Those of you checking out the lamb-cam will know, there is nothing happening here, except there are twelve really, really pregnant ewes who hardly do anything but lay around the barn. Every morning I go into their pen and open the gate for them to go out to graze on the lush green grass we already have growing. Every morning they just lie there looking at me like 'Are you joking? You want us to get up and walk?' Poor girls, they are ready to get on with the show, but the lambs are taking their time.
To be exact though, yesterday was the first possible day for Gabby to lamb and she will be the first one to go because when we brought the ram here, he was in a pen inside the barn for several days by himself. Then, because I felt sorry for him (and also to prevent him from trying a jail-break), I gave him Gabby for company. Though I hadn't yet put the marking harness on him, it's obvious he bred her right away. The first ewes that were marked, after he went into the flock, are due this weekend. Lambs, like human babies, come when they are ready. I usually have a pretty good idea that a birthing will be happening within a short time when I can see that the ewe has hollowed out in front of her hip bones (as opposed to looking rounded out). This means the lamb(s) are dropping down to get into birthing position. The best position is front feet forward, head down between them (picture a diver going into the water). Sometimes, things get turned around, especially when there are twins or triplets in there, and someone tries to come out backwards (not good) or head first and one or two legs back (not good, either). Those usually require intervention from me. Gloves on and hand inserted to try to sort out which leg belongs to which lamb and is that a back leg or a front leg? Many years ago, when I began keeping sheep, that was pretty scary, but like anything else, a little positive experience gives confidence. Of course, I'm planning on all the ewes getting all that sorted out beforehand and it would be even better if I can come into the barn and find lambs up, dry and nursing! That's my plan and I'm sticking to it!
(Heavenly smelling Viburnum)
Elsewhere on the farm, the bees are buzzing, trees and bushes are blooming and it seems like a wonderful day for lambs to be born. I'm thinking positive thoughts.
It's "Lambing Season". Yes, with quotation marks and capital letters! Less than a week to go before our Gabby should pop out at least a couple of lambs to get things started and, if my record keeping is correct, the rest should follow in pretty quick succession. If you've checked out the Lamb-cam in the evenings, you can see that the girls are quite large now. This is the time when I start feeling guilty about breeding them. Even though it was a long (long) time ago, I can still remember how much effort it took to do anything at the end of pregnancy.
The bred ewes have been moved to a small field that adjoins the barn. From this point on, they will spend their nights inside the barn, under the watchful eye of the lamb-cam. Yes, after nearly a week of finding out, once again, that I have the computer IQ of a sheep, the lamb-cam is finally up and running again. I have to say, Heather, at MareStare, has a remarkable amount of patience with someone as handicapped as I am, when it comes to computer technology.
So, for the next little bit, you may not see much on the lamb-cam but what appears to be beached whales lying in the straw. Then again, you may end up seeing the miracle of birth. Stay tuned!
Yes, chick days have arrived here at Tanglewood Farm. I've been looking forward to getting some new chicks this spring, due to the advanced age of some of our hens and the fact that three of them met an untimely demise recently. Metzger's is a small country store not too far from the farm (which means less than 50 miles, if you live where I live). My friend, Lindy, told me she bought some chicks there last spring. In the past, I've shared an order with a friend and ordered from Murray McMurray because their minimum order is 25 chicks, which is a lot more chickens than I need. After calling to see what breeds they would have and then doing a little research, I settled on three breeds that I've never had before. They are all brown egg layers and are purported to be calm, quiet and sturdy breeds. I ended up with three Speckled Sussex, three Dark Brahmas, and two Silver-laced Wyandottes. Baby chicks have to be one of the cutest babies on the farm (but, not cuter than lambs, of course). Though we are having crazy warm weather right now, it would normally still be in the 50's, which is too cold for chicks this young to survive without a mama to shelter them. So, at this moment they have taken over one side of the big stainless steel sink in the dye room. It's a well known fact that chickens are not known for their compassion, so acclimating them into the flock will be a little tricky. Looking at the photos I took this morning, I discovered that some of them are already sporting tiny wing feathers! When they start flying out of the sink ... well, let's just say I might have to make other arrangements!
So, as I already mentioned, we are having crazy warm weather. Crazy, like 80's. In March! Over the weekend, I mowed the house and studio yards. The last time I mowed was in December. Does anyone else see the unfairness in this situation?
I recently saw this on Heather's blog, Beauty that Moves and am completely enthralled with it. I think I've watched it several times, every day. I don't even know how to describe the feelings I have when I watch it ..... maybe a yearning for the grace, wisdom and discipline that Maia embodies.
Yesterday I drove up to Ohio Valley Natural Fibers to pick up yarn they had spun for me. (Of course, I had to make the obligatory visit to Ikea while I was that close.) It was a miserable day. It poured rain all day and I got soaked every time I got in and out of the car .... not to mention how nerve-wracking it was to be on the interstate in heavy rain with all those tractor trailer trucks. Today, it's a brand new scene, just very soggy under foot. The sun is shining brightly and I'm feeling the urge to get the dye pots out. The Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival is not that far off and I need to get myself in gear to actually have some things to sell.
The abundance I'm referring to is that pile of yarn. That's almost 24 pounds of yarn just waiting for me to do something. You know you're a fiber junkie if, after driving in the rain all day, as soon as you get home you wash a sample skein, put it on the heat vent to dry and knit a swatch immediately ! This batch of yarn is another sheep wool/alpaca blend and is a combination of white and black fleeces to create a beautiful gray heather. Most of this will go into the dye pots, as soon as I can decide on colors.
( and this is how it ends )
The shearers are supposed to come next week and then the task of sorting, weighing and washing fleeces will start. Lambing begins in a little less than three weeks! You'd think after all these years, I would not find that exciting, but I still do. I can hardly wait to see what the Wensleydale ram crossed with my ewes will produce in the way of fleeces. You can expect that the Lamb-cam will be back on line in about two weeks and even that is exciting to me! I love being able to spy on the sheep when they don't know I'm watching. It has felt a little like I've been in hibernation since the end of the holidays, but soon, very soon, a lot will be happening around here.
You thought I must be joking when I said I had more finished projects, right? It's for real. I'm on a roll and hope I can summon the focus to keep going. I would be completely mortified if anyone knew how many projects I have abandoned so I could cast on for something new. I'm going to conquer my secret project stash this year ..... or else I'm going to frog a bunch of stuff and quit feeling guilty !
This little hat is knit with Malabrigo Twist and the pattern is one that came free with the yarn at ReBelle in Lexington. The yarn is so soft and squishy to knit with and I love how the subtle movement of color appears. It was pure pleasure to knit this. I think this is another one that will go into the Christmas box.
This one is strictly for me, though I may not get to wear it in this year of no winter. It's the 'Annabel' sweater designed by Carrie Bostick Hoge. Lots of people have knit this sweater and you can look at many versions on Ravelry. I am so loving this sweater. I want to cast on for another right now, but I promised myself I would finish up some already on the needles projects before starting another. This is an easy-peasy pattern. I spun the yarn from some of my own wool/alpaca blend roving that was prepared by Ohio Valley Natural Fibers, from last years shearing. It happens that this sweater is more like a jacket. It might be a little too heavy to wear indoors for any length of time. That's a good reason to cast on for another one, in a lighter weight yarn ... right? I added length to the sleeves, rather than the 3/4 sleeves the pattern calls for and worked a single crochet edging all around to firm up the edges. The fact that I am anxious to cast on for another shows how much I like this design. I highly recommend it.
Wednesday was an unbelievably stormy day here. Starting around 2:30 am, we had thunder, lightning and heavy rain rolling through, almost hourly. Luckily, we were not hit by any tornadoes. Thursday was a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky, but we've already been warned that today will likely be a repeat of Wednesday.
Happenings in the barn have taken a turn for the better. Luna seems to be on the mend and we've had no more chicken casualties. The chicken killer is still out there and ignoring my trap, so I don't feel confident in saying it's completely over.
If you're in the Lexington area and looking for something interesting to do this weekend, Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2012 is being held downtown in the Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a group of us doing demonstrations and promoting the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival to be held in May. Take a minute to come by, introduce yourself and say hi.