here on Friday. I say, "Bring it on!"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is she thinking?

I'm not sure what she's trying to say to me. Some of the things I love about my sheep are the different expressions and body language they are able to convey. I spend enough time with them to be able to read them pretty well. Lots of people like to say that a sick sheep is a dead sheep---meaning if they get sick, you may as well give up because they are going to die. There was a time when I would get very defensive about that statement. I've come to realize that unless you spend time with your sheep, you won't be able to see the subtle differences in their behavior that will tell you when something is not right. So, unless you are observing them in a knowledgeable way, it can be too late when you figure out they are sick. They do have distinct personalities and, believe me, they are not nearly as stupid as a lot of people like to believe! I do not want to admit how many times I've been out-smarted. True, I don't think there's a lot of deep, philosophical thinking going on in there, but they are plenty smart enough to do what they need to do (and sometimes quite a bit more than they need to do!).

Today was the scheduled day for the shearer to come do the pregnant ewes, since we are only about two weeks away from the first lambing due dates. Thank goodness I had second thoughts about the weather and rescheduled for next weekend. Though the daffodils are pushing up through the dirt and will be blooming soon, we had snow on the ground again this morning. I'm hoping the forecasters are right and that we will have a warm up this week.

I'm still on the finishing track around here. This mitered square shawl has been languishing for many months, but was finally completed last week. It's a free pattern from here. (They have a fantastic selection of freebies.) In spite of the fact that I abandoned it for many months, it was an enjoyable experience. I love knitting miters. There was just enough going on to keep my interest. I used Noro Kuyreyon, color 214 and, for better or worse, I didn't even attempt to plan how the colors would work out. This will most likely become my "house shawl"----one I use for watching television and knitting or reading in bed after the furnace has cooled down for the night.

Hope you are having a great Sunday afternoon. I've got a cozy fire going and some knitting waiting for my attention.