Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mother's day out (with babies)

New moms and babies got to go out into the sunshine this morning. It's always interesting to see the lamb's first reaction to the great outdoors after knowing nothing but the inside of the barn since birth. They are startled at first and fairly timid. Usually they stick as close to mom as possible and if she moves too fast and gets more than five feet away, the baa-ing begins. Just like human children, it doesn't take them long to gain some confidence and having all that space to run and jump turns out to be a pretty good thing after all. When I bring them back into the barn this evening, the lambs will be exhausted from their big day out. So far, the lambs on the ground all have good wool coverage on their ears. Last year several of the lambs, including Graham and his sister Gabby, had bare ears and I had to catch them every morning and put sun block on their ears!

Easter weekend looks to be very busy around here. Besides dinner for the whole family and the usual Easter egg hunt for eight grandchildren,we have lambs due on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Easter dinner may turn out to be self-serve!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Knitters Rock Mo Rocca's World

Lamb count is at 4 right now.......all girls. Yay! The ewe that was due on Thursday finally delivered at 5 am on Friday morning. I don't usually have night time deliveries, but there was a complication with this one and it took a while to get things sorted out. I was up all night and finally fell into bed at 5:45 am. I can tell you right now, I hope not to repeat that.

The alpaca count has also risen to four. Friday I hooked up the livestock trailer and drove to Lindy's (click the link on the side bar to see some of Lindy's beautiful farm and animals) to pick up our newest addition to our little herd of fiber boys. This boy's fancy name is Flashpoint and he has gorgeous fiber and a sweet disposition.

If you didn't see CBS Sunday Morning yesterday, you need to watch it now. Go to their website and click on Mo Rocca's piece on knitting. For once, just once, we knitters didn't come off as a bunch of grandmothers in our rocking chairs (not that there's anything wrong with being a grandmother in a rocking chair----I am a grandma and I do sit in rocking chairs occasionally!) Mo Rocca now knows that knitters are a force to be reckoned with and that they are gracious and generous when they put you in your place.

Edited to add: Anyone else having trouble with Blogger today? I had links to the above references and tried many times to make sure they were exactly as they should be, but Blogger would not let them work. It also would not let me post pictures, but I went through Firefox to get that done. I'm ready to have a melt-down here! It is difficult enough for someone like me to even get a blog post done, but when things don't work as they should...then I'm lost!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three things

Three things are making me really happy today. The first thing is the sun is shining and the temperature is going into the 60's. It's a great day for doing some dyeing in my "dye studio" (ha--that would be the barn aisle at the moment!)
The second thing is there's a great big concrete truck at the studio site pouring the pad and there are actual men up there working (and there's hardly anything better than watching men work, especially if they are working for me!)

The third thing is actually three more things. Last night around 9 pm, the first lambs arrived. We hit the jackpot with set of triplets and all girls! Two of them are solid black and one is black with a silver blanket over her back. Mom and babies are all doing great. This ewe has produced three sets of triplets in less than three years. That's a pretty impressive record, by anyone's standards. These babies are a little on the small side, but so strong they were all on their feet quickly and looking for a bedtime snack almost as soon as they were born. This morning they are romping around in the lambing pen as if they are weeks old already.
So, I'm out of here and into the sunshine for as much of the day as I can get away with. I hope it's sunny and warm wherever you are!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Love this..........

Saw this on Kristin's blog. It's amazing!

Looking on the bright side

I'm making a conscious effort today to look on the bright side. It's been making me slightly crazy that the contractors have not been back since they poured the footers for the studio building at the beginning of last week! Is it any wonder contractors have such bad reputations? I can work myself into a really negative frame of mind, if I dwell on it, so I'm not. I decided when I woke up this morning, I was going to do some things I've been wanting to do. The sun is out, it's supposed to be in the upper 60's and I'm going to enjoy this day. So there!

I spent several hours hanging out around the barn after I finished the morning feeding routine. I set up a table in the barn aisle, got out my dye equipment and got two batches of roving started. I've done laundry and hung it outside in the sunshine (is there anything better than sun dried, sweet smelling laundry?) and have just now put my first ever CVM fleece in to soak. I've already decided we are having stir-fry for dinner and don't have to think about that anymore til it's time to prepare it. So, I think that's a pretty good start to my day!

one of the banty hens working on her tan
One of the fun things about just being around the barn is observing all the action and reaction taking place. When I feed the chickens in the morning, they usually stay inside until they have polished off their layer crumbles and cracked corn, but the last few days, as soon as I open their little door to the outside, they are lined up and jostling each other to get outside immediately. They head to the inside of the barn and start flinging bedding around in the sheep pens. When they've got it all rearranged to their own satisfaction, they work their way down to the garden (where nothing is planted yet) and spend most of the afternoon scratching around. I can tell they are really happy because they keep up a constant clucking and chattering. I love hearing that!
The ewe on the right is the first one due to lamb and the one of the left won't be far behind. I'm so anxious to see the lamb crop that Ollie has produced. Color and crimp are what I'm hoping for.
By the way, if you're wondering what happened to Penny, here's the report. Penny ran off at the first opportunity and after weeks of searching and calling animal control, she turned up several miles away. I called her previous owners and met them there and it took them an hour to get their hands on her. We decided that Penny was not going to work for us, so she's back in her original home and much happier, I suspect. So, we are still looking for another guardian to join Holly and thinking we want to start with a puppy who will adapt better to a new home.
I hope you all have sunshine and happy days for your weekend!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ladies in waiting

Shearing day is one of those yearly events I love to hate. I'm so happy to harvest the fleeces that have taken a year to produce, but it takes several days of flat out hard work to get through it. I spent Friday preparing the barn and getting set up for the shearer, then all day Saturday skirting, labeling and bagging the fresh fleeces. Friends who live nearby were using the same shearer and graciously came to help, then after we all had a late lunch here, we went to their farm and did it all over again. It made for a long, but satisfying day.

It's difficult to judge body condition when the sheep are in full fleece, so the first thing I look for is whether the ewes are in good shape and have been getting enough nutrition. I will say that we rarely have an animal who does not give their best effort at mealtime. Everyone on this farm seems to have a good appetite, and that includes the people :-) All the pregnant girls look to be about right and the yearlings (those silly teenage girls) are growing into a nice looking bunch of ewes. The first morning out of the barn after they were shorn, the yearlings really kicked up their heels. They ran, they jumped, they butted heads! So silly and so much fun to watch. I know they are healthy when they have the energy for that. The "ladies in waiting" didn't do any jumping or running, but did seem to step a little livelier. Losing 10-12 pounds in just a few minutes will do that, I guess! With all that wool gone, it is really obvious that we will be having lambs very soon. The lambing pens are set up, my supplies are gathered and now we wait.

And here are the bad boys, with poor Buddy thrown in to referee. They've been confined like this since Saturday and I'm thinking I might let them out into the back barnyard to see how they behave. Buddy is the big boy we wethered last year after he had bred the ewes and he is still a sweet and gentle giant. My hope is that he will be a calming influence on the two young rams and they'll quit all that butting and shoving. I'll let you know how that works out!

Friday, March 12, 2010

All will be revealed

Tomorrow is shearing day and a year's worth of effort on my part (and, of course, the sheep have done their part) will be revealed. Since I just last week got the last of the previous year's fleeces processed, you'd think I wouldn't be that excited about getting another whole bunch to skirt and wash. What can I say? I'm a fiber addict and the fiber from my own flock is so special to me.
It never fails that the weather turns rainy just before the scheduled date and this week has been no exception. There's been a threat of rain every day since Tuesday. I don't like keeping the sheep inside because there's always the chance of them getting more vegetable matter (hay or straw) embedded in their fleeces. Wet fleeces mean no shearing, so, into the barn they go. In fact, they have been in and out of the barn several times a day all week long!

The pregnant ewes are looking like they need a "wide load" sign attached to their backsides and several of them have big milk bags, so very soon I should be able to put some sweet lamb pictures on here.
These two bad boys are in time-out right now. I'm not sure why, but Mr. Lucky and Ollie have been head-butting and jousting with each other all week and when I brought them into the barn, things got even rougher. If they are out of sight from one another, they bawl and carry on, but if they are in together, they fight. So, this is the solution we came up with yesterday. They can barely see each other and the solid panels keep them from climbing up or trying to fight each other. I'm thinking we are back to the squeezed up pen after they get sheared. Nothing like extra testosterone in the barn to keep things lively!

Monday, March 8, 2010

All is right with my world

Kind of a big statement, but that's the way it feels today. The sun is shining, I'm seeing hints of green coming up, and I got to do a little dyeing yesterday. All of that really lifts my spirits. I've been grouching around here for several weeks because of a respiratory infection I just couldn't seem to shake. That and the cold, gloomy weather has had me feeling as though spring was never going to show up this year. But, thankfully, it seems to be in the air today and it has made a world of difference in my attitude. That picture above doesn't have much to do with anything, but it does make me happy to see this little family hanging out together and enjoying the sunshine.

I left this roving in the dye pot to cool overnight and couldn't wait to hang it out to dry this morning. Before I even finished draping it on the line, some of my honey bees showed up!. I guess they were hoping it was a big bunch of flowers blooming. They're as desperate for color right now as I am!

I'm starting to feel just a tiny bit of panic about getting everything done before the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival in May. The time is fast approaching and I haven't even begun to get myself ready. I am so excited about this event. Though this is our very first year, I think we are putting together a really nice festival and I hope everyone in the area will come out and support it. We need volunteers for lots of different things, so it would be great to have anyone interested signing up on the website.

And just one more gratuitous llama shot. Huckleberry just loves being with his big sister and I think she tolerates him very well. (She wouldn't want anyone to know it, but she occasionally forgets what a big girl she is now and actually plays with him!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fibery Friday

Shearing time is nearly upon me and I'm just getting the rest of last year's fleeces processed. I made the trip up to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers on Wednesday and had my very first alpaca fleeces made into roving and, oh my, they are wonderful. This morning was the first opportunity I've had to open these boxes of goodies and pull out some samples to play with and I am so pleased with all of it. I had them processed so that the roving is 70% alpaca and 30% wool, and what little I've spun is beautiful. It makes me want to forget all my commitments and spend the next few weeks playing in the dye pots and spinning this luscious stuff. I spend the whole year nurturing these fleeces (and the sheep and alpacas who are growing them), and I always feel a bit of trepidation when I get to the mill and hand them over. Not that I'm worried about how the mill will process them. Just that maybe they aren't as nice as I was thinking. No need to worry over this batch. All seven boxes are fabulous......if I do say so myself!

Finally, finally, finally the sun is out today and, according to the local weatherman, we have a bit of a warm-up on the way. Not a moment too soon, as far as I'm concerned. I bought these daffodils at Trader Joe's in Cincinnati on Wednesday and I'm wishing they would last until I can pick some from my very own garden.

I'm hoping you have a sunshiney weekend and golden daffodils to brighten your windowsill.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food Matters

I've discovered some healthy eating for breakfast that Mike and I both really like. I tend to not want to eat in the morning, so finding something this good has improved the breakfast menu around here. I'll admit that before now, I've not been a big fan of granola, but this recipe has changed my mind, and I love being able to make up a batch right in my own kitchen.

The recipe comes from Susie at Juniper Moon Farm. She calls it her "Terribly Inconvenient Granola", but it really isn't that inconvenient. It takes just a little while, since you toast the ingredients separately. It makes a huge amount, so you're good to go for quite a while once you make a batch. We love mixing it with Greek yogurt and maybe a little drizzle of honey on top. It is so tasty and very filling. I promise you, when you have this for breakfast, you'll feel like you've done a really good thing to start your day.

I'm reading "Food Matters-A Guide to Conscious Eating" by Mark Bittman and he makes such a rational argument for changing the way America feeds itself. He advocates what he calls Sane Eating. Meaning: eat less meat, fewer refined carbohydrates, less junk food--eat lots more vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains. In other words, eat real food, as opposed to most of what comes off our grocery store shelves. His reasons are all just plain, common sense.

Even though we are having another cold, dreary day, reading this book has me thinking ahead to gardening days. I bought seeds a few weeks ago and plan to start start some seedlings this week. Maybe if I pretend that spring is here, it will actually happen!