Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lambs on the Way! And chicks, poults and ducklings.

Well, we will have some lambs after all. And they're due right when I'll be out of town teaching up at North House.
It was a cold and blustery day at the end of February when I was busy preparing for my dad's funeral service, the boys' hay net was empty and frozen to the ground. I thought I could combine the boys with the ewes since it was almost March. I hoped the ewes weren't cycling anymore and I was pretty sure the boys weren't fertile since we had crimped the last of them in October. But after three days of them being together, it was clear that Smokey was cycling and the boys were VERY interested. Sid and I did the rodeo on March 1 getting the boys separated from the girls again and crossed our fingers hoping for the best. But it was pretty clear by mid-May that Smokey was starting to bag up.

Smokey and her 2018 Gotland-cross daughter, Blueberry, on July 7, 2019
I'll be down to 23 sheep tomorrow after bringing four wethers and two non-wethers to the processor. Slowly but surely I'm whittling down the flock to a more manageable size for our limited pasture. It looks like Smokey will have twins, so that is going in the wrong direction. But at least no one else is pregnant.
Llama felt pelt and chair pad.

I was given a llama fleece a couple weeks ago. And I decided to try a felt pelt with it since it was holding together pretty well. I have to say, it felted pretty fast, but there is some shedding of the long fibers. There was a lot of fiber that I skirted away due to VM, but I saved it to comb out. It's very soft llama fiber.

I taught a couple felted fleece classes in the last few weeks. One for Sherry Tenney in Winchester, Maryland and one here at my studio in Ogilvie. It's always fun playing with wool and sudsy water outside on sunny day!

I was able to get four yearling Lincoln Longwool fleeces from Robin of Pirate Sheep Co. I got one done so far. Those locks are so long and lustrous!
And we've had chicks, turkey poults and ducklings hatching like crazy lately. Lots of Crested Cream Legbar chicks which are fun because you can tell males from females at the hatch. And the turkey poults are just so sweet and fun to watch.
Broody Crested Cream Legbar with eggs and chicks.She has 14.

Incubator Cream Legbar chicks and a few turkey poults.
Not to be outdone, the Orpington hen went broody and has 12 barnyard mix chicks too.

The worst part is that we are having a fox problem (we lost 6 hens, four turkey poults, a nest of duck eggs with two broody ducks mauled, all in one day).  So now all the poultry have to be penned up 24/7. I'm trying to keep the two broodies and their babies in the barn during the day, but the Buff Orpington has a habit of flying over fences and going out in the sheep pen. Hopefully she'll stay close to the sheep and the fox won't get her.
Three Pekin ducklings and a Narragansett turkey poult are the latest to hatch.
There's only one egg left in the incubator now. It's a peafowl egg from our friend who raises them. He brought over 13 eggs that weren't being sat on. Seven started to develop, but only one has made it to the end. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will hatch. We'll put it with the littlest turkey poult, who did not like being with those messy ducklings.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Lots of New Felt Pelts!

Mugwort relaxes on a Gotland cross felt pelt that I was working on.
Since I sold out of felt pelts last December, I've been taking advantage of any warm days to get outside and make more. That and the fact that most of my fleeces were clean enough to make into felt pelts thanks to using hay nets to feed the sheep this past winter. I am so happy with the fleeces from my Gotland lambs from last spring!
Left to right: Shetland, Shetland, Gotland/Teeswater, Teeswater/Wensleydale felt pelts.

Sandy's fleece, he's a Gotland/Teeswater cross lamb
Gulliver's fleece, he's a Gotland/Teeswater/Shetland cross.
Arnie's fleece, he's a Gotland/Shetland cross

Wilbur's fleece, he's a Teeswater/Wensleydale cross

Wilbur's fabulous fleece

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Preparing for Classes, RIP RP, and Hay Nets

I've been working a small project for an introduction to felting class tomorrow in Minneapolis. I want to use wool from my own flock, so I picked this beautiful black shetland combed top. I don't have much left since I've sold all but two of my Shetlands -- and they aren't black. Anyway, this little tablet pouch only took 3/4 ounce of combed top.

I added some pieces of felt from a rug I cut up and some scraps of Margilan silk. I think this felt would make some beautiful scarves or even a jacket.

So today it's back to the drawing board, I think I will switch to Shetland Mule and Teeswater cross top. I want more stability for a felted tablet pouch or hot pad or coasters.

I'm teaching a new class at Shepherd's Harvest, knitting with longwool locks.
It's only a 3 hour class, no water or towels or plastic bags involved in making this wooly locks scarf, boa, cowl or cuffs. I will be washing up lots of  my Teeswater cross locks so I'll have plenty on hand. Registration starts April 1st.

I'm also teaching the felted fleece class in August in Minneapolis at the American Swedish Institute.  I'm hoping for good weather, we'll be working out in their beautiful courtyard for the wet portion of the class.
I'm pretty sure there are still openings in my classes in Hanover, PA in June and September too. Sherry Tenney is taking registrations on Etsy for those. Last year's class was so much fun and Sherry's selection of the raw fleeces was fabulous!
My felted fleece class at North House Folk School is full but they are taking names for the waiting list. I also teach occasional classes in my home studio by appointment, just shoot me an email and we can talk about it.

We said goodbye to  our dear Richard Parker last week. He lived a long life for a cat diagnosed with Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. He was the fearless defender of our realm.

Okay, now for a sheep photo,look at those sweet little Gotland faces.
I've skirted all 33 of my fleeces this year and even washed 4 or them already. I will be making lots of felt pelts from my own flock thanks to using HayChix hay nets this year. I have to feed hay year round because we are in the woods here, not much pasture. My fleeces were noticeably cleaner this year. I use the big round nets and the small nets for feeding small squares and flakes. Love them! 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Spring can't be far off

We have a broody hen...

the sheep are sheared...

and it's St. Patrick's Day! We're heading to our friends' winery to meet with other spinners and knitters. Then we're off to celebrate at another friend's house.
We've had lots of snow and cold, but the temps are rising and the snow is melting.

Time to start some tomatoes from the seeds we saved. I always plant Brandywines and some nice little round Roma tomatoes that we got from the Amish a few years ago.

I am loving the Gotland cross lambs' fleeces. I skirted all 18 of them over the last two days. Several lambs managed to felt themselves up around the shoulders, but there's still enough for me to make some small felt pelts.

My classes at North House Folk School went well. The Cobweb Felt class was fun, we had plenty of time to complete our projects and clean up.

The Skinfeller class I took with Karen Aakre turned out to be a godsend.
My ninety-year-old dad suddenly started going downhill fast the weeks before the class. He had a bit of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty furnace, but we knew it was more than that. They sent him home where he lives alone with only a wood stove for heat (because he couldn't use the faulty furnace). It was very stressful for us kids trying to make sure he was okay. We got him admitted to Continuing care the day before I left for Grand Marais. Sid was going to come with me, but our furnace started acting up and my farm sitter's car broke down, so I ended up going alone. I had a beautiful hotel room overlooking Lake Superior.
I kept in touch with my family and the care facility over the weekend, but it was quite stressful. Anyway, Skinnfell is like Ukranian egg decorating in that the motifs are meant to tell a message, the symbols should represent the people who are receiving the skinnfell.
So for my project, I lucked out and got a very long-stapled. light brown, Norwegian Spael sheepskin.

I gave it a bridal edging and chose the woodblocks with symbols to represent my family.
The eight-pointed stars were my mom and dad, the eight hearts around the starts represent us eight kids, and the doves represent our grandparents.  I put my mom and dad's surnames on the edges with dots representing them and their siblings. I wanted to stick with a single color, brown. I was thrilled with it. I was able to stop by the care center on my way home and show my dad. It was the last time I was really able to communicate with him. I'm so glad I stopped! He liked it, the next day, he was so out of it to respond to much at all. He passed away in the early hours of Feb. 21. I am the executor of his estate so I have my work cut out for me for a while.

And now I am working on patterns for the new class I'll be teaching at Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival over Mother's Day weekend. It's a knitting with longwool locks class. Lord knows I have lots of longwool locks!

Monday, February 04, 2019

Sheep, Ducks, Turkeys, and Coturnix Quail in the Polar Vortex

We made it through the polar vortex last week. Our air temps got down to -38F, they were below zero for several days. Thank goodness it wasn't longer. The water line to the barn froze up, our vehicles wouldn't start for a couple days, and things were getting a little testy with the sheep feed running low.

Anyway, I am so impressed with our animals and how they managed during the cold temps! The chickens roost in the barn, which is open on the south side to lean-to, where the ewes sleep. The lean-to runs along the whole south side of the barn, but only half of it is walled off. So there is plenty of ventilation. We don't want the sheep stuck in a tight barn, that's just an invitation to pneumonia.
The girls were actually feeling kind of feisty at the high temp of -14F on Wednesday afternoon when I went out to feed them.
The seven wethers have a T-post/tarp shelter and two fiberglass calf huts. They did fine.

Our ducks sleep in the barn, on the floor. But one of the cold nights they slept out in the lean-to with the ewes. I was worried about them getting picked off by an owl, but they were fine.

The Narragansett turkeys roost in their covered pen. They have a small shed that houses their feed and is equipped with roosting poles, but they never go in there except to eat; even during the worst thunderstorms and snowstorms.

And Sid and I sleep under a glass ceiling. That can feel pretty cold when temps are so far below zero. We had three quilts and several cats to keep us warm. I'm going to make some shades for those overhead windows ASAP.
Thankfully the furnace out in the shop kept up. And we kept a fire going in the living room wood stove...

We were wondering how the Coturnix quail would do in the extreme cold. In the past we've kept them in the shop or out in the barn over the winter months. That wasn't without problems, they are so messy. Last year Sid processed them all and started out fresh with eggs last spring. But this year Sid put them in the Defender chicken coop that he won last summer. It's a great pen for them.

Right before the extreme cold hit, we bought straw bedding for the wethers' calf huts and saved a couple flakes for the quail pen.

We also have a heated poultry waterer in the quail pen which stayed operational. The quail came through the extreme cold with no issues at all. So now we know!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

It's COLD Outside! Sheep, Cobweb Felt Lamp, Skinnfeller class and "Skinnfelt"

We're in for even colder weather next week with forecast highs in the single and double digits below zero. According to our neighbor with a thermometer, the temps here have been down to -25F in the overnight hours for the past two nights. The winds were bad the other day, but with my new snow pants, my sheepskin choppers, my Carhartt jacket, Columbia boots, and my handspun handknit yak/BFL hat, I've been toasty warm doing chores. 
The water line in the barn has froze up again, so I'll be hauling water for at least another week or two. With 33 sheep, 29 chickens, 2 ducks, and 6 turkeys, that's a lot of water.  Sid's got 20+ quail to take care of too.

The sheep are doing well. I have two pens to feed and water (keeping the boys and girls separated so we'll have no lambs this spring). I bought a couple of small bales of straw yesterday so the boys will have some bedding.

I am so glad we switched to feeding big round bales in HayChix nets, but we don't have a lot of wasted hay for bedding anymore. Big round bale prices are up; but pound for pound, they're still a better buy than small squares -- and a lot less work when you have a Bobcat. The best part is that the sheep can self-serve and eat anytime day or night. I feed them a grain mixture in the cold weather in addition to their grass hay.

I got some nice alfalfa grass rounds the other day at the auction in Mora. I can't wait to feed it to the sheep. They will love it. We had a flat tire on the way home though. The cold weather can be hard on mechanical things.

So now I am busy getting some pieces ready for the annual Vasaloppet Art Show coming up in Mora February 8-10. And then I'll be teaching my Cobweb Felt Lampshade class on Feb. 15th at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN. There are still a few openings in that class. I will be taking a Skinfeller class on the 16-17th and a felting/wool class with the guest instructor from Norway on the 18th. What fun! I am so excited about learning Skinnfell techniques. I'm signed up to take a Skinfell accessories class at the Vesterheim in Iowa this July also.

In the meantime, I've been applying some of the Skinnfell concepts to my felt pelts and I call "Skinnfelt".

Lambs on the Way! And chicks, poults and ducklings.

Well, we will have some lambs after all. And they're due right when I'll be out of town teaching up at North House. It was a cold a...